Yes, my friends, today I made my initial journey into the ranks of those most despised in my little area of the world. I took my first bike ride.
As I traveled those first 7.5 miles, I couldn't help but remember a joke I had heard and told numerous times:
There was a trucker who was generally a nice guy except when it came to bicyclists. He absolutely hated them. In fact, whenever he saw one cycling down the highway, he would always nudge over and knock them over--such was his distaste.
One day, he picked up a hitch-hiker. As the hitch-hiker got in the cab, the trucker noticed this was no ordinary hitch-hiker. It was a priest.
"Thank you, my son," the priest said. "My car broke down a few miles back, and I've been walking trying to get to the next town. You were the first who would pick me up."
"No problem, Father," the trucker replied.
Things went swimmingly for the first few miles, but then, just ahead, the trucker noticed a bicycler in the shoulder ahead. The trucker began twitching. He changed lanes to get into the right hand lane. He looked at the priest and then looked at the cyclist. His fingers began shaking. He moved his truck onto the shoulder just a bit; thought of his passenger, and moved back onto the highway. Another look at the cyclist caused him to swerve into the shoulder once again, but at the last minute, the trucker thought of that priest, and swerved back onto the highway.
Yet, the driver still heard an unmistakable "THUMP!" He looked over at the priest who then said, "I saw you swerve at the last minute. Don't worry. I got him with the door."
Such is the attitude toward cyclist that many of us have out here. Now, don't get me wrong. None of us begrudge anyone who wishes to get some exercise. None of us begrudge anyone who wishes to see the beauty of the countryside from the seat of a bicycle. But we do begrudge those cyclist who come out here and believe they own the road.
More than a few weekends, our community is overrun with bicyclists from Houston and other urban areas. They come out here to ride around, and most of them are pretty decent. But there are those few who spoil it for the rest. Several of them decide it would be fun to ride two or three or ever four abreast in the road. Some decide it would be easier to ride in the middle of the lane. And many times, they don't give a darn that a car is coming up behind them.
Now, such a prospect isn't a difficult thing down in Houston or Austin or any place they actually have bicycle lanes. (Head scratch moment: why did these folks gripe and complain about wanting bike lanes in their cities for safety purposes, and when the city installed them, instead they traveled to places where there are no bike lanes?) Out in the country, we have two lane roads. Most of them have no shoulder to speak of. Furthermore, our folks drive around in tractors with equipment and trucks hauling trailers full of hay, cattle, or other such things. Slowing down and stopping isn't easy, especially when the folks holding up traffic are traveling 10-15 mph down these roads. And because of the curves and hills, you can't exactly just pass anytime you want. When cyclists do such things, they don't only endanger themselves, but they endanger others on the road. Plus, their cavalier attitude toward country folks has earned them the ire of folks around here.
In fact, generally good, solid, caring, compassionate people have their emotions take over to the point where they "wave" to bikers regularly--but they just don't use all their fingers.
I understand their anger.
I understand their frustration.
I understand exactly where they are coming from.
But now, I'm on the other side as well. Not necessarily by my choosing. My sciatic had something to do with it. It started giving me all kinds of fits as I started incorporated running and jogging into my exercise routine. So I had to start looking for something that was a little less stressful on my sciatic. My brother-in-law had a bike he wasn't using, so I asked him if I could use it. He readily agreed, and so I have begun.
There was only one car driving down the same road I biked on this morning. I waved. Not sure what the response was. I can only say this: if you do come across me biking around Cat Spring, please know I am trying to follow all the rules of the road. I do not wish to slow you down. I want to use only a small portion of the road. And if by chance you are forced to slow down because of me and you choose to "wave" at me, please at least remember why I am relegated to doing this and "wave" with a smile.