There have been a few important constants in my life other than people, and no, I’m not going to mention them all now…maybe later.
One of the most important has been the bicycle and the freedom it provided to me. Since the earliest days I can remember, usually the day was Christmas, finding a brand new bike tucked around the corner in the living room was one of life’s biggest thrills!
Why, well maybe if you’re asking that you’ll find the rest of this a bit on the boring side, but maybe you’d like to read on to find out.
When I was a kid, I lived that post we see so often on Facebook or Instagram about just needing to be home by the time it got dark. The definition of dark could get pretty interesting as I recall, and not because I was out doing something wrong, nope, I was just riding my bike, sometimes on my own, frequently with friends.
My first experiences on my own on my bike were in St. Petersburg Florida. I had a super cool Sears bike with a slick rear tire and small front tire with a shock! There was a “shifter” which as actually a rear brake, perfect for laying down massive skids! The great weather meant that riding a bike was nearly an everyday experience. I’m sure I knew the nearby streets in South St. Pete as well as any cabbie! My friends and I played bike tag, raced, and ventured out as far as we had the legs and time for. How cool to have a part of my life where I was in charge. Where I would go, how I would go there, how long I would stay was mostly up to me!
We moved from Florida to Wisconsin, then to Vermont, then back to Florida in a span of about 5 years. When I was in Wisconsin I got my first 10-spee, a Free-Spirit from Sears. I kept up my riding habits doing a paper route with my friend Kris, riding to school, baseball practice and friends’ homes. Here’s something special that I never knew I was embedding in my mind…This Summer my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Ashland, WI, the town we lived in back in 1973-1975. We rented bikes and rode around town and it wasn’t long before it all started coming back to me. There was Kris’ home, there’s my old school building, there’s the Gordon’s home, there’s the ravine where we went sledding, there’s the baseball field…I could go on, and if I’d kept riding I’m sure I’d have an even longer list. It was amazing how vivid those recollections appeared to me.
Those who know me well, know how fond memories are to me. Riding the bike there in Ashland I was almost transported back to that sweet time of friends, baseball, fishing on Lake Superior, Lumberjack football and basketball games, epic sledding adventures, literal sandlot football games, and so much more. Faces of people I cared about, who cared about me came to mind…I rode by my old house multiple times remembering shooting thousands of free-throws on my alley-facing hoop. We had a gigantic pine in our back yard, we made blocks of snow and built a wall all around the base to use as a snow fort with friends. There’s a lot more, but now I’m rambling a bit and you probably know I’m prone to that too!
Suffice to say, even in times where I had very little, I’ve always managed to have a bike. Lisa and I even bought bikes when we lived in Germany and regularly paid visits to our neighbors in our little town of Riedenberg.
Today I have a 1950’s Schwinn Stingray that Lisa bought me a few birthdays ago, (pictured), an old GT Mountain bike that a friend sold me, and my road bike which is a Scott, it feels new to me as it is only 8 years old!
I guess that’s another thing I like about bikes, age doesn’t matter. I like to think that’s true for humans too. We all want some freedom, we like exploring, taking in the views, feeling the wind in our faces, and when we find others who enjoy this too, it doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest, or the youngest, we all speak the same language!
Gotta go, probably on the Schwinn today…