Ah, Sweet Thunder. This was my very first “Big Girl” bicycle. It was a classic Huffy “no-speed” with fenders and a banana seat, and those awesome bumpy off-road tires. And its own name and number. The flash kind of washes out the number, but it’s 2. I don’t know why. I also don’t know why the bike was called Sweet Thunder. Or why my parents thought I should have a pink bike. Minus a horrible 6th-grade graduation dress decision made by my mom, involving a pink dress that flared in all the places that a fat girl never wants her clothes to flare, this was the only thing my parents ever gave me that was pink. Well, Pink Panther…but he doesn’t count. He’s supposed to be pink.
My parents bought this bike for me for, I believe, my 5th birthday. Yes, before you even ask, it was way too big for me at the time. But my dad, realizing that his daughter was destined to have massive growth spurts throughout her childhood, knew that I would quickly grow tall enough to handle this wheeled pink fury. Plus, it’s a “girl bike” frame, so I could stand up and pedal without fear of falling on that dangerously pointless bar that “boy bikes” have.
[Boy Bike Tangent: Could someone please explain to me why the bicycle frames built for boys have that bar positioned in such a place that would, I assume, cause maximum damage to any guy who slipped and knocked into it? It makes no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, I get that the reason that girls’ bikes don’t have the bar is so that we delicate flowers can mount our bikes modestly while wearing our hoop skirts and corsets, but that bar just seems so ill-positioned for the gender with “outtie” bits as opposed to “innie” bits that might fare a bit better in an altercation involving that bar. Were boy bikes designed by some bitter spinster who wanted to hurt any man who rode her creation? Or is it just a stupid piece of metal that someone tacked onto the frame to make sure that dudes knew they weren’t riding a girly bike? They were riding a manly bike with a manly, ball-breaking appendage!
Oh, and by the way, I’m still giggling from writing “mount our bikes.”]
So when I first got this bike, it definitely needed training wheels. I hadn’t yet developed the enviable balance I have today, which allows me to do things like stand on one foot while unlacing one of my Docs after having way too many margarita swirlies down at Uncle Julio’s. I also think I was terrified by the sheer size of this bike. I was a wee pup when I was 5. The freakish growth spurts (both of the vertical and horizontal varieties) didn’t start to kick in until around 7. So the training wheels stayed on much longer than they should have.
Finally, my dad decided that it was time to call my bluff. He removed the training wheels while I was at school, so when I came home, there sat Sweet Thunder, mocking me with its now only two wheels. Being the pure bundle of stubborn that I am, however, I refused to play my dad’s game.
That’s when the bribery came in.
Growing ever-irritated by the fact that the bike was steadily developing a patina of dust from my disuse, my dad threw down the gauntlet in the form of monetary inducement. If I could ride my bike around our quarter-acre of yard without stopping or falling, he’d give me $20.
Next day, there I was, doing my best to learn how to ride a bike with only two wheels. However, not without incident. We had a holly tree in our back yard. It was a beautiful tree, especially in the snow. Looked very Christmas-y with its dark green leaves and red holly berries. Know when a holly tree isn’t pretty? When you’re losing control of your Huffy and heading face-first into a low-hanging branch full of prickly holly leaves.
Know what makes a face full of holly leaf scratches okay? A crisp 20-dollar bill in your pocket. Yes, sadly, I had to be bribed into learning how to ride a big girl bike.
Through the years, I decked out Sweet Thunder with streamers that inevitably disintegrated, a headlight kit, a bell that at one time had a little Snoopy on top that spun whenever you rang the bell (Snoopy fell of at some point, but you can still see the bell portion on the left handlebar grip), and a little pink basket that had Snoopy’s “Joe Cool” alter ego leaning against a giant strawberry. Oh, that I wish I was kidding on that last part. The only reason that the basket isn’t still on the bike is because the bottom rotted out. They sure made quality bike accessories back in the day!
I rode this bike until Christmas of my 6th grade year (yes, the year of the traumatic pink graduation dress) when my parents upgraded me to a 10-speed. This time, the bike was blue. And I outgrew it in pretty much a year and inevitably had to switch to riding my dad’s 10-speed. Dangerous, those growth spurts.
Strangely, my dad has kept Sweet Thunder in the family. Even during the great detritus dump that my parents did when they moved out of the area, he refused to get rid of my first bike (although I believe he did sell my 10-speed). The Huffy was packed into the moving truck and now lives in my parents’ garage, where the above photo was taken. I asked my dad why he kept this bike, but he just mumbled something about not knowing why and then promptly wandered away to organize his tools or something. I say he’s far more sentimental than he ever lets on, and that’s why my little pink Huffy bike still has a home.
Whatever the reason, it’s sweet. Just like Sweet Thunder.