Friday, August 06, 2004

A Real Mountain Biking President

In a southern suburb of Minneapolis, there is a park called Terrace Oaks with a mountain bike trail. A friend and I, mountain bikes in tow, set out for that park to become tried and true mountain bikers. We didn't want to be part of the high percentage of people who purchase mountain bikes but never hit a trail. Now my friend is a top-of-the-line consumer, so his mountain bike came equipped with the clip-in petals, which are sort of like a ski binding in that you have to make an effort to release your foot from the petal. On a mountain bike, once that pedal gets slightly mudded-up, this becomes more difficult.

We were screaming along the path, on a slight down hill. The path was not single trek at this point, so we were side by side with room to spare. But, like all Junes in Minnesota, this one had seen its share of rain, and so it was only a matter of time before our path was obstructed by what looked like a deep mud puddle, stretching across the entire width of our path, and about twenty feet along it. Instinctively, we both stopped as soon as we saw it, and pondered are next move.

My friend clipped into his petals, and tried to proceed slowly through the mud. A slow ride through would minimize the mud kicked into the moving parts of our delicate machines, which can require significant maintenance efforts if not kept clean. Or so we reasoned at the time. But a slow ride also has the drawback of providing rider and bike scant momentum. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a fast body in motion even tends to stay in motion when wheels are peeling through four inches of muddy bog. The same cannot be said for a slow body in motion. He got in about a bike length when his feet came to a slow hault. At that time he had one second when the bike was still balanced upright to kick out one of his feet. He needed two. He fell to his left, mud all over his body and face. And of course I laughed, walked my bike through the mud, and filed the story away in my memory.

Now, there are many things about mountain biking that are completely obvious after you've screwed it up. The after-the-fact obvious strategy would have been to keep our speed and just tear through the mud, and it would have worked. But I don't care how smart you are (and my friend is the smartest guy I know), your instincts tell you to stop the first time you see that obtrusive mud. Anyone who has mountain biked on a trail has probably made a similar stupid mistake.

Another one is locking up your front brake. It's an equation for a one-and-one-half flip with a 180 degree twist, and unless you do it just prior to riding into a pool, it hurts. You only make that mistake once, but you do make it.

Which brings me to the Presidential election, and the tale of two mountain bikers. One - Bush - recently had two mountain biking accidents, the second of which had him doing his Greg Louganis imitation over the handlebars, landing squarely onto his back. Chances are he won't do it again. But the first accident was more in line with the typical hazards of trail riding - it was a fall that anyone could expect to make out on the trail. He may repeat that one on unfamiliar trails, but probably not again on the specific trail he was riding. The local newscaster, in reporting the story, mentioned that the President was riding his new $3100 mountain bike. The relevance of the price of the mountain bike to the story was not explained.

The first fall prompted his opponent to quip that his advisors shouldn't have removed his training wheels. Get it? Bush is dumb and lacks coordination. Isn't that funny? Ha Ha. Kerry has his own mountain bike. In my lifetime, I have only purchased two cars that are more expensive than his $8000 two-wheeler. It has no training wheels, but it has also never seen a trail that wasn't macadam. He's been photographed fully decked out in spandex and acrylic biking gear, taking a treachorous corner of a tarred path, donning an aerodynamic helmet meant to protect that most precious of national assets (take your pick among his hair, his botoxed face, or his nuanced brain) in case the back wheel should catch a spot of goose excrement left unremoved by employees of the National Park Agency. But that will not happen, because John Kerry does not fall, as he was quick to inform agents of the press when, err, he appeared to fall while skiing. But he didn't fall; a secret service agent cut him off, and was berated for it.

And its' a good thing he didn't fall off of his bike, for several reasons. First, if he would have suffered any abrasions, he'd be lobbying to receive his fourth purple heart. Second, the nearest Secret Service agent would have probably been fired. Third, John Edwards would have been hired to sue the National Parks Agency, the maker of the bike, the maker of the helmet, and the family of the Secret Service agent. Why? Because John Kerry doesn't fall, and therefore if he falls, there must have been gross negligence on the part of multiple parties. What did Bush do when he fell? He got up and kept riding. He no doubt was slightly embarressed, but he shook it off.

It's a story of no grand significance, but it illustrates a general character trait of Kerry that is disturbing. I laughed when my friend fell, but it was with the humility borne from the knowledge that, there, but for the grace of God, go I. That knowledge came from my own near and not-so-near misses while mountain biking, and the fact that my friend, who is a good athlete and who is far smarter than Kerry, could still find his left side caked in mud. But John Kerry would never hit the trail, and yet he jokes with the arrogance of someone who is pretending to a status he has not earned. And this, in my opinion, is a metaphor for his life.

Maybe, like Bush (at least in my opinion), he will earn the status he pretends to merit now while in office, but right now his manner suggests that his superior fitness for office is self-evident, not in need of any objective support outside of his own very deep self-regard. Somehow we are expected to believe that his famous nuanced mind will balance in favor of the common good the internal dissonance of being a gold-digging billionaire populist, an ex-war hero pacifist, an ex-war protesting hawk, an SUV-driving private plane flying environmentalist, and a unilateral multilateralist.

Sorry, aint buying it, unless and until the guy takes to the trail, scrapes his botoxed face, and learns a little humility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I admit, I am the guy that fell in the mud. Experience always comes at a price. I know the Hatcher also has a few athletic events he wants to forget but I shall not digress. My comment regards President Bush and Mountain biking. I only skimmed the article so forgive me if it misses the over all point. (Can you blame me skimming? This blog is called Ideas Hatched because so many times the author is just laying eggs. :-)).

Anyway, I know a guy that lives next to a guy that is on President Bush's Secret Service detail. Now when the Prez. goes MTB’ing he does not go alone, even in Camp David (A great place to MTB and very challenging). Anyway, this guy that works with the Prez. is a good athlete, not a cyclist but an athlete and fully capable of holding his own in almost any sporting or athletic event.

His story goes like this. One day out MTB'ing with the Prez at Camp David another member of the detail went down, in a manner that left the security member a bit out of sorts and lying on the ground. If you have ever ridden with your buddies you know most groups would stop, and see that the down rider is okay. In this instance, however, our Prez opted for a different tack. According the my informant, the Prez is obsessed once he starts working out so true to that form, he merely got on the radio with the message, "Man down, Man down," and kept going.

Is this a good or bad characteristic in a Prez? Who cares? He is out there getting after it in a serious manner. If he asked me to ride with him I would go in a heartbeat and try to drop his ass like a bad habit. I bet he would try to do the same to me.

7:17 AM  

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