By Angela Cunneely, Bike Delaware Membership Chair —
Being from the Bronx, NY, for most of my life, I was well used to living without a car. Cycling remained a bit alien to me, however. Aside from a few bike rides around the neighborhood as a child, my experience with cycling was limited. But I soon found out there’s a lot of truth to the old saying “once you know how to ride a bike, you never forget.” As the daughter of parents who never learned to drive, I was disciplined to walking just about everywhere, and having access to superior public transportation, such as bus and subway. But when I moved here to Delaware, things were so different from the way I had lived for most of my life. I now had to own a car, and although I continued to walk frequently, I found myself driving much more than I wanted to. I was not happy about that, and never reconciled to having to drive just about everywhere. I felt as though I had lost part of myself. My independence was gone. I was dependent on the car.
I thought about it, and I decided that I might like to try cycling. Like many inexperienced beginning cyclists, I headed out to the local K-Mart. I had a look at the bikes there. I did have some criteria in my investigation – the bike had to be lightweight, one that I could lift easily by myself, to put on a rack. That decision was a wise one – it led me to choose a lovely Huffy, with an aluminum frame. I think I paid $159.00 for it.
All excited, I brought my new purchase home, and immediately started to take rides. Like many inexperienced cyclists, I rode on a seat that was not the proper height. On tires that were probably underinflated. No matter – I rode anyway. I was hoping to meet others with experience, who could offer tips and advice about the bike. But quickly came to realize how few people are courageous enough to venture out onto Delaware’s roads – often arterial highways in New Castle County.
In 2008-2009 I suffered serious shoulder problems, which prevented me from walking, cycling, and doing just about anything else. It took me a year to recover fully. When I did recover, I started walking in earnest, for miles at a time. The bike stayed out in the shop. I didn’t ride it for a very long time.
This past Summer, I was lucky enough to re-connect with this old friend, Frank Warnock. Frank and I had not been in touch for several years. I told him about the poor neglected bike, out in the shop. After taking a look at her, he pronounced her to be in good shape, in spite of her neglect. He felt that her aluminum frame, rare in a K-Mart Huffy bicycle, deemed her worthy of investing money and time in, to make her into a one-of-a-kind, special, bicycle.
A dream took place. Could I re-connect with my roots somehow, drive less, find an alternative to using my car? Could I use my bike for shopping, errands, trips to Main Street? The bike was able to run, but there were problems – too wide tires, and a shift system that was unreliable – it would grind, crunch, and the chain would jump off as well.
Frank shared my vision, and he saw what the bike could be, and over time, and with lots of hard work, he has turned this Huffy into a one-of-a-kind bicycle. Over the last months, his modifications have included new, lighter tires, fenders, superior lights, and most recently a new Sturmey-Archer 5-speed hub, which will make the shifting easy and carefree. But my pride and joy are the vintage 1980’s pannier bags that he gave to me, that I have lovingly restored to like-new condition. With them, I will be able to do my grocery shopping, without my car.
The bike needed a name. The name on the frame said “Prospect” I looked that up in the dictionary, and here’s what I found. One of the meanings was this: “anticipation; expectation; a looking forward”. I liked that. What a co-incidnece – it fit right into where I was in my life at this time. So “Prospect” it was. My friends and family lovingly refer to her as such.
The bike is now finished, and ready to take me on errands, rail trails, indeed, anywhere that I might wish to go. I feel that I have taken back my independence, I am using my car much less, I am able to shop, and run errands, on “Prospect”. Although I also have a Fuji road bike, “Prospect” will always be special to me. I would like to publicly thank my good friend Frank for all that he has done to make “Prospect” the special bike that she now is. But he also gave me something else. I now have my freedom and independence, and the belief that I can drive less, and accomplish most of my errands on my bike. I feel more like the person that I was when I lived in the Bronx. And you cannot put a price on that.
So look for me and “Prospect” when you are out and about – you might just see us, in all our glory. I’ll ring her bell at you, if I see you!