Saturday, February 1, 2014

Me and My Arrow

We're in the Polar Vortex here in PA (for a while), not the vortex of excitement (ever).  But we do have Hershey nearby, which is less crowded, less expensive and more real than Orlando.  Maybe just as many bugs in summer, though.  I have had enough of the amusement park, but everything else is handy and safe entertainment, and I'd put the Hotel Hershey up against most any heritage establishment.  Jimmy Buffett's places have margaritas, but after you try the chocolate martini here, you'll be a fan.  Feeling a little less Harris tweed and a little more rowdy? Troeg's craft brewpub nearby is now such a worldwide (believe it or not) draw, you'd best go on weekdays, not in the summer.

But our new love is the Antique Automobile Club of America museum, which has outdoor events, fine permanent installations and many changing exhibits over the year.  I don't join much, but we haven't regretted joining this, despite our non-millionaire status.  Next fall, the new Tucker hall opens, the museum having become heir to the best collection of Tucker Torpedo cars and parts in the world.  We just attended the new custom 'rods show, where, tucked away in the basement, sat one of my all-time favorite rides: a pristine green Schwinn Collegiate bicycle exactly like the one I owned and commuted to school and work on in the late 60s.  Now, I'll never own a Packard or a super custom tri-five Chevy V8, but I can finally say I owned something in this shrine to finely sculpted metal.

I just loved that bike, and put so many miles on it.  With the tire-shredding generator on the back wheel and headlight/taillight combo, I could return from my job at the Union Theological Seminary radio station (WRFK-FM) at midnight to my roach-infested home on Stafford Street safely and for free.  Once I waited for a bus since it was raining so hard, and of course it never came, so I got home on two wheels, discovering in the process that the worn brakes didn't do much when drenched.  Not much traffic out at that hour back in the day, fortunately.

I had bought it from a University of Richmond graduating senior during the year I went there.  He had found a job as a lexicographer, of all things, in a big city.  I wished him luck and thought myself even luckier to have this fine machine.  The long commute to U of R and the long one to UTS later were usually the best part of my day, on the Green Arrow (as I called it).  The 26" Collegiate was marketed to the college crowd, was the heir of the earlier Varsity line, and came in various speed varieties (I think I had a 3-speed).  The 70s ones like mine were made in Chicago -- from 1964 on -- and required little maintenance.  In the 80s they were imported from Asia (yuck), and they've been brought back with modern upgrades in reproduction versions.  Despite being in the museum, there are a lot of the originals left and they don't sell for much more than $100 even today.  I'd pay that in a second; they are still my style in that they're old-school, dependable, and ride really well.  Forget the imported reproductions.

I did have one car that might be featured in the museum one day, a 1958 180a Mercedes sedan with four-on-the-column and Lucas pencil-beam foglamps I had put on on either side of the oversized vertical grill to make it look a little more menacing and a little less teddy-bearish.  Hope the bike and the Merc are still around somewhere.



  1. Like old girlfriends who never liked you, our memories are better than reality. I bet when you had that bike you cussed it every mile.

  2. Really, never had a problem. Sometimes riding back from work at night, I'd disengage the generator because it took a lot more pedalling effort, but there was so little traffic back then, unlike now.
    The 5-speed Schwinn Suburban I had in the mid-70s had some back luck, though. Neighbor kids got on my garage roof and dislodged a beam which fell on the bike, bending it up. Then a redneck in a pickup gleefully pinned me against a curb, causing damage both to it and me. It was well-built, though, and after repairs just kept on going. Can't conceive of commuting on a bike today, with traffic coming from all directions and no one stopping for stop signs or even red lights. Saw an elderly driver just glide through one yesterday, ignoring the horn blasts, then drift between lanes, eventually driving on the shoulder for a while.