Bikeocalypse - Madsen vs. Big Dummy
Let's just say that something happened.
We'll leave the science of it to the dead. There are plenty of them. Something happened, not just in the small town of Doom, Montana, but everywhere. A whole planet of humans nearly wiped out. But while those who died first were lucky, two random individuals woke up that winter morning to find their nightmare just beginning. This is their story.
Big Dummy Barton was born surly and he never quite fit in with the people in his neighborhood. They always wanted him to haul the broken appliances off his property or to get around to fixing up the old Camaro he kept up on blocks in the front yard. So when BD woke up the morning after it happened, he felt good for the first time in a lot of years. Really good. It's not that he actually enjoyed the way his neighbor's driveways were littered with the freezing corpses of his neighbors. It's just that he'd always known deep down that he was something of a post-apocalyptic guy. His sense of fashion was right for it. So on that first morning, as he surveyed the destruction, checking the static of channel after channel on the TV to be sure the calamity was acting locally and thinking globally, he smiled to himself (who else could he smile to, after all) and said out loud, "Shit. Looks like I'll be going on a bike ride."
He packed his supplies into a small pack: a survival knife, a bottle of Wild Turkey, and a handgun. He loaded a sleeping bag, a cook pot, and some matches into the Freeloader of his long-tailed bicycle and set out for the open road. As he pedaled away, he turned around and took one last look at his home. "Turn out the lights when you leave," he said to no one.
His first stop was the town's one grocery store. What he found there surprised the crap out of him. The grocery store was on fire. A smoldering wreck of burning frozen burritos, pre-made macaroni, and Abuelita - Authentic Mexican-Style Chocolate-Flavored Drink Mix (BD's favorite hot drink.) But that wasn't what surprised him. He was surprised to find Kip Madsen parked out front with his new utility bike, the one with the trash can bolted to its rump. "Well if it isn't Kippy and his dumpster bike," BD said.
"It's not a dumpster, it's a utility bucket BD. I wish you'd stop calling it that."
"Whatever. Why'd you burn down the grocery?"
"I didn't burn it down. It was on fire when I got here... Hey, where are you going?"
BD had already mounted his bike and was pedaling away. "Gonna cross the mountains. There's an Albertson's over in Gloom," he said over his shoulder.
Kip looked back at the ember of a grocery store, then over at the neighborhood filled with dead people, and decided he'd throw his lot in with BD. "Hey wait, I'm coming with you," he said.
BD laughed and said, "Why not. If you think you can make it with that thing. It's gonna be a rough road." And with that, the unlikely pair set off on their journey from Doom to Gloom, in search of frozen burritos and, in Kip's case, some tofu.
BD and Kip Discuss The Merits of Their Bicycles and Come To An Understanding
The road out of town was fairly smooth. They had to ride around a good number of broken down cars, filled with lifeless families of people. They passed a Chevy Suburban with living occupants that had become stuck on the road because of the stopped cars that surrounded it like roadblocks.
"Should we offer to bail them out?" Kip asked.
BD didn't think they'd be able to save themselves, even with a bailout, so he agreed to try.
But the family of five wasn't interested in hitting the road with BD and Kip. They were in the middle of watching a season's worth of Tivo'd Survivor episodes. They had a large cooler filled with Mountain Dew and Bon Bons and they waved BD and Kip away without taking their eyes off of the four LCD screens embedded in the Suburban's upholstery. "We were born Americans and we'll die living like Americans if that's what it takes," the driver said.
"Suit yerself," BD said.
They pedaled along in silence for a few hours until BD, who had a triple chainring, slowed up a bit for Kip and struck up a conversation. "How much you pay for that Rubbish Rider anyway?"
"$1,299 retail," Kip said. "How much did you pay for your bike?"
"A little more."
"How much more?"
"About twenty-eight hundred," BD said.
"Well," Kip said. "Those of us with families couldn't live that fancy."
They approached a steep incline and BD downshifted into his small ring and pulled away from Kip, who eventually had to get off and push.
At the top of the hill, BD spotted a deer nibbling grass on the side of the road. Silently, he pulled the handgun out of his pack and took aim. CRACK. The deer dropped dead where it stood. BD reached for his knife and was off the bike in an instant. By the time Kip reached the top of the hill, BD had gutted the deer and strapped it to the back of his bike.
Kip was aghast, but he was glad to have caught up with BD and so he said nothing of the carcass. The two pedaled along as the day grew dark. They were nearing the mountain pass and Kip began to worry over the difficulties that lay ahead. Would his bike, with its 20-inch rear wheel be able to handle the terrain? Unlike BD's bike, his was clearly meant for the city. It had been cheaper, sure, but now, in a post-apocalyptic situation, Kip wasn't so sure that the build-quality would be up to par. He had been swayed into the purchase by the convenience of the big utility bucket. It was easy to load and he didn't have to bother with the spider web of straps that BD always had to employ just to haul around anything large. But now that they'd soon be venturing off-road, Kip was unsure. Even though the 20-inch wheel was strong, the lack of clearance and of low gearing made his situation look grim.
For his part, BD didn't care much for Kip, even though he might be the last man left alive (once those Chevy folks died their slow deaths). But he'd noticed that a few of the parts on Kip's trashcan caddy were interchangeable with his (gotta love bikes built with standard components, even ugly ones) and he decided that it might be good to have a self-propelled parts bike along for the ride over the pass. Just in case. So once again he slowed up and rode alongside Kip. "I just want you to know," he said. "That I won't abandon your bike in the mountains. Whatever it takes, I'll see you and your Garbage Gondola through the pass."
That night, they made camp a quarter mile after turning off the road, and ate a hearty venison stew. Kip went to sleep thinking that, maybe, BD wasn't such a washed-up ex frisco speed-running bastard after all.
The mountains were not kind to Kip and his rubbermaid-rider. The mountains had more of an affinity for BD and his off-road-oriented utility bike. His tires were larger, his bottom-bracket higher, his trigonometry more trigged out than was Kip's. It was as if the mountains and BD had some kind of tender, yet illicit, tryst going on. As long as he stayed in the saddle, the long bike would never lose traction. It's wheelbase, to BD's surprise, actually helped him steer between the obstacles on steep climbs, his front wheel being about as close to a wheelie as a vegan is to rare steak. Not close at all.
Kip, on the other hand, suffered from a smaller contact patch, less ground clearance, less diverse choices in gearing (though BD made a point of mashing his way up the hill (in the saddle, no less)). And when a fierce, white monster of a snowstorm blew in, Kip's utility bucket filled with snow.
The descent was easier for kip. At least he had a front disc brake, which helped. Though he would have liked a rear disc as well. One day after the storm, their second day in the mountains, the snow melted a bit and settled into a dense, useless burden. He tried to chip it out with a twig, but he gave up in frustration. The drain holes, which had worked so well in the city drizzles had quickly become clogged with mud.
But three days after they entered the mountains, they left the mountains, and Kip Madsen and BD Barton were once again on more even footing. BD still had his extra gears, but the snow had melted and drained from Kip's utility bin, and the cruising was good.
They rode into Gloom with mud in the crooks of their teeth and stomachs that rumbled like great tsunamis on a gastric sea. And even though the town's streets were bedecked with rotting corpses, the organic stinkings of some macabre ticker tape parade, Kip and BD were happy because the town boasted an Albertsons.
In his tremendous enthusiasm, BD rode right through the plate glass doors, sending a spray of safety glass into the March Madness beer display.
"Dude, what was that all about?" Kip asked.
"I thought they'd open automatically," BD replied.
Kip rode through the smashed door and parked next to BD's bike. The pair of haggard survivors set to scooping up great armloads of canned goods and Little Debbie snack cakes and running back to their bikes to deposit their loads. It didn't take long for them to realize that even though each of their bikes held the same amount of goods, Kip's Madsen was by far the easiset to load and he finished stocking up in half the time it took BD.
When they'd maxed out their bike's capacities, they set out to find a place to sleep for the night. As they rode down the town's empty main street, BD spied a cantina and suggested they stop in for a warm beer and a shot of tequila. Little did they know, they were not alone in the town of Gloom.
As luck would have it, the sole survivor in Gloom happened to be the gorgeous barkeep of the Gloomy Gus Cantina. Perhaps as a survival mechanism, perhaps because it was still well-stocked with beer, the gorgeous barkeep kept coming in to work, hoping beyond hope that even one customer would show up for a drink.
She served them up a round and flirted, as all campy horror-movie starlets do, and it wasn't long before Kip and BD were competing for affections. BD, with his years of cantina-inhabiting experience, had the upper hand and all evening the barkeep hung on him like a voluptious sausage hangs in a smoker -- hot and smoky.
As the evening came to a close BD and Kip tried to get her to roll out with them but she refused to leave her post. "What if another customer needs a drink?" she asked.
Kip, feeling chivalrous, said, "Is there anything we can do for you before we leave?"
"Not unless you've got a hot bath genie, that's the only thing this cantina lacks."
He was about to say sorry when he glanced at his bike and got an idea. 'Your wish," he said, "is my command."
Kip dumped the food out of the Madsen's bucket and began filling it with hot water from the bar sink. With the addition of a little hand soap from the men's room, a bar rag, and one naked barkeep, Kip transformed his bike into a hot-tub, the only one to have ever ridden into the Gloomy Gus Cantina.
When they rode out of town the next morning to meet their destiny, the Barkeep took up position in the back of Kip's madsen and told the boys, "Let's roll," her arms firmly wrapped around Kip's paunchy midsection. And for a trio of post-apocalyptic survivors and two utility bikes, the lesson learned was that every bike has its place, its strenghts. If you need a Jeep, get the Big Dummy. If you need a minivan, get the Madsen.