Thursday, October 31, 2013

Post #12: Happy Halloween!

The Bikeist is off Trick or Treating with his little bikeists, so you will just have to settle for this image of the ultimate Halloween bike (at least as far as my littlest bikeist is concerned):


BTW, saw a kid Trick or Treating on his bike -- smart boy . . .

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Post #11: Bikeography Part VIII -- The Explosion That Changed Everything

Great week in the saddle for everybody's favorite Bikeist -- got my birthday Century ride in, simultaneously knocking out another key chunk of the Pacific Coast (Santa Barbara to L.A.) in my quest to bike every single mile of it, from the Canadian border to Mexico.  Much, much, more on that when I, finally, finish the never-ending, serialized, Bikeography (someday coming to a bookstore or e-reader near you).  Before reverting to the Bikeography, though (don't panic, I promise we'll get there), there is one image from my trip that I simply must share.  I took Amtrak up to Santa Barbara Monday afternoon, before biking the coast south on Tuesday.  After 5 hours on the train, and with a few hours of sunlight left, I decided to get the kinks out by biking up into the hills adjacent to Santa Barbara, where I encountered THIS on Mountain Drive:



YES!  It's a mailbox!  One of the best pieces of bike art I've ever come across -- just hope their mail-carrier has a good sense of humor . . .

See, all you impatient readers out there -- look what you would have missed out on if I had simply launched into this all-important, crucial, life-altering, mind-blowing installment of the Bikeography.  Ok, ok, I'll get on with it already --

You see, loyal readers, when it comes to my Bike-ism, there are two distinct eras:  B.E. and A.E. -- before the explosion and after.  B.E., I was simply a guy who really liked bikes and riding them.  After I crossed that bright line, though, I was still all that, but beyond that, I was someone who organized his entire existence around bikes.  I was a little over two years into my three year tour at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT, living 12 miles north of the base in Norwich.  I had been dabbling with bike-commuting (once or twice a week, when the weather was favorable) but, in our two-car household, it was always easy to generate excuses to opt out of getting up early to bike out into the cold, dark Connecticut mornings.   That all changed, though, as I drove to work in our '83 Celebrity one early Spring morning -- the very same Celebrity that I had bragged about at work a few days earlier when it had somehow managed to cross the 200,000 mile mark.  

Chevrolet celebrity

I called out my cohorts for wasting money on their fancy German and Japanese cars, when good old, reliable, American engineering had produced my indestructible Celebrity -- "Still going strong!"  

So, the irony of my hubris, was not lost on me as white fumes began emerging from under the hood.  "Damn!" I thought, must be overheating.  When I pulled over and immediately popped the  hood, though, it wasn't steam that I discovered -- there were flames dancing on my air filter!  I ran to the trunk to grab the fire extinguisher, but couldn't find one.  When I looked back at the engine, the flames seemed to be growing fast.  There were a few houses along this stretch of Rte 12, so I ran up to the doorstep of the closest one.  I rang the doorbell about a hundred times, but got no answer until I spotted an older lady peering out at me from behind the drapes of the living room window.  I tried to direct her attention to the road and the visible flames emanating from my engine, but she kept her gaze fixed on me and mouthed "Go away!"  "Another friendly New Englander --" I thought to myself as I retreated from her front stoop.  Guessing that her neighbors were likely to be just as helpful, I decided to run down to the road and see if I could flag someone down.  The flames were now reaching the top of the propped hood.  A steady stream of cars was passing by -- giving the Celebrity a wide berth as they gawked at the flames (and ignored me).  After about a minute, a guy in a Mercedes pulled over who actually had a "car phone" -- complete with the classic curled, springy, phone cord and long antenna.  He, excitedly, used it to call the fire department and then encouraged me to get the hell away from the car until they showed up.  I took his advice and climbed up the hill across the street from the Celebrity, where I watched the flames grow and grow some more until they actually worked their way into the passengers' compartment where they soon melted the molding around the windshield which then receded into the same compartment.  That was right before the fireball.  As I recall, it looked something like this:


It was at this very moment that my mind turned to the issue of how I would be getting to work now that we had only one car, and my long-suffering wife needed the non-blown-up one to get to New Haven each day for Grad School.   It was at the very next moment that I had my epiphany -- I'll ride my bike, of course -- and, in the very next moment after that (when the part of my brain that favored endless bike-rides, forever seeking what was beyond that next curve kicked in) when I vowed I would keep on riding my bike to work every day after that until I either got sick of it, or it became impossible.  That day, of course, never came.  Eighteen years later, we still have only one car, and I have used my bike and/or public transportation to get to work every day since that fateful one in Connecticut.

As for the Celebrity, it was a blackened, charred, hulk by the time the fire department showed up 45 minutes after the call (from exactly 3/4 of a mile down the road).  The Inspector started shaking his head as soon as he saw it was a Celebrity, and brought me over to what was left of it to demonstrate the little quirk it had where the fuel hose would slip off and spray gasoline on the hot engine.  Nice.  It was hauled off to the junk-yard, and a friendly Trooper was kind enough to drive me to the base where I had a spectacular story to tell my friends in the trial shop . . .

Next up:  Of Spain and another Cannondale --

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Post #10: Bikeography Part VII -- The Cannondale Years



Forwarded by a loyal Bikeist reader:



Love it!  

Worst part is that the police officer didn't even understand the law. Hard enough to get by as an honest bikeist in this world without having to teach the rule enforcers the actual rules.

Love this as well: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/604592896/bike-shift-lever-for-anybody-by-anybody

It's a "Kickstarter" project trying to raise a modest amount of money to produce a kit that would allow Bikeists of less means throughout the world to create their own shift levers out of easy to obtain parts like bottle caps, bolts and scrap aluminum.  Check it out!
 
When last I left you, I was still mired in my second bike "dark period," after my beloved Schwinn Probe disappeared under murky circumstances.   Luckily, this gap in the Bikeography was short-lived, thanks to my loving Bikeist parents.  Well aware of my bike love, and how crushed I was after the theft, they had no problem figuring out what to get me for Christmas:



Look familiar?  Yes, it's the bike I lusted after in the bike shop window in Morgantown!   My parents got a good deal on this Cannondale M400 3.0 Series Mountain Bike and actually placed it in front of the tree, and, I have to admit, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas when I discovered it there (well, it was Christmas, but I wasn't, exactly a kid anymore).  Thanks, mom and dad!

The bike came back to Syracuse with me where I resumed Mountain Biking in the Spring and used it to explore backroads throughout Central New York.  It was my transportation to and from Bar Review classes, came with me to Officer Indoctrination School in Newport, RI, when I entered the Navy right after taking the bar exam (loved biking Ocean Drive in Newport during the Summer!) and was hanging from the back of the car (along with my now long-suffering wife's Specialized Crossroads) when we headed off on our Honeymoon to Nantucket and Vermont.  Yes - as should come as no surprise to anybody at this point - bikes were a key element in the consummation of our life-long bond.  I would have liked to have had them on the altar with us, but the priest would have none of it.  The vows would have been so awesome!  "Do you, soon to be long-suffering Bikeist's wife, take this man, and his bike, as your lawfully wedded husband and bike?"  Oh, well.  Anyway, with summer crowds gone, we had the wonderful Nantucket bike paths pretty much to ourselves that first week of October.  We packed picnics each day and headed to different parts of the island.  Nantucket was the perfect place for a biking Honeymoon, since there was no chance for me to extend our rides forever and ever and ever.  In fact, now that I think of it, most of our best experiences on bikes have come on islands (including the one we live on now).

After the Honeymoon, it was back to Newport for nine weeks of Naval Justice School and then off to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT, for our first tour in the Navy.  One of my first purchases upon arrival in Connecticut:

Short Bike Rides in Connecticut


Great book that fueled many a weekend outing for us.  However, my penchant for trying to string together several "short" rides into long ones is what, eventually, led to my long-suffering wife's boycott of all rides in places not surrounded by water on all sides, and my embracing of the solitude of the life-long Bikeist.   

Next up:  The explosion that changed everything!




Sunday, October 20, 2013

Post #9: Bikeography Part VI -- Plus: There Are No Skunks in Australia!

View from the back of the Coronado Ferry as I sat on the bench with my bike (of course) on the way to work Friday morning:



Yes, it was way early, but still great to be able to get to work without a car or freeway . . .

Remember these guys?






As I biked along with the Aussie couple riding one of these last week, we happened upon a dead skunk in the middle of the shoulder.  I knew it was coming long before we reached it by the obvious odor.  Oddly, to me, though, just as we passed the little black, white, and red bit of roadkill, the stoker asked "What is that?!"  I, immediately, identified it to her as a skunk -- wondering, though, how it could be mistaken for anything else.  I mean, come on -- who could possibly not recognize the unique odor and look of a skunk?  Well, as it turns out, an entire continent's worth of people are likely to be unfamiliar with the odor that is unmistakable to most North Americans.  Thanks to the relentless efforts of my crack research team, The Bikeist is now aware of the fact that there are no skunks in Australia.  Who knew?  (Besides 22 million Australians and, probably, Bill Bryson . . .)

So, where were we?  Hmm, oh, yeah, the Probe -- my first bike purchase.  Great bike -- got me around campus as an undergrad and through my first year of law school at Syracuse.  It was during that first year when I learned the true stress-relieving benefits of biking.  Law School (and first year in particular) is no picnic.  Saturday mornings spent doing mile after mile along the Erie Canal towpath, or mountain biking in some of the forests outside the City allowed me to clear my mind and do something with all the pent up energy stored during the hours and hours of reading and outlining.  It also gave me something else fun to do with my soon to be long-suffering wife.   I know that many of you have been wondering why I always refer to my long-suffering wife as "my long-suffering wife."  Well, besides the fact that it should, pretty much, go without saying for anyone married to me and my bike addiction -- it is actually more a literal reference to the suffering she has endured on many a bike ride with me.  Starting with the aforementioned towpath, I always had a penchant for going about 1, 2, or 20 miles further than her comfort zone.  Why do only 5 or 10 miles when we can bike all the way to Rome?  I always needed to see what was beyond the next bend.  This led to a string of what she now lovingly refers to as "death-marches."  I have to give her all the credit in the world, though, because it wasn't until we were married for several years that she absolutely refused to ever go riding with me again . . .

Thus, despite her feigned shock, I am quite certain that there was some underlying relief for my soon to be long-suffering wife when the Probe was stolen from right under my nose.  This was the first -and only- time I have had a bike stolen from me.  It was after a long Saturday afternoon mountain-biking at Highland Forest.  It was dark when I got back, and I was beat, so I (lazily) left the bike in my locked car overnight (parked right outside my open bedroom window).  As it turned out, this is not the brightest of things to do when you live in a college town.  When I woke up the next morning, I found the white wire hanger used by the opportunist to pull up the lock on the Mighty Malibu still hanging out of the window, and, of course, no Probe.  -- I was crushed.  I LOVED that freaking bike and could barely afford the six pack of Matt's beer in the fridge, never-mind a replacement for the Probe.

I am sure that it was just my imagination, but I thought that I detected a suppressed grin when I broke this devastating news to my soon to be long-suffering wife.  I am also sure that it was a mere coincidence that the dry cleaner she went to only used white, wire hangers . . .

Next Up:  The Cannondale Years (and, this time, I really mean it . . .)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Post #8: Back to the Neverending Bikeography -- Part V

View from the Bayshore Bikeway during my evening commute around the bay Wednesday night:






Nice, right?

Little did I know in 1988 that a chance encounter with a college friend would lead me here . . .

As previously chronicled, my later high school years were a dark period in the arc of my Bikeism.  I attended a regional Parochial High School (too far to bike to), and was obsessed with baseball (vice bikes), which wound up paying for my college education at West Virginia University.  My Freshman year was spent adjusting to college classes and D-1 pitching, so bikes still weren't on the radar.  However, everything changed at the beginning of my Sophomore year.  I was walking up High Street in downtown Morgantown, when I ran into one of my buddies.  He was on a brand new mountain bike, and was biking up the hill in the granny gear with zero effort.  Having struggled up many a steep hill with maximal effort on my 10 speed Huffy, I was instantly intrigued.  Mountain Biking was still a fairly new activity on the east coast, so his appearance was much more exotic than a mountain bike in a college town would be today.  I stopped him and we chatted about his bike for a while, with him going on and on about all the great trails around Morgantown and how West Virginia was going to be the Colorado of the east.  I needed no further convincing -- he triggered an immediate longing in me for my very own mountain bike -- I simply HAD to have one.  The bike void in my existence that had gone unfilled since I bequeathed the paper route needed to be filled!

So, I strolled about half a block to the bike shop on High Street where they had one of these in the window:



So beautiful!  However, the price was somewhere in excess of $500 -- way beyond my starving college student budget.  So, I went home from the bike shop with a bunch of catalogs (that's what we did in the pre-internet days, folks) and pored over them until I identified this one for under $300!


The Schwinn Probe, with an entire 15 gears!  It's triple chain-ring gave me the amazing granny gear I had witnessed on High Street, and its sturdy frame and knobby tires made it the perfect go-anywhere bike.  While I had a car, I had to park it on the street, where spots were hard to come by.  I instantly started planning trips around town on the bike, if for no other reason than to save my parking spot.  I immediately became the only member of the Mountaineers Baseball Team to bike commute to all practices (great warm-up!).  Weekends were spent exploring the, hilly, country roads around Morgantown, and, once my buddy Chaz got his own Stumpjumper, heading up to Cooper's Rock State Forest in his VW Bus for some fabulous mountain biking.

The bike came home with me each summer where we tackled some amazing trails in upstate NY's Shawangunk Mountains, and, throughout my college years, it pretty much became the same appendage that my Huffy's had been in my youth.  

Except for the tragic period after my beloved Probe was swiped, I haven't been without a bike since . . .

Next up:  The Cannondale Years

Monday, October 14, 2013

Post #7: A Holiday From the Bikeography

Is this cool or what?

video

Taking a break from the epic Bikeography for today's American version of a "Bank Holiday."  But, since I promised to post, religiously, on Mondays and Thursdays, I figured I had to give you all something for the effort of checking in.

This IS cool, though -- spotted it, and about five similar bike sculptures, during my Saturday morning ride around the Bay and up to Solana Beach and back to the Ferry.  The sculptures and accompanying promenade fronting the west side of the 101 are the culmination of a project that forced the San Diego Bikeist onto the back roads and alleys of Solana Beach for much of early 2013.  The result is a, decidedly, bike-friendly, public space fronting Pizza Port, the Trek bike shop and the other businesses along the 101.  Nice to see the North County towns (that benefit so much from the dollars spent by the hordes of bike-riders transiting through and filling their pubs and cafes) acknowledging where their bread is buttered.  When I returned today, on my ride from San Juan Capistrano to Solana Beach, the bike-racks were filled with bikes -- and dozens of spandex-clad customers were spotted sampling post-ride brews at Pizza Port . . .

Then, for my fellow Superman fans, there was this -- spotted as I traversed one of the back alleys of Del Mar:

Nice.

Finally, I have to share my encounter with an Aussie couple I met as I was biking into the North entrance of Camp Pendleton on my way down the coast.  They were riding one of these:
 
It's made by a German company called "Hase," and theirs was laden with gear that actually seemed to out-weigh the riders.  They left Whistler, Canada, in July and are making their way to the southern tip of South America!  Most amazing to me was that both riders were just wearing sandals (although, they admitted regretting their inability to clip in).  They seemed, perhaps, twice as happy as the couple pictured here.  Is biking great or what? ---

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Post #6: Bikeography Part IV -- The Huffy Saves My Hide




************************************************
WE INTERRUPT THIS OVER-WROUGHT SLOG THROUGH EACH AND EVERY BIKE THE SAN DIEGO BIKEIST HAS EVER OWNED FOR A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:

As I have already alluded, and as should be no surprise to anyone, I am a hardcore bike-commuter.  I abandoned our second car 18 years ago and have used only my bike to get to work ever since.  It's amazing the weird stuff that you just happen upon when you're out and about in the world on a bike rather than trapped behind a windshield.  Case in point:



These are the Harbor Police Boats we saw yesterday after my bike commuting buddies and I spotted a dead body in San Diego Bay on our ferry ride to work.   The Captain had to stay with the body (bobbing about twenty yards from where we were sitting on the side-bench with our bikes leaning against the rail) for fifty minutes while we waited for the water cops to come fish it out.  Their counterparts were waiting for us when we came ashore, where they took an informal poll of who saw the body and who didn't (signified by a showing of hands), but then decided to take a formal statement only from the Captain himself.  Now, if this kind of intrigue and excitement doesn't get you to trade in your gas-guzzler for a commuter bike, nothing will . . .

-- NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING --

************************************************
 Wow!  Almost as exciting as reading more about my exploits on my good old Huffy Santa Fe ten speed (but not quite).  As mentioned, since I would never out-grow it, this was the last bike of my childhood.  It took me everywhere I went until I was old enough to drive:  all over the development; the two miles into town to play tennis during the summer; exploring many of the country roads that led through to, and away from our town; back and forth from my first "job" at our church when I was 13, filling in for the Janitor along with my buddy Jack while Mr. "Mazz" took a vacation (yes, already a bike commuter!).   

The Huffy's swan song, though, (before the mostly bike-less later high school years) came when my brother, the Egg, and I finally scored our own paper route.  Every morning, we rolled our Huffies down to the bottom of the driveway at dawn, divvied up the pile of papers into our sling bags, then raced to the end of the route, making our way back on opposite sides of the street as we rode straight through the adjacent front yards, depositing the papers on front step after front step.  We took turns sleeping in on Saturdays, though, and on one of my Saturdays "on" I finally came face to face with the greatest fear of paper boys everywhere:  an angry, unleashed Doberman.  I always kept an eye out for this one, because he was kept on a second floor deck behind one of my customer's homes, where he would bark, viciously, at me and the Egg whenever we came near the house.  He had actually escaped before, but each time, we had been at the crest of the hill, and just raced down the other side faster than he was willing to chase.  This time, though, he escaped as I was still pedaling up the hill.  With no chance to get away, I jumped off my bike, and instinctively put it between me and the crazy dog.  He seemed a little afraid of the bike, so I started screaming as loud as I could (which is pretty loud) and then picked it up and thrust it at him as threateningly as possible.  Just as he seemed to be mustering his counter attack, his owner, Mrs. B, got his attention by yelling from her front porch.  He did not come when called, so the stand-off continued, him starting to try to circle while I made sure to keep the stalwart Huffy between me and him at all times.  I kindly suggested to Mrs. B that she might want to come down off her porch and grab her dog before he ate me.  After considering my suggestion for a moment, she ambled down her driveway, grabbed her (disturbed) dog by the collar and dragged him (still snarling) back to the deck -- no apology given.  Glad to be alive, I raced home on my bike, and, of course, woke up the Egg to tell him what he had missed.  To this day, when I want to muster a little extra speed on my road bike, all I have to do is imagine that crazy dog chasing me up Trotting Drive . . .

So, for about three, important, formative, years of my life, the first thing I did every morning was hop on a bike (just as I do now).  However, when I got my license, and turned my attention almost exclusively to baseball, (and, eventually, my long suffering wife) I left the route to the Egg and our mildly brain-damaged younger brother, and rarely rode the Huffy at all.  These "dark" years in my Bikeography, of course, only made me appreciate bikes that much more when I re-embraced their glory in college . . .

Next up:  "I MUST have one of those!"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Post #5: Bikeography Part III -- Moving On Up

Well, seems that I have been blogging for about a good two weeks now, and I'm still waiting for it to rain money.  That's how it works, right?  Publish your brilliant and witty commentary to the interwebs and the cash just starts flowing in.  I'm fairly certain that a big fat royalty check from Google is already on the way . . .

While I'm waiting, though, I guess I might as well continue to weave my magic for free.  When we left off, I had just mastered mounting and finally, actually riding, my way too big, totally inappropriate for a seven year old, Huffy Bicentennial ten speed.  Immediately, I gained a whole new perspective on bike-riding -- literally.  I now freakishly towered over all the other kids in the neighborhood when we headed out on our bikes.  Their bikes (the types I had suddenly graduated from) were so much more maneuverable and easy to get going.  However, once we did get going, I could easily out-pace anybody in my upper gears, and could climb any of the hills in our neighborhood with little effort while they struggled mightily, or even had to get off and push.   I got good at maneuvering the ten speed through, around and over many of the same obstacles I had overcome on my banana-seat bike as well as falling off, helmet-less, upon running into some of the same fixed objects that had previously unseated me (perhaps the most important skill I have retained to this day).  

More significantly, this giant bike, and its ability to eat up ground with little effort fed my impulse to explore.  Just as my first bike had instantly propelled me beyond the confines of my driveway, this road bike expanded my horizons well beyond our block on Tulsa Trail.  This capability proved to be crucial when we suddenly moved from suburban New Jersey to suburban New York when NYPD changed its rules, requiring its police officers to live within the borders of New York State.  We moved to a virtual kid-paradise -- a development in a dairy and onion farming town about 60 miles north of NYC.  It was teeming with kids, had multiple ballfields and playing courts, and had several miles of highway-free, residential roads to explore on my bike.  Our first day in the neighborhood found me out on the Huffy getting the lay of the land.  Within a day or two, I had the entire layout of the development memorized.  To this day, with every move I have made (and there have been many) I have continued the habit of orienting myself by bike.  There is no better way to quickly get to know a new place.  Walking takes too long and everything just seems to blend and blur together from behind a windshield.  

From this point on, my bike became more of an appendage than a toy.  Whereas all my friends in New Jersey had lived on the same block, I now had friends spread throughout our sprawling development -- the bike got me to them more quickly right after school, and allowed me to linger until the last possible moment without being late for dinner.   I was the catalyst for many a pick-up baseball game, and learned that the drop bars were perfect for transporting a bat, with glove slid over the knob.  Every journey, however short or long, or for whatever purpose, was taken on my Huffy, which, by the middle of fourth grade, had almost started to fit.  Which, of course, meant it was time to pass it down to my younger brother, the Egg (who repeated my bloody travails trying to master the transition from banana bike to road bike), and move on to yet another ridiculously disproportionate bicycle:

http://hellovegetables.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/huffy-santa-fe.jpg 

This time, it was a fully adult-sized Huffy Santa Fe.  With its leather drop bars, it was the second most beautiful object I had ever beholden (nothing could beat the red, white, and blue glory of the Bicentennial Huffy, except, of course, my yet to be encountered long-suffering wife).  Little did I know it, but this was to be the last bike I would get until adulthood.  Luckily, like riding a bike to begin with, you never forget how to ride a bike that's way too big for you - so, I was spared the painful learning curve of the past two transitions.  The baseball bat slipped just as easily through the Santa Fe's drop bars, so I quickly shed the old appendage for this new one . . .

Next Up:   Dobermans and on to Mountain Bikes

Author's note:  After extensive consultation with my crack management and marketing teams, and poring over reams of demographic and web-surfing data, it has been decided that all possible human effort will be made to publish The San Diego Bikeist every Monday and Thursday.  Lucky you.  Stick around, and I may even start blogging about San Diego . . .

 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Post #4: Bikeography Part II -- Say Goodbye to Little Boy Bikes

Bikeist here -- blogging from 39,000 feet as I head to Denver/Boulder to do some recruiting and, of course, riding.  Hope to have some good tales to tell about biking again in and around Boulder, but those will have to wait until we complete this forced march through every bike I've ever owned.  Hang in there, loyal reader -- like training on hills, this evolution will make you stronger, give you a sense of accomplishment, and reap benefits for years to come.  When this blog, inevitably, hits it big, and you're sitting around with your buds watching me get interviewed by Jon Stewart, you are going to seem so cool and hip as you casually toss out little-known Bikeist Trivia:

Tom:  "Did you know that his first girlfriend's name was Debbie?"

Carlos:  "Whose?"

Tom:  "The Bikeist's man! The guy on TV -- She had red hair."

Carlos:  "Oh."

Doesn't get much cooler than that!

Now, back to the bikes:

http://oldtenspeedgallery.com/blog/wp-content/bikes/2009/11/mr4c-1976-huffy-10-speed66.jpg

This is the payoff for my earlier allusion to my recurring experience with repeatedly falling off new bikes that were way too big for me.  It was 1976 -- an Olympic year.  I was growing fast, and it was time for my little brother to inherit my 100 lb. banana bike.  Despite its unwieldy girth, I had learned to do lots of tricks on the Schwinn:  wheelies, jumps, bunny-hops, and running into all sorts of fixed objects -- so, I had X-Game type fantasies of what would be possible with a brand new BMX (remember, just like the unimaginary, imaginary girlfriend, I was always ahead of my time).  However, my dad had other plans.  

Perhaps caught up with Olympic fever, but more likely keeping with a strategy of always buying his oldest son things he would, eventually, grow into, he brought home this (spectacular) Men's 10 speed road bike for his prospective second grader.  It was probably the single most beautiful, but intimidating, object I had ever beholden (before beholding my long-suffering wife, of course).  I headed out to the driveway for the obligatory test ride with equal parts excitement and pure dread.  When my dad encouraged me to hop on and take it for a spin, I had no idea where to begin.  I think I would have had more of a clue of what to do if he had tossed me the keys to the station wagon.  I had always mounted my banana bike while straddling the frame, but when I tried the same with this gigantic, unwieldy, device, it was impossible to stand it upstraight -- the cross-bar was about level with my belly-button.  "No problem" declared my intrepid father -- just mount it with a kick-step with one foot on the left pedal and a swing of the other leg over the saddle and onto the other pedal.  Yeah, right, dad -- are you flipping kidding me?  -- I guess not.  What followed was a harrowing display of side-mounting ineptitude.  I tried my best to execute the maneuver my dad had described, but each attempt resulted in a tumbling, screaming, mass of steel and eight year old boy flesh.

Undaunted, my dad determined that the key impediment was the lack of maneuver space in our driveway.  We needed to move up to the crest of Tulsa Trail (which I had surmounted so many times on my trusty Schwinn) where there was room to develop the proper momentum to facilitate the side-mounting maneuver I had failed so miserably at in the driveway.   Bruised and scraped, I bought into this theory,  but was quick to point out the added impediment presented by the recently deployed gravel on our street (rather than asphalt, the roads in our town were formed by the deployment of massive amounts of gravel that were pulverized into pavement by the comings and goings of our various 2 ton, 8 mpg, cars).  I will spare you, dear readers, from a graphic description of the gore that ensued -- it is safe to assume, though, that the precious momentum required to master the side-mount of my Huffy Bicentennial Ten Speed, was never, remotely, approached on the sharp gravel at the crest of Tulsa Trail, and that this little Bikeist returned to his home bloodied and bruised -- in body and spirit.  This was the first, and probably only, time that I expressed outward anger towards my otherwise unassailable dad, who, at least, granted me the space I needed to vent over the sheer, humiliating pain of defeat I felt as I returned to the care (and shock) of my overprotective Irish mother.

Don't worry, Bikeist fans, as you can assume, I didn't let this first, horrendous, attempt at mounting a proper road bike stand in the way of my Bikeist future.  I got up early the next day and WALKED my new bike (by myself) up and over the crest of Tulsa Trail to the friendly confines of the Elementary School parking lot.  There I rode my Huffy, side-saddle, on the smooth pavement for about a half-hour, like a scooter, until I built up the confidence to swing my right leg, smoothly over the saddle, with my right foot landing on the right pedal.  I coasted for a bit, then took my first pedal stroke just as I started to lose momentum -- the first of thousands upon thousands to come throughout the U.S. and the entire world . . .

Up Next:  Part III - Even Bigger Boy Bikes