Driving and Biking in the Big City

Help, I’m a cute girl trapped in an aging body

with 5 comments

San Francisco biking

My route from Pacific Bicycles to the beach and all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge. My return trip was more circuitous and completely unmapped.

What your beautiful mom and older sisters didn’t tell you when you were growing up is the subtle change that happens as your looks go from cute to beautiful to handsome to invisible to downright off-putting. The change I write of is the change in others. You are the same cute girl inside but the bellman doesn’t know it. Nor does the waiter or the valet or the shop clerk or the athletic guys at the bike shops. You are expecting a little attention, some help, a good recommendation or just nice manners, and you never quite realized until now that you depended on being treated a little more special because you were cute. And now, paybacks are hell, and it’s time to pay back . . .

  • For the times you wore short skirts,
  • For the times you held eye contact too long,
  • For the times you laughed and it wasn’t funny,
  • For the times you acted like you didn’t know and you knew,
  • For the times you were offered help and you curtly said you didn’t need it and you didn’t.

Well, now you do.

A few years ago, I would have said I never had any favoritism because my pride believed I was as smart and as physically strong as the next guy and could compete on a level playing field. I even joked that I’d always get a bit of attention because I have a quick wit, am charming and am sincerely interested in others. Everyone loves a good listener.

If I’m honest with my feminist self, I knew the heyday of my appeal. For many years, I could walk into a room or a restaurant and heads would turn. I remember walking the length of a classroom of adults in a new suit, turning at the door for some reason and the men were falling out of their seats – just like a scene from a sitcom. It was a nice suit.

Fast forward a million years and I’m still that cute girl inside, healthy, clever and still pretty interesting with all my newspaper adventures and folks I’ve met teaching and writing. But, I don’t have that young girl’s long dark hair, ‘70s short skirt and tennis player’s body.

I wouldn’t trade a day of my life, a year off the clock or an experience that gave me these lines or these extra pounds. I’m plenty healthy, current and well-read; I just don’t invite the kindness of strangers that once came my way uninvited.

When the cop stops me these days, he tickets me. I want to tell him of the days a cop would stop me to tell me I didn’t put on a blinker and then let me go with a chat.

So, I took a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge on my very first visit to San Francisco. I had the time of my life driving straight through the city and down the beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. But, when I came downhill from the summit of the bridge, I aimed my speeding bike down the road not taken so that I could avoid some of the tourist traffic.

It was not long before I was a lost, confused, sweaty and thirsty and heading up some pretty steep roads in a town that’s known for its steep roads. And, when I asked for directions, I got a huge runaround that kept me in the saddle for longer than I’d planned and for a total of about six hours for the day. Even worse, I got some bad advice to drive straight up a street that had more than a 45-degree angle. I was not led too far astray, though.

Don’t let my current lack of a short dress fool you. I’m still plenty smart and know when I’ve been given the brush-off. And, in my repertoire, is the “writer” card. I will pull it out if I need to do so – just as I did as a young journalist the first time I was anesthetized in an emergency room. You don’t want to kill a writer. It will make for terrible publicity.

So, when I was lost on the streets of San Francisco, it took a while to get good directions back to my hotel. At one point, I’d given up hope and thought I’d just pay for a ride. But I couldn’t convince anyone to take me and my bike anywhere. I tried to get a taxi that had plenty of room for the bike. I tried to catch the street car, which would have taken me and the bike but I couldn’t get there fast enough. I even attempted to get on some ship-looking vehicle that was traversing the tourist streets.

I got the worst advice — a route straight up a steep street — from a second Marriott that I thought would be nice to me because I was staying at the Marriott Marquis. I may have looked like a disheveled dufus, but there were still some brains left in that bike helmet. Finally, I came upon a second bike shop – not Pacific Bicycles where I rented my bike but one a few streets away from Fisherman’s Wharf where I’d tried to find my own way outside of the tourist traffic.

I told the second bike shop folks that I was a writer from Houston and a blogger and if he got me killed with a bad route, people would know. He eyed me suspiciously, gave a few half-hearted answers and then finally gave in to true help. His instructions were explicit and his route was over the flattest streets he could find in San Francisco. He even filled up my empty water bottle from the tap in the back of his shop. I promptly repaid him by forgetting the name of his shop and not mentioning him in this column about non-helpful service personnel. I was back to the hotel in 30 minutes or so after my Hail Mary for help.

Don’t get me wrong. I like this new phase of my life and am challenged by what new experience may be in front of me. I still feel as curious as ever and mostly as healthy as ever. There are 76 million of us Baby Boomers in the United States who are going to hang on to adventure, sports and new knowledge. And, every so often like when I want to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in a city I’ve never visited before in my life, I’m going to need some help.

My advice is:

Don’t overlook us. We tip well.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

June 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Well, you can still wear a cute cycling lycra skort. I wear one often enough @54 yrs. I’ve never spent a lot of time over the past few decades on figuring how cute I was /not. I’ve been too busy enjoying the bike rides!


    June 13, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    • I had big fun discovering San Francisco on my bike ride. Did the same at a conference in Madison, Wisconsin, a few years ago. I’m a gym short kind of rider in Texas.


      June 13, 2013 at 8:03 pm

  2. Denise, my dad who is 90, and an avid cyclist, always says he feels like he is 18 on the inside… it’s just when he looks in the mirror he realizes he is a few decades (make that 70) off!


    June 14, 2013 at 5:01 am

    • I love that!! I’m going to be biking at 90. My knees don’t hurt at all when I’m on the bike. That’s why I’d rather bike than walk.


      June 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

  3. Denise you are studly. You are probably the best female athlete of my acquaintance. I have such fond memories of you water skiing and remember you biking on Galveston Island in the Texas heat. I’m proud of you today and yesterday. Love, Mary


    June 18, 2013 at 3:55 am

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