Another Month, Another Challenge, and Another Ancient Story
Way back when I was in the third grade, I became a Cub Scout. Pathetically, I only lasted about six months before washing out of the program. I never advanced beyond “Bobcat” which is the lowest rank in all of scouting. I never earned a “Wolf” badge or “Bear” badge, and I certainly never advanced to the big leagues. (That would be the Boy Scouts.)
It wasn’t that I couldn’t complete some of the projects required to earn badges. I liked whittling, exercising, building and racing little airplanes with rubber-band propellers, etc. The obstacle to my success was the citizenship tasks–things like memorizing the Pledge of Allegiance and the Scouting Oath [see footnote], learning how to tie a necktie, handling the American flag properly, doing good deeds, volunteering for community service, and developing business skills.
The “business skills” thing was the final straw. It involved selling light bulbs door to door, collecting the money, and making change. The more light bulbs a kid sold, the more recognition he got. Let’s just say, I got very little recognition.
Another thing I remember from way back then is the bicycle safety course. I didn’t need that at all, I thought, because I could already ride no-handed and jump curbs without crashing. But the scout leaders insisted on teaching us to stop at all stop signs, watch out for pedestrians while riding on sidewalks, ride on the right side of the road when sidewalks weren’t available, and use a strange set of hand signals for stopping, slowing and turning. They made no sense to me at all, what with those bent elbows and stuff. If you had to signal at all, which I doubted, why not just point in the direction you wanted to turn, with the hand on that side? And if you had to stop, why not just pull to the side of the road and put your foot on the curb? That’s how I did it, and that’s how I still do it.
I’m not saying all my bike riding theories were smart though. I remember routinely weaving from one side of the road to the other in order to be on the opposite side of cars. If one was coming from behind, I’d move over to the left side of the road. When one approached from ahead, I’d move back to the right. Sure, that system probably added a little distance to my ride to the ballfield, but it made sense to me. (I should mention that I quit doing that in my college years.)
Oh boy! That story sure was an unnecessarily long way to get to my main point about scouting, which is this: The scouting motto was “BE PREPARED.” I don’t remember if I appreciated it at the time, but I sure do now. Cycling, like life, has many hazards and I actually enjoy taking them on. But I also try to always be prepared. I believe preparedness and experience has saved me many times from such hazards as ice & snow, hypothermia & hyperthermia, dehydration, heavy traffic, storms, and No Vacancy signs. Plus, I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and suffering.
It’s the completely random and unseen hazards, which nobody can really prepare for, that are the most dangerous. The invisible ice. The daylong ride in beautiful sunshine that results in bright red sunburn. The thorny blackberry branch that reaches across the bike trail at eye level. The car door that suddenly opens up in front of you. The wet blacktop that cakes your tires and bogs you down. The bolt sticking out of a light pole that rips into your flesh. Despite my best attempts to always be prepared, I’ve fallen victim to all of those things.
I’m going to concentrate on unexpected hazards for this February Challenge since I’ve already bragged extensively about the obvious Minnesota winter hazards over the last three months.
Now I will finish with a couple of pictures of unexpected hazards. I took them before the February Challenge officially started, but I’m posting them anyway. I don’t care if they’re disqualified for being too early.
The following advice might seem a little contradictory considering you will be out searching for hazards this month — on purpose –but here it is anyway: STAY SAFE OUT THERE, FOLKS!
[Footnote] But memorize it I did, and I still remember it to this day: I, Greg Garceau, promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my country. To be square and to obey the law of the pack. The entire oath was embarrassing, but especially the promise to “be square.” In the 60’s, being square was NOT COOL.