Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fighting my fears on Lake Shore Drive

by Julie Hyzy

I love writing characters who are adventurous, brave, and daring. The reason I like writing for them so much is probably because I'm just the opposite. Although I've faced a fair share of terrifying circumstances, I do my best to avoid danger when I can. I won't bungee jump, I won't parachute. I'm sort of tempted by parasailing, but I have a feeling I might chicken out at the last minute.

For Christmas these past few years, my husband and I have decided to minimize giving our kids "stuff" and maximize family experiences. We've seen theater productions, gone on serial killer bus tours, and gone skiing as a family. We all prefer hanging together over cluttering up rooms and apartments with tchotchkes.

This year, my husband suggested we take them on a Segway tour. Back in December the idea sounded fabulous. That is, until the weather cleared and we made our way to Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and I realized I would have to navigate on one of these devices through hordes of bicyclists, joggers, strollers, dog-walkers, and more. Way more.

I'm not very coordinated. I bump into walls, chairs, tables, etc. every day. But we'd promised the kids (including two boyfriends) so I put on my game face. The instructors pulled out a slew of two-wheeled buggers from the Segway parking area, fitted us with helmets, and warned us about this, that, and whatever. There were far more warnings than I'd hoped for. The one point of pride the instructors shared was that this particular operation was the only one in the city that hadn't lost a Segway in the lake.


Our guide, Adam, taught us all one-on-one how to operate the monsters. As he held tight to the handle and impressed upon me how very important it was to NEVER step off without his help, I said, "I'm really nervous." I actually think that was pretty obvious. He assured me I'd be fine. When he finally sent me to the nearby park to practice before the tour, I moved about an inch a minute. Pathetic. Want to move forward? Lean forward. Want to stop? Lean back, but never allow yourself to roll backward. Got that? Never. And you don't turn it like a bike. You just lean the handle sideways if you want to turn.


Look, no hands!
The family including the boyfriends:
  L-R, Curt, Luke, Sara, me,
Biz, Robyn, Andrew
I finally made it to the park and... whaddya know... within about five minutes I had the hang of the thing. I was able to stop, start, navigate, and feel comfortable while doing so. Woo-hoo!! Fabulous!! My youngest daughter joked that Segways made her feel like a Jedi. You don't actually do anything -- you just think it -- and the Segway responds. We were having lots of Star Wars fun out there, until it was time to depart. And navigate through all those people. Was it hairy at times? Oh, yeah. Did I have to bite the insides of my cheeks from yelping a few times? Yep.

But you know what? I survived. We all did. Marvelously. We rode south along the lakefront to the museum campus and then back, taking in the city skyline and the sparkling lake. It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day. Wonderful, awesome experience.

I'm so glad I did this! I was scared... more than a little. But pushing past my fears brought me an experience I truly enjoyed.

Have you ever faced a fear and had it turn out well? Or just the opposite? Are you more or less likely to push yourself these days?