Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bike camping, Take 2

This post deserved its own Flickr gallery, but I got carried away. So sue me if it takes half an hour to load. (Or, better yet, get a faster Internet connection.)

Here's Sylvia overseeing the packing process. I held off doing things the way I usually do them because we were being filmed for a documentary, which included seeing how we pack our bikes. Can you believe all that crap fits into four panniers and a trailer?

Viola! Here's the bike and Burley fully packed outside CRC Coffee. That's a Surly Long Haul Trucker in case you're wondering -- built out with Campy 9spd. Email me if you wanna know how it's done.

This is April's rig. Yes, I let her get offf easy. But she still pulled about 30 pounds with the trailer.

April comes across the meadow, as seen in Brooks-Vision.

A load o' wood I pulled back to camp using April's bike and the BOB. The kids manning the campground office tried to shaft me by claiming my trailer was "about the same size" as the rack used to portion the wood. I heaped it up to make sure I got my money's worth.

Joel reading J Sheridan LeFanu by the campfire. We had lots of fun deconstructing the Victorian plot. Probably too much geeky fun for our neighbors.

Angela basks in the afterglow of Friday the 13th.

The morning after. Angela and Joel have skip in their steps; Eric and the guy taking the photo do not.

Home, sweet hydrating home, IOWA! (It was quite hot, even though we were not in Iowa.)

Pulling the critter about on a short day excursion.

Eric and Joel talk about something seemingly important. Maybe Eric never let go of the fact that he couldn't land the role of Edward Scissorhands in the Fargo Community production last fall.

April taking a breather. After all, every mother is a working mother.

This is one of those shots I will blow up and make into a poster one day. Sylvia enjoys some colorful wildflowers. This describes her whole personality -- appreciative, yet looking to the next challenge/stimulus. That's my girl.

Matt and Alicia lending much needed ambiance to the camp. Since we missed the Winnipeg Folk Fest this year, it was nice to get a fix of camping, beer, friends and live music. It was beautiful, and that's all I have to say about that.

Saying goodbye to Joel (he had to leave a day early). He was hooked on the concept of bike camping. (And he's going to tell all his friends.)

The camp in full swing. It looks straight out of a Rainbow Family gathering, eh? Well, except we're all wearing clothes.

Sylvia oversees the camp tasks. I'm continually amazed at how at home she is camping and traveling.
The simplest items become toys to a kid ...
You know it's not going to be the usual gathering when Trevor shows up (with a fresh knee scar from the Thirsty 7's). Trevor is a vegan-powered wattage generator. It was nice to see him relax.

Before all debauchery ensued, I did make sure to honor the Triple Gem.

Eric takes a turn with the axe.

Matt leaves no doubt about his destination. I'm proud he's adding to my legacy of well-thought-out stickers on the Toyota.

Camping a la Fleck means at least one thing -- good food.

Matt checks his bottle for a leak. For Trevor's sake, let's hope he's not practicing beer goggling.

It got late. We had lots of grand ideas, none of which seemed to come to fruition. These included heisting free wood from the storage lot and having a midnight concert in the campground's Amphitheatre (they really have one). Dismayed, Trevor concocted a scheme to film a 40-second video of me entitled "Meat and Whiskey." You have to come to my next party to view it. I really am not a Jack Daniel's fan, but everyone was impressed by my demonstration of how it burns when you blow it into the fire.

Trevor on trash detail while the rest of us get packed up. Ah, the ever-versatile BOB trailer.

Taking a dip in Minnehaha Creek on the way back. Another wonderful trip by bike. It was especially rewarding to turn some friends onto the concept. Maybe in the process we broadened their idea of just how much is possible when you travel by bike.

More schlock

Do you know what keeps me going? Well, lots of things keep me going. I love life, to be honest; I love the ups and downs, the triumphs and tribulations. But I love it when friends tell me, "You need to update your blog." That happened to me today. It's music to my ears because it lets me know that people are reading. Do you know what else you can do if you are reading? LEAVE A COMMENT! Trash talk, jive talk, I don't care what you talk. Enough said.

So, the day after my birthday, Mark (at work) plops a package in my lap. "Open it, I think it's a flask," he says. Sure enough, it was a flask, with a card that read: "Happy Birthday, Lover Boy. Love, Mrs, O'Houli." Now, I didn't think my dear partner had been paying that much attention, but she had. My old flask had been doing just fine until last Homey Fall Fest. It was severely dented in the relay race. (I had not anticipated full contact relay.) I've been bitching about how the Surly guys owe me at least a flask for the past 10 months. And out of the blue plops this flask in my arse.

You can't read it, but it says: "John Patch O'Houli Fleck." It's stainless with a full 8oz capacity. Leather covers and all. Yeah, a class act. I don't deserve it, but it's earned me a few friends already. See a following post to learn more. I love you, Mrs O'Houli. Wow, should I feel guilty like I'm having an affair?

Exhuming McCarthy

Those of you who are hip know that I just made a reference to an R.E.M. song. Those of you who aren't might catch the connection when I say that I just watched "Good Night and Good Luck."

Well, I have been a basketcase lately. Not that anyone has noticed. But I have had a lot on my mind, not the least of which was this story of Stephan Orsak who was stopped while attemping to ride his bike away from MSP airport It has turned out favorably in his defense. I have to admit that I had several conversations with people for and against his case. All were cyclists and I was shocked and appalled at those cyclists who labelled him an "idiot" for not obeying police orders. I have one thing to ask: If a cop told me I had to jump over a bridge, would I? Would you? Is it wrong to question a police officer when you know they are NOT upholding the law? It shouldn't be. And in this era of post-911 hysteria we should not forget our civil rights, nor should the police eschew those civil rights. GOVERNMENT BE DAMNED. And my one friend who said you should do whatever the police tell you to do, no questions asked -- well, quite simply -- you're wrong.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Patch O'Houli

This posting is a little late. Most things have been a little late lately. The festivities went down on Wednesday, July 11. It was the big 34 for O'Houli. Time keeps o'passing along. Some friends from work converged on the Lake Harriet bandshell. April and Sylvia met us there with charcoal and grillables. Lots of fun was had and considerable mayhem ensued. Do you really need to know all the details?

Tanner wore a kilt to work in honor of my birthday. What a nice guy (when he's not being a jerk.)
That's Matty followed by Tanner. It took us at least half an hour to wait for everyone to assemble outside of work to begin the trek to Lake Harriet via South Lyndale Lickers.
Here's our group STOPPED at a traffic light. In case any drivers are reading -- not all bikers run traffic lights! (Well, not all traffic lights ... and not all the time ... usually.) (I promise.)
That's a fine group we have assembled here! (That's not what the park police said when they showed up later after nightfall with their spotlights and chased us off.) But, you can see Wrex, Andy Skiles (, April's back, Dirty Kop, Angela and Eric, Matty and at least one other person I can't quite recognize. Stranger or friend, thanks for coming to my party!
And let's not forget Bill! Ahh ... Bill. Tanner and Seth are looking particularly relaxed while Wrex flies the colors and Dirty Kop makes a toast -- to himself.
Bikes and beer -- it's just a flimsy curtain masking the man-love within us all. Hap is a big teddy bear and Matt knows it.
" Stand by your man ..." Actually, Seth was looking for his bike and mistook Anthony's mustache for his handlebars.
Being from Tennessee, this shot reminds me of many scenes from my childhood. Maybe it's the black eye. Geoff is a trooper. He had a rather catastrophic bike accident and concussion a week or so before, but he made it to my party! Seth? Well, he just looks like my crazy ex-brother-in-law who once ripped the door off a Yugo in a drunken rage.

After the odyssey of getting Wittleder home, we settled on the bridge where we met Nate and Kent quite by accident. But that didn't last long as we were chased off yet again by the police. So, off to the hill, our faithful hill where we ended the night in fine style. Thanks everyone for sharing in the occasion and making it a night to remember.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why do I commute everyday by bike?

No one has asked me that lately. But if they did, I'd have to say, simply, that it makes no sense not to ride a bike everyday. Don't worry about all the blissed-out comments any avid biker will spew, just think about it from a pragmatic point of view. Because, yeah, I enjoy riding my bike, everywhere, in all kinds of weather. That's not for everyone, I know. In fact, maybe I should back up and say that it makes no sense not to do something other than drive a car everyday. I might get the same pleasure from walking or riding the bus, and I'm sure many people do. All I know is that the car equation is horribly unbalanced and completely unsustainable. Drivers, you ought to be stopping your vehicles to embrace bicycle commuters (add walkers and bus riders, too). After all, we are helping to undo the harm that you do everyday -- traffic congestion, pollution, stress, sedentary-lifestyle health problems, depletion of dwindling resources. Hell, we're even doing our part to decrease consumer demand for your precious commodity -- oil.

So the next time you want to run a biker down because they pull in front of you or take a few extra inches of road, halt your rage and instead try thanking them. Envision hugging them. Buy them an imaginary drink at your favorite imaginary watering hole. Think about patience and tolerance.

Monday, July 9, 2007

And now for something completely different

Mark Wheat, maybe you were behind our throng of beer-thirsty, anarchist riders as we peacefully assaulted St Paul on a hot, hot Saturday. I sure as hell hope so.The Thirsty 7's Fat Tire Tour. Grandmaster Nick Sande put this one together and it was nothing except A-Class cycling entertainment for a thirst-quenching cause. 7/7/07 -- a Saturday. Seven stops including three breweries. I paced myself and I was happy. After all, the long night before and the 96 degree heat were pressing upon me to be kind to myself. My bike of choice? The 1X1. Fat tire, baby, all the way. Single speed. When you're drinking beer on an all-day Saturday ride, who wants to think/worry about shifting gears. Just go.

Dave Gray wows us all at the start. A couple of weeks ago he broke his femur. (Check out the juicy details on the Surly blog at He rode up that morning on a specially modified Big Dummy. He's nothing short of an inspiration. Bill acting like he's had a 4-pack o' Surly already. The first stop was a beer stash at Hidden Falls. Julia is enjoying the shade. Shade was a good thing. Shade was my friend.
Brauer Power gleans the nectar from a punctured vial of Furious. Ever resourceful and thrifty is that Brauer.An animated Dave Lee and his beautiful fiance, Dawn. Our group pretty much took over the plaza across from Great Waters in downtown St Paul. We stormed the holy city, upsetting three weddings in the process.

There's more. Look for a link to my Flickr page to be posted soon with all the juicy details chronicled digitally from start to finish. Okay ... this way to the Thirsty 7's photo page!

Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.

I haven't been so steamed in a while. I was tooling away in the bike shop, listening to the Current (89.3) because I mostly do enjoy the music, when Mark Wheat proceeded to put his foot in his mouth yet again. This time, it was a comment about cyclists in Minneapolis. Here's the email I sent to Minnesota Public Radio:

Mark Wheat's comments of approximately 10:10pm were simply deplorable. I paraphrase him: "I'm a cyclist but it was simply too hot to ride today. And since the Big Race has begun, you cyclists who were riding need to remember the 'rules of the road.' There were bikers out running red lights. In fact, while driving into the station today I almost hit a bicyclist because they were riding two abreast in the bike lane. Now, that's just not smart. Come on, cyclists, don't let us down."
I would like to remind Mr. Wheat that those of us who ride daily to work, run errands, and otherwise rely on our bicycles for transportation ask a different question: "Come on, drivers, don't let us down." After all, Minneapolis yearly vies for the number 3/4 slot for most bicycle commuters in the nation. Yet, those of us who ride everyday are privy to the worst (and, thankfully, often the best) motor vehicle operators our fair city has to offer. I would also like to remind Mr. Wheat that Minnesota state law allows bicyclists to ride two abreast -- in the lane of a roadway. It is a challenge at best for bicyclists to be recognized as legal, rightful road users in even such a progressive town as Minneapolis; it is truly sad to hear an on-air admonishment from a bastion of our town's "most progressive" radio station.
I would like to close by issuing a challenge to Mr. Wheat and all employees of MPR: ride your bikes regularly to work. Steer away from the frolicking gaiety of the bike paths and actually use your bikes for a purpose. If you are going to proclaim yourself on-air, to millions of listeners, as someone who “loves cycling," then take this challenge. Don't do it for a few days -- try a week or two. Report back and quit passing judgment on those of us who are struggling each day to be recognized and respected as legal users of the road.
John Fleck

Are you a member of Public Radio?
No, because I refuse to contribute to a radio station whose chief announcer can't properly recognize the season of the year (Summer begins on June 21st)

That last comment was purely driven by emotion. The bloke made at least three references to "gorgeous summer days" back in May before the solstice had even graced us with the longest day of the year. Enough. He must be stopped.

Cafe Minneapolis: Now Serving Bike Culture

The weekend served up a big ol' slice of Bike Culture Pie. Ummm ... delicious! I got the chance to enjoy the opportunities to the fullest since April and Sylvia were out of town. Friday night began with a tour of the downtown area with Anthony, Tony, and Tony's friend, Nick. We staged at Tony's place. Nice decor ... Tony certainly has his priorities straight.
We headed into the city but hadn't gotten very far before Tony snapped his chain. Things were hopping downtown and we had plenty of entertainment while he put everything back together.

Here's a rather artsy shot of the skyline from Nicollet Island. We speculated on the hauntings of a nearby building with a door leading in from river level. The island is quite a remarkable place.

Anthony sporting a face that reveals the mood of the evening. We all had a great, mellow time exploring the riverfront. He and I split off from Tony and Nick. On the way home we stopped off at Grumpy's just before last call and I had two more pints that I really didn't need, but it was a nice end to an awesome evening.

Anthony called me later that morning and left a message that a car had passed him on 31st St, thrown something at him out the window, and cut him off at the next corner. He called the police who arrived and summarily told him he had no legitimate complaint to register. Now, I know I was in no shape to be negotiating with the police by the time we parted ways. However, I can't speak for Anthony. Still, the law should protect all citizens equally and the fact that (from Anthony's account) the cops did all but laugh at him is bullshit. What a wonderful, juvenile privilege drivers have -- they can assault cyclists on the street and cops brush off the unlawful deed as nothing. I guarantee that our wonderful cycling senator Jim Oberstar, or Mayor R.T. Ryback would get a different response if they phoned in a complaint. I'd like to challenge them, and any other high profile, "pro-bicycling" PUBLIC SERVANTS to fight for equal rights for bicyclists. Get it straight people -- and cops alike -- justice, equal justice is necessary for everyone, everywhere, at every time.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Land of the Free?

Maybe one day we will be celebrating our independence from oil, and not just "foreign oil" (as the politicians like to specify), but all OIL.
Fourth of July was full of unexpected visitors and other tasty surprises. Shortly after dinner we were taking a stroll when who should ride up our street but Johnny Nebraska. He's had my old Burley for a couple of weeks now. Glad to see he's putting it to good use. Speaking of good uses -- that's a great place to store your helmet (clipped to your bar stool, of course.) What the hell, let's give a shout out to Jeff Frane since Johnny and I both happened to be wearing GMS t-shirts. Check out Jeff's other projects at

Sadly, I know Johnny was actually cruising our street looking for young biker chicks. We made sure Sylvia pedaled the other way.
Angela surprised us by modeling this retro ultra-patriotic outfit. Kinda makes you want to attend an ice cream social or bake an apple pie or maybe help a neighbor raise a barn.

Angela, Eric and I headed back to their neighborhood. We caught the end of the Powderhorn Park fireworks show. I'm not a huge fan of fireworks, but the people watching was phenomenal. As we were working our way into the park, several thousand people were trying to get out. Frolic and mayhem abounded.

Back to Angela and Eric's for a couple beers and a Black Sabbath documentary. My ride home the next morning displayed the aftermath -- fireworks casings, exploded wrappers, powder residue -- lining the streets. Happy Birthday, America.