We were on Applewood Manor’s Rocking Chair Porch watching a young fellow ride by on his bicycle. What was strange is that he road by every day at about the same time. We never saw him ride past Applewood coming from the other way. So, like the three old guys we were, with nothing better to do, we started to speculate on what he was up to. Howard Chartwell declared, “It’s strange. It is like he is going someplace, but we never see him returning. Something weird is going on here, I tell you! You tell me, how does he get back to wherever he comes from, if we never see him ride back this way?” Well, of course, Howard’s declaration was all it took to get people putting evil purposes to things. Jimmy Lee Wilson speculated one thing and Howard Chartwell speculated another. Then Jimmy Lee would have another idea, and then Howard would chime in with another and so-forth and so-on. They covered all the possibilities—he was selling drugs, having an illicit affair, casing the neighborhood for a gang of thieves, etc. Jimmy Lee even went so far as to suggest that he might be an alien —with a spaceship somewhere!
That was just a bridge too far. So, finally I said, “You fellers are just overthinking this thing. Usually, the simplest answer is the right answer. This is probably just his daily exercise routine, or he is riding to work. All your speculation reminds me of the story about a different cyclist that once a week rode across the border to Mexico from San Diego. On his weekly trips, he rode across carrying two saddlebags. The border patrol guards would ask him what was in the bags. ‘Sand,’ he would answer. ‘Open them up,’ they would reply. And every time, all the border guards found was sand just as the biker had said. Finding nothing, the guards returned the saddlebags, and the cyclist would continue across the border. This went on week after week. It got to the point that just one guard was assigned to the cyclist. This continued for six years, finally the day came when the guard who searched him every week was retiring. The guard said to the biker, ‘This is my last day. I know you are smuggling something across the border, and it is driving me insane. Please tell me! I promise not to tell anyone.’ The fellow on the bicycle got this sly grin on his face as he said, ‘It was right in front of your eyes. It was so simple you just couldn’t see it.’ The guard cocked his head like he was thinking. Then, after six years, it finally hit him, and he shouted ‘Bicycles—it was bicycles right?’ The cyclist, just smiled and continued across the border.”
Jimmy lee and Howard didn’t say anything right away. But eventually Jimmy Lee spoke up. “Well, if you’re so smart, explain to me why we never see our cyclist ride pass Applewood from the opposite direction. You know, if you ride out one way you got to come back from the other direction eventually, don’t you?”
“Fellows,” I said, “the simple answer is that the route he rides is a circular route. He rides past us, circles around the streets of Asheville and Montford and eventually gets back to where he started from, never having to turn around and backtrack. That’s why we only see him ride past going one way.”
“Oh,” said Howard. We stopped our detective-like speculation and when back to rocking. It appeared Jim Lee and Howard were better at rocking than detecting!