Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Visceral Nut Sack of my Soul

This is a picture of the first substantial piece of original art my daughter purchased on her own for her first real apartment. Given her limited budget, she coughed up a sizable chunk of her disposable income to make it hers. Personally I think it is excellent. But then she and I are in sync when it comes to anything that may even hint or smell of bicycles.

This 3x4 foot wall hanging patiently crafted from recycled steel sheets reminded me of the Art Appreciation class I took in college. The instructor had obviously stopped paying attention to any art after the 1890s. Either that or I failed to or refused to get on the same page as her in order to safely pass one of the gimme courses we had too many of back in the day. To this day, several friends just do not understand how or why I forced her to fail me. But I did.

Actually I did not officially fail, I received a "NC" or No Credit. It didn't really hurt that 2.mediocre GPA I was carrying. It didn't help it either. I aced all three True/False tests. I even caught most of the classes. But for some reason, I just could not stand the woman teaching the class. Maybe it was her "I know what Art is and you don't" attitude. And maybe it was just me being stubborn and unwilling to fall into line. But every class, I picked out something to rub her the wrong way with. I found out early she hated the word "why". So I used it as often as possible. Her technical and historical knowledge of Art was top shelf. Her appreciation of it sucked. She would have definitely not had any appreciation for this piece.

Which brings me to my point. The reason I even posted the picture. There are a multitude of reasons I may like or dislike a piece of Art. Most times it has nothing to do with what branch, era, or school of art it came from. It has to do with what does it do to my senses, visually and emotionally. How does it make me feel? Who created it is of little interest at first. If I like a piece of art, I will often follow up by looking for more by the same artist.

I long ago gave up trying to figure out why two people can look at the same painting, watch the same movie, read the same book and then come away from them with opposing attitudes about what they just experienced. I may not be sophisticated enough to break down artistic endeavors into the various nuts and bolts that make up that particular art form, but I am able to appreciate most any art from the visceral nut sack of my soul. In my opinion, good art always hits me there first, which will often then kick my brain in the ass to actually think about it.

See Ya................

(500 / 7286)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whiskey Wednesday

Some days I feel guilty for not paying more attention to the odd and maddening events unfolding inside The Beltway. I am sure most days, the lot of them just screw the pooch while looking busy and attentive to our needs. They have been screwing some pooch of some kind for the 57 years I have been aware. Okay, at age Zero I was not watching Huntley/Brinkley or Edward R Murrow, but I am sure the boneheads in DC were doing the same stupid things they do now long before any period I can remember. Let's call it retro-extrapolation.

I feel if I don't pay attention, they really screw up. Without my constant attention and consistent whining, this country would be in tougher shape than it is. My worrying and anguish is what keeps us from going over the edge. So when I find myself in those periods of blissful ignorance, I rush back to see what my inattention has wrought. I find it is always the same. Some new issues have heated up, some old ones have cooled down, and some issues continue to simmer as they have for as long as I can remember, occasionally coughing up a bubble to relieve the pressure.

In reality, Life inside the Federal Triangle unfolds without respect or attention to the events I face on a daily basis. Those wing-tipped button down cigar smoking yahoos definitely march to their own tune. I sit here in Maine singing the "Nobody loves me, my dog just died Blues" and they are down there hanging out in bars on M St drinking, carousing, and dancing to Reggae. They exist in an Alternative Universe. Or I do.

The disconnect I feel between myself and them is profound. The problems I face seem to my addled brain to have simple solutions for the most part. Yet by the time the problem is processed, looked at, broken down, and inspected by pols, bureaucrats and think tank wizards, simple solutions are tossed out the window. How would they justify their existence if problems were addressed with simple solutions?

Other days I walk by the tube and some kind of new but all too familiar craziness is filling the screen. Pols caught with their fingers in other pockets, other women, or in their own. If one of them has not just been snagged being stupid or outrageous, it must be a cold day in Hell. And if for some reason the politicians are catching their breath and laying low, panty bunchers from the extreme edges always have some new cause, latest bitch or other evolving complaint. The rhetoric may change, but the clamor remains the same. Seems many, if not most are not happy being happy...............Of course, quite often neither am I.

And don't get me started on all the mass stupidity the rest of us get ourselves into. I swear sometimes, I am sure any moments of sanity in our collective existence are figments of our imagination. By day, Gun Totin Tea Bagging Birthers facing off against Tree Hugging Snail Saving Whale Lovers. By night everyone sits on their respective barco-loungers and laughs their way through the latest segment of "America's Got Talent". That 90% of the time we all seem to be on the same page matters little since we all seem bent on tossing the 10% that separates us in each other's face.

I hear there's some windmills in Poughkeepsie that need a comeuppance..............

(566 / 6786)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Freedom Relies On More Than One Oar

There is a fellow commenter who visits a blog I also visit on occasion. He is a regular. Me, well I breeze through once in awhile. This fellow's user name "free" is followed by a series of numbers that must have significance. Serious people like him do not assign themselves user names that mean nothing more than an avenue to a website. His clever use of small numbers as bookends for larger numbers indicates some special secret handshake kind of handle. I consider him serious from his name to his comments. He is sure of his view and even more sure that my view and anyone else's view that falls outside the tolerances of his tightly woven box are as far wrong as he is far right. "Free" takes his Right Wing "I own freedom" notion very seriously. He is not a foaming at the mouth Freeper. But he is hardly what I would call open minded.

I know it is not terribly open minded of me either to pigeonhole folks like I just did based on superficial garbage like someones user name. After years, no, make that after many years of dealing with people using aliases on the Internet, I have determined through exhausting assumptive research, that when someone uses the word "free" in their handle, they are less likely to tolerate the freedom of others they feel are outside their narrow view of what Freedom should be. It does not seem to matter which side of the aisle they spit from either. If they use "free" anywhere in their name, my red flags start waving.

To be fair to the "free" dude who I held up to ridicule in the beginning of this post, I would have to say he is one of the more tolerable intolerants. He is usually civil and will respond with the appropriate level of acrimony that suit the various comments. He is not mean. But he is not willing to concede even one inch to any side he views as being the opposition. Of course given that the blog we both visit is authored by an unashamed Left Wing Partisan, I would guess "free" comes armed for combat.

I know. I know. I should be more open minded myself. I should be less judgemental and more inclusive. And I do try to be. I at least do not tear apart every aspect of another's comment every time I visit. I more often than not just read the variety of takes and maybe add my own. Then I move on. But being only a couple synapses shy of also wanting to include "free" in my various Internet nicknames, I will often allow my own blinder predispositions to override my attempts to live and let live. At some point I will make a snarky comment. Thus proving I am no better than the person I have decided is brain dead. Hey, it takes one to know one.

To me Freedom is not something you talk about. Or brag about. Freedom is something you practice. To me Freedom is not handed down from some faceless bureaucratic/political machine. It is something I take for myself. Blind allegiance to an idea or political structure is not Freedom. It is subservience wrapping itself in a disguise of patriotic hogwash or monolithic ideals. The narrow confines of which often stifle any real ability to practice freedom as it is defined by Webster. To align oneself completely to a certain political direction is in my opinion limiting one's freedom. Assuming one side has all the answers is shackling oneself to but a single oar. It often ends up with the afflicted rowing in circles and mumbling about how free they are. In the end all that happens is the environment that they feel free (safe) in becomes ever smaller and more constrictive.

So now every time I meet someone sporting the word "free" in their secret Internet identities, I always chuckle at the irony. Because nine times out of ten, it seems they are never as free as they pretend to be. And often they would love to limit my freedoms to somehow bolster theirs. At the same time put me in the boat that only has only one oar.

Okay, who's got my other oar.......................

(709 / 6220)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Evil Seductress

How does the saying go? I saw it once as a sticker on a friend's bike - "Lord, protect me from the things that I want."

I honestly thought I was pretty much over the wink and sashay of another new bike. Like an aging pimp in Las Vegas, I have been around the two wheeled beauties for so long, I tend to yawn when "that next new piece of biking bling" comes over the horizon. It's a bike. It has pedals. It conveys one from point A to Point B in the most civilized way possible outside of walking. Yes, I was sure I would never get wood from another bicycle.

I was wrong. Proof that even jaded old bike shop rats like me can still perk up and pay attention if the right combination of materials blend with the latest mechanical advantages offered by tech geeks hunched over computer CAD programs designing that next "perfect ride".

In the 1980's I became smitten with these new fangled "Mountain Bikes". I bought one. I bought another. I bought part of a bike shop. Mountain bikes rode high into the mid 1990s. I hung ten on that wave. I bought, sold, and owned about every new innovation that came at me. Each one promising to be the revolutionary improvement that would turn me into another cycling god. I figured out pretty quick though, the flashy new gadgets were not going to turn me into a cycling god. Not even a pretend god. I was nothing but a lay preacher in the movement to get people off their butts and out of their cars and into the street and forests on bicycles.

I watched the wave crest and then fall. Mainstream America, temporarily infatuated with bicycles, soon lost their interest as most figured out that to develop any skill sets or fitness, they actually had to ride them. No matter what spiffy hi tech stuff was hung on them. Bikes by the millions were hung up in garages coast to coast. And America moved onto the next new fad. Scooters, wake boards, fishing, rock climbing, whatever.

A funny thing happened. Rather than fade into the background and fall back on the bread butter part of the industry, kids bikes, cruisers, basic mountain and road bikes, the surge of the late 1980s and early 1990s had created a top heavy industrial and R&D base that figured it only needed to keep innovating and the riders would come back. Improvements slowed during the late 1990s, but the ones that came down the pike later were not empty and useless like so many before. Shock tech has reached a point now that dependable suspension for cheap is the rule, not the exception. Components have become more elaborate in their function and now a high end bike of any kind is more functional jewelry a rider can pound on day after day. Yes, the prices have gone through the roof. But what product out there has not become more expensive?

One innovation I thought a total waste of time and energy was a new wheel size for mountain bikes. 29" wheels rather than 26" started to catch the attention of the die hard woods riders. Combine the earlier movement to single speed mountain bikes and what I was being forced to learn about drove me batty. 26" wheels rolled just fine. Having a variety pack of gears to use made any terrain my bitch. Larger wheels would just fold easy under hard hits I thought. And Single Speed just seemed some hellish idea thought up by sadomasochists. Talk about self flagellating. Stupid ideas, both of them.

So the new movements passed by my shop. As a confirmed retro grouch, I watched them from the sidelines and decided I was right. Neither would ever really catch on. There was not enough industry support to make it happen. Not enough variety in frames, forks, rims, tires to even get the new born fads off the ground.

That was 6 or 7 years ago. I was wrong 6 or 7 years ago. That's okay though. I am used to being wrong. It goes with my retro grouch persona. At least now I am right. Or should I say I am not wrong anymore. 29er bikes and Single Speed bikes have managed to become mainstream in the industry.

Okay, so I have admitted my mistake. But I still did not feel any compulsion to jump on the bandwagon as a consuming cyclist. I have more bikes in my quiver than any one man should have. Adding yet one more ride to my barn full seemed silly. And then I stumbled on the "Zaka".

29 inch wheels mated to a titanium frame is what it took to make me gaga again over a bike. I own a titanium bike and it rides like no other I own. But it is pre-new tech and I have moved onto newer rides that offer better handling and more gears. The "Zaka" is also a changeling. It can manifest itself as a multi-geared bike or be set up as a Single Speed. High Tech, please meet Simplicity.

As I write this I am conspiring to find a way to put my fat butt on one of these. They are not cheap. The frame by itself retails in the $1400 range. My cost would be less, but even finding $100 to spare right now is tough. In the meantime I can lust and fantasize about how another new bike will turn me into that cycling god I secretly want to be.


(935 / 5511)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Want to be Your Groupie

Pour a couple of well deserved shots of decent sour mash into me after a solid and excellent week of business at the bike shop - slap on the headphones - punch up some Zeppelin and,.......and, ......turn it up to WOW! Well, I have to admit that no matter how many years separate me from those seminal days and eye opening years when Jimmy Page and his guitar first caught my attention - Well yeah I have to admit, I cannot deny my roots, Led Zeppelin is my all time favorite Rock n Roll Band.

There are many groups fighting for second place. But on my Rock Podium, Zep wins the Gold. Love the Who, Tull, Hendrix, Little Feat, Yes, the Rolling Stones, and Cream. Shit, name some Rock band from back in the day and I would have to say that there were moments when I was enticed away from the best of the best. But it never failed, I always came back for the ear splitting sound of Page, Bonzo, Plant and the unflappable John Paul Jones.

Many bands attempted to cover their music, copy their sound, ride on their coattails. Some famous, some just barroom tribute bands. How many budding guitarists cut their picking teeth on "Stairway to Heaven"? Frankly, "Stairway is one of my least favorite Zep tunes. Always against the tide I guess.

No one ever caught the essence or even really hinted at the soul of Led Zeppelin. They might think they nailed the guitar licks of Jimmy page. But it always ended up not quite. Lead singers Worldwide lusted after Robert Plant's pipes as they struggled to sing like he did. Bonzo baffled drummers all over as he pounded 4/4 time with exquisitely timed off beats. No one did it better. Some as good maybe, but never better. All the while John Paul Jones stood wooden and sane,keeping everyone on the same plane with his consistent and technically subtle bass. He remained to the end the pivot man in their excellent Rock n Roll Circle Jerk.

Yes many bands tried. Most bands failed. None ever really captured it all. Snippets, a song here and there. That is all. It took a band made up of four extremely talented women to get Zep right.

Lez Zeppelin - These ladies know how to rock. Sure I can tell they aren't the bonafide article. But their honest and respectful treatment of the music and their talent will make any die hard Zep fan smile when they catch one of their versions of "Since I have been loving You". Steph Paynes and her incredible talent on guitar keeps Kris Bradley and her great voice from stealing the show. Figures it would take some woman to hit the notes Robert used to hit.

My daughter Lis turned me onto them. Saw them in concert and I think bought their CD before she left the hall after the show was over. She ripped me a copy. The student is now teaching the teacher. And even though I have learned to respect Lis and her musical suggestions, I was sure any band named Lez Zeppelin made up of four females would never in a million jillion years come close to the Rock Gods that made up Led Zeppelin. They may never garner the fame. Being in the the right place at the right time with the right talent had so much to do with what made Led Zeppelin so huge. But the ladies are proving with their musical skills, they can come close. Closer than any tribute band I have heard.

So I sit here after playing their version of "Kashmir" for the fourth or fifth time and know I would gladly hang out by the back stage door for hours hoping to score a back stage pass. I'd be their groupie in a heart beat.

Or better yet - I would pay handsomely to just drive their truck. I did it for Led Zeppelin. Driving Lez equipment coast to coast would put a tidy book end on the years I spent in Rock n Roll. Ladies, I still know where all the halls are.

Oh look, someone dropped a joint.................

(695 / 4576)

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Tree Climber

As far back as he could remember, he loved climbing trees. No matter where his father dragged them as he moved up the ranks from noncom to officer, as soon as the young tree climber could break away from the all too familiar routine of unpacking his junk in one more new home, he would explore the neighborhood for the best climbing tree he could find.

If he could not find a tree, he found a tower, a telephone pole, a high roof, anything that would lift him off the dreary Earth, even if only for a moment or two. Calm and resolve to deal with his new situation always came once he had climbed that first tree. It became his ritual as he prepared to face another new school, another new group of kids to break into, another location to learn.

Any high spot would do, but trees were his passion. No one tree ever treated him the same. All were unique in their rewards and the trials thrown at him by their distinctive growth, position, or height. He learned to love trees. Trees never hurt him or excluded him out of spite. Trees always accepted him as he was as long as he returned the favor. He knew he would climb trees forever.

The old tree climber attempted a dry smile as he remembered his humble beginnings a lifetime ago. His broken jaw acquired somewhere between up there and down here where he laid a twisted collection of body parts and climbing gear would not let the smile travel to his lips. The pain made him chuckle. His mother was somewhere out there in the ether, "I told you so bonehead. One day a tree is going to kill you."

And grumbling in the background through liquored breath his father grunted while digging at his crotch, "What a Dumb Fuck."

The memories were interrupted. His body began to convulse as his broken chest tried to cough up the blood that had been pooling in his lungs. The seizures lessened and he once again lay quiet. He knew now, this was one fall he would not walk away from. He could not feel his feet. As far as he could tell, any pain was from the waist up. "Well Shit. Guess I should not have come out alone today." No regrets, the old tree climber just acknowledged that he had been caught being stupid.

If he did not try to smile or move his upper body, there really was not much pain. Only a dull pressure that seemed to come from every direction. He felt his essence begin to slip away. The old tree climber was thankful he had landed face up looking at the spreading branches of the final tree he would ever climb. And as the light faded from his eyes and the sounds of the woods grew faint, the old tree climber realized that he had indeed climbed trees forever.

Afterthought - One of the most fun posts I have written in awhile. I actually had a plan but it didn't pan out since what I just wrote is not what I intended to write. Not even close. What a hoot that was. Got as much a buzz from writing this as I do when I am riding on some new and unfamiliar single track that just flows. Where it goes and finally ends up, nobody knows. About the only thing that resembles my original idea is the title. And maybe the opening line.


(588 / 3881)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thank You

A few months ago I made a decision to back away from the blog some and concentrate my limited abilities to the pressing concerns of my life outside of the Internet. I had and still have a business running on one cylinder instead of the four it started on. I have a house in need of serious repair. And I have a 57 year old body that needs exercise to not become a gelatinous useless blob.

So how has it gone so far you might ask? Or more likely, you may not care one way or the other. Regardless, I figure a few moments of retrospection and dwelling on my immediate past might be in order so I can assess the over all benefits (profit/loss if you will) of being AWOL from the BoZone these past few months.

My business is still open. It is still running at no better than half speed. But I have eaten into my past dues and the lights still go on when I flip the switch. Overall, the bike shop is better off than it was a year ago.

The house - well here I seem to have run up against the priority monster. And it ties into the Health factor. I just do not have the energy to burn the candle at both ends like I used to. Past stupidity in my younger years has created a health scenario that leaves me with limited energy to use every day. Gone are the days when I can repeatedly work on the house in the AM, go to work, come home and work on it some more. I still have not figured out how to pace myself. I boogie hard for a few days and then spend two or three days a wasted and useless piece of flesh. I am not used to the level of exhaustion I find now is more the norm than the exception. I will not waste time beating myself up for putting myself in this predicament. I just need to find a way to deal with it. It will be tough. I have always been either on or off. Something in between is not something I am familiar with.

Today, three months after I re-committed to my life outside of this office, I have to say it has been a mixed bag of results. Some positive, some negative, and some just not changing much at all. In other words, SSDD.

While I ignored the blogging world though, strange things happened to it. I have somehow managed to find more folks following the blog than ever before. I stop posting so much and readership climbs. Odd. I have no explanation other than I do appreciate and thank all of you who have joined the group on the right. It is gratifying and I would be lying if I said I don't care one way or the other. Knowing someone out there takes the occasional moment to check my blog out does reinforce the urge to write. Thank you.

See Ya.........................

(507 / 3293)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I Hate Kickstands

So I stayed late at the bike shop the other night. For the second night in a row I came home around midnight. The first night I could barely put one foot in front of the other as I tripped up the walk to the house. I had been productive. I had been industrious. Piles got smaller. Fires were put out. Laid my head down and the next thing I knew, it was 5:00AM.

Got up and did it again the next day. In a fog, I wondered if I was not repeating the day over. Shit, Yesterday and Today all get mixed up when I keep the candles burning through one into the other.

Updating the evening's experience as a small town retailer of goods and services that are often underrated and berated, I have to say I came home the second night not dragging ass, but with a bit of bounce in the old dogs. Must have been the 3 Foster 25 ounce beers I walked down to 7 eleven 2 times for with the third supplied by a good friend wishing to tip a beer with me.. I was still industrious and productive, but I danced and rocked as I worked. By the 3rd beer I was absolutely ecstatic. Rocking to some Bowie or was it Zep, I priced more than a few boxes of product. A chore I really detest. Toss 75 ounces of beer down my gullet and Life is a blast for a short while.

It will be interesting to see what I wrote on the price tags besides the price. I definitely stepped outside the normal retailer pricing stock box I have become trapped in these past 11 years. On the Kickstands, I seem to recall writing "Don't Buy These". Actually I did not, but I think about doing it everytime I price them.

I hate kick stands. They just give the wind a chance to ruin your day when you come out of the local A&P with some pop and there embedded in the asphalt with one pedal buried hard and the other sticking up as if trying to catch someones attention, your trusty steel steed has become part of the hot pavement. I sell Kickstands. But I don't have to like them. They inevitably fall short of the promises they make when you flick them down. So I have not hung one on any bike I owned since that first one let my brand new Huffy crash into the pavement back in the 1950s. Some lessons come early and you never forget them.


(432 / 2796)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Devolution, Revolution, Absolution, Resolution, Institution, Dissolution, and last but not least, Evolution.

Sometimes I will be doing mindless things and suddenly a word will pop into my cranium. Uh, Maybe it is more that a word is trying pop out and escape. Understandable, knowing that it is jungle in there.

The first word will be uttered creating a waterfall effect of words that sound similar or rhyme. With each word, my mind scrambles to connect them by other means than phonetics, roots, prefixes or suffixes. I try to find a mutual theme or direction that will tie them together to form some kind of point or clever arrangement of ideas and thought.

Once I have played this word game long enough to find the boredom behind it, I move on to the next piece of glitter that catches my eye. I very seldom take the time to write them down. But for some reason, the words at the top have popped up more than once in recent days. Hmm.

Since I only paid the slightest bit of attention I could muster back in the days of chalk boards and tight lipped teachers wearing winged glasses, I have never been much of a scholar of words. I like them immensely. But I have never gone gaga over them to the point of becoming lost in them for longer than most anything else I find interesting.

No, that is a lie. I am a closet Dictionary addict. There. I said it. I actually pick up the dictionary from time to time, not to find a word, but to find a new one or just bask in the glow of all those words we use to describe our condition, our lusts, our peeves, our reason for carrying on. Words are so cool. Without them, I am sure we would have killed each other off long before this.

Words can seduce. Words can produce. Words are the juice that keeps humans moving from where they were to what they will become. Without a written language, we would still be masturbating in trees. Uh, well maybe some still do. But that is more in spite of words, not because of them.

So what conclusion or connection have I managed to button up regarding the words, Devolution, Revolution, Absolution, Resolution, Institution, Dissolution, and last but not least, Evolution? They all seem to be ideas or concepts we humans cannot avoid. We either desire them or wish to tear them down. Regardless, they are all important in the matrix of exchanges we Homo sapiens have with each other.

As ever, now moving onto the next bright light...................

(428 / 2364)

Sunday, August 02, 2009


I was going to continue to use my hard-tail and take it with me to the ride at Massabesic Watershed outside of Manchester, New Hampshire earlier today. But some glitches with hose length on those new Hydraulic brakes I was all wet over the other day stomped that notion down hard. I had already removed the old Hydraulics and there my bike was, ride-able but not stoppable.

"What was I going to do", I thought anxiously? "I love that Hard-tail. We have come to terms and I know I will hate riding any one of the other umpteen bikes I have kicking around."

I was like some contestant in a game show trying to pick which door to open. Three choices were staring me down. Put the old brakes back on just to remove them next week to put on my new ones. Ride a different bike. Or just don't go. Not going was out of the question. I had not been out to these trails in a couple of years. It was time. All of them were open now that the rain seems to be giving us break.

Miles of awesome single track were waiting for me. I looked over to the front display rack in the shop. There sitting patiently, cleanly, and humming softly with it's pedals up, the Rocky "Slayer" dual suspension tried to get my attention. It seemed to be saying, "What am I? Just some fancy bling to tease customers with? Or am I not an awesome piece of sporting equipment bound to cause you serious grin factor if you can handle me. I have been sitting here dude since April after you face planted into that stream. Dumass. Instead of making some adjustments for the extra 20 pounds you have strapped around your belly over the Winter, you put me up to gather dust. What a maroon! Pshaw! Hard-tail indeed! Hard-tails suck. I'm the real deal."

I swear that's what the Slayer said to me. Just not in so many words. It was a synaptic connection between my brain and the gully wots of the Slayer. Bicycles definitely have souls. Often playfully evil souls, but souls nonetheless. Dual Suspension rides are all so damn cocky. Almost as bad as those low rent trailer trash Single Speeders.

I had my doubts. The Slayer had punished me and my already injured knee not two months ago. Just because I had gotten fat and lazy over the Winter, it decided like some stubborn mule to not go into that stream with me on top of it. It had stopped short and I flew over the bars gracefully and just shy of a pike position to end up totally immersed in a Spring thaw cooled stream running full tilt boogie.

All the while I am checking out the bike, I am turning the worst case scenarios over and over in my mind. The FOMBA trails are chock full of opportunities for the Slayer to decide it wants no part of my hamfisted piloting skills. It could be a very embarrassing and bloody ride. I forged ahead though trying my best to not let the anxiety crest past sane amounts.

I pumped 20 PSI more into the rear shock. I pumped 20 more pounds into the front shock. I dropped the saddle 3/4 of an inch to lower my center of gravity. Ran through the gears, pumped the brakes, aired the tires to 30 PSI in the front tire and 35PSI in the rear. All I had left to do was fill the water bottle and lube the chain. I would do that just before we loaded up to head there. I went home and tried to get a good night's sleep.

I slept, but good is hardly how I would describe it. I woke up in a fog at 5:00 AM. I stumbled and bumbled through my pre-ride morning rituals. Coffee first, double checked that my helmet, gloves, Camelbak, shoes and knee pad were in the truck. Check and double check! I headed down to the shop to hook up with the crew and grab my bike. We left on time and my predicted 1 1/4 hour drive time was only off by a couple of minutes. On the trails by 9:00 AM.

The Lake Massabesic Watershed is a huge expanse of several lakes, forest, streams and rocks that provides drinking water for a sizable chunk of southern New Hampshire. FOMBA is a group of NH cyclists who have managed through hook, crook and hard work to get into the good graces of the powers that run the watershed. While there were miles of multi-use trails in the area, there were no trails designed and built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We like a trail to have features that would drive other users mad if that is all they had. Bikes like a certain flow with technical glitches like logs, rocks and trees close together to take out the occasional pinkie finger. If it is a pain the ass for a hiker, a mountain biker is probably in heaven. Hikers generally seem to like to go from point A to Point B in a fairly direct manner while taking in the sights, sounds and smells at a leisurely pace. Off road riders love switchbacks and using every bit of terrain there is. And getting from Point A to Point B is less important then the journey in between. FOMBA folks set up trails with this in mind.

It seems the Slayer was happy to just be out and having me pay some attention to it. The adjustments I made were spot on for the terrain. I have never ridden those trails better. I cleaned sections that I used to walk. I swooped, dove, and climbed obstacles previously outside my skill set. My bike behaved and I gained confidence with each new section. It was a great day on the trails.

The nine of us played for three hours on these trails. I rode well until I just ran out of steam on "The Long Trail". Hit the wall. Cashed it in. I was done. The last mile was a real struggle. But I left a lot of grins out there today. And that my friend is what fun should be about.

If you want to get a good feel for what I rode today, check out this video. Hats off to "allMTN". He did a good job - Riding and editing.

Happy Trails....................

(1084 / 1936)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dealing With the Repercussions of Preconceptions

I had an old customer come in the bike shop a while back. He bought a new road bike from me about nine years ago and became a regular customer. Well, regular in so far as he always has me tune or at least check out his bike every year. And he will come in a few times over the course of our all too short summer for tubes or some other odd bike related product or service. He is a quiet man of about oh, 60 years old or so. I do not think he has ever been married. He has that I lived with Mom my whole life air about him. I always thought he was gay. Or at the least gayish. Definitely effeminate.

Well. Don't ever ask me to evaluate or give my opinion about someone based on the stupidity I can come up with after only dealing with someone regarding their biking habits or how they carry themselves. I am more often wrong than right. You would think I would stop trying to guess.

His recent visit happened to coincide with Maine's Legislature signing off on Gay Marriage. He asked me what I thought of that.

I am usually pretty careful about keeping my opinions on such flash point issues like gay marriage, abortion, illegal immigrants, etc close to my chest when dealing with the public in my bike shop. I am especially careful when dealing with customers I do not know very well. I have learned that politics and taking folks money don't mix unless you happen to be a politician. And I am definitely not a politician. Speaking out of both sides of my mouth is just too awkward a skill for me to master.

Common Sense lost the battle quickly and I blurted out that I had no problem with it. Folks should be able to marry whoever the Hell they want to, provided of course, both are in agreement and of a mature age and coherent enough mental state to make the decision. I went on to say the issue was pissing me off because the government has no business dictating this.

I then went on a tear about marriage in general and how the hallowed institution in this country is a hollowed sham of what it should be. Heteros in the US don't give it the respect it deserves, what with their divorcing at the drop of a hat, their stepping out on each other, and their all too frequent use of their children as pawns in their failed relationship. I didn't think we had any moral high ground to claim here. Saying God doesn't like it just doesn't work for me. Nobody has a clue what God likes. But they sure think they do.

The whole time I figure I am preaching to the choir. Remember I had nine years of assumptions built up about this guy.

The customer looked at me as I ranted. I should have noticed the subtle rise in his eyebrows when I spewed my opinion about how the government should stay the Hell out of it. And I really should have caught on when he squared his shoulders as I talked about us being clueless regarding God's likes and dislikes.

I then asked what I should have asked before I stepped off the edge. "So what do you think?"

It turns out he feels Homosexuals are nothing but perverts who want their sinful perversions sanctioned by the State. Marriage is meant to only be between a man and a woman.

Wow. I never saw that one coming.

That I even write about this weeks after it happened indicates the incident bothered me. I have chewed on the encounter off and on for quite awhile now. I have not been able to understand why it bothered me so. It definitely was not that someone else might disagree with me. That happens all the time. I love disagreement. Oftentimes, I have to disagree first before I can come to a point of agreement. I think what eats at me is that I made assumptions about someone. I pigeonholed them based not on facts but appearance and demeanor. It is not that I thought he was Gay, but that I even used that trait to evaluate him. I have always contended being Gay means no more to me than being Straight, yet I chose to place a label on this guy. I never look at someone and think, "Oh they must be Straight".

Anyway, it is no big deal in scheme of the overall plan the Universe has for me. But it did cause me some moments of introspection that well, ended up here as the drivel you have just read.

BTW and because I am trying not to poach from starving artists - The image above, "Introspection" is by Stephen Georgeson and was for sale as of 2008 at

And the image at the top of the post is by someone somewhere and I hope they do not mind me using it. It is also entitled "Introspection" I think.