Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hood Ornament

Yesterday I pumped up the tires on my mountain bicycle and rode a few miles in Historic Washington State Park. Bicycling is a great way to feel and see this wonderful village, almost as good as walking. I rode instead of walked yesterday because I felt the need for speed and for a little upper body exertion. Yes, upper body. Pumping up the tires is a mini-workout for the arms and shoulders and, even though one does not notice it, bicycling does, indeed, work the muscles of the upper torso, arms, neck and shoulders. Slight aches this morning attest to the truth of my observation.
            As I have written here before, my first job was that of bicycle messenger for Western Union in El Dorado. The other boys and I delivered telegrams and more. Daily, Lion Oil would call for a messenger to come deliver bills of lading to the three railroads and then out to the refinery. And, we provided a service for people who did not want to get out on a hot summer day or in the rain. They could call the office for a messenger to come to their home for letters to mail at the post office. An antacid company even had us handing out samples of their product. So it wasn’t always about telegrams and money orders. One afternoon a lady came in wanting to wire some buttermilk to her son who was away in the service. The boss explained gently and with a straight face that we could not wire buttermilk. But what we could deliver kept the messenger boys busy and built our muscles and aerobic endurance very well.
So, I have tried through the years to use the bicycle for recreation, transportation and fitness. I went for a season without a good bike when we lived on gravel roads, but after we moved back to paved areas, I sold some books and bought the sturdy mountain bike I now ride. I modified it somewhat, adding handlebar extensions, a spoke mileage counter, a tool kit, a frame pump and some lighting. I always wear my bicycle helmet and one of those bright reflective vests that adorn highway workers. People look at a gray-beard riding a bicycle as if I were an out-patient from a mental ward, but, in the state park at least they seem to understand. I suppose they think, Oh, that old fellow is getting a little exercise.

Seriously, though, a bicycle is a very efficient machine, transferring energy to motion in a very straightforward way. It is an economical mode of transportation that does not pollute and it does not harm the environment in the least. So motorists should be courteous to the cyclist and let him or her have some room. I have heard it said that bicyclists are urban deer. But I can guarantee you that this old urban buck will not bound out in front of your vehicle. I do not wish to end up as a hood ornament.

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