Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Bet You Wish Hemingway Was Here

Trailer Park Blues:  Round-About To Down & Out

I Ain't Hemingway
Ol' Ernest once said something to the effect that his contemporaries (Like Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis and some guy named Dos Passos, who I never even heard of) were good writers  “But those guys never give you any stuff, any facts. When you read my books you learn something, how things are done.”

Getting Schooled
Now, I am quoting from memory and maybe I imagined the whole thing so don't any of you kids out there use this in a book report or anything. But it is true. In some of his stories you indirectly get instruction in fly fishing and detailed information on bull fighting. Big game hunting, deep sea fishing, it's all in there. In one war story he even has a guy riding around on a bicycle. My personal favorite is from Islands In the Stream. He describes how he would freeze glasses of Scotch and wrap them with cork sheets held on by rubber bands. Then he would pack them in sawdust to keep them cool and take them out on the boat on fishing trips. As they turned to slush in the heat of the day he would have cold drinks. So apparently Ernest Hemingway simultaneously invented the slurpee and the coozie. That's the kind of thing that wins Pulitzer's, baby.

Whispering Pines Monday
I spent Monday getting Unit # 9 at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park ready for a City Inspection. Once in a while a tenant, deeply in arrears on rent, will throw out a smoke screen by calling City Hall to complain about the conditions here. This Trailer Park has been here a Real Long Time (which contributes to the conditions here) and the City Inspector has been City Inspector for a Real Long Time, so he knows what's up. But he still will write up a list of things to fix. That's where I come in.

Head (Only) Big Man In Charge of Fix-it
Yeah, that's me. I spent most of the “oughts” (2001-2009) (What do you call them?) operating a little Door & Trim company in Tampa Bay. We worked almost exclusively on high rise condominiums, pulling contracts for buildings with anywhere from sixty to two hundred luxury units. It was wild times, with dollars flying around like big green butterflies and yes indeed, I had a net. Some of these units would change owners two or three times before we even got the building finished. It was real live Monopoly and even though I knew it would end I was planning on hanging out on Boardwalk and Park Place as long as the ride lasted. I even put a little back for when the boom slowed down.

Then, It Slowed Down. No worries, I've seen dips before. Then it slowed down some more. Then...

From Drinking Bubbly To A Burst Bubble
High rise building projects, previously bee hives of activity, were boarded up. Jobs in the planning stages that I had lined out for a year or two ahead never happened. The phone started ringing. Former competitors and colleagues were calling, looking for work. Getting Paid, always like pulling teeth, got even worse and the “I'll sue you,” “No, I'll sue you first “ stuff started and the Buccaneers, the Super Bowl Champs of 2003, went back to losing. Then the phone stopped ringing altogether and I Picked Up My Tools and headed home to the East Coast.

Driving Miss Daisy
I bought a little boat and I rented a place with a dock on the river and I got a little Yellow Lab Pup and we spent our days tooling around in the Mosquito Lagoon, ostensibly terrorizing Redfish but mostly Fishing around in the Cooler and enjoying just driving the boat and barking at the other boaters, the fish we could see in the crystal clear waters and having a Good Time Doing Nothing after a pretty intense six years of Smash and Grab Carpentry. “It'll work out,” I remember thinking one crisp winter's day when I noticed that the dollar stash was growing smaller at a steady rate. It wasn't hard to project the approximate time when that steady rate of dwindling would result in consternation on the part of my creditors, a cut in pay for my bartenders and a beer and shrimp surplus for Ruby down at the bait shop.

Why Are You Telling Us This?
It has only recently dawned on me  that as Comebacks go, mine ain't comin' back.   And the truth is, I seem to  have a “Don't Let the Screen Door etc” attitude about that Comeback. Oh, I still have my Tampa Bay Area Code office phone number on a pre-paid cell phone, sitting right here at my desk. I have to call it myself once in a while to keep it active. Yesterday, my old Lead Carpenter called to say things are starting to move a little over there and when was I coming back to fire things up? The crew is scattered but still available. I remember when one week's paycheck was more than twice what I have earned this year.

At Least It Wasn't Heroin
I used to joke around that I was working so hard that when it all ended I was going to be a Heroin addict. But instead, once I found myself with more and more time on my hands, I started riding a bicycle for exercise. Five mile rides turned into ten mile rides and one time I went crazy and rode all the way to Daytona Beach Pier, about seventeen miles or so. I had no idea how I was going to get home but after a couple beers at the Ocean Deck I just saddled up and pedaled on back. This started a trend of Riding Really Far (for me) and enjoying a beer or two at the halfway point. It also started a trend of wearing out bicycle parts on the beat up old Mongoose Alta I was riding. I couldn't afford anything resembling regular visits to the Local Bike Shop, and when I did visit a shop it would almost always end in some kind of failed mission that left me determined to Figure It Out Myself.

Welcome to Whispering Pines Trailer Park
All of which resulted in me and my Yellow Dog winding our way to this little dilapidated corner of Paradise where I inevitably found myself Doing for Trailers what I used to do for Penthouses. Nowadays,  anything that comes up in my life, I ask myself first and foremost how will it affect my Riding Time. For me these days it is all about the Way of the Bicycle and Bicycle Fix-it. I am learning to be a Trailer Expert but that is just for housing. I still haven't found a way to pay for the Beer and the Bicycle Parts,   but I will.

Hemingway Was Here
The Experts say: If you want to have a successful Blog, give them something they can use, help your readers with their problems. Now, I'm not certain, but I think I only have about four readers. (Maybe fewer if I don't pick up the pace a little.) And the only facts I can impart are the few I learn through arduous research and my bizarro-world wrenching technique.   But when I slug my way through to those facts they appear here in Real Time. Sometimes there is grease on my fingers while I am typing.

Here's the Facts. I Learned All This Today

Don't Get Slimed
“Slime” tubes work but suck anyway because when you let the air out to mount a new tire green slime comes out of the valve and gets all over everything and you have to stop what you are doing and clean it up before the Yellow Dog licks it up and turns Green.

Also: Slime peel and stick tube patches don't work on Slime tubes because Slime and glueless patches don't mix.

(Note:  I have used the clear peel and stick patches from Bell and they worked fine.  But they were a RMF to peel off the paper they come on.)

Gee-axe or Geeks?
Geax Street Runner tires for MTB are Pretty Good but seem to be glass magnets and those reviews that say they don't work in the gravel weren't kidding. But they Look Good for neighborhood rides and Really Make You Feel Fast. (And it's Gee-axe).

Don't Run Into a Burning House
When the Weather Guy says there are Really Big forest fires in the area where you plan to ride, listen to him. While I never saw flames, my usual Empty Road Country Ride was awash with Worn Out Heroes driving Huge Trucks in a way that showed they were pretty interested in Getting Out Of There and getting a shower and some food (and beer, no doubt) and any scruffy old Homeless-looking Guy On A Bicycle was on his own this time and he better Get Out Of the Way. And the smoke. Fifteen miles In on a 95 degree day, dodging Big Trucks and Deep Breathing heavy forest fire smoke makes Heroin look like a more sensible hobby.

I Get Spaced Out
What are called bottom bracket spacers make excellent shims for the cassette when you are doing Retro Work. The seven speed SRAM Cassette I bought was a little narrow for the Tiagra Hub, which is built for 8 or 9 speed cassettes. After riding eighty miles on Sunday with a wobbly cassette (yeah) I Looked Into Things and then went around to both bike shops before finding out about these thin aluminum rings that come in various thicknesses and allowed me to get my rear wheel Just Right.

New Wheels= New Bike
If your old bike is feeling a little tired and you have some extra cash and have been considering a Wheel Upgrade: Do it! Sheldon Said So & now so does Old Tim Joe. Best bucks I've spent in a long time. (That one was for you, RoadieRyan)

SRAM vs. Shimano
I bought the SRAM cassette because it was silver and the equivalent Shimano unit was brown. I wanted silver. Today at the bike shop I got to handle the Shimano HG-50 and I had the SRAM unit I had purchased with me. The Shimano was NASA and the SRAM was Wal-Mart. Now this doesn't make me happy but that is the way it is. (Disclaimer: The Shimano was laser etched with a part number and the Shimano name like they were proud of it, as they should be. The “SRAM” I received has no labeling of any kind and as I type this I suddenly begin to smell a rat. So before SRAM'S lawyers start calling me I might want to look into this.)

Get A Work Stand
Even if you have to give up your Heroin habit to do so, just get one. I went a year before I did it and that's just one year of Wasted Energy and Frustration. There's no substitute. Even if you seldom work on your bike, having that stand is a game changer. Sometimes I can be found sitting quietly, a cold beer in my hand, staring vacantly at the spinning rear wheel on my Bike In the Stand. It encourages Tweaking and let's face it, There Is No End To Tweaking On A Bicycle.

So there ya go. Thanks to Ernest Hemingway for his good advice. And thanks to anyone who stayed awake to the end of this post.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Fact Factory.


  1. LOL who I am to argue with Sheldon AND The TPC himself? Guess its time to fire-up the well turned pages of's bicycle wheel section.


  2. Ryan, let me know how it works out. The Mavic Open Sport/Tiagra wheel I bought is a Dimension product. (Quality Bike Parts House Brand) So far I am pleased. But I look forward to hearing about your choice so I can share the info with my other reader.

  3. Will do, the bike(s) I need wheels for are most 5 speeds and I don't think the spacing will allow for that sweet Tiagra Free hub, at least not without some 2x4 cold setting, but Niagara Cycle works -via Amazon- offers a number of multi-speed Freewheel hubs (5-7 speeds)in 700c sizing. I just need to come up with the scratch for the wheel I want, my criteria, other than 700c, are alloy rim, quick release, and stainless steel spokes- I am in Seattle after all. I will be sure to let you, and our other Velo Brother, know the outcome.


  4. Yep, sometimes I find myself in the garage listening to classic rock while sitting on a stool sipping a beer and looking at my bike on the work stand. It's a good feeling.