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Riding A Bike
Learning on Three Wheels
Most children in the United States may have learned to ride a bicycle by first learning to ride on a tricycle. When you are finally old enough or strong enough or your legs are finally long enough to push the pedals on a tricycle, you are "king of the road" or the sidewalk or, at least, the driveway. Growing up on a farm, we were "king of the cistern".
The cistern was the cement block "tank" under the ground by our house that held our water. The smooth cement top was our roadway for the red tricycles that my sister and I played on for hours. We rode in patterns that we made up or tried to follow each other without looking like bumper cars. We loved those trikes, but after a season or two, we dreamed of riding two wheelers.
It Might Take Two
It Just Takes Balance
Well, finally the day would come when Mom and Dad thought enough of our balance and confidence to start teaching us to ride a bicycle. We had only one old green bike (that had belonged to our older sister) so we had to take turns on it. We started out on the lawn so any falls would be cushioned.
Thankfully, the falls were few and far between. But I do remember that my sister, Sherry, was the faster learner. I felt so jealous to see her whiz around the yard and go farther than I could, and she even learned how to stop before I did! Dad just kept telling me to focus ahead and it just takes balance. Eventually, I got the hang of it and never looked back...
After a few weeks of just taking turns, we learned how to both ride the bike at the same time. I sat on the seat with my legs sticking out and Sherry stood up and pedaled. We tried it vice versa, but Sherry's ankle got bruised hitting the spokes, so I got to be the one sitting down.
Our Second Bike
We weren't allowed to ride that way on the road. My sister and I had our two best friends to visit. They were our neighbors and lived on a nearby farm. Of course, a neighbor in the country can be miles away. We had to walk to visit them and it took over 45 minutes in the summertime when the sun was hot and we'd make it from shade tree to shade tree, drinking in some coolness before moving down the hot gravel road again. Think of how much more time we could spend playing with them if our travel time was cut by the speed of a bicycle!
Well, the day FINALLY came when we got another bicycle, an old one that Dad had found for sale along the road and only had to replace one tire. We each could have our own bicycle, and the fun began. We could ride to our friends, we could ride around our large driveway. We could ride down to the creek or over to the orchard. We didn't have to walk!
The Dynamic Duo
Bicycles = Freedom
We washed our bikes and always put them away in the shed (never leaving them outside where they could get rusty). We must have proved ourselves worthy, because a couple years later, we got matching bicycles with red and white baskets and those streamers that hung from the handlebars! Wow!
We could be knights in shining armor patrolling our castle estate. We could be world travelers! We could move as fast as a rocket heading to the moon! We could ride like the wind, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, like Batman and Robin. We were free to roam the hills, the highways and the byways, of the wild west or Gotham City -- well, at least we could go around the block.
Freedom With Responsibility
Riding a bike was our freedom and our responsibility. We always pulled over to the side of the road when a car was coming. We oiled our own chains, checked the air in the tires, raised or lowered the seat, and waxed the rims. We knew that we had to take care of those bikes so we could get where we wanted to go!
Bicycles Took Us Away
We clothespinned cards onto our spokes that made us sound cool like we were racers. We raced faster than Mario Andretti, or at least as fast as Northern Dancer at the Kentucky Derby. Until the one time, hurrying home from the neighbors, we got too close to each other and locked handlebars. I remember falling sideways in slow motion with my sister's pedal digging into the side of my leg and both of us tumbling into the gravel road. We cried over our skinned knees, ankles and arms, and cried over our bent spokes and crooked handlebars.No one even thought about helmets back then, and we were lucky we didn't get seriously hurt. Dad straightened out the handlebars and Mom bandaged the scrapes.
But those bikes lasted us for years, until we were able to drive a car. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to play softball in the summer league. We couldn't have visited our friends as often. We couldn't have carried our fishing gear to the creek under the railroad tressel to catch crawdads. We couldn't have rode into town to get a drink at the A&W Rootbeer Stand. We couldn't have ridden by that cute boy's house. We couldn't have rode just to ride. Just to feel the wind in our faces and our troubles fall off our backs. Life would have been boring.
When we started high school, girls basketball was played in the fall. We would ride our bikes the four plus miles to practice, run up and down the court, and then ride our bikes all the way home, in that August heat. Mom and Dad didn't have the time or money to drive us that year, but we wanted to play, so our bikes got us there till school started and we could ride the bus.
What Was Your Ride?
What kind of bicycle did you ride growing up?
Love to Ride
For the greater part of my childhood, I depended on my bicycle. What a great part of my life that was, riding a bike in the country air, growing up on a farm!