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Thursday, June 24, 2010

FLD Mike Cleans the Yard

Thirty-six years ago, during the summer of 1974, my high-school friend, Robin, and I hopped on our Raleigh 10-speed bicycles and went for a ride.  We packed cameras, maps, clothes, rain-gear, cook-kit, first-aid kit, repair kit, spare tubes (although neither one of us had ever changed a flat tire), tent, sleeping bags and pads, bike lock, and a quest for adventure.  We found it on the back roads of Michigan.

It wasn't until just the other day that I took the opportunity to finally ask her, Robin, why did you take that trip with me?  Bicycle touring was always my dream, not hers.

From the age of five, the first time I felt the addicting roll of rubber beneath me as I lifted my feet from the ground, all I ever wanted to do was to get on my bike and RIDE.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  When other kids drew circles around the toys they wanted in the Sears Christmas Catalog, I added drawings to the pictures of bicycles--my tent would strap on here, my packs would attach there.

When my older brother, Rick, was a young teen, he bought himself an "English racer" bicycle with his paper route money.  I scrutinized him through the side-screen-door as he proudly wheeled it up the driveway into the garage.  His bike was off-limits, but I sneaked aboard it anyway, climbing up onto the leather Brooks saddle to travel thousands of miles without ever leaving the garage (I couldn't even reach the pedals).

One summer during grade school, I "borrowed" my younger brother Jim's banana-seat bike to take my first long ride.  A friend and I rode from my house on the west side of Detroit to Farmington to visit my aunt and grandmother.  We ate lunch, my aunt took us horseback riding, and then we rode home.  It took us all day, and I was hooked.

In the summer of 1971, when my family was living in Clare, I met a small group of cyclists who were riding in the very first DALMAC (Dick Allen's Lansing to Mackinaw) tour.  I begged my mother to let me join them for the rest of the weekend.  I only had a single-speed bike, but I was confident that I could make the trip.  "No way," my mother said.

But three years later, my high-school graduation gift from my parents was a fabulous pair of bright yellow Cannondale panniers.  I bought myself a Raleigh Super Course, installed a steel rack on the back, and conned Robin into joining me on a month-long bicycle tour of Michigan.  We left our Detroit suburbs, headed west to the shores of Lake Michigan, north to the Straits of Mackinac, and south through the middle of our mitten-state to return home.  Robin wanted to get back in time for her brother's wedding; had it been up to me, we'd still be riding!

After our trip, Robin moved to California, but we kept in touch now and then over the years.  She married in her 30's, traveled the world (70 countries), and now splits her time between Tahoe and Hawaii.  I stayed in Michigan and continued biking (plus a whole lot of other things)--but these are stories for another time.  When Robin emailed me a few weeks ago it had been over 10 years since I had seen her.  "I'm coming into town for a wedding.  Can we get together?"  You bet!

Which leads me, finally, to FLD Mike, and how he cleaned up the yard at Robin's sister's house.

I picked Robin up from her sister's house in Rochester and we went to lunch at Mind, Body, and Spirits, a Future-Leader-Dog-friendly restaurant.  Of course, FLD Mike came along.  Afterwards, we sat on her sister's patio and visited while FLD Mike romped free around the fenced-in yard.

Mike, what do you have?  I asked as he trotted over with a soft soccer ball in his mouth.  Give.  He promptly dropped the ball at my feet.  I set it aside atop the patio table.  Future Leader Dogs aren't allowed to have balls, I explained to Robin.  We had a lot of years to catch up on, so we continued chatting.  FLD Mike went off to muck about the yard.

I glanced up to see FLD Mike bouncing over with another soccer ball.  Where did you find that? I asked.  After the first ball, I scanned the yard for more, but it was clear.  I thought.  He happily "gave" it to me; I put it on the table with the first ball and kept on visiting.

The third ball FLD Mike brought me was a long-neglected volleyball.  "I'll bet my niece didn't even know that ball was missing!" Robin said.  FLD Mike again "gave" me the ball with no hesitation.  He seemed rather pleased with himself as he bounded off to scrounge among the shrubbery that lined the street-side fence of the corner-yard.

Throughout my afternoon visit with Robin, FLD Mike found, and brought to me, a total of two soccer balls, one volleyball, two hardballs, one ripped-up tennis ball, and a bunch of torn-up paper.

"Maybe Mike could be a Search-and-Rescue dog if he doesn't make it as a Leader Dog for the Blind," Robin chuckled.  Perhaps so.  I left our visit happy to reminisce with my first bicycle-touring friend; FLD Mike came away tired and satisfied with his yard-cleaning job.

Oh, I almost forgot...Robin's answer to my question about why she agreed to take that bike trip with me so long ago.  "I don't know," she answered.  "It just sounded like fun!"  We both concurred--it was a blast! 

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