A Journey of Hiking, Bicycling and Hitchhiking

Grandson Alec in the backyard
Grandson Alec in the backyard | Source

Spring is when the magic of a new year explodes with a kaleidoscope of color on a canvas unmatched by any artisan. The dreaded dandelion pops up out of nowhere with splashes of yellow covering lawns long dormant in the winter’s cold. Trees unabashedly show their new buds of life, as the crocus, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths mysteriously reveal themselves where the day before there was nothing. It is indeed a miraculous time of year for all to inhale and hold onto for as long as possible. For me, I also try to keep a firm grasp on my long ago childhood.

It was 1887 when the historic Raleigh Cycle Company was formed. Owning a Raleigh bicycle was almost a badge of honor because of the high quality and durability of the bike. These cycles weren’t toys; rather they were a means of transportation. The Raleigh my parents purchased for me as a preteen was like riding the Mercedes-Benz of bicycles. It was a three (3) speed, with shiny chrome fenders, jet black saddle bag, and had notched tires for a headlight that was illuminated by peddle power. I was certainly fortunate to own such a fine piece of craftsmanship and it was used constantly. My friend Paul and I rode our bikes everywhere. I had an air pump attached to the frame of my bike and a tire repair kit in the saddle bag, always prepared in case there was a flat tire. Rarely did our parents give us rides in the car. We were adventurous…always exploring new areas and never thinking anything was too far to travel to. It was the springtime of youthful bliss and innocence, as we learned, grew and matured with each new journey.

The reception was horrible on transistor radios, but, hey, that is all we had back in the day and you work with what you’ve got. Diligently, like army ants we would work together to fix our radios to the handlebars of our bicycles so we could statically play songs titled “Surfin USA,” “Sugar Shack,” “Wipe Out,” “Wild Weekend,” “Surf City,” “Up on the Roof,” and “Another Saturday Night.” You see, we were cool man, with Dippity Doo in our hair and pegged black pants and wrap around sunglasses. Yup, we were “nerds” before the term was coined…but back then we weren’t nerds…we were cool.

It was an anomaly to have both parents’ work back in the 1950s and 1960s, but mine did. My mother would frantically seek out ways to fill my time during the summer break. Mom the over achiever…and I mean that in the most loving of ways…sent me to summer school, even though I never failed a grade. If I had a “B” then I could raise it to an “A” and if it was a “C” I could bring the mark up to a “B.” Being a kid with a lot of energy never made me stop and think how hard it was to keep me busy during July and August, but alas, I guess it was a challenge. So off to summer school, I would go on my Raleigh bike. The school only lasted a couple of hours and then my friend Paul would show up on his bike balancing fishing poles and a bucket. My canteen was filled with grape Kool-Aid and my brown bag carried a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. We peddled our bikes for the 12-mile ride to the Brewerton Bridge that we fished off of on Oneida Lake. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer had arrived for an afternoon of sunshine, casting lines, telling each other stories and never catching the “big one.” I have no idea why we brought a pail because we couldn’t have transported fish in water on a bicycle for 12 more miles back home. Our other favorite destination was to Green Lakes State Park for a day of swimming. That was also a journey of approximately 25 miles round trip. Anyway, I still smile thinking of those warm, lazy days of summer sitting on the rocky shoreline, dining on a PBJ and washing it down with grape Kool-Aid. It’s amazing we survived without wearing helmets or knee pads or having a cell phone. We knew the rules and what time to be home. Even more important was the fact our parents knew exactly where we were and heaven help us if they had to come looking for us. Oh, life was good.

As peach fuzz started to grow on my face, so did the amount of dust on my seldom used Raleigh. It was no longer hip to be seen riding a bike. Nope, Paul and I now hitchhiked to places we wanted to go. Hitching a ride with a stranger was fairly common and you didn’t hear too many stories about assaults or crimes on the passengers. Naturally, we were cautious. If a car was a junk heap and the driver looked seedy we would then run like hell, laughing all the time we were running our guts out. For some unknown reason, perceived danger makes teenagers giddy.

Although I owned a rifle and purchased my hunting permit, I never liked hunting. My preferred method of shooting animals is with a camera and not a gun. However, my friend and I did share a love of hiking, camping and exploring unknown forest areas. We would gather up our canvas tent and supplies for a couple of wilderness adventure packed days and off to the woods we would go. Finding a clearing made for a good camp base, and then we would dig a hole for our latrine and another hole for the campfire. Our one modern convenience would again be the transistor radio. Imaginations ran wild when walking along a pine-needled forest floor, with the aromas of nature’s essence surrounding our senses. We searched for arrowheads and other artifacts as we journeyed on, notching trees with a hatchet, marking our trails and relying on a compass for direction. The canopy of the woods provided shelter during torrential rains and it amazed both of us how it seemed as though not one droplet made it to the ground. Our eyes treated us to shades of green from the moss and oranges and reds from fallen leaves. As we expanded the ground covered in our explorations, we were also growing in many other ways and we quickly began to mature into young men.

If we are lucky enough to live long lives, then we are also fortunate enough to reflect back on the days of our youth. In my case, those days of yore were decades ago, but the memories are as vivid as yesterday. Hikes, bikes and hitchhikes were my building blocks and they are in the vault of my mind with all of my other treasured memories.

The Lake
The Lake | Source
The scenery by my home
The scenery by my home | Source


Outdoor Activities

As a child did you spend more time playing outside or inside?

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Comments 19 comments

picadilly 4 years ago

What an awesome post!!! I am such a nostalgic nut you were spot on in your assumption I would love this piece! SO many wonderful memories, I love going back home on vacation now as an adult to just sit and daydream of events from the past, brushing off the dust in my memory banks bringing long forgotten thoughts forward into the 21 Century.

Your words are enchanting!!! Love, love, love this piece!

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you so much Ms. P. Honestly, your commenting means the world to me.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

Dennis...this was a lovely walk back to memory lane! You and i are not that far in age - and reading those songs made me smile - and somehow melancholoy at the same time! I think i love your mama, btw - look at the favor she did you - AND us! Btw..i have a Raleigh bike..lol (wonder if miss p no longer wants to visit me..sigh..)

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thanks for your comment Ms. L. As you wonder about Ms. P I wonder why you and Ms. P don't vote me up or awesome or interesting and so on and so forth...turnabout is fair play my fair maiden. LOL Just curious.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

D..i ALWAYS vote you up and....something..without fail, my friend...count on it. And - not cause i owe ya - but cause i honestly love your writing and your heart!wait a spell..it takes some time, i've noticed myself..

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Okay Ms L...I all better now...sniff, sniff...I guess there is still a little of the childhood insecurity in me. LOL

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This was a great nostalgic write. A look back at happy childhood memories. I sometimes find myself doing the same, such a gentle time of exploration. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed..

Jessica 4 years ago

Nice post, Dennis! Great walk down memory lane with you. Thanks for sharing!

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you for taking the walk down memory lane with me. One thing about reliving the past in written words is the flexibility to pick and choose which times in our lives we which to remember and which ones we cast to the side.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you Jessica for your comment. I did have a lot of fun as a young boy...always looking for something new and exciting to do.

Charlie C. 4 years ago

As long as memories remain, we will never grow old.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Tell that to my doctor Charlie. Ha ha ha Seriously, the days of our youth bring a smile to my face.

A K Turner profile image

A K Turner 4 years ago from West Yorkshire

hehe, i listened to the beach boys straight after reading this lol. Baraba ann, good stuff, i like the line my preferred method of shooting was with a camera. it's interesting getting an insight into your childhood.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

I'm glad you enjoyed my story A K Turner. The songs, singers and groups of the 60s were fantastic and I still listen to the "Oldies" channel on the radio.

Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Hi, PV, I am with you in regards to those times, that really seemed so long ago. I am sure that you an I could draft a list of the commonplace implements of the past that quietly dissappeared. What happened to channel tuners and TV fine tuning? I had the squawk box transistor radio virtually glued to my ears and remember when the family gathered around the TV Sunday evenings to watch Walt Disney, Bonanza and such. I have done a few articles in my Baby Boomer Chronicles Series that lament the passing of some these memorable moments, and how in many ways 40 years just as well be 200. Check them out for a chuckle or two and we can share more about the period defined as "what was"..... Great article, voted up, Cred2

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you Cred2 for reading and replying to my article. I remember when my parents had the first color TV on our block. My dad would turn this button and that button and get everything just right and then a plane would fly overhead and zap all of the hues right out of the picture. Then the whole process would start all over again. Too funny.

picadilly profile image

picadilly 4 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

Ah the picture you paint is a masterpiece full of memories of years gone by, yet retains the vigor and freshness of one's youth. Your words are lively and bounce with color...I love this piece a true reflection of your heart! xo

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you Ms P for reading and commenting on my walk down memory lane. It just amazes me how the years fly by and yet some recollections are as vivid as yesterday. Life is one amazing journey, for sure.

Sammy Proia profile image

Sammy Proia 2 years ago from America

So cooool!

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