If I were a cyclist, and I saw another cyclist coming down the road riding a tank like mine, with bulging bags clinging to the sides and a sleeping bag strapped on top, I know I would say something. I mean, obviously that guy has a story to tell! If a guy walked in a room with a suitcase covered in souvenir stickers, you wouldn’t hesitate to holler his way. Cyclists are stuck-up, though. When I spot one I look up, meet their eyes, and shoot them a smile, but usually, if I’m lucky, I only get a little finger-wave. I don’t even get a grin. With their spandex and jerseys and stupid shiny sunglasses they are obviously lost in daydreams, pretending they are doing the Tour de France. They see me and pretend I’m a Frenchman cheering them to victory.
Adam and Brandon were of a rare breed: they work at a bike shop, but they weren’t pricks! On their Wednesday off-hours they were going for a ride and could have just zoomed past, but instead they slowed down and chatted me up. The chat turned into a talk which turned into a multi-hour adventure. We rode up the Schuylkill Trail, went by a fruit stand and picked up cherries, strawbs, and mangoes, took them to a park with a lake and threw the pits to the stagnant-water catfish. Turtles clamored up a floating log, trying desperately to hang on, and we jeered at them like drunks at a horsetrack. Back on the bikes, we passed abandoned factories as they fed me with precious local insights. Reading, Pennsylvania is the place so rough, “the hookers pick up you.” “Jawn” can be used as a placeholder for just about anything - “Let’s go sit under that jawn,” “Let me get a picture of that jawn.” A hoagie is not a sub and a sub is not a hoagie. By the end of the ride, I was so Pennsylvanian my driver’s license started changing colors.
We said goodbye as the nuclear smokestacks down the road barfed out plumes that looked like rainclouds (it actually started raining later, which worries me). Adam and Brandon had to go back. Adam, though, said if I ever needed bike help I could give him a call. Now there’s a model cyclist. You can forgive him for the jersey.