I Want to Ride My Bicycle.

The Cast: My Bicycle (a two-wheeled death machine), Myself (new to the world of two-wheelers), The Car (it was a car).

When all your friends have moved on from Big Wheels to two wheels (if you don’t know what a Big Wheel is, Google it—also, you missed out) you can get left behind. Literally. They now have the freedom of quick and easy transportation. “Hey, do you guys wanna go to the mud hole down the street?” “Yeah!” And off they ride, on their bikes, leaving you behind because walking is just too slow. Marvelous. Thanks, fellas.

At the ripe old age of 7, I had still not learned to ride a bike. Also, I didn’t have one, so knowing how to ride one didn’t really matter. Except when all my friends wanted to get somewhere quickly. You can only ride a Big Wheel so fast, or run for just so long. Still, for the most part, my friends were pretty good about not leaving me behind. That was nice. Plus, I wasn’t the only kid on the block that couldn’t ride a bike. The neighbors across the street had two kids, Kara (my age) and her younger brother (I can’t remember his name). The younger brother couldn’t ride a bike and he was like two, so, ya’ know. O.K. so he was four. He was just small.

One day, as I played in my front yard, I watched the neighbor kid’s dad put together a bicycle in their driveway. Wow, Kara’s getting a new bike. Wait, why is (again, can’t remember his name) out there? Why are training wheels going on Kara’s bike? Wait, is What’s-his-name getting a bike?!? I don’t even have a bike. Well, maybe he’ll suck at it. Not one of my best moments, to be sure. But I was 7 years old. I had also peed my pants at that age. You know what? Let’s just forget about that last part, and move on, alright?

As I played, I witnessed What’s-his-name’s dad helping him learn to balance and begin to ride the bicycle. Within minutes, What’s-his-name was riding on his own. Well, he did have the training wheels. And I figured that he would have them for a while. The bicycle was a little tall for him. No worries. I’d be riding before him, maybe. If I got a bicycle soon.

Within what seemed like minutes What’s-his-name was done riding and had gone into his house for the day. Hmph, he gave up quickly. Nope. He had gone inside to get his dad so the dad could remove the training wheels! NOOOO!!! I was going to be the only kid—no, person, yes person—on the block—no street, yes street—I was going to be the only person on the street that couldn’t ride a bicycle. Even that two-year-old kid, What’s-his-name could now ride one. I was teased for a long time about it, by everyone. Now, including What’s-his-name, which just made it all the more worse.

Later that summer my father and older brother locked me out of the backyard so they could work on a secret project. Fine, dad didn’t really do much with me anyway. But, why not even ask if I wanted to be part of it? I liked secret projects (still do). The fact that there was a fence around the whole yard made it worse. The two of them worked almost all Saturday morning on it. Sometimes, they would come out front, get in the car and drive off, then return home, all conspiratorially. I was not happy about it. And I was getting more angry about it. I was hurt. They didn’t care about me.

Then, about the time I couldn’t take it anymore, Rawlin (my older brother) came to find me and said that he and dad wanted to show me what they had been working on. So I followed him to the back yard where I saw a super-cool bicycle. It was all black. ALL black. Black frame. Black Seat. Black handlebars. Black chain. Black chain guard. Black dirt bike tires. Black rims. All black. Oh, it was co-O-ol. And this did explain all the spray painting I had heard. As I looked about, I didn’t see Rawlin’s bike. So, that must mean they had done all this to his. Goody for Rawlin. Well, maybe someday I would get a bicycle.

“It’s for you.”

What? Really? Oh man! By this time my friends had gathered ‘round. Apparently, the neighborhood knew about it and had conspired to keep me busy and distracted until the project was completed. My dad and brother had scratch-built me my own bike from some old, and some new parts. I couldn’t wait to try it out. “Where are the training wheels?” I knew how this worked. Which is why I didn’t think it was for me. I’m not an idiot.

My dad explained that he could hold onto the handle that was behind the seat and help stabilize me as I rode. Awesome! Time with dad!

My buddies all ran and got their bikes and they rode alongside of me and my dad as he showed me how to ride a big boy bicycle. We rode around the block, with me in total panic mode. My dad had been letting go once in a while to test my balance. Betrayer! But it did explain why I almost fell over a few times. And, after a while, I was on my own. I had the coolest bicycle on the block. I rode it everywhere. Then came change.

Not too long after that, I was gifted a new bicycle. Like and actual new bicycle! It was a BMX bike. I didn’t really know what BMX meant but I knew it was cool. That bicycle was mostly black. It had the dirt bike tires. It had black and yellow-orange checkered bar pads. One for the handlebars and one for the You’re-Not-a-Boy-Anymore bar. It even had a hand brake! Nobody in the neighborhood had a hand brake. Wait, why was the hand brake on the front tire? If I use this won’t I flip?

It was explained to me that it was for tricks and that I would only flip if I was going too fast. That was fine because I could always do the backpedal break thing. Except I couldn’t. My bike didn’t do that. There was something, somewhere that stopped me from back-pedal breaking. Fine. It’s not like I could pedal 25 miles an hour anyway. But as I would soon find out, I could still travel about that fast. Downhill.

Just to the East, a couple of blocks away, a new house was about to be built. The neighborhood kids all liked to go and see the machines dig away. The older kids would ride their bikes on the mounds of dirt and into the pit after the construction workers had left for the day. We didn’t have orange safety fences back then. If you hurt yourself, it was your fault and the construction company could sue you for trespassing and win. So we were careful.

As the pit got bigger the stunt bikers got more area to ride in. We would watch as the bolder, and more experienced riders would use it like a halfpipe and ride in and shoot up, into the air and do all manner of tricks. I was not bold enough. Mostly because I was still getting used to my new bike, and I had seen way too many ‘almost’ wrecks from the wild boys and girls riding in and out. It was almost like they all knew the course. Even though there wasn’t one. It was a dirt hole that was going to become a basement.

Because the hole was slowly being filled in, my two sisters and I decided to take a ride to see where the construction was at. And maybe get one last ride in before the cement came. Little did I know that my bicycle related undoing was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. You see, the new home was at the top of a steep hill. It wasn’t long, but it was pretty steep. Riding up sucked. But the ride down was awesome! If you did it right you could shoot down the hill to the end of the road, zip through Bitterroot Drive (a semi-busy cross road)—if there was no traffic, and coast almost all the next block to home. You just needed to get enough momentum on the way down. So, you pedaled with everything you had just to see if you could make it. We always had a look-out on the corner of Bitterroot—safety—and if there were cars, the look-out would yell for us to stop.

Well, at this time of day Bitterroot Drive would be almost empty and I wanted to see how far I could go. I told my sisters that I would see them at home and took off. I began to pedal with all that I had. I was picking up speed quickly. Faster and faster I went. The wind was whipping my awesome 1982 pageboy/bowl-cut hairdo straight back (don’t mock the hair, many of you probably had the same haircut, He-man did). I was going to be home in no time.

I don’t know what possessed that couple that pulled out of their driveway to pull out of their driveway right when they did. Obviously, they weren’t thinking. They should have looked both ways before leaving their own property. Wreckless. That’s what they were. Wreckless. Well, they may have been wreak-less before I met them.

As I saw the car begin to back out of the driveway I began to panic. I pulled my break and I felt the back tire lift off the ground. Don’t do that! As it came back down the bicycle wobbled a little and I was able to straighten out once again. I backpedaled. Still no break. I could hear my sisters screaming, calling out to me to put my feet on the ground, Fred Flintstone style. Strangely enough that cartoon method of breaking didn’t work either. You lied to me, Fred.

The car continued to back out, and I continued to watch the situation. Could I just shoot between their car and the curb? Yes, if they keep pulling out at their current speed. We will miss each other. Barely. No, don’t stop!!! They had stopped. They stopped their car with the nose of it still in their driveway. There were no other cars around. There was no conceivable reason for this action. I backpedaled once again. Nothing. I tried harder. Nothing. Harder. Nothing, still. I stood up and jumped into the backpedal breaking. I heard the sound of some metal snapping, and felt the pedal brake begin to work. Too late.

As I approached the car I saw a funny look of terror on the face of the woman seated on the front passenger seat. Her face mingled with the reflection of my own in the window. My front tire hit their front tire. And then I was woken up by two very panicky, and terrified adults. Adults, phish, silly people.

My eyes opened and I saw the hubcap of a car directly over my head, like a halo. Hmm, automobile heaven? The man and his wife were holding my hands and trying to find out if I was alright. Apparently, when I hit their car I flew off my bicycle, flipped heals-over-head over their car hood and landed with a loud ‘thud’ directly on the other side. I did not physically touch their car. My bicycle did the same thing. I recalled seeing it fly over me before I passed out. I had thought, in that brief second, that it was going to land on top of me. There’s salt in the wound for you. However, it seemed that my bike flew 5 feet farther than I did and missed me completely.

I had landed flat on my back and had no visible injuries. Once alert enough, I apologized for hitting their car, explained why it had happened—my sisters had caught up to me and had brought my bike over to me—and was ready to head home. The couple insisted they drive me home so they could apologize to my parents. Well, that makes no sense whatsoever. I hit you. But, alright. I wasn’t feeling all that great anyway. They loaded up my bike into their car’s trunk and drove me the block and a half to my house. They drove slow enough so that my sisters could ride alongside and direct them.

Once home, adult greetings were exchanged, apologies made, and I took a nap. After all the bike was just fine. So, no worries.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Lucky for you you wore a helmet. Or else you really could have been hurt.” Are you kidding me? It was 1982. Nobody wore helmets unless you were a football player. Nobody! Now you may be thinking, “Did your parents at least take you to the hospital to check for a concussion?” No. Once again this was 1982. If you got hurt you just ‘Walk[ed] it off’.

Besides, over the years, I have had several head injuries and I have never had any problems.

Besides, over the years, I have had several head injuries and I have never had any problems.

Besides, over the years, I have had several head injuries and I have never had any problems.

Besides, over the years, I have had several head injuries and I… have… never…

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