Like Life Itself, Cycling Involves One Potential Hazard After Another

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.

If I can help even ONE Cycle365-er to avoid getting poked in the eye by a wayward finger, I will consider it worth the effort.

When riding through the woods, watch for falling trees that could crush your bike. Consider this a Public Service Announcement.

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.

Hi. My name is Greg and I ride my bike a lot. That is to say, I ride my bike almost every day. I go on long rides and short rides. Sunny rides, cloudy rides, and rainy rides. I like commuting, errand-running, day-tripping, overnighting, and touring on my bike. I ride on city streets, highways, gravel, single track, and snow with equal enthusiasm. Sometimes I ride fast and sometimes I ride slow. I try to keep my feet on the pedals at stop lights and I do not dismount when I hop up on a curb. I have a roadie bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike. I try to accept any challenge a bike ride can throw at me without complaint. But I don't like bugs.

10 response to "Like Life Itself, Cycling Involves One Potential Hazard After Another"

  1. By: NancyG Posted: February 1, 2021

    I especially like the poke in the eye photo. Good thing to be prepared for on any ride.

    Somehow, I would have guessed your history with cub/Boy Scouts. I never made it past 6 months of “Brownies” let alone entering the Girl Scouts. I was too busy playing by my own rules, building forts and hideouts with my many cousins who lived close by (mainly boy cousins) and had no interest in selling cookies.

    • By: gregblood Posted: February 2, 2021

      You little rebel, you. After reading Emily’s and your stories, it looks like we could have formed a gang of wild rebels. I have to wonder: are all young rebels destined to become dedicated bicycle riders?

  2. By: The Navigator Posted: February 2, 2021

    I always wanted to be a boy scout. When I was a kid, girl scouts did girly things I had no interest in – sewing, cooking, etc. I did earn my “okra is ok” badge before bowing out (who knows where someone found okra in IN). Girl scouts get to do cool, adventurous stuff these days… now that girls are allowed in boy scouts. I firmed up my atheist beliefs in 4th grade and refused to say the “under god” part of the Pledge of Allegiance for the rest of elementary school. At sixth grade graduation, I led the pledge with the top boy student in my class. It was a big deal and honour, blah, blah, blah. I was incensed and didn’t want to do it (I was already not a ‘rah-rah, go USA person even then). My parents made me. So in front of everyone, I recited the pledge, but still did not even mouth the “under God” part. A girl has gotta have principles 🙂

    • By: NancyG Posted: February 2, 2021

      Good for you Em. I love this story.

    • By: gregblood Posted: February 2, 2021

      If you and Nancy and I would have formed a youth rebellion gang, (see reply to Nancy above) you definitely would have been our leader.

      For some reason, I find “okra is OK” to be a great name for a badge. I don’t like okra though, so I probably could never earn the badge.

      • By: The Navigator Posted: February 3, 2021

        I don’t mind okra fried or in jambalaya. I don’t recall how it was served then, but I must have eaten it! 4th grade was pivotal in my ‘rebellion’ – the summer before I had a very bad vacation bible school experience (I went with my cousins because we got to go to the waterslide at the pool as part of it) that made me realise that Christians often don’t act very Christian. Then the Gideons came to hand out their Bibles in 4th grade. I politely declined as we all lined up and passed by a table. Declining wasn’t an option. So I did some very sacrilegious things to that Bible during recess over the next week – guaranteeing my spot in hell. I did not have words for it at the time, but I could see that the Pledge was just like a political form of religion: telling people to obey stuff and exert control over them. I didn’t think you needed religion to enforce decency or a pledge to show you were proud of your home. I couldn’t articulate it, but it was certainly a formative year for me! We also studied planets and ‘space’ that year… which further ingrained my love of science and atheist beliefs. I was a nerd though – a critical thinker, not a rebel 🙂

  3. By: Lednar De Nalloh Posted: February 2, 2021

    According to Huey Lewis it’s ‘Hip to be square’

    Always looking out for potential falling trees and branches, especially when I set my tent up.
    Our eucalyptus trees are known ‘widow-makers’

    • By: gregblood Posted: February 2, 2021

      Yeah, but Huey didn’t sing that until the 80’s. He’d have been shunned as UN-hip in the 60’s.

  4. By: Scooter Posted: February 3, 2021

    I’ve always thought you and I must have something in common Greg, but I could never figure it out. I see now that it’s in our roots though. I too was a Cub Scout not wannabe. I don’t think I ever got my Wolf badge either, but it’s been so long ago that I’m not certain. Rather disgustingly, I find that I too remember the Cub Scout Oath verbatim. Why can’t I toss that out and save some other memory of real value to me? I suppose I can’t complain though – at least I didn’t get molested by my scout master.

    I know that I dropped out before Boy Scouts though, despite strong pressure from the family. Dad was an enthusiastic Boy Scout supporter, and had been a scout in his Appalachian childhood. One of his disappointments in life was that he never attained Eagle Scouthood. He couldn’t pass either the swimming or lifesaving merit badge tests because of an inability to float. He could swim just fine, but when he quit moving he just sank.

    • By: gregblood Posted: February 3, 2021

      Over the years, I’ve learned that you and I actually have quite a lot in common. Now I know that scouting failure is another thing. Thanks for sharing that story.

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