Roam If You Want To

This past weekend I was in a popular vacation spot where I spotted this note-perfect replica of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster:

The verisimilitude was staggering:

Naturally I was delighted and found it hilarious, though by the next day it became apparent to me that the guy just drives around day in and day out waiting for people to notice him, which struck me as kind of sad. Then I realized that as a semi-professional bike blogger since 2007 that is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past fifteen (15) years. So my sadness gave way to compassion and respect for a fellow member of the small fraternity of people who have dedicated our lives to maintaining a running joke for the benefit of an even smaller audience.

Speaking of family trucksters, and vacations, I’ve begun planning for the latter and find myself contemplating the automotive equivalent of a gravel bike handlebar bag, that being the rooftop cargo basket:

Each year we travel stuffed to the gills, and it’s become clear to me we need additional storage. However, my fear is that I’ll be too lazy to remove it and keep it on the other 50 weeks of the year, thereby joining the legions of people who seem to install them entirely for aesthetic reasons. Next thing you know you’re getting all-terrain tires just because you like the way the sidewalls look…which, incidentally, is the basis behind 95% of gravel tire purchases:

Showing up for a gravel ride without tanwall tires is almost as gauche as showing up without a tattoo on your thigh.

More importantly though, I’ve still got to decide which bike gets to come with me, and I continue to lean towards the Homer:

It’s been awhile since I replaced the Gravel King tires with Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, and I continue to be very pleased with their performance–even if I do have to overcome the mental hurdle of the black sidewalls with reflective strip, which is the most un-gravel-est sidewall it’s possible to have on a bicycle tire.

In the meantime, circumstances still compel me to ride on the road, and I’m just gonna go with it so that when I do finally go on vacation after weeks of riding a vintage plastic road bike with massive gears I will really get to savor that mac-and-cheese effect:

Still, even road rides afford the opportunity for contemplation and reflection, and on this morning’s ride I considered what makes someone a “biker” versus what makes them a “cyclist.” One theory I’ve got is that a “biker” is someone for whom safety is a prerequisite in order to ride, whereas a “cyclist”–even if they too demand bike lanes and all the rest of it–are ultimately going to ride no matter what, and on a certain level are even prepared to die. This isn’t to say cyclists are foolhardy or reckless, but it is to say they “have” to do it, and that they will do so even if their municipality does not indulge or encourage them and any “normal” person would think they’re crazy. (I think I had a somewhat different definition of “cyclist” in my first book, but I can’t be bothered to check.) So I posed the following question on Twitter:

Interestingly, it seems that most people would continue to ride, but that they’d also (oddly?) continue to wear a helmet. People have their reasons, but ultimately I think as humans we find comfort in totems, yet we’re also compelled to follow our spirits even in the face of certain death. I suppose it’s a vestige of the same force that inspired our forbears to paddle out into the ocean in tiny boats, or to cross land bridges, or all the other crazy stuff our ancestors had to do for us to wind up wherever we are today. But they carried crests and flags and talismans on their transcontinental migrations, whereas we sport helmets and thigh tattoos and tanwall tires on our epic bikepacking vacations.

Fuck it, I’m getting a roof basket.

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