"Ever since I was a little kid I have always thought I could run faster than the wind."
-Corey Hart, In Your Soul-
My brother texted me this picture. A whole lot of memories came flooding back. Of course, it was more like the 1970s, but you get the idea.
When we were kids we had Big Wheels. They were made of pure, unadulterated, hard-molded plastic. They went as fast as your little feet would take them by spinning that front wheel into next week. How many times did your feet hit the ground spinning that wheel furiously? How many times did it hurt?
My brother and I commonly road our big wheels up and down the driveway and we would fly into a generally quiet street of oncoming traffic that our driveway spilled out into. So you damn well better have paid attention. As we reached maximum velocity at the bottom of the driveway we reached down for the plastic break and yanked that bastard up like our lives depended on it. Sometimes it did. It created a spin out into patches of dirt like you wouldn't imagine. Sandy gravel from the previous winter's sand trucks would kick up dust and we would revel in the glory of our driveway runs. It seemed like we had sandboxes in the street there was so much sand. We immediately grabbed our big wheel with two hands on the front bars sometimes with tassels and with our legs off to the side running them back up the driveway feverishly for the next ill-fated run.
My father had a red Chevrolet - a real classic. That car by the way was so loved by my father that there was literally a hole in the passenger side floor. You could literally see that pavement rolling by whenever we drove on the highway. Was that safe? I suspect not, but hell it was fun watching that roadway go by. Were we seat belted in the back seat? Doesn't sound like it does it.
On our Big Wheels our tiny little foreheads crashed into the bumper of that red car like melons more times than I could count. A good many tears were shed, but that never deterred us. It was right back to it. In fact, we went down that driveway so many times that the Big Wheels with their hard round back two tires began to wear from the break and friction of the pavement. It got so bad it was to the point where segments of the plastic tires were becoming flattened. Obviously attempting maximum speed with a tire that was no longer entirely rounded presented its challenges, but hell we persisted and drove those semi-square mothers into the ground.
We played hard as kids. There were no knee pads. There were no helmets. My God we could have used them too. I remember when we moved up to bikes. We built dirt mounds and proceeded to thrust at them full velocity for jumps. We used the classic clothes pin trick on the bike spokes to generate fake motor sounds. It felt like we were sailing into the sky. It was unbridled freedom. We quickly discovered the joys of those fleeting moments were met with an occasional crash landing, a mangled bike, serious scrapes and bruising and a whole boat load of pain. When you landed perfect though it was bloody magic capped off with a rousing YEAAAHHH!
We had this little bridge that linked my neighborhood to the local elementary school over a little pond, which sadly closed down a few years ago. The hills down the bridge and up the other side were really steep. At the bottom where each hill met somehow managed to build up an excessive amount of sand and gravel. We would ride down that hill so fast and normally plow through that sand with the typical still one attains by becoming one with their circular steeds. One day, I remember we went down that hill and one of us lost control through the sand and crashed. It was no ordinary crash. It was bad. The rest followed suit. My arm was badly covered with bloody raspberries it was like pain you don't know. Imagine someone taking your arm and scraping it on pavement for several feet. Torture I tell you. I'm sure many of you had similar experiences.
And through it all, through all these nightmarish crashes, somehow our melons survived the carnage helmet-free. I don't know how, but they did. Vegetable boxes were much safer.
Boy we had a crazy ass neighborhood too. We had these older bullies in the neighborhood that would stop you when you were on your bikes far from home and issue you a fake citation with their little pads and pencils. We were young so we often just stood there with our bikes like we had to. What for I have no idea, but the whole situation was very uncomfortable. Who the hell are these guys? You can't give out a citation to a bike rider? But it was crazy ass stuff. I was normally just making my way back from the local 7-Eleven with a bag of Wonder Bread. You know, the ones with the Star Wars cards.
Getting back to the Big Wheels though, my brother and I moved up from those wooden vegetable boxes we turned into imaginary spaceships for a time. Those vegetable boxes were colorful and fun and yielded great rewards from the imagination. But, along came the Big Wheels and one step closer to freedom. Yes, we got wheels and we were actually moving. We were no longer pretending to move while my father washed his red car with the hole in the passenger side floor. We had wheels and they were big ones like the big ones we seemed to have as kids!
Unfortunately, one day, once again, everything changed. My brother got the Green Machine. Son of a bitch! Man, I remember that.