When I was six years old I had a shiny new bike that my mother let me ride anywhere at any time. That bike was the ticket to freedom. It was the best way to have fun and explore the town.
The best time of the day was an early summer morning. Temperature swings in North Dakota could be quite extreme – especially in the mornings. Early on the air was cool, and at that time of day the air seemed almost humid. As the sun rose higher, the greens of the trees and grass seemed to change by the minute. The sun poked through the trees and the heat of summer started to show. By late afternoon the heat stopped any active bike riding. I rode early, in the cool summer air.
As I rode south along fifth avenue those mornings towards Klaus Park I could see plenty of trees – and several places where the sun poked through the thick leaves. Riding slowly along the street I emerged from the cool of early green and humid spring to the faded green of summer heat and sun. Early in the day I’d aim for the sunny spots, but by lunch time the shade got more and more inviting. Riding along slipping between sun and shade was an exercise in too cold and too hot!
Those mornings were the gateway to the rest of the day when I rode east on second street, across the bridge to explore Jamestown. Even the summer heat didn’t keep me home.
Life was different in the fifties in that small town. It seemed like a little kid could go anywhere. By the time I was nine it felt like I knew the entire town. At least I thought so. I clearly remember thinking that you could blindfold me and plop me down anywhere in the town and I’d know just where I was by what the houses looked like. That may have been hyperbole, but it sure felt true to this nine-year old kid.
That feeling of bicycling freedom has stuck with me ever since. In the seventies I often rode my bike to work. In the eighties a bunch of us guys rode miles and miles in what we called the Tri-County Tailwind Tour. (I’ll tell you those stories later. They were a lot of fun!) Then there was the Zumbro Zig Zag triathlon with my buddies and with my son Lon. That was even more fun. Now I’m looking at the bike hanging in the garage thinking it would be fun to get it off the hooks and go for a spin along the trails in Rochester.
There must be a part of town that’s new to me.
There are a couple of interesting things in the first photo. On the left is a goldfish pond Louie built. Behind that are some very tall lilies. The building with the wavy roof behind me is the rabbit hutch. We ate a lot of rabbit in those days.
The second photo shows Louie on the Second Street bridge, the bridge I crossed at least four times a day back and forth to school at Franklin. My buddies and I spent a lot of time on that bridge. From the looks of it, so did Louie.
Last winter I took a Community Education class in memoir writing. One of the assignments Jen gave us was to take eight minutes and write about our earliest memory. This is the result of that exercise … with a little editing and expansion to make it interesting.