Red, White and Amused

Carmichael, CA (MPG)  |  Story by Susan Maxwell Skinner
  Share this pic with friends!

Isabella Simmons (left) 13, London Henry 8, and Janelle Germain 14, watched the parade in patriotic dress. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner
  Share this pic with friends!

Del Campo High School cheerleaders put a cougar in the pageant. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - After many years of photographing the Carmichael Elks July 4 Parade, this reporter this year chose to bicycle the procession route. I could surely trick out my bike in a couple of hours like the gung-ho teenager in the YouTube tutorial.

On July 3, I bought crepe paper, glue gun, wee flags etc. Well, the decor project took me all day and till 3 am, July 4. I was exhausted even before I reached the marshalling ground.

As I had to photograph the pageant, I shouldered my camera bag. I planned to stop here and there on the two-mile route to do pictures. Among 90 parade units I was an unregistered tag-along. Though no one expected me, I was welcomed with whistles and holiday goodwill. However, a mustachioed Keystone Kop did ticket me for “impersonating a pedestrian.” He fined me one hug.

I guess decorating a bike for a parade was once a rite of passage for American kids. These days, they have iPhones instead. On that day, nobody but this immigrant (of a certain age) bestrode such a chariot of Americana. I was a bigger novelty than the pirate galleon’s simpering mermaids.

Along the route, neighbors waved in wonderment; children yelled “I want that bike” and whenever I stopped, people demanded selfies with my patriotic pedaler. The velocipede soon took on a life of its own.

Having too much fun, I circled back behind the Congressman (he called: “Susan, is that you?” in astonishment) and I rode the slow-moving pageant several times. What a ham.

Mark Twain suggested everyone should ride a bicycle: “You will not regret it,” he said. “If you live.”

When I at last reached Carmichael Elks, I handed my camera to friend Betty and told her to snap me waving like Princess Charlotte. I pedaled past a vintage milk truck and wielded one last salute. The treacherous handlebars turned on me. Bike and I toppled into the gutter. Oooh, cried the crowd. Ouch, cried I. Grazes everywhere. We won’t publish that picture.

I rode home with a skewed mudguard squeaking against my tire. On California Avenue, a man in a wife-beater tee-shirt looked up from his barbecue and hollered: “Hell, yeah!”

Bruises and all, I won't regret my ride in the 2019 parade. If I live, that is.

Isabella Simmons (left) 13, London Henry 8, and Janelle Germain 14, watched the parade in patriotic dress. Photo by Susan Maxwell SkinnerDel Campo High School cheerleaders put a cougar in the pageant. Photo by Susan Maxwell SkinnerAuthor Susan Maxwell SkinnerOne of the many antique vehicles in this yearThe gang at Trillium Real Estate keeps the party going. Photo by Paul Scholl