Friday, February 20, 2009

Cool and Damp With a Chance of Sit-Coms

Gaudy snow-flakes whizzed across Route 857 in near vertical trajectories. They rode a howling wind that drove the chill north of unbearable. Cars were pulled to the roadside, the occupants cowering inside. Only a man of god-like stature, a Cronos of the cold, a cycling Colossus, would dare challenge Old Man Winter to fisticuffs on such a day. To grind out across a frozen Hellscape with nothing more than a few tubes of aluminum and two wheels as a defense would be more than madness if it were anyone else. Only the indomitable Fat Cat could have had the fortitude, intestinal or otherwise, to throw himself into the breech. All you who would have the audacity to even read of his glory can not help but be overwhelmed by your utter ineptitude and inferiority in the face of he-of-great-girth. Now, it would be perfectly acceptable for those of you who stoked your fires and shuddered in your huts to be incredulous. Could such a man even exist? But, there is a witness. Killer Bee Dave, he-of-70 plus-degree-rides, passed The Fat Cat in his automobile.

Umm…Ahem…Those of you with letters in one or the other degrees of the English language might take umbrage with that last sentence and its lack of clarity. “Don’t you mean that Bee passed you on your bike while he was in his car,” I can hear you say. You know I do not proof-read and will probably chuckle and allow that little ambiguity. But, HA! I am so taken with the utter brilliance of that seemingly inadvertent lack of grammatical precision that I must come clean just so the reader can bask in my literary luminescence.

Killer Bee DID pass The Fat Cat while he was driving his car. The bike was on top, braving the cold, while The Cat was below in a climate controlled cabin. He was well intentioned and well prepared to take on the angry hills. However, the usually dormant lot at the Haydentown Community Center was choked with Haydentowners. The Cat did not want to deal with them as he was changing into his superman cape and tights. Also, Earnestine had a flat rear tire. Just the thought of co-mingling with all those mortals repelled The Cat. Surely, the Wymp’s Gap climb was the way to go. The wind would race across the quarry like the hand of God. Yes, that was the only place fit to host The Flanders Fat Cat, smoter of mountains. Just a little gas in the guzzler and it was off to make history.

The wind cut a jagged gash across the gas station. The petrol came out as a frigid sludge and could be bought by the pound as well as the gallon. The Cat cut the pump off well below full and didn’t wait for the receipt to print.

By the time the intersection with Wymp’s gap was gained, The Cat was toasty warm and bathing in the sweet strains of ABBA. One look at the tree farm’s poor saplings, bent to the ground by the cruel wind, and the thought of fixing Earnestine’s flat tire out amongst the elements was suddenly abhorrent. Better to go home, fix the flat indoors, and then tackle Snake Hill or Breakiron.

Of course, a light lunch of eggplant parmesan, pasta with chick peas and almonds, pickled eggs and a diet soda was imperative once The Cat was back home. By the time his mid-day gluttony had ended, so had the thought of storming the storm. Anyway, it quit snowing. It just wouldn’t be fun under clear skies—or so the self delusion went. Hector could just sit behind the palace walls while Achilles called, couldn’t he? If he had, he’d be alive today, right?

In the end The Fat Cat was able to muster up enough energy to mount the trainer in the garage. His thighs pulsed and his buttocks were ground into pulpy—ah, hell. I can’t do it. It was cushy. He wore shorts, watched TV and stopped in the middle to drink an iced tea from the fridge. Well, whaddaya want? We can’t all be heros.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Both Sides of the Road

First off, let me say that I do not condone or excuse any of the acts described lately on the Mon Bike Club site. Anyone who grabs a cyclist from a car, guns it, and then tosses them into a guard rail doesn't have the cognitive awareness to discern the seriousness of their actions or, worse yet, they do and relish it. Either way, these sorts need to be culled from the herd. Any baseball bat swinging, mountain dew tossing, high speed buzzing, brake slamming or other obviously life threatening behavior should be addressed. Either intensive reeducation ala A Clockwork Orange should ensue or the deviants should be removed from the populace—method of your choice.

In almost any other setting such acts of one group towards another would be appalling. Could you imagine some intentionally out-of-work miscreant pedestrian taking a Louisville slugger to a random geezer with a walker because he was pissed he had to slow down. How about an SUV ramming a Prius that didn’t see the light turn green quick enough. The police would be all over the case and it might even make front page Yahoo. There are few scenarios when the “strong” (like motorists) are allowed to oppress the “weak” (like cyclists). Nevertheless, that’s what happens on the roads and in the courts sometimes. It’s simply the majority looking the other way when a minority is mistreated. I thought that was supposed to be a thing of the past. “Frankly, I’d like to thump that weirdo too,” is probably the reigning sentiment out there. Obviously, I’m on your side Mon Bikers, as any thinking person would be. I think any oppressive actions, including potential manslaughter, are inexcusable. That being said…

Is it possible that there is at least some provocative action here? All of the cases sited did happen in the most cyclist frequented area. (Which is not so coincidentally, the flattest area.) I ride other roads for the most part and find people to be either friendly or ambivalent. Lucky? Maybe. But, might some people on Rt. 100 be tired of riders strewn across the road, seemingly unaware of the horsepower idling behind them. How many times have you banged on the dash behind a coal truck or semi you couldn’t get around? People might just get irritated at cyclists behaving as if they were cars. I have seen on numerous occasions, cyclists that refused to move to the right. I have yelled “car back” on 100 many a time only to see a couple of guys ignore the call. Imagine: five cyclists move over and two don’t. You and your big American car have to go 15 mph all the way up 100 or risk your life and the lives of the cyclists by riding all the way over on the wrong side of the road if you are gonna get to the smoke shop on time. Do you think you are going to remember fondly the five cyclists who made room or stew about the two buttheads who were expressing their rights (or just didn’t want to break their conversation about anti-chaffing creams and such.)?

Really, just being a Devil’s advocate here, I guess. I just think it is possible that there is some negative reinforcement happening out there. Maybe if we made room when it’s safe, sometimes slowed, or— gasp— stopped, to let a line of cars pass, waved people through when it was safe, didn't dawdle along, or just tried to be our lovable selves out there, we could do a little to reduce the animosity. That way we could weed out the fence sitters and grapple with the real assholes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just The Facts

So, here’s a quick inventory of noteworthy happenings on Tuesday’s solo Grimpeur ride through Preston County WV: Nearly all the roads were white. Spinning cars dislodged patches of compacted snow from the ice on steeper sections making it slightly dodgy on occasion. I was repelled by the bike path. It was one inch of nice snow on top of three inches of the refried stuff. I made it about 20 yards before making a “this sucks” declaration.

Sand Bank was all virginal and exciting for a while. Unfortunately, my bike would soon start suddenly going perpendicular to its intended direction of travel on the slickery stuff hiding under the pretty white stuff. I was happy to finally make it to the heavily treated surface of Summer School Road. It was clear of snow and ice because it had effectively been turned it into a gravel road. Since I got my clothes right and was impervious to cold, I bombed down pea gravel plunge and then took the little short cut to Beulah. Of course, the millions of stony shards spread across the road worked their nefarious ways. Just as I got to that little hollow that echo’s perpetually the strains of Dueling Banjos (just the creepy slow part), I got a flat. There was a greasy, gritty sludge coating the wheels. The tire kept sliding off as I tried to set the bead. There is no telling how much gunk got in there. I’m surprised that replacement tube didn’t blow in short order. Now short on time, I busted ass up Tyrone to get back just in time.

So those are the cold, hard facts of the ride. Funny how it sounds like pure hell. Yet, somehow, it ended up being pure heaven.