Ralph and Rhonda

We went dirt biking yesterday—really and truly sliding through diarrhea-like mud and flying down steep and curvy hills, all while dodging stumps, roots, and rocks. The dogs thought our new hobby grand: lots of inviting mud puddles, water to drink whenever they pleased, and a speed suited to canine legs. We discovered the trail entirely by accident while biking logging roads. Someone had even installed ramps on the curves, so bikes could round them really fast. Not that Peggy and I rounded them really fast. No, not us. We walked them really slow, because we don’t have mud tires on our bikes. We have all-terrain tires, and all-terrain tires are not really meant for ALL terrains, and they turn to squirrels in mud. One minute they’re gliding along nicely, and the next minute they’re either lying down for a nap, or sliding sideways to the direction of travel.

We discussed these traits—Peggy and I—and we determined that we did not like them. They are thrilling traits, to be sure, but we agreed that it is better to have at least some idea of what one’s bike is about to do. Although nothing in life is guaranteed, even a vague notion about ones future is superior to no notion at all.

Because Peggy’s new bike is on order, she was on her Raleigh commuter with its two-inch tires. Having christened my new bike Rhonda, I determined that Peggy’s bike needed a name too, so I named him Ralph. Peggy liked the name Ralph, pointing out that since we had B names for out last four pets—Bonnie, Baxter, Becky, Buster, it is only fitting that we have R names for our bikes. That way, we can tell our dogs from our bicycles without looking at their undersides. Inspired and uplifted (although more the former than the latter) by her sentiment, I named my other bike—the one that was home in the garage—Ramon; and Peggy named her other bike—the one that is on order—Rufus. I thought Rufus was too bookish a name for a mud bike. I thought Rufus sounded more like a sedentary pipe smoker in loungewear, and I generously offered to donate the name Ramon to her for her bike, but she was obstinate as usual. On my gloomier days, I suspect that the woman lacks good sense as evidenced by the fact that she so often disagrees with me.

Ralph cost $400, yet he performed better on mud than Rhonda who cost $1,700. I was naturally perplexed—and even a little put out—by this, and I began thrashing around in my mind for a comforting explanation. Ralph is heavier by ten pounds, I told myself, so maybe his greater weight made for greater stability. That sounded plausible, but I could hardly stop with one theory lest it turn out to be wrong, and leave me with no theory at all.

My next theory was that Ralph’s 26-inch diameter wheels are more stable than Rhonda’s 20-inch wheels. I didn’t like that theory much, because I could see no upside to it if it were true. The next thing that came to mind was that Ralph is a boy, and Rhonda is a girl. No that couldn’t be it, not in our enlightened age. If women firepersons are the equal of men firepersons, then women bicycles should be equally equal to men bicycles.

This left me with but one possibility: Peggy is a better biker than I, at least in the mud. I liked this explanation best of all, because it was the only one subject to change. When a person has spent a lot of money for a bike, and said bike does not perform as well as another bike that costs a quarter as much, any explanation that excuses the bike is preferable to any explanation that blames the bike.