Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What Do I Have in My Pocketses

When you're Ma, you end up with a lot of weird stuff crammed into pockets, bags, and otherwise affixed to the bicycle.

You can take a road ride with a stapler in your jersey pocket (needed for before-school garden club registration, on the way to to the ride)

Loose change found on the road: a no-brainer.

The occasional hammer, scissors, screwdriver, etc. that fall off of contractor trucks. I can't seem to pass these things up.

A gigantic Bowie knife (found on the edge of a very obscure road up on the ridge), complete with case (found 10 feet down same road) in your jersey pocket makes it feel distinctly like you're riding with a sword strapped to your back for the 35 miles it takes to get back home. Take that, vile automobiles! I don't even want to know what the other cyclist who passed me from behind just before I got home thought. (Note the ballpoint pen, for scale)

Many and varied groceries, musical instruments, sporting equipment, and other detritus of family life in the suburbs.

A 10 lb box of satsumas (on SALE!) balanced across the handlebars.

This morning was one of the weirder ones, though. Yesterday, when I was out on a road ride, I noticed a huge drop of good-sized acorns along side the road, and decided to return later to retrieve them. Necessary for Thanksgiving, don't you know? The experimental acorn bread made earlier in the year was good enough to warrant further experimentation, especially as those were the few puny acorns from the initial drop and not the bigger, less buggy, more numerous ones from the main October drop. I had spotted two corners that looked to be good collection sites, with lots of acorns, and some modicum of a safe place off the edge of the road for me to collect.

It was the mountain bike and a backpack for me this morning, as I thought it would be fun to ride the dirt along the train tracks on the way over to the collection site (and maybe there would be more acorns or other local feral delicacies to be had), instead of the commute bike with the large pannier bags.

Ooop. Always take the Big Bag.

I collected quite a few acorns from a spot along the railroad track dirt and put them in a plastic bag in the backpack, and then rode up the hill to the planned collection spot. I did stop at one additional unplanned spot and picked up some more, giving a total in the backpack of about 5 lb at this point. After a couple more corners, there was planned spot #1, aka the Mother Lode.

I nestled my bike in a pile of leaves on the side of the road where it was out of any possible traffic and yet wouldn't fall down into the creek, set the backpack down next to it, and pulled out a plastic Target bag to put the new acorns in, figuring I'd probably double what I already had, and bent over to start collecting. Then I just sat -- the acorns were so thick on the ground that all the bending over was clearly not the way to go. Cars whizzed by, bikes climbed slowly by, their riders giving me quizzical looks. I just kept picking up the nuts, which had pretty much paved the shoulder in a uniform, densely-packed layer of vegetable protein. Pick up acorns, scoot bottom over six inches, pick up more acorns, scoot again...

After a mere 10 minutes, I sat up to stretch, and the Target bag, now overfull, spilled a little. Hmmm. Said Target bag is actually bigger than the backpack, and the plastic is beginning to stretch, making the self-rending of said bag into a spiderweb of holes imminent. Uh Oh.

Acorns WON'T FIT into backpack.

But I'm not even done with this patch.

Plastic bag will BREAK if picked up off the ground.


I filled up all my pockets in my clothing with as many as I could, but the remainder still would not fit into the backpack. But -- O Glorious Moment -- my emergency fabric bag that rolls up into its own pocket was in my vest pocket. I poured as many acorns into the backpack as I could, and the rest into the fabric bag, thinking that I could ride gently home with the bag hanging off my handlebars.

Now the bag-off-the-handlebar maneuver takes some skill, lest the bag start wobbling and run into the wheels. I'm reasonably well-practiced at this, due to the occasional optimistic miscalculation of volume of groceries purchased. In my less-practiced student days I accidentally sliced up a bag of peaches in my front spokes turning into the apartment driveway, but this never happens any more.

This time, however, it wasn't going to work. Too much weight in the bag and a curvy descent home. Plus there was so much weight in the backpack that my balance was all funny anyway.

Next thought: Balance bag on top of the handlebars.

No dice. Too floppy. I could, however, run the waist and sternum straps from the backpack through the bag's handles and sort of balance the bag on the top tube. Hard to pedal due to the fat bag of loot balanced at knee level, but the weight was at least centered on the bike and couldn't get stuck in the wheels.

I rode this way about halfway home (mostly downhill, aside from a minor climb that just seemed egregious), until I couldn't stand the awkward pedaling any more. Didn't want to damage a knee or a foot by pedaling with my knees pointed out at some goofy angle.

Ok, now what? I threaded the bag through the waist strap of the backpack so that it was hanging behind me instead of in front of me and cinched up the strap as tight as I could so that the bag wouldn't droop onto the back wheel. How much air do I have in the back shock anyway? Lots of weight pulling the strap back. Acorns trying to cut me in half with the strap. Ow Ow ow. But I could pedal.

Ow ow ow a few more miles home.

Tried to take backpack+bag off, got tangled, and fell over. How much does this thing weigh, anyway?

Answer: almost 50 lb. Which really isn't that much weight, had it been well distributed instead of dangling off at odd angles. If I had, say, taken the bike with the rack and big pannier bags. Hmpf.

Keep in mind that 45 lb of this was picked up in one spot in about 10 minutes. No wonder acorns were such a staple in the local diet for so long. Tasty, easy to gather, and plentiful.

Now all that remains (besides processing the acorns) is to decide whether to repeat the process tomorrow to harvest from the other site I had been aiming for, or whether perhaps we have enough...

Trust me, it's heavier than it looks.

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