two wheels, no motor

by Cait

I got a bike this summer. I purchased it with a couple Visa rebate cards I got from switching to a new Internet provider. The bike is white with blue designs and it’s a brand I haven’t ever heard of and can’t ever remember. I know it’s not a Schwinn because I’ve wanted a Schwinn since 10th grade when I saw a mint green one-speed while browsing the Internet in my high school Computer Applications class. A one-speed bike wouldn’t work for me here because I live at the top of a stupid hill and while I’m not in horrible shape, biking a one-speed bike on a steep gradient sounds even more horrible than running up a steep gradient.

That being said, I’ve always loved riding bikes. Even before I saw it as a (literal) vehicle for exercise, as a kid I would ride up and down hills, through yards, in ditches, over bridges, beside busy roads, and in the middle of the street I grew up on.I remember learning to ride a bike. Is that a memory that most children remember? I would compare it to learning to walk if I could remember back that far but I can’t so I won’t.

My dad was determined that I would learn to ride a bike, just like my brother. I wasn’t convinced this was necessary to my life, but I loved my dad, and I wanted to be like my brother, so I reluctantly agreed, and we headed to the park, a place where children learn the most valuable lessons in life.

  1. How to swing on your own
  2. The fact that sand isn’t actually chocolate when it gets wet
  3. The monkey bars will leave mean things on your hands that your mom will kiss when you show her
  4. And, for me, how to ride a bike

It was a pink bike and I would be willing to bet it was from my paternal grandma. She’s the grandma who is obsessed with being involved in milestones.

Kindergarten graduation? “Grandpa and I will come up a couple days before.”
Prom dress shopping? “How much do I write the check for?”
School play? “How many showings are there? Do they sell out early?”
Learning to ride a bike? “Can Grandpa and I get it for her birthday?”

She’s great and her enthusiastic love for being involved with her grandchildren’s lives is pretty great. Of course it doesn’t hurt to be on the grandkid side of that equation either.

Anyways, back to my bike riding prowess.

My dad, a motivated jogger at this point in his life, started me on the grass (that would someday become the neighborhood soccer pitch) without training wheels. He’d hold my back and a handlebar and run next to me while I pretended I was in control. The amount of grass stains my mom had to scrub out from this month of biking carnage, could not have been fun, but we pressed on.

I remember getting frustrated that it was so hard to pedal in the grass. I wanted to get a taste of smooth road. Dad was happy to oblige.

We walked my bike to a cul-de-sac across from the park: me in my neon pink helmet with the purple chin strap and my dad in a ball cap, white t-shirt, and jeans (aka, standard uniform of my father in the mid-’90s). I had started to notice how hard the ground was. I got scared and started crying. Dad was all for the tough love at this point and told me I was only going to get home on my bike because it was so far to walk. I literally thought I was stranded. I also knew that it was supper time(ish). Stranded and hungry just would not do. There was only one option.

I straddled my adversary and my dad guided us down the street.

I noticed I was pedaling harder and going faster than my typical biking M.O. I also felt weirdly in control of the direction I was going.

I was flying and it was the best feeling ever.

I laughed. A little girl giggle that still makes my dad’s eyes shine when he remembers his daughter from a time not so long ago.

I turned my head and saw my dad jogging behind me with the proudest smile on his face; it, no doubt, exactly matched my own.

I don’t remember how I stopped. I probably fell over. I probably skinned my knees. The day I’m describing probably spanned multiple outings, but at this point in my life, it’s taken on a mythical life of its own. It’s a memory I pull out when I’m with dad and want to walk down a lane that only we know. It’s a road that daughters have shared with their dads for years, and one day back in 19-something, I road my bike down it for the first time with a smiling dad on my heels.

Until next time or not, I’m still Cait.