Bike riding and swimming – stuff we all did as kids and many continue to do. I had an early 1970s, yellow, Schwinn Manta Ray. At least I think it was a Manta Ray. In researching photos from that era, it’s the closest I’ve found. I don’t remember ever reading what was written on the side of it. My grandfather, Pop, bought it for me one summer day. We drove all the way to Greenville, Mississippi – 40 miles away. Somehow we stuffed it in his Chevy car and got it home. I proceeded to ride the wheels off of it – literally.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere and there were two towns of about 1,000 people each in opposite directions six miles away. I was a country boy and I got up early in the morning and hopped on my bike and rode everywhere – well at least a couple of miles in different directions. Fishing, swimming and visiting at my grandparents every day throughout the summer. I thought I was a great biker. That is until the McClellan twins – Bill and Phil – showed up at my door after riding from town to my house. I was excited to ride back to “town” with them. With parents permission I smilingly began the six-mile adventure. Now they had these new fangled 10-speed touring bikes that were built for these long distances. I was tuckered after a mile or so but pedaled hard to keep up and we somehow made it to Moorhead. We rode all over the small town and then it was time for me to head home.
For six miles.
And I was tired. Boy was I tired it must have taken the better part of three days or so it felt. Somehow I got home before dark. It helped that I could shortly visit with my fifth grade girlfriend, Gwen Roberts (Wade) who lived about a mile outside of town but that still left five lonely and very physical miles to conquer. I could only imagine what the Tour De France fellas felt like after riding the mountains. Oh, where I lived was flat as a pancake and you could see for miles. I had nothing on a young Greg Lemonde.
So I soon figured out that I was not Tour De France material but maybe I could be an Olympic swimmer. I swam everyday in Macon Lake and even took lifesaving classes as a Boy Scout at Camp Tallaha. So I “thought” I was a great swimmer. Then I took a Red Cross Lifeguard class in high school. We had to swim nearly a mile using all of the swim strokes that we had been practicing each morning. Well, I came in last but did finish. Enough to get my certification but certainly not anything Michael Phelp-ish or even Mark Spitz-ish. I’m not sure there’s a division to put me in as slow as I plodded. But I was good at short distances. If I had to swim from the kitchen to the bathroom or to the living room for any reason I would excel in that. I’ll have to petition the Olympic Committee to add such an event.
They make it look so easy on TV. Swimming and biking, biking and swimming – up the hills and flip turns in the pool. Alas, I was not to be a summer Olympian. I really didn’t know or understand the Winter Olympics growing up in the South. I just thought it was great video fodder for The Wide World Of Sports intro.
But oh that summer day on my Manta Ray and that long lifeguard swim did show me the agony of defeat. Summer Olympic material I’m not. How about you? Have you ever thought of yourself as Summer Olympic material? Lemme know!
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