Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Issue 31 - Two-Wheeling Fun

Quote of the Month

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." -- H.G. Wells

Two-Wheeling Mania

Joe, an avid mountain biker, went over his handlebars and cracked several ribs eight weeks before his 50th birthday. His wife Hillary knew he was looking forward to getting back in the saddle. She asked me to help plan a birthday surprise for him.

An avid mountain biker myself, I love planning mountain bike rallies. A rally is not a race; it's an opportunity to turn a 45-minute bike ride into a 2-hour rolling celebration. That's exactly what we did. Hillary and I mapped out the trail in a park in the foothills. On the morning of the event, I rode the trail, leaving cards along the way containing directions to the next stop.

Around noon on rally day, Joe's friends met in the parking lot. Joe was scheduled to arrive 15 minutes later with his son and two friends, thinking they would have a nice ride in the park. Well wishers shouted "Surprise!" and "Happy Birthday!"

After he greeted us, Hillary played a recorded message that began with the Mission Impossible theme music and ended with Joe's mother's voice saying, "Good morning, Joe. Your mission, should you decide to accept it..." Since his mother lives a thousand miles away, he knew this was the start of a carefully planned adventure.

I explained what would happen next. Joe would lead us on a treasure-hunt-style bike ride. At each stop, there would be a clue hidden with three things in it: a humorous greeting card, a Trivial Pursuit card, and directions to the next stop. No matter who found the clue, he or she would give it to Joe to read. Joe was our captain. It was up to him to lead us through the park or get us hopelessly lost.

Before our group of eighteen riders crested the first hill, we could hear a steady thump in the distance. Eight of Joe's friends were beating their drums, the rhythm seeming to pull us up the incline.

A little while later, we stopped for a relay race. Joe and Hillary headed the two teams. The object was to knock over a partially-filled liter bottle using only an orange that dangled in one toe of panty hose tied around their waists.

We stopped to eat snacks, serenade the birthday boy, and put together a puzzle. The water gun brigade at the top of a hill was such a welcome relief from the heat that Joe and several others rode though it twice. When Joe crossed the finish line, he was covered with Silly String and red lipstick kisses.

Prizes were given for the safest rider, which was won by 11-year-old Riley, and for the person who answered the most Trivial Pursuit questions correctly. Vince, a middle-aged history buff, was the undisputed champion of trivia.

Not only would H.G. Wells have hope for the human race if he saw these adults on bicycles, he would probably think bicycles had a hand in reversing the human aging process. If he saw the man in the next story, he'd think a bicycle was the perfect time machine.

Congratulations to The Amazing Al

On July 18, Al Emma of West Chester, Pennsylvania completed his goal of riding an organized "century," a 100-mile bike ride, in every state. This would be an impressive accomplishment for anyone, but when you consider that Al is 69 years old, it's down right amazing.

When he finished the One Helena Hundred on Saturday, he put his bike in his car and drove 580 miles north to Saskatoon, in Canada's Saskatchewan province. His next goal is to complete a century in all ten Canadian provinces. The Saskatchewan ride was his third.

I met Al last July when we were doing the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). He's every bit as impressive as he sounds. 

A Glimpse of Romance

My dear friend Debbie works at a Whole Foods Market. One day she noticed a man who was studying items on a shelf. She asked him if she could help. He said wanted a picnic basket like the one in the display. Since Whole Foods didn't carry them, Debbie offered to call a few other stores, to no avail. Much to this customer's disappointment, there wasn't a picnic basket to be found.

On a hunch, Debbie asked if this was for a special occasion. The customer's face lit up. "Yes," he said, "I'm going to propose to my girlfriend this weekend." Debbie, a woman who loves all things romantic, said, "I'll tell you what. I'll sell you this one." She even threw in the red checkered napkin used in the display.

The man was delighted. Not only did he find an attractive picnic basket, he got it for a great price. Debbie never learned how the proposal turned out, but being able to help made her feel good. In the back of her mind, she was sure the woman said yes to the sweet man who'd tried so hard to make the proposal special.

In-Home Art of the Spark Workshops

If you are in the Colorado Springs or Denver area, it's easy to host your own Art of the Spark workshop. Each 3-hour session is $15 per person or $25 per couple. If you want a 6- or 9-hour workshop, it can be scheduled over several evenings or a weekend.

Each couple or person would need to have a book, and the hostess gets a free copy. The book can be purchased online or at the workshop. The minimum number in a group is 8, but the more the merrier. My husband, Jim, assists so we can break into two groups and plan surprises for your sweetheart.

Wedding Gifts

It's the wedding season. And what do most newlyweds want even more than toasters or towels? Lasting love, that's what! If you have friends or family getting married this summer, The Art of the Spark would make a great wedding or shower gift.

If you are hosting a bridal shower and want a fun and unusual icebreaker, try Romance Bingo.

Last but not least, include a pair of Fringe Ticklers in your gift.

Celebrating with Food


Even people who say they don't like blue cheese like this dish, a nice switch from traditional cole slaw.

     - Blue Cheese Cole Slaw


This omelet is fun to make when it's just the two of your or when the whole family gathers for breakfast or brunch.

     - Ziploc Omelet


Once while traveling through Wichita, we had a fabulous salmon dish. After dinner, I took notes as the waiter told us how it was made. This is my attempt at reproducing it.

     - Wichita Salmon


With this easy summertime dessert, you'll have an elegant and healthy way to end your meal.

     - Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Until Next Time

If you enjoyed this free newsletter, please forward it to friends. I care about people and how they celebrate. If you have any stories you'd like to share, please send them to me at

Next entry     Previous entry     Newsletter menu     Home