Sunday, June 21, 2009

Memories Of My Dad On A Bike

Father's Day can be a tough holiday when you have no intention of being a father and your own father passed away years ago. I lost my dad in 2000 to a major heart attack when he was only 55 and I was only 28. He never got to see my sister get married (in a Jimmy Buffet-esque ceremony he would have loved, to a guy he would have loved even more) or meet his two grandsons (who would have been his whole world).

Still, thanks to the intervening nine years, I can look back at our lives together with equal parts happiness and sadness... and much of that happiness was shared around bikes. My first memories of cycling were facing backwards, riding in an old Cannondale "Bugger" trailer behind Dad's brown Free Spirit ten-speed, Mom alongside on her brown Schwinn Suburban. Okay, so I didn't know the brands at the time, but those bikes hung around long enough that I remember them. His favorite trick was to squeeze the trailer into ridiculously narrow spaces, making my sister and I squeal in mock-fear. We always rode in the summer evenings when the cicadas were out -- a sound that will always take me back and always mean "biking" to me.

Dad left the bike behind in the 80s for a brief dalliance with that wacky "sport" called jogging, but he returned to the fold by the time I reached high school Our evenings were spent on wheels, still to the sounds of cicadas, but this time, I had to turn my own pedals instead of being towed. I remember one particular "Pie Ride" from my hometown of Sterling, IL out to Tampico for a piece of pie at their local diner. On the way back, I suffered a flat, and turned to Dad for help.

"Give me your pump."

"Um, I left it at home because you had your CO2 cartridges."

"Well, I left my CO2 cartridges because you had your pump."

This was in the Age Before Cell Phones, so Dad had to ride one-handed, carrying my wheel to the next farmhouse, explain our predicament to the owner, borrow a rusty old pump that barely got my tire to a rideable pressure, and bring the semi-repaired wheel back to where I was lounging under a tree. We were late for dinner that night.

Another "typical Dad ride" was the year we did Kewanee, IL's "Tour of Hog Heaven" with my friend (and first bike-shop boss) Mike. At the decision point that separated the metric century men from the 30-mile boys, the sun was shining, so we made the ill-advised turn toward the metric route. Not ten miles later, the skies opened up, hammering us with a relentless rain for the rest of the ride. That trip was a punchline for years, whenever a storm would open up on us mid-ride: "Weather looks good... let's do the metric!"

Shoot, this post was supposed to go up two days ago. It was harder to think about than I expected. I have plenty more "Dad stories" left, but I think for now, it's time to turn the blog to other things. Here's hoping that everyone who could ride with their dads (or dads who could ride with their kids) did on Sunday, and if you couldn't, I hope you had the comfort of good memories.

Me? I got rained on tonight. But all I could think was, "Let's do the metric!"


Amy said...

I know this must have been hard to write. But for those of us who had the pleasure of reading it, your pain was not wasted. :)

john said...

Thanks for sharing, Jason.