Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Fantastic Miraculous Bicycle Wreck: Johnson City 1968

When we moved out of the rental house in Jonesborough, we moved to a brand new split-level house in a brand new developing development just outside of Johnson City. Really, the newer developing development was across Antioch Road and where Mother and Father had bought the house there were already quite a few homes. But the homes were new and they still had plenty of trees and it was, essentially, only a string of homes along a single street with thick woods, pastures and farmed land surrounding it.
And it was on a steep hill.
So, on our side of Antioch you'd turn and go up the steep hill (the other side led to flat fields, the creek, woods and then two steep hills) and then there was a turn and a cul-de-sac and then you'd have to turn around and come back down the steep hill. Our house was about half way up the slope, on the left, the lot with lots of black walnut and hickory trees that abutted a farmer's field where tobacco was grown and dried in an old wooden shed. But it was coming down that steep hill one day that I had my fantastic bicycle wreck.
First of all, I must have been eleven, maybe twelve years old. I had an oldish, beat-up-abused blue-black Stingray bike. It was beautiful. I used it about every day, over dirt and grass and asphalt, over rocks and broken glass and sticks and mud. There were a number of kids in that little one street neighborhood, a few who lived across Antioch and at the top of one of their hills, and we all had bikes (though by the next year, mini bikes would be added to the mix). But on the occasion, I was alone.
That's right, my fantastic bike wreck was only a wreck with myself.
Being kids and having Stingrays with fat tires, we boys would often take off, peddling as fast as possible and then slamming on our brakes to make big thick skid marks in the street. These were foot brakes not hand brakes, so you could really jam down on the pedals and make your mark. So, that's what I was doing on that day. All alone out in the street, I decided to go all out super fast down the hill and then slam on my brakes.
I went to the top of the hill, pedaled pedaled pedaled, coming down the sheer cliff face of the hill, picking up mach speed, still ramming forward, me all alone, no one else even seemingly remotely around, and then just around my house I slammed those brakes on, pounding my feet backwards on the pedals. And the bike's tires caught that pavement well. There was the big shhhqurinschhhh that the tires made as all that forward downhill motion came to a sudden attempted stop and, as you might imagine, the bike started to flip.
The bicycle fishtailed and popped up and jerked face-forward downhill with me still upon it. This all happened in a matter of seconds. I had no time to think but I also did have time to think. I did have no time to be scared. Okay, I knew I was crashing, I knew it was going to hurt, I understood that the bike was pitching forward on the hard concrete asphalt pebble-studded hard-sloped street, so I figured the best thing to do would be to let go of the bike, follow through with where I was headed anyway and just tuck my body up and roll with it, like a tumble. A somersault.
And that's what I did. I rolled forward with my bike, landing hard but not so hard on the pavement, my head tucked, my arms and elbows bent ball-like and over and over I went downhill, my bike clattering along next to me, until I and the bike came to a stop and miraculously I was not hurt. Even my bike was okay. I mean, I crashed and rolled and popped right up in the street as healthy and unscratched as a armadillo. And I was so pleased with myself. In those seconds of just before the crash, during the crash and jumping up from the crash, I realized what a great childhood event this was and I came up from the roll like a magician, my hands out, my face scanning the neighborhood for an audience.
But, there was no audience.
Ah, my greatest bicycle moment in my life and no one was there to witness it but myself . . . that must be why I'm compelled to write about such things as this.

No comments: