I rode my bike everywhere when I was younger. In fact, when I was a Sr. in High School, I was still riding my bike to school. It was a great source of transportation, especially when you had miles and miles to travel. Such was the case when I was about 10 years old. As I mentioned before, my family lived on a ranch, 7 miles out of town. The closest store was a gas station called Maxwell's, and once we got to the highway, it was still 2.5 miles away. It was a glorious store, full of rows and rows of box candies, such as Boston Baked Beans and Lemon Drops, that sold for a dime, with lots more nickel and penny candies that we loved to buy.
Going to Maxwell's took a bit of planning, since we were so far away, but more often than not, my older brothers and sister (as well as my friends) and I would get permission to go to Maxwell's and spend our dollars on candy. We had but one rule, and we heard it again and again. "Stay off the highway!" You see, we could still get to the store by riding our bikes on the trail running alongside the highway. It was a slow going trail, with lots of hills, rocky parts, sandy traps, and prickly bushes, but if it meant getting a bag full of candy, we were happy. Sometimes, if I was lucky, we would saddle my friend Tisha's horse, and with her sitting in the front, and me bouncing behind her, we made quick work of the trail. That was always the best. But usually, it was our trusty bikes that got us where we needed to go.
It wasn't long before we figured out that if we rode our bikes on the tiny two lane highway, then (1) we would get there faster, (2) use less energy, and (3) mom and dad would never be the wiser. Oh, we were brilliant. So we began riding on the highway. We got away with it for a long time too, that is, until the day that I got caught.
I can't remember who was with me, but I'm guessing that it was probably my friend Tisha, because I don't remember anyone else getting in trouble but me. Anyway, we were riding on the highway, about half a mile away from Maxwell's, with our coins jingling away in our pockets. My friend was about 20 feet in front of me, riding her bike, and I was following. We were riding on the right hand side of the road, so we couldn't see what vehicles were on the road with us, until they passed us.
I was really really good at riding my bike. I was so good, that most of the time, I didn't have to use the handlebars. I could turn corners, slow down, speed up, and even read my book, as I road without gripping on to the handlebars. This time, I wasn't reading a book, but I definitely wasn't holding on to the handlebars. I was sitting straight up, with my arms raised above me, and riding like there was no tomorrow.
A big white van passed by me, and I heard a honk. I looked up, in time to see my dad, who was driving, stick his head out of the drivers side window and give me a look that I will never forget. I knew I was in big trouble. I saw my dad put on his blinker, and pull into the parking lot of Maxwell's. By this point, I knew it would do me no good to turn around now. I continued on to the store, to find my dad leaning against the van, waiting for me.
I was terrified. First off, I had broken the one and only major rule, which was "Absolutely no riding on the highway!". Well, there I was, riding on the highway. Secondly, I was riding my bike with no hands. Stupid Stupid Stupid. Third, I made my friend become a sinner along with me, and I was sure that I'd never ever get to see her again. Fourth, my mom was also in the van, and she had seen the whole thing. Oh boy.
I parked my bike in the bushes and walked slowly across the loose gravel to where my dad stood waiting. My head hung in shame and my lip quivered in anticipation of the scolding I was sure to receive. I looked up at my dad. He looked down at me. My life was over. Then he said, in a calm but authoritative voice
"Look Ma...No Hands. Look Ma...No Teeth."
That was all he said to me, then he shooed me inside to get my candy. It was a long ride home from Maxwell's that day, full of grief and horror and what I'd done, and how I'd been caught. The trails seemed extra burdensome to maneuver, but I made it home, and didn't have the urge to ride to Maxwell's for a long, long time. After that, I realized that my parents were not as upset about me riding on the highway, but that I was riding by bike with no hands, on the highway. Yes. I would have to agree with them.
In all the years that have passed since then, I remember with crystal clarity what my dad said to me that day. I'm glad he said what he did. After all, I quite like having teeth.