Up until very recently, we had four bicycles. Which is kind of crazy.
I used to love to bike. I got my first bike, I believe, in California. It was a big old honker of a bike. Heavy, clunky, thick-tired, and crayon green. I adored it. Who knows where my dad found it but when he brought it home, I found my wings. Suddenly, I went from lumbering slowly along on foot to speeding up and down the hills of Las Mesa like a maniac. Crazy Girl.
There was nothing fancy about that bike, no streamers or gears or bells. It only just barely had brakes. The sort that you have to press the peddles backwards so you kind of skid slowly to a stop. Sometimes it was easier to just drag the toe of your foot. Thus wearing out my shoes faster and of course endearing me to my long-suffering mother.
I took to bike riding surprisingly quickly for someone with no demonstrative athletic ability. A "natural" ability I suppose. (the same kind of thing would happen a few years later, again shocking everyone, when I learned to swim very quickly and easily). By contrast, I never learned to roller skate or skateboard for that matter, ice skating was completely out of the question and honestly I couldn't even manage to climb properly on the monkey bars. When it came to childhood activities, I was strictly a book reader. But somehow, I could ride a bike and so I did.
When we lived in St. Louis, a friend allowed me to take a ride on their la-de-dah new bike which had both gears and handbrakes. Fancy Schmancy! So with absolutely no idea what I was doing, and at my friends urging, I took it for a little spin. As I cruised down Diamond Drive, a car blew through a stop sign right in front of me. Instinctively, I slammed my feet backwards on the pedals. To my shock, the pedals just spun in a backwards circle. Oh yeah, hand brakes! So I closed my eyes and squeezed with all my might. To my shock, the bike came to a quick, shuddering stop, front wheel first. Physics being what it is, I flew over the handlebars and landed in the road in front of the car that swerved and slammed on their own brakes. It was ugly and scary and more than a little embarrassing. Clearly I am not coordinated enough to work hand brakes. But it did not deter me from riding my beloved bicycle.
I bought my next bike myself. We lived in Texas then. I wasn't old enough to drive but my desire to explore farther than a reasonable walking distance was strong. The old Greenie bike just wasn't up to the task anymore. So I saved my pennies and bought a Hawthorne. Lightweight, a pretty turquoise blue colour with a white seat and very narrow tires. Still no gears and no handbrakes. I went everywhere on that bike, to school, to my friends houses, and just tooling around town.
I loved the feeling of the wind in my hair and the wheels humming against the pavement. To a kid, a bike meant freedom. And then I turned 16 and everyone I knew was getting their drivers license. I had zero interest in driving a car. I'm not certain why but the idea of navigating through traffic, especially fast traffic, wrapped in 3 to 4 thousand pounds of metal was just terrifying. So I kept riding my bike. It didn't bother me that other people thought I was weird. I was accustomed to people thinking that. Peer pressure never works on me.
But parental pressure was another thing. Eventually, the next year, when I turned 17, my parents forced me to learning how to drive. Driver's education was ridiculous. Most of the kids seemed to already know how to drive. It was just pro forma for them. And then there was me. Sitting behind the wheel of an unfamiliar vehicle thinking, "what on earth am I doing?" The idea that with just a few measly hours of classroom instruction I was now expected to get, not just in a car, but in a car on a street with other cars and furthermore to know what I was doing, well, it just seemed ludicrous.
If you've ever driven in the Ft. Worth/Dallas metropolitan area, then you will understand when I say that it is an absolutely insane proving area for a new (and nervous) driver. A whisper of the words "Clover Leaf" send ripples of terror down my spine to this day. But eventually, I did in fact, learn enough to get from point A to point B if it was absolutely necessary. And I did very well on my driving test. Other than parallel parking. I failed that. But since I aced every other part of the test, miraculously, I passed.
I had the use of my mother's car. In fact, I had almost exclusive use of it. It turned out that my mother hated driving even more than I did so I would take her here and there, run her errands, drop off or pick up my sister and I very rarely rode my bike anymore.
The next bikes I bought were for my kids. I loved teaching them to bike, running besides them up and down our long dirt driveway holding on to the back of the seat and shouting encouragement. The younger two took to bicycling with ease. The oldest one had no interest in bicycling at all.
The next bike I bought for myself was in Colorado. There were a whole lot of years between when I first started driving and when I went back to bicycling. But the feeling was still there right away. And it was still a bike with no gears and no handbrakes. I would occasionally meet up with other bicyclers to ride the Cherry Creek Trail and they would tease me a little bit about my babybike. But I kept up pretty well considering that I had only two speeds, full out and stop. Tim bought himself a bike so that once in awhile we could bike together.
We brought both bikes here. Florida is flat, was our thought! Perfect for bicycling! Tim bought a new bike, the old one being a little dinged up, and we actually did bike together a bit. I learned that it took exactly 6 minutes to bike from our driveway to the closest beach access point. Awesome. The have bicycle lanes on some of the roads here on the island, and the Venetian Water Way trail which is for walking or biking. I even tackled the Legacy Trail which goes from, at least somewhere near Sarasota down to North Port at this point.
My sister donated her old bike that she no longer used to the collection so that when we had guests, everyone could hop aboard and we would all tool around the island on our wheels together! It was a fine idea. But it never happened. And then I had another near miss with a car that had me questioning the wisdom of bicycling. And in the summer it's just too dang hot and humid to be outside at all. And honestly I don't know why for sure but we just stopped riding. And the bikes just sat patiently, idly at the side of the house.
Recently there was a perfect intersection of someone else's need for bikes and us having bikes with no purpose. Joy very kindly offered her old bike up as well. And now all of our bikes have a new good home and we are bike-less.
Just a little factoid:
Did you know that bicycles or, the Draisine, goes at least back to 1817 in Germany? The idea moved around Europe and the UK for quite some time. Each move bringing innovation and sometimes a new name, such as the Velocipede. There was the High Wheeled version, also known as the "bone-shaker", the "hobby horse" and adult sized, Tricycles and Quadracycles as well.
I have no idea if we will remain a bike-free home forever now or not. I've learned to never say never. But for now, the only wheels are the ones on the cars. And I still do not like driving, but instead I walk whenever possible. But my memories of bicycling and that first feeling of freedom will stay with me forever.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.