Hazards on the highway

EH3541PErnest Hemingway lived a life filled with adventure, but I don’t believe he ever rode a bicycle across America. He, nevertheless, beautifully summed up the essence of such a journey in a passage of obscure provenance often cited by touring cyclists.
“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,” Hemingway wrote. “Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
All of that is very true. But Hemingway might also have written of the less grand aspects of long-distance cycling. You get up close and personal with roadkill and scavenging buzzards, snarling canines with a laser-lock on your Achilles tendon and the detritus of a wasteful society: plastic bags wind-blown onto fences, amber shards of glass from smashed beer bottles and the ubiquitous Styrofoam.
A cross-country rider also must contend with subtle shifts of the wind and slight changes in the incline of the road that a driver wouldn’t notice, abrupt transitions in the road surface as one passes from one county to another — smooth asphalt or concrete, for example, changing at a county line to cheaper, and much rougher, chipseal — slotted drainage grates that can grab a wheel and throw a rider, fast-moving rain squalls that force a rider to seek sparse shelter in the middle of nowhere, and some roads whose tired surfaces have been patched so many times with tar that they’re like washboards.
Yes, as Hemingway wrote, you do get an “accurate remembrance of the country” you’ve ridden through. But, more often than not, it might be a vivid remembrance of a geezer in a Winnebago whose extended rearview mirror missed your left ear by a hair than of the range of snow-capped peaks on the horizon.



Filed under Cycling across America

3 responses to “Hazards on the highway

  1. Dad,

    The last line in ‘Hazards on the Highway’ is hilarious. I told you I would read your blog.


  2. Ben P.

    Thomas made his first comment!!

  3. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

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