For a long time, bicycles were an integral part of my life. As a child living in the projects, I had the sweetest black bicycle that I had gotten during a mysterious Christmas. It was a hybrid mountain-road bike that I took everywhere in the HUD housing complex where we lived. When I was on that bike, the world was mine. I could make it do magic. I rode up and down stairs. I went to the neighborhood convenience store and searched the newspaper boxes for spare change. One day, I left my bike outside as I ran into my home to go to the bathroom. When I returned, the bike was gone. “My Life in the Projects” would never be the same.
In high school, I used my ten-speed to get to and from school when the weather permitted. I mostly left it at home when the weather was rainy, but some days, it was nice to have a faster way to get to school. On the weekend, we would use our bikes to go to the park or get downtown. This bike was built for speed and the roads, so sometimes, I would crank up the gears and head out onto the nearest big roads just to race the cars. I’d hit the Arctic Circle up for a lime rickey or a kid’s meal if I had the cash.
This was the time when I learned two good safety lessons. The first was that when riding a bicycle, the rider should always wear closed-toe shoes. We went to see my mom as she floated down the Willamette for some holiday. My sister’s foot slipped of the pedal while her flip-flop remained. Her foot flew back, and her big toe ended up in the spokes of the bike. There was plenty of blood, and my mom had to swim from the boat she was floating on to help my sister.
The second was when we were driving on the main road through town away from I-5. I saw a car hit a boy on a bicycle on a side road. He flipped up over the hood of the car and slammed his head on the windshield. He was then thrown forward and slammed his head on the roadway. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet. The boy crawled to the curbside, and mom turned down the road to see if she could help while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.
The Peace Corps
Once I got my first car, bicycles went by the wayside. It wasn’t until I joined the Peace Corps that bicycles got a new lease in my life. The Peace Corps supplied the bicycle and trained us in how to fix them. This bike was freedom. It allowed me to travel hundreds of kilometers during my service. “My Life in the Peace Corps” was much better for the mobility that the bicycle provided.
While I couldn’t take the Peace Corps bike with me, when I returned to the U.S., I was able to purchase a bicycle. In Kalamazoo during the summer months, it was my only transportation. I would ride to the American Red Cross and use one of their vehicles to get to teaching gigs. When winter rolled around, I had a new job, a new apartment, and a new car. I kept that bike, but I stopped riding. Now, my niece uses it.
Get the Books
If you’d like to read more about “My Life in the Projects,” the book is available on Amazon and here. It’s the mostly true account of living in HUD housing during the 1980s. “My Life in the Peace Corps” will be available on Amazon on Dec. 28, 2020. Pre-order today. Or get the autographed book when it comes out in hard copy.