Here's the reasoning behind my delusions of grandeur.
By the time I started mountain biking, Dad couldn’t follow. He could remember his old Schwinn, but the feeling of that heavy bike under a ten-year-old boy was lost. He could only recall the shame of dragging it home, axle snapped, to face a mother’s “wait-till-your-father-gets-home” and the long, punishing wait until that father got off his late shift at the power plant. What he didn’t remember was the instant of silence when sixty pounds of Schwinn steel lifted off from the curb. Who could blame him? On that much bike, time in the air didn’t last. Landings were what stuck in the mind, the splay of the front fork, the crunch, the consequences.
But I remembered. I grew up mountain biking before I knew such a thing existed, cruising my parents’ farm. A downhill chute, four feet wide, ran between the east cornfield and the machine shed, opening in the gap between the shed and the barn, closing down to a green tunnel between barn and field which would spit me out near grandpa’s garden at top speed. I’d veer out of the chute at the corner of the barn, cross the broken concrete of the empty cattle lot, pedal frantically to the two-foot drop at lot’s edge, and lift off, a frenzy of sound meeting the anticipatory silence of flight. Landings in the garden meant flat tires, bloodied elbows, a mouth full of dirt, ringing ears, but who cared about consequences when you were in the air? Were the astronauts, my childhood heroes, worrying about the landing when they saw sky give way to space?
My father doesn’t mountain bike because it’s marketed as an “extreme” sport. He doesn’t understand or want to understand all this “extreme” nonsense. As if on schedule, exactly thirty years after leaving Kent State as an idealistic liberal, he has become a grumpy old bastard. “What’s this Mountain Dew commercial about? All these mountain bikers screaming at me... what’s the point of that? Stop screaming. Go get another piercing.” He puts on a good show, but I can see the fear and bewilderment. In a span of time that must seem sudden to him, the counterculture has gone from peace signs and pot to nose rings and heroin. The new teachers he hires at his school are younger than his own children. A stomach which once tolerated morning pizza heated over a dorm desk lamp has become delicate. On his forehead, the hair has gradually crept away at the corners leaving only a narrow peninsula in the center. After fifty-three years and two heart attacks, he is just starting to accept the possibility that he might be getting old.