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Bicycles Part 2 An Epiphany of Sorts

Alan Carter

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I've been riding my bike for around 7 weeks now, pedaling around 20 to 25 miles a day, weather permitting, except for weekends. I have to stock up on nachos and beer sometime, after all. I've gotten pretty comfortable with it and haven't had any major problems. One minor spill, but that was just to satisfy the guy at the bike store who told me there are 2 kinds of riders- those that have fallen and those that will. I guess now I'm part of that fraternity.

One slight change in my demeanor. When I first started and came up on someone walking along, I would say, very politely, “Excuse me, I'm coming up on your left. if you wouldn't mind, kindly allow me to pass. Thank you so much. " Now of course, I rule the road. It's “get outta my way you miserable %*@(*# piece of weasel vomit! This road is mine. " At least that's what some people must think I said, given the looks I get. Kind of like the bike messengers downtown.

Disclaimer: I'm sure most bike messengers are courteous thoughtful riders who obey all the traffic laws and respect the rights of pedestrians and motorists, but the ones I've encountered recently have practically ripped my clothes off in their wake as they roar by, ignoring the lights and everyone on the street.

Actually, most of the encounters I've had have been quite friendly; a tip of the helmet from other riders, a nod and a sometimes cautious “Morning" from the walkers. Of course I'm riding out in the ‘burbs where people are a little suspicious of someone not in an SUV, one cell phone glued to their head, texting on another, so they don't want to take any chances, lest I turn on them.

I've been taking a route through a nearby forest preserve (I've always thought “forest preserve" sounded like something Ewell Gibbons had on his morning toast) and it's pretty nice. It's big enough that a lot of the traffic noise goes away, there are not a lot of other people, and the biggest hazard seems to be the piles of horse poop in the middle of the paths. Which got me to thinking. Why aren't equestrians required to bring along pooper scoopers for their steeds? Big shovels and trash bags should do it. You could fertilize a whole garden with one of those patties.

I've seen a few deer giving me the eye, like “yeah, it's our ‘hood. You can stay for a little while. Just behave yourself. " Actually, they're right. They were here first. I've had squirrels, chipmunks, and, not surprisingly, an increasingly larger number of rabbits skitter across my path, playing chicken with the big bad bicycle. It's how they get their kicks, I guess. The Canadian geese, with their superior attitude, still saunter along, daring me to cut them off, knowing what'll happen to me if I do. (The helmet serves double duty, a feature I was unaware of. )

So I'm riding along last week, enjoying the scenery and solitude when it suddenly hit me. This is my mid-life crisis in full bloom. A bicycle. This is it? A frickin’ bicycle? All along I thought I was buying the thing for fun and as an excuse to get out of the house more, but apparently I was wrong. It had a much deeper psychological meaning. It said, “the mirror is no longer your friend. Young women offer you their seats on the bus. Retrieve your youthful virility. " But a bicycle?

A lot of guys with this affliction (It is a guy thing, I think. Do middle-aged women covet a new Corvette? I don't know. ) would run out and get a Harley or a boat or go climb a mountain somewhere in Switzerland. You know, something big and splashy. Or find a trophy wife. I would never consider that, of course. I've been happily married for 40 years and love my wife more and more every day, now and forever. Truly I do.

Anyway, I almost tipped over when this revelation reared its ugly head. 400 bucks for a bike and that's it? Talk about lowered expectations.

Disclaimer #2: Don't get me wrong. A lot of people would be thrilled to be able to invest that much in their paunchy sedentary middle-aged lives, and for many more $400.00 would let them buy food and medicine together for a change. But still. . . .

So now I've pretty much faced the realization that this is it. The big splurge. Recapture my youth in a less than grand gesture, very tame and understated. No throaty rumblings of chrome and steel, no windblown surf slapping at the hull, no rappelling down the Matterhorn. Just the low steady hum of 2 wheels on a quiet wooded path, my mind freeing itself from the trials of modern life and my body relishing the long absent activity. And as for the trophy wife, well, at the risk of sounding way too syrupy, I married her 40 years ago.

My name is Alan Carter and I design and build custom contemporary furniture and accessories at my studio in Lisle, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. All my work is meticulously handcrafted from fine domestic and imported hardwoods and veneers. My work ranges from small keepsake boxes to complete room ensembles. I can work with you to create something unique, perfectly suited to your taste and style.

You can see it all at my website,


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