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The Herald, Friday, September 30, 1988

Gear just right
It has become stylish to persecute cyclists through the media.  There have been editorial letters in major newspapers complaining about cyclists getting in the way during rush hour, and in the course of such protests, the writers can't resist taking a stab at how the cyclists are dressed as well.  It's those "cute little suits" and the "silly looking helmets" that drive irate motorists crazy.

Even Atlanta's syndicated columnist Lewis Grizzard (pronounced griz-ARD) recently had a go at us.  After some hardly original gripes about traffic flow and silly-looking costumes, he said that there was at least one advantage to the way we dress.  The way he had it figured, since skin-tight pants can cause sterility in males, we are the last generation of cyclists people like him will have to deal with.

I love Lewis Grizzard's stuff, and I will continue to read his column whenever I see it.  From now on, though, I want everybody to pronounce his last name so that it rhymes with 'lizard."  He really hates it when people do that.  Just tell him I said it was right.
They have a purpose
Yes, the cycling "costumes" are eye-catchers, because they are designed with a specific job in mind.  That job is cycling in comfort.  All day.  Every day.  Any other type of clothing will definitely wear holes in your body in private places if you repeatedly rack up lots of miles.  It's as simple as that.  If you don't ride very much, you can get by without the cycling garb.  If you cycle seriously, saddle sores will force you to buy the pants that do indeed look dorky.  A detailed description of why biking clothing looks the way it does can be heard a the local bike shop.

Cycling jerseys have big, hungry pockets on the back.  It sounds weird, but put one of the the jerseys on and ride a bicycle.  That's where the pockets belong.  A cycling jersey is a vital part of my equipment on any long ride, just because of the pockets.  During my ride to the Gulf of Mexico, my jersey became the headquarters for my high-tech multimedia intelligence gathering system which came together as I planned the trip.  James Bond would have been envious.

In the right hand pocket lived my micro-cassette dictation recorder.  It would provide me with a verbal diary of what the scenery looked like, how I felt, where I was, and so on.  Once when I was in a frustrating situation, I simply turned the recorder on and cussed.  I'm glad I bought that gadget.  Right now I wouldn't take anything for those tapes I made out on the road.  I can listen to the tapes while I'm looking at my maps and I have no trouble at all reliving the trip anytime I want.

The middle pocket on the jersey housed the 110 camera, wound and ready.  I took rolls and rolls of pictures right out there in the saddle  A few of them actually came out OK.

The left hand pocket stayed empty until I reached north central Florida.  There, the towns are 25 or 30 miles apart, and the terrain is as bleak as any desert.  It just goes on and on, over the horizon and into oblivion.  The road is flat, straight as an arrow, and completely featureless.  A dead armadillo in the road is an important landmark.  It lets you know you are still moving forward.

Then came an idea

It was somewhere in this area that I came up with an idea to ward off insanity.  In among my camping gear was a tiny FM radio.  I got it out, stuck it in my last empty jersey pocket, and wired myself up with the little white earphone-one ear for wind and cars, and the other ear music and news.  I used that system between towns for the rest of the trip.  The music helped me beyond belief, and the news gave me the feel of the region I was in.  Inside cities, I shut the radio down and focused both ears on traffic.

Down the road I went, playing with the bike computer on the handlebars that read out time, speed, and distance information in six different modes.  I was a pedaling electronics show.


I enjoyed watching people watch me whenever I arrived at a burger joint.  It was quite a production for

me to make an official stop.  First I parked the bike.  Then I untangled the radio.  The earphone wire ran under one armpit, behind my neck, the round and round one of the straps on my helmet.  Radio out.  Telescoping antenna retracted.  Recorder out.  Camera out.  Cycling gloves off.  Helmet off.  Riding shoes off.  Bag open.  Pull out and install walking shoes.  Electronics into the bag where the walking shoes were.  Wallet out.  Close the bag.  A few more motions just for dramatic effect, and finally I'm ready to order my lunch.  On my way out, it was the same program in reverse.

One morning I was rolling along beside the surf at the Gulf of Mexico.  I was thrilled to be where I was.  During this euphoric state of mind, it occurred to me that perhaps I had discovered the best way to travel known to man.  Everything was just so  perfect, I felt like I was guiding a time machine.

It came from behind

 Suddenly, it got real dark real quick.  I looked in the mirror and saw a monstrous motor home cruising 20 feet behind me, waiting for room to pass on the two lane.  The thing has eclipsed the morning sun.  The pilot of the motor home waited patiently and swung out when there was no more traffic left on sight.  He then executed a parade pass that reminded me of a starship at the movies.

This was the biggest motor home ever manufactured.  There was your basic, typical dad perched behind a windshield that was as large as Rhode Island.  He tooted the horn and gave me a happy wave as the crew cabin slid past me.  I watched aluminum siding go by until I felt like an authority on the subject.  Next came a door or two, and a roll-out awning.  After that I was greeted by the wife, two kids, Aunt Wilma, and Uncle George, who were all playing cards at the table in front of the picture window.  I think Aunt Wilma had a poodle riding in her lap.

In any case, it was a real laid back scene there in the living room.  I was flashed by a few shiny mag wheels, and then came the rear of the behemoth.  The closed-circuit rear view camera seemed to be staring down at the big satellite dish wedged between the bumper and the tail lights.  Last came the Volvo station wagon in tow.  As the vehicle drifted slowly away, I expected to see bold typeset following in its wake ... "These are the voyages ... to boldly go ... etc."

It took me the better part of that day to wrestle with the comparison between that mode of travel and mine.  Aside from a $250,000 discrepancy in the cost of equipment, there had to be a drastic, drastic difference in the philosophy.  We share the same highway, but we bring home wildly differing interpretations of the same scenery.

I rode and rode and thought and thought.  Finally I put my finger on it.  Uncle George might see California the day after tomorrow with a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living room, but I don't care how many rooms he's got, he's got no room for personal accomplishment along the way.

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