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Breaking Away From Wi-Fi With Pedal Power

July 20th, 2017 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Music · Satire · Sports

My first “attempt” at college was a dismal failure.  It was so bad that I pretty much considered an “incomplete” grade for a course a bit ot a win — as opposed to a fail.  Thank goodness that university kicked me out and saved me a few bucks. Then, I went and grew up, entered another school, and became a very serious student.  Ha.  I think a reformed college drop out re-enrolled may be even more self-righteous than an ex-smoker.  The second time around, I took my college education very seriously, and foolishly I expected all the other students to take it as seriously.

So, in one class the second time around in college, every day when this tall, preppy-yet-disheveled blond guy would shuffle in late, disrupting the lesson for the Italian prof, it pissed me off. Ha! Yes Italian class. It gets better. The tall kid rode a nice touring bicycle. This was the ’80s. Ever see the great coming of age film “Breaking Away?” In my mind, this preppy guy, Doug in Italian class “was that guy” from the movie!


So after two semesters of late interruptions, dropped books, perhaps dozing off a time or two, the cyclist was really on my last nerve, as some folk say.

I couldn’t take it another semester and I think I had maxed out my Italian aptitude anyway. But there was a great alternative to another semester in the classroom. The final three hours of the foreign language requirement could be earned on a two-and-a-half week tour of Italy.

Molto bene! (Translation:  I’m down with that.)

So, I signed up for the trip.  Packed.  Ready to leave.  But on the very first leg of the journey, as we prepared to fly out of Lubbock — if I recall correctly — we were delayed as some kid shuffled on the plane late, with bags that wouldn’t properly fit in the overhead compartments.

“It’s him!”

Late. Late. Late.  Throughout the first week, “Breaking Away Boy” was late, forgot his jacket, got lost, you name it.

But for some reason I felt sorry for the guy. I was traveling with my best buddy from the college newspaper. There were a couple of brothers traveling together. There was a deejay from the college radio station, whom I sort of knew. There was a husband and wife … and then there was Breaking Away Boy always sitting by himself on the bus or boat or gondola or whatever. So … one day — totally out of character for me — I went over and sat down by the guy and started talking. You know what? He was a swell guy. (Ha! As “the Beave” might say.) Eventually, we became great friends and for the rest of the trip my buddies and I were the three amigos, Italian version.

Oh … I think Doug was still late everywhere we went.  He even missed a water taxi on the way to the Venice airport (I think it was).  But I had developed some patience … He was so funny.  Two quick memories: Doug had a brand new camera — one of the first on the market with an electronic voice.  He would sneak up behind Asian tourists, and trigger the camera’s computer voice to say, “Too dark.  Use flash.”  Everyone would look around to see where the voice came from.  (Guess you had to be there …)  The second memory: The three Italian amigos were on our knees — as is the custom — solemnly climbing up “The Holy Stairs” of a basilica (a church where the steps are said to have been imported from Pontius Pilot’s court … steps on which Jesus had walked) and my new friend was raving about how this would be a perfect commercial for “Toughskins” — some brand of rugged, durable jeans from Sears that always featured wild kids tearing stuff up in their TV ads.

The Holy Stairs

All of these thoughts came rushing back to me on my morning bicycle ride because of Facebook. The Breaking Away Boy is now a successful attorney in Dallas, and he just posted a photo of his crumpled touring bike. He and some other riders were struck by a hit/run driver fleeing police.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  No word on whether or not they were wearing “Toughskins.”

Ha …. I saw another college buddy on Facebook posting about his recent bicycle ride through Montana! Wow! We don’t call him Bicycle Bob for nothing!

These days, I am riding my bicycle religiously, hoping to get back in shape.  I had noticed a direct correlation between me buying a couple of motorcycles, dust settling all over my bicycle and a noticeable “spare tire” around my waist.  So, I developed a rewards system.  My new rule is that I cannot ride my motorcycles until I have completed two bicycle workouts.

Weird.  After parking the bicycle for a couple of years, it truly was scary to hop back on, riding with my head out over the handlebars, instead of in the laid back position like on a cruiser motorbike.

For several rides on the bicycle in Fort Worth’s Tanglewood, Overton Park, Trail Lake, Trinity River areas, I had already been collecting notes for a potential blog.  But … frankly … I didn’t think there was enough material from my observations. Oh well:

The Wave

First off, on the bike trail, there’s the issue of the wave, or lack thereof.  It seems weird to me that bicyclists pass within inches of each other on the bike trail, but do their best to be too cool to acknowledge.  Most don’t wave, say “Hi,” or say “Kiss my butt or nothing” (as my dad would have said in reference to nonchalance). This is weird.  Bikers (motorcyclists) wave two fingers to each other across six lanes of traffic at 80 m.p.h.  I mean, I have had strangers — ranging from retired dentists on BMWs to bad Banditos on Harleys — give me the friendly biker wave.  But you mean to tell me these tough guys with their shiny helmets, cute shorts and matching jerseys and shaved legs on bicycles are too tough to greet another rider!?!  Weird.  (Ha … about the most I have heard out of a stranger cyclist is “Hey, wear a helmet” … to which I offered an alternative idea on where to park his shiny Trek. I digress … )

It’s A Bike Trail

Most of the people walking or jogging along the morning ride are nice and courteous.  But then there are some who are — best case scenario — oblivious.  Typically, when I ride up behind them, some know that “on your left” is a warning that a cyclist is about to pass. Others react like it is a challenge to a duel.  Some signal that they heard me by raising their left hand.  Some flash me a really nasty and/or surprised look even though the big sign at the trail head clearly reads “Bike Trail.”  The worst scenario is when people have their earbuds in, are listening to music, don’t hear even the third warning … then they say something nasty as I pass cautiously … because it is my fault.  Cranky old Kent has responded a time or two that “it’s a bike trail” after all.

The Other Left

It seems crazy to take this so seriously, but a few years ago, a woman in Dallas was killed when a bicycle and a pedestrian collided on a bike trail.  I don’t know the details, but I am willing to bet one of the two people was on the wrong side of the trail.  Of course it is keep right, unless you are passing, just like on American streets/highways.  Ha … at least once every day, I throw out the obligatory “on your left” and the pedestrian counter-intuitively hops to the left, in harms way.  IF I miss them, I of course, say “the other left.”  Most smile.  Some don’t speak English … and apparently haven’t learned we drive on the right side of the road in this country.

Political Statement

Lately, I have also noticed lots of immigrants from the Middle East and also from The Southern Hemisphere who, when walking toward the bicycle, refuse to yield or step to their right, continuing to walk on the wrong side of the path, even when they see a bicycle approach.  What’s up with that?  They must think I have good brakes.

Take The Short Road

This observation is all about human nature.  Every day, on the same paved trail, I hit a spot where the concrete curves, doubles back, and forms a half circle at the edge of a park, before crossing the road.  I have never seen another cyclist, a jogger, or person walking follow the paved trail.  Everyone — but over-zealous Kent, apparently — takes the short cut and kills the grass.  This might make sense if they were rushing to catch a bus.  Most of them are decked out in running shoes and fluorescent tank tops, acting all iron-person like, and no doubt wanting to text their friends about how they killed a five-mile jog.  But they cut across the lawn — killing the grass — to save themselves 20 extra paces in their “brutal” workout!?! Human nature … cutting corners.

Rescued Yoyo Terrier — More Important Than You

For Pete’s sake, if you are in a public place … any public place, assume that there  probably are other humans in the vicinity … no matter how much you love dogs and hate humans:)  This happened just this morning.  As I approached some woman with her back to me, as she walked her dogs, I called out “Coming up behind you ma’am … On you left.” She kind of flashed me a half-smile that could not hide her disappointment that I may have interrupted Floofy’s poo time.  She stepped to the side and one dog followed.  The other — a tiny, yelpie and delicate lap ornament of a dog, saw this as a great opportunity to test it’s boundaries.  The tiny dog was ‘street legal” so to speak, on a leash … but it was one of those fish reel, or dog yoyo leashes that let the dog run free for about 15 feet … or until they are squashed by a bicycle, which ever comes first.  The dog pulled away from the owner, tugging a red warning string behind it, as it crossed in front of me about 10 feet away.  Did the woman reel the pet back in.  Heck no.  Did I mention I have bad breaks.  They were squeaking, rubbing the last graphite or whatever off of the disc brake pads as I nearly put Floofy in a different statistical category.  But … stopped just in time.

Zyn To Win Soundtrack

Last thought.  Man where would exercise be without iTunes, Spotify, or whatever and some nice earbuds or blue tooth headphones.  What music do you run to or ride?  Interesting.  I shuffle the same 700 songs on the iPhone, whether I am riding a motorcycle or the bicycle.  But it is amazing to note the different effect songs have on me in those two different scenarios.  A mellow rocker by The Doobie Brothers, or Classic Beck or a soulful Black Keys or spaced out Flaming Lips tune can “tell me” to hit the throttle on the motorcycle … But then the same song, when heard on my bicycle, tells me to ride slower and smell the flowers.  Ha … maybe I was just winded.  Anywho … I think pretty much everyone works out to music.  Which reminds me of my dream the other night.

I have an acquaintance who leads spinning classes or Zyn22 on stationary bicycles.  I dreamed I was invited to visit the class, and asked to be the guest deejay.  Ha … the riders in the room were younger than me and probably wanting Bieber or Gaga or hip hop.  I decided they should broaden their horizons.  For warming up, I played the live version of Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin.”  Ha … you should have seen the arms and fists pumping in the air when these ladies, on their stationary rides, heard their first Deep Purple organ solo.  Then we mellowed down and let the ladies chill to Fort Worth’s own Leon Bridges’ soulful “River.”  But I thought the class was going to fall asleep, so we kicked it back into overdrive with music to get the hearts pumping … The ladies had never heard REO’s “Golden Country” before — the live version with the sirens at the beginning … and oh that guitar solo.  I thought their heads were going to explode as they pedaled faster and faster and … So, still in the dream, the ladies said they all thought REO was a soft rock ballad band … or a flavor of Thai ice cream on Barton Springs in Austin (yes there is an OREO Speedwagon flavor at Holla Mode Thai Ice Cream).

Holla Mode Thai

They had no idea that REO Speedwagon was once a rocking guitar band.  But in my Classic Rock bicycle riding dream, it rocked they bootays.

Know what I sayin?