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A Flash of Cycling Nostalgia...

Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

A Flash of Cycling Nostalgia...

Old 05-08-22, 08:22 AM
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A Flash of Cycling Nostalgia...

Keep in mind that the word nostalgia comes from two Greek words meaning "painful homecoming".

I recently spent just over 2-weeks in Chicago for a family matter. It's the longest I've been home since college, back in the 80s, and I spent more than half those days driving into downtown.

Thanks to traffic jams, the GPS often had me jump off the expressway and take streets I haven't driven down in 40 years, which kept firing off moments of recognition in my brain.

On the last day I was driving back up north and the expressway jammed so quickly, the GPS didn't have time to warn me. So I made a split-second decision to jump off at Caldwell Avenue...a street name I remembered and had a general idea that I could take it northwest until it reached Waukeegan Road and I could rake that up north.

As I drove on Caldwell I passed the entrance to the Bunker Hill woods, part of Cook County's Forest Preserve network. Back in the 1970s my friends and I would bike to this portal and ride the mostly dirt trails north through the woods as far as we dared.

But even before then, in grade school in the 1960s I along with many of the neighborhood kids would hop on a summertime school bus and attended the YMCA summer camp held in the clearings and thickets of the same Bunker Hill woods.

It's also the same place I had my worst bicycle crash, at the annual high school end-of-the-season track picnic, my freshman year in 1976.

The team party had ended and I hopped on my 2-year-old yellow Azuki 10-speed to bike home. I was pedaling down the paved road heading towards the leafy dirt path. I was still smiling from playing frisbee and running all afternoon. The sun warmed my face and arms and a tremendous tailwind buoyed my spirits and effort as I rode no-handed at a speed that my un-helmeted, teen-age invincibility told me was still not fast enough. I neared the restroom facility at the end of the parking lot where only a line of concrete parking risers separated me from the path through the woods. Then...


My left pedal caught a parking riser and riding no-handed I came down hard, waking up a moment later a few yards past the riser, with the sting of road-rash and a dull pain in my right arm-pit. It was a moderate gash that left a scar that would elicit questions from girlfriends, a wife, kids and grand kids. A scar that shows itself to me every time I shave in the bathroom mirror.

But none of this occurred to me as I drove past the Bunker Hill Woods entrance on Caldwell last week...until a short time later when a sign for the Caldwell Woods popped up and there, for a moment when I zipped past the opening at 45 mph I caught a glimpse of the outhouse building and the parking risers for the first time in 48 years. My left hand reflexively reached for my scarred right arm-pit.

A few years ago I found a very similar bike to the one I was riding then at a thrift store and my hands ran all over it reconnecting with its geometry and heft: The Japanese Time Machine...

Even with the internet allowing us to search for and find all sorts of pictures and sounds from our youths, it's still the real, in-person encounters with the touchstones of the past that elicit truly visceral nostalgia; and cycling has provided more than its share of true nostalgia in my life.

Last edited by BobbyG; 05-09-22 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 05-10-22, 04:57 PM
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It's not very prominent, but every now and then someone will comment on the "dueling scar" over my left cheekbone, the result of my only close encounter of the wrong kind with a motor vehicle while bicycling, back in 1976. The pair of callus bumps on my left collarbone, another aftermath of the same crash, sometimes used to get irritated by pressure from backpack straps or from the shoulder belt while driving, but not much any more. Ah -- we suffer for our sport.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt
Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger (2), S/N 42624, 42597
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Old 05-10-22, 05:10 PM
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Nice. There is a blind corner near my Mom's old house that found me t-boning my brother on his bike, doing a superman for about 10 feet, then snapping my left forearm. The look on my Mom's face when I walked in holding a left arm with two elbows was almost as classic as the look on my brother's face, as he was sure he would be blamed. I go by there often, and will never forget that.

BTW ... Your post is another example of scars being tattos with stories.
Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

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Old 05-10-22, 05:17 PM
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It's all but disappeared, now, but decades ago I was dealt a nasty road rash along the outside of one arm. Took years to fully blend in; now, there's just a slightly different pattern of freckles/spots (as compared to the other arm). On the rare occasions I head back to my old stomping grounds from nearly 50yrs ago, I still have tingling in that arm as I pass by the spot where it all happened.

Thankfully, that old cliff where we jumped into the sand pile at the old quarry isn't there anymore. And neither is that old hill where we barreled down to the bottom where our homemade, DIY jump over the railroad tracks was located. And ...

Ah, those were the days.
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Old 05-12-22, 01:47 PM
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Saguaro National Park, East Loop Drive

The only pain on my latest nostalgia trip came from The Big Hill. And it was the good kind of pain. I must have ridden up this a hundred times, five decades ago. I hasn't changed a bit.

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Old 05-13-22, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76 View Post

Saguaro National Park, East Loop Drive

The only pain on my latest nostalgia trip came from The Big Hill. And it was the good kind of pain. I must have ridden up this a hundred times, five decades ago. I hasn't changed a bit.

Your Clem looks geared to handle it!
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Old 05-13-22, 09:05 AM
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Nice. We’ll be visiting family in Chicagoland this summer. They’ve all moved to the northern suburbs—Northbrook, Winnetka, etc.
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Old 05-13-22, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395 View Post
BTW ... Your post is another example of scars being tattos with stories.
If scars and tattoos tell a story, I should write a book.
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Old 05-13-22, 11:00 AM
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I've been living in this rental for 6 years now and in the last couple years I have been doing a solo ride on Wednesdays which takes me past my old middle school. In 1967 I was riding my 3 speed home from school and crashed in a wet turn and broke my front tooth along with other minor injuries. Bent the left crankarm so I had to make the call of shame. When I ride through that turn I feel the crown on that tooth with my tongue.

A couple blocks up the street from there is a house where I lived for a short time in 1971 before going back to my parents house for a while. Parents house is a few miles up the road from there and looks very different than it did when they sold it in 1972 for $26K. The Zestimate for it now is $850K!

Continuing into the hills a few more miles is the house I rented from 2000 until 2016. Wish I still lived there. Wish I could have bought it.
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Old 05-20-22, 06:12 PM
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Great story BobbyG!!
Ride your Ride!!
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Old 05-21-22, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76 View Post

Saguaro National Park, East Loop Drive

The only pain on my latest nostalgia trip came from The Big Hill. And it was the good kind of pain. I must have ridden up this a hundred times, five decades ago. I hasn't changed a bit.

My wife and I have ridden that exact road several times in Saguaro National Park East. It's a beautiful ride.
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Old 05-28-22, 05:55 PM
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Today I rode by the spot where my son caused me to crash almost 2 years ago. I gave an involuntary shout, and then I remembered this thread. The body remembers.

No real damage sustained, by either of us. We cut our ride short, thought, because blood thinner let extra blood flow, and I'm squeamish.
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