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Riding Without Training Wheels


We had a beautiful Sunday here in Champaign-Urbana. Only two weeks ago today there was a foot of snow falling, and now we have 70 degree temps and plenty of sunshine. It was a nice day to do some walking, and so I walked, purposefully. Part of my job as an elected precinct committee person is to get information to voters. I did so this afternoon by dropping-off some campaign literature for various candidates. Hopefully there wasn't much bother to folks, simply putting the lit in their doors, and moving on.

As I meandered up Daniel St., a father and son could be seen on the sidewalk. The son was on a bicycle with training wheels, the father sometimes beside him, sometimes behind him. This was at the portion of Daniel St. that comes to an end right at the front of Westview, my old elementary school. In fact, it is the same school where I learned to ride a bike without training wheels. It's a coincidental reminder of living in the town you grew up in, seeing a father and son and a bike with training wheels so close to where you learned to ride without them.

On a day probably not unlike today, dad and I went over to Westview, on a weekend so as to have some space and privacy. There was a nice expanse of blacktop upon which to ride, surrounded of course by grass and a playground. There Lewis removed the training wheels, and walked next to me as I teetered along with the bicycle. This was a long time coming, as we'd enjoyed several bike rides together, but I was still a bit of a burden until the ride could be properly mastered.

Scared and nervous, I remember uneasily maintaining control of the bike, dad keeping his hand on the back wheel cover for support. Shakiness was the order of the day. "Not today, but perhaps soon," I remember thinking, in regards to mastering a ride without the need of extra wheels. By this time I'd gone off the blacktop and onto the grass, and wondered how much longer Lewis wanted this jaunt to go on. So, I looked back at him, and he was standing on the blacktop! Way, way back there, nothing but an expanse of grass between us.

*THUNK!*

I fell over.

I'll probably never forget that day, along with the smile on dad's face as he watched me way out there on the grass, unwittingly riding on my own, big boy pants fully on without even knowing it. And, yes, I think he laughed when I crashed onto the ground, but that part could just be a trick of memory. Regardless, his plan worked, and I never needed training wheels again.

Years later, I do not ride as much I used to.  A nice green Schwinn, nicknamed 'Kermit,' sits unused and collecting dust in the basement. I should ride it more often. It got a lot of use from 2007-2009, when a friend and I participated in Chicago's World Naked Bike Ride, and when I used to bike to work. I don't do those activities anymore, but perhaps I could get back into the swing of things with some recreational bicycling? Nothing strenuous, mind, maybe just a jaunt across the blacktop and onto the grass.


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