I wonder As I Wobble

 

Crofton, a local mill town.  E. J. Hughes, a famous local painter managed to combine simplicity, subtle tones and saturated colours in his wonderful work. It is very hard to replicate with a camera.                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the items I acquired to go with my trailering-south plans was a bicycle. It is an old one which I purchased from a local fellow who recycles bikes and sells them at very fair prices. His business can be found under the name ’Vibe Bikes.’ Mine is an aluminum-framed mountain bike. It definitely looks like it has been up and down a few mountains but the tires, brakes and other machinery are in excellent shape. I wanted something that looked a bit rough instead of screaming “Steal me!”            My last bike travelled all the way to Mexico and home again this past winter without ever being ridden. You may recall photos of it on the back of my van in a blizzard in Nevada. It had been severely saturated in road salt and calcium and I donated it to the cause. The newer old bike has languished in storage ever since. I went and bought an affordable ventilated helmet that even has a built-in led tail light. It can blink or be turned on to a steady red display. The whole notion of a helmet leaves me a bit tongue in cheek but it is nice to offer a clear target to folks coming up behind you. For those ahead of me I bought a little squeeze-bulb horn just like a clown would wear on his lapel. I am angered when cyclists brush by from behind without even an “Excuse me” as a bit of notice. “Ya coulda hit me by cracky!” I also bought a fat-ass seat cover but it only gets in my way when I try to swing my leg over the thing. I almost ended up in the rhubarb before I finally got aboard.
Behind the scene. On the other side of the beach, three bucks poke about for something to eat.
No country for old bicycles. A bike that went all the way to Mexico and back without being ridden.
Another bike in white.
A slightly warmer day.

Here’s an image for you. A slightly-past prime, slightly Rubenesque geezer in baggy shorts on a bike as battle-scarred as he is, wearing a fluorescent green helmet, wobbles off around the bend, his scrawny white legs pumping labouriously. Just to make sure it works, he pinches his clown horn well before he passes a couple walking on the path ahead. The lady likes the horn and thanks him for it and the old guy on the bike refrains from any rude jokes about horns. Well done indeed! That image of course is none other than meself lurching along like a drunken sailor.

You may not forget how to ride a bike, but there are certainly muscles which do not want to remember. “All those years, and now you want me to spring into action?” Nearby is a newly completed gravel path, a few kilometreswhich are long, picturesque and gentle for walking and cycling between the local areas of Saltair and Chemainus. The fine, hard-packed surface seemed to cling at my tires. A local bumper sticker says, “Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill.” Too right mate! Everything seems uphill on a bike. But one day soon, thanks to the swimming, the biking, dog-walking and dieting, you’ll be able see right through me like the gossamer wings of a bird.

I already owned a vehicle (Note I didn’t say ‘car’…it was a Vauxhall) when I turned sixteen. My bike went south as soon as I got behind the wheel. That means I have not ridden a bike very much in the last half-century. The feelings of today’s brief jaunt, wind rushing up my shirt and rumbling in my helmet, the sound of the tires as one leg, stronger than the other, always pumps a little harder and then the joy of coasting down a bit of incline. Yesterday, on my first bike outing, that rush was only realized after I pushed the bike up a hill. Well, some folks do call them “Push bikes.” Many cruising sailors keep bikes aboard but I never warmed to that idea. Either you had an expensive silly-looking bike with tiny wheels that you stored somewhere below, and I’m sure always in the way, or you kept a full-sized one on deck somewhere but never in a place where it can’t foul lines into a dangerous tangle. So, I never did bother with going to sea with a bike on board. Not only are they always out in a harsh marine environment, bikes are also unfriendly toward wood work, paint and fibreglass.

I said: “No bikes on the dock!”
Kerplunk.

One of the happier memories of my dad and I comes from a time he found a discarded bicycle and lugged it home. We removed the old wheels and I bought new tires, learned how to patch inner tubes and adjust spokes. The front forks needed new bearings but because all was seized tight he built a fire and threw the bike into it. Once heated, the rusty old parts yielded to our persuasions and eventually we had a working bike. The only paint available was salvaged from two cans which mixed into a bright salmon colour.

It would be a very cool tone today, but it was an embarrassment back then. All the same, I put a lot of miles on that recycled rig. I delivered newspapers with it and rode it all over Halton County between the local waterfront and the cow-pasture airfield which I haunted.

The bike was a standard single speed CCM. The braking system simply involved applying reverse pressure on the pedals. The handles were angled backward a bit from a long crossbar. If you were trendy you flipped that bar over so that the handles pointed up like cow’s horns. Some kids used a wooden clothes peg to hold a playing card on the frame so that it clattered in the spokes as the wheel turned. With a little imagination, you were on a motorcycle. There were no complex cable systems nor gear-shifting mechanisms requiring complex adjustments. To keep your pant cuff from getting caught in the chain you simply tucked it inside your sock. Bicycle clips were for nerds. For night riding you could buy a feeble head light powered by a tiny generator which flipped over to be driven by the spinning sidewall of one tire. Those generators required a noticeable amount of extra pedalling and the light’s brilliance rose and fell with turn of the wheel. Exotic bikes had three speeds, cable brakes and down-swept handle bars. A Raleigh was the ultimate brand to own.

“Yeah well, you bikers aren’t so tough when you’re on your own.” At a festival on Moss Street in Victoria.
Nice honker!
Once upon a wreck.
“Turn your night light on.”
Come to think of it, of all man’s infernal machines, the bicycle has to be one of the ultimate inventions.

As I write I am reminded of an older Dutch man from my youth who often rode by on an omafiet (Grandma’s bike) a traditional bike from Holland where the pedalling is nearly all on flat ground. He sat rigidly upright puffing on a big pipe and pedalling slowly. Yet he hurtled along, a stately image I can still see. The heavy bike had a skirt over the rear wheel, a monstrous chain guard and sported a huge wicker basket on the front which was often full of various items. These traditional Dutch bikes are now very desirable. Copies are manufactured in North America. Isn’t it funny how one memory leads to the other? And how what was gross and stupid suddenly becomes the latest trend. There’s nothing new! And all of this blog, so far, comes from spending a few minutes on a bike.

An Omafiets. I found this image on Google Images. All rights to this image are theirs.
I love my bowl. More please!

Old Jack is suddenly showing his years. He is bravely affectionate and still thinks intrepidly but there are signs that worry me. Tomorrow the vet is coming. Hopefully there will be the joy and comfort of his presence for a good while yet. He is needed, badly, and I do my best to be optimistic. Surely it is not his time yet. I recall a story about a family sitting around their dinner table mourning the recent lose of their beloved family member. They were discussing why dogs are so short-lived. The little girl suggested, “Maybe it’s because they already know the stuff it takes us so long to learn.”

This old dog. He was still chasing butterflies yesterday and digging in the soft sand. You can’t keep an old dog down.

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that God doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” Emo Philips

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at svpaxboat@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “I wonder As I Wobble”

  1. Not to depress you but I forgot to tell you our lovely Bella died in her sleep 2 weeks ago. Now, as for electric bikes, you forgot to include these ‘new’ ultimate bikes in your missive…

    1. Tony:
      Well the lovely old girl went out the best way possible. Thanks for letting me know. A wonderful vet came by today and looked at old Jack. He’ll live a while yet, but he sure scared the hell out of me.

      Electric bikes…not there yet.
      Fred

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