Saturday, June 11, 2011

Free Form Saturday: One For the Road

What's In the Stand
(Man, I've Waited a Long Time to Say That!)

I have cleared the living room of furniture and set up an old closet door on two saw horses to make an improvised workbench until I get the time and money to Do It Right. The new Park Work Stand is sitting in the center of the room, doing her job: supporting my 1981 Schwinn Super Le Tour while I start the process of turning a Crappy Old Ten Speed into a Bulletproof Long Rider.

About That Long Riding

Over a year or so ago I stumbled across Neil Gunton's awesome website, Crazy Guy On A Bike. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Crazy Guy is a place where cyclists who are making Long Tours can post journals telling about their day-to-day adventures as they traverse continents and write about it.   It makes for some incredible armchair fantasy reading and I instantly decided I would one day ride from Florida to California. I started spending inordinate amounts of time online searching through REI's catalog and putting together intricately researched camping kits, worrying over the grams and ounces of tents and cubic inch volume of panniers and getting pretty expert at the choices out there of touring bikes and what components worked and what didn't and I started shopping prices and looking at calendars and making plans.

It Ain't Pretty Being Walter Mitty

Except for one little detail. I was flat broke, the construction industry was in the toilet and I actually was living in a trailer out in the swamp that I would certainly be evicted from as soon as the landlord got out of jail. I was collecting rain water for bathing, the power was shut off and I was doing all this fantasy web surfing at the local library where the air-conditioning was free and I could plug my laptop into the wall and escape my own rather grim reality for a few hours on the virtual Open Road with the Other Crazy Guys.

I'm Crazy Too

 But in some strange twisted way, my life wasn't all that grim. Because those Crazy Guys were sleeping in tents at campsites and churches and fire stations all over the country; those Crazy Guys were grabbing showers wherever they could;  those Crazy Guys were hiding out in cool air-conditioned  local libraries posting their journal entries; and those Crazy Guys were riding some short mileage days and some Really Long Mileage Days, just like I was. 

  And they were Having a Blast doing it.   

 While they were Crossing the Country, I was putting in thirty miles in the morning and then another thirty in the afternoon. Some days when the wind was right, I would ride Way the Hell Out and Back, riding North into the wind outbound then flying home South with a sweet tailwind. One Sunday a month I would ride a hundred miles.  No big deal.  I called it my Sunday Century.   So I was, in my own (warped) reality, a stationary Crazy Guy.

Brian Becker

And here I have to pause and pay homage to the first Crazy Guy On A Bike I discovered and followed. His name is Brian Becker. Any one out there who thinks they are Real Live Bicycle Bad-Asses need to read his journal, look at his maps and check his mileage. The Man is a Machine. There are plenty who have gone longer, I am sure, but if you want to get a whiff of a guy who Lives to Pedal, check out his blog on Crazy Guy.   Brian warmed up by pedaling from Buffalo to Key West,  then rounded Florida,  then rode out to California on the Southern Tier, then  Up the West Coast, then  back across to the Rockies and then did the Great  Divide Route as a side trip. Pulling a trailer. He had pedaled to  Acapulco (!) when family matters called him home. Reading his posts is Pure Cycling Pleasure. Brian lit the fire for me and I will always be in his debt. I have always ridden, but it was Crazy Guy Brian Becker who made me want to Go Long. This One's For You, Buddy!

Crap I'm Out of Beer

I'll be right back...
Now Then, Where Was I...

So anyway, I started getting serious about miles. One thing and another led me and my Yellow Dog to the Whispering Pines Trailer Park, where, after some initial missteps I ascended to the Wealthy and Powerful position of Trailer Park Fix-It Guy. But, as always, Power Breeds Responsibility and now I have Things To Do and Trailers To Fix. Which means less riding time. A Lot Less. But, stalwart cyclist that I am, I am undaunted. There sits here before me a makeshift work bench; here before me I see my beloved Schwinn ready for repair; I have purchased low-end yet high quality parts to begin her transformation. My skills as a Bicycle Repairman are abysmal, but not for long. What was once a dream is now an embryonic reality.

Let's Face It, I Got Sidetracked

When I started talking about Brian and his very real Epic-ness, my mind started to wander. I could hear some Low, Persistent Note humming through in the background. I know what it is. It's the Road. When I write this Blog, I try to be entertaining and honest and fun to hang around with and so on. I want to help New Riders find their way and not get waylaid by all the Stuff There Is To Know. I want to do this by blundering through the process myself out in front of everybody so they can see it is actually fun and an adventure. But I guess today's post will have to be a Behind the Scenes Look at the Mind Of The Trailer Park Cyclist.

Ignore The Man Behind the Curtain

It's all about the Road, man. It calls to you. Once you have been pulled in, once you get the Bike Just Right and start Really Riding, the bike disappears from beneath you and The Flying starts. Now listen, I'm not talking about the Fitness Riding or the Training Miles or Cadence or Wattage or Any Kind of Riding that has a Name or a Purpose or any kind of riding That You Have to Think About.   What I'm talking about is when it is just You and The Bike and The Road and the Bike has already disappeared and the Road is just A Place In Space and Time that no longer  matters and your Breathing and Heart and Mind are All Gone, there is No More Being;  there is  just...that Place...

It is the Thing That Cannot Be Told, that Condition that, if described, Is Lost.   It is Why We Do This Thing and I wonder why we sometimes make it hard to attain when it is always, always, Right There In Front Of Us.

And It Is Calling and It Is Out There and I am In Here but that will change: Now!
(Clap of Hands.  Sound of Gong.  Sip of Beer)

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Zen Monastery

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