Tonight after work I rode the same course as I did last week, hills and all. I even went a little further down the road this time. Before I rode I measured the distance I had gone last week with my car. It was a whopping 4.5 miles. Hardly what anyone would call a long bike ride by anyone's standards. I think I may have added another half mile at the end, which I then had to double back and cover again on the way home, so I suppose I rode about 5.5 miles tonight.
I still have no clue about my gears. I think I'm doing it right and then suddenly it doesn't work. I got the main gear at the pedals to shift over to the larger, faster gear all of twice. When I duplicated what I'd done to get to that gear it simply didn't do it all the other times. One time it dropped the chain off the gear entirely. That happened as I was coasting down the cascading hills. I had hoped to build up a lot of speed and then fly down the straightaway to the hill from hell, but when the chain fell off that option was out. But as long as I was coasting and not able to do anything much I decided just for the hell of it to shift the gears and pedal to see if I could magically pop the chain back into place. And damned if it didn't work. The chain popped right back on again and I didn't have to stop and fix it.
The main thing I got out of tonight, though, was a very simple yet critical lesson. Biking is a lot easier and less work when your tires aren't flat. Yep, write that down. It's gold.