• Editor’s note: As the year winds down, I’m taking a page from the mainstream-media playbook and reprinting a handful of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. This one was published in the Jan. 1 edition.
Nobel? No way! Prizing
bicycle people and that
peaceful, easy feeling
“And I know you won’t let me down.” — Jack Tempchin, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”
By Patrick O’Grady
The bedside clock showed 4:20 when I woke, and I thought groggily, “Yes, please.”
It was in the realm of possibility, after all. I was in Colorado, where 420 is not just a time of day, but a state of mind.
Unfortunately, instead of stoned, I was merely rocky, awake far too early in an undistinguished hotel after a backbreaking week spent emptying and cleaning our old house for its new owners.
A little of the old whacky-tobacky might have been just what the doctor ordered for this extended hump down memory lane, which had caused me to set aside my lucrative professional career (making stuff up) for the low-rent amateur gigs of my youth (cleaning other people’s real estate and lugging their possessions around in a van).
I had brought a bike along with me from New Mexico, but this was a bit of wishful thinking on a scale that abandoned simpleminded optimism for the rarified heights of blithering idiocy.
We’re talking December here, in Colorado Springs, with leaden skies, a bitter wind and icy roads. And with the wife minding the store back in the Duke City, there was simply too much work for one person to do before our real-estate deal went down.
So the only cycling I did during the entire trip was in Albuquerque — first, to the rental outfit to pick up a big white Chevy Express van, and then home again when I dropped it off. Seven miles total. Half of it downhill.
Hope springs eternal. To ride a bicycle outdoors for even such a short stretch is an act of purest optimism, of course. Without optimism, we’d all be pounding treadmills in front of the TV, enduring spinning classes down at the Y, or smoking herb by the kilo.
The experienced cyclist never knows what will issue from that automobile window once it’s rolled down: a burly fist with middle digit extended; some rough language; a weapon of some sort.
In the face of a deterrent like that, it’s optimism that sends you down the road and optimism that brings you home again. Who knows? Maybe the appraisal came in good, the buyers finally got their loan, and the closing will proceed as scheduled.
Check your email. But not on the bike, please. That dude in the Dodge looks like he’s already having a bad day.
Contact high. I am not an optimist by nature. But bicycle people have helped me become just a little bit less of a pessimist.
The real-estate agent who handled the sale of our house with skill and assurance — first, when we bought it from one of my Dogs At Large Velo teammates, and again a dozen years later, when we sold it to a brand-new teacher fresh out of college — once owned a bike shop on the northeast side of town.
The dogged electrician who resolved a perplexing wiring issue crucial to the deal likewise was a former shop owner, as was the selfless mechanic who collected a box of my old bike parts to use in his side gig refurbishing two-wheelers for the needy.
It’s a pity that all these gents are no longer running bike shops, putting happy people on brand-new bicycles. But they took something away from the game when they left — the knack of putting a satisfied smile on an anxious customer’s face.
Nobels and whistles. This is one of the many reasons why I was not surprised to learn that some folks think the bicycle should be a candidate for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
Massimo Cirri and Sara Zambotti, the hosts of the popular “Caterpillar” program on Italy’s Rai 2 radio network, argue that the humble two-wheeler “is the most democratic means of transport available to humanity,” an “instrument of peace” that reduces pollution, triggers no wars, and unlike the infernal-combustion vehicle actually generates a measurable cash benefit to society—16 cents for each kilometer pedaled.
Cirri and Zambotti have begun a petition for presentation to the Nobel Committee, and hope to deliver it in February via bicycle relay.
I myself have dabbled in pacifism. Hey, I can dig it, man. If you don’t count that one time I was channeling The Jesus vs. Walter Sobchak scene from “The Big Lebowski” during a right-of-way debate with a motorist, I feel totally unwarlike when I’m riding a bicycle.
And now that the former Chez Dog in Colorado Springs is finally in the paws of its new owners, I hope to get right back to cycling for peace.
In fact, for my next long road trip to another state, I’d like to pedal right past the rent-a-van place and just keep on going. Instead of bedding down at the Hotel California, maybe I’ll just sleep in the desert, with a billion stars all around.
That’s all I need to get that peaceful easy feeling. But feel free to smoke ’em if you got ’em, Dude. Especially if you can’t get to sleep with all these musical references in your head because you hate the fuckin’ Eagles.