This Niche Is Your Niche, This Niche Is My Niche

In curating this blog over the years, I’ve made frequent use of certain images. These eventually became what in my day we used to call “inside jokes,” but what people now call “memes.” There was the Lone Wolf:

There was the Time-Traveling Retro-Fred from the Planet Tridork Bret:

There was Recumbabe:

And of course there was Bibshorts Guy:

Then of course there was a boat called the “Just Kidding,” which I used when I wanted to make it clear when I was in fact just kidding:

Some of these images would often pop up outside the context of the blog, and sometimes this was indeed the whole point. The Time-Traveling Retro-Fred from the Planet Tridork Bret, for example, was a stock photo, so you’d find him in all sorts of places, and it was always a delight when a reader would alert me to yet another manifestation. Indeed, he’d appear on everything from magazine covers:

To loaves of bread:

In the case of the Lone Wolf, he was no stock photo; he was the genuine article and a god among men, and occasionally I’d hear from people who had the good fortune to meet him:

As for Bib Shorts Guy, he was the model for the Wikipedia entry on bib shorts. As far as I can tell this is no longer the case, and I must say that while the new guy appears to be pretty fit, he is completely lacking in character and charm:

But I do recall hearing from friends and/or family of Bib Short Guy at one point, and if I remember right they seemed to enjoy his appearances–or at the very least they never threatened to kill me.

As for Recumbabe, I have no idea where she came from, and I don’t think we’ll ever find out.

Then there was the Just Kidding, and its affable crew. The simple result of a G**gle image search for the phrase “Just Kidding,” I must confess I never gave them much thought outside of the context of this blog, nor did I ever think I or any of my readers would experience an extra-blogular encounter with them. But just this weekend a reader emailed me to tell me he’d spotted the good ship at the 5:35 mark of this video:

Here’s a closer look:

It delighted me to learn that the Just Kidding is not only still plying the seas, but is apparently in fine fettle, with its hull completely free of barnacles and seaweed. Based on the video, it sounds like the Just Kidding is moored in Newport Beach, probably just steps from the frozen banana stand:

I confess that at some point years ago I noticed that the original link to the Just Kidding had disappeared, which made me wonder if perhaps the hosts wondered where all this traffic was coming from, decided they didn’t like it, and took the photo down. If this is the case, I do hope the owners of the Just Kidding know that I meant no disrespect, and that my use of this image is merely intended in the same whimsical spirit in which they presumably named their boat. I like to think that owners of the Just Kidding are long retired and living their best lives, and that their jaunty wave is meant to convey that they don’t give a fuck about anything, but in the best possible way.

I’d even go so far as to say that each of us dreams of one day finding ourselves the captains of our own personal “Just Kidding” and sailing off into the sunset. Maybe it’s an actual boat, maybe it’s a condo in a warmer clime, or maybe it’s just a really nice bike. Hey, if your “Just Kidding” is a lawn chair, a kiddie pool, and a 12-pack of beer then you’ve arrived just as surely as they have. Whatever the case, they are Al Czervik sticking it to the Judge Smailses of the world…or at least that’s what I choose to believe, anyway:

Meanwhile, back on shore, the DOT would like to remind you that bicycles are not a niche form of transportation:

I wholeheartedly agree–though I continue to revel in my singlespeed mountain bike, which is undeniably a niche form of recreation:

As I noted recently, a bike like this can be of limited utility in an urban environment–and yet, when you’ve only got an hour and want to get a little ride in, there’s no better bike for ducking into the nearest swath of greenery and flitting about on some trails where maybe you’re not “supposed” to ride, at least strictly speaking. And it can be quite liberating to head out the door with just a bike and whatever’s in your pockets–though by some standards I was woefully unprepared:

Of course I realize that as an inveterate city-slicker I have the luxury of not having to carry lots of stuff. I also realize there are people who ride in much more forbidding environments, and who disappear for days at a time, far from human contact. Therefore, any commentary I make concerning what they may choose to carry is akin to Ed Rooney telling Mozart his latest composition has too many notes. I mean, not only do I ride secure in the knowledge that in the event of an unrepairable mechanical I can always call an Uber, but I can’t even fill up a single saddle bag! Still, this kinda feels like the desert equivalent of the Minnesota Humblebrag:

I mean…paper clips, really?

Every so often I’m riding on like a Wednesday afternoon or something and I see someone on a garvel bike with about 300lbs of luggage on their bike. “Where could they possibly be going at this time of day?,” I wonder. Generally I try to give them the benefit of the doubt–perhaps they’re heading out for a long bike camping trip and they were late leaving Brooklyn. But could it be the gravel trend has gotten to the point where people are loading their bikes up with pour-over coffee makers and titanium sporks and paper clips and postage stamps sixteen different widths of strapping tape even for their afternoon rides, in the same way that roadies now use $3,000 crabon race wheels just to ride a few easy laps in the park? Maybe they read stuff like this and get such big adventure boners they pack all their bike tools plus the contents of both their junk drawers and their medicine cabinets and then go ride up and down River road. It would certainly explain the sudden proliferation of laden bikes with flared drop bars in the immediate vicinity of the city limits.

Again, that’s not directed at the writer in particular, who presumably lives and rides someplace where winding up a sun-bleached skeleton is a very real concern. Moreover, I’ll freely admit I’m a “woosie,” and that my idea of “loaded touring” is sticking a beer and a bathing suit in a bag and riding to the beach:

Somehow I always wind up more loaded for the return trip, go figure:

It’s important to know your limits.

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