Monthly Archives: January 2013

Worship or War Ship?

I put this photo of a Piliated Woodpecker up today because for the first two hours of Bike Church yesterday this was the lone thing I remember seeing other than my handlebars. Fifty-five miles of riding that included hiking through snarled thickets of briar and muck, a 20 mph peloton for 40 minutes, and one endless hour of sugar sand riding exposed under an 80 degree January sun. All of that was just to get to the entry point for the real ride deep into the Wildlife Refuge to the fabled Pinhook River.

I missed the Pinhook, yet again, happy to escort my old friend Mystery back to town. I promised him a 3 hour excursion that ended behind a dewy pint of ale, and his accusing eyes, so far far from home, made me feel guilty for being the liar that I indeed was at that moment. Besides, I could have gone on, and ridden further into the salt-marsh and possibly even out of it, but at some point I would be left broken and alone and far from a pint myself.

We turned around and bid the other church-goers adieu, and the day immediately brightened into a benevolent place. Lunch by the St. Marks River, a dirt road track to a newly discovered swimming hole, followed by the final soul-crushing miles back to town.

Mystery gave it up after 44 miles, many of which were unfriendly in pace and surface. He sent me ahead with his blessing to get the van and return, but I found I could not do it. A mile on from our parting I called in a rescue, thanks Magnum! I went back to tell him the good news only to find him darting into the grass behind a church and curling up for a nap. While he mewled and moaned, I coaxed him back into the saddle and up the road to a rendezvous point.

Me? I felt fine thank you for asking, and I sampled some Munson single track on the way home just to put a fine point on things, then I ached and creaked across town, arriving at the van 5.5 hours later, with 55 mixed-surface miles that nobody can ever take away from me. That is 68% of the 80 mile total the rest of the group completed, and that is a D+ in any school district.



I spent my high school prom night working the night shift at the Village Inn, happier to be folding dollars into my pocket than shelling them out for carnations and wine coolers. I got traded to the other team, and worked at Howard Johnson’s for a brief stretch. I showed such promise in the service industry so I was recruited by Ginnie, a 72 year-old waitress who smoked Benson and Hedges Deluxe Ultra-Light Menthol 100’s, the cigarette with the longest name. Ginnie respected work above all, and as the story goes her dying words to the evening shift manager of a 24 hour chain pancake house were, “I’m sorry.” True to her values, not finishing her side-work was her final regret on this earth. She was good people, and if I could find her kin today, I would tell them that she was a ball-buster who treated this high school kid right and despite my frequent requests, she never let me bum a smoke.

I studiously avoid topical blogging, but service is on my mind today.

To be honest, I always meant to be a famous writer, which is a plan with some flaws. I know now that the goal is to be an honest writer, and through that to hope to be a good writer, but back then I just wanted to be paid for my words. I wrote a lot about people who helped people. Being close to those kind of folks and telling their stories seemed like a good way to go. As I suffered through early rejections and numerous unpaid publications I questioned my motives. I decided that helping people was a safer bet. If it turned out to not be my calling, I thought, I could rest easy that it was still time well-spent.

Service and charity are not altruistic, far from it. Giving someone a leg up, or standing next to those who need support is both priceless and intoxicating. Those who choose to help others are not self-sacrificing, they are self-fulfilling. They chase a good buzz.

A little secret for you- dealing with volunteers is a pain in the ass. If you volunteer one hour of your time, it probably costs some full-timer two hours to prepare for you to be there, get your feel-good, stroke you up, and send you on your way. Don’t stop doing it, just understand it is for you more than for anyone else. Each time you do it, you require a little less handling, and eventually you might break even on the day.

There is still time for me to be a real writer. It might be too late for you to become a trapeze artist, but the circus still comes to town.



Some rides deliver beyond the capacity for words to capture, and pictures fail as well. Like every day though, as we each grope our way with arms outstretched through the dark hallways of our lives, some light appears in the corners of our vision to show us we are on the right path.

This is Henry. Giant friendly dogs need no explanations.

This is what it looks like to live here and ride bikes.

Somewhere along the way.

Bicycle House filing system.

I don’t care if there were only three of us. It was Bike Church and I was there.



It is sadly predictable to be squeezing into one’s fat jeans in the beginning of January. The holiday bully sits upon our chests and rubs cake in our face for sixty days and before you can slur your way through Auld Lang Syne it is too late. Say what you wish about moderation, but the holiday bully on my block won’t tolerate it.

I ride pretty well as a Clydesdale, in some ways better. More depth to the legs, more assertive, just more of more in general. Still, measures must be taken.

Still monk, not angry now, I have my ways. I am natural-born Spartan, never happier than flexing the self-denial muscles of a true hunger artist.

I have been over the mountain and back, as they say, so this? A smallish hike, a wander on the road. The Skateboard of Great Clarity greets me everyday, reminding me of the hardships that came during the Unraveling of 2010. In this club, the Redemption Gang, you must re-certify on occasion, but you are only initiated once.

Stay raveled-



He wants to go to Montana, he said, where people get him. He talks to people here in Jefferson County and all they care about is where he is from, or isn’t from, he says. He can go to Costco in Tallahassee and speak to anybody, have a nice conversation, then it’s have a nice day and never see them again, but back here on the Aucilla River? People treat him like he’s nuts.

He sealed the picnic table with vegetable oil? None of that varnish or chemical sealants. That stuff’s terrible for you. The table smells like old french fries even though it has been out in the weather for seven years. In spite of the smell and the tacky surface, the table is bomb-proof. It’s the kind of table a king could build an empire around, or a rebel could lead an insurrection. I’m not sure which I am, but I intend to have the table with which I will lead my empire or tear yours down, whichever must be done.

I can see the hurt in this guy’s face. The discouragement and embarrassment of having left Broward county behind for a North Florida dream of land and freedom. Turkeys wander about, curious and docile. Whatever may have gone sour for him, he is gifted with poultry and takes pride in the brassy plumed Toms which eye him for a handout while we speak.

I’m holding out $100 in twenties and Steve looks at me like I’m crazy, but you can’t drive all the way out here to get a Craig’s list table and come home empty-handed. To offer less is to make this guy grovel in his defeated state and I don’t have the stomach for that. Besides, I want the table. It’s built to last.

He is searching my eyes for something, and though it pains me, I close that door and move for the van. “Thanks man, go to Montana. Worry about the details when you get there. That’s what I did.”

Of course, I was twenty-three with a couple grand in my pocket and he’s not twenty-three, with two kids (two too many he says wryly) and his sense of wonder is long trampled and gone.

Still, I hope he goes for it.