Thursday, August 29, 2013

Les vrais hommes montent acier.

I slide back in the saddle as I click up a gear and push harder on the pedals.  The French countryside gently rises to meet me and field stone walls flash by in a blur.  A cigarette dangles out of the corner of my mouth, the ash threatening to break off and land down the front of my wool jersey.  I do not care.  My sweat will put out the embers.

I am a man and real men ride steel.

As I pass a roadside cafe' the smell of croissants and coffee wafts through the air and mixes with the smell of the farm, my sweat, and cigarette smoke.  It is a heady and familiar mix.  I wonder to myself...when did I last wash that wool jersey?  I cannot remember.  It does not matter.  "Elle est ce qu'elle est".

I am a man and real men ride steel.

Women watch me as I ride by.  They desire me.  Their husbands scowl.  They envy me.  My cigarette is done so I toss it aside and reach into my jersey pocket for a baguette.  I ride on.  The world does not stop while I eat so why should I?

I am a man and real men ride steel.

My hair does not blow in the wind and the rain.  Chain lube and hair oil.  Is there a difference?  "Non!"  I squint into the rain as it hits my face.  Hair grease...chain grease...a squint into the rain.

I am a man and real men ride steel.

I ride past a group of other men on steel bikes.  We know things.  Secret things.  Man things.  Steel things.  We squint at each other but do not wave.

We are men and real men ride steel.

A car drives up alongside me and the passenger, a French woman with pouting lips and wild hair, opens the door as we stop to talk and says that I am late.  I am French.  I do not care if I am late.   There are mountains to climb.  French mountains.  She secretly wants my wool jersey.

The woman is persistent.  She says I am late for work, turns away and leaves.  That voice?  I know that voice.  When did my wife start speaking French?  I open my eyes and look around my bedroom and the French woman, the pouting lips, the countryside, the smells all come to a screeching halt as the reality of life comes crashing into focus.  Oh yeah.  It's Monday.  I am not in France.  I do not smoke.  No husbands scowl at my existence.  I am late, the world is still not waiting for me and we are fresh out of baguettes.

But there is a shiny, new steel road bike frame sitting in a box in the corner.  That part is real and the road lies ahead.  Ladies...I am on my way!

"Les vrais hommes montent acier."

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