The Early Days - Taring Down the Coast - CycleBlaze

The Early Days

Miles from anyone and anywhere

Some early history of my bicycles and childhood is necessary to explain why this teenager who just got his driver's license would decide to spend his first “driving summer” riding a bicycle down the Pacific Coast of the United States.  For me the bicycle was and remains to this day a form of personal freedom  and liberation.  I grew up in a farming area of unincorporated Los Angeles County, California with a 220 degree unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean and no smog.  Don't bother looking it up on Google Maps it no longer exists.  Today it is called Rancho Palos Verdes with multi-million dollar McMansions trying to look like Spanish colonial haciendas with their pink tile roofs and faux stucco over oriented strand board made to look like weathered adobe.  I prefer the littoral metaphor of giant Hollywood barnacles encrusted on the cliffs, hillsides and fields where I hunted rabbits and rattlesnakes, fished, dove for abalone and lobster, and as a child helped the farmers with their harvests in the summer.  This rural coastal outpost was covered with garbanzo bean fields, Nisei Japanese flower farms overlooking the ocean.  

My childhood home was a vastly different place and time: Bob the "milkman" would on occasion drive me to my nearest friend's house some four miles south and his next stop.  Me sitting on a stack of empty milk crates eating a cup of Adohr chocolate ice cream, "Adohr milk for Adohr-able babies."  When I got my first "coaster bike" my mother would send me off riding to my friend's house with our family dog running alongside me for company and protection.  From that time on, the bicycle was synonymous with adventure, freedom and independence.  My first two-wheeler was a diminutive Western Flyer with no brakes and a fixed gear, then the "one speed" Columbia coaster bike, which became a few birthdays later a Sears Roebuck JC Higgins "English Racer" with three-speeds, hand brakes and "narrow racing tires”.  Not long after my older brothers told me of their friend who had put something called a "de-railer" on his bike and now had five speeds and could ride the steepest of hills with ease.  Cycling moved pretty fast from there.  

The nearest bike shop, Smiths, was some twelve to fifteen miles from my home.  Taking my English Racer in for repairs I would walk by rows new Schwinn ten speed Continentals - $95.00.  I paid for half and my mom paid for half.  By eighth grade my schoolmates and I had a bicycle club and rode to our Catholic elementary school, some 35 kilometers round trip, one day a week.

Marymount Grade School Bike Club - photo by Sister Matthew, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Marymount Grade School Bike Club - photo by Sister Matthew RSHM
Marymount Elementary
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