Like Riding a Bike

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, we got around on two wheels. I clearly remember the day that my training wheels came off. Gripping the butterfly handlebars of my Schwinn Sting-ray, I felt like I was flying. Over the remainder of my glorious childhood, I would ride past the stores, production homes, and wooded hills of my neighborhood of Terra Linda, California.

Don Timoteo

Don Timoteo Elementary School (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Little did I realize that, from the banana seat of my bike, I was also learning how to speak a little Spanish. Some of the streets I rode included Del Ganado (livestock), Las Gallinas (the chickens), Las Colindas (the cliffs), and Las Ovejas (the sheep). The name of my street was Las Pavadas, which is some sort of very bad word in Spanish! My favorite place to ride around was my elementary school named Don Timoteo (Sir Timothy).

Hablas Espanol

Do you speak Spanish?

When I began middle school at Vallecito (Little Vally), I was required to take a foreign language for the first time. I signed up for Spanish. Like a different set of training wheels, my teacher helped me keep my balance as I tried to learn Spanish. I took Spanish throughout high school and into college, but never had the confidence to take those training wheels off.

La Hacienda Door

Speak Spanish Through This Door, La Hacienda Language School, Guanajuato

After traveling to Spain for the first time in 1984, I felt like I could timidly and tentatively speak wobbly Spanish without help. But, just as I was starting to get the hang of it, I regrettably put my Spanish into a mental storage shed in the backyard of my brain. Now, a third of a century later, my neglected Spanish is covered in cobwebs, has two flat tires, and a rusty chain.

Esme and Luiz

My Exceptional Spanish Language Teachers, Esme and Luiz

With a little free time in Guanajuato, I have dusted off my old Spanish, and enrolled in two weeks of morning classes at La Hacienda, an excellent local language school. Like drops of restorative lubricating oil, my new teachers and fellow students have helped me get the wheels of my Spanish slowly spinning again.

Cantina La Cubana

Another Day Outside My Favorite Cantina, Guanajuato, Mexico

Although the training wheels are securely back on, I have regained some of my old confidence, and can actually understand a lot more Spanish than I expected. Last Saturday night, I ventured by myself into a couple of local cantinas, just so I could try to converse with the locals. At the bar, I learned that cerveza, tequila, and mezcal are also excellent lubricating agents.

La Hacienda School

The Lovely La Hacienda Language School, Guanajuato

I realize that as I try to speak Spanish, I look like a silly grown man riding a tiny children’s bike. Although it feels good to be back in the saddle again, I don’t think I will be laying down any rubber or riding with no-hands for a long time. I don’t know if I will ever be able to take those training wheels back off, but the wind is in my receding gray hair, and it is all downhill from here.

Mi Clase

Me and My Wonderful Classmates Annie and Marta


Feature Image: Boy in the 1960s popping a wheelie. This is not me, but it could have been. Photo credit: Pinterest


11 thoughts on “Like Riding a Bike

  1. I would love to speak and comprehend Spanish! I love the analogy of learning to speak a language and learning to ride a bike. Cheers to more lubricant and practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Moira. Being able to speak Spanish opens so many doors to understanding and enjoyment in Mexico. Even the little that I know has helped me uncover secrets otherwise hidden from view. Like riding a bike, learning to speak Spanish is frustrating and intimidating. For me, the ultimate reward is the ability to coast through the Spanish-speaking world without getting run off the road. Cheers to my teachers, fellow students, and cantina amigos!


  2. I really wish I had paid more attention in my high school Spanish classes. My husband and I have taken a few classes recently, both from an adult education school here and a Spanish language immersion school in Oaxaca. I’m afraid that I’m not a natural language learner and I continue to struggle. I do find that a cerveza or two definitely helps the process, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I moved to Fresno many years ago, I thought I did the same as you and your husband, Janice. I took an adult education course at night once a week. But I dropped out after only three classes because I just didn’t have the interest as I tried to balance it with work during the day. Perhaps now I can try again, though I worry I still don’t have the interest! I hope your training wheels come off at some point, Joe. – Marty

      Liked by 2 people

      • I am holding out for the time (which I’m pretty sure is just around the corner) when we can just insert a chip into our brains and become instantly fluent in any language. Until then the most recent iOS update has made Siri fluent in several languages. All you need to do is ask her, “Siri, how do you say… in Spanish?” and she replies in a perfectly accented (at least to my ears) voice.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I want to take more Spanish when I get home. I think they should hold class at the bar! My high school Spanish teacher was blind. I got a lot of sleep in that class!

      I don’t know why they call it learning to “speak” a foreign language. They should call it learning to understand what someone is saying to you in a foreign language. I am waiting for a little translation hearing aid. That way, I will be able to understand them, and hear what they are saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved reading about your bike ride Joe. For someone who enjoys riding a bike, the presence or absence of the training wheel should not matter. Enjoy the ride! It surely is an achievement to take away the training wheel though. 🙂
    “At the bar, I learned that cerveza, tequila, and mezcal are also excellent lubricating agents.” LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope your Spanish lessons are progressing well Joe, and kudos for the commitment to enrolling and making the effort. Loved the bike riding analogy. I always envy those people who seem to effortlessly move between languages. It is great mental exercise and such a positive way to show respect and learn more about the places we visit. It sure does get harder though with each passing year. Anne and I have both enrolled in a Portuguese for beginners class and start next week. Take care and keep moving forward. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim & Anne, Thanks for the encouragement! Congratulations on starting Portuguese classes. It will be fun for you guys to learn a new language together. All the best to you in your journeys and life on the Algarve. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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