Whistling Dixie Past
The Graveyard, And
Against the Wind, Too

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
— Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

By Patrick O'Grady

  I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time keeping my eye on the ball, cycling-wise. Developments in our little world are easily overshadowed by real news, like the Dixie Chicks winning the Nobel Peace Prize, which was suspiciously Grammy-shaped, or the untimely passing of the noted artiste Anna Nicole Smith.

  Elsewhere, though his missions accomplished had long since devolved into Little Big Horns, Gen. George Armstrong Bush was furiously tooting his little tin horn for yet another war as a Valentine's Day present for Darth Cheney, and anyone who suggested that a box of shotgun shells and a six-pack would suffice was a Dixie Chick times ten. Congress was acting congressional, which is to say it was doing nothing of consequence. And everybody but Anna Nicole Smith was running for president.

  There were a few velo-tidbits to ponder, for those into drugs and lawyers. Discovery Channel discarded its wildly successful pro cycling team as if it were a used hypodermic needle found in an adult bookstore. Floyd Landis and the Untouchables continued their expensive and soporific tour de farce ("I know you are, but what am I?"). And the French refused to let Unibet.com race in its team kit because — well, because they're French, n'est-ce pas?

  Oh, Lord. By February I couldn't watch any more, not even for money. This is how people find themselves up in towers with firearms. So I stuffed the camping gear and a cyclocross bike into the Forester and got lost.

  Running Down the Road. I've been running away from home for years, though I have a comfortable house, a part-time job that can be called work only because I get paid to do it, and a wife who rarely treats me as I deserve.

  These impromptu flights of fancy almost always end in some sort of spectacular crash. When I was a sprout in Virginia, I had a cheap set of handcuffs as part of a sheriff's getup, and one day I used them to lock my mother in the bathroom — one shackle attached to the bathroom doorknob, the other to a closet doorknob — then shucked off all my clothes and scampered about outdoors until Mom clambered out a window and collared me for a lesson in public comportment that, oddly, never quite took hold.

  Some years later I fled Colorado for Missouri and a job selling Bibles door to door. That I resembled the Presbyterian Christ was of no help whatsoever — I soon was broke, sick and hungry, forced to hitchhike to a friend's house in Iowa, where I cycled through a grim series of dead-end jobs that sent me screeching back to my small-town college as if it were a combination of Harvard, Woodstock and Shangri-la.

  Trying to Loosen My Load. At present, I am at large in Arizona for the usual psychological and meteorological reasons. I didn't take up this sport to ride my bike in the basement, so I spend a week every February bombing the trails in McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside Fountain Hills, trying to jump-start my mojo, replacing cranial sludge with blue skies and sunshine.

  Oddly, the change of venue didn't do the trick this year. I didn't exactly crash, but I never really got airborne, either. I did plenty of riding and running, sketched a few faint tan lines, but it felt like whistling past the graveyard, especially once I broke camp and went to town to see what the world had been up to in my absence.

  Now I'm northbound again, headed for home, and the weatherman says there isn't going to be much in the way of sunshine and blue skies up that way. Seems I'll be spending a lot of time indoors. However will I pass the time?

  Maybe I'll write a Grammy-winning song, get a job in the mainstream media or run for president. How hard could it be?

This column appeared in the March 1, 2007, edition of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

u n c o l l a r e d

  "Mad Dog Unleashed" is the column I write for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag based in Laguna Hills, California. When I started writing it in the early Nineties it was called "A Consumer's Viewpoint," because while I had spent a good deal of time in bike shops over the years, I had never actually worked in one. Plus it was plain to management that while I was willing to work cheap, I had all the business acumen of a banana slug. The column was rechristened "Mad Dog Unleashed" when it also became apparent that I had a ravenous appetite for the hand that fed me, and over the years it has devolved into a platform for me to expound at length on all the other topics about which I am entirely ignorant. Occasionally bicycles are mentioned.

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