Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nothin's Gonna Stop Me This Time!

Thub thub thub...thub thub thub thub...thubthubthubthubthubthubthubthubthubthubbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

That's the sound of a motorcycle.

Ok, it's not really the sound of a motorcycle, it's the sound of a bicycle, pretending to be a motorcycle.

The problem is, bicycles don't make a lot of noise, and being a kid is about sensory overload -- at least it is if you're doing it right -- hence the baseball card, or the library card, or just a plain old piece of cardboard, taped on to the frame of the bike, and stuck into the spokes of the back tire. And presto! Your bike is now a motorcycle. A loud motorcycle. And the best thing about this curious little innovation was the fact that the faster you went, the louder your "motor" revved, and as you slowed down, the "motor" almost sounded like it was idling.

When you are a kid, your bike is more than transportation.

It's your X-wing fighter.

It's your F-14 Tomcat.

It's your Saturn 5 rocket.

A bike is adventure.

A bike is freedom.

The 1980's were the heyday of the bike riding kid, and our town was a great bike riding town -- the last thing you want, when you're a bike riding kid, is a straight road.

Bicycles greatly expanded the boundaries of a kid's world. It was the key to unlocking exploration. You started small -- a trip to the neighbors' house. Then it was a ride around the block. An excursion to the school -- where you secured your bike with one of those bike locks, coated in the plastic (and very 80's) neon colored gel-like coating -- you know, the locks that you could pick by pulling them tight, and turning the tumblers until the lock released?

(As an aside, didn't it seem that everything in the 80's was made of that neon, plastic jelly material?)

Next, you rode to The Sev, for a Slurpee and some candy cigarettes. You were practically a grown up now.

My bike made it possible to have friends in the far flung corners of the neighborhood -- like a mile away. But the bike I had was not like other bikes. It was a Huffy Bandit. The world's dumbest bike.

This is the story that Aaron and I affectionately refer to as "Nothin's gonna stop me this time."

Nothin's gonna stop me this time. 

Never have words been farther from the truth.

This was in the earliest days of Quail Hollow Elementary. Newcastle Drive was not complete, so the school was surrounded by mounds of dirt -- which was really cool for kids with some courage and a cool dirt bike. I had neither.

I had a great fear of hurting myself, so I generally played it safe -- Aaron took enough chances for both of us. But, on top of that, I had the stupidest bike in the history of boys bikes: the Huffy Bandit. 

(My parents assumed that, because I wore cowboy boots, and a Superman Cape, and a space helmet, and guns, and a lightsaber -- all at the same time -- that I wanted to be a dork).

The Huffy Bandit was a black monstrosity -- supposedly inspired by the Smokey and the Bandit movies 

(remember those movies, back when Burt Reynolds was the sexiest man alive?)

The Huffy Bandit bore no resemblance to a Trans Am. It had a long, trapezoidal seat, that looked like a black poundcake. But the killer feature -- the thing that set this bike apart form all other bikes -- was the handlebars. They were bent and curved in this bizarre manner that made it impossible to do the two things that all boys want to do with their bikes: jump and do wheelies. 

It was like riding a drunk moose. 

On roller skates. 

But, not as graceful.

Anyway, Aaron and I were riding around in the dirt, through this little washboard area, and there was one hill, which hindsight forces me, shamefully, to admit, was not very high. Aaron could go up and down with ease. I couldn't do it, mostly because, for whatever reason, I chickened out, and bailed before I got halfway up the little mound. I wanted desperately to do the things that brave boys did (like riding my bike up a two foot pile of dirt).

The more I write, the more pathetic I sound. 

Well, after one more humiliating attempt, I'd had enough. I looked deep inside, for that bright burning core of manly courage -- the olympian determination to overcome -- and declared, for humanity, and all of the cosmos to hear:


I backed way up, to pick up some good speed...

My breath came in deep gulps, my heart was pulsing in my ears...

And I was off. My legs pumping...pumping...I could feel the tires grabbing the dirt, propelling me toward Mount Everest. 

I was going to conquer this mountain. Closer. 


I was going to do it!

I'd probably get some good air on the other side too (T jump? What's a T jump?) -- I'd be a real boy!

And then I'm a little fuzzy about what happened. 

I know this much. As the front tire hit the base of the hill, it stopped. It just stopped. And I (and my tender boy parts) was introduced to Isaac Newton, and his First Law of Motion:

"Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion, unless an external force is applied to it."

Like a dirt hill. 

I was laying in the dirt, numb and bewildered. The Bandit lay nearby, in a tangled heap, like the victim of a hit and run. I swear it was chuckling. 

Aaron finds great humor, in this story of emasculation. 

Needless to say, somethin' stopped me that time. 

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