Saturday, October 22, 2011

Disaster on the Cinder Driveway!

Running along side my grandparent's farmhouse was a cinder driveway. To the adults it was a driveway; to those of us riding our bikes it could have been the Indianapolis 500. Some days, it was.

After waiting impatiently for the snow and ice of spring to somewhat melt away, we took our Schwinns out of the garage. I loved my bike. It was blue and maneuvered that track like a pro. A long straightaway marked with tall poplar trees led to a left-hand curve we called Dead Man's Curve. The trick was to build up speed when approaching it and just as you'd go into it, you'd slow down, keeping your feet poised to brake-but not abruptly for that could prove fatal. There were times when the course was flawless. This was normally on those hot summer days when the breeze through the poplars fanned us from one race to the next. There were times when it should have been shut down-like the wild October Saturday when wet leaves covered the cinders like a damp, slippery blanket. It didn't stop us.

We'd ridden the track several times at normal speed-kind of like being out on a Sunday afternoon drive. Then my cousins and I decided to go for it. We were just kids. We never thought that rain-drenched leaves on cinders might add-up to real danger and looking back, even if we had realized, it wouldn't have stopped us. It probably would have made us more determined than ever. Kids are like that you know!

So the decision was made. The three of us would start up by the road all clumped together which was what we usually did. I had the inside. First one around the corner and behind the garage would be the winner which was usually how the winner was declared. Of course we'd never stop behind the garage. We'd go past it and down the side hill to the flatrocks. But that was usually. This was no usual race.

Out of the gate, my one particular cousin shot ahead but he always did that. We were all standing up and pumping our pedals for speed. My bike had great pick-up. I'd learned to lean-in a bit. I never understood why but doing that increased my speed. My other cousin and I had about caught up with him when it was time to prepare for that infamous curve. I guess I really wanted to beat him that windy fall day for instead of slowing down I pedalled even faster. I whizzed right by him! I was on my way to victory going into Dead Man's Curve at top speed. I felt a rush of excitement! I kept standing and pumping my pedals. As I looked back to see where my rivals were I felt the bike starting to swerve. Flashing through my mind was the thought, "Slow Down", but I couldn't. The drenched leaves were controlling me and my Schwinn now. I started to skid right towards the farmhouse. The last thing I remember seeing was the big plate glass window in the dining room as cinders flew and leaves scattered and over the handlebars I soared. I scrapped along the driveway, ending up in the middle of my grandmother's peonia bushes which was certainly the better alternative to that window. One of my cousins came rushing to see if I was alive. The boy cousin went on to victory-again.

I had lots of bruises

but nothing was broken except for those bushes. My bike survived. To this day I still have cinders in my left knee which I consider miniature trophies for taking a risk and going for it on that cinder driveway covered in wet, slippery leaves! Victory was so near but that proved to be the last race at the Indy 500 on that blustery day! My mother had alot to do with it!

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