Life Rule #1. FREEDOM. (Lady Liberty)
The celebration of our Independence is upon us. The official release of Independence Day 2 unnecessarily reminded us of the glory waiting right around the corner. Not only did someone, somehow get the green light to create a sequel to that original crap-fest, they had the audacity to leave Will Smith out of the picture. I'm not getting 'jiggy' with that decision.
Regardless, we have far more important historical events to honor and commemorate this coming weekend. Speaking of honor and respect....make sure you do your due diligence and thank any and ALL soldiers you happen to cross paths with over the holiday. I was never able to muster up enough courage to volunteer my time and my life to defending the country I love. Call that decision what you will. I do what I can (which is minuscule in comparison to their sacrifices) to remind those brave men and women that I greatly appreciate their service and I have to believe that something is better than nothing.
Keeping all that in mind, I shook out the DIY rust from my hands and got cracking on a well overdue journey I had started years ago. It was high time to let the red, white & blue fly as I had intended.
So this was the year I was able to get enough of my shit together to complete a project that had unexpectedly turned into a 3-4 year procrastination adventure. Much of that delay was my fear of failing while crawling through said project. See, as most of those nearest and dearest to me know, I am not the handiest of men. I can get a picture up on a wall with relative ease and then my stock begins to plummet as the tasks grow more challenging.
What I had done was inadvertently signed myself up for ripping apart my old bike and completely rebuild it from the ground up. WOW. I had gone from bat boy to hitting cleanup. It all started as many poor decisions typically start....with booze. I was hanging around my brother-in-law's backyard when the idea hit me like a performance enhancing drug violation hit Lance Armstrong. I had the vision. That old bike was going to ride again and she would ride with the colors of America right by her side. So I stripped the damn thing to its frame that day. Next up? I had no freaking clue. This was my first big league game. I took my first few at bats swinging and missing.
I was able to strip the frame of its original paint job in a relatively timely fashion and then she sat. I kid you not, that poor bike hung in a garage for so long I mine as well have donated it to the museum of failed attempts. My project went nowhere for a solid three years.
Finally, after years of poking and prodding, a little research and a rejuvenated take on life and the skills I may or may not have possessed, I took those bare bones of a bike frame and got to work. As I mentioned, I had the vision. I wanted a clean, simple look. The accessories began piling up. Leather handlebars and a leather seat were a key and easy choice. Check and check. From there it became a matter of how much liberty and justice I could possibly squeeze into one road bike? Turns out FREEDOM knows no bounds. I was able to find USA handlebar plugs, an excellent decal company known as VeloInk, (Whom I would recommend HIGHLY to anyone. Great customer service, quick delivery AND they dish some of their proceeds to a great cause!) and I even managed to find my family crest. Yes, that puppy found its way onto the ride. My color scheme choice would be paramount as well. I knew red, white and blue would dominate the scenery but how would I paint the picture? I'll tell ya! I made the executive decision to go with a solid blue frame, white tires and red brake/shift cables.
Another big decision I felt I had to make was to name the beast. I wanted to name her, and I believe I had such a strong urge to give my bike a name after all my years growing up on the western beaches of Lake Michigan. Every boat in that glorious water came with a name. I didn't have a boat but I was a pirate....a pirate sailing with the winds of determination. Once I had a name solidified, it was time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.
Now I don't fancy myself a lying man. I never got into that business. The clientele are a sleazy bunch and no one likes a liar. So I'd be lying to you if I told you I took this endeavor on alone. I am fortunate enough to have a very good friend who just so happens to be a wizard when it comes to bicycles. I requested his services. A deal was struck and we were in business. We set aside a full Saturday for our experiment. The setting was ideal in every sense of the word. My buddy's version of a Man Cave is his garage (and when I say Man Cave I mean Bat Cave because on the day of our journey he was definitely Batman and I was fucking Robin. I'll take it. A student can always learn from a master). Picture it: one garage fit with a dart board, a working man's bench, the tools of the trade, an old radio relaying a Tigers' game in the background and an unnecessary amount of beer. The stage was set.
What ensued was a whole heap of trials and tribulations. There were more curse words than pieces of candy stuffed in a pillowcase after you best Halloween night, EVER. We had missing pieces, uncooperative parts, unexpected trips to the bike shop and a late pizza delivery. A time or two I swear you could even hear the whispers of that devilish temptress we know as Failure coaxing us to give up, that it was the easy way out. A time or two we almost listened. Yet for every nut shot we took, for every roadblock we encountered, for every "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" there were enough laughs, beers and eventual successes to take us right to the promised land. We 1776'ed that bicycle is what we damn well did. Liberty would ride again, and it would be breathtaking.
Looking back now and reliving the story for you all has giving me a sense of obligation to stamp this tale with a moral, for every story has a moral, yes? So for you I'll make the best attempt a man can make. I had a vision, an idea. There were those who shared that idea and we turned it into an action. Not knowing how we would turn that action into a victory didn't stop us. The looming fear of failure gave us a good run yet fell short in the end. We prevailed. Now you can laugh. Really, knock yourselves out. It's just a bike, right?! We're certainly not going to ink ourselves a deal as the next documentary on the Discovery Channel. But strip that experience down to its simplest form. Perhaps you have a personal achievement similar to ours.
See, it started as an idea. The amount of unknowns were enough to keep my project dormant for years, and for that I have regrets. Yet when the time came to finally answer the bell we flew into the ring. Body blows came by the truckload, believe me. Small failures dotted the landscape throughout the journey yet we managed to piss all over them in the end. And aren't those the most valuable lessons we learn in our lives? The mental fortitude, the STONES to take a beating, get up and keep swinging.
I will never claim that this story draws similarities from how our great nation was founded. Hopefully I'm not inadvertently traveling down that road. I simply wanted to show my pride in an accomplishment. An idea that turned into a reality. Shit, as I read through this article (gotta proofread) I can hear how hokey I sound. Good Lord. I apologize if this has turned into a nightly lineup on the Oxygen Network. I sound like a high school football coach trying to rally the team during halftime of a game in which we're down 28 points.
I'm just patriotic. No, not that in-your-face "These colors don't run" type of way. I'm truly proud to be an American.
Below you'll find the finished product. I named her Lady Liberty. Partly because my name for my wife is 'Lady' and party because I'm a born and breed citizen of the United States of America.
Enjoy the anniversary of our nation's independence. Remember what it took for us to become the US. Maybe read up on a little history. Know where you came from. Think about where you want to go. In this country you've got the choice to get there.
God Bless the USA.