Saal bike homecoming

A fun time was had by all at the annual Bike Homecoming event held Sept. 7, 2018, at the Ogden Amphitheater.

OGDEN — It took more than 40 years, but I finally attended my very first homecoming dance.

As did my granddaughter. And my mountain bike.

Back in high school, I was much too awkward and shy to have ever asked a girl out on a date. Although I attended a couple of semi-formal dances in my three years at Brighton High School in the Salt Lake Valley, they were always girls-choice affairs.

Because when it was up to me to do the asking, it just didn’t get done.

As such, I’d never attended a homecoming dance. Until Friday night.

That evening, the Ogden Bicycle Collective held its second annual Bike Homecoming. The event is a fundraiser for the organization, which provides refurbished bikes and educational programs for children and lower-income households.

Bike Homecoming featured a free bike ride through downtown Ogden — escorted by the Ogden Police Department’s motorcycle unit, which provided rolling roadblocks along the way. Following the ride, for a $10 donation to the collective, you could stay for a dance at the Ogden Amphitheater, complete with a deejay, food trucks and various other activities.

I asked Abby, my 8-year-old granddaughter, to be my date for the evening. We dressed up — her in a frilly skirt and blouse, me in a white shirt, bowtie and shorts — grabbed our bikes and headed for what I like to call “Homecoming with Helmets.”

“It’s my first homecoming dance, too,” Abby pointed out.

And it was nothing short of a magical evening.

First stop was the bike decorating station, where we put some flowers, crepe paper streamers and other embellishments on Abby’s bike.

Then, it was time for the ride, with dozens upon dozens of cyclists surrounding us as we went for a leisurely two-mile bike ride.

After the ride, Abby and I stuck around for the dance. Grandfather, of course, is an old white guy with virtually no rhythm. So I spent most songs clumsily shuffling my weight from one foot to the other — heedless of the beat — in what resembled a slow-motion seizure.

Granddaughter, on the other hand, loves to dance and does it with wild abandon. She had the time of her life — twirling, pumping her arms in the air, jumping up and down.

As I tucked her in bed later that night, she confessed: “That was a lot of bike riding and dancing, grandpa. My legs are really sore.”

Sore, but so worth it. Because there’s nothing quite like a leisurely bike ride through the streets of Ogden on a warm September evening. Unless it’s maybe dancing your little heart out in the heart of the city.

Being in the news business, I sometimes forget about the good stuff like this. I’ve spent my share of the past few years covering breaking news — fires, crashes, crimes — as well as being assailed by angry readers who accuse me and my colleagues of #fakenews.

But since becoming the GO! magazine editor a couple of months ago, my focus has pivoted to arts and entertainment events in Northern Utah. It’s afforded me the opportunity to get reacquainted with the good stuff going on all around us. Concerts. Movies. Plays. Festivals. Bike rides followed by homecoming dances.

Out on our bike ride, there were so many people on the sidewalks of a Friday night downtown that it felt a little like a parade. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before Abby was waving to everyone she passed along the route.

“Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist,” a fellow cyclist jokingly advised her as she waved enthusiastically to onlookers.

A few folks were standing out on the sidewalk in front of a downtown bar. Abby swerved over near the curb and stuck her hand out to the side. Several people gave her high fives.

Now, my wife and I have taken Abby for bike rides plenty of times before. Around the neighborhood. On the Ogden and Weber river parkways. Over the Legacy and rail trails. Along the Lagoon Trail.

But riding through downtown Ogden with a police escort, blowing through stop signs and running red lights like a bandit? This was something special for the little cyclist.

Indeed, about a third of the way through the ride Abby looked over at me and fairly shouted:

“This is the most fun thing I’ve ever done on my bike, grandpa!”

And all I could think was “Me too, granddaughter. Me too.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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