I stopped at the first booth along the horseshoe shaped vendor area and learned about a strong 900 lumens headlamp that converts to a handle bar mount. They sold for $100 and I later found out that $100 for that product was quite the buy. Similar set ups cost $250-$400 and up. I'm learning that bicycling can be a very expensive sport AND that you have to remember to let common sense prevail. Since we intend to ride only in daylight but be prepared if we should find ourselves at dusk needing to ride a few more miles. For that reason, we have high luminosity, lightweight LED headlamps on elastic stretch headbands that will fit on our helmets in such case OR just be our "walk to the shower house" lights, reading lights, etc. if we need them when camping.
I entered the second booth and found 4 guys laughing and having a good time as they worked on bikes. I had Coco with me and they were quite interested in the "muscular little guy". They inquired about the dog breed and I told them she was a French Bulldog, the companion of French prostitutes. This peaked their attention and I explained that when English bulldogs lost their popularity during the industrialization era in England, breeders started mating English Bulldogs to Pugs in order to create a smaller bulldog that would serve well as companions to shopkeepers and lace workers. As the lace industry became more industrialized in England, those artisans moved to France where their handwork was still appreciated and they took the small dogs with them. As time went by, French street walkers took a liking to the small dogs because they had a masculine appeal and served them quite well. The prostitutes would walk the streets and when a "john" approached, he would squat down and pet the dog while he and she spoke softly and made "the deal"; to the unsuspecting eye, it was just a fellow who stopped to pet the lady's little dog. The well mannered Frenchies became a favorite amongst the Royal princes who frequented the French whore houses. Soon, they were buying French bulldogs and bringing them (and god knows what else) home to their royal wives.
Next, I told them how Coco would be joining my husband, daughter and me on a 3000+ mile bike ride. As I spoke, I gave them my flyer and told them how we are utilizing our ride to promote the amazing sport of BMX. The sarcastic one in the group asked, "what qualifies her (the Beast) to represent BMX?" I replied that she was the USA Championships #1 nine year old girl rider in 2007 and that she's been in the sport since she was 4. He listened and then gave me a once over and said, "what qualifies you?"
I thought about this for a moment and said, "nothing tangible, really." Honestly, I love the sport of BMX and I love a challenging adventure but I don't have any "cycling credentials". I've never entered a long distance bike race, I've never taken on anything as tough as the ride ahead of us. Then I told the guy, I'm like "Rudy". I reminded him of the 1993 movie by the same name starring Sean Astin as Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger. Rudy was a 5'5", 165 lb., struggling college student who dreamt of playing for Notre Dame. Besides not looking like a football player, he also applied and got denied entry to Notre Dame three times before finally being accepted as a student. He auditioned for the football team and worked so hard that the coach finally let him on the practice squad team. In Rudy's senior football season, the coach finally put him and much to everyone's surprise SACKED the Georgia Tech quarterback. Ruettiger becam the FIRST of only 2 players ever carried off the field by his Notre Dame teammates.
I don't have a cyclist's body. I don't have years of cycling experience. I don't have top of the line equipment. I just have a dream and a clear cut belief that I (and my family) can do this. I haven't had to face the type of rejection that Rudy did; just subtle (and not so subtle) disbelief in the faces of those I tell our story to. Don't worry, I'm used to it. I saw the same looks on the faces of friends when I told them I was starting my own business with about $150 to my name. I saw it in the faces of bankers when I told them I needed to buy properties with no down payment money and that I wanted additional funds to do the fixup. I even saw it in the face of my delivery room nurse when I was in labor with my first child. At about 10 AM in the morning (I had arrived at the hospital @ 2 AM), I asked my obstetrics nurse what time lunch was. She explained that I couldn't eat until after the baby was born. I announced that the baby will be out by noon, since I did, and still do, have quite the appetite. She smiled her disbelief and registered a bit of shock when my son was born an hour later at 11 AM. Basically, I get an idea in my head and I'm not satisfied until I make it happen.
I left some flyers with the fellows and continued to visit the other vendors. I was drawn to the TREK WOMEN tent, wanting to know more about what's new in cycling for women. I started talking to a cool woman named Ross, who explained that TREK has been making women specific bicycles with shorter width handle bars that are positioned for a closer reach. Ironically, I had Frankenbutt customize my bar ends to deal with just that issue. Since then, I've had much more comfortable rides. She offered me a test ride on a "Lexa SLX", 52 cm road bike. I welcomed the opportunity, signed the waiver and strapped on a loaner helmet. She showed me the basics including the hand brake mounted shifters, which I didn't readily embrace but I found "do-able".
Much to my surprise, the aluminum frame test bike was extremely light compared to my steel frame mountain bike converted road bike. In fact, I popped a bit of a wheelie as I started out because I'm so used to the power I have to put to the pedals to get started on my bike. I took two laps around the vendor area and parking lot and found the bike to be very fast and quite comfortable. When I returned to the TREK tent, I had to know just how much such a bike would cost. Ross calmly said that I could get a nicely equipped one for about $1300. I tried to sort out if I thought her bike was worth at least 13 times what I have invested in my bike. There was a time I wouldn't have flinched at that price tag and probably would have handed over a piece of plastic and made the purchase. At this point in time, I've concluded that if I decide to continue long distance riding, I'll save my money and buy a "left over" of a comparable bike or a well maintained used one at half or less that amount. But the feeling I had on that bike still lingers in my mind this evening.
I wonder how many miles we'll need to ride before the naysayers think we are "qualified" to do this ride. I also wonder how many miles we'll ride before I identify myself as a long distance road cyclist. I'm sure there will always be cycling "snobs" who look down their noses at my equipment and my body. Regardless of that, I plan to only look down my nose at the pavement ahead and just enjoy the ride I'm lucky enough to take.