Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Valentines for Cycling Sensitives

Hey, we know V-Day is just another attempt by the powers that control America to sell more greeting cards.

But in the spirit of all things having to do with Venus, the planet of love and beauty, I am concocting a guide on what to do on Valentine's day for cycling aficionados.

Some of the following activities do not necessarily involve getting on two wheels: however a cycling-sensitive person is usually (though not always,) also interested in the outdoors, exercise, exploration and possibly beauty as well.

(1) Why not take a road or mountain bike down to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for a day (or two)? This area is protected by the federal government under the auspices of the Pinelands National Preserve, the state, under the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, and by local groups such as the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, who actually probably do the bulk of the outreach and work in protecting this area from overuse, development and environmental destruction.


I called Mike Hunninghake, director of communications for PPA and he outlined a few terrific rides in the area that you and a sweetheart (or friend) can take for the day--or days over the weekend.

The ride I am reccommending is either a 46 mile or 29 mile ride, both starting at the same point.

It starts a the Batsto parking area on Route 542, and "is a great way to experience the beauty, the mystery and the history of the 1.1 million acres of the Pinelands National Reserve," says a brochure for the area by the NJ Department of Transportation.

The area is home to "pristine pine and oak forests, blueberry fields and cranberry bogs, meandering cedar-colored streams and three major rivers: the Batsto, the Mullica
and the Wading," says the brochure. It's also the home to historical remains of the once thriving forges in the area that were the source of iron-making, among them, Batsto Village where the Pine Barrens River Ramble tour begins. Batsto is a restored 19th century community has an ironmaster’s mansion, gristmill, sawmill, general store and post office.

You can shorten the 46 mile ride by turning left from County Route 652 onto County Route 542 and heading back toward Batsto Village. You can also wait until May 16, when at least one local cycling group, the Shore Cycling Club, does this ride en masse.

There are two other 40-plus mile rides you can take a little further south in Jersey, also going through the pine barrens. Both are based on rides put together by the PPA in October.

2. Rent romantic movies about cycling, cook dinner and open a bottle of wine (or sparkling cider) while you watch. Okay we are not talking about the highlights of the last seven Tour de France events, or the epic Paris to Roubaix rides, or any of the other sweathog master cycling aggression themes where many of you watch and dream about being a real racer and avoid your real life.

No, we are talking about cycling movies that involve real people. Most of you have seen Breaking Away, the 1979 classic about a group of townies (including a young Dennis Quaid) who surmount all odds by winning their own local race against much better trained and equipped, rich outsiders.

There is also the 1949 classic by Italian director, Vittorio de Sica, the Bicycle Thief, or Ladri de Biciclette, about a man and his son who search for a stolen bicycle that he needs for his job.

Then there's American Flyers (1985) which actually shows people we know (Kevin Costner, wow!) "racing" in Central Park and trying to have sex (his brother with a girlfriend) on the bicycle (at least this part is interesting.)

The Triplets of Belleville is probably one of my all time favorites, and if you haven't seen this, you really are missing something. It IS a cartoon, but you won't be disappointed: the caricature of the main character when he is a grown man as a cyclist is so perfectly dead on, and there are references to his being the son of Fausto Coppi--but abandoned and raised by his grandmother. Could it be true?

Then there is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, (1985) which at least on plot line is a rip off of de Sica's original movie, but apparently was voted the best cycling movie of all time by a group called Byke Kultuur Never.

For those of you who want to see Nicole Kidman before she dyed and straightened her hair for Hollywood, you can see BMX Bandits, (1983). The date of this movie suspiciously makes her stated age much younger than she must be, because if we believe her published birthdate of June 1967 then she was 15 when she made this movie--NOT! Okay, I am sure all you pervs are running to the video store now to rent this one--if you can find it.

Fast forward to the current century, Beijing Bicycle (2001) or Shiqi sui de dan che, is about a young man in China who is working as a bicycle courier and has his bike stolen (plot sound familiar?). Anyway, you'd get to see Beijing before it became dominated by BMW's and arrogant businessmen pushing cyclists out of bike lanes. (Hopefully that will change with the declining economy and their imminent next social revolution.)

The Day I Became a Woman (2000) or "Roozi Khe Zan Shodam," is an Iranian film directed by Marziyeh Meshkini. This according to a website that gathers all bicycle films on one list, "Several tales about the hardships faced by Iranian women. The title story is about a girl who, on her ninth birthday is told that she is now a woman and can no longer associate with her male friends. In the cycling episode, Ahoo is competing in a cycle race with other women all clad in traditional black chadors with her husband chasing after her, as his property, on horseback to pull her out of the race."

And finally, Um Eine Nasenlange, (1949) is about two six day racers (those were the days my friend,) who are after the same girl, and one wins by a noselength. If you find a copy of the film, let me know!!!

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