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Monday, February 07, 2011

(Sub)Urban Cycling

In the check out at Wal-Mart, a guy came up behind me and asked, 'Are you Brian?'

Okay, it was already weird on Saturday. A foot of snow still on the ground, barely melting, and I'd been honked at and gestured at several times on the way over to Wal-Mart.

Also, I spotted a bunch of shit, er, detritus in the road. It turned out to be a smashed bottle of booze* and a broken mask. And a great opportunity for roadside photography.

But anyway, never mind that, I was in the Wal-Mart express lane with barely 20 items or less (I find grocery shopping by bike greatly reduces hyper-consumption because no matter how many things I remember I might be out of or low on, and how many deals Wal-Mart connives out of the Third World, I still have to get this shit in my panniers and get it home).

With the honking and dirty looks on the way in, when I saw this guy in the aisles looking at me, I assumed he was with the Honking Crew, the affluent hillbillies who seem offended that someone would be out on a bike when it's barely freezing.

Apparently I'm supposed to carry an internal combustion engine to show that I'm bona fide.

But my brother is an avid cyclist, and on top of that a 'Brian.' Not that people have trouble telling us apart, we hardly look related.

"Do you know my brother?" I asked.

"No, I know Corinna."

My helmet fluff, as she calls it, the Spartan mohawk I wanted before I met the Poet Laureate of Lobster Land, gave me away. He thought I was Brian Gallmeyer, Corinna's long-time touring partner.

When I met Corinna, she took me to be an urban cyclist. My old hybrid with the extra tall goose neck (I get hand numbness if I lean over too far), my running shoes (I'm an SPD skeptic), the stickers I put on it, etc. And I was starting to try and figure out how to use my bicycle as cheap transportation instead of an expensive hobby, which is probably the part that frightens the natives the most.

And before meeting some actual city riders, I didn't know anyone who used a bike to run to the store. When Randy Rasa, the guy who knew Corinna, and I emerged from Wal-Mart, I saw his bike chained up near mine, a gorgeous Surly I actually spotted and blogged about a week before I met Corinna. And before I get over the shock of meeting another cyclist with racks and panniers on a day with snow on the ground in Gardner, another guy rolled up and went in.

This hat-trick would not be remarkable, I know, in Amsterdam. But at this rate, Wal-Mart's gonna need to get a bigger bike rack, especially when the weather warms up.

*In the process of clearing the detritus from the road before someone got a flat, I discovered the bottle was RC Cola, not any form of liquor and barely a form of cola. But my initial impression of a liquor bottle cast out by a drunken hayseed is more in line with the way most Gardner drivers 'share' the road.

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