Thursday, January 31, 2013

Grapefruits of Wrath

A Year Goes By Like Nothing
I was checking some old shipping notices yesterday and realized that, according to my roundabout record keeping, my Sram chain and cassette have a little over two years and five thousand miles on them. I have been noticing a kind of slipping in the drive train lately and when I lubed the chain the other day I noticed that the links are not seating properly in the chain ring. This has caused a kind of ghost-shifting, or slipping, anytime I put extra torque on the pedals. This of course usually happens when I am busting a move: as in dodging a bus that I thought I could easily beat across a crowded intersection, only to catch a demonic gleam in the driver's eye that spells certain doom.  When I crank  down hard on the cranks and exert all the power of my mighty thighs into one desperate effort to escape, I get a 'clunk' out of the drive train that may be the chain coming off (death) or an unexpected shift into a random gear (life, at least until next time).

Five thousand miles isn't much for two whole years, I realize, but it is enough, perhaps, to warrant a new chain and cassette (and big chainring, if possible). Who knows where the money will come from but as I am fond of reminding my imaginary car driving friends, compared to an automobile, the drive train on a bicycle is cheap.

Your car driving friends wouldn't be so imaginary if you would quit bragging about how much better bicycles are than cars.

“I know, Voice, but I am a man on a mission.”

Tires and Chains, Miles and Buses
Whatever the case, I am more unemployed than ever and thus riding more than ever and as January draws to a close, there are a little over five hundred miles beneath the wheels and it shows. The Kenda Kwest 35mm tires I put on back in September of last year are a little worn, but supple and worthy after 1500 miles or so: but I think the next pair will be something else. I am not yet sure what...but they will continue to be the fattest I can fit. The extra amount of squish I get from these larger tires makes a big difference on the long ride and while I think maybe I am a little slower because of the tires, I don't care. When I hit some rough stuff I can feel the squish go to work and I like it.

Tires and chains and buses, demonic drivers and life and death scenarios; these are the minutiae of my life of leisure. But hardly interesting. The good stuff is what happens on the rides. Not much lately, other than maybe getting shot at when I was stealing grapefruit the other day. There is a house that I know about and long admired for its fruit trees. It sits on one of the far reaches of my favorite ride and as I passed by recently I saw that it was abandoned. Not just abandoned but boarded up as though the most recent tenant had been less than careful on his way out and maybe trashed the place. Also gone was his collection of old appliances and the car-on-blocks in the side yard. But the tangerine trees and the orange trees and in particular the big grapefruit tree, the one not far off the road, were in full and inviting bloom and I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming desire for citrus.

Temptation In the Garden
This is Florida, and around here citrus is the cash crop. Well, one of them; I have acquaintances who grow a different cash crop but that is not today's subject, today is about citrus and the powerful yearning one can attain for a rush of vitamin C when deep into a thirty mile bicycle ride and suddenly confronted with poor abandoned fruit trees, their fragile boughs straining under a heavy load (grapefruits at the grocery store are about a dollar each) and here were hundreds begging to be safely stashed into my Goodwill messenger bag. I paused, there, looking around for someone to ask about picking one or two or so but there was no one about. Then I decided to err on the side of reason and pedaled off. Then I turned around and pedaled back. There are almost no cars on this stretch of country lane and very few houses.

“What do you think, Voice?” I asked.

Well, you might as well go ahead and grab a couple, since you could hardly look more suspicious than you already do, riding back and forth like this and staring around like a felon on the lam.

“Okay!” With one last look over my shoulder I coasted into the yard. At that exact instant far away, so far away I could barely hear, a man's voice shouted something unintelligible. I couldn't understand the shout, and it was so far away that it was hard to believe it was directed at me. But it didn't sound friendly. I was pretty sure it wasn't yelling 'Help Yourself'. It sounded so far off that I figured he would have to be watching me through binoculars.

Or a high powered scope, yelled the Voice. Run! When the Voice yells run, you run.

“But Voice, I'm on my bike! Do you mean 'run' as in leave the bike, or do you mean...”

Get out of here!

Here There Be Hellions
I push back up the slight grade of the drive, then turn and pedal away. I try to do so with dignity but I am pretty interested in leaving. I put a power stroke into the getaway, only to hear (and feel) that 'clunk' as the chain skips (but mercifully does not come off) and soon I am hitting a good lick back towards the highway and what passes for civilization in these parts. I really better think about a new chain. As I made my way on down the road, I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I had gone ahead and plucked a grapefruit. But this little section of Old Florida backroad is renowned for its 'hellions', as the Blonde calls them. And it is the location of some of those other cash crops I was mentioning. So discretion is, in these parts, a sound policy. But I sure wanted some of those grapefruits.

Maybe after dark...

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Packing Plant

Friday, January 11, 2013

Haulover Canal

Love In The Jungle
Manatees make sounds when mating that I have never heard before. To describe these sounds would be difficult, to say the least. They snort and blow out spume and make a kind of bleating sound, not calf-like, but close. It has an odd, almost human quality. They thrash about on the surface, big and slow and they are like little whales. They certainly look as though they are enjoying themselves, here in the deep cut of the Haulover Canal, one of my favorite Florida Places.

A New-Found Clarity
The water, finally shed of its damnable summer algae bloom, is clear and enticing after a strong twenty-five mile bicycle ride into a gentle southeast headwind. Here on the bank of the canal the thin water is clear and as it falls off into the deeper water of the channel it shades through a spectrum of ever-deeper blues until it is purple and cool and a kind of a mystery to a happy cyclist who is here today, in the heart of a place that he loves, a place that makes him smile no matter what direction he looks.

I Am Not Alone
A young dolphin breaks clear of the surface just a dozen feet from where I sit, then arcs rapidly back into the water. He is on a school of bait fish, slicing again and again through the little silver cloud that darts erratically about. They don't stand a chance.

Haulover canal two

I look around for the rest of the pod. Usually, there are three or four more tursiops keeping company on these hunter/gatherer excursions, but today this young brave is alone, it would seem; alone but enjoying himself nonetheless. I am enjoying myself also. This is a good place to be and I am happy to be here.

In the sad and lopsided year that was 2012, a sorry and awkward election year, a year of a slaughter of children and of failed promises and maybe a dimming of hope;  in a kind of a year of lethargy and of pedaling clogged avenues toward elusive truth and joy and light it seems that I rode my bicycle 500 miles less than I did in the year 2011. This lessening of joy, perhaps, is a result of this not-riding.  Is there a chance that a perverse god in some side-show heaven somewhere far, far away has placed the happiness of a planet on the shoulders of a single cyclist?  If so, wouldn't He tell me?  If I had ridden 500 more miles in 2012 would things have been better?  Well...

Perhaps.  If perception is reality, then from the point of view of me, that single cyclist, the number of miles I am riding has a dramatic effect on how I view the world.

Sorry about the Slacking
So here in the new year, this year of the future, a time of perhaps renewed hope and promises kept, maybe;  this new season of the year 2013,  I have determined to fix that problem, and to ride more.  If by riding more miles I somehow help the rest of the planet then  I want a statue built somewhere in my memory and if that is too much to ask then perhaps a McDonald's Happy Meal in my honor...

Things have changed and perhaps (probably) it is up to me.  But I don't know what to do.  I am without answers but there is a Voice, a source of light, a glimmer of promise and a far off, lonesome note of hope, a hint of what to do about it and that Voice says ride.  Home, hearth, dog, family, comfort....already these things are fading as the truth claws its way to the surface of my conciousness and it says ride, boy.  It's all ya got.

There Is Work To Do
That teenage dolphin has chased the bait pod further out into the vastness of the Indian River and those manatees are also gone. I hope they were successful in their endeavor. We seem to have a manatee shortage here in Florida. I get up from the sun-warmed sand beside the canal, put my pen and notebook back into my Goodwill messenger bag and dust the sand from my shorts. I turn back to my bicycle and pause for a moment to just look at her. Sitting in dappled sunlight against a baby palm tree, my red and black gloves lying on the saddle, waiting; my bike is waiting here beside the Indian River and far off on the distant horizon I can see the vague image of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the place where the Space Shuttles were put together. It is unavoidable not to ponder for a moment the long strange trip from bicycle to spaceship. But what of that? Today will have pondering enough, of that I am certain, but that is not my task. My self-imposed chore for the day is to ride the lonesome road of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge  some twenty-five miles from the Whispering Pines Trailer Park to the scenic Haulover Canal. Upon arrival, I am to spend an hour poking around the area, seeing what I usually don't see because this is, for me, normally just a waypoint as I pedal further south in search of the elusive Big Miles.  It is up to me.

A Good Sign
I am diligent. I saddle up, slow-ride the dirt road back to the drawbridge, then ride across. At the southern base of the bridge is a dirt trail that runs along the side of the canal. A steel barrier has been installed at the head of the trail: NO MOTOR VEHICLES, it says. HAH! I love that sign! No Motor Vehicles, indeed! I lift my bike over the low railing, climb back into the saddle, hit a couple strokes to get my chain into the biggest rear cog and then:  I pedal slowly and alone down the trail.  

This is the stuff! This is it! I have put away pen and pad, for now.  Now it is riding.   Right now it is about no cars and a smooth dirt trail alongside these crystal waters filled with mystery and life; a place of primordial creatures procreating, a place of dancing dolphins and also a place of one old cyclist, pedaling slowly and steadily ever deeper towards home, ever deeper into the heart of this old Florida Place,  this place that is his home.
Haulover canal one

Whispering Pines Trailer Park 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Blog Is Born

 E-Mails and Telephones
The phone rings about sixteen times.  She always takes a long time to answer.  I’m used to it though.  At least she always answers.


“Hey, Blondie!  Guess what?  That guy Roadie Ryan out in Seattle is sending me some bicycle stuff!  I just got an email.  Pretty cool, huh?”

“Didn’t he send you some stuff before?”

“Yeah, a bottom bracket and the tool but it didn’t fit.”

“Is he the one I had to go get a box and pack that lamp…”

‘Hey!  The lamp!  I forgot about the lamp.” 

“What’s he sending?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why is he sending it?  Did you write about something you needed or…”

“I don’t think so.  He says he had a vision or something that I was gonna get an old ten speed to fix up and sell, so he was sending me a starter kit.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.  What happened to that roast venison you were bringing over?  I’m hungry.”

“Soon, Honey, soon.”

Long-time readers may remember Ryan once wrote a Guest Post about a coffee run of sorts on one of his Seattle rides.  At the time I knew that he fooled around with old ten speeds,  but I had no idea how MUCH he fooled around with old ten speeds.  His work has frequently appeared over at Cameron’s Old Ten Speed Gallery (currently on hiatus, but still worth a visit.)  As all of you who have not been just skimming my stuff for the funny parts already know, I Like Old Steel Bikes and Ryan does too. 

A Blog Is Born
He likes them so much that he has succumbed to the dangerous vice of writing about them.  It was what I had planned on doing when I started this booger, but, well,  let’s just say the TPC evolved in a different direction.  Not Ryan, though.  His new Blog “Ryan’s Rebuilds” is the straight stuff about his many project bikes and the trials and tribulations of the world of the Vintage Bicycle Refurbisher.  That’s what he calls it and I am envious of his having coined a new name for a new trade doing good things with old stuff.

Here There Be Monsters
So I waited and waited in actual fear for this box of joy to arrive, afraid that one of the Whispering Pines Zombies would get to it before me;  plus I have never quite gotten over that thing from my childhood with the cereal box tops and the Woody Woodpecker hat.
As always with our transactions, e-mail took over:

Hey Ryan!  Should I have received a package by now, or was it all a dream?  I didn't want you to think it came in and I failed to say thank you.

It shipped a few days ago so I don't think you've missed out

I’m just worried about the zombies.  There are zombies here.

We have them here in seattle, too, except here they’re called hipsters

 Then, the Next Day:
I got it, man!  Thanks so much!  Your generosity is overwhelming.  Now I gotta find a steed worthy of the new gear.  In the spirit of your action and thoughtfulness, the bike that will one day wear these parts will purposely be selected to NOT be a bike for myself.  It will be a refurb that will be a gift.  I'll find somebody to give the bike to...already I am envisioning a step-through...I can see it. 

 I can see some grateful college coed-type, her breasts trembling with gratitude as the tears of joy roll down her face, wetting the light cotton t-shirt...wait..ok, maybe I got carried away.  But you get the idea.

I gotta stew the free bike idea sounds good, though doesn't it?  We will call it Ryan's Rides of Freedom...or, The Ryan Surface Foundation National Campus Bicycle Crusade...I'm open to ideas, here...but I've been out of booger material for a couple days, even though I have been getting in some twenty and thirty mile this will be the next post, definitely...

Is there any way you can e-mail me a picture of that lamp?  I want to show the world how my generosity compares to yours.  Actually, I really liked that lamp.  It would be really cool if every time you turned it on it played "Margaritaville..."
Thanks, Brother!

Hey glad the package finally arrived Tim Joe, and you are very welome.  Your description of the grateful coed made me laugh.

My initial thought was this might prime the pump for a little side, beer and pizza money, business for you of fixing up bikes to sell at a reasonable price and then once that was up and running you could "pay it forward" in some way, what was that you said in your post about small groups helping each other?  Coeds who pay for their very cool fixed up retro bikes are grateful too...

But of course your idea of making it a gift is a generous and thoughtful way to go.  On the third hand if a bike that fits you perfectly for the perfect price in the perfect color (Florida Sunshine Orange say) should cross your path then call it fate and build that sucker up for your own-self! 

 If you do donate the ride how about Timjoes Innovative Transport Systems?

Picture of very cool lamp attached.
Tailwinds Brother

Pro Starter Kit
So that’s it.  I got my box, carefully opened it and there it was: the perfect Refurbisher’s Starter Kit.  A pair of  27 inch Kenda gumwall tires,  new Jagwire Basic brake and shifter cables, a chain, some really nice cork bar tape that just screams out for an aged Brooks saddle, some tubes and rim strips and a full set of Crane Grey Matter brake shoes.  The inclusion of the rim strips, while the least dollar value of the starter kit, showed the most thought and care taken with this package.  More than once a wheel rebuild has been stalled because I forgot the rim strips.  This is the stuff.  Now I gotta find a new project bike.

That’s all for now, folks!  Drop by Ryan’s new site, say hello, but as always, keep coming by the Park!

yer pal,

All Ryan Got Was This Lamp

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Refurbishment

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Return of the High Country Stranger

Yesterday my friend and brother KAZ from the far country of The Carolinas paid me a visit.  As always, he came bearing gifts of Pirate Juice and goodwill.  We spoke of many things, as we always do, but two points in particular I remember.  I don’t remember much else, due to the Pirate Juice, but at the risk of breaking my two self-imposed guidelines of avoiding politics and religion and Walmart, I will relay to what is left of my readership the gist of the sit-down, as it were. 

“This isn’t an interview,”  I say.

“Were you peeing when you went outside just now?”

“Yeah.  Go ahead, man, it’s one of the last freedoms we have as dudes.”  As junior agent KAZ(he is only fifty), goes out to the giant palm tree the phone rings.  Due to my vast wealth as a boogermeister and literary provocateur, I have one of the last remaining wall-mounted telephones that are hooked to wires that go out of the trailer to…uh...telephone-land.


“Hey!  There’s a pit bull out here!”


“Nothing, honey.  I forgot that Rocky was visiting.”

“I thought that bicycle guy was there.”

"Don’t pee on him, KAZ.  It makes him mad.”


“Yeah.  What’s up, Blondie?  I’m busy.”

“Sounds like it.  Now I forget why I called.”

“Me too.  Call back when we remember.”  I hang the phone back on the wall.

“I don’t remember that dog from last time.”

“He wasn’t here that time.  I’m dog-sitting. In fact, there’s a good possibility none of this is even happening.”

“You’re right.  So anyway, you asked about our community churches.”

“What do you mean by community churches, specifically?”

“My wife and I were involved in the development and growth of several churches in the past, but it just wasn’t getting the job done.  Every time, it developed into something…big.  It got too big and it changed and …”

“Turned into a car show in the parking lot and a wardrobe display inside?”

“Yeah!  Not exactly, but… yeah.  So we started having these small gatherings.  Six or eight people.  We did communion and a little music, a couple of us had guitars, and together we were somehow getting closer to, uh, finding…the Spirit, the comfort of Grace.”

“Whenever two or more of you…”


“I can see how that would get out of hand pretty quick.  So, those six or eight people have six or eight friends and there ya go again…”

“Right.  Exactly.”


“Of course, we couldn’t turn anyone away, so what we did was encourage the new guys to start their own groups.  It grew from there.”

“What you are describing is the exact model of a revolution, the cell system of organizing a large group of people who are not connected except by a precept, a single motive of change…typically, one member from each cell would go to help start the next group, establish some guidelines and patterns…”

“Yeah!  That’s what we are doing, yeah…”

“He was the original revolutionary, after all, I suppose.”

Here we pause for more palm tree watering and a little rustling through the ice chest.  A couple dashes of Pirate Juice get tossed into my best (only) glasses.  I really like this guy, this Agent KAZ.  He is a good operative.  He leaves a trail of good.

“Did you ever give a rider a push, or get a push?”


“This isn’t an interview.”

“You mean in a group, someone is tired, or dropped?”

“Well, KAZ, you don’t push the leaders.”


“The fast guys aren’t in it.  One time I caught up with a crew and in the back was this girl.  She was crying.  I wanted to be a superman, the Noble Trailer Park Cyclist and give her a push.  Or at least get in front and let her get on my wheel so I could pull her up to the group.  They weren’t that fast.  I could have done it.  But I was too shy, I was a real trailer park guy, goodwill clothes and so on and I just didn’t do it.  I just turned off and came home and drank a dozen beers and thought about how I could have been a hero.”

“You are a hero, Tim Joe.” 

"Aww, KAZ, you didn’t say that.”

“Well, I should have said it, if I didn’t.  But yeah, there’s this guy in town who wants to join our group.”  This makes me laugh.  I see, in my feeble mind’s eye, a straggler, a lonely orphan like myself, yearning to be a member, a participant in this crew of brightly clad fast-riding men- of-war, this crew of the shining, the privileged, the few…

“We call him Grey Shirt.  He always has on this grey t-shirt and some baggy gym shorts and old tennis shoes.”  I laugh again.  The Pirate Juice is doing its job.  Manic and attuned to the ludicrous, I am Grey Shirt.  I am that outsider, that lone straggler.  I am Grey Shirt.

“His name is Ben Donaldson.” 


“Grey Shirt.  His name is Ben Donaldson.”  This messes up my self-absorbed fantasy of Lone Ranger-ness.

“One time on a long flat outside Charleston, I forget the ride, I was done.  There were still a lot of miles to go, you know?  You’ve been there.  There were still a lot of miles to go and I was done.  I was way off the back of the pack and all of a sudden there was a hand on my back and I was getting a push.  It was Grey Shirt.”

“Riding steel, right?”

“Riding steel, old steel like yours and later, we were sitting side by side on the curb outside a market, drinking beer.  He told me his name was Ben.  Ben Donaldson.”

“I love you, man.”

“I love you, too, Tim Joe.”

All of this counts, folks.  It all counts and I want you to know it.  I want you to know that to me, you count.  Every single one of you.  Remember yourselves, stand tall and strong, remember that you are here to form a cell, to give and get a push.  We are here to fix it, you guys.  Agent KAZ and I are here. We are here to help.  But we cannot do it alone; nor can you do it alone.

Together we can.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Hope