Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Our Ford...

I can really understand why Steven King wrote Cujo as his revenge against the Ford Motor Company for selling him a Pinto. My Contour has a remarkable appetite for switches. Several burned out in the dash, including the one that controls all the lighting. When it went, the only working lights were the headlights. This led directly to an informal meeting with the local constabulary one evening.

Saturday night, the driver’s side power window went down and refused to come up again. I tinkered with it on Sunday and actually managed to get it to go up once. It promptly went back down. Of course, in managing that feat, I’d disassembled most of the interior. There really isn’t much to a power window, only a switch assembly, a relay, and a motor.

Monday, I went to the Ford dealer to get the relay. They didn’t have one, nor could they find one in their computer. This should usually be regarded as a bad omen. But they’d have one the next day.

Tuesday, I went to work early so I could try to get the car finished in the afternoon. Just before I was to leave work, a co-worker came inside and said that it was about to rain. I drove home instead of going to the dealer. In the driveway, I closed the door, then thought about tinkering with the window switch, so I pulled it out and wiggled the wiring on the back. The window went up!

It’s been up ever since.

This kind of nickel-and-dime stuff makes me crazy. I like this car, but it’s these little things that really make me appreciate my bike all the more. At least I can fix them fairly easily.

If it weren’t for having a family, I probably wouldn’t own a car. That might be impractical for living in suburbia, but it has a certain appeal. Picture a tidy, well, mostly tidy, yard surrounding a house without a car in the driveway. There’s never a car in the driveway. How subversive is that?

But the kids have to be taken here and there. Groceries have to be carted home, and with a fourteen-year-old son, there are a lot of groceries to cart! Sure, I could do all this with a bike and a trailer. But there’s another, more compelling reason to have a car. Mary has an adult form of muscular dystrophy. She may have the strength to ride a bike, but any kind of fall requires a long recovery. She’s terrified of falling.

I’ve tried to coax her onto the back of the tandem without success. That may have something to do with her dim view of her husband’s ability to control a bike. And I don’t believe that she’s alone in believing her husband is a klutz. I tried again last night. “I’ll think about it”, she said. That means I have a better chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot while being eaten by sharks and struck by lightning simultaneously.

So my family needs a car. Still, I liked what Sandra wrote about being car-lite instead of car-free. I use the car when I need to, but most of my basic transportation is on a bicycle.

That brings up another interesting divide. A co-worker attended the local Wednesday night ride yesterday, and he noted that almost everyone there was on a shiny new bike. Nary a dusty old Schwinn to be seen, let alone a high-mileage commuting bike. These people are primarily recreational riders. They wouldn’t ride to work or ride in heavy traffic. Yet transportation cyclists do this everyday.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not demeaning recreational riders and I’m certainly not trying to imply that they’re not ‘real’ cyclists. Almost all of us started riding for recreation. But there may be a perceptible difference in the way we approach road rights.

Recreational riders are happy to use low-traffic roads, trails, and sub-standard facilities. This is a gross over-generalization, of course. But in broad terms, they aren’t as interested in road rights because they simply aren’t affected much.

Those of us who ride for transportation have a different attitude, well, those of us who ride on the road rather than the sidewalks. When we need to get from home to work and back, we travel on many of the same roads used by motorized commuters. Our right to use the public road is important, fundamental to our transportation mode.

A co-worker was talking with me today about last night's group ride. "Those people are on high-end, very expensive bikes!" he said. "All of them are spotless and new. I rode my old Raleigh and people were sneering at it!" He's one of those guys who are perhaps excessively concerned about what other people think.

"Ride with them until the first hill, then drop 'em!" I recommended. From my point of view, the rider is the important part of this, not the bike. It's the ride that matters. I'm not a big fan of the Wednesday night ride because it has a reputation for lawlessness, but I'm very tempted to do it on one of my ancient fixed gears before the season ends.


Blogger George said...

If you wife is afraid of falling (and I don't blame her one bit) buy her a recumbent trike. Our LBS had one for something like 6 or 700 hundred bucks. That's a lot of money but if she wants to ride-it might be worth it.

My wife tried the tandem thing and it terrified the hell out of her.

My wife has a really nice hybrid but she doen't ride much :-(

4:15 AM  
Blogger hereNT said...

You need a ride like our sat night ride out here. People get sneered at for having shiny new bikes - even more so if they're wearing matching lycra ;)

12:41 PM  

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