"My dream, or even more so my wife’s dream, would be to live in Santa Cruz and ride for a small American team to do Tour of California, Tour of Colorado etc. but for now I am a bike rider on a European team." --Laurens Ten Dam
The vibe you get when you leave DC and you're riding out in, say, West Virginia...
Ever wonder what to call it?
And the helmetless man on the quad with the gun holster comes ripping by at top volume.
And the smell of chicken farms rises in his wake.
And then behind him comes a seaworthy Buick, floating nearly as softly for its captain as his ship did off the shores of Inchon.
And you pass the church where a group gathers around a soldier in dress fatigues.
All the while in the background is constant chatter of guns being discharged.
And god help you if you're looking for arugula, or for the votes of anyone who is.
When I head to West Virginia, I get a familiar feeling, and now I know why--I grew up in Newaygo County, Michigan, one of 20 or so Michigan counties in Chinni's 8.5 million Working Class Country communities.
I see the same stuff I saw as a Michigan kid:
- deer corpses hanging from garages, shot out of season;
- disassembled vehicles in lawns;
- crosses on roadsides marking teens killed, usually caused by drunk driving;
- no trespassing signs warning immediate and miserable pain, usually by dog teeth;
- distrust of government and God; and
- dependence on government and God.
Do we gain anything from a weekend away from arugula and DC, this city whose name now means failure?
That's the rhetoric: "The Washington people want..." goes the grassroots appeal, and they mean us, and it's never a compliment.
Jefferson published his Notes on the State of Virginia the same year, 1785, the state established Hardy County in what is now, thanks to the Civil War, West Virginia. This was five years before Congress conceded to found Washington DC as part of a deal between the big and small states to share power between large and small states.
The boundaries of Hardy, declared the 1785 Act, stretched from High Nob to "the gap of the short Arse Mountain..."
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The act merely split a large county into two counties (one bounded by a small-bootied mountain), the purpose was to establish another court to meet in Moorfield, to adjudicate legal disputes.
Three years prior to Hardy's founding and Jefferson's Notes, Letters from an American Farmer suggested that we are, essentially, where we live:
Men are like plants: the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment.The author and Jefferson were both responding to what was then accepted science in Europe: America and everything from it was smaller, weaker, dumber, and less beautiful than the products of Europe. Jefferson disagrees; he uses an entire chapter of his book to say, hey, wait, we've got huge, smart, and beautiful stuff here in America.
As his name suggests, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, author of Letters from an American Farmer, takes the side of European superiority. He casts scorn on incestuous North Carolina hill people, on slaves, on much of the continent; it's an interesting place to go for a stroll, but the people of the soil are lesser beings.
It's been there from the beginning, this snobbery.
There's an additional scorn I feel when I ride through these parts--the rube on the bicycle, surrounded by miners and chicken farmers, who then goes back to the city and writes about it in his pussy blog. It's unsettling, but comforting to know Jefferson and Crèvecœur, not to mention the West Virginians they scorned or defended, felt the same conflict.
The dream of American cyclists, even Virginians, is almost unanimously to travel to Europe where cycling is bigger, more beautiful, and more storied. But then there is at least one European who dreams of coming here to race, among the mountains and the Working Class Country, winding through Hardy County.
If you ever come, Laurens, make sure to read your Jefferson, and to call up Jay at Raw Talent Ranch. Be prepared to see some savage and beautiful American scenes, out there on the climbs up to short Arse Mountain.