Rugged Gongs

28 10 2010

Recently a friend of mine confidently informed me that it was not a bell that graced my handlebars, but a gong, the difference being that a gong is struck on the outside while a bell is struck from the inside. My response was to tell him that if he was going to get picky about bell vs. gong terminology, I was going to get picky about spindle vs. axle terminology, ’cause that’s the kind of bike geeks we are. Subsequent semantical research has revealed the line between bells and gongs is not so distinct, and that many people consider a gong to be a type of bell. Still, the word has now permanently entered my vocabulary.

Gong show & tell.

One of the prizes from last week’s big dumpster score was a broken bell, um gong, er technically none of the above cause it’s made of wood. I was smitten with the woodpecker bell from the first time I saw it on for the love of bikes, so I yoinked that “bell” out of the dumpster (with $25 price tag still attached – yowza) at woody woodpecker speed, even though the wooden “bell” part had snapped in half. But hey, I had carpenter’s glue and nothing to lose, and now the tiny (too quiet) original handlebar gong has a companion that simultaneously confuses the ipod adorned pedestrians of the High Level Bridge and makes them pay attention, if not to the bell, to my manic laughing because the pecking sound is hilarious. The woodpecker bell, like the the bird, is both awkward & awesome, and you’ll find me rolling ’round town, peck-peck-pecking and cackling, until the glue fails.

The Woodpecker Laughs Last

3 06 2010

Living at the speed of bike strikes the perfect balance between being able to take in all the lovely little details in the environment you’re moving through with enough mobility to always have new places to explore. Some of the best moments in cycling are those little things that normally get overlooked from the perspective of a steel cage.

For example, meet this little guy:

He is a pileated woodpecker, and he's not that little.

I was leisurely riding down a bougie boulevard and noticed him digging holes in someone’s lawn. He didn’t seem bothered that I was there, so I stopped and watched him forage.

Woodpecker fishing for subterranean snacks.

He was flicking dirt all over the place, and looked like he was eating something. As I continued taking pictures of him at unusually close range, I started to feel weird about being a stupid human stressing out this poor bird who was just trying to get some grub(s) during a rough season. Then, as if on cue, a BMW pulled up behind me and stopped to see what I was looking at.

The woodpecker still seems pretty unconcerned.

The driver rolled her window down and started taking pictures as well, and we both watched the woodpecker while it more or less ignored us. Another vehicle approached and slowed and I rolled my eyes at the prospect of a wildlife traffic jam a la Jasper National Park on Jasper Avenue, but it didn’t stick around long. Meanwhile, the lady in the BMW was inching closer and closer to the woodpecker.

Profile of an urban woodpecker.

Eventually, the woodpecker had his fill of either us or the creepy crawlies and hopped up a nearby tree. The woman backed her car up towards and me and said “That was amazing! Thank-you so much for stopping. I would never have seen that if I hadn’t seen you first.”

That left me sort of speechless, and I made awkward conversation with her (still sitting in her running car) about birds for a couple of minutes. “Thanks again!” she said as she started to roll up the window and drive away, when suddenly the woodpecker swooped down from the tree, flying only a few feet directly over our heads, and shit on the BMW.