Monday, July 9, 2012

meanwhile, back at the ranch

I am mid-way through my annual trip back to the summering locale of my youth, aka Massachusetts specifically Cape Cod.  As is part of my tradition I have already fallen on the ground and offered up my right arm if I can be reminded not to do this again next year.  Then I force myself to consider the Afghan woman who was just murdered by a bunch of jeering Afghan men and I tell myself "dial 1-800 people have real problems.  That Afghan woman would switch places in a heartbeat."  This results in my being insect-molested, hot, homesick and now also feeling guilty. 

Massachusetts is a very liberal state outside of it's propensity to serve up annoying governors who turn around and run for president.  But Cape Cod is not the liberal part which is how I found myself surrounded by teary eyed patriots on July 4th who were pledge allegiance-ing and singing the national anthem and running the flag up the flagpole while squadrons of mosquitoes dive-bombed the Californians. I had one minor moment during the event and that came when the little kids had all grouped themselves with their tricycles and flags for a neighborhood parade.  A car turned onto this dead end road and the parents hustled the little kids to the sides of the lane so that the car could pass.  I heard Martin Luther King Jr in my head (I know, wrong holiday) and MLK was saying in that commanding voice he had "I have a dream, that one day, the cars will give way for the little children instead of the little children giving way to the cars."

Traditionally I have returned from Massachusetts and kissed the bicycle lanes of Palo Alto but...  and I hope saying this won't result in me being hit tomorrow but...  bicycling seems a little better this year than other years.  Maybe even more than a little.  It is verging on okay, in fact.  What's up with this?  Not that I'm complaining but, what's new?

What is not new is that there are still no bicycle lanes.  The roads are very narrow and it would be non-trivial to add them because no one has gone along with my suggestion whose name is:  There would be plenty of room for bicycle lanes if we got rid of the fat ugly cars.  But even without bicycle lanes an informal survey says:

Way.  The fuck.  More.  Bicyclists.

I've seen small pelotons of roadies, a first. 
I've seen kids, not a first.
I've seen mothers out riding, definitely new.
I've seen tubby dads and greying seniors.
The Cape Codders, bastions of Lincoln cars and conservatism are venturing out on bicycles or being take over by aliens.

The result (in my un-scientific opinion) of this larger number of bicycles on the road is an increased expectation on the part of the automobiles that they might be slowed by the presence of a bicycle.  We've been out riding to our errands almost every day and many of the cars have slowed when they went around us.  Take a minute to consider how little I am asking of these people.  1.  Please slow down when you go around us when we are on our bicycles.  2.  Refer to 1. 

What am I riding?

There is much that is within bicycle range of me here, ice creams, post office, hardware store, liquor store, sailing camp, muffins and I was damned if I was going to drive my father's Tacoma truck (yes, really) to all these destinations.  So I took the truck to the nearest rental place and rented four bicycles at ungodly cost.  For the money I thought I would have something wonderful. 

I was wrong.  I will never ever understand people who enjoy riding bicycles with that upright behavior.  It's killing my forearms.  About the only good bit is that I have been strongly encouraged to improve my riding with no hands skills.  The kids seem fine, even happy proving that the apple can indeed fall far from the complaining tree.  Contraption Captain is just grateful to be out of the Tacoma truck.  He takes this clunky rental bike and bunny-hops up the road regaling us with periodic wheelies.  Riding anywhere with him is like being accompanied by a wallaby on speed. 

Today was the first day of the little sailing camp the kids thought they would test out.  We got on our bicycles and pedaled (except for Captain who jumped and skidded and wheelied) up the road and over a hill.  There was a place to lock up.  As we left to go back to the house a mother came over and said "Was that you bicycling in?"  I admitted it.  She said "I brought all our bicycles but wanted to check it out today and now I think it's too much!"  I asked if she was very far away.  She said no, about two miles, "but the hills!  So many hills"  I thought it over.  Then I said "Try tomorrow with the bicycles.  I think you can do it."  I think she can.  Fingers are crossed.  The car scene is better and the hills are not bad.  I did not mention the risk of being carried away by a team of greenheads, mosquitoes, and midges working together. 


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  2. Here in the more liberal part of the state (Cambridge and environs) we're getting a lot more bike lanes. The actual pavement still sucks, but a little more of it is ours. We're even getting more bike parking, amazingly enough. I would make a guess (I haven't been on the Cape myself in decades) that the towns their don't want to make the investment because the traffic is more seasonal.

    1. The seasonal bit is a good point. I still wish they'd do a little more though.

      I think that the rise in bicycle numbers on the Cape can be closely correlated to the rise in bicyclists in the Boston area.

      Bad pavement is an issue here as well. Personally I don't think it gets enough attention as a source for accidents.

  3. Hey there- hope you didn't get too molested by the biting insects- I expect you've already headed back to the left coast, but if not, and you're coming through Boston/ Cambridge, I'd love to meet for coffee or something (iced coffee sounds pretty good right now).
    bikinginheels(at) yahoo & etc

    1. Alas, I was in Boston for only about an hour this go around. Would have loved to get together, in fact at various points would have probably begged you to bicycle out and save me. Please look me up if you find yourself in the Palo Alto area?