What is Ray's MTB Park? Ray's is a fun, no attitude, indoor bicycle park built by guys who love to ride as much as you do. Mountain bike riders of all ages and skill levels are welcome. There's something for every rider, from big-air dirt jumpers to beginner cross country riders and everyone in between. Don't let winter keep you off your bike. Gather up a crew and head to either Ray's Milwaukee or Ray's Cleveland!
On to the story:
I was busy helping to assemble our annual bike shop mailer at the park the other day. While I was stuffing envelopes, thanking god for e-mail, and just thinking about whatever, I had a flash back to what I guess would be my first " love of bikes" memory:
It was about 1976. Panasonic road bikes were all the rage on my street. I remember them being so cool looking. I was riding around on the normal block foam seat Huffy that everyone had; bikes that were meant to mimic an off-road motorcycle, number plate and all. I asked my parents about getting one of these new road bikes. Well, times were tight, so I got a "Sorry, but we can't afford that." We lived and died by the family budget, but I had a birthday coming. I convinced my parents to put my $50 in birthday money towards a new bike. Off we went to the local bike shop in Niles, Ohio. I still remember the smell of the store. It smelled the same as all bike shops do, even today: like tires. I still love that smell. It's nice knowing that if I ever want to feel like a kid again, I can just walk into any bike shop and take a deep breath. Amazing how the brain works!
Anyway, I don't remember exactly how I chose this bike, but I do remember the overwhelming feeling of love I had for a Kabuki 10-speed with 24" wheels. It was pearly white and it was love at first sight! I also learned my first lesson about money. My budget was short by about $100. I'll never forget that feeling, either. At 10 years old, $100 may as well have been $1,000,000. So, I did the normal begging. No luck. Although, I do believe that if my parents would have had the money, the begging would have worked. My dad and I went home and asked my mom. I'm sure she felt bad that they couldn't spend the money and still maintain the family budget and not spoil me. I'm sure they were trying to teach me a lesson in money. I'm sure I was frustrated, but when I am frustrated, that's usually when I find the answer.
The answer came a few days later. My mom worked at a candy store part time while my sister and I were in school. They used to make these goodie bags that they would sell at the checkout. They had chocolates, hard candies, and other stuff in a clear cellophane bag with a bow made of ribbon fastened where they close the bag. The shop girls didn't like having to make the bows as they assembled the bags. When the store was slow, they would make extra bows on this wooden jig thing, so they always had a supply handy. While my mom was telling the other girls about my bicycle woes, the owner asked, "Would he like to make some bows? The holidays are coming up and we'll need a lot of them." Mom came home and asked me if I wanted to make some money to put towards the bike. I thought my prayers were answered! I agreed to do it for a penny per bow. I wish I would have spent more time figuring out the math on how long it would take me to make $100 at a penny a bow! Well, I was 10, no math whiz, and totally driven by passion. I wanted that bike. It took me all winter, but I made the 10,000 bows it took to make the $100 I needed.
I learned so many lessons from this experience. Probably the best one was how to make a commitment and see it through. I remember thinking, "What have I agreed to? I hate bows! This is crazy! I'll never get there ... but that bike ... I love that bike ... ok ... I'll keep making bows until the end of Gillian's Island." I did finish, and we had garbage bags full of bows all over my room. What a sense of accomplishment! I really think it helps me to this day. I absolutely need to have a visual record of what I have accomplished for the day. I guess that's why I love the indoor park. It's an endless visual project.
So, anyway, back to the bike. Spring came, and I got the bike. Man, what a sense of freedom! I was riding all over the place! I quickly learned not to tell my parents how far I was venturing out. In hindsight, it was only 3 or 4 miles from home, but man, it felt like the other side of the earth at 10 years old. On one of my ventures, I rode by a school that was having a craft fair thing for kids. I stopped to check it out. I walked around, very proud of my new bike beside me. I saw a sign for a men's room and thought to myself, "Man, I gotta pee." I ran in to pee, ran back out, and she was gone! Someone had stolen my new bike! As I write this, my stomach still sinks. I'm not a material guy, but there is something special about bikes.
Little did I know then about the winding and rolling trail my life would take. At the same time, around 1976, there was a guy named Dick Burke working in a barn in Wisconsin with his own love of bikes. It so cool how our paths have crossed 35 years later, bows and all.