My first bike was a shiny, sturdy trike with handlebar streamers. In 1961, it joined my twin’s bike and younger sister’s Radio Flyer wagon in a shipped wooden crate that followed the family during our relocation from Canada to Redding.
By the time I was a third-grader at Cypress Elementary I’d graduated to a Shasta-Lake-blue Schwinn with skinny tires that I wheeled around my neighborhood in Redding’s downtown core. I could park my bike along with other kids’ bikes outside Woolworth’s or Glover’s Toy Store where they’d wait for us until it was time to head home. Bike lock was not even in our vocabulary.
My blue Schwinn went the way of other bygone childhood things. I grew up and beyond my Buster Browns-powered Schwinn to gas-guzzling cars.
Despite my long bike separation, I retained my bike fantasies. In my fantasy, there are no cars or trucks to potentially sideswipe bicyclists. My bike fantasy looked more like one of those black-and-white photos of a 16-year-old girl riding her bike through the French countryside. A baguette periscopes from the front basket. Throw in a bottle of wine, too. (Changed my mind. She’s 21.)
In February I moved into my house in the Garden Tract, a place I adore for its huge shade trees and total Mayberryesque feeling. It’s a place with such a strong identity that its street names also boast a last name: Garden Tract. People of all ages walk and even roller blade. Proud new papas carefully push strollers as if they contain bundles of dynamite while new mamas walk gingerly beside them (welcome, adorable baby Conner!). Lots of people ride bikes in this neighborhood.
My inspiration to get a bike came during the annual Garden Tract Yard Sale, when I glanced next door at Eloise and her daughter’s wares and noticed a bike propped up among their sale items. I wandered over for a look and liked what I saw.
My Free Spirit fit nicely in the back of my Prius for its journey to Bikes Etc., the neighborhood bike shop, to replace the flat tires and do a little tune-up.
There, they guys hoisted my Free Spirit up onto a stand so they could get a better look. The said my bike was in good condition. He even pointed out a place on the bike where it said 1972.
Gosh, I was 16 then.
My Free Spirit got new tubes and tires and was pronounced a fine bike that would ride more like a $300 bike (whatever that means). Not bad for a $10 initial investment and a $62 tune-up.
Once home, I outfitted my Free Spirit with a basket and bell. I rode up and down my Garden Tract street, and laughed when I realized that somehow I must have put the bell on wrong, because every time I went over the slightest bump the bell did this sort of shaken ding. Ding-a-ding. Ding. Ding-a ding-a-ding. I felt like I should be standing by a brass bucket passing out candy canes.
Because I’m nervous about riding my bike next to traffic, I’ll practice more in my neighborhood before I venture onto busy streets. Until then, listen for the ding of a bell, and you might see a
slightly-older than middle-aged woman riding around the Garden Tract on a bike with a basket that holds a baguette. And maybe a bottle of wine. Or two.
And if you squint hard, cock your head a little to the right and use your imagination, that woman may resemble – just for a second – a 16-year-old French girl.
A free spirit, you might say.
Click here to read more from Day 1 of A News Cafe’s “Taken By Two Wheels.”
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.