Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I find myself sniping at the local trail advocacy group more and more, and it is not a quality of my character that I admire. Whining all comes from the same place, a desire for attention. I'm no different. I feel that certain issues were not given proper attention, and until that balance is rectified I will just have to sit on the sidelines and spit in someone's soup.
This might get boring, being a mix between "Ain't it awful" and "It was better back when" but nobody pays me to write so I am just going to satisfy myself.
I can't follow a group that doesn't recognize its heritage. If you don't know where you came from, then how do you know where you are going?
Learning to ride in this town there have always been certain names that stood for cycling. Local legends who macheted through urban seams and forgotten parks to carve out gnarly trails and pioneer connectors that opened up huge swaths of territory to mountain bikers. Some of them just rode, and tackled ever more challenging feats like riding to the end of the land at St. Marks then swimming their bikes across the river and riding further into the salt marsh. Riding mountain bikes was not a sport, it was a statement. Classic lines like the Park Ave gazebo run or MLK Jr through Frenchtown were run like downhills at Whistler, and stairs were de riguer to the culture. Cross-forest epics that ended in glory at a sinkhole, or defeat at a barbed wire fence filled Saturdays and Sundays, Thursdays and Mondays.
Many of those early pioneers are still around. In the push to organize, they failed to adapt. Being individuals and visionaries, they lacked the bureaucratic skills to survive on the reservation. Like Crazy Horse, they fought a doomed battle and lost.
That culture still thrives in Tallahassee. Anyone with the guts can show up at 8:45 A:M at Lafayette park on Sunday mornings and get their legs ripped off. Don't make dinner plans, or expect your spouse to be able to come pick you up. Cars might not be able to get there. You might have to carry your bike, ride over a log, outrun some dobermans, and get chiggers. It is understood that there is no obligation to wait, such grace is a courtesy. It is the most inconvenient of rides.
Some of these pioneers anchor a bicycle culture the recreational rider knows nothing of, keeping regular folks rolling on thirty dollar bicycles. They complete 900 mile round trip rides in a week and draft semi-trucks on Immokalee Highway. No sponsors or support team, they do it for love.
Others took their vision and skills to big cities, where a machete is wrapped in oilcloth somewhere in a cedar trunk.
Maybe with some of them in charge less would have happened. We might not have a roly-poly thing at the Cadillac trail, and I might still hate the rooty mess of Tom Brown park. Munson would be over-run by horses and motorcycles.
Perhaps I personally am much better off as a rider in this town now, but reservation braves still dream by the fire drinking government whiskey and singing tribute to the fallen and free.
Monday, July 30, 2012
If there is one lesson I have learned from the era of social media it is that you must get out in front of scandal in order to control the spin.
This is my Apricot Poodle.
Her name is Summer (Chanel) and she will flat out bark you into a shattered, whimpering hull of yourself. She doesn't bark all of the time, only when it is necessary.
When you open the door she barks: THEDOORISOPENTHEDOORISOPENTHEDOORISOPEN!
When you see people walking on the street with a quarter mile, she lets them know: YOUAREWALKINGWITHINAQUARTERMILEOFME!
Sometimes she barks:ITISTHEMIDDLEOFTHENIGHTANDITISTOOQUIETINHEREWENEEDMOREBARKINGANDIDONTLIKETHATCAT!
Other than that she is a good dog.
As someone with a poet's heart, I tend to experience life as a series of metaphors and symbolic events. The elevated trauma of an event renders it greater significance and therefore the associated symbols loom large. Hoss Cartwright, Turpentine, Barbed Wire, and THE CRASH OF GREAT CLARITY are touchstones on the epic journey of our protagonist, Juancho, a slightly fictionalized version of myself, Juancho.
Summer (Chanel) is no different. I now realize her name is no accident. Given to her by my beloved, a woman who suffers little nonsense and reveres straight-talk, this name is a direct challenge. In order to conquer summer, with its death-threatening humidity, mosquito-infestation, dysentery-covered gloves, sloppy smilax covered trails, and chafing chamois- I must conquer Summer- the Apricot Poodle with the big voice.
We have tried good cop/bad cop (I'm bad cop) and that does not work. We have tried positive reinforcement, force-feeding, isolation, inclusion, toy-motivating, food-motivating, and completely freaking out on her little, barking crazy ass.
Nothing seems to work.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the metaphor, I am out there riding with Taco, barely treading water. Slinging my extra 10 lbs over my shoulder (or wherever it settles) and suffocating my way around the woods. Every ride is a grim undertaking, barely survived. My new bike, paid for 6 weeks ago, languishes as a financial transaction, coded in pixels.
I am in need of some elegant solutions.
Summer (summer) must be broken.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
The day is soft and warm, and it calls to me this morning.
Last night I rode the sun down with my lover through the sticky, wet clay and cloying green grasses of her first mountain bike ride. We heard the train rush by after crossing the tracks and I felt anxious, and jealous of the conductor. We turned around then, so as not to get caught in the dark, and slip-slopped our way back up the hill to the car. After a shower, and a walk of the little dog we stayed up too late.
I have been a lot places.
I once rode the E line from Queens to Manhattan outside, between cars in February, my feet slipping on the corrugated stainless decking. I have climbed a rope 90 feet out of Big Horse Cave after 10 hours underground, to see the Northern Lights wavering beyond the sub-zero winds. The streets of Mostar, all buildings reduced to dwindling sand castles from bullets. Underneath the Burnside bridge smoking cigarettes on my bike watching the skaters grind coping and smoke cocaine. I spent the night on a paper map in North Carolina, stranded on the trail at dark. Drank Kalimotxo and watched the sun rise from the parapet of the Sagrada Familia. Bean Point watching a hurricane blow by in the Gulf. Overheated in Amboy. Parliament in Missoula.
My advice? Don't come in from the cold unless you must.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Hybrid is just word for double failure.
Anything that attempts to please all of the people all of the time is a lie. Whether it is a politician, a toaster-oven/microwave, or those ridiculous barefoot shoes anything that serves two masters is a disappointment to both. Please, prove me wrong. As evidence I cite:
Hybrid bicycles- fails on both road and trail.
The Shandal- the hotness of a shoe with the vulnerabilities of a sandal
Goober Grape- Do you put it in the fridge and let the peanut butter get hard, or the pantry so the jelly gets warm?
Rap-Rock Music- see Linkin Park, Kid-Rock, Rage Against the Machine
The moped- shitty motorcycle, heavy bike.
The Ganoe- loud, slow, with mechanical issues.
You see my point, or maybe you don't.
The reason I come back to this old saw of mine is because of a recent conversation regarding the nature of Tallahassee trails. I will pause a moment while most of you scoot your chairs back and exit the room. Continental breakfast is provided in the foyer.
So- a log fell across a trail, as some of you remember, and the world was brought to a halt while we, as a community of cyclists, discussed what to do about this emergency.
Do we keep the log? KEEP THE LOG, KEEP THE LOG, KEEP THE LOG!
Do we remove the log? NO LOGS, NO LOGS, NO LOGS!
Before some coward removed the log under dubious circumstances one of our professional trail stewards was working on an appeasement plan. Leave the log, cut a notch in it to for ease of clearing, take a slice out, for those that choose to ride around, and leave a portion natural for those who know how to ride mountain bikes. It was a solution that served everyone, a perfect hybrid.
My recent ride at Hannah Park in Jacksonville, by far the best sorry trail in Florida, crystallized my ill-defined feelings about the proposed solution. Without the logs, that trail is no challenge. With them, it is a cardiac beat-down and a technical test.
Humans are weak. When given the choice, we gravitate towards ease, especially when under pressure. Given the option to ride around the log most of us will do that. To choose the obstacle is to take the stairs when the elevator door is open.
Bail-out options breed mediocrity. There is no walk-up route on The Eiger. There is no risk-free way to drop in on a halfpipe. There is nothing remarkable about having something for everyone. I am only talking about a 24" round log, and our coddled bottoms squeal and blubber to be saved from the challenge of learning. Shame on us.
Mountain biking is hard. It has challenges. We try. We fail. We muster our courage. We get stronger. Life is made of do or do not moments.
A challenge that can be avoided will never be confronted.
LOG UP Tallahassee, it's all we've got.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
I got picked up by two riders at Hannah Park in Jacksonville yesterday, because they are nicer guys than the degenerates I ride with at home. They gave me the proper tour and for the first time I put that place together in a proper ride. Hannah Park is the original silk purse from the sow's ear, as there is no good reason to have a bike trail through terrain that is sandy when it isn't swampy and has a net elevation gain of 7 feet. The biting flies complained about the mosquitoes and the raccoons stole food from my pack while I was riding. The trail is woven through a salt marsh along the Atlantic coastline which just means it is hot and hazy, the air sticky with salt. You break a sweat immediately when you exit your car and that first sheen never leaves you, as the air can't accommodate another drop. The trail is tight and winding, brutish and ugly, and interrupted by logs and mud, which is a shame because that means it is too technical for Tallahassee riders. We prefer our trails groomed, with valets stationed at intervals to powder our bottoms and tell us what good boys and girls we are (yes we are!)
Jacksonville riders I salute you. Like a surf town with one break, riders pile into Hannah Park, otherwise known as the only game in town. This smallish park supports a hardcore ecosystem of sightseers, weekend warriors, and fat-tire aficionados.
To finish a trail ride and cool off in the ocean is an exotic novelty, so I pulled the rental Impala to the last beach access point and flip flopped down to the water in my chamois. Angry waves piled up right at the shoreline, a rip tide sucking sand and shells out to sea like a straw at the bottom of a milkshake. I saw no one in the water as far as I could see in either direction. That ocean wanted to drag out everything it could get.
I waded in enough to tease it, and in her petulance she filled my shorts with gravel and silt. I retreated to the beach and watched cruise ships positioned far offshore like pink pencil erasers.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Tommy said don't call him for bike rides anymore, not until further notice.
"Further Notice"- that's one of those phrases that all the flavor has been chewed from, like "Going Forward." They all mean, I don't want to talk about it.
We understand. There are big summer projects to do, and it has nothing to do with the 92% humidity and the swarm of biting insects. He loves the misery index stuff, truly.
It is a defeat for the inner child. It is hard to justify spending the energy it takes to plow a field like mad money at the county fair. When play goes up against reason, none of us stand a chance. Inner children go sit in the corner.
There was no playing on Saturday's ride. It was all brass knuckles and pitchforks for the three of us. Sticky heat and spider webs, burning thighs and marbles under shoulder blades. Grinding and churning against wet grass and softly melting rubber sloughing off along the trails.
The summer groove is settling in, and if we can ride through August, September may kill us, but October will be worth the wait.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
I can't wait for hunting season, because right now I feel like the prey.
Joey Bushyhead came down from his tree stand and into the saddle. He has moved from the shadows of stealth training to open hostility on the trails. I fell victim to the Sicilian Dragon.
The Sicilian Dragon is a famous chess opening for black, the aggrieved position, which must counter the advantage white has by dictating the opening move. The Sicilian Dragon, a variation of The Yugoslav, is characterized by its combative nature and willingness to engage in early sacrifice. The message to white is- sure you can develop your plan, but not without paying a dear price.
Now is a good time for me to declare unequivocally that riding bikes is an activity to be enjoyed among friends for benefits of mutual health and well-being. Any message to the contrary taken from this blog speaks to your own miserly nature and need for validation at the expense of those dearest to you. Of course. This expression of goodwill is a fundamental cornerstone of the BRC philosophy and any discussion of crushing, dropping, or putting the hurt on someone is not tolerated here.
My options for enjoying the mutual benefits to our health and well-being from in front of Joey Bushyhead are few. The only adequate response to the Sicilian Dragon is rapid development. White must advance his position, at painful cost to his ranks, in order to achieve high ground and establish a winning position before the bloodletting proves fatal.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I prefer to operate on half-truths, lies, and innuendo when it comes to my cycling prowess. The less people know the better. I am a cagey and dangerous yard dog who wags his tail until you are close enough to bite. I only ride for fun, unless you look tired then I twist the rusty spoon in your side meat if I can. If I am the one who is hurting, I switch my narrative to appreciation of the moss in the oaks, the Great Blue Heron, and the swish of tall grass across my shins. Why hurry? We have all day.
It is awkward to pivot from a salute to the all day epic in my last post to a breakdown of a 7.5 mile lap around the hamster wheel, but this site is built on nothing if not contradictions.
To the best of my memory yesterday was the first time I have ever raced a mountain bike. I raced against the clock for money as a bike messenger in Portland, OR. I have done events like San Felasco, and of course every ride is a race at some point, but this time there were witnesses and record-keeping. I can't say I cared for it.
A time trial is a race against the clock, with riders starting at one minute intervals. This means there is a possibility of being caught, or catching someone else. The former is awesome, the latter- humiliating.
My name got called behind a kid I was pretty sure I would not be seeing, and I had no idea who was coming behind me, and I planned to keep it that way until the end of the lap.
And that is exactly how it happened. One frantic, panicked lap all alone, sweating like a dry drunk at a job interview.
Results are pending.
Monday, July 09, 2012
I got a report from Bike Church last night that enlightened me. In an attempt to circumnavigate our sometimes lake, Lake Jackson, those guys were flinging their bicycles onto the brush to trample down a path through the swampy fringe. Shins were laced with tiny cuts, like an emo kid's arm, and the circles beneath the eyes spoke to the brink of dehydration, and yet the tone is euphoric, the smile- fulfilled.
If you are worrying too much about what is happening on the bike trails, you are doing it wrong.
A good Tallahassee area ride involves some cross-town urban assault, suburban orienteering, wasteland bushwhacking, and then maybe a little single track for dessert. Engineered trails are fun, but hopelessly artificial. They are to be enjoyed in moderation, like crystal meth, and nothing to build a habit around. Mazes are for gerbils.
Venture out, find some chiggers, bonk out and see spots. A good ride should make you whimper for home, a supplicant for deliverance, stronger.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
A guy can't spend the next four decades like he did the last two, rolled up in a tarp drunk by the fire. That's no way to earn the title "Elder Statesman."
This summer I have thrown out the old Juancho playbook. Someone else will have to tote the turpentine and barbed wire. I'm retired from that game.