May 22, 2013: Loose Gravel

Who was the culprit; the bike or the brother??
I went out for a bike ride today. As I sped under the Center Street viaduct, I cringed while flying over a strip of loose gravel. Why am I so fearful of gravel? was the question I asked myself once my jawbone relaxed from it's previously locked and clinched state.

It didn't take me long to recall my many bad experiences with loose gravel as a child and young adult. Alleys and gravel roads were a way of life in small town Iowa. Fresh gravel was a nightmare for the rider of a bike and in my case; passenger of a dirt bike and a car. The good news is that I actually survived.


There were three bad loose gravel incidences that immediately came to mind. Two included my brother Matt and the other; my friend, Joan Brennan. Sorry, Joan. As for my brother, he is used to my using him as a subject in my blog. Past Ben Lane, our childhood stories provide the most material for my writing. Thanks, Matt. 

The first mishap involved a ride home on a bike. For reasons I can not remember, Matt begrudgingly carted me home from the pool one summer day. He was not pleased about giving his sister a ride on the back of his bike. I was five years old and Matt, seven. He insisted that I didn't touch him. I thought the banana seat would save me. I was wrong.

As Matt turned into the alley behind our house, I felt the unsteadiness of the loose gravel. In retrospect, I should have hopped off and walked that last block home. Instead I held on for dear life while Matt roared down the alley like a possessed child. Although I can't prove it, I am sure he was trying to jostle his sister off his throne. Matt ultimately lost control and we bit it.

The bike flew sideways beside our driveway with the front wheel spinning out of control. My foot was caught in the spokes and my knee rubbed raw from the tire. Matt got up without a scratch. I spent the next week soaking my leg in a five gallon bucket of Epsom salt (my mom's remedy to all open wounds). I have scars to this day as proof.

I won't get into detail on the other two incidents, other than to say that I should have learned my lesson on riding on the back of Matt's bike. As teenagers, we reenacted this story on a dirt bike. This go around I suffered a muffler burn to my calf.

As for Joan, she was the driver of a car that ended up in a ditch. It was a bad combination of too many girls in a car, too dark, and too loose of gravel.  Although the car wasn't as lucky, we all walked away without a scratch. Amen to that. Joan was just the next unfortunate one in line to the Brennan car curse.

I guess the good news is that I didn't fall on the gravel today. But I will continue to be extra careful.   

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