The Amazon Trail

Me and Mr. Astaire

At age fourteen, I got an English Racer for my junior high school graduation. Seven months later, I came out. The timing was great.

I named my bike Mr. Astaire. Lightweight, nimble, quick, Mr. Astaire was a handsome blue and decidedly debonair. I kept him tuned up and shiny. Saturdays, my father would put him in the backseat of our 1950s Hudson, and drive from Queens out to Locust Valley on Long Island where Grandma and Grandpa Lynch lived. I loved the smell of his thin tire next to my face and held onto his spokes. Instead of hanging around Grandma’s house, so bored I’d read their “Saturday evening Posts” and “Readers Digests,” I was out of there.

By the next February, Suzy and I found that there was a lot more to explore in life than geography. We’d met midway through seventh grade and become best friends. We lived a long walk or two bus rides away from each other, so we usually got together downtown and went off on our adventures from there. That was before we wanted privacy.

My legs got strong from biking up hills. My arms got strong from lifting Mr. Astaire up the stairs to Suzy’s apartment. In spring, especially, I reveled in the rides back and forth to Suzy’s under the blossoming trees, across carpets of pink petals. In summer the dogwoods blossomed white. I’d whiz down the hill at 147th Street, then turn into the side streets of single family homes. Or I’d ride through corridors of six-story apartment buildings, past church and synagogue, school and blocks of stores.

They weren’t just about young love, these journeys. For so many years I’d escaped from reality through the sedentary joy of books. I loved to run, but could only do that for so long. I loved to walk, but, somehow, telling a hovering mother you were going out for a long walk didn’t pass muster. Going for a bike ride, though – there was no arguing that. It was a time-tested, acceptable activity. It evoked a Norman Rockwell innocence and turned urban danger into bucolic pastime.

I’d meet Suzy at the park and we’d take the less populated paths so we could hold hands or just be together, she walking her Collie, me wheeling Mr. Astaire. Sure, I
still explored neighborhoods and stopped to write descriptions of falling leaves or drifted snow. Sometimes, I’d lock up my bike and drink egg creams with Suzy at the soda fountain near her house. Mostly, I didn’t go out to Locust Valley anymore, but stayed in the city so I could be with my lover and learn to be a lesbian.

Suzy’s family tried the West Coast for a year. My parents had forbidden me to see her by then, so I’d bike to a faraway pay phone, having turned my two-dollar allowance into coins, and call her in California. When her family returned, they moved way out to Kew Gardens. The bike ride was long, past Queens College, on busy, pot-holed main roads and over the packed Long Island Expressway. It was scary.

Mr. Astaire went to college with me, Suzy left behind. Eventually he was stolen and replaced with Ganymede. Bicycling wasn’t big back then so I never did have a riding companion. Lovers were usually on campus. Or they were so remote that trains and busses were needed. Later, my little VW bug ferried me to trysts or we’d just move in together. I never had enough stuff to need a U-Haul until I was well into my thirties. Just my bike and many boxes of books, work clothes, favorite mugs, posters and LPs stuffed into the VW.

When Ganymede fell apart I replaced him with a Raleigh Humber that I had for almost 40 years. I’d take off from work just to spend the day wheeling around  neighborhoods with Virginia Woolf, the Raleigh’s name.  I’d purchased her while living in a lesbian-feminist collective and had long ago shed male heroes.

I hadn’t ridden Virginia Woolf in many years when I left Oregon to join my bride-to-be in Florida. I was looking forward to biking in new territory. The movers,
though, misjudged the size of the van and my collection of books and garage sale furnishings. There was no room for my bike. They were towing my car, which
they’d filled to the gills with boxes. My sweetheart and I had rented a van to
drive cross country, but we had four cats, a dog, supplies for us all and my
most fragile belongings stowed in it.

My sweetheart is right here with me, my wife now. Finally, there’s no need to
travel across town. There’s no need to escape. It turns out I enjoy exploring more with her than on my own. It was time to let go of my romance with wandering wheels.

Lee Lynch Copyright 2011


14 Responses to “The Amazon Trail”

  1. 1 rachelspangler September 20, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Every time I read Lee’s work I tell myself I won’t be blown away because this time I expect greatness, but every time she manages to describe something so seemingly mundane in a way that makes me reconsider something important I’m once again left in awe.


  2. 2 VICKI BUTSON September 20, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Now I have to figure how to leave a hint for the holidays.


  3. 3 Shannon September 20, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    I couldn’t agree more, Rachel; what a wonderful post! I love the final sentiment – being settled with her wife and exploring life together has brought great contentment (although her previous single “wandering” allows Lee to best appreciate their current journeys together, I expect).

    Thanks, Lee!


  4. 4 connie ward September 20, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Lee, this is fantastic!


  5. 5 Beth September 20, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Thanks, Lee, for another wonderful column.


  6. 6 Ruth September 20, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Who would have thought a blog about a bicycle could be that romantic?


  7. 7 Norma Serrato September 20, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    The imagery is so vivid that I can almost see myself riding tandem with Lee. Beautiful piece of writing.


  8. 8 Lee Lynch September 21, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    Thank you all. It’s lovely to feel heard.


  9. 9 Devlyn Sixtyseven September 21, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    Lee, I love to hear about the colourful rainbow life you have lived and are still living. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us and showing us that to love is to be carefree.


  10. 10 Gillian September 21, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    What a great story but most of all thanks for the memories it triggered and imagination it sparked, cheered up a rather rubbish day. You may have given me the final shove to get mac the mongoose out this weekend :o)


  11. 11 RamenGrrl (@RamenGrrl) September 21, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Loved this post. Makes me wish I had a bike to ride when I need to do my escaping – long drives to clear my head aren’t so fun in L.A.! Thanks, Lee!



  12. 12 Lee Lynch September 22, 2011 at 2:08 AM

    Must. Post. Pic. Of Mac the Mongoose. With you riding. Please!


  13. 13 Anita Bradshaw September 23, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Another great column, Lee. I always am excited to see when you are writing in the blog. Such a fantastic way of describing your experiences, your feelings, and “stuff”. It is why I enjoy your books so much. Thanks and I look forward to the next one!


  1. 1 How to Diet, Art Poster by Norman Rockwell | Diet Plans That Work Trackback on September 20, 2011 at 10:18 PM

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