They caught my eye as I pedaled past in the rush-hour sun.
A man and a woman on either side of a mountain bike, steadying the handlebars and guiding the seat as they jogged along a deserted sea of concrete.
The rider, dark hair in a ponytail, white tennis shoes on her feet, wobbling and weaving across yellow lines, spaces for hundreds of dorm-dwelling students during the school year but now her own private practice field.
It reminded me of long-ago summers and Stingrays and the end of training wheels and the moment my own dad let go -- I can’t, I can’t, I can’t -- and I took off in two-wheeled flight.
Arti Kashyap was waiting for that magic moment, too.
But Monday wasn’t it.
And at 43, the physics professor from India had patience.
“It was only my first lesson,” she said later from in her second-floor apartment in the Village, a student housing complex north of that parking lot.
“I know you can’t learn it all at once.”
Arti is in Lincoln for four weeks conducting nanoscale technology research with a team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln physics professors. She and her husband and their two children live in northern India, and Arti teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology.
She first came to Lincoln in 2002, working on her post-doctorate.
That’s when she met Verona Skomski, a native of Germany, where people practically emerge from the womb on bicycles.
This summer, when Arti planned her trip, she and Verona talked about things they might do for fun. Eating out, going to Nebraska City, shopping, exercise.
Arti suggested tennis. She didn’t know how to play, but she could learn.
Verona suggested biking instead. Arti said why not?
“What I like most about her is she is always open to learn or try new things,” Verona said of her “intelligent, enthusiastic and always optimistic” friend.
Verona talked to Shawn Langan in the Physics Department.
He had a bike that would fit Arti -- a pale blue Powerclimber that belonged to his wife, a physics professor in Warsaw.
He had time to help. For 30 minutes Monday, they trotted in the heat. Arti made progress, her bright orange cotton kurta blowing in the wind.
“I was starting to let go, not 100 percent.”
She’s not worried.
A few years ago, after she hit 40, she decided to do the things she’d always wanted to do but never did.
Last year, the woman who travels the globe learned to drive.
“It was not so hard.”
Now the bike.
She’d grown up in a small village: “It was not very common for girls to ride bicycles.”
But nearly everyone rides now, including her son and daughter, Arnav and Avani, both teenagers.
So why not learn, too?
“Being in a teaching profession, I am used to learning new things. And I’m around young people, who are always open for new ideas.”
She hasn’t told her family about her after-research-hours lessons.
A surprise, she says.
They live in a beautiful city, near the Himalayas, and she sees the mountain bikes traveling the trails. She thinks maybe she’d like to do that.
She figures the feeling she has behind the wheel of a car, with the window down and the wind in her face, would be like the feeling of flying down the hill on a bicycle.
Free, she says. Light.
“The only thing is, when you are small you don’t know what can happen, so you are free. When you are older, you know the consequences.”
And you particularly know the consequences when you are a physics professor.
“I understand very well if I fall on the hard floor what would be the impact.”
But on Friday afternoon, consequences be damned, she sat atop the pale blue mountain bike in the deserted sea of concrete again -- center of mass over the saddle and a friend on either side as she pedaled, pedaled, pedaled.
A determined woman.
One lesson closer to two-wheeled flight.