One Ride

I have only ever been on one bike ride in my life.

The ride started one weekend when my father gathered up my brother, my sister and I and took us on a trip to the chapel at Camp Bullis. We lived in a little suburban community called the Woods of Shavano in North Western San Antonio, just off of De Zavala road. We road our bikes along the twisty road of the neighborhood and out onto the shoulder of De Zavala.

This was eye-opening for me. On the earlier excursions on my little BMX bike (these were not truly rides), I’d come up to the edge of that road and stopped. It was the boundary, the border of where I could go. De Zavala is a long, straight road and the cars zip along it. I knew in my little boy mind that if I ventured onto that road, I’d get squished.

But this time, the start of my bike ride, my siblings were with me and my father was leading us. This was a sanctioned foray into the wilderness, and I knew that I’d be safe. Still, it was thrilling.

We road up and down the hills until we came to North West Military Highway, then we took a left. NW Military takes its name from the fact that it is the way to Camp Bullis, which is a US Army training camp at the edge of San Antonio. NW Military was less hilly than De Zavala and it was wider, but it had a narrower shoulder. We had to go single-file as we rode until we got to the underpass at 1604. 1604 is a loop that encircles San Antonio. I think it’s about 100 miles all the way around. Inside the loop, there were houses, churches, and a fire station lining the highway. But outside the loop there was nothing but trees until we got to Camp Bullis. I felt like I was an explorer, heading out into entirely new areas. (I guess real explorers don’t have the luxury of a paved road.) I’d never been out there before, and my eyes were wide, drinking it all in.

We entered the gate of the base and kept pedalling along until we got to the barracks and chapel. Most of Camp Bullis is scrub and cedar, with miles of trails and training areas. But the highway passes right by the living quarters. Later in the ride – years later – I’d go by on weekends and see soldiers lined up in their BDUs outside the phone booth, waiting for their chance to call home.

We stopped at the chapel and got off our bikes to rest for a while. At that point, I think we’d gone about four miles. My dad passed around a soda. I don’t remember what we talked about. After we were rested, we got back on the bikes and took the same path home.

When we finally got back to the house, we all got off of our bikes again. But the ride didn’t stop for me. I’d crossed the boundary surrounding our neighborhood, and I went out again the next weekend. It was a continuation of the same ride, it just had a five day pause.

Since then, the ride has taken me all over the hill country of central Texas, through the streets of San Francisco, up Mount Hood in Oregon, and clear across Iowa.

When I’m on my bike, my head is in a completely different place than when I’m doing anything else. And as I ride, I remember images and feelings from other times that I’ve been on the bike. It all flows together.

Over the past year, I’ve declined a lot, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But in the last two weeks, I’ve gone on the ride more and more. I’m starting to feel the familiar burn in my legs. The breaks in the ride are getting fewer and shorter.

No Responses to “One Ride”

  1. ABQ Woman Says:

    I love you, David. Here’s to the ride… hope to join you on it again this summer.

  2. cari Says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Emma Says:

    Beutifully written and rather poignant.I’m so glad that you feel you’ve turned a corner.Pedal and knit on. :0)

  4. Matt Roth Says:

    Glad I was there for the beginning…and some of the middle parts…
    You are the only one who understands the way I feel about my 20+ year snowboard run!

  5. Susanna in Seattle Says:

    Thank you for sharing a beautiful memory, I feel as if I can see you on that BMX bike.

    I feel otherworldly whenever I’m at the ocean; my bare toes gripping the sand while the salt water stains the edges of my rolled up pants. Pure bliss.

    Back to reality: did you finish the uterus shawl for your grandmother (now there’s an image that’s here to stay :)