Thursday, June 30, 2011

Clydesdale Hall of Fame-Stetson Kennedy

Sometime in my twenties I discovered Stetson Kennedy, first by reading his book, The Klan Unmasked, and then The Jim Crow Guide to the South. At the time I had but two noble aspirations in my life- to be a writer and to be some kind of professional rabble-rouser. The internet had not been invented yet, and so the opportunity to do both of these things from the convenience of my underwear did not exist. The only supporting evidence I had to guide me were a collection of not that good short stories (because kids in their 20's don't know shit with rare exception) and a couple of train-wreck efforts at organizing to support various causes. I read Mr. Kennedy's stark and simple prose where he described not the ideas of doing good work, but the actions. I resigned myself to trying the unglamorous hard way, and went to work at a runaway shelter instead of trying to advocate from afar like a celebrity. Homeless kids need good potato salad more than they need college kids writing stiff essays about their plight. I guess I hoped that by immersing myself in the work I might one day have something legitimate to say about it all. If you aren't familiar with the life and legend of Stetson Kennedy, I invite you to spend a few precious Google minutes learning about his contributions to Florida especially, and to humankind in general.

Tomorrow night, at an art show curated by my friend Bill Bryson, the mayor of Hogtown, Stetson Kennedy will be opening the ball. This show, The American Dream, already stood to be an epic event without this surprise announcement. Mr. Bryson is a cultural curator, a deep thinker, and apparently a persuasive organizer. Stetson Kennedy recently marched in support of increasing the pay rate of farm-workers 1 penny for a pound of tomatoes. He is a gentleman of well-advanced age and yet he gets off the couch for justice. Decades after taking down the Ku Klux Klan, defending the Everglades, and mocking the hypocrisy of the Jim Crow South, he is still making his own potato salad.

He has lived my version of the American Dream for 95 years and I can't think of a better way to honor our nation on this Independence Day weekend.


Check back later for a re-mix of yesterday's Juancho vs. Dogboy ride.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I would have preferred the simplicity of a quick injection of human growth hormone but the excessive hair growth on my back and shoulders was interfering with my body's natural ability to cool itself. Instead, I carefully removed the I.V. needle from the 2 pints of blood I purchased from some kid who deals it from the back door of his part-time job at a TCBY. He said he can run a mile in under 4 minutes so I figured it had to be pretty good. Big Worm said he was coming to the Munson Monday ride and I wasn't taking any chances. I slapped a booster needle of EPO into my thigh and grabbed my gear when- BOOM! Lightning crackled throughout the neighborhood and the rain we have been waiting for came all at once. Nobody would be riding tonight, not on the artificial pitcher's mound Munson has become. The trail would be a sticky mess.

There was no way to retract the increase in hemoglobin that made every deep breath taste like sweet cheesecake. I had to burn off the energy somehow so I did what anyone would do in my situation and I walked it off inside Joanne's Fabrics. They didn't ask me to leave until they ran the final batch report and rolled up the yards of chenille and chintz. The manager, a teenager with chipped, black fingernails told me I didn't have to go home, but I couldn't stay there and suggested I take it down the sidewalk to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I told her she wasn't the boss of me and drove home in the rain. Eventually I slept, and dreamt of future glory.


Monday, June 27, 2011

I never saw it coming. When I reached out my hand to greet the Wrecking Ball before yesterday's ride, he showed me a smile full of sharp teeth as he grasped my hand and pulled me towards him, planting his knee in my groin. Doubled over in pain, I tried to catch my breath until Big Worm brought his two big hams together over his head and clubbed me to the ground. "You ready to go for a ride now Juancho?"

After that it was body blows followed by haymakers, kidney punches and stomps to the in-step, dirty boxing and where did my lunch money go. Their other two friends would occasionally stand me up and shove me into a flying elbow. I was on Bikechain posse local terrain and they really dusted off the welcome mat for me.

I spit some teeth out and asked them, "is that all you boys got?"

It was the best ride of the week, no question.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sweat Lodge

This whole town is soaking wet this morning, and the air is moving not one single knot. I suspended my penitent practices last night and enjoyed a few cold ones, so skipping a ride was not on the menu this morning. It is so steamy that my sweat was sweating. Oh well, I felt strong. I can't wait for another three months to pass so I can enjoy another cold beer. That's going to be great.

I stopped in at Zone 5 Bikes, Brews, and Coffee on the way home and I just have to love what is going on down there. Homeboy has a grand vision and it is all coming together. All of the cycling tribes in the Seven Hills nation come together for Rendezvous and trading on Fridays. There is always a new Ellsworth on the stand, and one of these days that will be my new Ellsworth. I am consciously willing it into existence. I could use your help too- so on the count of three I want you all to help me manifest this vision.

OK, 1.....2......3 Manifest!

Outstanding, thank you all. If you have a vision you would like help manifesting, please submit your requests below and let the collective consciousness of the bigringcircus work for you.


Thursday, June 23, 2011


Osama Bin Laden, Ratko Mladic, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, and Whitey Bulger.

Something is going on out there in the back alleys of the world where good and evil duke it out. Bad guys are falling left and right. We can debate lots of things, like whether or not Al Gore is an international sex symbol, but we can't debate that the four individuals named above are bad news bears all the way. All of them supposedly untouchable and beyond the reach of law, and yet one, two, three, four one dead and three arrested. I'm taking it as a sign towards brighter days for all of us. Unless you are evil too, then you better lay low for a while. This is not your time.

If Justice is suddenly in vogue then where is mine?

If there is a surplus of justice going around then I would like to finally get the opportunity to dunk a basketball on a 10' rim. If the world is righting itself towards fairness, and bending the arc of the universe a little more towards justice, then when can I get a vacation? Where is my serendipitous good thing?
An Ellsworth Truth maybe? A fleeting smile from a pretty girl?

Come on Universe, hook a brother up. I try my best every day.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Team Type 1

Team Type 1 is the feel good hit of the summer. I haven't mentioned them, but they have been on my mind as they advance their cause in the press and in bike racing around the world. I have followed the story of Phil Southerland and his steady takeover of the cycling world ever since Big Worm told me who he was. I would love for Big Worm to give us his perspective on mentoring this local Tallahassee guy in his early years, and supporting him through the Race Across America. Like the rest of us, Phil looks up to Big Worm, and not just because he's tall. Phil doesn't race anymore that I know of, but he is directing a team and an international effort to mobilize diabetics to compete and manage their disease through exercise. You don't have to be a diabetic to get the idea.

In my recent adventures in wellness I have learned a lot about blood sugar and how it affects both the mind and body. While I am not a diabetic, I was doing a good job of impersonating one until last September. Remember all that worshiping of candy corn? Raw almonds are the new candy corn.

Every time I see a TT1 jersey in a race or on a podium it inspires me to take better care of this daily gift I carry around each day.

I'm saying it now, and I hope you are reading Mr. Tour de France chief, Team Type 1 needs to be on the road to Paris in 2012 or the BRC is boycotting the race.

With good control, anything is possible.



Bike Church showed up at Munson Monday tonight, a few of the Disciples anyway. I rode with those guys and we ran the trail backwards and inside out of course, because nothing is ever easy about the Bike Church gang. One of them rode without a seat, I kid you not. Another one rode without water. He said we weren't going to be out long enough to need it. We rode almost 2 hours and it was 94 degrees at 7:00 P:M. When we said goodnight he was headed deeper into the forest by himself. That's just how those boys do it. Everybody has to find their own way right?

Right. Dig it.

Me? I just flowed the whole time in that be like water way that happens when you get your mind out of the way and let the pedals do the thinking. I ain't saying this was bike church, it was just a Monday night prayer supper, but that's how you learn to ride on Sunday mornings when you have to reach deep inside and send some knee mail to get the ride done.

Are you smelling what I'm stepping in here?


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Indianhead Acres Gentlemans's Club

Raise your hand if you remember Sasquatch, from the early days of this site? I rode with him today for the inaugural Brunch Fandango, a genteel affair involving no dropping, no single track, and no displays of competitive spirit. It was to be a truly regal promenade above the banks of el Lago de Lafayette.

We lost each other immediately upon crossing the first major road, no more than 3 minutes from my house, our point of departure. The fault lies with me, as I proceeded directly to the trail which I had made an effort to communicate as our intended destination. Sasquatch, observing the rules of the Indianhead Acres Gentlemans's Club, bypassed the trail due to it's singular nature and he rolled to the bottom of the hill on the pavement, or as he calls it, the bigger single track. Away he went from there, fuming that I should disrespect the Fandango with my show of aggression! Meanwhile, patiently did I wait at the end of the trail- the same trail I had identified as our intended destination. Wait I did, like a dog left behind at the rest stop. He never came back for me.

Now set your watches for one hour and you will experience the amount of time it took for us to re-connect.

There. It was quite a long time was it not, to be wandering and waiting with no hope of locating your fellow caballero, no? Si, de acuredo, hace much tiempo sin duda. We did persist and reconvene for a tour of the Lafayette Heritage nature trail, where at least one senorita informed Mr. S'quatch that I was "beating him" as we climbed to the peak of the grand colina. Foolish girl, the Indianhead Acres Gentlemans's Club does no beating, the rider in front is simply scouting, for the convenience of his fellow gentlemen.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


Before Big Jim settled down and destroyed me and everything I stand for on a bike, he lamented the many times he is mistaken for a particular friend of ours. As it turns out I have on occasion been told I bear a family resemblance to this fellow and his brother. The reason this happens is simple. Racism.

When people look at us all they see is our pale color, our bald heads, and our swarthy Scottish frames. They never look further to see the individual inside that counts. We all deserve to let our little lights shine.

But seriously, I could not have set myself up any better for a head to head ride with Big Jim. I ate quinoa and slept 8 hours. I got deep into my practice (as we say) at yoga last night. Perfect tires. Perfect pressure. Clean gloves. Perfect.

It turns out Big Jim likes to ride his bike quite a bit. All I'm going to say is that I never offered to set the pace and he never really asked. I realized this early in the ride and saved myself some pain and anguish by not responding to his little surges along the way. Just hard blue collar pedaling from a couple of Shmoos.



My neighborhood is filled with smoke this morning. Is it so hot that trees are spontaneously combusting? I saw a cat stuck to the road, his little paws sunk into the melted asphalt, that's how hot it is. He was walking like he had gum on the bottom of his little cat shoes.

I had the tiniest quiver of excitement at the thought that my house would burn up and I would collect the insurance and once again travel free across the surface of the planet. In truth I know I would just rent an apartment on the other side of town and do what I always do these days. Freedom, it is a hell of a concept, but it sure is exhausting when you actually have it in your hands.

I made a salad last night of quinoa, brown rice, baby collards, walnuts, olives, cukes, and whatnot, tossed in a lemony garlic dressing. That is the caloric equivalent of loading a fresh belt in the 50 caliber, so smoke or not I must ride. I could save it for the weekend, but I don't know if it works that way?

Good grief, this has become such a blog I need to set it on fire.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life seems to happen in little chapters, but it is hard to say who is writing the text sometimes. A few months ago I picked up my guitar and practiced every day for about three weeks. I learned (was learning?) some songs and moving past the threshold I was stuck at for 29 years and then something happened and that little chapter was closed. Maybe 3 weeks is a paragraph and not a chapter. Sometimes it feels like I'm writing my story in the first person and dictating the action,and other times life is clearly being acted upon me in the dispassionate 3rd person. I have been on a run of good paragraphs for the most part this summer, and so I am ready to push the action towards the denouement and see how things turn out for the protagonist, but I just have to live it out a page at a time like everybody else.

I hope Stephen King isn't writing this story.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicken Hawks

The ride rolled away from us while we were unloading our bikes from the van and that didn't sit well with none of us. That meant working our way through the pack starting with the slowest and greenest, then working our way past the nature enthusiasts, closing in on the daily drinkers, the muffin-toppers, the slow B groupers, and hopefully finding the wheel of some quick B+'ers if not an A rider worn out from the weekend. I felt pity for none of them. I have been eaten alive, regurgitated, and re-animated on the trails of Tallahassee. Been there and did all that. It was treacherous. We passed on the left, we passed on the right, we passed through the bushes and around the trees. Sometime around the old trailhead we broke free from the pack and had clear open trail ahead except for one flash of jersey off in the distance, which we felt compelled to run down. Some chickens are stronger than others and this pullet was trucking. I turned myself inside out to reach him on the final climb back to the bench and I had him too. I thrust forward my talons and prepared to scoop him up and then, WHAM! I hooked a vine that yanked me straight into a tree in slow-motion cartoon fashion. Dashed!

Back at the bench, the gentleman we were chasing remarked on how startled he was to hear me crashing behind him as he was unaware anyone was back there.

You don't hear no chicken hawks until it's too late.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Another Day

This is MR3, formally of the Robot Army, but now he has a real soul like other little boys. It is good to be back in town with no departure dates looming. All I want is a chance to get into a groove right here on the Heech'. We rode the sun down on Saturday, then I rode it back up on Sunday morning with a blistering tour of the eastside trails with Mystery. I have been riding with a lot of groups lately, and it was nice to get back to a mano a mano ride format.

Now maybe some inspiration will visit these pages again.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Apocalyptic Phenomena

Greetings from New Haven, Missouri!

We are enjoying the 13 year Cicada bloom, a rare honor I am encouraged to appreciate by our hosts. The humming rises and falls all day long and into the night. When the cicadas come out to mate they are not bashful about it. I viewed them as a nuisance until I learned that this is a bona fide episodic event in nature. Like Haley's Comet or a 100 year flood, you can't just go find a swarm of cicadas any time you wish. These events give us meaning and a way to mark the passage of time. (We met three years before the Cicada bloom of 92 and so forth.)

What other natural events meet this criteria and how are they interpreted now and how were they viewed in the past?

Please tell us.


Monday, June 06, 2011

What is Flow?

Sometimes accomplishing great things requires little effort and other times accomplishing nothing at all takes everything you have got. I am caught between two cliches here: go with the flow, and against the grain. I could be talking bikes here, or I could not be, but let's pretend that I am talking about the bikes.

Riding when it is 100 degrees outside seems like more of an against the grain kind of decision don't you think? What can I hope to gain from it? I am going to do it tonight no matter what so don't get all caught up in Yaying or naying that decision. What I am getting it is more fundamental. What does it mean to flow? Does it mean go along to get along? Because that doesn't sound appealing. When you are flowing are you pushing the pace or holding a certain rhythm? If finding a flow is the ultimate, and it is easy to argue that it is, then why all of the romantic appeal of going against the grain? Is it more noble to do things the hard way, or do we justify that when we do it because it is how we spend our time? Can you flow against the grain too?

One thing that will for sure be flowing tonight is sweat.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Today is a good day to be a sucker, because so far they are all out riding the trails unchallenged by me. I woke up at 6:00 A:M, with the little voice that keeps me out of trouble saying,The Dogboy is out there. I am not afraid of him, but I dragged my sleeping bag under the bed and went back to sleep for another hour just in case he showed up all Thor at the door as the kids used to say. I remained uneasy and gave up on sleep. I needed a justification and I wasn't feeling picky so I put on some shoes and launched a surge attack on the damn weeds that keep growing in my damn bushes. That's what I get for trying to play house, plants that nobody else is responsible for tending. My shackles weigh heavy on my soul.

Now, it is 117 degrees and the trails are for certain sucker fee so there is no point in dropping some bait if the bite ain't on.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Heal (heel)

I am watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee and wishing I could go back to 5th grade and face my nemesis one more time. I was a contender, but I could have been a champion. I don't own a lot of things, or things that matter anyway, but one of my more treasured possessions is a 1935 Oxford English Dictionary that I received as a gift for working in the catacombs of Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR creating first generation barcodes for their massive inventory. I have lugged that thing around the country, loaned it to a kid who lived in a crisis shelter, and used it as a coffee table. Words are magic, and meant to be shared.

Which brings me to the miraculous healing of my aching Achille's heel. I think recording my thoughts and feelings about the Great Crash that Overcame all Fear released all of the pressure stored in my sore hoof. After a week of little change in its status, I awoke this morning and walked to the kitchen without incident, cooked my oatmeal, and went about my day.

Without getting too metaphysical here, I'm just going to say that pain is complicated and has as much to do with our thoughts as it does with our bodies sometimes.

I don't care if it is 132 degrees. There will be some bike riding going on this Saturday. That's bad news for the suckers.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Anniversary

Tomorrow will be a year since I picked myself up off the road with my skateboard under my arm and my right arm twisted backwards and braced across my head. I now understand why this pain is being visited upon my Achille's heel. My mind was trying to ignore this date, but the body demands its observance. That crash, forever known as the necessary crash, changed my life.

Without that decision to drop the car at the shop and skateboard home I could never have become a Vicodin zombie. I would not have watched every episode of Wife Swap and written extensive notes on that show's significance to solving the nation's intransigent political divide. I would not have gained that extra fifteen lbs that carried me into dangerous new territory. If I had not gotten on that skateboard at the top of the road and pointed it down into a 90 degree corner I would not be dropping suckers on the trails like I have been lately, and will soon be doing again. Enjoy the holiday suckers, it is my gift to you. And to those who drop me? It is a holiday for them too, because I don't care if I ever catch them, they know I am back there trying. Rust never sleeps for any of us.

That crash, forever to be known as the Crash of Great Clarity, tumbled me through the rocks and dumped me on the banks of humility. That crash turned me inside out physically, mentally, and spiritually. I highly recommend a hard slam to the pavement if you are ever at loose ends about what you want from this life. Thanks to that crash, where my head bounced off the road like a croquet ball, I walked up the stairs to a place called Journeys in Yoga. There, I was reintroduced to my body, my breath, and my mind and I found a lot worth saving in those places.

After that crash, which will forever be known as the Great Confrontation with Reality, I walked out this front door every morning and night and guided by the voices in my head, walked damn near 50 lbs of baggage off of myself. I let the good folks at Natural Health Consultants teach me how to eat. Here's the secret- food has stuff in it that your body needs.

This is not the Academy awards. I only won back 95% of my right arm after all, but I have a lot of people to thank. I'm not one to put people's names out on the internet, so I'm going to do the best I can and you can figure it out from there.

Thanks friends and family for hanging tough with me when I really, truly needed help. Thanks for picking me up and taking me to Stinky's Fish Camp all those times. That, and watching the Tour were the only fun I had in July. Thanks for Wellness Camp. Thanks for the good counsel and the deep slumbers on your couches, and the grocery deliveries. I will try to get better about asking for help before things get to the skateboard point. Thanks for that too, the skateboard that made it all possible.

Thanks to Dave B, who I ran into outside the grocery store that day. You cheered me on before I could even feel a difference, before I believed I was actually trying to change my life. That carried me for weeks. Thanks also to Walt D, who poured over the Chinese medicine book with me and helped me think through the famous brown rice and kale diet. Again, I heard everything you said that day and I wrung months of encouragement from our conversation. Thank you Bill and Sonia, for hooking me up with the yoga. Bill told me "It's your body Juancho, you can do whatever you want with it." It would have been far easier to never mention yoga to me again after the first 30 sarcastic remarks out of me. Sometimes it just takes that many tries. Hey y'all, that's your body right there, you can do what you want with it.

Thanks to my riding buddies. My desire to not just return to the bike, but to shock you all with a true return to form has been the burning coal in my heart from September until today. I did it for all of us and I hope you believe that. Thanks also to the greater cycling community of Tallahassee and beyond. I have never been one to ride with anyone but the same poor saps I write about all the time. That is complicated enough, but this year I have enjoyed rides with:

BC crew
Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association,
Thursday Night Forest Loop,
Dogboy, Nat King, and Uncle Todd for administering some sublime beatdowns
the Robot Army
Some Mexican guys on their way to their restaurant jobs
Random strangers I met only by jersey color and a few miles of trail.
That one road ride

Every ride matters for all kinds of reasons.

And thank you, my internet community, for taking that ride with me.

See you on the trail,