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Monday, August 27, 2007

Hooky Bump'in, and other parasitic relationships

As kids, we all probably participated in at least a few dangerous activities. Recently I started thinking about all the silly, parasitic modes of transportation I practiced (however briefly). By parasitic, I mean travel that requires a non-symbiotic relationship to an engine-powered hunk of steel -- think hitch-hiking where you attach yourself to a moving vehicle instead of hopping inside. A very obscure practice, known in certain wintry parts of the northern USA as "hooky bumping", ranks high in the danger (AKA "Jackass"-quality) category. To hooky bump, you needed iced or packed snow roads and a car or truck moving slow enough that you could grab on to the rear bumper. In the old days, car bumpers had some meat and you could actually hook your hands underneath and ride along like a crouched water-skiier. Nobody ever considered it that dangerous because you only came across the perfect hooky-bump conditions a few times a season. Stealth remained the key, as the car drivers' usually never figured out that they got hooky-bumped. The danger lied in the face-plant should you ever hit a piece of exposed asphalt.

Another parasitic travel technique, which actually took a lot of exertion, involved drafting city buses via a road bike. I used to do this commuting to school where buses stopped frequently enough that you could accelerate and quickly get within its slipstream (for a few blocks at least). The EROEI did not always pan out as imagined, especially if the bus driver notices you coming from behind and accelerates away. Professional road-bikers have this perfected, oftentimes forming the equivalent of a bus-human pelaton.

Somewhat related to bus-drafting, "door-hitching" required a bike and a friendly car-driving accomplice. Say you had a steep hill to climb and you happen to notice a friend driving alongside you in a car; the door-hitch request involves a twirling motion of the hand, indicating to the driver to roll down his window. If the driver obliges, you grab on to a window frame or ledge with one hand and continue to steer your bike with the other hand until you hit the top of the hill. Again likely illegal, but actually quite easy to perfect, as it has a lot in common with using tow-ropes or T-bars at downhill ski areas.

Putting a few of these techniques together and you can come up with other creative modes of parasitic transportation.

I often wonder how I made it past my teen years.


Professor Blogger Big Gav said...

That's madness - doesn't the asphalt appear faiely frequently ?

6:44 AM  
Professor Blogger Phila said...

I often wonder how I made it past my teen years.

Ditto. We used to take a homemade go-cart - a wheeled flatbed with a shovel handle as a sort-of steering device - pile a bunch of bikes and other vehicles on top, and flag down drivers so they'd tow us to the top of a five-mile hill full of hairpin turns....

4:48 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

That's a great one.

I also remember taking a flexible flyer steel-runner sled down some iced streets. Probably came within an inch of getting decapitated by parked cars.

7:00 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Only if they salt the streets. At one time salting was not as common.

BTW, the best boots for hooky-bumping were combat boots with a perfectly smooth hard neoprene sole.

7:05 PM  
Professor Blogger Peaksurfer said...

Here is a sidebar from The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook (which also features Big Gav):

Busdriver Klaus Burgermeister accidentally picked up a hybrid Smart that unhappily got hooked onto his rear bumper while his city bus made its usual route. For more than two miles the bus pulled the Smart while the driver inside waved frantically through his sunroof, trying to get Burgermeister’s attention. This is the best gas mileage ever recorded by a hybrid.

Albert Bates

8:11 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Another story which I considered posting is poignant and heartbreaking:

The 21-year old who has MD got accidentally attached to the grille of a semi with his wheelchair and was pushed for a few miles at a good clip. He survived but dang that disease.

9:13 PM  
Professor Blogger Robert McLeod said...

I always found drafting off city buses slows me down due to all the starting and stopping. Plus the exhaust is murder on my lungs.

2:48 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Good point, the blast of noxious fumes on a hot summer day. How exhilarating!

2:51 PM  
Professor Blogger Jan Steinman said...

So-called "hooky bumping" is much safer, pleasurable, and accessible on cross-country skis!

You use your ski pole to access some vehicle protrusion (note to self: remember to take your hand out of the strap). This give you greater reach, and you can access faster cars.

10:32 AM  
Professor Anonymous Kurt said...

In central Illinois, hooky-bumpin' was known as skeeching. One of the hazards we had to watch out for was manhole covers - we'd get the usual ice storm, coating the streets with a 1/4" of ice, but the manhole covers wouldn't freeze - something about the sewer system generated steam, which made manhole covers melt first. I had one memorable 30 mph skeech cut short by such a manhole, resulting in several weeks of physical therapy at the University Health Service. Nowadays, of course, you'd be on your own for health care after such a stunt.

9:11 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

I almost don't buy the XC ski deal. It's hard enough to do that with a dog or two pulling you around. And most of the baskets on skis are puny these days. If you use it to hook to a car, its going to be awful difficult to unhook it; or else you end up losing lots of poles!!

One more thing, SKEEECH!

9:30 AM  

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