Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 3: Notes from the saddle

On the road

I'm riding my bicycle down 3rd Street on my way to the bike path when a guy in a red pickup pulls up beside me. He rolls down his window. Uh oh, I think. Another guy in a pickup. What advice does this one want to yell at me? Fucking mansplainers are everywhere.

There's something about men in pickups. They like to talk to me when I'm riding on the road -- and I mean just the men in pickups. Never the ones in cars. I had just posted this on my Facebook feed a few days before: 

One for the 'I can't win no matter what I do' column. Riding my bike on 3rd St, totally legal. In the middle lane so I could continue straight at the light. Some guy in a white pickup came up as close as he could beside me on the right and yelled, 'Get on the sidewalk, dummy!' 'Fuck right off,' I replied, although he probably didn't hear me over the gunning of his big, exhaust-belching engine. At the light 75 yards ahead where he had to stop, I intended to offer to let him pay my ticket when I get one for riding on the sidewalk, which is illegal and have you seen the sidewalks on the East Side? Holy shit, I might as well walk. As soon as I pulled up beside him at the light -- yeah, see where your big hurry got you, big guy? -- he turned right on the red even though he didn't have a clear distance to turn in front of the cars with the green. I guess he felt safer roaring away from me into traffic than he did sitting right beside me. Some people can't handle a redhead, that's for damn sure.

They aren't always unpleasant, these men. They are always men though, and they always make me wary. At another stop light one evening a guy in the lane beside me rolled down his window and looked over at me. There were 2 or 3 other men in the cab of the pickup with him. He smiled and said, "Hi there." I said, "Hi," and then I looked straight ahead. When the light turned green he said in a louder voice, "Hey!" I looked over. "Be careful now, will you?" he said. "I will," I replied and I finally smiled back.

Another evening on the same street as I waited at yet another light, again in the middle of the street in the left turn lane, a guy in a pickup going the other direction kept motioning something with his hand. I tried not to look like I was looking, but I finally figured out he was doing the "call me" sign, knocking his hand against the side of his head with his thumb and pinkie sticking out. He was still doing it as he roared by and I started pedaling toward the river. I had to laugh. He was all of 30 years old. A helmet and sunglasses hide a lot of decades years apparently.

Back to the guy in the red pickup. I'd noticed he got caught behind me a block earlier. That tends to piss some people off, even if I'm going about as fast at the downtown traffic. When he pulled up beside me and rolled down his window, I was ready for ... well, for whatever.

"Hey, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure." Usually when somebody asks me that I add, "as long as you're not asking for money." Saves time. I didn't expect a guy in a pickup to panhandle me though.
"Do you know where Don's Pawn Shop is? Am I close?"
Whew. "Yeah, it's about 2 blocks up the street, on your right. There's usually parking in front."
"Thanks. On the right. Got it."
The light turned green. I got up on my pedals.
I looked over at him.
"Be careful now, will you?"
"I will. Bye." I turned, and he went straight to Don's Pawn Shop. Another guy. Another pickup. I hope he's careful too. People on bikes are a lot smaller than he is.

I've noticed something weird about cars that pass in the lane next to me. A significant number of them get closer to me as they pass instead of moving further away like you'd expect. I mean close enough that they're often on or over the line. And then, after they've passed me, they move back toward the center of the lane. What's up with that? And it's not just men in pickup trucks, although they tend to be guilty as well.

I suspect they're doing that thing where they turn the steering wheel in the same direction they're looking. My ex used to do that and it drove me crazy. I tried not to do anything that would make him look over at me because I was afraid we'd soon be rolling over in a ditch. What the actual fuck? Either look straight ahead or learn to do two things at once.

I won't even get started on assholes people who go around me in the same lane. Some observe the 3-foot rule, which is still ridiculously close. Others go way out around. And then there are those who pass so close I can tell what they ate for lunch by the smell of the farts wafting out of their cars.

On the path

The bike path going south from downtown was closed for several years (4? 5?) because of construction on the interstate and in the river. A few weeks ago the highway construction ended and the bike path was re-opened as well, so I decided to take the path south .... along with about 300 walkers, mostly people who work downtown.

Pedestrians make me nervous. I try not to give them nasty surprises. I yell out, "On your left!" as I come up on them. Or sometimes, "On your right!" if they don't know which side of the path to walk on. Or, "I'm coming through. Right or left, you choose!" And a few times, "Down the middle, fucktards!" for those people who walk together, but on either side of the path. There are more than you'd think.

Sometimes they hear me. Often if they're walking alone they've got earbuds in and don't look up until they feel my breeze. I don't get that. If I were walking alone along the river or on a path in the woods, I would want to hear any other creatures who might be sharing the nature with me, including bicycles going anywhere from 10-23 mph. But that's just me. I'm a little high-strung, like most people with vaginas.

Between the walkers and the Canada geese, I did a lot of slowing down until I got out past downtown. The geese will move over if I hiss at them. The walkers, like I said, are not so aware that others share the path with them.

And then there's the ragweed. I know I said that in a post last month. And I even shared this photo. I don't care. The fucking ragweed is going to be the death of me. The nicer the weather gets, the shittier I feel and it's all because of those weeds up there in that photo and others like them. To be fair, this was the only place on the path that was so overgrown, but still. I was glad I was on my bike so I only had to hold my breath for about 15 seconds.

And then there were the Hillary Clinton signs. As I passed by the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial, I saw the big city trash receptacles were filled and overflowing with Hillary Clinton signs. I tried to take a photo, but my camera sucked my battery dry and still didn't get the shot. Hard to call it a smart phone sometimes.

Same with the people who stole those signs and stuffed them into the trash bins. Stupid assholes. If you don't want to be called deplorable, don't steal from other people's yards.

My friend Jay asked his Facebook friends the other day if they were reluctant to put Clinton/Kaine signs in their front yards and bumper stickers on their cars, because he knows a lot more people who intend to vote for them than are showing it. Most of the people who answered said, "Hell, yes, I'm afraid to put them out. Trump's supporters scare me." It took me a while, but I finally put a sign in my yard. I'm the only one on my street with any political sign at all. I put mine behind my wrought iron fence.

One friend said as soon as she put a Clinton bumper sticker on her car, somebody keyed her car and bad. Not just one scratch, but several gouges. I had my bumper sticker on the console in my van for almost a month before I stuck it on, right next to my 2 Obama stickers from 2008 and 2012. So far nobody has fucked with my van. Fingers crossed.

Once I clear the city, I can gear down and go faster. I love that feeling. On fall days, I pass only a few other cyclists. A lot of people put their bikes away with their white shoes after Labor Day. I enjoy the isolation, and I'm not afraid because I feel fairly safe going 16 or 17 mph. Of course, I never feel entirely safe, because I'm a woman, but I feel safer than I do walking my dog in my neighborhood or going to karaoke. It only takes one roofie to kill the fun times for a while.

On my bike though, I just ride. I know that feeling strong and fast won't really protect me if the time comes when somebody does want to harm me, or even if I hit a walnut just wrong and my tire slides out from under me and I go down. Still, it's one of the few times in my life when I can let go and just feel my body working hard, my tires rolling, the air around me in motion, the river flowing beside me. For just a couple of hours, I almost feel free.

(All photos copyright Reticulated Writer)


  1. I'm just now getting into riding. Your last two paragraphs really ring true for me. And I'm absolutely wanting to avoid shit in my Belmont neighborhood by not putting up HRC signs. The cigarette smoke and Trump signs are choking me.

    1. Ugh. I get that. I'll just be glad when it's over and .... well, I don't know what will happen next. We'll just see. Enjoy your bike though and let it take your mind away.