Let me preface by saying that I am NOT a people person. Sure, my job entails "taking the specifications from the customers to the engineers," but I was raised in out in the country where the nearest kid my own age (save for my little sister) was about a mile of gravel road away. Social interaction and small talk is a chore for me -- I sort of know how normal people converse, and I can fake it, but it takes some effort. How I wound up married is one of the greater mysteries of my life, as most women are put off by my system of pre-verbal grunts and rudimentary sign language. I can only assume my wife is some kind of Jane Goodall wannabe.
As a result, I tend to keep my cycling pretty solitary. I like going out there alone, getting lost in my own head, and relying on whatever's in my saddlebag should something go wrong. On the off chance that I'm faster than someone else on the trail, I can manage an "on your left", and if (okay, when) someone's faster than me, I can grunt something resembling a greeting. I don't usually go further than that, but if I do, I try to make it a policy to say something nice about the other person's bike, because a) bikes are one thing I can talk about with some level of coherence, and b) I firmly believe that everyone should think their bike is cool.
Some days, that policy of "compliment the bike" can get rough. After the twentieth identical Trek goes by, you start to run out of things to say. "Nice... um.... skewers?"
Today, not so much.
I was taking a break at the turnaround point of my ride when an older chap pulled up on a bike that looked pretty ordinary out of the corner of my eye... silver road frame, modern components, whatever. I gave the obligatory "how's it going?" and took a better look. That's when I saw the Vanilla logo on the downtube.
Me: (double take) "Wow, nice bike!"
Him: "Oh, thanks. My son-in-law made it for me."
Me: (triple take with cartoon "ahominahominahomina" sound effect) "Your son-in-law is Sacha White?" (Before you ask, yes, bloggers DO speak in hyperlinks. It's very awkward, what with all the "a href" tags.)
Him: "Yep, he married my daughter."
Me, in internal monologue: Could you please adopt me so I can have an incredibly talented framebuilder as a brother-in-law?
So I'm in the middle of nowhere in Central Iowa chatting (as best as I can) with Sacha White's father-in-law. Go figure. I gave the bike a more detailed ogling and definitely saw the trademark Vanilla stuff... fancy V cutouts in the dropouts, a stunning flat-crown fork with tiny integrated Vanilla logos, and some seriously elegant lugwork set off with just a hint of yellow detailing to match the decals. I know Vanilla has a reputation for some pretty over-the-top show bikes with a lot of bling, but this frame really showed Sacha White's eye for classic, understated beauty. It certainly wasn't a vanilla Vanilla, but nothing jumped out as a "hey, look at me!" detail. It just all fit together. Plus, its owner described it as amazingly comfortable, "perfect for an old guy."
After we went our separate ways, I couldn't help but imagine an entirely fictionalized version of the conversation that led up to that marriage: "So, youing man, you say you'd like to marry my daughter?"
"And you say that you build bicycle frames?"
"I'm not sure how I feel about that. After all, how much does a framebuilder make, anyway? How do I know you'll be able to take care of my daughter?"
"I thought you might wonder about that, so to show you what I can do, I made this for you." (Pulls out the amazing silver frame)
"Welcome to the family, son!"
To his credit, he was very complimentary toward my giant Jandd saddlebag, even going so far as to ask where he could get one like it, so I rolled away from the encounter feeling like my bike was cool too.
Even if it was just a "nice... um... skewers" moment.