Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Childhood memories of bike building with Dad

This email from Wayne in Washington:

Hi Brad and Kat. I’m Wayne from Spokane, Washington. Enjoy getting your newsletters and being a part of the builders forum. I guess I’ve been a bike builder for most of my life, although I took a hiatus during college and in my early parenting years. Now in my 40s, I got back to bike building a couple of years ago and luckily found Atomic Zombie.

I really enjoyed reading the article in the February newsletter about the childhood memories of building a chopper bike with dad. I hope you will indulge me to tell you a bit about my memories.

I grew up in New Jersey, one of six siblings. Our small house was crowded and even though we didn’t have much growing up, our parents did a fine job of teaching us positive values. I learned a lot from my parents, especially my dad. He was an auto mechanic for over 40 years.

In his spare time, which wasn’t very often some weeks, he would tinker on all kinds of projects in the basement workshop, making gizmos, gadgets and fixing mechanical things for a lot of people in our neighborhood. He’d spend hours and hours taking things apart, fixing them and putting them back together. Everyone appreciated his patience and skills. He just enjoyed always doing something useful instead of sitting in front of the TV. The “idiot box” is what he called it.

Dad loved going to auctions and yard sales. He usually worked long hours at the garage until late at night, but he’d be up early Saturday mornings to read the newspaper and head out to find bargains. I used to love going with him on his treasure hunts. It was something that my brothers and sisters weren’t too keen about, so it was usually just me and dad. We’d go from auction to auction, yard sale to yard sale finding all kinds of stuff, most of which I thought was just junk. But dad had a keen eye. He knew the gems from the junk.

On many trips Dad would pick up mangled bikes, bike parts, and tires, practically everything you can think of. He had lots of stuff in the basement but always knew where everything was. There was no order to his stuff, at least that’s what I thought. One day, we found an old cruiser style bike at a yard sale. I remember that it was pretty beat up, the front tire completely twisted. Dad had a twinkle in his eye because it looked like a bike he had when he was a kid. I didn’t see anything special about it. Boy, was I wrong!

We got home and we brought the day’s treasures to the basement. Dad said we were going to work on restoring the old bike, give it new life. I can’t remember how many hours we spent in the basement workshop taking the entire bike apart, working out the dents, replacing the chain, pedals, and wheels, sanding down the frame and repainting it. It took us a few days of spending all day and night in the shop bringing the old bike back to life.

During that time, Dad explained to me everything we needed to do, showed me how to use the tools, take parts of the bike apart and put the bike back together again. It was quite an education. I loved every minute of it. Not only was I learning and doing something I really liked, I was spending quality time with Dad. That was the best part.

We painted the cruiser bright yellow, Dad’s favorite color. I remember that the handlebars were super shiny. We spent a long time buffing up the handlebars and cleaning every part so they looked practically brand new. Nobody could believe that we turned that piece of junk bike into a work of art. Dad was so proud. I was proud, too. We both took the cruiser for a spin around the block to show it off. That was a great day.

I wish to this day that we had before and after pictures of that bike. It was a special project, one of many that Dad and I worked on together, just the two of us. I have no idea how many bikes we worked on together. We did make some pretty wild looking choppers with ridiculous ape hanger handlebars and lots of shine, some with tassels on the ends of the handlebars.

I learned so much about my Dad during those times together. We had many laughs, like how much dirt and grime I managed to get on my face! Looking back, I appreciate how important those times were to both of us.

As I get older, I find that I forget more and more about the past, but some moments like scrounging for bikes and parts and building bikes with my dad are memories that I will always cherish. Spending time with your kids is so important to you and them. I know we’re all very busy and sometimes we forget to set aside that quality time regularly.

Dad died suddenly over 10 years ago. He was my best friend until his last day here. But those memories will be with me forever.

My son, Jared, is nine and my daughter, Adrienne, is 12. They love building bikes with me in the garage. Not every bike project is a success. Regardless, we still have fun mixing and matching parts to make something different. And yes, we go to yard sales and auctions together! It’s become a family tradition that we look forward to almost every weekend.

I want my kids to learn and appreciate the time and effort it takes to make things themselves. To take bits and pieces and create something they are proud to call their own. I want them to learn the values and skills that I learned from my dad, all the while making it a fun experience, too. I think that’s as important as the learning part.

Some of their friends come over to help or just to watch as we make some pretty funky rides. Their friends say my kids are lucky to have a “cool” dad. I think I’m lucky that I had a cool dad who gave me so many special memories that I can pass along to my own kids. I’m thankful for that every day.

Sincerely, Wayne M.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory with us, Wayne.