Author: Wesley Kemp
Educator: Geri Beckman
Riding a bicycle is a skill that is difficult to learn, and yet, the skill is also one that you do not forget since it is often the first step to mobility freedom. Freedom does not come without the cost of pain and adversity in form of scraped knees and bruised elbows. The “Red Rocket” was my ride to freedom.
While living in Lamoure, my parents tried to shop locally as often as they could - and my new bike purchase was no different. With my tennis shoes tied and my little sister strapped into her stroller, my mom and I headed out to peruse the selection of bicycles at the local hardware store. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning and couldn’t wait to see what the backroom of the hardware store contained. I anxiously waited for the store owner, Brad, to finish with another customer before he took me by the hand to finally select my chariot. Brad showed me big bikes and little bikes, purple bikes, blue bikes, bikes with baskets, and bikes with bells. With so many selections, I didn’t think I would ever be able to select my new ride. Until with a twinkle in his eye that resemble Santa, Brad rolled my perfect ride from behind a twenty-speed bike. With dark black wheels just my size, the bike was a dark crimson with yellow words, which I couldn’t yet read. Brad told me that the bike was the “Red Rocket” and would allow me to fly down the hill from my house to the local park. With confidence, I wheeled my new chariot out to the main floor of the store where my mom and little sister were waiting patiently. My mom paid for the “Red Rocket” as well as new helmet. Unfortunately, my mom wouldn’t let me try riding my bike home and made me wait patiently for my dad to arrive home from school.
It wasn’t long before my dad was walking through the gate and admiring my new bike. With helmet in strapped tightly in place, my mom gave me one last warning, “Be careful. Watch where you are going and make sure to keep your hands on the handlebars.” (I had developed a habit of riding my old tricycle with no hands, so the reminder was probably needed.) With a push of my left foot, I began with a shaky start but was soon a speeding bullet riding down the gravel alley. The wind rushed through the holes on my new helmet, and I felt like I was speeding along without a care in the world. My newly found freedom was exhilarating - for a short moment anyway before being replaced with terror. An obstacle had suddenly jumped into the path of the “Red Rocket” as a pine tree suddenly appeared before me. A towering rugged timber, the tree was filled with a thick layer of needles and low lying branches. Frantically, I tried to swerve to avoid a stout limb and briefly celebrated my success in avoiding a terrible collision. Unfortunately, I over-corrected the “Red Rocket” and steered directly into the trunk. Crash! The “Red Rocket” slammed into the tree as I screamed “ OOOOOOOOO Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy.” From near the driveway, my mom came rushing to the site of the accident. As I cried from the intense pain and the sight of my blood, my mom carried me back up the alley to our own driveway. Although I was sure I had ridden far from home on my voyage, I hadn’t even made it to the end of the block.
My mom sent me to the house to clean up while she retrieved the “Red Rocket” from under the tree. As I cleaned my hands and face, I gazed into the mirror to assess my injuries. With just a few scratches and bruises, I had managed to escape my collision relatively unscathed. Satisfied with myself, I smiled into the large glass mirror and was suddenly shocked by a crater in my right cheek. Where did this dent come from? I ran to find my parents to report the damage to my face - which I was sure was a permanent injury. My father responded, ”The dent in your face must have been caused by running into the tree.¨ Although I had stopped crying already, I began to whimper again as I feared a facial deformity. Soon, I began to howl as the thoughts began to pour into my head. I knew from experience that kids can be mean and feared about being made fun of for a hole in my cheek. I chastised myself for going so fast on my first solo ride. After seeing my distress, my mom said, “Honey, you have always had a dent in your check. It’s just a dimple.” Although I wanted to believe her, how could I have never noticed a dent in my cheek before today? Pictures from my baby book were found, and my parents eventually got me to calm down by proving to me that my dimple had always been there.
After my “horrific” experience on my first ride, I waited until the next afternoon to attempt to ride my bike again. I had learned my lesson the day before and carefully took my time to get ready for my second ride. I was more cautious when I took off from the safety of my garage. I creeped down the gravel alley. In fact, I traveled so slowly that I began swaying and wobbling. I swerved desperately to try to keep my balance. Although I missed the pine tree from the day before, I met up with a telephone pole instead. Crash! My bike fell to the dusty jagged gravel with me underneath it. The pain of yesterday was forgotten as I was now in more pain than before. This time, my dad was there to carry me back home as I continued to cry into his shoulder.
Although my speed was much less than the day before, I wasn’t as lucky; my legs were gushing blood from scrapes that looked like tenderized meat. My skin was red and covered with jagged rocks that were digging into my skin. When I got home, my mother made me take a bath to clean up the cuts and gently removed the little pieces of rock and gravel from my scrapes. I whimpered quietly.
The “Red Rocket” sat in the garage for a few weeks after that second day of riding. I wasn’t sure that I wanted the freedom if the cost was so high. I had to let my wounds heal up and rebuild my confidence by going back to my little bike with training wheels. Learning to ride a bicycle is the first step to freedom for many young children; however, the newly found freedom often results in lesson of pain and adversity as well. I eventually conquered riding the “Red Rocket,” and soon I was able to ride down the street for an ice cream cone. The lessons learned during the early days of my relationship with the “Red Rocket” have stayed with me still today -- caution is needed when learning new skills; however, persistence does pay off in the end.