"If I can do this, then what else?"


Juliana Reyes

Reyes, pictured left, with a friend at Bikeout: Philly to Phoenixville, 2017.

Courtesy photo

The night before Bikeout I watch a crew of lady drummers jam at Dahlak and I stay up too late and I feel deliriously happy but I do wonder out loud why I signed up to bike 70 miles over a weekend.

I was nervous.

The farthest I’ve biked is from my house in West Philly to the library in Chestnut Hill, clocking in at an increasingly hilly 13 miles, and as soon as I hit my first hill on the way home, I decided to quit and take SEPTA. Still, it remained my proudest biking accomplishment for two years and I jumped at any chance to tell someone about it.

That morning I briefly consider wearing my biking heels to get a little sun on my feet but decide to be a bit more practical. Snow-leopard print golf shoes it is. Bikeout people tease me about the shoes but I’ve got the bike shorts and isn’t that enough?

When we set off in our group, despite my five hours of sleep, I’m hype and the sun is shining and once we reach Manayunk I can’t believe how easy it was. And that’s how the rest of the trip progresses. My worries about not being able to make it fade away and the next five hours is a long conversation with my best friend, except we’re in motion under the trees and along the river.

I continue to feel deliriously happy (and grateful that my bag is on a truck to the farm and I can bike free).

All of us are breathless and sweaty but smiling, for the most part, when we stop for Rita’s before the last leg of the trip, which we’re told is the only hilly part. We all share cups of lemonade and cherry water ice and I think of Chestnut Hill. How Mt. Airy’s steep inclines were my end.

But I also think of how I’ve never taken myself this far before. I don’t drive. I’ve only ever been a passenger, except when I’m on my bike. My purple Schwinn with one grubby pink and white streamer because someone stole the other one. So when we hit the hills I bike up them like I do this every day. Determined. Snow-leopard golf shoes doing the trick. Feeling like, if I can do this, then what else?

And then we sail down the long hill to Sankanac and when I finally get home, I tell anyone who will listen.

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"If I can do this, then what else?"
Juliana Reyes writes about her experience at Bikeout 2017.
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