Monday, May 28, 2018

The Cosmic Fate of a Used Bicycle

With a bike, the world became a bigger place.

The Cosmic Fate of a Used Bicycle
by Gregory E. Larson

 Preface: We all use different tools, utensils and things in our everyday lives. I’m sure that you can look back and remember something to which you had an attachment – maybe a car, bike, toy, doll or tools and utensils that became a part of you. This is a memoir of the first bicycle I had. An additional note: I used this same title for an article I wrote in a creative writing class in 2009, and decided to write the same story now, but from a different perspective.

          There are times of great significance in our lives. We may not know the magnitude of the events until we look back and see the impact they had on us. As Christmas day of 1956 unfolded in Wichita, Kansas, I wasn’t sure what the future held for me as a five-year-old, nor did I care. I just wanted to play with the toy gun and holster that was under the Christmas tree and wear the cowboy shirt and hat that made my transformation into Hop-a-long Cassidy or Roy Rogers complete.
          I didn’t know what jealous or envious meant, but I felt strange when I saw the shiny, new bicycle that Santa had placed in the living room for my older brother, Dan. A Royal Sabre, three-speed, it was what my brother called an English Racer. I had no bicycle at all. Why was my older brother getting a new one? My dad helped Dan get up on the seat. His feet didn’t even reach the pedals.
          “We’ll get the seat adjusted,” Dad said to my brother, “and you’ll grow quick enough that you should be able to ride it soon.” He turned to me. “You know what this means, Greg. You’ll get to ride Dan’s old bike. We’ll put training wheels on it, and you can start learning.”
          I had a funny feeling in my stomach. I wanted to ride a bicycle, but I didn’t know if I could do it. The big boys in the neighborhood zipped along the sidewalks without training wheels. It looked like something that was hard to do.
          The days were chilly in wintertime, but Dad took me outside to try out the training wheels on the bike. One of his big hands guided the handle bars, while the other hand gave me a sturdy push to keep me moving forward.  Before too long, I wobbled down the sidewalk on my own, while relying on the training wheels to keep me upright.
          I began to follow some of the neighborhood gang on my bike as they pedaled along the sidewalk, and realized that my world was expanding quickly. If I could keep up with them, I could ride to around the block or to the school playground. But I wasn’t fast enough, and I still had to use the training wheels. The best thing to do was practice going faster and faster. My little balloon-tire bike and I became good friends. I didn’t care if the two-toned brown and cream bike had its share of rusty scratches. It was mine and I was learning to go places.
          One Saturday morning my dad’s voice shook me up at breakfast. “I think it’s time to take off those training wheels, Greg,” Little did I know it was going to be a glorious day. Once on the bike, I felt it wobble, but my Dad’s guiding hands stayed with me. All of a sudden he pulled his hands away and ran alongside yelling, “You’re doing it, you’re doing it on your own!” Adrenaline pumped through my veins. I felt scared, excited, not sure of what to do next, and then my confidence took a giant leap as I kept pedaling. 
           The extent of my world grew exponentially from that day forward. The possibilities were endless. One day I was the Lone Ranger. The next day I morphed my imitation Colt 45 into a gas nozzle and pumped pretend gas into my friend’s bike and mine. We could be or do anything we imagined. In the evenings we rode with the neighborhood pack around the block. A wooden clothes-pin attached to the frame, and an old playing card touching the spokes turned any bike into a noisy motorcycle. We were fearless motorcycle cops!
          On summer days we rode endless circles in the back yard, pretending we were circus performers. Tricks came easily. After pedaling uphill in the circle, we took turns doing tricks on the downhill side, putting feet on the handlebars or balancing side-saddle. As we became braver, we stood on one pedal and extended the other leg out to the side. Of course, there was the no-hands trick, too. I had as much fun riding the bike as I did climbing trees in the neighborhood. The little bike seemed to do just about anything I asked it to do. It became a place of comfort and familiarity to sit on the seat and ride out on another adventure.
          The sidewalk in front of our house was uneven because the elm tree roots had pushed up the concrete, creating a mini-ramp where the slabs separated. With some daring and ingenuity, my friend and I could briefly launch our bikes into the air if we picked up enough speed before the ramp. Hey, I thought, we could create a circus trick where the bike rider would launch the bike up the ramp and over one of us lying on our back across the sidewalk just beyond the ramp! It would be The Ramp of Danger! This was years before Evil Knievel. I volunteered to lie down on the sidewalk, and my friend sped on his bike toward my skinny body. I sucked in my stomach as he approached. Ka-thump! His rear balloon tire bumped my stomach and was gone in a flash. It worked!
          Now it was my turn to ride over my friend. I got on my bike to ride it to a starting point. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mom coming out the front door. She had that stern mother look in her face.
          “Hey! What are you boys doing?”
          “Nothin’. Just a circus trick.”
          “Oh no you don’t.”
          “But, Mom, we tried it, and it doesn’t hurt at all.”
          “Well you are NOT to do it anymore. You could easily get hurt. You can ride your bikes, but there will be no more stunts like that.” Her orders put an end to the thought of a circus career, but it didn’t stop us from riding bikes every day.
          In a year, Mom and Dad moved us to the suburbs and my world grew even larger. We rode our bikes to the swimming pool and to a little shopping center nearby. Eventually, I talked Dad into painting the old bike. We agreed on a baby-blue color to match the color of the family car.
          My new friend and I rode to school, and when we had free time in the summer, we rode all the way out to the wheat fields, hid our bikes in the tree windbreaks and hiked out to the edge of our universe. We explored the tree lines in our hobbit-like world before I’d ever heard of hobbits.
          Now, as a grandfather, I am able to spend time riding bikes with the grandkids. It is fun to see their confidence build as they learn to ride their bikes and explore their neighborhood. The cosmic fate continues as each child and each bike create a moving machine of legs, arms, pedals and wheels – and I get to watch their world expand exponentially.
Another generation of cyclists ready to roll.


The grandchildren on their road to the future.