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When I grow up, I want to look like Audrey Hepburn. I also want to look like Audrey Hepburn on a bike (hello, skinny pants, ballet flats, and sweater!).

So I’ve progressed to the point where I’m starting to double my riding time, though those short, punchy half-hour hilly rides remain my staple. My core strength’s slowly improving, seeing as how hand numbness (the bane of my cycling existence) has lessened radically, but my ultimate goal is to be rid of that completely. I do need to do core exercises when I’m off the bike. There’s no way for me to get from Point A to Point B without making that effort. Common sense.

A milestone I’m celebrating is my getting used to doing hand signals. I only started practicing last week during my last long ride, and while things are still touch and go, it’s pretty exciting knowing that my bike handling skills are improving to the point where I can at least ride with one hand for a couple of seconds. Eventually I’ll be able to lean down and grab hold of my water bottle while still on the bike in order to drink from it. For now, I take occasional breaks both for rest and for drinking.

Riding solo remains a beautiful, beautiful experience. Unlike Andy and most folks I know, I do best when I’m alone, connecting with the road and the environment and, especially, appreciating the silence.

It sounds kind of odd, but on some levels, riding my bike on my own is like an extension of writing. There’s a lot of inspiration to be had, moments of frustration and moments of small triumphs that I think no one else can fully understand because these involve skills that everyone’s already mastered, and the rewards are strictly private, ergo, more meaningful than outside praise. That final bit for me is what makes this “journey” from non-rider to beginning adult rider a fantastic experience. What I’m learning now are skills that most people, who learned how to ride bikes when they were little kids, now take for granted. I guess in some ways, I enjoy the benefit of appreciating these little things as an adult even though my trip to this point has been pretty rocky.