My wife and I bought new bikes recently. A rental shop near us was going out of business and selling their entire inventory at a deep discount, so we decided to upgrade. In addition to getting a better bike and more gears, I now also have a bike that fits my 6’ 5” frame. The only negative is we have to say “goodbye” to our previous bikes, bikes that have become good friends during these last twenty plus years.
I don’t remember exactly when we bought our previous bikes, but we bought four of them, two red ones for Barbara and me and two teal ones for our girls who were in middle school at the time. I knew then that my 26-inch frame was actually too small for my height, but a larger frame was so much more expensive, and our budget was tight. Besides, how could I complain? I had ten gears for the first time, and, finally, we all had “big-kid” bikes, and we could ride together easily, so I was happy.
At first, we explored our suburban neighborhood quite often, and, soon, we bought a bike rack, so we could also visit the local bike paths. From our home in Clifton Park, New York, we traveled along the Mohawk River to the west and along the Hudson River to the south. Our river rides were a beautiful combination of enjoying God’s creation while also sharing a safe and healthy experience with our daughters. We usually ended these rides with visits to nearby ice-cream parlors, so that was a nice bonus too.
As the girls entered their high-school years, we even brought the bikes with us on some week-long summer vacations. One year, we carted the bikes down the East Coast to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and during another summer, we also brought them eastward to Rhode Island. There, we left the car behind and ferried the bikes over to Block Island where they would be our sole means of transportation for the week.
During that island week, we also “lost” one of the bikes and its rider, our younger daughter, Katrina. At that time, she was a bundle of energy and easily the strongest rider in the family, so she decided to show off and leave us behind as we returned from visiting a nearby lighthouse. Unfortunately, she missed a turn and blazed off into the unknown before we realized she was gone. We didn’t have cell phones then, so I was pretty worried about her riding alone in an unknown place, but as the dad, I had to appear calm. After a quick huddle, we decided to split up; Barbara and Maria would head back to our rented efficiency apartment as we had planned, and I would chase after Katrina on my trusty red steed. Praying the entire time, I pedaled feverishly for about 20 minutes down the road Katrina had traveled before I saw her up ahead, waiting casually for us to arrive. Part of me wanted to yell at her for going off on her own, and the other part of me wanted to hug her just as the father of “The Prodigal Son” had hugged his wayward offspring. Yes, I definitely hugged her.
Later when both of our girls were out of college and working, we all managed to get the same week off during the summer, and we rented a place on Cape Cod. Once again, we brought our bikes, and together, we leisurely traveled along the path that parallels the Cape Cod Canal. I remember the day was bright, warm, and beautiful, and I remember that day even more fondly now because it was our last bike ride as a family of four. Our older daughter, Maria, died about six months later after a short battle with cancer, and her bike has been riderless since. Naturally, we still grieve her loss, but the wonderful memories of our shared bicycle adventures take away some of her death’s sting.
So what will we do with our old friends, now no longer needed? We’ll probably give them to a nearby family or donate them to a local charity. Before we do so, though, we will likely take them out for one last ride, one final farewell, with, naturally, ice cream cones afterwards.