Had one of those strange sadly beautiful weekends. Took off early from work on Friday afternoon to meet my Dad out at my late Grandma & Grandpa’s farm. Most of the farm sale details have gone through, and we had an opportunity to see it one last time & share that part of our history with the kids. I enjoyed listening to Dad’s stories from his childhood – told with excitement with a lump of sadness – as we toured through the old farmhouse and barns. It was a good day to remember Grandma & Grandpa & my Uncle Mark.
Saturday was a day to ride. Well, intended to ride. Trails were reported dry and I hadn’t been on the mountain bike for a while. The weight of a messy garage & freelance & kids that wanted me home to play soccer & ride bikes with them won out. While cleaning the garage, I decided to clean up my neighbor Doris’ old 60s Hawthorne (Montgomery Wards) she brought down a couple weeks prior to have me look over to see what I could recommend or do to get it running again. This was her childhood bike that she received from her father around age 10. It looked a bit rough – flat weather checked tires were expected – but the front hub and rear Bendix hub both took a bit of torque to rotate. I feared a rebuild. But I set aside the garage clutter and took advantage of another reason to fiddle with bikes. Started with steel wooling all the rust & pits on the chrome. Cleaned up well. Then took off the wheels and degreased them with a little eco-friendly gasoline & toothbrush. Sprayed down the off-white rims with some Westley’s Bleche White and they shined. Several hours & some elbow grease later, I had it back together.
Went to deliver the bike that Saturday eve, rode up the street on it (these old girl’s bikes with low top tubes are complete noodles!). Doris was out so I took it back home to the garage – but when out on a dog walk an hour later I ran into her walking her dog Lady. Rudy & Lady are dating, so to speak. He’s kinda like Hef at age 91 & she’s a blonde twentysomething… I’m pretty proud of him. Anyway, I mentioned to Doris that I had a surprise for her. I could tell from her response she was excited, but also sensed a little tiredness in her voice. She then informed me that her Father had just passed away unexpectedly just a couple days prior – then added that she was just discussing the old bike and riding with her siblings & Father after the funeral. I just wish I would have cleaned & tuned her bike up just a little bit sooner so that her Dad might have had a chance to see it again. I have a feeling he can see it right now.
Finally got my ride in Sunday. Two hours of singletrack – too giddy to reach in my pocket to take out the camera I’d brought along. There are plenty of pictures in my head, though. When I pulled into the drive coming home, there was my wife holding our dog Rudy and Doris’ dog Lady on a leash. I knew right then what was taking place. I looked down the street and Doris (almost 60 yrs young – though you never ask a lady her age) rounded the corner on her shiny new old bicycle. The winded smile on her face weighed more than a thousand thank yous. We shared some more stories and I reinstalled her speedometer I’d fixed too.
Since turning 40 a couple weeks ago, I’ve been reminded that my life here on Earth’s possibly about half over. It doesn’t sadden me, but it kindles that awareness that we all are here just briefly in the grand scheme of things. Dad was recalling things from nearly 60 years ago like they’d just happened. Doris, too, telling us how her Dad installed the speedometer on her & her sister’s bikes so that they would watch their speed and not get hurt – only having the reverse effect which sparked a competition to see who could get it pinned going the fastest. I’ve often thought that Ponce de Leon would have found his fountain in the bicycle – had he lived here a few centuries later. I have a story about my Father & my first bike that I will save for another time, but it’s these memories that we can hopefully carry with us and cherish long after our loved ones have left this world. And in a way, I leave this world each time I ride, feeling closer to those spirits that came before us. I wonder if I’m leaving my own children with great memories they’ll be able to recall 50 years from now. I hope so.
Ride yer bike.