|Hey, Missouri ain't so bad! View from my Uncle's house at the Lake of the Ozarks.|
It's interesting to see how much the same and how differently we perceive places from our past when we return after so many moments spent elsewhere. For instance, the warm, outdoorsy smell of the coatroom in my childhood home transports me directly back to myriad moments growing up. I am Tumbleweed, waddling up from the pond with specks of mud in my bright blonde hair. I have just returned home from a high school cross country practice, filled with hope and certainty. I absorb this smell in my clothes, and it always lets me know my last stop was home. It hasn't changed, and I still feel a warm peacefulness when it greets me.
Experience has given me the tools to see some parts of home differently. For instance, the Kansas City area is, perhaps, not the most progressive area in regards to road cycling.
I get it, when I was a teenager driving our curvy, shoulder-less roads in my big red truck, I would despairingly shake my head at the crazy cyclists I had to swerve around. My part of Missouri is not optimally safe for bicyclists. However, it's architecturally no more dangerous than the sweeping, narrow roads of Tuscany, which is a verifiable cyclist haven. I decided to give MO a chance on my new bike, which deserved to log some miles, and maybe I'd find that I could bike at home.
I met up with a group of riders at a local bike shop on Saturday morning. I was the only female in our group of 20, and the only rider below 40 years of age. Despite leading bike trips every week with Backroads guests of an almost identical demographic, I was intimidated. I realized that I had forgotten to attach my new water bottle cages, so I quickly grabbed my multi-tool and screwed one on in the parking lot. Total noob.
I easily settled into pace with the boys (my God, I should after riding in Tuscany!). We were aiming for a diner about 16 miles out, then we'd retrace our pedals back to the shop. We took relatively quiet roads, with decent visibility for cars. With every "Car back!" we would more or less fall into single file, not with military precision, but respectful enough.
Ten miles into our ride I heard a driver laying on the car horn behind us. We were already single file on a long straight section, but the car wasn't passing us. When I heard a loud, "You stupid Mother #&%@!D$, get off the road!", I realized the driver was taking his time to greet each one of us individually before driving on. The guys at the front of our group were training for an upcoming race, so they were drafting and pacing with each other in a group. The nice gentleman driving the huge silver SUV really had fun with this group, swerving back and forth pretending to hit them.
I can empathize with drivers being frustrated by cyclists on small roads. What I refuse to understand is how someone thinks it's funny to play their gigantic SUV against a human being on a bicycle. Do you know how easy it would be to kill the person on the bike??
The driver finally pulled ahead, and we all breathed a sigh of good riddance. Until we came over the next hill. By the time I got there ten guys were off their bikes and huddling in the middle of the road. I slowed to a stop at the back, and heard the story lightning bolt down the line of riders. The redneck driver in the SUV had left his car in someone's driveway and waited for our group on the side of the road. When the front group arrived, the dude reached out and pushed one of the riders into the ditch. What. An. Idiot.
|Rider pile up; you can barely see the jerk who pushed the rider off the road waving his arm in the very front.|
Besides having technically assaulted a person, the driver quickly found himself in the middle of 20 cyclists who were not on his side. Poor planning. Colorful words continued to be exchanged back and forth, and a lawyer in our group called the police. The Sheriff and three cop cars later, the altercation was eventually dissolved, but not without the Sheriff asking, "Why are you guys riding on this road anyway?"
Apparently, Missouri state law states that cyclists can ride two abreast on approved public motorways (we were on a legal riding road). But, as we learned, just because we're on the right side of the law doesn't mean we're safe. Missouri is not different from Tuscany in the quality of its biking roads, it's different in its mentality. Drivers in Italy are part of the cycling culture, they are used to and respect riders on the road. Missouri drivers feel that we are illegal aliens on their territory, which makes us targets.
I'm going to keep riding in Missouri, because I want the cycling culture to change. But you can be goddam sure my helmet will be on and my senses alert.
Add another moment to my sponge.
|Safer riding trails around Smithville Lake. Step by step...|