Friday, March 18, 2005

Demise of the Rich Bitch Bike

Readers who have been following my blog since its early days may remember the story of the "rich bitch bikes." A long, long time ago, my husband and I were out biking at Celebration Avenue and Waterside. Since it was after dark, our $59 K-Mart special bikes were tricked out with flashing Mickey head lights on the valve stems. As we rode along, a carload of teenagers pulled up to the stop sign at Waterside. They had to wait while we crossed Celebration Avenue, and apparently that didn't make them too happy. As they peeled away from the stop sign, they yelled, "Celebration rich bitches on your rich bitch Celebration bikes!"

I probably should have been shocked and appalled, but instead I was amused. In Chicago, we have drive-by shootings. In Celebration, it's a drive-by heckling. And I have to feel sorry for them if they consider a cheapo K-Mart special to be a "rich bitch" bike. Granted, the flashing Mickeys added another five bucks or so to their value, and I'm sure they looked really pimpin' in the dark. But still, although we indulge ourselves in some top-notch things, our bicycles are definitely not one of them.

For me, my bike is a quick, easy way to get around town when I don't feel like driving. It's a "workhorse," so I don't need anything fancy, as it's liable to get banged up and scraped up in bike racks. All it needs to do is get me safely and reliably from Point A to Point B.

For my husband, his bike is his primary sources of exercise. He rides literally miles and miles every chance he gets. He used to just guesstimate his distance, but recently he bought an odometer and quickly racked up over 200 miles on it. He thinks nothing of biking out to the high school, then down Celebration Avenue and around North Village before heading back into the heart of town. There, he rings the lake and eventually heads back to East Village via the Lake Evalyn trail, which links into the bike path that runs behind East Lawn, along the lake.

Lately, I have been walking most mornings around 7:30 a.m. with a friend. We start downtown and head wherever our whim takes us on any particular day. One morning, my husband decided to be ambitious, too, and head out on his bicycle when I left the house for my morning constitutional (normally he bikes in the afternoon or evening). It was a wet and somewhat gloomy day, but according to the televised radar, the rain was supposed to stop for a while.

Towards the end of my walk, heading on the East Village bike path towards downtown, I saw my husband pedaling towards me somewhat erractically. He stopped to complain that the boardwalks were very wet and slippery; while crossing one and making a tight turn, he had managed to skid out and fall. He didn't look any worse for the wear, and he said that he felt fine, so I bid him adieu and told him I'd see him at home.

When I arrived at Duloc Manor, I was greeted by a gory sight. When my husband took off his socks, he discovered that he'd manage to dice up his leg pretty good. As near as he could figure, he was injured by the bike pedal. But he hadn't felt anything while he was riding, and his sock had hidden it. Fortunately, his wounds weren't deep, but they were the kind that like to bleed non-stop. They were too wide for standard size Bandaids, and we didn't have any gauze pads in the house, so they pretty much had to bleed themselves out.

In the fall, the odometer cable had somehow managed to snap. That odometer was my husband's pride and joy, as it proved his cycling prowess. Now, after only 200 miles, its lifespan had come to a premature end. He had also managed to damage the bike itself beyond repair (well, it probably could have been fixed, but the cost would most likely have been more than it was worth brand new). He even confessed that he had broken his helmet. I am very insistent that we both wear head protection whenever we go for a ride. Now, I could finally say, "I told you so!" and point out that if the helmet hadn't been on his noggin to take the brunt of the fall, the crack would have been in his skull.

The next day, his side had blossomed with technicolor blotches, and he had an interesting purple and blue pattern mottling his hip. He was also quite stiff and sore; I know he was missing our whirlpool tub back in Chicago.

For hubby, being without a bike is like being without one of his limbs. We planned to go bike shopping almost immediately after the accident, but the rain had come in earnest and kept us inside for most of two days. We both had lots of work to do, and we just didn't feel much like shopping in a storm anyway.

This afternoon the weather was crisp and sunny, and he could wait no longer. We hopped into Canyonero and headed over to Super Target to select another cheapie bicycle. They were out of the $59 models, but they had some for $79 and up. My husband debated being a big spender and popping over $100 for a Schwinn, but finally he settled on a fire-engine red $79 "house brand." He looked it over, decided he could live with it, and when to check out and load it up in the car while I busied myself in the Garden Center, snapping up flowers for my yard.

By the time he had returned, I had loaded the cart with brightly colored annuals and was working my way through Housewares. There are still so many little odds and ends that we need for Duloc Manor and that we always seem to forget. We tried to remember as many as possible: bowls, baking sheet, storage containers, and the like. I also spotted a set of Chef Tony's "Perfection Series" infomercial knives, which I've been searching for for a long time.

Many months ago, I ordered the Ultimate Chopper, another kitchen essential hawked by Chef Tony. It came with a free knife from his set as my "bonus gift." I loved the Ultimate Chopper for the short time that it actually worked, but then the blade housing broke and rendered it useless. I packed it up and sent it back for a refund, but just as Chef Tony had enthusiastically promised on my television screen, the knife was mine to keep. It so unbelievably sharp! We used it for everything, including things it wasn't meant for because it was too large, resulting in lots of wounded fingers. I vowed that if I could find a set of those knives in the store, I would buy it. Having the right sized blades for each cutting job would save lots of wear and tear on our poor digits.

I had seen the knives at Target in Chicago, so at the Super Target, I asked a worker if they carried them. He promptly reponded, "No, we don't." But sure enough, I stumbled across a shelf full of "As Seen on Television" products, including those wickly sharp blades. I plopped them in my cart and added a Magic Bullet, which is apparently the succesor to the Ultimate Chopper (although, sadly, it's not endorsed by Chef Tony). I've been glued to the television on several Sunday mornings watching a manic team of people whip up all sorts of delicious concoctions with the Magic Bullet. The frozen drinks always have me drooling. I have Barnie's cold coffee syrups, which I generally mix with milk. The Bullet would allow me to add the dimension of ice. And if it turns out to be a dud like the Ultimate Chopper, I have a place where I can physically return it instead of having to worry about shipping.

We headed home in our tightly-packed Canyonero, toting the brand-new bike, plants that were spilling dirt everywhere, and my infomercial goodies, several bags of other necessary houseware items. As soon as we had unpacked, my husband was ready to try out his new prized posession. He had been suffering from cabin fever brought on by the rain, coupled with cycling withdrawal...not a pretty sight. Now, finally, he could get out for a nice, long, stress-relieving ride.

He was back in the house within two minutes, grumbling curse words under his breath. Turns out the new bike was useless, as the front tire was totally misaligned and the brakes weren't functioning correctly. He hadn't been able to try it out properly at the store because the tires had no air. Now, after pumping them up, he had discovered that his new bike was a total bust.

Thus, that evening we found ourselves braving the traffic on 192 yet again. He was hoping that Super Target would have a duplicate bike so he could do a simple exchange. Unfortunately, there were no more $79 bicycles, and none of the others caught his fancy, so he got a refund and we headed to the old pre-Super Center Target located a little farther down the road.

Before hitting the Target, hubby wanted to check out the offerings at K-Mart, where the original rich bitch bikes were purchased. While he went cycle scouting, I decided to hunt for some canvas slip-on shoes. They are only a few dollars and are perfect for bumming around the house, running out on errands, gardening, or whatever. Im the past, I've always bought them at K-Marts in Chicago, so I hoped I could find the same shoes in Kissimmee. I tend to wear them out very fast, and I was down to my last two pairs.

I asked a worker in the shoe department, "Do you carry these?" I held up my foot, which was clad in one of my K-Mart shoes to punctuate my question. She shook her head, "No we don't have anything like that." Remembering the guy at Target who said they don't carry Chef Tony knives, I went on a scavenger hunt anyway. Sure enough, bingo! There were tons of my favorite comfy canvas footwear, identical to the ones I was wearing. Of course, there were only three pairs in my size, so I immediately snapped them up. Sadly, I discovered that my husband had failed in his Blue Light Bike Quest, so I paid for the shoes and we headed onward to Target.

On the way out, I spotted one of those cranes where you try to pick up a stuffed toy prize. I am pretty good at them if they are fair (i.e. if they have any small modicum of grip). Unfortunately, most of the time the claw descends and closes a barely perceptible micrometer before ascending empty-handed. I've also run into cranes with some grip that are programmed to literally slam up and then slam and swing crazily just before they stop over the prize recepticle. Those drive me crazy, as I can almost always pick up a prize, and I feel so cheated when the darned thing drops it because it just smacked into the wall.

This time, although it didn't have much grip, I was able to position the claw over a stuffed Easter Bunny that was lying in a perfect position. Since it was lengthwise, the claw didn't have to close very much in order to get a secure grip. So now I had a bunch of new shoes and a cute little bunny, and my poor husband was leaving empty-handed.

Next stop was the old Target, where they had quite a few bikes, but none like the one that my husband had returned. He grimly poked and prodded them all, running through the cheapies all the way up to a real rich bitch bike, at least in my miserly opinion: it was $200. But none of them tickled his fancy, so once again he left empty-handed.

Now it was time to head home, but with a short detour at Ross. I had been seeing their ads on t.v. all week for dresses under $20. That sounded almost scary, but as the models pranced across our television screen wearing some really cute little numbers, I thought maybe it was legitimate. I can use a couple of new dresses for the summer, and Ross was right there on 192, so we zipped over. It was after 9 p.m., but the sign on their door said that they were open till 9:30, so I knew I'd have a bit of time to do some quick shopping.

I had never been to Ross before, but the moment I walked in the door, I suspected that the commercial had been misleading. It was a crowded, disorganized place, and I wouldn't dress my cat in most of the items that I passed on my way to the dress section. All of the dresses were crammed together on crowded, groaning racks shoved together to form claustrophobic aisles that anyone other than an anorexic would find it nearly impossible to maneuver through. I gingerly poked at the offerings and discovered that I have dishrags that look better. Not one of the dresses looked even remotely like what the commercials had shown.

Hoping that the stop wouldn't be a total waste, I wandered over to the swimsuits. Most of them were eye-searingly gaudy, but I found some in normal colors that were reasonably priced. I snatched them up and dragged my husband away from the dress rack, where he seemed to have gone into a coma of horror. Since the store was closing, half of Kissimmee had worked its way into the check-out lines. Only two lines were open, although they eventually opened a third in hopes of dissipating the crowd sometime before midnight.

We hopped back into the car, and I felt a small rush of sympathy for my husband. We had come out on a mission to get him a bicycle, but I had purchased all sorts of goodies while he was still empty handed. His face wore the dejected expression of an orphaned cyclist cruely deprived of his trusty cycle.

Not long after we arrived home, he trotted down the stairs waving a piece of paper. He'd gone online and discovered a likely candidate at Wal-Mart. And only $59, too. Sigh! Thankfully, it was too late to head out again tonight, but I know what I'll be doing tomorrow. Canyonero will be heading down 192 to 27, and I'll have my fingers crossed that Sam Walton's Four Corners store will have a bike to satisfy my hubby. The intrepid East Village cyclist will ride once again.

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