There is beauty in silence and there is silence in beauty and you can find both on a bicycle!
When I was a kid in Kenosha, Wisconsin, our bicycles were our life lines to the world. From the age of eight, and on into high school we depended on our bikes for both work and recreation.
Many of us had paper routes as kids. My brother and I had bikes equipped with side baskets to carry the papers to our customers. After our paper routes were done, we’d often go fishing or swimming in Lake Michigan or the Lincoln Lagoon. (Fishing only) The side baskets in our bikes would now contain our fishing poles, bait and tackle boxes, and/or our swimming trunks and towels.
My dad worked part time at Tyson’s Sporting Goods Store, repairing bicycles. He also repaired bikes at home for all the neighborhood kids and anyone else who asked. Repairing bikes was more of a hobby for him and he did it mostly free of charge.
Many of us rode our bikes to school, weather permitting. We’d lock them in the bike racks and sometimes tear home on them for lunch. The kind of bike you had would add or subtract to your standing in the school hierarchy. Those of us with old balloon tire tanks, sucked wind compared to those who had the thin tired speedsters. And if you were a rich kid with one of the new ten speeds, you were golden!
After a few years my dad cobbled up a couple of thin tire bikes for my brother and I. One speed, coasters, they were much faster (and cooler) than our old balloon tire tanks. We painted them ourselves and added accessories like fancy pedals and better seats. A few of our neighborhood buddies were quite industrious, enhancing their bikes all the time. It was hard to keep up with them, but we tried.
Besides swimming and fishing nearby, we also took many long bike trips, usually during the hot summer days. Carol Beach was one of our favorite spots and we’d ride all the way down to where Joe Louis had his home when he trained in Kenosha, back in the day. We’d spend a couple hours swimming the beaches along there and then head home.
Sometimes we’d ride our bikes all the way out to Paddock Lake in Kenosha County. Highway 50 wasn’t nearly so busy back then and it wasn’t a bad ride. Whenever we’d take these long rides to swimming spots, we’d be completely air dried long before we got back.
One kid in our neighborhood had relatives on Lake Shangri-la, in Kenosha County. We’d ride out there, taking highway C, almost all the way. It took quite awhile to get there and had a couple of killer hills along the way, but was always a good time. The kid whose relatives we went to see had a “stiff hub” set-up on his bike. That meant the hub and pedals turned constantly, with no opportunity to coast. The bikes that had them were fast, but it was a bear pedaling them non-stop for those long distances. When going down steep hills he had to take his feet off the pedals as they spun so fast.
Our other destinations included Simmons Beach, Pikes Creek, Petrified Springs, and the Teapot Woods. If there were no places to lock our bikes, we had to keep an eye on them, and sometimes they would still get swiped. When that happened, we would all go looking for the culprits and try to get the bike back as quick as we could. Usually, the bikes were stolen by other local kids, and after a few days we’d find the stolen bike abandon somewhere. Sometimes we’d find them damaged and would have to do some repairs, other times we’d find them with wheels or other parts missing.
Riding to school one day, I managed to get hit by a car. I banged up my knee a little and totaled my bike. Taking full advantage of the opportunity for sympathy benefits, I got Dad to build me a newer, better bike in just a few weeks.
Despite a few accidents, thefts and other mishaps we had a great time riding our bikes, all over Kenosha and Kenosha County. I still ride today, although with a “Grandpa” style bike…and the rides are pretty short. 😊
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