Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pumpkin Farm Fun and Swerving for Cyclists

Pumpkin Farm Fun

As we waited in our minivan for a cop directing traffic so a group of cyclists could get through, Ben said, "Mowcycle." Motorcycle

"That's good, Ben, but those are bicycles. See?" I pointed to a few pedalers passing in the opposite direction.

He looked at them, then looked the other direction and said, "Yeyyo mowcycle." Yellow motorcycle

We were about 10 or 15 cars back from the traffic light, and when I looked again I barely saw a yellow cruiser bike leaving the intersection headed to the right.

My wife and I both chimed in, "That's right, Ben, yellow motorcycle. Very good."

"I told you, if he says it, you know it's gotta be there somewhere," my wife said.

She was right. Ben has this uncanny ability to spot things we didn't even know were there, even after looking for them. I guess all young eyes, coupled with young brains, can do this, but I haven't been around other kids very much. Yet another perk of being a father is being around children and their amazing view of the world.

At the Big Orange Pumpkin Farm, Ben got to feed goats, cows, and sheep. He called out their names and gave them a "moo" and a "baaa" where appropriate, but they didn't seem to notice that he had learned their respective languages. My favorite was "Cock-a-dooo" for a rooster. Ben smiled each time a goat pushed its snout into the paper cup of feed, but laughed out loud when one goat would butt another for eating rights.

"Goats a sunny," Ben said.

"Yes, Ben those goats are funny," we replied. Still working on that F sound.

Now, I grew up with a best friend who lived on a farm, and this place was lacking one distinctive smell. Unless you've experienced it, then you will not be able to appreciate it just from my words. It is the rank stench of a billy goat's beard. Evidently these animals urinate on their own beards to make themselves more attractive to females or to warn away other males. Whatever the reason, with my considerable human nose I can only understand it working for the latter.

The hayride was uneventful, and somehow lost the charm I had hoped for when we passed two volleyball nets and saw a large building with a sign that read, "Bill Bates Cowboy Ranch." Nevertheless, Ben seemed to like it.

When a pig started squealing loud enough to get everybody's attention, a lady near us mused "maybe we're about to see what a farm is really all about." Turns out it was just an employee picking up the pig to give some patrons a closer look. That tiny pink pig made quite a scene, screaming its head off and flailing its stubby little legs. A supervisor walked over quickly and told the girl to put down the pig, as she was making guests think the pig was hurt. Clearly the girl was embarrassed by the reprimand. She cowered in one corner of the pig's cage, lifting little handfuls of its feed and letting it fall through her fingers. Then she jarred me completely out of the farm environment by calling somebody on her mobile phone. I can only imagine what she was saying.

We saw a train of sorts. It featured a John Deere lawn tractor pulling a string of about five "cars" made of cutout barrels, on their side, each just large enough for two or three little kids to sit and ride. I decided Ben needed to ride that, and bought a $2 ticket. I finally got his mom's attention as she chatted with a Mom's group member, and she decided to climb into the car with Ben. There were no safety straps, so we thought she could make sure he didn't fall out.

Stay with me.

Although my wife stands just a little over 5'7", she has fairly long legs. By the time she crammed herself into that little barrel with him, Ben was pinned against the front and had a look on his face that asked, "Now what am I supposed to do?" or maybe, "Dad, you paid two bucks for this?" Shannon likewise was unable to move, and barely managed to get out by herself, as I was busy readying the camera in the event she landed on her head.

A very nice woman behind us volunteered to let Ben ride with her two daughters, one of whom was about five and loved to help with her little sister. "She'll make sure he doesn't get out," she said. We asked Ben if that was okay with him, introduced him to the girls, and plopped him between them. He was so tired by that point that he probably wouldn't have cared if they were two bearcats. Ever the dutiful and nerdly dad, I followed along beside the train, my miniDV Handycam capturing every pontentially boring moment.

Later we let Ben pick out his own pumpkin from one of the patches. There were actual plants growing in rows of dark soil, with a few pumpkins lying near each. The stems were cut, so I'm not sure that was where they grew into the proud pumpkins they had become. The plants resembled the squash plants in my childhood garden, so I knew it was possible. Obviously caring little about their birthplace, Ben eagerly chose the first pumpkin he saw once we told him to get one. He gave a few textbook straining grunts as he tried to lift it, but neither of us knows where he got that. Probably from Grover lifting his mailbag on Sesame Street.

Before we finished our 10-minute drive home, Ben was fast asleep in his car seat. He didn't even stir when I unbuckled the straps to lift him out.

One thing that breaks my heart after outings like that? Although it will help shape who he becomes, Ben may have abolutely no conscious recollection of that day or any day prior to it. Some children claim to have memories of when they were two, but I certainly can't claim that. I guess we'll know some day whether he remembers it. We'll just have to make sure we ask him before he sees the pictures and video.

I don't want to say I have mixed feelings, because that carries with it a negative connotation, so let's say I have various feelings about the Big Orange Pumpkin Farm.

At $5 per person over two years old, which includes a hot dog, a hayride, and a paper cup full of animal feed, it is not a bad deal. Add to that drinks, chips, and a take-home pumpkin, and you're set back about $22 for a family of three to have a few hours of fun. I was surprised they charged $1 for a 16oz bottled Ozarka water (the best bottled water, right up there with Aquafina), considering how much I would pay for that at any other event in the area. I recommend it for a family outing in the fresh air. Well, fresh in a farmy, animal-dung kind of way.


Swerving for Cyclists

On the drive out to the pumpkin farm Saturday morning, we saw and had to swerve for lots of cyclists. I have no problem with that, but when cars coming the opposite direction swerve into my lane to pass a pedal pumper, I get a little nervous. We had no idea what the occasion was. Several miles down the road, two guys on bicycles were riding abreast, just like Ponch and John did in "CHiPs". As soon as I had the chance, I passed them. I said something like this:

"Can't they find a better place to ride together? I wouldn't be out here riding on a road where the speed limit is 55 mph. It's crazy. I know the law says they have the right to the lane just like a car does, but come on. I come over that next rise and there are two people riding like that, I won't see them in time. These people think they're the next Lance Armstrong or something. 'Oh, Lance isn't coming back, I have a shot.' Idiots."

Potential scoring for Deathrace 2000 notwithstanding, my wife nodded a couple times and said she agreed it was pretty risky. We were on our way, dodging bicycles the remaining five miles of our drive.

Later we found out that they were participating in the Velo Bash Bike Rally, to benefit and increase awareness of the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation of the Southwest. I felt a little smaller for having complained as loudly as I did, but I still think there has to be some safer solution for charity bicycle rides. Perhaps they were not "idiots" in the strictest sense.


Ed W said...

"...we saw and had to swerve for lots of cyclists. I have no problem with that, but when cars coming the opposite direction swerve into my lane to pass a pedal pumper, I get a little nervous.... but I still think there has to be some safer solution for charity bicycle rides."

So the problem is that people driving cars are crossing the centerline into your lane, and somehow it's the cyclists fault?

Mark said...

That quote was taken out of context just like bad journalism. Please note that I had just referenced two guys riding side-by-side in the lane, on a spot blind to motorists until they come over a hill. So, yes, I think it was their fault in that case.

Generally, it is not directly the cyclist's fault that a car swerves, but if that car is going 55 mph and comes over a hill, sees the cyclist in his/her lane just on the other side of the hill, then the driver does not have much choice but to swerve. Or, plow right over said cyclist. I'm just saying that on roads posted with those speeds and blind spots, it's very dangerous.

Shannon (Ben's mom) said...

Actually, Ben's rooster sound is a little more like "Cuddle-doo." Still very cute, of course.

Simon said...

I am NEVER growing a beard. I mostly lack the innate ability anyway. Sort of like Keanu Reeves.


Ed W said...


You asked a serious question on CycleDog and it deserves a serious, thoughtful reply. So I'll post something later today or this evening. It'll be long, so I won't post it in the comments section here, though I may put in a excerpt.

Mark said...

Ed - Thanks, and I will look for it.

Simon - Good point about the beard. I only have to shave every other day.

Ed W said...


The piece is up on CycleDog. It long-winded, even for me!

If I mischaracterized your original post, I apologize, but that’s how I perceived it.

BTW, I'm a League of American Bicyclists instructor. If you're ever in Tulsa, I'd be pleased to ride with you.

Lilaena said...

your son is so cute!

Jim said...

Wow, Mark!

You really inspired Ed!

He makes some very good points in his blog, and I can understand why he may feel defensive about blanket statements that seem critical of cyclists and cycling. But I think in the end he also admits that there are some roads that are too dangerous for cycling. The particular stretch of road you describe sounds like it may be one that falls in this category, due to the curves and blind spots.

If I were a street cyclist, I wouldn't be too quick to disregard the comments of a conscientious driver whose fear, after all, is not of being run over, but is of running over riders (calling them idiots, is a bit strong though!).

Mark said...

Yes, Ed made some great points. I had to comment on his entry, because I saw a direct connection between it and a specific fear I've overcome. I still will lay on my horn approaching a hill to let anyone who might be on the road know I'm coming. I hope that alerts them rather than spooking them. I think of it as a courtesy.

Ed -- my wife and I spend time in Tulsa about three or four times a year. I have a bike rack, so I might just take you up on that offer.

Mark said...


Thanks for the compliment to Ben. He hasn't said anything about you, but he did tell me at story time tonight that, "Cat in boots. Cute."

It's funny -- I expected comments from family and friends about the pumpkin farm visit, but got into a cycling discussion. Blogs are funny that way.

Army of Mom said...

Every little kid needs a pumpkin patch visit. Here is our pumpkin patch trip.