Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If I Had a Rocket Launcher

I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die

~ Bruce Cockburn, If I Had a Rocket Launcher

An Open Letter to Wisconsin Governor James Doyle, Jr.

Dear Governor Doyle,

Yesterday my family and I were riding our bicycles in your beautiful state on Highway 2. My wife rides one tandem with our daughter, 12, and I ride the other tandem with my son, 10. We are riding across the United States from Lincoln City, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine. In all the miles we have ridden so far (nearly 2000), we have encountered courteous drivers who gave us a lot of room when passing. Never did anyone try to run us off the road, yell at us while riding, or be purposefully mean. Until yesterday, that is. While riding east on Highway 2 from Ashland to the Michigan line we met with drivers who did the following:
  • would not move over when passing us (we were on the shoulder the entire time), even when there was no oncoming traffic
  • rode as close to us as possible; this had to be either through inattention or with malicious intent. Either way, these drivers put us and our children in danger.
  • yelled at us and gave rude hand gestures while driving by.
  • And the coup de grace, threw a package of lit fire crackers at us while passing.

Now, I am not naive enough to believe that you can, or are even interested, in doing something about this. And I hate to generalize about Wisconsin drivers (although all bike riders we have encountered in this part of Wisconsin have had similar experiences). I do think, however, that as the Governor you can urge local communities and counties to post "Share the Road" signs. You can also encourage efforts in driver education to include more about how to properly interact with bicyclists.

Part of our desire in taking this trip is to learn more about America. We update our blog (www.shut-up-and-pedal.blogspot.com) frequently. Unfortunately, I will not have much good to say about the drivers in Wisconsin and will urge bicyclists to find other routes.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Dan Calzaretta

_____________________________

What a day yesterday was. Without a doubt it was the worst day of bicycling I have had in years. The drivers were rude and dangerous and stupid. Even if you believe that some of the drivers who passed us just weren't paying attention (which is bad enough), it does not account for the consistent disregard for us and other cyclists on the road. One or two is an anomaly; all day (hundreds of vehicles) is a cultural attitude. And I was so looking forward to being in Wisconsin. As a kid my family rarely took vacations. The two that we did go on, however, were to the Wisconsin Dells. I remember fondly the lakes, the summer sun, the kitschy Tommy Bartlett Water Show. Now, I realize that I can't generalize this experience to the entire state, but it sure does leave a bad taste in your mouth. What I really wanted was fresh bratwurst, cold beer, and a lakeside campsite. Now I can't wait to get back into Michigan. Michigan, do us proud with better drivers please!

Speaking of that, we did cross into Michigan for a few miles yesterday. We dropped back down into Wisconsin today and will re-enter Michigan in a couple of days.


I don't consider myself a violent person. But, as Bruce Cockburn said, if I had a rocket launcher (or a slingshot, or a rock for that matter) I certainly would have used it yesterday. My mantra for today: let it go and live to ride another day.

~ Dan

9 comments:

dwightite said...

Wow! You all are amazing! Love reading all ablout your adventure. Praying that all goes well and it is even more than you imagined. Alison, I got the blog info, while recently in Dwight, from a letter your mom wrote to my mom, Edie Lund. Look forward to following the rest of your trek. Enjoy!

Chris (Lund) Andersen
Orlando, FL

Terri said...

Dan- I never want to get you ticked off at me. You have EVERY reason to be upset. How frustrating and DANGEROUS!

I hope the Gov. gets hold of the letter somehow.

Stay safe!

Hugs from WW- Terri G.

Anonymous said...

Doc & family, I hate to tell you but people who build cars that burn lots of expensive fuel (gas or deisel) and are grossly overpriced anyway in a recession driven economy are not going to view cyclists with much favor. Take all the precautions you can, and avoid Michigan as much as possible. I wish you a careful, safe and fun trip... but come back to us safe and sound, all of you.
mike@medwrec & famiy

William said...

I'm sorry you had a bad experience in Wisconsin. I hope Michigan is better place. I've always thought it was.

Anonymous said...

What a horrible day! That sounds awful....and dangerous. I can't believe someone would actually throw something out the window at a bicyclist...never mind a package of lit fireworks! Insane. I am glad you are all safe and made it to Wisconsin. I hope you do not encounter that kind of rudeness again on your journey and I hope the Governor gets your letter. It seems like some of the actions should be prosecutable. There is nothing worse than riding bikes with your family and fearing that your children are in danger. Good luck...and I love the photo of Gus and the Ax! Love Chandra

rachel said...

Dad had a pellet pistol for sale at his last garage sale. I could send it ahead for pickup...

rachel

Anonymous said...

"Good Honk"! Those rude Wisconians should be ashamed. Maybe times have changed since I lived there. The only thing we had to worry about on the roads in northern Wisconsin were the deer in "rut". Then it was scary. Is there a "rut" season for drivers? Keep on being brave and careful.
Love,
Terri

Anonymous said...

Miriam was here Sunday - Tuesday.
On the front page of the Oregonian Monday, there was a cell phone photo of a bicyclist laying on a car hood and holding onto the windshield molding by his fingernails as the crazed driver drove down a Portland street. Seems the cyclist irked him somehow. Please be careful. There are some real NUTS out there!! According to your trip schedule, you are exactly half way today, (that is until you get home on the 24th). If you consider your bicycling should be finished on the 22nd, you're actually past the halfway point. By the way, Jim still has that b-b air pistol! Love you all. Mom

robbie nine guns said...

"If you are going to shoot somebody, you ought not to use a BB or pellet gun" -- Custer