Thursday, April 2, 2015
Rite of Spring
On April Fool's Day, Joyce helped me drag my bicycle up from our dungeon. (Dungeon is not an inappropriate word for a dank basement that dates back to the 19th century and displays every moment of the ensuing history.)
It's that time of year again, time for the annual service check at Eddy's Bike Shop in Stow, the shop I've patronized for decades for purchases, service, gifts. (I remember when Eddy's was in meaner quarters and sold cheese and bait, as well.)
Anyway, I'm a little nervous about the bike this year. I didn't ride all that much last year, especially after the Open Door Coffee Co. opened within easy walking distance of our house. I used to bike down to Starbucks (a decent ride), but now my drug of choice is just a short walk, a walk that offers more exercise than would a bike ride, for the terrain is pretty flat, and I could (would) coast a lot.
Also, I'm 70 now. That makes a difference.
Joyce helped me load the bike into the back of our car, and I drove it over to Eddy's (about a ten-minute drive), hauled it out of the car, wheeled it into Eddy's and back to the service area. A middle-aged man I didn't recognize was working--took a quick look and said: "1995." A younger man working there, too, said, "How do you do that? Guess the age of those old Schwinns?"
A shrug that said "Experience" was the only reply.
They put it up on the service stand, checked its basic functions, recommended a new chain ($15), and said they'd have it ready for me in a week. Fine. Maybe winter will have retreated even farther into his Evil Northern Nest by that time.
But--as I implied above--I'm uncertain about riding this year--and not just because I no longer patronize Starbucks very often.
Over this past winter I have experienced some ... vertigo (as I've written here before). I have to be very careful about changing positions (mustn't ever do it quickly), about watching my footing, about stumbling (which inevitably means a fall). It does not bother me at all when I drive a car (if it did, I would stop driving), but a bike is different ...
So ... will I be able to ride this year? As Hamlet sighed, "That is the question."
Riding a bike has been part of my life since I was in second grade (1951-52) when I first rolled away from our front porch on my first "real" bike in Amarillo, Tex. As I've written here before, I discovered that day that it's a lot easier to push off from a porch and roll along than it is to stop and get off without crashing. One of the great days of my life: the day I figured out how to stop and dismount (a discovery, initially, that involved rolling up next to a tree and leaning against it).
I rode all through boyhood--though when I got to high school, riding a bike to school suddenly became "childish," and I no longer did it. There was another issue, too: We lived at the north end of Hiram, Ohio, at the bottom of a hill that made bike-riding up a challenge I didn't really care to accept.
I got back into biking after we were married, and when our son was born (July 1972), I got a child seat and rode him around Kent, where we were living at the time. Some of those rides included a stop at Stoddard's Frozen Custard--just a coincidence, mind you.
When we moved to Aurora in the early 1990s, I was still biking a little, and Joyce decided it was time I got a new one. And so ... off to Eddy's we went.
Pack rat that I am, I still have the file on that bike's purchase and service. I checked it: We bought the 26-inch Schwinn on June 13, 1995 (!!!), at 6:59 p.m. With tax, it was $418.54 (with helmet and some other accessories). The picture shows the owner's manual--and the bike in the photograph is the same color as mine, a sort of rusty red. (On the sales slip it says: "Color: Rust.")
I've ridden the hell out of that bike--mostly around Aurora and Hudson (where we moved in the fall of 1997). When I returned to teaching at Western Reserve Academy in the fall of 2001, I rode it back and forth to school every decent day in the fall and spring (no Winter Rider, I)--we live only about three blocks from the school. The picture--taken by a former WRA student--shows me rolling around the campus in my helmet. (Wearing a helmet, by the way, occasioned some amiable derision from some students. One day a kid snorted something about it, and I said, "I like my brain. If I had yours, I might not wear a helmet, either." But I was kidding ... sort of.)
So ... will I ride this year?
I'm assuming I will. But I'm not a complete idiot. When the bike is ready, I will mount up (with helmet!) in the parking lot next door (belonging, appropriately, to the funeral home) and will ride around a little and see how much I'm capable of doing. If I don't feel safe (curse you, vertigo!)--or if I feel like a threat to others--I will dismount for the final time. I will post a note to my Facebook friends that a free 1995 26-inch Schwinn is now available. Recently serviced. Long loved.