Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two Generations of Dads on Bikes

I may be the biggest bike nerd in my family, but I am by no means the first. So, in honor of the day Hallmark has decided is devoted to fathers, I thought I'd honor the (now both departed, sadly) Nunemaker men who came before me in the saddle.

I put this photo up a few posts ago with very little comment, just to say goodbye to my grandfather who had recently passed at the impressive age of 100. That's him, piloting a 1967 Schwinn De-Luxe Twinn tandem, with my grandmother bringing up the rear in the stoker's seat. They had a good group of friends who all rode tandems -- the photo comes from an article in the local paper (which called my hometown "Cycling City, U.S.A.") showing five tandems side-by-side. I remember my grandmother also having a single bike, but never my grandfather. When he rode, he rode with her. The mechanical odometer/speedometer on the bike only tracked total mileage to four digits, so when they turned over 9,999 miles, he took it apart and used a label maker to add a "1" in front of the fresh set of four zeroes. Not impressive enough? When they started to winter in Florida, they kept a second big Schwinn down south, and I believe that one also earned a manually-added fifth digit. My own first experience on a tandem was on the big blue '67 shown above, riding stoker behind my grandfather, then later captaining with my kid sister in the stoker seat. I can only hope that my own beloved stoker and I can put as many happy memories on our own two-seater as he and my grandmother did on theirs.

My dad came to biking later in life, after wasting most of the 80s with that whole running thing (what was up with that, anyway?) But when the mountain bike came along, he caught the bug. Not that he would ever be caught dead riding on a trail, mind you, but something about those chunky bikes with their fat tires really appealed to him (they appealed to me too, which is what kicked off my own obsession with this sport at an early age). Dad even came up with an idea for his own bike club on one of our many long summer evening rides together: the Fat, Tired Bike Club (with a very intentional comma between "Fat" and "Tired"). The idea was that the club would have a minimum weight limit: If you weighed less than the limit, it wasn't the club for you. He envisioned heavy guys (like himself) on big, fat tires, riding slow, stopping often for snacks, and generally having a hell of a good time (I suspect he would have gone absolutely nuts over the Surly Pugsley, had he lived to see its invention). That club never came into being, but he and a good friend did become charter members of their own Grumpy Old Bastards Bike Club (which even had a club sweatshirt). A heart attack took his life when he was only 54, but today, 12 years later, when I'm off on one of my meditative evening rides, I still see that guy from the photo, smiling and turning his pedals alongside me.

Whether you are a great dad, or had one, or just know one, happy Father's Day.


Anonymous said...

Always nice to share a few memories of those whose tracks you are following!
It's probably nice to be able to point to them, then to the bike stable, and be able to say "it's in my genes".

Steve in Peoria

Dave Redmon said...

Thanks for sharing, Jason. You have a rich tradition on two wheels. Dave in Kansas