The Whee Effect
Mid-morning, on a quiet summer weekday fifty-some years ago, my mother and I went for a bike ride. Palmer Park beckoned, with its steep, twisty roads winding through cliffs and boulders; and Ponderosa pine, yucca, and other scrubby plants dotting the landscape. The park was only a few blocks from our home in Colorado Springs, and my brother and I knew all the best places to explore with the family dog. But this day it was just me and my mother.
Back then, my bike was a two-speed: stop or go. Mom had a fancier bike, all of three speeds. Our trek to the highest point in the park took awhile, standing up to pump the pedals, or getting off and pushing the bike up the steepest segments. I'm sure we had a canteen of tinny-tasting, lukewarm water with us to quench our thirst. I'm equally certain we gabbed and laughed the entire time. Mom was my best friend, after all.
Upon reaching the pinnacle, the choice before us was to turn around or take the back road out of the park. The first choice meant a slow, disciplined descent around the same curves we just conquered. The second choice involved a shorter, steeper path straight down.
Mom and I looked at each other and grinned. "Don't tell your father," she said. And then she lifted her feet from the pedals and let the bike coast. I followed suit.
I can still feel the gleeful abandonment of good sense as we picked up speed, fighting the urge to brake too soon. With our hair flying back from sweaty faces, we screamed in terrified delight. "Whee!"
My father found out about our recklessness, eventually. Years later, in fact. "You could have killed yourselves," he ranted. "What were you thinking?"
I looked at Mom. She looked at me. We smiled. "Whee!"