Friday, January 30, 2015

Bicycling Saved My Life

Bicycling saved my life. I wanted nothing more than to go somewhere.

It started early—this obsession to explore. One of my earliest memories is of my father affixing wooden blocks to the pedals of a tricycle so that my feet could reach. I’m sure it was a tricycle passed down, a one-size-fits-all. I eventually out grew the tricycle and into a small two-wheeler with training wheels. I really wanted to be able to ride without the aid of the training wheels. I can actually remember to this day dreaming—or was I scheming, it was perhaps an awake dream—of gravity and the natural puzzle of how a bike, those skinny tires—how does it stay up? It didn’t make sense. Back then the boys my older brother Steve’s age rode Schwinns with turned down handle bars and racing tires.

The inventors of the airplane, the Wright brothers, had a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. As a school kid we were taken on field trips to see it. Huffy bikes were manufactured in Dayton. That was another era.

Once the training wheels came off I, too, took off. I must have been pre-kindergarten when one day I wandered off on my bike across the highway and ended up in the tangled streets of an apartment complex. It was starting to get dark. Just when I knew I had to start back across the busy road my pedal fell off. I ended up having to push the bike home. I really didn’t want to tell Mom where I’d been; besides I hadn’t exactly known where I was anyway.

My next bike was a banana seat Stingray. I also began to go further afield. One morning I woke up early to help my sister deliver newspapers and afterwards we decided to go for a ride—to Xenia, Ohio, I don’t think we got that far, maybe to Spring Valley. I remember passing a dilapidated “ski” resort. That must’ve been really wishful thinking for an entrepreneur. Anyway, a single-speed bike wasn’t meant to go that distance—over 40 miles. I was exhausted by the time I got home. I’m sure I had to stop at Bill’s Donut Shop to fortify myself.

I advanced to a ten-speed Huffy Scout after that. 
image from Internet, not the actual bike
I absolutely loved that bike. I kept with the name Scout. I have an old friend from way back then. Sometimes he and I will reminisce—remember Scout. He still called her/he/it by its given name. I literally rode that bike everywhere. All summer long I’d be out on that bike. My mother would assume I was upstairs sleeping in—instead of on a backroad in Indiana. I rode wherever I could in a fifty to seventy-mile radius of our house in Centerville. It was nothing to put in 40 miles before lunch—and typically, I’d run out of gas on the way home and end up calling from a payphone somewhere that I was too exhausted to get home on my own. Invariably my father would leave work early and come and pick me up.

Circa 1975
Middletown, Germantown, Trotwood, Lytle 5 Points Rd, Social Row Road, Waynesville, Oregonia—these were all places I rode to. To New Burlington before it became Ceasar’s Lake, before they sank the town beneath a reservoir.

In college I had a blue Motobecane, an Italian brand that to be honest was a little to big for me. When I moved to Chicago I left it with a friend who locked it up on the front porch where it thereby got stolen. I miss that bike still. Since 1989 I’ve had an ’82 Trek. What would now be considered a vintage model.

It is this bike that I am taking with me to Florida.


Unknown said...

Love the story!

Sandy said...

I loved this story. It's so you. It makes me exhausted to read about all this bike riding. Only you could have done this.