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My Old Schwinn

October 26th, 2011 | Categories: People | Post Comment

Contributed by Dee Mason
The first time I got on a bike, I was 8. It was an old Schwinn, way too big for me. My parents, in their wisdom, decided that training wheels were for sissies. Instead, I’d keep trying to ride the bike till I finally could. I lost track of the number of times I wobbled around with someone holding the back till finally I was able to do it on my own. At first I stuck close to home, fearful that my new skills wouldn’t stand up to a real-life test, but soon enough I was racing round the neighborhood with my friends. One day we’d head down to the Shot Tower, the next across to Lexington and some days we’d make for the port and check out the action.
The Bike as Lifeline
That bike was a lifeline for me. In those days, if you had a bike you could go practically anywhere and reach the limits of the known universe. Every vacant lot within a five mile radius was our property and during the long, long summers, we’d set out in the mornings, loaded with a few essentials (baseball, kite, cap gun – that kind of thing) together with whatever we could scrounge from our moms in the way of eats, and head out for the day. Hard to believe in these days of being always connected, but no-one ever wondered where we were or what we were doing as long as we were back by dark.
It was just as well our parents didn’t always know what we were up to – or they might have had a heart attack. One day, we were cycling through a neighboring area with a long, sloping road. Going down the hill – at least that was what it seemed like at the time – was a big thrill for us. Even then we felt the need for speed, though it would be years yet before we were old enough to drive something with real power. But get on that slope and you could feel the wind whistling through your hair and experience a pleasing sense of recklessness, without too much danger.At least, it wasn’t dangerous until the day my brakes failed. There I was on my way down the hill I’d ridden down dozens of times before when I pulled on my brakes and … nothing! Not only did they not hold, but I ended up racing right across the street below before breaking my descent with a lamp-post. No serious injuries but both my bike and my pride were slightly dented.

Exploring by Bike
For the rest of the summer I was a bit more cautious about that hill descent, but I continued to have fun with my friends. On our bikes we could go anywhere and on countless long summer days, we pretended to be great explorers or pioneers or spies, with our bikes serving as carriages, boats, planes or whatever form of transport we most needed. Those were good days, repeated summer after summer, till I was old enough to drive. I always kept my bike, though.
These days, I’m riding a Trek bike – my present to myself when I turned 40. Cycling is now more of a weekend entertainment with friends and family. We love following the trail from Glen Burnie to Annapolis or the linked BWI trail, though we have to stop a couple of times to catch our breath as stamina now is a far cry from when I was a kid. And of course I love cycling by the Patapsco River. That whole Gwynns Falls valley is absolutely beautiful and it’s great to take the whole family out for the day to picnic and spot the wildlife while we enjoy the outdoors.
Passing The Torch
Recently, I racked up another milestone –  passing the cycling torch to my daughter. I’ve been teaching her to ride (though as a parent of the 2000s I made sure she had training wheels, knee and elbow pads and a helmet) and we finally took off those training wheels a couple of weeks ago. It’s been great to see her power along under her own steam when we go to the park and I know she’ll soon be building similar memories when she rides around with her friends from the neighborhood.
Dee Mason is a travel-obsessed freelance writer with a passion for all sorts of tourism. A cyclist at heart, she works for Tripbase and has her own blog.




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