Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Simple Act

Stopping By Stream
Here on the Mosquito Lagoon an algae bloom is at full growth and totally obscures the water. There is no clarity and I sit here sipping a beer and wondering about my lungs and not caring but I also wonder about the seabirds. They are sight fishermen and this water is an ill-looking tone of greenish-brown and there is no clarity; these pelicans and osprey and cormorants and herons must be starving here in this late summer that refuses to end.

There have been record high temperatures all over the place all summer and as I sit here in the middle of the MosquitoLagoon I notice I am sniffling and yeah, it is hitting my nostrils, I can't smell it but it is there and the dolphins I usually see here are absent today.

Get the Vote Out
 Today is an election day here in our little corner of Paradise Lost. The various local movers and shakers and go-getters are up for re-election. My vote is this: we round up the whole sorry lot of them and bring them down here to the Lagoon and throw them all into this murky mess caused by ambition and tax-bases and too-rapid growth with too little concern for long term effects on the ones who are not political, the fishes and dolphins and seabirds and yea and verily, the old cyclist sitting here on a long pier in the middle of what is normally a crystal clear aquarium of rare natural wonder.

It Could Be Worse
Not twenty miles from where I sit in this recently primordial area they plan to soon enough build 23,000 new homes and schools and the inevitable strip malls and doctor's offices and chain restaurants and so on. The local leaders are excited about all the revenue but I am reminded of the old story about the fish that swam into a discarded bottle to get at an elusive bit of food, ate it and found itself too big to get back out. That is the message in the bottle, I fear, but politicos and developers are deaf to any sound other than the ring of the cash register and yeah, even I may reap some small reward off this disastrous project once it gets rolling. My hypocrisy is an honest one.

And Now...Bicycles!
But what of that? I rode a bicycle to get here, at least. And that poor old steed suffers from a bottom bracket so creaky and groaning that it was a dangerous act indeed to ride this far, this fifteen miles or so from the Whispering Pines trailer park and Nature Conservatory.

A Simple Act
But not for long. My loyal reader Roadie Ryan was kind enough to send me a barely used Shimano UN54 replacement BB, a sealed bearing beauty that will long outlast me and my bike both, I think. In fact, I am certain of it. Because, in typical Trailer Park Bike Shop Fashion, I just assumed the correct size I would need. I was wrong. When the replacement arrived from the country called Seattle, I played with it and fondled it and then sat it next to the computer to admire. Ryan also sent a finely crafted Bottom Bracket tool to help with the installation. After a full day of professional -level procrastination, I casually wandered over to where the old Schwinn was resting daintily in the work stand. I fiddled with the pedals and wiped the worst of the road grit from the cranks and then I put a socket wrench on the nut that held the crank on and gave it a turn. I learned a while back about lefty-loosey and righty-tighty but with bicycles, ya never know. They can be tricky. But off came the nut (with surprising ease) and then I got out my trusty Park crank remover tool and removed the crank. Nothin' to it. But right away, I noticed something was wrong.

“This old bracket has threaded male ends on it,” I said. “That ain't right.”

“And yet there they are,” said the Voice. I went over to the table and picked up the new unit, shiny and glistening from my absent-minded polishing of the night before, polished like so many rosary beads while I watched multiple video clips about how to change a bottom bracket. ( as a side note, some of those videos are pretty slick and some of them are so unintentionally bad and hilarious that one must assume Ed Wood has returned from the Great Beyond to do instructional videos.)

Nowhere in those damnable videos was there any mention of threaded male bolts on the end of the bracket and I stood there staring foolishly at yet another detour on my trail to Cycling Nirvana.

Where Am I ?
“Hey! Wake up!”, said the Voice.

“Huh?” I had been drifting off to a High Country that I sometimes visit, a place of cool winds and no insects and laughing cyclists whose wheels never quite touch the ground. There are coffee trees with taps hammered into the side and smiling scantily-clad barristas handing out cups of steaming delight at no charge. Elsewhere there are the twinkling wine streams and not too far off, always a perfect bike ride away, is the Beer River...

“Hey!” The Voice was a little louder this time. “Stay with me, here. Threaded bolts...”

“Oh yeah. Where was I? I must have drifted off. Threaded bolts...” As I usually do at times of high crisis I went to the fridge, cracked a beer and sat down at the computer. I dashed off an e-mail to Ryan, explaining my dilemma. This was when we both figured out that since the old bracket was born a male and the new UN54 was female, I would need crank bolts.  Those 8th grade sex-ed classes were finally paying off.

This set off a chain of events that defies explanation. Let me explain: In order to not lose any loose parts, (which I can do in my sleep) I re-assembled the old bracket, cranking down the old nut really tight. I still needed my bike operable for quick neighborhood trips. I then set out on just such a trip, (a quick dash to the beer store, of course) and right away I realized something was very wrong. Gone was the squeaking and groaning and sense of imminent disaster. The bike had become as smooth and quiet and easy to pedal as if, well, as if it had a new bottom bracket. All this time the crank had been loose and I am such a reluctant mechanic that I had naturally figured it to be the bottom bracket. 

Meanwhile, without saying anything, Ryan, in another burst of philanthropic benevolence, had arranged to drop-ship to me a set of Sugino's Finest crank bolts. Imagine my surprise when the postman handed me an unexpected package. Imagine my further surprise when I tore it open to find only one (1) bolt. A flurry of e-mails ensued as Ryan sorted things out. But that same day Bear Dye dropped by to pay me off for the recent work I had done and that was all she wrote.

The Sailor In Port Cyclist
Armed with a fat pocket and an un-crippled bicycle I was once again the good ol' Trailer Park Cyclist, pedaling madly and with great relief all over the place. I did daily rides of thirty and fifty miles. Nights were spent in happy torment sweating over a hot computer making decisions. Bicycle parts were ordered. Tires and brakes and a new front wheel and pedals. Old debts were caught up and some rum got drunk (drinked, drunken, partook of?) Tequila also. There was gladness in the kingdom and more bicycle riding and the other crank bolt came in.

Fix-it Man
I took out the old bottom bracket and laid it up on the bench to compare with the new one. The new BB was too small, of course, but I didn't care. I zipped off yet another order for the right size and I will send the much-travelled gift unit back to Ryan in the land of coffee and ferns. But I will keep the crank bolts as a token of his good-hearted help and wherever that UN 54 ultimately ends up, it will have stories to tell  about that time it went to Florida and got all polished up by that crazy guy.

The Moral
Last week, while in one of those dark nights of resentment and loathing and general misery from which I sometimes suffer, I complained to a friend who knows a little something about dark nights her ownself. She said to do something for somebody else, a simple act of kindness and it would take me outside of myself and brighten my world.

I ain't done it yet but I'm working on it. Right now I sit here surrounded by bike parts both old and new and my Little Darlin' is in the stand, all her parts removed; a stripped frame sanded down almost to bare metal and over the next few days she will get new paint, the Trailer Park Matte Black I have been wanting; she will get her parts polished and tuned and re-installed with loving care and she will, if all goes well, carry her Rider to new places and more-better stories; she will carry him to far places farther away; places  of new faces and sights and sounds and where hopefully he will get a chance to do some simple thing for someone else, a thing like Ryan did for me.

“And a place with espresso trees and wine streams and a beer river?” asked the Voice.

“Maybe Voice. Who knows? The High Country is for dreaming.”

This algae bloom here in the Mosquito Lagoon won't be going away until the first cold snap of Autumn arrives. That will be quite awhile from now. I don't know what will become of the sea birds that hunt these waters for sustenance.   I really don't know.  Meanwhile the summer rains continue to fall and wash fertilizer from lawns into the lagoon and road slime and all the harmful by-product of human existence. We can't help it, it would seem, we are only human. We are getting better at it, I think, but if we don't find a way to do a simple act of kindness for the place we live and the creatures we live with I fear we may find ourselves receiving a message in a bottle that we won't like.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Soap Box 


  1. Hey TJ
    It is good to see you back, and great to hear you are once again mobile. Your friends are both wise and generous.

  2. As are you, my friend, as are you. You are constantly in my thoughts as I dare to take on this rebuild of me little darlin'. Thanks for coming by the Park.

  3. I did not know you could ride a bicycle in the "Big Rock Candy Mountains" ;-) TPC sorry the BB did not work out in the end but I am overjoyed you got paid (FINALLY) by the Bear and that the Le Tour is undergoing a rebirth. Hoping for pictures soon.


    1. I probably should do pictures. Ryan. After I wrote this piece I picked up on the big rock candy reference myself. It was unintentional plagiarism, I suppose...the actual theft was from Richard Brautigan's "Dreaming of Babylon."

      Don't tell anyone but all of my writing is actually an epic amalgamation of every rock n roll power ballad ever written. Except I don't think the word "amalgamation" has ever been used in a lyric. If so it would have to have been Rush.

      Thanks again for all your help. It counts.

  4. As someone else said once upon a time..."I have returned"

    But I didn't wade ashore with a corncob pipe and mirror shades. Just a bike and saddle sores.

    Keep your eyes peeled.


  5. Glad to hear the trusty steed got some new parts. Always nice to have things moving smoothly & quietly.

    Yeah, I get the feeling that this ol' world is like a neglected fish tank, accumulating gunk and waste as we move towards the point where we'll all be floating belly up.


    Steve Z

    1. Hey Swampboy! Why aren't you on my blogroll? I'll be fixing that. See ya over at yer place.


  6. That nice thing you're supposed to do, in order to step outside yourself? You already did it, writing this. Thanks!

    Glad to hear you're moving ever forward and your trusty ol' girl is getting the face lift she deserves.

    I'll have a new post myself, later today. Stop by and say hi.

    1. Brian, I was thinking the same thing, but for the real effect I think it has to be done face to face. I'll be reporting in later after I figure it out. But go see Judi at Miles and Madness. Her and her husband Dom seem to be Cycling Saints and certainly worthy of emulation.

  7. Tim Joe, I agree this planet we call home is sure starting to show signs of neglect. Glad you got your bike back in order, maybe if more of us chose muscle instead of gas as our source of power this may improve. Last weekend I got a chance to see our mutual friend Wayward push his limits once again doing a Century..Watch out for those hurricanes coming friend.

    1. Hurricanes don't scare me, Doug. It's what comes after that is the pain in the ass. The wrack and blow is always a blast. I sat out Andrew in Ft. Lauderdale with a couple good friends on the roof of a cheap motel armed only with bad attitudes and a cooler of beer. The girl who owned the place climbed up in the heart of the storm with a big one gallon thermos of Bloody Marys and we did our best to out-howl the wind.

      I have not been to your site in a while due to your lack of typing. I'll go there now to see if that has been remedied. Meanwhile, always remember that I am familiar with a few good places close to the Pines to drop a hook and I am also familiar with the bowline and sundown over the yardarm.

      yer pal, tj

  8. Ok Tim Joe all is fixed...Doug

  9. I recently completed a bike build project that started with a gift that was a frame. It seemed every time I figured out one issue in fitting compatible parts I would stumble onto other new issues. Everything was close, but just off. Who knew cycling would end up like the computer industry with a multitude of standards?

    Sigh. Anyway it is ultimately just good to go spin. Just cranking out thoughts and miles until the soul finds its own pace. Keeping it simple.

    Yer pal

    1. Karl, I once said it is like doing a crossword puzzle in a language you don't understand. Plus there are the tools that cost as much as the part that you may never use again. Bicycle Co-ops would be a benefit, I think, for lending rarely used tools and maybe some helpful experience. But here in my little village we don't have a real LBS and the cyclist is on his own.

      There is a real nice shop two towns over (twelve miles) but it is a shiny one and crabon-filled and home to the local club. I am a little embarrassed to go in there with my ancient machine and my multiple fashion misstatements.

      So I study the Web and I hack away at it as best I can and I get help from my friends. Isaac the Rain Machine just passed by in the night, leaving the area soggy but intact. The paint I am using calls for sub-80% humidity which is rare in these parts, but I hope to have her all painted up and back together by the weekend and then we ride.

      Thanks for coming by.

      yer pal, tj

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