Bicycles have always been important to me. Before you misread me though, I’m not a bicycle ‘freak’ – they aren’t my sole activity. Actually, I don’t really have a sole activity. I’m one of those guys who’s always wanted to experience a wide list of diversions so I participated in a multitude of activities and became a master of nothing. But I’ve always loved biking. The importance to me of a bicycle stems back to my childhood (read me) when having a bike meant having freedom to explore the world.
Since our dating years, Kim and I have tried to purchase each other something we needed or wanted for special occasions like Christmas or Birthdays. The first nice present I bought for Kim while in high school was a Panasonic stereo system for Christmas. You know how some gifts you receive just stick with you for years? One year for Christmas my parents gave me a pair of binoculars. That was way back in 1979 I think, our, (Kim and mine), second Christmas together. I recall the first time we used them at a concert, it was at Miami University. We saw Linda Ronstadt with my parents. We still use those today for concerts and they are still like new.
As a side note, I put these binoculars to good use every year now to examine my roof. We have a 20 year old cedar shake roof and about every 2-3 years, it requires maybe 100 new shakes. The binoculars allow me to hone in on the highest parts of the roof, keeping me informed of the proximity of the next repair time.
The gift I received from Kim, the one that still sticks in my heart with a soft glow is a Christmas gift for my 20th birthday – a large 28″ metallic green Schwinn touring bike.
They say geniuses pick green
The year was 1978 and I was still living at home as we were not yet married. Kim brought the present over to my parents’ house and I was totally surprised! We had not talked about a birthday gift, or at least I don’t remember talking about one. Perhaps she tricked me out of it without my knowledge or she just saw a gap. There it was though, and it was my favorite color – a bright metallic green. I loved it!
Kim and I did a lot of riding that summer, the summer before we got married. She had a powder blue Schwinn 10-speed and now I had my green one. We had a few different long rides we both liked, once even riding all the way to Hueston Woods. That was one of the great things about our relationship from the start; we both just loved doing things of an athletic nature together and Kim can keep up with just about any guy in any sport.
Within Hamilton, our favorite ride went like this. I’d first ride my bike over to her house and we’d begin our ride over there. From her house, we’d ride all the way down Brookwood and then would ride through Taft Place subdivision, turning left on Eaton Rd. Eaton Rd – now there was a challenge. It was a relatively medium-length hill, but had a steep elevation change of perhaps 125-150 feet. That was the beginning of the ride so maybe that was best – take the hill while we had the energy. We’d ride out of town, up Eaton until we hit a road named Warwick.
Warwick is a nice winding country road that runs alongside a creek and was the beginning of the downhill elevation change for our long ride. Warwick eventually runs into a road called West Elkton, (running north to south naturally…and I’m fairly certain there was no road named East Elkton – this was typical of the famous town that put the exclamation point in its name). West Elkton then would eventually turn into a street named B St when it hit the city limits. From there then we’d make a right hand turn on a street named Gordon Avenue which would take us up a very short but steep hill, landing us on Prytania where we’d take a break then at my house.
After our break, we’d head on back to Kim’s house. With the elevation changes, it made for a nice workout and given it was almost all on the outskirts of town, it was actually a fairly pretty and safe route (unless of course we had heart attacks climbing Eaton Rd hill). All told, I remember the ride being right around 13-14 miles.
The other route I was fond of was one we’d take when we briefly lived outside of town in a small little 1-stoplight town named Millvillle. The house was actually a rented home from a couple we went to high school with. We ended up staying there less than a year because of a horrible summer drought that caused too many issues due to lack of water. But anyway, we would get on a lightly travelled road that led to a town even smaller than Millville.
The town was Reily, Ohio (and I’m pretty sure they don’t have a post office so all mail there likely says Oxford). The name of the road? Well of course – “Reily Millville Rd”, naturally! It was only maybe 7 miles long one way, but it ran alongside a creek the entire way, offering several nice stopping points, including a couple of very old cemeteries and a county park. I have fond memories of that route as Kim and I would always stop at the cemeteries to walk around, reading the old burial stones, trying to capture a sliver of what the lives of those buried must have been like. I still enjoy doing that. I love the feeling of inner peace it delivers.
The green Schwinn, (which by the way weighed a ton compared to today’s bikes), is long gone. I do however still have the original combination lock that Kim purchased for it – 3342. For me it’s not about the bike itself; it’s about the memories associated with them. All three of my baby boys enjoyed many rides on that green Schwinn, perched high in their rear child seat, complete with little helmets for their heads and thumbs in their mouths.
Since retiring, weather permitting, I ride every other day on a 14.3 mile route down on the American River Bike Trail. (Link) explore the pictures supplied in the link as it’s a gorgeous ride. The ride isn’t really about enjoying the scenery though, as gorgeous as it is. I’ve discovered that my knee feels much better when I’m riding regularly and that alone will get me onto the bike. You see, I had a horrible break while playing softball in 1987. Look for the story someday. The accident put a stop to all running sports, but I’m finding that the pain is greatly diminished when I’m having regular biking activity. We don’t appreciate what it means to be pain-free unless we’ve experienced severe or prolonged pain. It puts everything into perspective, let me tell you!
From Lemon Peelers (read me) to a large green Scwinn tourer to my current ride – a vintage 1989 Cannondale Crest Racing Team 12 speed I found on Ebay. Like my cars, I like to hold a good vehicle for a very long time. Sometimes I feel I’m perhaps a little too introspective, but my introspection seems to have allowed me to log quite a few memories from childhood and beyond. I realize that my stories are not always funny, not always interesting, not always relevant to the readers. My hope is that while you are reading, you run across something that stirs up a forgotten memory of your own and maybe from time to time you smile and you come back for the next story.
My current ride is beautiful and it is helping to make me healthier. More than that though, riding a bicycle never fails to take me back in time to simpler times, both as a child riding through Millikin Woods with my childhood friend Timmy to seeing my own sons, sucking their thumbs on the back of my big green Schwinn. All of my boys are fully grown now and my oldest two are both riding their own bikes on a regular basis. I hope they are making their own memories and enjoying life because it really is beautiful; Life is beautiful.