Dispatch from Packwood, the end?

I awoke to the soothing touch of my dear Clarissa on my brow and the purring of a large cat on my chest. As it turned out Clarissa was not speaking sweet nothings to some dirty-boy in suede from some dank misty northern city known for grunge, glass, and falling bridges as I feared but to a kitty-cat that she was trying to feed and befriend.

‘Rupert drink this, it is pure new Postum.’ Crooned Clarissa. ‘That homemade crap you had in your pouch stank of valerian root, chamomile, and cat nip. Your mix might be suitable for a sleeping tea or stuffing a mouse for this kitty to play with, but certainly not proper fuel for an intrepid randonneur intent on spirited adventure. I am surprised you did not use poison oak for tp or for lining your sleeping bag as well. You should not go off on your own like this. Audax only for you from now on Mr. Self-destruct.’

Having no words in response I simply buried myself in her reflective vest and wept for joy, but my reverie was short lived.

‘You there! Bike boy! Where have you been on my handmade cycle all this time!?!’ The furious man in his blue shirt with his middle-european accent had found me! I leapt to my feet and declaimed my innocence.

‘What took you so long? Please release me from having to ride this chromium contraption! The tubing choice does not suit my spirited riding style, the archaic front derailer shift-rod interferes with my swirling knees as I spin with effortless efficiency, the lighting is sub-par, the bumply fenders exhibit poor lines, I had to replace that damned two-ton bottom bracket with a shimano and that shoddy home-made stem I was about to replace with a nitto technomic because of the endless creaking emanating from the steering pin, but I could not because of that damned disguised light switch in the cap! In short, Your Bike Sucks!’

I threw down my gauntlet of harsh but truthful criticism for his own good, but did he appreciate it? Gods no.

The leader of the blue shirts retorted. ‘I am rather surprised at your comments about my cycle. You people have no idea the work that goes into a true constructeur built randonneuse! The hours spent filing and polishing and in google groups seeking truthful and useful information. This bike has a minimum 300 hours invested in lively debates on the Randon, 650b, and ibob lists! Do you realize how many times I was banned from tarckbike.com seeking wisdom? How dare you criticize my personal work as if it is a simple matter to please your own gauche taste with an idiosyncratically designed and executed work of artisanship! You are not the end-all and arbiter of the worth of my cycle! How dare you think this cycle should suit your tastes perfectly.’

I pitied the poor sod. ‘You sir, are such a poor excuse for a leader of cyclists. Do you not realize that we must pursue perfection in all things? To merely be good is to be forgettable – do we not engage in all pursuits to beat our personal best, to bury our triumphs of yesterday in today’s new achievements lest all our efforts become dross, the mediocre efforts of the forgotten multitudes? To be merely a participant is not enough for we must challenge ourselves to new heights of perfection and beauty in all things!’

I could tell I was not winning the heart of the leader, but I was noticing the rest of the blue shirts were starting to kneel and abase themselves to my great words and honest criticism. I could have continued my oration and gathered a new cult about myself (Lube my chain! Polish my randonneuse!) but I have enough minions under my sway in the readership of Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting.

At this point the shop keeper of the gas station addressed me. ‘Hey you, chubby guy. Git yerself and yer foreign buddies the hell off my property, You uppity foreigners are as bad as them injuns on the reservations (why the hell they let them into the country in the first place is mind boggling, almost as mind boggling as that gov’ment interference with my medicare, and them mexeecans seem to think California was theirs first or sumpthin) and I am not about to let you illegals loiter around and steal my job and country. Now Git!’

In the ensuing panic and confusion we immersed ourselves in a huge band of cyclo-tourists, a roving band of Americans and Chinamen, and eluded the evil blue shirts for good, but lost the kitty cat.


Rupert T. Smedeley, road test editor, cookery editor and arbiter of fashion


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