"Let's go this way," Riley calls back to me. "This trail looks like fun!"
That should have been a clue right there. Like most things in life, Riley's definition of "fun," and my definition are just slightly different. But for me, part of this trip is about leaving my worrywart nature behind and adopting a new carefree view of life. Easy enough, right?
"Okay, sure! I'm right behind you!"
This trail is off the main road, but it looks harmless enough. As I ride down the dirt path, I admire the canopy of spanish moss above me and whatever those low lying palm tree looking ferns are. For a second, I can almost imagine myself riding through some far off jungle somewhere. I keep my eyes peeled for alligators. I'd really like to see at least one before we leave. I want to be the first one to see it, too. I'll just yell out to Riley, all calm and collected, "Oh hey Riley, look, an alligator." Of course, he won't believe me at first because I'm just being so cool about it, but then he'll be so impressed and it will make for a really great story.
On second thought, maybe I don't really want to spot one while I'm on a bike. It is kind of low to the ground, and I don't really have the greatest sense of balance on it yet. I start to pedal a little faster.
"Hey Riley, wait up!"
I come to a stop at three wooden steps right in the middle of the trail. After lugging my bike to the top, I spot Riley's thrown to the ground in front of me. He's climbing a tree. A huge tree with strong, low branches. I haven't climbed a tree in ages. I get my camera out and snap a few pictures, and then hand it off to him as he jumps down. I try my best to scramble up in my slippery boat shoes with soles now permanently covered in a layer of sand. I wasn't a half bad climber back in the day, tiny, stubborn little thing that I was. It's not quite as easy as I remembered, but I probably don't look all that awkward, right?
"Okay, take my picture now!"
The next part of the trail is a steep, root laced… let's just call it a cliff. Riley's totally in his element. As he glides down it effortlessly he calls back,
"Just remember! Push your pedals backward to brake!"
Okay. I line my bike up, take a deep breath, and jump on the seat. The bike starts racing downhill, off course and straight for the trees. My newfound confidence is plummeting as fast as my bike. I grip my handlebars, trying to brake myself. Nope, there's no brake there. But my feet don't seem to know to go backward. I stop myself just in the knick of time, and heave a sigh of relief. I didn't actually crash, and Riley didn't see a thing, so all is good. Maybe I can just walk the bike down this part without him noticing.
When I reach the bottom, I see…
"Wow, how do they expect anyone to ride this?!"
"Well," Riley explains, "If I had my mountain bike, it would be a piece of cake. But with this fixed gear, piece of rental crap, it's just not worth it."
Oh, okay. I push my bike along the skinny wooden bridges behind him. This really isn't turning out quite as fun as I expected. But I don't want to complain about it. I don't want to be the whiny girl that can't keep up. I'm adventurous! And fun! Right?
I get back on the bike and start pedaling again. I'm almost out of the woods, and I can see the light through the trees. I see Riley up ahead in the clearing, pointing and laughing. Great, if I wasn't feeling self conscious about it enough as it was. But he has the camera out, and I'm going to finish this thing with a smile.
"Wait," he says, "let me get your picture. Okay, now turn around and look behind you."
Oh, yeah! I totally conquered that trail that wasn't even a trail! Confidence restored!
We pedal back into the marina and the manager beckons to us. He wants to show us a spot that only the locals know about. We hop in his car and he drives us over to one of the beaches. We walk over into the woods and up a slight incline. I look down and all I see is a valley…
"Yeah man! That's what I'm talking about!"
Riley's already reaching for the long rope tied to the top of one of the old trees. He climbs up the roots of the old tree and jumps. He struggles a little bit, and looks kind of awkward dangling from the rope, not like Riley at all. But I mean, he is doing it one handed.
"Okay, your turn!" He hands the rope off to me.
I can just barely reach the bottom of the rope, so... I'm just going to jump off of this tree and reach for the rope at the same time. Okay. Sure. I can totally do this. Right? Just jump…
And then, with one perfect, graceful movement, I'm swinging through the air.
As I slow down and hop to the ground, I see a look of, could it be… pride, on Riley's face?
"Guess I bested you on that one, " I say smugly, of course. His expression shifts slightly as the realization registers on his face.
"Hey," he says, "let me try that one more time…"