After finishing up the NPR I carefully parked my full carbon bike, which is 100% carbon and made entirely of carbon, up against the steel bike pole. I leaned it just so to keep it from getting dinged.
My pal Greg Leibert was watching me.
“Don’t scratch that bike,” he said. “She’s a beauty.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“Remember how we used to park our bikes in elementary school?”
We looked at each other and laughed. “Parked!”
“Yeah, you’d get to school and jump off your bike and let it fall in the dirt.”
“Or klunk if it was on pavement.”
“Nothing ever broke either.”
“There was nothing to break. They were made of steel and heavy stuff that didn’t know how to break. Just the rubber ends of the handlebars got all torn from always falling down on the side.”
“And all you needed to fix a schoolyard bike was a crescent wrench.”
“Yeah! Same size bolt for the stem, the wheels, and the seat.”
“And you changed a flat with a screwdriver!”
“Two or three times per flat!”
“But that was okay because you just patched it and poked it some more with the screwdriver.”
“Plus they never flatted anyway.”
“How could they? Those tubes were a mile thick and the tires were thicker.”
“Except for all the spots where you wore ’em down from skidding.”
We laughed and gazed for a minute at our full carbon bikes, which were made of carbon, the pure, 100% kind, bikes that we didn’t even know how to adjust the brakes on. Greg looked at my derailleur and lights. “Pretty sure we never had to plug in our bikes before we rode them,” he mused.
“And if you were such a sissy you had to have a light when it was pitch black outside you wired it to your fork and a generator thingy rubbed against the wheel to make the light shine. And it only shone about ten feet and slowed your forty-pound bike with fat tires down even slower.”
“You know,” Greg said, “I remember riding up to school everyday and sometimes I’d be so eager to start playing that I’d halfway jump off my bike while it was still going and just let it roll until it fell. Those schoolyard games were legendary.”
“They were indeed,” I agreed.
“Something happened on the playground, man, it stuck with you all the way to high school and beyond.”
“Way beyond,” I said.
“There was this new kid came to town one day and he was a big old kid. Every day we played sockball at recess, and this kid, he was huge. It came his turn to bat and the pitcher got the sockball ready and looked out at the bases and the outfield and everybody moved back. Way back. Way, way, way back because he was a big dude and we knew what that meant.”
“So what happened?”
“Billy Wayne did his wind-up and let the sockball fly, I was playing second base but was way back in center field. That kid took one look at us spread out like a warm breakfast and he just went *peep* and plunked the sockball about six inches in front of home plate. Easy double and he made it halfway to third before they got him out by beaning him upside the head. And from then on you know what we called him?”
“Big Bunt. I still don’t remember his name if I ever even knew it. He was just Big Bunt.”
“Oh, yeah. You did something like that you were Big Bunt and you were gonna stay Big Bunt. Your grandkids’d be asking you, ‘Grampa, how come your friends call you Big Bunt?’ That’s how it was. You know there was another time I was rounding third and somehow the pitcher had got the sockball and he threw it at me as hard as he could, so of course I jumped high, I was a good jumper, and that sockball came flying by where my chest should have been but instead was my shoes and *wham* that sockball knocked off my shoe.”
“Yep. And you know what?”
“I swear, ten years later I’d be talking with some friends in high school and somebody I hadn’t seen in a while would come up and after a few minutes he’d say, ‘You remember that time in third grade we were playing sockball and you got your shoe knocked off?’ and I’d say ‘Yep!’ and we’d have a good laugh about it. People never forgot that stuff.”
We gazed at the bikes for a minute. “Those were the days, man,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, they were.”