Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? That was about 55 years ago for me, but I still remember it. My daddy came in one Saturday afternoon and announced that it was time to take the training wheels off my little hand-me-down bicycle and learn to ride like the big boys. My daddy must have been hard up for something to do that particular Saturday afternoon.
How do I remember 55 years after the fact that I learned to ride a bike on a Saturday? Simple logic, my friend. My daddy worked on the second shift in the Osprey Mill every afternoon, except Saturday and Sunday. Sunday afternoons were reserved for driving around visiting. Saturday afternoons were always our together times. But we were talking bicycles, weren't we?
I got on my rickety little green bike -- it was a girls model, by the way -- and he held the back and followed me around the yard. I can still close my eyes and remember that feeling of wobbling along, trying to maintain my balance, pleading with my father not to let go.
Then all of a sudden we approached the place where our backyard sloped down toward the back alley that ran behind all the little mill houses on South Broad Street in Porterdale, and I was coasting along like the wind. The wobble was gone and my speed picked up and I looked back to make sure that Daddy was still holding on.
He wasn't. I went from exhilerated to terrified in a nano-second. I was flying down the hill and didn't have any clue how to stop the bike. But I was, by-golly, riding it!
I just went with the flow and rode the bicycle to the bottom of the back alley. I don't recall the distance but I am certain that my first solo bike ride was longer than the Wright Brothers first solo flight. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I crashed and have a scar on my knee to remind me of that exhilarating moment. I am sure my dad caught a lot of grief from my mama about his throw-him-in-and-let-him-swim approach, but I had overcome the biggest hurdle in learning to ride a bike. I knew that I could do it.
There were a few more wobbles and a few more falls and skinned knees and scars before I perfected the art, but there were no more training wheels for me after that day. When I was a father with kids of my own, I made sure that they learned to ride at an early age. We are a biking family, you see, and every spring break we put about 100 miles on our bicycles during our annual week-long camping trip at Jekyll Island.
It would be interesting to question my kids and find out if they remember when they first conquered the fear of falling off on a bicycle. I think I'll do just that.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. Our youngest child, Jenna -- aka "Danger" -- learned to ride at an earlier age than our first two children -- in self-defense. You know how it is for third children. This weekend she put her skill to great use for a great cause. For the third year in a row, Jenna has been a part of a contingent of 50 or so UGA students who rode their bicycles more than 300 miles, from Athens to Jacksonville for the Georgia-Florida game.
I drove the 300 miles and was worn out for two days.
Their mission was to "Ride for Christ" and the event was sponsored by the UGA Baptist Collegiate Ministry. Each rider raised at least $200 in pledges and the money, all of it, goes to "Send Me Now" summer missions. Jenna spent last summer as a part of that program being the feet and voice of Jesus in West Africa.
The riders left Lumpkin Street on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. They expected to arrive in Jacksonville by noon Friday, but this year they had to ride into an approaching hurricane and 25 mph headwinds, so they were a few hours behind schedule. But they made it.
Harrumph! College kids these days.
And I just thought I was helping Jenna prepare for having a good time and getting a little exercise when I pushed her to that hill and let go of her bicycle 17 years ago. I hope that someday I grow up to be just like my kids.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.