Friday, July 22, 2011

Country roads, fraught with peril

Being the finely honed athlete that I am, I knew that RAGBRAI (aka the crazy-ass bike ride across the state of Iowa) wouldn’t be much of a challenge, and so I determined to step things up a bit. This means that I sat on my lazy ass for months, didn’t go near my bike, and pretty much ate bonbons all day.

Until about 2 weeks ago. When my finely-tuned Ramping Up process began, as The Kone and I moved into my mom’s abode in Huntley and began riding every day. Well, at least I did. HRH basked in air-conditioned splendor, as is befitting his station.

Now, I had no idea that I’d be Ramping Up during the biggest heat/humidity wave to hit the Midwest in 99 years. Nope, that part was a surprise. A pleasant one, to be sure! What doesn’t kill you makes you more surly and bitter, I always say.

The image of riding on country roads conjures up some bucolic scenes, cornfields, cows, one with nature, etc. And yet. I’ve discovered just how dangerous this pastoral scene can be, and here I’ve compiled a list of the inherent dangers so that you too can be alert as well, should you decide to go riding in the country and thus take your life into your own hands.

  1. Garbage trucks – There I was toodling along when suddenly a garbage truck went zooming by so closely he almost took out an elbow. This is especially irksome when riding in the country on a straightaway when it’s clear there are NO OTHER CARS coming from the opposite direction. But as a friend noted – at least it wasn’t a bus.
  2. Crazed birds. Again, toodling along, when I hear the Skittering Cry of Death somewhere above me. Of course, I do what any other normal person would do: I slow down, almost stopping, and start looking up. Lo, there’s a red-winged blackbird! Why, I’ve heard of them attacking cyclists but have never witnessed it – how exciting! I feel like Margaret Mead, studying the subculture of a species that….ow! Hey! No dive-bombing! I zip on ahead.
  3. Dogs. Okay, so, knock on wood, I’ve never been attacked by a dog – generally they just want to run alongside my bike and have some fun. I either sprint to make it a race, look at them incredulously (in the case of a stubby little corgi), chastise them (in the case of a Dobe: “hey, I rescue you guys!” – as he slunk off), or hold out a leg for them to chew on if I’m really REALLY tired. So I don’t mind the chase. What I DO mind is when people have their dogs loose and they live on a relatively BUSY ROAD, and said dogs go running across that road to chase me. In this case I managed to shoo them on home without incident, but I’d be REALLY pissed if a dog got hit because he wanted to have some fun chasing me on my bike. So cut that shit out, people.
  4. Being cropdusted. So I'm looking at a little plane flying overhead, and thinking wow, that's getting lower....and closer.....and lower......*cough* *cough*. Well, I've gotten enough doses of radiation to choke a horse - what harm can some toxic chemicals do anyway?
  5. Quaint country cafes that are closed on weekends. To this I can only say: WTF? Is this even legal?? Town of Garden Prairie, I may have to rethink putting you on the list of Towns that Do Not Suck.
  6. Dehydration. Okay, okay, so going for long rides when it’s 98 degrees and 95% humidity might not be the best laid of plans. And yes, it’s kind of hard to take enough water with you when your closest potential spot for water is about 28 miles away. Still, if more cafes were open…..! I slump over my bike when I stop, and think fondly of France, where there are water fountains/troughs often enough such that you’ll never get thirsty. And if you do, why, there’s water trickling down from a mountain stream! Rough life they have over there. Sigh.

With all this, one might wonder, why ride in the country at all? It’s basically like Armageddon out there, no? In some ways, but there are also benefits as well.

(to be continued)

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