The other day, I was driving somewhere with the family and pointed out to my kids a fellow road-user.
A man riding a scooter had caught my eye. He had strapped to his chest what appeared to be either a backward backpack or a baby carrier. Inside said satchel was a small dog.
The kids laughed, and we went on our merry way, but it made me think about the possibility of traveling by bike with the family pet.
I’m not sure when I ever have been or will be in a situation where I have to take ours out for a spin, but I suppose it could happen.
On a couple of occasions, I took my (wife’s) cat for a ride in the car to pick up my son after elementary school. Mr. Kitty (not his real name; it has been changed to protect his sense of haughty, self-righteous aloofness) was a big hit with the preteen set. The kids’ faces lit up when Mr. Meowers pressed his little wet nose to the window as we drove past.
But after a couple of uneventful (for me) trips, Whiskers developed a bit of a sensitive stomach. The next couple of rides were punctuated by the putrid stench of cat puke.
Kitty doesn’t get to ride in the car anymore.
I can’t imagine he’d dig a bike ride more than his car trips.
I sure as heck wouldn’t tote him around in a chest pack. Dude would freak and disembowel me before I made it off the driveway.
I suppose I could wear him like a little kitty ascot — an ascat? — but no way would I want those talons anywhere near my jugular.
To the ’Net I went.
Sure enough, a couple of places market ways to take small pets along for a ride.
Most appear to be variations of the typical Toto basket: a front, open basket to hold a small, well behaved dog.
No way my (wife’s) cat would stand for that.
I did find, however, a couple of covered totes that attach to the handlebars and claim to be the perfect way to haul a cat or small dog on two wheels.
Best of all, they seem to be made of easy-to-clean vinyl. If Cat Masterson can’t stomach a ride in a four-wheeled cage, I can’t imagine he’d be able to contain his Meow Mix while dangling off the front of my bike.
My thousands of bike miles in and around the city have provided me with dozens of tales, from captivating accounts of derring-do (or, in my case, derring-don’t) to location humor (you had to be there) to the kind of stultifying insipidity that, once it spews forth from my mouth, makes my kids — by far my favorite victims, er, audience — roll their eyes back in their heads and take on the appearance of a fine holiday ham, which is to say, glazed.
Recently, I had an unusual run of encounters with, of all things, tails.
It started with a run-in with a fellow wearing a coonskin cap. I guess there’s nothing all that unusual about that … if we’re kicking about a Davy Crockett-era Alamo. I didn’t expect to bump into that particular chapeau in downtown Lawrence circa, well, now, but I did, twice in the span of a couple of days.
Then a few days later, I rolled up on a three-foot dragon tail. At least, I think it was a dragon tail. There was a safety pin attached, so I assume it became detached from a Halloween costume (as an aside, I also happened upon a wicked skull-encrusted scythe thing, a bandana or two and a creepy, intact long fingernail. I have a head start on next year’s costume, should I be inclined to dress as a cowboydragonreaper … with a nasty coke habit).
But my latest tail tale takes the cake.
Riding home from racquetball the other day, I spied something in the middle of the road. As I approached, I realized it was a disembodied squirrel tail, maybe three inches long. It’s previous owner was nowhere in sight.
I could not, for all my pondering, come up with a scenario that would explain how a squirrel’s tail could come to be discarded in the middle of a street. I don’t believe squirrels shed them, and I couldn’t imagine an event so traumatic — a run-in with a car or coyote? — and so violent that a squirrel would be separated from just part of its tail.
Then I remembered, on my way to racquetball, I had marveled at a hawk that swooped low overhead and landed on a tree not far from that perplexing tail. I looked but did not see the bird noshing on a tree rat, or anything else, for that matter, but perhaps the hawk — fittingly, a red-tail — had somehow caused squirrel and tail to forfeit proximity. I guess it’s possible.
Regardless, when I pedaled past several hours later, the tail was gone.
To me, that’s even more mysterious. Now I’ll never know how this tale — or tail — ends.
Last school year, one of my daughter’s first assignments was to create a word cloud.
I don’t recall all the details, but she and her classmates were required to write an introductory paragraph or two, with their likes and dislikes and hobbies and such, then enter their submissions into a website that creates word clouds — visual pictures of the text that weights the most common words by making them appear bigger than words used less frequently.
At back-to-school night, my wife and I admired her word cloud. There, we saw things we thought appropriate to her tween sensibilities: references to her favorite musicians du jour, maybe a TV show or two, her hobbies, etc. Simultaneously, however, our eyes alighted on a rather large word toward the lower right: husband. Say what?
Since we’re neither from Arkansas nor the 1800s — where, and when, I understand preteens wed frequently — we couldn’t figure why on earth our lovely daughter would espouse a spouse in the story of her life.
After meeting with her teacher, who was similarly stumped, we confronted our daughter. As it turns out, she merely included a bit of trivia in her paragraph: that my wife knew the husband of my daughter’s teacher. As in, “My mom knows your husband.”
Because the introductory submissions were so short, there were few words from which to choose, so “husband” was among the biggest words purely by chance.
I bring that up not because I want to assure the slobbering junior-high masses her hand is still available (back off, fellas), but because my blog just hit a milestone.
My last entry was my 200th, and ever since I saw my daughter’s word cloud, I knew I wanted to mark the milestone with a Rolling Along word cloud.
See, every now and then I’ll pen (keyboard?) a blog wherein I’ll grouse about the road or weather conditions or a wayward rodent or, oh, yeah, some gem of a human who tries to kill me, and, somebody will post a comment about what a negative fellow I am. Inevitably, the rant is something like, “If riding your bike is so awful, why do you do it?”
I resist the urge to reply, because I figure aforementioned trolls skip over the blogs in which I wax poetic about rainbows and shooting stars and unicorns and moonbeams, and, because they’re such magnets for negativity, are drawn to the blogs that include a bit of conflict.
Or maybe I am overwhelmingly negative.
If so, I don’t mean to be. Obviously, I consider the positives of cycling outweigh the negatives, or I wouldn’t do it.
Hence, the word cloud.
Rather than re-read all 200 of my blogs (even I couldn’t do that), I simply copy-pasted a whole bunch of ’em — like, 50 or so, which I had close to hand — into the wordle.net website to create a word cloud.
Much to my relief, the biggest, boldest words weren’t curses or near-curses or overtly negative words. Sure, what precedes or follows, say, “drivers” or “kids” or even “wife” determines whether the overall phrase is good, bad or indifferent.
But I was thrilled to see only one word that triggers a negative thought — bad — and it was awfully small.
The two biggest — and, therefore, most common — words in all those blogs? “Bike,” by far, followed by “like.”
So, there you have it. Bike like. I think that pretty much sums it up.