Tales From A Hungry Life

June 3, 2015

I Like My Bicycle

by Maria Schulz

 

I like my bicycle

I like my bicycle

Remember the freedom and fun you had when you were a kid and you rode your bicycle?

I learned how to ride when I was three years old. My brothers (mostly worldly-wise and a few years older than me) decided it was time to teach me. So, they put me on top of the only bike we owned, which was clearly too big for me, and pushed me down the little hill that led to the alley behind our house.

I managed to stay upright by the grace of God (Yes! A miracle!), but began to panic as I reached the end of the alleyway. There was my brother Tony, waiting to catch me…but since I didn’t know how to use the brakes, I sailed right past him. One big crash and lots of tears later, I was officially a bike rider. My brothers congratulated me and I suddenly felt a whole lot better.

Still worth it

Still worth it

However, since there were only a couple of bikes in our family (there were a lot of us and no money), we had to share. So my actual bike-riding days were few and far between. As the 6th of 7 children, it was rarely, if ever, my turn.

I borrowed and begged as often as I could, and eventually, another miracle befell me. My friend’s mom felt sorry for me and gave me an old blue bike of theirs. I loved it! I rode it everywhere! I didn’t even mind that it was really meant for someone twice my age and three times my size. I could barely reach the pedals, but who cared? It was mine! How lucky was I?

My brother, Joey, eventually talked me into giving the bike to him for his paper route. In return, he wrangled a pretty lavender bike, with a banana seat with multicolored daisies on top, from one of his paper route customers. He put on a matching basket (I loved those multicolored daisies) and it was official. I had a bike of my own that I could actually ride without crashing, and it was pretty. I didn’t have to share it with my brothers because what boy wanted to ride a pretty bicycle? Life was good.

bowling

I rode that bike everywhere. Off we went to CYO bowling on Wednesdays; to sleepovers on Friday nights; to babysitting gigs; to King’s Deli on Bell Blvd. or C-Town on 48th Avenue. But I think my favorite place of all was my neighbor’s house.

Mrs. Murray was about the same age as my grandmothers, but you probably couldn’t find someone less like my family if you tried. She was a former Midwesterner who grew up on a farm. She didn’t have an Italian, Puerto Rican, or New York accent, was tall, and had beautiful white hair and piercing blue eyes. Her skin was almost translucent. She was like milk, whereas my grandmothers were more like chocolate milk. Both good for you, but definitely different.

 

Milk and cookies go great together

Milk and cookies go great together

I would ride my bike to her house most days of the week in the summer, stopping by for “just a minute.” Two hours later, when I was finishing up my lemonade and ladyfingers, we’d say goodbye and off I’d go again, racing away on my little purple bike.

I think I can ride today

I think I can ride today

The seasons didn’t stop me. Whether it was 100 degrees or 1 degree, I was out there riding. Mrs. Murray used to wave to me from her window as I dashed by, and told me later that she was laughing whenever she saw “that little parka-hooded speed demon whizzing by.”

Such a troublemaker

Such a troublemaker

My only kryptonite, bike wise, was snow. Even ice only kind of slowed me down, but then again, my brakes never really worked. The result was that ice didn’t scare me the way it should’ve.

Let's go bike riding next

Let’s go bike riding next

My love affair with my bike continued even after I had kids. I loved riding through the streets with my girls, racing to the park. We would reach our destination, then stop for a bit to swing, slide, and climb, until…it was time to jump back on the bikes and race off to the next park, wherever that might be. We would crash, and bleed, and cry a little (that was mostly me), but a little bandage and a kiss later, and we were off to new adventures.

Still worth it

Still worth it

I didn’t pay much attention to the toll that all that racing, sliding, crashing, and falling was having on me until my body started to rebel. “Enough” it seemed to say. It blamed my bike for everything. Soon, my bicycle and I fell out of love. I saw my orthopedist more and rode my bicycle less.

Are you a vampire?

Are you a vampire?

Suddenly, I abandoned my beloved bicycle for the other forms of exercise. The elliptical sang its siren song, and I was entranced…for a while. Don’t get me wrong. The elliptical (let’s call him Edward, as in Cullen…you know, the vampire?) was quite a looker. Big, impressive, and physically beautiful to behold, Edward offered his own particular charms to creaky old me.

Not the gym again

Not the gym again

But the magic didn’t last. I began to feel restless with Edward. My relationship with him felt static. We were going nowhere! It was always the same: the hum of the motor, the harsh, bright lights, the constant flow of sweaty people around us, the Kardashians on the TV mounted overhead. It wasn’t him, it was me. I needed more.

Together again

Together again

So, I wiped the cobwebs off my bicycle and we went out together again. We started slowly, because we hadn’t been together in such a long time. I didn’t know if I could trust my bike not to hurt me. But almost immediately, it was just like old times. The sun warmed me from my head to my toes, the birds sang in unison, and there was not a Kardashian in sight. My bike and I are an item again.

As I rode around my neighborhood and raced my husband down leafy local trails, the strains of an old Etta James song rang in my head. “At last…my love has come along. My lonely days are over. And life is like a song.”

At last

At last

Sun-kissed skin, windswept hair, legs that feel strong and steady, and hands held triumphantly off the handlebars. This is true love. If only Mrs. Murray could see me now.

Mrs. Murray never charged...and she even threw in cookies

Mrs. Murray never charged…and she even threw in cookies

Recipes:

Lemonade

Ladyfingers

It’s been a long time since I sat in Mrs. Murray’s sun-dappled breakfast room or on her neat, flower-decked patio, sipping lemonade and chomping on ladyfingers. It was the perfect ending to a long day of zipping around the ‘hood on my bicycle. Lemonade and ladyfingers always take me right back to that perfect place.

So, what’s the one thing you used to do that you’d like to do again? Do you love your bike? Which treat is your post workout favorite? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

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9 Comments »

  1. Whatever happened to the banana seat? My bike was mustard yellow with a seat bespeckled with gold and silver stars. Oh, and streamers. Lots of streamers.

    Comment by Joanie — June 3, 2015 @ 9:08 am | Reply

  2. Maria I had a bicycle built for two, now looking back I hope that wasn’t a fat joke. I’ll have to ask my sister. I loved it. The front had a regular black seat and the back had a banana seat. I use to put my American Flag speedo bathing suit on and proudly ride that bike around Hither Hills Campground with my cousin. I regret getting rid of that bike now. I would love to sit on the back and pretend to pedal while someone else drove.😀

    Comment by Suzanne — June 3, 2015 @ 11:05 am | Reply

    • Ha! Too bad we didn’t know each other then. But we can still have fun now. I’ll call for you later! Put air in your tires. 😀

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 3, 2015 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  3. Believe it or not I too had a bike that I loved. Once I had it I could go anywhere and everywhere even where my mother forbade me to go. I spent a lot of time around the swamps which is now a park on main street going onto Flushing. Beneath the high reeds I could smoke without fear. In the summer I’d bring back punks to burn or rather simmer, so that the mosquitoes would stay away, they didn’t. We also made pea shooters out of the reeds. Great stuff!!! The bike gave me freedom. Unfortunately it was replaced by the auto which also gives me freedom, but I don’t need all that much since I don’t smoke anymore. The biggest bike I ever rode was when I was a delivery boy for Conte’s supermarket, it had a big basket so I could fit as much as ten big bags in them. The tips were great. The bikes were great. They gave me little trouble if any at all. I wish I could say the same for the cars I owned. Oh, one more thing, I rode many times with no hands. I bet you don’t know what that means.

    Comment by Bglou — June 3, 2015 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

    • Of course I know what that means–I even said “hands off the handlebars” in my post. I see you were reading closely. There were no swamps by our house but Oakland Lake and Kissena Park were fun destinations!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 3, 2015 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

      • Not exactly the same. No hands also meant legs off the pedals held
        out from bike.

        Comment by Bglou — June 3, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

      • Of course! Hands off the handlebars isn’t nearly as much fun without that move. Thanks for reading and commenting, as always. 🙂

        Comment by talesfromahungrylife — June 3, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

  4. Maria, you brought me back to the old neighborhood. I remember riding my bike with Goldie in the basket and getting all the eight grade girls coming around to pet her. They even talked to me. Unfortunately the puppy grew and she didn’t fit in the basket during High School. I got my first bike when I was 10, for my birthday. Jude got a brand new ten speed the Christmas before and my was a Hodge-podge of parts painted green (I asked for a green bike) with house paint that didn’t last long on the metal frame. It got me around. I really wanted a banana seat. I think I miss doing the friends thing of going to the park and hanging out. No time now for that, maybe when I retire and can meet up with old pals like dad is doing now.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — June 25, 2015 @ 7:51 pm | Reply


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