Saturday, December 21, 2013

Terrapin Station

Another Trip to the Vet
At a little after ten in the morning I gotta stop for a moment and pull off a couple layers. The morning started chilly, maybe forty-five degrees, but the sun is up and running now and it is warming up just fine. This ride was planned as an intermodal bus/bicycle combo fast run, but due to the lackadaisical schedules of the local mass transit and my general lack of patience it turned into a fast run by bike only. Fine with me, except for my persistent yearning for some kind of Pony Express style rapid transit that has me swinging down from the bus or train with my bicycle already half launched as I leap into the saddle and barrel off to the next station.

While I stuff the layers of fleece and cotton into my Goodwill Messenger Bag a glint from some bright reflected light catches the corner of my eye. My first bus stop of the morning is across from our little airport. We are a quaint and artistic tourist trap and quite humble. But we also got one of these:


Is that thing gorgeous, or what?! Man. I have another twenty minutes before the terrapin bus is due, so I walk across the morning highway for a closer look. Wow.


Return to Forever
Going back to the bench, I notice an advert for bi-plane rides. Being an inveterate bi-cycle junkie I pause to reflect on the whole Wright Brothers thing. Seven minutes have passed and the bus is still a ways off, behind me. I notice that Little Miss Dangerous is looking a little less ladylike than when I did a full rebuild and paint over a year ago. But what of that? Like her owner, Little Miss lives close to the street and is a bit of the rough and ready kind. Plus, neither of us is getting any younger. Also, as near as I can tell, that damn bus ain't getting any closer.


Whatever
I grab my rag-tag single-speed antique, swing my bag over my shoulder and hit a lick. My goal: Beat the bus to the Transfer Station, ten miles away. I'm headed for my bi-annual checkup at the VA Clinic. They are convinced I am borderline cardiac-bound; (at least their charts and machines say so) but when I tell them I just rode over twenty-five miles in traffic in under two hours they get a little confused, then close my folder and send me on my way.


Reality
I'm stroking North and I'm weak as hell. I have not ridden even two or three miles a day since starting work again and my butt is reminding me of this fact, but my legs are strong. I spend a lot of my work day standing in a hi-lift installing the framing on these McD's that have taken over my existence. There is no walking involved, but in that basket you are like a sailor at sea; there is a constant subtle movement and you are always balancing and bobbing about and also, we lift very heavy sheets of plywood using only our upper bodies and we attach these sheets with a multitude of screws that do not want to go in all that well. It's hard and goes on for ten hours a day and as I pedal firmly and with malice over the three bridges north of town (on my way to be told that I am old and tired) I feel pretty good. My legs are good and I am breathing pretty good and except for my butt, we're getting there just fine.



The Truth Cannot Be Escaped
But I am an experienced cyclist and I know the truth: I'm strong now but as a cyclist I know: it won't last. I'm secretly weak as hell but I'm out in front of the bus with a thirteen minute head start and I'm kickin' hard and if I lose it, I can always get on the bus. It is early and the bridge fishermen are pulling in and getting their rigs ready. The seagulls, always rowdy, are doing their thing, ripping around overhead and demanding their fair share and far away, over the crystal water shining her morning colors is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, old, an old structure, old before we were born and still here, brick-solid and stunning and a reminder that sometimes, maybe, things last longer than we thought they might and that Lighthouse is still there and so am I and so is Little Miss Dangerous and we're blasting along on the other side of the bridges now and I have to be slick and smart and careful or morning traffic will put an end to all this longevity I am bragging about.

Survival Is Everything
These painted bike lanes are insane and when I'm doing this run to the Clinic I ride like I never do. I use the bike lanes and practice vehicular riding and obey the laws and I also find myself pedaling really fast, way faster than I would on my fun rides. This is commuting and I guess I could get used to it, but I don't plan to try. It isn't that far now to the bus transfer station. I'm in three lanes of morning traffic and I can't help but wish I was somewhere else, preferably with a beer in my hand. But I'm almost there.

Oh, By the Way...
I bought a truck. My original choice was a little Nissan pickup but one afternoon, late in the year when the first welcome cool breezes begin to feather down from the North I was out on my big loop country ride, beside myself with the inherent pleasures of country and solitude and being on my bicycle after weeks away. I was lost in that Other Place I go to when it is all just right: the ambient temperatures, the quiet of the road and a mellow wind; the mesmerizing tempo of a steady and absent cadence...and, as usual, there she was. It always works this way. You just know when it's right. A well-aged 1984 Ford F150. There was no question. I took out my bedraggled much-folded scrap of notepaper and copied down the phone number. The two-thousand dollar price on the windshield meant nothing. This was my truck and I would buy her for fifteen-hundred dollars, which (of course) I did.



Doesn't she look fine in that dramatic night shot, perched on a big flatbed tow truck? I think so. That is a shot of her, after a month of diligent service hauling me and my tools to various jobs around Florida, on her way to have a new transmission installed. As an honorary good ol' boy, I am an ad hoc member of a hillbilly network that can get such things done cheap. The tow truck cost nothing, and the new transmission, a unit built for a 5.0 Mustang that had to leave town before receiving its new tranny, cost a painful yet affordable $750. And so, as I predicted, I am earning again and saving but also an owner of a motor vehicle. They are insatiable. And yet...

HA!
There it is: the Votran Bus transfer station. I did it. I beat the bus, again. As I pull up, I hear the terrapin coming up from behind. I just barely beat it. And this is only the transfer station, the VA Clinic is still another five miles away. But I have plenty of time, after that sprint. I can poke along and cool down and make it to the Clinic with plenty of time. If my new Old Truck was available, instead of out in a barn getting a new hot rod transmission put into her, would I have driven her here, or would I have rode my bicycle? I don't know. As a dedicated cyclist, I have a rule: I only drive for work, when I must carry my quarter ton of tools from job to job. Everything else I do by bicycle.

But I really love my truck. I love cruising to the job, windows down and radio playing, my left arm out the window. I feel quintessentially American and redneck and somehow honest all at the same time. But gas is VERY expensive and I am, after all, saving hard for the seed money for Comstock Farms, even if it is only one trailer on one acre...I'm saving...

So...
Here's what I did: I took some of my earnings and rented a twelve by twenty four foot storage unit about three miles from the Whispering Pines. I put almost all my stuff in there and I park my truck there when I am home from the road. So if I want to drive somewhere, first I have to ride three miles to the storage unit. It works. I still ride everywhere. My cool old truck sleeps inside when she is not on duty and I still ride everywhere.

And, Finally:
My new doctor at the VA was lecturing me about my cholesterol and my drinking and my blood pressure and something called Metabolic Syndrome but when I told him I had just come twenty five miles fast by bicycle and had twenty five more to go, fast, to beat the sundown...

Well, you know.

tj


26 comments:

  1. Keep on whipping them Turtles Tim Joe you wascally wabbit! Sorry could not avoid the Tortise and the (Very quick) Hare refereence.

    Glad to you posting and riding and saving for Comstock Farms Velo Brother. Oddly, or not, I posted today too for the first time in a long time. Anyway I enjoyed your post as always and hope you and yours have a fine Holiday season.

    Roadie Ryan

    PS Did I miss a post somewhere? you mentioned LMD as an "Antique single speed" for some reason I thought you were running her as a 1x5...?

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    Replies
    1. Ryan! It's fun beating the bus but at the same time a sad commentary on the priorities we have as a nation that can achieve any damn thing we want if there is money in it. And there is, in the form of less pollution and fewer wars for oil and a healthier populace. I love my new truck but I would gladly give her up if there was a way to get around without her.

      The original Altus derailleur finally gave up the ghost quite awhile back, maybe over a year ago. I had a chain from that stash you sent me and bought a cog from Tree Fort and that was that. When the rear tire (700c x 35 Kenda Kwest) started worrying me I took the front tire and put it on the rear, then dug the O.E.M 27" Weinman out of my stash and put on one of those gumwalls you were kind enough to send. I love it. She rides like a dream and oibviously, here in flat Florida, single speed has been working out fine.

      I'll be by your place later.

      tj

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  2. Tim Joe,

    So terrific to see you riding, posting, and staying many steps ahead of the reaper!

    Excellent choice on the old F150. I own a slightly newer model and it's a good truck. Only use it to haul stuff, so I plan to have it until the reaper catches me!

    Merry Christmas, my friend! I hope you are well and kicking ass!

    Brian in VA

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    1. Brian, we are having a warm and sunny Christmas holiday, nobody is in jail or sick and that, my brother, is enough for the TPC.

      I love the truck and it does not escape me that the House That Henry Built is the only auto company that did not take any handouts from the Fed when all hell broke loose. I think.

      I am indeed well and feeling pretty cocky and while the ass-kickin' ain't what it used to be, like I said: it's good enough for me.

      yer pal, tj

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  3. Riding 50 fast miles on LMD single speed version so you can be lectured about diet and clean, healthy living seems........
    You are probably feeling strong and fast because of the 30 lbs you are no longer hauling around with every pedal stroke.
    I am very glad to hear you still have the investment plan going for Comstock Farms. I am counting on it. The minimalist lifestyle is something that really appears to me as part of my retirement program when it arrives. I'll probably lose a wife along the way because she has zero interest in living in a 4 to 500 sq ft house with the basics and my bikes and my truck. Especially after this year of paying the heating cost to heat up a bunch of square feet to basically store all all the crap she has acquired over the years. I could shed all this stuff pretty quickly with the big green WM box out in the driveway!! How did we get here???
    You are a good man for keeping the docs employed, I need to get in for an annual check that I have put off for three years.

    Peace and Goodwill to you my friend!
    Jim

    PS- The team is going good to start the season. My guys are 5 and 1 and really playing well with some passion. The Varsity guys have had it a bit tougher at 2 and 4. Coach is going to take up my two best players here after break so I'll have to adjust a new lineup and rotations, but that is what makes it fun!!

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    1. Coach, I have always been up and down the scale but yeah, dropping what actually turned out to be 22 pounds by the VA scale doesn't hurt, plus, the work I'm doing rearranged the remaining weight in a way I ain't complainin' about. When I ride my old SS Mongoose around the neighborhood (and beyond) I have consciously been riding a little more aggressively and working my upper body more. It's the funnest way to exercise I have found and I may make a fortune by writing The Mountain Bike Workout Book.

      That is some wild news about your crew. Those two guys getting called up must be having the best Christmas ever. Scared, too. But a good scared.

      Minimalism is really weird to those who don't get it. I'm thinking about it and I will probably post up about what I'm thinking. It sorta ties into the Paleo thing. The Paleo diet/lifestyle is subject to plenty of scorn and maybe justly so. Plus, it's not easy to figure out how to do it. I try not to make a big deal out of it, but it is a big deal, really. I'm working on it. It is about freedom, really. My electric bill is less than twenty dollars a month and my water is around $30. I only buy gas for my truck for work. I live alone, right now, in a single wide trailer that is stripped to the skin and like I said, all my possessions (not much stuff) is in a little storage unit with the truck. I REALLY need to work on food-sourcing and I think the answer lies in some as yet unmet coach who may be operating a booth at the local farmers market. It is a long-term project but I just want to be a healthy and semi-fit old man with no money stresses. I watched my grandfather live the American Dream, and my parent's too, and I watched it turn into the American Nightmare for them and they were bewildered, bewildered and betrayed and it was just awful to see and I said, many years ago, "Not Me." I have the real pro's like Nicholas Carmen (Gypsy by Trade) and Lloyd Khan (Lloyd's Blog) to watch and try to emulate and yeah, I'm working on it. It all starts by questioning what we have been taught to think of as "normal."

      Crap. I just wrote a post.

      Merry Christmas, Jim

      tj

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    2. Preach it brothers! Besides being the only way I will every own a home again a "tiny house"/ minimalist lifestyle makes a lot of sense to me and hey if I get me one of them tiny houses on wheels or maybe my dream -a 20ish foot Airstream with a remodeled interior- I could just drive on over to the "Comstock Farms Old Guys Who Ride Lugged Steel Colony" and pay to rent a little plot ;-)

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    3. You are already registered for the OG discount. Maybe Comstock Farms is Heaven. At least, that's my plan.

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  4. TJ Glad to hear you are well and riding strong! Enjoy the holidays. Best wishes to you and yours.

    Dan

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dan. I hope everything is going your way this season.

      tj

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  5. Outstanding blogging......
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  6. Now how did that spam get past security? Do you guys still have to type in a Captcha window to post comments?

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  7. Like the new truck. And as for minimalism, it's a winner. I like the city version, which means living in a home a bit smaller than most motel rooms. If nothing else, you don't need to set aside too much time for cleaning...

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    1. Thanks, Marsha! I don't think I am pursuing minimalism as a credo, as much as it just makes me happier to not think about things, stuff, where is it, should i DO something with it, etc. Much of the STUFF I have now is the stuff I don't know how to get rid of: my photo album which has not seen any upgrades in over twenty years (paleo vs. digital age) or my collection of a couple hundred DVD's which are almost antique now (not upgraded for six or seven years) and tools. I have several cubic feet of tools that have been in storage pretty much forever. I just...getting rid of tools, for a carpenter, is somehow a sacrilege. But I never use them. The answer? I don't know. But all these really cool spiritual leaders from history seem to have owned nothing at all, save the clothes on their backs. I don't know why, but that resonates, makes sense, like in third grade when we were learning fractions and we were taught to seek out the least common denominator...the least common denominator...well, doesn't that sound like a Secret of the Universe? It does to me.

      It really does and if I were a Preacher I would be able to go about with only the Spandex on my back (and maybe a nice simple bicycle, Surly, no doubt, but maybe Raleigh, they somehow seem Holy, Raleigh does, I mean, after all, they put Brooks saddles on their bicycles as standard equipment) and then materialism and minimalism would, to Old Tim Joe, be equally unimportant and also I wouldn't have to buy gasoline anymore, again.

      I have spent almost half the nights of my life in motel rooms and they are plenty. For the huge amount of Life any given motel room sees, probably they are far more than plenty.

      tj

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    2. Laughed a lot at the stuff you are still holding on to. In our little studio, we have our 6 bikes and one IKEA wardrobe of bike tools, clothes, and luggage. Also a small, tall bookshelf filled with DVDs and CDs we rarely play but just couldn't bring ourselves to part with. I made digital copies of all pictures. We've got stuff like your tools, too. My solution was to hang them on the walls. If you love them, they're better than art. And you can fit a LOT on a wall...

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    3. This is turning into quite the blog within a blog. Minimalism is really just a dream at this point for me. There are many roadblocks in front of me personally. Can they be overcome?? Of course! But some hard decisions and choices is the price of a simple lifestyle change that affects more than just myself.
      I think minimalism means different things to so many people. For me I have to find the things and lifestyle that is not a "sacrifice" but a desire and decision to modify my own life. It interests me Tim that you think of the spiritual thinkers in past history that did their thing for the world with little material goods to their life. For me, I know I will not, and do not have a desire to leave a mark on this world, I more look at minimalism as a way to fade into the woodwork of life and become somewhat selfish and anonymous. Anyway, I fathered and raised four children and they are contributing positively to the planet so......enough for my role except my desire in the future to not contribute so much to commercialism. Except to provide me with my selfish minimalistic lifestyle!!!
      It's all good for thought on a slow day in the Lumber business!!

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  8. The back blog is as interesting as the front. Great to see the TPC back and living an interesting life. I was thinking about simple living a lot, we downsized when we migrated with some suitcases, but have slowly upsized to a huge house. But it is passively cooled most of the year, never heated, we have solar hot water and we earn money from our solar electrics, so no more power bills. I like shipping container dwellings though, and am always looking at sites that offer interesting designs. They should keep you safe in a hurricane, which is important, and with some solar panels and the latest composting toilet technology can be pretty much plunked down, off grid, and there you go. Wonder how deep you have to dig a bore for fresh water in Florida, ours is a hand dug 22 feet and never goes dry. Food is fun to grow. Those tools are your future of building and bartering, worth more than money, hang on to them.

    We have some good bikes that have stuffed gears and derailleurs which I figure we should make single speed. Maybe hold some clinics so students learn how to do it, fix one for the fleet and one to keep for free. We can save a lot of bikes if we do that but I am not sure what parts we need. I will seek some support from a couple of mechanics who have offered, thanks for confirming that this is a good idea.

    Ride safe and happy new year.

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  9. Oh and I had to do the BOT code thingo, so that must be a hard working human spammer, which isn't so bad. I also meant to mention that I was relieved that the trip to the Vet wasn't for Miss Daisy, who I hope is well.

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    1. Dee, Miss Daisy is indeed alive and thriving. Due to my extensive out of town work, she is staying with the Blonde (Miss Chris) who moved out of the Park a year ago due to space and cultural conflict. Toby the Love Puppy is there and he and Miss Daisy are truly a pair.

      But here at the eve of the new year I am home and have both puppies while Miss Chris is taking a bit of a spiritual retreat from dogs and teenagers.

      This minimalism thing is an unfortunate term, as far as i am concerned, because it implies a movement or a lifestyle or some other "thing' that one must pursue to be a member of the latest cult or belief system.

      But as you said, there is a HUGE interest in tiny houses and container dwellings and that is enough to tell me that we, as a race, have some innate desire to return to our Paleolithic roots. To me it is obvious as hell.

      Who needs a big house? My trailer is 660 square feet and a kind of mansion for me. My storage is 12 x 22 and I can fit my truck in there.

      And as I said, it isn't about style or bragging rights, it just makes me happier. The least common denominator.

      I have been doing a half-assed Paleo diet and reading everything I can on the subject. It is fun. Isn't that enough? I always like to say, if it isn't fun, don't do it. Unless you are being paid.

      By the way, in case I never said it before, I think cartography is one of the ass-kickinest careers I ever heard of. I wish I had thought of it when I was a lackadaisical pre-law student. Before my second divorce, I had a National Geographic map collection that filled two trunks. It is my ardent belief that knowledge of place, where people live, and at least a scattering knowledge of the religions of the planet is the beginning of resolution to war and misery. Add a more hunter-gatherer mindset as opposed to "ownership" and we might be able to get it figured out, in our own lifetimes.

      I may do a blog on the subject. Yeah.

      Thanks for visiting, Miss. You are always welcome at the Whispering Pines.

      tj

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  10. Hi Tim Joe,

    I don't know if this makes me some kind of internet stalker but I have just read your blog from the very first post right though to this final one (despite already being a reasonably frequent visitor here). And I found plenty of inspiration and solace to tide me through the New Year while hanging out and feeling not so well in a cheap hostel filled with Bright Young Things having a Good Time.

    I hope you're finding some time to write and ride and we'll all hear lots more from you in 2014.

    Anna

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    1. Anna, some of my loneliest moments occurred in crowded rooms. And it is hard to feel alienated without aliens.

      A note like this one from you reminds me that I have, however, made some tenuous connections to other sentient beings (and you all know who you are) and I am really, really grateful for your kind comment, and also am I glad that you found my work here worthy of a deeper look.

      I think some of my older stuff was the best. Knowing that I have such a one as you reading my posts is the reason that there will be more to come in 2014 and I will strive to make them worthy of your time and consideration.

      Thank you, anna

      tj

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