Friday, February 23, 2007


I remember learning to ride a bicycle when I was a child. Once I got my confidence my older brother told me it was time to take the Miller Road Challenge. In our suburban town there was a hill that was somewhat frightening for a child to consider going down on a bicycle.

I was seven and he was fourteen. I trusted his wisdom, and as a younger brother I wanted to do everything he did, so we headed out for Miller Road. Miller Hill was one you had to walk your bikes up. We walked we passed a point where my brother told me that it was the point of no return and that I had to start applying my breaks at this one point or I would not be able to stop at the bottom. I would go through the intersection at the bottom and probably be hit by a passing car.

We walked up the hill, but not all the way, just far enough for my first assault on the hill. Up until then I had only ridden on flat land and I had no real concept of momentum.

My brother pushed off first and I was right behind him. I found the speed exhilarating and was totally captured by the moment to a fault that I forgot about the breaking at the point of no return. My brother remembered to break, so the blur of reality of my bicycle getting closer to his didn’t register in my brain. At that point the crash that ensued went into slow motion; my front tire colliding with his right pedal, the feeling of leaving my seat and flying over the handle bars, my foot clipping his shoulder as I flew past, my body skidding to a bloody stop on the curb with half of me in the street and the other half face down on the lawn of 111 Miller Road.

My brother thought quickly and threw my bicycle on the lawn and placed me on the bar of his bike and rode me home quickly, which was fortunately a half mile away and mostly down hill. I was then taken to the hospital but deemed well enough to live another day.

I continued riding all through my childhood, and only stopped riding when I got my first car at 17. Somehow in my mid 20s I took up riding again. I purchased a Peugeot 21 speed racing bike which was really sweet. It had a computer on it that would tell me how fast I went, average speed, distance and all that. I would ride about 30 miles a day.

I always had the Miller Road hill in the back of my mind, and there were times where my route of travel took me to Miller Road. I would go down cautiously and respectfully, though each time I would push it just a little further.

One day before I moved out here I wanted to put that hill behind me. I had the confidence and the proper equipment. I found myself at the top and with a clear view below I saw no cars ascending the hill; I pushed off and peddled through the gears getting as much speed as my legs could provide leaving the rest to gravity. I also knew there would be less resistance on the tires if I rode down the stripe on the road is paint was smoother than pavement. I tucked my arms and legs in and bent my back and head downwards to make myself as aerodynamic as possible.

There comes a point where the speed of a bicycle with the rotation of the wheels takes on an out of balance character. The valve stems of the tires throw the wheels totally off balance at high speeds and the bicycle actually starts bouncing, but I held tight and rode it out with concern.

I recalculated where I needed to begin breaking and I pulled the break handles at the appointed time and did stop within feet of the intersection with a pounding heart and wind burn on my body.

I looked down at the computer and hit the button to see my maximum speed. I reached 53.1 MPH. I was now finished with Miller Road. I departed with my honor intact.


Blogger Jeff said...

Heart palpitations????

6:44 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Age 7??
Amazing the trust we grant to our older siblings.
Glad to hear you kept on biking and that you finally conquered Miller Road. Childhood memories certainly retain a strong hold on our psyches.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

One of these days, after I have finally talked you into the totally safe motorcycling world, we will have to venture up to Mary's Peak by Corvallis.
When we were in our teens several of us would coast our motorcycles down the windy road and race to the bottom.
By the way, you must have the bike idling in neutral so that the final drive gets oil at such a high speed.

8:13 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

It was pretty cool, Jeff. Pretty scary cool.

Beth, at seven, someone twice your age is an adult in your eyes.

Gearhead, I'm think back to all the times you and your crazy uncle have tried to kill me with your stunts.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Boo7 said...

What an awesome story....I was right there standing on Miller Road watching!!!

Loved your last few posts about old-timey places to stories like those AND finding places like Patti's and Grover's...places from another time...we need more of those but sadly they are becoming fewer and fewer.....

2:54 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

You know, when we lived on 16th, every so often, out my front window, I'd see some kid, on his back, go blazing down the yellow line on his skateboard. I think it was some of the same stuff that inspired people to go down your hill on bikes, or black diamonds on skis, etc...

10:43 PM  

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