Some call me The Cycling Dude.
I am grateful for the bicycle.
The bicycle, in one form or another, has been around since the early 19th century, but until the early 20th it was not used for long distance recreation, racing, or commuting purposes, mainly because of not being design for such purposes.
I'm from California, and the smog makes us act weird. It's one reason I took up cycling as a child in the first place (No, not to stay healthy! But, because being a Cyclist, in car mad California is to be the epitome of weird. Well, to some anyway). :-D
By different routes my parents came to California in the late 40's and early 50's.
My Dad by boat and train, and my Mom by car along Route 66.
By the time they met in around 1955/6 both had pretty much forsaken their patriotic duty to learn how to drive & own a car and, instead let their feet do the travellin' and also fell in love with the Bus (sit back, relax, leave the drivin' to us!) at about the time the famous Red Car Trolley Lines snaking out in all directions from downtown Los Angeles were breathing their last (That darn smog flexing its muscles, no doubt!).
I have this vision of my Dad proposing to my Mom, in 1957; on the steps of the front end of the old RTD Line 60G as it sits out in front of the Pomona Train Station.
I never did find out if that was REALLY how it happened. :-D
Anyway, one lazy summer afternoon, or evening, in late June/early July 1959 a future cyclist was conceived, and at 830am on March 5th of the following year I made my grand entrance.
Flash forward 6 months to my first exposure to modes of transportation...
My parents thought that plopping me down on a rocking horse would be cute.
The photo shows a fat, shirtless baby, in diapers, and straw hat, with a look on his face that practically screams, "Hi Ho, Silver, NO WAY!"
Must have been early in the month, because there is also a picture of me in the first and ONLY car I've ever owned...
A cute little number (the car, not the girl in the passenger seat with me!) that was a bright red.
I'm shirtless & wearing a Hard Hat, & the girl has the straw hat, & we seem to be having a fine time tooling around the drive way in our jalopy. :-D
Neither the girl or the car made a lasting impression with me, and it wasn't until my 2nd Birthday that my parents made another attempt at getting me interested in transportation matters.
My very first bike!
There I am, happy as a pig in slop, wearing a light brown shirt, with dark brown pants, the wind in my hair, a rakish smile on my lips, pedaling my little red Tricycle down the driveway, hell bent for leather, and not a traffic cop in sight!!
Flash forward again, and it's May of 1965, and I have been tooling around for 3 months on my newest wheels....
The picture shows yet another red number, this time with front and rear fenders, and.. TA DA! Yes!! TRAINING WHEELS!!!!
Whoo Hoo! Same driveway, same smile, the wind in my hair, and STILL no cop in sight! :-D
I don't know what model bikes these first 2 were, but it was apparent that I was hooked on cycling, despite the brief fling with a skateboard, 1 1/2 years later, that ended with the board disappearing due, I learned 20 years later, to my Dad fearing for the life of his only son at the hands of the infernal contraption. :-D
By May 1968 the training wheels were long gone, and I had my first Schwinn.
Yes, it, too, was red.
A long, wide, white saddle...
And obscenely U-shaped handle bars that would look perfectly at home on some weight machine, at LA Fitness, being used by some Arnold Schwartzenwhatshisname wanna-be to lift 500 lbs. doing Preacher Curls or something.
Same driveway, same smile, no cops.....
The cop showed up that summer.....
Early summer, 1968....Vietnam, Kennedy, King, Chicago, and Claremont, Ca.
A boy and his bicycle are out for a ride, and a neighborhood bully turns a jump rope into a lasso and snags the back wheel of the boy’s bike. The boy falls and bangs his head on the hard, hot, concrete, and a police car turns the corner, at that exact moment, & thus an officer of the law snatches the boy in his arms, puts him in the back seat and roars off to Pomona Valley Hospital.....
I remember little Andy French, to this day, as being so horrified by his actions that he later apologized and we briefly became friends until I moved away before the summer was over.
I remember, vaguely, being in a room at the hospital, under some device that scanned my head to see if my intelligence had raised or dropped a notch or 2 due to my collision with the pavement, or something to that effect.
My parents were scared to death, but I lived, and even was smart enough to later go to college. :-D
1969 saw us move to a house in Pomona, Ca. that my family owned for the next 28 years.
From my pre-school days until I was about 10 years old the various bicycles I owned were used for recreation around my home, or immediate neighborhood.
In my photo collection there are NO pictures of me on a bicycle until June 1993.
I remember having a 3-speed, thru Junior High, and 3 10-speeds from high school thru the 1980's, but don't ask me to tell you the models, or their colors because I can't remember. I rode the bikes to the library, the store, work, the movie theatre, and similar events. I knew about bike lanes, but if you had told me there were other places to ride a bike than a public street I wouldn't have believed you, even as an adult in the early 80's.
It was in the early 1990's that I bought my first Mountain Bike. It was an Acapulco Giant, and was white. My baby sister had been a long distance runner in high school in the mid 80's and in summer 1993 she told me of a path around nearby Puddingstone Lake used by runners, walkers, and cyclists. So I started, once a week, riding from our house to, and around the lake, and back home, a 10 mile ride, and I found that I loved it! :-D
Sometime over the next 2 years I developed an interest in riding my bike further afield, and it was that interest that led me to books by Don and Sharron Brundidge, describing a huge selection of cycling journeys one could take throughout Southern California..
In a small, but significant, way my recreational life was about to change forever.....
The riding solo and with my sister gave me the urge to explore further afield, so I did, using my home as the starting and ending point of each journey. I also continued to ride my bike to work as well. In early 1995 I got it into my head to bring a camera along & take pictures of what I encountered along the way on these jaunts. So, in March, I headed up San Dimas Canyon Road alongside the creek, and into the mountains to the dam. Round trip about 20 miles or so.
I was in heaven! I had this burning desire to hit the road on some of my days off. Especially once I discovered, in these books and later others, a paved beach trail in Long Beach, and the San Gabriel River and Santa Ana River Bike Trails.
But there was one problem: How in the hell was I to get to & from these bike rides?
Fortunately for me 3 of the areas Mass Transits had added, and were about to add bike racks to the front of their busses. That spring an idea hit me: If I can get there by bus, & get home by bus, riding far afield would be a piece of cake!
My adventures have taken me to such places as Route 66 in San Bernardino, Turnbull Canyon near Whittier and Hacienda Heights, and Carbon Canyon in Chino. I loved riding along the expanse of San Gabriel River, Santa Ana River, and Los Angeles River Bike Trails. I've travelled 40 miles from Pasadena to Pomona, 45 miles from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, 45 miles from Pomona to Lake Elsinore, and 66 miles along the coast of Santa Monica and Malibu, twice.
I discovered the joys of the Mountains by riding along Highway 39, Glendora Ridge, & Mount Baldy Road. I've explored San Pedro, and the Los Angeles, & Long Beach Harbor areas, the Santa Ana River Trail from Huntington Beach to Montrose (over 80 miles) and the Pacific Coast from Malibu to Camp Pendleton, south of San Clemente
I've participated in several Acura LA Bike Tours, The LAPD Patrol Benefit Fun Ride, The LA City Fun Ride, a protest ride at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles (Major mistake that almost got me arrested!), with the last of my Mtn. Bikes, and more.
One thing I've learned over the years is that a Mountain Bike is the worst bike to ride for a road cyclist. I switched, a decade, or so, ago, to what is known as a hybrid (Specialized Sirrus Sport) and haven't looked back. Hybrids are part Mtn. Bike, part racing bike, and the best bike for road riding a recreational cyclist could want, in my humble opinion.
I am grateful to my bicycling for being one of my earliest inspirations for my taking up blogging, in 2002, as The Cycling Dude (Begun Jan. 2003) was one of the earliest bike blogs in the USA and the world, and though I ended it in Fall 2010, I still write about my cycling on this blog.
My cycling related writing helped me grow as a writer, journalist, commentator, essayist, product reviewer, photographer, humorist, poet and storyteller, catching the attention of many people over the years, including those higher up the blogging, publishing, product marketing, political, and journalism food chains, from time to time, even taking on issues (Share the road!) and organizations (Critical Mass, whose founder I annoyed.), and being asked to speak to the oldest cycling club west of the Mississippi River, in Riverside, Ca..
While readership was miniscule, and nothing else ever came of it, career-wise, I learned a lot, and made more than a few friends.
Now that I am in Houston I look forward to exploring the city and Harris County by bike, camera and notepad in tow, as the chance presents itself, and writing about my adventures.
NOTE: Parts of this essay were adapted from a longer, 4 part, series originally written in 2003, during the first month I began bike blogging, and updated for purposes of this post.