Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Harry keep on burnin'
Rollin,' rollin,' rollin' on the bike path ....
It's another Friday morning, 10 a.m. Time to start staging the weekly ride. Pump up my tires, grab my helmet and two crescent wrenches. Throw the bike on the rack, put the back seats down, get out the tarp to lay across the back seats and head over to the retirement community in Madison, Wisconsin, where my 91-year-old dad, Harry, lives independently. Drive in, unlock the bike and pump up three more tires.
Yes, three. We're big wheeling today.
It started in the fall of 2011. My dad had recently lost the love of his life for 64 years when my mom had a stroke, slid into dementia and eventually left us. He then spent a lot of hours hiking in the woods, at least until his leg gave out.
I had just been to the local bike shop and had spotted an upright three wheeler; a big trike. "Perfect!' I thought
"Dad", I said. "Why don't you get that three wheeler and we can ride together."
"No. I want a two wheeler!" he responded.
Well, this conversation repeated itself over and over. It seemed obvious to me that at 91, with a bad leg and not having been on a bicycle since 1974, hopping on a two wheeler would only result in a ride to the hospital.
"Dad, how about trying a recumbent?"
"No. I want a two wheeler!"
On and on this went until I persuaded him to accompany me to the bike store.
"No," was the first word he said after walking into the store and getting his first look at the beast hanging from the ceiling.
"How about we get it down and you just give it a try?"
"How about we see if it fits in the car?"
Now to most folks this might seem hardheaded, stubborn, obstinate and narrow-minded of him, but to our family, with German blood coursing through our veins, this was just a normal conversation. But it was late fall and not the best time to get a new bike, so I dropped the subject.
Come spring I'm out riding and I see a bike just like the one in the store. With excitement I race back to tell dad.
"No," he said, not surprisingly.
Then one day I stopped at my dad's retirement center to pick him up. He hopped in the car and said, "I want the bike."
Stunned and unsure how to reply, I changed the subject. But dad interrupted and said again "I want the bike." This is a man that has not spent his life on the fence. So off we drove to the store.
We checked that the trike fit in the back of my RAV4, bought an extra tire, pump, lock and Allen wrench. My dad is now also the proud owner of a Wisconsin State Trail Pass.
A riding routine
Unsure how this would all go, we started the season with a test ride from the Picnic Point parking lot on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to the school's rowing team boathouse on a paved trail; round trip, about two miles.
It was extraordinary. We were mobile and in tandem. From there we started hitting the trails. Except when it was extremely hot this summer, we got out weekly. As of Thanksgiving week, we were still biking. It is our ritual now. Our two-mile bike jaunts have covered all of the paved Badger State Trail and quite a few miles around Belleville. We've also ridden through the Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, on the Military Ridge and Southwest trails. And being German, our rides almost always include a lunch stop at one of the little pubs found throughout this beautiful countryside.
Dad is now addicted. With the leaves gone and colder temperatures, dad still looks forward to our weekly outings as do I.
I think about how my brother Dan and I are bike crazy. He races, I just enjoy the solitude. But we both do the Calvin's Challenge 12 Hour Bike Race in Springfield, Ohio, every Mother's Day weekend and the National 24 Hour Challenge in Middleton, Michigan, in June. We married to biking and not just to our bikes. My husband, Dave, and Dan's wife, Beth, also bike.
Biking is in the Woll (my maiden name) DNA we share with our dad, so it shouldn't surprise us that he, too, will ride until the weather forces him into the workout room to ride the Exercycle.
Throughout the summer, we met other people on bikes. Dad would always announce loudly, "I wanted a two wheeler but my kids made me get this!"
More recently as I dropped him off after a ride, he gave me a big hug and said, "Thank you for making me buy this bike." That put big grins on both of our faces.
It was a bumpy road, this little triangle of dad, Dan and myself now that mom's gone. That trike is now the glue that has brought us back together.
Alice Erickson is a semi-retired data architect who enjoys any time spent in the outdoors, especially the mountains. An avid silent sportsenthusiast, beginning back in the 50s with family camping adventures in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, she enjoys cycling, running, swimming and rock climbing. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband Dave."