Monday, January 26, 2009

Rides and Reminiscing

Somebody on the Serotta forum posted about their 'favorite San Diego rides'. That's a thread for me. San Diego is where I fell in love with cycling more than thirty years ago.

I remember when I was maybe five or six years old and my parents bought my older brother Bryan a new bike. They got it while he was away at camp and before we left to pick him up they set it up inside the garage with the door closed. When we got home we pulled into the driveway and my dad had Bryan get out and open the garage door; this was before the days of garage door openers. Bryan opened the door and there stood his new bike on its kickstand. A very cool way to surprise him I remember thinking.

Like any kid I had a fascination for two wheeled things early on. I always had a bike growing up. I never wanted for much in the way of a bicycle until I saw Miles Harvey's Orange Krate. It didn't get any better than that and I would love to have had one but I knew that wasn't happening. A year or two earlier I'd disappointed my dad with my lack of enthusiasm over a bike he'd refurbished for me and because of that I was pretty sure I'd quashed any chance I may have had to appeal to his good graces for this tricked out bike. I didn't even try.

My dad had found an old Schwinn ten-speed dumped in a field not far from home. He brought it back and spent an entire Saturday restoring it in our garage. It was a gold color and had the look of a Schwinn Varsity. That's pretty much all I remember about it aside from the fact that it was too big for me.

All the while he was working on it I figured he was fixing it up for himself. He got it done and presented it to me. I don't know what I said but it must've totally been lacking in tact because he picked up a nearby wrench and threw it hard to the garage floor. I felt bad but there wasn't any way I was going to pretend to like it. None of my friends had bikes which looked like that one and I wouldn't be seen riding it.

Some time later he bought me a new bike from Sears. Keith got one too. It was a purple stingray model with dual rear brakes. It actually wasn't a bad bike; it was just a little bigger than I wanted. Sort of like an Orange Krate on steroids but it was purple. If he'd only let me go with him to pick it out. Was that too much to ask?

I don't believe I let on to my dad that I wasn't too keen on this bike either. I sucked it up and made the best of it. What else could I do? More importantly it got me to the golf course for those days when I'd go hunt for golf balls that had been sliced off the 4th tee at Highland Greens and sell them back to other golfers who were in the market. It would serve me well and be the last bike my parents would ever buy for me although I did have one final request.

Sometime around the age of 15 I began to want to ride further than I'd ever considered riding before. Much further. To do that I'd need a different bike; something a lot less stingrayish and a lot more the one my dad had fixed up for me years earlier. I remember approaching him out in the back yard one evening about purchasing me a bike which would more easily take me miles from home. I made my case to him about how I really wanted to go out exploring. I was too young for a job to earn money to pay for the bike myself and the only paper route around was already secured by a kid who wasn't interested in giving it up. I know because I tried to buy him out of it a year earlier. My dad wasn't at all interested in my proposal and I never mentioned it again. I'd be driving before too long and maybe that's what he was thinking.

My desire to ride would have to take a back seat to the rest of my life as it played out over the next few years.

I sometimes wonder how my life may have been different had my dad allowed me to get the bike which would have given me a freedom and instilled a confidence in me I hadn't known to that point. I can imagine a scenario where I would have discovered the benefits of a healthy body through riding rather than one abused by cigarettes, alcohol and drugs while hanging out with the wrong crowd. I may have even gotten it together enough to avoid having to join the Navy. Could a bike really have done all of that for me? I think it could have. No kidding.

But, I'm not disappointed with all the choices I made those many years ago. My job as an air traffic controller is a direct result of my having been a radar operator in the Navy. I can't imagine I would've stumbled onto this profession any other way.

One year into my enlistment I finally got my bike. I actually wrote about that a while back, here's a link. I remember once I finally got into riding and was putting in some serious miles I thought, if my dad could only see me now, what would he think? My desire to have a bike to ride long distances on wasn't just some kid's fantasy. I was serious. He was wrong not to have believed in me.

So, when I saw the thread on the Serotta forum it brought me back to my early days of riding out in the hills east of San Diego. Those days were some of my most memorable times riding. I spent a bit of time last night on Google Maps tracing some of the routes I used to ride. The image below is from Otay Lakes Road near Brown Field where I once considered skydiving before coming to my senses. It may not look like much but it's bicycle heaven. At least it was for me back in the day. I'd love to put a trip together with Tammy for a few days and either pack up one of my bikes for the trip or rent one while I'm out there. It's a strong urge but we've got a puppy to finish potty training first.

My dream can wait. It's had to do that once before.

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Lisa said...

My older brother is the same age as you, and your mention of the Orange Krate bike made me remember he had a friend who had one called a Lemon Peel. What other fruit names were there for those bikes in the 1960's?

Kevin said...


I tried to find a photo of the Lemon Peel but I couldn't. I could find a reference to it as well as an Apple Krate. I would've thought there would be plenty of photos of those bikes some place online.

How I would love to have known then how useful a camera would have been to take photos of our bikes and toys and stuff to use for reminiscing years later.

I'd have used it to photograph my Hot Wheels set-up as well as my Johnny Lightning race track. I built a ton of models back then too but they're all gone with no photos of them either.

Fortunately my older brother was/is a camera buff and we have him to thank for a lot of the photos we have from our early years.

Thanks for your comment.