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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Estrada

The Short Haul


Courtesy of iStock


“All right, Sam, it’s time,” a male voice said.


“I can’t believe I’m going to do it, dad,” it was the voice of a young girl.


“You’re going to do great sweetheart, there’s no better place to learn how to ride a bike.”


Samantha gritted her teeth as her fingers attempted to buckle the clips of her bicycle helmet. She couldn’t see the clasp or hear the click with the helmet placed on her head. She remembered seeing where the helmet parts were supposed to connect, and she was determined to put on her helmet without her father’s help.


It didn’t take long before she heard the click from her helmet. She bounced to her seat and began arching her back as her palms gripped the purple rubber handlebars and her light up sneakers touched the pedals below her. Her eyes concentrated on the white stones that formed a pathway in front of her.


Samantha knew that every stone her rubber tires were going to mark would represent progress. She knew that the paths would change as she moved forward, and her handlebars would steer through the curves, inclines, and declines that made the park feel like a desert road with nothing but the sand as a compass.


She couldn’t wait.


She had spent the last couple of months pedaling around her driveway in order to learn how to steer her bike. It was the only place she could ride as she wasn’t allowed to ride in the neighborhood unsupervised. She’s only ten years old after all.


Over time, she moved her handlebars with ease, and she developed a pattern as she would pedal to ensure she had control.


The sweat that would cascade her forehead would always be satisfying, yet it became tiresome to keep sweating after pedaling a bicycle for over two hours in a driveway every day. After months of persuading her father to spend one of his few days off from work at a bike trail, she finally made it here.


The air was cool as the wind brushed past her short-sleeved shirt. She could feel the sun warming her back and the leather of her seat. Sam took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes on the view from up ahead.


She was ready.


“I’m ready to start pedaling,” Samantha said. She heard a low chuckle escape her father’s mouth.


“I’m sure you are,” her dad replied. “I’ll give you a small push so you can move, I’ll follow right behind you.”


“Okay” Sam exclaimed. She smiled as she felt her dad’s hands on her shoulders.


“Are you ready?”


“Yes.”


“Go!”


With the release of her father’s hands, Samantha legs began winding the pedals and her hands began moving the handlebars back and forth. She heard her tires brush past the rocks, and she heard the clatters of her bicycle chain as they moved with the wheels. Her training wheels would make soft sounds as they moved alongside her rear tires.


The wind began to gust toward her as she continued to accelerate. The faint voices of children, barking dogs, and music being blasted from portable speakers reached her ears when she began to pass different sections of the park that had seating areas.


She would glance behind her frequently to ensure her father was behind her, and she would keep going after seeing his black bicycle chase toward her. Green signs with white markings and numbers would fly past her while she continued pedaling.


As she would see curves, she adjusted her handlebars to follow the path. Samantha would watch as the path trail increased in size, and she would keep going with the desire to travel further.


That only lasted for so long.


Samantha frowned as she felt her legs and chest start to burn. Her breaths became uneven as she struggled to find a chance to take a breath. Perspiration began to reach her body rapidly and caused her hands to slip on the handlebars. The air became torrid, and she didn’t know if she could make the next turn.


She tightened her grip on the brakes and stopped sharply. Her father stopped next to her and frowned seeing her wheezing.


“Sam are you okay?” he asked.


“Yeah,” she gasped. “I just got tired.”


“You were going really fast,” her dad said. “I had a hard time keeping up with you.”


Samantha looked down at the ground and watched the sweat from her forehead drop on the rocks.


“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I’ve never gotten tired from riding my bike before.”


“Well, Sam, it’s different when you ride your bike on a trail,” her dad replied. “You are traveling more distance and have to adjust yourself. You were going too fast, and you tired yourself out.”


Samantha looked up. There was a green sign in front of her with a fraction. She pointed at the sign and gasped.


“Look dad! We traveled a mile,” Sam exclaimed. “The sign says there’s eight miles in the trail and we traveled at least one.”


Samantha’s dad looked at the sign and sighed.


“Honey, the sign doesn’t say that.”


“It doesn’t?” Samantha’s eyebrows furrowed. “How far did we go?”


“We didn’t travel one mile,” her father explain. “We only traveled one eighth of a mile.”


“Does that mean we traveled a lot?”


“No, sweetheart.”


Samantha’s bike fell to the ground as her head was covered by her hands. She felt her face warm up in embarrassment as she heard her dad start to laugh. She sighed in exasperation as she realized how so much work can sometimes achieve so little.


She looked up and saw her dad looking at her with adoration, causing her to smile. She glanced at the sign and her bicycle on the ground.


“Do you want to keep going?” her father asked. “It’s okay if you want to stop for today.”


Samantha stared at the purple bicycle on the ground, she could see the dirt on her tires and the sweat glimmering on the handlebars. She bit her lip and winced as the salty taste of sweat entered her mouth. She slowly began to unclip her helmet as she made her decision.


“I am retiring from cycling.”

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