Pedaling to Palisade

When you’re pedaling around in a new place, it can be hard to avoid recalling something Ernest Hemingway wrote about bicycling.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

Ernest Hemingway, White, William, ed (1967). By-Line, Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades by Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 364.

In our case, the place is not entirely new, but pedaling our way from Grand Junction to Palisade for coffee on Saturday morning revealed more than our multiple drives in recent years to vineyards and wine tastings.

For any of the hill-shy among us, the route we took involved none of the sweaty climbing Hemingway had in mind. One slight, short incline – barely a bump in the road – got our attention on the way to Palisade and we didn’t even notice it on the way home later. 

Contours or no contours, exploring a place by bicycle gives you a chance to see and feel your new environment up close, with time to absorb some of the truth about it.

We rode the scenic river trail from near Corn Lake to where it intersects with D 1/2 Road, then turned north onto a quiet 33 1/2 Road, then east on E 1/4 Road, then north, then east a few more times until we were almost 10 miles from home in front of the pleasant Slice O Life Bakery for pastries and coffee.

Don’t get me started on how the roads are named around here. I may get used to it, but I don’t really care when I’m on a bicycle. You discover that you don’t have to remember to go either east or west on North, then take a right or left on 34 3/10 Road (or was it 36 1/4?), then angle northeast on Front to where it merges with G and the name changes.

You can stay on the trail until it ends at a bend in the road, keep the Book Cliffs in front of you until you’ve crossed the canal, then take the next right at the old red-trimmed house on the corner.

The Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway signs are helpful, too.

Pedal on.

B.J.

My tweet about #cycling was paranoia?

On the eve of Christmas Eve, yours truly took exception to some Twitter mini-screeds in which people who ride bicycles were slandered as paranoid #BikeZealot whiners who think every driver on the road is out to kill them.

This was fun.

Pixabay image

I said, “Assuming that motorists are often careless, drunk or otherwise dangerous and deadly isn’t cyclist paranoia. It is a basic survival skill for anyone on the road.”

My favorite response to that:

Your whole tweet is paranoia.

I was also labeled nervous, scared and more:

Bikers who are that scared of drivers and have preconceived notions like that don’t belong on the road.

Obviously a guy can’t let that go unanswered, so I politely observed that the difference between situational awareness and paranoia is difficult for many to grasp.

“Let me put it this way,” I added. “Don’t trust anyone driving a motor vehicle (me included), and also assume any nearby cyclist is about to do something stupid. IOW: Pay attention.”

The guys (an assumption, maybe a preconceived notion) liked that. They saw the light. They agreed with me and appreciated that I had called out “bike twitter,” who surely wouldn’t appreciate that. Clearly some preconceived notioning was going on.

The problem with bikers that whine on here is that they don’t believe in co-existence, they want cars gone for good.

Horrified as I was that someone might think I was on their side against people who ride bicycles, I tore myself away, turned out the lights, and got a decent night’s sleep.

If I’d thought it would make any difference to anyone, I might have gone on my own rant – not calling it that, of course – about motorists who whine when they have to share the road, about how our society is hopelessly addicted to driving, and about the enormous harm we do ourselves and others because of that addiction.

Driving a car has its place. I drive sometimes. Until working from home became a requirement rather than a choice nine or so months ago, I occasionally drove from Longmont to Boulder and back. More than 95% of the time, I rode the bus. I bicycled part or all of that nearly 40-mile, round-trip commute many more times each year than I drove.

I don’t want all cars gone for good. Just most of them.

Pedal on,

B.J.

Beware the little cyclists (and big people, too)

Experienced cyclists like Mrs. Smith and yours truly know a good bit about avoiding road hazards. I learned some of that the hard way – once by going too fast around a curve on an asphalt trail that was covered in wet leaves, for example, and once by hitting a rough railroad crossing at a bad angle in the rain.

Some of the scariest moments on a bicycle involve children, the scary part being fear of running into and hurting them. After witnessing a number of hazardous situations the other day on some busy, beautiful trails in Summit County, I thought it might be good to state the obvious that is not obvious to everyone.

  • You are not quick enough to avoid hitting a child who swerves into your path if you are riding as fast as you want to. Slow down. Trust me. A child walking or pedaling on a trail or anywhere else will be in your way at some point. They are learning.
  • Many adults are still learning. Some never will.
  • Don’t assume a cyclist or pedestrian you’re passing hears you say, “Passing on your left.” Not everyone has good hearing, and many others are listening to music or podcasts.
  • Far too many people will not give you a polite “Passing on your left” as they approach you from behind.
  • You cannot trust anyone who is driving a car, truck or other motor vehicle. That includes me. We are human and we all make mistakes, not to mention those who are drunk, texting or otherwise negligent.
  • You cannot trust other cyclists, so be responsible for your own safety. I’ve had a cycling friend yell out that a road was clear to cross only to see him nearly hit by a speeding car a second or two later. Always check for yourself.

Summary: Pay attention.

Pedal on.

B.J.