When I was approaching my 10th birthday, I read a book featuring a boy detective who solved some sort of crime involving rare coins. I don't remember much about the book, just the bare bones. The kid was a numismatic prodigy of some sort, someone was doing something nefarious involving collectible money, and the kid ended up with a one-of-a-kind US Mint proof coin of some sort as his reward for solving the case for the police.
One thing I remember, though, was the kid's bike. He had a 26-inch wheeled bike, like a paperboy, and his rival had 20-inch wheel bike, like me. At one point in the story, the hero and his rival were both trying to get to a neighboring town, for some reason, and the hero was able to ride faster because his bigger wheels gave him better rolling efficiency.
So, I decided that I needed a 26-inch wheeled bike, and I started lobbying my parents for one. I explained to them a few times (more than ten, not more than a thousand) about the rolling efficiency and what that meant for day-long rides. I told them how it would be years before I outgrew it, because the new bike would have a bigger frame to accomodate the bigger wheels. I whined and wheedled and generally made a pest of myself.
Finally, in what I've always assumed was a bid to get me to back off, my parents told me that they would get me the new bike...if I gave my old bike to the church for a poor kid. I figure it was quite a shock when I agreed to the deal.
So, I got a shiny new Western Flyer, bright red and huge. I had to hook one knee over the top tube to reach the ground with the opposite foot, when I stopped. But, man, would that sucker roll. It's the bike I wanted to put wings on so that it would fly, for real, because riding it made me feel as if I was already flying, even though I never left the ground.
One day, not too many months after I got Big Red, I was riding through the neighborhood on my way to somewhere. I happened to look down the street as I passed an intersection and I saw a kid riding my old Buzz Bike, with the tiger-skin seat. A momentary pang of regret hit me as memories of riding with Rusty Fox, and making endless rounds of the Dead-End ran through my mind.
But, then, I looked forward and pedaled into the future. That bike was in the past, and I had many miles to go on Big Red.
I still have Big Red. I had Momma and Daddy bring it with them, the last time they drove out to visit, in 2004. Daddy had ridden the bike, for a few years, and even took it to Thailand for a couple of years when he was working over there. So, Big Red was looking a little tatty, with rusty wheels and faded paint.
I pulled him apart, and had the frame and fork stripped and powder-coated in candy-apple red. New stainless steel fenders, chrome wheels, and cleaned up original components went back on and, once again, the bike was a beauty.
I still kinda miss my first bike, and I hope that the kid who received it from the church enjoyed it as much as I did. But, I've always been glad that I got Big Red. And I'm very glad to still have him around.