The Act of Waving
Cyclists seldom get waved to. When I drive a tractor or a bulky piece of farm equipment those that pass me seem compelled to acknowledge my presence on the road- not just by giving my haybine a wide berth on the pavement, but by lifting a hand off the steering wheel and sometimes extending it out an open window. I, too, involuntarily recognize County dump trucks and tractor trailers when we meet, whether out of a habit I developed myself or some perrenial respect for the bigger dog. A bicyle, however, I only try not to hit.
I was surprised how bike-friendly Boston proved itself to be. Many streets had cycle lanes with freshly-painted men on bicycles, and although they were stick men, were still able to show their enthusiasm for being a cyclist. When we navigated through the heart of the city cars were patient with us, allowing us to change lanes or avoid parked vehicles without pressure from them. We had only cycled 100 yards when someone stopped and asked if were were cycling across the country.
My daily route prior to the trip was mostly through the town over the hill, Bishopville, whose only institutions were a methodist church and a chainsaw repair shop. Most roads I had seldom went down before (even though I was a neighbor of sorts) and there were more homes in which I did not know the people inside than names I recognized on the mailbox. I glanced at the windows of houses when I passed them. Sometimes I imagined an older couple sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and watching the world go by. There were some people I knew well along the route, including my 4th grade teacher, my grandparents, and several people from the Methodist church. If it was not these people I waved to, I may have not been waved to back.
We left Boston in a late afternoon sun and a swell of traffic and urbana that flowed through towns whose names I would have to look up. I did not see much of them, because my head was bent down, focused on Paul's rear wheel while he tried to take us through the intersections. Cars beaped, and I did not know if it was at us, or at some other frustrations in their life. Sometimes there were bicycle lanes, but the asphalt was often cracking or littered with gravel. The paint depicting the happy cyclist was often worn away, leaving dismembered parts of the rider floating in the lane. His body was rough, making the load on our back wheels tremble as we had to run over him again.
It was hard making myself get on the bicycle when the sun was coming up, but more mornings than not, I did. I stood up on the bike to get over the first big hill and then I could coast into the back roads to Bishopville. I went the same way every morning, following one path of asphalt until it turned into gravel, then turning around to peddle to my grandfather's horse pastures on the other side of town. I began to pick up on the rhythms of Bishopville in the early morning. At the same time each day mothers pushed their children out the door to wait for the bus, a sheep farmer walked back to his house for breakfast, and if the day was cool I'd come upon my grandfather and his team of Percherons. I began to recognize the trucks that passed me every day, and they recognized me, because they put their hand up on a kind gesture as the back of their head disappeared down the road. People I had not seen before sometimes appeared in their screen door to shout "Good Morning." In my habit of morning cycling I became part of the routine of a rural community. I looked at the glass windows of the houses I passed, and sometimes, if I really stared, I could see someone looking back, waving.