It takes a little courage for me to come out of the closet and say what needs to be said. Before last week, I, Dax Andrus, the fourteen year old veteran world traveler, bungy jumper, and abseiler, did not know how to ride a bike. Sure I had tried before and concerned friends and family had tried to help me. But these experiences (experiences like when Grandma pushed me down the hill on the bike that was far too big, or when I tried to go off a curb and popped a tire on my friend’s bike) only strengthened my resolve to not ride a bike. I had it set in my mind that bikes were evil. Despite this, I knew that some day, some dark day, I would have to throw my leg over the bar, put my feet on the pedals, and ride a bike. I had no idea it would happen on this trip.
It all started when we went to stay at an estancia in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina. San Antonio is a small town with only a few narrow streets and a tiny central park. Here the only way for us to get around was to ride a bike. The beautiful estancia provided us with the necessary materials, now I just had to learn how to ride. When I went to the bike shed, I had no idea what the differences were between any of the various bikes. My dad explained to me that “Boy bikes have a bar, girl bikes don’t.” I questioned this logic since a bar for boys seemed counter intuitive. He explained that its so girls can wear skirts on the bikes without having to worry about them blowing in the air. This bar would be my main fear on the bike for the remainder of the time at the estancia. First I tried out a white bike with gears. After a short ride (more like falling to the ground repeatedly and shaking my fist in the air), I noticed the gears didn’t work and the bike was far too big. I tested out ‘The Spirit of the Beach’, an orange beach bike. I rode this one around and managed to stay on much better than on the other. The biggest hindrance of my ride was when I was headed straight for a line of trees and needed to stop. I attempted to stop the bike with a hand brake. I groped around the area where most hand brakes are located. Nothing happened. I shot a quick glance down and saw that there was no hand brake.
“What?” I thought to myself. “I chose the only bike without brakes, great!” At this point the line of trees was growing ever closer and my heart was racing ever faster. I thought, “Why not turn the bike? Yeah, good idea!” I attempted to turn, but at this point in my biking career I had not yet mastered that art. Instead of skillfully turning in a circle I skidded out and fell on one side. About two minutes later after a lot of thought I decided, “It’s not worth it!” I picked up the bike and walked it back to the shed where my dad was teaching Mac how to ride. “Dad, I chose the only stinkin’ bike without a brake! It must be the high stakes bike or something.” My dad shot a questioning glance at me.
“No brakes? Let me see.” He checked out the bike and started to laugh. “This bike is old school. It has a pedal brake. All you have to do is push back on the pedals to stop.” I tried my luck again and managed to get in a little better ride. After about five minutes of riding without falling I felt like I was the king of the world. I had learned to balance, turn, and even stop properly. (Mac has still not taken to stopping in the conventional manner. He prefers to simply jump off the bike and pick it up off the ground.) We took the bikes into the town for a couple rides and I practiced my newly acquired skills. Apart from a few crashes with Mac I was feeling rather good about my biking situation. How quickly things change…
The next day, I was still riding the high I got from acquiring some bike skills. We decided to ride back out into the town and visit the Gaucho Museum. After the short ride out of the estancia things took a turn for the worse. First I had trouble getting a start on the bike, I continued to injure my legs and the area in between them. When I finally got going, I crashed into a small stone wall and fell on my butt. I looked forward and saw my family far ahead, I grunted, got back up and attempted to catch them. Having managed to accomplish this feat we entered the museum. It was interesting, although it would have been helpful if it had been in English. We took a few pictures and raced out to try and find some coats for our upcoming trip into Bolivia. This is where I found out, I’m not a good bike rider. Round one of Dax’s Day with the Bike From Hell had now begun.
The bike threw a good one my way when I crashed into a curb and went flying onto the ground. On my way down my face slammed into the bike, leaving me with a headache. I got back up, not one to be beaten by a bike with the name ‘Spirit of the Beach.” I continued trying to ride around the town but the bike wouldn’t have it. Next I somehow slipped off the bike and managed to run over my foot on the way down. A few more incidents like this had me pleading to my parents to let me go back. But the Bike From Hell was not finished with me yet. As I was riding down the street a car came my way. I pulled to the right and managed to dodge it. Another quickly followed behind it. I pulled up to the curb and rode very slowly but whoever was driving the car must have had something against me because he swerved the car in towards me. I looked in horror and tried to jump off my bike onto the curb. But the bike had one last punch to throw. As I jumped my foot got caught in a part of the bike and the bike followed me as I fell to the floor. My old friend, the boy bar, came smashing into my inner thigh, leaving me with a terrible pain. I stood up quickly, threw my hands in the air and would have thrown the bike in the street if it was my own. “That’s it! I’m never riding a bike again in my life!” I yelled. This got me some strange looks from the local kids who were walking home from school. I walked the bike to the restaurant we were eating at and sulked in my misery. I had to be the worst bike rider in the history of the world. After lunch I slowly rode back to the estancia, trying to avoid agitating any of my wounds. When we arrived to the shed I put the bike away. “I’m never getting on one of those again…” I said to my family as I walked back to the room. All I can hope is that I never do.