Tim Speciale - January 20, 2020
If the family group rides my dad organized throughout my youth never happened, I wonder if a bicycle would have remained nothing more than a form of transportation.
The Wonder Lake Zoo
My dad remarried a few years after he and my mom divorced. In addition to myself and my two brothers, Sharon had 3 kids of her own and her and my father would eventually have my little sister.
We weren’t poor in those years but entertaining 7 children is an expensive prospect. My dad is a creative guy though and we always had plenty of things to do and bikes were always in the cards.
My first group rides
We didn’t call them group rides at the time. We just went on “bike rides”. My dad would lead the charge and some variant (or all of) the 9 of us would trek out into the great unknown. That was my perspective anyways; I was young. The truth is that most of these bike rides were jaunts through our sprawling Wonder Lake neighborhood, weaving our way into town .
We would also pile up the car with all of our bikes and drive to Moraine Hills State Park and ride its large trail system. Many times these would devolve (or evolve) into sibling-on-sibling races.
These rides were illuminating. For the first time in my life, I was able to travel long distances on a machine that was under my power and control. Many people speak glowingly of their first car – often a beater with laughable and quirky qualities. The first car is often viewed as the first avenue to freedom. I challenge this. Most people’s first keys to freedom were their (very keyless) bicycle.
What bikes have done for me, they always will
Every weekend I would ride by myself, extending my range little by little. I would go down roads no one in my family even knew existed. I would find pockets of interesting terrain, yards, and scenery. With the imagination of an elementary school boy, I pretended I was on a motorcycle always trying to go faster and faster.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”Hemingway
The sense of exploration, freedom and speed became addicting. The utility of having access to more efficient transportation than waddling across town by foot never escaped me but the bicycle was always more than that to me.
If the family group rides my dad organized throughout my youth never happened, I wonder if a bicycle would have remained nothing more than a form of transportation. My dad’s introduction to cycling as an enjoyable activity – either alone or with friends – has been the foundation of my entire life as a cyclist. And I’ll have that within me forever.