Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The world was waiting to be explored by bike

Our Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog was worn threadbare by the time Mom and Dad said I should have a bicycle.

Mom made the order and paid $35.50 for it. A week later, my bike arrived at about supper time.

Mom did the dishes alone while Dad and I unpacked and sorted the parts of that beauty on the living-room floor.

I helped read the directions and sort the parts. By bedtime, my joy had turned to tears. Both pedals were for the right-hand crank!

Mom packed one pedal and mailed it to Kansas City the next day. By noon, I could ride by pulling the left crank around with the toe of my shoe.

I got pretty good at that, but I was not permitted to get out on Fulton Gravel Road until the bike worked perfectly.

With the correct pedal, I felt as if the world were mine to explore. We timed my "big road" rides to avoid Tommy Lloyd’s working hours. Tommy was a neighbor and a motorcycle policeman in Columbia, and gravel spat out from under his wheels as he sped to work and back.

That autumn, I was allowed to pack my pajamas and ride four or five miles to Catherine Page’s home to spend the night.

We lived four miles from Ninth and Broadway, but I was permitted to bike to First Baptist Church to summer Bible school at age 10. As I pedaled to and from Columbia during those two weeks, I felt a new sense of responsibility.

No car has ever matched the thrill of accomplishment I felt on that beautiful tan and yellow bike. It had fenders, a chain guard, a kickstand, a leather saddle and a bell!

Mom and Dad trusted me to sample maturity at that early age on that bike. Their confidence in my ability to go alone has never been forgotten.

About 40 years later, I made another bicycle trip alone. I was on sabbatical leave with pay from Christian College and needed to visit less-developed countries to study recreation. I rode my expensive new white French Peugeot and cycled in Hawaii, Western Samoa, New Zealand and Australia. I had no problems related to being alone!

Earlier, I wrote about a 1963 trip when three mothers took five teenagers to Europe. My husband joined us for two weeks after we rented a VW bus on the continent that year. He and I agreed that bicycle-touring and youth-hosteling were valuable additions to a child’s education.

Therefore, in 1966, Nancy, Walt and I spent four days in Iceland, flew to Luxembourg and cycled there and in Germany and France. We rested a week in Wales at a sheep and cattle farm, then spent the rest of our 60-day tour in Britain!

Christian College students asked me to lead a similar tour for them, and the dean of faculty allowed physical-education credit for their "first-of-its-kind bike-tour class." Seven students and I cycled for 45 days. That was in 1970, the year Christian College became Columbia College. Eleven students went on the tour in 1971, and 12 went in l972.

All riders had sound bikes, saddlebag luggage, rain gear and emergency lights, but we had no accompanying vehicle.

I planned the itineraries, reserved hostel overnights and reserved some meals and special events. We cooked breakfast in hostel kitchens and snacked at noon. Mileage averaged about 900 miles pedaling per person! Those were wonderful troopers!

Why did I retire from teaching after the 1972 trip?

Because I wanted to dig clay and make pottery and folk art.

I did that for the next 20 years!

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