All of these awful things happened while I was away, but I don't want to talk about them.
Actually, ostriches don't really do that, so perhaps this is a better visual metaphor:
Or maybe an ostrich with its head up someone's ass would be the perfect marriage of the two, but I don't have the time or the graphic imaging skills, or the means and animal husbanding abilities to set up the actual shot.
The point is, I don't want to talk about bad stuff. I want to talk about bicycling and the cycling of bicycling cycles for recreational purposes in pleasant surroundings, which is what I did while I was away:
This is not to say I took a bicycle cycling vacation per se. Rather, I took a family trip that happened to offer the opportunity to do some top-notch bicycle cycling while I was there. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even want to take a dedicated bicycle cycling vacation. Firstly, I don't need to spend every waking moment marinating in my own chamois and talking about nothing but bikes with a bunch of other like-minded and similarly frumunda-addled idiots. A few hours at a time is more than enough. Secondly, I like stuff to be easy. I don't want to schlep a bunch of crap in panniers and sleep in strange beds or, even worse, in a tent like some Bedouin. (No offense to the Bedouin, it's just that I'm emphatically not one.)
No, when I travel with a bike I like places where it's hard to get lost, and where in the unlikely event that I do still manage to get lost I can just pick a direction at random and be sure that within a half hour I'm going to run into either a bike shop or a café or a Montessori school or a Buddhist retreat or possibly an establishment that is all four of those things combined.
By now you've probably figured out where I was, but if you haven't I'm still not going to tell you. All I'll say is that I was (at least technically) in the United States, in a coastal state, reassuringly close to an actual city, and at the foot of a highly gentrified mountain whose name I won't reveal but which I'll heretofore refer to as "Mount Tampon."
(At no point did I do this, because that's not how I vacation.)
Here's why I like Mount Tampon:
--It has lots of fire roads and you can buy a cartoonishly simple map of them at the local bike shop
--These fire roads are well-marked and virtually idiot-proof
--With just a cyclocross-style bicycle you can have a mixed-terrain adventure with lots of climbing and beautiful vistas and still be back by lunch
--The scariest thing you will encounter on Mount Tampon is an attorney for a technology company doing yoga at sunrise in translucent Lululemon pants
--Your smartphone works almost everywhere on Mount Tampon and G--gle has been all over it too so you can easily triple-check your location against your cartoonishly simple map and the frequent trail markings
--If somehow you manage to lose your cartoonishly simple map and your smartphone you can just ask one of the many, many rich people crawling all over the mountain at all times for directions, and while I never had to actually do that I'm sure eventually I'd have been able to cut through the haze of their smugness and extract actual helpful information from them.
So yeah, go ahead and launch your Kickstarter for your epic and consciousness-raising unicycle trip from Vancouver, BC to Machu Picchu, but this is how I roll: staying in a fancy town and humping Mount Tampon. Basically, in the morning, I'd roll out among all the considerately-driven luxury motor vehicles and then head onto the fire roads, which looked like this:
And had views like this:
And then more steady climbing:
And then I'd get closer to the top and start feeling good about myself:
Until I realized I was surrounded by middle-aged people in sweatpants who did this every morning before work:
Then I'd get to the top of the Tampon:
And finally I'd head back down again, past all the people climbing it on full-suspension mountain bikes who scowled at me with carefully-cultivated race faces when I waved to them. (I don't give a shit about waving, but I do it when I'm visiting other places so the kinds of people who ride full-suspension bikes on fire roads know I mean well and that I don't plan to steal the trunk rack off their BMWs when I get to the bottom.)
This is not to say I didn't get "ambitious." As much as I was enjoying the fire roads I knew I'd be remiss if I didn't do the big "Fred climb," and so one morning I went up Mount Tampon:
And then down the other side, where it was kind of bumpy, yet somehow I managed to survive, even with primitive inner tubes and without dick breaks or a gravel-specific bicycle:
Then eventually things got smoother:
And eventually I had a thrilling brush with raw, untamed nature in the form of this "newt crossing:"
Where, awesomely, one kid drew a newt that totally looked like a dong:
Give that kid an "A" for effort and an "X" for drawing a dong.
Incredibly, I survived the newt crossing (though I did have to stomp six or seven of the slimy little fuckers) and then made landfall, said goodbye to the dirt, and slipped into "Fred mode:"
I was now officially a roadie, and instead of getting scowled at by people on full-suspension mountain bikes I was getting scowled at by people straddling expensive crabon bicycles and swaddled in full Rapha.
The road took me up:
And then down:
And then it went up for like a really long time until I got to this intersection:
And then I was out of the trees but still going up, up, up:
(That's what they call a "ribbon of road" in cliché school.)
Where, in addition to the grades I had to cope with this spectacularly shitty view:
And then I stopped taking pictures because I had to focus on making the bike keep going, but eventually I made it to the top and then went back down the fire road and had a sandwich.
As I ate, I asked myself the inevitable question:
"I just climbed a beautiful mountain twice, once on dirt and once on pavement, in about the time it takes me to do the stupid shitty run to Piermont. So why do I live in New York City again?"
But then, as always, I remembered the answer:
How could I leave all this bike culture?!?
Anyway, after enjoying myself both on the bike and off, it was time to go, and I cried as I packed up the old trusty bicycle cycling bicycle cycle:
I should point out that I didn't even bother unpacking the bike after returning from Australia, opening the case only to slip in a pair of cyclocross tires for the trip to Mount Tampon. Now I'm back in New York City and the bike has survived all of this, requiring only the most minor adjustments. (Sure, it's scratched to hell, but if your bike isn't scratched you're not using it right.) At this point the bike has undertaken something like 20 or 30 flights and visited at least four countries (five if you count Portland as a separate country) and I have yet to pay an airline bicycle fee. I'm sure I've thoroughly "jinxed" myself with all of this, but if you went ahead and bought yourself something stupid like that matching crabon cyclocross "pit bike" or that electronic shifting "upgrade" instead of getting yourself a dependable and versatile travel bike then I feel sorry for you and laugh at you, unless of course you never travel by air, in which case I hereby redact everything I just said.
And with that, I leave you with your sorrows or joys or indifference as the case may be, and I look forward to returning to my routine and my mediocre New York City-area bicycle rides.
I love you,
--Wildcat Rock Machine