Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bicycle built for two

The summer of 1984: I used to spend weeks at my Aunt Mimi and Uncle Tom's cottage on Lake Erie. When were younger, we'd spent all our time at the beach, but now that we were teens we wanted to go to town every day. Town was the two tiny Canadian villages of Ridgeway and Crystal Beach.  Below is Crystal Beach, although it has apparently undergone a renaissance, because back in the '80s, these buildings were all much shabbier.

In Ridgeway, we'd stop at the Ridge Dairy, aka “Our Lady of the Ridge Dairy”  because of my older cousins' habit of hanging out there when they were supposed to be at mass) and buy a black and white sundae. Then we'd go to the Crystal Beach, an old-fashioned amusement park which first opened in 1888. Our grandmother had been a regular visitor, and ridden the terrible Cyclone, a roller coaster so scary a full-time nurse was kept on staff to revive riders who had passed out.
The Cyclone was dismantled, but salvaged material from it was used to build the Comet, another excellent coaster, which Katie and I rode many, many times, along with the "Yellow Roller Coaster" which was the oldest running coaster in North America. Made entirely of wood, and very rickety, you never knew if it would collapse just as you were at the top of the big hill. 

When Crystal Beach went out of business in 1989, my family went to the park on its last day and rode the Comet over and over again. You can still ride the Comet, since it was purchased and moved to a park somewhere near Lake George in upstate New York. The Yellow Roller Coaster was burned in a mysterious fire.

Anyway, the only way to get to Crystal Beach was by bike, and that summer, the only bicycle available to us was an ancient tandem. It was at least 50 years old and the seats were covered with a Black Watch plaid. We rode it, not caring how ridiculous we looked, which must have been very ridiculous. When you ride on the back seat of a tandem, it is hard to resist the urge to steer, even though your handlebars are attached to the front rider's seat and nothing more. And so our progress through the streets was punctuated with Katie shrieking, “Stop steering my seat!”

One summer day we headed to Crystal Beach, as usual. The entire teenage population of the town staffed the park, and it was our habit to hang around with the other kids there. We left the tandem in a little security enclosure, with  two 18 year old “security guards” who agreed to keep an eye on it.
A little while later, more aunts Aunt Pat, and Aunt Liz, who had loaned us the tandem, went out to run some errands. And what did they see parked in front of the BEER STORE? Their very own, black watch plaid-upholstered bicycle built for two, last seen in the possession of two fifteen year old girls! And who should come out the door with a case of beer, which they apparently planned to balance on the tandem while they rode away? Two unknown youths! Can you imagine the mortifying confrontation? “Young man, where did you get that bicycle and what have you done with our nieces?”

Meanwhile, Katie and I had tired of flirting with the Crystal Beach staff and went to collect the tandem. Gone! What happened next was a mass of panic, ending with Katie and me being collected in a car and driven home in disgrace. As the guest, I didn't get in much trouble, but Katie didn't hear the end of it until she was well into her thirties.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE everything about this post. So perfect for the beginning of summer.