Friday, July 19, 2013

A pedal down memory lane

My bike was my transportation when I was a kid, as well as being my weapon for some mediocre downhill racing in my teens. Growing up in Mississauga (where I still work, and where my Mom still lives in my childhood home), I'd ride all over - my parents were busy professionals who already spent hours shuttling me to dance classes, gymnastics, hockey games and lacrosse practices, so if I wanted to visit friends after school or just missed the bus, I'd hop on my bicycle and ride. My paternal grandparents lived in Port Credit, and I'd keep a bike at their house, too; if my grandmother was babysitting me during summer vacation, I'd be given two dollars and told to pedal over to the Lions Club Pool where I'd spend the whole day in the water before riding back, sunburned and hungry.

It didn't look like this in my day - the pool was renovated in 2011.

My school in grades 2 and 3 was about 5km from home; for grades 4-8 I moved to another school about 9km from my house, then I attended highschool at Lorne Park Secondary which was about 10.5km away by bike. Most of my friends lived in Lorne Park or Clarkson, so I racked up some pretty decent mileage. My bike was my freedom, and when I was attending sailing school in the summer at Port Credit Yacht Club, I'd often ride my bike there and back as well. I spent a fair bit of time as a cycle commuter, though I wouldn't hear that term until I was well into my twenties. I had 3 bikes stolen in 3 years (a Diamondback, a Mongoose and a GT stolen from a friend's driveway, a friend's garage and my own garage respectively), then in 1995 my Dad bought me a Kona Hahanna and a really good lock, and told me if I lost this bike I could consider myself out of luck.

My faithful companion, Dusty.

I was 15 at the time, and I guess I took it to heart since I still own the bike (and the lock) to this day. His drivetrain is a bit rough, his wheels don't like to stay true anymore, and his chromoly frame has some paint chips and rust - I never quite grew into the 19" size, either, but I have put countless miles on the bike through the years. He was stolen twice while I was in Edmonton (since my ex would ride him and not bother to lock him), but both times he was returned to me again. I got a new mountain bike last August, but I still ride good old Dusty for commutes to the farmers' market in poor weather - he's seen some horrible conditions and always comes back for more - plus the occasional recovery ride.

Some of which are sillier than others.

As I wrote about previously, I've taken to bringing a bike to the office on Wednesdays to ride to my Mum's house after work. This past Wednesday was a bit different - we were going out to dinner with my mother for my birthday, down at the Pump House Grille at Lakeshore and Stavebank. Since Tanker had bought me a spanky pair of Chrome Vanya knickers as a birthday gift, it seemed only right that I throw them on and pedal my way down to dinner!

So spoiled!

Ordinarily I'd load up my cyclocross bike, but there was a 60% chance of thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon and evening and my CX bike got a really thorough cleaning after Paris to Ancaster, so I was loath to get it covered in road grime. Instead, Tanker loaded faithful old Dusty into the back of the car, and I packed up a rain jacket along with my usual commuter kit. 

Carrying rain gear is, of course, the best means of ensuring sunshine.

I was bound and determined to ride in anything other than life-threatening weather, since I'd realized that the restaurant's location gave me an unrivalled opportunity - on my 34th birthday, I could ride the bike I'd owned for over 18 years on the roads I used to ride constantly when I was in my teens! 

With platform pedals and Chuck Taylors, no less.

You see, Hurontario Street has been a traffic nightmare my entire life, but there are a limited number of bridges across the Credit River to get to the West end of town from Cooksville. So, to avoid Hurontario, I'd ride down Stavebank Road to the Lakeshore instead. I also used to ride my bike down to Port Credit Arena on Stavebank to watch Mississauga Tomahawks Junior A lacrosse games, and my grandparents home was only blocks away from the river in that quiet, tree-filled neighbourhood off Mineola. The route I'd take from my office to the restaurant would almost go right past my parents' house (which they bought before I was born and have never left) and along the exact way I would take to get almost anywhere in my teens.

Though the bike lanes certainly didn't exist back then.

The weather held hot, sunny and humid all afternoon - the temperature reached 34c/93f with a humidex of 44c/111f by the time I set out, but I couldn't have cared less. Each pedal stroke seemed to take me back a week in time, and my "nice easy noodle" turned into a crazed hunt for speed as I hurtled down the hill on Confederation Parkway as I had in my youth - I hit 53.9kph according to my cycle computer, on 2.4" knobby tires, and giggled at exceeding the speed limit on an old steel mountain bike. The 16km ride flew past as I saw my old haunts through the eyes of my 15 year old self again; just a girl and her bike, rolling along in the hot summer sun.

Happiness is..

The dinner and celebration with the people I love most that awaited at the end was wonderful, but that fleeting 40 minutes of recaptured childhood was truly something sacred - an experience I will treasure and recall fondly for years to come.

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