I'll have to get one of my senior high pictures from my mother. In it I am posing with my Diamond Back Approach hybrid that I bought my junior year after saving for a couple of months. I rode that bike from Holiday Estates to a summer job at Hilltop Nursery in Spaulding, IL where I grew up. I also commuted with it for a few months when I worked at a child development center in Sherman, IL. On a rainy day, my yellow rain jacket and silver helmet came in quite handy when the 4 year olds under my watch were being... shall we say difficult. I used them as a show and tell and occupied them for half an hour. I also rode it in one of the Capital City Century rides in Springfield, IL one year. I think it was 1997. At that point, I had never ridden more than 15 or so miles, and I chose to do the 60 mile route. I didn't realize how difficult that would be. Ten miles from the end I actually had to stop and lie in a ditch to rest. While I was on the ground, another rider stopped to check on me. He threw me a small power bar. I was skeptical that it was going to help me, but I ate it, and in only a few minutes did feel better enough to finish the ride. I have believed in energy bars ever since. A couple of years ago I donated that frame to the Community Bike Shop in Charlottesville, Va, and now it is part of a tall bike my friend Charles built. Also back in high school, my friend Rob and I would ride the country roads of Sangamon County (Riverton, Mechanicsburg, Sherman, Elkhart). We would go out for 15-20 mile rides, talk the whole time, and enjoy the openness that miles of corn and bean fields provide.
Before the hybrid, it was my first freewheel, which was a white frame with bright green grips, seat, and pedal. I don't remember doing anything but riding around the neighborhood with it. Before that one it was a black and yellow BMX. I loved that bike. My brother and I both got one. I rode that everywhere around the neighborhood. I crashed on it a few times. One memorable crash (not my fault!) is when a neighbor, a man in his 40's I think, challenged me to ride as fast as I could down the 'big' hill. Of course I took him up on it. I rode all the way up the hill and then some. Then I charged as hard as I could, pedaling out the tiny gear on the bike, but I kept pedaling all they way down anyway. I was flying! But that man was at the bottom, and when I got there he suddenly jumped in front of me and yelled. I veered left into the curve where there was a pile of rocks gathered from the street, and skidded out flat on my face. I had a fat lip for a week. I hate that guy to this day. I suppose I need to forgive him.
The BMX was my second bike. My first (discounting any tricycles) I think must have been a Schwinn Stingray. I'll have to ask my parents to see if they remember. It was a blue frame, banana seat, and the high handlebars. I did like that bike, but on rides around the block with my friends I would always have to yell for them to wait for me because my shorts would always get stuck on the front of the banana seat as I would get back on.
I guess bicycles have always been a part of my life. Back then though I couldn't change my own flat, or tell you what gear ratio meant. Over Christmas I took a trip back to Illinois to visit family. Cycling is alive and well in the area due mainly to the Springfield Bicycle Club. This group has actually been around for over 30 years. I was also happy to discover a new bike shop in Springfield, Velo-Mine. They have a couple of beautiful classic fuji's around, an 80's track and Professional (both too tall for me though). They are an all around bike shop catering to all types of riders. There is also a Sangamon Valley Trail being built at the present time. Six miles have already been completed. While driving around central Illinois (and after riding on many narrow, hilly, winding, rural roads of Virginia) I was realizing how great of a place it really is for cycling. Traffic is fairly low. Roads are nicely paved and fairly wide. There definitely are not really any hills to contend with. (I realize that is a negative for some people.)
My next trip back I'll have to be sure to do some riding, and roll out some more old (and new) memories.