Monday, May 23, 2011

Big Bird

Monday Morning Window

From my window here at my computer table I can see highway US1 just a few feet away. I can also see a lot of cyclists going by on what may be morning commutes, but a lot of them look like they don't have jobs. So who are they and where are they going? It is seven A.M. They must be commuters. But what caught my eye is a Really Big Bird standing just on the edge of the highway, just inches from traffic. This bird, a Sand Hill Crane or Blue Heron or something is about three feet tall and is definitely going to get hit by one of the cars rushing North on their way to wherever cars go.

Now I should do something besides sit here and drink coffee and type, I should run out there and shoo this bird off for its own good. But what if I startle it and it flies into traffic? So instead I sit here, waiting to hear a screech of brakes and a loud “FUMPH!”. These birds always seem to come in pairs and this one is alone. I can read a lot of meaning into that fact,  but listen, it is Monday, a day when the Blues Rule the World so I'll let that Blue Heron widower take care of himself while I do the same. It's Monday and I gotta get through Today somehow my ownself.

Coyote Bird Services

But while I typed that sentence Coyote showed up outside my window, trying to be a Bird Herder.  He is shooing the Bird over towards my trailer, away from traffic. Good ol' Coyote. I step outside to cheer him on.

“This Bird is hurt, or sick or something,” he says. “What should I do?”
“I don't know, Coyote. He's lost his mate or something and has been standing out in traffic all morning.”
“Should we call somebody?”
“Last year when that hawk that was shot landed on my porch, I called the Daytona Bird Lady and she said to wrap him in a towel and bring him to her.”
“What did you do?”
“I fed him sliced turkey from the Winn Dixie Deli for three days and then he was gone.”

We Talk It Over

Meanwhile the Big Bird is standing there, three feet away, listening. To passerby it must look like a three-way morning conversation, but one of the guys is a Really Big Bird. At least we are away from the edge of the highway. Coyote has his camera and I try to take a picture of him and the bird, but just then Noisy Tony comes up, talking as always and the bird moves off. Tony notices the camera and starts trying to angle around to make sure he is in the shot, talking all the while.

But it is Monday Morning and one sure way to jinx my week is to start it with that jackass babbling in my ear so I wink at Coyote and we both turn to go back to our trailers as Noisy Tony's voice fades into the background sounds of the highway.

The Road Is Long

Sometimes when  Looking Out My Window I see fully loaded touring bikes going by, and I have to resist an urge to grab my bike and go after them, catch up and ask who they are, where they're coming from, where they are headed.  But I don't want to scare them into traffic. On my Long Rides I see these touring cyclists down on the South end of the county, down where traffic on the highway gets really thin. It is a long haul to the next town down there and a lot of the riders I see seem a little distressed. That stretch of road is almost desolate and gets really hot and is probably a lonely place for the solitary tourist. Myself, I'm down there for that very reason. I like the Lonely Places and also, being a local, I know what is ahead on the Road, the next stop for water or beer and the distance to the next town. I know where I am and where I am going, so to speak.

At least I like to think I do.

Good Luck, Big Bird.  Good Luck,  Coyote.

But today is Monday, I have Things To Do. The Big Bird has flown off, hopefully to a happier place than the dangerous side of Old Hwy One in Hawks Park. Coyote is taking his Kayak to the River.  Maybe he'll catch a trout or snapper or even two or three.  A nice fat fish would make a good Monday Supper. I have to get Number Nine ready for a new tenant. The coffee pot is empty and it is time to start.  

Not much of a post, I know,   but it is, after all, Monday. And like the Coyote says,

“ Never push a Monday too hard.”  Wise Words,  I like to think.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bird Refuge

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sometimes I Ride, Sometimes I Sail

Sometimes, when I am not Up On Two Wheels, I am instead Up on Two Hulls.

Cromwell and Me
I sail the local waters on a Hobie Cat catamaran, sometimes alone, and sometimes with my Sailing Buddy, the Erstwhile Sam Cromwell, local Potter and area Bon Vivant. Here's a tale of One of Our Rides...

Shipyard Island
We cut in quick and hard across the north end of Shipyard Island. The starboard hull is leaping in and out of the water like a porpoise skipping in the sunshine. At this moment I feel more akin to anything happy and natural as I ever will. The wind is from the Southeast at 12 to 14  knots and this Hobie is damn well screaming across the Indian River on a day that started out with us looking suspiciously at the tops of palm trees in search of any Evidence of Wind; but it is blowing well enough now. Cromwell has a big stupid grin on his face, sitting there on the mainsail boom, steering with his left foot. I’m hiked out to windward, bottle of rum in one hand and the other hand hanging on tight to the port shroud as I sling as many of my 200 pounds as I can into the wind, for fear we might go over. This part of the lagoon has a bottom uncomfortably close to the top and we have been upside-down more than once.

The Lagoon
I let out a loud “Wee-hoo!” and listen for an echo, but when you are in the Mosquito Lagoon sound travels far over the water...and never comes back.

As we come abreast of the campground at the North End of the Island, Cromwell puts the rudder over hard and we sweep right up onto the sandy beach. I am always surprised at the gentle action of driving onto shore in a catamaran. She just sighs in, as though the land were as natural a place to be as the water. After beaching the boat we stand around for a minute getting accustomed to the lack of motion and the feel of solid ground. Cromwell digs into the cooler for a couple of beers.

“That was sweet,” he says, a huge grin still plastered on his face. He hands me a frosty, dripping cold can. I slip it into my day-glo-orange holder and take a sip. Damn. After a screaming beam reach across that thin, glistening open water, so flat and smooth you want to weep, then the frostiest of cold beer...

“Sweet indeed, my brother, we were truly haulin’ ass back there. And my compliments on your mastery of the Cap’n Dave Hang-Five sailin’ style. Pure barn stormin’.”

“Thank you, my brother. And Cap’n Dave thanks you. And wasn’t the rum just somewhere around here somewhere?”

“Just over there jammed in next to the life vests. I stashed it there at the precise moment you did that wonderfully executed little onshore jibe.” He rummages around in the Pile of Stuff we always have strapped all over the Cat.

What Next?
“Ah yes, here it is, stashed precisely as you said! Salut!” He raises his arm in a toast and I raise my beer to clink against the half-full bottle. Cromwell, looking out across the great expanse, the afternoon sun making brilliant sparkles on the surface of the crystalline water, says, “Now then, what next?”

And I don’t know what to do next. The day is so perfect, so clear, everything seems so clear, it could just end here. Just precisely here. “ I don’t know what to do next,” I say. “Let’s go look at The Stream.”

The Stream
What we refer to as ‘The Stream’ is actually some kind of man-made cut running right up the middle of Shipyard Island. Small finger cuts run at right angles to the main canal, which is about three miles long. These small finger cuts are about forty to sixty yards long and quite mysterious. We walk over from the camp area to where the stream enters the main body of the lagoon. The Mosquito Lagoon is so vast here, some ten miles wide, that the effect is quite that of being alone on a desolate island in some far away place. In fact, you are alone on a desolate island in some far away place.

Cromwell spoke first. “I think you’re right. The way the tide is running, we could just put her in here and drift straight down the middle of the Island to the South End.”

“Precisely. Then, when we get to the South End, we can cut North hard out of the Stream and catch this southeast breeze on a long broad reach, running with the current, one tack all the way to the landing with one hull in and one hull out!” We do a perfect high five. It really is a perfect day.

“How much beer do we have left?” Cromwell asks. The question is a ritualistic one, for we have long ago learned to bring Plenty Of Beer.

“Looks like enough for the journey,” I reply, glancing through the cooler. “Plus the Rum.”

“The Rum must be saved for medicinal use only,” he says. “So speaks the Captain.”

“Aye-Aye, Cap,” say I, carefully stowing the bottle in its snug nest among the child-sized life preservers.

“Captain’s Reserves stowed as ordered. Prepare to shove off?”

“Prepare to shove in is more like it, don’t you think, Watson?”

“Indeed, Holmes! Let us shove in, then, the game is afoot!”

This Is How Ya Do It

We gently ease the boat into the shallow stream in the middle of the island. The falling tide creates a kind of false current which we plan to ride three miles south to the far end of the Island. The high shell mounds on both sides of the stream, combined with the huge heaps of “diggings” made by the mysterious creators of the canal are effective at blocking the wind.

The sails slat lazily about. Caught in the current at about 3 knots, I steer by lying back on the trampoline and hanging one leg over the rudder crossbar. Cromwell hands me a fresh beer.

Pelicanus Goldentoponos

The day is preternaturally fine. In the middle of March it is still too cold for Ocean Sailing on a beach cat, and too rough, although we constantly talk of giving it a try. But here in the Indian River, a half mile west of the beach, the water is warm, the days are crisp and clear, and as I lay back and listen to the primitive sounds of the primordial island all about me, I thank God that whatever other trials and tribulations are laid before me, I at least get a day like this one once in awhile.

The little Hobie is handling like her reed-raft ancestors handled centuries before, responding lightly to the helm and skimming swiftly across water that is little more than ankle deep. One huge old Gold-Cap Pelican finds his deep thoughts suddenly disturbed by this brightly-colored intrusion ghosting slowly by. Rising grumpily from his perch he slouches away, his great, ponderous flapping producing just enough lift to carry him slowly away from this rude apparition. He cruises, graceful now, in a long, slow, gliding arc that carries him ultimately back to his original resting place. The Sun is a Lazy Friend, smiling and burning and warming our skin and warming the trampoline beneath our bodies.

Typhoid !

“Feeling a bit feverish, Cap.” A dragonfly buzzes over the tip of my nose.
“What’s that?” cries Cromwell, “Typhoid on my vessel? It shall not be! Break out the medicine!” He reaches over to the rum-nest and pulls forth the bottle. Taking a hearty draw, he coughs and chokes and passes the bottle to me. “Har! Strong medicine,” he says, gasping a little.
“Aye, Cap,” I say, “Just the thing for a touch of the ol’ typhoid, though, just the thing.” I take my own hearty pull and pass the bottle back. The dragonfly hovers daintily over the life vests. If we time everything precisely the medicine will last just long enough to get us to the South End. From there we will not need any more medicine, for our hands will be full enough, full of wind and wire and screaming; screaming across that sweet, smooth, glistening lagoon, the glorious burning sun easing into the horizon, settling gently into our thousand-hued wake.

This One's For the Cap

But just now there is no indication of the excitement ahead. Just now is all Warm Sun and Dragonfly; all subdued comments about nothing;  it is occasional rustlings in the ice chest;  it is Pelican and Dragonfly and Quiet Stream.

“Here’s to Cap’n Dave,” I say.
“Here’s to Cap’n Dave,” said Cromwell.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Old Sailor's Home

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Wave

What's Happening?

On this morning's ride I noticed something unusual. I was not waving, nodding, winking or “hello-ing” to my fellow riders. Very unusual behavior for me, the Trailer Park Cyclist, Friend of Man and Champion of the Underdog, Noble Knight of the Downtrodden, King of Beers, well, you get the picture. I always make a point of acknowledging those with whom I share the road, but not this morning. Why? Well, I would like to offer some some valid explanation, but instead I will just tell the truth: I was riding fast.

Blame It On the Frankenbike

Fast for me, that is. I was pedaling fast along the Indian River in an attempt to garner some kind of exercise out of what would have to be a short ride. As my loyal followers (both of you) know, my trusty 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour is sitting in the corner of my palatial single wide, waiting for funds to become available for the new wheel set she has so long needed. So instead of long, long multi-hour rides on the Schwinn, I am now back to riding my '96 Mongoose Alta Single Speed Frankenbike.

And for whatever reason, pedaling fast and not waving to my brethren. And sistren(?).

I Become My Own Cliche

Who cares? Glad I asked. While riding fast, it seems I was thinking fast as well. At heightened speed it becomes necessary to pay closer attention to the road, traffic, squirrels, dog-walkers, all the myriad things that can go wrong fast when you go fast. But more than that, I was also just plain thinking fast, indulging in the Racing Thoughts Syndrome that I was trying to escape when I started taking those long slow rides. No, not thinking about racing, I mean thinking about how if I don't get it together pretty soon my head will explode and I need a new motor for my big work truck and a new transmission for my little work truck and for that matter I need some work and today is the second-to-the-last-shuttle launch better go watch it at 8:56 and right now it is 8:10 and I just realized the last two riders I passed said hello or waved and I ignored them.

How It All Began

Which is important to me because it all began with being ignored. A while back I submitted a guest post to the World Renowned Fat Cyclist's Blog. It was a story about how I was riding along in the country, listening to birdsong and daydreaming and not having racing thoughts when a guy blew past me from out of nowhere. I said hello but he ignored me and for whatever reason I started having racing thoughts, yes, thinking about racing.

The rest of that story can be found at the Fat Cyclist (Trailer Park Cyclist Vs. Cervelo Guy) but that isn't what is important here and now.

My story resulted in a lot of comments about attitudes in cycling, particularly that of riders in full kit on costly machines and, well, everybody else. One commenter said that while not meaning to snub their fellow riders, sometimes they are just concentrating on their training. I found this remark particularly vacuous. Training for what? The Apocalypse? The next time you need to blow off some poor old guy out in the middle of nowhere limping along on his crappy old ten speed?

But then there I was this morning, doing just that. TRAINING. Ignoring my fellow cyclists. Blowing off old guys on beach cruisers with fishing poles strapped to their rear triangles. Not seeing smiling, waving couples on matching comfort bikes.  At least I'm still too poor to own a jersey, so I was mercifully arrayed in my homeless guy cycling wardrobe. Come to think of it, I blew off a homeless guy this morning, too. What a d-bag.


So what does it all mean? Well, truth is, once I realized what was happening, I spent the rest of the ride waving and smiling and nodding like a Pedaling Politician and it wasn't easy, in fact, in the interest of getting that exercise (training) I was after, in order to keep going fast (for me) I had to resort to the hands on the bars finger waggle thing that I sometimes get from those fast roadies who deign to acknowledge my wave. And it was kind of a pain to even do that, I would have been happier to just put my head down and concentrate on my spin, block out the world and those troubling thoughts in my head and just GO!

I Am Only An Egg

I don't know what it all means, man, or why I even worry about such things. I feel like an embryonic cycling experiment, searching for answers to questions nobody else is asking or even cares about. Except that I think other riders also think about this stuff; there were, after all, well over a hundred comments to my post at the Fat Cyclist on this very subject.

A Toast To Chad

I have some kind of Chad Gerlach-ian fantasy in my aging Rebel Soul of perfecting this image of the wild man Trailer Park Cyclist who can just chug a beer, jump on a bike, and then go out and blow off the Peloton Peacocks while doing a wheelie at the finish. But while fun to ponder, we all know that's not how it works in the Real World, a place I hope someday to visit.

More Truth

But the truth is, I just want to get lean and strong and fast on two wheels. I want to knock out long rides with aplomb and write about it and maybe get others to do the same. I want people to realize that it is, after all, Just Riding A Bicycle. How you dress or what you ride is secondary to the fact that it all starts Out There. I know something else: once I get my Old Schwinn back up and running, I'm gonna go out and hunt down Cervelo Guy and tell him this story. We ride the same roads.

Here's how this morning's ride ended: as I got close to home I saw a roadie coming towards me at a good clip. I finger waggled. In our split-second encounter he seemed surprised, then said 'morning and finger waggled back. For some reason, we both smiled.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park

Friday, May 13, 2011


The Phone Rings

Who knows which way the wind blows? Well, cyclists, sailors and old men who find themselves performing attempted feats of strength that have outrun the capabilities of their aging bodies. Just when it seemed that all was lost, when it seemed that my excruciating poverty was about to overwhelm my very soul, (not with debt but just with plain old fashioned poorness), the phone rang as I always knew it would and Hey! Hallelujah! It was Bear Dye, calling for help from Orlando, the City of the Golden Goose where I was wont to travel for high pay in my heyday. Bear, (formerly Sugar Bear but now just Bear since he has become a Leader of Men) is a former protege turned Contractor who has experienced some sizable success in the City Beautiful, crafting custom homes for the undeserving and meanwhile carving for himself a quite respectable existence.

Help Me, Obi Wan Kenobi!

But Lo and Behold, in a fit of pique it seems he has dismissed his entire crew and now, after cooling off, realizes he is in need of further assistance. So he calls Me! Hah! We old guys aren't that useless after all, are we! Seems the young scamp has work that has to be  finished by the weekend in order to get paid and could I round up a couple guys and come help him out? Again, Hah! But of course, Shuggie, We're On Our Way! (cue the trumpets) I dash about the Trailer Park rounding up Coyote and a couple of the more able-bodied guys to accompany me on my  mission, we scrounge together some gas money, throw the tools in the truck and the next morning before sunrise We Are Off to the Rescue.

How Long, O Lord?

As always, things were not what they seemed, even when, by rights, they should be. This project in need of rapid completion was no custom home; in fact, it was the roof of an aged custom home, the old shingles had to be removed and all the old staples and nails pulled and it had to be done really fast. Also, for a guy who had just fired his whole crew there sure were a lot of, well, dudes up there with the Bear. But what the hell, We're Here! and me, Old Captain Courageous his Ownself, would By God save the day whether it needed saving or not. I guess.

The Bear was as funny and stern as I remembered him, saying something to the effect that his whole crew had come crawling back but he was glad we were there and there's the roof, there's the dumpster and let's get going...

89 Degrees In the Shade

This is Florida. By ten o'clock it was 90 degrees. In the shade it was cooler, maybe 89 degrees. And this was a big damn roof and there were a damn lot of shingles. But I was determined to show What An Old Man Can Do and so I scanned the roof for the hardest job and saw that there was already a guy, maybe thirty years old, doing it. I went over and without a word started banging away next to him, yanking old roofing and staples at an alarming rate, banging away like a banshee, Getting the Job Done. This went on for a couple hours. And then another couple hours, and something was happening. I was feeling it, man. What the hell, ain't I the guy that rides 200 miles a week, with a Sunday Century thrown in once a month just because I can? Yeah, said the Voice, but this ain't cycling...”

Glory Days

It sure wasn't. Mercifully, lunch came and we went down to a shady spot to cool off and eat. The turkey sandwiches I had dutifully prepared earlier were not that appealing, but a cold tangerine and some cold water certainly were. While we ate Bear regaled the crew with tales of the Exploits and Victories of Old Tim Joe in the years I spent traveling the Gulf States building restaurants. During those long years of endless travail the Sugar Bear would frequently join up, bring five or six of his best guys to boost me through a tough period. Since tough periods were also highly lucrative periods the Bear and his boys were always handsomely rewarded and there was plenty of saloon time and hell raisin' and so on...

All of which was coming back to haunt me on this 90 plus degree day Here and Now in Orlando, where a fifty-five year old man finds himself trying to live up to a Legend That Never Was. While Bear told Tim Joe Stories to his enraptured (paid) audience, I laughed along while surreptitiously checking my pulse. What the hell, I thought, it's normal to be dizzy and short of breath when it's this hot out. Although it had never happened before, not even when I had bonked on what used to seem like (then) long rides of fifty miles.

Oh, I'll be alright, I said to myself. I paused and listened for some smart-assed comment from the Voice, but he was strangely quiet. Then we went back up on the roof.

A Toast!

Back up there, I realized I was done. Toast. Nothing left. This wasn't like being thirty miles from home on the bike and feeling your legs turn to jelly and a dull throbbing starting in your left temple. This was what it felt like just before you find yourself regaining consciousness in the back of an ambulance or coming to as they wheel you down cold antiseptic hallways on a gurney with someone yelling STAT! in the background. The Bear noticed my trouble and gave me an easy job, screwing off some new plywood in a section of the roof that had been replaced. I was grateful, but it didn't matter. It took supreme effort to fit the screw onto the gun, and when I bent over to screw it in I felt actual pain as the fiendish sun glared at me in the reflected light off the shiny new plywood. This is it, I thought, I'm screwed while trying to screw screws and there's still three screwing hours to go.


But not really. Moments later I was on the ground, vomiting. Hey! There's my tangerine, I remember thinking. That vomiting felt good. Nothing but cold water and tangerine. I didn't care. I was off that damn roof and out of that damn sun. That was all I cared about.  I didn't have to look up from my doubled over position to know that I had an audience. As we loaded into the truck for my Ride Home Of Shame, the Voice finally spoke up:

Looks like another Tim Joe story, it said.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Emporium

Friday, May 6, 2011

Waiting For Grace

My Economic Philosophy
At this point in my cycling  career I am like a third-world refugee picking scraps from the local land fill to piece together any two wheeled contraption I can to keep myself flying. There is majestic irony in the fact that when the winds of change blow through my life they will do so in such a way that while cycling dollars will be available cycling time will not, in that devilish inverse ratio of money-to-happiness nightmare that has plagued my soul since I hit the streets a-runnin'. The formula is fiendish: the times when I have plenty of money I am miserable.  Not because of the money but because of what I have to do to get it; while the times I am poor, with plenty of cycling, sailing, goofing off time, I am happy but my various creditors are miserable. And miserable creditors have a way of spreading that misery around until even a Dedicated Goof like me gives in and goes back to work.

On The Road Again
Not long after I got the Old Schwinn put back together I started logging miles and keeping a miles log that showed some serious effort on my part, consistently getting in two hundred mile weeks, albeit at a pace that would best be described as stately, to put it kindly. But I was riding, and gradually becoming addicted to the first healthy addiction in a long career of, well, you know...unhealthy addictions. Meanwhile, due to the poverty (that makes me so happy) my thirty year old Schwinn Super Le Tour was feeling the effects of all these miles as well as my less-than-average maintenance skills.

One day while Way Out There I was passed by a Fred-On-Carbon and while this was in no way unusual, for one reason or another this time I decided to give chase. After seven miles I caught and passed him. (I later recounted this story at The Fat Cyclist's website.) This was an unfortunate occurrence, because it caused me to start thinking about miles and speed. After that, I started pushing things a little. The happy part of the story is that with increased speed came increased daily mileage as a side effect. The downside is that after not many days of my new efforts the Old Schwinn filed a protest in the form of two broken spokes on the rear wheel and an inexplicably bent axle.

Off the Road Again
So sits I here now, grounded, as it were, too broke and inept to facilitate repairs on my poor old steed. The miles I am not riding mount up daily. My ass is beginning to take the shape of my computer chair. Anyone who rides long miles understands the pain and sacrifice of the ass-toughening period required before five or six hours in the saddle can be accomplished without excruciating pain.

This blog, ostensibly about bicycle riding and working on bikes, will now be...what?

Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do
Well, I could write about Mobile Home Rehab. The Management at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park finally had enough of my non-payment shenanigans and rather than evict me, instead gave me the opportunity to work off my rent debt. So not only am I not riding my beloved (but broken) Schwinn, I am spending my days ripping rotten, moldy wood out of trailer walls, painting over years of cigarette-smoke-stained ceilings and crawling around under dilapidated units to repair plumbing systems that look like the Little Rascals did the original installation.

Argh!  I Say...  
Well, not really Argh,  because I actually derive a certain pleasure in doing the best job I can on these trailers. I make sure that when I am through, every thing is “Clean, Dry and Serviceable” as we were trained to say in the Good Ol' United States Air Force. The ability to draw small pleasures from untenable situations is what keeps me going, sometimes. I consider it one of my few admirable traits, if not direct evidence of my mental instability.

My Guru Will Know What To Do
During a ride last week I broke two spokes.  The LBS was between me and home, so I carried the Old Schwinn there  only to receive a severe shock. Walter, the Homeless Janitor Retired Airplane Mechanic Turned Bicycle Shaman, was gone! Argh!

How can these things keep happening to me? I had weathered the storms of mistrust, witchcraft, bad communication, limited destruction and over-Indulgence In beer to finally find  my One Bicycle Guru only to learn that he had departed for a Far Country!

“Where did he go?” I asked the lady at the counter. I managed to keep the trembling out of my voice. I was looking over her shoulder to the Repair Area in back. It was dark in there.

“Uh...” she seemed reluctant to speak. The news was obviously unspeakable! Oh my God, was he dead?

“What happened/” I asked. I saw the beginning of fear in her eyes. She didn't want to tell me.

“He opened a new shop in Ormond Beach,” she said. She seemed poised for flight.

“Ormond Beach?! What's he doing up there?”   I knew I had to regain my composure before she hit the panic button under the counter. (Little Known Fact: Bike shops, like banks and liquor stores, sometimes have dangerous customers).   “Well, what are you guys doing for a mechanic these days?”

Yes,  I am  such a perfidious character that  I had already forgotten My Guru and was angling for his old job, even though I am possibly the worst mechanic in creation. She relaxed, seeming to brighten up.

“Oh, we have a great new mechanic.” Hmmm...

“Well, can I go around back to meet him?” I asked. This New Guy better be good, I was thinking.

“Oh, uh, no...” she said, regaining a little of that nervous apprehension she had exhibited moments before. “”We had to change the rules...there were to many hooligan kids hanging around so now he just comes up here. Just a minute...” 

" Oh Good Lord",    I thought. Another complete sea change in my cycling world. Now I have to WAIT to see the mechanic. I had grown accustomed to swooping up on my bike to the garage doors of Walt's little shop, where he always had some oddball Big Box bicycle in the stand, while a fidgeting kid was hanging around waiting for what I always figured was a free repair. Now that I think of it, sometimes it was me that was the fidgeting kid.


The New Guy
The New Guy emerged from the back. While he seemed a perfectly normal-looking young fellow, I Knew. Here it comes, I thought. 

Don't project, said the Voice. "Oh Yeah?"    I said.  "OK, I'll be as sweet as I can be."

“Hi!” I said brightly. “How are you?” He faked a smile. I could tell I had interrupted his work and he wasn't happy about that. I was fairly certain it wasn't a tiny tricycle or a big box bike back there in the stand.

“What's up,” he said.

“Oh, I have this old Schwinn I bought a while back and I've been trying to keep her going as best I can, but the rear wheel is wobbling and now I've busted a couple spokes. I think it's time for a new wheel, but I wanted your opinion.” He glanced at the Love of my Life. His attitude wasn't surly, but it might as well have been. Without a word, he turned to the computer and punched in some keys.

“A new wheel will be $55,” he said.  "Plus labor."

“Hey!” I said, maintaining my effort at brightness and good cheer. “That's not so bad. The hub that's on here now is a Shimano, I noticed. What will the new one be?”

“I don't know what the new one will be, but it won't be a Shimano. And you have to pay now.”

Now, was this cause for upset on my part? I don't know. Granted, the guy was no doubt busy. Who can tell? The shop area was behind a Magic Curtain. But the demeanor...well, it hit me like I was being told I had cancer by a doctor who already had his golf clubs slung over his shoulder and was heading for the door. I reached down and gave My Little Darling a pat on her top tube and started for the door myself.

“Hey, thanks. You've been really helpful. I'll figure out what I want to do and let you know.”

And then I beat It out of there.

Outside, I tried to rationalize the whole event. Hell, that kid didn't know I had carried that bike on my back the three miles to the shop. He surely wouldn't understand, or care, the significance to me of a whole $55. Was it his fault I was broke and living in a trailer park? Of course not. But all the same...

A cool breeze feathered In from the North. It felt good and I turned to face the direction from which that caress had come.

It'll be alright,  said the Voice.  

 "I know,"   I said. Somewhere in that northerly direction was Ormond Beach and Walter the Bike Guru's new shop. I smiled as I visualized  the Old Shaman fiddling with some cheap bicycle in his stand while some little kid fidgeted nearby, waiting for Grace.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Emporium

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Path Is Found To World Peace

Spring is Coming

Meanwhile, Back At the Bike Shop...

So the new freewheel arrived in due fashion. I picked it up at the LBS and immediately noticed that it was a no-name part and damned if the spacing on the gears didn't look...wide. The distance between each of the six cogs was noticeably wider than on the original. But I kept my happy face on and paid my new friend the Airplane Mechanic Turned Bike Guru for the part. In the waiting period I had done some research on the internet and on the dearly departed Sheldon Brown's excellent pages (courtesy of Harris Cyclery) I had found a pretty slick Shimano hyperglide freewheel that Harris was selling for $19.95. But I knew I had already ordered that other unit through the LBS so I decided to wait and see. Who knows,  maybe I would get lucky and the unit I was waiting for would be the same one.

But Of Course...

Yeah right. Instead, there I stood holding this clunky-looking thing with no name of any kind stamped anywhere on the part. Sigh. But I manfully hid my disappointment and pedaled on back to my secret lair to install the new part, tune the wheel and hopefully go for a ride.


Upon installation I saw right away that the damn thing was too wide and caused the chain to hang up on the rear derailleur. It wasn't going to work. I sat and fiddled with washers and spacers and beers until I found myself rapidly approaching a total destruction scenario and at last gave up. I dejectedly pedaled on home where I got back online and got serious about finding the part number for the freewheel hub Harris had listed. I looked at several sources for several hours, (approximately one pint of rum's worth of hours) and came up with all manner of part numbers for what was, as near as I could tell, the same part. Prices were all over the place, as well. Anywhere from six dollars to fifty. Why? Well, I don't know how things got this way, but as near as I can tell the various manufacturers keep things as obscure as possible and that is why if you want to ride a bicycle seriously ya gotta have a guru to show you the way. It is a frustrating situation and probably explains why thousands of perfectly repairable good old steel frame bicycles languish in basements, barns, and backyard sheds all over the country and, for that matter, the world.

The Voice Takes Over

So now, what to do? I took the crappy freewheel off the wheel. I called Walter (turned out the Homeless Janitor Bike Shaman had a name) at the LBS and told him what was going on and that I had found a Shimano part that would probably work and could I return the, uh, Other Thing and get credit and order the Shimano? Sure I could, Walter said. Did I have a part number? I was afraid he was going to ask that and I didn't have my list of part numbers from my rum-soaked night of searching the web, but miraculously The Voice took over and spoke through me: “Shimano Freewheel FHG 6.” Ron said hold on a minute let me check...oh yeah, OK, it's the same price as the other one so bring that one back in and we will swap it out. Should be here Friday.

I had very little confidence that this was going to come out OK. But what the hell? I was getting so accustomed to disappointment in the wacky world of bike repair that I was rapidly learning to lay back and let what was going to happen, happen. And a week went by.

And World Peace

Friday came and I pedaled on over to the good ol' LBS. There was good ol'; Ron, doing something to a really tiny tricycle he had in the stand. Did my freewheel come in? I asked. I could see a manilla shipping envelope on the bench that looked to be about the right size. Let's see, he said...oh, yeah, here it is, he said reaching for that very envelope. He opened it up and pulled out the part, looking at it briefly, turning it this way and that, then handing it to me. Wow. The difference in this fine piece of Japanese magic and that other...thing, was dramatic. The gears glistened. The spacing between cogs was tight and crisp and and the brand name and part number were stamped in clear lettering that said SHIMANO like they were proud of what they had made, as well they should be. All for the same price as that other part that looked like something made in some foreign prison out of old license plates! I vowed then and there never again to compromise on replacement parts for my bikes. I would decipher the codes of the inscrutable manufacturers and dealers, and I would create finely rebuilt classics that would brighten the lives of those who bought bicycles from me. I would Cure Cancer and bring about World Peace by using only quality parts from then on no matter what obstacles were thrown in my path. But most importantly, I would become a guru, I would BE the  LBS. Yes!

Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park and Bicycle Emporium

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hemingway Said: All You Have To Do Is Write One True Sentence

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

After yesterday's entry and my subsequent recovery ride I looked into this foreclosure rescue stuff and to get started I Googled up “Hawk's Park Code Enforcement” and saw that they were having a monthly staff meeting at 2 p.m. and it was open to the Public. I looked at the time and it was 1:30 so I dashed out of the Library and pedaled over to City Hall to attend said meeting. I thought that this was one of those magical moments of sweet serendipity I sometimes experience and I was going to breeze right into my rewarding new career as a Super Maintenance Man for these forlorn and abandoned real estate refugees. But it had been a long time since I had fought City Hall and I had quite honestly forgotten the whole “you can't get there from here” mentality that goes on in any government office. I marched into the seriously and ironically ramshackle office of Hawk's Park Building Department and there behind the counter was a twenty-something girl playing Solitaire on the computer. She did a pretty good job of hiding her annoyance at me interrupting her work.
     “Hi,” I said. “Isn't there a Code Enforcement meeting going on today?”
     “No. There's a meeting, but it's not about Code Enforcement.”
     “Oh...well I saw on the computer that there was a meeting today at two o'clock and I thought it was open to the public. Does that sound right?”
     “I don't know. “ She pointed vaguely around the corner and said, “You can go back there if you   want to.”
     “Uh, I don't want to interrupt them. I mean, are there any citizens back there?”
     “I don't think so.” 

I was starting to think I had stumbled into a weird version of “Bring Your Twenty-Something Daughter to Work” day. I was on the verge of asking if there was a grown up I could talk to when The Voice said “try harder.” So I gave it another stab.,
     “Maybe I should explain myself. I was reading an article in yesterday's paper about these abandoned properties that need clean-out, grass cutting and minor repair and so on and no one seems to know who is responsible for that and the article went on to say that Hawk's Park was going to consider the “Cape Coral Model” for a solution. I thought maybe that subject would come up in today's meeting and that's why I'm here. I'm basically just looking for a job.”

ADHD: Is It You Or Is It Me

I was speaking as rapidly as I could while at the same time holding back just enough to make what I was saying understandable. I have learned that you only have a highly limited amount of time to attempt expressing ideas or even whole sentences these days without resorting to flashing images or twitter speak. Plus sometimes I can be a bit hyperactive. But it didn't work. As I was talking I watched her expression shift from vague attention to something that looked like a stab of acute pain and finally to that glazed absence that meant that Elvis Has Left the Building.
     “Does any of this mean anything to you?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question. I already knew the answer.
     “No, I don't know anything about all that,” she said. “Last year they took bids and and hired somebody but they never did any work for us. But if you go around the corner to where you pay the gas bill...”
     “Thanks!” I said. “You've been very helpful! I'll just go around the corner here...”

Chilled Sunshine

I never knew when I would have to come back here and deal with her again. This is a really small town. I might very likely run into her later at the grocery store or the Crooked Angel Saloon. Enter Laughing and Leave 'Em Smiling, if you know what I mean. I stepped out into the the crisp fresh air of what I like to call the “Chilled Sunshine” of Florida in the Wintertime.   Hawk's Park City Hall, a rambling-shambling kind of place, sits right down on the Indian River, which is a part of the Intracoastal Waterway. A big cruiser passed by, headed south. All the big boats are headed South this time of year, headed for Miami and the Keys and on to the Bahamas and the Caribbean and anywhere else they want to go, I suppose.

My Net Worth Equals One Hour

One of those big power cruisers burns about ten or twelve gallons of diesel fuel per hour. And diesel dock prices are usually about $6 per gallon, sometimes more. So one of those big power boats heading south for the rest of the winter costs more to operate per hour than my current net worth. Just a passing thought as I walked around the corner to where you pay the gas bill so I could beg for a job cutting grass. But then The Voice cut in. “Screw it, man. Go for a bike ride and fight this fight another day. Take these frustrations in small doses.”

Never argue with The Voice, I always say. I took one of my slow rides around the neighborhood,just soaking in that chilled sunshine, the perfect 68 degree afternoon, watching those rich bastards cruise south on their fat-ass gas-hog boats while I did lazy figure eights in the big parking lot of the waterfront park across from City Hall, watching the sailboats cruise by and watching the seagulls fight over things that are important to seagulls.

Catch A Breeze

My reasoning is this: Life its ownself sure as hell has it's ups and downs, but sometimes I get to ride my bicycle like a kid; I remember being a kid and just cruising mindlessly around the neighborhood, just enjoying the swoop of the bike, the breeze on my face and the sounds and smells and warmth of a place that makes me happy just by my being there. I have spent a lot of time and energy being unhappy in places where I didn't want to be. And those were days when I had plenty of money.

 The truth is clear: I would rather be poor here than rich there.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Emporium