Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tree-Riding and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I'm a fifty-six year old soon to be geezer (or dirty old man if I can swing it) and I do not wish to return to my youth, although I rode it hard and put it up wet every chance I got. I still have my moments though, albeit in fantasy only.

My beautiful and entertaining mother used to occupy the five of us kids around Halloween by smiling with a pair of the then popular sweet-liquid filled paraffin teeth, reshaped to look like buck-teeth and she would drive us to town proudly grinning at passer-bys and we would howl like the Comanches we saw on TV.

I have a pair of Bubba teeth that I bought in Houston a number of years ago when they first became available. These are the real deal made by the ex-Dentist Jason Frankel and used in Hollywood movies and they are fantastically awful looking – and real cool and fit perfectly, as they came with a dental gel that allowed me to fit them to my personal teeth print. I need to find me a realistic looking mullet wig and start wearing this combination when I drive home from work, so I can get my childhood mojo working again. I have a history to live up to, you know. Maybe someone will wave at me thinking I'm Jim Finley.

Being the oldest boy with 3 stair-step younger brothers, I led a ready made team of fun-seekers and living all over the country, we found ways to amuse ourselves in the absence of long time friends, plus we garnered new methods from wherever we happened to live.

One favorite activity was tree climbing and on occasion, tree-riding. Tree-riding was the act of climbing a limber sapling of say, twenty-feet and when the top was reached, holding on as it toppled over. The trick was to remain attached and dropping off as it's top came close to the ground and then letting go as the tree whipped back up. Sometimes it worked well and other times, not so well, bruises and all. I think our tree-riding skills were perfected in the piney woods of North Georgia.

We had a chicken coup in Dundee Michigan in the early 1960's that was nothing more than a two-story barn with an open hay door on the second floor. A sycamore tree had been allowed to grow up beside the front of the building and in the evenings, the guinea fowl would roost in it. A long leap from the window to the closest strong branch could be attained and the prospect of missing made it all the more tempting a pastime.

I remember owning two bicycles before I bought my first used ten-speed at the age of seventeen, using my work money. I can't really recollect the first, but the second one I got for Christmas while living in Morgan, Utah and if I remember correctly, I was in about the third grade. It was used of course, but had new paint and I loved that shiny bike. I rode it through my Junior High years in Toledo, Ohio and really became a polished bike mechanic about this time.

My beloved two-wheel mode of transportation was of standard configuration and the super cool "stingray" bikes had hit the market, with their banana seats and high handlebars. Well, I just had to have some those handlebars and I figured if I sold back enough "pop" bottles (I lived in Ohio, not Texas remember), I could eventually swing the $2.80 the new bars cost.

This was a tremendous amount of money back then with a fat candy bar costing five cents and since the banana seat was over twelve dollars and out of reach, the cost of the bars were a noble challenge. So, the day came, cool high bars installed with much grunting and sweat and I began my career of doing my own maintenance, which I have retained in adulthood, albeit now, I actually follow through and make sure it is done properly.

I painted and repainted my bike so many times, which basically amounted to spraying over dirt and all and at this time it was flat black. The fenders were gone and I had raised the seat post to its limit. The chain guard and Bendix-brand brakes were completely gone and I had disconnected them, using my PF Flyer brakes when needed instead. Now, on the front axles, the threads were boogered up a bit from my sloppy attempts to reattach the wheel after patching the front tube many times and I had become lax in actually tightening the front nuts. I was always in a hurry - a hurry to play outside somewhere.

Never mind, I was in a rush to play sandlot baseball with my chums and off I went in a clanging high-speed wobble. Now, I was about thirteen and the first vestiges of testosterone were beginning to course through my adolescent loins and as I came upon the street corner, low and behold, two budding felines, books under their arms were right there in my crosshairs, so doing the only thing I knew I could do to impress them, I attempted my first and last "wheelie".

To my shock and yes, awe, the front tire catapulted off into the ionosphere and as gravity is wont to do, it pulled my forks earthward at something akin to "six-hun-ert miles an hour", flipping me over the bars and onto my back. The last thing I recollect as my boyishly lean hips went skyward was the tire rolling down the street and the humiliating sound of raucous girl laughter.

2 comments:

Ike said...

Reminds me of watching The Sandlot. The tree-riding sounds fun.

Natalie said...

Boy, that one sure paints some hilarious visuals!! Enjoyed it! Our common word this week: TESTOSTERONE :)

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