The topic of this month’s column is one that may offend those with delicate sensibilities. So, gentle reader, if hearing words like “peepee” upset you, I suggest you not read on.
Biking is one of those outdoors activities that involves being separated from indoor plumbing for hours at a time. Unlike other outdoors activities, like hiking or canoeing, finding a good place to relieve oneself is not that easy. One of our buddies referred to such a place as a PTO (“perfect toilet opportunity”). The characteristics of a PTO include privacy, natural beauty, and firm footing. There are harrowing tales of pit stops gone awry that would make you blanch. My pal, Ken Hablow, in addition to scoping out the best riding in what has come to be known as Hablow country, has also a portfolio of the best PTOs in the area. We’ve been known to visit them even when we really could hold it.
At the risk of perpetuating the stereotype of men as boorish slobs (I in fact refuse to drink beer from a bottle), I’d venture to say that men find such opportunities much more easily than women. The male requirements for a PTO are rather minimal. Basically a place where you can just turn around and aim. Some amongst us don’t even bother with the turning around part. Of course, there are the urban legends that don’t even bother with the stopping and getting off the bike part, but they’re too far out on the bell curve to consider.
For women, there is a much greater incentive toward sitting as opposed to squatting. Indoor plumbing (which Ken refers to as the “porcelain tree”) is much more important for those not supplied with the convenience of outdoor plumbing. Then of course, there is #2, which pretty much levels the playing field with respect to gender.
An interesting phenomenon is that over the years as the demographics of CRW have changed so has the emphasis on toilets. In the old days, Charles River Wheelmen was mostly that, men. Now we probably have almost as many Wheelwomen as Wheelmen. Ride leaders often announce the location of toilets along with cues and road hazards. This is particularly evident on the centuries. In the old days, there were no portajohns, at the start or food stops. Now, they are ubiquitous, and a major cost of putting on a century.
One amusing anecdote vis a vis PTOs (or lack thereof) was many years ago when Susan and I were touring in Ireland. Ireland is indeed a very green country, but most of the greenery consists of fields as opposed to trees, at least the part we were in. Susan felt the need, and there really was very little cover to be had. There was also very little traffic and none in sight, so I told her to just hunker down, and I’d watch her back (so to speak). Timing is everything. so just as she was in mid-stream, a tour bus rounded the bend. I signaled for her to cease and desist but not in time, and she effectively mooned an entire busload of tourists.