My New Wheels!

Ain’t she a beauty!

Lou asked me what I wanted my my birthday. You know, that’s getting harder as I get older. When I was fifteen years younger and a little better off, my answer was “Go to the silver room at Tiffany and buy me a bracelet.” He did, and I have a lovely collection. Much older and much poorer, I was stuck, but just for a minute.

“Bring me a bottle of Guerlain’s Jicky, or buy me a bike. A real bike, not like the ones we sold for ten bucks each three years ago. I want something with a seat that doesn’t split my buttocks like some creep in an S&M blog. No gears. No hand breaks.”

I was describing the red CCM I learned to bike on when I was ten. Sure, riding up the steep coteaux in Trois-Rivieres was real work, even for a fit twelve year old. But I wasn’t forcing my weight on aching wrists, staring at the pavement, as I did on my zillion speed racing bike. I could look around me, checking out traffic and the Dairy Queen and Notre Dame des Sept Allegresses. I could signal with my thumb on the handle of a bell, and I could carry my homework home in my bike basket.

You know how you can pull up a supremely happy moment as if it were a (to continue the retro tech thing) slide? Another birthday, long ago, when Honor was, perhaps, three. I was working as the supervisor of the Junior Lingerie department of Carson Pirie Scott on State Street, and because I worked later than he did, Lou would pick me up in the red Ford Fiesta. On that birthday evening, I crossed Wabash to wait for my ride, and looked south. Lou was riding a red bicycle up the sidewalk, with my daughter perched on the handlebars, her blonde curls flying. They were both grinning, she was squealing, the  El  clattering above us. He strapped the bike to the roof of the Fiesta and we drove back to 1208 W. Lexington, where he gave me a martini and his other present, a Mahalia Jackson LP. I stood on the back porch, looking over the unrivalled Chicago skyline, a tiny bit buzzed and feeling the Spirit run up and down my spine while Mahalia sang “Born in Bethlehem.”

I’ve had great birthdays, but that one is my favorite. Young as I was, I knew there was powerful magic happening. And I loved that bike. When we moved to the ‘Ville we were a one car family, so in decent weather I’d ride to work (in a dress and heels) along the Prairie Path. Sometimes I glowed when I arrived at the Unisys Training Center, sometimes I arrived wet from a a shower, sometimes I showed up with a bouquet of wildflowers.  Once I arrived home with the magic pastoral terror of the great outdoor god Pan, because a red fox had fled before my wheels.

The bike got stolen, and I endured twenty years of racing bikes and mountain bikes, eyes downward, wrists aching. ‘Lor love a duck, I’m not an athlete, I just like to pedal about, go to the library, feel the burn in my thighs and see and smell the flowers.

Lou received my rigorous standards for the bicycle of my dreams, and he met and exceeded them. (It was cheaper than a bottle of Jicky.) This bike could have been ridden by Miss Marple or Twiggy.

Daisy detailing, whitewalls with sky blue trim.

Note: No gears, no brakes. I’m going to buy a basket and a bell and I’m going to cruise around, no hands, looking up and looking around.



Filed under Body, Machines, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville, The Great Outdoors, Worth it anyway

11 responses to “My New Wheels!

  1. freakyfrites

    No hands! Be sure Dad takes a photo of that. I never could figure out how to do it, so I’m really impressed.

    Love the bike! Talk about an easy rider. . . .

  2. Charlotte

    Gord hasn’t seen this yet, but I know how completely he will approve of your new whitewalls! Nice bike!

  3. Lloyd

    Our neighbourhood was FULL of that style of bike back when Herself and I were growing up. And lest we forget, her 61st was last Wednesday…


  4. Happy, happy St. Joyce. But yes , you can lean back on the saddle and look about and it’s no hands. You can lick your Popsicle and chill.

  5. D’oh Lloyd, lest we forget: not Joyce but L. There’s so much love waiting for her — why does she shun it? Perhaps she needs a swell new bike.

  6. Patty

    That is just about the prettiest bike ever made, the very best color and the flowers! I love it! Well done, brother!

  7. You GOT HER!!! I knew you would.

    Just perfect. I think I’ll go have a Popsicle in your honor.

  8. Sharon and Clive

    I love the bike!! That is what I call a cool girls bike! I would actually start riding again if I could get a bike like that. Good job Lou! I can just see me riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with a basket and bell. What a nice surprise. You on your new bike, and me on my steel wheels roller skates.


  9. Kim McKellar

    i LOVE your bike and Rowan LOVES your bike because it looks exactly like her new bike! I’ll send you a pic and you can see. Woohoo!

  10. Bev

    So very cool..did you get the basket and the bell yet?

  11. kim shook

    The best bike, Maggie! I can see you had a good day. You’ve inspired me – I need to drag my bike out of the shed and get it to the bike doctor. It is a bit of a classic, though not as cool as yours. I think that it does have hand break and maybe a couple of gears, but the handlebars flip UP (the downward ones give me shin splints in my forearms) and no S&M seat!

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