9.17.2017

An Angry (and Perhaps Inebriated) Cyclist

I meant to relay this encounter the other day, but never found the time.

On Friday evening, I rode my cruiser bicycle to my class at Edgewood College. I took the bike path that runs along the north side of University* Avenue and then through the suburban sprawl of west Madison.

When I turned left at the quick dog leg of the path at Shorewood Avenue, a somewhat tricky intersection for both bike and car traffic, I heard a loud voice behind me. It said something to the effect of, "At least some of these dickheads stop for bikes!" A moment later, a shirtless young man passed me on his bike. Since I had no frame of reference as to what he was talking about, but sensed it was loosely directed at me, I simply responded something to the effect of, "Hi," as he whizzed past me on my left. As he took off in front of me, I thought I heard him grumbling to himself, about what I had no clue.

I felt a gut level intuitive anxiety about the shirtless, pasty white pedaler, and was glad that he was traveling faster than I was. Even so, I slowed down a little bit to put some distance between us. He was still in my line of sight when he passed the Shorewood community pool and the associated tennis courts beyond. As he did, I heard an eruption of angry verbalizations from the youth, directed at no obvious target in particular. I could not really make out what he said specifically, but it sounded like it was rich in expletives.

Maybe he has Tourette's Syndrome, I thought. This is a tic disorder that causes the afflicted to blurt often obscenity laden nonsense, particularly when they become anxious. However, this working theory was discarded a short while later when I came upon the lad lambasting a surprised and mildly terrified couple in a white car. The lad on his bike was in front of the car screaming at its occupants, something to the effect of, "[expletive] trying to [expletive] run me [expletive] over?" I had not chanced upon this tirade early enough to know what had transpired to cause it, but I knew that I did not wish to be drawn into it, so I slowed way down to allow the angry bicycle boy to pedal off. The couple in the car were still reeling from the encounter as I came up behind their stopped car. They too gave the raging rider some time to piss off. At this point, my working theory was that the youth was in some way inebriated, even if only drunk on his own hubris.

I continued to keep ample ground between myself and the belligerent biker. At some point, he stopped biking and reversed direction. It was unclear what had caused him to change course, but now he was heading straight toward me along the bike path.

Don't make eye contact, I told myself, pretending to find something very interesting to look at in the uninteresting scrub along the side of the trail as the bare torsoed intransigent passed me, thankfully firing no verbal abuse my way. As far as I could tell, the young man's grudge(s) seemed to be restricted to non-cyclists, as I had not heard him taunt or tongue lash any of the several bikers he had passed on the trail in the short time I had been aware of his presence. With the kid now behind me and going the opposite direction, I pedaled hard in an effort to prevent any further interaction with him. Pretty soon, I came to the intersection of the bike path with Highland Avenue, where I turned right to take residential streets the remaining distance to Edgewood.

That kid will probably either get his ass kicked or get thrown in jail before the day is through, I thought, glancing furtively into the rear view mirror of my bike helmet. It occurred to me, given the age of the young man, that perhaps he was a newbie himself, having some difficulty coping with Madison's bike transit conventions. If this were the case, and admittedly this was complete speculation, then the lad likely hailed from some place where bicyclists reign supreme and everyone else is a second class citizen without value nor human rights.

I should say at this point that I think it's possible I manifested the angry cyclist with my mind, and perhaps he did not really exist, even though I understand this would be an admission of acute psychosis. When I had departed my house for class, I was feeling rather belligerent toward cars and their drivers myself, with no real basis for my perceived animosity, other than the baseline fact that Madison WI residents are, on the main, terrible automobile drivers. Notwithstanding the large number of cyclists in Madison and the ample infrastructure for cyclists to share the roadways with motorized vehicles, the auto drivers seem completely oblivious to the presence and rights of bikers. This is especially true in the early fall, which this was, when a lot of new people (newbies) move to Madison at the beginning of the school year, most of them in their late teens or early 20s. It takes the newbies a little while to acclimate to Madison's transportation conventions, which must not be the standard in a lot of other places. Many streets in Madison are bike avenues where cyclists have complete domain over the entire width of the road. Every time an old street is repaved, a city ordinance requires that a painted bike lane be included in the construction, and there are miles and miles of dedicated, multi-use recreational trails.**

*Note: This avenue is named after the University of Wisconsin - Madison, I think, and not Edgewood, which is a college, not technically a university.

**Note: These trails are used by cyclists, runners, pedestrians, roller bladers, and the like, but there is a tacit understanding that they are primarily bike paths, as evidenced by green BIKE PATH signs that demarcate them.

9.16.2017

Road Trippin'

I'm road trippin' with my folks across the Heartland. To wit, I'm helping them with their drive home to Ohio from their summer cabin in northern Wisconsin. They drove themselves down to Deborah's and my house in Madison this morning and then I jumped in their car and drove them through the heinous Chicago traffic. While Madison WI has the worst drivers I have ever encountered, Chicago has the most douchy and negligent ones. In Madison, people suck at driving, perhaps unwittingly. But in Chicago, they willfully cause trouble. I shant dwell on it, because they really are not worth my time. Suffice to say, my middle finger got a good workout today.

We lunched in South Bend IN, at a Bob Evans, which wasn't half bad. I had a potato crusted flounder filet, after which my dad took over driving for a spell. We decided to stop for the evening in Elkhart IN, deep in Trump country. We checked into a Red Roof Inn that my folks frequently stay at. It was pretty gritty, with amorphous blobs of humanity lingering around the place, bulbous, tattooed, and generally grisled. The 100% smoke free room I was first assigned smelled like the last resident smoked about 100 cigarettes in it. Thankfully, the lady at reception, who was no barrel of laughs, gave me a new room without any hassle, and I got the sense this was not an uncommon request of her. The establishment was chosen because they accommodate dogs, like my folks' yellow lab Sunbeam. They also accommodate pot bellied pigs, like Sammy, the amorphously blobby pet belonging to one of the other patrons residing at the Red Roof Inn. A few minutes after unloading our bags into our rooms, I took Sunbeam out for a walk around the premises, and a few minutes after that, I heard many emergency vehicle sirens in the distance. These grew increasingly louder and then seven or so cop cars and an ambulance or two screamed into the Red Roof Inn parking lot. Sunbeam and I were on a grassy strip between the motel property and a Menards, on the far side of the building from the cops. I stayed there and observed the unfolding drama at a distance. However, my folks were still at the motel, up in their room on the second floor.

After a little while, with no signs of imminent danger nor gun play, I wandered back toward the motel entrance. My mom was out on the second floor balcony and yelled at me, "Stay over there! There are a bunch of cops on the other side of the motel." That was fine with me. I took Sunbeam on another pass of the grassy strip, which had no shortage of smells that intrigued her. After a few more minutes, I called my mom on her cell phone and she told me that she and my dad had decided to look for another motel, as this one appeared to have a high danger quotient. As it turned out, the cops were responding to a reported suicide attempt, not a homicide or drug deal or other raw human excitement, though those things were certainly within the realm of possible transactions at this gritty establishment. I don't know if the suicide victim lived or died, but the bad mojo was enough to deter us from staying there. We canceled our booking there and relocated to a somewhat less gritty Fairway Inn, a couple miles away.

We had dinner at a nearby Applebees restaurant* and then retired to the new motel room, where I'm now finalizing this post, with photographic proof, before retiring.

Ciao!

*Note: Applebees restaurants have literally NO vegetarian entres of any kind on the menu. They have some items on the appetizer menu that contain dairy only. I ended up getting grilled salmon with a side of veggies and it wasn't bad.



9.14.2017

I Can't Lie To You...

...The last couple of days have been superb.

All week has been perfect weather.

My Tuesday night class at the Deming Campus of Edgewood College was fun and educational. I don't have class on Wednesdays, but I conducted one of the interviews for my Diversity Through the Lifespan class over the lunch hour and then generally took it easy, doing a little bit of reading but mostly chillaxing.

After Deborah got home from work on Wednesday evening, we tooled on over to the Capital Brewery on our bikes about 6 PM and met our friends Tyler and Sherry, with whom we then biked downtown to the Union Terrace on the University campus for some ale. On the return trip, it was fully nighttime and we all had our bike lamps to light up the route before us. It was after last call when we got back to the Capital Brewery (lamely, they close at 9 PM). So we went to the nearby Freehouse instead for further socializing.

Even though we had to get up butt early on Thursday morning and I was tired, it was a productive day. We bought a new Saris bike rack for Deborah's new soccer mom minivan (she is totes gonna punch me for calling it that) in the morning. It was a floor model, so we got 25% off. It holds three bikes and it's made of aluminum (so it's pretty light).

My parents came into town later in the afternoon. Normally I have class on Thursday nights, but it got canceled because the professor was sick, so we were all able to go out to dinner at the Great Dane and had a great time. The weather today was balmy, as the residual tropical air from Hurricane Irma moved into the region, now mostly devoid of the wind and moisture that tore up Florida.

9.06.2017

A Fantastic Bike With Joe Weekend

We had a fantastic time over Labor Day weekend, biking and socializing up north. Deborah and I spent quality time with our good pals Sherry and Tyler and my folks. The weather was fantastic and we had a great bike ride to Birchwood on Sunday, where we indulged in pizza and ice cream. It's always a little sad when the BIKE WITH JOE weekend draws to a close, roughly signifying the end of summer fun and the start of the slow decline into the abysmal holiday season. But there's still some fall color to enjoy and word on the streets is that, at least in our small plot of the Cosmos, the winter holiday will be replaced with a trip to Hawaii. So there's a lot of good news abounding. I'm back to the grind of school now and things are going well thus far, although I have far less time for blog posts...

9.02.2017

Reading

I have a lot of reading to do for school, which presents a conundrum, because it is a holiday weekend that I am fully indulging in, by necessity and convention. However, I brought some of my books with me, principally the ones I need to have read by the time of my return to civilized society. On the four hour drive up to the cabin, I was able to read a bit during the time when Deborah drove. I also was correct in my prediction that a time would come during the Bacchanalian festivities up north when my compatriots would succumb to power naps, and I was able to absorb a few passages of text on systems theory then. I have no way of predicting whether I will finish all of my reading before class on Tuesday evening, but if I had to place money on it, I would bet against myself, in no small measure because Al Franken's new book, "Al Franken: Giant of the Senate," is an available and compelling, albeit irrelevant to my studies, read.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, systems theory, al franken book, giant of the senate

Cabin Bound

A cloudburst passed over the cabin.

"It got so dark out," Deborah observed.

"Like an eclipse," I compared.

"There's hail," she observed.

A flash of lightning was followed by a crash of thunder.

"Cool," I remarked, encompassing both the hail and the thunder under one proverbial (or verbial) umbrella.

"Let's see if the new gutters are working," said my dad, looking out the bay window at the soffet line of the cabin. "Nope...see that dripping? They shouldn't be doing that."

"Maybe they're clogged with leaves," I hypothesized.

"No," my dad nullified. "Water is getting through."

9.01.2017

The Big Bike Weekend is Nigh

It's finally here. This weekend is my big bicycling event, BIKE WITH JOE, which I host up in northern Wisconsin every year. This will be the 18th annual one, I think.* In point of fact, it's not a very big ride at all. It's actually very small, which is what makes it awesome. Deborah and I will cruise up to my folks' cabin on Saturday and congregate with a few friends over the long holiday weekend. The bike ride kicks off from there on Sunday morning, for anyone inclined to participate.

I outlined the ride route in a previous post a while ago. It's an alternate route from last year's ride, although the first leg (to the breakfast stop) is the same. After breakfast, we pass through the town of Long Lake, stopping to refresh and take in the scenery, as needed. Then there's a long push on roads through some rolling hills to the town of Birchwood and its eateries/drinkeries o' plenty. If riders are feeling strong, they can double their mileage by riding back to the cabin from Birchwood, but a sag wagon is available for those who don't want to. Weather is always the wild card for the bike ride portion of the weekend. Most years it has cooperated, and looking at the forecast for this weekend, it's going to be one of the best weather years on record. Sunny in the upper 70s. It doesn't get much better. However, it's still two days away and Wisconsin weather can be finicky, so I don't want to jinx it. Optimistically hopeful...

On Monday, my folks usually harness the helping power of my friends to tidy up their cabin, in anticipation of closing it up for the winter, even though they will still be there for a couple more weeks. It's a small price to pay for a low cost, northwoods recreational getaway.

*Note: Although I have held the event every year, on at least two occasions the bike ride was supplanted by a run-walk around Shell Lake, and on some other occasions, the starting location was changed completely (never for the better). This is simply inconsequential factual information.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, wisconsin bike rides, shell lake wi, bike jerseys, short bike rides