Friday, October 26, 2012


And Comes A Storm
The Trailer Park Cyclist is hitting a good lick, pedaling strong into a shifting headwind. He is in Shiloh, a ghost town in the purest sense: here there are no houses, no stables, no ghost town saloons. Here there is nothing except the ability of the powerful machine that is the US government to make anything that it no longer needs or that is in its way disappear.

Shiloh is gone.

But what of that? He hits another stroke on the pedals. This wonderful machine beneath his legs is old. This machine beneath his legs is old, and the Trailer Park Cyclist, himself, is old. But not so old that he and his machine cannot stroke and blast through time and space, hitting a good lick through a piece of Florida history. Shiloh!

Curb Appeal
When it became imperative that we feeble rascals called the human race must shoot forth into space, outer space, we did what we always do: we cleared some land. A lot of land. Confident that Outer Space would be the next real estate boom property we went ahead and leveled Shiloh.
And Yet
When you are pedaling your ass off in this vast and horrid wilderness that is the Canaveral Preserve there ain't much to see. Palmettos and roadkill make up most of the scenery. There is a lot of Florida heat. Humidity and dust are your onliest friends and you wonder why you came. But then, one stroke of the pedal follows another and you remember why; you remember that where and when mean nothing; it is the stroke of the pedal and your inner world of remembering and searching that brought you here. You are here because this is where you are supposed to be and yes, and yes, but what about Shiloh?

What About Shilo?
Who knows? Listen, mates, a late season storm named Sandy is scratching at the door and me, your old buddy Tim Joe, thought he would live up to his reputation as a Rough Rider and hit a lick Way Out There with a storm coming in. And thus, as ever, I survived and am here to tell the tale. Sadly, this little bluster and blow failed to meet our expectations and sixty miles later I have nothing much to tell about except a new trick I learned. Reverse Flow Track Stand.

Yeah. With a forty mile per hour head wind thirty miles from the Trailer Park you gain character. A lot of character. This is a post season storm and the wind is whipping around like a rabid wolverine and I may need to be put in a Home if I ever GET this sucks...

And still, what about Shiloh?

It's Good Enough For Me
I cannot say. There was an early little school in Shiloh Village. There was an educator there who had once been a slave but somehow magically transformed his fate into that of a teacher of the little white kids who lived in the area. That's pretty cool, wouldn't you say? There is a grave there that I looked at, a pioneer lady who now sleeps alone, because of our efforts to conquer Space. I learned some of these things while being blown backwards on two wheels by a bitch named Sandy who I loved all the same.

She is still here, scratching at the door.

So, yes, my friends, Shiloh still lives, I will see to that. And here am I, rum-fortified and beer-strengthened. This little fake storm scares me not, I already pushed her back harder than she pushed me. These winds come and go and they are meaningless. Here's what about Shiloh:

Shiloh Lives. As do we. Power, my friends...power, life and faith! Shiloh!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Preservation Society

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Bike

I Blame Hugh
A little while back my friend Hugh over at Hugh's Bicycle Blog conducted a bold experiment in cycling: he (on purpose) purchased a bicycle from WalMart and took it home.

No, he really did. This seasoned veteran of Old Steel rehabilitation took real dollars out of his pocket and plunked them down for one of those bicycle-shaped objects that they sell at that Hell Hole of Crap and took it home for a little New Steel rehabilitation. Now, trust me when I tell you that I am a loathsome hypocrite. Almost everything I own comes from this  Son of Sam. The keyboard I am typing on came from there, and I cuss a little cussing as I have to inexplicably go back every few sentences and re-type the capitol “I's” because this verdammdt piece of crap not only makes me go back and fix something but because it also reminds me that I use a capitol “I” way too much.

Morning Radio
But so what? It's my Booger, ain't it? Yeah, man it's all about me! Whee-hoo!

Calm down. I'm in it too, you know. said the Voice.

“And me too!” said the Blonde.

“And me!” barks Toby the Trouble Puppy.

“Daisy, do you want to chime in on this gruesome Greek chorus?”

“Of course not,” she says. “I am far too dignified to demand attention. I rely on my innate Yellow Labrador nobility and statuesque beauty to get my way. Besides, dogs can't talk.”

That's what I was gonna say, said the Voice.

“She's not a full-blood Lab, ya know.” said Toby.

This is what happens when I try to type while listening to morning radio with a hangover.

Wait, There's More
O.K. So let me stop libeling my friend Hugh and gossiping about his descent into Wally World. Instead, let me wallow in my own recent transgressions: I did it also.


 WalMart is the single source of bicycle inner tubes in my village. (Except for the pseudo LBS by the Interstate that charges eight dollars for a Sunlite tube and meanwhile I am being pestered by salesmen to look at fake Harley Davidsons and four-wheel-drive bush whackers.) So while out there picking up some tubes, some much-needed underwear and this season's six pairs of socks, I ventured to glance at the over-stuffed two-story racks of new so-called bicycles that I would never consider and can't afford anyway even if I did consider.

And yet, there she was.

Shiny, black, new...and huge. The biggest bicycle I ever saw. This beautiful creature was so large and disproportionate to the other bicycles that she looked somehow royal. This was a two-wheeled Clydesdale, a fitting steed for Cycling Royalty such as myself and I really did need a new Beach Cruiser, didn't i?

Well, it is true that you gave away the old Mongoose, and the recently refurbished Little Miss Dangerous has no business on the sand...but this is a WalMart bicycle! If you buy this bike I'll have to stop talking to you. And if you are cycling royalty, you must mean the Court Jester.

Seals the Deal
That was all I needed to hear. Armed with the knowledge that such a vile transaction would not only get me a cheap-ass beach bunny but might also forever rid me of that nagging Voice, I started planning my evil plans. I did what I always do when planning a Big Ticket purchase: i start figuring out how to get someone else to pay for it and then I dive into the deep end of the Internet. The reviews there were much as I expected: all over the place. It is, after all, the cycling forums. But one note was struck throughout: this cheap piece of crap could indeed be ridden, after proper tuning, some serious remedial application of lithium grease and selective replacement of key components.

That is just exactly what Hugh did with his wally-bike experiment, and he was pleased with the results, and said so. And Hugh is the kind of guy I listen to. He ain't sellin' nothin' or running for office.

One Man's Diet Is Another Man's Bicycle
Having refrained from beer for three weeks in a failed effort to lose fifty pounds, (I lost fifteen then bought a keg) I had a little extra cash. Well, a LOT (for me) of extra cash. Enough to make the purchase. So I did. I bought the second new bicycle I have ever owned.

Memory Lane (Can't Be Helped)
The first (and only, until now) new bicycle I ever owned was a Schwinn five-speed Stingray. One day Ricky Roberts and I were out riding figure-eights in front of my house. We were doing these slow figure-eights and spitting at the junction of the loops in a contest of accuracy and saliva having and flirting with infinity. We both were riding our beat up old sting-rays cobbled together from the huge parts pile behind Ricky's house. My Mom came to the door.

“Tim Joe!”

“It wasn't me Mom! Ricky was spitting and I was trying to dry it out by riding my bike over it!”

“Come in here for a minute.” It was only fifty feet to the front door but it was a metric century (lol) of concern and tribulation as I racked my brain for what recent crime I had committed. There were plenty of crimes to consider, but I was primarily thinking about which ones she may have caught wind of. I figured I was relatively clean but judging by her stern tone it was something serious. By the time I reached the front door I was fairly confident that whatever it was I could somehow pass the blame off onto one of my little brothers. I stepped into the living room.

“Tim Joe.” The same threatening tone.

“Yeah, Mom?” My step Dad was there, too. Weird. He had a funny look on his face.

“We saw your report card.” Uh oh.

“I can explain...”

“You got straight 'A's. But you also got a bunch of 'unsatisfactory behavior' marks.”

“Mom, I...”

“So I went down there and met with your teacher and the principal. What a couple of assholes. Go into the kitchen.” This was seriously weirding me out. My step Dad had a really odd look on his face and I was certain that whatever was in the kitchen would be bad. But ever was i brave and thus, into the kitchen I went.

Yeah, Baby!
There she was. A brilliant, purple, glistening Schwinn five speed Stingray. The one with the big wheels and the stick shift. The very bike that we boys had almost daily made a pilgrimage to the local bike shop (Old Man Gillis's place) to venerate. All the tags and stickers were still on her. I started yelling.

“IS THIS MINE?! FOR ME? YAHOO! WOW! I CAN”T BELIEVE IT! CAN I TAKE IT OUTSIDE?” The odd look on my Dad's face was him trying to suppress a giant smile of pride. In those days that bicycle represented a big chunk of his take-home pay.

“You take that bicycle anywhere you want, honey. And listen to me, sweetheart. As long as you keep getting those straight 'A's' you don't have to take any shit from anybody. But you are always going to have some asshole trying to tell you what to do. Always. The hard job I want from you is learning to tell them to go to hell in a way that makes them think they won.”

Wise words, Mom. Wise words indeed and a lot of miles and a lot of hardship have passed since you told me that. I have not always got the best marks but I have tried. Sometimes the assholes got the better of me, but not always. Not always.

But Things Don't Always Work Out
I remember riding the bike out the front door and into the street. Ricky Roberts was a block away, drawing or writing something in the dirt. When I pulled up on my new stallion, he didn't even notice.

“I heard you yelling in there,” he said. He looked pretty bad. “Were they hitting you?” Everyone on the street knew that Ricky and his big brother Randy's drunk-ass Dad hit them. It was 1967. Three years later Randy got wasted in cross-fire outside of Khe San. One night ten years on down the road a friend told me that he had been there and had heard about it, and while the story never came out, it was two Long Range Patrols that shot the shit out of each other in the dark and the rain.

And Yet...
I put the kickstand down on my new bike. I have to remove a flip-flop and put it under the kickstand so it doesn't sink into the sand. We don't get spectacular sunsets on the East coast of Florida, but the Sun goes down all the same. This new bike looks pretty damn fine in the waning light of a pretty good day. I turn and look at the Atlantic Ocean. It is big, and Life Its Ownself is big and small, and listen: it is hard to grasp it all. I resolve not to try. As for me, I'll settle for momentary glimpses of life outside of myself; and the realization that i am not alone. We are all interwoven and while a new bicycle can bring much joy there is beauty and grace and a certain splendor in everything. There is beauty and grace and tragedy and hope and all we have to do is look. It is right here in front of us.

Next: WalMart ain't evil, just stoopid.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Filosopy Phactory

Monday, October 1, 2012

Give Me Three Steps

Man's Best Friends

Almost Prolific
Hello Everyone! Surprised to see me? Yesterday morning I lubed up the keyboard and  dusted off the thesaurus and used it for a coaster where I placed my special typing brew. No, not brewski, not yet anyway, I still have thirty pounds to go. But what we have here is a shot of milk in a large cup of coffee along with a healthy dash of Ovaltine for the vitamin factor. They haven't invented Starbucks around here yet so I am on my own and that is the best I can come up with. But by swapping coffee for beer  my typing speed has improved drastically and you should see how neat and precise my handwriting has become.

Cursive Words 
I know you think I am kidding but when was the last time you tried to write a sentence in a fine hand? Do it now and if you are like me you will be amazed at how hard it can be. Who cares? Me. As I rapidly age my way into the future I refuse to lose any old skills and I continually try to add new bicycle maintenance.

Ya Either Got It or Ya Want It
I just ain't a natural born mechanic. While I can take a word or phrase or sentence and wring it around and twist it about until it screams in agony or sings and dances with the simple joy of being, a thing as obvious as correct chain length or derailleur alignment or cable adjustment is completely beyond my ken. I once owned a '73 Chevy StepVan. When the transmission exploded I was proud of my ability to crawl under there and tear the diseased part out, using only minimal cussing and the use of the sawzall. But when I took it to the transmission guy he cracked it open and, like a Doctor with bad news, came into the waiting room to break it to me gently.

“Would you step back here, sir?”

“Why, Johnny? And why are you calling me sir?” I knew I was in trouble.

"It's shot out, Tim Joe, and I just wanted you to see it before I send it out to the scrap pile.”

“OK.” I was already imagining the agony of taking my old ax down off the trailer wall and heading into Miss Massey's woods yet again, hunting down some dead tree to chop up and haul home so I could fire up the Quasitron 6000 Steam-powered Search Engine in order to start hunting for a new transmission. How long, O Lord?

As long as it takes, obviously,  said the Voice.  I take the coffee off the thesaurus.

"Shut up, Voice, I'm being rhetorical."  I put the coffee back on the thesaurus.

I know A Lot About Art, But...
There on the drastically cluttered bench in Johnny's shop was the old tranny. The housing was separated and laid open and I could see what a transmission looks like on the inside. It looked like a one of those convoluted M.C Escher paintings where stairs go nowhere and switch back on themselves. Johnny, still pretending to be a sad doctor instead of the mechanical pirate he really is, pointed gloomily at the inner workings of this incomprehensible device.

“See?” He said. The only thing I could see and make sense of was his greasy and calloused finger and his gnarly old hands that had repaired or replaced at least a half dozen motors and transmissions for me over the years, the same hands that had counted endless dollars that I used to own and would obviously soon be counting some more of the same.

“Uh, yeah. No. See what?” He took on that pseudo-serious manner he gets when explaining the obvious to dolts like me. He learned it by watching the Professor on Gilligan's Island.

“See here where these grooves are cut into...” I had already drifted off to the woods behind Miss Massey's and was wondering if I should get enough wood to fire up the grill after I got the Ol' Quaz up to steam and hunting a new unit for my soon to be departed truck. I could hear the birdsong of the forest and somewhere, far off, the faint strains of Lynard Skynard singing “Give me three steps”...

Sadly, It All Leads Up To This
So the other day I was out on the front porch of my trailer. I had the bicycle in the stand. I had just finished putting everything back together after cleaning and painting and so on and I didn't put the front derailleur on. I never use the small ring up front and that area of the bottom bracket and front mechanism is always the dirtiest part of the bike, so I left it off. This meant that  I had suddenly developed an increased interest in the functionality of the big 34 tooth cog on the Sram cassette that I put on last year. I would need that big gear to climb the bridges around my riding area. But when I tried to shift into that gear the rear derailleur jammed up into the chain. I was convinced (due to all my previous problems with transmissions) that this simple little bicycle tranny (the rear derailleur) was somehow broken and would need replacement.  There  I was unbolting her when my friend Corky came by to borrow a beer. While we stood there drinking two of the same I pointed out my bad derailleur and explained my problem. Bending over for a closer look, Corky gave the chain a tug.

'It looks like your chain is a couple links short. Two or three links.” I immediately flashed to the Gerber baby food jar I had tucked away on my workbench. No longer full of applesauce, it now contained several schrader valve stem caps and a piece of Sram chain, three links that I had removed when installing the chain last year

“Well, Corky... I, well, you know I write a Blog about bicycles and I read a lot about them and I'm pretty sure the problem here is the derailleur. Want another beer?”

“Sure. And what's a Blog?” I went to the refrigerator and got out a couple more frosty Budweisers. Then I casually drifted over to the workbench and picked up the little glass jar with the three incriminating links. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the Corkster out on the porch on one knee, intently fiddling with the chain and derailleur. I was thinking fast and hard. I quickly unscrewed the cap, plucked out the links and palmed them under my beer. I went back out to the porch.

'Here ya go, Cork. Man! Look at the size of that squirrel!” As he spun around to catch a look at the imaginary giant I dropped the three links on the floor under the rear wheel. Corky turned back to me.

“I guess I missed it.” He looked at me a little more closely.

“Ha ha, well, those big squirrels are pretty quick.”

'Yeah, I guess so.” He looked suspiciously at his beer. He tried to casually look behind me. He and I go back a long ways.

'Well, I guess I'll be going. He chugged the beer and set down the empty can, trying not to make it obvious that he was looking into it for signs of mysterious residue. “Good luck with your bike.”

“Oh, hey, thanks, man. No need to run off. Hey, what's this? I bent down to pick up the three segments of bicycle chain. “ Well, I'll be danged! You were right, man! This must have fallen off when I was putting everything back together!”

Corky looked a little dumbfounded at the thing in my hand. He looked back to make sure a giant squirrel wasn't approaching stealthily from behind. He looked at the beer he had just finished and he looked at the expression on my face and we both bust out laughing. Old friends are the best.

'I guess I'll have another beer after all,” Corky said.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Mirrors