Yes, I do believe that the metric system is a socialist plot to destroy America.
I’m not sure if I heard that from Rush or from Glen Beck, but either way you can take it to the bank.
Still and all… I have this secret, albeit unpatriotic, vice.
I love kilometers. I lust after kilometers.
For cyclists, kilometers are the junk food of distance measures. Gobble down one and, well, you just want to keep eating those suckers up.
As opposed to miles. Which are what you are obliged to consume because they are “good for you.”
Like Brussel sprouts.
Check it out. If I want to ride a century in the states, that’s 100 miles. That’s a lot of broccoli, pal.
But a metric century in one of those socialist countries? That’s only 62 miles or thereabouts. Like pigging out on Cheese Doodles.
And my wife likes to run a 5K. That’s 3.1 miles. Do I hear the sound of potato chips crunching, dear?
Anyway, that’s why I went to Canada – Nova Scotia to be more specific – in the summer of 2015 to cycle the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton.
Yeah, there were stunning seascapes to contemplate and admire. And very unFlorida-like mountains to get over (“Low gear, everybody down.”). And wonderfully cool and crisp weather to savor at a time when it’s 104 in the shade back and 100 percent humidity back in Gville.
But it’s all in kilometers, man! Talk about icing on the cake. And none of that sugar-free icing either.
Listen, there’s nothing more thrilling than racing down a steep, winding road off northern Cape Breton’s French Mountain – the sparkling blue water of the Atlantic spreading out on one side, sheer cliffs dropping away on the other – and glancing at the bike computer on my handlebars…
…and realizing that I’m going a freaking 64!
No, not 64 miles per hour, that would probably have killed me. But 64 kilometers an hour. And that’s still pretty freaking fast.
How fast? I’d tell you but Sanford isn’t paying me to write this so I’m not going to bother to do the math for you.
Let’s just say it’s fast. Really, really fast.
Still, the thing about junk food and socialism is that they both have a way of viciously turning on you when you least expect it.
Take our first day of touring on Cape Breton.
According to the cue sheets helpfully provided us by our tour company, Backroads, the first day was to be a relatively short shakedown ride of just 45 kilometers (that’s 28 good-for-you miles in American) from the lovely lakeside community of Baddeck, over Hunter’s Mountain (elevation 500 feet, you figure it out, Mike) and down into the beautiful Margaree River Valley to a pleasant lunch on the shore of scenic Lake O’Law.
But alas, my Gainesville cycling buddy Bruce Stechmiller and I went astray. First taking this wrong turn. And then that one. And then retracing our routes and crossing Hunter’s Mountain not once, but twice. And finally showing up at Lake O’Law long after everyone else (and the food) had decamped for our nearby lodgings.
Before it was all over, our computers were registering 88 kilometers (ask Mike) and I was writhing on the ground at lakeside with severe leg cramps, having not hydrated myself properly for an epic ride of that distance.
As far as Stech and I can figure, this unfortunate kilometer malfunction occurred for two primary reasons.
- Florida guys – well, let’s just admit it, all guys – are pretty much incapable of asking directions and unwilling to actually read the cue sheets. And
- Contrary to my presupposition, it turns out that you actually can get lost on an island. Who knew?
Ultimately we ended up bumming water off a very nice farmer in an authentic straw hat, and subsisting on emergency Snickers bars purchased at a roadside cafe.
And in desperation we finally did break down and ask directions, only to get conflicting advice.
First, the elderly woman in the antique store assured us that Lake O’Law was just down the road about 5 miles. “You can get there in about 20 minutes,” she said.
About half an hour down the road later, the aforementioned straw-hatted farmer told us he thought it was still more like 15 miles away.
So what have we learned from this friends and neighbors? Well, most obviously, both of those “locals” gave us distances in miles, not kilometers. Presumably because we weren’t fellow travelers, if you catch my drift.
I’m just saying, if they had told us in kilometers we probably would have arrived in 10 minutes and made lunch in plenty of time.
But, no, they made us do the ride in miles. Because it’s supposed to be good for us. Like eating cauliflower. We’re lucky to have made it at all.
All of which goes to show you that socialism isn’t entirely bad. Sorry Rush, sorry Glen, but you had to be there.
(Originally published in the Gainesville Sun in 2015)