Thursday’s successful landing of NASA’s rover, Perseverance, on the Red Planet has prompted some high-spirited behavior on Earth, too. A large, homemade paper Mars was spread across a Clairemont neighborhood street where an odd assembly of riders gathered, eating Mars bars and red rock candy. They are known as the Covid Cruisers.
Coincidental to the arrival of the pandemic in early March last year, I began riding an adult tricycle with 36-year-old Meghan, who owns Down’s syndrome with grace.
Those early days of the pandemic had many of us frightened to near paralysis. I stayed sheltered, while others shopped for me. But come evenings, I’d let myself out of the enclosure of the house to ride endless circles around the secluded half-mile circle of our neighborhood. Here I stole a little peace in the darkening shades of dusk.
It wasn’t long before others joined us. Our mantra became “Hey, come and ride with us!” Today, six adult tricycles, several bicycles, and a conglomerate of other wheeled gizmos ‘ride the range’ every afternoon at 4.
“Car!” comes a collective shout and massive ringing of bike bells and horns. Bikers quickly move aside. Our neighbors have become accustomed to our owning the street those couple of hours every evening and patiently slow or wait for the bikes to pass. “Wave to everybody,” we urge the kids.
It is apparent that riders share a sense of absolute silliness in song and chatter. We enjoy a playful recognition of celestial and holiday occasions. There is the making up of fanciful stories about spooky trees, queens, or lost dogs.
But something else takes place during these rides. People we didn’t know have come out of their houses in a way they hadn’t before. Genieve’s mom says, “My daughter had no friends in the neighborhood until she began circling with the bike gang.”
I asked another young teen, Elizabeth, why she had experienced the same loneliness. “Because everybody is inside on their machines!” she said, matter-of-factly.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we older adults have rekindled friendships of days gone by, our own children grown and gone from the neighborhood.
Another child, of a tender 14 years, lives with cerebral palsy and rides a metal bike-like invention. In December he suffered a hefty surgery and has been in a long-leg cast for weeks. His father, Larry, contrived a chariot behind mom Kathy’s three-wheeler, until Paco is back on his own two pedals.
The cruisers range in age from 3-month-old Juniper in a stroller to 81-year-old Bill on a trike. How is it that age or different physical abilities have no bearing upon this evolution of friendships?
We followed Jupiter and Saturn in their chase across the sky all summer, through autumn, and celebrated their convergence at the winter solstice. Teaching, learning, playing, and loving are all part of the fun. NASA’s expensive mission ever so exciting.
Perseverance was launched last July on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Interestingly, the Atlas missile program was developed in San Diego in the late 1950s.)
What can you cause in your neighborhood of similar alliance? No need to sit home wishing you’d get out to exercise a little, perhaps socialize in an outside zone. The pandemic has stolen from all of us, but we cruisers out-smarted its isolation.