Monday, July 11, 2011

Intriguing, affordable "Dutch" bike

When I came home from visiting Flanders two summers ago, I was taken with the idea to find a buy a Dutch bike in the U.S.  I don't know whether I was more surprised to find that it was possible to do so, or that it would cost $2,000 to do it.

If there had been a bike that simulated what I had seen on the streets of Bruges that cost a few hundred dollar's I'd have snapped it up in an instant.  There wasn't, and I didn't.  And that failure to do so is what started my bike-buying spree and this blog.

Well, now there is.  I stumbled across a link to this bike via Bike Snob today.  I had no idea it existed and have never seen anything similar in this price range.

On the one hand, I know a bike that sells for under $300 can only be so good.  I also understand that much of what makes a Dutch "Opa" what it is cannot possibly be found on a bike that sells for so little.

I get that, I really do.  But, I will admit to being intrigued by the idea of owning a Dutch-looking bike for $250 or so.  It even has a front rack suitable for lugging my little Dutch kids around on, if I ever happen to come into possession of little Dutch kids.

I've looked online for reviews with no luck.  Half of me is hoping to find ones similar to those written on the Flying Pigeon and giving me the freedom to move on and never think of this again.  The other half is hoping to read that it's surprisingly well-built and feels like the real thing.  If this is the case, I'm going to need someone to loan me some garage space.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A fabulous Fourth

I love the clarity of Independence Day.  There's no debate over the origins, no confusion over what the holiday is supposed to celebrate.  It's wonderfully clear-cut. This is at least half the reason July 4 remains a favorite spot on the calendar for me.

The rest, I suppose, has a lot to do with childhood memories of unmitigated awesomeness each and every July 4.  It was more than just the fireworks at night at Shiloh Park -- although those were certainly a high point.  It was also because July 4 was a kind of perfect point in the summer.  School had already become a distant memory and the post-Labor Day return was far enough away to hold almost no power over a boy's thoughts.

Once the calendar turned to August, there was a growing sense of dread that began to creep into the phenomenon of summer vacation.  It was impossible to stop the silent calculation of how many days of freedom remained each time you spotted the date on a bank sign or newspaper or carnival flyer. 

The cookies were a hit at Sunday's bbq in Sonoma and Monday's potluck
But in July, everything was still perfect.  The days were long.  You could jump on your Sting-Ray immediately after breakfast and ride it until dark if you wanted to.  Our signal to come home was provided by an huge old bell that stood in our backyard, a relic from some long-closed schoolyard, I guess.  My mom would ring the bell and the brass-on-brass gong would sound throughout the neighborhood and well beyond. 

When I mention that to my daughter today, I'm aware of how much freedom (and risk) she doesn't get to experience. She'll never know what it's like to be 10 and a couple of miles from home, fending for yourself with only a bike and a promise to come home when the bell tolls.  I've puzzled over whether this is because the world is more dangerous or because parents are more cautious, but ultimately it just is.
Jan walked our  patriotic pups in the parade

Which isn't to say she's suffering through childhood.  I suspect and hope she'll have equally happy memories to share when she's a parent, although her mom and I will be in a whole lot more of the photos.

Case in point, this most recent July 4.  Fiona spent the morning of the 3rd decorating her favorite bike, the Electra cruiser.  She took some bike-decorating suggestions from a Martha Stewart magazine she bought primarily for the cookie decorating suggestions.  Other inspirations came from her own mind.  In the end, she had a beautiful entry in our neighborhoods quaint little parade.

I joined her, outfitting the Schwinn Racer in flags and crepe streamers starry, red-white-and-blue garland.  Best of all were playing cards in the spokes.  I had completely forgotten how cool that sound is.  It really sounded like an old motorcycle... or, I guess, what I decided an old motorcycle sounded like when my friends and I would tear up and down the street with baseball cards and clothes pins mounted on the fender struts.

Here's hoping your Fourth was as fun and magical as ours.  And here's wishing you a long, happy summer full of freedom and fun.