How unnatural is it to be in love with your bicycle? I went for a roundabout ride today, covering some fifty miles or so in very random and easy fashion. This is the riding I live for! No idea of pace or distance or even where I am, I was just Riding for the Hell of it and just going nowhere, but getting places all the same.
I Need A Fix
One of the places I went to was this horrendous super-shiny commercial plaza a couple towns away. You all know the kind of place I mean: a few dozen acres of cow pasture or scrub oak suddenly transforms into this Mini-Disney of Retail. A Multi-Screen Movie House, two or three Chain Restaurants and then all the in-fill stores that accompany the Big Boys like Remora on a Shark. My purpose in going to this place was to scope out a new chain restaurant that is being built there. In my Old Days of Glory, I was a very prolific builder of restaurants. I was thinking maybe there would be a little work there for Ol' Tim Joe, a little work and maybe some cash for the cash box and the Internet Bicycle Parts Suppliers who Feed My Habit.
To get there I had to traverse an Interstate Interchange, probably one of the least bike-friendly spots known to man. Sidewalks that look like they will carry you precariously through to the other side instead abruptly end. You then find yourself on a narrow shoulder with ground glass and wrecked tire debris and then even that tapers off to nothing at the exact blind spot where a distracted driver could suddenly come blasting around those bushes texting and eating and murdering you all at the same time. It is horrendous. I have encountered these interchanges before. They were once known as clover leafs but there is nothing lucky about them, unless one counts one's self lucky to survive the encounter.
But the Trailer Park Cyclist counts on Pluck Not Luck, pluck and alertness and a really good reliable two-wheeled steed built with my own two hands using those aforementioned quality bicycle parts purchased online. She got me through and I cruised through this “open air mall” somewhat dazzled by the sterile cleanness and general plasticity of the place. I was of course the only cyclist in sight; I would have been appalled to think that Children Riders or even my Fellow Cyclists would have to brave such harrowing circumstances to get to this place that belongs to SUV's and Sleek Sedans and the Slaves that maintain them.
But Judge Not, Tim Joe, Lest Ye etc. So I instead focused on cruising around this giant place looking for the Job Site where maybe I could get a phone number or maybe even run into an old acquaintance from The Day. But no. Even though the newspaper had said work would start tomorrow, there was not the least sign of a new building going up or the plethora of containers, trailers and equipment that accompany such a project. What the Hell?
Now I had to go back through that damn interchange again. For nothing.
Urban Assault Vehicle
This kind of riding is new to the Old Schwinn. She is more accustomed to Long Rides Down Country Lanes, or Multi-Mile Highway Grinds. Instead, for this kind of work I like to ride my old Mongoose Alta with the Flat Bars and Fat Tires. She is converted to single speed and is about as bomb-proof as you could ask for. That Alta is built for Urban Assault and that is what this was. But that Alta is hanging in the work stand waiting for a re-build on the rear hub. I have had the new bearings for days now but the old hub, after twenty years and god-knows-how-many-miles is worn and the bearing races are grooved and the cones are pitted and I really should put a new wheel on her but for now...well, you guys know the story. So I gotta Do the Deed and put the hub back together in less than pristine fashion and that just ain't what I am about. But the bike has been in the stand too long and I miss her so I'll do a sub-par repair for now and start shopping a new wheel later.
But let's keep that info between us.
I picked my way back through that dang hostile environment of Four Leaf Interstate Inhumanity and started gently cruising at slow speed along routes that were very familiar to me but that I had not seen for a long time. Years, in fact. I cruised past buildings that I had built and I cruised past saloons we had trashed while building those buildings. A couple of the guys who had been with me on the Building and the Trashing are Gone Now...one of them was My Brother. But Life Goes On for the Wicked and I guess That's Me and one of the ways I try to pay my respects to The Fallen is to tackle each new day as though it was my last. Sometimes people can get frustrated with a guy who insists on turning each experience inside out and twisting it to make sure there's no juice left before moving on. But I figure I owe it to those guys to Live a Little Extra to make up for their not being here with me to Share the Ride.
You Get What You Deserve
This is one of the reasons I ride a bicycle. As all of you know, cycling puts the rubber on the ground and your ass in the elements. You breathe the air first hand, not filtered through some mechanical cooling system. You hear the sounds and see the sights and smell the smells and interact with the wildlife, even if it is only dodging suicidal squirrels and strategic bird poop. On rides like this one the physical exertion is non-existent. I am cruising, reminiscing, trying to work things out. I am casually watching dark ominous clouds building just ahead and I know what it means when I see that the oncoming cars have their wipers on.
I hit the storm, or it hits me. Who can tell? But this is a Hard Rain and there is No Shelter handy, nor do I seek it. This is Summertime Florida, man. These showers hit and the lightning strikes and then, just like that, it's over and old Poppa Sun comes back to do his thing and you are drying and pedaling and feeling Righteously Alive and looking around for someone to yell Hello! to but on this stretch it is just me and my Old Schwinn and I am feeling pretty damn good and thinking about how much I Love This Bike.
Fishing Is Everything
She is Just Right and I bought her for twenty bucks and a half pint of good rum and now I got Way More than that in her and I'm not done. She still has a new front wheel coming and a saddle and some bars, she has been promised a Tiagra Rear Derailleur (but I might surprise her with a 105). As my learning grows I am becoming a Shimano devotee. I wanted to rebel against their Dominance in the Industry but then one day I realized that I have been using their fishing gear for as long as I can remember and suddenly my whole attitude changed. All the joy and fish that I owe to my old Shimano Reels is now reflected in my Bicycle Parts Philosophy.
I'm pedaling South on US One, a sometimes grind but not today. The wind is from my starboard quarter and lifting and they repaved this highway last year with a nice wide shoulder. The World Is Wet and Clean and this ride is turning out a lot better than I thought it would. Old Tim Joe has been hiding out at a Trailer Park while he figured out Bicycles and Long Rides and how to write the last few chapters. I still don't have them clear in my head, but I can see now that soon I will. It Is All About Bicycles, somehow; somehow, it is All About The Ride.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Weather Station