There are silver linings to be found.
A few weeks ago, you would have been hard-pressed to convince me of that. We were in the early stages of navigating through what has been an unprecedented – and altogether unwelcome – journey compliments of the coronavirus pandemic. There is still little joy in Mudville with schools closed, sports shelved and futures uncertain, but I have started to discover things that sprinkle some happiness into even the grayest of days.
As a youngster growing up in Wenksville, where apple trees outnumber humans by an incalculable margin, a bicycle was everything. It was not only super fun to ride my bike on dirt trails, dusty country roads and over ramshackle ramps that were as poorly constructed as they were thought out, but also a way to connect with friends. If I wanted to hang out with a pal, I simply had to throw a leg over my sporty two-wheeler and start pedaling. And keep pedaling.
Lifelong best friend Matt Johnston and I lived miles apart with nothing but hills between our houses. Huffing and puffing up those climbs was a small price to pay when you had a big-time Wiffle Ball game planned for a summer day. Matt would return the favor and ride to Wenksville for games on my ‘home’ field as bragging rights were traded back and forth each afternoon.
I also remember trying to trick out my bike to keep up with my cousin, Jason Constable, who was a whiz on two wheels. While he was soaring over huge jumps and honing his freestyle skills, I was happy to cruise along by his side.
And cruise we did, riding all over the county in the summertime. We would look for hidden trails by a nearby creek or build dirt ramps in hopes of catching some big air. Skinned knees and elbows were part of our daily adventures.
I even remember taking back roads from Biglerville into Gettysburg where we hit the battlefield, unbeknownst to our parents. The thrill of that day came when we saw Ron Martin of WGAL Channel 8. Ron returned our waves as he slowly drove past us and we couldn’t pedal home fast enough, excited to share our big news even if it meant getting in hot water for riding a bit beyond allowable boundaries.
I have a ton of fond memories from those childhood adventures that began by hopping on my bike. Sadly, I didn’t think kids cared much about riding anymore. In recent years I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen youngsters in and around Biglerville steering a shiny Schwinn or a sleek Mongoose.
Over the last few weeks, a pack of kids has been making daily circuits of my neighborhood. Boys and girls alike, they dash around corners and soar down the street, smiling and laughing as they go with seemingly no cares to be found.
And that makes me smile.
Too easily and too often people lump kids into a stereotype of tech-loving zombies who stare at their I-phones for days on end without the ability to converse or interact on the most basic social level. They are cast as youth practically allergic to sunlight, fresh air and exercise, and the planet is doomed because of this.
I do agree that a little less phone time and more hours spent outdoors would benefit our next generation – and myself, if truth be told. But watching those daredevils zoom by my house each day is more proof that kids are in fact still kids. They ride bikes without a care in the world.
Not every day is an easy one right now, for any of us. Uncertainty creeps into most conversations that deal with the pandemic, education, employment, professional sports and just about everything else. Fear and frustration often follow, and even panic as patience begins to run in short supply.
I am not immune to any of that as I join my family, friends and citizens of this country in trying to fight to a finish line that hasn’t yet come into focus. But what helps on those dreary days is seeing kids on their bikes, laughing as they pedal past one another, making great memories during a not-so-great time.