Monday, October 20, 2014

Pedaling forward is a lifelong process

From Saturday's Briefing:

I’m forever pushing children out of their comfort zones.
If one of my students prefers to read only graphic novels, I cajole him to try a science fiction novel. If another is buried in realistic fiction, I convince her to try biography.
Just when a fourth-grader thinks his essay is perfect, I challenge him to make five more words even stronger.
If I teach it, I need to live it, no matter how painful. Every now and then, I push myself beyond comfort.
For example, a week ago I slipped a handmade pink tutu over blue jeans and shimmied in front of 500 people while lip-synching Taylor Swift.
This totally out-of-character performance was made possible only because I was one of a menagerie of dancing teachers at our school assembly. I find strength in numbers when pushing my limits.
My brief stage appearance was painless. My next venture, not so much.
Sunday nights at the Damm house are routinely routine. Cooper practices clarinet. Katie practices violin. I cook dinner and prep food for lunches for the rest of the week.
Last Sunday night was out of the ordinary. I shed domesticity for an evening out with some usually mild-mannered mom friends. We climbed into strangers’ cars, headed for Dallas and spent the night pedaling through Uptown.
Because some in the group planned to drink adult beverages and because we are hyper-vigilant mommas, we chose to hire out the driving. We used our smartphones to hail not taxicabs, but rides from everyday drivers willing to share their cars for a fee.
We spilled out of three random sedans and gawked at our next mode of transportation: a giant cart equipped with barstools and bicycle pedals. It’s called the Buzz Bike.
The cart is piloted by an experienced driver who has control of steering and the brakes. The power is provided by the people sitting on the barstools.
We stowed our purses, the pilot described our roles, and in no time we were inching north on McKinney Avenue. Just as quickly, I could feel some leg muscles that hadn’t been stretched in a long while. Pedaling a giant, truck-sized cart takes more strength than I’d imagined.
Discomfort was easily ignored, though, with all the singing, laughing and waving to curious folks on the side of the road.
We took a break on the route, stopping for chips and salsa (cycling works up an appetite) and water (who could handle anything stronger with all that work?). We climbed aboard again, ready to face two challenges: a steep decline that would send us flying and an equally steep incline that would leave us gasping.
Our party perched atop the first hill, unable to see the bottom. The traffic light turned green and we started to pedal, fueled by a well-timed “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” blaring through the speakers.
Cyndi Lauper’s words were eventually drowned by our screams — part exhilaration, part fear of rear-ending the Mustang directly in front of our lumbering contraption.
We stopped just in time.
We enjoyed a couple of flat blocks, then we faced the biggest challenge of the night: the hill of Allen Street. We’d heard stories of previous groups that couldn’t pedal all the way up — that had to dismount and push the oversized bike.
Our competitive spirits kicked in. We would not become a cautionary tale.
One of the fittest friends in the group pedaled like an Ironman triathlete while commanding us to follow suit. We focused. We dug in. We biked up that cursed hill in two minutes flat.
There was nothing comfortable about it.
But I needed that night out with friends, a few hours away from responsibilities and planning. I needed to step out of my routine, to wave at strangers, to sing ’80s pop with wild abandon.
My sore quads are a small souvenir of the night. Longer lasting is the reminder that we all need to stretch a little.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at
The whole gang, celebrating Julianne's 40th birthday (after we survived the treacherous hills)

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