Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Three Amigos

Thought I'd deviate from any PG news today (though she is doing AWESOME I will say). Instead I've set the WAY back machine for a trip thru time. You see, over at Red Kite Prayer (a cool blog I've been following for a while, ever since Greg turned me onto it) this last Friday for his weekly "Group Ride" post, he was talking about some of his earliest memories from cycling, and asking readers to post theirs in the comments. I posted a comment about my friends and I jumping our Schwinn Sting Rays on the streets as kids. Obviously NO helmets goes without saying (even if they HAD been invented, we wouldn't' have worn them...we'd look like dorks!) And then later that day Greg emailed me that he saw my comment...and I (in a much more abbreviated version) mentioned the story I'm about to tell (about my EARLIEST memories of bike riding). I thought I'd share them here as it's a nice story. (Greg, please feel FREE to correct me if any of my 'facts' aren't correct...this story is how I remember things...with no guarantee that it's the way things really were).

My earliest memories of cycling take place in the sprawling metropolis of Sheridan Wyoming, circa 1965...I think the town MIGHT have had a population of around 10,000 or so. I had a not very manly green steel steed...with training wheels. The tires were solid, no air required. I'm betting they weighed a TON. But the bike was bombproof (childproof). I can't state this as a fact, but I BELIEVE it was a hand-me-down from that's how things went back then. Greg (my big bro) had a red steel steed that was much larger, and WAY more manly. And my little brother Dave was still on a tricycle at this time as he was still quite young. Thank goodness our family was WAY into taking pictures! (I have a LOT of awesome b&w shots we took...yes, all of us kids had our OWN cameras and took LOTS of pictures throughout our childhoods).

Here's a picture taken most likely by our Mom...I remember she took a LOT of pictures (so THAT'S where I got it from!)

This was July 1965. I'm on the left, Greg in the middle, and Dave on the right. Greg was 7-1/2, I was 4-1/2, and David was 16 months old (thanks Mom for writing this on the back of the picture!)

Check out those crew-cuts too! That was THE STYLE back in the day. You can see my 'name' plate dangling from my mechanic should be FIRED! Greg is looking all stylish and debonair, as HE alone is on a BIG BOY BIKE! And I am obviously wanting that bike in a BAD way! I have no idea what that is on Gregs and my handlebars...some kind of cup-thing strapped on...Greg, any ideas? I remember a LOT from my childhood, but not a clue as to that device's job.

ANYWAY...I digress. I vividly recall one fine day (most likely not too very long after this picture was taken) that I was sitting in the garage on Greg's bike as I often did (it was on the kickstand...remember those?) I was pretending to be on a motorcycle...and I was making the VRRROOMMM sounds, bobbing my head, pushing and twisting on the handlebars, and pushing my feet down on the pedals (both at the same time so there was no real forward motion initiated). Obviously I had NO idea how a motorcycle worked, but I'm sure I thought I was doing an admirable job of pretending. I'd sit there vrooming and vrooming....until THAT particular day. Mom was sleeping I believe (she was an RN at the local hospital, and I recall she was working nights. Dad was either working at our Grandpa's dime store (Chapeks Ben Franklin) or was out of town bowling (he bowled professionally for a number of years during the 60's, and was often away at tournaments).

On that particular day, I vroomed and pushed the forward pedal a bit too hard, and the bike lurched forward off of the kickstand. And just like that, for the first time EVER, I was rolling on ONLY two wheels. We lived outside of town on private property, compliments of our grandparents. Our two houses were the only ones within about a mile or so...and it was a private road. My grandparents house was a right turn out of our driveway, and the paved road looped completely around their beautiful house and spacious yard.

Once I was away and moving I had no choice but to keep going. So I pedaled and pedaled, all shakey and wobbly at first, but QUICKLY getting the hang of it....and I took that right turn towards Grandma & Grandpa's house. I rode around and around (and around) that loop, making ABSOLUTELY SURE that Grandma saw me. Which she did. You see, Grandma had her TV set in the living room and a large mirror perfectly positioned above it, and she could see ANY traffic of any sort from this position. I remember seeing her standing in the window on one of my laps with her hands on her hips, intently watching me ride the big boy bike, and boy was I proud!

I remember later that afternoon my Grandma (after having told Grandpa) told my parents, and just like that, GREG needed a new bike! And you know what? I wasn't jealous in the LEAST about how the hand-me-down thing worked. You see, I was getting a BIG BIKE! I had lusted after Greg's bike for some time, and NOW it was mine! I remember being VERY excited at this prospect...just like that I WAS a big wheels were a thing of the past!

I have NO idea what bike Greg got...for some reason my memory has zero recollection of that. I just know that with that big red bike I now had FREEDOM! I could go all the way down to the corner and back JUST LIKE THAT! (the "corner" was if you took a left out of our driveway on the private road, probably around a quarter mile or so (probably MUCH less but it SEEMED like a long ways!) our road turned left onto "Airport Road" which was dirt. That road takes you into town. A few years later I remember riding that bike to little league practice down Airport Road...hit the paved road, then a left on De Smet Ave (how on earth do I remember this stuff when I can't remember what I did YESTERDAY?)...then down a bit was the ball field.

Bikes were freedom! The distance a kid can cover on two wheels is just incredible.

I have lots of other fond memories of growing up in was a GREAT place to be a kid...and our Grandpa was a wonderful man who did a LOT with us as both our parents worked. He had a big old green Willy's Jeep...and the four of us went EVERYWHERE in that thing! Maybe someday I'll jot down some more stories here. I know that if you Google Map "Sheridan Wyoming", then zoom in a bit on the left side of town near the airport, you can see the houses still. Find the airport runway that slants from the lower left to upper right...just above that runway is "Airport Rd". Follow that to the left and you will see where it abruptly turns right...that's "the corner". Those houses near "the corner" weren't there back then...all that land was my Grandpa's...and it was mostly wooded fields down by the road. Take that right turn onto "Chapek Dr" (which is really Chapeks have lived there since about 1972 or so)...and you will see our house on the right, and then Grandma and Grandpa's house at the end in 'the loop'.

To the right of those two houses you will see "Chapek Reservoir #1"....(a pond, or lake as we all remember it). Technically they (whoever "they" are) got it wrong. The lake just above that listed as "Chapek Reservoir #2 was built by my Grandpa first. His house was over on the right side of THAT lake, and when everything was said and done, he decided he didn't like it, sold it all and moved across the valley and a new house, and then made the new lake you see below the first one in the picture (technically it's 'above', as our lake drained into the other one).

That lake...gosh I have a LOT of memories there I can tell you! Grandpa had it stocked with small mouth bass (and a few large mouth)....I grew up thinking EVERYBODY fished for bass on their own private lake starting at the age of about 1. I think it's cool that they are still named after our family after all this time.

Well...that's about all the reminiscing I will do on this post...I'd love to hear YOUR stories of childhood memories. I'd be happy to make a post out of some if you need more room than just a comment...just email me or let me know in the comments and we'll work it out.

Have a GREAT day!


  1. Decided to come over here and get my mind out of the..... Oh, never mind!

    Great post Matt. I too remember a first ride on a tall bike. How tall? Who knows. I just remember riding around on a paved area of backyard, attempting to negotiate a small ramp grade and crashing against the side of the garage. Had to be 1st or second grade before we moved from that house.

    A later memory of riding my Stingray downhill-cross country through the winter wheat fields in our area of Palos Verdes(before the houses) and then pushing the bikes back up the hill to do it again. Or of racing off from a building site we were 'exploring' , crashing on the pavement and gaining my first 'bike scar' chin stitches.

    Great post my friend. Let's consider bringing pictures to Davis. I hope you can come.

  2. Learning to ride did not come easily to me (true also of skiing later in life) and my earliest memories involve crashing, crashing, crashing on our crushed stone drive. Ouch!!! Still have scars on my knees. I kept trying though, and finally succeeded on my oldest brother's ancient, plain red bike instead of my own schwinn with the 2-tone seat: I will never forget sailing down the drive to the cheers of neighborhood kids who were perched in the maples that lined the drive. I was already about 9 years old then, and for at least another year was convinced that I could ride ONLY his bike. But I soon became proficient enough, although still had a few crashes in my future and never have learnt to ride no-hands!

    Love that your family history is memorialized in place names. You should get together with your family to create a written history of their involvement in the area and give it to the local history society or library.
    My great-grandfather's first name was Farmer (which he was, down in deep southeast KY) and there is a Farmer Road in the area where he lived, but no one in the family really knows if that was named after him.


  3. Matt, Greg looks exactly like my brother did as a kid!!! I swear, when I came on the site to read your newest piece I was confused why you had posted a picture of my bro!

    I learned to ride on a training wheels bike but always admired my older sister's big ass Schwinn. So one day I got on it and rode it - couldn't sit down because she was 8 years older than me and I was probably only 5, but I could ride that sucker!

    I also remember one spring day around 20 of us (probably around age 10)taking a 15 mi round trip on bikes to earn some girl scout badge I think. Most of us rode Stingrays with the upright handlebars and my God, were we tired! You have to pedal those A LOT!!! Our turnaround place was at a county park on the Colorado River so we had plenty of food but instead of resting, WE RODE OUR BIKES ALL AROUND THE PARKING LOTS, CHASING EACH OTHER AND GETTING AIR OVER THE SPEED BUMPS! I think it was a long ride back....