27 December 2010

Cycling Where North Is South and South Is North

The local forecasters are saying that tonight we're going to have the coldest weather we've had for this date in at least forty years.  The temperature is supposed to fall to 27 degrees here; with the wind-chill, the "real-feel" temperature will be 20 or less.

Now, if I were in New York, I probably wouldn't give a second thought to this weather.  But I'm in Florida.  Granted, it's about an hour and a half northeast of Orlando, but still...

I guess this weather is Floridian compared to what they're having in New York and, in fact, just about all of the Eastern seabord north of Savannah, GA.  And I did get out for a brief ride this afternoon.  Although it was still chilly and breezy, there was scarcely a cloud in the sky.  Plus, I saw very little traffic.  On the other hand, I did see lots of pine trees.  I've nothing against them, but after an hour of seeing little else, they can get monotonous.  Perhaps I wouldn't have felt that way if they were magnolias or some other trees I don't normally see.

The other day, I described the apparent lack of commuter and utility cyclists in these parts.  That leads to drivers, whether intentionally or not, riding close to cyclists or turning into an intersection as a cyclist crosses.  To be fair, the latter may be due to the faulty timing of traffic signals.

Those same motorists, once they leave their steel cocoons, can be very pleasant and polite, or even charming.  I encountered one such driver today:  He made an uncomfortably close turn and, upon noticing me, rolled his eyes and said "Dang!" or something stronger.  As his window was closed and my lip-reading skills are only slightly better than my navigational or computational skills, I can't be entirely sure.

Anyway, I stopped in "Monkey," one of a local chain of 7-11 type gas stations/convenience stores, to use their bathroom.  On the way out, I picked up a pack of Crysto-Mint Life Savers.  As I walked up to the counter, that same man was chatting with the cashier.  He turned and, upon seeing me, drawled, "How d'ya do, ma'am?" 

"Oh, very well, thank you.  Lovely day, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is, ma'am.  I hope you're having a nice holiday."

"Why, thank you.  And I hope you're having the same."

When I used to come down here in boy-drag, I found that some of the young good ol' boys would run me almost off the road and whoop, yell or make comments about my obvious Yankee-ness.  Ironically, I was born in Georgia, though I spent only the first five months of my life there.  My father was stationed there with the Strategic Air Command, and during my infancy, they moved him, my mother and me back to New York. 

In the visits I've made since becoming Justine, I find that the motorists act more out of neglect or ignorance, or an unconscious sense of entitlement, than out of outright hostility than they did when I was Nick.  And, in my days as the "before" photo,  people were invariably polite and often friendly when they encountered me off my bike.  Now, I still find most of them polite and friendly, though some men are what some would characterise as chauvinistic and sometimes solicitous.

These experiences remind me of what someone once told me:  In Florida, South is North and North is South.  Down to about Orlando, it's very much like one encounters in Georgia or Alabama.  But much of the area south of Epcot Center has been colonized by Yankees and Quebecois.

But as far as today's weather goes, North is North, all right. 

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