Thursday, November 18, 2010
For most of our youth we dream about being older, bigger, stronger and generally more grown up. As a little kid I yearned for the days when- drunk on the power of my own freedom- I would jump in my car and tear out of the driveway to find wild adventures that must exist somewhere outside of my life lived at the end of a cul-de-sac.
I was ready to feel the wind of the road on a trip to destinations unknown but it was clear to me that I wasn't a grown up yet. How did I know this? By a simple measurement: The thickness of my forearms. I looked down at the twigs that spanned the distance from my elbow to my wrist and noticed that the circumference was pretty much the same for its entire length. You could probably slide a watch from my wrist all the way up to my elbow without loosing it a single notch.
By contrast to my infantile appendages (no, my arms) a grown man had strong forearms that widened from the wrist and grew larger until it reached the elbow. These arms commanded respect. Pickle jars and oil filters cowered at their mere presence. Clearly I was not grown up. Me and my scrawny arms were stuck at home with pogs and slap bracelets for what seemed like an eternity.
Everything was going fine until I bought that first road bike and found the joy in hour upon hour of punishing myself across cities and up mountains. The more miles I pedaled away the more changes I saw in my body. At first the changes were all good. Bye bye fat, hello muscles. Pedal a few more miles and the body start to change. The muscles start to redistribute. The face slims down. My grandma starts to ask if I'm eating right and worrying that I'm not't making enough money to put food on my own table. And then the unthinkable happens. The arms, with little purpose but to shift gears and apply breaks, begin to fade back to their skinny, uniform shape. The dreaded T-Rex: big legs, tiny arms. There's a reason those prehistoric beasts went extinct. Add skinny arms to shaved legs and spandex and...well, you get the picture.
If there has been one consolation to a nearly unbearable four months away from my bike here in Latin America it is the true return of my grown-up shape. Yes that means a few pounds around the midsection but it also means the return of the arms that used to be the measure of a man. Soon I'll be back in the saddle and changes will start to return. But until then let just say that pickle jars across Panama have plenty of reason to fear.