QUIPS AND OTHER TIDBITS FROM RECUMBENT RIDES

[Last Updated April 18th, 2010]



BACKGROUND:

This webpage originated as a one-shot quicky to (sort of, sloppily) share some cute dialog and social interplay that had happened on one of our local recumbent group's rides. My tale of one incident in that first posting was pretty well accepted by the folks who frequent this site [Meaning of course that I didn't get any immediate death threats; I try to keep my expectations for critical appreciation of my writing talents reasonably realistic]. But in the meantime I had gotten more info about the second part of that incident, and my dowdy old brain had for some reason morphed it into full-blown iambic pentameter. So... that bit left here, just as I pulled another silly snippet off the overcrowded main page for the group, and they both began new lives as their own separate pages in our new Poetry on Wheels section. But at the same time, other interesting interchanges occurred, and this QUIPS page seemed like as good a place as any to let other folks peek at that dialog, even if in some cases only temporarily. So... here they are; each short story has its own anchor which should make it a tad easier to share any of these little giggles with your other cycling e-friends.


INDEX:


HUMAN RESOURCE RESEARCH?:

As Pete was rolling along the promenade by the pier with a group of trikeys on one of our group rides, they had wound their way – with some difficulty – through a series of inattentive dog walkers and brainlessly chattering coastal strollers. Finally, one spaced-out surfer was crossing the MUP at an oblique angle just ahead, with his sharp-finned long board swinging from side to side, blocking about 10 feet of the trail. He – perhaps obstinately, but more likely obliviously – failed to acknowledge any and all attempts to get his attention and open up a little safe space for the gaggle of trikes to get around him. After the (eventual) pass, Pete promptly posited, "And here we have yet another recruit whose alertness and powers of observation qualify him as a potentially optimal candidate for our mall security training program."

FILING SINGLE OR JOINTLY?:

My neighbor Pete and I were riding our trikes up the Omer Rains Bike Trail from the beach to Main Street, when the cell phone in my pannier began begging for attention. Since it was easier for him to reach it, I stopped, about a foot to the right of the yellow hashmarks dividing the wide Class I bike path, and he pulled just slightly behind and beside me. He dug in to my right side mounted pannier to fetch and hand me the phone. As I was talking, we saw a 50-something pudgy guy rolling down toward us on about a $1500 road bike, wearing about $200 worth of white, pink and red lycra. We were the only three people within 500 yards, and he had about five feet of space to pass us, but as he got close, he grumped, "You need to be riding in single file!"

With April 15th still fresh in memory, I suppose, Pete – who, by the way, is neither my domestic partner, wusband, hife or whatever term is currently in vogue for same-sex couples with our ambivalent home state government – parried, "Oh no, they're letting us file jointly this year."


THE BORG ON BIKES?:

The BorgImagine James as he trails Elise, struggling up a steep hill in Paso Robles. When a young woman passing them notices the tubes coming up from their Fastback underseat hydration systems and asks, "Are you taking oxygen?", should he reply:
  • No, we're the Borg. Resistance is futile...

  • What, these hoses? Oh, that's just an old-fashioned intercom system.

  • WHEW – I wish!


TO SOME SINGLE WOMEN, SIZE MATTERS:

One of the real pleasantries of riding trikes in the relatively rural atmosphere of the Great Western Bicycle Rally up in Paso Robles is that fairly comfortable, friendly camaraderie that comes so easily when we're talking to locals out on the roads. As four of us were grinding up a steep curving hill out northeast of town, two cars came up behind us. One passed, safely and not at all threateningly, but maybe a little impatiently. The other driver politely, considerately followed us until the road ahead was clear, but shortly after passing us, he turned left into a driveway, then hopped out and collected his mail as we approached. The guy was maybe 70-ish, and as you might expect, was very open and friendly as he apologized for the driver ahead of him, and mentioned that he also had 'issues' with impatient drivers when he rode his horse along the roads. But then he surprised all of us when he asked if either of the women with us was unmarried. Instinctively, Stephen, Kay and I all looked at Dawn, who just (sheepishly) looked down. Our new friend followed his question with: "If so, I'm real interested in maybe being her lover." Dawn, very graciously if a tad hastily, declined his offer. As we continued on down the road, one of us suggested that next time, instead of a knee-jerk rejection she might want to find out a bit more about the ranch or farm the guy owned first, and maybe his short-term health prospects.

Dawn's a fast learner. On Monday morning, we popped out of our sleeping bags into dampish 48° overcast weather and immediately rode that fast downhill dash on the short Class I bike path that I call the Bobsled Blast. Kay and Dawn were bundled up in fleece with long sleeves and pants, but I was wearing my usual shorts and thin short-sleeved shirt along with the typical fingerless cycling gloves. Since my circulatory system had redirected its efforts to keeping my brain and lungs warm enough to continue functioning [however minimally, according to Kay], my fingers were freezing as we pulled into Vic's Cafe downtown for breakfast. While we waiting for a table, standing behind Dawn, I asked if she would mind me slipping my hands up under the waistline of her top to warm them up. She turned to look at me and asked, "How many acres do you own?"


WHY DO WE RIDE?:

For one of our more-or-less impromptu small group rides, we met at our house in a mid-scale housing tract in Oxnard. As we were getting ready to ride, some of us were orbiting around waiting for the last-minute dawdlers to get it together. Finally, as about ten of us pulled away, we approached a middle-aged couple in a Mercedes SL-whatever with its top down at the next intersection, apparently trying to figure out which way to turn. The guy looked at us, coming at them on both sides of the street at that point, and asked Pete, "Are you guys doing a charity ride... or [seemingly unable to come up with a good alternative] what?" Pete didn't even hesitate before answering, "Nah, we're MIGRATING! We do it every year about this same time."


THE LECTURE:

One Summer some years back now, a few of us met John and Jim McM up in Carpinteria and rode back to Oxnard with them as they were finishing their trip down from Monterey. We somehow managed to avoid any serious encounters with the scattered showers that were playing hit-and-run in the area, but a lot of the streets had standing puddles and/or mud. As we rode east on Gonzales just before Victoria, the farm workers' cars and big tractors had made a sludgy mess across most of the bike path. I was riding just behind John, who had the left wheel of his tadpole about six inches into the traffic lane to pass a big glob of 'moist adobe', when a woman in a yellow Mustang passing us suddenly decided her horn needed a major workout. It's really not unusual for a driver to beep at a trike in this area, but more often than not it's just a quick warning from an overcautious motorist or someone who thinks a tadpole trike is quirkily odd and/or cute enough to merit a toot. But this gal was blatantly, obviously, impolitely registering a full-scale protest about our presence in her world.

But then she got caught as the light changed, and fifteen seconds later John pulled up alongside her, reached up and tapped on her window, just in front of a big yellow diamond that said Baby on Board. I was a tad surprised when she sheepishly rolled down the window and looked out at him. Using his deepest, most authoritarian airline captain voice, John started with a question: "Ma'am, are you aware that Section 123.456 of the California Vehicle Code defines the term vehicle to include pedal-powered bicycles, and grants them all the privileges of an automobile, including the ability to completely occupy any traffic lane and..." It truly was WONDERFUL! John delivered an absolutely marvelous impromptu lecture, and it was totally obvious that the poor woman trapped at the redlight was by then terrified that she'd somehow encountered an off-duty Highway Patrolman, a retired cop or some other authority figure who might somehow make a Citizen's Arrest or use some other obscure tactic to bring her to task for her rude, offensive behavior.

John (who of course, in fact, looks a bit more like Wilford Brimley in his dotage than Erik Estrada in his prime) meticulously pointed out the errors of her ways, including the fact that she obviously expected some kind of special treatment driving with her child, but at the same time she was definitely not setting a shining example for him or her. Finally, mercifully, the light changed and she motored on, inexplicably opting for one last loud blast of her horn. People are really strange, aren't they, folks?


CATS:

Well, first of all, the simple fact is that we struggled a bit (as usual?) to get started from the Main Street parking lot for our third Saturday ride in August, with not everyone totally sure of which direction we were going, where we'd regroup, who was leading, or whether we'd make a fairly early pit stop for those members of the group who lack my exemplary urinary stamina topped off by our last rider driving up just as we were beginning to get spread out down the Ventura River bike trail. In the midst of the (mild) confusion, one rider who will remain anonymous, at least as long as he makes regular payments commented: "Getting these guys together at the start of a ride is like herding cats!"


HECK'S ANGELS:

On some rides through Oxnard last summer we split into two smaller groups, with the Big Boys (aka the fast folk) taking a longer route over open roads. Those of us in the slower bunch, mostly old folks of both sexes, were bumbling along near downtown, chatting away, our cycles carrying safety flags, spinners, racks, trunk bags, GPS modules, cell phones and such. As we passed some of the local pedestrians, one of them asked, "Are you guys racing?"

The reply: "Nah, we're really a motorcycle gang; we just can't afford Harleys."


CALIFORNIA MARTIAL ARTS:

Pete and I were cruising along on a wide, well-marked bike path in a residential area of the Ventura Keys (Pierpont), when some goober in a Toyota pickup backed out to block the path right in front of us. We exercised the disc brakes on our trikes, and when the truck had finally stopped, we pulled out and around him. "You can get killed that way!" he shouted at us.

"Well, you could also watch where you're going," one of us (I won't say which) shouted through his furry gray beard.

"Get a bigger bike!" he shouted back.

And I entered the exchange at that point, snapping, "Get a bigger brain!" Well, okay... to be (almost) perfectly truthful, my memory's a little fuzzy and maybe that's not an exact quote, but I'm absolutely sure it was some body part, and anyway that's what I wish I had said. Pete and I kept on rolling, listening carefully and half expecting the twit to somehow carry on some more. After a few more blocks, I told my neighbor, "Well, I hope that's over; you always wonder how radical one of these idiots might get."

Pete said, "Ah, don't worry about it; my daughter's a lawyer, and I've been trained in the California Martial Arts." I gave him that look that almost everyone who's ever known Pete is bound to give him sooner or later, even including his delightfully upbeat, charmingly gullible and perfectly lovely, sweet wife you know, raised eyebrows, skeptical, challenging, the non-verbal equivalent of 'Okay, smart ass, what's up your sleeve this time?' He elucidated, "You know: Yuhitme Aisu."


WAVING IN VAIN?:

Pete and I were riding with the group up to Ojai, cruising side by side and chatting, taking up the whole path, me on the left, when I had to pull over to pass a guy walking down. He stepped over close to the rail fence as we got close, as though he was trying to transmogrify his body through the wood railings. I could tell he was more than a little bit worried that I was going to run him right over, but he still smiled very openly and waved at us. Pete and I took our left hands off the bars and waved back, almost simultaneously. Then again, almost simultaneously we noticed his very dark glasses and white cane. It's kinda nice riding with someone you know well enough to know that when you both know there's nothing to say, you really just don't need to say it...


TOUGH QUESTIONS:

When you ride a tadpole on any of the bike rides that are frequently scheduled in our area, other cyclists always have questions. The one that has surprised me the most is: "How hard is it to learn to ride one of those?" I finally figured out that most of the people who ask are those who've watched or heard third-hand tales of upright bikers in their first encounters with USS-SWB recumbent bikes. But what can you say about trikes? "Well, most three-year-olds get the hang of it on their first try," or "The hardest part for most first-time tadpole riders is getting clicked into the SPD pedals." But what I'm always tempted to ask is: "If you'd never ridden anything but a tricycle, how hard do you think it might be as an adult to learn to ride a high performance road bike?"

For the first few miles of a ride the most common questions relate to performance: "How fast is it?" or "Aren't those a lot slower going uphill?" It's a little stranger when you're 30 miles out on a ride, right beside a fairly fit-looking 30-year-old guy that started the same time you did, and he asks the same kind of questions. How can you say: "Well, the trike's really a slug; I've obviously had to use black magic to allow me a big-bellied 60-year-old to keep up with you."

Actually, once you get 20 or 30 miles out, most of the questions tend to be more along the lines of: "Is that seat as comfortable as it looks?" I'm lucky to have been able to ride with Pete on some of these rides, since this kind of question may be his particular specialty. His responses include: "Whut? You woke me up just to ask me that?" or "Well, yeah, but if it makes you feel better, we've been trying really, really hard to feel guilty about it." Or he'll take a swig from his Unbottle and assure the person asking that he's really not all that comfortable... because the ice keeps melting in his Margarita.


A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE:

Kay and I were free falling down the Ojai trail, but we had to slow to pick our way through a recent small rockfall. A middle-aged guy on an MTB was just on the other side of the blockage, and Kay (as always) cheerily, chattily chirped, "This is SUCH a GREAT day!" The guy grunted, but didn't look either especially thrilled or depressed. As we got closer, he said in a flat monotone, "That's easy for you to say..." and then yelled over his shoulder as we started picking up speed again, "You're going DOWNHILL!"


WHAT'S IN A NAME?:

Christy's friends Vicky and Leslie met us for brunch up in Ojai, and we wanted to get their names right for the VCRR webpage update. We weren't quite sure what spelling Vicky used, so Kay ran over to ask. She smiled at the woman sitting next to Christy, and bravely asked "Do you spell your name with a 'I', a 'Y' or an 'IE'?"

She answered, "It's 'IE'. I've heard of women who spelled it with an 'EY' before, but never with just an 'I' or a 'Y'."

Kay seemed a little confused 'Vickey' as in 'Mickey Mouse'? I thought it was probably a good time to mention that she was talking to Leslie, not Vicky... And I have to give full credit to Christy here, who often 'helps' folks with the spelling of her name by saying "It's like 'Christ' with a 'Y';" she didn't chime in with "It's like 'icky' with a 'V'."


NOW, CARDINAL – THE RACK!:

Most of the incidents on this page are fairly innocuous and I've used the real names of the people involved, but this one is so embarrassing that I'm resorting to pseudonyms beginning with the letter J. For our main character we'll use Jack, since his tall good looks, suave charm, commanding presence, thick wavy hair (neither gray nor white), subtly boyish sex appeal, playful Irish smile and twinkling eyes are so reminiscent of our late President Kennedy. For the female lead, we had to rack our brains to come up with a good pairing from the annals of classical fiction, but finally we got it: Juliet. For simplicity, we'll call our lead supporting actor John, and the rest of the supporting male cast Jim.

Anyway, Jack (our antihero) was feeling very proud of the new prototypes of a low riding rear rack for trikes that he had finally gotten from one of the premiere Taiwanese manufacturers after weeks of emails and sketches. After the ride he wanted to make sure that John took a good close look at one, which was mounted on Juliet's trike. Jack rode into the parking lot and yelled: "HEY JOHN – before you go, be very sure to CHECK OUT JULIET'S RACK!!!"

John and several Jims were suddenly staring and smirking, as the sole female bystander, whom we'll call Jerilyn, struggled to preserve her dignity and poise by pretending she hadn't noticed. Almost at once – less than two minutes of guffawing and chortling, I swear – Jack realized his faux pas, and flashing his trademark charmingly boyish but now sheepish grin, slunk off to my... OOPS, I mean his... minivan.


TIME TO TALK:

Okay, folks, I'm sorry, but this is another one of those instances where a couple of players in this scene must remain anonymous – and oddly enough one isn't Pete this time. Our local recumbent cycling group is by no means a wolf pack, and of course it is no longer politically correct to resort to gender-based stereotypes, so I will refer to the first actor on this stage only as an alpha member of our group. She was busily getting us signed up to ride in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Ventura, and called to tell me that the parade started at 10 AM but they wanted us in the staging area at 8. Self restraint being a somewhat alien concept to this particular individual, she felt compelled to mention that a two-hour dead time might be about right for a lot of the folks in our group... which I hasten to add is not accurate, of course; we rarely ever stand around talking for much more than an hour and a half before a ride. We have to leave something to discuss during our two or three pit stops, lunch, and the post-ride debriefing.

Anyway, I was reminded of this topic when I was near the beach a few days ago with the second anonymous person in this story, taking a quick break at Subway. Two very attractive young women walked in, maybe in their early twenties, one a very fair-skinned tall blond and the other about eight inches shorter, nicely tanned with darker sunstreaked hair, and both of them very obviously having gotten the word that Bra Season has finally ended. My companion took one look, rolled his eyes, gazed upward and mumbled under his breath, "Just one hour apiece – Please..." He's single, but a few years older than I am, so I raised my eyebrows and looked fairly skeptical, I suspect. He expanded his comment with, "On separate days, of course!" I made a wry face, arching my forehead even more, and said, "A whole hour?" He replied, "Oh yeah! The last 55 minutes just to share how wonderful it was to share those first five minutes." THE MORAL: Sharing is an important part of any recreational experience.