Coming to live here on Florida’s east coast, early morning walks on the beach quickly became a daily habit, opening eyes to countless sights of nature at work and play and bringing a quiet absorption in the particulars of ocean, sand and open sky. On many days it seems as if every tenth step uncovers a different curiosity or minor marvel. I’ve always imagined that a good part of it is dictated by the relatively slow passage that walking describes.
Last Thursday I reached a landmark of sorts in terms of distance. The first walks were limited to a couple of miles, but increased gradually to three. Over the last month that distance has grown to four miles. Day by day over the course of months since May 1 of 2010 the total has reached 2,000 miles walked, roughly the distance between New York and southern New Mexico.
Any day of the week sees a dozen people riding bikes on the beach, an easy exercise because at certain hours the sand is smooth and hard packed, making it possible to zoom along as you would on a paved surface. Until recently it never occurred to me to buy a bicycle for riding on the beach. I changed my mind because finally I wanted a different perspective in my time of wandering the beach.
On Saturday I came home from Walmart with a giant of a bicycle, a type people in these parts call a ‘beach cruiser’ and built specifically for sandy cruising in salty air. The card that came attached to the bike shows the name as 29" Men’s Onyx, but oddly enough the decals on the frame read Onex 29, making me wonder if the factory in China mismanaged the spelling.
My first ride on Sunday morning started out well and the rush of wind in my face was welcome balm to an already hot sun. For a couple of minutes the notion of whizzing along at full speed brought a thrill of exhilaration smothering any concern for the small things flashing past. But I hadn’t counted on the fast depletion of stamina and in no time at all was breathing hard and wondering how long my legs would hold up. A little experimentation and I settled into a comfortable speed manageable for five or six miles without a struggle.
Three miles south of home the hard packed sand gave way to a long, wide expanse of shells, most no bigger than a fingernail and instantly crushed under the big wide 29" tires advertised as “Big Wheels Roll Over Everything.” I never gave it a thought. Not long after that I turned around heading back and right away noticed a bumpy change in the rotation of the back tire. Checking it out I looked down and saw a tire as flat as a sand dollar. So much for the claim of rolling over everything.
Used to walking, I gave it a rueful smile and started rolling the big bike home. Sure, I was a little disappointed in the bike’s inaugural ride, but not enough to let it turn the day dark. Once I got it home, off it went to the return counter at Walmart, and an hour later I was home with a replacement 29" Men’s Onyx, and a tire pump for future emergencies. Say what you will about Walmart, they exchange goods without the blink of an eye.