Thursday, September 30, 2010

The dreaded car

I hate my car. I've hated every car I've owned. They're closed in and dangerous. My first motorized vehicle was a Harley Sportster I got when I was 17. I stayed on motorcycles and avoided the dreaded car til I was 33 when I got a Honda Civic. I got it because my job at the time required I have a car.

These days the dreaded car mostly sits. This summer it sat for a few months with the back window open. I was unaware of this. When I had reason to get in it I was met with an eco system in full bloom. There were cob webs from roof to steering wheel and my entrance covered me in the things. There was life in this car and it was flying and crawling all over the place.

I was getting in the dreaded car because I had to get it inspected which means you have to drive it. Upon arriving at the inspection house I was informed that my license had expired.

So the next day I biked down to the license renewal house and stood in line.  My turn came and I met with a nice lady who told me that I couldn't get it renewed. My first thought was that I have reached the age where you have to take a special old person's driving test. I imagined a test where I would have to slouch down in the seat to show that in the coming years I would be able to maneuver the thing while barely being able to see over the dashboard.

As it turns out it was worse. She couldn't renew it because the window for renewal had passed. I was now in the new driver category. Try to recall back to the day when you were a scrawny teenager entering the age of driving and all the excitement and trepidation that it brought. That same trepidation came to me with quite a start but with none of the excitement. The thought of failure loomed. To have to sit next to some grown up who would be barking directional orders while I nervously piloted the vehicle around a busy city was more than I could take. My brain reeled.

But I was getting ahead of myself.  First I had to pass a written test at which point I would be given a learners permit.  After that I had 6 weeks to practice driving before I could take the test. And I couldn't just go out and hone my skills on my own - no, I would not be allowed any honing without constant adult supervision. The idea of having to haul a properly licensed adult around whenever I wished to take out the dreaded car was as appalling to me as riding a fixie. I could not see how driving around with some dolt constantly reminding me of the laws of the road could be of any possible service. I don't like this driving bit when I'm alone.
Well, the time passed and I found that I wasn't a nervous wreck next to the driving instructor and all went as smooth as butter. I made no errors and we had a pleasant chat and a good chuckle over my predicament. Still, it was just another reason to hate the dreaded car.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When not to ride your bike

I had this little cyst on my back that turned into the world's largest and most painful boil of all time, like in ever.  So I went to the dermatologist today. It's about 80 degrees but raining so I'll just wear my rain jacket on top and my Keen's below and change when I get there.

She's a nice lady and says that she's going to inject a little something to numb it before she pulls out the knife.
So she does and all is going along swimmingly for maybe 45 seconds when the numbness seems to have ran it's course. I don't mention this to her, me being all manly and all, as she continues to dig deeply and I figure how long can this take anyway - like 3 minutes tops? So I grit my teeth and soon enough it's all in the past. I'm sweating like crazy but I made it with no worries.

She then tells me that it was fairly nasty and it will ooze for about a week and that I need to go get me some mini tampons to tape on it to soak it up. Wait a second here, confound it, what did you say? Tampon? Yes, apparently they do this soaking up thing quite well and when one has scheduled themselves a week of oozing it's the only way to go.

If I had known about this I would not have done my John Wayne-bite the bullet-tough guy thing and just cried like a girl and been done with it. I was in such a state that I forgot to find out what kind to get. Do I go with scented? Pad? Is any specific color better for absorbing ooze?

She then told me that tomorrow before I shower I'm to take off the bandage then pop in the shower, pull the string that's inside me (string? what string?) which is soaking everything up and will apparently start a major ooze of it's own when pulled. After I shower I'm to start with the tampon system of soaking.  And I'm not to shower at all today.

Not shower all day? So I'm all grimy from the ride in, I sweated profusely during the digging and scraping and now I'm going to ride home collecting more grime and sweat and road ick and I can't shower until tomorrow? By tomorrow I'm going to smell like a small town on the Cuyahoga.

No, the dreaded car would have been the better choice today.

Update: the week passed and the tampons worked as advertised. No lasting harm but I did find that I felt vulnerable and emotional all week... and chatty... still, all is well.
I keep wondering though why all of my clothes seem to make me look fat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

See me

It's an odd thing this night time riding. Well, early morning riding. About half of my commute is in the dark, then dawn and some good light toward the end.
I have blinking lights and show me the road lights up front. I have lights all around my helmet, little buggers that flash away in the darkness. In the back I use 3 very bright flashers and a white see me light. It's a surreal scene and it's surreal to be in it. I look ridiculous.

I see quite a few bikers with some lights to no lights. One hearty fellow (he's the one constant as the weather takes a turn for the worse) always rides in the road next to the bike path and never has a light.

Then there are the mysterious riders who have a blazing headlight and no tail light. This puzzles me. I can understand wanting to see where you are bound. The open spaces await and who knows what they hold in waiting. On the other hand there are the spaces covered and something is always gaining on you, as the old baseball player said. Satchel? I'm not sure but I'm going with it. Satchel said never look back, something might be gaining on you. When it comes to bikers truer words have never been spoken. And it's big and weighs several tons and has a tool as a guidance system who is talking on one of those mobile phones, is half asleep and late for work.

From where I'm sitting, which, if you'll recall, is on top of something that looks as though it's straight from the Big Top, this is asking for trouble. These behemoths can travel several feet simply by the dolt in charge of them moving their steering hand an inch or two. No, a headlight only will not do. The only sane approach is to grab their attention early and make them take notice, snap them out of their personal morning fog and jar them into paying attention. Even if it makes us look ridiculous.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Like most guys, I think anyway, I like bags. I have lots of them. I buy bags to put my bags in.
For my bike I have panniers and trunk bags. I mostly use the panniers in the winter to haul all the extra clothes and in the summer I use a trunk bag that has small fold out panniers which I mostly use when stopping by the cat store or human store. I like cats too. I have two of them and since they let me sleep in their bed I usually treat them pretty darn good.

I've noticed a recent trend in some bike shops - the fashion bike bag. This got me to lookin around on the web where I found all kinds of bags. There's bags for cruiser bikes,  there's designer bags, bags that "go from bike to body", do it yourself bags, bags just for women, all kinds of colorful bags, purse bags, messenger bags, retro bags, eco friendly bags, hand made bags and custom made bags and design your own bags, solar bags, shopping bags, briefcase bags, yoga bags, there's even an umbrella that can be converted to a shopping bag or a seat cover for a bicycle.

Which is all fine and often dandy. If someone wants to cruise around with some of these things hanging off the side of their bike then that's fine with me.

The only thing I concern myself with is carrying bags that can carry what I need it to carry. The key is to not pick up more stuff than you can stuff in.

Few years back there was a cold spell where the snow we had would thaw during the day and freeze at night. Even though I'm a hearty soul I tend to stay away from ice, especially since I leave in the wee hours of the morning and can't see the stuff. So I had taken the dreaded car for 4 to 5 weeks when we had an above freezing night. Naturally I took the bike into work.

It was great of course.  And as the daytime temp's climbed into the low 40's I was looking forward to the ride home.  I figured since it was so nice out I'd stop by the store and load up on some groceries as well.

We've all heard that one should never go shopping when hungry and this is generally good advice. But I was hungry and strolling around the store and before long I had managed to pick up a couple of this and a few of that. As I was wheeling my cart out of the store I paused because I couldn't remember where I had parked the dreaded car. For some reason the helmet that was strapped to my wilderness pouch didn't register and I stood there all confused. Standing and being all confused is something one becomes familiar with as the years pass. You can see us in the parks and on the sidewalks of your neighborhood.  Do not panic.  We're usually just trying to put 2 and 2 together. Give us a few minutes and soon we'll be moving along.

This was a case of not having the right bags. Actually it was a case of not having the right number of bags as I had left that morning with only one pannier, since it was going to be a balmy day.

I ended up riding the 4 miles home with an amazing amount of food stuffed into one pannier and my jacket bulging out like Kirstie Alley post Jenny Craig. For some strange reason I had loaded up the frozen food items in my jacket and not the pannier and they began to thaw, being next to my body heat, which resulted in me having really really cold things pressing against my body and the overloaded pannier was very intent on taking us into the traffic and every time I would take a hand off the handlebars and try to adjust the really really cold things away from my body the overloaded pannier would try to regain control of the whole contraption and take us back into traffic.

Needless to say I did arrive home in one piece.  The lesson here is obvious - buy any darn bag you want, even if it does make you look like a tool, just make sure it's big enough to haul what you need haulin.


As surprising as it may be to some of you, older people do indeed like to be in the company of the opposite sex. As much as they try our very souls we simply never age to the point where they are no longer worth the trouble.

And trouble they are. If I had news that all the ladies were taking the low road I'd be first in line for the high. They are a crazy lot and beyond understanding. They bedazzle and beguile us with their wiles then leave us wondering what the hell is on their minds.

The problem lies in the fact that men are simple creatures. Basically we're looking for something to eat, preferably with some kind of cheese or gravy sauce on top, a game to watch and the occasional roll in the hay. Women are under the impression that there is more. This creates friction. They will go off and read some magazine that has this months list of 10 things they don't know about men, take it to heart and then try to fix us.  This creates more friction.

A woman can buy a piece of clothing then try it on with every other piece of clothing she has to see how they go together. This is fine. The problem occurs when she drags us into the thing by asking us how each and every one of the combos looks on her. This usually occurs during a game. She knows we're distracted and can't give her the full attention that this fashion show deserves, yet she persists. The other oddity is that every day she sees the way we choose to dress ourselves. We do not possess the necessary skills to judge an ensemble. Knowing this one can't help but be puzzled by how she can value our opinion.

Another area where they are trouble is when they want to do the things we do to increase "quality time". If you play sports then you know what I mean. When I first met my girlfriend she told me that she bikes. Splendid, said I. Let's go for a ride sometime.
Silly me.

On our first ride the problems were immediate. Moving from spot to spot was adventurous. She was capable of starting off but only after several shaky beginnings, then once rolling she could only pedal and focus straight ahead. She could not coast. She gripped the handlebars like an alligator clamps onto its prey, making her progression a rather jerky affair.

Stopping had it's own peculiarities. She could manage the brakes ok but the entire feet on the ground thing had gotten the better of her. Not really knowing how to do it she would take both feet off the pedals and wait til she tipped to one side or the other. When the tipping didn't come fast enough she would remove herself from the saddle and proceed to use the bike as a Draisine, running along with the thing while trying to keep her legs out far enough to not whack the pedals.

On further investigation she revealed that she had only recently started biking and had never ridden one as a child.

In the past I've had girlfriends who wanted to play tennis because I play and actually taught it for awhile. Usually this would result in one summer of reduced play time while I spent hours and hours with her trying to teach her the finer points of the game, or at least how to hit the ball. Fortunately this would pass after a summer and their interest would wane.

Biking does not allow for this. Even a bad biker can enjoy the ride. Now the weekends of heading out for a 40 mile ride must be planned around a 10 mile, stop for lunch, jaunt in the neighborhood.