How to Buy a Schwinn High Plains Mountain Bike
(or how I avoided a stint in adult entertainment).
I wasn’t one for exercise back in 1988. I was more for double cheeseburgers, Budweiser beer and Marlboro Lights. Exercise? What is that? There were bicycles when I was in grade school, but those were for going block to block to see friends and immediately throwing them to the ground behind a parent’s car in the driveway.
Most of the bicycles of my youth (think of the 70’s) were rolling tetanus sleds full of rust just waiting to infect. Even so, I did put in more miles than my friends. I loved to ride! As detailed in a previous post, “My first Bike“, I would be up early and turning pedals. Sadly, as soon as a driver’s permit had my name on it, I dropped cycling from my life faster than you could say “parachute pants” (Oh the 80’s!). The only pedals I was interested in were the gas pedal and occasionally the brake pedal. Now that I could drive, a bigger world opened up to me.
I moved away from my home in Indiana and headed to Alabama a couple of years after high school graduation and soon after getting kicked out of college. I had never been to the South. The heat in the South was as constant as the roaches at the laundromat where I washed my limited wardrobe. Between rinse and spin cycles, I would watch those little brown metallic bastards scurry about as I blew cigarette smoke towards the ground.
Soon after the move my mother passed away at the young age of 55-years old. She left behind some insurance money that seemed like a fortune to me. As you can guess, a fool and his money were soon to part. I bought a new sports car right away. Typical “misfortune-fortune” mistake. It was black, fast and the stereo system would give passengers heart palpitations. I wrecked it three months after rolling it off the lot. I was going to be without wheels for at least a month while they worked to put my car back together again.
Thus, I became the ride-leach that needed to be taken everywhere. I was asking my sister or my co-workers for a lift almost every day. What a hassle – for them! I did have a co-worker that seemed to be more than happy to drive me places. We worked together so it was somewhat convenient. Then, one day about two weeks into the ride-share program, she had a proposition to make. In return for the free rides, she wanted to take some photos of me in the woods…sans my limited wardrobe.
As I pondered being out in the woods in my birthday suit, I saw wheels…Two of them in a store window. At that point I asked the budding photographer to pull over into the parking lot of the local Schwinn shop. Back in those days most towns had a local Schwinn shop. In the shop, I hurriedly purchased a Schwinn High Plains mountain bike for $335. I wrote a check (remember those?) And so began my cycling career…well, not really. I actually called my sister and had her come and get me and the bike in her Chevy S-10 pickup.
Once home, I surveyed my purchase. It was black with silver splatter paint and yellow logos. The knobby tires and cantilever brakes were new to me. Last time I rode a bike it had skinny road tires and brakes that needed 100 yards to come to a stop. This was a totally different machine. This bike seemed like it was ready to take on any trail or obstacle. I was intrigued and a little nervous.
On my first ride I took a winding route from the house and then started down Highway 72 on the shoulder. It was an exhilarating descent that had me going faster than I ever thought possible on a bike…and then I was at the bottom…and needed to climb back up to get home. Damn you gravity, I can hear you laughing at me!
The ride back up was posing a problem for chubby me. I had no fitness at all. I could not get up this mountain (hill) even with a triple chainring up front. So, I rolled back down to the gas station at the bottom and called my sister to come and get me. I smoked a Marlboro or two while I waited. Yes, I carried cigarettes with me on my ride.
Before too long I was enjoying riding and finding smaller hills to try before getting my revenge on Highway 72. I was smoking a lot less and traded some of the Budweiser’s for Gatorades.
A year later I sold the mountain bike and then tried a hybrid. This bike was white with paint splatters. Dang, the cycling industry really had a thing for splatter paint around 1990. That got me onto skinnier 700c wheels and I was able to go faster. I soon found a road bike that really got me excited (no splatter – 3 color fade instead) and I began to ride almost every day. Gone were the cigarettes along with some extra weight. I was hooked and I soon found myself wearing tight Lycra clothing and hideous Oakley sunglasses. I even shaved my legs.
Forty-five pounds lighter I started working at bike shops and raced every race I could find. It’s been 33-years since the car ride and proposition that altered my life. I sometimes wonder where I would be today if she had just asked to go out for a cheeseburger, beer and a couple cigarettes.