A friend of mine related the story of how his son took a short bike ride not long ago. Daniel Dooley hopped on his bike and rode from Tellico Plains to the Dragon, into North Carolina, and back home. Oh, It was just a short trip– only 114 miles. Another friend, Brad Pearman, has taken up biking in the last couple of years. Now, he’s a hardcore enthusiast who sometimes peddles from his home in west Knoxville to his office at UT Hospital. I’m impressed with both of these guys and their dedication to the hobby.
I used to ride a bike myself. It was no more than 50 years ago. Jim and I rode the wheels off second-hand bikes that we got for Christmas. We circled them in the basement, a feat that seems possible in such a tight space. When warm weather arrived, we were in the yard, and our bikes made ruts as we ran our course. More fun came as we rode over mounds of dirt that had been piled in the back yard during the excavation of the basement a couple of years earlier.
We played games of pretend. On our hips were six shooters or across our shoulders we strapped on rifles. Jim and I became soldiers in some war and we peddled into danger. Sometimes enemy forces (neighbor Gary Gillespie) lay in wait for us and then pummeled us with dirt clods as we zipped over the dirt mounds of the battle field. At other times, we imagined that we were race car drivers who pushed the limits of our motor-less vehicles on the way to a finish line.
When the subdivision road next to our house was cut, we spent hours climbing the hill and the coasting down to our starting point. Before long, the boys in the neighborhood began to come to the house, and Mother and Daddy relented so that we could now ride on the roads with them. We were never in danger of vehicles; we could ride all the way to Hardin Valley where the high school is now located and never see more than two or three cars. More of a threat were dogs that chased us down the road. On an occasion or two, one of us boys would wreck peddling away from the mutt, or someone might be nipped by the canine’s teeth.
Those bikes were basic models. The only speeds were determined on how fast our legs could peddle. Going up steep hills required some zig-zagging, plenty of grunting, and when failure set in, pushing the two-wheelers to the top. Our brakes worked to the degree that pressure from our legs pushed on peddles. We didn’t have any banana seats or extended handle bars. Still, we loved those bikes and took good care of them. When our older brother washed and waxed the family car, we’d clean up our bikes and put a coat of wax on before polishing the frames and fenders.
Those bikes gave us independence back in the day. Parents didn’t ferry their children to every event; besides, there weren’t that many. We peddled to baseball practice, games of football in somebody’s yard, and to games of 21 at a basketball goal in a boy’s driveway. We always asked permission to go places, and we made sure we arrived back home on time. Only a couple of times did we push our boundaries, and somehow our parents found out and dropped the hammer on us. A flat tire was a disaster because we had no patches for tubes and no money for new tires. Grounded in those days meant being without a bike.
We grew up too soon and began traveling behind the wheel of a 1954 Chevrolet. Our trips covered more ground, but we still found the best times with an old, basic form of transportation with a three-speed on the column and a motor so small that a person could almost climb in under the hood to make repairs, the ol’ Chevy didn’t go much faster than our bikes. Still, we loved that car as much we had our bikes. These days, I’d give almost anything to have both means of transportation back. Of course, I suppose they could never be as good in reality as they are in my memories.