Bicycle Stories

I own a nice bicycle and so does my wife. We bought the matching pair almost seven years ago, immediately after moving to Arizona, and I do mean immediately. After unloading all of our worldly possessions, from the rented Penske truck, we promptly went to Wal-Mart and purchased our new bikes. We then used the emptied truck to transport them back to our house. I see the shiny blue bicycles, hanging from hooks in the garage, every time I’m getting into my car to go someplace. I can count the number of times, on one hand, I have straddled my “two-wheeled waste of money.” My wife has straddled hers even less. The thought of riding mountain bikes together in the desert seemed like such a good idea when we first bought them, but for whatever reason the excitement quickly lost its appeal. Maybe it was due to the uncomfortable seat, hurting my tush when riding, or maybe it was because we found tennis and hiking to be much more enjoyable activities. Either way my butt hasn’t been on a bike in over six years.

That definitely was not the case during my youth. Back then my “two-wheeled friend” was not only fun to ride, but it was usually my only form of transportation. I grew up in a single car family, my mother didn’t drive, so having my very own wheels, to tool around on in our small-town, was pretty important. It meant the difference between either having freedom or else being stranded at home all day. Many times I rode to Tastee Freeze, or the shopping mall, to purchase baseball and football trading cards. Having a bicycle also allowed me the necessity of riding by the homes of potential girlfriends. How else can a boy pick up chicks during summer vacations? I rode to and from school, weather permitting, during my years at Berg Junior High, and although traffic could be quite heavy in the mornings it wasn’t too bad by the end of the school day, so I made up a game to make my afternoon rides home a little more enjoyable. I would try to complete the two-mile trek without having to grab onto the handlebars or put my feet on the ground. The success or failure of my invented game would usually depend on the precise timing of the only set of stoplights between school and home. I won about 50% of the time.

Many years before I could even consider attempting no-handed endeavors I had to first learn how to ride a bike. My parents taught me in our modest backyard by having me push myself off from a small embankment. That enabled me to already be sitting and balanced on my bicycle before I was ready for takeoff. I thought maybe my parents were having a little fun at my expense: making me learn how to ride on rough terrain and with a couple of large trees acting as a scary obstacle course as well. Looking back, I’m sure they just logically assumed a grassy yard would cushion a fall much better than a cement street could. Of course, we didn’t wear any helmets in the “good old days,” nor seatbelts when riding in cars, for that matter. I don’t know how I ever survived my childhood especially when soon after mastering the art of bike riding I got the bright idea of thinking I could ride a no-handed wheelie. However, It never failed that each time I would “pop a wheelie,” and then let go of the handlebars, I would fall off and onto my backside, so I finally gave up the pursuit of the no-handed wheelie after far too many bumps and bruises. I guess I was a little slow back then.

I wish that was the only bad bicycle experience I could remember, but it isn’t. One afternoon, when I was still in elementary school, a buddy and I rode our bikes to the shopping mall where a bowling alley was located in the basement of the building. We parked our two-wheelers in the bike rack, just outside the mall entrance, and went downstairs to play a video game or two. A mere ten minutes later, after playing a few arousing games of Defender and Caterpillar, we came outside only to find my bicycle was nowhere to be seen. My friend and I checked all of the nearby ditches, hoping someone was just playing a cruel joke on me, but after several minutes I was finally forced to admit my bike had been stolen. I jogged home in disbelief as my buddy pedaled next to me since he still had his ride. I could not help being extremely upset with myself in knowing my combination bike lock was wrapped tightly around the seat stem of my stolen “two-wheeled friend.” I irresponsibly had decided not to trouble myself with locking it up because we were only going to be inside for a few minutes, but now I knew I was in for a whole heap of trouble when I got home. After recalling my past bicycle experiences, and after taking all things into consideration, I am perfectly content in continuing to watch my shiny blue bicycle hang from hooks in the garage.

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One response to “Bicycle Stories

  • Les Kohler

    James, I am enough older than you that we could leave our bikes just about anywhere in our small, home town without fear of them disappearing. Oh, the hours I spent on mine were golden! Our small, Missouri, hometown was a thriving “metropolis” of about 4,200 people when I was young (in the 1950s and 1960s). One of the things I well remember is where my sister’s and my bikes sat, at home, when we weren’t riding them. Our parents’ 1890s house has a front porch that wraps around a short distance. In this short, wrapped area is where our bikes waited for us (except during the winter when they were stored in the basement). My sister got in trouble, rather frequently, for not putting hers on the porch (which would, of course, keep it out of the rain). Hers became somewhat rusty, while mine stayed in better condition. When we were young adults, she asked to borrow my bike. Since it was still at our parents’ home, I told her that she may. While she had been taught about taking care of other people’s things BETTER than if they were your own, she left mine out in the weather. I was livid!

    I’m not sure where I was going with this comment except to let you know that I enjoy your blog postings.

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