Ella and the Way too Windy Bike Ride

It was scarily windy today, the type of windy that sends trashcans flying across the street and makes large branches fall on top of roofs.

Naturally, I decided that this afternoon was the opportune time for a bike ride.

One of the ways that I motivate myself to exercise is to convince myself that I need to be as physically fit as possible so that I can survive disasters by outrunning tsunamis and bears and live by myself in the woods in case I become a character in a dystopian novel. (This same fixation is what leads me to believe that it is also imperative that I become proficient in hunting with a gun or bow and arrow (An idea that my father laughed at when I mentioned it at the dinner table).)

With this in mind, I set out. For the first three miles, I felt fabulous. Sure, it was chillier than I anticipated and I had to do some creative swerving around debris, but I was just whizzing along. I don’t think I’ve ever done this route this quickly before! I thought and continued pedaling with a very smug smile on my face,  I could keep going forever! I am never going to die from a natural disaster now!

So biked further than I usually do, enjoying the crisp air and planning out an imaginary trip to Europe. Maybe I could convince my grandmother to take me, and we could visit her childhood home in Versailles! Scotland might be nice. What about Berlin? I thought.

And then I realized that I should probably turn around. I still need to bring my weight up by at least ten pounds, so my body continues to be fairly weak. Having to constantly stop for breaks on the way home is not my idea of fun. So I did an about face and began to head back.

This is when things got weird.

Now, I bike the same route around three times a week. I know the topography and my average speeds very well. And something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something was definitely wrong.

(Some background: When I sit at a table, I usually angle myself so that my legs are over the side of the chair rather than under the table. It’s a terrible habit, I know, and one that I try to correct, but I naturally gravitate towards sitting this way. So when I’m cruising on my bike, I end up sort of doing the same thing. I obviously can’t ride a bike side-saddle (though if they make a bike like this, I’d be very interested in giving it a go), but I will push my left leg into the body of the bike and shift my weight so that I’m more diagonal.)

After a few more seconds, it became clear that my problem was that I wasn’t sitting the way I normally do for that section of the bike ride. I was still pedaling on a portion of the road that goes downhill. And this wasn’t I-want-to-see-if-I-can-break-the-sound-barrier-on-my-bike-or-at-least-beat-that-car-to-the-mailbox pedaling, I was pedaling in order to remain upright and moving forward. When the road leveled out, it got worse. I had to change gears several times and was wobbling all over the place. The wind was blowing directly in my face and was much stronger than I had thought. All of that extra speed on my way out must have been from having the wind at my back.

The fifth time I had to put my foot down out of fear of toppling over, I just got off my bike and started that awkward and humiliating trudge back to my house, trying not to bruise my legs against the bike (an unsuccessful endeavor). Cold air was working its way up the sleeves of my jacket, and I considered sitting down on the curb and waiting to see if the wind would die down in the way that a rainstorm would. But I persevered and walked about two shin-bumping miles before finally wobbling my way back home where I discovered lawn and leaf bags sitting in the middle of the street and a very large branch in our flower bed.

Then, I got the mail, learned that I didn’t get into one of the colleges I applied to, and started researching the Silk Road just for the heck of it.

The end.

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Ella the Outdoors Wimp

Tomorrow I have to venture outdoors, and while I often am opposed to non-level surfaces and air that is below or above 70-77 degrees, tomorrow is going to be especially bad. Below freezing weather all day is not my idea of a good time. I also am going to be biking, which will make it hard to wear bulkier clothes, even though it’s 12 degrees. I’m already working on my self-entitled and ridiculous pout.

In other news, I’ve been testing the limits of how many times I can watch this video of a labrador chasing deer through a London park. Fenton really reminds me of Lee and Zach’s dog, Louis, an Australian sheepdog, known mainly for herding anything that moved and pulling down the occasional person’s pants.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Pedals Like a Madwoman to Mail a Present

Today, I biked over a mile in well under five minutes to mail my cousins birthday presents, and managed to fly into the post office three minutes before it closed.

Now, I hadn’t intended to cut it so close. I was supposed to be there hours before it closed, but it turns out that wrapping presents takes a really long time, or at least it does when you wrap presents the way my mom and I do. Nothing gets hastily covered in thin paper with reindeer or snowmen. We go all out.

I am also not as good at wrapping things as my mom is. My folds are never as crisp, and nothing I do ever ends up being particularly artsy. I like my geometrical shapes and colors. Whenever I try to sew the wrapping paper it rips and me making anything complicated out of wrapping paper is just plain comical. But I get by.

I spent a long time cutting out squares of fancy paper and choosing colors and all of a sudden it was two hours later and I was nowhere close to finishing all of the presents I had to wrap. I had also stupidly not done any of them in order of priority, so while Christmas presents for other family members were all put together, there were still a few birthday ones not done. But I managed to get all but one done on time, and the one that wasn’t complete got wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a Rugrats gift bag for maximum classyness. My uncle will probably find it less amusing than I did when Cecelia gave the bag to me three years ago.

It wasn’t until I walked into the post office that I realized how ridiculous I looked. My hair was a disaster, the result of being unwashed, not very well combed, and the helmet, and I was wearing glasses, a geeky tee-shirt, and a ski parka. I don’t think that I have ever left the house looking like that ever.

But all of the birthday presents are in the mail, and that’s what really matters.

Then, I biked into the fence in our backyard because I saw a cat.

In other news, cats make very disturbing noises when they cough.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

People Watching at Starbucks and Ella’s Failing Memory

I’ve taken to spending between four and six hours a day in Starbucks, writing. And I must admit that I spend about two percent of my time people watching.

Today’s highlight was a woman who was walking around on crutches with her ankle in a brace, but was still wearing stiletto heels. I’m no podiatrist, but it didn’t look like a good idea.

The runner up was a woman who started screaming at the baristas for no apparent reason, completely freaking them out and all of the other people in the store. Considering that the clientele is pretty much entirely people with laptops, women wearing designer sunglasses on top of their head and stylish outfits (who always place very complicated orders, sometimes specifying the exact ratio of soy milk to whole milk they want used), it was startling.

In other news, this blog post was supposed to be about how I cut my foot open while biking, and I had this great analogy and joke to go with it, but then I had to go take a shower and sort the laundry, and now I can’t remember any of it.

Also, biking while carrying a mega bottle of determent in your left hand is very difficult and inadvisable. And I totally didn’t learn this from experience or anything.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Rides Her Bike

I must admit that I was scared this morning when I wheeled my bike out of the garage. I don’t like biking in the rain. But I’ve been told that horses can sense your fear, and the bike did seem somewhat like a sleek thoroughbred with its trim silver body and twenty-four gears, so I swung my leg over the seat, thinking about FDR and the Kentucky Derby, and set out.

Three years ago, the fire hydrant on our street broke and water rushed out for days, much to the delight of the children and the annoyance of the municipality and adults, and when the water finally dried, the newly paved street was left with bumps in it, the only hint that the forest green hydrant had once misbehaved. So I rode, jostled a little by each tiny mountain, to the corner.

The avenue was oddly empty. And while I knew that there were no cars in sight, I couldn’t help but wait there for a few moments with the toes of my sneakers balanced on the asphalt because the quiet was haunting, almost as if there were a thousand whizzing invisible passing cars I just couldn’t quite see. But the shadows I saw were just fog being blown by the wind, so I put my right foot on the petal and pushed off.

Riding down the avenue is scary. Here I am, a small girl balanced on some very thin metal beams and two wheels, and there they are encased in a big behemoth of metal with the best safety systems available, and if they so much as tap my rear tire, I will fall. My elbow might break, shattering into a million pieces like a glass does when it crashes onto the kitchen floor. And a day later, one of the shards of bone that they missed while cleaning me up will be stepped on by a barefoot woman in a bathrobe as she fetches the morning paper, and she will have to go to the hospital, too. So I just trust that the big black SUVs and silver Priuses will avoid me as I petal. It isn’t always easy.

Soon enough, it was my turn. I held out my left arm, the way my great uncle taught me to, and felt the handlebars wiggle a little as I tried to turn one-handed. And then I was zooming down the hill, cutting through the air like a pair of freshly sharpened scissors or my mother’s Japanese sushi knife, the one I’m always afraid I’ll cut myself with.

The next corner came quickly, and I leaned into the turn, coasting. Sometimes, when I have gravity making the wheels spin on their own, I pretend I’m in that animated Japanese film I saw when I was eight, Kiki’s Delivery Service is what I think it was called, with the girl that rode on a the back of a boy’s bike through winding roads on the edge of a cliff. But in this fantasy I’m not on a cliff because cliffs are s-c-a-r-y scary. Instead, I’m on a nice flat surface near the ocean, and I’m the one doing the riding and not hanging on for dear life. Because safety is good. I like keeping my body in one piece. It functions best that way.

I became so absorbed in my thoughts of the salt spray and the call of gulls that I made the next few turns on auto-pilot. Check for cars, obey traffic laws, keep pedaling. My thighs began to burn as the lactic acid built up in the muscles, and all I could do was visualize those diagrams of cellular respiration from AP Bio–the ones he wrote on the board in different colored chalk that I copied into my notes, using a million different colors of highlighters so that the page turned into a rainbow of lines and labels. And then suddenly, I’m pedaling back down the driveway, squeezing passed the parked cars, and I’ve arrived.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Family Friends and Childhood Reminiscing

Some family friends of ours came to visit this evening and stay the night, and it’s been wonderful. Their older daughter, Beth, was part of our neighborhood gang in D.C. It’s strange to think how many years have passed since we spent every free moment hanging out with each other, and how quickly we can now fall back into our old patterns.

Dinner was spent laughing over pizza, remembering all the time we spent biking in the park (It only occurs to me know that we did this without any parental supervision or cellphones on bumpy trails and tended to end up playing in creeks five miles from home.), dressing up and reenacting the Little House on the Prairie books, and playing very intense, long games of hide and go seek (I once spent close to an hour on the top shelf of a closet covered in carefully arranged folded sweaters). We would show up at each others’ houses to eat lunch unannounced with alarming frequency, and I was always in the process of writing and directing a play or musical or choreographing a dance show for us to perform. In the fall, we would make fairy houses out of mud, flowers, and sticks, and in the winter we would go sledding on a hill that dead ended onto a very busy street. We were never without a playmate or something crazy to do.

Sometimes I’d do anything to be eleven again.