Memories from My Early Years
“If I could turn back time and ride with my grandfather more often or take more summer trips through town, I’d happily turn in the keys to my Honda and pursue life on a Huffy.”Clint Lutteringer
When I was a child, I spent some time on Garfield Street in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I received my first bike. Little did I know it would be the start of a journey that would grant me many opportunities.
I was always fearful, in a way, of getting hurt. Although my training wheels stuck straight up from my back wheel, I was convinced they were working, long after I’d finally gained a feel and my balance. Oh, how silly I must have looked! My parents and I often laugh to this day about those training wheels.
Garfield Street holds such great memories for me. I was blessed to live in an area with other kids who knew the value of playing outside. Even though it was the 80s, you still never knew what meanness crept in the shadows, or who traveled through the street, so I was under rules not to ride after dark.
After we moved to Oklahoma in a small town called Devol, located outside Randlett, I often traveled those back roads as well and had the time of my life. Life was grand—it was, after all, a more innocent period. Those were my active cycling years. Soon after that, though, I pursued other interests, and cycling went by the wayside.
When I resumed, pre-drivers license age, it was so much better. In a town called Burkburnett, Texas, I discovered that by bicycle, I had more freedom to visit places I never thought I could, whether off-road or a street with roads that were too treacherous to travel by car.
I’d love to return to those days and feel those sensations again. There were so many places I could go, so many things I could do, and the exercise felt terrific. It made me feel more alive than ever.
During summer, I spent hours riding on the road and enjoying the breeze through my hair. I was never one to jump curbs, but I saw a lot of scenery and, in my opinion, was able to get more out of each day. Not only did I ride for free, I felt free. It was just me, my Walkman, my bike, and the open road.
My music choice was alternative/90s rock, so I’d tune to 92.9 FM, blast the music as loud as I wished, and ride to the beat.
It was so meaningful to me. I mean, what could beat a hot summer day and the sounds of Nirvana or Meatloaf? I also enjoyed the sounds of Alice In Chains, Veruca Salt, and Smashing Pumpkins. I never encountered an ounce of trouble in the city, thank goodness.
As I rode, I would occasionally duck inside the local 711 for quick refreshments—or any other place that had cold water. On sweltering days, I would even duck into a restaurant here—any place that would allow me to rest, really—and take advantage of the cold atmosphere.
Occasionally, I would visit the church I attended as a kid, just to say ‘Hi’ to the pastor and have a word with him, which I’m sure shocked him. I wasn’t a bad kid; I kept to myself for the most part, which was my mentality back then—a loner. I don’t know why; it was just what I did.
Sometimes, we would travel out of town to visit my grandmother in Seymour, Texas, where the roads were also fun. It was a small town, much like Burkburnett, and consisted mainly of dirt roads. Burkburnett, however, was mostly paved and smooth.
I managed to get really dirty but had a lot of fun. I noted where the churches were, and it was a time when people waved hello as I rode past. Not a care in the world. I learned that you could capture more of a small town’s essence by riding a bike. Plus, you don’t have to worry about speeding tickets, which I accumulated plenty of once I had my driver’s license.
I rode freely, without worrying about breaking the news to my parents that I had another fine to pay. It was safer, in a way, on my pocketbook, to ride a bike.
In the mid-to-late 90s, my grandfather was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma, which is a form of kidney cancer, and would often ride with me, which was so enjoyable. He was such an inspiration and a good man to me. I never really knew how hard it was for him to get out and ride some of those days, often in the afternoon and evenings. Some days I didn’t feel like it, and I regret missing those opportunities with him.
Throughout my grandfather’s cancer, he was a trooper on the bike, just as I was. Every time I rode my bike after he passed, I thought of him.
Once, I had a severe bike accident. My grandfather and I visited Meridian State Park in Texas when I decided to ride the bike trail solo, while he remained at the campsite during the mid-afternoon heat.
I soon rode past a steep, downward slope that curved at the bottom toward a playground below. With “You” by Candlebox playing on the cassette in my Walkman, I amped myself up, furiously picked up speed, hit the slope, and sailed down the hill.
The curve turned much more sharply than I’d expected, throwing me off course. Instead of running into a cabin situated off the path through some trees, I decided to wipe out and slide—wearing shorts—across loose gravel.
I was a trooper, laying there on the hot pavement, skinned knees and hurting until I saw a car coming. I picked myself up, gathered my shoes from a tree, and rode back to the campsite, my knees hurting the entire time, but not minding it too much. It was perhaps the worst wreck I’d ever had on my bike, and I definitely felt it the next day.
Of course, I never tried riding that slope again, but I enjoyed the thrill of the wind through my hair and feeling the breeze against my skin. Even though I’d wrecked, I retained my love for cycling and didn’t shy away from it.
That moment was a particularly critical turning point in my quest to learn bike safety. It was quite an adventure, though, despite the scrapes and bruises, I quickly bounced back. As I got older, though, I didn’t bounce back as fast, and consequently took fewer risks.
If I could turn back time and ride with my grandfather more often or take more summer trips through town, I’d happily turn in the keys to my Honda and pursue life on a Huffy.
Thinking about it, I’ll take a ride now and relive old memories. Even at 39, I still long to rediscover the road on a bike. Honestly, those were the best times.