Current mood: mellow
This is my contribution to a collection of bicycle love stories now being assembled by a local writer [link].
* * *
The summer I was 9, I learned a major lesson in life: Bicycle=Transportation=Freedom. In doing this I also defied my parents and lost the privilege of using the bike for a while, but so what. A few lumps along the line are to be expected.
A local radio station (Buffalo NY) promised a picnic to anyone who wanted to drive all the way out to the ski resort area south of town. For most folks, this was 20 to 30 miles, but I was already well south of the city. My parents were adamant, no radio station picnics for me. But my sister broke her collarbone that morning, distracting their attention. I hemmed and hawed about it, wondering. Could I bike there? It’s only 10 miles. Nor was the route complicated, only one road, NY 240.
I went for it. Putting all 65 scrawny pounds of me on the 20” single-speed, off I pedaled. And I made it! It took maybe 90 minutes, but I made it! Problem was, as my parents had feared, there had been a drug bust and the event was shut down early. This was 1968, and they just knew there would be drugs. But what did I know, or care? Ah, the innocence of being 9.
The trip back was less successful. For one, a gang of kids who taunted me southbound didn’t miss me going north, and beat me up. Second, a parent of one of them, noticing the fracas and the strange bike, rescued me but also got my father on the phone. You can guess the rest.
But 15 miles on a 20” single-speed, at 9? The world was now open! Anyplace I cared to go, if I could get away with it, I went! Loving life meant riding freely, and I rode a lot.
High school years brought forth a unicycle, and before long I was unicycling four miles each way to school, a couple times a week. That repeated stunt got me a spot on the evening news one day. Later on, at college, I rode one wheel or two pretty much constantly. I think all that exercise is what has helped me stay relatively youthful. I don’t feel my age, and many say I don’t look it, either.
Now 51, I still consider myself free as a bird, as long as I have reliable wheels. No money for bus fare or gasoline? No problem. Just get on and ride.