After that fateful August day that launched me as a cyclist, I've been on the Trail at least 4-5 days per week on average. I've watched construction of the Big Dam Bridge from start to finish and observed as the cycling scene in our town has grown and evolved, though I still consider myself to be a neophyte.
One of my favorite "trail features" is the cast of characters that populates the trail. Some come and go, some remain fairly constant and some remain but change in some ways. I have a habit of giving nicknames to people, often based on their appearance or habits. One of the first guys I came to notice was a middle-aged guy who rode almost every day for a couple of years. I called him "R.E.M. Guy" due to the fact that anytime the temperature dropped below about 80 degrees, he rode in fuzzy red ear muffs. Add tennis shoes, crew socks, very short gym shorts and a white T-shirt and he cut a unique figure. After we had exchanged head nods a couple of hundred times, I actually asked him about the earmuffs one day and his response was a simple "my ears get cold". Enough said. Then there was "FullTeamKit Boy", a large guy who favored, you got it, wearing full pro team kit. Not a bad look, but I will make a general statement that not everyone needs to sport worn-thin white shorts on a sunny day. Then, there is the "ceremonial stick guy". I can only speculate on his mission. He could be among the homeless, but carries himself with dignity and rides an old bike on which he has mounted on the downtube, like a cavalry carbine in a scabbard, a stick that appears to be decorated with feathers, leather thongs and other materials that imply some purpose. On occasion, he somehow mounts the stick on top of his head in a manner that reminds me of a black Bullwinkle rolling up the path. If he is just trying to arouse curiosity, his mission has been accomplished.
One of the oddest things I've ever seen appeared like an apparition as I made the little climb toward the quarry. At first, I thought I was seeing a large dog being followed by his owner, but as I crested the hill I realized it was something far more unusual. It was a miniature horse pulling a small cart being driven by a Fabio-like man, complete with bare chest, weight-lifter physique and long, curling blonde locks. Except for the pygmy-pony, the picture could have graced the cover of any steamy romance novel. There has been MoonGirl, the Cat Lady, Little Stevie and more, all of whom have their own story. In the last couple of weeks, I've observed a man busily digging with a stick at the same location, sometimes removing dirt, then smoothing it back over, circling the spot and returning to stir more dirt. I've speculated on his purpose, but have drawn no conclusion. My guesses have ranged from burying a small animal (nope, he's been digging at the same place for days) to digging for worms (nope, no fishing tackle), to preparing a piece of ground for sleeping (perhaps) to just a compulsive soul on a mission to move some dirt around. Maybe I'll learn what it is all about one day, but more likely, he'll drift away and my memory of him will be replaced upon the arrival of some new character.
I've become friends with quite a few of my "nicks", so I can't call them all out for fear of recrimination, but I will say that some of them are at least as, ummmm...."unique" as I might have speculated.
Call me easily entertained, but I get just a little pleasure almost every day from my observations and speculations on the denizens of the trail. Look around on your next ride. They'll be out there!