Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cutting the sleeves off- a meditation on Dave Baton, by his friend Scot Benton.

last night i cut the sleeves off my favorite jersey
for dave
because of dave

last night i sat in a straight-backed wooden chair
no air conditioning
bolt upright
waiting for dave to show up

i thought of once when he looked at a bike i was working on
and said under his breath with a smile, “that’ll never work.”

he was right

i thought of once riding – full gas – off the front of some silly group ride
thinking i had things stretched out real good and proper
and suddenly realizing i had dave in my shadow
breathing words of encouragement – he was

i asked him to “pull-through,” looking at him over my shoulder
“this’ll never work,” i heard him mutter under his breath…

he was right

tonight a million years ago
i sat waiting for dave to show up
to ride across town for beer
to stand over our bikes on the tops of hills
– listening to the cicadas and the breeze

one night as we sat quietly off Gaines street breathing in the glorious “nothing” that tends to happen
we saw a rider approaching
as the person passed going up the long hill toward the capital building
dave and i both instinctively stuck up our hands in greeting
the guy looked right at us – kept going – and did not wave back
realizing we both knew the guy, we sat for another moment in silence
then dave said, “that guy needs to raise his saddle.”

he was right

a year or so later, on another hyped-up group ride, i overheard the guy dave and i saw that night –

he was talking about how he had changed his riding position – it looked very much like he had raised his saddle

last night i cut the sleeves off my favorite jersey
for dave
because i need to hang on to dave in my heart
because dave had this special way of being “right” about things
that taught me something
i will never forget him

Scot Benton

Thanks Scot, for sharing this with us. We will see everyone at Joe’s Bike Shop @ 10:00 A:M on Saturday, sleeveless.


Going all Tarzan on Wednesday

Deep, deep water under overcast skies with a condensing mist floating just above the surface. Paddle through that curtain and the temperature goes up 10 degrees and the air gets sticky and damp again. “The cold water can make you cramp and sink to the bottom! Nobody is coming down to get you!” We laugh and swim to the middle, treading water in the crampiest, sinkiest spot possible. We don’t cramp or sink, we float and spiral down like the otter, an animal bearing no resemblance or relation to a stalking king-beast cat. There is nobody else here, so the spring is ours and nobody else has ever been here as far as we are concerned. Dive in, climb out, dive in- performing our Jefferson County ablutions.

“You won’t see no black people here” said the old coach in the parking lot. “Too many mean white people in Jefferson County.” He has a look on his face like something is dead and rotten, and I like him for knowing what stinks. It never once occurred to me, but he’s right. I have never seen a black person at this river. My own white skin purchasing the privilege of my extended stay in la-la land. Surely I’m wrong, and this river is everyone’s river now?

An Osprey lights 20 feet above us, feathers a wet mess and head swiveling about like a mad scientist. He looks like a dangerous, vigilante chicken about to go buck wild on your ass. He looks down at us and I am concerned for my eyes, but he flies away.

There is a limestone arch beneath another little spring and you can swim under and through it. We all agree it looks easy enough, but nobody feels like giving it a go. Get a cramp and you will sink like a stone. I can guarantee I will get my foot caught on something, although my luck has changed this summer. No need to test it right that minute. Three young braves show up in a john boat and one of them does it. The others are afraid of cramps.

Back at the parking lot the rope swing deck is finally empty. The homecoming queen and her coterie have clocked out, so there is nothing to stop us from climbing the tree and swinging out above the concrete platform and over the hole to come ka-splashing down. The water shoots up your nose and into your brain, where it can do the most good. All of our bent and busted shoulders work, even if they might look funny to some.


Panther Update

For those of you long-time Circus carnies, you remember the Jaguarundi I’m sure. If you are new to the site I am referring to a remarkable event about 5 years ago when I and my friend Hambone saw a large, dark-furred cat with a long ropy tail on the trail off of a local road in the middle of a dense suburban metro area. I was in front (of course, yo) and Hambone was right behind me and we saw the animal at about the same time. It heard us and bounded down a steep bank and into a drainage tunnel that leads into the woods. In that moment the rest of our party appeared and we were unable to find a definitive print or evidence of any kind. You can read the back-story by searching Jaguarundi, or Black Panther in this blog and I suggest you do. It would be good to familiarize yourself with the derision and scorn we absorbed for stating a truth beyond the comprehension of the existing shared paradigm. Impossible maybe, but true nonetheless. We accepted the compromise of an obscure species of cat known as the Jaguarundi (indigenous to South America.) The state wildlife office classified the sighting as ” Likely Otter” which is a good argument for deep Republican cuts to their budget (the punks!)

I share this with you now as a preface to this new information I have learned which indeed proves that the shared paradigm is a fragile thing.

Click Here for and reconsider the Jaguarundi sighting anew.


The Round-Up

Back in the olden times when darkness ruled the earth (Bush II era) I would give a little report at the end of the week and recap the highlights and preview events for the weekend.

I don’t care about that shit anymore though.

The Torso and I skipped out for 18 chain basket thingies of disc golf today at lunch and it was stifling hot, although not heatwave hot, or even last June hot. It was just normal hot I guess. At one point he turned his nose to the wind like a dog and said, “I sense fall coming.” I fell down from laughing so hard I rolled all the way down the hill and had to compose myself before teeing off on the 11th. Who knows? He probably did smell fall, it’s out there somewhere and it is heading our way. Words like that guarantee that September will be hot as pizza oven, just the way new Juancho likes it.

I will be special guest starring at Joe’s Bike Shop tomorrow so come on down and buy a bike. Joe is out of town so we may do one of those “The boss is gone” sales. I will be happy to fix your bike too, if you don’t mind it taking a long time and being done almost, but not quite correctly.

Maybe you should just stop and say hello.

Zone 5 is pouring beer right about now, so if you are on the north side of Tallahassee that’s where you should be. For me that’s like driving to Atlanta, but one of these days I will make it happen.

Memorial events for Dave Baton are established. A ride will leave from Joe’s a week from tomorrow (Saturday July 30) at 10:00 A:M and proceed to the FSU fountain and back. If you ride in this town, please help make a strong show of support for his family and friends and to send a message to the community to be aware that cycling goes on here and it will continue. We all need to watch out for each other, regardless of conveyance. By all accounts Dave rode with a lot of joy for the bike and the people around him, and I expect this gathering will be something to remember for a long time. Other events will follow throughout the day.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this weekend, make it count.



It was old home week last night at the Tallahassee Rock Gym. For those who don’t know, the Rock Gym was the brain-child of a couple of friends back in a time I like to call the early nineties. They sold it to a young buck with a dream, and he is still making it happen, giving North Floridians a chance to learn the skills necessary to travel far away and scare the shit out of themselves.

I used to work there, but it was more like charity really. The Torso would pay all of us rock grommets to sit down there in either kiln-like heat or damp cold and teach people how to belay, and to spray out the rental shoes with Lysol. I have nothing but the fondest memories of the place and it served as my headquarters for many years.

Last night we were back in there climbing with vigor. Four of us that date back to the conception of the place were running laps up the wall and lamenting our blown-out fingers at the end of the night. The place was packed with babies (20-somethings) grinding out torturous boulder problems and politely making way for us grizzled first ascenters to have our fun. There were messages on a marker board from folks who graduated and moved on, or just moved on. They said things like, “This place will always be my home” and “TRG Forever.”

We played a little woulda, shoulda, coulda in the parking lot, but really, there is a lot to be proud of for the progenitors. They created a thing that survived. A new generation thinks of it as nothing but theirs, and they own a part of its history too.

How many of us get to do that?



I filled my jersey pockets with big scooping handfuls of Munson sand last night so that I would not float away. I felt light, not just in heft, but light of heart as well. Worry-free, content. I pedaled into the malingering crowd a moment before departure. There is W.B. There is his enforcer, his son. There is Big Worm. I bobbed along near them, daylight blinking beneath my tires as I inhaled and exhaled.

I left the pack in the car. No tube, no pump, no patchkit. No tools, first-aid kit, spare glasses or food. Two strong legs, a water bottle, and some hope for the future- that’s all I carried. I joined the current of riders as they seeped up the trail. At the top of the hill someone said, “If you want to go fast, then go now” and everybody waited. Two guys, then Big Worm, and when nobody moved for his wheel, I took it.

We galloped along in big ground-gobbling strides, and I hung on long enough to taste what it might be to belong there. After 5 or so miles the spell was broken. Maybe I tapped a brake, or burned the last molecule of the previous day’s hamburger, but I kept on. I watched the Clydesdale on the back of Worm’s jersey slowly pull away through the trees until it was gone.

I waited for the WB, and rode it in with he and his boy, my barrel smoking and low on ammo. Too much fun, too much stupid available joy to be had, out there floating away.


Listen to Big Jim

I just ate that burger and I feel better already.

The fix was in this morning when the Black and the Orange showed up just as we slackers were pulling our bikes from our vehicles. The rest of this story is so predictable it could write itself.

Apparently I am not so extraneous as that so I will give you the crib notes. Big Worm roughed us up right out of the gate with a bruising pace, then he turned it over to the young wolf, Wrecking Ball Jr, or Hard-Core whichever you prefer. The kid is like 14 or 19 or something and he went off the leash like Cujo and finished what his Uncle Big Worm started. I hung on (more or less) and went home looking for that step I lost in Pisgah. It wasn’t under the couch or rolling around in the dryer vent so I went with the last good advice I got here on the BRC- “Eat a damn hamburger already.”

How about that bike race over in France? I haven’t said a word about it on here, but that’s just so I don’t jinx my main man Thomas Voeckler. You thought I was a Schleck fan you say? Ask me tomorrow.


Flat Juancho

I wasn’t out of the neighborhood before I stopped to check my tire pressure. I added about 10 lbs all the way around to be safe. It made no difference. I stopped behind KMart to make sure my brake rotors weren’t rubbing. They were perfect. I grunted along towards the Cadillac trails and stopped in the middle of the best single track to eat a Lara bar. That made just the tiniest difference. I capitalized on this trickle of juice and turned my ass right back for home. I was bonked before I strapped into my chamois, flat like Stanley, all cashed in.

I barely ate today so that might be it, but after the longest streak of good rides in my life I forgot what it was like to feel that bad. I have seen the bottom of my tank plenty, but only after chasing some of the local trail hounds or traveling many miles under the seven hills summer sun. Today it was overcast, and a brisk 85 when I left the house.

I blame Pisgah. I left it all on that mountain and I still haven’t gotten anything back. I expect some dividends. You can’t go that hard, and persevere that much, and not become stronger for it. Another hot meal and a good night’s sleep and I will be all right. I say it all the time and I will say it again, nothing sucks like a rest day.


The Rock

“You’re coming back for me right?” I asked. “Maybe” he said as he swung out of sight leaving me anchored to a couple of pieces of protection 20 feet above the Sentry ledge and still 100′ from the safety of the base of the cliff, where the yellow jackets and copperheads waited to welcome us down.

I demured his initial invitation to ascend the second pitch of the climb, reasoning that if he made it to the top and my next move could be descending then everyone would go home happy. We both took an inventory of the steps necessary to make such a thing happen, and came to the same conclusion. “The only way either of us get down is if you come up with the second rope.” I rested my scorched forehead against the hot granite and squinted the sweat out of my eyes. “On belay” I said, and with that I scrapped and scrambled another 100′ up the wall to two fixed eye bolts and salvation. While on rappel I descended off route and as I neared the second rappel station I realized one of our ropes was a might short of the deck. I anchored that rope to the wall and descended the second rope to the safety of the ledge. No problem.

Mystery came down behind me struggling to move the cursed purple rope through his rappel device as I had secured the end to the wall, which is apparently not standard procedure. Shaking his head, no doubt in wonder as to how he he came to have me as his only willing climbing partner, he easily down-climbed to join me on the ledge. We pulled the rope to bring it down to us and it did not move. We pulled and pulled and pulled. The rope was hung up 150+ feet above us and guess who was not volunteering to go up and un-stick it? That’s right, I was preparing to holler to the cub scout troop down the cliff to save us, which is also not standard procedure.

After some heavy sighs, Mystery worked his way back up the wall, taking up slack in his rappel device as he went, which is not such an easy practice, and quite nerve-wracking. Meanwhile I waited on the ledge and looked down at our other friend, The JJ, wishing he were on the ledge instead of me, and I was the one lounging with the Copperheads and the Yellow-jackets.

I climbed back up to the low-point of the rope to free it from my impromptu anchor. This would allow Mystery to rappel freely and retrieve some gear I left in the route. This is when he disappeared for a bit and I waited, David Blaine style, perched on a sloping triangle of rock the size of a shoebox, attached to the wall by two Batman style camming devices. It was hot. I was ready to be done with rock climbing. The cool river and a well-earned cold beer were on my mind.

He did return eventually, and we regrouped to the safety of the Sentry ledge prepared to end this adventure and get on with the day.

Instead, we were right where we began, pulling and pulling on the rope that just didn’t want to come down. Mystery leaned his head into the rock, arms dangling at his side. I knew he was spent. The only heavy lifting I had done involved hauling myself up the rock, while he had been up three times and down twice, always on the sharp end of the rope. It didn’t look good, and the cub scouts were already gone.

I pulled on the rope in anger. I pulled on that rope with love. We both pulled on that rope in defiance of the cursed Pisgah forest that always tries to keep us in its embrace. We saw the other end of the rope move just the slightest little bit.

Oh then did we pull! Spitting, whimpering, groaning, feet scrambling to keep every inch gained, until finally it began to run freely and then tumbled down to us. 100 meters of victory lay in a snarl at our feet. The two ropes had rolled together during the rappel and braided themselves into a tight twist. This was the cause of our suffering.

We rapped down to the base, settling yet another open account with Looking Glass mountain.