A Life Changing Experience

Around 1982 right before I turned 11 years old, I saw neighborhood kids and family members riding new bikes such as the old school black and yellow “Mongoose” or Huffy. I wanted one so bad but knew that my foster mother would never spend that kind of money on something she didn’t see as necessary. I got a paper route with the local weekly trade newspaper in the Waterloo\Cedar Falls area called ‘The Hometowner’. I made $17 dollars per month delivering papers once per week. I bought my 1st bike from a man that had a junk yard next to his house for $10.00. It was one of those 1950’s era Schwinn bikes and it was in really bad shape. Tires were flat, chain was rusty, it had been painted black with house paint, seat had tears in it. This bike was basically a piece of junk!

This didn’t matter to me. I have always had the ability not to see what is in front of me with bicycles, but what they could become if I worked on them. You develop this mentality when you are used to shopping at places like Goodwill and St. Vincent Depaul, 2nd and sometime 3rd hand stores. I bought the bike and got new inner tubes with the remaining money, the guy, Mr. Shear, who I bought the bike from, oiled the chain and taught me over the course of a couple of weeks, how to do the basics of bike repair. I can never describe how proud I was of my bicycle. Not only did I buy it myself, with money I earned, but I finally had a bike of my own! Of course the brothers in the neighborhood laughed at me and my bike because it was ugly (to them) and theirs was better and newer. They said things like “Look at Brian riding that truck.” Or my favorite “Your momma can’t afford you a bike boy?” Well, I worked on my bike, despite the comments and the more I worked on it, the better it started to run. 4 months later, I rode this same bike in a bike race and WON! I was racing against other boys my age in the “My Waterloo Days” annual carnival and all of them rode new dirt bikes and the race was about 1 mile around a road course. Their sprockets were smaller and the distance gave me the advantage and I WON! Boy was I proud! I got a certificate and a green duffle bag, in addition to the free T-Shirt.

I rode these sorts of bikes for the next 3 years and in 1985 I saw a movie that changed my whole life. The movie was “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” As I watched the movie, I was in total shock and awe. Excitement was running through my bones like a kid on Christmas morning. Pee Wee had the most beautiful bicycle that I had ever seen!

That whole movie revolved around Pee Wee’s love for his stolen bike and he went all over the country to find it. This movie made me really happy because I realized, even at 13 years old, that I wasn’t the only one who liked those so-called “Truck Bikes.” I lied about my age that summer so I could detassle corn to make money. I was so inspired by Pee Wee’s bike that I wanted one of my own. I set about to spend some of my detassling money on bike parts. I bought an old red frame, repainted it to a glossy red, bought new rims, purchased about 15 reflectors, added a large bicycle lamp on front, two old school hand bells, 2 mirrors, a set of red and white streamers, polished up a front and rear fender set (Chrome), took my newspaper delivery basket off my old bike, wrapped the whole thing in red and white yarn, placed turn signals beneath the rear of the seat, added two tail lights and BAM- I had my own personal, ghetto style, Pee Wee Herman! Before I brought it out of the basement, I had a Cadillac hood ornament that I placed on the front fender by punching a hole in the fender with a screw driver and hammer. That Cadillac emblem was the ‘Cherry on top’ so to speak!

I remember the day I started to ride my bike at the park, all of the kids and grown ups were laughing at me and say things like “Look at the black Pee Wee”. I was so proud of my bike that I didn’t care what they said. After awhile, the tide of public opinion turned and the bike grew on people. All of the sudden, the brothers wanted me to ride with them in their little bicycle posse and be seen with me(Hello James Humphrey, Bobby Madison, Catfish & Others). They actually decided that my bike was funky! A boy we called Pooh Bear even offered to buy it from me, of course I said no! Others threatened to steal it, but with Waterloo being such a small town, everyone knew whose bike it was and they couldn't have gotten away with it.

I shared my experience to remind all of my readers that if you have a dream, a spiritually healthy dream, you have got to go with it regardless of what others say. This bike had such an impact on people that I talked to a guy I grew up with named Sam about a year ago, I hadn’t seen or heard from Sam in almost 16 years and the 2nd question out of his mouth to me, after all of that time was “What did you do with your bike?” Although I had not actually ridden it in more than 20 years! God has gifted all of us with different talents and abilities. They are to serve HIM, and also serve those people around you. You may be good at something and worried about what others will say if you try. I was, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a bike mechanic and bike builder but as I got older, people said it was stupid and I should get a ‘Real Job’, and ‘Kevin Culpepper fixes bikes better than you.’ I finally did, forgot, until recently my dream, and the result is I missed out on a whole industry opportunity. The bicycle I designed and built in 1985 was out of style but original. Today, there is a huge industry built around the same bike I built in 1985, you may have heard of this type of bike, it is called “A Beach Cruiser.”


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