Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It's Enough To Drive A Man To Hike

It's funny how bad news can bring up good memories. A story in this morning's Journal relates how some old motorist swerved and almost ran down some cyclists on Corrales Road. I'll get back to cycling in ABQ, but first a bit of nostalgia.

Suspended from my ceiling is one of the biggest consumer splurges, a Colnago bicycle I bought three or four years ago. I'd always wanted an Italian steel bike and figured a die-hard cheapskate shelling out $2,000 meant plenty of guilt to ride long and often. Living in Seattle in the 80s-90s I'd gotten hooked on two things: backpacking and cycling. As vices go, you could do worse. Yes, I was spending too much money on -10 degree sleeping bags and dorky bike pants, but I had some incredible views of the rainy world and was in decent shape.

The highlight from the cycling side was riding twice in the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) event, a 10,000 rider extravaganza that has become so popular spots must be reserved months in advance. Riding STP meant significant training, and plenty of miles spent from earliest Northwest spring to summer hitting roads, the Burke-Gilman bike path/trail and wherever else my cheap "Centurion" road bike would take me.

I don't remember how I got that "Centurion" bike, but wherever I rode with "real cyclists" sitting on Kleins, Treks, Cannondales I was sure to have the most unaerodynamic, heaviest piece of crap on the road. That made it especially fun to pass people, my hunk o' junk whizzing or wheezing past a $4,000 carbon whatchamacallit. My times in Seattle were troublesome in so many ways, but my days spent cycling were uniformly exhilarating and adventurous.

Then I moved to New Mexico in 1993. I'd left the "Centurion" back in Olympia, moving to Burque pretty much only with what would fit in my hideous Buick Electra, but got another cheap bike when I got to town. Unused to riding at elevation, my first excursions up the canyon to Tijeras and South 114 were eye-opening and chest crushing. Still, it was a blast. I rode the arroyo bike paths to my classes at UNM, rode all over the place. It was like a hilly Seattle with far less moisture.

Then my good friend got a beer bottle thrown at her as she cycled down 114. I started to notice stories about cyclists being struck by cars, and then noticed more stories. I had my own near-death experience with a battered pickup on Rio Grande Blvd. These events and a Corrales move much too far from my job led me to reduce my riding to weekends along the bike paths. My backpacking was slowing for different reasons, and, over a stretch of time, I slid away from my two Washington State vices and toward the blogging sedentarism I am now immersed within.

Reading stories like the one in today's Journal bring all this back up for me, both bad and good. On the one hand, I think I have a Colnago steel Italian bicycle to sell. I should have sold it long ago, but have held its carcass from the ceiling almost literally over my head for two years now hoping that it's hanging-meat presence would get me off my ass to ride it. But I admit it, I'm a cycling scaredy-cat in Burque. I'm also lazy, and the combination means I won't be riding much anymore.

On the other hand, today's story in the Journal just makes me want to backpack that much more, if for no other reason than a desire to get away from a world where motorists in two-ton missiles "scare" vulnerable cyclists just because they are made to wait fifteen seconds to get back to the speed limit and beyond. In fact, looking around the room beneath the spectre of the Colnago I see that my backpacking equipment is dusty and three years out of gear-head fashion. I've moved my Roach's "Colorado Fourteeners" book to a spot right beside this keyboard. I'm motivated to have a backpacking season like no other since 1992.

Thanks, old near-murdering motorist. Your deranged actions may help lead to something positive. On the other hand, anybody wanna buy a Colnago bike?


Natalie said...

It's scary enough to share the roads with other cars!
I can't imagine what it must be like for a cyclist.

And I thought the stickers were bad...
Take care out there!

Jimbo said...

How sad that someone on a bike was injured by a motorist's road rage. I hope the judge throws the book at the guy. Unfortunately for cyclists, a lot of judges view cyclists as "getting what they deserve." Next time I go to a candidate forum, I'm going to ask my judge candidates about their views on cyclists' rights. Only when we vote in judges who don't place cyclists in a diminutive position relative to the rolling coffins that populate the highways will cyclists actually begin to see some justice ... and safer riding routes.