A Note from Fatty: Hey, remember Tim Joe Comstock, The Trailer Park Cyclist? He wrote a story for the “Proudest Moment” guest post series. A lot of you liked it. I know I did. So when he sent me this new story, I wanted to post it, even though it’s not exactly a “I’ve Never Suffered So Much” story. Enjoy!
When you live in a Crappy Trailer Park in Florida that sits alongside Old Highway One, it is only natural that most of your rides are of a North-South orientation. The Intracoastal Waterway parallels the highway and makes for a Riverside Ride that has very little traffic and affords some awesome views of the water and of the sailboats and cruising yachts headed South for the Winter. (As a side note, I once calculated that the daily gallons-per-hour fuel consumption of one of those big sixty footers would be more than my average monthly income for the past couple years. Weird.)
But I seldom concern myself with the imbalance of wealth in America that we seem to hear so much about these days. Not me.
What I’m doing is riding my bicycle. What I am concerning myself about isn’t the MPG of those big old Cabin Cruisers or where I stand on the economic scale. I already know about all that stuff and I don’t care.
What I’m thinking about is The Wind: Is the wind blowing from the North or the South?
Around here the wind pretty much blows either from the North or the South most of the year. And I like to Ride Long on this North-South road. My monthly Sunday Century is like this: if I can predict the wind, I’m Golden. I can ride an Heroic fifty miles into the wind, then grab a couple beers and some honey roasted peanuts and then blast home with a sweet tailwind that makes me feel like my bike should be named Shadowfax or Pegasus and maybe I might live to be a Hundred Years Old after all and maybe I might yet Grab the Fleece and then all this Life will have made sense and maybe it was all worth the effort.
But Ya Never Know.
If I could accurately and consistently predict which way the wind is going to blow, I wouldn’t need to grab the fleece, unless I wanted to use it to polish my yacht. And if I had even the least clue which way the wind was blowing, I wouldn’t be living in a crappy trailer park in Florida. But that is why I have me darlin’ little 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour and why I ride all those miles: For me, A Long Day On the Bike is the Golden Fleece.
One lovely Sunday last Summer I chose North.
“The wind shall be out of the North,” I said.
Are you sure? said the Voice.
“Yes, Voice,” I replied, sounding confident (even to myself). “It’s been North all week, it is North now, hence: North.”
Hence? said the Voice.
“Hence,” I said. I made my preparations, which doesn’t take all that long. I throw a spare tube and a pump into my cheap Goodwill messenger bag, I throw in a couple bananas, I throw in some trail mix (if I have any), I check the pressure on the tires and then I step off the porch onto my bicycle from the top step, so that my feet do not touch the ground (a little Magic thing) and then I pedal off, against the wind.
On my century-voyage North I have a goal to reach: it is a simple little roadside market by the Ocean in a place called Flagler Beach. Once upon a time in the Pleistocene Era of my pre-historic life my First Wife and I were out riding around in our grievously beat up old ‘68 Plymouth Fury convertible and we broke down. It was cause for sorrow, to be certain. In those days, like now, small woes could become catastrophic, due to some of that imbalance of wealth stuff.
But in those days we were young and glad to be together wherever we were and rather than worry about it overmuch, we instead walked over to this goofy little roadside market and bought a bottle of Boone’s Farm Wine and we drank it sitting at the concrete tables out front. It was beachside Florida in the wintertime and the Sun was doing that Chilled Sunshine thing that we sometimes get here in the winter. The Atlantic Ocean was right across the road.
She and I sat close together to ward off the chill and we laughed a little and we watched the waves dance in the waning light of day. She always went barefoot in those days. We watched the blue light on the water turn to purple and we drank some more cheap wine and then we walked over to the little motel across the way.
He will turn twenty-six this year.
So no amount of headwind this hot summer day here in the Here and Now was going to stop me and yes, I rode hard and fast and strong against the wind those fifty miles North, then I rode a couple more miles to a little westbound road that I know about and that I knew would dump me back onto Old Highway One. What I didn’t know was that when I got there I would find myself turning South into a Headwind. The Changing Wind of Change.
Sometimes this is what Life (and the Wind) does when you are not ready. The wind changes. It blows from a different direction and you are not really ready but if you are ready enough it will be alright. If you are ready enough you will be alright and ready to face a Florida afternoon headwind that blows hard , blowing hot and hard and blowing road grit and memories into your face and I knew that I had fifty miles to go.
Looks like you screwed up again , said the Voice.
“No I didn’t, Voice,” I said. “And shut up. I got fifty miles of grinding to do.”
I think you enjoy the suffering.
“This ain’t suffering, Voice. This is riding my bicycle. Suffering is not riding.”
And so it goes.
Tim Joe Comstock, the Trailer Park Cyclist, lives in a trailer and rides bicycles.