Funny how an old photograph or an unplanned whe-e-e-e-e!! moment can both thrill and shine its light on memories you haven’t thought of in years.

Most of my memories involve wheels. Usually 4, many with 2 and even an unsettling 3-wheeled memory if you recount the day the axle shaft departed my 1969 Mustang.

Today let’s reflect on a few of the bicycle memories, shall we, and save the Mustang story for a day when we won’t get vertigo. Pull up a banana-seat Schwinn or an offroad Huffy or any other 2-wheeler and see if any of this lights up a few memories of your own:

A couple weeks ago, our daughter Emerita rode her bicycle to the top of our sloped driveway where we waited for the school bus. After she climbed aboard, I was left with a small pink bike normally piloted by a 9-year-old girl.

Rather than walk the bike back down, I went the clown route (anyone surprised?) and settled my 6’3” frame onto the creaking bike, hiked up my knees and sailed down that driveway like Maxwell the pig in the GEICO commercials.

“Whee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!” I hollered for the full ride, later blaming pre-senility for the outbursts that ended with me careening into the garage.

Then, about the same day, I discovered a 47-year-old photograph of my brother popping a wheelie off the edge of the driveway on his big ol’ Schwinn. His 10-year-old torso twisting northerly with the bike frame while handlebars headed east.

I had a slightly larger version bike that still had its metallic brown paint. Spoiler alert – a road-rash accident would later grind much of that Schwinn’s finish to bare metal. More on that later.
Schwinns are heavy, well-made bikes and if you suggested it’s like pedaling a Bentley Flying Spur, I would not disagree. Just initiating momentum on those 1970s models took some thrust.

Wheeling one across a grassy field, up a banking and getting a couple feet of air under the front tire was impressive.

The northern end of Methuen’s Howe Street forks as it enters Haverhill, with West Lowell Ave., on the right spiraling downward toward the flatlands.

On days we felt especially invincible, Bruce and I would sail our bikes down West Lowell Ave., at Mach 3. The minute-or-so descent was as thrilling as any Disney ride. Like a 747 touching down, we required a lengthy runway to slow our streaking bikes, finally skidding to a halt in the Pat’s Beef House parking lot. Lengthy hikes back to the top of the hill limited our rolling plunges to a maximum of three per week.

Back then, we’d propel down that narrow street without touching the Schwinn’s brakes. Now I descend that route with one foot dragging my truck’s brakes and the other foot on the emergency brake.

While these trips with Bruce were wreck-less, I wasn’t so lucky in neighboring Salem, N.H.

One bike-for-pike summer, Rosaire Leblanc and I rode our bikes miles in every direction in search of good fishin.’ We never caught a pike or any species even imitating a pike.

Yet somehow, one day we caught a few finned Salem residents worthy of a skillet. We dropped the horned pout into a water-filled bucket slung over my handlebars and put the mettle to the pedals. The halfway point home took us down a long but steady grade where I was aiming my bike, trying to slow the imminent escape of the fish from the swinging, splashing bucket and clutching my fishing pole.

The grated drain appeared out of nowhere. My bike’s front tire made contact at some odd angle, snapping the handlebars in a direction conducive to what EMS probably refers to as “rider’s flight.” But on this day, there would be no thrilling ride over the handlebars. Instead, the bike and I went down as one and slid across the asphalt entangled with each other. The bike’s paint ground off as fast as my skin.

Fish flopped around in the middle of the road while I flopped around in someone’s driveway … now littered with my epidermis. When I shouted for help, Rosaire did the prudent thing – scooping up fish that would be battered twice in the same day – while I staggered into a homeowner’s home to call for my dad to come rescue me and my bike.

I survived with some decent scrapes and a paintless bike and meanies calling me the Wizard of Gauze, but I’d go on to ride-and-fish again.

And yet one fine summer morning, my mom overlooked all these variables and announced that she, Bruce and I were going for a bike ride to my grandparents’ home – 4.4 miles away on Cottage Street. By car, the jaunt is 9 minutes. For the Whipple family, the journey was measured in hours, not minutes.

In the same pile of photos as the Whips’ wheelies is a Polaroid snapshot of Bruce, Mom and me straddling our inter-town bicycles on the walkway of my grandparents’ white-with-green-trim New Englander home. Gia and Garpy were delighted by the surprise visit, having just that morning declared their desire for an unannounced visit from sweaty, panting, grumbling grandsons who raided every inch of their refrigerator.

I don’t recall making a repeat trip, or necessarily even the return trip via bicycle. What with the invention of the automobile and all, why we pedaled that monstrous distance without national media coverage in the first place remains a mystery.

But we successfully added that incident and the others here to the Platinum Memory Level where they reside with other 2-wheeled adventures and misadventures.

Bet you have a bunch of all-wheeled memories ready for viewing right about now. Enjoy the show.