A radio can be a lifesaver on long bicycle rides, especially like the day trip I detailed in last week’s column. The unit is fairly large because my hearing isn’t what it used to be and I need the decibels. The radio is in a pack attached to my front handlebars, so I can turn it on and change channels on the fly.
As I described last week, Sabra and I were riding along the Mississippi River in rural Illinois and around 11 a.m., we thought we had an easy 10 miles to go to the next town and lunch. The 10 miles proved to be closer to 17 and the restaurant was closed. So at 12:30 p.m., a full half-hour past lunch, we had to turn around and ride 17 miles back into a headwind before getting something to eat.
Now this may not seem like a big thing, I know it isn’t to Sabra– as she can skip eating with no sweat, but it is a big thing, a very big thing to me. I don’t miss meals often. In fact before this last trip, the last meal I missed was eight years earlier– when I turned 50 and was prepping for an endoscopy. I had to stop eating at 12 p.m. the day before the procedure. A half-hour before deadline, I sat down with an extra large repast featuring a 24-ounce sirloin and two baked potatoes. As the clock struck noon I gulped down the last bite of a large chocolate brownie. Little did I understand that the prep for the next day’s probing included swallowing an industrial grade laxative at 12:01. I’ll save you the sordid details and just say it’s not a good time when an immovable object meets an irresistible force– all within your digestive system.
Normally, I pack sardines for such an emergency. The can keeps forever, is easy to open in a pinch, and packs an impressive amount of energy. I don’t mind eating the salty flesh, especially if served on a crusty slice of bread; but cold, pickled minnows a la carte are far from the top of my favorites list. If I took something I really like– say a large bag of kettle fried, vinegar and sea salt potato chips– then it would never make it to the trailhead. Alas, the sardines were not even an option as I failed to include it for what was supposed to be a short day ride. So I had nothing to eat short of going “Donner Party” on Sabra, and had to make do with listening to the radio to keep my mind off of my growling stomach.
Luckily, we were close enough to St. Louis to get a good selection of stations. I started out with classic rock and roll but hearing “American Pie” and “Cheeseburger In Paradise” made me a little delirious. Then the DJ cued up “Whiter Shade of Kale” and “Mr. Tangerine Man.” The Donner Party option became more appealing.
I switched to country.
And what did I get?
“Stew and Tequila Make Me Crazy,” “Country Girl Bake It For Me,” “Stand By Your Ham,” and “Mama Fried.”
Next, I sunk so low as to tune to a pop station. As luck would have it the number one song of the week was “Super Bass.” Personally, I like blue gill or walleye better, but in a pinch a bass– especially a Super Bass– would do nicely. However, nary a fish dinner was to be found.
Then I tried a talk channel with the topic of the day being Republican presidential candidate hopefuls. Tim Pawlenty made me think of polenta (that’s how hungry I was); Herman Cain brought visions of deep-dish pizza dancing in my head; and Rick Perry made me contemplate the value of snake oil. Can it be used to replace olive oil in recipes?
In a last ditch effort I tried classical only to be greeted by the 1812 overture and a sudden craving for Quaker Oats shot from guns.
Finally, I gave up and turned the radio off completely and tuned into the quiet around me. Off in the distance among the lovely bluffs I could hear an owl. “Who, who, who cooks for you?” it asked plaintively.