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My Introduction to Huffy Beach Cruiser Biking...
Our new toys!
It was Christmas in July, after all...
I have the greatest fiance ever, and she had an ambitious idea that would make our living near the coast of the mighty Lake Michigan all the more fun. For a gift we asked our grandmother for something special: Beach Cruisers! These are actually very ordinary bikes: one speed, no complicated gear system, no brakes that require replacing, thick frames and tires for added stability. My gal went with a white with teal trim Huffy Cranbook model, while I choose a black Kent model (see picture). Our models are built with equal strength and size but with gender being the difference, hence the main bar being higher on the male model than the female (can someone explain why a male model of bicycle has the bar that goes right into a guys nut-sack?).
I was beyond excited when I first got this surprise. I came home from work and saw them on their kickstands; they even had that "new bike smell", leaving the smell of unworn rubber in the air. We took glance at all of the few features on each model. During quick trip to the local mega store and we stocked on bike essentials; among them was a miracle product called "Tire Slime", we also bought a small clip-on hand pump and a key-accessed lock. After we had all our gear purchased and set up, we rode around the parking lot of our apartment complex getting our feel for the handling.
Laughing and racing against my gal I began to feel a sense of personal triumph because the last time I rode on a bicycle, fate had something awful in store...
Broken in 2 places...
In 2002, on my way back from a lovely day at the beach in sunny, southern Florida, I was riding hard and fast which was normal for me since it was my only transportation. As I rode up the incline of a ramp to get back onto a sidewalk my bike's design flaw was seconds away from revealing itself. Little known to me was that the front wheel "quick release" lever on my 10-speed had been unlocked and there were no clips holding the wheel between the forks. So when my tire caught some air, the wheel fell off and before I knew it, my front forks hit the sidewalk... followed by my face, then my chest.
My lower jaw was broken in 2 places, down the middle and in the left joint. I also chipped 3 teeth nearly to the roots, then burned my chest slightly as I slid on the sidewalk. To add a little gore to the package my chin was split open and bleeding profusely. As I walked home a mile with my faulty tire in one hand and my bent-forked bike in my other, no one stopped and drove me home or to a hospital. I got home and panicked at the slight of my mangled face. In the end I was repaired after my jaws were wired shut for a month. 10 years after this I finally got my teeth fixed. I have scars on my face that might not look so obvious to anyone that sees me, but to me they are clear as day every time I shave in the morning or fix my hair.
I should fear nothing after having a fight with a concrete sidewalk and losing, but getting back on a bike was something I dodged for over a decade. If THAT was the horse that kicked me off, I had no intention of letting it happen again. But secretly I desired to get back in the seat and learn to enjoy the wind in my hair again.
So when my gal told me she wanted us to start riding bikes to places near and around our home, I read into the idea less about health and saving fuel; it was about reclaiming my lost courage and lust for life.
different spokes for different folks:
So... you rode your bike here?
My first big ambition of my new bike was being able to ride it to my job. I wanted to do this for many reasons but two stand out the most: gas prices and health. I live about 2 miles away from work which isn't a great walking distance, especially in the humid Michigan summer, but driving there just shaves bits of fuel from my tank and eventually eats money out of my wallet. With those reasons in mind, what harm could be done in just taking an extra 20 minutes and spending 500 calories and ride to work on my own strength?
Setup to the commute is quite easy. I pack a drawstring backpack with a water bottle, my spare work shoes, a Powerbar, and a work shirt for me to change into once I am ready to punch the clock. I leave for work around 30 minutes early to give myself plenty of time to factor in things like traffic or a possible mishap, like a flat tire or an unexpected fall. The ride to work is through a suburban area of Southwest Michigan, but still it's quite a busy stretch. I pass high end apartment complexes, upper class housing developments and small businesses which all are just opening during my morning ride. I even pass a Subway for a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich that probably isn't real egg.
There is only one drawback to giving a damn about my finances, the environment, and my metabolism. Is it the burning sensation in my legs after a mile on my self powered hog? Hell no, I love that! What about the danger of getting flattened by a semi; does it scare me to become road kill? After my gangbang with a faulty bike. gravity and solid ground, nothing scares me anymore. None of these things bother me about biking places, its everyone else making a deal out of riding as opposed to driving.
The day I walked into my job with a bicycle at my side, everyone finds it too be awkward and unsafe. Some people started asking me questions immediately on what the hell happened to my car. My car is fine, there just isn't a need to drive the thing only 2 miles. Others just think that I will collapse from heat exhaustion in the humid Lake Michigan climate; also void because once I start riding, the wind does the job of cooling me off. Everyone asks about the specs of the bike, why I'm not wearing a helmet (screw you! buy me one!), how many gears, where is the brakes, and so on. Meanwhile, all over the world, people travel three times my commute on a bicycle and its perfectly normal. Are Americans so reliant on their cars that suddenly riding a bike is viewed like a hippie-bum form of transportation? Perhaps if I had bought a motorcycle, which is only different by extra miles per hour and more danger, everyone would view it as bad-ass. Whatever people think isn't an issue to me, but our culture has been lazy-fied by our fueled lust for excessive speed, spaciousness and on-board computer dash systems that distract us from the road and cause crashes.
So yeah, I rode a bike to work and got some thinking time and fresh air to prepare me for my day of kissing ass and taking names. I biked to the grocery store and bought only what I needed, carrying each bag from my handle bars. But my favorite trip is my twice a week ride to the shores of beautiful Silver Beach in St. Joesph, Michigan.
Silver Beach, St. Joesph Michigan in July
St Joesph, Michigan Attractions (just to name a few)Click thumbnail to view full-size
How to enjoy a summer on 2 wheels...
Every so often, my beautiful fiance and I take a break from the world and enjoy a day or night at the beach. We've enjoyed previous night time adventures stargazing in the sand and I wrote of this in my 3 part short story: Love Across the Universe.
Silver Beach is a coastline like no other because its not the salty ocean, its the vast . The water is rarely cloudy, the shores give splendorous views of finely gritted sands of pale beige hue. Rocky bluffs line some of the shores and remind most people of places like Cape Cod or perhaps Nantucket. There is even a lighthouse that still shines at night as downtown bustles with quaint restaurants, Cubs and White Sox fan bars and clubs. Lake Michigan
It takes us about 20 minutes for us to get there and the ride is a treat to the eyes. As you continue down Lakeshore Drive you'll find stone fountains to make a wish in, war and historical memorials from the town's long history of being a port to Chicago. Bizarre and photo worthy sculptural art gives the area a look of culture that also serves as great backdrops for local photographers (many weddings, proms, and other social events use these structures). After a steep dive downward on a hill you'll be greeted to wide sidewalks that give plenty of room for other cyclists. It costs about 5 dollars to park your car in the lot near the beach, but don't worry, people on bikes pay nothing! One look at the shores of Silver Beach and you'll never think for a moment that you're in Michigan, because in the summertime the sun and sand of the coast look more like a rural span of New England. People come from Illinois often, so often in fact that they've been given the slur FIPs (or Fucking Illinois People) by native Michiganders. Chicago money rolls in very often in the form of local tourism for people looking to get away from the city noise.
Where else can a pine tree grow near a mass of water that looks like an ocean coast? When you are done swimming in the crystal clear waters, you can take a walk up to an old fashioned carousel or enjoy the greatest pizza experience at Silver Beach Pizza. Further up and in downtown St Joe, you can walk state street and enjoy Kilwins Fudge, Chocolate Cafe, or various little shops, most of them locally owned and operated. There is always something to do.
As for me and my gal, we love to get some sun at the beach and enjoy waters that don't try to knock us over with 10 foot waves. Perhaps you'd have to live here a little while to appreciate it, but Californians wanting to avoid douchebag surfers, Floridians wanting not to become shark bait or people that swim in the toxic surf of New Jersey should consider a vacation spot such as Lake Michigan. And bring your bikes!