Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Sad and Sorrowful Mistake

It is easy, in the course of human events, to make mistakes. I'm not sure who said that, but I would not be surprised to find out that it was me, since making mistakes seems to be my purpose here on Mars. Please understand: making a mistake implies reasoned thought. Blundering about like a blindfolded man in a house of mirrors is all well and good but not applicable to the making of mistakes. That little chore is reserved for those of us who think before we act and then get it wrong anyway.

Enter The Evil Empire
Yeah, I'm talking about Walmart. No, not Walmart, I'm talking about myself. Well okay, I am talking about Me and Walmart and reasoned decisions and the making of mistakes.

I once read somewhere, probably Mad magazine or Playboy, that there is no such thing as a failed experiment. Experiments are conducted to test hypotheses, to find out what happens when THIS is done to THAT. The results are drawn up and reported and the cumulative gathering of Universal Knowledge is increased and we know what will happen if THIS then THAT.

And yet we elected dedicated war-mongers named Bush to the presidency more than once and probably will do it again (there's one left) (but maybe not,  'cause Jeb must be the adopted Bush. He is smart and competent and not at all war-mongering and if it is him or Hillary in 2016 I'll vote for both.) So the advancement of scientific knowledge ain't that much compared to the powers of marketing.

[editors note: I must have been out sick or on drugs the week we studied sentence structure at the reformatory. Add it to my guilt and I'll pay ya next Tuesday.]

Yeah, Baby, MARKETING! But I can't even blame that. I looked at the product, fondled it, rode it down the aisles of the store, lovingly stroked the over-fed bulge in my pocket, (my wallet, you pervs) and pulled the trigger, like Hemingway after his last shock treatment.

Return To Fornever
The OX29 is back in the unloving arms of the corporate creche called Walmart Returns and I am here to tell you why and to seek expiation and refunds as I, my heart full of sorrow, shed myself of yet another bad choice. I have done it with friends and women, automobiles and all manner of four legged creatures, and it never makes me happy when I do it and when it is over, my already monumental guilt is yet further increased.

But at least with Walmart I got my money back.

The overwhelming picture of the Walmart Bicycle Tragedy is that they market bicycles as toys. The bicycle display is on the farthest edge of the Known Universe. (No, wait...the bicycle display is on the edge of the toy shelves between the fondle-me-elmos and the camp-if-you-dare equipment. The Known Universe ain't no where around here.)

So...I rode the OX 29 last yesterday to the bank to make a $20 withdrawal to sustain my drug habit. (Budweiser). On the way, I kept noticing the overall cheapness of the poor old darlin' OX and I was confronted with the realization that ultimately, were I to correct the inexhaustible savagery of the corporate avarice that resulted in this sad monster beneath my feet I would have to replace everything: spokes, handlebars, stem, cranks, hubs, everything. And I would still have a bicycle that was nothing more than a toy.

Sad Reality
Always in our lives we are sooner or later faced with the painful necessity of parting with loved objects, whether they are named Raggedy Ann or Hello Kitty, PeeWee Herman or yes, even  Rosebud.  Be that as it may, one of my greatest strengths has always been my infallible integrity in taking responsibility for my own actions and so, full of self-righteousness and beer, I blame Walmart. 

Why? I don't really know.  The only option to shopping at Walmart for the "dry goods" that life requires involves going to a place called Dollar General, or Family Dollar, neither of which are locally owned either and as near as I can tell are just Baby Walmarts with even crappier products on the shelf, if that is even possible.  So Walmart screwed me in more ways than one, by offering up ultimately useless items at their store and  making sure that I have to shop with them or go to a different place that is just the same.  What is the answer?  Well, I usually think of Armed Revolution at moments like this.  So I guess I will have to go to Walmart to buy a gun and some bullets.  Oh man, this is making my head hurt. 

And so I Took It Back, I got my cash returned and I bought some underwear and a spare tube for Little Miss Dangerous and a pack of those excellent Skabs no-glue patches and then I got the hell outta there.

And Thus And So On...
Am I bitter? Well, what does it sound like? I took a much misaligned American Institution, gave it an honest chance and a fair break, wrote a positive (yet honest) early report, but then, like the penny-pinching prickly pricks that they are, they failed to reinforce my purchase with yet MORE cheap-ass marketing and sub-corterial brainwashing. How dare they?! With all the money Walmart makes the least they could do is plant chips in each of their crappy products that transmit pleasure signals into my cerebral context, (at least what's left of it), signals that would make me continue drinking the kool-aid and enjoying the screwing they are handing out to me and my fellow Walmart Shoppers.

But no.

In The Name Of The Father
In the clear light of a beautiful Florida Sunday, drenched in chilled sunshine and pedaling far too slowly towards the ATM, I heard the voice of Eldon Joe Comstock, my father and source of all things guilt-ridden, call out in that clear, mellifluous voice: “You're stupid! That piece of shit won't last a month! You wasted all that money on that piece of crap and you look like a dumbass pedaling around on that big kid's toy!”

His nickname was Corky Joe and he was a fireman, until his drunk ass fell off the back of the fire truck one time too many.

“Fire Chief One behind you, Unit Seven, someone's coat just blew off the truck.”

“Roger that, Chief, continuing on to the scene.”

“Unit Seven, hold on...Christ, that ain't a coat, it's Corky Joe, slow down, he's up and running for the truck!”

“Say again, Chief?”

“ It''s Corky, he fell off at the corner and came up running. Hold back and let him get back on board.”

“Roger that Chief...”

And Then, And Then Again
How do you measure yourself to that kind of standard? He was always the one who charged into the burning building and the only reason the department put up with his crap for so long had to do with stuff I won't talk about here because it would sound like bragging and because he wouldn't want to hear me tell it. They finally had to retire him early at the age of thirty five and he came down to Ft. Lauderdale and got back into the Comstock Family trade of carpenter; he was immediately absorbed into the Union and a few years later, so was I. He never once minced words and having faced pure fire and chased down fire trucks that he was supposed to be riding on, having pulled friends out of the fire and finally, succumbing to diabetes and hard living and more than a little intimacy with drink, he said “see ya later” at the age of 42.

Walmart Is Stoopid
What does all this have to do with bicycles and Walmart? Well, I'll tell ya. I am not angry that the OX29 was ultimately a failed project. I am a one who imbues anthropomorphic qualities into all my favorite things. But the OX was not a thing, it was a construct. Composed of all things false, even the design was doomed. Those 48 spoke wheels and coaster hub were heavy, bad and irreplaceable. The spoke nipples started rusting right away and there was some kind of corrosive action taking place between the spokes and wheels that was obviously unsustainable. Replacement tubes were special order and Walmart was a month out on getting those tubes.  I had the impression that they were imaginary tubes talked about to prevent frustrated violence in the toy department.

And all of this inside of a couple weeks.  This bike did not promise future trouble;  it promised not to BE here in the future.

I will not remember the OX29 as a favorite thing; there are far too many objects and creatures and people in my life that deserve that sobriquet far more than does any object spawned by the Evil Empire that Sam built.

Wrap It Up,  I'll Take It
I don't know, man.  Those big twenty-nine inch tires were a real blast.  I will one day have another bike that can carry big rubber like that bike did, but it will have a free wheel hub and a slightly more aggresive  position.  I gotta work on finding that bike... It is sad, really, that this is the way it all works out;  bicycles are machines, not toys;  we use our bicycles as toys sometimes but they are machines while we do it, they are equipment, tools...there is an inherent danger in selling a toy to a person who really needs a machine or a tool, it is symbolic of our current state of the union that the richest company in America is so confused or intrinsically dishonest that they will sell toys, (and highly flawed toys at that) to trusting and fool hardy Walmart Shoppers like me.

They also sell guns and bullets and THAT is a bit unsettling...

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Anti-Walmart Action Commitee


  1. You should feel a little lighter in the pedals now that you've rid yourself of that ride. Now, when you get on your bike, you won't have to think about Wal-mart in the back of your mind. Lurking there, watching you.

    Did you see all the Black Friday Wal-mart stories about people getting in fist fights (or gun fights) over some bullshit plastic crap made in China and sprinkled with lead dust that was 30% off? Makes one weep for humanity.

    1. I heard about it indirectly, I geuss. It seems to happen every year. We went into the Dollar General store two months ago and they had one aisle filled with Holloween costumes and one aisle filled with Christmas displays. Sigh.

      I never used to think about Walmart at all; now it seems to always be there. It started when they closed down the regular Walmart a couple miles from the Pines and built a new Super Center way the hell out by the interstate. Then Kmart shut down and a few weeks later a handful of Dollar General stores popped up in the area, literally sprinkled a couple miles apart up and down the highway. I don't get it and I am too poor for it to make much difference...but there is nothing comforting about this trend.

      Walmart seems to have become the company store and the company is America...


  2. TJ,

    Gotta say I friggin' hate Walmart and refuse to enter the store. Luckily our little burg has at least a few remnants of the competition, so I still have the option of shelling out a couple extra bucks and avoiding Sam's Evil Empire.

    And to be honest, I had my doubts about that bike from the go. Working on my boy's Target bmx bike showed me that crap is worthless. I mean the metal feels like it's half plastic - how the hell did they manage that?? And the threads are cut so poorly that most of the assemblies barely go together. Rotten bastards, making buying a new bike into a bad thing.

    Steve Z

  3. Thanks, Steve. Yeah, what kind of metal is that? The ox was aluminum, supposedly, and the rims were "alloy", but the painted spokes were steel and started rusting through the paint. The retention ring on the bottom bracket kept coming loose so that the cranks were in danger of falling off.

    I wanted to like this bike. I have an unfortunate streak of optimism that gets me into these situations. But I also wanted to find out for myself about Walmart bicycles and I did.


  4. TJ,

    I know that you were torn about this and in the end, I think you made the right decision.

    I'm not sure all the blame can be laid at the feet of Sam and his henchmen, however. I've been in retail and customer related businesses for over 35 years. And customers vote with their feet and wallets. If Americans weren't buying all that crap, and putting up with not very good service to do it by the way, the store couldn't sell it. But they do buy it so they keep selling it and looking for ways to make it cheaper. I could argue the case that it's helped the downfall of American manufacturing as well of a host of other things and we have only ourselves to blame. Damn shame.

    Have you been to a Performance Bikes? It's like Wally World for two wheelers. I only let myself buy water bottles, snacks and shorts there. I want the local bike shops to succeed, ya know?

    Rant on, my velo friend!

    B in VA

    1. I fully understand and support the good ol' Free Market and I like a success story as much as the next guy, Brian. I get where you are coming from. I do get that we vote for Walmart with our dollars. I am one who did it. But I don't like it. Hence the title of today's post.

      Thanks, man! I'm dropping the whole Walmart thing. I'm too old and lazy to go tilting at windmills, anyway.

      Oh, a Friend of the Park, Matt Dillon, (Dillon Bikes) got a corporate job at Performance. There is probably an outlet in Orlando but like I said elsewhere, I seldom get much outside the very limited city limits and then on my bicycle.


  5. Tim Joe, first of all Chapeau for admitting to a mistake, not always easy for us men folk. Second, look at the bright-side how often do you make a mistake and then get your money back? Think of the cool bike boom ten speeds you can now buy with $$ you extracted from evil-empire-mart. I humbly suggest finding a nice lugged steel 10 speed frame, putting on some 27 1 3/8 tires on it ( they work out to about 700x38c so fairly fat, replace the drops with (Made in the USA) Wald north road bars, with some cork grips, and maybe a nice Wald basket for "consumables". Refer to Hugh's post when he used a 27 inch wheel-set for a single speed and bingo you have not only a cruiser but one with style, class, cache and it won't fall apart if you look at it sideways ;-). As always ride on Velo Brother.

    1. That is exactly my vision for the next bike, except I'll switch to 700c and have even fatter tires. That Raleigh didn't happen, at least not yet. The rust was a little worse than I expected and the components were...well it had a Crane derailleur and I couldn't make out the model of the hubs and rims and cranks due to rust, dirt, bad garage lighting and the half empty rum bottle back at the Park. The Blonde was driving and the kid selling the bike was giving directions that had my head spinning even worse than usual but we got tacos on the way home so it wasn't a total loss.

      Taco Bell tacos. See? I can't help myself. There is a new Mexican place right up the street, a Mom and Pop and I have never been there. They have take-out, too. I have become a Zombie of the Corporate Age and I gotta break free.

      Thanks for the links. yer pal,
      the Trailer Park Zombie

  6. A sad, sad day. I was certainly hoping that there might be some lasting redeeming quality to the "find" you made, but alas it seems not to be so. Unfortunately Wally world is positioned right at the center of our consumerism, where its all about buying more and more as opposed to maintaining and working with something that will last. I would love to get into the bike making business and produce quality, affordable, lasting bikes that would stand up to use and yes even abuse. Of course that goes against the whole idea of making more and more of an item to replace those designed to fail. If it keeps failing, you keep generating demand. If it doesn't fail, then the market becomes saturated.

    I'll take a saturated market full of qaulity over crap every day of the week.

    Keep riding!


    1. Dan, one of the things that got me thinking about returning the OX was reading about the World Bike Relief project over at Fat Cyclist. Those bikes are the epitome of simple, repairable (sustainable) utilitarian bicycles. Heavy? Sure. But solid and very real and making changes in the lives of the people who are getting them.

      It is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the Walmart story and after thinking about it I didn't feel so hot. I would like to report that I took my refund money and donated to Fatty's fund but it never occurred to me. God I'm a lousy human. Either way the money is gone and so is the OX29.

      Sigh. No wonder I live in a trailer park.


  7. Well that is sad news, but such is life. I had great hope that there was a bit of merit in the crap sold at the big chains. We are trying to get repaired bikes done up for students and looking for a price that pays for extras like lights and a bell as well as a full service and everyone says that we cannot ask more than 50 bucks because you can get a department store bike for less than 100. *sigh*

    1. THAT is the comment I was looking for! And that is what I am trying to get a handle on. In the comments section of "Walmart Bicycles and Ethical Salvation", I made a comment about "educating the masses". Here you have perfectly good used bicycles that will get the job done for a long time to come but you are competing with new bikes that might not make it home from the store where you bought it. I know the OX would not have. And what IS a bicycle that cannot be ridden home from the point of purchase? Wall art?

      Thanks Dee. I had intended to pursue this subject until I had somehow achieved that ethical salvation I was talking about. For Walmart, not fo me. I'm paying my penance right now.

      Whatever. I look forward to seeing your summer crop of "processed" tomatoes!


  8. TJ,
    First off, nice Wimpy's burgers reference there...("I'd love a cheeseburger for which I would be glad to pay you for next Tuesday")

    As for the Walmart conundrum, I have no answer for that. I do very little shopping there but not because I am some sort of superior human being, but more because they are not present in our small town and is a 35 mile drive down the canyon.
    I do believe in support of the small business merchant, but, I do some shopping online when I don't want to hassle the shopping part of shopping! If the OX could not serve its purpose for you....than adios to it! No need to beat yourself up for that.

    By the way, I finished the Univega and am now riding it (weather allowing!) I am trying to put together a blog about that experience. Stay tuned!
    Ride on Friend,

    1. Jim,I look forward to your post about building the Univega. As far as the OX goes...well, I knew better but I sold myself.

      Ha! Ya got the Popeye reference! All my life I have been in the habit of dropping little bits like that without even knowing I did it. They just come out, a result of WAY too much comic book reading as a kid. I think I probably quote Peanuts more than anyone else...but like I said, they just pop out.

      Are you following Nick's Velo Orange build at Gypsy By Trade? That guy just casually puts together bicycles that would be a lifetime achievment for me.

      How's the cycling in Estes Park this time of year? Post up, man, post up! Inquiring minds want to know!


  9. I avoid Wal-mart as much as possible. I spend more food dollars at the locally owned Piggly Wiggly and I get most of my hardware at a local Ace hardware, where the owner, Annette knows me by name. The LBS knows me so well that I usually walk past the counter and right back where the wrench is set-up because that is who I want talk to anyway.

    When I must go to Wal-mart I go in at lawn & garden, skirt up the side of the store, grab what I need, and go back to pay in lawn & garden. On Thanksgiving weekend we visited my folks in Virgina's Shenandoah Valley. My mom's PC was on the blink and I was forced into IT service.

    On Black Friday I determined the elderly PC was shot and would need quick replacement before we headed out on Saturday. What did I do? I sprinted down to the nearest Wal-mart and grabbed new mass market HP PC that was pre-loaded with a lot of junk and pretty dang cheap. I hang my head in shame.

    Yer Pal
    PS: Windows 8 is pure crap by the way....

    1. Well, there ya go. I took my refund money and went by the Electronics Dept and looked at those very same box o' computers when the Voice said "Ya Gotta Be Kidding..." and I snapped out of the fog and beat it out the back door (Garden Dept.) But it was tempting, man. There it is, though, the ubiquitous box where they got whatever ya need at the lowest price and if it sucks, we give you your money back. And it always sucks. Good lord.

      I have wanted to find out what the Mac trip was all about, but the price void is so great that I was going to get another HP. Now I don't know. I may have to hold out for the better machine with the computer...just like the bike.

      Thanks for the sympathetic tale, KAZ. It helps.


      This sounds

  10. Tim Joe, When you bought your Wally world bike I was filled with hope and optimism that you could get something that was at least usable to ride. Now I am back to thinking that it is a place of refuge for people that dream of enjoying the good life only to be whacked in the head by reality. I am going back to my original plan of buying old good quality stuff that has been lightly used and making it mine. I still get the most smiles for mile on my 1990s Trek that I am rebuilding a little at a time.

    1. Doug, it is just too bad. I will repeat that those big 2.1 inch 29er tires were a blast and I want another bike with 29 inch wheels. They rolled over everything and were very comfortable. Sadly, the cruiser frame and unfortunate components and over-all feeling of imminent failure means I will have to keep shopping.

      It will be steel and old and hopefully capable of fitting the big rubber.


    2. Here's some inspiration courtesy of our friend Jim Bangs:

  11. Ug I hate Walmart. I get annoyed at myself every time I shop there. I am trying to use the super long lines during this Christmas season to break me of the habit. I'm trying to frequent my grocery store more often. I keep saying I'm willing to pay more money and go somewhere else, but I just don't seem to actually do it.

    1. Like drug dealers, Angie, Walmart makes it so easy...

      Me, I'm just a cyclist. If I were a warrior or a prophet, perhaps Walmart would be a place to start. But all I want to do is ride my bicycle.

      Coming over to your place.