I thought it might be fun to recount for myself some of my cycling stories. I generally have a poor memory for times and dates of event in my life; I figure I had better start journaling some of the things I do so that when I get older I will have a way to recall some of my experiences.
I took up cycling again as a regular activity in 2005, when I was 42 years old. That sounds strange; why did I wait so long? I loved riding bicycles when I was a kid. I remember my mom teaching me to ride without training wheels, but I don’t know what age I was. I know I was at least 5, because I learned on the court where we moved when I was that age. I can see her in my mind, holding the back of the seat as she ran along behind me. I have no idea how many times she did that before she could tell I was ready and she let go. What a great feeling! I think I still love it not only for that sense of freedom but for the power of being self-propelled! Dependent on no one else — it’s all in my legs, lungs, and above all, heart.
One activity I really loved was riding around dirt hills with my brother Jim and our friends. One advantage of living in what was then the far north end of Columbus, Ohio, was that there were fields and construction sites everywhere. Even in areas where there were already lots of houses and other development, it was easy to find large vacant lots with lots of dirt. We loved dirt and its endless possibilities. Little did we know dirt-biking and “motocross” would turn into competitive sports and be featured at the X Games; we just thought of it as “riding bikes”, and naturally we sought out bumps and hills where we could get airborne. We did not do anything spectacular, and I didn’t do any tricks, but I had a ball anyway. I fell off my bike a number of times, but I never got seriously hurt. I remember the sense of excitement I had when I was big enough to be able to ride my older brother’s 10-speed. Wow, what a discovery to feel the effect of gears! Columbus was mostly very flat, but there were a few places where downshifting came in very handy, and of course on the flats I felt like I could fly. I doubt I was really going all that fast.
Sometime around 7th grade or so (maybe 8th) and on into the first part of high school, I had a paper route, and my primary means of delivering was by bicycle. As I wrote in another post, the worst thing that happened was when one wheel fell off my bike part way through my route while I still had a heavy sack of papers. It was still dark out. I reset the wheel (despite having no tools) and finished the route. My mom was great; I could not have done that route without her help. When the weather was really bad or when I was sick, she would drive me around the route. That is not to say rain or snow was always a problem; I often delivered the papers on my bike even in showers or in the dead of winter. I think that toughened me up, because to this day I feel that I am impervious to bad weather. (It always cracks me up when people complain about the weather in California. We are so fortunate here; in Ohio there were simply more extremes.)
After I gave up my paper route, I think I must have gone through a long period during which I rarely rode a bike. Certainly at college in Dayton I can’t recall even owning a bike let alone riding. However, that all changed when I went to Cal-Berkeley for graduate school in 1985. The first place I rented a room was in Montclair, above Oakland, quite a few miles south of Berkeley. My landlord was very nice and helpful. He drove me to a bike shop, and I picked out a metallic blue Peugeot 10-speed. Because I really didn’t have the time to commute all the way on 2 wheels, he actually let me use his old pick-up truck so that I could drive part way, find parking way on the outskirts (actually still in north Oakland), and then ride the rest of the way to campus. To this day, I can’t imagine why he was that generous, but it was a great help to me, and wherever he is, I thank him…. The only unpleasant cycling incident that I recall during my 2 years at Berkeley was, one evening after sunset I was riding from campus to the pick-up along a city street when I approached a crosswalk. I was tired. Too late it dawned on me that the cars along side me had stopped, and I remember thinking, “Huh, I wonder why they stopped…” Next second, I felt a bump and was falling over. I had clipped a pedestrian student who was carrying books and all. I looked back, and she had fallen over, too. Oddly, she never really complained or said anything. Luckily, neither of us was seriously injured. One of my arms hurt, and my hip was sore. When I got home, I discovered that I small divot of flesh on my hip was missing where the metal divot in my jeans had dug in. I still have the scar, but I also feel that it was another time when my guardian angel was looking after me.
I had that Peugeot for years afterward, and I still had it well after we moved to Tarrytown Court. Erik rides a bike to high school most days, and I began letting him use the Peugeot. Alas, my guardian angel (and his) must have been distracted and looking the other way one day, because he forgot to use the bike lock one day, and someone stole it. I can honestly say I was not terribly sad about that, because I am not overly attached to material possessions, and the bike was not one I would have wanted to ride anymore, but there was definitely a melancholy feeling like losing an old toy….
[to be continued…]