When I was around 11 or 12 years old, back in the '70s, my parents bought me a new bike, which I could pick out myself. My birthday was probably the occasion, though that part is fuzzy this many years later. I wanted a "10 Speed" racer, as called at the time, with drop 'bars and the whole schtick. I remember us driving around in the family car looking for bikes, including my first ever visit to an actual bike shop. The image of bikes on a second tier rack, silhouetted against the shop window is burned into my memory, yet I can't recall the name or where the shop was located.
Alas, this is not a story of acquiring a Raleigh or some other cool bike. Nope, we knew nothing about bikes at the time and left the shop, thinking everything was too expensive. Instead, I wound up with a department store Iverson - bright yellow paint covering lead pipe frame tubing, steel 'bars and single piece crankset - a total, cheap department store tank. No complaints however, ignorance was bliss, and I thought the bike was great. I remember adding a vinyl saddlebag and cheap battery powered headlight to the spiffy new machine.
That cheap Iverson extended the range beyond what I did on my 20" Sting Ray copy. I planned rides in my head to farther locations, thinking I could pack a sandwich in the saddlebag if needed. The need to pull out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich never occurred, but I did push the boundaries of my neighborhood. One of these rides was the Dairy Queen run, maybe 4 miles away. That didn't seem far at the time, an easy ride, but the fact I could get there under my own power was awakening - especially at that young age.
The Dairy Queen was one of those old school types, no inside seating, closed in the winter, owned by an older couple with a German accent. My ride there included two short road climbs on secondary roads, followed by a section of dirt road, past a few large grass fields, which popped me out onto a busier road for a very short stretch - then into the Dairy Queen parking lot. A bit of a scenic adventure for a few short miles. Some spare change in my jeans pocket would then score an ice cream cone. I'd sit in the parking lot admiring my yellow steed while enjoying the frozen treat, before retracing the route home. I can still feel the New Jersey summer heat just thinking about it.
Even today, on bikes with saddles that cost more then the entire Iverson, with thousands and thousands of bicycle miles under my belt, I still feel that sense of freedom and adventure of the Dairy Queen run. After all these years, I'm not yet jaded with anything that revolves around bicycles.