I was around 11, hanging out
in downtown Los Alamos, NM. On my way to Pizza Hut, I spotted a bike in the
front window of Strings & Spokes. That bike spoke to me. It sung to me and
wooed me. This wasn’t just any bike. It was my
bike. I decided I had to have it, in the way a young girl does with fierce
That night, I told my dad
about it. “It’s a mini ten-speed! It fits me! It’s blue, but not just any
As if not understanding the
importance of color, my dad asked me what brand this bike was. I didn’t know
how to pronounce it, but I knew how to spell it: G-i-t-a-n-e.
Really, in my mind it was:
“Well, we can go take a look
on Saturday,” he said.
I assumed he was just trying
to appease me. I knew he had no intention of buying the bike, but he had to! I
longed for that bike like a new best friend. I’d never been blessed with a
brand-new, out-of-this-world bike that was my size. I felt destined to be on
that blue baby.
While waiting for Saturday to
arrive, I took three trips downtown (probably hitch-hiked because that was the
town and the times we lived in). I said I was going to Pizza Hut but found
myself window gazing and daydreaming in front of Strings & Spokes like it
was my elementary happy hour.
On the Saturday that stands
out, my dad said, “Let’s go see this bike.” He asked the salesman a barrage of engineer,
Consumer-Reports, guarantee-type questions while I feigned patience.
My dad said, “Alice, that’s a
lot of money.” I knew it! Here we go!
Then, to my surprise, he
said, “Tell you what. I’ll pay for half, but you’ll have to earn the other
What a perfect moment. His
parental direction aligned with my determination. We cut a deal. With money
from my paper routes, I matched my dad, and the blue baby came home with me. I
rode her to freedom (my mom’s house, East Park swimming pool, downtown, friends’
houses, and T, G, & Y.).
I haven’t thought about that
for decades. How could I forget such a sweet memory? And how did it arise anew in
Well, that’s another chapter.
I’m now in my mid-50s and my dad’s in his 80s, although still an avid biker. By
avid, I mean he and my stepmom road their bikes from Virginia to Portland, spinning
those wheels and sitting on those seats every day for three months.
Granted, that’s been many
years. Still, his 80th birthday bash included several group rides in
Santa Fe and Taos. My parents dedicated an area in their home for bicycles. As they
upgraded to the latest technology, they kept their old bikes for visitors. My
dad maintained a small workshop for the bikes, where he spent many late nights working
on them for family and friends to ride safely.
Recently, my parents made the
move from their sprawling home to an apartment. They gave possessions away to people
who could use them. Uh, I could use a bike.
They agreed. They’d give me
one of my stepmom’s old bikes. Two challenges arose. First, my dad (who I may
take after) is a professional procrastinator and perfectionist in areas such as
this. He asked which tires I wanted on it—the road or mountain? Did I have a
helmet? Did I think my new male friend still wanted to go bike riding with me?
Like when I was a girl, I
practiced patience and pressed down my giddiness. My stepmom suggested I keep
asking and give my dad a deadline. She feared he’d never get the bicycle to me
in Ohio from New Mexico. Ah, shipping, challenge number two.
I had an idea. (I’m getting a bike!)I asked my dad if when they flew to Michigan to visit their first great grandbaby, could they check the bike?
It sounded like a stretch. He
wasn’t sure he’d have time to get it ready and then he had to get the right box
and he didn’t know the airline regulations…
Who knows how many nights he
stayed up beforehand making sure the bike would be in working order for the
adoption. I can safely assume he gave up plenty of sleep for me, as is his
tendency when it comes to fixing ski bindings or car engines or computers.
He called me on his way to
the airport to say he’d gotten the bike apart and in the box. He headed to the
airport early, assuming the airline would force him to return it to the car,
but he’d try. I faithfully told him it would be fine, like when I told him I’d
earn my half of the money.
bike is on its way! So, on the Michigan family visit, my dad spent
much of two days in my nephew’s garage putting the bike together, riding,
retesting, and perfecting the gears and safety.
All this—not just giving me
the bike but staying up all night to pack it in that box, going to buy a tool
he has at home but forgot, putting the parts together, making sure it’s just
right, asking me to hang out and talk with him in the garage even though he
needed to concentrate—hit me hard.
Gratitude engulfed me. This
is one of the best ways my dad shows love. I let that settle into my heart like
a favorite meal in my belly. I felt full and nourished.
On Sunday, I got to ride my
bike and practice shifting. I need practice.
This is a special bike. My
dad researched, bought the Tomac 98 Special Black frame and other high-end
parts, and built it with love for my stepmom. It’s the bike she let me ride
when I visited. I rode their generosity. And not just me. Dozens of people have
ridden the bike which now belongs to me. It carries a legacy of hospitality and
Yet, once I got it home, I
resisted riding, like joy I refused to unpack. My dog recently died and what I
really wanted was to go for a walk in the forest with her. Plus, it rained so
often. And, I wanted to ride with my sister, but her bike is at her boyfriend’s.
As Father’s Day neared, I
knew I’d call my dad and he’d ask if I enjoyed riding. Someone suggested I lie.
Yesterday, before the rain
came, I strapped on the helmet, filled up my water bottle, and wheeled away in
search of a trail my neighbor told me about. I couldn’t find it.
I found something better: exhilaration,
the thrill of riding a bike down a random road, tires spinning, wind blowing
against my body housed in a florescent-yellow shirt with pockets on the back. I
rode in circles and down neighborhood streets I never noticed, all with a smile
on my face that almost felt foreign. But, it was mine. I recognized it from
when I was a girl.
It’s not the same transportation
freedom I tasted as a kid, but instead a freeing of something inside that
through life got tied a little too tight. I loosened up. I laughed.
My dad (and stepmom) gave me
a bike and I rode it home to myself.