When Houses Fly
You know the old saying. If man were meant to fly, the Department of Intelligent Design would have procured no-bid wings for him. Although my agnosticism and science education disqualifies me from debating that issue, there is a corollary to that old saying which I believe that I am qualified to debate. If houses were meant to fly, they would be more aerodynamic.
Up north, we do things differently than they do here in Arizona. I know, you don't care how we do things up north. I understand that. I don't much care for the way a lot of things are done up north either. But please consider, just for a moment, that there may be room for some meaningful cultural exchange on the topic of residential aviation. Here's a story to illustrate my position on this topic.
About 15 miles into yesterday's ride to Tucson, I encountered a house on a flatbed trailer. At the time it was not moving, as it appeared to be waiting for a police escort. The house was easily a lane-and-a-half wide. Moving it down the single lane highway seemed to be a fairly precarious endeavor. I made a mental note to keep an ear tuned behind me, just in case it was heading my way. I also thought that maybe I would never see it, since it was likely to be moving pretty slowly. Back in the northeast they move things like this from time to time and they generally move them very slowly. If I got a few miles head start on it, I'd probably beat it to the next rest stop or turn.
20 minutes later, a state trooper flies past me in my lane, followed by another, but this one was moving against the traffic in the oncoming lane. They were apparently sweeping the road ahead of the house. I was wondering why they were moving so fast. It seemed to me that they were going to get too far out ahead of the house. But, maybe they were just leap-frogging to the next intersection where they would block off traffic until the house came by. Then they would fly up to the next intersection.
While I was trying to figure all of this out, I heard what sounded like a tornado behind me. Looking back, I could see it was the house. It too was flying along at about the same speed that the troopers were moving. I moved quickly to the edge of the narrow shoulder and slowed to a crawl just as the house flew by. Wow. That was some shock wave. Back home, something that big might move at 10 - 15 mph with plenty of escort. Out here, however, it seemed they handled things a little differently.
Fast forward a couple of hours. I had just finished the bulk of the climbing for the morning, and was descending toward Tucson. As I was flying down the mountain (although not as fast as that house was flying), a state trooper passed me going the other direction with lights flashing. Then another. The second car was in my lane, moving against the flow of traffic. I'd seen this before, so I had a pretty good idea what was coming. I pulled off the side and stopped to put my foot down. A head-on version of the shock wave I felt in the morning would have been pretty nasty.
Sure enough, there was another flat bed flying toward me (you have probably figured out by now that all of the references to 'flying' in this entry are figurative). Anyway, this flatbed did not have a house on it, but it was about the same size as the house. Maybe a little taller. It went by me pretty fast, so I did not get a good look at it. The shock wave was pretty harsh, as I expected. Shock waves aside, I would hate to see what would happen if the truck flatted a tire, needed to dodge a wandering cow, or came up on a car that had failed to get out of the way.
I clipped back in and headed down the mountain toward lunch. A few minutes later as I was descending, another trooper flies by me moving in the same direction as the flatbed. Another wide load? No. He was alone. And, he had his siren on, moving even faster than the earlier escorts. It was not until I arrived in Tucson a few hours later that I learned what he was up to. The shock wave from the wide load had knocked a cyclist down. The cyclist took a trip to the hospital in a helicopter. She was released the same night, so luckily it was not as bad as it could have been.
So, getting back the cultural exchange idea. I think there is room for improvement in the way wide loads out moved out here in Arizona. Cyclists and their individual judgment aside, moving such large and awkward load at high speed seems to be pretty dangerous. Perhaps someone at the state will take note of what happened, learn from it, and consider slowing these loads down.
Speaking of learning, I have a 'Lessons Learned' item for today...
There is this poser thing that cyclists sometimes do when they get off of their bikes. It goes like this. After dismounting your bicycle, you roll it up next to the curb. Then you spin your crank arm backwards until the curb-side pedal is touching the top of the curb. Then you let go of your bicycle. The pedal stays put, because it is now pinned between the curb and the resistance of the drive train. Voila. Improvised kick-stand. Cyclists do this to simultaneously demonstrate both their innate cleverness, and their political position on kick-stands.
While riding to Tucson yesterday, I joined an afternoon pace line with three of the 'fast group'. As a result, I arrived at the motel ahead of schedule and before the bike racks were set up. As I was about to lay my bike down on the ground, I noticed two other bicycles leaning against each other. How clever, I thought. I should participate in this impromptu engineering art exhibition. So, rather than lay my bike on the ground, I did the curb poser thing. As I stood around talking with some other cyclists about the absurdity of trying to break the sound barrier with a house, a strong gust of wind blew my bicycle over. Maybe that was the Director of Intelligent Design's way of letting me know just how easy it is to send a bicycle crashing to the pavement with a gust of wind. As if I needed another reminder after today. Or maybe it was just bad luck and stupidity. Whatever the reason, the result was a crack in my expensive carbon fiber frame.
Lesson: Clever can be stupid.
(Friday's) Ride Summary
Route: Sierra Vista to Tucson
Distance: 86.5 miles
Speed (avg/max): 17.3 mph / 42 mph
Riding Time: 5 hours 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 43 minutes
Power (avg/max) 134 watts / 599 watts
Calories Measured at Wheel: 2,391
Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 95 bpm / 190 bpm / 143 bpm
Miles this Year: 1295