My first bike was a Raleigh single speed I got when I was six or maybe seven. My parents bought it for me. It was red with gold lettering, had those old-fashioned swept back handlebars.
I learned to ride the Raleigh on the sloping driveway of the old, defunct country inn my folks rented after moving from the unelectrified, unplumbed cabin where I spent the majority of my early years. I remember climbing on the bike at the top of the drive, and I recall climbing out of the ditch at the bottom of the drive, bleeding and wailing, but I don’t remember anything in between. Hell no, I didn’t have a helmet. No one wore bike helmets back then. No one knew they were supposed to.
I finally figured out how to stop the damn thing without bleeding. This was a welcome development and ushered in a whole new era of freedom, just like a child’s first bicycle is supposed to. I rode that sucker all over the place, though of course my preferred route was the stretch of gravel road connecting the inn with the local country store, where one could still buy penny candy for a penny. I could always scrape together a few pennies.
I got to thinking about my old Raleigh the other day, when the clerk at the nearest convenience store mentioned to me that my boys had stopped in on their bikes this summer (probably trying to buy smokes, or maybe a case of Twisted Tea. I don’t know. I didn’t dare ask). He knows where we live. “That’s a long ways to ride,” he said, shaking his head. It’s actually only three miles, and the boys regularly ride much farther afield than that, but I since I didn’t really know what to say, I just nodded. “I guess it is,” I said, though I didn’t think it was a long ways, really. A kid oughta be able to ride his or her bike six miles roundtrip without it making an impression is what I think.
I can’t remember what my next bike was after that Raleigh, which I eventually broke in a catastrophic way by making ramps out of stacked firewood and a length of scrap lumber, and then repeatedly riding over them at a high rate of speed until I crashed or just got bored, at which point I probably rode back to the store for more penny candy. Remember those little rootbeer barrels? I liked to pack them between my cheek and upper gum, one on each side of my mouth. Let ’em slowly dissolve as I rode home.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I eventually became a halfway-decent competitive cyclist. Funny to think about now, but it’s true. I really liked riding my bike; sometimes, I rode 300 or more miles a week. I even wore those tight black shorts and ridiculous sunglasses. I rode up steep hills over and over and over again, because hills are often where races are won or lost. My weight dropped to 160-ish pounds; I weigh 185-ish now, and I’m not exactly a prime candidate for Weight Watchers, if you know what I mean. I could ride a bike pretty fast, but I sure wasn’t healthy.
Anyhow. That’s all for now.
Back to some music: The incomparable Townes Van Zandt doing Black Crow Blues
24 thoughts on “That’s All For Now”
Might we be wise to put “-ish” on the right of our weight scale displays? To be seen down there between our toes?
“ish” is one of my favorite qualifiers.
I’ve been riding my Raleigh Retroglide for 16 years now. Only one minor crash when a bee got in my hair.
Why past tense with regard to biking? You can still do it, and be and have the childhood joy with every pedal stroke. I’ll race ya’ to the store. 🙂
What?! Ride my bike!? But that’s hard work…
Townes in on the soundtrack of Hell or High Water “Dollar Bill Blues”. He’s sublime.
I remember my first bike, too, just like I remember my first horse and car. Being bipedal has its drawbacks that 4 legs or wheels can cure.
Love that post !! Made me think of all the bikes I have owned and places I have ridden….Great memories…
I live out here in San Francisco Bay area, a long way from Vermont in many ways and in some ways not so much. I do miss the Fall but the rest of the year is incredible here. I hope you are doing well. Thanks for sparking the memories
John Fernsell Twizel, Inc 3000 Bridgeway Sausalito, CA 94965 802-384-9441 (cell) http://www.twizel.com
Good to hear from you; so glad you enjoyed this.
I wish my daughter’s experience with bikes as a kid was similar to mine, but on the bright side, she’s not doping up on penny candy….holy shit! I’m sure I ate a few of those root beer barrels but there were better selections, like an array of colored tootsie rolls and god knows what else. I can’t believe I’m still alive with all the shit I ate as a kid. Heh….I’ve got the Black CrowE blues, since Chris Robinson has consistently been a douchebag and continues to get worse. Hey, I thought all sunglasses were ridiculous? You mean there’s some that are more ridiculous than others? I always imagined those tight black spandex shorts to smell quite awful….all that you know what smashed into a sweaty seat. Whoa daddy!
Funny – I just blogged about my bike and bike memories, too. I used to have an old Raleigh too but this summer found a sweet Schwinn with a basket at a tag sale. Such a great way to get around.
This is from my 97 year old Dad in response to your blog which I forwarded to him.
“He does beautiful things with our language as his story spells out. We didn’t grow up with bikes but I learned to ride one somewhere along the way. We had hay mows to jump in (when Dad wasn’t around), barn beams and connectors to balance on as w went up to the peak to look out the window, an old nag to ride, bareback, the swimming hole, stilts, a well taped baseball and one bat, etc. We made skiis from barrel staves and a nailed on piece of a harness strap to hold our feet. Won’t mention “gotcha” in the cow pasture as we carried a short piece of board, sliced it across a fresh cow pie, and caught a guy off guard—-GOTCHA!. I have to watch it or someone might suggest another book. Love, Dad”
I am encouraging him to write another book.. 🙂
Please tell your Dad how pleased I am that he liked this post.
I think bikes can be a child’s first real taste of freedom – the ability to travel faster than your own legs can carry you and really put some distance between you and your parents. I know this was true of my childhood and I can see it now with my boys. My boys are far more adventurous than I was, careening down the hill from our house toward a rock wall which opens up to our gravel road requiring a sharp right turn to avoid ending up in the creek. They mastered all this by the time they were each about 3 years old on their Strider bikes (no training wheels here, my husband was adamant about that!) I have to think the lump in my throat I sometimes get while watching their daredevil ways is good practice for what may be to come and if I learn to watch and marvel and be there to soothe the scrapes without getting in the way too much, it’ll all work out just fine.
Heck yes, my boy was careening down hills on his strider at three! He’s on to a BMX bike now and my girl has the strider.
Remembering those rootbeer barrels, bazooka gum, and now n laters. And yes, bought with spare change from the penny candy jar, either with friends on bikes or my mom’s insurance: “Take the dog with you.”
“Take the dog with you.” I love it.
It is beautiful the gentleman in the store cared to notice the distance travelled by the boys, and it is beautiful you are proud of them, and it is beautiful they have the freedom to explore the world far and wide. And mostly, bless the inventor of the bicycle, and Vermonteers who embrace it, all those physically fit folks in Vermont, I would guess it is one of the top states in fitness in the Union. I would drive to laundromat in early morning hours on the country road and marvel at some 70 year old couple pedaling their tandem bike on a hilly road. 🙂
Let us all enjoy all those wheels of life spinning.
I grew up in town, in a row home, riding bikes with a pack of neighborhood kids. There was a small, family-owned store nestled between the houses four or five blocks up a steep hill with no stop signs. We’d huff and puff our way to the top for penny candy, and then fly back down the hill, glancing left and right at each cross street, before skidding around the corner to coast down our own one-way street at the bottom. No helmets, of course. I don’t remember ever crashing, but it’s a wonder no one got flattened in those intersections.
Thoroughly enjoyed this post. The photo is probably one of my favorites so far. (The one with your dog on the couch posed with a bottle of beer also comes to mind.) I love fall. I’m from the north (Ohio), but I’m being held against my will in zone 8b. What I wouldn’t give to peddle down a wooded lane in Vermont this time of year. Let the worries go.
I liked Smarties, which were like little mini SweeTarts. A penny a sleeve at Louie’s Variety. Nothing but pure fructose and a little food coloring, which may or may not have contained carcinogens. Good times!
Might explain the premature balding, no?