Friday, August 31, 2007

I Pods

I don't plug in when I ride my bike. In the woods or on the road. Matter of fact, I don't even own one those new fangled "eye-pods". I borrowed my daughters Disc Boy some years back and cranked it up. Found Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love" turned up to wow to be more of a distraction than an enhancement to the ride.

So I went back to enjoying riding and thinking of the songs in my head. I still get to enjoy the tune, but without that "in my face, pay attention to me instead of that tree" insistence actual tunes blasting into my ear drums create in the old cranial void.

It's a rather bleak and empty space up there between my ears. Combine the the old fart ears that have to have tunes at full tilt boogie and the sound bounces around like someone hollering "HELP, I am lost in the Grand Canyon". When I feel my skull begin to bulge from the inside, I know I have about the right volume.The downside is my inability to combine the riding with the chewing gum syndrome.

It's odd though. I love sitting at the 'puter in the dark hours when I can't sleep, slapping the headphones on and turning on the tunes while I surf the web and make snide remarks in various forums.

Maybe riding is something I want to enjoy selfishly, without any other pleasure horning in on the action. To keep riding seperate and uncluttered without musical reminders that I am not really away from it all. I ride to escape. I listen to music to escape. But combine the two and it has the opposite effect. Go figure.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Message # 27

I sat in front of the puter tonight zoning out while email message #27 was being scanned for those pesky heebie jeebies that infect the inner workings and play havoc with the smooth crunching of computer bytes. About 3 minutes into the scan of email message #27, I shook out the cobwebs, jiggled some symapses into sync and thought,

" Jeez, message #27 must be a mother! Wonder what's on it? Porn? Nah. Don't do that no more."

"Make it big!!!! Sell this stupendous extra special gotta have it gizmo on the internet from my home while I lounge poolside with seductive babes bringing me cool drinks in string bikinis?"

"Nah. Probably some ole fart come-on about keepin it rigid, keepin it afloat, or someone wanting to buy my dentures when I die."

"Or even worse - The complete overstock inventory of some bike part distributer hoping to unload on your's truly all the junk he couldn't suck me into during the regular season."

If I have to suffer the pain of surfing through another PDF file inventory of closeouts looking for the one deal that will put me in the black, I will scream."

As I pondered just what was on email message download number(#) 27, as quickly as it appeared, #28, 29 and 30 screamed in to take it's place. I was suddenly left with nothing but my anticipation. Seems that is often all I have left when reality settles in for the long haul.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Stand in the Place Where You Live

I am right at this moment having a REM moment. A friend emailed me this photo of your's truly the other day. I had forgotten I had posed for this Kodak moment. Had I known I would become a Mountain Biking icon in my own mind, I would certainly have gusseyed up a bit more. Put some socks on maybe. Changed my shorts. Or even a clean Tee shirt. But no, I appear before you as I usually appear. The king of casual. At least I tucked my shirt in and didn't pull at my crotch.

A small memory of the 24 Hours of Great Glen before I caved to exhaustion and spent as little time as possible standing anywhere.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Charm City

A reconnection to someone from my past has opened my mind up to just what really went on back then. I have spent these past 27 or so years here in Maine reflecting past antics through rose colored filters most of the time. His noting that Baltimore was not his favorite city after I had assured him it was mine made me pause. His big complaint was the crime and the noise. He lives there now. I lived there over 27 years ago.

For someone who has chosen to live in the frozen outback in Lobster Land, away from the teeming masses that congest city streets, calling any city "my favorite" seems a tad disingenuous I guess. But it is true. If I had to pick a city to live in, it would be Baltimore.

Did this time skip of a quarter century mean much in the overall rhythms and flows of the B-more then and the B-more now? Is the Baltimore of 30 years ago really any different than it is now? It is certainly slicker and more hip than before. At least in the tourist guides. Because now, they actually have tourists. I would guess though that Lombard St, Greenmount Ave and untold numbers of other streets are still moving to the same rhythms they did back then. Marginal income families struggling to make it from one day to the next.

Let me drop my Pollyana reminiscing for a moment. Let me take a few seconds and remember the Baltimore that could be ugly, mean, and draining of Life's exuberance.

In no particular order

~Andre - dead at 25 of a gunshot wound to the head over the dumbest of reasons but one of the most common - a drug deal gone bad. A friend who happened to be black and taught me there really should be no differences between us based on the color of our skin.

~Escaping a gang of black punks in Cherry Hill with a truck full of TVs I was supposed to deliver to folks who anted up $500 to open an account in some bank I cannot for the life of me remember it's name. They reinforced the idea there is indeed a difference between us based on the color of our skin.

~At an all night Freaker's Ball downtown that had to be the template upon which Raves were built. After dropping too much LSD, witnessing all that Love Peace and good vibes turn ugly in a heartbeat with the slashing of a knife as blood went everywhere. Proof that wherever I found Love, Hate was but a knife stroke away.

~Watching a gay guy get beat down on Read St and when I intervened, was beat down for my trouble. Taught me to be cautious with the good samaritan routine. Because the gay guy was not even slightly grateful.

~Block after block of rowhouses just slightly ahead of being condemned with lost souls slouched on the tread worn marble steps draining beer from bottles in paper bags.

~ And probably the most telling of the sad state that was Baltimore in the early 1970s was the Inner Harbor before it was even close to being the money making tourist trap it is today. The stink of the mud bottom at low tide was not the familar stink of a healthy body of water. More the smell of a bay that had been used and abused for too many years by residents who had taken it for granted. The smell fit the city. The aroma of decay and garbage left out in the Sun.

Yeah, this was the Baltimore of my youth. The ugly side of this fine town. But through it all, I found most Baltimorons were upbeat and combined with that special way they pronounced the letter "o", they quickly became some of my favorite people. I loved the remix of the National Anthem at any Oriole game as the "Oh say can..." became "O" shouted out by 40,000 fans and I sat in section 35 of the old Memorial Stadium watching the original Homer do his fan best to bring victory to Coach Weaver and the gang.

Even as their city fell into disrepair and ill repute, they found their good times. They hung in with blue collar grace. Ate their crabcakes, drank their boilermakers at the corner bar, and talked baseball. They took Life as it came at them. I liked that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Speedy Gonzalez

Just finished and survived my fourth 24 hour race at Great Glen, New Hampshire at the base of Mt. Washington. Once again our 5 person Co-ed team, "CRUM's Dirty Bums" did not disappoint. We finished with everyone qualifying, no major mechanicals, personality meltdowns, or injuries.

We settled into our usual slot somewhere in the middle of the 24 team Co-Ed category. I was nervous this year. With the addtion of "Dave the punk" to the team, the need to be competitive might spoil our fun. But Dave proved he was a go with the flow kinda guy and kept his competitive spirit in his pocket.

After 4 years of this, the mood campside was a "been here done that" atmosphere. No histronics, no strategy meets, just being in the right place at the right time. Everyone pulled their weight and some extra when Lis, my daughter felt sick in the middle of the night. We just bumped up the rotation and let her sleep through. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, she greeted me at the timing tent to take the baton after my 6:30 AM lap.

Some teams come to win. Some teams just come. No matter what, a 24 hour race will test everyone individually. After 4 years of this, there is always one lap at least that sticks in each person's memory. A lap where nothing went wrong and they flew like the wind. Or the lap from Hell where every tree, trail condition, or other riders conspire to make that lap seem like it would never end.

Being only marginally talented and definitely not fit, I very rarely fly. I tend to have memories of the laps from Hell. I came into the race on only 3 hours sleep the night before. So I was sleep deprived before we even began the race. My lap from Hell this time was my first night lap.

In a fog, I struggled to the timing tent to take the baton from Dave the Punk. Grabbed the baton and began my lap. The first bridge I encountered I rode off of. Down on my back. Thankfully a soft landing. Into the switchback climb and up-up-up. I make the left to begin the descent to the base and my left hand cannot find the brake lever. In a moment of panic, I focus on the lack of lever and slam into a tree. This lap is not going to go well. I am sure of it now. The lever had only bent and was not broken. I straightened it, took a breath, and continued my journey into purgatory.

Most of the lap found me in the wrong place at the wrong time. Another bridge moved out of my way and I rode off it. Rocks, roots and trees all conspired to create havoc for me. And my legs were cramping in places I did not know I had places. But I pushed on. Oddly near the end of the lap, "the Chute" loomed large in my mind. A short steep drop just waiting to dump the tired, the weak, and the unsuspecting. I figured I would just walk it, but at the last minute, I gritted my teeth and dropped into it. I cleaned it as one lone soul said from the darkness, "nice control dude".

"Okay", I thought, "Only 2 more short sections of single track, then the field, and then the timing tent. And some other poor bastard can take over."

It must have been that time of the night. During my lap I had noticed many little wood mice crossing the trail, on the trail, or dead with their legs up on the trail. The little buggers were everywhere. I hit the last section of single track and one of them scoots out in front of me and begins to run alongside as I careen between the trees. And he is keeping his front wheels just ahead of mine. "Damn, even the mice are kicking my butt."

We make a sweeping turn and on the right a long log sits. Speedy hucks himself onto the log and races to the end with me sucking his dust. Stops and turns at the end of the log and looks at me as I pass. I am sure the little SOB is grinning at me.