I can’t seem to get more than 3000 miles out of my bike tires. I guess that’s what I get for buying the cheapest I can find. Bad bike tires have had me on foot (or behind the wheel) for a few weeks, but finally a few days ago I got back on my two wheels again. Oh, it felt soooo good to get out and stretch my legs and feel the wind in my hair again.
Hey, that’s the only way I’ll feel wind in my hair. I’d love to be able to afford a nice mid-life-crisis red convertible, but if I could afford it, I’d spend it on my family instead. So even with money, I guess I would choose to be out pedaling.
My love of bikes started when I got my sister’s little blue bike as a hand-me-down. I can tell from the pictures now, by the style of the frame, that it was a little girl’s bike. But since it wasn’t pink, back then I didn’t know the difference.
Out on our farm, I learned to ride by rolling down the hill in our yard, crashing in the rocks and dirt at the bottom for the first twenty or more times. Training wheels would have been of no use on the rough roads around our farm. There was nothing like sidewalks or pavement anywhere in my five-year-old world. But once I got my balance, riding my bike was my favorite past time.
As I got older, and could venture out farther, my bike became my ticket to adventure and travel. A neighbor’s potato cellar had dirt mounded just right to make a bike ramp. That’s where I learned to “Catch Air.” Once on a borrowed bike, while in town for school, I discovered how wonderful paved roads were to ride bikes on. Even while still attending elementary school, I began bicycle commuting the four miles to school. Actually back then my mom wouldn’t let me take the main hi-way, so it was more like 5.5 miles to school.
My childhood bike memories include, rides after the farm work was done in the evening with my dad. Once I was in a family bike race with my brothers and my dad. It was fifty six miles long. Less than an hour after that race, I got back on my bike and rode it the three miles to work, where I moved sprinkler pipe. Then of course I’d ride it back home. My bike was transportation to town to go to the movies, or even just exploring the big city (of about 5000 people).
During the summer before my first year of Jr. High, I rode the four miles to summer Band class, carrying my trumpet the best I could while still holding on to the handle bars. I don’t know why I didn’t use a back pack for that. Maybe they hadn’t been invented yet. As far as that goes, I have never had any of the special bike equipment that I see the serious cyclists decked out in. I’ve never owned one of those form fitting and aero-dynamic jersey and bike shorts. My helmet is just a basic bike helmet with no fancy style and venting. I pedal with regular shoes and pedals… not the latest and greatest road shoe which snaps into special pedals for maximum efficiency and speed. my bike itself is made of steel, instead of the light weight carbon-fiber frames. There’s nothing special about my seat, or gears, or wheels, tires and so on.
Maybe someday, when oil is discovered in my backyard, I’ll know how I would stack up next to Lance Armstrong with all the same fancy equipment and training. But most likely I’ll go on enjoying my pedaling as a physical fitness hobby. Come wind, rain, or sunshine, cycling is my preferred method of travel.
During my adult life, I have bicycle commuted to work depending on my circumstances. I drove truck for a year, and I had my bike strapped on waiting for an evening ride away from the truck stop. Often, my bicycle commute was no big deal because I lived only a few miles from work. But when we lived in Colorado, our home was 20 miles from the processing plant that I managed. It was here that I enjoyed my biking on a whole new level. Most of this daily commute was down I-76, between Roggen and Wiggins Colorado. It was common for cars taking other commuters over the same road every day as well, to stop and ask me what I was doing. Why would I ride my bike that far everyday? One of these concerned neighboring commuters asked me if I had lost my drivers license to a DUI conviction or something. Many offered to give me rides. But those forty miles of biking everyday became a few hours of great thinking time everyday. And I didn’t want to give it up for mere comfort and rest.
I could tell many stories of my ride down I-76. Biking along in the dark and narrowly missing stalled cars which were parked along side the road. (I didn’t have very fancy lights either.) I saw and almost ran over a rattlesnake and other little critters scurrying along the side of the rode. Sometimes I could help a stranded motorist by making a cell phone call for help. But I think I’ll end this ramble with one short story of my winter biking.
Maybe it’s from my Norwegian genes. But the cold doesn’t bother me. It’s not that my hands and feet don’t get cold out in the snow and ice, but like I say, I just don’t mind it. So naturally, I wouldn’t stop my bike commuting for something as trivial as the onset of winter. Well, my wintertime biking was troubling to the general manager (my boss) at the processing plant. He thought it was unsafe for me to be out on the dark winter roads on my bike. (He was probably right, but that wouldn’t stop me.)
So on this one morning, Northeastern Colorado had one of its famous winter ice storms. The snow and ice were inches thick covering everything. Power poles sheared off under the weight of the Ice. Power lines snapped from the load, taking out power for several days in some areas. And of course the roads were covered with ice as well.
So early on this morning, the general manager was standing in the front offices with one of our truck drivers. They were undoubtedly discussing whether anyone would be able to make it in to work at all that day. I heard afterward that the truck driver started making jokes about if I would be crazy enough to ride my bike that day. Well, apparently the joking became a discussion, which turned into a debate, which led to a wager. The truck driver told me later, that no sooner had they shook hands sealing the bet, they could see my red flashing bike lights reflecting against the ice and snow. As I carefully rode across the rutted parking lot, dismounted and tried to brush the ice and snow off, and then carried my bike inside the front door, the general manager just glared at me and then he walked away without saying anything. I guess it wasn’t hard to see who had won the bet.