A longtime friend of mine, Mike Chason, taught his grandson how to ride a bicycle in June of this year. In July they took the training wheels off and practiced on an empty tennis court. Brody found his confidence amid his grandfather’s encouraging cheers to, “Keep pedaling.” Now they ride together often. On Labor Day they spent the morning exploring the bike trails of St. Simons Island. But Mike and Brody weren’t just riding their bikes. They were in Mike’s words, “making memories.”
Mike suggested that “Keep Pedaling” might be a good title for a column. I didn’t know where it would lead, but his idea had instant appeal. It’s a compelling little phrase that kept resurfacing in my thoughts. Part of its charm is found in contemplating how such a simple expression can address complicated situations. “Keep Pedaling” needs no explanation, but it seems deserving of its own story.
When I learned to ride a bicycle, our family lived on a sandy dirt road surrounded by Dooly County farm land. The only thing I remember about my first bike is that it had been hand painted bright red. I don’t know if the previous owner did that or if Daddy tried to make it look a little better. The brush painted lines were visible, so it clearly wasn’t a factory job.
I don’t recall the actual process of learning how to ride. Daddy, or Mama, or my brother Jimmy probably taught me how. I don’t remember anyone shouting out for me to keep pedaling, but it’s almost a certainty that came with the coaching. Keep pedaling is a line that many of us have heard or said at some point. It’s what keeps us upright and moving forward. It’s what helps us navigate the sandy spots on roads where the tires sink into the soft dirt. It’s what helps us get up the steep hills, like the one just north of Joiner’s Store.
A cold Coca Cola never tasted better than after a July trip up that hill. Even after the county paved the road with gravel, it still took a lot of effort to reach the store. The downhill trip coasting toward Mr. Tom Sangster’s farm was splendid. The ride back up to the store, however, was a challenge. I understood it was a necessary part of the journey, that the fleeting thrill of downhill rides came with a price. It’s a lesson that I’ve never forgotten, but have at times admittedly ignored.
Pedaling up that hill would sometimes get the best of me. I’d hop off my bike and push it for a while. Then I would get back on and pedal some more. I knew it was best to keep pedaling but taking a break from the tiring routine was sometimes too tempting.
Maybe someone already sells t-shirts, bumper stickers, or cards featuring a “Keep Pedaling” theme. If not, it sure seems like a good idea. Most of us have been on some hills that seemed unbearably steep. Or we’ve traveled sandy roads where it took standing up on the pedals to keep going. Perhaps our bikes have even tipped over at times because we pedaled too slowly.
Alyssa Wehunt is a sweet little girl who lives a few miles outside of Vienna. She’ll be six on December 18th. She’s spent about half of her young life courageously dealing with Metastatic Pilocytic Astrocytoma. She has inoperable tumors on her brain and spine. Since her January 2016 diagnosis Alyssa has had countless hospital stays. She’s had chemotherapy, radiation, and all sorts of unpleasant procedures. She’s had pain, and nausea, and felt the sting of too many needles. But she keeps smiling and bravely dealing with her illness one day at a time.
Alyssa loves getting mail. She finds encouragement in knowing that others are thinking about her and praying for her. Cards won’t cure Alyssa’s illness, but the medicine’s not quite as bitter when you know people care. It’s inspiring to have cheerleaders lining the sides of the road.
I’m inviting all my readers to be cheerleaders for Alyssa. I’m asking you to take a few minutes and write her a note. And somewhere in your message tell her to, “Keep Pedaling.” The hills don’t seem nearly as steep nor the sand quite as deep when others are cheering us on.
I think Mike Chason had a really good idea for a column title. I hope you feel that way too. You can write to Alyssa Wehunt at 677 Pleasant Valley Road, Vienna, GA 31092.
Keep pedaling, Alyssa. Keep pedaling. Always, always, always, keep pedaling.