Caption for Dennis & His Brother: The author (right) and his brother enjoy a trike ride sponsored by the Boise Veterans Hospital. Riding trikes has given them the opportunity to spend more time together and get exercise at the same time. (Photo by Kelly Odell of the VA)
By Dennis Lopez
If you never have seen or ridden a recumbent trike, I suggest you look into it. For those of us who want and need exercise and have balance problems or simply don’t want to deal with a two-by-four on-end seat of a regular bike, they are terrific.
You simply drop into the low-slung seat, put your feet on the pedals and go at any pace that works for you. It’s that simple and a heck of a lot of fun.
A few years back, I bought a WizWheelz recumbent trike. Low, yellow, 27-speeds with a seat just a few inches off the ground, it was fast and fun but the needs of a new business venture meant selling stuff to buy equipment. So goodbye trike and riding altogether.
Fast forward to last spring. My brother called and told me he had received a trike from the Veteran’s Administration as part of his therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
“Still got yours?”
“Nope. Sold it. Remember?”
“You otta get one. We could ride together.”
Ten minutes later he was on the phone again.
“I think I found one for you.”
And just like that and a thousand dollars later, I was back into recumbent triking. Well, not exactly just like that. There was the matter of a helmet, gloves and shoes…and a trailer to haul the thing around.
Then later it required snappy “riding pants,” a jersey so colorful that it makes a jockey’s colors look pale, a special high-visibility I-look-like-a-highway-project-flag person jacket and of course rain gear. Throw in a bunch of other odds and ends and my $1,000 trike became one of “those projects” that seem simple at first but the ancillary stuff adds up. But I don’t care.
What I really care about is the amazing transformation that takes place today while riding with my brother. In a way I find it very hard to explain but riding together takes us back to our boyhood, back to the uncomplicated times of riding our beat up Schwinn’s on the ditch banks and backroads around our ancestral home in Fruitland.
Riding together now on trikes that singularly cost more than all of our cars in high school did collectively, we go back to the easy times before we were beaten down by jobs or family tragedies or failed marriages. Back to a time when we had not yet been to war or college or even much beyond our geographic niche on the Idaho-Oregon border.
You see, my brother is my best friend. He always has been, even when life and circumstances put both geographic and emotional distance between us. We were dinner-table co-conspirators; the guys who had their own cryptic language and inside jokes that I am not sure even we understood.
Together we shared a small, hell-hot or arctic-cold room and a them vs. us attitude towards most of the outside world. We probably knew more about one another than our parents ever did, together sharing secrets held to this day. Crashed cars, fuel “borrowed” from our dad’s gas barrel, clandestine meetings with girls, fights at the library; the list was long but by today’s standards, remarkably innocent. Our trike riding unexpectedly proved to be an extension of our closeness as brothers.
Our first trike ride together was sponsored by the Boise Veterans Hospital with a group of other disabled veterans. On that ride, my brother and I somehow always ended up at the end of the pack. This was both a function of our riding abilities as well as our inability to stop talking to one another. The group leader spent as much time riding back to find us poking along as he did at the head of the group. Oddly enough, we were invited back to subsequent rides, most likely for comic relief.
While riding, we inexplicably always seem to end up laughing at sophomoric jokes we have told over and over throughout the years. Somehow, they remain funny every time one of us tells one. But I suspect they are only funny to us because, like riding, they take us to a place where we were happiest.
Riding side by side, we drop into a pace that allows for a constant stream of words between the two of us. I have heard his stories for nearly three-quarters of a century yet I can, and do, listen to them as though they are brand new. He is equally tolerant of me. Brothers, yes, but also old friends enjoying time together as only those who have shared life can.
As winter approaches, our riding is slowing down a bit. Old age and cold do not mix well. I do not know what the future holds for my brother and Parkinson’s. I do know that I will be there with him through the process. And I know that I will be there to ride with him as long as he wants to ride, not only the greenbelt, but down memory lane as well.