Posts tagged with Bicycle

Behind the blog numbers

You folks are hard to figure.

By “you folks,” I don’t mean “you people,” as in, “There goes the neighborhood.” I mean, “you folks,” as in, regular readers of this blog. You know who you are, and may God have mercy on your souls.

I have the darnedest time figuring you out.

I keep half an eye (not easy; don’t ask) on the traffic stats for this here blog, not so much to stoke my outsize ego, but just to see what chords I’m striking and when I’m just striking out.

I don’t want to overextend my blog welcome (hold your tongue; I know what you’re thinking), and just as soon as my blogs start putting up embarrassing numbers — which is totally unrelated and sometimes inversely proportional to embarrassing content — I’m going to pull the plug on it. But as long as it continues to draw at least double digits, in total page views, mind you, not percentages, by gosh, I’m going to keep crankin’ it out.

So every time I throw up a blog, I check in from time to time to see if I’m writing in a vacuum.

But that’s small-picture thinking.

Since the turn of the year, I had planned all along for my first blog of 2011 to look back on the top blogs of 2010. Novel thinking, I know. Nobody — I mean, NOBODY — does reflective, top-10 stories as the calendar flips. I haven’t blogged since back in December, and if the vitriolic e-mails and phone calls (no, mom, the blog isn’t dead yet) are any indication, at least a few people wondered whatever happened to Rolling Along.

It just went into hibernation for a couple of weeks as I buried myself in the esoteric world of online traffic analysis. As I pored over bounce rates and unique page views and other Interwebby gobbledygook, I began to see a clear pattern about which blogs were the best-read and which were the most ignored. Simply put, the pattern was … that there was no pattern.

See, I figured the old tried-and-true methods of titillation should hold true and tried when it comes to blogs.

That is, I assumed sordid tales of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll would rule, but the only blog truly about sex I wrote all year (my apologies) ranked 13th among the blogs I wrote in 2010, one spot behind a blog about, of all things, the weather.

My one blog about drugs was a distant 22nd.

Rock ’n’ roll, I’m sad to say, went totally unrepresented last year, but it’ll never die.

So what topics DO drive hits? I’m not sure.

I didn’t have any keyword gold standards — like Bieber or abortion or Palin — in the headlines or blog bodies to generate off-the-charts mis-clicks, so aside from a, ahem, misleading headline or two — “Confessions of a crackhead,” for instance, on a blog about imperfect pavement — I figure most people reading my blogs are doing so because they want to be there, despite the occasional commenter who takes the time to complain about how much of his/her precious time I’ve wasted.

The top-10 topics of 2010 include blogs about snow, riding on sidewalks and snakes.

No. 2, curiously, was a sentimental bit about getting rid of one bike to get one for my wife and son.

No. 1 — in terms of total traffic, as well as comments — was, strangely enough, about several close encounters I had in slick conditions — WHILE DRIVING MY CAR. Yep, the most viewed, most commented-upon bicycle blog of 2010 was about … driving.

Yeah, I never saw that coming.


Holiday bike bling

Generally, I’m not big on bike bling.

It’s not that I’m averse to alliteration.

And I’m not opposed to pretty. Just take one glance at my gorgeous wife (and, honey, Merry Christmas! I’ve procrastinated enough that might be the only present I get you. But, remember, it’s the thought that counts).

Anyway, I’m not against stylin’ on the bike. It’s just that enough of my rides are in the rain or snow or, this time of year, over sandy, salty, grungy roads, any glisten quickly comes off.

Hence, my bikes are pretty ordinary-looking.

I still have two gold-plated water-bottle cages — true story — that I’ve yet to install on any of my rides. I bought them on the cheap about, oh, a decade ago, and they’d look bangin’ on my regular silver steed, but the thought of road grime turning them into tarnish has led me to keep them in the box, somewhere in the garage.

That said, this time of year I can’t help but think about sparklin’ up my sled.

I spend enough time and wattage (or is it amperage?) on the Clark Griswold-worthy holiday lights around the homestead, it only makes sense that I’d want a little holiday cheer on my bikes.

I thought about it again the other day, when in the span of just a couple of hours I saw the same white SUV with mock reindeer antlers about five times in all four corners of the city.

Paranoid Me wondered if my better half finally ponied up for the private dick to shadow me around town, but Logical Me argued no self-respecting P.I. would call attention to himself with auto antlers. Paranoid Me countered that’s what I’m supposed to think and, well, the two are still slugging it out in a battle of witlessness.

But it made Martha Stewart Me — whose four-wheeled conveyance sported a snowman’s head on the antenna, until said antenna snapped off, dooming me to a static-y radio purgatory — wonder what I could do on two wheels to spread the love.

I could attach antlers to my handlebars or, better yet, my helmet.

Or I could rig up a wreath — like I’ve seen on some vehicles’ grills — up front, though it might block my headlight.

I’ve also thought about stringing battery-powered multicolored lights along the top tube, but I’m afraid they might work loose and get tangled in the pedals.

Then it dawned on me as I geared up for a chilly ride the other night I could get in the spirit and maintain body heat at the same time. A Santa hat should fit snugly under my lid, and the white puff ball at the tip could be pulled through one of the vents.

If the sight of a cyclist pedaling through the night with a Santa hat flapping in the breeze behind him doesn’t say happy holidays, I don’t know what does.


Road acne

A few years ago, I was taking a leisurely ride through the country when I encountered, in the middle of nowhere, a road crew.

I rolled to a stop next to the flagman, and we chatted as I waited for the lone oncoming vehicle to clear so I could proceed.

We talked about my bike, the heat and a few other topics I can’t recall before the conversation turned to the road ahead. He explained he was part of a crew resurfacing a stretch of road that eventually would reach a couple of miles.

I nodded, and, when he flipped his sign from stop to slow and wished me a good ride home, I rolled on.

I quickly regained my rhythm and more or less lost myself in the ride, but before long I noticed a pinging sound coming from my bike and a crunching coming from the wheels. The resurfacing was chip-and-seal, whereby a sticky goo is poured over the road, then tiny bits of rock are poured over the goo. In time, the passing of vehicles presses the rock into the goo, and a regular road surface results.

Fresh chip-and-seal, however, is hell on bikes. The loose rock kicks up and is treacherous to ride on, and the goo sticks to everything. The ride was only a couple of miles, but it was awful; I felt I was skating along the surface and about to hit the deck every few seconds, and I was cleaning goop off my bike for weeks.

Ever since, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid fresh chip-and-seal surfaces.

Imagine my surprise, then, when during a regular commute home from work a couple of weeks ago, I was just riding along — close to, but well within the city limits — and saw what appeared to be loose rock from a recent chip-and-seal job in the road ahead.

I took an abrupt right-hander at speed through the stuff and, sure enough, both tires broke free, and I thought I was going down.

I didn’t, but I circled back to see what was going on. I was stunned to see what looked like a handful of chip-and-seal patches on the road. They were raised and looked like a bad case of eczema.

A few days later, I encountered another patch of the road acne.

Then I saw a story in the paper about the city’s new pothole-filling machine, and I realized the chip-and-seal patches were a result of the new machine. According to the story, crews were still learning, but they eventually would be able to apply the fixes so they’d be even with the existing street surface.

The ones I had ridden over definitely weren’t. They stood proud of the road and were bumpy, nearly as bad as the potholes they were designed to fix.

A couple of weeks later, though, I rode over the first patches I encountered and was greeted by a relatively nice, uniform surface — and no potholes.

So despite my initial trepidation about the encroachment of dreaded chip-and-seal tech into city streets, I can honestly say I like the new approach, especially since it’ll allow the city to fix potholes year-round.

The way I see it, potholes are potentially dangerous. Chip-and-seal is merely annoying.

I don’t mind riding over the stuff for a couple of feet. A couple of miles is another story.


Blood on my hands (or at least my wheels)

I distinctly recall the day I became a reviled enemy of an entire family of rodents.

It was a crisp winter Sunday in my childhood. It seems I was late in my elementary-school or early in my junior-high years.

As my family began to scurry about getting ready to head to church, my mother said she wasn’t feeling well and would be staying home. Quick to recognize an opportunity, I managed a fake cough, grimaced as I pointed to my throat and swallowed and maybe even copped to the ultimate out — an upset stomach.

My father, perhaps daunted by the thought of having to sit through a service next to my brother and me, squirming and fighting, without the benefit of Old Mother Buffer, said I could stay home, too.

My mom, recognizing a fellow faker, didn’t demand I head to bed or any sensible flu-fighting measures and instead left me to my own devices, which back in my day meant TV or video games (yes, we did have electricity. Plumbing, too.)

At some point, I recall gazing out the back window at the snow on the ground and spying a squirrel feasting at one of our bird feeders.

We kept a BB gun by the back door to scare off the opportunistic tree rats. Dad, a crack shot, would plink away with glee at the limbs below the squirrels’ little thieving pink feet as they scampered away, leaving the bounty to the poor, starving little birdies we wanted instead.

On this Sunday, bored, I picked up the BB gun, slipped outside and drew a bead on a particularly brazen squirrel. The weapon featured a hand pump, which I remember pumping maybe seven times, took a step or two forward … and the squirrel turned tail.

Calmly, I took aim just below his feet, led the beastie, slowly squeezed the trigger … and PFFFTT … the projectile flew true. Ish. I didn’t hear the expected crack of BB on wood and assumed I missed — until the squirrel made it a couple of feet up the trunk, slowly nosed away, then took a header in the snow. And didn’t move.

At first I was thrilled and looked for someone to high-five. (Although, back in those prehistory days, I’m not sure the high-five had been invented. To celebrate, I guess we had to settle for pedestrian low-fives, or maybe we just rattled a couple of mastodon tusks together.)

The elation was short-lived as the gravity of the situation sunk in. I had lied to get out of going to church, then to cap my Sunday debauchery, I had carelessly extinguished the life of one of His creatures. Oops.

Hardly the picture of virile manliness that I am now, I did the only thing I could think to do: I started bawling.

My mom, bless her heart, tried to console me, suggesting maybe the squirrel was just stunned and eventually would stand up, shake its head a couple of times and scamper away.

I dared to peek. No, it was well on its way to becoming a corpsicle, a fact my dad confirmed when he came home. Then he let me in on the secret: One flick of the gun’s hand pump was more than enough to send a message squirrel-ward; seven pumps was surely fatal.

I bawled some more, then vowed never again to be the cause of another squirrel’s untimely demise.

I worried I had broken that vow a couple of years ago on a ride out by Perry Lake. Pedaling along on a pan-flat stretch of road with nary a tree within hundreds of yards, I caught sight of a squirrel heading my way, running down the middle of the road. It was a bizarre scene, made all the more bizarre when it deked one way, then bee-lined for my back tire. I had enough warning to take evasive action, but I still caught the little bugger. It ran off into the weeds, however, so I’m guessing it survived with nothing more than a bruised ego. If squirrels have egos, that is. Or bruise.

But just the other night, I again ran afoul of the squirrel set.

I was close to work, pedaling along in the evening gloaming when I saw two squirrels running across my path. I instinctively clucked at them — sometimes I talk to the squirrels; anything to get their attention and scare them out of the way. But like the deer alongside the highway, it’s the one you don’t see that gets you.

A third rodent bolted out in front of me, and I was too stunned to react. I managed to miss it with my front wheel, but the back wheel rolled over the poor varmint with a sickening thud.

I considered circling around and going back, but what was I going to do? Hold his little paw as his light flickered, assuring him he’d led a life worth living? Call a little squirrel ambulance? Notify next of kin? I rode on.

Once I got to work, I looked my bike over, half expecting to see blood or maybe a tuft or two of hair. But the only evidence I found was a mark or two in the dirt on my back rim, which I’m sure was where the unfortunately little bugger met wheel.

A few hours later, I rode back by the spot. I don’t know what I expected to see: a taped-off crime scene, perhaps, with a chalk outline, or maybe a candlelight vigil, but there was nothing.

With any luck, history didn’t repeat itself, and I didn’t inadvertently snuff another squirrel.

Maybe I just stunned it.


No glove, no love

At some point last winter, I explained to my kids why I was especially fond of a specific pair of gloves.

Now, before anybody looks up the number for SRS, rest assured I normally don’t subject them to such cruel and unusual punishment. The details have faded a bit, but I’m sure it was a direct response to one of them — most likely the younger, my son — inflicting some harm on my gloves, say, trying to shred them to make bedding for his hermit crabs or concocting a science experiment to determine whether cold-weather gear might burst into flame if it spends enough time in the microwave.

Regardless of the impetus, at some point during one of my most insipid daddy diatribes, I brought down the house when I explained the terry-cloth covering on the thumb serves as a nose wipe. Nothing says top-shelf, highbrow humor to the pre-junior high set quite like snot tales. (Unless, of course, it’s what comes out the other end, which would explain why the other night my little angels entertained themselves for hours by calling each other “Poofus,” which, as far as I can tell, is the unholy hybrid of “Poop” and “Dufus.” Good stuff.)

Anyway, as soon as I explained the function of the snot-wiper, the kids disintegrated into quivering, snickering wrecks.

I let ’em get their giggle on.

After they had regained their composure, they turned skeptical.

“No, really, dad, what’s it for?” asked my daughter.

I assured her the terry was, in fact, a snot wiper.

I explained I once heard a salesman explain it as an eyeglass wipe. He said typical, wicking bike gear is hard on delicate lenses; the soft terry, he said, was to help keep glasses free of debris.

I explained he was full of snot. More laughs.

Continuing my vapid story, I told the kids I considered gloves to be among the most important part of a four-season commuter’s garb, hence my collection of bike-specific mitts: a pair for cool weather to just above freezing; my favorites, appropriate from the 40s to the teens; my really-stinking-cold-weather gloves; liner gloves; etc.

Losing my audience, I quickly went back to the snot.

Noses run in cold weather, I said, and it’s not especially convenient to stop and dig out a tissue every couple of blocks. Hence, the snot wiper. Pedal. Sniffle. Wipe. Repeat.

Predictably, my son said, “Coooool!” just as his sister wrinkled her nose and said, “Ewww!”

I explained how the poor digits, hanging off the front of the bike and, thus, dangling in the wind chill, bear the brunt of cold rides. I told how the body, in extreme cold, diverts blood to the essential organs, thus leaving the dangly bits more susceptible to the elements.

For soccer players, say, or perhaps brain surgeons, numb appendages might not be a big deal, but in my line of work, they’re trouble. It’s good to keep feeling in them, lest the next day’s sports section come out with headlines that read “Glks; asf;dljdfo eiofds;zcxv .c.,fsm.”

Having not heard a bodily fluid (besides blood) mentioned for several seconds, my kids’ eyes started to glaze.

I grabbed my extreme-cold gloves and pointed out they lacked a nose wipe. I asked my kids if they knew why.

They admitted they had no clue.

I explained they were only for the coldest conditions, when noses still run, but the air is so cold, snot freezes on the tip of the nose.

And do you know what that’s called?

“No, daddy. What?”


Again, more laughs.

My astute daughter thought a minute, then asked what I did when I reached my destination, went inside with said snotcicles dangling from my schnoz, and they started to melt.

Thanks for the straight line.

“I grab a tissue, of course. What do you think I am? A disgusting slob?”


Hey, $#%&, you missed

A funny thing happened last week during a routine ride home from racquetball: A guy tried to kill me.

OK, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. But not much.

As I approached a four-way stop-sign-controlled intersection about a mile from my house, I noticed a car approaching from my left. I rolled to a stop and saw the car slowing as it neared the stop sign.

As I pedaled into the intersection, I noticed the driver of the car starting to roll through the stop. No worries, I figured; I should be clear in plenty of time.

Still, I made eye contact to make sure the driver saw me. He looked me right in the eyes … and accelerated.

In all the thousands of miles I’ve ridden my bikes, I can’t recall a time I felt I had been targeted like that.

I’ve had people buzz me and nearly clip me with their mirrors. I’ve had stuff thrown at me, more near-misses than I can count and, on a couple of occasions, I’ve felt drivers were trying to force me into the curb.

But never before have I felt as if someone were trying, deliberately, to hit me with a car.

Fortunately, he’s as bad a driver as he is a person, and he missed by what seemed like inches. I still have the picture in my mind’s eye as I twisted around to see his bumper passing precariously closely to my rear tire.

I was too startled to get much of a description of car or driver and too shaken — or incensed — to give chase, not that I would have had much chance of catching him.

I spent the rest of the short ride looking over my shoulder and pondering his motivation. Jealous boyfriend? Sworn nemesis? Negative. I don’t have any real skeletons, and it sure seemed like a chance encounter. Plus, I didn’t get a great look at the guy, but I sure didn’t recognize him.

There’s no question he saw me; he looked right at me, and his head turned as I rode parallel to his path.

Maybe he felt like punishing me for not coming to a complete stop, but I did. When you ride a fixed-gear bike, you’re acutely aware of when your bike comes to a complete stop. I didn’t put my foot down, but I stopped and popped a full microsecond track stand.

And there’s no doubt in my mind I beat him to the intersection and, thus, it was my turn to go. Otherwise, there’s no way I could have been far enough ahead to escape his acceleration.

So all I can figure is he’s a twisted soul, or perhaps his firstborn was kidnapped by a roving band of bike toughs.

I don’t find it hard to believe I’m not universally loved. Heck, I can even suspend disbelief enough to know some people might not even like me much. But there’s a huge leap from passive dislike — even passionate hate — to actively trying to run me down.

Truth to tell, I’d sort of like to meet this guy, maybe sit down over a cup of coffee or maybe a beer, because I’d sure like to know just why he wants me maimed.

Drop me a line. Let’s talk.


Brats, bikes and brouhahas

No driver in his or her right mind would seek out Kansas University game-day traffic.

I do, however, proving I’m not much of a driver and not in my right mind.

But there’s something about tackling football and men’s basketball game-day traffic — on a bike, anyway — that I find especially rewarding. Most days, anyway. I especially enjoy pedaling though Old West Lawrence before kickoff on fine fall afternoons. Everybody seems to be in fine spirits, and the air is thick with smells of grilling meat and adult beverages.

I’ve had tailgaters offer me burgers and brats — the ones that hit the ground, I imagine, or rolled into the coals — as I ride past. Maybe they (the tailgaters, not the meats) feel sorry for the dork on the bike. I typically decline.

I’ve had Frisbees and footballs thrown at me, too. Or maybe I should say, I’ve had them thrown TO me; I’m not sure I’ve ever had either object hurled my way in anger, but I’m certain I’ve never caught one.

The atmosphere after victories is equally, um, intoxicating.

Happy fans offer plastic keg cups of something or lustily demand high-fives as they head to their postgame party spots. I’m not sure which is more dangerous: The liquid courage can knock a cyclist right on his backside, but so, too, can too much arm in a high-five. Again, I typically dodge both.

Come basketball season, I don’t ride by the fieldhouse, but I’m not totally unaffected by game-day traffic.

It’s especially noticeable in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament. As fans flock downtown to celebrate big victories, traffic backs up for blocks. I’ve had my 10-minute drive take more than half an hour after Final Four victories. For that reason, unless it’s raining — as it was when KU won it all in 2008 — I prefer to take the bike.

I’ll hop on a sidewalk when necessary (and legal, of course, thankyouverymuch) to avoid the bulk of the backed-up autos and make better time by far than I would by car.

But when the home team tumbles, look out.

It’s one thing if the Jayhawks lose, say, to a heavily-favored and high-ranked Nebraska squad and its red-clad, automaton fans — “Must cheer Huskers. Must cheer Huskers.” The crimson-and-blue faithful take such losses in stride.

But if KU should lose badly to, oh, I don’t know, hypothetically, let’s say, oh, hmmmm, how ’bout … Kansas State … then it pays to be wary. Fists and glass and invective fly, and some of it’s bound to get flung toward any passerby, whether on two feet or two wheels, unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. And I’ve heard the police-scanner traffic to prove it’s not just paranoia. Further proof is provided by a friend of my wife’s, a festive yet level-headed mother who had a dustup at Thursday’s Sunflower Showdown. Yes, it was a cat fight — a ’Cat fight? — and, yes, some hair got … displaced. Permanently. Meow.

On nights like that, I keep my head down yet on a swivel. And I’m glad I have a helmet on it.


Aww, nuts!

It’s autumn, and leaves and the temperature aren’t the only things falling.

Lately, I’ve found myself up to my, er, um, uh, knees — yeah, knees — in … nuts.

Unfortunately, they’re all of the walnut or acorn variety. I think I’d rather like it if my rides about town were peppered by plummeting pistachios, say, or macadamias. Lightly salted, if you please.

But, no, mere walnuts and acorns clutter my path.

Full disclosure here: I’m not a big fan of nuts. Oh, I like a toasted almond, or a honey-roasted peanut here and there, or maybe a small handful of cashews. But I can’t stand pecans or walnuts. Nothing ruins a good brownie like a walnut.

That said, there’s all sorts of stuff on our streets I wouldn’t like to eat, so my dislike of walnuts is not just one of palatability.

On my bike, I don’t like walnuts because they’re messy and dangerous. Messy I can live with, but on more than one occasion, I’ve hit a walnut just right with my front tire and just about ate it. The pavement, that is, not the foul nut.

I have to admit, though, I like the sound they make, a gunshot report, when the big iron — cars and trucks — roll over ’em in the driveway of my son’s elementary school. Serves ’em right.

Acorns are another matter.

I rather like the sound they make — a satisfying pop — even under the puny weight of my bike tires. Rolling through certain oak-lined neighborhoods sounds a bit like a string of firecrackers going off (not that I’d know; ’works are illegal in town, and I’m nothing if not a law-abiding citizen).

The other good thing about acorns is they can make awesome projectiles. I’ve heard stories about how some pro cyclists like to “shoot” rocks at each other by rolling over them just right on training rides.

My ability to launch acorns underwheel isn’t quite so honed, but I frequently send the slippery tree seeds whizzing off into the distance without meaning to. Inadvertently, I pinged one off a car at my son’s school, and I half expected an incident, but the driver seemed not to notice.

It was an accident, I swear, though I have to admit I would have been amused to have had to swap insurance information over a wayward nut.

And speaking of wayward nuts … that’s the other thing I like about nut season. Riding home in the middle of the night, it’s always a charge to have the silence broken by the sound of falling nuts pinging off cars and windows and what-have-you.

I’m not sure if squirrels are nocturnal and the little tree rats are bombarding ground targets or if it’s just a case of acorns getting dislodged by the breeze.

Regardless, riding through the nut rain makes those middle-of-the-night commutes just a little more interesting.


Horrific road detritus

Don’t get me wrong here: I don’t think I deserve a cookie of gratitude, nor am I lobbying for a Gus Goodguy Award, but I have been known to contribute to the upkeep of our fair city’s roadways.

It’s nothing major, mind you.

I’ve called in especially egregious potholes and reported malfunctioning street lights, and I’ve done my share of some light lifting when it comes to keeping the pavement clear of potentially dangerous detritus.

In some cases, the act is more altruistic than others. I’ve dragged several downed tree limbs to the side of the road, for instance, simply because it’s easier for me to throw the bike to the ground and move the offending wood than it would be for a passing motorist, for example, to park, get out, drag, get back in the car, drive off.

But most of the time, I’m a selfish bugger. Most of the hazards are hazardous to me, too, so by taking action I’m trying to save my own bacon. Or rubber. Occasionally, though, the act of removing the danger is just as dangerous as the hazard itself.

The other day, I was riding home from my son’s school when I looked down and saw a huge nail — seven inches or so long — in the one tiny stretch of bike lane on our regular ride. I didn’t want to toss it in the nearest yard — mowing shrapnel, doncha know — or kick it to the curb, so I scooped it up and rode the rest of the way home with it in my left hand.

At one point, I rose out of the saddle and noticed my left knee was coming precariously close to the nail’s business end. I thought about what might happen if I had wiped out — “Well, doc, I was riding with this metal spike, see, and crashed, which is why it’s protruding from my skull; won’t you please remove it?” — and decided maybe it wasn’t such a great idea.

Similarly, I encounter three box-knife blades on one of my regular commute routes, and short of carrying a sharps container with me, I can’t figure a good way to lug them home for a proper disposal.

Same deal with broken glass, which I’ve been known to sweep out of the middle of roads and paved paths to avoid dreaded flats.

In the spirit of the upcoming Halloween holiday, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t plan ahead and incorporate some of the dangers into an on-bike costume.

Shove the blades through a leather glove, get a striped sweater and a hat and — voila! — Freddy Krueger.

A headband, a couple of splashes of fake blood and the aforementioned nail from hell could become the classic spike-through-the-head gag.

A handful of broken glass, especially the bottleneck, and I’m a mean drunk: “I’ll cut you man! I’ll cut you!”

Or scoop up a handful of the fasteners I find strewn all over our street, stick ’em in a thick rubber mask, zip up some black pleather and I’m Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise.

Or I could continue to ride inappropriately with all manner of pointy things, suffer a simple crash, and I would be the Bloody Stupid Biker Who Doesn’t Have Sense Enough Not To Ride With Sharp Stuff.


Hey, bud, what’s that herb?

The other day, I was cycling with my son on the way to school when something in the road caught my eye.

It was a small plastic baggie, with a small, thumb-sized portion of a leafy, green substance that looked, well, herbal.

Had it been the first time I’d encountered such a thing, I might have dismissed it, but it was the third time this school year — and I use that as a time frame because all three instances have come within spitting distance of one of the city’s fine public high schools. It was the second time on this road alone. I don’t imagine bags of spices are just dropping from the sky, so my little pea brain turned over the possibilities.

I could only come up with two scenarios to explain why I’d stumbled upon three samples of seasonings in the middle of the street.

In the first, an upstanding youngster riding in a car on his way to school opens the lunch his mother packed for him, finds, say, a single serving of spaghetti and a ready-made packet of choice, Italian herbs. Exasperated youngster exclaims, to no one in particular, “Mom, you know I don’t like oregano!” and chucks the offending spice packet out the window.

In the other, a struggling home-ec student — is there even still such a course? — smuggles a premeasured bundle of, say, rosemary and thyme in his or her backpack, hoping to add a little zing to the next cooking assignment. But said seasonings aren’t home-ec approved, so student, with a pang of conscience, flings the thing overboard.

Regardless of how they’ve gotten there, the baggies — surely containing no more than a few cents of oregano; to coin a phrase, let’s call ’em nickel bags — put me in a bit of a quandary.

They’re litter, so I’m tempted to pick them up, but I’m afraid they might be found in my possession, and I could be accused of trying to rig a home-ec assignment.

Then again, I don’t want to leave them in the middle of the road, lest some sketchy seasoning hooligans think they can come into my ’hood and score herbes de provence any time of the night or day.

I suppose I could scoop ’em up and take ’em home and use the contents for their intended purpose: baking, of course. Perhaps a batch of brownies.


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