Thanks to my pals at Google Maps, I now understand why I weighed about a buck-fifty in high school.
I was driving past Centennial Park in Duncan as part of my ongoing 2016 Flashback Tour and got to thinking about how much time I spent riding a bike as a youngster.
From the age of six through almost 18, if I needed to get somewhere, two wheels had to do the trick.
We were at my grandparents’ house in Victoria for my sixth birthday and someone let it slip I was getting a new bike (without training wheels no less). I woke up at the crack of dawn, found the thing in the garage and proceeded to ride from the area near Hillside Mall all the way down to the old Memorial Arena and back.
No helmet, no fear of going more than two blocks from the house — just a kid cruising around Victoria all by himself. When I got back, I got in trouble for finding the bike too early, as opposed to wandering miles from home. How times change.
As I got older, I graduated to a spiffy, black 10-speed (anyone remember those?), which lasted many years and many miles. Even after I turned 16, I still had to do a lot more biking than I wanted to, since I wasn’t allowed to drive too much after skillfully piloting our family cruiser Dukes of Hazzard style into a field one night out on Mt. Sicker Road.
In those days, when everywhere we went was uphill both ways, the bike was the general method of transportation. If you phoned your friend and no one was home, you rode your bike over to see if they were playing outside. Now, you just stay inside, texting.
From our neighbourhood just north of the forest museum (I’ll always call it that), we’d routinely ride down to Centennial Park (a five-kilometre jaunt, according to Google) to play five sets of tennis, then head home. Or down to the ball field or the rink or McAdam Park or wherever. Many times, we’d even ride out to the Cowichan Golf and Country Club (11.2 kilometres), play 18 or 36 holes of golf, then back home.
Just thinking about that now makes my knees hurt.
Once, a buddy and I foolishly decided we were going to ride all the way to Victoria (65.5 kilometres). Why not? How hard could it be?
Well, the way there was reasonable. Heading up the Malahat was a bit of a grind, but after that it wasn’t too bad. After a day riding all over the city, then spending a few hours enjoying the sights at Willows Beach, it was suddenly about 6 o’clock and the thought of cruising back to Duncan wasn’t exactly appealing. Fortunately, my buddy’s dad was kind enough (though we heard about our foolishness all the way back) to come and pick us up in his truck.
That trip was the beginning of the end of my cycling “career.”
A short time later, the old 10-speed met an untimely end when I was rolling down Bell-McKinnon Road at night, hit a pothole, went over the handlebars (no helmet of course; lost a lot of skin but didn’t hit my head) and looked back to see the bike being obliterated by an oncoming truck. It was quickly replaced, but the fill-in 10-speed didn’t last too long.
It was stolen from a friend’s front yard a couple of weeks later. I didn’t own another bike for nearly 15 years, and haven’t ridden one consistently since. Two wheels had been replaced by four — the oil-slurping, hideously orange 1972 Toyota Corolla that signalled my full-time move to automotive travel.
It wasn’t until the early part of a new century, when my son was ready for a two-wheeler of his own, that I made grand plans to leap back into the cycling world. I bought myself one of those newfangled mountain-bike dealies, with all the bells and whistles. Even got one of those Great Gazoo helmets everyone was expected to wear.
We were going to explore all the nearby trails together. Do some father-son bonding.
Like his old man, he was going to ride everywhere, to school, to the ballpark, you name it.
Turns out, neither he nor any of his friends had much desire to ride their bikes — and most weren’t allowed past the stop sign at the end of their streets anyway. Times change. Driving them three blocks to a friend’s house (so they could text each other while sitting on the same couch) became the norm.
So tell me — do your kids do the cycling thing, or is it just something we fossils used to do?