My husband surprised me with a brand new bicycle. And heck, while he had the credit card out, he bought one for himself. The goal, he tried to convince me, was to exercise and spend some time together, all while exploring some of the more beautiful bike paths in our town.

Quite frankly, this sounded good. I like to go out and walk. On a good day I might actually walk around the block. And how hard could it be to hop on a bike after several years and enjoy some free time with my husband? I accepted this challenge. Little did I know he was trying to kill me.

It wasn't until I first hopped on my bike that I realized we lived on a hill. People have often commented on the steady slope heading into our neighborhood but I never knew what they were talking about. I have a nice Suburban that gets me where I want to go and yes, it is true that often I must press very hard on the gas pedal but the hills are so gradual, how can they possibly be difficult to ride? And besides, it would add some much needed definition to my 'definition-less' legs.

Our inaugural bike ride started out innocently enough. I quickly gathered my confidence and it wasn't long before I was going full speed ahead. The transformation was sudden! I felt like a child! Young! Carefree! And what a wide smile on my face! This was a great idea my husband had! Why hadn't we done this years earlier? In my euphoria it didn't occur to me that while I was joyfully riding down our neighborhood I would at some point have to get back home. It wasn't until we made our way through the downtown and stopped to sip (okay gulp) our water that my husband said, ' Now here comes the hard part.' I'm sorry to say this piece of information flew right past me.

I won't go into the gory details. I must maintain some pride, but I can tell you, the return trip wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright embarrassing. From the moment we started back home I knew I was in danger of a complete respiratory breakdown. I am amazed that one can peddle so slowly and still stay upright on a bike. I immediately tried to set off on a positive note.

If I could just ride a few feet to the fire hydrant, then I would quit and walk. Once I passed the fire hydrant I decided that I could absolutely make it to the crosswalk. It went like this for a full 10 feet. I'm sorry to say my husband hasn't heard me breathing that hard in many years so the sounds coming from my body must have shocked him. I'm not sure if I fell off my bike or if the sweat pouring from my face caused me to slip from my seat. Either way, I was down.

As I huddled near my bike I gasped to my husband, 'You go on, I'll be fine.' It took several minutes for me to blurt out that statement, as the lack of oxygen reaching my brain was alarming. Not apparently to my husband. I looked up, my helmet askew, and all I saw was a cloud of dust. He was gone.

Several hours later, despite a long cold shower, two gallons of water with 14 trays of ice, I was still sweating and my heartbeat was nowhere near a normal pattern. I now completely understood what Mark Twain meant when he said, 'Get a bicycle. You won't regret it. If you live.'

Julie McGuire is a busy Lake Oswego mother of three children and a monthly columnist for the Lake Oswego Review. When she's not playing chauffeur she writes a blog, 'From the Mudroom,' at

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