Please don’t tell me to “be careful.”
I don’t know exactly what “be careful” means but it reminds me of the woman who came up to me in a parking lot in Missouri. “You have a lot of guts to be riding on these roads.” The way she said it did not express care or compassion for me or my ride. What she meant was “get the hell off the road, this is no place for you.” Her demeanor communicated the message clearly.
I know that people generally are trying to be helpful, and often they are showing genuine concern when they say “be careful”. But I’m up to here with “be careful.” What set me off was I pulled into a campground on my route today because the clouds were darkening and lightning was approaching. I had my lunch in my bag and thought this campground would be the great place for it.
I found a covered spot, complete with an electric outlet – perfect spot. My self charging hub stopped working for my phone though it still runs my lights, so that puts me always on the make for juice for my phone and backup battery. Anyway, the spot was also occupied by 4 guys who were cleaning the restrooms (4 guys? I know). One of them starts with “hey be careful, there are a lot of crazy drivers out there” which kind of says to me – “hey be careful out there because I drive like an idiot” or “hey get off the road because you really shouldn’t be on the road anyway.” Then he launched in to story after story about cyclists getting creamed by drivers. “Hey, can we talk about something else?” says I. “I pretty well acquainted with crazy drivers. On average, one cyclist a day is killed in the US. I know because I looked it up.” To which one of his buddies says, “that’s really not that many.” Ahem, I’m still here.
Does he stop to notice that I have two running lights, a mirror so I can see idiots approaching? I am constantly scanning that mirror and every car that approaches I ask; is that car going to hit me? Is he moving towards the middle? Is he slowing down? And 3 times in the last week the answer hasn’t been clear so I drove off the road to avoid the possibility of getting hit. Does he notice the big goofy dayglow vest on? A helmet? Motorcylces here don’t even use those. No.
He launches into one more story – but it’s different. This time it’s about the time HE was hit by a car as a teenager. He ran a red light, got knocked under a car, clung to the bumper as the car came to a stop and was relatively unscathed (physically) though clearly there are scars. He went on to say that the guy driving the car bought him the nicest bike in town but after a couple of years he gave it up anyway. Oh dear, this guy has suffered some serious trauma on a bike.
OK so finally I get it. I’ve missed the point of the stories altogether. Once again I thought it was about me, and it was about him all along. Mental note; it’s not about me. Set my iPhone for this time tomorrow; it’s not about me. Next month; still not about me.
Last night I was woken by the sound of drops falling on my tent. Shoot – I was so sure it wasn’t going to rain tonight that I forgot to cover my bike seat. See it’s a leather Brooks saddle – the model most often chosen by touring cyclists. But it has one major defect in my eyes – it can’t get wet or it softens and changes its shape. The whole appeal of the Brooks is that it molds to fit your butt but you don’t want it going all soft and getting saggy on you. So up an at ’em, I need to dig out my trusty high tech low-weight untra-compressible seat cover (aka plastic shopping bag) and get that seat covered up before I end up riding a saggy seat the next 1000 miles.
So what do I see when I drag myself out of the tent? The sky is half stars – brilliantly clear stars – interspersed with clouds and lightening. I’ve never seen anything like this stars and lighting? I wish I had a time exposure camera because words fail me but it was spectacular.
Today I was a bit slow out the door due to the rain last night. Had to wait for the tent to dry out and, being in a bit of a canyon, it took awhile to get the direct sun on my camp. But soon enough I was on my way.
I’m lucky that my buddy Glenn and his friends are staying a short hop from my route, just south of Ridgeway. Thanks Glenn and your friends for hosting me to dinner and a roof over my head as the storms come down tonight.