Saturday, December 28, 2013

Off the Rails

The past couple of years, about this time I turn into the Cycling Santa.

I zip-tie a Santa hat to a helmet, antlers to the front of the bike, and blinking colored lights to the frame. Last year, I did this with my Salsa Casseroll, but this year it all went on Sparkletini. The shiny stuff on Sparkletini made it look very festive.

Decked out in this fashion, I then try to get out for a few bike rides in more populous areas -- usually slower trips into downtown Franklin for lunch or shopping. Last year and this year I was also able to do this ride on Christmas day.

Now, downtown Franklin is mostly like the downtown area of most small towns in America. It's so small that it's kind of stupid to say "downtown" at all -- not like there's an uptown or an east-side or a west-side. There may be a "bad side of the tracks," but having ridden a bicycle regularly through downtown Atlanta I can tell you that the worst part of downtown Franklin is a veritable garden spot compared to Techwood Homes or the projects of South Atlanta.

However, downtown Franklin is probably a bit more affluent than most small towns on the planet. There isn't really any single big company in Franklin itself, but there are a ton of people in the music industry that live around here, and the town itself is very "touristy." The old movie theatre has been beautifully restored, and now serves beer and wine and shows classic and first-run films, as well as regularly hosting music acts of all genres. The old drug store -- Gray's -- is now a trendy restaurant. They kept the big "Gray's" sign, so it's "Gray's Restaurant."

Bottom line: It's nice. True to its past, but still trendy and functional. And, during the holidays, it's much more Bedford Falls than Pottersville.

So, I did my Cycling Santa thing into town just after noon on Christmas. It was kind of cold, but warm enough that folks were out walking and running and playing with new footballs and stuff. I saw two other riders on bicycles, both of whom seemed to be working hard to get in some kind of workout. There were a few cars, too, but not very many. And everyone got a wave and a smile and a loud "Merry Christmas" from Cycling Santa. Most of them gave me at least a wave and a smile back.

On my return route, going down Old Carter's Creek, I passed a group of kids out playing in somebody's yard. A boy who looked to be maybe 10 years old came running after me, yelling "You come back here! You come back here!" I wasn't sure what he wanted, but decided not to stop. For one thing, I needed to get back, but mostly it was just because I didn't care for his tone. Instead, I yelled over my shoulder, "I'll be back again next year!"

Why do I go to this trouble for a little 20-mile bike ride? Why not stay home and be warm and hang out with my family?

Well, part of it is because I needed a bike ride. I still like riding my bike -- even when it's 45 degrees out. And I like to think that it's fun for the folks that see me. "Oh look, Martha. Santa finished his deliveries and is riding his bicycle. Ha-ha-ha."

But part of it is also to spread a little cognitive dissonance around. As I mentioned, there were other bicycles about, but I wanted people to see a bicyclist who wasn't just heads-down trying to maintain 225 watts for 30 minutes. They needed to see a bicyclist who was out having fun, dressed like Santa, yelling "Merry Christmas." They needed some personalization ... a sense that we are also kindred spirits.

Besides, buzzing Santa at 45 mph and yelling "Get up on the sidewalk" is the sort of thing that gets you on the Naughty List.