Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A bicycle NOT built for two

(originally published October 8, 2008)

It was bright orange, as fiery as a blazing sun.
Red and blue racing stripes streamed along the sides and as I ran my hand down its length, I knew without a doubt it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

High on a cake and ice cream buzz copped during a party to celebrate my birth, I hopped on the white vinyl seat, placed my feet on the pedals, grabbed the rubber coated handle bars and braced myself for my very first ride on a big girl bike.

I was 7 years old and ready to take on the world.
Or at least the gently sloped, grassy hill behind our house.

My dad held on as I pushed off. He trotted alongside as I slowly gained speed. Then he did what any self-respecting dad would do.

He let go.

Six seconds later I was on the ground, trapped in a bent frame of wire and aluminum (and one sad looking peach tree sapling that I’d just mowed down in the orchard) and screaming at my dad, “WHY DID YOU LET GO?! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!”

Ah, the good old days.

This was a time when it was still fun to ride a bike. Those wonderful days before helmet laws and knee pads and training wheels and the fear of catastrophic head injury took the fun outta riding a bike.

And this was a place where smooth, paved streets didn’t exist.
This was rural America, my friend, where a crash on a bumpy, narrow road of sharp, graveled rocks would rip a gash the size of the Grand Canyon down your leg. (I should know. I still have the scar.)

Leaving you sprawled in the dust, bloodied, dazed and thisclose to throwing up but still thinking, “I almost made the jump over the barbed-wire fence! Where’d that damn cow come from?!” Then your eyes rolled in the back of your head and you passed out.

Maybe your friends would bike back to the house to alert an adult you were in need of a tourniquet.

Or maybe they’d just leave you there to wake up two days later and wonder why you were lying in the middle of a country road and what in the heck happened to your pants.

Oh, wait. That’s an entirely different story. Back to two-wheeled misadventures….

A part of me misses those days. When you pulled stunts to see just how far you could go without necessitating a trip to the local emergency room.

It was the most danger a 10-year-old could invite without committing a felony.

But then I became a parent myself and quickly realized why such rules are in place.

Because kids are stupid.

“I WANNA RIDE MY BIKE IN THE STREET!!” my 3-year-old son wailed.
“No,” I answered. Simple. To the point. No need to discuss it further.
“I WANNA RIDE MY BIKE IN THE STREET!!” my 3-year-old son wailed and stomped his little feet on the driveway.
“No,” I answered. Again, simple. To the point. No need to discuss it further.

Then he screamed something I can’t repeat because, well, it was so high-pitched only the dog could make it out. So I gave in. Sue me.

We began the pre-race checklist.

Bike helmet? Check.

Elmo trading card his dad clipped to the back wheel so it would make that cool clicking noise when he pedaled really fast? Check.

Speaking of pedaling really fast…Training wheels? Check.

He climbed aboard, put his feet on the pedals and pushed off down the driveway. And that’s when I noticed something not-quite-right.

“Why are you crooked?” I asked and pointed to the set of training wheels attached to the rear of the bicycle. The brackets looked bent, leaving the right side training wheel a good two inches shorter than the left.

He looked over his shoulder and muttered, “Daddy did it.”

He stopped the bike and sighed.

“Daddy wanted to ride my bike,” he said, beginning his tale of woe. “And when he sat on it, the little wheels went out like this,” and threw out his arms to the sides, miming how the brackets had flattened out. “He jumped off and tried to fix them, but they’re still crooked.”

He then added with disgust, “That’s why Daddy isn’t allowed to ride my bike anymore.”

And that’s why kids have their own rules.

Because parents are stupid too.
You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at life-like-mine@hotmail.com.

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