Alice was a member of a bicycle club. She had joined because she enjoyed riding her bike. To Alice, her bike meant a few things: her family, her community, her planet. She also had a few friends who liked riding their bikes as well. Her motto was "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you must keep moving."
When she signed up for the bicycle club, she hoped that it would mean she would ride her bike with other bike riders, and even make a few friends. But she didn't dream on that fateful day in late summer that a strange mystery would begin.
It was a peaceful day in August. She had gotten up extra early to arrive at the bicycle club on time. As she tightened the bolts of the wheels, she thought about how tremendous the meeting was going to be.
Hoping that she would be on time, she pedaled to the park, where the meeting was going to be held. She whizzed up to the park on an old black road, where there was a shortcut. She was never in a rush to get to where she needed to be. She just took her time. She knew that being a member of the bicycle club was fun, because she and the other members rode fifty miles a day on their bikes when they needed to. She had a road map to help her other members pick which routes they wanted to take. Alice always planned ahead and knew where she needed to go.
When she arrived at the park, she saw other people who had bicycles just like her. They were the members of her club.
She headed over to where they were and parked her bike at a nearby bench.
"Hey, guys," said Alice. "What's up?"
"We're just reading a note I found," said Ginger. "It was written by someone who used to be a member of the Bicycle Club."
"Really?" said Alice.
"Yep. We even found a bike that used to belong to that member. Would you like to see it?"
"Um...sure," said Alice hesitantly. She wasn't quite sure about this.
Ginger grabbed the bicycle from behind the bench and pulled it out for Alice to see.
The bike had was pink and had ribbons on the handlebars.
"That bike with the pink handlebars must be the one that Mandy used to have," said Ginger.
"Who's Mandy?" asked Alice.
"Mandy was a girl who was formerly in the Bicycle Club, but she quit quite a few months back," replied Ginger.
"How come?" asked Alice.
"I'll show you the note," said Ginger as she handed Alice the note.
Alice read the note, word for word. She was shocked at what she read. The note said:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE BICYCLE CLUB:
YOUR FEEBLE ATTEMPTS TO HELP ME STAY ON THE TRAIL AS WE GO ON BIKE RIDES TOGETHER AND MAKING SURE I DON'T GET LOST HAVE BEEN BITTER DISAPPOINTMENTS. I THINK IT'S VERY RUDE THAT A GOOD BIKER LIKE ME HAS BEEN ASKED TO JOIN A CLUB FULL OF MORONS WHO NEED MEMBERS JUST TO RIDE LIKE DIMWITTED MANIACS ON RANDOM TRAILS I DON'T EVEN KNOW. IT IS AN INSULT THAT I CAN NO LONGER TOLERATE. I AM NOW LEAVING THIS CLUB, AND I AM NOT COMING BACK. I'VE THROWN OUT MY CRUMMY OLD BROKEN DOWN BIKE SO I CAN BUY A NEW ONE. WITH MY NEW BIKE, I'LL BE FINDING ANOTHER BICYCLE CLUB WHERE MY CYCLING SKILLS CAN BE PUT TO GREATER USE.
SINCERELY, MANDY J.
"Whoa!" said Alice as she finished reading the note. "So, that's why she left? Because she hated the club's rules and wanted to go her own route?"
"Yeah," said Ginger. "She totally ditched the club. She even said that her pink bike was broken down and useless, and she decided to chuck it and buy a new one. The members of the club tried to convince her that she should just fix her bike and respect the club's rules, but she said she was tired of having to deal with the rules and hated her pink bike, and she wanted to get a motorbike so she would't spend so much time fixing a regular bike if one of the wheels broke or a bolt came loose. One day, she unexpectedly left. We didn't know why, until we found her discarded bike and this letter that she wrote."
"Nobody knows what happened to her," said Andy. "After she wrote her letter, she left her bike behind and never came back to the club. We don't know where she is now. Let's face it - no one can take her place. If only we can bring her back."
Since she was a very smart young lady, Alice took a moment to think. According to the discarded bicycle and the letter, it seemed like Mandy was rebelling against the other members of the bicycle club. Alice decided that she needed a plan to track down Mandy and convince her to return to the club.
"It's settled then," she said. "We need to find Mandy and bring her back to the bicycle club."
"We are?" asked Ginger. "How?"
"Well, we'll need to put together a plan," said Alice. "Mandy's whereabouts, at the moment, are unknown. But we'll find some clues, ask others for information, and track her down. Once we find her, we'll convince her to re-join the bicycle club."
"That's a great idea, Alice!" said Andy.
"I found a journal that Mandy kept in the wicker basket of her old bike," said Jonathan. "Maybe it'll help us know where she was and how we can find her."
"Good idea, Jon," said Alice. "We'll read the journal to find some clues about where Mandy was last."
Jonathan opened the journal and began to read the first page.
"In this entry," he said. "Mandy says that she bought a new bike at Bob's Bike Shop. The shop is downtown, next to the cafe. Bob, the owner of the shop, sells and repairs bicycles. This place is where Mandy bought her pink bike with the ribbons on the handlebars."
"Let's go there and ask Bob if he knows where Mandy is," said Alice.
So, the members of the Bicycle Club got onto their bikes and pedaled down the street to the bike shop.
When they got there, they walked in and saw many bikes racked up and ready to be sold. At the counter, they saw a man polishing a yellow scooter.
"Hey, there," said the man. "My name's Bob. What can I do for you?"
"We're looking for Mandy Jacobson," said Alice. "Have you seen her lately?"
"Of course I have," said Bob. "Two months ago, she came in and bought a blue bike with a dark gray wicker basket. When she bought it, I asked her if she had a bicycle already, and she said she did. It was pink and the handlebars had ribbons on them. I asked her why she didn't return that bike if she wanted a new one, and she said she was planning to throw her old one away. When I told her she might be wasting her money if she just threw something she didn't want anymore in the trash, but she just questioned me and asked me if I was joking. Then she paid me and left with the blue bike. That's when I stopped asking her questions. She comes here whenever she has problems with her bike, so that makes her a regular customer here."
"Thanks," said Alice. "We've got the information we need."
"No problem," said Bob. "If you need a new bike or want to fix one that you own, just let me know and I'll be there for you."
As the group walked out of the shop, Ginger began to take notes.
"Okay, so, Mandy bought a new bike here at Bob's Bike Shop," she said. "Bob said that she's a regular customer, since she fairly often visits the shop whenever her bike is in need of repairs. Bob also said that she doesn't believe in wasting money."
Alice decided to take a look at Mandy's journal to see where they could locate her next. She opened the book and flipped through the pages.
"According to this journal entry," she said. "Mandy sometimes likes to spend time at the 10-Pin Bowling Center. It's on 12th Avenue, and it's next to the nail salon and north of the sports shop."
The group got on their bikes and pedaled down 12th Avenue to get to the bowling alley.
When they arrived at the bowling alley, they saw people rolling balls down lanes and trying to get a perfect strike. At the concession stand, people were having some mid-game snacks and chatting with each other.
"We better ask anyone if they saw Mandy here," said Ginger.
So, the group looked around for a little bit, until they saw one of the workers.
"Excuse me," said Jen. "We're looking for Amanda Jacobson. Have you seen her around here?"
"Yep," said the worker. "She comes here on Wednesdays and Fridays, and she often gets more strikes out of anyone else here in the bowling alley. We're quite impressed by her skills, but she can be pretty bossy when on the bowling lanes. When she started bowling, she said she wouldn't buy bowling shoes and argued about the price of them. She doesn't stop to get some bowling essentials. She just grabs a ball, heads to the lane, and goes for it. She sometimes gets pretty frustrated if she doesn't get a strike, and she hates gutter balls. Sometimes, her bossiness can get out of hand. One time, she yelled at a guy for accidentally hitting the scoreboard, and another time she argued with a guy who would not follow the game's rules, which lead to him sliding down the lane and crashing into the backboard. Although she's a good sport, she's kind of a terrible player."
Ginger wrote everything that the worker said on her notepad. Then she turned to the group and said, "Well, looks like we learned that Mandy is good at bowling but terrible at interacting with other players. She just focuses on getting more strikes than anyone else. That Mandy is so competitive. So, where to next?"
"Well, according to this journal entry she wrote," said Alice. "She said that she moved to a mansion. It's a huge building that's pretty old and run-down, but she doesn't quite care. She said she also bought a new bicycle, which she thinks is better than her old one."
"Where's the mansion located at?" asked Ginger.
"The mansion is on Eagle Road, next to the theater and left of the bank," said Alice.
So, without hesitation, the group left the bowling alley, got on their bikes, and headed down Eagle Road to find the mansion.
As they got to Eagle Road, they saw a large red brick building that seemed to be the mansion that Mandy moved into. The group stared at the dilapidated mansion. It was a dull shade of red, with a gray roof, windows, and doors. As they got closer, they noticed that it seemed gargantuan, but aged and run-down.
"So, is that the mansion that Mandy is in?" asked Pedro.
"I'm sure of it," said Alice.
The group slowly walked in, their footsteps squeaking through the open door. The floorboards squeaked with every move that they made. The wallpaper in the hallway was hanging off the walls in sheaths. The trees standing outside the windows dragged their branches across the panes. Alice noticed that Ginger's breathing was shallow as she listened for every creak that the falling apart house made.
"Whoa," said Ginger. "This place is just like how Mandy described it in her journal. If only we can find her..."
Suddenly, they ran into a maid who worked at the mansion.
"Need any help?" asked the maid.
"Yeah," said Andy. "We're looking for Amanda Jacobson. Have you seen her around here?"
"I have!" replied the maid. "She's on the third floor, and she has a blue bike that is often seen next to the staircase on the first floor."
"Okay," said Andy. "Thanks!"
As Andy turned to the others, he told them, "Mandy lives on the third floor and keeps her bike on the staircase of the first floor. So if we go to the first floor, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that bike."
The group split up, going up the stairs to the third floor or looking down the halls of the first floor.
"I'm gonna go find Mandy's bicycle," said Alice, peering down the corner of the hallway. "If I see a blue bike anywhere, I'll let you know."
Alice stepped around the corner of the hallway, hoping to look for anything that looked suspicious.
Suddenly, she saw something that caught her eye.
It was a bicycle. A dark wicker basket hung from the handlebars. The wheels looked like they were properly inflated. The bike was a beautiful shade of blue, almost as blue as the sky. The bike had a shining paint job, and it seemed to bring a little color to a dull, worn out building.
Alice knew that this blue bicycle had to belong to Mandy all right. She ran back to tell the others.
"Guys!" said Alice as she approached the group. "I just saw that blue bicycle in the hallway! I think it must belong to Mandy."
"Really?" said Jonathan. "Show us!"
The group headed down the hallway, but when they looked toward the stairs, the bike was gone.
"Huh," said Alice. "That's weird. It was here a few minutes ago. I think Mandy might have it."
"Let's go outside!" said Pedro. "Maybe we can see her with her bike."
As the group exited the mansion, they saw a girl with brown hair in pigtails. The girl had the blue bicycle and was fastening her helmet. The group immediately knew who she was.
"Mandy!" cried Ginger.
They had finally found Mandy. She was preparing her blue bicycle and getting ready to go for a ride. As Mandy heard Ginger calling her, she turned her head to see the members of the bicycle club waiting for her. She looked in shock, and gave a displeased scowl at them.
"What do you want?" asked Mandy.
"Mandy," said Andy. "I can't believe we finally found you! You ditched our club to fly solo, but we don't want anyone ditching our bicycle club. We just want you back."
"Why?" asked Mandy. "I'd rather live dangerously than spend my life at a stupid rule-filled club."
Alice decided to take stand. She wasn't going to have a rebellious person like Mandy leave the bicycle club with no purpose other than to just live dangerously. She came up to Mandy to give her some words of wisdom.
"Look, Mandy," said Alice. "You can't just rebel and ditch us because you want to go the dangerous route. Going dangerously is a bad choice, and it can lead to unexpected consequences. Going the safer route is better than going the dangerous route, because you need to keep your bike in top condition and pay attention to some very important cycling requirements when sharing your ride with the general traffic. Life is like riding a bike. To keep balance, you must keep moving. And to keep your balance as you're moving, you will have to find safe routes. A bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy for you to play with. You need to make sure to ride safely, and if you don't re-join the bicycle club, you won't learn anything about bicycle safety or street safety. Do you understand?"
As Mandy listened, she started to feel a little guilty.
"I...I understand," she said. "I apologize for unannounced departure. Since Alice was so persuasive, I will never take bicycle safety for granted again. I promise to rejoin the bicycle club and maybe I can learn some things from you."
And so, Mandy rejoined the bicycle club and had a change of heart. She enjoyed riding her bike as much as her friends did, and she had to owe it all to Alice for convincing her to return to the club. And she always knew that life was like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, she kept on moving.