Bikes, Motor Scooters and Motorcycles


By Jim Turner

If you take the time to remember what you did with your life you may find as I did that the disconnected collection of events, although vivid and colorful as memories, are often difficult to put into words and even more difficult to weave into a readable yarn. I have decided to write down as best I can parts of my life that involved bicycles and other two-wheeled transportation. The events I present did happen and included the people I mention. I fabricated only the obvious.

I was a bike rider

I have rebuilt bikes, laced wheels, patched sew-up tires, and painted frames. I have raced on the road from city-to-city, on closed courses and on a banked track. I wasn't a very good racer and I crashed in about half the races I entered. I liked to train; I didn't like to race.

The fellow on the left is my father who enjoyed competing in speed walking races like the London to Brighton walk. The photo was taken on June 17, 1922. Soon after, he left for the USA. He married my mother in 1945 and never returned to England or competed in sports again other than bowling and golf.

What I did best was ride for hours, usually alone, and ponder. I solved many problems while on early morning rides. I was a good bike handler so I made an easy transition to mountain biking when that became popular. I lacked the killer instinct to be a good racer and although my top-end was good, I could not ride in oxygen debt long enough. I loved a good, smooth pace line and the sound of a hundred bikes rounding a corner in the middle of a race, their free-wheels (I think they are now called cassettes) whirling in unison. In the 1990s, I found a home in weeklong sponsored rides. I enjoyed being in a group with those who would make a not-too-serious race out of each daily ride.

I have ridden long, slow discipline (we called them LSD) miles in January when the only other person on the road was driving a snowplow. I have owned a cheap 10-speed bike from Sears and an exotic mountain bike costing as much as a good used car. I prefer the standard two-wheel bicycle and I also prefer to stay on the right side of the law. That said, I begin with a recollection of my first bike ride of any distance; on a four-wheeler that I rode it so that I could perpetrate a felony.


The picture on the left is of Ron and Jim on Hubbell in Detroit, 1954. The truck is my dad's painting truck. We would ride up and down the street but never crossing Lyndon or Hubbell. The other picture is Ron, Andy and Jim in 1957. We are in front of our house on Wolverine Lake. I am astride my new "English Racer." Notice that Andy is wearing the shirt that Ron was wearing in 1954. Since I have no older siblings, I am wearing no shirt. I'm sporting an "Iggy Pop" look way before aping a drug addicted, endomorph, see-my-ribs look was cool.

My first long ride

I'm not sure when I took my first bike ride. I don't remember many tricycles or small two-wheelers with training wheels lying around the house, but I'm sure there were. I do remember events involving bicycles, and some are imprinted in my memory along with the night my grandfather died, the day JFK was shot, and my first trip behind the wheel of the family car.

My family grew up in a house on Detroit's northwest side. Like many families we also owned a cottage on a lake about 25 miles west - coincidentally, the distance of my first drive. We spent most of the school year in Detroit and the summers at the cottage on Wolverine Lake. I was a boy, and in Detroit, boys collected baseball cards. My brother and I bought nickel packs of 1957 Topps cards at Bill's Confectionary, a few blocks from home. I also found a source for 1955 cards at a store on Grand River, near the Great Lakes Theater. I also collected 1956 Topps, but I don't remember where I bought them.

I still remember opening a pack of 1957 Topps and seeing the Faye Throneberry card. He played outfield for the Washington Senators and the card shows him at the end of a mighty swing. Faye's brother Marv played first base for the Yankees. I don't remember opening any of his cards, but I remember his 1958 card was orange. I stopped collecting in the fall of 1958. I put the lot in a shoebox and forgot about them. Many years later Marv appeared in television commercials selling something. This was a time when self-effacing humor was the norm in ads. The 1957 Topps Chewing Gum Company baseball card of Faye is a much higher valued cared than Faye deserved. It is from the hard-to-find series that was either short printed, or released in the fall after school was started and football season was approaching.

The long ride to rescue my box of baseball cards that my mother left behind.

In 1958, my family moved permanently to our cottage on Wolverine Lake. My dad traded our Detroit house for a late model Plymouth station wagon, one with the third rear-facing seat. We had no laundry facilities at "the lake," so once a week we visited our grandparent's who also lived in Detroit. A few weeks after we had settled in I felt the urge to thumb through my cards. I asked my mother if she knew where they were. "Yes. They were left in the basement of the old house." One of the standing jokes among boomer boys when asked what happened to their baseball cards is: "My mother threw them out!"

When I was young, it seemed that our grandparent's house was many miles away, but it was actually a little more than a mile. They had a two-story garage that was entered via an alley. At one time it was the headquarters for Merritt Manufacturing, my uncle's attempt at turning a profit during WWII. It was full of interesting things including a couple of very large-scale electric train engines, and to my good fortune, an old four-wheeled bicycle.

I was young and not very adventuresome, but, without permission, I sneaked out through the alley and rode the rusty roustabout to our old house. I fought back surges of tears brought on by the confluence of unfamiliar emotions. I was on a mission to pedal to a house that now belonged to another family. It was the first time I was alone, far away from parents; I was a fugitive and about to become a common criminal.

The cycle had no seat and I doubt the tires had much air pressure; the chain probably needed a squirt of oil and the bike was really heavy.

The break-in and the beginning of a life of crime

I'm not sure anyone was home when I knelt down to look through the basement window, but a light was on and in the center of the basement was my abandoned box of cards. It took me a few minutes to jar the window open and another minute to jump to the floor and grab the box. Apparently, it was the only box we forgot. I can still see it sitting on the basement floor directly under the bare bulb. I dared not look towards the monstrous coal-fired furnace. I remember my dad shoveling coal into its gaping blood-red mouth.

I don't remember the ride back or any confrontation with my mother, although it is possible I didn't tell her. I do remember feeling drained as the adrenaline released its grip on my brain. I'm not sure my recovery mission would have been possible if the portly peddler had two wheels instead of four. I kept the box of cards for the next forty years and looked at them often. It was a good heist.

Breaking away; breaking boundaries

I had broken free of my family and had traveled from one neighborhood to another - neighborhoods that had definite physical boundaries, and economic and cultural boundaries. I not only rode past Sawyers Park, crossed Shaefer, a very busy road, but I had breached the light industrial strip bounded by Intervale and Shaefer. We had never walked to our grandparent's house; this was Detroit, the car capital of the world. And, perhaps, most significant was my transformation from solid citizen to common criminal.

Eventually, my card collection grew to almost a million cards and I needed to buy a bigger house to store Marv and Faye and their friends. I bought collections for a number of years and even set up a table in a local sports card show a few times. In the late 1970s Ron and I attended weekend card shows and often talked about becoming dealers. I'm not sure why that was an attractive idea. My brief experience as a seller convinced me that I wasn't the right type of person for the buying and selling part of the hobby. I sold all my cards in 2003, including those in the cardboard box. I saved a Charley Maxwell rookie card because he grew up in Paw Paw, Michigan and played for the Detroit Tigers. I also saved a Don Cherry hockey card, but I'm not sure why. There were two "Jim Turners" who had sport cards. Jim Turner pitched for the Yankees in the 1940s and 50s. His only card was a high number1952 Topps. These are scarce and I never felt justified paying the hundreds of dollars to buy one in mint condition. His nickname was "the milkman," because he always delivered.

Jim Turner was also a kicker in the NFL for a number of teams. He was very good and once had his picture on Sports Illustrated magazine, but his cards were not worth much because he played football and not baseball. One the back of one card was the informative sentence: "His nickname is "Jim."; I have a bunch of his cards, and as I grow older I am beginning to look like him.

If you ever plan to motor west...

In the fall of 1959, my family packed the station wagon, jumped on Route 66 and moved to Riverside, California. It was a good idea not to sell the cottage because we returned the following spring. I have a few good memories and only one dull bicycle story. California, although physically, culturally and meteorologically much different than Michigan, did introduce me to two circulation control devices: PED XING and sidewalk cut-throughs. The first is a well-marked path across a road for pedestrians that forces drivers to yield until the crossing lane is empty (PEDestrian X-crossING). The other was the existence of neighborhood-to-neighborhood walking, jogging and cycling paths. In Detroit, the roads in our residential areas are arranged in a grid-like pattern, bounded by secondary and tertiary streets. For example, I walked to elementary school on sidewalks and crossed streets only at intersections. There was always a street on the left or right, and a yard on the other. The idea of a PED-XING crossing place would never happen in the car capital of the world. PED-U-DIE, maybe, or NO-PED, but to assume a car would yield to a pedestrian is ludicrous. The image below is a well-known Beatle Crossing, although it's not marked.

In Riverside, roads were curvy, as were the sidewalks. In addition, there was the occasional sidewalk that did not border on a road. These were designed to cross as few busy streets as possible and worked as connectors between neighborhoods. They were also bounded by fences that added to the magical transformation, by blocking the views of the backyards as one rode from neighborhood to neighborhood without evidence of change. I rode these paths on a borrowed bike with a cardboard box affixed to the handlebars that read "Rescue 8."

Flipping the bird way out west style

I spent a great deal of time while in California trying to convert my Midwestern "bird" to conform to the west coast version. Being able to speak the native tongue is essential when relocating. "Flipping the bird" or giving someone the "finger" would be at the top of most new Californians. Midwesterners simply point the middle finger as far as it can go while using the thumb to gather and hold the remaining fingers against the palm. In California, one must curl the remaining three fingers at their knuckles so that they appear to genuflect. With practice, the three appear to almost collapse under their own weight. After nine months in California, I was a changed 12 year-old. Assimilation back into Michigan might be a problem. It turned out not to be.


On the left is a well-formed Midwestern "bird." On the right is an example of a California flip. Although it is not well constructed, the message is clearly given. The middle figure is the same gesture give by Mickey Mouse, who must make do with only three fingers and a thumb. Never give the finger to an angry driver. The finger they point back at you may be a gun.

English Racer

For my birthday my parents gave me an "English Racer" with a three-speed Sturmey-Archer hub. It was much lighter than the typical Schwinn and had brake levers and caliper brakes for the front and rear wheel, and a thumb shifter that helped pick one of three gears. I use the word "helped" because one had to back pedal at the right time when shifting gears. This was a time when "Made in Japan" meant poor quality and everything "English" was good, like English muffins and putting English on the ball.

"You be careful out among the English." Eli Lapp

oldbikeI assume I was given that type of bike because my dad was born in England, and ditto for my first car - an English made Sunbeam Rapier coupe. The bike had 26" wheels and a triangular frame consisting of a top tube, a seat tube, and a down tube. I cannot remember the brand, but most frames of that type came from the same manufacturer. It had no fancy butted or double-butted tubing and none of the components were made from exotic materials like titanium or carbon fiber.

It took me a few days to learn to ride the thing. It was a combination of being too large a frame and very skinny tires. The boys in my family have short legs and none of us were destined to reach 5'10", but due to some freak of nature (a common abnormality according to my doctor), I was granted an extra lumbar vertebra. This thrust me into the ionosphere, eventually stopping at 5'11." But I still had short legs and swinging my right leg over the top tube was a challenge. I became self-taught in my understanding of "being kicked in the balls."

I stuck with it and eventually pedaled from my house to Linda Michael's house at the end of the street, where I slammed into the side of her house and skinned my knuckles on the brick siding. All my previous attempts ended prematurely with a tumble to the ground. Now I was pedaling and not falling; I didn't know how to turn, but I knew how to stop. So, ironically, when I reached Linda's driveway, I successfully executed a right turn, and began stopping by pedaling backwards. The bike did not stop until I hit the bricks. The brakes, of course, were engaged by squeezing the levers under my fingertips. I had learned to ride and although I will not allow myself to ride anymore, I still remember how.

I liked to customize things so after a couple of years I started on my bike. The first version sported a mechanical clock from our family's Chevy wagon. I secured it to the stem (aka Major Taylor "outrigger") and my father unsecured it and put it back in the car. He reminded me that even though I had found the clock in the car junkyard near our home, I had donated it to him.

I also attempted to add a "floor shift" above the top tube of the sleek 3-speed. I never made a good connection to the Sturmey Archer hub gizmo, so I canned that project.

I also added high handlebars like I would see on custom motorcycles called "choppers."

Major Taylor "Outrigger"

Marshall Taylor was a black cyclist who raced in the USA and Europe in the very early 1900s. His major contribution to cycling was the invention of the "stem" that extends the handlebars forward and allows the rider to take a more aerodynamic position. "Major" Taylor called it the Major Taylor Outrigger. He was also considered the fasted cyclist in the world for time - traveling a measured mile in about one minute and 10 seconds.

Bicycle rodeo

In the late summer of 1962 I was about to enter Walled Lake High School. We were visiting my grandparents in Detroit on a Saturday. I learned there was to be a bicycle rodeo at the Stoepel Park where we were headed. There was sketchy information in the paper about it, but all I could find was that contestants were to decorate their bikes for the parade. So, I painted my bike a loud green color and sprayed some black spots.

My mother packed a lunch and we headed to the park. When we arrived, there were hundreds of kids with bikes. It was sponsored by Jerry's Bike shop, or so I remember. I hopped in line and was soon sporting a number and a sheet with the order of events. It was a real competition, and included an obstacle event, a "slow" race, a sprint, and finally a score called "decorative bike." I spent most of my waking hours riding my bike; so I blasted through the sprint. I could also balance without moving, at least for small periods of time, so the obstacle and slow events went well. At the end of the day I heard my name called. I wasn't paying attention, but I went to the stage and came back

taylor-posterwith a new bike. When asked about my decorated bike I said it was a polo pony. Yep - green with black spots - a typical polo pony.

image036When we returned home, I gave the bike to my younger brother. A picture of the two of us was put in the local paper.

My cousin and I entered the same event the following year. My aunt, in a typical unsupportive gesture, reminded her son that I was championship material and he should not expect to be competitive. At the end of the day, Jack (later, known as Scampy the Clown) took home the second-place prize, and I finished deep in the pack. I was still very fast and had good bike handling skills, but I over-decorated my bike to the point where it was very heavy and parts fell off during the events.

The following year I had outgrown bicycle rodeos concentrating instead on motorized transportation. I was also deep into teenage pursuits.

Ron and I take a trip on a motor scooter

I include this story because it is one of the more dangerous things I have done on two wheels.

Between junior high and high school, I bought a used Cushman Eagle motor scooter. I painted a "Rat Fink" on the front cowl and put air in the tires - so much for maintenance. It had a rack on the back, very wide handlebars, and would go about 45 mph.

Having a history of breaking through neighborhood boundaries and committing crimes, Ron and I decided to take a ride. Of course, our destination was our grandparent's house; our starting point was the lake. This was bigger than the baseball card adventure; we would be traveling from Oakland County to Wayne County, a distance of 25 miles.

We followed the same route that my father drove, heading south from the amusement park to Novi; turning east on Grand River; going past Colonel Wagner's auction house where we spend many afternoons bidding on wooden-shafted golf clubs and lawnmowers that didn't work after we took them home. I learned valuable lessons about the auction culture, including how to hide enthusiasm when the item you came for finally is on the block. I was already a stoic and wasn't sure I could squeeze any more disinterest into my expression.

We had no helmets, no license plates; I had no driver's license, and Ron had no seat. It was one of the dumbest and unsafe things we did. We almost made it. As I turned left onto our grandparent's street we were nabbed by the Detroit Police. I can still hear Ron crying as I tried to concentrate on the lecture from John Law. It went like this:

"How old are you?"
"Fourteen, but my birthday is in a few days."
"How old is the blubbering one?"
"He's 11."

And then came the list of infractions: No driver's license, no lights, no back seat, no plates, too young, too stupid.

I was allowed to ride the scooter the two blocks to our grandparents and Ron rode with the Man. Ron has a history of falling apart in stressful situations, especially if he thinks he will be taken away from our parents, never to return - as heard in mandatory end-of-the-world sermons at summer bible camp. I rode the scooter back to the lake alone.

Walled Lake, Michigan

Walled Lake is a resort town. Small cottages are packed tightly and follow the lake's perimeter. Many are occupied only during the summer months. Gentrification has not reached Walled Lake. Most houses are unchanged today and the drive around the lake looks and feels the same as it did when I was in high school.

The town has no appreciable industry, but at one time it had an amusement park and a very large performance hall. The Walled Lake Casino was a stop for most big bands and crooners of the 1940s and 1950s, and rock and roll bands of the 1960s. The Walled Lake Amusement Park had the usual rides, and games, and because it was near the lake it offered motorboat rides. It was surrounded by a wooden roller coaster that had a poor patch job with unpainted boards at the first big turn. It appeared that a coaster years ago had jumped the track and crashed through the wooden trusses on it's way down. The hasty repair was left unpainted to add a visual reminder that you could go airborne at any time. It convinced me and I rode only once.

The Casino burned and the amusement park closed but one can see the footprint of the park when approaching the lake from Novi Road.

Our cottage was on Wolverine Lake, a short distance from downtown Walled Lake. We lived on the lake and swam and played outdoors all summer. Our house and finances were in poor shape, but we didn't notice.

My grandparents lived on Hartwell Street in Detroit. The area was residential with mostly middle class families. Houses were two-storey brick and much nicer than any we lived in. In the 1950s, one could often hear, "Strawberries, get your strawberries, four quarts for a dollar;" or be visited by an encyclopedia salesman, knife sharpener or a man and horse selling pictures of kids looking like cowpunchers, while wearing a replica cowboy hat and sitting atop the tired steed. My grandparent's house and neighborhood was very different than ours, physically, economically and culturally.

Doris and Alf - Wolverine Lake 1946

My dad wanted to name me Hartwell Dexter Turner; I never asked him why but I guess he liked the name Hartwell and in the 1920s he used to manage apartments on Dexter. He was serious, but wasn't able to convince my mother. My oldest friends and siblings call me Hartwell. It is their attempt at humor. My friends in college called me "Turtle," and after graduation I was called "Ward," after Beaver Cleaver's father. My musician friends call me "Big Jim Turner". I wasn't so "big" when I was given the handle, but I have managed to grow into my nom-deplume with dedicated, serious over-eating.

DorisAlfCar.jpgWalled Lake, summer bike rides

By the time we moved to the lake, I could ride safely. Most days I would follow my neighbor, Larry Johnson, as he delivered papers around the lake. Any tips were used to buy junk to eat. We put on a lot of miles up and down the hills and around the lakes of Commerce Township. The roads were narrow and there were plenty of speedy young drivers, but we never worried. When we first moved to the lake Larry tried to teach me how to smoke. We would hang out at and puff away at "The Dam," It was supposed to be the beginning of the Huron River. I now know that isn't true, but if you follow the Huron as it enters Oakland County and meanders from lake to lake it does appear to start at the north end of Wolverine Lake. The lake was created by building the dam that resulted in the five very small lakes melding into a single body of water. The lake has an island that is connected on both ends to the mainland by wooden bridges. Once the bridge that we could see from the Graybill's swimming hole collapsed under the weight of a loaded dump truck. I still remember the sound and my mother took a picture. Big doings on Wolverine Lake!

The island, the bridge and the truck

BridgeCollapse.jpg Village Of Wolverine Lake
Water Management Board
March 3, 2004

The outflow from the Wolverine lake dam flows under Glengary and travels north through a small stream into South Commerce lake and into the Huron River and on into Kent Lake.

September 7, 2007

Michigan Historical Commissioner Judith Tappero of Bloomfield Hills will dedicate a marker commemorating the Wolverine Lake Dam at a ceremony that will begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 14. The Wolverine Lake marker, located near the dam, highlights the creation of the lake by local dentist Howard Stuart through a private damming and inundation project during the 1920s. The project was key to Stuart's real estate development.

History Of Wolverine Lake, 1954-2004

Wolverine Lake was created from six small lakes; Spring, Mayie, Pork Barrel, Bickling, Taylor and Bradley, all surrounded by marsh land.

Dr. Howard Stuart was the man who conceived of and gave birth to Wolverine Lake. The idea to build a dam came to Dr. Stuart one spring day in 1914. While out walking that spring day in 1914, he came upon the culvert that crossed the road where the dam is now. The culvert had filled with sand, making the water back up, flooding the land south of the road. At that time, he thought that the six small lakes, surrounded by marsh, had possibly been one large lake at one time.

Across the street from the dam was "state land." That meant we could use it as a very large playground. There were roads and paths and plenty of woods and fields. When the paper route was done we would sometimes follow a path through the state land and come out the other side in a small town called Oakley Park. I went to Oakley Park Elementary School, but only by school bus. I was always astonished when we came pedaling out of the woods onto the streets of another town. It was magical.

I learned years ago that some women actually scheme and develop detailed plans to capture a man. I didn't realized this until I was 40, so the bike rides that were organized the summer before the start of high school were not just for riding; and so, I met my first girlfriend. There started out to be a small number of riders and after a couple of weeks there were three of us. Then there were two of us and we never road bikes together again. There were other things to try.


I always thought I would end up painting houses and riding a Harley. I almost bought a box of parts from a friend at school who guaranteed that there would be enough to make a couple of Harley 45s and a Harley 74, whatever those numbers meant. I decided to pass on the offer. I did, however, buy a small Yamaha 100cc motorcycle just before leaving for Ann Arbor in 1965. My mother pitched a fit. "You're going to get hurt."

In quiet defiance, I rode the bike to campus from Detroit. On the way, the key flew out of the ignition. This happened soon after I hopped on M-14 and started going faster. The top speed was only 45 mph and cars were zooming around me. It appeared that I might get hurt, but I made it to East Quad. The problem was that I had to leave the Yam100.JPGDormRoom1966ignition on because the only key was somewhere along the freeway.

The next morning the motorcycle was gone. I filed a police report but didn't mention the ignition being left on. About a month later the Brighton State Police called and said they had recovered the bike and caught the thieves. My mother claimed it was a message from God that the bike was gone. My dad drove me to the station and we were given a box of parts and a friendly parting note that that was all that was left, that the criminals had parted it out. Then the officer did a strange thing. He asked us if we wanted the names and addresses of the three who were responsible. He also said the brains of the operation had been caught stealing twice before and If I gave the nod, he would be sent to a boy's home for a few years. It sounded fair to me.

We visit the offenders

We visited the two youngest nascent criminals and did our best to make them feel like crap. The third delinquent ended up in stir and while there he earned money working in the laundry room. About every other month I would receive a small check from the prison. This went on for years and I'm sure he eventually paid three times what I had paid. The legal system worked well for me. My mother wanted me to go in witness protection when the felon was released.

I never rode a motorcycle again, but as the picture of my dorm room shows, I longed for the life of Steve McQueen. I wonder what advice his mother gave him.

Sears 10-speed and my first really long ride

In the summer between my first and second years at Michigan, I decided to buy a decent bicycle. I knew nothing about good bicycle so I bought a cheap, heavy "ten speed" at Sears. I took it to Ann Arbor and rode it quite a bit on campus. One fall Saturday I packed a small pack and headed home. It was about 35 miles and I determined the route on the way. Although that route is very dangerous because of the volume of traffic and speed limits on Michigan Ave. and the Southfield Service Drive, I made the ride often. I only had one problem with cars. I was on my way back to Ann Arbor on a Sunday afternoon and I had just passed the heavy urban traffic and was heading towards the city of Wayne. The traffic thinned considerably and I settled in to a nice pace. I was riding a much better bike and had biking shorts and jersey, when I noticed a Lincoln was inching towards me. I was pedaling smoothly and keeping a steady 20+ mph. The speed limit was 55 so the car had to slow way down to move at my pace. I had no experience in this sort of encounter, so I did nothing. The driver was an angry man who was telling me to get off the road; that it was for cars and trucks. Sitting next to him was a woman who I guess was his wife. She was not happy with him harassing me. She looked straight ahead, refusing to make eye contact with him. He moved his car very close to me a number of times and I had to ride on the shoulder to avoid a collision. This went on for about 15 miles. I said nothing and when I got to Ypsilanti, I stopped at the State Police station and reported the incidence. I gave them his license plate number - GNM968 - and I heard them laughing as I left the building. I had only two other bad experiences while riding alone; not a bad percentage for the amount of rides I have made.

Now that many years have passed, I consider the ride a moderate amount of exercise. When I rode with the Ann Arbor branch of the Wolverine Sports Club, and before a big race, we would ride 200-300+ miles each week. I still have my mileage charts on calendars from 1972 through 2006. I also included running miles and important events; like when my daughter was born and when people came into my life, and when they left. In 1971, I had a final exam at 9 am and managed to ride 45 miles beforehand. I felt really cool walking into the exam with my bike on my shoulder and dressed in very tight bike clothes.

A 10-speed has a derailleur on the back hub with five different cogs (gears) and a derailleur above the gears attached slightly above the two chain rings. The hub and crank gears are shifted by way of levers on the down tube. This causes the chain to "derail" from one gear to the next. Today one can buy a ten-speed Sturmey-Archer rear hub, a 10 cog rear hub, and a three-ring crankset. So the 10-speed has grown into a 30 speed.

Belle Isle and the Wolverine Sports Club bicycle marathon

I was dating a member of our church, and one Saturday night we were going to Belle Isle for kicks and found that about 2/3rds of the island was blocked to traffic. There were hundreds of bike riders churning around the perimeter road of the island. We parked and walked to the information table and wereBelleIsleMarathon.jpgimage049.gif told that a 24-hour bike marathon was in progress. Sue and I wanted to participate so we went to her house and asked if she could ride with me from tonight until Sunday noon. Her parents would not let her go, so I went home and grabbed my bike and drove back to Belle Isle.

I rode all night starting at 10 pm and finishing at about 7 am. For this I was given a patch that said 100 miles in 10 hours. I was hooked and for the next 6 or 7 years we took our families and spent the night. The most miles I logged in 24 hours was 235. I enjoyed riding alone in the middle of the night - and especially on the Windsor side of the island - but I also meet other riders and rode tight formations with some of Detroit's finest bike racers.

The image on the left is from a Belle Isle Bicycle Marathon. Seated are Dick Wagman, Liz Sweet, Becca Sweet and me. Dick would shift his 10-speed as he shifted hi VW Rabbitt - starting from a stop he would deftly move from first gear, to second gear, and so on, until he found the best gear for the terrain. Of course, the rest of us would be far ahead because we kept our shifting to a minumum. Dick is a computer programmer who worked at the system level. He likes to be known as "Q" which is short for "QQSV," which came from an obscure programming language called "Bliss."

Liz and Becca were not related; they met while working at Ulrich's Bookstore in the early 1970s.

Dick moved to Boston and Liz began working for the university. She lives in my neighborhood, but I never run into her. Becca and I separated soon after our daughter was born.

Belle Isle is an interesting place with an interesting history. In the 18th century it was governed by the French, followed by the British, who were also running the show in Detroit at the time. The island changed hands a few times and was eventually purchased by the City of Detroit. The island landscape was designed by the Fredrick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame. Belle Isle is in the middle of the Detroit River and has four lakes that are linked by a network of canals.

One early fall evening Bill Sweet, brother Ron and I took my father's paint car (he didn't paint it; he was a house painter) to Belle Isle in search of some of Bill's friends. It was dark when we arrived and we didn't know where to look so we parked in a lot and decided to go into the woods. I'm not sure of our intentions, but we were soon intercepted by a herd of deer. That was how I learned there were deer on the island, specifically European fallow deer. I'm not sure how they got there but I did remember that in its early history the island was known as "Hog Island" because wild hogs inhabited it, brought by early settlers.

The deer scared us and we ran like hell. Two other things happened that night. On the way home he car stopped and wouldn't start. So we walked home along Six Mile Road, arriving just after sunrise. On the way home we yanked a sign from the front of a local tavern and carried it home - a prize to remind us of this great evening.

The Wolverine Sports Club

In 1972 I decided to try bicycle racing; at least I wanted to ride in a pace line like the Sunday riders who appeared years ago. I bought a decent bike and started riding.. On my first ride I met Bob Datsko, a local rider, who was enthusiastic about helping me find my way. It was a serendipitous meeting since he said that a local chapter of the Wolverine Sports Club was beginning Saturday training sessions in a few weeks. I was excited. The WSC was the club that sponsored the 24 hour bike marathon that I happened upon on Belle Isle.

The training was held at Research Park, just south of Ann Arbor. It was chosen because there was a circular road inside the grounds of the park that turned out to be a very safe place to practice basic skills such as riding in a pack, cornering, riding in a pace line, sprinting, and drafting. I arrived early and fell in line with a group of three riders. I had ridden in a pace line at the marathons, so I felt comfortable. The riders were Bob Datsko, Stewart Carter and Benjy Schultz.. Stewart and Bob had raced previously and Benjy and I were new to the sport. I didn't learn much about bike riding that day, but I did learn that Bob did well in junior races and was training for the Olympics; Stuart grew up as an orphan and Benjy was going to be a dentist.

The next Saturday Mike Kolin arrived. He was a former racer whom had great success in both road races and criteriums. He had trained under Mike Walden who owned the Continental Bike Shop in Ferndale. I bought my bike from his shop. Mike Kolin volunteered to meet with our newly-formed racing club and teach us how to train and race. His understanding of every aspect of the sport was incredible. He had a nice way about him and appeared to enjoy teaching. He claimed that if we listened to him and followed his lead that any one of us could win bike races. I only wanted to look good in a pace line and ride past a family changing a tire.

The Saturday sessions began in April and eventually included Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions. We painted a finish line and rode and practiced three times a week. The other days we were to ride what Mike called "long slow discipline miles. We were to keep a log of our miles. Our first race was in early June at Chandler Park in Detroit.

Patching a tubular tire

There were two things bike racers did when I was racing that I objected to; they shave their legs and ride and repair tubular tires - aka "sew-ups." I never knew why leg hair made any difference; it certainly had nothing to do with wind resistance since the coefficient of friction between air and a hairy leg is very low. I am resigned to believe that it is so that the rider can have his legs massaged.

For a time, I was crashing in every race. Near the end of one road race, as I was sliding along the road on my thigh with my bike still attached to my toe-clips, I pondered that maybe hairless skin slides better on asphalt and concrete, and reduces the severity of what we used to call "road rash."

Before the emergence of very lightweight narrow rims and matching tubes and tires, bicycle racers rode on tubular tires. These consisted of a thin tube completely encased by crisscrossing layers of cotton, and a final layer of rubber in various tread patterns around the perimeter. The tire and tube then had to be glued on the rim with some of the most stick contact cement ever invented. The cement never dried, but it hardened enough to hold the tire on the rim. They were also very expensive compared to the conventional tubes and tires found on regular bikes. Before each race at Chandler Park in Detroit, a race official would test each rider's tires by applying lateral pressure on the tires in an attempt to break the cement's hold and pop the tire off the rim. It was better if the tire found its way off the rim before the race started then when the pack was rounding corner at 35 mph.

I spent many hours trying to patch my tubular tires after a puncture. It was time consuming and involved finding the leak and removing as little of the rim strip. This strip is the first inside layer and if the tires had been cemented properly, there would be a fair amount of tacky cement on it. Under the rim strip are the threads. These tires are also called "sew-ups' because the tube is enclosed by sewing the cotton casing together. After carefully cutting as few threads as possible the tube is partially pulled out, patched and put back in its original position. Next, the casing is re-stitched and the rim strip is glued back. If there was a large enough hole in the tread, and inner patch was sometimes glued just under the tread. It was easy to re-puncture the tube when sewing the tube in. When I finally made enough money, I would replace the tires and throw the punctured ones away.

The instructions for this repair were found on a small, folded paper inside a tin box that was sold as a repair kit by the Clement Company, who also made the best tires. I also built and trued my own wheels; until during a tough training ride at Kensington Park, I noticed my cornering didn't feel right. When the ride was over I found that half the spokes had loosened. It was another skill that I had not mastered.

Here are a few of the coaching tips I believe to be inaccurate:

  1. With proper training, one can learn to do without liquids during a race - regardless of the temperature.
  2. No sex during the racing season.
  3. The best thing to do after a crash is to get back on the bike the next day.
  4. It is good to ride the day before a big race.
  5. Riding makes one temporarily sterile.
  6. Riding makes one flunk out of college.(This is one I believe.)

Florida breakaway and crash

In the early 1970s I traveled with Mike Walden and the WSC to Florida to attend a two-week training camp. We raced on the weekends and rode on weekdays. On the way down we stopped somewhere because there was a criterium race scheduled for the next morning. We talked about team strategies and what to do in certain situations. We had about 24 riders that probably made us the largest club group there.

I was taking my pull at the front of the pack of about 100 riders when a rider flew by me. I quickly jumped on her wheel and in a minute or so we were far ahead of the pack. When two people are away it is extremely important to work together because drafting helps reduce the effort needed to stay in the lead. I figured that if we found a nice groove we could finish first and second. The problem was that my job was to chase and refuse to pull hard on a any breakaways; so that's what I did. I was obligated to do this so that Roger Young could win, which he did. After the race he thanked me for working for the team. In hindsight, I wish I had stayed in front with my new friend. So, after a couple of times around the course, the other rider realized I was not going to help her maintain the breakaway and we found our way back into the pack. She said some nasty things to me for the next few laps.

With about two laps to go something bumped me and into the curb and over my handlebars I went. That was the end of the race for me. I realized only a few months ago, almost 35 years later, that one of her teammates had pushed me as punishment.

I logged about 800 miles for two weeks and had terrible sunburn for the trip back to Ann Arbor.

Mike Walden was a nice guy and he knew about modern training; things like upper body workouts, interval training and long slow discipline (LSD) miles. I bought my first racing bike at Mike's Continental Bike Shop in Hazel Park in 1966. Soon after, he moved the shop to a bigger store in Berkley, Michigan. The last time I saw Mike was at the check-in table for a triathlon on Belle Isle in 1982.

Trips to the Cadieux Cafe

The Cadieux Cafe just northeast of Detroit has a long history of being active in a few obscure sports, one of which is Biker racing. I spent many pre- and post-race dinners of mussels at the Cadieux.. The Cafe is also home of Belgian "feather" bowling and Pigeon racing. I had a chance to roll a few frames in the two hard packed dirt alleys. They also advertise "Group Dancing," whatever that is. The Cafe was also the home of the only pigeon racing organization in North America.

The Cafe has a bar and serves many types of odd beers. It is also serves food. I will remember it as the home of bicycle racing, bowling, pigeons and as a living museum where on a Friday night as the men bowl on the pair of lanes, the women sit and talk at small tables on the median separating the two lanes. I worry that as the Belgians disperse and leave the area, bowling may go the way of the pigeon. Every fall the Cafe holds a criteium race. When the weather is good, it draws a good crowd and a large field. If that ceases, I'm afraid all will be lost and the Cadieux Cafe may become just a bar and restaurant with a live band on the weekends.. Long live Eddy Merckx!

Morning Rides

A month or so before a big race a group of us would meet at 6:00am and go for a long ride to Chelsea and beyond. I continued morning rides long past my racing days. I rode mornings with Jean in the late 1970s and with Beverly in the 1990s. In January and February, I would ride a track bike - with a fixed gear and no brakes or coasting hub.

Bridge Tournament

I learned to play bridge by playing with my wife and two friends. They were good teachers and I supplemented their effort with a few books. One was called, "Bridge for Bright Beginners," and another was, "How to play bridge with any partner." As usual, I threw myself into the nuances of the bidding and the different styles of play. I enjoyed reading the bridge column in the paper. For some reason I agreed to play in a doubles tournament with my friend Paul Grams. Paul was helping me learn the game and we often played for hours with him and his wife.

I decided to ride my track bike to Crisler Arena the morning of the tournament. We lived in Chelsea, Michigan at the time which is about 27 miles from Ann Arbor. It's only 20 miles on I-94, but we lived on Cavanaugh Lake which is another five miles west of Chelsea, and the biking route goes through Dexter and then winds along the Huron River and ends at the south side of Ann Arbor. It's another couple of miles through downtown to Crisler.

About 3/4 of the way, Huron River Drive crosses a pair of railroad tracks. I had crossed the same tracks a hundred times without incident, but on this trip my front wheel fell into the slot next to the rail and down I went. The result was a seriously bent front wheel. The rest of the bike was fine - there are no brakes or derailleur to break - and both tires had air. I undid the wheel and found a fence to press the wheel against until it looked round. The result wasn't perfect, but I was able to continue my journey. If there had been breaks, I'm sure the wheel would have rubbed against the pads.

The set of wheels I was riding on my track bike where an old pair of of racing wheels with "tied and soldered" spokes and wooden rims; that is, wood inside and thin metal enclosing them. The spokes were laced "3 cross" and where the spokes crossed, the two were wired together and soldered. This made a very stiff wheel - very good for track riding.

It so happened that the tournament was the Michigan State Bridge championship. We entered a "limited-pairs" because we had accrued no "master's points." Paul plays well and I was a beginner so I wasn't surprised when he shot looks of disbelief in my direction soon after I redoubled the opponent's game bid. The woman to the right of me was a beginner and I made a quick guess that her partner was also her teacher, as Paul was mine. The woman also made the initial very strong opening bid, and also provided the "double' of my response. My hand was very good and I counted almost enough tricks with a high probability that Paul and I could finesse when necessary. I played the hand and Paul showed his hand, as dummies must.

There can be no communication other than bidding and responses to bidding. Each pair must specify the bidding systems they will be using. It's written on the scorecard. We took all the tricks and because of the double-redouble of a slam, we ended the morning in first place. We also earned our first master's points. It was a good day.


1979 Triathlon

In 1979 I decided to enter a triathlon. They came in various lengths and events but usually included a swim, a bike ride and ending with a run. Each triathlon had its own set of rules, but it was common to disallow drafting another bike rider. It was three time trials back to back to back. I trained every day for about four months and entered my first competition somewhere around Jackson, Michigan - I think it was the "Race Road" exit on 1-94. For training I did at least two events each day - swimming and running, swimming and cycling, and almost never running and cycling on the same day.

I finished in the top 30/160 and would have finished higher if I could have run the entire last few miles. I remember only one thing from that day. While swimming across some lake I met another participant who was swimming from right to left in front of me. I lifted my head and saw the target shoreline in front of me. He had a number on his shoulder so I knew he was trying to get to the same spot as I. Somehow he got turned around. After the cycling leg I was in the top 10, but I did poorly in the run. I couldn't wait until the next race.

I found my next triathlon a month later at Belle Isle. There are nGiovanni_Battista_Venturio swimming holes on the island so they replaced the swim with a canoe leg. There are many canoe-able waterways within the island. The order of events was: bike, canoe, and a run. I rented a canoe a couple of times and was given some timely advice from a cycling friend. He told me that if it was a windy day I should sit in the front of the canoe. That would allow the canoe to remain in the right direction, especially in open water. Canoes are very light and have three places to sit: front, middle and back. The single paddler becomes a fulcrum about which the slim, low draft vessel would rotate. On the day of the triathlon there wasn't a noticeable breeze until we were on the island and the Venturi Effect took over. That's him in the oval portrait.

A fellow in the canoe next to me brought his own canoe - it was a nice green color - and I watched as he sliced perfect "J" strokes in the water. He glanced at me a number of times as I settled into the rather cramped front seat and began quickly paddling away from the shore. The cycling leg was first and allowed me to begin the canoe leg in the top 6. About two minutes in the canoe I passed most of those who were in front of me. They looked like idiots trying to point their boats in the right direction. Things got even sillier after I had reached the turnaround and headed back to the takeout. The midpoint of the leg was a small lake. The canal stopped there and we had to paddle across and have our numbers recorded. I turned to head for the entrance to the canal and what almost made me scream. There were about 40 canoes spread over the entire lake, going in wildly different directions. The wind had wound the canoes in circles, helped along by the lonely captain madly thrashing paddle and arms. As I entered the canal I noticed that most of the canoes were at right angles to the wind and I was reminded of the lone wrong-way swimmer from weeks before. Mother Nature must be dealt with.

I was one of the first runners to start the last leg, but I was not fast enough and ended in 10/60 place. That was my last triathlon. My wife had moved out of our house to attend law school in Detroit and I had to become more of a primary parent to our daughter.

Riding with family

I learned too late to not force someone to do something they don't want to do. This includes people of all ages, but the lesson was most obvious when attempting to influence teenagers.

My experience with family members and cycling starts with a short ride with my youngest brother, Andy. I had just bought my second 10 speed - a Frejus, complete with racing wheels and Campagnola components. It was very light and Andy and I decided to race to the end of our street. We started and Andy took off so fast and with such power that I knew I couldn't keep up with him unless we were racing more than a few miles. How could he be that much more naturally strong than I? Since that day I have learned about fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles, but I think that race down the block transcended muscle, bike and rider. I became a consistent loser in bike races, either falling late in the race or failing to finish. Andy did this to me; or, maybe I was born with it.

Much later, I tried to convince my daughter to go on a long ride with me. She too is very strong and had no trouble covering the distance, but she made sure her face never looked happy. There were no signs that she was having fun and she let me know that it would be the last ride. She does, however, remind me that I taught her to ride a bike; she remembers my hand in the middle of her back, steadying here as we rolled along Pauline Blvd towards Allmendinger Park.

I blundered badly one Saturday while following Alexis on her first solo ride down Pauline from Stadium to our house. We put her bike in the car and unloaded it about four blocks west of our house. She rode alone while I drove the car slowly and near the curb. She was doing fine when a police car encouraged me to pull over. As one of the men talked with my blossoming bicycler, the other sat in the cop car and "ran my plates." I was not approached, but I could hear her trying to convince the fellow that I was her father. This was during Alexis' pre-rebellious period so everything was settled quickly. A few years later and I'm sure I would have been hauled to the station. As I drove home, still stalking my daughter, I realized what the policemen had seen: Some dope in a crappy red Chevy station wagon following a young blonde girl on a bike. I wanted to be happy they were alert to this kind of crime, but I've been blessed with an intense distaste for authority.

Allmendinger Park

A very short walk to the east of our house was a one block by one block park with two softball diamonds, basketball court and tennis court. It was also the site of one of the funniest acts of entrepreneurialism (or maybe civil disobedience) I have ever witnessed.

The park is very close to Michigan Stadium. On football Saturdays, many homes within roughly a one-mile radius become parking lots for many of the 110,000+ football fans. Parking prices are high and a family with a decent sized yard can make a good deal of money. On one Saturday, we walked past the park and noticed it was completely filled with cars. I would guess there were 150-200 cars neatly packed in a beautiful array of Detroit Iron. It was odd that the city would allow such a thing since it never allows car parking in any of its parks. (If you can't park in a park, maybe you shouldn't be allowed to sit in a seat or walk on a walk, or toil on the toilet.) We read in the Sunday paper that the use of the park as a parking lot was not sanctioned by City Hall. Instead, it was quietly and successfully commandeered by some soon-to-be-criminal who transformed those eight acres of green grass into a barrel of greenbacks. I don't think they were ever caught. At $20-30 a pop, they could have walked away with over $12,000.


Here is the math:

Roughly 7 acres@43560sqft/acre = ~300,000 sqft. A single parked car = ~300sqft.

300,000sqft/300sqft/car = 1000 cars

Roughly less than 1/2 site can be used:

500 cars @ $20/car = ~$10,000, or

500 cars @$25/car = ~$12,500

1995 Ron's Helmet

The city of Clarkston, Michigan is home of the Flying Rhino Cycling Club. The club sponsored three rides each year: on New Year's day, Mothers day and in the fall. In 1995, my brother Ron and Beverly and I arrived early for one of the rides. Many of my old racing friends would also ride these sponsored mountain bike rides; and there were many at the rest stop when Beverly and I arrived. It was Doctor Lee Green who started the conversation. It went something like this:

"I saw a guy off the side of the road gasping for air and he was wearing a motorcycle helmet!"

There was much chortling and guffaws for a few seconds and then walking slowly towards us was Ron - the perpetrator in this comic relief. He had forgotten his bicycle helmet and decided a motorcycle helmet would work fine. Before he saw us I acknowledged that he was my brother and stupidity flows freely in our veins. At the end of the ride Ron's neck was very sore. Duh!

The year before, Beverly threw-up in the middle of the same ride, so I was used to uncommon occurrences in Clarkston.

I met Doctor Lee Greene when he was the attending physician at a breast clinic and Beverly needed to have a small lump in her left breast excised. She asked me to go with her. I ended up in the examining room with Gabby Green yakking at me while his finger was worming around inside a small incision he had made in her breast. We carried on quite a discussion while Beverly sat very still. The next time I saw Lee was on a local mountain bike ride. He was calling the authorities to report some kind of a natural resource infraction. He was the first in the neighborhood to own a mobile phone, and of course he took it with him on rides.


The Michigander is a yearly, six day mountain bike ride along dirt roads and converted abandoned railroad tracks that have been converted to walking, cycling, running paths.

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Here I am, as happy as can be.

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Remember, a frown is just a smile turned upside down.

I have tried smiling naturally, without forcing my face to feel contorted, but I have had little luck. These three pictures show how I look after smiling. I usually have to take a nap.

The middle picture of Beverly is at Lake Orion High School where, 30 years earlier, the Mother's Truck band played at the homecoming dance. I played bass and sang. The performance was interrupted by a fight between the band and a few students. We walked into the gym and I experienced an immediate acid flashback. I began pounding the crap out of Beverly. By the time I calmed down, the police were slapping the cuffs on me. That's why Beverly is smiling.

The last row of pictures shows me trying to smile. I was really close once when I was playing saxophone. These two pictures have nothing to do with cycling. They were taken in Crisler Arena during a Michigan basketball game. I joined the Washtenaw Community College Jazz Orchestra after listening to them play during games that occur while the students are on vacation. Morris Lawrence led the ensemble and during performances played keyboard, saxophone and clarinet. I'm sitting next to one of his sons who was playing bari sax.

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Michigander1995Michigander Beverly spider

The second day of the 1997 Michigander was beyond any doubt the worst ride of my life. It started as they all do by getting up at 6am, showering, eating and taking down the tent. It was overcast but not yet raining. Beverly was inside sweeping the floor of the tent when I heard her yell that there was a bug and should she be concerned. I said no and we rolled it and packed it in its bag. We threw the bags on the truck and started riding. We began on a dirt road, and the rain began falling, eventually drenching us and covering our clothes with mud. The rain was very heavy at times and lasted about an hour. As the rain was letting up we turned onto a nice single path trail. The sun came out for a few minutes but the rest of the ride was overcast.

Michigander1998Halfway through the ride we stopped for lunch at a Hot'n Now drive-thru in Muskegon.

It was also a distance of 70 miles and much of it was on not-quite-ready rail trail. The large cinder chunks were in their virgin state. They would eventually be crushed and rolled and become a nice path, but that day they were treacherous. Beverly fell twice even though we were only traveling about 8-10 mph. The last few miles were very hilly and after about 8 hours in the saddle we were very tired.

When we arrived and hosed bike and body, we retrieved our bags and began raising the tent. Beverly and I trained hard for this ride and each logged over a thousand miles during the Michigander1999months before; and mountain bike miles are tough miles mainly due to the fat, knobby tires.

It was with quick, mighty blows that I attacked the swarming but very tiny, newborn spiders that appeared to number in the hundreds. My advice to ignore the bug was wrong. The bug was a pregnant mother spider. I carried a hammer in my travel bag to help pound the tent stakes in the ground; a small vacuum would have worked better, but who carries such an appliance on a six day bike trip? I like spiders because they do a good job of eliminating other insects but I was not going to share my bed with them.

Last bicycle ride

After the 1998 Michigander I felt I could no longer ride safely so I put away my bike. I tried to a couple of short rides in the neighborhood, but my decision that I was now too uncoordinated to ride safely was correct. I have since given up driving. I sold my last mountain bike to the architect who built our house. I sold all my road racing paraphernalia including my road bike. One person took the whole lot. He left with five sets of wheels, shoes, tools, tires and a pair of cross-country skis. I could not sell my beloved Hite track pump that I bought in the early 1970s or my Park pedal tool I bought to help remove pedals. The orange pump was the best of the best when I bought it and it still can fill a tubular tire to 100 psi in a few strokes. The pedal tool is just a wonderful looking, simple lever that fits between the flat edges of the pedal and the crank arm. It has a striking blue vinyl grip and is just the right length to remove a pedal with reasonable force.

An epiphany

I had a spiritual awakening one Sunday afternoon that I have never forgotten. It was my first exposure to bicycle racing and my last exposure to Mary Baker Eddy. My mother's father, aka, my grandfather, was a "healer" for the Christian Science church. I'm not sure how he trained for that position or how he got paid, but we would often have to be quite when he was on the phone with an apparently ill member of the church. I assume he was good at whatever it was he did and was paid handsomely for his long conversations, because my grandparent's house was very nice and in a nice part of town.

Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science church after spending some time in the woods and where she - or so the story goes - received guidance from above. She then whipped off "Science and Health: With Key to the Scriptures." We learned many years later that she also plagiarized sections of the book; I assume she had permission to do so from the same source.

Mary Baker Eddy was a very interesting person and I only make light of her teaching and writing because anyone who claimed Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby as a friend and Mehitable Huntoon as sister is fair game. Dr. Quimby later was used as a model for Phineas T. Bluster of Howdy Dowdy fame. She founded the Christian Science Monitor in 1908. Today, church membership is very low. I think the reasons are obvious.

CS is not to be confused with copycats like "Religion Science," which is a west coast abomination based on the New Thought movement and the writings of Dr. Quimby (who, as it turns out was illiterate); or "Scientology," the brainchild of a popular science fiction writer that attracts dark-haired male actors. MBE was addicted to morphine and often went to doctors.

Lately, I've been able to justify my not getting too serious about the chosen beliefs of my grandfather and mother. Christian Science doctrines state germs do not exist and that sickness and disease are illusions of a non-believer's mind. Every day I swallow 30 or more pills; if I didn't, I would not be able to function. Also, the idea of a "Mother Church" is too much like the Vatican. My grandfather died at home after refusing medical attention because of his dedication to the church. He died of anemia and may have extended his life if he wished.

On the day of my own enlightenment, my mother drove me to a large home on a beautiful winding road in beautiful Oakland County. She had gotten wind of a CS youth group that met once a month and had me invited. I'm a strong believer in separation of church and pretty much everything, but I went along. The meeting was unbearable; the teenage girls were well mannered and nicely dressed, and the boys looked like little businessmen. They seriously discussed sections of the bible and the Science and Health. I didn't want to be there and I didn't want to be them. I couldn't wait to return to my JimWaving.jpgpauperish lifestyle. On the way home and soon after I was picked up we had a flat tire. We pulled as far off the road as possible and began replacing the wheel. It was fall and the trees were still green. The road curved through the rolling landscape and could have easily been a candidate for a "Scenic Drive." It was, however, very dangerous for changing a flat tire.

About halfway through the task I heard an odd whirring sound. I looked away from the car and saw a long string of colorful bike riders gliding down a long descent and then pedaling up a short hill before finally disappearing around a curve just beyond our car. The riders were dressed in tight black shorts, white socks and black shoes. Some had matching shirts and all were tanned and fit and colorful. They were moving very fast but I could hear voices which meant they were also not out of breath. That was a religion I could relate to. Although it only lasted a few seconds I have never forgotten that short burst of perfection.

I would like to tell you that I stored away enough bicycling memories to fill my thoughts as I drift into retirement and continue to de-evolve; but I would prefer to still be able to ride and walk and work and play. If there were another choice, I would take it.