Bicycles! - Monday, March 16, 2015

We here at the American Treasure Tour take time to talk about many of the pieces in our vast collection, as any reader would know.  One item prominent when visitors step foot into the Toy Box that we really haven't discussed is: bicycles.  Considering how many of them are hanging from the ceiling, among the model airplanes, flags, stuffed animals and record albums, it is time to rectify that.  Of course, the history of the bicycle goes back almost two hundred years...

The first two-wheeled vehicles did not have pedals or chains.  The rider sat between wheels and used his legs to propel the machine.  Simple enough, and pretty efficient, especially in the days before cars, but roads were pretty awful, making the ride jarring to put it nicely, and it was tough on shoes.  The velocipede of the 1860s introduced pedals, but it wasn't until the "high bike" or penny farthing that speed really became the thing.  The big wheel in the front allowed for great speed, but it was very dangerous.  A spill on the high bike could be deadly, quite literally.  (No one here at the Tour has yet had the guts to try to ride the one we have.)

Then, in the 1880's, the biking revolution opened up to everyone with what is called the "safety bike."  The basic design of this bike is still used today - it has the chain connecting the pedals to the rear wheel, with reasonably-sized wheels.  Not only is it much less dangerous than the old "high bike," but it had an appeal to women who, back in the day, did not generally have access to horses or other modes of transportation.  The famed suffragette Susan B. Anthony called them "freedom machines" because they helped to liberate women from the home.

Many people around the world depend on bicycles to this day as their primary form of transportation.  Of course, in the United States, the obsession with bikes lasted only until cars became affordable.  These days, bikes are more recreational than anything else, but the exhilaration of riding a bike up a mountain road can be unparalleled. But if you just want to admire them for their mechanical brilliance, we recommend making a visit to the American Treasure Tour.  The bikes throughout the Toy Box are varied, and sometimes quite lovely.  You can enjoy them from the comfort and convenience of our electric tram!
QUESTION:  What country has the most bicycles per capita?  (HINT:  It's not the United States)
A)  The Netherlands
B)  The United States
C)  Japan
D)  Sweden

54 FILMS AND COUNTING!  Okay, so you already know the answer because of the picture, but who is turning 64 today, and has 54 films to his credit?  That's right, Kurt Russell.  The former Disney teen star has maintained his celebrity and his popular appeal for going into his sixth decade.  Considering his age, that's more than impressive!  We would list all his films here, but instead, we will just wish him many happy returns of the day.

QUOTE:  When you think you're good, you'll play at that level.  If you doubt yourself, you'll play like crap. - Kurt Russell

ANSWER:  A)  The Netherlands.  An impressive 27% of all trips in this Western European country are made by bicycle.  I guess it helps that the country is amazingly flat.