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New Beginnings on Two Wheels

Story ID:3664
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Various Various USA/Canada
Year:2004
Person:Myself
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I could use comments on this one. I wrote it for a
bicycling magazine who responded favorably
to a query I sent them.

I want to get it right before submitting it to them
Mike

New Beginnings on Two Wheels

We gathered in the middle of Central Park in Manhattan. A friend from my
spinning class had invited me to join him and thirty other bicyclists from the New York
Cycle Club for a fifty-mile ride to Nyack, NY and back.

At the allotted time, as a group, we headed north through the park. The towering
trees that lined the road muffled sounds. The tranquility of our surroundings, made it hard
to believe we were in the center of one of the world’s largest cities.

We exited the park. The noise of the city washed over us. The roar of traffic
and blaring horns, amplified by the towering skyscrapers, hurt my ears. We rode through
concrete cannons, dodged potholes and traffic, made our way to the George Washington
Bridge and headed to the New Jersey side of the mighty Hudson River. As we crossed the bridge, I looked south. Manhattan stretched away from us. The Empire State building
towered over it all. In the distance, the Statue of Liberty, at the mouth of the river,
beckoned to the tired and poor.

I stopped, stared and wondered aloud. “How did I end up here?” I was miles from
the tiny fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada, where I grew up.

*********************

It had coaster brakes and only one gear. My two older brothers used it before me.
The twenty-inch, black frame showed its age. It was scratched and nicked from years of
use. I didn’t care. It was mine now.
My tricycle stood by the front steps of our house – forgotten.

In the front yard, I held the handlebars, swung my right leg over, and settled
myself onto the seat. I leaned to one side, with one foot supporting me. I looked around,
made sure no one watched, and kicked off. My feet reached for the pedals and began to
pump. After a few wobbly yards, I fell and landed in the grass on my shoulder. I jumped
up, brushed myself off, got back on the seat, and promptly fell again.

A week later, I didn’t wobble or fall, as I followed the beaten trail I’d created in
the grass.

I was free.

I was flying.

It was the beginning of a life-long passion.

*********************

At that time, my bike was just a means of getting around the Nova Scotia fishing
village where I grew up. It was transportation to-and-from the local swimming hole. It
took me to my grandparent’s house and around our small village to visit friends.

In my teens, I rode it to the local store to pick up things for the workers at the fish
plant near my home. “Mike, go to the store and get me a lunch-cake.” A worker yelled.

Another worker chimed in. “Mike, while you’re there, can you get me a bottle of
Coke?”

In return, they gave me a nickel, a dime, and on rare occasions, a quarter. I saved
it all and bought one of the first 10-speeds in my village. It expanded my horizons. Four
times a week, I rode twenty miles along the winding and hilly coast of Nova Scotia to
the city of Halifax and back.

*********************

I’d left my wife and children behind in Nova Scotia to sell the house and moved
to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, the oldest incorporated city in Canada.

I grabbed my bike and headed downtown. I turned a corner, shifted gears, and
went back in time. Behind me were modern buildings. In front were buildings dating
back hundreds of years – many renovated into modern offices. As I pedaled along the
streets, some paved with cobblestones, I glanced to my left. Tied to the dock was a
cruise ship. Horse-drawn wagons pulled passengers up the hill to the center of the
city.

I biked in a new direction. I found myself on a bridge over a gorge. Below me,
the tide rushed into the Saint John River, and rolled up and over the famous “Reversing
Falls”.

During low tide, the river slips over a 5 foot drop, but at the rising of the tide,
the ocean forces its way through the gorge, and pushes the river back over the falls,
creating white water turbulence.

I settled onto my seat and looked down. The water churned below me. Once
again, my bike allowed me to explore new surroundings.

*******************************

A cool breeze blew through the window of our bedroom. I stirred and held my
wife tight, but knew something else called me. My bicycle waited. It was time to ride and
explore another new city.

I crawled from bed, filled my water bottle, pulled on my bike shorts and T-shirt,
and went downstairs. I left one love behind and slinked to another.

The garage door rumbled open. It was 6 AM. Birds sang from the treetops. The
rising sun turned the wispy clouds pink. My latest bike leaned against the wall of our
garage. I slipped on my new biking shoes, rolled the bike outside, checked the tire
pressure, and shut the garage door.

I held the handlebars, swung my right leg over, settled onto the seat, and clipped
my new bike shoes into the pedals. I pushed off, and felt the power of my first bike shoes.
I could pull and push. I had power!

I rolled to the first stoplight. It turned red. I stopped, attempted to put my foot
down, struggled, realized I was clipped in, and fell to the street on my shoulder.
Unfortunately, it was in front of a busy McDonalds’ restaurant. I watched the patrons
laugh, as I climbed back on and pedaled away.

A crossroad faced me. I turned left, not knowing where I was going. In the
distance I saw the skyscrapers of Columbus, Ohio. It didn’t look too far away. “I need to
check it out.” I said to know one, rubbing my sore shoulder. ”It doesn’t look too far
away.”

The towering buildings dwarfed me. The main street of Columbus was deserted
at that time of morning. I stared up at the buildings and wondered, “How the heck did a
little boy from Nova Scotia end up here?”

*******************************************

A ship’s horn blared and brought me back to reality. In the distance, Manhattan,
Jersey City, and the cities that hugged the Hudson River stretched into the distance.

“Hey!” A biker shouted. “You’re blocking the way.”

“Sorry!” I apologized.

“Pay attention!” They called back as they pedaled away.

I followed them across the George Washington Bridge. We crossed into
New Jersey, turned left, rolled down a steep hill and entered the Palisades Park. In a few
minutes we were under the bridge. I looked back and saw the skyline of Manhattan.
Ahead of me were the cliffs of the Palisades.

I don’t know how I ended up here, but I knew I would climb those cliffs and
go wherever my two wheels would take me.

I was free.

I was flying.

There were new beginnings ahead.