THOSE NOT SO BRAVE DAYS OF YOUTH - CycleBlaze

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THOSE NOT SO BRAVE DAYS OF YOUTH

Leo Woodland

I WAS 10. I know that because of a tune I heard that day. I had a bike with straight handlebars, a mattress saddle, metal mudguards and a hub gear. I was A Cyclist and I was about to set out on my first Great Adventure.

I lived then in north London, in a suburb called Edgware. Why I was going to ride to a place called Rickmansworth, I have no idea. I think I liked the name. Anyway, I came close to pinning a heroic sign - "Rickmansworth or bust!" - to my plastic saddlebag.

The route to Rickmansworth meant skirting London, always in the outer suburbs, and then a sharp drop into a valley. I didn't get that far. I rode through places I had heard of or even been before - Stanmore, Canons Park, even Harrow Weald. But then it became unfamiliar.

Go there now and you'd wonder why. The roads were just the same and there was nothing remarkable about the houses. I wasn't in a camel market or an eastern souk. But it was too much.

I passed Pinner. Six miles, maybe. I stopped at a railway bridge that carried a Tube line north-west from London. And along it came not a smooth-sided, bright red Tube of the sort I knew but a strange thing of everyday carriages towed by a brown motor neither locomotive nor train.

It may not be much to you. It was unsettling for me. So unsettling that I turned and started riding home, after treating my shock with sugared tea and a buttered bun.

There was a juke box in the corner of the café. Someone put on From a Jack to a King. Ned Miller. I don't hear it often but the moment I do I'm taken back to the morning in north London that  a scared little boy realised he wasn't the world traveller he thought.

And how about you? What do you remember?

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2 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo Leo Woodland

At 10 years of age, I was nowhere as mature as you were at that age.  I pedaled everywhere in my small town with my buddies, and I popped wheelies on my banana seat bike, and I thought of myself as being fearless.  I couldn't have imagined riding my bike to other towns though.

What do I remember?  For years, I remembered filming myself doing bike tricks and other things with my dad's 8mm movie camera.  Alas, I believed it was lost forever.

Just last year, my brother found it in my dad's attic.  My other brother got hold of it and had it transferred to a digital format.  Then, to my great surprise, he sent it to me.

I really enjoyed watching it last September, but I seemed a lot less fearless and adventurous than I remembered.  It is with a mix of pride and embarrassment that I'm posting a link to the movie here for its Cycleblaze premier.  No doubt, I was a long way off from being a cycle tourist.


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2 weeks ago
Kathleen JonesTo Gregory Garceau

Oh Greg, this video is priceless. From what I gather from your journals, you have not changed one whit. Adorable goofball kid.

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2 weeks ago
Wayne EstesTo Leo Woodland

My earliest memory of exploring on a bicycle was when I was 11 years old living in the little village of Kirrberg, Germany (in a valley, no church on a mountain). I would pedal forest trails that I discovered, and sometimes end up in a nearby town that I didn't recognize such as Homburg. I lived very near the border with France and hoped one of the trails would lead me into France. But I never found that trail.

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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory Garceau

Unbelievable, although it’s pretty easy to connect the dots to the present Greg incarnation.  What a gift that your dad created and preserved this.  You should add it to your profile page.

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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Gregory Garceau

Wow!  That was spectacular!  You should have been a stuntman!  It definitely provides insight into your bicycle exploits now.

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2 weeks ago
Mark BinghamTo Leo Woodland

I recall one incident shortly after getting a new bike, this one my first "grown up" bicycle. I'm not even sure how old I was... 6? 8 maybe? ? 

It was one of those heavy single speed cruisers with riser handlebars and a metal basket on the front, and I was trying to learn how to ride it. At one point I looked down which, for an experienced cyclist, isn't normally an issue. However, when you're an inexperienced biker riding down the wrong side of the road (granted, there was very little traffic), it's not the most sensible thing to do.

When I looked up, there was a car three feet in front of me. Fortunately, it was parked, but there was no way to avoid it. I slammed into it.

I don't exactly know how it happened but, impossibly, I ended up sitting in the basket with my feet on the hood of the car, precariously balanced. The thing about that position is that there's no way to get out of it without falling, so I just sat there, humiliated, until someone could come to the rescue. 

There was no permanent damage, other than to my ego, and I continued riding that bike until high school.

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1 week ago
Tim McNamaraTo Leo Woodland

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago surrounded by other suburbs of Chicago, just outside of Cook County, riding my bike on suburban streets in the mid to late 1960s. A great adventure for me on my bike was riding the Illinois Prairie Path from my hometown out to Wheaton and back, about a 24 mile round-trip I believe. For a kid who grew up with houses as far as the eye could see on a brutally flat landscape, the Prairie Path felt like wide open adventure even though it was just a reclaimed rail to trail conversion following a defunct commuter rail line connecting Chicago, Aurora and Elgin IL.  Crushed limestone instead of asphalt, a greenscaped buffer on either side and stretches where the trees and plant life blocked out the view of the houses just across the parallel streets, giving the illusion of seclusion from suburban life. I did that ride almost every day all summer long for many summers in a row.  About 15 years ago I rode it again for the first time since the late 70s and just a hint of the old magic was still there.

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1 week ago
Keith AdamsTo Tim McNamara

So, Naperville?  I spent my youth in Burr Ridge.

I had about a six mile radius in which I and my buddies roamed on our two wheeled Freedom Machines of various shapes, sizes, and styles.  We never set off for true excursions, but rode the daylights out of our bikes nonetheless. 

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1 week ago
Tim McNamaraTo Keith Adams

Elmhurst, actually.

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1 week ago