Wednesdays with Amy: Let the ride begin



Special to the OBSERVER

One day in the spring of 2016, a young lady named Amy happened to remember a blue Schwinn “bicycle built for two,” which she recalled riding on warm summer days with her mother and father at their home in a small town in upstate New York. Although the bike had been “missing in action” for many years, Amy was pretty sure that it was still at her mother’s house, and had probably been collecting dust in a backyard shed. Knowing that if it was there, chances were that it would be in need of some pretty extensive TENDER LOVING CARE, which is where this story begins to take on one of its interesting twists and turns.

As it so happened, Amy was a frequent visitor to the Aspire-Spoke Folk Building in Dunkirk, where, among other things, the Spoke Folk volunteers give the kind of tender loving care to donated and abandoned bicycles that she was sure her beloved “Schwinn two-seater” needed. Since Amy had interests in both art and bicycles — she began the process of putting together a plan, which included the following:

(1) Locate the Tandem,

(2) Find a way to get it to Spoke Folk,

(3) See if it could be brought back to life,

(4) And finally, get back in the saddle.

Well, finding that “old two-wheel beast” proved to be an easy task, since it was still at her mom’s in the backyard shed, where she had imagined it would be. Getting the Aspire van to retrieve it and bring it to the Spoke Folk lab took a little time, but one day it showed up. Bringing it back to life, well, to be totally honest, would probably be a challenge and a half, but possible. As far as “getting back in the saddle,” be sure to stay tuned.

OK — Before going any further, it should be mentioned that Amy has been totally blind since birth, but as you will soon discover, being sightless doesn’t necessarily mean that a person can’t see. While the rest of us see primarily with our eyes, blind people make use of all of their senses to create images in their minds. For example, when Amy’s bike arrived at Spoke Folk, while most of us saw an old rusty hulk with flat tires, Amy, after running her fingers along its contours and plucking its spokes, had a very different impression — “TOTALLY AWESOME!” Looking back, she turned out to be right.

So, the work began; disassemble, clean, work on the rust, replace the worn tires, straighten the crooked wheels, oil the moving parts, and just like magic, what once was considered to be an almost insurmountable task, was now considered to be a thing of beauty — not quite — but almost.

Sometimes, what should be the easiest step in a complicated process turns out to be the most challenging. When reattaching the rear seat and handlebar assembly on the bike, which in most cases takes only a couple turns of a wrench, in this case, they wouldn’t tighten, no matter how much pressure was applied.

OK, so what to do? Upon closer examination, it appeared that sometime during the tandem’s life span, someone had tried to substitute a more modern part for the original vintage one, with little success, which explained why it wouldn’t fit. When an extensive search for a suitable replacement failed, one of the Spoke Folk volunteers, who had spent his working years as a tool and die maker, came up with the solution. “Let’s just have a part made.” While to the uninitiated this might seem like a daunting task, to John it was simply a matter of taking a couple of calculations, measurements, and a trip to the neighborhood machine shop. By the next day, the new part was ready and worked as well as the original.

Coming next Sunday: While Amy’s tandem is fixed, learning to ride it is next.