Cruising with Betsy
I have a new bike. Well, new to me. I purchased it because my grandson is learning to ride without training wheels and I have dreams of the two of us cruising the neighborhood on summer mornings once he is proficient.
His bike is new, dark blue and very cool looking. Mine is vintage. Very. It’s a Panama Jack Cruiser made in 1961 by Huffy back when they made their bicycles in the USA. I found her on a resale website. She was just what I wanted, and my $60 was just what the young man who owned her wanted. The seat is sturdy and comfortably padded with substantial springs to accommodate my Grandma derrière. Big 26” tires. No fancy gears or hand brakes on Betsy, this gal is equipped with pedal brakes. Her faded cream color and rusted chrome handle bars perked up nicely with a good cleaning. I bought a helmet and a small bag to hold a cell phone and water bottle. But my favorite part is the bell. It took me a while to find just what I wanted, an old fashioned one with that certain “brrr-ing” sound, in seafoam green to match the wheel rims. I’ve only needed the bell once to alert another rider, but hearing it makes me smile so I usually ring it when I fly down my driveway and into the garage to park.
I’ve begun cruising around the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure at first if a cruiser bike was a good idea given that I live in an area that is almost all hills. But after a few scouting trips, which were part bike ride part walk the bike home, I found a couple of routes that are flat enough I can make the entire ride without dismounting. Of course the first couple of rides had my knees shaking and my lungs burning when I got home, but I did it!
The thing is, I’ve re-discovered the joy of riding a bicycle. When I was a kid we cruised all over the neighborhood – no bike lanes, helmets or pads, we never worried about such things. Besides the sidewalks were filled with kids on bikes, we couldn’t go very fast anyway. Unless we got permission to ride down the steepest driveway at the top of the cul de sac. (Never Ms. Sanger’s, she wouldn’t let us ride down her long sloping drive which was perfect for bikes, but the other neighbors usually would.) Then you could get up a good head of speed and really feel the wind cooling you.
I still enjoy the feel of the wind across my face, and that feeling of freedom to just get on and go, able to cover more territory than on a walk. As a senior I have more appreciation for the physical health to ride, of having wheels that don’t require gas, insurance, or much maintenance. And I don’t have to be home when Mom says – heck these days she doesn’t even know when I take my rides.
This morning I rode out early while it was cool. Had to walk Betsy up the first incline (couldn’t risk further injury to my back, already strained from lifting things I shouldn’t) but once I reached the top I climbed on and pedaled away. I cruised down tree-lined streets, around quiet corners, through the library parking lot (still empty due to Rona) in front of the construction zone of a fancy new house going up, behind the high school tennis courts and past Easy Street. As I approached an office building parking lot I hit a small bump. My bell let out a short, happy brrr-ing. I smiled. Brrr-ing indeed.