Once upon a time, for Christmas or a birthday, Santa or my parents got me a brand-new shiny blue ten-speed bike. It would replace the red bike with the banana seat that my parents had lovingly restored (and that I wish I still had) and that I had ridden since it had training wheels. This new bike was a grown-up bike and I loved it with all my heart. I rode it to and from school every day and I rode it around town and I rode it to the park and I rode it up and down our cul-de-sac.
One day I forgot to lock it up at school and when I came out for the afternoon, it was gone. I was absolutely devastated and sure I wouldn’t live through the night once my parents learned of my negligence.
I’m sure I got in trouble, but I don’t remember the terms exactly. I do know that we filed a police report, and that I regularly made my parents take me to the Park Building to check out the bike room for a long time after that. Every time we saw a bike that looked a little like mine, we’d go check it out to see if it had any telltale marks on it, and every once in a while, the police would call and say they had a bike that might be mine, and we’d drop everything and rush over and it was never quite right. It wasn’t a ten-speed, or it was the wrong shade of blue, or it was the wrong brand.
When Bike 1.0 was stolen, it had a chain lock wrapped around the post under the seat, since I’d been too lazy to actually use the thing. It was the old-school chain kind wrapped in pinkish-red plastic, and the combination was 2-4-6-1. I remember this because I set it to the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and sang it to myself to memorize it. (Tangent: I often still set numbers to music to memorize them to this very day.)
Some time after Bike 1.0 was stolen, my parents gave me Bike 2.0. I actually think they still have Bike 2.0 stored under their house with the other bikes. Bike 2.0 was the same kind of bike as Bike 1.0, and I think the same brand, but it was a different shade of blue. And I logged many, many miles on Bike 2.0, especially once I started riding two miles each way to my middle school in Colorado every day, but I secretly never loved it the way I’d loved Bike 1.0.
Bike 1.0 and I had a history, a shared checkered past. Because, see, one time I ran away from home for two hours, and it was Bike 1.0 that aided and abetted me.
It was fifth grade. If memory serves, Ginny and I got in a fight over the Sears catalog, and I think I was grounded. I probably hit her and then mouthed off to my parents, which was my go-to brat move in those days, so I’m sure I deserved being grounded. But I don’t think Ginny was grounded, and I was pissed about it, and so I decided that I’d just run away from home that afternoon and that would teach everyone to get mad at me about a stupid Sears catalog.
I was so dedicated to my run-away-from-home plan that I told every single person I knew about it, including Ms. Romshek, my awesome fifth grade teacher. I don’t remember exactly what she said about it, but she did think it was generally a bad idea, and I was sure that if she understood my family circumstances a little better then she wouldn’t be so down on my great plan.
School ended. Ms. Romshek asked me if I was still set on running away, and I told her I was. She said she hoped I wouldn’t miss too much school and I assured her that I’d find a way to show up sometimes, and that even if I missed some school I was sure I’d stay caught up in my classes. I was a good student, after all.
Melissa McCoy agreed to be my partner in crime, and we rode our bikes to the lake. We hung out on the playground for a while, and then she worried that she’d get in trouble with her parents if she didn’t go home soon. She invited me to come to her house for a while but I didn’t want to drag her down into my life of crime if she wasn’t willing to go balls-out and run away with me, so I thanked her for staying as long as she had, and I got on Bike 1.0 and we went our separate ways.
I rode around town for awhile, avoiding First Street because I knew my parents would come looking for me that way. I thought about going to the five and dime but decided against it. I decided to stay off Walnut Street too, and to stay away from Tozer and Mountain View schools even though their playgrounds seemed like good places to chill for a while. Finally, at a loss, I rode to Chimney Park to watch my friend Cody’s soccer practice.
I was sitting on the grass with Bike 1.0 beside me when I saw a cop car cruise by, and I was convinced that they were going to arrest me. I started to freak out and began to rethink my strategy. I was about to give up the ghost and ride on home when my dad pulled into the parking lot. Secretly, I was kind of relieved. Running away, as it turned out, was hard work. You had to figure out where to GO.
I got in major super duper trouble, much more trouble than I’d have gotten into if I had just sucked it up over the Sears catalog incident. My mother was pregnant with Jamie, see, which caused her extra emotional distress over her wayward eldest daughter’s disappearance, which caused my dad the disciplinarian to come down extra hard. I was grounded for like ten years. Bike 1.0 was taken away for an unspecified length of time. And, worst of all, I had to go to school the next day and tell everyone that my running away plan hadn’t exactly worked out as planned.
The most exciting thing that happened in my relationship with Bike 2.0 was when its front brake came loose while I was racing it, causing me to fly over the handlebars and pass out in the middle of the street with the bike on top of me. It hurt like hell, and I had to watch the freakin’ Ten Commandments on TV while I was all banged up, and I always secretly thought that Bike 1.0 would NEVER have thrown me off the way Bike 2.0 did.