Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Bike Ride and Memories of My Dad.

We all headed out to Fish Lake yesterday. It was a great bike ride (about 26 miles roundtrip from the house). The weather was perfect. The picnic at Fish Lake was great in so many ways. Even ran into a friend on the lonely trail, where running into anyone is a major event.

Ike rode the XtraCycle for quite a ways. He and Aidan are both in need of new bikes. They have outgrown them, for sure. So when Ike wasn’t riding the XtraCycle, he was on my mt. bike.

My first bike was one that I couldn’t ride. My dad was in between flying jobs and was working as a cop. I think we were in Colorado. He brought home a bike from the police station that had gone unclaimed long enough that he could lay claim with good conscience.

To a 3 or 4 year-old, the bike was a colossus. The top tube loomed over my head. My dad picked me up and placed me on the seat. While he held me, I looked at the pedals below. My legs would never be long enough. The bicycle hung around for a couple of weeks and then it was gone. I don’t know if he sold it.

My first real bike was a Super Spyder 500 – a Sears Stingray, basically. It had a silver metal flake banana seat, shining chrome and a gnarly five-speed shifter. With its green flake paint, it was a beauty.

My sisters received Spyderette bicycles and my parents each received a three-speed from Santa that year too. Not bad, considering the financial straits we were in.

There were occasional family forays around the block, but mostly it was me pretending my bike was an airplane, a race car or a spaceship while tooling around the neighborhood.

Later, as a teen, when I went through flying lessons to earn my pilot’s license, I was surprised at how unlike bike riding flying is. You are pretty busy all the time, and if you’re daydreaming when you’re flying, you are probably screwing up.

Yesterday, I was doing a lot of daydreaming about my dad while riding. He always had a soft spot for bicycles. I think part of it was he really liked gadgets (yes, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree). He would never admit it, but he was an environmentalist who always drove the smallest cars he could find. He owned one of the first Honda automobiles in the US. I remember him buying it at a motorcycle dealership.

My dad was the one who introduced me to science fiction. Later in life, fueled by an unfortunate religiosity, he denounced science fiction. He had come to believe that UFOs and so many other things were “demonic.” Very sad.

Dad had come from very humble, very heartbreaking circumstances. His dad was taken away from him (due to mental illness) at a very young age, and his family remained very poor. He did a very good job as a father considering what he had.

My dad and I also shared a passion for politics. Unfortunately, later in life, we were at opposite ends of the spectrum on most issues. But, sometimes we would both surprise ourselves at having gone so far to each end, we were both in the same place.

Dad often talked of opening up a bike shop on the Newport Highway, not too far from where we lived. I would tell him that no one bicycles the Newport Highway. His response was that people would if they had a reason – his bike shop.

Dad was a veteran of the Hiawatha Trail and he enjoyed the Centennial Trail. He was always geared up to the max – spare tires, tubes, lights, cell phone, first-aid kit. He needed an XtraCycle. Too bad he never got a chance to see one.

After Dad retired from being an airline pilot, he tried selling Dahon folding bikes. I don’t think he sold any, but he really liked talking to people at trade shows and on the phone. And he bought a few to give away. He was a generous guy to very many.

He never really liked riding in traffic of any sort. I really do. But when I am riding on a trail, I can let my mind wander a bit, and I always think of my dad. I think about how much he would have enjoyed the scenery. I wonder about the advice he would dish out and what plans were in the works. We would have argued about politics for sure – proclaiming each other – CRAZY.

Mostly, I would’ve liked to ask him about the flying and bicycle thing. Isn’t riding a bicycle more like what you would have thought flying would've been like? Hoped it would be like? Carefree, fast, elegant and natural. I really don’t know how he would’ve answered.

I do know that I felt pretty close to my dad while my family and I pedaled our way to Fish Lake and back. Later in the day, we went to visit his grave like you’re supposed to do on Memorial Day. He couldn’t have been further away.


Matthew Davis said...

Here at Dahon, we were very touched to read about your father's enthusiasm for our product (I forwarded it around the office and to our CEO, the original inventor). Over the years our bikes have changed quite a bit, and are selling quite well now. It is always wonderful to hear about someone believing so strongly in our product.

Thanks for the smile today.

Best Regards,
Matthew Davis
Manager - Global Sales and Marketing at Dahon

EvilElf said...

Thanks Matthew. My Dad thought that your bikes were the best!

Unfortunately, Spokane was, at the time, probably not the most appreciative market.

I have followed your bicycle line over the years and have watched an amazing evolution. And with petrol being what it is these days, Dahon bicycles will certainly be the vehicle of choice for a great many.

I wish you and your company continued success. Thanks for reading about my dad!