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Ever since I was young, I have had a fascination with bikes and motorcycles. I enjoyed reading and learning about them. As an adolescent riding my bike was a sort of nirvana for me. Interestingly enough, I was never very skilled at the art of bicycle riding. True, I did find it interesting and exciting, among other things, but I just wasn't any good at it. I would be willing to venture that the number of accidents I had on my bike would rival the totals of some race riders, although I was never that daring. Consequently, I walked away (most of the time) from those accidents with quite a few scars and just as many stories.
My first accident happened not long after my maiden voyage. In fact it happened on my maiden voyage. I lived in a small, Leave it to Beaver type town (with more dirt and more hoodlums), all the kids on the street were skilled bike riders, and "riding bikes" was the most frequent use of playtime. At nine or ten years old, I was suffering from distinct feelings of inferiority because there were kindergartners on my block who could ride their bikes when I hadn't yet learned. To this day I haven't been able to decide what kept me from learning for so long. Being the only kid on the block who has to ride with training wheels is not a distinction most ten-year-olds would want to call their own. And I was no different. I hated feeling like a baby.
In the summer of my tenth year I decided that I would put an end to this feeling of inferiority once and for all. I had it all planned out. While I was spending a week at my grandparents house, I would teach myself to ride a two-wheeler. I would go away a chump and come back a champ: the ultimate "Rags to Riches" story, at least that is what it would be to my ten-year-old mind.
I got to work on my mission as soon as I arrived. I went to my grandparents shed behind their house and opened it, stepping into the sun-baked shed and smelling the familiar warm musty odor that I had expected. Then I saw it: the old copper finish sparkling where some rays of sunshine snuck in the door to help me find it. It was old, most likely older than I was.
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With the bike beside me, I moved to what I had decided would be the departure point for my attempts. The plan was to try to keep the bike upright, keep it moving, and stay on it without touching the ground. I was sure that the other stuff would come along quickly after that. I figured if I could coast to the bottom of the driveway without touching the ground, I'd have the basic idea.
Over and over again, I tried to do it. Over and over again, my feet hit the ground. I was getting discouraged, but despite a lack of success I was determined that nothing was going to stop me from doing this. It was one of the most important things in the world to me. After all, I was a ten-year-old who still used training wheels, what could be more embarrassing?
Finally, my dreams were realized. After hours,it seemed like years, of learning to ride a two-wheeler, I finally succeeded, I coasted all the way to the end of the driveway with nothing but the bike between the ground and me. I rolled into the street without problem. I was riding high! I was king of the hill! Nothing could bring me down! Nothing, that is, except for the curb on the opposite side of the road.
I did expect steering, braking, and pedaling to come naturally and quickly. Unfortunately, I didn't learn fast enough. I hit the curb, and at that moment found myself continuing forward while the bike proceeded to retrace the way we had come. In the next few moments I remember untangling my legs from the bike and pulling myself into a sitting position on the curb. I sat there crying while my grandmother, who at this point was hysterical, came running across the street asking me question after question without leaving room for me to answer. We went back into the house where she cleaned my wound and set me up with an ice pack in front of the TV.
Long before the pain had subsided I was again in a great mood. I realized what I had accomplished. I could ride a two-wheeler! It was great! As soon as I could stand to bend my knee, about an hour after the accident, I was back out on my bike, riding up and down the streets of the bustling metropolis of McClure, Pennsylvania, proud of my new skill.
Indeed, this was the first of my many bicycle mishaps, but there were two things that I learned that day from that event. First, the old saying about succeeding if you put your mind to something is very true. My determination was the key ingredient in my learning how to ride. Second, one setback does not a failure make. I've had many accidents on my bike, gotten many cuts that have left many scars, but I always got back on the bike. Failure comes only to those who beckon it, those who say "I can't," or "I don't know how." Those who are scared to learn are the ones whom Failure seeks. So I always learn, and I always get back on the bike.