A Return To Youth

Today I took my bike down to the south side where my parents live.  It was a beautiful day and I felt like riding.

My Dad had not yet seen this bike and so I thought he might like to ride it.  But first, I needed to replace the seat with the nice gel seat I had purchased last week.  That was easier said than done.  Good thing my Dad does not let mechanical things defeat him!

It brought back memories of my youth.  Standing in the garage with Dad while he fixed our bikes or, later, our cars.  He never gives up.  I remember so many times in that garage with my old Ford Granada…  Dad, his feet flailing out of the hood while replacing a timing chain.  Me, impatiently waiting and wondering when we would be done.

I’ve never been good at fixing cars.  My Dad made sure that we stayed in that garage the whole time he worked on our cars.  He hoped we might learn a thing or two.  To be fair, we did learn to change our own oil.  Two of the three brothers even learned to replace their own brakes.  I think you can guess which one did not!

So now it’s 2014 and I’m out in the front yard watching my Dad wrestle with my new bicycle seat.  That thing just refused to go on correctly.  We kept trying to figure it out.  Everything, and I do mean everything, I pointed out as the potential problem was incorrect.  At the end of about 45 minutes, Dad’s perseverance and refusal to lose paid off.  The bicycle was whole once again.  And that seat?  It’s a Cloud9 gel seat… It’s quite comfortable!

We made a few more adjustments to my bike and to his.  Then we decided to take a spin around the neighborhood.  Nostalgia returned.

I grew up in that neighborhood.  We rode bikes.  Yes we did other things too (like baseball, Wiffle ball, putting dead birds on girls, building forts in the woods and some game we made up called Challenge Hockey).  But mostly we rode bikes.

Riding your bike gave you a little sense of freedom.  It was like your own transportation source.  Some of us had cool Mongoose bikes and others (like myself) had yellow Schwinn bikes with banana seats.  Regardless, your bike was like a ticket to liberty.

I specifically recall how well you got to know the little neighborhood by basically riding your bike over every square inch of it.  You’d ride around aimlessly for hours while thinking about Transformers, GI Joe Action Figures and pretty neighborhood girls.  As strange as this sounds, you often did this as you rode along staring at the pavement and subconsciously inventorying the cracks, bends and curves of the roads.  What happened was that you eventually just developed paths and directions you would take while riding around on the road.  So you may always ride up on this one curb or sidewalk, but not the one just across the street.  And this became habitual.

DadToday, my Dad and I were riding around the neighborhood and I become filled with nostalgia.  We passed house after house that previously belonged to childhood pals and their families.  Most of them are gone now.  Although, Mary Folk sat on her porch today just like she used to 30 years ago.  I guess some things don’t change.

As we rode around, my eyes began to focus on the road.  Immediately, the habits of 30 years ago repopulated my mind. Like Google Maps, the old habitual routes began to appear in my mind.  It all came back like it was yesterday.  I climbed this curb and avoided that sidewalk…  The moment wasn’t lost on me and I think I actually chuckled aloud.

Oh to be young again!  Riding around today, I realized that my thoughts weren’t on the same things as my youth.  They were on grown up stuff…  cares, concerns, responsibilities…  OK..  probably pretty girls too!  But for a moment, I remembered what it was like to be devoid of those thoughts (all but the pretty girls).  I remembered what riding our bikes was really like.  Just something to do.