Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dances With Wolverines

Here We Go Again
I live in a Trailer Park in Florida.

I know, we've talked about this before, but I want to Addendum the Story, so to speak.  And no doubt add to my impressive reputation for Political Incorrectness.

What's This Got To Do With Bicycles?
 Life here at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park  is remarkably like what I visualize an Indian Village in the Old Days as being like. We certainly are Tribal in our existence. Every trailer, like every teepee, is well acquainted with each other. There are communal feasts and communal celebrations. (Almost every night.) When an Elder Passes, the rest of the tribe swarms like Benevolent Vultures unto that trailer for the Passing Out of the Belongings. Sometimes the simple act of one member of the Tribe moving on to New Hunting Grounds Down the Street (or Jail) means a Bonanza of Crap to be shared amongst Those Still Free.

The Smoke From A Distant Fire
Also, there are Visual Similarities. Many of the people here, myself included, go about clothed in what might pass for quaint Indian garb. That means we spend most of the time in a pair of worn out shorts, flip-flops and little else. (The Braves,  I mean.  The Trailer Park Girls...well, that is a subject for another time).  The Smoke of Many Fires fills the air, because everybody does a lot of their cooking on a grill. It just makes sense in an environment that seldom sees temperatures less than ninety degrees and usually closer to 100 for most of the summer. Why heat up a hot-ass trailer with cooking heat when you can just step outside and throw some fresh caught fish on the grill or at worst resort to some cheap Winn-Dixie cheeseburgers?

It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over, Rover
Also the Dogs. I don't know how things were set up in Old Indian Villages, but I am pretty sure they had dogs. If not, we are making up for it now. Every trailer in Whispering Pines has at least One Dog. I know I do. But I Am Poor, and One Dog is all I can afford. Both my neighbors have at least two and Coyote, who has lived here the longest, has four. But his dogs are Chihuahuas and Four Chihuahuas actually equals Two Dogs. (But For the Great Spirit's sake  don't tell them that)  When a Stranger or the Bluecoats (guess) enter the Park the combined howling and growling and general cacophany of barking is impressive. It's funny but true: I know Every Dog's Bark and from my teepee (I mean trailer) at Center Court I can get a pretty good idea of what's going on by which dog is barking which bark at any given time and place.

We Pause For A Senior Moment
Did I ever tell you guys what Three Dog Night means? Probably. I Am Ancient and thus privileged to the Rite of Repetition. Or did I already say that? For example, did any of you know that the Wright Brothers started out as Bicycle Mechanics? Not just any old bicycle mechanics either: they had their own line of bicycles known as Atlantis, Columbia, Enterprise, Endeavor etc. that they stole from the names of old Sailing Ships. 

Now we return you to our regular programming.

The Crux of the Matter
Every Old Indian Village had a Shaman, or, as we call them now, Old Fart Who Thinks He Knows Everything. The Shaman was usually a pretty weird dude who mumbled a lot and could often be found Staring at the Sky and he usually drank Potions with Eagle Signs on them. And with that comes the Truth: today, in casual conversation with Miss Jo the Trailer Park Manager (My New Boss) I realized I am the Second Oldest Guy In the Park. Old Charlie the Refrigerator Repair Guy got carted off last month. He was still alive, but I suspect the Wolves In the Great Forest Beyond the Park have got his scent by now. That only leaves Jungle Jim between me and Eldest Status. What burden will that carry?

Well, for one thing, I will have to step up my intake of Potions With Eagle Signs.

I Ain't John Smith,  But That's What They Call Me At the Village Motel
Be that as it may, I am enamored of this Romantic New View of my life here at Whispering Pines. Miss Jo the New Manager is one Smokin' Hot Pocohantas of a Certain Age and the easiest Boss I ever had, so far. If I wanted to carry the analogy further, I guess Bobby the Trailer Park Mayor would have to serve as our Chief and I could go on and on with the whole thing but in reality, I'm just riffing along until I start being a Bicycle Guy again.

Feel My Pain
I have no idea what that entails but there is one Bicycle in the Stand for Uncle Bill (A Wally Comfort) and my own dear Mongoose Alta (awaiting a wheel) sitting on the side. Bill's Bike only needs Two Tubes and a Lube 'n Tune but since I refuse to drive anywhere for Bike Parts and we have had Afternoon Storms for a month now I don't have the parts. Tomorrow that will change because it is Wednesday and from now on, On Wednesdays We Ride.

No,  I Said My Pain
Thus Speaks the Second Oldest Bike Shaman In Training At Whispering Pines Trailer Park. Plus, I need a break from Pressure Washing and Roach Killing and Rot Removing and Air-conditioner Swapping. I need a break from Linoleum Laying and Wall Painting and Barbecue Sauce Empire Starting and On and On and On.

Ruby,  Don't Take Your Love To Town
Somehow I fear my readers need a break from my endless ramblings that have Nothing To Do With Bicycling but what the heck, We're All Friends, right? Right?

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Historical Diorama

Friday, July 22, 2011

What the Left Hand Is Doing

Like Bess Said,  It's Summertime
One of those fantastic Summer Storms that hit Florida at this time of year is raging outside the trailer. All the windows are open and cool gusts of rain-cleansed air blow into the room like the laughing breath of Baby Gods.  The Yellow Dog cowers beneath my table, for she likes not these frightening aberrations on our steady Dog Days of Summer; flashing lightning and banging thunder are not her Favorite Things.

But me, I love it. For whatever reason, heavy weather has always enraptured and delighted me, sometimes on Long Rides and sometimes when caught at sea, the Blast and Crack of Mom at Her Best (Or Worse) has always been a welcome break in the Old One Day After Another Deal. The reminder that there are powers beyond our control is somehow a comforting one. It seems to take all the responsibility of the Burden of Power away from my mortal self and for that brief period of The Storm all we have to worry about is Staying Alive.

Blame It On Radio
And don't despair, my friends, I too realize I am ending paragraphs with the titles of songs. After well over thirty  years in the construction business spent listening to radios on job sites it is inescapable that I would inadvertently insert musical references into my writing. Please bear with  me while I'm Ridin' the Storm Out.

About Centuries
Anybody Been Riding? Not me. But some other guys have, it seems. My Buddy Wayward Home has a pretty good description of a Real-Life Century on his Blog recently.

If you are like me, you have read with fascination about these seemingly effortless 100 mile rides being done by People Who Never Sweat and seem to dash about the Wine Country in immaculate cycling garb while chatting about the stock market. I want to be like those people.

But alas, I ain't.

I sweat and I bonk and I cuss and the sweat pours out and I seek Beer and Shade and I try to  think up ways I can talk somebody into giving me a ride and maybe I can get them to buy my bicycle and then I ride some more. Then I ride some more.

Then I ride some more. Listen, it's a Hundred Miles. That's a lot. But Ol' Wayward Got It Right in his description and I encourage everyone to read it and if it convinces any of you to Stay On the Porch, good for you. How much for the bike?

You can do like I did, and ride Metric Centuries, then go around casually mentioning “I rode a Century today” and get confused looks from the other people in the Trailer Park who don't understand how anyone can ride a Hundred Years on a Bicycle in one day and then you explain that a Century is a hundred miles in Cycling Parlance and it is OK, because by then they have stopped listening and even if they were still listening they won't believe you. So that ain't exactly a lie and it gets you accustomed to thinking about Centuries and by the way, while a Metric Century is a typically effete Euro-wimpy Century it is still 60 miles and I rode a hell of a lot of them before I got my John Wayne On and busted out a Real Live Daytona 100.

I bet the Duke would have tore 'em up at the Tour de France.

A Girl Duke
Another cycling Blogista I follow is Riding A Century of her own and like the Trailer Park Cyclist not all of her Writing About Riding is just exactly about bicycles but this Lady Lays It On the Line and I have been meaning to mention her to you guys Just In Case. Of course I am talking about the redoubtable Judi over at Miles and Madness. I won't bother telling you about her, just go see. She is another Real Person and talks like one and I always get excited when I stumble across a hero and here one is.

Oh No,  Here He Goes Again
Cycling for me is a metaphor for a Larger Truth and as a Normal Human, (which I someday hope to become) I don't get all the details. But while the sore butt and the mechanical oddities and numb hands and other numb parts are a constant reminder that cycling is also a Real World Experience, there really does seem to be something else going on here, and it is a good thing. Cycling writers like to mention the word Zen now and then and that is all right with me. As a Trailer Park Master of Budweiser Zen, I am amused and delighted that my fellow scribes attempt to capture the Elusive Clydesdale of Serenity when describing what is actually Exhaustion and Dehydration and an Approaching Physical Breakdown.

Then You Get A Flat.

Carpe Delirium! 
But be that as it may, Long Rides are the the Real Deal and I love them. Go out and get some punishment, you will be glad you did.

I Can't Believe I Made It All the Way
The Storm Has Abated, as they say, and so has the Muse. Not that good of a Muse tonight, anyway. I mean, WTF is this "laughing breath of Baby Gods"?  That I even dare to type such a sentence tells you a little about what riding Too Long can do to your brain.  

But I wanted to drop in and say Hello, I wanted to keep in touch, so to speak. The Voice has been Silent for Lo These Many Days, which is as it should be: his job is Advice, and right now I don't need any. Right now what I got to do is Storm around this Trailer Park and Fix-It. I gotta do what I gotta do and then I will Ride Long and Hard and then I will come on here to complain about it.

Until then, My Friends, Saddle Up the Palomino...

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Juke Joint

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Weatherman

Unnatural Affection
How unnatural is it to be in love with your bicycle? I went for a roundabout ride today, covering some fifty miles or so in very random and easy fashion. This is the riding I live for! No idea of pace or distance or even where I am, I was just Riding for the Hell of it and just going nowhere, but getting places all the same.

I Need A Fix
One of the places I went to  was this horrendous super-shiny commercial plaza a couple towns away. You all know the kind of place I mean: a few dozen acres of cow pasture or scrub oak suddenly transforms into this Mini-Disney of Retail. A Multi-Screen Movie House, two or three Chain Restaurants and then all the in-fill stores that accompany the Big Boys like Remora on a Shark. My purpose in going to this place was to scope out a new chain restaurant that is being built there. In my Old Days of Glory, I was a very prolific builder of restaurants. I was thinking maybe there would be a little work there for Ol' Tim Joe, a little work and maybe some cash for the cash box and the Internet Bicycle Parts Suppliers who Feed My Habit.

To get there I had to traverse an Interstate Interchange, probably one of the least bike-friendly spots known to man. Sidewalks that look like they will carry you precariously through to the other side instead abruptly end.  You then find yourself on a narrow shoulder with ground glass and wrecked tire debris and then even that  tapers off to nothing at the exact blind spot where a distracted driver could suddenly come blasting around those bushes texting and eating and murdering you all at the same time. It is horrendous.  I have encountered these interchanges before. They were once known as clover leafs but there is nothing lucky about them, unless one counts one's self lucky to survive the encounter.

But the Trailer Park Cyclist counts on Pluck Not Luck, pluck and alertness and a really good reliable two-wheeled steed built with my own two hands using those aforementioned quality bicycle parts purchased online. She got me through and I cruised through this “open air mall” somewhat dazzled by the sterile cleanness and general plasticity of the place. I was of course the only cyclist in sight; I would have been appalled to think that Children Riders or even my Fellow Cyclists would have to brave such harrowing circumstances to get to this place that belongs to SUV's and Sleek Sedans and the Slaves that maintain them.

But Judge Not, Tim Joe, Lest Ye etc.   So I instead focused on cruising around this giant place looking for the Job Site where maybe I could get a phone number or maybe even run into an old acquaintance from The Day. But no. Even though the newspaper had said work would start tomorrow, there was not the least sign of a new building going up or the plethora of containers, trailers and equipment that accompany such a project. What the Hell?

Now I had to go back through that damn interchange again. For nothing.

Urban Assault Vehicle
This kind of riding is new to the Old Schwinn.  She is more accustomed to Long Rides Down Country Lanes,  or Multi-Mile Highway Grinds. Instead,  for this kind of work I like to ride my old Mongoose Alta with the Flat Bars and Fat Tires. She is converted to single speed and is about as bomb-proof as you could ask for. That Alta is built for Urban Assault and that is what this was. But that Alta is hanging in the work stand waiting for a re-build on the rear hub. I have had the new bearings for days now but the old hub, after twenty years and god-knows-how-many-miles is worn and the bearing races are grooved and the cones are pitted and I really should put a new wheel on her but for now...well, you guys know the story. So I gotta Do the Deed and put the hub back together in less than pristine fashion and that just ain't what I am about. But the bike has been in the stand too long and I miss her so I'll do a sub-par repair for now and start shopping a new wheel later.

But let's keep that info between us.

The Unforgiven
I picked my way back through that dang hostile environment of Four Leaf Interstate Inhumanity and started gently cruising at slow speed along routes that were very familiar to me but that I had not seen for a long time. Years, in fact. I cruised past buildings that I had built and I cruised past saloons we had trashed while building those buildings. A couple of the guys who had been with me on the Building and the Trashing are Gone Now...one of them was My Brother. But Life Goes On for the Wicked and I guess That's Me and one of the ways I try to pay my respects to The Fallen is to tackle each new day as though it was my last. Sometimes people can get frustrated with a guy who insists on turning each experience inside out and twisting it to make sure there's no juice left before moving on. But I figure I owe it to those guys to Live a Little Extra to make up for their not being here with me to Share the Ride.

You Get What You Deserve
This is one of the reasons I ride a bicycle. As all of you know, cycling puts the rubber on the ground and your ass in the elements. You breathe the air first hand, not filtered through some mechanical cooling system. You hear the sounds and see the sights and smell the smells and interact with the wildlife, even if it is only dodging suicidal squirrels and strategic bird poop. On rides like this one the physical exertion is non-existent. I am cruising, reminiscing, trying to work things out. I am casually watching dark ominous clouds building just ahead and I know what it means when I see that the oncoming cars have their wipers on.

Elemental Man
I hit the storm, or it hits me. Who can tell? But this is a Hard Rain and there is No Shelter handy, nor do I seek it. This is Summertime Florida, man. These showers hit and the lightning strikes and then, just like that, it's over and old Poppa Sun comes back to do his thing and you are drying and pedaling and feeling Righteously Alive and looking around for someone to yell Hello! to but on this stretch it is just me and my Old Schwinn and I am feeling pretty damn good and thinking about how much I Love This Bike.

Fishing Is Everything
She is Just Right and I bought her for twenty bucks and a half pint of good rum and now I got Way More than that in her and I'm not done. She still has a new front wheel coming and a saddle and some bars, she has been promised a Tiagra Rear Derailleur (but I might surprise her with a 105). As my learning grows I am becoming a Shimano devotee. I wanted to rebel against their Dominance in the Industry but then one day I realized that I have been using their fishing gear for as long as I can remember and suddenly my whole attitude changed. All the joy and fish that I owe to my old Shimano Reels is now reflected in my Bicycle Parts Philosophy.

I'm pedaling South on US One, a sometimes grind but not today. The wind is from my starboard quarter and lifting and they repaved this highway last year with a nice wide shoulder. The World Is Wet and Clean and this ride is turning out a lot better than I thought it would. Old Tim Joe has been hiding out at a Trailer Park while he figured out Bicycles and Long Rides and how to write the last few chapters. I still don't have them clear in my head, but I can see now that soon I will. It Is All About Bicycles, somehow; somehow, it is All About The Ride.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Weather Station

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July

Independence Day
The Fourth of July at Whispering Pines Trailer Park comes in with a Bang and goes out with an even bigger Bang. The boys start with the light weight stuff, (firecrackers and roman candles and so on) around the First and gradually build up to the illegal ordnance on the actual Fourth. By then the Hawks Park cops have given up and sometimes even roar up and down the street in front of the Park with their sirens screaming and lights flashing, shooting their guns into the air. Okay, I made that last part up but everybody here is pretty much on a first name basis with most of the seven or eight guys that make up the force and there are police cars here so often that nobody pays much attention until the handcuffs come out.

Andy and Barney
Here on my side of the Park next door to the Managers office Uncle Bill sets up his cooking gear and starts in on the ribs and gator and shrimp kabobs and after the Boys In Blue (Black, Actually) get done telling the Bobby the Trailer Park Mayor for the twentieth time that “No, a miniature canon doesn't count as fireworks,” they stop by for a bacon wrapped shrimp kabob or pork sandwich. It makes for a fairly pleasant working relationship. Hawks Park doesn't even have a jail.

The Pseudo Century
I started my Fourth of July Morning by riding a Century but I tried out a new route and miscalculated: it was only eighty miles. I stopped at the Park for a water (OK Beer) break and the new Park Manager was out front with a cooler, a big umbrella and several very comfortable-looking lawn chairs. She also had a table covered with various mixables and, well, she looked lonely. I had planned to push on for another quick twenty miles to keep things honest, but...well, she looked lonely. And I was curious about the contents of that cooler...

So I walked over to say Happy Fourth and she opened that cooler and there they were, a couple dozen 12 ounce cans of the special Red, White and Blue Budweiser Independence Day Special Edition Brewskis.

“I got them for You!” she said. “You've been working so hard around the Park and doing such a great job I wanted to show my thanks!”

Trailer Park Diplomacy
Well, as the Trailer Park Cyclist, friend of Man (and Woman) I felt it was my duty to accept with grace by cracking one open. I went next door to Release the Hounds, Miss Daisy the Yellow Dog and her frisky new sidekick Toby the Trouble Puppy. Miss Jo released her own mad dog Rocco the Magnificent, Daisy's best friend and love interest, and in moments, the Party started. Crazed dogs ran wildly around the yard. Neighbors dropped by to have a beer and play with the puppy. A huge gopher tortoise wandered in from nowhere, to the amazed delight of the dogs.

Uncle Bill
Then Uncle Bill pulled up with his Barbecue Rig. He is Uncle Bill because he is Everybody's Uncle. He also is the sole possessor of what I am sure is the World's Greatest Barbecue Sauce. My Readers Know Me, and they know that I am not given to exaggeration. Much. Well, a little, maybe. OK, a lot. But this time I am giving you the Straight Truth when I say that this sauce, and UB's considerable skills with pork, chicken, ribs, shrimp and gator is something you have to experience to believe. And in fact, you may get the chance.

Commercial Announcement
The Trailer Park Cyclist and Uncle Bill are in serious negotiations to bottle and market this stuff. The bottles are ordered and we are considering putting together a rig to visit around the country selling food and sauce. So if you see a '72 Eldorado Convertible with a stuffed alligator on the hood pulling a Barbecue Trailer in your neighborhood, give a shout. If there is a scrappy-lookin' Schwinn Super Le Tour in the back seat, that means I talked him into bringing me along and we can go for a ride.

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
When Uncle Bill sets up anywhere, a crowd soon gathers. Also, the Hawks Park Fireworks display is right at the end of our street, so pretty much everybody in town shows up and parks their cars all over the place and walks down to the River for the show. Some never make it, because Whispering Pines is an Attractive Magnet Indeed, what with the allure of all that cooking and the horseshoes and dogfights and the Trailer Park Girls and so on. Me, I was in the same lawn chair I had been sitting in for the last four hours, the one next to the cooler. That cooler was apparently magical, for it never emptied. The brands would change, but the beer never stopped flowing.

The GF's Fam
The Blonde's kinfolk arrived en masse, a half-dozen impossibly giant four wheel drive pickups loaded to the top with kids, coolers, food, dogs, yahoos and fireworks, all of which were making a lot of noise when they got there and turned up the volume as they unloaded. And this was just on our side of the Park. Bobby the Mayor had the same scene going over at his place (the Country Club. Bobby has two lots by nature of frequent and mysterious fires and other mishaps every time the Park attempts to install a trailer next door.)

Besides these two hell-raisin' Fourth of July blast-outs, the City of Hawks Park was having their own Hoedown and Fireworks display just a few hundred yards away at the City Park by the River. So things were hoppin', to say the least.

God Bless America
It was all very Loud and Chaotic and Redneck and Very American and I loved every minute of it. My Old Bike was propped against a tree next to where I was sitting and I got to answer questions about “those skinny-tired bikes” and how (or why) anyone would ride a hundred miles on a bicycle. I don't think I converted anyone but I did get to talk about the Fall of Schwinn as a Symbol of what's wrong with America, except I think that gopher tortoise was the only one listening. He had taken up residence under the chair next to mine and spent the night there. Uncle Bill was the star, as usual, dispensing food and beer and Swamp Wisdom in equal doses. He is one of those guys who loves everybody and everybody loves him, which I suppose is How It Should Be.

But What About the Eighty Miles?
The pseudo-century was uneventful. The only thing I can say, really, is how badly I want a Brooks saddle. I'm still doing these long miles on the cheap knock-off seat from my old Mongoose. It ain't that bad, really, but it is bad enough. I rode almost continuously, stopping only once to stock up on Gator Ade and trail mix. Thirty miles of my ride was through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, but the only wild life I saw was me. I had the place to myself and really enjoyed the “training” aspect of all that straight flat blacktop, flying along with a baby tailwind and an open blue sky on the Nation's Birthday.

No, Seriously
I have a lot on my mind pertaining to bicycles that I want to go into, but can't get a handle on it just yet. I want this to be a daily Blog but I want it to be good and fun and sometimes it just ain't in me. But I'm working on it. I also have two trailers to rip apart and put back together for waiting tenants. One of them is a Real Mess. You have to live in a crappy trailer park on the highway to fully understand what a real mess is all about. Some of these people are less than tidy, to put it kindly,   and when they finally bail out they leave an incredible amount of debris behind, including cats and dogs and iguanas. Yes, iguanas. Bobby the Mayor handles those. I handle the Fix-it.

Also, I have to do some serious shopping for a '72 Eldorado and a Stuffed Alligator. Anybody?

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Circus