This is the owner's story. I was not a very brave child, but I was a perfectionist. This combination made learning to ride a bike very difficult. I didn’t want to fall, I couldn’t do it, so I gave up pretty easily. I watched all my friends learn how to ride, get their brand new bikes, and ride them to and from school. Since we could go home for lunch at the time too, it was prime time for kids to race home on their newfound freedom wheels. This girl had to do the walk of no bike shame. So, my family threw down the challenge. “You learn to ride, we’ll take you shopping for a new bike and you can ride it to school.” “Any bike?” Well, when I heard the agreement, I knew which one. I had seen her on the floor at Toys R Us...the pink one with the fancy tires! I practiced every day I could in the driveway at my grandparent's house, both of them, along with my dad holding on the back and helping me find my balance. Until the magical day when they let go and I wobbled down the blacktop runway, unaware they had released me. The bike was purchased, and I’m pretty sure this was a family effort since my parents did not have the funds to buy a bike like that at the time. I rode that bike and I’m sure my smile was wider than the seat on that thing! It got a lot of attention that first day at lunch, even as the infamous Jenny D. asked to ride her, spineless me agreed, and she took off on it and left it on the side of the road two streets down. I went back to school bikeless, and the teacher and someone (maybe my mom?) helped me recover her. From that day on, she didn’t leave my sight unless in my grandpa’s garage or with the pink chain securing her in the bike racks outside of school. My favorite places to ride her were on the prairie path, in the empty field next to the house, but especially with my Barbie Case or roller skates in hand, navigating my way to play at Sarah’s house for the afternoon, or to catch the bus to Northside Pool for a day of swimming. I eventually outgrew her (why do I hear Toy Story music playing right now?) and she was handed down to my sister and three cousins to ride in that same driveway. Then, she found retirement in the metal shed in the back yard. She survived many spring shed clean and purges, as I could never give the green light to get rid of her. Gramps passed in 2012 and when cleaning out some things, I still asked the family to hold it until I could bring her down to Florida. Gram joined him earlier this year, and the house was being prepared to be out on the market. In spite of Covid, I flew up to Chicago, rented a van, packed up Sweet Thunder, and brought her to her new home. She was in rough shape. Our whole family was, really, with the loss of the heads of our family and the sale of the home that brought us together for 50 years. She hung in our Florida garage as a reminder of all those moments and memories the Miller family shared. And then...on my birthday, after cake and singing and gifts, my husband took me outside in the moonlight and removed the blanket covering her. A sight for sore eyes, indeed. A few months ago, he had taken her to Vintage Bicycles in St. Pete. They cleaned her up, replaced the chain, pedals, and tires, repainted the frame and found new decals, and replaced the basket. They kept the original bread loaf seat, and I kind of like that you can still see the wear and a little tear from a fall one day going too fast down Surrey past Tom and Kirk’s houses. She’s a beauty. I haven’t taken her out for a ride yet. For now, I just look at her and smile. That bike taught me the life lessons of perseverance and independence, showed me the importance of the love and support of my family and represents all that is good about my childhood. Welcome home, baby.
This story moved me.. my name is Nick and my first bike I learned to ride was that exact bike that my big sister Ellie gave to me. She passed away in 1999 at 16 years old. I was 10 at the time and now I’m 33. I wish I still had that bike. In memory of my sister I have “Sweet Thunder” in a decal across the fearing of my motorcycle. I honestly didn’t know these bikes would even be around anymore. I can still picture the bike from my child hood. Take care of her.
This is such a cool story! I’m on line searching for a Huffy Thunder Rose bike. The bike I had as a 9 year old. Your story brought happy tears to my eyes.