In Mount Tamelpais’ Shadow

A new bike is better then a new car, because a new bike you can not only have, you can also hold. A new bike is like a new baby, you can pick it up, you can cradle it in your arms and you can lovingly care for it. A new bike though is no substitute for a lover, because its hard unyielding frame only rewards your passion with pain.

I first saw the bicycle on Monday. It sat there through the rain on Tuesday and by Wednesday; I began to wonder if anyone still owned it. It was a red Schwinn, already old when I first saw it. Its once bright red paint was now flecked with pitted spots of rust red. It was a single speed tank, with a coaster brake and big balloon tires. It was my first love, my baby and at age fourteen way more useful than a car.

My mom bought it for me and I rewarded her generosity by speeding down the street and then at the corner disappearing out of sight. I was free, I had mobility, and I could travel. I first stuck with the subdivision’s streets, but then coaxed my mother to bike with me out on a side road off the main valley road. It was cool that day, so I remember wearing my even newer, padded white cloth jacket as I rode. Young and newly flushed with testosterone, I quickly sped out of sight. On my own in unfamiliar climes, I was in paradise. That is until trouble began. A couple of similarly aged punks, from a different school, jeered at me as I rode by them. I paid them no mind, but maybe, my white new jacket, my bicycle and my probably too haughty demeanor proved too much for them. As I rode past them, they shot me in the back.

Mind you, I was not physically hurt. This was the 1960s and the Red Rider BB gun of the day was not near as powerful as it is today, plus I had my padded white cloth jacket on. I rode on, but eventually circled back and they were gone by then. I must have felt traumatized and likely bawled like a child, because I only remember afterwards my mother’s outrage and the county sheriff being called to the house. He was left with the dubious task of finding a couple of punks in the woods, but maybe he already knew where to look.

We left Marin County, CA not long after. My dad was still in the navy and we were transferred to DC. Although I hiked the cow paths, the prototypical single path all the while in Marin, I never biked them. And even though I owned at that time the prototypical mountain bike, I never took it off-road. Not too far away, at the south end of the county, Gary Fisher and his ilk were pioneering mountain biking on the slopes of Mount Tamelpais.  I do not feel ashamed for missing out on what was going on back then, but I do wistfully wish that I had been more a part of it.

The unrelated photo with this post was supplied by my newly retired friend, Barbara and her husband, Steve. I think that they both need a new tamden.

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