On a recent ride home I spotted a length of synthetic webbing on the side of the road. The Roadside Tool and Supply Company has had many useful items over the years. I stopped to pick up this latest offering.
I didn't want to put the webbing inside any of my packs, so I tucked it under a strap on my rack pack. For several miles I kept glancing back to be sure it was secure. After several such checks I returned my attention to the scenery.
Especially in the summer, drivers can express intolerance of cyclists, as irritable local types chafe at summer traffic and visitors from away bring their own prejudices. I cannot count on peace and quiet even in the last couple of miles or even yards to my driveway. Most days no one does anything too overt, but the chance remains.
As I negotiated a series of curves and intersections in the final half-mile I had to use lane position and body language to communicate with drivers entering from side roads. There were a couple of pickup trucks and some cars in the mix. In this section people may join the route I'm on or cross it, so I might get a lot of company or none at all. Flowing down to the Pine River bridge and up to the stop sign I've been brushed back and honked at by drivers who felt they deserved to get to that stop sign first.
This time I found myself alone at the stop. I glanced both ways and floated through. It appeared I could relax.
Suddenly, a large, white pickup truck appeared next to me. It matched my pace. This usually is not a good thing. Drivers who get an urge to communicate with cyclists don't usually have supportive things to say.
A young man leaned out of the truck. Here it comes.
"This fell off your bike," he said, holding out the webbing.
"Dang, man, thanks," I said, with an instant friendly grin replacing the cold snarl I had been preparing. I took the webbing. They eased ahead to resume their journey.
What about THAT, now? They had to have stopped while someone got out of their truck to retrieve the webbing. That's why I was so unexpectedly alone at the intersection. That's way above the most basic courtesy I hope for from drivers. Once in a while it happens.
Most road-hardened cyclists learn to deal with honks, yells, swerves, thrown objects and Dopplered shouts of profanity or disdain from the lords of the road. I've also received badly-timed honks of support from inexperienced friends who don't realize what an instant rage car horns inspire in cyclists. We have to sort through all these messages and avoid automatically replying with a metaphorical machine gun burst. We can't afford any friendly fire casualties. We need all our friends out there.