Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Polecat is a great word. Not knowing exactly what it meant as a kid while watching westerns, it was obviously a negative connotation. Polecats in westen movies were usually villianous, or some type of scoundrel. For my purposes in this setting though, polecat is being used in a less coloquial and more literal sense. Of course I'll be referring to #2 below, being that I reside in North America.

pole·cat [pohl-kat]–noun, plural -cats, (especially collectively) -cat.

1. a European mammal, Mustela putorius, of the weasel family, having a blackish fur and ejecting a fetid fluid when attacked or disturbed.

2. any of various North American skunks.

Skunks are supposed to be pretty intelligent creatures with excellent olfactory (go figure) and auditory senses. They do not see very well though. In my noctournal cycling wanderings throughout Southern California, more than a few have been sighted. A few of those sightings have been along my commuting route on a Class I bike path. Most of the time they hear my approach with plenty of time to react and retreat. There are exceptions to every rule.

A recent weekend night jaunt on the aforementioned Class I bike path garnered an encounter with a polecat that may not have had the best hearing. Zipping along at 0300 with reckless abandon that an empty multi-use path allows is a brand of fun that can be very appealing. This particular occasion saw an empty path that was accompanied by an almost full Moon, lighting things up better than usual. Something moving on the right-hand side of the path caught my eye and the dark object with a white stripe immediately registered as a polecat. Options clicked next; stop and end up in close proximity, swerve right into the dirt to go around, and swerve left on the pavement. The left swerve won by a landslide vote.

Now comes the reason I call this particularly villanous critter a polecat. It appeared to have heard me at the last possible moment and decided to move right into the swerve that was being executed. The polecat appeared to have glanced off of the front wheel, gone under the chainring and then be run over by the rear wheel that had fortunately been lightened with the anticipation of that probability. It all happened so fast, there was nothing left to do but keep pedaling and put some distance on what was now most likely one very angry scoundrel. Upon stopping, it was rapidly determined that in the very few seconds of the encounter, this polecat was able to unleash some of its mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals.

Arriving at my residence, it was time to take a real damage assessment. The bike took a pretty good chemical hit on the front and rear wheels, with the rear wheel even displaying some tail hair stuck to the valve stem. My left shoe and shin were soaked with it and the right shoe got hit some as well. It was then decided to hit the local pay & spray for a quick blasting off to at least get the bike and my leg somewhat clean. The shoes were bagged and tossed into a dumpster, being split leather and pretty much ruined. The socks joined the shoes. For some reason, anti-bacterial hand soap worked to get the funk off of my legs. The next day I followed this formula to get the rest of the funk off of my bike.

The fallout on this encounter lasted about a week. A few spots on the bike had been missed and it took that long to spot-clean the rest of the odor out. Also, my olfactory senses were way out of whack. My sinuses burned for a couple of days and food tasted funny for at least a week.

Pepe Le Pew, yeah he is.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Sometimes a chain of events leads well away from an intended pupose and other times that chain has a tendency to loop back around on itself.

Being in the midst of an unusually long stretch of nights at work, catching a few miles on the bike during the day has become the norm. Destinations are normally determined by many factors, some physical, some mental and at times even financial. I didn't need any money, felt like visiting my sister and her family and didn't mind the idea of bucking a headwind to get there.

About eight miles after zipping out of the driveway and heading down a main East/West Anaheim arterial, the (hideously colourful) Fuji delivered me into my sister's driveway. Her vehicle was not in the driveway and nobody answered the door. A quick dial-up on the cell phone only brought up the answering machine and a message was left. A friend who lives in the area was called, but they were not around either. What to do?

A physical factor presented itself in the form of hunger and subsequent mental factor decided that a financial factor allowed a sandwich place a few miles out of the way seemed to be a good choice in destinations. The headwind would be addressed first with a beeline South as far as was required and then cruise East with somewhat of a tailwind to enjoy. The Southern leg was no problem, with the exception of a comically irate motorist who didn't care to be informed that he had almost clipped with his side mirror. The turn East was rewarded with the anticipated tailwind and relatively light traffic.

Two-lane secondaries with a 30mph speed limit are a relatively safe bet in keeping away from maniacal lemming drivers who can't read a map. They are even better when a minivan with a driver who is not in too much of a hurry decides to drive right at the limit and allow a draft opportunity. This particular case seemed to know the timing of the lights on the secondary and it was turning out to be a very fortunate diversion from the original plan. That was until a small missing piece of the macadam presented itself to the rear wheel of the Fuji and caused a delayed pinch flat.

Since my sister and I live off of the same main arterial and OCTA buses run up and down it with great frequency during daylight hours, not carrying the basics to repair a flat tire is my normal modus operandi. Sometimes it seems easier to just rack the bike up on the front of the bus and pay the dollar than hassle with changing a flat in the heat of the day. Murphy seemed to have a different idea about all of that this time. No buses run on the secondary chosen, however there was a bicycle shop within two miles. It was nothing a brisk walk couldn't cure.

Keeping to the secondary on foot seemed like a good idea for some reason even though the resedential streets in the area sport alluring shade trees that provide ample cover. Detouring though the resedentials made it's siren's song, but was left unanswered. The next call heard was the sounding of a horn. A quick look over the shoulder saw my sister's vehicle hanging a u-turn and her yelling out the window to me. My nephew was with her and they had just left where he is taking swimming lessons about five miles away from their place. Even though the bike shop wasn't too far away by this point, not taking her up on the offer of a ride home would have been quite lame.

She said what clued her in to who the freak walking down the sidewalk with a bike was is the hideous coloring of the Fuji, which she thinks is cool. My sister the bike freak, recognizing the bike before her own damn brother! We had a chance to have the catch-up chat and complete my primary intention of the day's ride. She even got payback in the form of a few questions about the operation of her Bianchi road bike answered that she was planning on emailing to me that evenning.

Sometimes things work out that way.