I was in the passenger seat today for four and a half hours. I had forgotten what it was like to travel by car. My last car trip was back from Houston to LA in 30 hours, a foggy blur of exhaustion, cold donuts, and lots of night.
This time I was fresh. Rested. Eager to get out and about. See the world. Experience things. In a words: Travel.
Here are some things I noticed acutely.
- No wind. The wind on a bike is your most beloved friend, your most hated foe, or some combination of the two. In a car the only wind you really notice is from last night’s pot of beans.
- Lethargy. Sitting saps energy, but it’s not the tiredness that comes from exertion. You are kind of numb and get number until either a) donuts or b) coffee or c) both.
- Only huge things. You only notice huge things in the car, which consists mainly of other cars, trucks, buildings, signs. There’s no fine-grained detail like there is on a bike, where you don’t simply see flashes of roadside garbage but the actual color, size, and brand of the wrapper.
- Blame casting. When anything happens it’s always their fault–the road contractor, the idiot driver, the horrible traffic jam. On the bike when you fall off at inopportune times, or basically when anything else untoward happens, it’s almost always YOU.
- Tiny skies. The windshield restricts, chokes off the sky. While cycling you see the whole thing in its unobstructed beauty.
- Cops. Never been pulled over for speeding or drug running on my bike.
- Gas. The gas station experience on a bike means “I got a couple of elderly fried burritos and they gave me gas.”
- Peeing. On a bike I can pee anywhere. And do. No exit ramps or searching for a tree or a gas station. Brake, zip, whizz.
- Rattling. Cars rattle. And when the road’s rough or you nail a chug hole, you feel all the fat jiggle. Bikes are much smoother and less jiggly.
- Impatience. In a car you’re impatient to get there. On a bike you’re grateful you ever got there at all.
- Stop-and-go. There’s almost no stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper bike traffic.
- Fighting. Have you ever been stuck in a car with someone you’re fighting with? Talk about claustrophobic. Never been in a fight on a bike ride, at least not for long, and certainly not with someone I’ve not been unable to escape from.
- Time travel. Cars go so fast you have zero appreciation of changing landscapes, scenery, weather … bam, you’re there.
- Parking. Haven’t yet had to circle the lot to find a parking space for my bike.
- Back and neck cricks. Cars are cramped and they also give you leg cramps. Everything is sore from sitting. When biking it’s mostly just your ass.
For all the whining, there was one part of the drive that I was glad to be in a car, a 14-mile steep uphill, twisting canyon climb with absolutely zero shoulder and plenty of zooming truck traffic. If I’d been biking I’d have chosen a different route, of course. But depending on the route, some roads are best driven, for sure.