It occurred to me, having been closely attached to my multi-year Chevy II rebuild project for a while, that every now and then we should take a different direction just to clear our minds and shift our focus. This was one of those times. As it hearkened to the days when two spoked wheels and a pair of pedals meant freedom, this newly hatched project spread across my workbench wasn’t mine; I was simply a caretaker. And now it deserved some serious care. A dingy, dusty 26″ Coast King Cutlass bicycle had survived somewhere over a half-century of use and storage. As I remembered, it was a birthday gift presented to my late wife when she was a young girl. She had held on to it through every relocation and overruled every garage sale that tempted the notion to sell. So, on this gray, frigid winter’s day I had pulled out the stepladder, reached up and rescued it from its dark perch between the garage rafters. I had a job to do.
No, a full restoration was absolutely not in the plan. This bike deserved more than that. For those who don’t follow the current fascination with “patina”, my path may be a bit difficult to understand. Even as I carefully removed parts … fenders, chain guard, handlebars…. I felt that every chip, scrape and worn spot could tell its own story. Maybe an excited rider dropped her new bike on the sidewalk when she heard her mom call out, “Dinner’s ready!” Or maybe she took a turn on the gravel driveway a little too fast: scratches happen to bikes as well as knees. Perhaps one of the fender scrapes matched a gouge on a door frame or fence post somewhere. Aren’t there people who believe that machines can have a soul?
There would be no re-paint, re-plate, “too-nice-to-ride” soul-sucking restoration here. It would be a meticulous cleaning and spruce-up. Disassembly was merely to gain access to all the corners and crevices that would allow the kind of detail this job deserved. The only new pieces would be the tires and handgrips, both of them N.O.S. and found online. The wear and tear – “patina” if you will – must remain just as it was put there by a young girl who savored the freedom and friendship this pretty blue bike brought her.
So now a long-overdue task is complete. One shiny blue Coast King Cutlass is definitely not “good as new”. It’s much better than that. It’s road-proven; a tangible, freshly polished part of one very special girl’s life; a glimpse into the carefree times of youth, far from flawless but still rich and gleaming under warm. sunny skies and rolling smoothly, quietly through languid summer days long past.
Happy heavenly Valentine’s Day, babe. I’m doing my best to give those sentimental recollections a proper place to rest.