Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gotta look safe out there.

(My racing friend asked me to dress "visibly" for the feed zone of the MO State Cycling Road Race last week so that he could spot me quickly as I handed him his hydration and nutrition when he rode by. He assured me that EVERYONE would. Everyone did not. Only me.)

It has taken me some time to adjust to not being "hot". I think that I was cute when I was young (at least I had hair). I can say with some pride that I don't have any empty places on my romantic resume even as far back as 7 years of age.

A couple of years ago, however, as I was driving my gas tanker through Princeton Indiana, I passed by a gas station where the local high school cheerleaders were having a car wash. Two of these young ladies, dressed in modern fashionable bikinis, were near the street trying to entice drivers into the car wash. It looked like it was working. As I drove past they began to pump their right arms up and down, giving me the signal to pull the cord on my air horn. To their delight, I obliged. They smiled at me and waved a most friendly wave.

All of a sudden I realized that they were not seeing me as potential romantic material, but probably as a grandfatherly figure. A grandfather who pleases his grandchildren by blowing the air horn for them. In fact, I reasoned, just the thought of a romantic encounter with me would have probably made them feel a little sick. That made me feel a little sad. If I ever had "it" to begin with, "it" was gone, and would never return.

Fast forward to last weekend and the bike race in Ste. Genevieve Missouri. Do you remember the woman who had Duchess on the lead? She was hot. So hot, in fact, that a teen-age boy near us had his mouth hanging open and his tongue hanging out as he stared at her. She was so hot that when I took the photo of the dog, I asked her not to be in the photo. I told her that my wife would kill me if I took pictures of other women while I was out of town. This woman was so hot that when I pointed her out to my friend later, he said he had been checking her out earlier.

But she considered me safe enough to leave her dog with, and later to sit with. I looked safe. You can see by the picture, that I looked like a nut. Looking nutty is probably interpreted as looking safe.

In fact, as I began walking back to the start/finish area later, another good-looking woman near us offered me a ride with her. And she actually said, "You look safe." (Gone are the days when fathers locked up their daughters when I came to town in my Marine Corps dress blue uniform.)

In fact, I maintain that if you want to ride your bike safely, you need to look just a little nutty. I have style conscious friends who will ride in a complete "kit" that is mostly black. They have no reflective tape on their bikes, and their headlight and tail light only have one LED each. That's ONE for the front and one for the back. ONLY ONE! They want to look like racing pros not a little nutty, like me.

I wear a high viz reflective vest when I ride, and I have two headlights on my bike and one on my helmet. (I leave them attached even in the daytime.) I have two tail lights on the rear of my bike and at least 6 pounds of reflective tape covering every vertical surface of my frame. AND I fly an ORANGE SAFETY FLAG on a 6 foot long fiberglass pole!

On a group ride, most of the riders pretend they don't know me. I don't blame them. I don't look "hot" like them - I look safe. There was a time that "hot" would have been the deciding factor. Today is not that day. Today, I want to look safe. At least to motor vehicle drivers. They may think I look a little nutty, but if they have seen me and are able to make this assessment, then I'm probably a little safer.

I will admit, however, that I still wish that father's would feel they need to lock up their daughters when I roll into town. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

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