Exactly 22 years later, I got another baby elephant…

May 30, 2014, 10:36 PM

So today was my birthday, meaning that I am now 33 years old.  And for my birthday, I got a baby elephant.  Check it out:

The "baby elephant", as it is

So if you’re thinking, that’s not a baby elephant, I can explain.  When I turned 11 years old, my parents got me a full-size bicycle for my birthday, to replace this red one:

My childhood bicycle

However, I didn’t know that I was getting a new bicycle for my 11th birthday.  My parents told me that I was getting a baby elephant.  The idea behind their telling me that it was a baby elephant was that they wanted to keep the real gift (a bicycle) a surprise.  “Baby elephant” was supposed to be so ridiculous of a concept that it was easy enough to dismiss out of hand.  But then this is me that we’re talking about, and when they told me that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, it became my understanding that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, though admittedly, even at the time, I thought it was a tad strange.  But they said “elephant”, so that was what I expected.  I even looked up elephants in the encyclopedia in school to find out how one takes care of an elephant (after all, it was my elephant), and told a bunch of other kids that I was getting a baby elephant for my birthday.

So on the morning of my 11th birthday, I saw this, a Huffy Stone Mountain bicycle:

A Huffy Stone Mountain bicycle
Image: Huffy

Then I asked my parents, “Where’s the elephant?”  That’s when they explained that the bicycle was the “elephant”.  I was actually a bit disappointed at the time that I didn’t get the elephant that I was led to believe.  While I thought that the idea was a little odd at first, I warmed up to it, and was geniunely looking forward to receiving an elephant when my birthday rolled around.  When Mom found out about this thought process, and how I actually genuinely believed that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, she got a little sad about it.  But it’s okay – we can laugh about it now.

I should also add that I probably ought to consider myself fortunate that we moved from Arkansas to Virginia the same summer that I got that bicycle.  School ended on May 29 that year, and my birthday was the 30th.  And then we left Rogers for good on August 29, 1992.  So I never had anything to live down about the elephant that I never got, because when I went back to school the following fall, I was halfway across the country with a whole new group of kids who had never heard the elephant story, and to whom I never told the elephant story.

(By the way, if this sounds familiar, it’s worth noting that I told this same story on here once before, back in 2002.)

I ended up riding that bicycle for about five years, from 1992 until around 1997, when I got my driver’s license.  Once I could drive a car, I put my bicycle down and never looked back.  My parents ended up holding onto my old bicycle until well after I moved up to Maryland, and then, unbeknownst to me at the time, they got rid of it at some point.

I got the urge to ride a bicycle again about a year ago, and asked my parents about the possibility of getting my old bicycle out of storage and up here so that I could use it again.  That’s when I learned that my old bicycle wasn’t mine anymore.  However, my sister’s old bike was still available.  I remembered that it was similarly sized to mine, and so Mom agreed to bring it up.  This was my sister’s old bike:

That bike was in great shape for 19 years old, mainly because she didn’t use it all that much.  However, before I was willing to take it out, I was concerned about whether any components had dry rotted and needed replacing or otherwise needed maintenance due to the long period of inactivity, and I was not qualified to identify and repair these things myself.  I did fill the tires up, though, and you may recall that I did this using an electric pump and the car.  I ended up taking a couple of test runs on it around the parking lot of my apartment complex after filling the tires up, but a feeling of apprehension about the still-uninspected bike, combined with the fact that I had no idea how much air to put in the tires (and literature that I could find online about that was no help) kept it at home.  It also didn’t help that my ham-handed filling of the tires caused one of them to blow later on while it was sitting in my living room.  A piece in the valve stem gave out, making a loud hissing sound as the air escaped through it, which scared the heck out of me when it happened.  I had intended to take the bike out for that inspection, but other priorities such as getting a Class B commercial driver’s license and finding gainful employment in a new field took priority.

Plus I had another realization: when I had done the test runs on it, I didn’t quite fit right, and in playing with the height settings on things, I realized that even if I got the seat high enough, I would be bent so far over that it would give me a backache, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.  But don’t forget that we didn’t buy this bicycle for me, but rather, it was intended for my sister, who is a little bit smaller than me.  So it’s okay.  Besides, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I still learned a lot from it,

So my thoughts turned to needing to look around for a new bicycle.  When my mother asked what I wanted for my birthday, I pitched the idea of a new bicycle to her.  My original pitch was to sell the old bicycle and apply that towards a new bike, but, to my surprise, Mom asked me to bring it back down if I wasn’t going to use it.  So the next time I head down to Stuarts Draft, I’m going to be bringing a bike down with me.

I ended up getting a new bike at Dick’s Sporting Goods up in Gaithersburg.  I looked at a few different styles, such as a mountain bike like I had before, a road bike, and a few others, and eventually ended up with what they call a “comfort bike”, which is a hybrid bike designed with rider comfort in mind, including a suspension on the seat, and higher handlebars.  After all, I’m not going to be racing on this bike, nor will I be commuting on it, or doing anything too extreme.  I intend on using it for more casual riding, such as on the various bike trails and such around here.

I went up to Dick’s in Gaithersburg with my friend Suzie (one of my friends from the pool), and we got the bike.  Here it is getting final preparations for sale:

My new bicycle, getting the final preparations for sale.

I also took the opportunity while there to outfit the bike with a white LED headlight and a red rear LED taillight, since I was fairly certain that I would end up riding at night.  I don’t think I will necessarily intentionally ride at night, but rather, it’s more likely that a ride would unintentionally run long, and it would get dark on me before I got back home.  This bike also has an aluminum frame, which makes it much easier to carry up the stairs because it’s much lighter.  My sister’s old bike was a pain to carry up to my third-floor apartment because it’s made of heavier materials.

And since this bike was picked for me, at my 5’10” height, it’s a bit bigger.  Compare my sister’s old bike to my new one:

My new bike in back, and my sister's old bike in front

Even though my sister’s bicycle is a foot or so closer to the camera (the wheels are the same size), you can definitely see a size difference, as my new bike is noticeably taller, and that’s fine by me, because it means that it fits me well.

Otherwise, now that I have a bike that I actually feel comfortable riding, I have a list of things to do.  First of all, I have to become proficient in riding this bike.  I did a little test run on it in the store, but that wasn’t very long, and I was wearing flip flops when I did it.  But it was a good fit check.  I also need to learn what the various hand movements are to signal turns and stopping when riding in traffic.  Then there are a few pieces of equipment that I don’t have just yet: a water bottle holder and a lock.  I deliberately tabled a water bottle holder for now, because I wanted to make sure that whatever I got fit my 27-oz Klean Kanteen water bottles, and still need to do a little more research on that.  Klean Kanteen makes a nice one, though, so that’s a possibility.  As for the lock, I don’t know enough about these things yet to feel comfortable picking one out with any sort of confidence.  I need to know what to look for in a lock and how I’m supposed to attach it and such.  I want to eventually start biking rather than driving to the pool, and so I’m going to need a lock for that, because a bicycle will not fit in the lockers at the pool.  Any suggestions/advice that you might have about locks are welcome, and I strongly encourage that you leave a comment below with any thoughts.  And then as for a helmet, I have one of those already, and it fits me well.

So there you go.  22 years to the day that I got my first “baby elephant”, I got another one.

Song: "Baby Elephant Walk", of course!

Categories: Bicycle, Birthdays