What Was I Thinking?

“Let’s go for it!” I pedaled faster on Flagler Avenue, intent on gliding our Conch Cruisers to Key West’s east end. I glanced up at the sparkling night sky. We could never see the stars from where we live on Long Island.

“It’s too far.” My husband’s voice held humor.

I knew what he was thinking. I was rarely the competitive one in the family. “C’mon. The weather’s beautiful.” We’d had an incredible day swimming at South Beach and exploring the stores on Upper Duval. After a lazy dinner at Historic Seaport we’d strolled back to Duval, enjoying the random margarita and live entertainment. I should’ve been tired, but I wasn’t. Maybe my energy had something to do with how young and free I felt whenever we rode bikes. “I don’t want our night to end.”

“If you say so, but it’s at least three miles if not more.” He pedaled next to me, the intermittent street lights illuminating his doubtful expression.

I ignored his warning. “Let’s go. It’ll be fun.”

We raced, the flower-scented breeze tickling my face and arms and legs. This was paradise. I would never leave if it weren’t for our two kids back home. I missed them as much as I relished the time away with my man.

After a half-mile or so we settled in for the ride. The pavement whirred beneath our Cruisers’ tires, punctuated by the occasional car zooming past. The brightly lit stores gave way to lone streetlights. I let my mind go blank as we rolled along toward our goal.

Wisps of fog danced across our path. My leg muscles tired. The euphoria of flying through the night wore off, and I began to mull over the equally long trek back to the bed & breakfast. I glanced over at my honey. “Hey.”

He turned and smiled at me, a knowing look in his eyes.

I shrugged, unwilling to admit I’d been overzealous.

He slowed his bike. “Enough adventure for one night?”

“Yeah.”I slowed my bike and stopped with him at the next intersection. The east end of the island was still nowhere to be seen. “I thought it was closer.”

“Told you.”

Two cars flew by.

“I know.” I coasted across the street after him and stopped, facing west once more.

He peered at a dark lane perpendicular to the main road and half-joked. “Wanna see gulfside?”

I smiled and shook my head. “It’s getting late.” I slipped my cell phone out of my shorts pocket. “It’s almost two.” I covered a yawn. “Besides, look at all that fog. It’s coming in like waves. We’ll get lost.”

He whispered. “You can never get lost on an island.”

I laughed. That’s what he’d told me when we’d first moved to Long Island over two decades ago, convincing this country girl I’d acclimate to suburban life. I had. He had a way of making me feel safe, allowing me to take risks. Maybe that’s why I’d suggested traversing the island. He made me feel like I could do anything with him by my side. Even if it meant admitting I’d been wrong. Or I wanted to turn back. There was no shame. I had nothing to prove.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket and touched his arm. “I love you.”

“You better. You married me.”

We kissed, right there on the corner of Flagler and some desolate gulf side road outside Old Town, long past our usual bedtime. What were we thinking?

Have you ever done something completely out-of-character or completely spur-of-the-moment you wondered what made you do it?

Bikes and Bubbles Encore

Happy Margarita Moment, all! This week I’m traveling with extended family in celebration of my in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Please enjoy this reader favorite I originally posted last summer. I look forward to sharing the sights of Bermuda with you next week. Until then, cheers!

Do you ever find yourself blowing bubbles alone, skipping rope just for fun, or dunking a cookie in milk without counting calories?

Simple pleasures like these can bring you back to a time before you worried about laundry, bills, and work deadlines, when summers lasted a year and Halloween was near the top of your favorite holidays’ list.

As a kid growing up in New York’s rural Adirondacks, my bike was everything. First my Big Wheels, and later, my beloved ten-speed racing bike. I was excited to be independent, breezing along field-lined roads as my skinny legs pedaled to and from my friends’ houses.

Like many childhood toys, I left my bike behind upon entering college. By the time I pulled it out of the backyard shed, the bike was rusted and in need of new tires. Being an impatient twenty-something, I figured I’d buy a new one after my move. The NYC metro-area provided many wonderful opportunities for my husband and me, but traffic and the growing demands of family life convinced this transplanted country girl to switch over to a more conventional vehicle–the minivan.

Beautiful Southernmost Beach

Fast-forward twenty years, and my husband and I are on vacation in Key West, Florida. What’s the suggested mode of transportation?  Bicycles, of course. Called beach or island cruisers, these bikes are equipped with baskets in front, perfect for carrying a beach bag or souvenirs, like items from the KW Jewelry Bar. They can be ridden at night, too, with strobe lights attached to the wheels’ spokes instead of handlebars. (More on that to come!)

My eyes light up as I gaze at the bike, thinking, I’d miss you even if we’d never met. (Movie Quote Alert…answer below.) In spite of niggling doubts about having enough energy to traverse this five square-mile island, I agree to rent one.

We bike to Smathers and Fort Zachary Taylor beaches, bask in the sun like lizards and float on the warm Atlantic waters.

Later, we sightsee. In the evenings, I scoop up my flowing skirt to tuck around me as we take a leisurely ride side-by-side to Michael’s or another of our favorite haunts for a romantic dinner, followed by sunset cocktails at Mallory Square.

On our more adventurous nights, we lock up our bikes on Duval Street, and begin an impromptu Duval Crawl. Hours later, we return to our bikes (Sometimes the toughest part is remembering where the bikes are located!), and take the exhilarating two-wheeled trip back to our B & B. We whizz past quiet, side-street houses in the darkness–with nothing but mesmerizing strobe lights guiding our fuzzy brains. Whee!

I learned it’s never too late to enjoy simple pleasures like the ones I loved as a kid. Key West is my favorite getaway, and the fun we have riding our rented bikes everywhere is definitely a big part of the draw for me, being a kid at heart.

What childhood toy or activity have you left behind that you’d like to revisit, or maybe adapt to your life as an adult?

Movie Quote Answer: Wedding Date, 2005 (Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Peter Egan) Debra Messing’s character, Kat, complains that Dermot Mulroney’s character, Nick, knows everything about her and she doesn’t know a thing about him. He responds, “I’m allergic to fabric softener. I majored in comparative literature at Brown. I hate anchovies. And I think I’d miss you even if we never met.”

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