Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tag renewal

I started working full time for Tidewater Community College this year.  It gives me a great sense of pride to teach in an institution that I also attended.  My car tags expire in December, so I set up the Division of Motor Vehicles on-line screen with the TCC plate to personalize and purchase.  The tag comes with a six character maximum so I brainstormed ideas.  One of my favorite local plates is Kevin Horvath’s 757CX.  I found that MX757 is available, though MTB757 is not.  I liked the contradiction—living in a flat area code with mountain bike tag—but I wanted to see what else was available. 

My selection criteria was 2 part—I wanted a technical cycling term that also implies a deeper or psychological connection.  Here were some ideas:
SETBAK –indicating a riding position and more specifically a seatpost style. Not enough mojo in that one, though, and it has the added issue of sounding like I went through a divorce or bankruptcy.
SCHWAG—This tag is not available in Virginia. That would have been a good one because of the multiple meanings.  I wonder who has it.

MTCXRD and various combinations of “mountain” “cross” and “road” are all available in Virginia. It encompasses the bike disciplines well, but it just wasn’t speaking to me.

GFYFTD—I played with various ways to indicate “Goofy footed.” I associate it with ski-surf, but found out while scanning cycling lexicons that coasting goofy footed (left foot forward) puts more wear on the drive train. Sounded intriguing since I am goofy footed, but it still lacks a deeper meaning.

VTT—means Velo All Terrain in French. That’s cool, but no one would get it. People would assume my first name is Violet or Veronica, names I could never live up to!

VELOAT or ATVELO—these are both available and encompass multiple disciplines (AT) but every combination seemed too sterile. Velo is too roadie and not enough dirt.

MYAPEX—This one came the closest to mixing the technical (science of cornering) with the personal (choice of picking the right lines). I liked it a lot until I googled it and found that there is a weight loss company called My Apex. I also started to think it may be misinterpreted as “My Ape Ex.” Hmm :) 

ECHLON—I could not believe this one was available. I am guessing that the correct spelling ECHELON on tags with over six characters has been taken. It encompasses the science of drafting along with the valued social and clearly hierarchical aspect helping one another in a paceline. I liked this one and it seemed like the obvious choice. But I just couldn’t commit to it.

MYMNTN—I settled on this tag for several reasons.  It means “My Mountain” which was the name of a 4 person co-ed team that I raced 24 Hours of Canaan in West Virginia with one year.  Beneline Williams and I teamed up with two guys whose names I don’t even remember since I only knew them for the duration of the 24-hour relay race afterwhich they returned to WV or NoVA.  .  .  . Anyway, one of the guys named the team “My Mountain” and though the details of that late-1990’s race have faded, I often think of what “My Mountain” really means to a cyclist. 
There is nothing more sensory, nothing more mind engaging, nothing that slows down the senses more than throwing full concentration behind grinding a bike up a mountain.  Not to be ridiculous, but I can’t think of many times that I felt more alive than when fighting for air and strength while climbing a mountain, whether it be on or off road.  Some epic road climbs in Virginia include Love Gap, Reeds Gap (Sherando side and Wintergreen side), Mountain Lake climb, long Blue Ridge Parkway ascents like Peaks of Otter.  The grind up the Parkway and onto the top of Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell, both in North Carolina, have a special significance to me also.  Any off-road mountain bike climb is a test of mettle for me, and some of my favorites in Virginia include Hankey Mountain, Sherando switchbacks, Douthat climbs, Reddish Knob, Iron mountain.  Bike climbs rank the highest in memories when I think of trips to France, New England and Colorado.
"My Mountain" also seems to reference the environmental tenant that a mountain (or waterway or greenspace or beach)  belongs to everyone and no one at the same time. Though there are usually multiple property owners of any given mountain, from the standpoint of a cyclist gritting out a climb, the ownership is so clearly a collective one.  No one other than the cyclist owns the bubble of temperature, moisture, pitch and most important constant change that we carry like a giant molecule to the top. To conquer a mountain is to own it, yet to conquer a mountain is to acknowledge that something larger has made the climb possible, something out of grasp no matter how high or how fast we go. 

I fully realize I will need to explain this tag every time some asks what it means.  I may simply say that I like the word “mountain” since there are 4 consonants and 4 vowels in the word, giving it a poetic balance, and leave it at that.

Cycling tags gallaries:  Tags 1  Tags 2 


Kristine said...

I can totally relate when you said, "felt more alive than when fighting for air and strength while climbing a mountain, whether it be on or off road." Perhaps the feeling is priceless :)

Liz Schleeper said...

Yep! Universal!