Bring Back the Joy of My Youth

Last week I bought a bike–something Dave and I have been talking about doing for a couple of years. We have a veloway a mile or so from our house, and now we have several restaurants and a movie theater in our suburban neighborhood, so with retirement looming, we decided to pull the trigger. I wanted a cute bike like my friend has…one with purple trim on the wheels and daisies painted on the frame…but instead I bought one on sale at Target. Spending less money seemed like the better choice given my spotty history with bikes.

In my early years of elementary school, we lived in the country. That was back in the days of three TV channels, and I had to make my own fun. I’d  spend hours riding my bike up and down the dirt road in front of our house. There was no where to go, so the thrill came from riding as fast as I could, the breeze blowing through my hair, and occasionally from trying to run over the frogs that would cover the road after a good rain. When I was in the 4th grade, we moved to town. Then I had a destination: the convenience store that sold Icee’s. And they had those little cut-out emblems on the side of the cups that you could save up and trade in for big prizes like duffle bags and t-shirts…a kid’s version of Green Stamps. I saved hundreds but never figured out how to redeem them. Still I loved the freedom of riding to the store for something cold and sweet with the added bonus of feeling like I was saving for the future.

If I rode a bike in Junior High or High School, I don’t remember it. I was probably too cool. In college, I took up bike riding again out of necessity. I didn’t have a car. One of my first days at Baylor before classes had even started, my friend Debbie and I decided to ride our bikes to the Sonic for drinks. Maybe I was trying to recreate the Icee experience of my early years. We were so thirsty when we got there, we guzzled our Route 44-sized limeades down in minutes and then when the stomach cramps hit, we had to call my brother on the pay phone to come pick us up in his car.  From then on, I avoided my bike unless absolutely necessary, and eventually I got rid of it, probably in a garage sale.

The first Christmas Dave and I were dating, he gave me a fancy 10-speed. He had been an avid rider in college and while living in California, so he thought a bike was the perfect gift. I rode it once. To the mall. I never even figured out how to change the gears. We moved that bike from Dallas to North Carolina after we got married and then on to Austin a few years later. I’m sure that one was sold in a garage sale.

And so now, here I am, twenty some odd years later, once again owning a bike. It’s a cream-colored “hybrid” bike with a rack on the back and fake leather grips on the handlebars…more like the bicycles of my youth than the speedsters most people ride today. I hope I don’t ride it once to Waterloo for a breakfast taco and then sell it in a garage sale.  I hope I instead recapture the joy of a second grader…one who rode as fast as she could down a dirt road, frogs be damned.

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