It was the summer of 1952. I was 10 years old. We moved to a new house, in a new school district. I met a few friends and began to feel quite comfortable in the new neighborhood. Later that summer, just before school was about to start, a friend and I rode our bikes to the schoolyard to get ourselves acquainted with it before we returned to school. I think we were excited about starting, even though, were one to have asked us if we were excited about school, we would have, of course, said, 'no'.
While at that schoolyard, I noticed two men (perhaps 18-25 years old, older people relative to our age), stopped on the school property to rest from their bike ride. They both had the most beautiful bikes, unlike any other bike, I had ever seen. They were bright, metallic greens and blues, multicolor, with taped handlebars that curved downwards, and most importantly, they had 10 gears with a completely different shifting mechanism that I had ever seen. Instead of the three speeds that everyone had at the time, if you had gears at all, these bikes had 10 speeds with front and rear cable-operated derailleurs, the shifting levers located on the downtube. 'WOW', I said! 'I wish I had one of those...I am going to own one of those...if I owned one of those...I'd never get off...I'd ride forever...all the way across the country!'
On May 18, 2003, at the age of 61, with my rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean at Carpenteria, California, I began childhood dream #2, to ''ride cross-country on a beautiful, blue, (14)-speed bike', just like the bike I first saw 51 years earlier. How sweet life is!
(Dream # 1, to hike a major portion of the Appalacian Trail was fulfilled in 1999. Dream #3, to sail on a square-rigged ship to the South Pacific, still beckons.)
Dreams, especially childhood dreams, are fantasy, are beautiful, are ideal, are exhilarating, are imagination running rampant, are.... everything a child wants them to be, of course, and yet... they are dreams. Then there is reality. Adults can see reality; children can't. It's nice to say, 'I'm going to ride across the country on a bicycle', after seeing one in a school playground at ten years of age, but the reality is, it is very hard work. It is grueling work. It is time consuming. It is tiring. It is exhausting. It is depressing. It is aging.
It was also very pleasant. It was indeed beautiful. It was inspiring! It was fantastic! It was awesome! It was incomparable, truly the most exhilarating fulfillment of my wildest imagination! I was alive even when I was so indescribably hot and tired!
Would it have been different had I been younger? Yes, of course, physically. No question about it. But would it have been the same? Perhaps being '61 years tired' is part of the experience of riding a bicycle, solo and unsupported, over 4000 miles across a continent. Without the experience afforded me by my age, would I have been able to appreciate what I accomplished in the same way? That I sincerely doubt. When I straddled the crossbar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Assateague, VA, I felt triumphant.
Memorable and triumphant can be two different things, however. To me, there can be no triumph without a struggle. Those moments reconstructing the entire trip, both the night before finishing and while straddling the crossbar overlooking the completion of my dream, added triumph to memorable.
Submitted by Anonymous
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