Birmingham Bike Treasures & Ava’s First Ride

So I bought a bike!  If you are looking for a used in Birmingham, call me, because I have got your hook-up!  This guy’s basement is a treasure chest of bicycles — road bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers, and some antiques that had me drooling — which is why he prefers to remain anonymous.  Some of these babies are worth money!  I went over there, in the rain, last week, thinking (grumbling), “This guy better have something.”  Boy, was I surprised, if not shocked, and pleasantly so.

look at this beauty – in the works

just a few in one tiny section of the basement
this bike comes up to my thighs — built for a four-year-old — in my guy’s words: “The French start them early”

“These should be in a museum!” I said, turning around once again to see another twenty or so bikes in yet another corner of the basement, and amazed by all of them.

I asked him if he wanted to have a show.  He said, yes, he wants to have a show.  (…to be continued?…)

I really wanted the baby blue vintage Schwinn, but I went for the Specialized mountain bike in a fit of practicality over style.  If I still lived in Venice Beach, the Schwinn would be mine!

Anyway, what I set off to write about was the Ride of Silence that I attended Wednesday night.

What a lovely idea.  All over the country, groups of cyclists rode in unison, taking over the streets of their towns and cities, to honor the people who have been killed while riding a bike on the road.  It’s a demonstration that whispers, “Share the road, please.”  No one speaks, and the ride is supposed to be slow.

Not slow enough for me!

Here’s what happened:

So I got my bike, right?  And I have a two-year-old little girl, Ava.  And I’ve always thought how fun it will be to ride her around on the bike.  After minimal research, I decided to go with the old seat-attached-to-back-of-bike, like my parents used back in the 70s.

I’ve been very disorganized this week — things have been happily out of control since the Kickstarter campaign met its goal (Thank You!), so of course, at 4 PM, I’m still without a seat for the bike, and I had really been looking forward to this group ride.  The group was meeting at 6:30 in Homewood.  (Oh, did I tell you that there was to be a police escort and everything?  Love!  We get to take over the streets legally this way!)

Just as I was about to give up, I called my new friend, Stan, who is a cyclist (and arborist) in town.  As I knew he would, he came up with a plan, “Get in the car with the baby, go buy the seat, bring it back to your house, I’ll help you put it on, then I’m going to my 5:30 ride that I have scheduled, then I’ll see you at the Ride of Silence.”

Without hesitation, Ava and I sped off to the Bob’s Bikes, where I knew they had a seat.

I drove up to see Stan pulling up to my place, on his bike no less.  He was out of breath.  He must have pedaled hard.  He was meeting a group to cycle before the Ride of Silence so he had about twenty minutes to help me.

So he is putting the seat on (after a slight hiccup because he discovered that I own very few tools — good thing my neighbor walked up at the right time!), when I realized that I have a helmet for myself, but not for Ava.

Granted, this is our first ride on my new bike, with Ava on the back.  25 lbs extra.  No big deal, right?

Yeah.  Not stable.  And I was about to ride on roads with no bike lanes.  It was a relatively short ride to my destination, but…

I went on anyway.  After all, after LA, I can handle Birmingham, right?

I lasted five minutes.  I just hated that my child did not have a helmet on!  I called the bike shop, Cahaba Cycles, where the group was meeting.  “Do y’all have toddler helmets and will you be open in ten minutes?”

The answer was yes.  So carefully, very carefully, I meandered over a busier street then through a sleepy neighborhood route.  A car whizzed by me, just as another cyclist was passing me as well.  He, in a very protective manner (gotta love the South) yelled at the driver, “SLOW DOWN!”

I had a few other “protective” moments.  At the major light, a young man in a huge truck, who was also waiting on the light, motioned to me to go ahead when it turned green.  Then, he sort of escorted me across Highway 31.  So cute!

A couple of minutes later, in Homewood, the car behind me basically stopped mid-street to simply let me go where I needed to go, which was the left-hand turn lane.  Yay!

Southern gentlemen, thank you for the courtesy.  You have no idea what it means to a lady sometimes.

(Of course, these men could’ve just thought I was completely nuts to be on my bike with a child on the back in a town with few bike lanes, but hey, I thought I’d give credit where credit is due.)

Got to the store, bought the helmet, and dozens upon dozens of folks had shown up (in full gear and mostly on road bikes I might add) for the Ride of Silence.  It was a lovely sight.

Of course, Ava was the only two-year-old.  In fact, I think I spotted about two children total, including mine.

But I prevailed.  We set out towards the back of the group, the blue police lights leading the way.  Silence.  Except for Ava going, “Weeeeee!  Weeeee!” (Yes, just like that pig in the commercial.)  So much for silence when we’re around.

Sure enough, about ten minutes into the ride, we fell way behind on a big hill.  Too far behind.  A behind that even the cops weren’t comfortable with, because they told me I needed to catch up, which, considering my circumstances, was not going to happen.

I merrily stopped, turned around, and rode home, this time more confident, and glad I made the right decision not to push it, with a baby on the back.

We stopped at the park, because Ava asked me too, and I tell you what, riding through the slow-paced neighborhoods of Homewood and Mountain Brook, the cool air on the my skin, the day calmly slipping away as I pedaled on — yes, this is what I have been missing.  Just being outside, and breathing.  

“Cat, Mommy, meow.”  Ava said.   And then, “I love bikes.”  And then she went into a chorus of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

“I do too, sweetie.  I do, too.”

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