Miles Today: 86
Miles to Date: 11,968
States to Date: 28
Closing in on 12,000 miles and spanning the breadth of Texas makes me an expert of sorts on one ornery aspect of distance cycling: heckling. Heckling is rare. Based on the counting and extrapolation my mind wanders to on long travel days, I figure over a quarter of a million cars have passed me so far. More have hassled me in Texas than all other states combined, but they still only number a few dozen. Yet hecklers loom large in my memory. Here are the seven forms of heckling I’ve endured so far, in order from what I consider most disgusting to almost delightful.
- The Ashtray. Getting flicked with ashes from a passing pick-up passenger is the worst heckle I’ve suffered so far. It stings.
- The Exhaust Cloud. I first got this in Yosemite National Park. A truck passes me, slows down, shifts into the shoulder, and then guns their engine, rocketing a plume of smoke in my face.
- The scold. This heckle is the unique province of female drivers who are more interested in shaping behavior than displaying dominance. They slow their mini-vans down and yell at me, “get on the sidewalk.” Legally, cyclists are supposed to be on the road. In Houston a Hispanic woman chastised me to a sidewalk, even though there was none.
- The honk. This is the most common heckle. It can be two beeps or a long, drawn out honk. Though some drivers may mean it as encouragement, it is still annoying. When I am riding lawfully I never acknowledge a horn, even when accompanied by a friendly wave. I don’t want to encourage it.
- The swerve and skid. A hot shot slides into the shoulder in front of me and peels away. This is the most benign testosterone surge. Without an exhaust plume it’s neither dangerous nor uncomfortable. It’s easy to laugh away.
- The spritz. I’ve only been squirted with water once. It was a warm afternoon and felt pretty good.
- The joke. This heckle is actually fun. Two guys came upon me in Grant’s Pass OR. They shouted “nice ass”. Unfortunately for them, the light before us turned red, which allowed me to catch up. “Glad you like my butt.” I grinned at their odd taste in men. “We like to shout to cyclists but always say something nice. I explained that, “Telling a sixty-year-old man he’s got a nice butt is much more than nice.”