Monday, April 11, 2016

How My Great Grandpa's Innovation Made It Possible for Me to Ride a Bike

It's just like riding a bike.  

Whoever coined that phrase - which indicates that a task will be super easy - obviously didn't have CP, am I right?

The picture above (which shows me smiling and posed on a faded and dated Smurf Big Wheel) was a common sight at my great grandparents' house, back in the mid to late 1980's,  One of my sister's and my favorite things to do was to ride our bikes up and down the sidewalk in front of their house.  

There was only one problem:

While I could reach the pedals, I had no way to ensure my feet would stay on the pedals for more than a single rotation.  Usually, this meant my sis (after doing a lap or two on her purple two-wheeler with training wheels) would come back for me...and push me the entire length of the sidewalk and back, while I tried desperately to keep my feet on the pedals.

My great grandparents tried to come up with solutions.  I have a brief memory of being out on that same sidewalk one sunny morning, with my great grandma.  Instead of riding on the Smurf Big Wheel, she was trying to teach me to ride one of two red and white tricycles (which we had been given the year before, but I had never mastered.)  Grandma tried to encourage me, to hold the tiny, low seat of the trike and encourage me to pedal.  But even a tricycle seemed too unstable for me, and was near impossible for me to ride.  This all changed one magical day when Grandma and Grandpa brought me to the toy store.  (Okay.  It was a store and there were toys there.)

Grandma, Grandpa, my sis and I regularly went grocery shopping together.  They let us try free samples, and indulged us by buying special treats like string cheese and turkey salami, which we didn't get at home. Grandpa even satisfied our curiosity about coconuts on one occasion.  We had heard a rumor via Sesame Street that coconuts had milk inside and we wanted to try it.  Boy, were we thrilled when he and Grandma not only bought it, but broke it open with tools!  We were less excited upon our discovery that coconuts were not, in fact, a secondary secret location for cow's milk...

There was no way I could be disappointed this time, though.  Grandpa and Grandma were taking me to the store to pick out a brand new Big Wheel.  There were not many options - maybe one soft pink and white.  I was not a fan of this option.  Luckily, there was a second.

This one was gray and black.  The tires were real-looking and it had streamers and stickers.  The seat (which had a perfect, high back rest) also sported the coolest fire applique ever.  Riding it would be what I imagined riding a motorcycle might feel like.  I would be tough, and free, with the wind in my hair.  Grandma and Grandpa brought the new Big Wheel home, and Grandpa went down to his shop, which was beyond the playset in their backyard (which was a draw for all the great grandkids.)

I don't remember how long it took.  I don't even remember seeing Grandpa attach the things.  All I remember is seeing my big wheel, suddenly sporting yellow-painted, wood block pedals with black and orange straps to secure my feet.

It made the bike even cooler, in my opinion, because now, I could ride it myself!

I can't tell you how many hours I spent on that thing.  How good I felt being able to pedal up and down the sidewalk by myself.

I did feel like a real grown-up riding a real motorcycle.  The fire sticker made me feel extra tough.  But it was Grandpa's pedals that made me feel free.

Thanks to him, riding a bike felt just like riding a bike.


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