Hey, Just Ride 34

You are not alone.

It’s easy to feel alone at times. Like when you’re breezing down the road solo on your bike, the sound of traffic so constant it becomes numbing. 

Your mind drifts to strange lands. 

You’re absolutely positive no one else ventures to this place.

At least, no one who is sane.

But you’re wrong.

I learned that the first time I rode from San Francisco to San Diego. The multi-day adventure was not even an hour old. The Golden Gate Bridge was still a vivid memory of heavy haze hanging in a dreamlike manner, the sea gulls’ screeches echoing across the bay and the cool ocean mist against my cheeks.

We were just making a turn to quieter roadways when our companion fell behind on a climb. At the turn I stopped with Jeff and we waited. Both of us surveyed the landscape on the edge of the road, a wonderful California mix of ice plant, cactus, palms — and litter.

Both of us knew better.

Landscape, schmandscape. We were looking at the garbage. Picking through the roadside clutter in our minds like 49ers in a High Sierra mountain stream. Suddenly it hit us, one of those unspoken moments when you just know you’re thinking the same thing.

“Someday,” I said unashamedly, “I’m going to find a wallet.” 

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“You know it,” Jeff replied.

We were searching the litter for Gold.

For the next couple of hundred miles the junk on the side of the road occasionally distracted my attention from the scenic views of PCH, with its wonderful cliffs and rocky shores.

Look! California sea lions sunning on the beach. Wait, what’s that? Just an aluminum fliptop, not a diamond ring. Damn. 

Is that a lotto ticket? Naw, a receipt from McDonald’s.

I think of that day a lot when I ride today. When you travel the same routes day after day, they become stale. The only thing that changes, sure as the seasons in Vermont, is the garbage.

In its own strange manner, that’s a good thing.

It’s a bizarre game, the garbage game. Nine times out of 10 you’ll pass right by that golden nugget. 

The first time.

If it’s there the next day, though, it starts to eat at you. 

By that time you already have the Top 10 reasons why you should stop and get it. 

At least one might be good enough to get past your wife or husband. But you doubt it.

I’ve played that game time and again. A pair of sunglasses can deteriorate immeasurably in 24 hours at the side of a busy road. 

Baseball caps, well, it all depends on the weather. If it rains, furgettaboutit. 

Then again, does rain kill head lice? 

CDs should be weatherproof, right?

I swear I rode past the remnants of a hand gun. The handle had been smashed, but the rest looked to be there. Hard to mistake a bullet chamber for something else.

I thought about turning around for five miles. It was gone the next day. Coulda solved a crime. Been a hero. I’m sure of it.

I stopped for a credit card once. Same gasoline company as I have. It wasn’t even signed! I tore it up on the spot. I rode on.

Just a couple miles past the credit card, it hit me. For better or worse. Truth sometimes hurts.

Riding your bike all the time you like to think that you’re cool. Somewhere, somehow, deep down inside, there’s a glimmer of coolness you attach to cycling.

It’s down there at the base level. Right at that spot that separates us from those nutcases combing the beaches with their metal detectors.

Come on, admit it. You thought about doing a price check on that chrome spoke hub cap in the ditch.

Or counted exactly how much you would make collecting all the aluminum cans along the route, especially in Oregon where they bring in 10 cents each.

You can spot a violated safety seal on an Evian bottle from 50 yards.

You know the difference between a balloon and a, er, other rubbery item, from 200 yards.

Of course, no one knows better. It’s all in the art of the pickup. Check that brake cable. Jiggle that chain. True that wheel, and scoop that garbage.

Hey, why else would jerseys have THREE pockets?


I made $18 from bike ride finds at my last garage sale.

I’ve found a wool Mexican blanket, a pair of gardening gloves, a lot of knives, a couple hats, and a super sweet Patagonia camo rain jacket. Those flags folks put on their cars? A pile of them. Got both Oregon and Oregon State, which is sweet because we are a House Divided (one graduate from each).

But we all dream for that magical moment — one that after decades of riding actually came true for me. I came whizzing around a corner on a city street one afternoon and a bright flash caught my eye.

I rolled around and back to the spot. I looked down and, unbelievable! 

A diamond ring.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same. 

I took it to the nearest jeweler/pawn dude. He said worthless. He’d give me $20. I passed. I took it to a real jeweler. She didn’t lie.

She smiled at me: “4.5 by 4.5 Princess cut, 0.52, a half carat with 14K gold.”


My wife lost her original wedding ring years ago, and refuses to wear the ruby replacement I bought because of the sentimental value. She’d be crushed if she lost that, too.

She doesn’t think twice about wearing the gem I found in the street.

Now, gotta find that wallet …

Time to ride.

Join the conversation
  1. alanm9 says

    HA! Nailed it! Hats, knives, sunglasses, money. True story: years ago going through airport security, TSA flagged my Leatherman tool that I’d forgotten all about. He said I could check it but naturally I was already late. He asked if I wanted the empty leather case but by now I was pissed and thought it a really stupid question so I said no with emphasis. A month later back home I’m riding along and see the exact same kind of Leatherman on the roadside, scratched but perfectly fine. I still have it, but of course I dont have a case…

    1. John Rezell says

      Have faith! That case will pop up sometime

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