No, this is not the first time I’ve taken on this particular subject — and it indubitably won’t be the last. Why? Because Summit County — like an old, stubborn three-legged German Shepherd — just doesn’t change.
Specifically, I’m talking about the residents of Summit County who travel during the brief summer months on two, human-powered wheels: cyclists. Watching visitors from Michigan and Wisconsin mill about the Roadhouse Room last night at a rehearsal dinner, my friend B and I lamented the acrimonious phenomenon that is the cycling “community” of Summit County. In other locales where I have tortured myself via bicycle — Italy, Oregon, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, even other places in Colorado, specifically Loveland — the folks with spokes are a bona fide community. People wave back when you wave; heck, they even wave before you wave.
Here in Summit County, if I don’t wave, no one waves; if I do wave, they might wave. Everyone’s egos are so in control that they push the glimmer of a smile off a face like snow in an avalanche. The worst culprits (in order of worst-ness):
1. The ladies. In Summit County, a pair of ovaries is all one needs to become the crustiest turd this side of the Mississippi. Personally, I find it refreshing to see other ladies raging on dirt or pavement. Apparently, I’m an endangered species.
It makes you wonder: are they any nicer in real life? *Retrieves Magic 8 Ball. Shakes Magic 8 Ball. Turns over Magic 8 Ball and reads, “My sources say no.” Relinquishes Magic 8 Ball because Magic 8 Ball is — as usual — right on the money.*
2. The Young Punks. These are the dudes raging up the mountain with so much matching spandex and seriousness that you’d swear they were actually competing in something. And they’re very rarely thrilled to see a lady slipping past, which baffles me because there are like 18 of us in Summit County. Wouldn’t you — as a male — be a gentleman and at least say hi? Apparently, chivalry is dead.
Case in point, the homeboy who pulled onto Highway 6 just in front of me the other day. He ramped up the speed and tried to drop me, but I got my time-to-play shorts on and sped up, too. Unfortunately (I guess) for him, he couldn’t drop me and I passed him just before the turn to Keystone. I said “Hello!” as I passed a few feet from him on the left. Not even a nonchalant nod. Unless he was Helen Keller disguised as an hostile-looking, Sidi-wearing, frowning young man, I know he done saw me.
3. The “Master Blasters”(thanks Holly for the awesome term). I’m specifically talking about the older dudes — because, as I’ve touched on before, Summit women from the ages of 13-93 are equal opportunity haters. Old dudes, however, tend to grimace and ignore — or to stare at you frostily as you approach with a polite “On your left” and smile as you pass by.
Oncoming older gents for some reason enjoy a good ol’ fashioned suspicious stare-down, as if you’re wearing an “I Hate Old, Angry Republicans and/or Old Angry Men” t-shirt. Baffled, you smile, and they don’t even blink in their vehement determination to make you scared and/or slower with their unwelcoming stare. WTF? I’m just trying to get some exercise, man.
It’s not all bad, though. Some of the best culprits:
1. The “Master Blasters”. I’ll admit, they’re a bit of a wild card. Either they stare you down like they’re fixin’ to pull out a shotgun and teach you a lesson old-timey style or they give you a thumbs up, a huge grin or the best “Good job young lady!” that you’ve heard all day.
2. The big-wheelers. As our good buddy Graham pointed out (probably the last time I ranted about angry biker people), “The bigger the tires, the nicer the folk.” True story: visitors on hybrid rental bikes, folks out on their townies, mountain bikers — as bigger wheels roll, smiles return. With one exception of course: ladies on bigger wheels. Beware the mountain biking woman, who somehow manages to simultaneously cut you off, look you up and down and pretend not to see you at all.
3. Squirrels. They run every time, regardless of what anyone does — but not in a malicious fashion. And they act like they’ve imbibed a potent combination of Adderol, caffeine and Whip-Its. Maybe that’s why squirrels can’t figure out how not to run into the road nine times when a car is coming.
Of course, the invert of Number 2 is true: the smaller the tire, the bigger the ego. Just for kicks, I decided to see on my ride up Vail Pass yesterday morning (before the daily tsunami) if the numbers proved my point. The Pass, luckily for me, literally teemed with bikers — everyone from mom in her sundress clutching her handlebars like the family fortune to Master Blaster Bob clutching his red bar tape with red and black gloves that matched his red and black helmet, Specialized Jersey and spotless red and black Mavic road bike shoes.
The first lot smiled, waved and acted like human beings that happened to be on bikes (and in so doing, withdrew themselves from my impromptu survey out of sheer niceness). So, I chose the latter as my study group: the serious types, the spandex-wearers and only the folks riding up the Pass (since half a dozen sports outfitters around the County drive people up to the top of Vail Pass and let them loose like a happy, cotton-clad gaggle of googly-eyed geese).
In order to forget that my thighs burned like a wind-blown wildfire, I kept track of how many avid cyclist types responded to my greeting (or extended a greeting first) with a smile, nod, wave or verbal acknowledgement. First round: 9 out of 20. Second count: 9 out of 20. Curious… I thought it seemed to coincidental to be true, so I counted for a third time. And Summit County — never one to let me down — one-upped itself… by one less greeting: 8 out of 20. Well, Summit County: you ain’t friendly, but you sure are consistent!
So in total, 26 out of 60 people acknowledged me — that’s 43 percent of folks who get kudos for nailing basic courtesies. I began, at a certain point, to find it comical: me smiling at all these wrinkly, crusty old women who look like they’re having about as much fun as a polar bear in a hot yoga class. It’s easy to throw in the T9-covered shop towel entirely and say:
But last night I bartended at a rehearsal dinner for some folks who primarily hailed from Louisiana, Texas and the Carolinas. A hundred guests in total and they swarmed the bar in a ceaseless manner, showering my co-worker Kevin (fondly referred to as “intern” by Tyler) and I with friendly banter and good humor. One guy from Seattle gave us sliders from his own plate after overhearing that we might be hungry. The groom’s mom, Carol, asked us repeatedly if we needed chairs to sit on, food to eat, open windows for ventilation, and on and on.
So actually no, humans don’t suck. Although, Summit County humans might…
Or maybe everybody’s just wearing spandex two sizes too small and it’s cutting off all circulation to their gravel-addled brains. Or maybe Summit County folks are mostly aliens from the distant, dusty planet Mooka Mooka who never properly what to say after, “Hi.” Whatever the reason, the misanthropic vibe in Summit County is stronger than a Gin & Tonic minus the tonic.
I basically see that I have two options at this juncture:
1. Keep on keepin’ on (aka, keep slathering more nice on a the crusty Summit sandwich).
2. Or, hire and train a herd of freshwater cat-sharks to exact revenge:
I’ve already contacted a breeder, just in case.