A Note from Fatty: Today’s guest post comes from Tim Joe Comstock. It’s an awesome story, beautifully told.
I live in a trailer park in Florida. Not a nice retirement-villa-on-wheels trailer park where the elderly neighbors swap recipes and check in on each other and play shuffleboard in the fading twilight of a rosy pink sunset kind of trailer park.
The trailer park I live in is a really crappy side-of-the-highway trailer park where the dentally challenged neighbors swap drugs and have fist-fights in the shimmering glow of the pale moonlight and the occasional blue strobe lights of a police cruiser perks up the evening’s entertainment.
Not that I see much of this action, not really, because while the evening’s misadventures go on outside my window I am safe inside staring at a computer screen bearing images of sweet and shiny new bicycles that I can’t afford. And reading cycling blogs by people who live seemingly charmed lives of high-paying office jobs that leave them plenty of energy and money to spend their off time riding around wearing expensive clothing that I also can’t afford while they ride the above-mentioned out-of-reach bicycles.
But while I may sound bitter or disillusioned, I am not. Because I ride a bicycle too. The same roads my “superior” colleagues pedal on are open to me, also. And listen, man, I ride them. After thirty years of hard labor in the construction industry, after two marriages and houses and kids and lawyers, topped off with this never-ending “recession” and all the loss that results from loss: I ride my bike. A lot.
One day a few months ago at a convenience store I was admiring a pair of touring bikes parked outside. A Raleigh Sojourn and a Trek 520. A mild-mannered fellow in full kit, a guy about my own graying age, came out and I complimented him on his bike. We were discussing the worth of disc brakes vs. cantilevers when his wife joined us, glancing nervously at my baggy shorts, sleeveless t-shirt, scruffy beard and long, bandana-bound hair. And the beer in my hand.
I was halfway through my Sunday Century and I always stop at the same place for a beer; sometimes three, depending on the day, how I feel, and my financial situation. As she walked up her husband was offering me a ride on his Sojourn. I was just throwing a leg over when she said “Hold it.” She gave her husband a look I was all too familiar with (two marriages) and said “How do you know he isn’t some homeless guy?”
“Well, honey, he knows all about bikes, and he seems perfectly all right…” All of this while I sat there, bemused (to say the least) and a flood of emotions went coursing through my already fairly beat down soul. But one of my saving graces at this point in my misspent old age is I don’t get offended nearly as much as I did when I was still an upright citizen.
But I got off the bike.
To her credit, she caught what she had done and tried to lighten the moment by giving me a strained smile and saying, “Well, you’re either a really smart homeless person or…” and then she realized that there was no happy ending to that sentence either and so I just laughed and said “Have fun on your ride, guys,” and went back into the store for another beer.
Today, several months later, I was into mile 30 on my Saturday ride, just cruising along on my 1981 Schwinn LeTour, loving the day and day-dreaming on the empty country road that I like to use for my day-dreaming ride when a guy comes out of nowhere and passes me. I say “Hey!” like I always do, but he just goes on by on his carbon Cervelo.
I am accustomed to being passed by better-disciplined and sleeker riders wearing helmets and lycra and riding carbon, but this time…well, he shot me a disdainful glance as he went by, something else I am accustomed to, but he could at least have said “Hello.”
And then I heard the voice of Brian Becker, ex tri-athlete and a touring rider with more miles under his wheels than most of us will see in a lifetime. “NOBODY drops me without a fight.” So I feathered forward on my right down tube friction shifter and I knocked on the door of a place inside of myself that I haven’t been to in a long time. “It’s not the bike, it’s the engine…come on, boy….”
I’m sitting here in my crappy trailer park by the highway, watching the sunset, sipping a beer and gazing fondly at my old Schwinn leaning against the wall. I’m savoring the the moment when the guy finally caught up with me back in town, where I was waiting at a red light.
“Sheesh”, he said, “I kept looking back, and you were still there. I couldn’t believe it…then…”