Bikes and Dads

Sunday was Father’s Day. We took my dad to see Men in Black 3. Judging by how he hooted with laughter and chatted with the characters throughout the film, I think he enjoyed it. Then, yesterday, my friend wrote a blog post about her bike, and suddenly, it was really Father’s Day for me.

My dad is the one who taught me how to ride a bike. It took me a while. I am not naturally coordinated and just couldn’t trust the process, but Dad was patient with me. My first two-wheeled bike was a pink, banana-seated deal with a basket, and once I finally learned to ride it, that was all I wanted to do. I rode my bike all the time—in my bathing suit, barefoot, and once or twice while wearing roller skates. My best friend lived directly behind our house but in order to ride my bike to her house, I had to ride down the street and around the block. The first time I was allowed to do that on my own was the best day of my life. What freedom I had! I wanted to ride and ride and never stop.

On the weekends, my dad would take me and sometimes my sister on bike rides. We would ride to a shopping center where there was a frozen yogurt place (before it was trendy because dads are the original hipsters) and also a Keltsch pharmacy where we could rent movies and buy candy for really cheap. My dad likes really cheap candy. My favorite movie back then was Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. It’s about a girl who dives horses in the circus. What is diving horses? It’s exactly what it sounds like. The horse walks to the end of a diving board and then jumps into a pool. It is completely ridiculous. The conflict in the story comes when the girl goes blind in a diving mishap and must figure out how to continue her love of diving horses even though she can’t see. I watched that movie over and over. I bet my dad can still remember every plot point.

My summer memories are full of my dad and my bike, sometimes together, sometimes separately.

By the time I was ten or eleven, my long legs had outgrown the banana seat bike, and I had saved up some money to get a new one. My dad found some listings for used bikes in the Peddlers’ Post and we went out to look at bikes. I rode a blue Schwinn that I liked a lot, and my dad told the sellers that I had less money than I actually did. This was my introduction to my dad’s penchant for negotiation. He doesn’t just like cheap candy; he likes cheap everything.

So I got the blue bike and we spent nearly twenty very happy years together. Dad put a new set of handlebars on it because it had those ram style ones that I couldn’t steer very well. I still can’t steer those things. I actually still have that blue Schwinn in my garage, but it is rickety these days. When I got my master’s degree three years ago, my dad gave me some cash to get a new bike. I picked it out myself. Even though I knew what I wanted, I’ll admit I felt some pangs of sadness that he wasn’t there to help me, and as soon as I could, I rode my new bike to his house to show him.

In March, Dad got a new bike for his birthday. We haven’t had a chance to ride together yet this summer, but I’m hoping we do because dads and bikes just go together.