Biking Toward Poetry

leftthumbI used to ride my bicycle all over the place when I was a kid. We grew up on bicycles. When we lived down on Snake Creek, we routinely rode any bike that we could get working down to the Dip (creek named for the yellow warning sign in front of it). I’ll never forget the Christmas the four of us kids were led outside by our parents to see a row of shiny new bikes waiting for us: bright green things with tassels on the handgrips, bone-white banana seats, and plastic wicker-like baskets with blue and pink flowers on them.

I have fond memories of listening to my transistor radio with Simon and Garfunkel singing about herbs while riding my green Huffy through the back streets of Locust Grove. As a teenager, I rode my orange 10-speed (with maybe 3 gears working) Flying Otasco brand bike from Locust Grove to Pryor to visit Mom when she was working at the Daily Times. When we moved to town, I rode my bike to Twin Bridges on Spring Creek, maybe 4-5 miles outside of town and particularly remember one trip coming home after spending all day at the creek where I had a sunspot attack and fell over in the ditch. I lay there a while and then eventually just got my ass up and on the bike and came on home.

My senior year of high school, I rode in Free Wheel Oklahoma, a bike ride through Oklahoma. The ride was only a few years old at that time, and it was fun and “free-wheelin.” I rode my 3-gears working Otasco from Hugo to Locust Grove, which was the next to the last stop that year. I had a blast, wore a halter top and jean shorts, no helmet of course, and old tennis shoes. Now Free Wheel is a huge thing, and I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it (even if I could do it);  I’d have to wear a helmet and bike shorts and be all bike-sleek, and that wouldn’t be any fun.

In my first year of college, I had to ride my bike from my dorm to the student parking lot because the two were at least a mile from one another. At OSU, I bought my first really good bicycle, can’t remember the brand, but I remember I was scandalized by the price, but the thing was so light and easy to cruise on. At that point I first realized that the bikes I had been riding all of my life weren’t really very good vehicles. But hey . . . when you’re young, that doesn’t matter.

For a long time, maybe 12 years, I didn’t ride a bike. Then when Luke was 8 or 9, I brought a one-speed old-school red bike with fenders from Montgomery Ward, and we rode the back streets and pathfinder trails of Bartlesville. There are great bike trails along the Caney River in that town. Eventually, I got another 10-speed because I was too damn old for 1, and I continued to ride.

A few years ago, I bought a semi-recumbent bicycle, a Day 6 brand Journey that I highly recommend–especially for over-50 folks like me who enjoy some back support and a very comfortable seat. (I tried to do Free Wheel again when I was in my mid-twenties and couldn’t do it–not because I was out of shape leg and lung-wise, but because my ass was not used to sitting on an uncomfortable bike seat).  I am not a regular rider but I do enjoy taking it out once in a while and riding the county roads around here, the same roads I used to travel when I was a teenager.

So . . . what does all of this have to do with poetry?

Well, nothing really. It’s just that the DAM JAM bicycle ride tomorrow, September 7, goes right by the museum, and I wanted to invite riders to stop by for a snack and very good well water. That is all.

–Shaun Perkins

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