If it’s scary, don’t try to control it.

when in rome

It seems that all kinds of events in my life are coalescing into a single lesson lately: if it’s scary, don’t try to control it. Not sure that’s the exact lesson but it’s a good starting draft I think.

Let me ‘splain.

Had some papers that I submitted to peer-reviewed journals get rejected (ouch, but for most of us scientists it’s a part of the job). The scary bit: revising and resubmitting the papers (OH NO THEY MIGHT GET REJECTED AGAIN AND MY PEERS WILL THINK I’M A HALF-WIT).

Also had an interesting experience on my bicycle. Took a vacation last week during which I did RAGBRAI with dear friends (it’s a huge bike ride across Iowa). There were 5000 of us who rode our bikes all the way across from Rock Valley to Guttenberg in seven days, and many others who joined for a day or two and swelled the ranks to over 20,000 riders each day. Each town welcomed the spandex-clad rolling horde with gatorade as well as treats for sale (homemade tri-berry pie made by real live Lutheran grandmothers, freshly fried donuts, et cetera) to support church groups and school groups (e.g., I think I ate enough cookies to send most of the high school aged students in Iowa to Spain, whether they were members of the Spanish Club or not; I am also figuring I will get a phone call to be a part of ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new construction on churches across Iowa to honor my commitment to purchasing and consuming homemade pie). Any-hoo, the last day we descended into the Mississippi River Valley and there were some h-u-u-u-ge hills. We just don’t have hills in Florida, so these were a new experience. Uphill ain’t a problem, because I am a spaz. Downhill….well, then there’s downhill. Down the first hill my buddy Chris clocked us at almost 31 miles per hour. It was fun. It was terrifying. I’ve never gone that fast on my bike before. The second hill was larger, but we all took the downsweep more slowly because there were rumble strips at the bottom. The third hill…holy crap, the third hill…

I learned what ‘death shimmy’ is. If you go fast enough on your bike or motorcycle, the handlebars will start to shake violently, sometimes because of hitting a rock in the road, or because a gust of air hits your bike just right, or because the Universe has a mean sense of humor sometimes. I was flying down the hill and all of the sudden my bike was possessed by Satan. Instinctively, I leaned back and tightened my grip and upper body to try to control my violently shaking front wheel, which turns out just makes it worse. Somehow I managed to bring my bike to a stop without being sent airborne.

The right thing to do with ‘death shimmy’ is to lean forward, brace the top tube of the bike frame with your thighs, and prevent your upper body/grip on the handlebars from going rigid. Supposedly it will abate. Stay loose? Lean into a front wheel that’s shaking violently? WHAT?

So my point…I can’t control what the reviewers do with my papers. I *am* a half-wit, and really there are worse things to be, so, ok. I can’t control my front wheel if ‘death shimmy’ hits, but I can lean into it and hope for the best.

Terrifying, but ok.


5 thoughts on “If it’s scary, don’t try to control it.

  1. I loved your descriptions. The pies, the cookies, and the death shimmy, oh my God. I used to think about racing 10 speeds, many, many eons ago. I spent a lot of time hillclimbing, trying to build up stamina. I never really was any good at racing. Those downhill rides? A definite cross between exhilaration and HELP! Your description was perfect. 🙂

    • I’m nobody’s idea of Olympic material (I am a scruffy scrawny hippy-nerd), but riding my bike makes me feel like a kid again. Are you still biking?

      • I haven’t owned a bike in seven years, but I’m hoping to move to Colorado early next year. If I do, one of the first things I’m going to do is buy myself another bike. I miss it.

    • I agree – I had one right before I left San Diego in 2007, and loved it! I just have to be somewhere where the weather does not include humidity, or I die trying to ride – I’m old and overweight you see! LOL

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