In 1979 when I was a teenager, I loaned out my 10-speed bicycle to a friend and never got it back. Lesson learned.
I was bikeless for 10 years, until I moved to Columbia to finish up college. My only mode of transportation was an undependable compact car, and I decided I needed a bike as a reliable source of transportation to get to class. In 1988, I went to Walmart and purchased an $89 Huffy mountain bike.
The Katy Trail opened up in 1990 and a friend invited me to go on a ride with her. We went up to Rocheport and had a great ride. It brought back childhood memories of Rocheport, especially the old rail tunnel. That first trip on the Katy Trail hooked me. For the next 10 years, I rode the Katy a lot, mostly alone by my choice. Riding became my time to think about school, work and life. I also got to experience the outdoors year-round.
I never considered myself a diehard bicyclist; I rode for relaxation and fun. I learned a few things along the way. I was passing a fellow biker on the trail one day after announcing I was passing her, she veered into me and we had a minor accident. She was wearing headphones (earbuds didn't exists back then) and didn't hear my warning. This is when I stopped listening to music myself and started to wear biking gloves for protection on falls. As I rode more, I learned the pain in the rear from sitting on the stock bike seat hindered my riding pleasure. That's when I discovered gel bike seats, which greatly increased my riding range up to 40 miles.
When my son was born in 1998, I didn't ride much. It took me awhile to get back into the swing of things by including him on my rides. We purchased him a bike trailer and he loved it. Problem solved.
My son's younger sister outgrew the trailer faster than he did. She wanted to pedal and hold handlebars, but she was not yet able to balance, let alone ride at any pace at all. The solution was a tag-along bike, which basically attaches to a bike to create a bicycle built for two.
The four of us could now get out for family rides, there were two problems with the tag along. The first was my daughter wanted to be in front and the other problem was she was quite the talker and no matter how fast I rode, she kept up. I could not out ride her. One of my fondest memories with my daughter was stopping on the trail under a giant mulberry tree and eating berries off the tree while still on our bike. She loved it!
Next spring my daughter gets an adult-sized bike. I've purchased several bikes for my family over the past 20 years, but for me — with the help of several new tires, grips and gel seats — my 1988 Huffy still works great. Hope to see you out on the Katy Trail. Perhaps it's time I get a new bike next spring.
Sonny Sanders (AICP, GISP, PTP) is Department of Planning and Protective Services director at the City of Jefferson.