I went for a bike ride this week, the first one since April. You should know that I am an avid cyclist. I own three bikes, not a lot by Lance Armstrong standards, but still respectable. I have an old hybrid that’s been outfitted for running errands in town, a road bike for longer touring and fund-raising type rides and my favorite, a shiny red mountain bike. I should be clear, I do not do mountain biking in the technical sense; my passion is long, gritty rides on dirt and gravel country roads. But in this never-ending summer of exceptional drought and extra-exceptional heat, I lost my motivation. It seemed there was always something easier, cooler to do.
With crisp mornings announcing the onset of autumn, I was eager to saddle up again. The first mile was exhilarating, my skin prickled by the dual sensations of sun heat and cool air. But the going was tough. During extended dry conditions these roads collect drift sand, places where your tires bog down so much it can throw you over the handle bars. The gravel is loose and shifts around under your tires and the ruts will rattle your skull under the helmet. By mile four, with fifteen more stretching before me, I wanted to quit. My skills for this kind of riding had deteriorated. I’d forgotten about sitting back and digging in on the soft gravel, about lifting out of the saddle for the bumpiest wash-boards. And my muscles, especially those that meet the saddle, were getting battered and bruised.
Our Austin students returned to school about six weeks ago. Over the summer break most of them foundcooler things to do than math drills and word lists. Early assessments will soon show how many lost ground and will need to start the year relearning the basics. This year, Webb Middle School, launched a four week Math Camp for eighth graders. Twenty-five students spent four weeks working in small groups, guided by an APIE volunteer. They covered multiplication facts up to 12, decimals multiplication and division, fractions multiplication and division, and conversion of rational numbers. These kids have been in training, practicing fundamentals and building their math muscles to get them ready for the more challenging computations ahead. And though at times, they wanted to quit, they went the distance like the champions they are.
It will be take a few more weeks of riding before I regain my full confidence on the bike. But I know that practice will set me up for those satisfying adventures ahead.