|Commuting by bicycle requires planning, thought and a sense of humour. These articles were produced for Commuter Cyclist & Bicycling Education News, distributed by Cycling BC and Cycling BC's own newsletter, Quick Release.|
Illusions of Cycling
I was in one of the final stages of the road race. I didnít want to look behind me again, I could hear my largest competitor there. I just wanted to do my best, go my fastest. I wanted to pedal, pedal, pedal. Not far ahead, at the side of the course, a well dressed crowd of spectators looked on. As I approached they began to fidget, those who had been sitting on a bench, rose. My legs were burning, my lungs were burning, my throat was burning. They all looked at me expectantly. Do they know who I am? I gave them my best heroes smile. Many were reaching into their pockets and purses. Food? Water? Money? Nobody cheered. Nobody gave a word of encouragement. As I went past them, right on my tail, I heard the 152 Bus stopping to pick up my spectators. I too was on my way to work.
A few years back, according to my bike computer, I had accumulated 6,000 Kms for the year. It occurred to me the distance was the same as riding across Canada. In preparation for an other year of cycling, I dug out my map of Canada and put it on the wall. Riding mostly to and from work, I rode across Canada. To make the trip more interesting, I bought a book about bicycle touring across Canada. Every week I noted my distance on the map, re-read where I had been, and read about where I was going. I bought more detailed maps of all the provinces so I could find all the little towns I was seeing. Every 6 weeks or so I posted a new province. Riding Highway 3 was never so easy, the prairies were not as boring or windy as I had been led to believe and Halifax sort of reminds me of Burnaby. Anxious to ensure I rode the length of the country in that year, I began to ride more on the weekend and take longer routes on the way home from work. As a result, I rode 8,000 kilometers that year. After crossing the country I decided to ride the Dempster Highway, the length of Vancouver Island and from Calgary to Edmonton. I believe I was riding to PG when the year ran out.
Off road, there is nothing like a fast, closed in, single track descent. They are especially exciting when you are in unfamiliar surroundings. Not knowing what to expect next. Around the corner, sunlight strobing through the trees. Suddenly a bear cub is on the trail a head. Oh-oh, donít get between cubby and mama! I slow to a stop. No movement, no crashing in the bushes. Quiet, except for the birds and the breeze. I make a few loud noises. Nothing, no reaction. I creep ahead until I can see that all the noise in the world wonít startle this bear cub. Thatís because itís a tree stump. Fooled again. My fears, about mountain biking alone, are forever revealing themselves. Shadows, boulders and flora are forever forming into familiar fauna.
Perhaps it is my light hearted attitude (some say tenuous grip on reality) which allows me such mental diversion, fun, fear and fantasy. I enjoy commuting, touring and mountain biking. Some Ďwatch dogí part my mind is always on traffic or trail while the scenario mill is disassembling the mundane and creating cycling adventures. Join me some time. Right now I am cycling Europe. The Champs díElysees looks very much like the Lougheed highway.
Treasures of the Road
Perhaps there is more than scenery which attracts me to cycling. Everyday is a Treasure Hunt as well. I think of myself as a recycler exquisite road debris. Maureen tactlessly refers to my treasures JUNK. Hah! Does she have a McDonalds Peter Pan on the fender of her bike, NO, does she have a Power Ranger a Superman or a fierce looking 4 inch T-Rex (with Quads to die for) No, no, no. It is I who takes the time to inspect and collect road treasures, and decorate my bikes. It is I who is the envy of all, make that lots, all right! a few cyclists. Besides discarded toys, there are questionable magazines er...I mean English Literature, lost wallets, money and fallen tools tools tools. I find it very hard to resist tools. The reading material found along roadsides is generally very poor. Paper products do not survive being run over as well as toys and tools. Occasionally I do find something of note but, it is my theory, since most kids donít read anything interesting, I, in turn, donít get anything interesting to read. In 7 years of bicycle commuting, I have found two whole wallets and, once, a bunch of ID looking for a place to accumulate. My record is 3 for 3 in returning this type of treasure to its owner. My most significant money find was $5 bill on Lougheed Hwy. I wasnít even going home the way I usually go. True blue! There it was. Minutes later, at a gas station, I bought a huge drink and two quick picks (with extra) pocketing the less than a dollar change. Second to that, I collected about $3 in change. no greater than a quarter, at an intersection not far from the Starbucks I spent it all at. Road tools are generally scratched up a bit. I have a awesome vise grip, 6 inch side cutters, an adjustable wrench, scissors, 10 mm box end, various other imperial sizes I donít use but canít seem to discard, and more screw drivers than you can imagine any one person ever needing.
So much for what I pick up. The list of what I donít pick up is just as long. I would also like to make some general observations about road debris trends. I used to pick up bottles on the bike path to the second narrows bridge. Not for the money but just so I wouldnít have to ride over them in their broken state which, invariably, takes 24 hours. Now, after 3 flats, I take a different route. I leave the cans and bottles for those who have the time and/or need the money. I donít pick up car parts. I donít pick up clothing of any sort anymore. If I did, besides having an eclectic wardrobe, I would have about 1,000 gloves of all sorts. Once I rode over a beautiful beige leather glove. A block later I rode over another. I picked it up, tried it on, rode back for the other and put them in my pannier. At work I took them out and discovered I had two right hand gloves. Some motorist is laughing. I was set up! Besides gloves, there are a lot of people out there with only one runner and no baseball cap. I have not yet thought of a plausible scenario which will account for the amount of underwear I have seen. Disgustingly, filled and ripe diapers are becoming a familiar sight at the side of the road. Truly gross!
A lot of my cycling friends have similar stories. Some have recycled some beautiful items. That reminds me, a few years ago I found some very nice art prints at the side of the road and, when I showed them to a co-worker he gushed so much I gave them to him. For me, I donít have to keep the stuff, it just has to get used. Screw drivers being the exception, I have too many to honestly say I use them all.
Tell you what, Iíll leave the screw drivers for you. Happy hunting.
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