My, for working folks, is there anything better than when a holiday lands on a Tuesday? For most, unless they work under an umbrella of what would be called essential services, that means a four-day weekend. I mean, really, why bother with that one pesky work day full of stress and strain in between a kickback weekend and a red, white and blue holiday?
At any rate, the four-day hiatus gave me a little extra time to ponder the joys of summer. Even now that I’m beyond my classroom days — both the ones where I sat in a little desk and the ones when I sat at the big one — and still working full-time, I still hold dear the warmth of those summer breezes, the extra light tacked on to the end of each day and the more leisurely pace that life seems to proceed.
When I think about life’s slower pace in the summer, I sometimes wonder whether time seems slower for those who spend all their days in warm-weather climes in cargo shorts. As for our Midwestern joys of summer, the list is as varied as our weather.
For some, it’s heading out to Simmons Field on a balmy evening to catch the hometown Locos and see if Lima’s own Colin Stolly can get a couple of knocks. For others, it may be heading out after work to get nine holes in at Springbrook and continue searching for a way to swing the club to get a ball to land above the hole and spin backwards the way they see it on The Golf Channel. For others, it’s tossing a final bag of mulch or two as a means to beautify their grounds.
For me, the longer and warmer days allow me to engage in an activity that I, frankly, could have never envisioned myself doing at 16 back in my 1960s times when I returned triumphantly from the DMV, then located on West Street, north of town, holding my valid driver’s license granted by the state of Ohio. With that piece of plastic in hand, why would I ever have occasion to use a dumb old bike again? Bikes were for babies, right?
However, now that I’m in my 60s, and I don’t mean the decade, whenever I ride, whether it be solo or with Lady Jane, there is a childhood image that comes sharply into focus, an image that has as its centerpiece a black-and-white Schwinn.
Once upon a time, our bikes were, second only to our Converse tennis-shoed feet, our preferred method of transportation, one that signified independence and one upon which the imaginary barriers that once were on each end of our block began to come down. For me, that meant, suddenly, instead of being stopped at Nixon’s intersection at the end of Latham’s 1500 block to the west or Woodlawn’s intersection to the east, I could ride that bike east all the way to Cole Street and beyond to Pangle’s Market to see if I could read the entire new Batman comic book before I was gently nudged along by one of Pangle’s workers. Or, I could keep right on going to the west, through Westgate and along Cable to the El Dora to meet my pal Jimmy Fry and grab a cone of deliciousness before proceeding across the street to Grant’s to buy some baseball cards.
Every time I ride now, I think of those childhood bike thrills, such as when Jim and I loosened our handlebars, turned them outward and upward to resemble bull’s horns and argued over whose bike would receive the designation Toro 1 and whose Toro 2. I also remember the spills, such as when we rode too closely together, so much so that Toros’ horns intertwined, and, seconds later, we both lay on the asphalt, scratched and bloodied and, without a trace of paradox, laughing hysterically.
And, when I ride now, I also think of the plywood ramps we fashioned in an effort to grab a little air and also the playing cards we affixed with clothespins to add some sound to our rides. Of course, they were playing cards, never baseball cards, for Jim and I would never disrespect the game our heroes played.
And, sadly now, but surely not then back in a time in my life when I was absolutely frantic to grow older, I remember tossing that Schwinn aside once I could drive, tossed it aside with disdain.
I couldn’t have known, because my own brashness of youth forbade it, that there would come a time, some 50-plus years later, when I would rediscover the magic of a couple of wheels and a frame without a motor and feel once again the rushing winds on my face.
It seems as if each of those childhood bike memories, frozen in time, thaw when I ride, and while I yearn for that childhood so much I sometime ache, I do know how lucky I am still to be healthy enough to climb aboard and go beyond the end of my block.
For bike enthusiasts out there, we are blessed in Lima to have such a first-rate bicycle shop, Crankers, located on the corner of North Main and Wayne streets. Named one of America’s best bike shops in three of the last five years, Crankers is absolutely the place to go for a new bike, for a used one or for a fix-up of your current model. An added bonus is not only will you be shopping locally, but you’ll also be meeting owner Kent Fultz, one of the nicest and most enthusiastic of our town’s business people.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.