As you might be aware, I’ve enjoyed cycling this past summer, and I’m stretching it into autumn. I’d really like to keep going another month, or maybe until it starts to snow, which might be February, if this winter is anything like last year’s. With the temperatures dropping for breathtaking autumn rides, I just bought a streamlined, moisture-wicking jacket at Target — not the one I saw for $75 at Dick’s. The much cheaper jacket I bought is bright orange, so I should be seen pretty well by passing motorists.
Riding on the country roads I mostly take isn’t too dangerous, though Cindy often worries for my safety. But rural drivers, I’ve found, are friendly and accommodating, and usually see me on my bike, perhaps accustomed to keeping an eye out for slow-moving tractors and old, beat up trucks carrying loads of corn. Indeed, small town drivers are quite hospitable, as evidenced by their yielding at four-way stops. The town we live in has one traffic light, only because cutting through the town’s northern edge is U.S. 40, which used to be the cross-country route before they built Interstate 70, which runs parallel with the old two-lane highway. Otherwise, there is but one other intersection, and it features a four-way stop. I have not once stopped at that intersection — or the ones in Eaton where I work, a small town itself, though five times larger than where we live — where another driver insisted on proceeding first. In fact, a car could be sitting there for five minutes before I will have arrived, and the driver would still wave me through. Yes, rural folk are a congenial lot, with a wave of the hand or tip of the cap during the day and a flash of the lights at night: “You first.”
When I described three years ago for my twin sister Becky the town where we were moving, she could imagine nothing other than the town in the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm, where a Chicago sportswriter retires to a rural town to write a novel. She would ask, “How’s it going in Funny Farm?” I kept telling her we didn’t have a rural mail carrier like the one in the movie who would speed by Chevy Chase’s mailbox, tossing envelopes and packages out the window. We don’t even have a mailbox. Instead, we had to get a post office box. When I give people our mailing address, saying “P.O. Box Number Eleven,” they always hesitate: “That’s it? Just eleven?” “Yep, small town.”
Moving to farm country in Ohio from the rust belt city of Toledo at least resulted in Becky’s finally learning how to say rural. Despite that we are twins, we had only a couple of classes together in all our years of school — not including three years of private school, which I don’t count as real school. Our sophomore year, the two of us, as well as our cousin Shannon, had Driver’s Ed together. I don’t know if the one-semester class is still offered at Kofa, but back then it was taught by a veteran teacher, who might have taught our mother about changing lanes and — was it Mr. Webber? — who drove a Volkswagen Thing, which was older than we were. I don’t remember how it happened, if we were reading aloud, but Becky said something in class as we reviewed instructions for driving on rural roads. When she got to the word, she pronounced it fully with two syllables like this: roo-rowl. She would insist for some time that her pronunciation, despite that it sounded ridiculous and like no other word in the English language, was correct. She could be quite stubborn, a trait both of us must have inherited from one of our parents, though I won’t name any names.
Yes, biking on rural roads is pretty safe, especially since I can see behind me for a hundred or so yards with the little mirror, which is slightly larger than a dentist’s mirror, attached to my helmet. I’ve only had a couple situations that got my blood pumping fast, when a driver didn’t see me at first, but these were in Eaton traffic. A word of note for drivers: If you come to an intersection or are leaving a parking lot and a cyclist is approaching and he should have the right-of-way, please give a nod or something that indicates you have seen him. The cyclist gets quite anxious wondering, Does that driver see me?
And if it’s me, give me an encouraging hello wave. Oh, what am I thinking? These country folk will do so whether they know me or not. Such nice people.