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What goes around comes around; on the bike again

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My first bike was about 24 inches high, had two little tires on the back, one bigger one on the front and it was really fast and scary. Wait a minute -- a BIKE with three wheels? Yes, I know, but our family called it a bike.

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By the time I was big enough for a two wheeler, my dad spotted a model that had been outgrown and was at rest in a farmer's scrap yard. We made a deal, tuned it up and I joined the big boys. I was even allowed to ride downtown, get groceries and ride back with one hand on the handle bars and the other arm around the bag of groceries.

But the danger of riding with an armful of groceries is that if you stop, it takes an extra minute to get started again. One day, coming home with groceries, I stopped to watch some of my pals throwing rocks at a hornet's nest up in the trees. I had one leg on the ground, one over the bike and one arm around the grocery bag. When one of the kids made a direct hit on the nest, the hornets were very angry. They roared out, in formation, to get revenge. The rock throwers, on foot, were gone in seconds, while I was struggling to get on my bike and high tail it out of the battle zone. Awkward. I got nailed hard about a half dozen times. If you've ever been stung by a hornet, you know it's like getting stabbed by an ice pick.

I had no bike in high school. I had no car either. I walked. But later, as a college student without a car, walking didn't get me everywhere I needed to go, so I bought a bike. It wasn't exactly new -- it cost me $7.50. But bikes get stolen and most owners buy a chain lock and chain their bike to some post so it won't disappear. When I priced chain locks they were $10. What kind of sense would it make to spend $10.00 to secure a $7.50 bike? So when I had to park it, I just parked it right beside somebody's nice, shiny, expensive bike.

Who would steal a wreck if they could grab a classy new one -- even by cutting the chain lock? Nobody ever took my bargain. And no wonder it was a bargain -- sometimes when I approached a curb and jerked the handle bars up to jump up on the curb, the handle bars pulled out and it was like driving a car with a steering wheel that's come off the post.

In the world of adults, I drove a car, walked or ran wherever I needed to go. Until a few months ago, that is. When running became a problem because of too many miles on my odometer, I returned to the world of bikes. They don't make them anymore like the scrap yard model or the $7.50 model, so I'm learning new ropes. This one is a skinny tire model without fenders. It's faster than the old ones, but without fenders, it splashes you if you ride after a rain. And it has gears that you click with your hands when you need more power going uphill or more speed on the level or downhill. I wear a helmet when I ride it. (Eartha says I look like a dork wearing that helmet.) As a kid, I could balance and ride without hands, even turn the bike by leaning one way or the other. I wouldn't dream of that now. I don't think I'll haul groceries anymore either. I ride with both hands on the bars. And did I mention this model has a cast iron seat? Believe me, that's the biggest adjustment. I may have to go back and get something softer to sit on. A board would be softer, but I'll need something cushy.

Biking has revived my interest in math. I've thought about this and here's my analysis. If you ride around a lake with a circumference of 10 miles and you ride on the edge of the right hand traffic lane, the ride will be shorter if you ride clockwise than counterclockwise. Assuming each lane of traffic, including shoulders, is 20 feet wide, you will save yourself the pressure on your cast iron seat of an extra 825 feet, 4 inches, if you go clockwise. If you go clockwise and somebody else goes counterclockwise, both riding at 10 mph, you'll arrive at the starting point 56.2 seconds before the other guy. That's good to know. I'm not exactly a math whiz, so I just know somebody will correct this answer.

So what's the next step? I'm not writing about just bicycles today as much as the role of bikes in the cycle of life. What goes around comes around. We end up where we started with no hair and wet pants.

The last step for bicycles in my cycle of life will be a three wheel bike with a basket in front and on the back you have probably seen them riding around retirement villages or courts. I'll still call mine a bike. I probably won't need a dorky helmet for my three-wheeler bike. It won't be fast and scary like the original, it'll have big fat tires, I won't hop curbs with it and it will have a nice, soft cushy seat.

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