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Ariel Bracken


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Bike Rides 44
Here I Come to Save the Day

For some this can be a difficult holiday, I’m talking about those that don’t have a living father or son with which to celebrate.  I’m fortunate enough to have the former, but may never realize the latter, and I recognize the opportunity before me may not always be there.

I can’t honestly remember taking many bike rides with my Dad, cycling’s never really been his thing.  Don’t get me wrong, we shared a lot of interests, but biking was never really one of them.

However, one amusing bike ride comes to mind from about a quarter century ago, relating to my father.  Dad forgot his lunch in the refrigerator one nice summer day and I was eager for an adventure (things haven’t changed much).  So I called him at the water treatment plant, where he made his living, to see if I might deliver it to him at work, across town, on my bike.   Dad was a little concerned about the noon hour traffic though.

“I can do it, come on, I’ve ridden my bike to school lots a times”.  I pleaded.

“I guess you’re old enough now to handle it” He finally gave in. “If you can get it here in a timely fashion”.

And so, Dad’s empowering confidence in me painted my face with pride and inflated my head with self-assurance.  Eager to prove my worth, and deliver my father’s lunch in a timely fashion, I rolled the top of the brown bag a couple times around the inside handlebar of my ten-speed, Schwinn Varsity and like Mighty Mouse, was off to save the day.  Shifting gears and engaging the brakes while managing the cargo seemed to require the manual dexterity of a classical pianist, but I could do it, Dad even thought so.

Starting on the north end of Main Street and heading south was the only route I knew for certain.  From the Sirloin Stockade (Kuehn Motor now) I shot straight south past Sambo’s restaurant (Johnny’s) and safely by Woolworths (The Coffee House).  I carefully obeyed traffic rules, signs and lights like a republican politician being tailed by a liberal cop while leaving a convention in his Mercedes half drunk. I was sitting up high and proud on my bike seat, prepared to declare the mission accomplished as I reached the top of the hill at the south end of Main Street near the Band Shell (it’s still the Band Shell!).

“It’s all downhill from here.” I thought to myself, carelessly humming a Captain and Tennille song while shifting into high gear.

“I will, I will, I will, I will, be there to share forever…”

And then, just as I was approaching maximum speed, the unthinkable happened.  My front tire spanked a divot in the road, thrashing me and my cargo stiffly.  I tightened my grip instantly, with cheetah pup like reflexes, avoiding a disastrous roll over the urban tundra.  But, the impact sent dad’s lunch crashing right through the condensation dampened bottom of the brown lunch sack, scattering potato salad, bologna and moms chocolate cake over several yards of concrete.  Even if anything was salvageable, it was too dangerous to attempt reconnaissance on the busy street, and I was too embarrassed to try.  I just kept riding with my head hung low, knowing I’d failed my mission by not delivering lunch in a timely fashion and now my father would have to go hungry.

I entered Dad’s lunch room spiritually wounded and morally dejected.  To make matters worse, the place was packed full of city workers, talking and joking over the noon hour.  The room fell silent when I shuffled in slowly, sucking back tears and still clutching the blown out, brown lunch bag in my tight, little, white fist.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what an amusing site this must have been, and why it was completely impossible to hide from them what had happened to my mission to save the day.  The look on my face and what was left of the lunch sack in my hand certainly told the whole story, as my dad’s friendly coworkers offered me soft, supportive back pats while trying to contain their laughter.

For ten years now my grandfather has not been with us to celebrate this day, but I’m here and so is my father and we’re both lucky for that. Between a laugh and a tear, it’s a pleasure for us to share this story with everyone. While my mission to save the day failed miserably twenty five years ago, I’ve at least been able to deliver this message in a timely fashion.

Happy Fathers Day. 

Traffic Tip:  Watch closely for bike trailers this time of year, as their contents are fragile and valuable.



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