Monday, January 23, 2012

The Incredible Lightness of Being A Clydesdale

You Think That Other Guy Is the Fat Cyclist?
Look, there is something I want to make clear: my Buffalo Status is getting worse. To call myself a Clydesdale is an insult to the equines of the world. But then again, a Clydesdale may be bigger than a Buffalo. How am I supposed to know all this stuff? I know when I was a little kid the Budweiser Clydesdales came to town for some event or another and Mom took us to see them. Man. Those things were big. Ummm, Budweiser...

Weighty Matters
Where was I? Having finally sobered up long enough to sit down and bang out a Blog post, I found myself thinking about weight. Well, I suppose that we all think about our weight pretty much all the time. We are the Fattest Nation on Earth and the Most Obsessed With Thinness. Crazy, huh? While I have always ridden a bicycle for relaxation and exercise, it wasn't until this past year that I became obsessed with all things cycling and weight related. And a funny thing happened. I found out I could increase the length and speed of my rides only slightly and the weight would start to drop off one drip at a time.

Wow! That means I can eat all I want as long as I add a few miles here and there and bear down a little on the stretches that I used to ride slowly!

Yeah, right.

And Another Thing
The other thing that happens is that the Cycling Obsession results in a lot of time looking at other cyclists on the internet. It is easy to identify with these people. I mean, we all ride bicycles, don't we? The thing is, photographers and editors of cycling magazines tend to not photograph fat cyclists. Yeah. So I spend many hours imagining myself thin and strong and fast but then the Reality of the Saddle sets in once astride my steed and I'm huffing and puffing and arguing with the speedometer and blaming my Mom for taking me to see that Budweiser Parade when I was only five years old, imprinting me for life and giving me The Thirst That Is Never Quenched.

So I Ride
So I got my holiday-enlarged self out on the bike a couple days this week, riding my old familiar 24 mile course.  I have seen the scenery on that ride so many times that looking around and goofing off is easy not to do. Instead I ride, I push and sometimes instead of downshifting to maintain my cadence I just pedal harder. I pedal a little harder until those big thigh muscles start complaining and then I back off and catch my breath and congratulate myself on my stupendous effort and then I do it again.

But Man Those Ribs Are Good!
I don't know if it will work or not but something's gotta give. In my twisted world-view I figured starting a Barbecue Sauce Empire and Rib Shack would meld gracefully with my efforts at Cycling Superiority. Since Uncle Bill and I have started having Sunday cook-outs every Sunday, guess what happened to my Sunday Centuries? Unless eating a hundred ribs and drinking a hundred beers counts as a Double Century, I'm not doing so hot.

Those cookouts are a lot of fun. They have a slight chance of translating into a late-life career change that may Save the Day. Those Century Rides were endurance events. They didn't start out as Centuries. Originally I was very unemployed and very poor and very depressed and I would ride my bicycle A Long Way and then realize I had to ride back, also a long way. Then I started measuring the miles and realized that if I did it on purpose I could brag about it online and then one day I realized that sooner or later some Young Gun would drop by to make me Prove It.

Whatever Happened To Billy the Kid?
I'm not too concerned about a shoot-out, however. I am Old and Tricky. Any Bonzai Buckaroo comes around here lookin' to Ride Long with the Old Man will first be stuffed so full of ribs and beer that his carbon fiber bike-cycle will collapse beneath him before the first mile. Besides, I am accustomed to being a Clyde and I'm good at it.

So How About This?
Today I rode 24 miles in an hour and twenty-five minutes. The wind was gentle and out of the east on a more-or less North-South ride. No hills. A really nice day. Is that a good time? I have no idea. I mean, yeah, I had a good time. But how fast is that in the real world? I know a group can generally go faster than a solo rider, due to drafting and humiliation and those slots in the helmets. But that is my fastest time on this familiar course and since I have some catching up to do, I thought it might be a personal challenge to see how many minutes I can whittle off that target time of 1:25. It might cause me to whittle a few pounds off my Buffalo Butt and get me back to that coveted Clydesdale Status.

What's In the Stand
Meanwhile, what about Bike Repair? Funny you should ask. I haven't been doing any. We all know what that means: something is due to break. Oh, I had a roadside flat last week. I fixed it in twelve minutes. I seem to be timing things these days. But I had it fixed and up and running in twelve minutes so now I guess I have another target time to try and reduce. Not that I want to work on that particular time.

Old Steel Rules
But, no, my Old Schwinn has only been mounted in the stand for purposes of worship. I haven't even squirted any lube on her for a while now. Man, I love that bike! What a machine! Thirty-plus years old and still Kickin' It. That Mavic wheel and Tiagra hub are still as sweet and smooth as they were when they were new. The chain is shiny and the SRAM cassette silent and crisp.

But now that I have jinxed myself by writing about over a thousand and a half maintenance free miles, I think I will wander over to the bench and grab some clean rags and some Armor-All and a spoke wrench and some chain oil, open a can of Clyde and do a little worshipful work.

Have You Hugged Your Bike Today?

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Buffalo Preserve

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Another Day In the Park
Three trailers over my good friend Jungle Jim is revving the motor on his old Triumph motorcycle. The sound is just distracting as hell, especially when I am trying to Blogulate and Edify. But there is nothing to be done about it; to Jim it is the Music of the Spheres and also totally necessary as he tries to get his crotchety old Weber carburetor to do its proper job. Many, many years have passed since that motorcycle left the factory and it takes a genius like Jim to keep it alive. I know all this and appreciate it and so the revving of his old engine, while distracting, is music to me also.

Plus I appreciate my friend Jim and feel indulgent towards his sometimes crotchety proclivities. Old guys should stick together and we do. It is not a secondary consideration that Jim has an old Raleigh Pro stashed away in his stash room and he has not thrown a leg over that bike in Lo These Many Months. As you all know, the TPC is not a covetous or materialistic person, but me and Jim are the same size. And that Pro has a full Campy drive train.

But That's Not All
Also filling my ears is some birdsong and squirrel chatter outside my door. It is mid-winter Florida, we are suffering from some downright chilly 50 degree nights and it only got up to 70 yesterday...

Trains! I type these words the Florida East Coast Railway train just blew through. The tracks are only about a half mile from my trailer door and it is one of the comforting sounds of my life. I live in a really sweet and quiet place. That FEC runs on a schedule and it reassures and guides me through the night. In the old days I would wake up at 3 AM and start worrying about every possible thing I could remember to worry about. But now the 3 AM train blows through in the middle of the night and I stir in my sleep and think to myself 'That's the Three O'Clock Train” and I fluff up my feather pillow and go back to sleep. I never dream about bicycles, but I wish I did. At 6 AM the Morning Train comes through and gently wakes me from my bicycle-less dreams and I start my day.

Two Doctors Are A Pair A Docs
To be gently awakened by a freight train is just one of the many paradoxes of the World of the Trailer Park Cyclist. Here's another: As a Blogular Wizard and Wordsmith of Many Wonders, I frequently find it necessary to skip work and massage my weary brain with morning beer and birdsong. This don't sit so well with Miss Jo the Trailer Park Manager. As I type these words she is at my trailer door.

“Are you busy?” she asks.

“I'm always busy, Jo. What do you want? I'm Blogulating.”

She comes in with a Spiritual Offering. By spiritual I actually mean spirits, as in the Old Way of referring to alcohol. Every so often Miss Jo gets a mysterious shipment of corn liquor from her family up in Arkansas and she then buys a couple gallons of apple cider and some cinnamon sticks and cooks up this heady brew that keeps me incapacitated for several days. I like it. Today is one of those days and one of the cool things about being poor and living in a trailer park is I can goof off, listen to birdsong and freight trains and drink moonshine and yet, miraculously, the World Keeps Turning.

Yet Another Disclaimer
Be Thou Not Jealous, my Friends and Readers! It is a life of Sloth and Cycling but remember: mixed with this glorious laziness are frequent periods of working on sewer pipes and mildewed floors and rotten walls. It ain't all drunkenness an foolishness. Sometimes I suffer.

But not today.

Remember When I Was Cool?
So...what about the bicycles? No news. I rode 24 miles a few days ago. That's my old Regular Loop that I have done so many times that I really do it as though it were a dream. My other More Better ride is the Daytona Loop, but I ride it less because it involves Old Highway One which is dirty, filled with tire-piercing debris and homicidal pickup drivers. But it takes me further afar and so I take it when I am feeling bold. Today? I don't know. Just hanging out with you guys and doing nothing. I could ride, but sometimes it is pure luxury to just be a dude (and a lazy dude at that) and share my thoughts and kookiness with my friends.

Tell them about Toby the Trouble Puppy, said the Voice.


You know, how cute he was with his head on your pillow this morning and...

“Voice, this is a Lazy Drunken Dude Post, not a Gay-Turned-Into-Martha Stewart post. Man! This won't look good when your annual job review comes up! You know, there are a lot of Voices out there looking for jobs! You better watch it, buddy!” Stupid Voice.

That's not what you said when the Six O'clock train was coming through. He was licking your nose and you liked it.

Well, that's true. Ol' Toby the Trouble Puppy is one cute little rascal. What a day! Miss Jo will get by, as will the Blonde. Toby the Love Puppy will be a danged cute little dog, Miss Daisy will continue her noble Elder Dog status. The birds will sing, the squirrels will chatter, and the trains will run on time.  Hopefully, also: the World Will Turn.  I am somehow certain of this.

Treat yourselves today, my friends. You deserve it.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Distillery

Friday, January 13, 2012

What About Lance?

The Story Thus Far
As many of you may recall, I was negligent in my duties a while back and let the Quasitron 6000 Steam Powered Search Engine Thing fall into disrepair. This resulted in considerably less ranting on my part, cut off as I was from the world outside the Park.   But ultimately, repairs were made and yesterday I managed to scrape together enough coal and scrap lumber to get a fire going and build up a little steam and spin the dials and pull the chains that would tell me what was going on out there.

I Heard the News Today
Skimming across the usual stories of human folly and dog tricks that make up much of the news, I was stunned to learn that it was already an election year. Imagine my surprise! Apparently, that Son Of A Bush wasn't ruining things anymore and some foreign guy took over. At least his name looks foreign. Is that legal? Thinking perhaps that I might garner some blogular material by looking at the political news I jumped in.

Then I quickly jumped back out and took a quick shower with extra soap and resolved the same resolution  I make every four years:  to pretend that I live in the Emerald City and the Man Behind the Curtain is a benevolent man and everything will be alright. That may or may not be working out but who knows? I live in a trailer park.

Lance and Casey, Sittin' In A Tree...
Meanwhile, the Ol' Quaz kept chugging away and wheezing and rumbling as it is wont to do. I arranged the abacus-styled letter board into the roughly-hewn words “Cycling News” and got this result:

“Lance Armstrong Announces Marriage to Casey Anthony”

“What the hell,” I thought, "That can't be right."  I kicked the Quasitron strategically, causing it to shudder spasmodically before spitting out another result:

“Pope Declares Lance Armstrong Is the Antichrist.”

“What the heck has that fool boy done now?” I wondered. “I thought he retired.”

He only retired from Pro Cycling, said the Voice. He is still actively involved with his cancer charity.

“You mean LiveStrong? Why would that get the Pope going against him? Helping the families of cancer victims seems like a good thing. Sometimes I wonder about that Pope guy.”

Maybe the Quasitron needs another kick, the Voice replied.

So I broke up my last good chair and threw it on the fire. I wasn't going to kick the Ol' Quaz again; the care and maintenance of our machinery is a human responsibility. It is important, however, for humans to remember to keep their machinery simple and to never let any one machine rule over too many functions, lest we become mere slaves to the machine. That's why, in my wisdom, I ride an elderly steel bicycle with down tube shifters and employ a steam powered computer. But I was worried about this Lance stuff. I rearranged the the letters on the input abacus to say:

“What about Lance?”
Play Outside
This time my trusty Search Engine spit out a report and a reprint of an article in a popular thing called a “Glossy” that has a shiny surface and displays many shiny things that cost a lot of money.   But if you buy this glossy you can at least gaze in admiration at those things; and meanwhile gaze in envy and wonder at the blessed gods who can afford those things. This particular glossy is apparently called “Outside” and is aimed at people who would rather sit inside and look at pictures of the outdoors without actually going there and getting dirty and sweaty and bug-bit and all the gritty stuff that goes on “outside.”

I remember hearing my mom yell “Play outside!” as though it was some kind of punishment.

But my Mom is gone now and Lance Armstrong is still here and it seems as though a lot of people wish he was gone as well, but not me. I don't know Lance, but I respect him. And I'm wrong. People don't want Lance dead. They want him alive and sequestered at Guantanamo Bay or Leavenworth and they want him water-boarded and they want to take humiliating photos of him piled naked on a pile of fellow pro cyclists and they want to poke him with sticks and shoot him full of arrows.

St. Francis d' Armstrong
OK,  I got the arrows part from the photo accompanying the article in Outside Magazine. 
 That article did a kind of dirty thing. It didn't attack the man; it instead went after the charitable organization that he represents. It kinda-sorta made sneaky, devilish little insinuations that somehow, if Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to become the World's Greatest Bicycle Hero, cancer sufferers should be left alone to face the vast void of the sickness and loss and pain of a debilitating disease that will strip you down and tear you to pieces, caring not if you are the victim or the caretakers of the victim, the tortured friends and family watching their loved ones slip away as ravaged and torn as a leaf in the rapids. A leaf in the rapids is lost, lost already the moment it leaves the tree, but that ride down the rapids, through the rocks and going faster than you can stand...

Listen: Every person in America knows someone who has died of cancer. It's that bad. And cancer people die. It is just the unavoidable truth. Did Lance use drugs to win those seven Tours? I don't know. I think he probably did. What if he just drank an extra glass of orange juice or used some sexual magick ritual involving lady rock stars and human sacrifice? Dammit People! Its professional sports! Our bloodthirsty television-addicted species won't be satisfied until we once again have coliseums filled with ravenous spectators demanding the death of the loser.

Here's the Part I Don't Get
But Lance Armstrong ain't a loser. In this case the ravenous crowd is calling for the death of the winner. Why? I'm still not certain. Maybe he is just that good. Is it really cheating when you play the game by the secret rules? Sure, it is ethically or morally wrong; but who amongst us stands on a high enough pinnacle of righteousness that we can judge?

Seven Tour de France Wins. Seven. Doped to the gills in a school of sharks also doped to the gills.

Scandals of sex and debauchery? No. Murder of ex-wife and her boyfriend? No. Bossing around and intimidating team members and fellow riders? Sure. Go win the biggest event in cycling seven times and that becomes almost a responsibility. I would do it.

Professional cycling ain't no Sunday school, folks. It's more like the world of gangsta  rap. (Do they still call it that?) You can meet death plying your trade. Intimidation is part of the skill set.

Back to the Park
Ok, Ok, let me take a breath here. The fires are quieting down in the Quasitron 6000, evening is upon us and I realize that I have been ranting. Me and Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog both need to go outside and do our business. It might interest my readers to know that I am a doper. Stay your outrage, I say, stay it! My dope is the beers and shots of rum it takes for me to strip away the veneer of bullshit that we all wear to get through the day In this our modern world. I cannot bare my inner thoughts without a little chain lube and self-eraser libation. It takes a certain amount of chemical soul-stripper to get to the truth.

Trailer Parks Are Where Its At
I am home and safe and free from the slings and arrows that Lance is facing, alone, out there in the dark night of fame and infamy. Godspeed Lance! Be thou not the fallen warrior! Fear not the rabid hyenas that circle the fire and jabber for your blood!

 You are an American Hero; twisted, flawed, but heroic all the same.

It is night; I have a home and a warm blanket on this chilly night at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park.

I hope all of you, also, are safe and warm.


Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Domestique Training Center

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guilt and Expiation

Hello everyone!
It would give me great pleasure to say that the reason for my long absence is that I am very busy, which would be true. But it doesn't give me pleasure at all. In fact, I spend my days skulking around the Park with a dark cloud of guilt hanging over my head. Why guilty, you ask? I'll tell you: Even though I am constantly occupied and never seem to have enough time, I can honestly say that since the New Year started I haven't done a single constructive thing. Which ain't good, considering I earn my keep by being, uh, well, constructive.

No working on trailers, no riding my bike; I'm falling behind on my beer-drinking and Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog really needs a bath. Oh, the shame, the degradation! Worst of all is how I have been ignoring my Beloved Blog and the Three People who read it! O Wondrous Guilt!

 In Other Words You're A Lazy Bum
So what have I been doing? Glad I asked. The truth is, I don't know. I took a 40 mile cruise Sunday Morning and huffed and puffed over a course I usually ride with ease. In spite of my best efforts to abstain from over-indulgence, the Holidays have certainly taken a toll on my physique. When I pulled on my bib shorts for the first time in 2012, it looked (and felt) like some Evil Elf had sneaked into my closet and sewn a bowling ball into the front liner. And listen: that same Elf apparently works on bicycles as well; my handlebar drops were obviously several inches lower than they were last Fall and I spent the entire ride with my gloves on the hoods. This meant, of course, I spent almost three hours riding around in a mostly upright position resulting in the dreaded symptom technically referred to as PITA. Look it up in your medical journals.

Do You Want A Little Cheese With That Whine?
I know, I know: I live at Whispering Pines, not Whimpering Pines. (As a side note, I have lived here for nigh on two years and I still don't know what those Pines are whispering about. It's spooky.) But all my Masculine Whining aside, it has been a multi-layered dilemma that I suspect my Readers are familiar with: cycling is physically addictive and endorphin junkies like me need the fix. But Seasonal Affective Disorder sets in sometime after Thanksgiving, the skies darken and the temperature drops. The warm glow of the computer screen beckons and there is nothing like a frosty beer or ten while you are surfing the web and imagining all the riding you are doing while reading about all the riding others are doing.

And I live in Florida! The cold weather I am complaining about would be positively balmy to my Northern Friends. (The North is defined as any area above Interstate 10.) Hence the guilt.

This Part Ain't Funny
Another thing happened just before Christmas. A touring cyclist from Oregon was hit by a truck here in town on Hwy One. A seventy-two year old man with "low blood sugar"  was blasting South in his van and had a dizzy spell or something and ran over a twenty-one year old kid who managed to pedal all the way across the United States before getting to Florida and...what? The newspaper only reported that he was in critical condition. There has been no follow-up story and by now it is old news. We may never know how it turned out.

My Friends Try To Cheer Me Up
That section of road is part of my North Wind Ride. When I ride North to Daytona, I return on that very shoulder of the highway. It could have been me. At the cookout Sunday, I was talking to Uncle Bill about bicycles.

“Aren't you afraid somebody might smack into you with a car when you're out on the highway like that?”

 I instantly flashed to the Oregon kid's accident. It wasn't pretty. I don't know what that young guy looks like, but sometimes I get up the courage to look in the bathroom mirror in the morning, so I know what Tim Joe looks like. It was Old Tim Joe I got a mental snapshot of being struck from behind at high speed by a truck veering onto the shoulder. Man, it wasn't pretty. I took a big gulp from my Budweiser, took a breath and looked Bill in the eye.

“I'm not afraid,” I said. “It could happen anytime, but there is nothing I can do about it. I can't let it stop me from riding.”

There were others around the fire and everyone started talking at once about various people they have known over the years who managed to get run over while riding bicycles. What cheerful Sunday conversation for the Trailer Park Cyclist!

But I am not afraid. I rode over 2500 miles in 2011 with nothing I could really describe as a close call. There were moments. Oh, there were moments, to be sure. But what are you going to do? Wear high visibility clothing, pick your routes as best you can, be very aware of your surroundings and Keep On Stroking.

Ahem. OK. Now then, back to the whining...
What does 2012 hold in store for us? Hard to say. I have a hard enough time even typing the number 2012 and associating it with an actual date. Isn't that the Future? Seriously, what the hell happened?

One year follows another and so on but how can so many years have gone by so fast?

Maybe That Is What the Pines Are Whispering About.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Old Folks Home