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Posts tagged with Bike Commuting

You’ll never get me, copper!

I’m slow on a bike. Like, really slow. In fact, I’m more glacial than slow.

Still, I’m amazed at how quickly I have to make decisions sometimes even though I’m creeping along at a challenged-snail’s pace.

All the time I’m encountering wayward vehicles or run-away pedestrians or even just simple road detritus that threatens my person (and, yes, I do have a person) or bike or simply my state of mind (and, yes, I do have a state of mind, though it’s more Rhode Island than, say, Texas or Alaska).

The other day, I faced the granddaddy of all split-second, do-or-die on-the-bike decisions.

I was inching along on a relatively well trafficked yet still relatively wide minor arterial street. There was plenty of room for me on my bike, the car coming up fast from behind and the truck approaching both of us from up ahead. I could tell all three of us were going to reach the same spot about the same time, but, again, no worries. There was plenty of room for all three of us.

But things got interesting when I noticed a squiggle up ahead, directly in my path. The squiggle was dark, about 10 inches long.

I drew closer; the car and truck were gaining.

The squiggle grew slightly more defined. What was that? A piece of road rubber? A rope? A bungee cord?

The car was getting mighty big in the rearview mirror of my mind, the grill of the truck even bigger in the frontview of my, well, view.

I saw a frightfully large crack in the gutter right next to the squiggle, so I couldn’t evade to the right; to the left would put me in the car’s path.

I slowed and cast a glance over my shoulder. Behind the car were two more; I was running out of options.

Now nearly upon the squiggle, I knew my die was cast, my fate sealed.

I leaned and peered and, sure enough, said squiggle was actually a snake.

Now, I’m no fan of snakes and have run over a few in my day — I envision the segmented Join or Die illustration in my wake — but I’m not a hater. I tend to live and let live whenever I can, but I feared the narrow little tightrope I was going to ride spelled doom for Mr. Snakey. No way I was going to swerve into that gaping maw to my right or into traffic to my left.

Inches away, I had an awful revelation. That snake’s head sure was large and copperish. Holy serpents named after a delicious pale ale! I realized I was about to roll over a poisonous copperhead.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2009/07/30/domer_snake_bite_snake009.jpg

In that split-second, I somehow recalled all I had ever heard about copperheads. I knew their bites are poisonous and painful, their personalities aggressive. I also seemed to recall hearing — perhaps it was only an old tale — that baby copperheads are more poisonous than the big ones. Something about greater potency making up for lesser volume.

I had time to reconsider — one of the benefits of riding at the speed of rock — and flashed to visions of the snake striking at my bare ankle as I rode past. Left ... right ... straight ... snake ... curb ... car ...

Almost without thought, I kicked my left foot out of its constraining pedal, flung my left foot straight out and rolled juuuuuuuust to the right of the serpent’s head, missing it by the width of his forked tongue. I also somehow managed to crack myself up as I thought, in my best Cagney, "You'll never get me, copper!" — all as the oncoming truck and the cars from behind whooshed past.

I’m sure to driver of the lead car, it must have looked like I was trying to kick in his passenger window, but he neither flinched nor jumped on the brakes to demand an explanation.

So, heart pounding, I pedaled on, rather pleased to have escaped such a perilous predicament.

I had nearly forgotten my brush with death when I approached the same spot the next day. To my surprise, the treacherous snake was still there. It appeared it hadn’t moved. This time there were no other vehicles nearby, so I gave it a wide berth. Same thing the next couple of days before I finally screwed up the courage to stop.

Stealthily I sneaked up on said serpent (sibilants silent, certainly). I found a stick and gave it a gentle prod.

It didn’t strike and, instead, jiggled a little. I managed to roll it over and saw through the grime “China” on its rubber belly.

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What do you say? Part II

I’m not most talkative of sorts and definitely lean more toward taciturn than glib, whether on two wheels or terra firma.

It’s primarily because I bite my own tongue, but two recent events, coincidentally just a couple of blocks but several weeks apart, while I was riding tied it. My tongue, that is.

The first, which I blogged about last week, was a driver who cut me off, then apologized.

Close to two weeks ago, a different kind of — and considerably more painful — run-in left me at a loss for words.

I was riding to work, relishing a decent tailwind when I saw a boy, I’d say a pre-teen, maybe 10 or 11, on a bike riding my way. He smiled and said hello … but failed to mention he had a buddy several yards back, also on a bike, trying to catch up. He also failed to mention his buddy was riding on a cross street, which was partly obscured by plant life and a parked car or two. And that his buddy was in such a hurry to catch up, he was in no mood to stop before riding right out in front of me.

It’s funny how many thoughts can go through even the emptiest of heads in just a split second. I tried to shout a warning (or at least give the kid an earful), and dozens of salutations pinballed through my head. Most were anatomical structures, mixed in with a couple of colorful gerunds and maybe even a spiritual reference or two, but though I had no time to maneuver, I had time enough to dismiss all the possibilities lest I offend the youngster with a “bad word” or 50.

All I managed was a weak, “Dude …” before T-boning the lad.

I was tooling along close to 20 mph; said ‘Dude’ was probably a little slower. I managed to swerve a bit — I did what I could to keep from hammering him, at my expense — and hit him square on his rear wheel. My bike climbed his back wheel, then slammed to the ground with me on it.

Dude appeared unscathed as I languished in the middle of the street trying to take stock of my aches and pains. The kid came close and asked, “Are you OK? Are you OK? AreyouOKAreyouOKAreyouOKAreyouOK?” over and over before I responded, “Just give me a minute, OK?”

Then he gathered his bike and started to ride off.

Here comes the tongue-tied part: As much as I wanted to tear into him or, at the very least, turn the little incident into a teaching moment, the best I could manage — after I propped myself up — was, “Dude, you gotta watch” to his departing form.

I have no idea what it is about bike-on-bike collisions turns me into a BroDude.

I gathered my bike and the various bits that had come off it, glanced at my abrasions and soon-to-be-swelling body bits … and found my voice.

I rode off in the direction the Dude disappeared and found him half a block away. A woman was walking toward him.

“Are you his mom?” I asked.

Hesitation, then, “Yes.”

“Did you see what happened?”

“I heard it.”

“Well, you need to talk to him.”

“I just talked to him about it.”

“If I had been driving a car, he’d be dead.”

Silence.

“I mean it. Dead. If I had been a car hitting him as hard as I did, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. Dead.”

“I know. Sorry. Are you OK?”

“I hurt. But I’m more worried about him.”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah, well, explain it to him. Make sure he understands.”

And I rode off.

I ended up with a nicely skinned (and swollen, tender) elbow, road rash on a hip and more scratches on my right foot. My foot also swelled and, that night, became so sore I couldn’t walk on it. Fortunately, ice and Vitamin I — Ibuprofen — fixed that. The scrapes are mending, too.

As bad as it hurt, I consider myself lucky it wasn’t worse.

For both of us.

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What do you say? Part I

I’m not the quickest of wits, and while I have a fondness for words, I sometimes find myself at a loss for them.

Such was the case on two recent rides, coincidentally about two blocks — but several months — apart.

In the first, I was riding home one evening, well before sunset. Pedalling along, I saw a car waiting to turn left onto the street I was on, heading in the same direction, from a commercial driveway. I saw the driver take a quick look to his left (away from me) and, seeing a car approaching, accelerated to turn in front of me. Had I not been paying attention (since he clearly wasn’t), it’s quite likely I would have been hit.

But I knew what was unfolding and slowed enough to avoid a collision. Still, I shrugged my shoulders toward the eyes in the rear-view mirror, just to let their owner know of my presence.

Less than a block away, I rolled to a stop next to the car and saw the passenger window going down.

Ready to stand my ground and open a can of cyclist justice on the miscreant (in other words, I was preparing to drop the bike, squeal like a little girl and run for my life), I clipped out of my pedals and turned toward what I was sure to be a lecture about how I didn’t belong on the road and how I should pay more taxes to get to use the roads and get a job and yadayadayada.

I was surprised when the driver instead leaned over the passenger seat and said, “I’m awfully sorry. I didn’t mean to pull in front of you. I just didn’t see you.”

Several responses flitted through my pea brain, none of which was especially gracious.

I finally settled on, “Well, I think I was plenty visible, but thanks for apologizing.”

The driver gave a friendly wave and, as the light changed, pulled away.

My knee-jerk response was, “Oh, it’s OK,” but I didn’t, and I’m glad, because had I been hit, it certainly would not have been OK. I’m glad the driver felt bad. I watched, and he never looked to his right. I’m sure he was counting on peripheral vision to alert him to the presence of an oncoming vehicle, and my smaller form didn’t register. Thus, he really didn’t see me. Thing is, he never looked.

Then again, I was aware of what was happening and in control of the situation. I made sure I was never really in danger, and there was no real reason to tear into the guy. I spoke my (tiny) mind, pointed out his error and acknowledged his humanity.

He screwed up and knew it. I acknowledged both. End of story.

Then, just a week ago right around the corner, I had another at-a-loss-for-words run-in that ended not quite so painlessly. But that story will have to wait for my next blog …

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Bye bye, biking buddy

Today I might be the saddest man on two wheels.

Thursday was the last day of school, the last day my younger child would attend elementary school. He’s off to big, bad middle school, and at some point as we pedaled to class last week it dawned on me our bike-to-school days were numbered.

But as is my wont, I pushed all related thoughts and feelings aside.

Until now, of course, when school won’t roll around and we won’t roll.

I have to admit, it’s been a blast.

Though he balked a time or two — he was too tired, it was too windy/cold/hot, it looked rainy, etc. — he rode without complaint. And except for one memorable ride home into a gusty headwind, when his “stupid bike” just wouldn’t work right, no matter how reluctant he was to start his rides to or from school, he always arrived in a better mood than when he departed.

Along the way, he hollered at squirrels and pointed out treasures in the road and caught bugs in his teeth and generally, somehow, found a way to make my morning and my afternoon better than they started.

Now, though, after what’s sure to be a too-short summer, he’ll be off to middle school. Classes start earlier. The route is farther and more heavily trafficked. Most importantly, as I explained to him, he might not admit it now, but — and I hate to make this a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I’m nothing if not a realist — I have this funny feeling he’s not going to want to be seen riding to school with his dorky dad once he enters the cutthroat world of middle school.

Because of recognition ceremonies and such, we didn’t get to ride much last week. We debated riding on his last day, despite his recognition ceremony, but he uncharacteristically begged off.

“I’m kinda tired,” he said. “And … ”

And what?

“Well, you remember the last time we rode?”

Yeah.

“Well, it was nice. We had a tailwind. I didn’t have to stop at the stoplight or anywhere. I tried to do that all year. And I finally did. It was like the perfect ride.”

Perfect, huh? Not a bad way to wrap it up.

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Two-wheeled stratification

I don’t get folks who ride a certain sub-set of motorized two-wheelers.

It’s a generalization, I know, and maybe even a stereotype, but riders of the class of Motorbike Lite seem just a little … off …to me.

Occasionally, I’ll get the secret motorcycle wave (I’d show you, but then I’d have to kill you) from fellows aboard their Harleys and Hondas and Ducatis and such, but, for the most part, bikers ignore cyclists. Hogs blow past without so much as slowing down. Cafe racers nose-wheelie by. Vintage sidecars (with a dog riding shotgun!) sputter past, and the pilots — perhaps preoccupied scanning the road for the evil, dangerous cagers — don’t seem to notice little ol’ me pedaling along.

But the folks astride the next step down on the evolutionary scale are a different story.

I’m talking about the people on scooters and mopeds and even motorized bikes, who, with almost disturbing regularity, seem obligated to pull alongside and engage me in conversation like we’re long-lost besties.

I don’t get it.

Rarely does a motorist drive next to me and start to chat me up. Maybe there’ll be a brief visit at a stoplight, or some particularly witty fella will spout some platitude as he breezes past. Though drivers might be cursing a blue streak inside their plush cabins, infrequently will one actually engage me, especially on the fly.

But all the time the pilot of a scooter or moped will sidle up, match my speed and launch into some lengthy discourse about the weather or road conditions or the quest for spiritual fulfillment.

Just the other morning, 1:30 or so, I was riding home in relative silence. Spinning up a hill not far from my house, I heard the unmistakable whine of a tinny moped motor, then watched as a headlight bounced across a lawn, over a sidewalk, over a curb and into the street where, you guessed it, the handlebar turner pulled next to me, throttled back, then greeted me with a throaty, “HOW’S IT GOIN’, MAN?” I replied, “Fine, thanks,” before he “roared off” into the darkness.

I think perhaps it stems from a lack of identity.

Folks who ride bikes generally are referred to as cyclists, and some get a little uppity when they’re called bikers instead (though, curiously, the off-roaders are mountain bikers, not mountain cyclists). Biker, of course, is reserved for riders of motorcycles.

But what do you call the people who fall in between? Scooterers? Mopedophiles?

It’s hard to pigeonhole folks without an appropriate moniker, so they motor about in some sort of two-wheeled purgatory, not quite as dorky as cyclists and not quite able to hang with the cool kids and their crotch rockets.

Or maybe they’re just happy to find the one class of road-user slower — and more universally reviled — than they are.

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Blowing the lid off Mother’s Day

One of the best things about being Lawrence’s preeminent, longest-running bike blogger is all the cool schwag that comes my way.

OK, that’s not entirely true.

For one thing, preeminence is subjective, even if, as far as I know, ever since Fat Man Biking hung up his keyboard a couple of years ago, I’m the only regular bike blogger in town. But there must be somebody, because all the schwag — all the promotional doodads and P.R. “samples” and outright bribes — that generally goes to the “working” press hasn’t yet come my way. That’s right: Not a single company, large or small, has attempted to get me to write about its lifesaving new geegaw by trying to buy my blog.

I’ve had a couple of offers to attend Interbike, the huge bicycle trade show, and a few cycling destinations — mountain and road — have invited me to come ride, but only on my dime.

But no freebies have been forthcoming, and I’m not at all happy about it.

However, I must give props to Nutcase Helmets, but not because it has sent me anything yet (I have to admit I’m rather fond of the “diagonal stripe” style in size S-M; just sayin’.)

Nutcase deserves some love because of the way it consistently pings my inbox with regular emails touting its lids (Nutcase Helmets designs and markets fun and funky bike, skate, snow and water sports helmets — and for the little loves in our lives, a special kids’ line — Little Nutty by Nutcase.) Each features a nifty magnetic buckle (each helmet, that is, not each email).

All the emails wish me a “nutty day!” and suggest I reply should I want additional info or samples.

Those Nutcase nutcases outdid themselves about a month or so ago with this gem in the subject line: Protect Mom This Mother’s Day With a New Bike Helmet.

Seems they think a brainbucket (Did I mention the magnetic clasp? The convenient adjustable spin dial?) is the perfect gift for mom.

At first, I thought they were suggesting cyclists should get lids for themselves to put dear ol’ mom’s mind at ease. I know my mother — a professional worrier, bless her heart — probably would feel better if I helmeted up every time I left the house, whether I was cycling or not. Come to think of it, she’d probably prefer I don a full suit of armor.

I read through the Nutcase release as saw that, no, they were suggesting a helmet for mom.

Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t ride.

So if anyone has any ideas for me for Mother’s Day, feel free to PM me. The woman is impossible to shop for and has everything she really needs, including the best son in the world (my brother).

I’m certain, however, she does not need a helmet, no matter how fun or funky. Even if it has a nifty magnetic buckle.

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Move over, Van Gogh

I like to pay particular attention to the Venn diagram intersection of bicycle and art.

I think bikes of all kinds can be artistic in their own right; some are absolutely beautiful.

I have admired pictures and paintings of and with bikes, and even a few by bikes. I recall a Kickstarter project awhile back that outfitted bikes with chalk dispensers. As a cyclist tooled about town, he/she left a colored trail behind. The project’s creators envisioned a large bike ride with each cycle outfitted with such a contraption. The result was to be a lovely kaleidoscope when seen from above.

Recently, I happened upon the work of another artist-cyclist, (http://www.wallygpx.com/), who uses a combination of a GPS unit and map to recreate bike rides. The result is an elaborate bike “drawing,” with earth as canvas.

It made me curious if my regular rides would produce the next American Gothic.

Though most of my rides are basically out-and-backs, I try to include enough variety that maybe, just maybe, an interesting picture might emerge.

I skipped the GPS and simply traced a familiar route on a Google map of Lawrence.

The result stunned me: My regular commute to racquetball became a poignant comment on the nature of man. Breathtaking.

Intrigued, I sketched out my regular work commute, and again was left speechless.

There, in unmistakable black and white, was, to my eye, the most graphic depiction of a soul’s yearning — for love? for understanding? — I’ve seen. I was moved, nearly to tears.

Convinced there must be something to this bike-as-instrument-of-art movement, I tried to recreate all of my local bike rides over the past couple of months. I figured if my short little jaunts could create such beautifully heart-rending images, perhaps a greater sampling would be even more masterful.

So I sketched and sketched and sketched, then I looked. I peered. I squinted, turned the map this way and that.

But, nope, after all that work, as far as I can tell, it all amounted to little more than squiggles.

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Stupid is as stupid does — and hops and flies and …

I was riding back to work after dinner the other night, and up ahead I saw a flash as something darted from between a parked conversion van and pickup truck, right at my eye level.

I quickly deduced it to be a bat, which I see frequently and of which I’m quite fond.

However, it was a rather close call. Ecolocation or not, the beastie came out of nowhere and disappeared. Had I been a split-second earlier — or faster — I wonder if even the ecolocationest bat would have had time to dodge my noggin. I’m convinced I would have had bat in my belfry.

I had another thought, too, which resurfaced just a couple of days later, when I was riding in front of my son’s before-school track club. I lead out the kids — no passing the nice man on the bike — and other parents ride herd to bring up the rear. We had just left school grounds and were tooling along the nearby nature trail when I had to swerve abruptly to miss a tiny snake on the path.

I’m not a big snake guy, but I’ll admit even this one was cute — a bitsy garter snake, maybe 7 inches long and smaller than my little finger. It saw me coming and froze. It remained still as the lead runner came pounding down the path and … just about squashed said serpent. Never saw it. I almost turned around and shooed it into the safety of the nearby grass but didn’t think I’d be able to turn around in time to cut off the next wave.

Besides, once I saw the snake, I immediately channeled my inner Samuel L. Jackson and bellowed, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I’VE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHER* SNAKES ON THIS MOTHER* BIKE!” I glanced back at all those adorable, innocent, suddenly aghast faces and decided to pedal on, hoping the dozens of beating hooves that followed would scare the beast to safety — and that the little darlings in my charge wouldn’t tell mommy and daddy about the new word they learned at track club that morning.

The thought that entered my head in both critter near-misses? Are some animals just … dumb?

I don’t mean all members of a kingdom or phylum or class or order or family or genus or species (wow, that ninth-grade taxonomy sure sticks with a fellow). I think it’s safe to assume a snail, say, isn’t quite as intelligent as a chimp; everybody knows dogs are braniacs compared to stupid kitties; I’ve heard it said cows are smart and horses are D-U-M-B; and octopuses (or -pi, if you please) are bright, while squid are just delicious.

I mean, isn’t it safe to assume that some squirrels are smarter than others? Same for bats and snakes and all other manner of creature?

What if the winged rat I nearly ran into the other night had been too stupid to take evasive maneuvers? Like the snake. It easily could have high-tailed it (Get it? A snake? High-tail?) into the nearby grass, where it would have been close to invisible. Instead, it opted to freeze — a blue-striped, black squiggle standing in stark contrast to the white concrete below.

I’ve had squirrels try to run between my turning wheels (and a surprising number run headlong at my rolling bike). Birds sometimes fly parallel to my path, their beady eyes panic-stricken as they frantically flap faster to escape. Unlike the ground-bound beasties, birds can, of course, fly in any direction, including, oh, I don’t know, up, to escape the more gravity-locked set, yet a few insist upon flying alongside until one of us tires or pulls away (or, presumably, breads and deep-fries the other). Once a deer that had been a good half mile away ran toward me and swam across the small pond that separated us, all the while heading straight for me. It sped up and slowed down to match my attempts to give it safe passage before veering off at the last minute, its eyes bulging in terror, leaping a fence and bolting into the nearby trafficway. Obviously it wasn’t the sharpest ungulate in the herd.

I’m a big fan of natural selection, so I can only assume all the really stupid animals didn’t stick around long enough to pose much of a threat to me or my bike.

But sometimes I wonder.

These are the kinds of thoughts that rattle around my hollow head as I pedal along on my commute. At least, they are until it gets pelted by some moronic bat.

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Hellfire on wheels

I ride my bike on the ground, I’ve ridden through more rain than I’d like, and, since this is Kansas, I’m always riding in wind; frequently I’m suckin’ it, too.

Thus in terms of the classic elements, I figure I’ve got three of the four whipped (not including aether, whatever the heck that is; I reckon it’s to the elements like umami is to the tastes). Unless I develop a mysterious brain cloud and volunteer to ride my bike into the mouth of an erupting volcano to save the Abe Vigoda-led tropical villagers, I always assumed I’d have to leave fire well enough alone, at least when it comes to my regular commutes.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that is.

I was riding along Clinton Parkway on the multi-use trail on my way to racquetball. Because I was on the MUT and didn’t have to worry about traffic — except where the MUT intersects cross streets, that is — I lost myself in the vast emptiness of my own head.

Stumbling aimlessly through that void — “Heellloooo!!!!! Anyone home????” — I snapped to just in time to see a pickup truck parked on the MUT. I don’t think that’s one of the uses in the MUT’s multi-usedness, so I carefully rode around it and back on the trail.

A little farther, I spied a couple of cones and a two city workers, obviously blocking the trail and captivated by something ahead.

The makeshift road block extended into the street, forcing traffic into the center lane. So I hopped off the curb and into the now-vacant lane adjacent to MUT — right alongside a wall of flame like from the depths of hell itself.

It seems the city was burning off the native prairie grasses that grow along the MUT, and I was a singed eyebrow away from that broiling inferno. I pedaled on as flames leapt and ash and cinder filled the sky. My lungs burned with fiery, acrid smoke; every breath was pure torture. Flames crackled from my drivetrain. The rubber bits — tires, handlebar tape — bubbled. The sky was black as pitch, the air heavy with soot. The wall of flame, whipped by a ravaging wind, curled overhead. It seemed like I was surfing the North Shore — of Hades itself.

Then, as quickly as I happened upon this blazing hellfire, I was past it. I hopped back on the MUT, and went on my way.

(In the interest of interest, I should mention I might have exaggerated my encounter just a tad. But I did feel a slight rise in the ambient air temperature. I swear.)

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Fine Final Four fun on two wheels

Fans hit Mass. Street to celebrate Kansas' victory over North Carolina to earn a trip to the Final Four.

Fans hit Mass. Street to celebrate Kansas' victory over North Carolina to earn a trip to the Final Four. by Andrew Hartsock

A couple of years ago, Kansas University’s men’s basketball team won the national title.

I was working that night on the sports desk, as I have for all of the past upteen-or-so-plus KU men’s basketball games over the last couple of decades, and as I hurried back to the J-W newsplex downtown after grabbing a bite for dinner at home, I found myself stranded in a traffic jam on Sixth Street as teeming masses teemed toward downtown in hopes of a massive postgame lovefest on Mass.

Thunderstorms were in the forecast, so though I had planned to ride my bike back to work, I opted to drive instead.

Big mistake.

As I inched along Sixth Street, I considered ditching my car on a side street and hoofin’ in the last few blocks so I could make deadline. I didn’t, however, and made it back to work in plenty of time. There was a bit of rain, I recall, but no storms.

I vowed the next time KU played for the title, regardless of the forecast, I was going to ride.

Four years and, this season, many surprising victories later, I found myself making good on my vow. Anticipating more teeming, I rode to work just about every night KU played, but I have to admit my resolve was tested a bit by my 11-year-old son. He surprised me the afternoon of the Kansas-North Carolina game — which KU won to go to the Final Four — when he implored me not to ride.

Why?

“I don’t want you to get beat up,” he said.

Perhaps I exaggerated the drunken disorderliness of the last celebration. Though most folks downtown were pretty responsible back in 2008, there was a bit of mayhem, especially in the wee hours.

I explained to my son, however, that no matter how much pillaging and plundering and general debauchery I witnessed, the only actual encounter I had with any of the pillagers, plunderers or debauchers came during my ride home two nights prior to the 2008 championship game. After putting the paper to bed just before bar-closing time, I pedaled toward a close-to-downtown bar, my head on a swivel as I watched hundreds of well lubricated folks still reveling in the victory. As I approached the bar, I saw a man who had been standing outside, beer in one hand, cigarette in another, fling the butt down and sprint right at me. I looked left, then right, plotting my escape. I slowed, hoping to hop on the pedals at the last second and lurch past him and away to safety.

As he drew close, he let out a bellow, extended his left arm … and screamed, “*&%# YEAH, MAN! HIGH FIVE!”

Still leery he might try to knock me off my steed, I gingerly give him a wimpy high-two and pedaled away.

This year, I had even less physical contact.

Despite the thousands (as opposed to maybe dozens I see on a typical night) of folks still milling about, the only person who actually acknowledged my presence was the driver of a car I crossed in front of on Sixth Street the night KU beat Ohio State to advance to the title game.

She honked, and as I braced for what I was sure to be a rant of some sort, she leaned out the window and cooed, “I like your bike,” before disappearing back in the car, behind a wall of giggles from her and her passengers.

Though I escaped injury entirely and detection for the most part, there is a certain sense of vulnerability to riding a bike through such a beer-fueled horde. Cars can provide some sort of protection and a quicker get-away. But as I explained to my son, on a bike I feel more maneuverable. And nobody was going to jump up and down on the hood of my bike.

I guess if I ever feel too threatened by riding through such occasional Final Four celebrations, I could always move somewhere they don’t have to worry about such things.

Like Columbia, Mo.

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