Much to the dismay of my parents, years of reconstructive and dental surgeries did little to quench my thirst for two-wheeled adventures. As for the remainder of my adolescence, I survived with only minor abrasions and haematomas.
When most of my high school classmates were cruising around in Pontiac Belvederes or Chevy Impalas, my preferred mode of transportation was a classic, black, English made Raleigh 3-speed. During the summer months I would start my day by pedaling off to summer school, then to my job washing cars at Milroy Chevrolet. Then, after dinner I would make the three mile trek downtown to meet up with friends at Melino’s Bar & Grill.
On one such night after excessive consumption of various libations, I hopped on my trusty steel steed and headed home. For some unknown reason it occurred to me that if I placed my feet on either side of the front wheel, I wouldn’t need the brakes to slow down. I don’t remember how many somersaults the bike and I made, but when I finally landed in the middle of the road, a passing car missed crushing my head by inches. Right then and there I swore I would never, ever again use my feet for brakes.
After finally graduating from high school I was able to continue to use the bicycle as my primary form of transportation, thanks in part to a series of menial, low paying jobs. This meant I arrived at work most mornings smelling like the south end of a north bound goat, but nobody seemed to notice or care. Eventually, I saved enough money to buy a new bicycle, and on the advice of my friend Rob, bought an American made Trek. I picked up my new bicycle on an August afternoon and promptly rode over to Rob’s. I carefully balanced the cobalt blue mechanical masterpiece against the side of his car and walked into his house. The only problem was his wife Cindy, who was walking out the side door, jumped into the car and not noticing my bike, backed over it.
When I later moved to Florida I happily discovered that I could ride my bicycle year-round. In fact, I rode a bicycle to my first job interview at the Shiny Sheet, arriving a bit disheveled. Kim Sargent, then head of the photography department, later told publisher Agnes Ash, “I never saw anyone wearing clothes so wrinkled, but maybe we should hire him anyway.” He neglected to mention the ripe body odor.
Several years ago, I fulfilled a dream by embarking on a two-week self-contained bicycle tour of France’s Loire Valley. On the internet I found Claude Blanchard, a former pilot who now rents Peugeot bicycles from his barn outside the city of Angers. Outfitted with hybrid style bicycles, panniers for carrying clothing and supplies, and what looked like a lifetime supply of Michelin maps, my son and I pedaled off on a 300 mile adventure. There would be days when less than a half-dozen cars would pass us on picturesque country lanes. One afternoon a car pulled alongside us and the driver leaned out and inquired, “Americans?” I nodded my head and then heard (in French) what I assumed didn’t mean, “You must stop at the auberge in the next village and try the foie gras.” How I knew this, was by the one-fingered salute that followed him steering his car into our path. I tried not to take this random act of French hospitality too personally. When I mentioned this incident to our host, Claude, he apologized, and then asked me, “Weren’t several tourists killed in Miami when they took a wrong turn out of the airport?”
Today I continue to risk my life riding my titanium Litespeed Blue Ridge, vintage lugged-steel Bianchi or restored Colnago Super along Route AIA . Recently a late model Ford F-150 pickup with a “In Memory of Dale Earnhardt” decal on the rear window pulled along side me, and the driver yelled out, “Get the %@#& off the road and onto the sidewalk!” Now for the record let me state I’m one who believes the word, sidewalk, should be taken literally. For the benefit of this above-mentioned courteous citizen and others who may not know this, the sidewalk is for people who are walking. Bicycles in the State of Florida have the same rights as motor vehicles, and are expected to share the roadways, not the sidewalks. If you don’t like this, don’t blame the bicyclists. Blame the residents who insist on fighting the addition of bike lanes. As for myself, I’m no Lance Armstrong. I often recall the parting words of my friend Claude back in France. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
C’est La Vie.
*This story originally appeared in The Palm Beach Daily News copyright Michael Price 2013
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I came across this magazine advertisement dating from the early 70's on Ebay and purchased it for $6.00- I then asked my neighbors, Jack & Barbara Nicklaus, to autograph it for me.
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