Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bicycle Games

I play all sorts of games with myself when I ride my bikes, I always assumed other people did too but after a quick and unscientific poll of some of my friends it appears I'm unique. At least in regards to this crowd.

What brought all this out in the open was getting caught playing "Dive Bomber" in the bike shop parking lot.

 "Dive Bomber" is simply the name I use for the spitting for accuracy game I grew up playing. You probably call it something else, "Bulls-Eye" or "Splashdown" or whatever.You know what I'm talking about though, you pick out a specific leaf, Bug or cigarette butt(don't you love finding a fresh one that's still smoking? Me too ) and you circle it at a challenging speed and try to nail it with a nice compact blob of whatever you call it where you come from. It was known as a "Loogey"(sic?) where I'm from. You play this, right? C'mon, of course you do, or did when you were 11. Really? OK, yeah sure, if you say so. That's what my friend Heinrich said too and I suspect he was lying as well.

Anyway, he saw me absolutely obliterate an ant covered Frito in the EMPTY bike shop parking lot after a single ranging shot, then accused me of being "disgusting". Really? It's a parking lot. You know, bird poop, burger wrappers, discarded insulin needles and crusts of artisnal pizzas, plus it's behind a Bike Shop(!) so there's gross biker sweat and the phlegm from all that hacking and choking and sinus clearing that goes on before the Tuesday Fast Ride, not to mention REALLY gross stuff like all the half empty Hammer Gel packets that remind me of nothing so much as a trod upon Cockroach. So whatever.

 I expected a big High-Five or "NICE SHOT" but I got, "You're gross" in what I'm calling a "Junior-High-First-Chair-Clarinet" kind of voice. It wasn't a big explosive shot-gun blast of slobber that covered an area the size of your hat either, Nay, it was an accurately delivered sphere shaped globule about the size and mass of a very small grape or pinto bean. I'm tempted to describe it as some sort of "Surgical Strike" but I don't want to sound immodest. But it was.

When I was 11, Danny and Donnie and Daniel-Ross and, heck, EVERYBODY did this every time we threw a leg over a top-tube and I don't remember anyone finding it any worse than the rest of our behaviors. We would be pedaling along on our dirt bikes and all intuitively zero in on some tempting target of opportunity, wordlessly lining up in formation to drop our ordnance in succession like a squadron of B-17s on a training mission. We were sometimes spectacularly successful. Anyone witnessing a string of hits on a roadside Jax Beer can from 4 or 5 adolescent boys flying fast and low on stripped down Stingrays would instantly recognize the talent and commitment required to reach that level of accuracy. You could tell the real aces from the steely look in their eyes and their chronic dry-mouth. I still don't believe you don't know what I'm talking about.

I do have some other games that you probably wouldn't recognize that really are likely to be unique to me, and maybe one or two other persons in the world. Games like "Bike Fart", "Drink Water" or "Bottle Rocket Dog-Fight". Some of these games, with a bit of promotion and some simple rules could become the new "Alley-Cats" and bring huge numbers of new people streaming into the bike community. The simplest, "Bike Fart" is where you ride up behind the other guy and rub his back tire with your front tire. If one or both of you have knobbies you get the sound that inspired the name. The deal with "Bike Fart" is that you try to catch the other guy un-awares, then rip a good one off him before he knows what hit him and can apply his coaster-brake and slam your chin into your handlebar. Then you do it again. And again, and again, then you stop for like, a minute before doing it again.And again. He'll do it to you as well of course, in fact a group of 3 preteens should average one about every 11 or 12 seconds after things get going. Think about what that means over 3 hours of JRA(Just Riding Around). That's 26,000 toots and a constant odor of burnt rubber and sweaty boys. Good times.

I can imagine ad-hoc Bike Fart skirmishes among commuters brightening up otherwise dreary Monday mornings all across this great country.

Other games like "Drink Water" or "Bottle Rocket Dog-Fight" are probably impossible in today's world. Either due to improved sanitation or the banning of fireworks for "safety" reasons(March of Progress, blah, blah, blah).

 "Drink Water" was what we hollared at the top of our lungs as a warning before trying to herd the other guy into the ditch in front of a certain house on our road. A house with 11 kids and a washing machine that drained directly into the ditch for 7 hours everyday from a 2 inch pipe. There was always a nice green film across that 10 yard long, foot wide, 6 inch deep body of water. My best friend Donnie is the only other player besides myself to ever climb into the arena for this titanic contest of speed vs inertia. I think the other guys had already given up on bikes and taken up more age appropriate hobbies like girls or stealing cars by the time we started training for this in a serious way. So it's Hall Of Fame contains just us two. We were awesome though. Don was a "big kid" and had me by 30 or 40 pounds back then, so if he caught me napping and got a shoulder into me with a head of steam than it was about 80% sure I was going to "Drink". If I managed to connect with enough velocity and the element of surprise than I had about a 50/50 chance of driving him into the muck. Sometimes we would grind to a near halt before breaking free or getting driven down into the filth as if by a leaning tree crushing an outhouse. We still play this game when we get together but time and modern waste-water management has reduced it to something sort of juvenile and silly.

"Bottle Rocket Dog-Fight". Now that was a contest for Men. This was always part of the festivities of big occasions like Independence Day, The 4th of July, Christmas, New Years or Jesus' Birthday. Any holiday where fireworks and brush fires were part of the celebration. In rural South Texas the list of holidays that require a lot of smoke and noise is pretty comprehensive(People get dressed up to go out and shoot their pistols in the air on Mothers Day. Really. I swear). And we'd always get to play if someone we knew made a trip to Reynosa or Nuevo Laredo and brought us back a bunch of Mexican armor piercing bottle rockets. The GOOD ones, with the Dynamite and TNT. Anyway, playing B.R.D.F. only required the bottle rockets, a 12inch piece of 3/4" PVC pipe duct taped to your handlebar and a piece of 2" PVC taped to one fork leg as a quiver to hold your spare ammunition. We would try to get behind someone and fire at their back by lighting a rocket in the handlebar mounted launch tube with a smouldering "punk"as we dropped out of the sun on their "6". Or you could "Man Up' and go at it from "12 O'clock"; Head-On. Dancing with DEATH. Or flirting with a nasty burn and some pernicious ringing in the ears at the very least. Waiting till the last second to touch the punk to the fuse and fling whistling death at your best friend, all the while gritting your teeth as you risk a direct hit to your own tender person or clipping wingtips as you closed at 700mph. They say there are no Atheists in Fox-Holes and I say there are no Pacifists when there are bicycles and bottle-rockets.Normally well behaved little Mennonite boys would become bloodthirsty criminals bent on violence and death. Grim. I'm still haunted by my black and white gun camera memories of Cory Eckinrode bailing out after a stray spark got into his full quiver and lit 3 dozen rockets, The flames shooting up, roasting his hand and scorching the sleeve of his Fleetwood Mac T-shirt as he un-assed his craft, bailing out as the rockets exploded and he tumbled into the void trailing smoke and profanity as his stricken Murry Wheelie Bike arced down to earth.

Man. The things I've seen.

I wonder. If all these people I ride with never relax and let their imaginations spool up, then how can bikes ever be enough fun to justify all the laundry?  Bikes are perfect for the sort of dumb stuff that's missing from so many peoples lives, stuff that would help us bring things down a notch and remind us not to take things so seriously. But instead we invented disposable plastic bikes and Strava. Give me Bottle Rockets instead.  What do you think? More "Training Rides"  or 2 hours of "Bike Fart" twice a week with 5 or 6 of your friends and some target spitting in the parking lot after?? I'm willing to give up my so promising racing career if you're with me on this. What, you afraid of looking stupid? Have you seen what we look like trolling around out there on the road? Go watch some You-tube videos of dudes playing Radball in Europe. The polyester Coach shorts and tall socks, the High-Top Reebok's and the lawn furniture bikes. That's what WE look like to EVERYBODY else. It's no wonder the "Brothers" don't want to bring their bikes out to roll with us.  But, Get a dozen men and women together with a Bowling Ball and some old Mountainbikes on a Tennis Court and you might end up with a party.

At least until somebody designs a "better" bike for it and organizes a league, but by then we could be playing road Tennis in the street on Tandems.

1 comment:

  1. Tandem Tennis, does the Captain and the stoker both have rackets?