Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Dumpster Diving
The other day I finally got motivated to do a little work on my old Mongoose Alta. For a couple years she was my only bike and I put a lot of miles on her before I got the Schwinn from Coyote and rediscovered the beauty and the wonder of big skinny tires and gears and the sensation of flight that they impart. After that the Goose mostly sat in the corner collecting dust. I would ride her to the beer store once in a while just for old time's sake, but she felt sluggish and slow compared to the Schwinn. But the other day the Blonde found a bicycle carcass in the Park dumpster and pulled it out for my inspection.

It was a sad kind of thing. The frame was brand new. It was one of those low-end comfort bikes they sell at beachside bike shops for weekend riders to use to cruise the boardwalk. It was a single speed, of course, and thoroughly stripped of wheels and chain and seat. All that was left was the frame and fork and handlebars. I put it in the corner with the Mongoose and more or less forgot about it until one day I was straightening up the shop and there it was.

Its a stolen bike, said the Voice.

“No kidding, Voice. What of it?"

It's a stolen bike so you should give it to the cops. The serial number is right there on the bottom bracket.

“Voice, that is a noble intention but you forget: we live in the crappiest trailer park in town and those cops will wonder what happened to the wheels and tires and chain and so on and furthermore, O Noble Voice, perhaps you forgot that here in the Living Room Bike Shop there are many bicycle wheels, tires, used chains and various other parts that might cause suspicion to be cast my way. Duh.”

No, YOU duh. But you're probably right. So what will you do with it? I had not considered this question. In fact, it just occurred to me that I had a probably stolen and definitely stripped and serialized bicycle frame stashed in a room full of bike parts.

“Here, Voice. Take this thing and put it back into the dumpster. I don't want anything to do with it. It is a Tainted Thing. I have spoken.”

Have spoken all you want. I am only a voice and so if that poor derelict is to find its way to the trash heap it will be your problem to make it so. Thus speaks the Voice.

Ashes to Ashes
Stupid Voice. But as usual, the Voice was right. I guess. I pondered further about taking it to the Cop Shop but finally said to hell with it and threw it back from whence it had come. I was crafty; I waited until Wednesday morning to do the disposal. The dumpster guy comes on Wednesday so there would be minimal exposure. I didn't wipe off my fingerprints because it seemed ludicrous to do so...but you never know. I then went on about my day and forgot about the episode, pretty much. I did make note of the sound of the dumpster truck doing its job later that morning and I do remember thinking to myself, “That's that,” and then I went for a Town Ride.

When I came back to the trailer a couple hours later there was the same forlorn frame leaning up against my gate. It looked like it was scratching to get in the same way Toby the Trouble Puppy scratches to get out.

“What the hell,” I thought to myself. Then I knew. The Blonde. I stuck the frame under my front stairs then went next door to her trailer to have a Domestic Policy Conference (DPC). When I walked in she was standing at the counter whipping up a bowl of potato salad. There was something sizzling away on the stove and it sure smelled good and for a moment I forgot why I was there but then I remembered and cleared my throat dangerously in preparation for a stern lecture about stolen goods and social-economic levels and class-based police perception and other things that would come to me after I got started but I was still drawing in a powerful preparatory lungful of hot air when she beat me to the punch.

“Don't go clearing your throat and lecturing me, mister.” She didn't even look up from her work. “Jungle Jim came by here with that thing and said he found it in the dumpster first thing this morning. He said he knew you would be able to get the parts off and recycle the frame. It's aluminum.”

“Who said anything about a lecture? What smells so good?”

If You Can't Beat 'Em
So, setting aside my high moral integrity I took off the mediocre (but alloy) cranks and chain ring. I removed the handlebars (also alloy and the exact high rise bars I have been wanting for the Goose.) I tossed the frame into the Trailer Park recycle pile. Two days ago I put the new bars on the Goose and installed some fat street tires and went for a test ride.

The Big Kid's Bike
Not bad! I had a really cheap big Bell brand saddle from who knows where. I put this on the Goose as well and the upright and soft ride was sweet and it was like a new bicycle and I have been riding it all over the place, kid style. I needed some new handlebar grips and the only place in town for that is the new Super Walmart that opened last month way out on the far side of I-95.

Stranger In A Strange Land
No one we know has been out there yet. To venture beyond I-95 is to go to a Far Country. We get all our needs at the Winn-Dixie and the Dollar General. Well, sometimes one of My Needs requires a trip to Big Bob's Liquors. But these places are a five minute drive and a fifteen minute bike ride so to go much farther than five miles from the Whispering Pines is not necessary. Until now.

So enamored was I with the novelty of my new Kid's Bike I decided to ride it the twelve miles out to the new Super Store and see what this place was all about. Plus, the only other option was the motorsports hunting and bicycle shop boutique that is the closest thing to an LBS in our little town and I was tired of their avarice. When they charged me eight dollars for a tube a couple weeks ago I took a vow and so far have stuck to it. So, child-like and full of wonder, I pedaled off to Oz.

As many of you may remember, I had some kind of rather severe bronchial infection last week. I still do, but it has improved enough over the last few days that I felt strong enough to venture forth. As I pedaled vigorously towards the Interstate I had second thoughts. I was coughing again and not feeling strong at all. But cycling is about nothing if not suffering and perseverance. No pain no gain! And I really wanted those grips!

Here There Be Monsters
The shoulder and the sidewalk both gave out about a mile from the Walmart, and I had to traverse the four way cloverleaf at the Interstate. These things are nightmarish for a cyclist. Cars are hurtling around in high-g turns, tires are screeching and whining, the shoulders are strewn with glass and steel-belt wires and some unidentified but gritty substance seen no where else. There is no clear cut way to get through the thing with anything resembling decorum or dignity. If you attempt to use “vehicular cycling” you will be rapidly reminded that as a vehicle, a bicycle is a paltry conveyance when an eighteen wheeler is thundering down the Off Ramp while some bastard who didn't leave on time for the airport is blasting through a yellow light and taking the On Ramp on two wheels while he screams at someone on his cell phone. Even the safe traffic ain't safe in the vicinity of one of these hell holes and there it was and there was the new Super Walmart just on the other side.

Fear Not!
But I am, after all, the Trailer Park Cyclist. I pulled off the filthy shoulder onto the grass. I went a few yards up the side of the  On Ramp, waited for a lull and dashed across the On Ramp over to the relative safety of the underside of the overpass. I did some cocky bank shots off the concrete slope under the overpass, paused on the other side to determine that there was no threat of four or eighteen wheeled doom waiting for me and dashed across. I was through! There it was! Good Lord, look at the size of this place. It's like a little city!

America the Bounteous
Walking inside I didn't know whether to weep with pride, shame or bewilderment at the absolute huge cleanness of the place. It was vast and immaculate. That is the only way to describe it. I once saw the Grand Canyon and I remember thinking that it was so large that you could see it, but the brain could not process the vision. It was so alien and strange that there was some kind of disconnect taking place. This Super Walmart is aptly named. Six Whispering Pines Trailer Parks would fit inside.

And yet, for all its vastness and glory, there were only three different handlebar grips to choose from and all three sucked. But I didn't tarry. I grabbed the least suckiest of the three, paid my eight (!) dollars and got out.

The Rest of the Story
Outside, I spit on the handlebars, carefully spread the spit around and slipped on the new grips. Yep. They sucked. But I wasn't riding twelve miles home on bare bars. 'Oh well,” I thought, “they'll do until I get up another order for Tree Fort Bikes or Jensen.” I wait until I have enough money for a hundred dollar plus order so that I get free shipping. It doesn't take long to spend a hundred dollars on bike parts, but it takes me quite a long time to accumulate that one hundred dollars.

I jumped on board and before I even hit the first pedal stroke I realized the new front tire I had mounted yesterday was flat. Real flat, not sorta flat. New tube, serviceable (and fat) tire, careful installation, proper pressure, FLAT.

Sometimes that ol' Karmic Wheel spins pretty quick, said the Voice.

“What?! Cough Cough. Argh!” More coughing. No tools, no pump, no spare tube...looking across the vast plain of the Walmart parking lot, I wondered if that gas station way over there would have an air pump. I decided to push the Goose over and find out. It was a long push, but yes, there was a pump. It would require four quarters and I had twelve bucks left after my shopping spree.

Trailer Park Manifesto
When you are really poor you learn to do without things that some people cannot imagine living without. As for myself, I am sort of poor on purpose. I have learned through brief periods of poverty that I can certainly do without almost everything I can't eat, drink, or wear. If I wanted to do some carpentry work around town, which I would not mind doing, I will need a truck, which in turn will require insurance and gasoline, as well as periodic service. These days things are so bad that carpenters make much less money per hour than they did five or six years ago. But gasoline prices have become drastically higher. Also, the encroaching gentrification of our little surfing/fishing town means that various local government agencies are taking themselves a lot more seriously these days and once that happens, permits and licenses and insurance requirements go up. So, for me to get back in action at the age of fifty six I would have to work significantly harder and longer to make less money to help feed these oil companies and government agencies and car dealers.  So for now I fix trailers and ride bicycles.

Where was I?
But manifestos don't fix flat tires.   That requires pressurized air, not hot air. So I put four quarters into the machine, apply the nozzle and squeeze. The tire makes a feeble effort to inflate but then quivers and dies in my arms like a tragic heroine in a bad Western.

There must be a hole in the tube, said the Voice.

“Cough! Hack! Ya think?! Really?!”

Attitude:  the Difference Between Ordeal and Adventure  
(quote courtesy of Bob Bitchin)
Alright, then. I got eleven dollars and there's a Walmart right there. I'll lock up the bike here at the pump and walk back over and get a tube, put it in and be on my way. I walk briskly back across the prairie/parking lot. While inside the store my head starts pounding and those little cold beads of sweat are popping out on my forehead. But I'm way out here in the Florida Outback and this tube is four dollars after tax. OK. When I get back to the bike I notice I ain't feeling so great but there is nothing to do but get this tube on and get out of there. Bending over to take off the wheel I also realize that this 36 spoke rim I decided to put on yesterday is not a quick release. It is two acorn nuts and I need a wrench and now I'm starting to get a little downtrodden. I stand and gaze across the wasteland/parking lot. It's a long way. A shadow darkens the sky and I look up and there it is: one of those fat juicy pregnant-looking Florida cloudburst thunderstorm clouds that were promised for this afternoon. This cloud is quite obviously looking right at me and laughing. Staring at the bike I briefly consider trying to loosen those nuts with my teeth but this gas station is busy and I don't know how these Walmart shoppers will react to the sight of a fifty-something homeless guy thrashing around on the ground in a torrential downpour trying to eat a bicycle.

There's nothing to do but hike the hundred miles back across the parking lot and back into this god-forsaken Cathedral of Crap and buy the cheapest adjustable wrench I can find and then once more cross that parking lot and if this trip don't Get 'er done it will be a fortunate thing that I am so close to the Interstate because I am going to go over to it and throw my bike into the path of an eighteen wheeler and then jump in after it.

A couple of hours later I'm sitting in my trailer drinking my third Budweiser and wondering about my day. The rain never happened and on the way home it took only about fifteen minutes of pedaling before the ordeal was nothing more than another Tim Joe story and Blog. I found a slow and steady cadence on my Big Kid Bike and my breathing and pulse regulated and that was it. The coughing let up and my head quit pounding. Pretty soon I was singing the refrain from that old Journey song, “Wheel In the Sky.”

Not a bad day after all.

“Actually, it was fun.”

And you got a new tool. That cheap little crescent wrench is kinda cool.

“Hey, I forgot about that!” 

 It doesn't count as an ordeal if there is a new tool in it.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Pain

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roseanne, the Zombies and the BUG

Hack Hack Cough Cough
It has been rather cool here in East Central Florida for the past week and I managed to contract one of my dreaded every-other-year colds that tend to put me on the skids for a couple days. When this happens I bravely face my illness with as many potions and powders and pills as I can get my hands on.  My goal is to survive through over-the-counter induced coma. I pile books next to my bunk, add blankets to the pile and say my farewells to my dogs and my woman and then crawl into my nest to meet my fate.

Trailer Park Benefits
We don't have a Health Plan here at the Park; in fact, if anything, it would have to be called an Unhealth Plan. Besides, I am far too bold and manly to report to the hospital for a mere chest cold. Not me. What I do is take a bunch of pills that look vaguely like Christmas candy, drink syrups that taste like nothing else in the world and then spend two or three days catching up on my reading, sleeping and alternately whimpering for mercy and howling for more soup or orange juice or whatever else enters my feverish head.

The Bad English Patient
The Blonde is always very indulgent for the first couple of hours. Once she realizes I actually do have an illness and not just a more worser than usual hangover, she suddenly remembers a bunch of errands and shopping she forgot to do and then disappears for the next couple of days. She ain't no Florence Nightingale, but I admit that I am the worst patient in the world and if we were Eskimos, there would be an ice floe somewhere out there with my name on it.

But that was three days ago and now here I am, typing merrily away with only an occasional rumble in my chest and that delightful sniffle thing that doesn't warrant an actual nose blowing but makes you snert and sniff and wish for warmer days.

Irregular Programming
As an inveterate Bicycle Nerd I hang out at a Site called Old Ten Speed Gallery. Over there we are like those guys in High School that really did believe that Esperanto would one day be the One World Language, instead of Klingon. But our language is bicycles and OTSG is like that saloon where everyone knows your name. In the course of yacking it up about an old Schwinn Caliente a frequent contributor mentioned that Roseanne Barr and John Goodman are appearing in a pilot episode of a new TV series. This time the plot centers around life in a Trailer Park.

I know what you are thinking. You're thinking “Hey! Trailer Park Cyclist! You live in a trailer park!”

Or maybe you're thinking, “Esperanto? What's that? Some kind of soup?”

Or, “ Remember when this Blog used to be cool?”

Hold on. I have to blow my nose. Did I mention that I have been sick?

Hooray For Hollywood
So anyway, these Hollywood big shots are going to try and illustrate in a touching and humorous manner what I live with everyday. They will get it wrong, of course. These guys are so far removed from this layer of strata that they can't even imagine what really goes on. Me, I came to trailer living late in life, as many do. But most of those other elderly trailer dwellers have sold their homes up North and came here to live in pretty nice trailer parks with golf carts and swimming pools and clubhouses where they all get together and do all that hokey crap that you do when you retire. Whatever it is. I don't know. I only say it is hokey because I went to one of those places once and in the clubhouse there were a bunch of people only marginally older than me actually doing the Hokey-Pokey. No, really.

The Whispering Pines isn't a retirement trailer Park. It isn't a place where elderly people come to hang out until, You Know. I guess those big fancy retirement parks are like luxurious ice floes.

The Whispering Pines is more of a place to come and not wait for the Big Sleep, but rather to embrace it.   Most of the people here are pretty drug-addled. The advent of these super-strong downers like oxycontin or whatever it is has created a new American Class. While the middle class is shrinking, we now have the Rich, the Poor and the Zombies. Government subsidized medical programs are shoveling these Zombie Pills into the eager maws of the impoverished like Manna from Hell. I see it everyday. The sheer volume of these pills is unbelievable.

I don't expect to see a lot of Zombie episodes on Rosanne's new show, but it would be pretty cool if there were. In fact, unless I break down and buy a TV, I probably will never even see a single episode.

This is all a little depressing. Probably aftershocks of the meds I took for my cold. Did I mention...

Meanwhile,  Back At the Bicycles...
In the world of bicycles, frequent commenter and Horticulturizing Cyclist Dee was kind enough to answer my query as to what she has been up to Down Under:

To: Trailer Park Cyclist:
In my copious spare time I am the president of the James Cook University Bicycle Users Group. A couple of years ago the Uni got a new high tech central cooling system, and all the old individual cooling plants were set to become redundant. The cooling plant for the library was housed in this great little building I had always liked, so I contacted my facilities management people and asked if it could become a bike shed when the old plant was removed. To my surprise and eternal gratitude they thought that was a great idea, and they spent a lot of money to make it happen. It needed a new concrete floor, and a roof (I guess it never had a full roof before) and they partitioned off a workshop and added lockers. They wanted to add showers but there was no plumbing available. I almost lost the project at that point because they figured if I couldn’t have showers I wouldn’t want it, but they were so wrong!

Anyway, many meetings and good will later it is all happening. Took us a fair time to get the community bike shop concept going, because it needs volunteers. I got tired of waiting for interested people to come together and went out with another employee and gathered up all the abandoned bikes at the colleges and put them in the shed, and now lots of people are really excited to have bikes to play with, and the workshop is starting to take shape.

O-week is next week, and we will be selling cheaply anything we get fixed by Wednesdays market day. As for the rest, I figure I will invite students to choose a bike, join the BUG and do it up to keep for free themselves. I just love all this. I am a terrible doer.

But NOT a terrible Zombie.  Good work,  Dee!  JOIN THE BUG!

That's it for now.  

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Hack Attack

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Notes From A Sunny Day
I went out for a Float yesterday. A Float is a ride that I take that requires that I exert absolutely no physical exertion. It is a ride involving quiet streets and trails and sidewalks. I'm going really slow and that is OK because I am also going nowhere. The main requirement for one of my Float Rides is that I have as little external stimulation as possible. Well, there are two main requirements: no exertion and no exterior distractions like threatening automobiles or chasing dogs or road debris or even beautiful scenery.

I took this ride totally unplanned. I originally set out to cruise over to the beach at a moderate pace and then ride over the Big Bridge one or two or maybe even three times because it is the only “hill” for miles around and sometimes I like to pretend I am On Tour and I am told that touring involves hills.

But The Best Laid Plans
But as I floated coasting down the gentle incline that leads from my trailer to the river, as I adjusted my glasses and wiggled my flip flops into an optimal position in the toe straps and as I prepared to turn North onto the River Road I realized I wasn't up for a ride. I just didn't feel like it. There was trouble in my soul and things I needed to get sorted out in my head (and heart) and I should go back to the Park and work out some of these damned little nuisance issues and get going.

But Then...
Or you should just wander aimlessly on your bicycle and do your sorting and worrying and then go back to the Park. The Trouble at the Park is self propagating and will always be there.

“You don't think I know what 'propagating' means, do you, Voice? Well, I do.”

Don't worry, there won't be a quiz or anything. But when was the last time you did lazy figure eights in the parking lot across from City Hall?

“It's been a long time. I think I'll do that.” The City Hall in our little town of Hawks Park sits across the River Road from a big park and boat launch ramp and is surrounded by water on three sides. On a weekday there is almost no one there and back before I was a Serious Cyclist I would ride my old Tramp Steamer ('91 Mongoose Alta converted to single speed) all over the place. I was always going slow and those big tires gave a very pronounced floating effect. The Tramp is set up for a pretty upright position and has a big padded saddle and she was my daydream ride before the Big Schwinn came along. Now she mostly hangs on the wall.

Why Fight City Hall?
So I went to the big public parking lot and did some figure eights. Low and Slow and I amused myself by seeing how tight a circle I could do on my Old Ten Speed before falling over. Remember that? Remember being a kid and just Goofing Off on your bike and doing nothing except pedaling around with nowhere to go? I do. If you don't remember, go out and do a Low and Slow Float and it will come back to you. It is a necessary thing to sometimes reach inside ourselves and find that kid that could laugh out loud and to remember a time when Troubles were fleeting and life was a long and seemingly endless path that stretched out before us. A long path of hope and promise and joy.

It is a promising path when you are looking forward from youth but a tormented trail when looking back from the end of the story.

“You're just chock full o' wisdom today, aren't you Voice? But shut up. I'll do the proselytizing around here. And anyway, you're wrong. Sure, There's plenty of stuff I wish had been better, but to call my life a “torturous trail” is wrong. There were lots of good times. Like today.”

The Heart Of the Matter
By now I have left the parking lot across from City Hall and wandered into the the big old neighborhood down the street that was carved from a primeval Florida Oak Forest. What is nowadays called the Indian River was once a huge soggy swamp. The oak trees and palms that grew along the edges of this swamp had plenty of water and rich soil in which to propagate. (Ha!) Those oaks are ancient and moss-covered and the houses in that neighborhood are from a time before we cookie-cut our dwellings. They are large and individual and  handsome and the sidewalks in front are made of some kind of concrete that you don't see anymore. The streets are broad and the sidewalks are empty and just right for a sunny day when a Troubled Cyclist needs to pedal around lost in thought and sorting things out and has no need for speed or destination. The Spanish moss hangs low and must be dodged; some low hanging limbs reach out for a high-five and I absent-mindedly give them one. I can wander this place all day, crawling along the sidewalk at a far faster speed than walking but pretty slow all the same.

Meanwhile, Back At the Park...
Whispering Pines Trailer Park is an old and venerable institution. It has probably always been the Worst Trailer Park In Town. I know that it is these days. After a year of working pretty hard to get things cleaned up and fixed up, I can look around me and see improvement. Where before there were crumbling wooden steps leading into dilapidated trailers, now there are neat little roofed porches of my design and installation. I have ripped out many rotten floors and walls and replaced them with appropriately inexpensive but carefully crafted repairs. Roof leaks have been fixed and fences mended and added and there have been some minor landscaping efforts. Improvement, yes, but far from anything I can qualify as satisfying.

Words To Live By
The motto of this Blogsite is “Life ain't that bad when you're happy with what you have.” There are times when I am proud of this attitude and there are other times when I see it as a cop out, a form of Acceptance of Less that could also be considered the Byline of a Loser.

But what of that? As I wander slowly through these quiet streets of fine homes with their facade of tranquility, maintaining my pace with only an occasional pedal stroke, I realize all too well that within these dwellings there is as much joy, pain and turmoil as there is inside the lowliest Trailer here at the Park.   Human Life is Universal.  All the rest is stage settings.


Grandpa Was A Tree Hugger
My cadence today is about six RPM and it suits me just fine. I'm not going anywhere, not anytime soon, anyway. My efforts at the Whispering Pines have been rewarded with My Own Little Corner of the Park. The heavy burden on my soul today has many sources. One is that I am Becoming Happy which has always been a sign of clouds on the horizon. There are other things going on, things that are not really my business or problem but the Problems of the Park all seem to find their way to me soon enough. But I have Me Little Darlin' to pedal slowly around this cool old town and I reach down and pat the top tube. I really do. As a writer and delusional cyclist I tend to anthropomorphize All the World. I can't help it. There is a powerful Pagan somewhere in my ancestry and I am glad for him; because of him I seek out the sounds and signs that bring me into the Here and Now. Would you rather listen to the wind in the trees or a politician? Would you prefer conversing with a squirrel or the Lady Behind the Counter? Stare at the television or the rising Full Moon?

I'm not special. We all see and hear these things.  Like a listener turning the knob on an old-time analog radio, we skip many channels in search of the sound we want to hear. There are many stations to tune into.

You are being sentimental and maudlin, said the Voice.

“It's just that kind of day, Voice.”

We've Been Down This Road Before
And so it is. In the enforced Slowing Down of this damnable Recession I came to this little Trailer Park where my old friend Coyote has lived for many years. I knew about this place and when the Blonde and I found ourselves at the end of our resources and my not inconsiderable ability to dodge old creditors and scam new ones was no longer working, when all my best efforts brought us to the face of defeat I sounded a retreat, rented a little trailer and began again.

And so Here Am I, burdened with Happiness, pedaling a bicycle that I love around a town that makes me glad no matter where I look, pedaling slowly and with wonderful mindlessness around this Old Hawks Park while the voices in my head rage back and forth, sorting things out for me while I take a ride and high-five ancient oak trees and let the voices have their way up there. It takes very little effort on my part; in fact, it seems the less effort that I spend on Trouble , the more quickly It is resolved.

Enjoy your Ride, Boss.  I'll let you know when we get it figured out.

“I know you will, buddy. I know you will.”

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Think Tank