Finally, after all these years, the old Schwinn Collegiate model five-speed bike will rest. Not that it has been used much anyway. You see, it’s been hanging around the garage for years and before that, more than a decade in my Dad’s old garden shed. Its action has been limited to one or two short rides around town a year, and sometimes even less.
It squeaks and it groans, the brake pads yelp and the seat didn’t seem to fit me anymore. We’ll just leave it at that.
As a youngster, I had tucked away some allowance money, a birthday check from a couple of kindly aunts and some cash that I earned from mowing some lawns. Finally, during the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years, after months of trying to save up a little money, I had the $79 it took to buy that Schwinn from John Ladner. With the trade-in of my three-year-old, red, single speed, Gamble’s Hiawatha bike that John graciously took in, I was getting the bike of my dreams.
This story has some tragedy, however. That red Hiawatha perished the next spring in the fire that consumed the old Ladner Hardware building in downtown Granite. Even while I was a bit melancholy about my old bike’s fate, I was riding high on that new Schwinn bike and didn’t really think about that old bike anymore. I had five speeds and a bike that worked great. I was set. At least for a while.
In a short time, riding a bike seemed to be less and less of a need and more of a novelty, especially after driver’s licenses became a possibility. We had plenty of transportation options and pedal power slipped down the list of possibilities. It always seemed like a good idea but it was as easy to get around especially when you really need to get around.
Even though I liked the idea of riding a bike, I rarely actually did it. It hasn’t been a real high priority as a way to spend the meager amount of free time that I have. It is fun to do but with both me and the Schwinn growing older, the pedaling seemed to be more of a chore and less fun. The Schwinn still worked, but it could have been better.
With our youngest son Seth working as a sales associate at the Penn Cycle store in Richfield for the summer, it seemed like a good time to rethink this biking thing a bit. We showed up when he was working a couple of weeks ago and looked around at their huge selection.We needed help sorting through all the available models and we got some good advice from him about various bikes, prices and even some of the other equipment at the store. I surprised myself and took the plunge, buying a Trek bicycle that works like a Swiss watch. In the world of serious biking, it is a modest model, but quite nicely designed and yes, it has a seat that fits.
It took a while to find the time to make a run around town on the new bike but last Thursday with the weather perfect and nothing much on the schedule for once, we took out the bikes. My wife’s 30-year old, three-speed model still works okay and my new Trek was working well and was comfortable beyond belief.
Our journey took us around town and then onto the sidewalk past the Yellow Medicine County Museum. We rode out to Memorial Park, past the big shelter house and onto the beautiful paved bike trail that roams back to the far east end of the park. It loops up, around and back to a spot near the beginning of the trail. That loop is one of the nicest little bike trails around. It travels through shady woods, great rock outcrops near the Minnesota River, a small wetland and several scenic spots with benches where you can stop and relax before pedaling on. It is a little slice of heaven, quiet and almost all your own. It’s well worth the short ride out there, especially if you have a bike seat that fits.
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The experience at the popcorn stand was remarkable once again. Through the fog of too many years, it looked like and turned out to be someone I hadn’t really seen since 1968. Sheldon “Shelly” Severson was one of those Clarkfield athletes who could make you think that you had lead weights on your ankles. He was a senior at Clarkfield then and a good bit more remarkable than us freshmen. He and his teammates were fast and could clear hurdles and high jump like nobody’s business. Our track team was not setting the world on fire. It was comprised of junior Rick Wengert and the rest of us. Rick scored all the points at many meets and we filled out the rest of the slots in the various events. That meant running the 100 and 220 yard dash against Shelly and Todd Schweer and some other guys who were too fast for us. We were humbled.
Those memories came back over some popcorn. He and his wife live in Portland, Oregon but they are back here for a bit, helping his mom Betty. She had been visiting them in Portland and they brought her back to Minnesota and surprised relatives at a wedding anniversary party.
He and his parents lived in Granite when he was young near my grandmother’s small place about a block from what was then known as Aakre’s (its now called Willie’s). Somehow, we got to talking about playing music and playing in a band with friends. He told me about the Boss Tweeds, a band comprised of he and his friends Gene Miller and Brian Schweer and Bruce Krueger from Hanley Falls. When he headed to Southwest State in Marshall he kept playing guitar and somewhere along the way hooked up with Granite native Kenny Thompson, too.
He also knew about another Marshall area band named Wire, a terrific group that had opened for some national acts in the Twin Cities. I told him about playing in our band, Good Time Rail Road, but those days were well after he headed to Oregon.
He and his family were staying at Prairie’s Edge and were having fun just looking around some of his old stomping grounds. The last time I saw him, I was 15 years old. That was just 44 years ago. I guess we both looked a bit older. The conversation, unfortunately, was about two hours too short.
Going to the popcorn stand is well worth it.