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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Roll on, Columbia, Roll on...


Make: Columbia

Model: Adult female
Year: Vintage
Options: 3-Speed on the handlebars

Braking: Hand brake, fore and rear wheels

Extras: fore, port, and rear wheel reflectors

Condition: Previously owned, not great, but satisfactory...well, at least functional

Price: Practically a steal at $50.00

Eccentricities: an asthmatic wheeze that an oilcan has not yet been able to stifle

Gladys came to our family by accident and goodwill. Our daughter Marika and past boyfriend enjoyed cycling together, but because she did not own a bike, she borrowed his mother's. Mother enjoyed bike riding, too, so oftentimes her bike was unavailable. We decided to surprise Marika and purchase a bike for her very own. We found what we thought was a bargain ride at the bike shop in town. Cash exchanged hands and the bike came home with us.

I must admit we weren't quite prepared for the reaction to our gift. When she finally regained her breath after a lengthy fit of laughing, Marika said the bike looked like a "Gladys," and so Gladys she became. She also became mine by default and derision because in those days of peer pressure and fancy mountain bikes, she was not about to be seen mounted on such an embarrassment.

That was years ago, and a new rear wheel and a replaced left pedal later, she still faithfully hauls me down valley and back. By pure coincidence, I guess, my first full size bike was also a Columbia, a bulky behemoth with a thirty-six inch wheel base and cartoonish balloon tires. (Classy whitewalls!) I was so proud of that bike, a two-tone red and white, with its rusted out fender light and horn button on the "console"that continued silent no matter how many new batteries you tried, no matter how hard you pressed. It was a man's bike and a bit beyond my ability in those days. And just as Gladys now, it had the unpredictabilty of a Missouri mule, who in the words of William Faulkner "... would work patiently for you for twenty years for the chance to kick you once." A patch of sand, at slower speeds, would brake you to a halt. At any speed in the same patch, the bike would whip, fishtail,and dump you, leaving you nursing barked elbows, and spitting sand for days. That bike threw me several times; Gladys just once...but she is a patient lady and waits--I know she waits. I grant her her whims, however, because she allows me to tour the entire Tualco Loop in a convenient amount of time, time I could not otherwise afford if I had to walk the same route.

Today spits rain. Gladys and I don't like to venture out in it, but today we are anxious to inspect the repaired bridge over Riley Slough. I saw Miss Sheri Miedema at Safeway this morning where she works and brightens up the place. (Yes, Sheri is still "Miss Miedema," but I will continue to inquire from time to time.) Her grandparents live in the Valley south west of the bridge. She had visited them the day before, a day before the bridge was to be finished, and said the work crew was just taking down the signs then. Surprise! Finished a day early in spite of all those work breaks.

Gladys and I ride onto the bridge, gliding smoothly over the new asphalt ramp onto the solid wood deck. The egress south is less than smooth: the County guys have left a roadwidth depression two inches or so deep and four feet wide. Gladys stumbles across it. "Motorcycles take Extreme Caution." No kidding! The bridge deck is a big improvement, but to me, it looks like the job's not finished yet. There's that hole to fill. And certainly the county boys can afford the time to powerwash those slime-covered guardrails and paint 'em. And while you're at it, crew, for heaven's sake! Clean up those unsightly beer cans!

It is with complimentary parody, I pose Gladys mid bridge just as Neal Peart poses his BMW bike mid road preceding each chapter of Ghost Rider, his solo cross-continent version of Easy Rider. Then we head home to get out of the rain.

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1 comment:

  1. Gladys just has a presence Mr. Peart's bike lacks.