Morning dawns and the anticipation builds. Good weather makes it even better. But “bad weather” doesn’t stop me. It’s time.
I get dressed. No fancy bike riding gear; a worn t-shirt and shorts in summer, a sweatshirt and sweat pants in winter. I stretch; kiss the wife, and I’m off.
The minute I climb on “Big Daddy” and we roll out of the garage, the morning bike -riding grin, a telltale sign of contentment, beams from my face. Big Daddy and I are ready to roll.
I’ve been riding Big Daddy now for 20 years. A big, sturdy, throwback to the bicycles I knew growing up, Big Daddy my 26” Schwinn, my faithful morning companion gives me endless pleasure.
I grew up riding bicycles in my community of Rosalind Heights in Birmingham, Alabama. We were masters of bicycle riding. We could and would go anywhere and do anything on a bicycle. We would ride double, triple, if we had to. I grin now thinking about it.
My current neighborhood of flat streets, long roads and very few cars is perfect for a morning ride. The sun hangs over the bay. Spanish moss dangles from the live oaks. Eagles, foxes, and dolphins occasionally demand my attention. The ride is one of physical exercise, but much more. There’s the brain exercise of thought, the senses admiration of nature’s beauty and of course, the prioritizing of today’s decisions.
“Good morning.” I’m barely out of the driveway when my across the street neighbor, Melvin, greets me with the first “good morning” of the day. There will be more. One morning, I counted 20. Vibrant Good Mornings, big beautiful smiles, waves behind auto and pickup truck windshields, “hellos” from parents accompanying schoolchildren to the bus stop. All-seeming to wonder, “Why is he so happy?”
My unconscious grin attracts others. “ Good Morning,” another neighbor calls out.
It’s morning. Morning before the day’s politics, murder statistics, talking television heads, and ESPN screamers take center stage.
Another neighbor gives me a wave from the passing car. I try and figure out who it is? I don’t know. But, I enthusiastically wave back.
The morning is on!
Once I settle into the ride, comfortable on Big Daddy, I say the ritual of a prayer, I’ve been praying daily for years. “Enlarge my coast O Lord, Bless me. Do all the things you want to do in my life.”
The name, “The Bicycle Man” was bestowed on me one day at the neighborhood Publix Supermarket. I bike to the market, the post office and downtown. I’ll even bike 5 miles to get a donut, convincing myself that by biking to the donut shop, I’m burning up the calories I’ll intake from eating it. Don’t know that’s that is true but, I get the donut and 10 miles of biking exercise
“You’re the bicycle man, ” the woman approached me in the supermarket in astonishment. “I see you everywhere on that bike,” she marveled.
An employee of the supermarket grinned in concurrence, “Yep, he’s the bicycle man.”
“Yes,” I hesitantly responded.
A Star is born.
I’ve been the bicycle man ever since. In the neighborhood, at the Post Office, the Supermarket, downtown restaurants, breakfast meetings at the Waffle House, concerts in the park, and Saturday morning neighborhood meetings. I do them all on Big Daddy.
“Good Morning,” they greet me.
Visiting friends who take the morning ride with me (I have a spare bike, of course) are pleasantly freaked out by the number of people out walking, riding, and greeting their fellow human beings.
“Do you know all these people?” I’m asked.
“Not many of them by name,” I respond.
“So they know you from television?” I’m quizzed.
“Some, but not all,” I answer between pedals.
A hearty “Good Morning” rings out from the lady who walks a baby in a stroller, then returns to the street later for her own walk.
“Good Morning, ” I respond with my grin.
What a way to start a day!