Monthly Archives: February 2013

All the Friendly Beasts

I felt too good to be at work yesterday so with a claim of mental wellness I made a run for it. Like a kid who drags his feet to purposefully miss the school bus I let the day’s agenda ride off without me. After 11 inches of rain and two weekends off the bike my fight or ride response kicked in and I took control of my destiny. It was a friendly, helmet-less lap of Munson with this guy that led us to bump into this guy. Stopping and talking to strangers are usually not the BRC way, but it was a lovely day to be in the forest and all the gentle creatures came out to enjoy the sun.

When Leadville Eric first came around us, the People’s Republic of Jesse asked if I would normally ride as fast as he was going. Without a word I ka-chunked the Highball into the big ring and vectored in on the the disappearing wheel in front of us. I closed the gap until I was satisfied I had him if I wanted, then drifted back to my novice friend.

Yeah, I would normally chase him down and salt the earth with the dismayed sweat of his brow, but you know, I’m looking out for you, and I don’t have my helmet, and I ate a burrito for lunch and it’s riding kind of high, so I spared him this time.

Imagine my surprise when this mysterious rider pulled up at the old trailhead. We chatted bikes, tires, and tech while the People’s Republic of Jesse listened, then another rider joined us. He was a barrel-chested brother on a black Ellsworth, a reader of the BRC, and therefore a man among men. Leadville Eric told us about the adventure he and his wife are enjoying, traveling North America and hitting premiere destinations like Tallahassee, FL. A veteran of RAGBRAI and a lottery winner for the Leadville 100 I considered amending my estimation to PR of J concerning my ability to catch the young gentleman from Indiana, but as a local on my home dirt I had not the grace in my heart to grant such a concession.

Still, Holly and Eric can expect the full support of the BRC in their travels, and at Leadville.


Oyster and Pearl

A pearl is no blessing if you crack a tooth on it, and a rainy day is no fun if you can’t get wet.

You might lead a horse to water, and it just stands there hungry-

or you teach a man to fish when he’d rather have a hot dog.

The world is your oyster so you better suck it up, or if that’s not your thing then a little hot sauce on a cracker’s the same difference to most.

Hindsight is twenty twenty if you’re standing on a chair, and if you put your hand over your eyes you can see my house from here.

If every day is the same then tomorrow might be different.

Is it poetry if the words hang together like scotch tape with a little hair stuck on it?

Is it still a merry-go-round if you aren’t having fun, or is it just a go round?

You’ve got the oyster and the pearl, one’s good for now, the other’s good forever.

Which one do you want and which one do you get?

Shit cuz, I’ll take the oyster-

Just because you saw the sun rise don’t mean you get to see it set.



Who is that and where did he come from? I asked myself, startled to catch a rider closing fast in my periphery. Oh, that’s right. That’s my friend Stevie, and we are in Tallahassee, FL. It is the winter of 2013. It is Saturday morning. All of these facts ticked back into place, securing me back in time and space. Briefly, or possibly forever, I was someplace different than here. I was no where. I was no thing. I was an empty vessel hurtling through the cosmosphere, free from ego and self-awareness. Maybe I was not an empty vessel hurtling? Maybe the cosmos hurtled through me, and I was the full vessel containing all things?

Thousands of micro-decisions, adjustments, and judgements were processed in my absence from the moment. Chattering over roots, letting the front end go in tight, banked turns, and constantly, effortlessly performing the ceremony of force to pedals.

With ego rushing back in my thoughts cried more, more! And with that I heard my breath, then smelled the lake, then felt my legs- just flesh and tiring flesh at that, then I was fully again myself and on a bike, but for that moment I dropped myself, if not Stevie.


The Forgotten Coast

It’s tourists inside and locals outside on a Friday night at the Indian Pass Raw Bar. Grinning people with sunburns and dogs smoke cigarettes and visit around a cast iron smoker on the patio, while out-of-towners from Orlando to Atlanta line up elbow to elbow at tables inside to partake of the authenticity. It’s beer and oysters on the honor system at the Raw Bar and I don’t know how anyone keeps track. The crowd is well over 50, scrubbed clean, men casual in their Columbia shirts and Sperry topsiders, the women in gauzy shawls, rough cotton capris, and linen. We aren’t local and we aren’t rich so I feel like we should remain in the doorway, but we take two chairs at a table with a couple, bankers from Atlanta they say, who own a little place on the gulf front along Cape San Blas rd. It’s tiny, Linda says, just 900 square feet. That’s all they want to keep up with, and I understand as that is the size of our house. They are retired now, after years working for the Savings and Loan Associations. They are nice, engaging in conversation about their 43 years of marriage, the years in the finance sector spent overseas in Asia, and how Gary can eat oysters until they quit bringing them. I wonder if they bought their little place on the water before or after the Savings and Loan scandal in the late 80’s -early 90’s, the debacle that provided the blueprint for the 2008 sub-prime mortgage dividend bonanza.

This forgotten coast was once all paper mill land. Paper became unprofitable at the tail end of the 20th century, and St. Joe, the company that owns these, and 500 million other acres of Florida land retooled itself to develop the land. They moved U.S. Highway 98 inland and built utopian communities with playful names like SummerCamp and Watercolor.

The Raw Bar is an old company store from a Turpentine company a hundred years back. It remains as an icon to the true panhandle coast culture, so all can drop in and anoint themselves with Crystal hot sauce. Pour yourself a beer, slurp oysters off the half-shell, trade stories about catching Red fish and where were you when Kate came through and flooded out the bay?

I don’t think this coast is forgotten, people just don’t really remember much about it.


The Perfect Ride

If I could put together the ultimate ride from all of the rides I have ever done I would start with that session of bike joust where I met my friend Todd back in 1991. He hopped onto a picnic table, leaving us speechless and enamored. We would ride to the top of the hill on campus on College Avenue and roll through the gazebo on Park, clearing the impatiens. Past the fountain at Ruby Diamond auditorium, launching the drops in front of the dorms, but when we turned left towards Landis Green we would find ourselves climbing an unnamed hill in western Wyoming, where we would pause in the dusk and watch two wapiti in rut, blocking our way. When the way was clear we would continue on, cresting the hill and dropping down the back side of the Hawthorne bridge into downtown Portland where we would Pick it Up! Super-Rush! down the 5th Avenue bus mall, one hand on the side of a moving bus, tucked in the crease between the curb and death, grey grit splattering into our mouths. Package delivered we turn to the forest and make that bad decision again to circumnavigate Cedar Rock in Pisgah National Forest. We would pass that night hungry, damp, shivering, then rise at pre-dawn and grind our way up the mountain to the familiar Munson Hills trail, before the clay. We would be fat. Miserable. Broken. Determined. We would exit that loop changed and strong again, chasing a mere boy in cutoffs through obscure Mississippi single track and watching him drift ahead. Locals rule everywhere do they not!

We would catch him, but he would be J.B. and we would be at the Pole Barn, snapping into cleats for a nighttime ride of Razorback, everyone at least 3 Orange Whips in the bag. We would watch the Doctor plow through the trees, unhurt and unaware as we laughed until we couldn’t see for the tears in our eyes.

Who would be there? All of us of course.


Boom Boom

Left leg, right leg, King and Kong, twin cannons of fury!

Riding less frequently does nothing good for my mental balance, but for the legs? Wow.

I don’t know what else to attribute it to, but these pins of mine should be included in the proposed ban on assault weapons. The magazine just never empties, there is always another round in there. They are like Juancho with the gun analogies, bam! bam! bam! they just keep coming. Last week it was long miles of misery on sand, road, and trail, this weekend nothing but singletrack sport shooting. It’s time to change my set-up because the technical skills are slowing me more than fitness and that is the kind of problem I want to have.

Bikes, bikes, bikes, remember when it was all about the bikes and the riding, and the complaining around here?

Those were the days!