My first bicycle was used, painted a dull, flat blue. It was purchased after my father had a good night at poker. And it had, for reasons no one knew, a small metal elephant sitting on the back fender. I loved that elephant. I thought it gave my bike distinction. That bike started with training wheels, but I soon shed them in the traditional way — father running alongside, then letting go, so I was on my own.
There was the honey-gold Schwinn with the wicker basket; it showed up Christmas morning, a copy of “The Lost Princess of Oz” in the basket. I would huff and puff up the long hill to the church, where I would go ’round and ’round in circles on the little sidewalk. The neighborhood was small, but the streets beyond it weren’t bike-friendly, so I learned to make do with traversing the same route over and over again.
When I was in college, a guy pulling out of McDonald’s drive-through lane struck me as I came down the sidewalk on my 10-speed. The bike was never really the same. At the age of 29, I had another 10-speed and the chain slipped and I went flying off of it, landing on my face. That was my last bike. But under certain conditions, I still like to go round and round. I visit my parents in St. Simon’s Island every spring and I rent a bike for four hours. The island is a) flat and b) full of bike paths, so I feel relatively safe. Plus, I’ve learned my lesson: If you’re going to fall, sacrifice the arm to the face.
On a spring-like day, why is riding a bike to nowhere so utterly pleasurable? Where did your bike take you? What did it look like? Who got a banana seat? I never did.