You can't yank the chain of Washington Countians who know all about 'oiling the chain'

July 09, 2012

As a longtime bicycle rider and a frequent user of rail trails, I am about to take a pledge that I should have taken a long time ago. Events of late in Washington County have shown me the error of my ways, and I hope I can begin the long road back to redemption with this promise:

I, Tim Rowland, do solemnly swear — and I would urge all rail-trail cyclists to join me — that I will never again urinate on private property.

As we have seen in recent public hearings, bicyclist urine, or BU, has become a chief argument against building a rail trail from Hagerstown to the Potomac River.

Should have known we couldn’t hide our true intentions from the razor intellect of Washington County inhabitants. We have been exposed, so to speak. They have seen through our little scheme, and now you know our secret as well. Next time you hear that bicyclists are about to go whizzing by, get out the rain slicker.

I mean, ask any bicyclist, that’s why we ride, isn’t it? In fact, I’m not sure that anyone will want to ride anymore if we can’t water someone’s prized hydrangea. We even have a code phrase for it. We call it “oiling the chain.”

“See that privately owned swing set over there Rex? That looks like as good a place as any to oil the chain.” (wink, wink).

Yes, technically we could just as easily urinate on private property while riding along a plain old country road, but it’s really not the same. I myself have “held it” for three days just so I could engage in a little BU on a rail trail.

And, oh yes, I always bring my garbage.

But we’ve been found out on that one, too. And it was such a good scam. Who needs a dump sticker if you have a rail trail in your county? I personally just dump all my bags in one spot, but I know some riders who prefer to throw their trash left and right as they ride along, like tossing rice at a wedding. Unpleasant perhaps, but it’s what all bicycle riders do — urinate on someone’s property, toss out garbage, break into a few homes — it was our idea of a perfect Sunday.

Maybe, perhaps, if we promise to reform, some people will drop their objections to the rail trail. But we can’t do this alone. We need the state of Maryland to help address the fear, as expressed by rail-trail opponents, that escaped inmates from the nearby state prisons will use the rail trail as an avenue into the countryside, raping women, stabbing children and burning crops along the way.

Admittedly, this is a little harder of a problem to solve than simply confining BU to a Port-O-John. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will have to sign its own pledge as well.

When an inmate escapes, for example, the state must promise that it will not rent the felon a bicycle, pack him a lunch and offer him trail guides who point out historic points and tips on the best private properties for looting.

It won’t be easy. Some of these hideous gargoyles have been confined for a long time. I imagine the first thing they will want to do upon escape won’t be to go for a bicycle ride through hill and leafy dale, ringing little handlebar bells all the way.

No, now that I think about it, never mind. This rail trail can never be. It is asking too much for us to comply with. I guess we will have to be content with using other rail trails in the region, riding amid the stench of urine and the smoldering ruins of what were once pleasant homes, but have been reduced to ashes by carelessly tossed cigarette butts.

A disappointment? Perhaps. But we should have known that you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool a Washington Countian.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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