Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boys And Bicycles: Every Ride Is A Mission

Dale Matson

Yesterday Grandpa Dale, Grandma Sharon and grandsons Jamo (age 7) and Max (age 5) went for a bike ride. Grandma (didn’t get the memo) was on a road bike. I was on a mountain bike and the boys were on ‘dirt bikes’ (they were mountain bikes too but the boys preferred the name ‘dirt bike’).

We headed through the neighborhood toward the San Joaquin River passing the homes of the Sierra Sky Park airport. Grandma took the lead because she knew the route. Jamo was 2nd, Max 3rd and I was in the back. The ride also took us past huge dirt mounds that needed to be conquered a few times like moguls on a ski hill.

My vantage point allowed me to see boys being boys and to recapture that for myself for a few miles. The pace line was more like a slithering snake. Curbs meant to channel water became jump ramps. Grandma frequently turned around to admonish and caution the lads. Parked cars were obstacles to be avoided narrowly and at the last second. Max taught himself to climb the steepest hill by peddling standing up after walking his bike up the hill the first two times. Jamo dismounted his trusty steed on the fly allowing it to continue rolling into the brush. He began to throw rocks at and over Max and gramps as they passed by on numerous laps. Jamo said, “They're just dirt clumps grandma” when she scolded him for throwing rocks at us. She told me to be careful and I complained back, “I'm not a 7 year old!” Both boys enjoyed heading down the hill at top speed and hitting the brakes hard. It created a 20 foot skid mark with the bikes sideways to the hill at the end.

They didn't avoid the mud puddles and had wet streaks on the middle back of their respective superhero shirts, created by the rooster tails of the fender-less rear wheels. Only grandpa had the chutzpah to descend the steep abandoned road down to the river. (I have disc brakes) The rest parked their bikes in the bushes above.  Charlie, their dad showed up on a cruiser bike as all of us reached the top of the hill again.

On the return leg, Max practiced riding one handed most of the way while Jamo decided it was time to challenge gramps to a drag race. We took off and he was with me until we reached 15 mph with Jamo’s pedal cadence about 140 rpm. I finally pulled ahead and passed him far enough to let him know who was the boss biker.  Soon he caught up to me again with the rest almost out of sight to the rear. He gave me the look that said, “Let’s do this again” and again we were off with the same results. I might not be able to beat him next year. I may have talked a little trash at that point but I don't remember for certain.

This is written for many reasons but there is an underlying message about boys here. What boys do naturally is a part of who they are. They are not like little girls. In this journey… this pilgrimage, they are testing themselves and those they are with. They are fine tuning skills on this latest quest. They are simply not going through the motions. This is not treated as an adult would see it. It is not a duty ride to burn calories.

And gramps was trail sweep and rear guard most of the time. He was making sure all were accounted for on this mission toward manhood.

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