Thursday, January 26, 2012

Notions On Motion

A van nearly clipped me last week here on Beach Road. It was at night. I was in the bike lane but I was forced to swing a few feet into the road to avoid a lady walking her dog. My bike is lit up like an eighteen-wheeler at night--lights, reflectors--and the van approaching from my rear certainly saw me and thus had plenty of time and the entire road to swing out and give us all a ton of room. But nope, this doltish driver chose to honk, then brush by me and miss my handle bar by mere inches. And yep, I let out the loudest yell I have uttered in decades. In one burst—“YOU DUMB SOB!"--I vented into those glaring taillights still aglow in my face.

We see them everyday, we see them everywhere: Small crosses by the roadside. As we flash along the interstates and highways of America they look distant and lonely on the grassy shoulders. Over the past decades they have sprung up with alarming regularity until now, they hardly elicit our attention anymore. If we think about them at all it is only for a second or two and then they soon enter our rear view mirror and are forgotten. One such cross is painful enough to behold, but when two and three share the same spot we are horrified. Whenever I am biking a new territory, I try to stop and read the inscriptions at these markers. Almost all of these tiny shrines have the mandatory white cross, perhaps some faded plastic flowers, a trinket or two, maybe a weathered teddy bear toppled by the wind. These pathetic little memorials mark the end of some lost love's final journey on this mortal blue marble.

The saddest, to me, are the crosses on lonely roads. No matter how warm and fuzzy the bereaved try to make them, they still look so lost and forlorn out there.

Along the Myakka River where I used to bike every day I passed a little cross near a horse farm. A young volunteer fireman, 19, died fighting a barn fire a few years back and some thoughtful person saw the pathos and placed a marker. Deep in the heart of Texas I stopped on a gravel road miles from any highway and read the inscription: A Mexican, far from home, was killed ten years before. Whether he died in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, it didn't say. A few miles south of Hays, Kansas, at a wind-swept crossroads, three teenagers will forever remain teenagers. It's a colorful little spot in the midst of brown grass and plowed fields--deflated balloons, flowers, bleached photos.

I ride my route--from the island, to the mainland, and back to the island--virtually every day. In all that 17 or so miles there is not one little white cross by the wayside. Considering that so many bikers use this same route every day, maybe that should be considered a serious miracle. I hope a little cross with my name on it is not the first one planted here.

UPDATE—Last night, in virtually the same section of Beach Road that I was almost hit, at virtually the same time, I was chased by the biggest, meanest Rottweiler I have ever seen. The ugly brute was loose, naturally, and until I let out my best imitation of an angry 500 lb. gorilla, he was closing on me fast. The terrible primal scream caused this beast to slow for a second, but once more he bounded after me. Fortunately for both of us, my bike is way to fast for something like this to catch me after its initial burst and I managed to escape. I was so angry that I considered going home, getting my pistol, then hunting down this dog and terminating him on the spot. Tonight, I will take the same route as before and woe unto this thing if he is still running loose. First shot into the air; second shot straight into his head. In my opinion, this dog had deadly intent and was large and mean enough to do some real damage had we gone at it hand-to-hand.

Really bizarre. The attack was even more sudden and startling since nothing like this had ever happened before. And honestly, this island would be the last place on earth one would expect something like this. Perhaps some worthless oxygen-thief was visiting and thought he’d bring his “great with the children” meat grinder with him.


I was watching something the other night on tornadoes. This young stunt monkey was chasing tornadoes and was actually standing very close to one without knowing it. Only when the small twister hit ground nearby and began sucking up dirt did the monkey realize his peril and flee.

Tornadoes are nothing but wind and--until they pick up something--are invisible. If they are crossing a lake or river they will appear white; when they go through dusty fields, they look light brown; through muddy fields, black; and so on. I suppose if twisters plow through large fields of alfalfa they must become green; if they swirl through a ripe wheat field, they must become golden. And if a cyclone passes through a large clump of red buds in blossom or a ripe cherry orchard, then these terrors of the weather world must turn a very sissy pink. In theory, I guess, a tornado could actually be candy striped if it swept through a large patch of strawberries and a cotton field both at roughly the same time.


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