By John Gladden
Last week, I invited fellow cyclists to share their best bicycling memories in honor of National Bike Month. Their stories included everything from falling down to falling in love. Regrettably, there wasn’t enough space to include them all, but here’s a sampling.
Tom Boruvka: “When I was a lot younger, about 9 or 10, there was a program on TV Saturday mornings called the ‘Howdy Doody Show.’ One year they had a contest to win a Schwinn bicycle of your choice. All you had to do was mail them a postcard with your name and address on it. They had a drawing every week for about one month. There was this huge hopper filled with postcards and Buffalo Bob would reach in and pull out one card each week.
“I dutifully watched each week. Sure enough about the third week Buffalo Bob pulled out my postcard and read my name to the nationwide audience. I ran into the kitchen to tell my family, but no one believed me. In spite of their negativity, I knew I had won. After a couple of weeks I received a letter telling me to go to the nearby Schwinn dealer to pick out my bike.
“My choice was a green Schwinn Jaguar with all the accessories any 10-year-old could want. Even though the green Jaguar is long gone, I am still an avid bike rider.”
A bicycle marriage
Ben Kasmin: “I have been a proud cyclist on a tour named the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure for eight years.
“I was 13 years old and I had been hearing stories about my mother’s GOBA friends for years. One of her friends had a 13-year-old daughter who attended GOBA as well. She and I became friends fast, stayed friends for years, then began dating after I realized how beautiful she really was. I proposed to her on a beach in North Carolina and we will be married one year in June.
“Bicycling has led me to the most wonderful blessing a man could ask for. So rather than sharing my favorite single memory, I thank it for all the wonderful memories I have had and the lifetime of memories I will enjoy.”
Too tired to pedal
Jane Skrant: “My most unforgettable bike adventure goes back many decades. When I was a pre-teen, a new family moved into our neighborhood and I soon became friends with their teen daughter.
“After a couple of weeks she wanted to visit her old neighborhood, so we planned a bike ride from where we were in Parma to Maple Heights. It was the middle of summer and very hot, so we packed a small lunch and took a Thermos of Kool-Aid to help us on our journey. The route we took was via the Granger Road Hill and, believe me, we huffed and puffed our way up it. However, we did make it to her previous residence and enjoyed a brief visit.
“When it was time to start back, neither one of us could push a pedal. We did the only thing we could and called our parents in hopes someone could pick us up. They weren’t too happy with us, but it was still a great adventure for a 12-year-old. I can’t bike now, but those days that I could have lived in my memory forever.”
Brian Feron: “I was in the fourth grade and had a Gazette route on Ryan Road. One customer paid me a whole year in advance. I was excited to have that plus other savings to purchase a yellow 20-inch Huffy banana-seat bike with high-rise handlebars and a Cheater Slick rear tire. It was $31 at the Conley’s store at U.S. Route 42 and Fenn Road. Boy, was it cool! The handlebars could be upright or dropped down depending on your cruising style. The banana seat had the sissy bar on the back end.
“Of course, the neighborhood challenge was to see who could leave the longest skid marks on the garage floor. My father was not impressed or amused.
“Eventually that bike had a speedometer and baskets for newspapers so I didn’t have to carry the bag over my shoulder. I could reach down and grab the papers, fold them, and place them in the newspaper boxes along my route without having to stop. The ride home, however, was uphill and usually against the wind.”
George Siegler: “In my early teens I received my first real bike — a Sears Free Spirit 10-Speed. The best part of the bike was the speedometer and seeing how fast I could go.
“One day I was giving the speedometer all I had, when I noticed a car at least 100 yards in front of me, but going the same direction I was. I knew I couldn’t catch up to it, so I just kept my head down, watching the speedometer and pedaling furiously.
“As luck would have it, the car stopped to look at a house for sale, but I didn’t stop — at least until I rear-ended it, flying over my handlebars and landing on my chest, arms spread wide and my face planted on the rear windshield, where four adults were wide-eyed and shocked to see me there.
“All four jumped out of the car to make sure I was all right. Outside of my embarrassment, luckily I was fine. I was more concerned about my bike and whether I damaged their car.
“Thirty years later, I still ride my bike all the time, but now with a helmet and an eye on the road ahead. I still laugh whenever I think about that crash and what the folks in the car must have thought.”
Melody Miller: “I remember riding around our neighborhood and having to take turns with siblings since we shared the bike. I also remember putting the baseball cards in the spokes to make noise.
“Last summer my husband, myself and my youngest son went to Kelley’s Island and biked around the island. It was so peaceful and relaxing! My husband currently rides his bike to work when he can. Great memories!”
First ride on a new ride
Jay Manix: “It was the summer of 1977 and I had just purchased a brand-new 10-speed. My mom drove me to the bike store and we finally picked it up. I had spent what seemed like years saving the $100 to buy it — my first major purchase. I had also spent what seemed like years imagining my first ride on my new ride — cruising at nearly the speed of light, shifting gears every four seconds, simply because I could.
“I eagerly took the bike out of the car trunk and took off into the twilight. I returned five minutes later, walking the bike home. I bit the dust going down my first hill. The bike, my body and my ego all slightly damaged, yet ready to have at it again the next day.”
Thanks to all who shared their bicycling memories. I hope you’ll go out during bike month and make some more … safely.