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Two wheeled delight

February 7, 2021

My guess is I was about 6 or 7 years old.

Being the youngest of 4 boys meant I was last of my siblings to do most things. Walk, talk, poop and pee where I was supposed to. Learn to ride a bike.

That last one I had to do on my own. When you grow up in the dust of three older, much more physical and athletic brothers like I did, sometimes being left on the sidelines meant less supervision, too.

This wasn’t always a bad thing. I took advantage of it. One late spring morning, I wandered into our garage, equal parts curious and restless. My brothers would often be out playing in our front yard. Usually throwing around a baseball, or shooting baskets, maybe riding up and down our relatively quiet suburban street on one of their bikes. I excelled at precisely none of these things.

In fact, I had yet to learn how to ride a bike. The closest I got was riding my Big Wheel, an all-plastic tricycle type of conveyance best known for a hand brake that made the right rear wheel lock up abruptly, allowing the contraption to spin out of control assuming you had built up enough speed. It was fun.

But it wasn’t a bicycle. Big Wheels were toys. Bikes were what looked like fun to me.

So, while nobody was looking, I threw my leg over the only bike in the garage that I could possibly ride–my mom’s–hers a ‘girl’s bike’ with the sloping down tube. I grasped the handlebar, kicked up the kickstand and waddled out onto the driveway straddling the frame. Even on my tippy toes, I could barely sit on the saddle.

My brother Tom saw what I was about to attempt, but, as I recall, didn’t do anything to stop me. Or help me, for that matter. I pretty much figured it out on my own.

I launched myself down the driveway, hobbled onto the seat and started pedaling away. I’m pretty sure I got the hang of it within a few seconds. I also figured out that if I slowed down (stopped pedaling), I’d wobble and fall over. I didn’t want that to happen. So I just kept going.

I think I yelled, “Hey Tom!” in half fear/half pride.

He looked my way for a second, froze in surprise, and said something like, “Dave? What did you do???” Then he ran inside our house to get my mom so she could come and see.

I remember concentrating on trying to keep going while waiting for my mom to see what I was up to. I rode up and down our driveway, turned left and rode up and down the O’Hara’s half loop driveway, and then on to the street. Luckily, we didn’t live on a busy road so traffic wasn’t an issue. And I only fell off into the grass after my mom qualified my feat with her own eyeballs.

That cherry thusly popped, my folks granted me permission to allow my brothers to find me an acceptable bike of my own to ride. Soon enough, I was the proud owner of a diminutive blue single-speed Schwinn Sting Ray, replete with coaster brake, mag wheels, a white banana seat and chopper style handlebars. I loved it.

This bicycle was my passport, my magic carpet, my ticket to anywhere my legs and lungs could take me. Sure, this was just in my neighborhood. But it lit the wick on my desire to move, to explore–to just go.

I can easily say that learning to ride a bicycle has been, and continues to be, one of the most delightful activities I have ever done, and still get to do.

Not specifically my bike, but pretty much exactly what I remember.

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