Friday, May 30, 2008
The arrival of the RNC will bring later last calls in Mpls -- 4am to be exact. Yeehaw! I don't go to bars much, but this sounds like an historic event I just might have to saddle up and experience for myself, if I'm not picked up as a suspected domestic terrorist for being on a bike during the convention. And it's all thanks to the Republicans! Maybe they're not so bad after all. Hell, if they could get the bar times permanently changed to 4am the Twin Cities might swing Red, or perhaps some pretty shade of purple like the bruise from a policeman's baton.
With the coming of the RNC, I hear there's extra money to be made as a mole (aka informant, nark) if you have connections to slimy, subversive groups ... like vegans. Hey, the extra beer you'll drink from 2-4am could be paid for! Listen up! Thanks to LFOAB for bringing this to the attention of many.
Dollars from Heaven
Riding home last night I found $6 crumpled up on the road. It was in Richfield on Vincent Ave. If you think you dropped it, send me the serial numbers from the bills and I will re-imburse you the leftover change from my latte this morning.
I love finding money on the road. I reckon I've probably found about $100 over the course of my life while walking or riding my bike.
A Green Light for Cyclists
Hurl covered it, so read his post. There is proposed MN legislation to allow cyclists to roll lights and signs when no traffic is present. In other words, to make legal the way most pragmatic transportation cyclists already operate their bicycles. Take that, Driver 8! Now let's see if it actually goes through. Make a stink -- tell your governmental types how much sense this makes.
Have a great weekend you free-thinking/subversize/radical/vegetarian/anarchist-tree-hugging/car-free/hippie scumbags ... wherever you are!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
In a former life (which I may someday revisit) I was an English literature student. Doing senior work in Victorian literature was much more fascinating than I ever thought it could be. I'm not a voracious reader. Only because of my studies am I moderately well-read. I enjoy the collection of well-written words for the sake of art, for sure. But much more so I appreciate literature because of its link to the cultural discourse at its time of creation.
The Victorian period here and across the pond was a time of profound change and immense paranoia. Yep, in so many ways it was not entirely unlike our current era. Moral zealots were crying foul at every turn. The purity of national borders, ethnicities, racial identities and social strata were regarded as severely threatened by citizens possessing any ilk of conservatism (well, and those holding money, too -- funny how those two things often go hand-in-hand). If you ever think there's some discontented spirit banging around your belfry in the wee hours, it's most likely a ghost of the Victorian era.
When I thought I was surely going on to graduate school I was strongly considering taking up a study of Victorian literature. Of interest to me are class elements and the blossoming of various new ideologies that countered the discourse of the freaked-out status quo. One thing many "upstanding" citizens did not warm to very quickly was bicycling. Biking was decried from pulpits because its joys showed parishioners another (arguably more fun) way to spend their Sundays. Cycling also was a formidable boon to the women's movement. My inner feminist revels in essays such as this one: How the Bicycle Emancipated Women.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
Susan B. Anthony once said, “I think [bicycling] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”
If you're not familiar with why Susan B might have said this, you really ought to read the article. It's short, but interesting. It might also inspire you to read a bit more about the history of cycling particularly in the U.S. You weren't doing anything better anyway -- Google it. Here a little spew from Wikipedia to get you started.
The severity of the outcry against women participating in these activities is proof of their effectiveness. The brave women who donned rational dress [bloomers] were criticized, denied access to public places and widely mocked in the media. A satirical poem in one U.S. paper, for instance, suggested bloomers were a sort of “gateway garment,” the wearers of which might go on to participate in such dastardly pursuits as business or reading.
Female cyclists were often accosted verbally and physically as they rode. Emma Eades, one of the first women to ride a bike in London, was attacked with bricks and stones. Men and women alike demanded that she go home where she belonged and behave properly.
Ah, how much our society has progressed from such barbaric mob justice ... NOT. The difference is now women AND men alike can enjoy abusive treatment while riding. Non-cyclists enjoy making fun of how cyclists dress and act. In an interesting sexist twist, I've been called a 'faggot' or 'pussy' countless times while riding my bike, usually yelled at me, of course, by men. And all regular commuters have instances where motorists have unleashed a litany of insults that we cyclists need to go back to "where we belong" -- on the paths and sidewalks, not in the road. I won't even go into having things thrown at me while on my bike. Luckily no bricks.
The 1900 United States Census Report, released more than 20 years after the introduction of the bicycle, said, “Few articles ever used by man have created so great a revolution in social conditions as the bicycle.”
Even if it were sustainable mode of transportation, could the same be said about the automobile? Some, proponents of internal combustion, might argue 'yes' and to be fair the easy mobility provided by automobiles has increased options for the masses. However, I see that the automobile has chained most habitual drivers to unprecedented levels of debt. The mounting costs of car ownership and chasing bigger and better cars has propped up an artifice behind which lies a chasm of even more stark class division. But a car is an "asset", right? You fill up your tank a couple times a week, keep up your payments, insurance and maintenance -- then explain to me how something that requires that kind of care and feeding can be an asset.
So, the bicycle -- vehicle for the next social revolution? Bring it on.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I converted my Bianchi Volpe to singlespeed and decided to haul it to the in-laws' house and leave it there so I have a bike to ride while visiting. This is the third incarnation of the Volpe. I seem to enjoy building bikes, stripping all the parts off 6-12 months later to build another bike, then scrambling to figure out what I'm going to do with the denuded frame. That's clearly a manifestation of my masochistic tendencies. All the Campy Mirage that came off my Volpe is going on a Traveler's Check frame. Just you wait and see -- I'll be posting images of that soon enough. I need to start building it for forthcoming excursions to Japan and Europe. Now if only I could afford the fancy S&S travel box to pack it in.
Iowa City was great -- it always is. A couple of years ago I was itching to move to IC. We were in transition -- I had just left my previous job and got back into school, nothing was definite, before us were great waves of possibility. The great waves of possibility are always there, but I've curbed that urge to jump the great ship MPLS. We love it here. We just bought a house. Safe to say we'll hang around a while longer.
But Iowa City ... the place is like a home away from home. I wish we could visit more often than the 3-5 times per year we do. And I always wish we could stay longer. Part of the reason for this is that I love April's family. Sure, they have their idiosyncracies and such. They're not a Cosby bunch by any means, but pleasantly more nuclear than my family ever was. Well, growing up, my family often embodied another meaning of "nuclear" with alcohol-fueled fights, back-biting, restraining orders and scandal intermingled with moments of sheer lowbrowedness. Don't get me wrong, there were the good times, too. Really, there were.
Nothing extravagant happens during our trips to Iowa City. We have a couple of family meals, maybe watch a movie with the in-laws one night, liberate a couple of hours sans kids so April and I can escape downtown for a bevvy and some window shopping, visit grandparents in the Old World (Solon), buy good food from my favorite co-op (New Pioneer) and try to make plenty of time for the cousins to play together.
Here's Julian and Sylvia. They are fast friends and will play for hours on end with generally little guidance and minimal destruction to property. For now.
Our first morning in Iowa, Brian (aka Dad) asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. Sure! So I saddled up and we pedaled along with his friend Curt into Iowa City to pick up Julian for the afternoon. A quick aside: after I'd chosen my singlespeed gear for the Volpe I started to recall all the hills I'd ridden in Iowa City and began to have some trepidation. (This was during quiet contemplation on the drive down. The deal was done -- all parts were installed.) Fortunately, Brian's kid trailer takes a special mount, meaning I couldn't really hitch it to my bike. He hauled Sylvia 7 miles over to Julian's house, then hauled both the kids 7 miles back. That was about 85lbs of kid-mass. Doff the cap to the father-in-law. On my next trip down I may take a second cog and a chain whip so I can gear the bike for hauling. Maybe.
Mama and Willa on the couch with Grandpa Norman. That's Willa's great-grandpa -- he's 80 and going strong, still running his dental practice in Solon. I see him about once a year, which is a shame because it's always a pleasure to talk with him. He asks meaningful questions that he really wants answered.
Aunt Hannah mugs the baby. That's Julian's mom. She's slogging it out working on an engineering degree. Keep up the good work, Hannah!
Grandma Alice getting to know Willa (again, her great-grandmother). This was Willa's inaugural trip to Iowa. Much of the family had only seen photos. Willa held up well, smiling lots and generally being her laid-back self. Grandma Alice always apologizes for having no meal prepared, then proceeds to stuff you full of delicious treats she "just had laying around."
Rest stop, I-35 on the drive home. Yep, we were all happy to be out of the car. Fortunately the weather was nice and we ate our snacks outside while Sylvia ran and played. Yesterday in Iowa it was 80+ F and very humid. We arrived home to 50 degrees and wind. Yep, that's Minnesota spring. Okay by me. The 80s in Iowa were a stifling reminder that summer is just around the corner. I'll happily delay that a few more weeks.
Back to work, you slackers. The weekend's over.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Perspective is usually granted me in fleeting moments of spontaneous clarity. They can neither be predicted nor planned. No spiritual hocus-pocus here. Label them however you will, but those moments when things slow down and all of a sudden you realize your thoughts are keeping pace with your breath and everything just, well, seems utterly synchronized.
Here are a few moments of perspective-defining clarity I've been blessed with lately:
I work for a company that dabbles in bike giblets. I answer a few emails from consumers asking about those morsels of bike goodness. Here's a quote from one: "My bike is my main vehicle - I do own a car, but I only drive it under great duress." Priceless. Sometimes the way I see people driving you'd think the majority of motorists are "under great duress." Maybe they don't even realize they are.
I blogged a couple times about the beating death of cyclist Mark Loesch and the MPD's bungling, "smear-the-dead-victim" media charade surrounding it. (Not the detectives, either -- the MPD political wranglers further up the chain.) A couple of days ago I got an email about a Crumpler Art Bag show coming up at One On One. It looks cool. I read deeper. The proceeds benefit the Mark Loesch Memorial Fund. Very cool. Mark left behind four kids and a wife. By all accounts they loved him deeply. It was a sad, senseless loss. This art show is just another symbol of the beautiful community of cyclists we have in the TC.
Over the weekend I saw several cargo bikes out on the streets and trails including one Big Dummy and a brand new Xtracycle conversion. I think these bikes are too big, heavy and expensive to be a fad. Plus they require more effort to pedal than the "skateboard of the new generation" -- the fixed gear. I believe people are buying cargo bikes to haul stuff, to explore the possibilities of leaving their cars parked more often (and maybe, eventually, for good). That is a nice thought.
Last Saturday I pedaled the Dummy over to Kowalski's for some dinner supplies. It's my least favorite local grocery that just happens to be located next to my favorite neighborhood beer vendor. I pulled up and an older gentleman was unlocking an aging baby blue Schwinn Varsity. He said, staring at the Dummy, "I've seen those bikes in the news lately." We chatted. I had to give him the usual explanation of how much you can haul on the bike and where to get one. (This seems to happen frequently when I lock up outside a store with the Dummy. It's a conversation piece for sure.) Finally he zeroed in on my 'I BIKE MPLS' sticker on the snapdeck. "Where'd you get that sticker?" he asked. "My friend makes them. I think you can get them at CRC Coffee," I replied, then gave him directions. He pointed to a fading sticker on the seat tube of his Varsity and asked if I recognized it. I didn't, but I couldn't hear him clearly as he looked away to explain its significance. He was proud of it. Then he turned back to me and said, "Some guys when they got back from Vietnam in 1972 bought sports cars and motorcycles. I bought this bike. Been riding it ever since. I put in 30 miles this morning around the lakes. It's the best time for me to ride." Those are the diehard cyclists most of us may never meet. What a happy accident and what a wonderful story he shared with me.
Pedaling home yesterday I was passed by a car with a trunk mount bike rack and a bumper sticker that read: "My other car is a bicycle!" That sticker always has tickled me. Park it, peel it off and ride your stinkin' bike already.
Also last night, cruising around Lake Harriet, I was thinking about LFOAB. I was in the road headed northeast. I looked up and, lo and behold, he was in the bike path headed southwest. We happened to both look at the same time, waved and smiled, as our drivetrains silently carried us in opposite directions. I like Scott. He has more heart than any other Mpls bike blogger I read regularly. I don't always agree with his opinions but he puts them out there, just like that. I've stumbled upon some other wisdom in my life -- if you talk to, hang out with and otherwise subscribe to the ideas of others you simply tend to agree with all the time (yep, that includes where you get your "news", too) you're not going to learn and grow much in life. We (as a society) need more free-thinking people to speak up. Corporations, governments, leaders -- heck, even your bullyish next door neighbor -- get away with too much shit because way too many of us are afraid to confront an issue and take on the responsibility to see it through. Have a voice, make a point, but dammit -- DO something. Thanks for writing with heart and passion, Scott. I know I don't have to say 'keep it up'!
Full moon tonight. Be well, friends -- and watch out for werewolves in black sheep's clothing.
Monday, May 19, 2008
All things work out. April had bad information on some necessary work training she was planning on attending Saturday afternoon. She got a call mid-morning that she needed to be in right away. Babysitters were not lined up until the p.m. Daddy to the rescue. No race, no problem. I ended up racing after Sylvia on her tricycle while balancing a sleepy Willa in my arms. No competition. I won a better prize spending time with my girls than I would have nabbed in Rochester.
But I have to say it looks like the event was a hoot. Check out Snakebite's recap here. He has a link to the Almanzo site with results and photos. Meiser took 2nd. Hurl slid in at 9th. Snakebite was 24th. I missed a good chance to ride with some good friends. Congrats to all of you on finishing. The I (bike) MPLS dude did not fare so well. He was DNF'd before the race ever began due to automobile issues. Don't pity him too much -- he's quaffing fine sippables in Europe as you read this.
Since we had friends ready and willing to take the kids for a few hours Saturday afternoon, April and I did something we haven't had the chance to do in a VERY long time -- we went for a ride together. We pedaled over to our new neighborhood by way of the dirt trails around Cedar Lake. I showed her Hobo Camp (there was actually a hobo there grilling some links and drying some duds). We coasted through the cricket matches taking place in Bryn Mawr meadows. Then we pulled up to our new block and past the house we'll soon call home.
Yep, we're buying a house. It's official now. The inspection is done, the purchase agreement is finalized. We're moving out of S Mpls in July to Bryn Mawr -- a quiet neighborhood tucked just west of downtown along the Cedar Lake Greenway. It also borders the lakes and Theo Wirth Park. Great proximity to I-394 for all those motorized commutes I hope to never make. In all, it's not a bad urban spot for nature loving, pedal-inclined folks like the Flecks. I'll get some pictures of the new place up soon.
Trade-offs, you gotta love 'em. I bagged a fun race but ended up having a stellar weekend anyhow with family and friends. Whoa ... something just moved. Could I have felt a priority shift?!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Sadly though, this quote from the article linked above expresses a sentiment all too prevalent among non-cyclists: "This is the U.S. and people will kill you out there riding your bike," she [Catherine Williams, who was filling her Cadillac with fuel when interviewed] said. "I would not take my life in my hands and ride a bike."
"People" will kill you? Aren't the "people" she describes as murderous actually drivers -- like herself?
I understand this fear, but it's a cop out from two angles. It means someone is neither ready to give up the car nor ready to embrace tolerance while driving. Neither are seen as tangible options. This fear says, "I don't want to be a part of the solution because I don't believe there is a solution."
Now a wise observation from an equally wise friend, Matt: "It's my view that most Americans will only change their driving habits and "way of life" when it becomes economic necessity, not because of values or intentional choices. It happened in 1979 when there was a gas shortage and the speed limits were lowered. That crisis passed but this one does not seem to have an ending that will return us to the "status quo." The era of cheap gasoline and abundant energy is ending, like it or not. People who consciously embrace and advocate for other options like living modestly and biking for transportation can help lead the way. It is difficult to estimate the impact that this transition will have on the global economy and global politics. This is uncharted territory."
I can dig his closing remark: "People will be riding bikes a lot more often in the future. It is inevitable."
Be well and play nice.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Ride. Ride a while and return home and drink beer that is in bottles. Drink and drink, and ride. Ride, you freak, ride. Ride with friends who do the same. Ride and ride and go home tired. Fire up yer SUV and DRIVE to the beer store and get some more beer in cans this time and DRIVE to the market to get some brats and chicken wings. Boil those brats in yer cheap beer and forget something. Then DRIVE to get that something you forgot and ENJOY every moment of DRIVING back to the store.
Jack off in the seat and leave your worries behind. You were doing no good anyway -- DRIVING back to the store. Grab your meat sauce and go! Oh, this is fun, ain't it ... DRIVING? Slather your chicken wings and smoke them on the grill.
Ride, or don't. Are you doing any good anyway? Ah ... some say you aren't. Ride? Why ride? You might as well ride, err, DRIVE. Why not?
RIDE. Ride like a motherfuckin' bat out of hell. Ride because someone will always have an opinion, even those you might call your own. Ride and piss them all off -- every last fucking one of them.
Ride and keep riding. Let any semblance of self-righteousness melt away. Ride silent. Hold your tongue. Pick your battles. Ride your bike and live your life. Grill your meat. Drink your beer from bottles and cans. Waste it all away ...
Neighbors offer that they are inspired because you live a path without the Latter Day Witnesses approach of banging on doors, proselytizing. Wow. Really?
If you can do it (riding your bicycle to and from work while guzzling meat and living a totally unexamined life), why can't I?
Obviously, you can't, because you're not nearly as unworthy as me. Or, maybe your life is not as shit-canned as others would have you believe.
While you're DRIVING to the store one day you pass your neighbor, inspired, until she spots you -- YOU -- DRIVING. Lazy son of a bitch.
Oops, you hypocrite. You're a drunken, meat-eating sot. So we thought.
Excuse me, oh .. did someone forget to tell all of us we were on MTV or something? Survivor must be a rerun.
Ride your ride down your own path and live your life and fuck them, even those you might call your friends. I am no ideologue.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The obligatory drinking and heckling session that begins many a ride. Heckling cars turning onto Washington, that is. Well, and heckling the cycle-ninnies who were biking on the crowded sidewalks. Be proud! Assert your rights -- ride in the street!
It's smart to include instructions on a bottle opener. Can't say that I've ever forgotten how to use one though.
After a beer stop overlooking Cedar Lake we rolled to Wirth for some Big Dumb singletrack. The Dummy was surprisingly cool to ride on the tight stuff. Wirth is not really technical by any means, but a good workout on the Dummy. Here Swervy almost cleaned the rock garden.
Nate, however, lacked a little finesse on his line.
At Hidden Beach we scared away a bunch of the locals who were hanging out. 20 dudes on long bikes toting beer and blasting tunes might have looked a bit intimidating. Hurl, Aaron, Zito and Sov posed for a little shot I like to call the "Stand By Me" Reunion photo.
It was a great ride on the trails and paths around Wirth. I had to peel off early. Sounds like the group rolled pretty late. But I was needed at home to sign my name a dozen or so times. We made an offer on a house on the eastern edge of Bryn Mawr. Leaving So. Mpls ...
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Sylvia finds some more gifts, mainly train stuff. I bought her some Thomas the Train supplies. You think bike stuff is expensive?!
Double chin and all I am happy to profile this shot. Willa showed her first smile to me a couple weeks ago. She is a happy girl. A toothless baby smile is a precious thing. babies aren't stupid -- they know if they do cute stuff that makes you like them you won't sell them for crack. Okay, I hope you all know that was a joke. Really.
I meant to make some greater point, but no bother. Perhaps there's no greater point than to end on the topic of smiling children. May you re-acquaint yourself with your inner child. Go have some fun.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Put aside any artistic residue from the opening of the film "I (heart) Huckabees."
There are two alternatives to this common question: "Paper or plastic?"
1) "Neither ... I don't need a bag."
2) "I brought my own. Let me put my schtuff in it myself."
I snapped this photo last weekend, but it reminded me of spring in central Minnesota. In my past life working for the Great Bell Canoe Making Company, I used to drive past a landfill north of Elk River. The northwest and west winds of spring would literally spray plastic bag confetti all over the trees and bushes east of the landfill along the highway -- thousands of discarded plastic shopping bags. Not only was I slowly drilling it into my head that driving 60 miles one way to get to work was insane (not to mention I was working for an insane company), but that throwing away plastic was, in the least, depressing. Do yourself and our planet a favor, quit relying on the plastic bag (or paper bag, for that matter) to get your shit home from the store.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Saturday's weather was forecast to be crappy -- rain/snow and 50s. It wasn't. Anthony called me up to see if I wanted to ride to Rude's house to get his fork fixed. I loaded up Sylvia in the Burley and we pedaled north and east by way of the Surly Brewery. Surly has a new beer up -- Bitter Brewer. The name says it all. If you like bitters, try the BB. It's very earthy, quite bitter and low alcohol.
Rude's daughter, Chloe, was napping when we arrived, but she soon awakened and the two girls started playing. Sylvia is a year older, so it was hard to keep her from dominating the action. Chloe was a good sport. There's nothing quite like watching your kid having a great time interacting with another kid. The last time Sylvia saw Chloe was nearly 9 months ago, I think. Sylvia wanted little to do with her then since she was younger and wasn't able to rough-house and play the same way. Things were pleasantly different this time around.
Folk music, the Dead, Afro Celt Sound System ... it didn't matter, the girls kept dancing. Meanwhile we talked about bikes and Rude's ideas for a 3-speed revolution. If you're on the inside, you know. Otherwise, consider yourself warned. This revolution will not be televised. Hell, it may not even be blogged. It was also great to converse with Jenny, Chloe's mom. I firmly believe dads should tune into the thoughts and ideas of moms they encounter along the way. You might just learn something.
Anthony, Sylvia and I cruised home down Victory and Theo Wirth Parkways about an hour before sunset. It was peaceful and quiet. None of us were in a hurry. Sylvia fell asleep in the trailer. It was a beautiful, mellow thing. Thanks to Rude, I had Dead tunes floating through my head which I hadn't thought of in a couple years. Yep, somewhere in my past is a Grateful Dead era (I have to send out a big thanks to Stew for helping steer me down that path. What a long, strange trip it was ... and still is, I guess.)
Sunday delivered even better weather. We loaded up the family on bikes and headed to Powderhorn Park for Mayday and an early birthday celebration for Sylvia -- she's the big 3 on May 7.
Mark threw a party on his front steps overlooking Powderhorn. This is his dining room. In my opinion, his priorities seem well adjusted.
Family portrait with the floppy baby. Actually, I think Willa was asleep. Maybe she was just sunning herself.
"Conversations: Nate and Mark. Next on PBS ..." Actually, this looks like one of those "behind the scenes of the Haynes Manuals" shots found on the back covers of most Haynes Manuals.
Nate's custom Candle Apple Red Big Dummy. Yep, the Xtracycle V Racks are also red. You just gotta know Nate to know. And if you don't know Nate you outta. I'm not a big fan of bicycle sound systems, but if either Nate or Nick Sande are playing the tunes, I have three words: "HELL F-CKIN' YEAH!"
A sleepy Willa at 6 weeks old. She's sporting the colors -- CRC, baby! Let's make Hurl proud. I have to give Hurl credit for calling me out in my comments to a recent post. I know it must be difficult to update his blog(s) on account of a demanding job as a coffee purveyor and all. Not like he can sit around a coffee shop and type on a laptop all day. That's okay, because when Hurl posts, he posts with a vengeance. You ought to read the posts, too -- some of them more than once. Here's an example, Dumb as We Wanna Be from 4/30. Don't be afraid of words, people. Words teach. Words good. A picture may speak a thousand words but a thousand words can teach you way more than a stoopid photo.
The birthday girl in her bunny suit. Emery says we should get Sylvia and BRose together for a photo op. Maybe we should call a press conference. That sounds like a grand idea.
In recent memory, very little was more grand than last weekend. That was mostly due to the fact that I spent it with family and bike friends. What are ye doing this weekend, friends? Make it good.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
A Dummy carrying my luggage home. Home, sweet home. And the chilly end to a long trip. It was 76 and sunny in Denver; 36 and cloudy in Minneapolis. Ah, spring in the Midwest.