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Friday, June 22, 2018

summer of the bicycle

Bicycle, Pedal, Bike, Cycling, RoadStella couldn’t imagine life without her bicycle. As she pushed her ten-speed down the sidewalk toward the repair shop, she had to smile to herself. She could practically chronicle her life in bicycles.
      She remembered the first bike she ever owned—a little pink one with training wheels. Her father taught her to ride, giving her repeated pushes and picking her up when she crashed. Then the trainers came off and she was zipping around the neighborhood with her playmates, pretending their bikes were ambulances, fire trucks, school buses and any other vehicle that fit in with their play. The next bike in her life was a yellow beauty with a basket on the front. The year she was in 6th grade, she and Gerald Lampberger had filled it with apples from his father’s orchard. The fruit hadn’t tasted half as sweet as the joy of having him push the bike home for her, glancing at her with adolescent adoration. 
     It was in the 11th grade that she first rode a tandem bicycle. Joe Collins had come wooing her on one. She could almost see him sitting in front of her—dark hair waving in the breeze, his long legs 
pumping the pedals, turning to give her a mischievous smile. How they had enjoyed those rides! Joe was an adventurer; he had delighted in discovering a new road for them to ride. The next year came a draft and Joe’s new adventure was a war. He died somewhere overseas. His dog tags came home, but he didn’t. Stella always wondered if he ever rode a bike again after he left the tandem leaning against her porch that long ago day. Joe’s final adventure was in heaven; it was his best one by far. 
     She steered around a pothole and thought about the remaining years of her life. There was the bicycle she owned in college; the beautiful Schwinn she bought with her own money from her first job; and a succession of other two-wheeled prizes. As she saw the bike repair shop around the corner, she wondered what her life would have been like without them. Maybe if she  hadn’t enjoyed the breezy freedom of life from a bicycle seat, she might have married, had a family, enjoyed other paths in life. But such contemplative thoughts didn’t seem to mix with the sunny Florida day and the cheerful bustle of the little retirement community. 
     Stella leaned her bike against the shop and stepped inside. The man behind the counter had his back turned. She walked closer and spoke. “Hello, I need a new tire on my bike.” 
     He turned. “Ok, I’ll be right with . . .” He stopped midsentence and scanned her face. “It is, isn’t it? Stella Middleton?”
     As though her mind were sorting through its files, the answer came to her in swift recognition. “Gerald Lampberger! Well, I never!”
     He put his elbows on the counter and smiled. “How are you, Stel? Last I heard of you, you were making a name for yourself in Minneapolis.”
     "And you were out west somewhere. Arizona, was it?”
     He nodded. “Worked there with my uncle for years. Now, I putter around with bikes and tell everybody it’s work.” He winked at her. “Let’s have a look at yours.” He led the way outside. 
     Stella stood it up and pointed to the front tire. “It was fine when I put it on the front porch last night, but this morning, the tire was very flat. And, I’m afraid I’ve never been good with repairs.” 
     He grinned. “I remember. Well, I think I can get you fixed up in no time. By the way, whatever happened to the yellow bike with the basket?” 
     They talked while he worked, and soon Stella was fixed with a new tire — for which he wouldn’t accept payment (“Let’s call it an old friend’s debt,” he said.) Which all seemed perfectly normal until Stella was on the way back to her house and remembered how she first met Gerald so many years ago. He had pounded a nail into her bike tire.
     And she wondered if reform really did occur and if the bump she heard last night had actually been the cat. Come to think of it, he hadn’t been all that surprised to see her today, had he? And the network in the retirement community did make it easy to locate residents. Stella paused to glance at her bike and smiled. Maybe this summer would add another chapter in her chronicles. Anything was possible.
— VQ 

1 comment:

  1. christania’s “lej en ladcykel” bikes are rolling across the city. The system, less than a year old, is funded by christania’s municipal government. It is currently only in one of christania’s 22 administrative districts. Although a 2nd generation system, there are 12 “Houses” in this district, each with around 40 bikes. The yearly subscription cost is the equivalent of $2 US, and allows the use of a bike for up to four hours at a time. In less than a year, there have been 6,000 subscriptions sold. There are larger 3rd generation systems in the world, which do not have a subscription to bike ratio as big as that.

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