At times the world around us seems to be changing at a pace that some of us older folks might have a hard time keeping up with. Change is always inevitable but in this world of change some things remain constant; the excitement in a child’s eyes when they catch their first fish or see a deer standing at the edge of a forest. The wonders of nature still hold many mysteries for a child to explore that they won’t discover sitting in front of a computer or TV. This is a world that we as adults can introduce them to through hunting, fishing or camping. Taking them on a long bike ride on one of the many trails that we have in this great state is a great way to get close to nature and the great outdoors.
As an adult I have never been a great bike enthusiast but I can see where it could be very enjoyable, not to mention a great way to exercise. What better way to get that close to the outdoors feeling than to ride a bike on a beautiful summer’s day. Can you see where I’m going with this? Welcome spring and summer!
As a kid growing up north of town I didn’t have the luxury of going from point A to point B in a car or SUV; my usual mode of transportation was walking or my trusty bike. As I grew older I was allowed to venture further away from the homestead on my bike and eventually take a trek to town or to a friend’s house a few miles away.
The first bike that I had was an old Schwinn that had belonged to my Uncle Lloyd. It was one that had come equipped with a headlight and I am sure it was the Rolls Royce of bikes in its day. At the time I was actually too small to ride it and it was pretty rusty which must have curbed my enthusiasm to try riding it. I never did ride that bike much but looking back it would probably bring a good price on American Pickers. On one of my birthdays I finally got a bike that I could ride, a brand new Coast-to-Coast bike that was shiny new and just my size. I had to learn to ride a bike on the grass in my yard and on the gravel road that ran alongside our house because I was forbidden to ride on the blacktop.
As I grew older I was eventually allowed to ride it to town. On one of my trips I had stopped at Russell’s Toyland to check out the latest race cars and Army men and when I came out someone had stolen it! I was devastated to say the least but after a few days it was found by someone and turned in to the Police Station. Whoever had taken it took the time to slash the tires before dumping it in the lake. For a naive country boy who was surrounded with kids that always respected one another’s property this was a serious blow to my trust in human nature. Those darned city kids anyway!
Getting back to the fun of bike riding it was a way of being independent and opened up a whole new world. I can’t remember how many times I would ride to my friend Jim Foleys place and spend a Saturday playing in the hay barn or exploring some nearby woods or creek. This was indeed a great way to spend a day and thanks to my bike I felt like I could go just about any place that I wanted to. Hammer Road was gravel at the time so that was always a little challenging if you happened to hit a mound of loose gravel.
Having a bike to ride to town opened up a whole new outdoors world for me. I would grab my fishing pole, put a small container of sinkers and hooks in my pocket and dig some earth worms for bait. An old Buss fuse box would usually hold enough hooks and sinkers to last the day. I would carry the worms in an old tin can and with nail and hammer I’d put a hole on opposite sides so that I could make a handle with a piece of baling wire so that it would fit over my handle bars.
I don’t know how many times that I came home with my prized stringer of dead bullheads and sunfish in tow. My mother would roll her eyes when she saw the stringer but would clean the fish with me after making sure that we only kept the “fresh” ones. The rest of them were buried in the garden in the back yard. I can remember how proud I felt when riding along Bridge Avenue with a stringer of bullheads dangling from the handle bars. I eventually figured out that keeping those fish wasn’t as much fun as catching them and releasing them for another time. Those were just simpler times with kids making their own fun with what they had available to them. What we had available to us back then was what nature has given us and the challenge to use our imagination. For as much as things are different today we still have plenty of opportunities to step away from all of our electronic toys and take a little time to enjoy our natural resources. We really do need to pause and spend a little quality outdoors time with our youth because they hold the future of the outdoors in their hands.
Until next time, get out and enjoy the outdoors and start making a few memories of your own.
Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.