After failing to persuade one of our college-student boys to use the second-hand bicycle we had bought him through craigslist, Melany was struck with the idea of getting a bike for herself. She hadn't ridden one in many years, but I thought it was a capital idea. I'd been trying to get her to go out riding with me for as long as I could remember, but I think the idea never came to fruition because of other commitments, lack of opportunity, and perhaps under-confidence on Melany's part. I was thrilled when she found one she liked --we drove into Rochester together to pick it up--and since that mid-August day, we've been going out a couple of times a week to ride along the Erie Canal towpath (which runs by just a few hundred feet from our house), or around the village of Brockport.
I love to feel the breeze on my face as I ride along, and the rest of me appreciates the workout--I'm always more relaxed and sleep better afterwards. And having my sweet spouse along for company makes it seem like a little romantic adventure!
My mount is very special--a single-speed, coaster-brake, Schwinn American that I bought with money I received at my First Communion party back in 1963. That's right--I'm 54, and my bike is 46! I've never owned any other bike. Why should I? It runs as well today as it did the day I brought it home--better in fact, as I wasn't quite big enough to actually ride it then, and had to wait most of the next year before I had grown enough and could start learning. This sweetheart is as solid as a tank, has no extra gears, hand brakes or cables to get fouled up, and gathers very little rust, which I clean off along with the winter's dust every spring. It's surprisingly easy to pedal when the tires are fully inflated. The kids made fun of it for years because its various little creaks and squeaks made me audible for some distance as I approached or rode away. Well, I finally fixed that--WD-40 in a few strategic places, and now she's quiet too! True, the fenders and frame have some dents and scratches from several senseless acts of vandalism when I had the bike with me in college and at our second apartment in Chattanooga. Her original brilliant red paint is now a faded coppery color. The handgrips are more brownish than the snow white they started as (and, of course, are devoid of the multi-colored plastic streamers that I removed for maleness' sake soon after the bike came home) . Thousands of miles under my butt have worn down the once nicely-padded seat to a thin layer of vinyl over the coils. But I've never replaced anything on the bike except tires and once, after a nasty fall, the rear rim. And all I've added are a rear carrier and a bell.
I can't begin to number the miles my bike has carried me--in a pack with my brothers and pals in the mid-60s around Grand Island, NY; between home and the Little League ball fields, the public library, and several summer jobs; around campus at Michigan State University; between my apartment and work (for several months) in Chattanooga; and through our various neighborhoods with the kids to playgrounds, the library, and school. Her history is a cherished part of my own half-century-plus, and connects me with the "golden age" of the 60s in America before drugs, politics, and war spoiled the end of that decade--the age of baseball cards, transistor radios, grape Nehi, scouting and Boys' Life, the Beach Boys and Herman's Hermits, Corvettes and Camaros. Who from that era would want to discard something that went through it with him, and made it possible for him to live those days to the hilt?
I'm afraid that when I pass on, they'll have to inter my bike with me. I don't know how I'll do without her on the other side.