Drivers can be monsters. It certainly isn't all drivers, and many are actually quite nice and let me go at intersections even though it isn't my turn. Nevertheless, I have developed an intense defensiveness towards the cars that go by me on the road. It isn't about their driving, though I am sometimes a bit frightened when a car zips by and shows no regard for my space on the road. What really upsets me and makes me paranoid are the obscene things people yell out the window at me. The heckling drives me crazy.
Whether they're making assertions about my sexuality or sarcastically telling me that they like my bike or helmet it all makes me go into a rage. I have made it a personal mission to ride them down and yell things back at them, but usually they speed by thinking they're cool because they yelled something as they drove by. It all peeked the other day when someone threw a can of "Monster" energy drink at me. How insulting. An energy drink? I suppose I can't blame them for tossing that canned vomit out the window, but how stereotypically trashy to be drinking that crap.
Anyways, why do drivers feel the need to yell out the window at riders? It seems to be their natural bullying tendencies. Much like the internet, drivers can anonymously pick on people who can't do anything about it. Riding late at night does sometimes save me because there is less traffic on the road, however it also sometimes leads to crazy late night drivers yelling at me. I realize it is nothing serious or personal, but it drives me crazy, and I am counting down the days until I yell something back and get in a fist fight with a pick-up driving redneck from Norton.....while wearing lycra.
When I ride, I often encounter random wildlife. This is especially true at night. Just last night I saw a mystery animal crossing the road. I was pretty certain it was a cat, while my brother thought maybe it was a raccoon. The very fact that we couldn't tell which one it was, helps to illustrate another point. At night it can be quite challenging to see and avoid animals.
I also saw a deer grazing in the field on our ride last night. However, last fall, I saw a deer directly in the center of the road one day. That certainly caused me to slam the brakes on! I have seen a spattering of deer on my rides, during both day and night. I think what I see most often are cats. During both the day and night I see them roaming the streets, though more often at night. However, what the night really brings out that the day thankfully lacks is a legion of meandering skunks. This is another animal that I saw on my ride last night. Slowly crossing the street right across my lane. I gave it a wide birth: a very wide birth.
Perhaps the most fun animal I see on my trips are the occasional flock of turkeys. These are fun! And far less frightening than the bats, skunks, and raccoons, from which I only have a bell to defend myself.
So finding the wildlife can be fun or frightening, but they are certainly a fact of riding....especially in Norton and Rehoboth.
As I went for a ride today, I decided to add a couple miles by extending it into Rehoboth. Rehoboth, which is a little behind the times, seems to have chosen to save taxpayer money by not having any streetlights whatsoever. It was a treacherous ride deeper and deeper into darkness. I desperately sought my turn unable to differentiate a driveway from a road and certainly unable to read the street signs. I occasionally tried to peer at the map on my cell phone, but it was so blindingly bright in the dark that it made me totally lose my bearings. Luckily, I squinted my way into finding my turn, pulled over, and cross-referenced it with my cell phone map. As I traveled back towards Attleboro, I realized that the side streets were somehow darker than the pitch dark main streets.
Eventually I saw a very bright light off in the distance. I thought it was a headlight, but it wasn't getting any closer. Then I realized it was just an incredibly bright lamp post that a house had in its front yard. What a relief! I could see for a few seconds! I saw up ahead that there was another house with a much fainter light on the side of their house. Now I was quite pleased that I might be able to have several pools of intermittent light to guide me back to Attleboro. My eyes, of course had adjusted to the pitch dark of the ride, and they darted all over the road as I tried to see anything and everything that I could. After all I didn't want to hit a pot hole (if you've ever done this, you totally understand why) and I wanted to ensure that I stayed on the road.
As I approached the second light I thought I saw a shadow move out of the corner of my eye. I looked closer as I started to approach it, and realized that it was something moving quite rapidly towards me in the dark! A black shadow moving in the shadows rapidly right towards me. A shock of fear ran through me as I realized that this was most likely a dog charging me. I also couldn't help but notice that I saw no fence whatsoever. I sped up, only to hear a fierce barking up ahead of me from the same yard as the black shadow, but a different location. At this point I blurted it out.
"HOLY CHRIST ALMIGHTY!"
I now had two very angry-sounding dogs charging me. I quickly tried to determine how fast a dog could run and how fast I could bike. Even with my many years of training dogs and my careful monitoring of my bike rides and their speeds, I only knew that dogs ran really fast, I biked relatively slowly, and that I had the fear of the devil in me. I biked as fast as I possibly could. I realized that perhaps there was an invisible fence, or perhaps the dogs just wanted to protect their property and wouldn't follow me, but I pedaled as fast as I could and looked over my should to see if I'd see the black shadows gaining on me. Each time I saw....blackness......pure unadulterated blackness.
Eventually, I came to some lights (thank you Attleboro!) and looked over my shoulder to see if the shadows would transverse the pools of light in their blood thirsty pursuit of me and my precious Univega. At this point I realized that there was little chance that the dogs had decided to stop barking and ride two miles from their home simply to pursue a none-to-fun chew toy of steel on wheels. Nevertheless, I was a bit shaken and decided not to take the extra long trip through Norton and instead head home to the safety of the protection of my own guard dog.
I have now bought two different vintage road bikes that came with gross melted rubber hoods. The first was a 1980 Univega Gran Turismo and the second was my 1977 Fuji S10-S LTD. The owner of the Fuji told me he thinks he left it out at the beach and they melted in the sun.
These are certainly unattractive, and they are also a little uncomfortable (though it is rarer to ride the hoods on these older bikes). The first step I took to get rid of this gunk was to buy a plastic scraper. This was a very effective tool to remove the gunk without scratching up the brake levers.
In the end, there is still some left behind including large chunks on the bar tape. By scrubbing and scraping, the rest can usually be removed. I did try some very rough brass scrubbing pads, but they definitely seemed like they were scratching the brake-levers. Retaping the bars gets rid of the last of the melty hood gunk and really leaves the bike looking great.
This was the Gran Turismo with the melty hoods (yuck!)
Now look at it! It is beautiful! (sorry for the poor lighting)
I wasn't exactly sure where to go tonight. I headed down 123 towards Norton. I am supposed to go see Teresa's students put on a play next Thursday, so I considered riding my bike to Easton to see the play. I thought maybe I could ride all the way through Norton and scope out the first leg of the ride tonight. I kept changing my mind about when I should stop and turn around. I considered stopping where the Target is in Easton: a long straight shot down 123. I decided instead to turn around when I saw the "Easton" sign. I figured I'd snap a picture and head home.
After pedaling along and some moseying around at Wheaton, I started down the final stretch. I was really trying to figure out how long I'd need to ride before I found the sign. I searched and pedaled in the dark of the night. Then I arrived.....at Target. Apparently, I'd long overshot the Easton sign. More problematically, I was parched. I didn't think I really drank much of my water on my ride last night, so I figured there would be enough water left in my bottle. In reality the bottle was half empty (or full?). I was worried about what to do. I was really going to suffer on the way home. I decided to do a quick round of the Target parking lot. Maybe I'd find a bubbler or a hose even. I was desperate. I saw a lady taking the trash out from a store, and I came really close to asking her for some water, but I figured it would scare her. I almost gave up when I looked down and saw...
My salvation! I worried that the water from the sprinkler may have been...unclean, but I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. I sampled it, and it seemed good enough. Well, at the very least I was thirsty enough not to care if it tasted awful. I did my best to fill the bottle (which is hard with the strong water pressure).
I figured I couldn't visit Target without a couple pictures for Teresa. So here they are! The sleeping giant!
On the way home I found the missing Easton sign. It was only on the left hand side of the road and was buried in some branches. I snapped a photo and went on my way. The ride was twenty miles round trip. It felt longer, but that was no matter. It looks like I might be able to ride to the play next Thursday. Of course the down side is that it will be 90 degrees and packed with traffic.