I have found a number of unusual and quirky objects while out riding my bike. Chuck the rubber chicken was a roadside find. As was Alison the rubber alligator. And Frosty the Pez Dispenser snowman. My latest find is a cast aluminum four-wheel-drive Lightning McQueen toy from the Disney movie Cars.
I found him on my local Saturday morning ride - a 60-mile flat and fast group run through the rural area South and West of my home in Avondale, Arizona. I was riding near the front of the group and at first, Lightning McQueen was just an object to avoid and call out to the riders behind me. All I saw was a set of chubby plastic wheels on what was obviously a small toy car laying upside down on the shoulder of the road. But because I love to find objects like this on a ride, I couldn't help but think about the toy after we passed. I wondered if it would still be there when I ride back by on my way home.
I had an off-day on the bike so took the short route option (cutting off the last 20 miles). I was with a small group so I couldn't stop to grab McQueen as we passed but as soon as I made it back to my car at LifeTime Fitness, I drove back and picked him.
I was happy with the find. He's a colorful addition to my collection of things found on rides. Except for a nasty scar along the driver's side of the hood and roof, he is unscathed enough to look new.
Part of the joy of finding these objects is imagining their story, what sequence of events led to the random chance coming together of this object and a 45 year-old recreational road cyclist out for a training ride. How did Lightning McQueen come to be laying upside down on the shoulder of the Southbound land of Bullard Avenue, 100 meters North of Yuma Road in Avondale, Arizona and five minutes past 7am on Saturday, April 12, 2013?
I imagine that he's been there all night, left there sometime after the sun went down Friday evening. Imagine that Lightning McQueen was a birthday gift-bag item for a seven-year-old boy's party held the previous weekend (he's too expensive to be a fast-food giveaway and maybe not quite big and expensive enough to me a directly-bought toy for a child). McQueen was left in his family's car by it's young owner and the owner's mother, driving home from the 7pm Zumba class at LifeTime, handed the toy to her 30-month-old daughter who was fussing and needed something to keep her occupied for the twenty-minute drive home.
It's a nice evening, not so warm as to need air conditioning and not too cool to leave the windows down. The rear passenger window is down half way. The child continues to fuss and manages to throw Lightning McQueen into the space between the two front seats. The mother, who is alone in the car with the child, manages to hand it back awkwardly to her daughter (who is sitting in the right-hand side of the bench seat in a forward-facing car seat. The child wants her mother's attention, or food, or wants to express displeasure at being trapped in the car seat, so she throws a mini fit and flings the toy out the window. Lightning McQueen travels from the grubby hand of a 30-month old into the cool, fresh night air, scuttles along the hard asphalt first on its hood and roof, then tumbles the last twenty feet, ultimately coming to rest safely off the side of the travel lane. He sits there, upside down, and until our large group of cyclists pass it by the next morning, he is undisturbed.
I also imagine that before he was purchased to be included in a gift bag at a 'Cars' themed party for second-graders, he sat on a shelf at Toys R Us. He got there in a box with 48 other Lightning McQueen's just like him, in the back of a semi-truck trailer from a distribution center to the store. He traveled inside that box with his siblings by rail in a shipping container from the port at Long Beach, where he was offloaded from a freighter that originated in China. He made it onto the ship in the container direct from a manufacturing facility thirty-five miles from the port of Shanghai. Before being placed in the box and into the shipping container, he was an assemblage of pieces and parts, some molded right there in the same facility, some brought in from other manufacturers in the region. The raw materials to make those components were all sourced in China.
So from aluminum ore dug out of a Chinese mountain, to a smelter, to a mold, to an assembly and finishing plant, into packaging, into a box, into a container onto a railway car, onto a ship, onto another railway car, into a distribution center, into the trailer of an American cross-country semi-truck, onto a shelf at Toys R Us, into a gift bag at a second-grade American boy's birthday party, into the home and car of a local second-grader, into the hands of their younger sister, out the window of their mini-van onto the side of Bullard Avenue in Avondale, Arizona and into my hands, that is Lightning McQueen's story.
What have you found on a bike ride? And what is its story?
Road cyclists are a snobby bunch. They can be superior, smug bastards who act like they are on the right side of so many of life's little balance sheets.
I don't know where it comes from but I see in The Dude Who Found Me and some of his riding friends.
Maybe that sense of superiority comes because they are fans of an obscure European sport - the at no true American understands (or wants to understand). Knowing some foreign words and being comfortable rattling off the names of mountain-pass roads in exotic locations around the world can make a cyclist feel smarter than the rest of us.
Maybe they feel superior because when you compare their physique to Joe NASCAR fan picking through the day-old donuts at the Circle K and realize they'd win a 'best-looking legs' contest every time. The fussy dozen hours a week of spinning circles with their legs and obsessive-compulsive approach to diet (ever see a cyclist mix Oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and Nutella together for breakfast) give them low heart-rates, normal blood pressure and healthy cholesterol by default.
Maybe their sense of snobbishness is merely a defense mechanism - an emotional shield put on to hide the raw fear of death of grave injury they face every day when riding on public roads. Let's face it, in any confrontation with an automobile, the skinny guy on the 15-pound carbon bike with the ineffective suit of Lycra armor is going to lose.
The sometimes smug and superior attitude of road cyclists can make non cyclists think they are tools. So it's nice that someone has taken a shot at exposing road cyclists snobbery for what it is.Thanks WeAreSausage.
Advocacy organization People for Bikes put together a video of all the shit cyclits say about their riding - mostly to each other. I hear the Dude all over this. Take a listen and see if you hear yourself.
And from Portlandia - a look at how that city's cyclists view their place in the world. Thanks Fred Armisan:
The Dude Who Found Me, finally, took me out for a ride today. 76 miles from his shitbox McMansion in Arizona suburbia to the top of South Mountain in Phoenix and back. It was a beautiful day to be out on a bike (as if there are any other kinds of days when you're out on a bike) and the nine friends who he rode with were less douchy than his usual friends so in all, it was a good day. And has me thinking that maybe he is going to step things up for 2012. so to motivate him subliminally, I set this video to play every time he opens his browser
See you out on the roads...
Cyclo-cross, it turns out, is what road bike racers do in the wintertime because they can't take time off from training. Essentially, the rig up a version of their road bike with knobby tires and race on little circuits in parks and farm fields. Apparently, it's a very big sport in Belgium and American road racers tend to latch on to super Euro things like this so I guess it's no surprise. Although why they don't just take up mountain biking for the winter. Or better yet, skiing.
With skepticism, I decided to learn more about this sport after finding some articles the Dude Who Found Me wrote about cyclo-cross. I am intrigued by the fact that cyclo-cross racers seem to be happiest when the weather is the coldest, nastiest and dirtiest it can be.
One of the starts of cyclo-cross in America is a young man by the name of Jeremy Powers. Like everyone else in the world, he has a reality show about his life. His runs on Vimeo.com. It's a neat look into the daily lives of a guy pursuing an off-shoot of the beautiful sport that is professional road cycling. Here are the episodes from this season so far.