Memories of my Sting Ray Kid News

Just for kids

October 01, 1998|By Jeff Warner | Jeff Warner,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The other day a kid zipped by me on his bike, and I froze. Kid and bike were gone in a flash, so I thought it was my imagination. Then I saw a story in the news: My Sting Ray bike was back, part of the retro craze that revived lava lamps and bell bottoms.

Adventures on that bike are some of my fondest memories of childhood, memories of fun, flight and freedom. I still can recall the day Mom took me to Sears. We bought the bike fully assembled, and I walked it through the mall to the car, beaming with pride. My new Sting Ray!

Even the name was cool: Sting Ray, a nickname for the deadly undersea manta ray, sleek, swift and dangerous. My Sting Ray was metallic orange flecked with gold. Simplicity was its virtue: a few strong curves of tubular metal for a frame; single gear and simple pedal-action brakes; a long, comfortable banana seat, with room for a passenger; tall flaring handlebars with grips the perfect height; a big wide back tire, awesome for skidding and absorbing the shock of landings; and a small, light front wheel, for wheelies and flight. I loved to fly off curbs, ditches and the crests of hills, craving those few seconds of soaring flight I And there were crashes, scrapes, and broken bones (we didn't realize back then that helmets were cool).

I used to strap a transistor radio to the handlebars with electrical tape and speed along singing "White Rabbit" with Jefferson Airplane (it was '68). With little traffic and no real crime, we could ride for miles through our Kansas suburb and all our moms would say was, "Be back for supper!"

It was a sad day when I decided I was too old for my Sting Ray. But if that same kid rode back by right now, I bet I could still pop a wheelie or two I You should never grow up all the way.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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