I've written in this space before about how important bikes were to my upbringing in rural north Idaho. With another Bike Week kicking off in Boise, my thoughts have again run to those sunny afternoons when my brother, friends and I had nowhere to be but somewhere on two wheels.
As I've mentioned before, I grew up on five acres off a dirt road about nine miles south of Sandpoint. It wasn't much like the neighborhood my own children are growing up in on the Boise Bench. My nearest friend lived about two miles away, and I had two more pals who were each another mile or so down their own dirt roads. When I got bored, I'd give my mom some vague announcement that I'd be gone for an unspecified amount of time, hop on my Huffy and disappear into the maze of narrow, gravelly lanes that snaked through the forest.
Today that seems insane. Back then, cell phones hadn't been invented, and we wouldn't be caught dead wearing any kind of safety equipment. No one ever knew where we were going, including us. Sometimes, we'd get tired of hanging out at the corner gas station or lounging at the dump, and one of us would suggest riding into town. "Town" was almost 10 miles away, and we could only get there by riding at least five of those miles on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 95. Sometimes we'd push it all the way to Ponderay, a mile or two north of Sandpoint, where we'd buy 25 cent sodas at the then-new and somehow exotic K-Mart.
For the most part, these 20-mile hauls ended without incident. One time, however, near the end of our trek, I asked one of my buddies for a sip off his water bottle. As a joke, I drank all the water and handed him the empty bottle. Still riding along, he took a swipe at me and I went down, rolling into the ditch and breaking my arm. We were still a way from my house, so he left me in the ditch to get an adult. I was probably laying there for an hour or so.
I can't imagine how pissed off I'd be at one of my own kids for being so reckless, but such is the nature of getting older. I would never recommend being so cavalier, so in the spirit of a safe Bike Week, remember to wear your helmet and don't hog the water.