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Thursday, May 6

I can feel it, can you?

There you have it.  As of July 6th, Dick gets to take five steps towards being a normal human again.  We're going back to work like usual'ish, which means no more week on/week off schedule.  I'll be a 9-5, five day a week schlub again.

I feel like I made the most of my time, and I feel terribly fortunate to the point of almost guilt in regards to how it all worked out for me.  So many lost so much.  I got to ride my bikes a whole lot.  I was able to tick off a lot of boxes in regards to house shit.  I don't think things could possibly be any more organized in my cupboards, closets, drawers, and wherever else we keep the things we supposedly need to exist.  

I even managed to fix the tick-tick-tick noise on The Fastest Bike in the World yesterday.  Good thing, as it's going back to being my daily driver, and I'm not looking forward to the Tell Tale Heart commutes every day.

I'll miss the random road trips with Bill Nye and the local rambles with all my local friends.  I saw parts of the city I'd never seen before following Jerry's wheel wherever it went.  So.  Many.  Bike.  Rides.  

I can't say it was all sunshine and roses.  There were days at work when everything just seemed pointless and hopeless.  Wandering around what was essentially nine abandoned floors in the tall tower was disheartening.  There were days staying at home when the weather was shit raining and cold, and I thought I was losing my mind.  I'm surprised how little TV I did watch, although I'll admit that during one bad batch of weather, and with The Pie being outta town, mebbe I did watch all three Expendables movies in one sitting.

On the bright side, I can finally take time off when I want to, as opposed to taking time off ONLY when I was already off.  I started looking at flights to Denver just the other day...

because the Breck Epic is back on the menu.  I can not wait to be up there breathing that rarified air in the high country again.  There's just something about escaping the swampy shit summer in Charlotte right at the point when I've had it up to here with sweat-drenched commutes... and then coming back with only a few weeks left before fall kicks in.  I love, love, love being at the Breck Epic... even when I'm pushing my bike up yet another mountainside.

I know it's not normal, and I hate the term "new normal," so mebbe I'll call it "my more normal."  I'm a creature of routine in many regards, and I'm ready to hang out with frands at Trans-Sylvania Epic this month and Breck Epic later this summer and wherever else I get to see them... and looking forward to weekend day trips to Pisgah... and waking up at relatively the same time every day... and seeing some of the people at work... and not staring out the window wondering what to do with all this free time... and feeling guilty about having so much free time... and feeling bad about feeling guilty...

Yeth, yeth, yeth...

Monday, May 3

Let's get at 'er

Signed up for the Trans-Sylvania Epic this weekend... because... you know?  Why not?

Despite being in probably the best shape ever before the event (albeit a slightly curvy one), I expect to finish off the podium.  There are other riders that are in the mix that can defeat me with one leg tied around their scrotum... or their scrotum tied around their one leg... dunno, I've never done body tying before. 

What do we know?

We know this.

Gordong Wadsworthless will be there.

Seen here delivering a finishing-move haymaker to the clouds on his way to defeating bad weather by TKO in the first round.

He's won all sorts of dumb bike races and can frequently be seen on a dumb geared bike... which means he is not dumb like the rest of us.  His mustache is non-ironic, and he trains like bike cycle racing pays the bills.  He's also only been in close proximity to a beer once in his life.

Perrier is the gateway drug to Coors.

Then there's Dahn Pahrs.

Once thought to be just a fictional character in Montucky Miller's Dirt Rag articles (R.I.P.), he's been turned into a real live boy just like Pinocchio but with a Pittsburghian accent.  Known for his ability to crush margaritas at night and fellow single speeders the next morning, his fight to keep cargo-shorted Ohio racers off the top step of the podium is an exhausting endeavor.

 
Speaking of Ohio single speeders...

We have Eli Orth AKA Captain Ohio.

The cycling industry refuses to acknowledge that someone with his physique would stop flipping tractor tires long enough to ride a bike, so there is no jersey that fits him properly.  Thus the reason he has a fresh coat of sponsor appropriate body paint applied monthly.  Rumor has it he's able to stay so lean because it's impossible to gain an ounce of body fat eating Cincinnati's watery chili.

His cargo shorts are almost forgivable, being that he needs some place to store those hammers he's dropping all day long.

Then there's fellow Ohio SS'er, Joe Worboy.

I'm trying to get over the fact that phonetically pronounced, he's got one of the best single speeder names out there.  Scrolling through his FaceBook photos, I see that he's not a stranger to podiums.

Here he is standing high above Eli Orth at the Snake Creek Gap TT, Eli wanting it known that had he not run out of nutrition and resorted to eating his rear wheel, he obvs woulda won (shoulda skipped the Cincinnati chili breakfast).

Also in the picture above is another Ohio single speeder, Kenny Kocarek wearing the SS appropriate podium uniform; too-short jorts, flip flops, and podium beer... but I don't know about those bent-bill trucker hats.  You can take the boys outta Ohio, but...

Kenny's one of those riders who I think I'll be able to beat forever (like Watts), but then they get stronger and do bigger and stupider things and get faster and I keep doing the same things assuming I'm not getting older and the freshmen aren't staying the same age and the next thing you know I'm watching them ride away.  Damn it, Kenny.

The other single speeders will have to forgive me for being terrible with names or not knowing who they are... except for Scott Rath.

I member him from previous TSE(s?).  When I looked to see how we stacked up against each other in 2019 (the last year the race was held), I was reminded that I raced in the 50+ category to a forgettable fourth place, although I was on a performance unenhancing rigid single speed.  That doesn't mean I didn't compare myself to the SS class on the daily... but I do the same thing now with the 50+ class when I race SS... because I like to make my head hurt with missed opportunities.

This will be the tenth running of the TSE.  There was a break in 2018 when the event was "between promoters," and obviously there was the 2020 COVID year.  I've been to every single one of them, and it's the only stage race I've ever officially had to quit due to injury when I fractured one of my buttholes in 2015 and spent the rest of the week entertaining myself.

Also, that was about the same time when I discovered that my Lasik surgery had failed, and I was blind as a bat again, and I also also think that was the last year that I actually won a stage of the TSE.

Ah, memberries. 

Here's to another year of making them.

Pitter patter.

Wednesday, April 28

None More Black Mountain

The re-routing of the infamous Black Mountain Trail in the Pisgah National Forest gives me a headache.

Let me rephrase that.  People badmouthing the re-route of the Black Mountain Trail are giving me a headache.

I'll elaborate.

I tried as hard as my internet fingers could to find out when the trail was originally built.  I can only tell you that it was constructed decades before bikes were capable of being ridden down it.  Throwing my guesstimate at it, I'd say this was the bike you woulda had to pilot down the mountain back then:

Assuming it was brand new when you started, this is what it would look like after the first descent.

To put it bluntly, the trail was not really built for bikes.  At all.  No one woulda thunk that bikes would look like this in the future:

Artist rendering of my worst nightmare

Anyhoo, a large portion of the trail was built pretty much slap down the ridge line.  It made for quite the thrill ride.  I've been riding down Black Mountain for the better part of twenty five years.  I'm so enamored with this trail, that after a friend had taken his own life back in 2016, I had this to say:

"I've been a dopey person at times, not really sure about what I'm doing and why.  Fatalism.  Not always terribly interested in living, but honestly... you have to look forward to what might happen next.  There's always going to be another ride down Black Mountain, a hug from a family member (or an uncomfortable hug from a friend), another interaction that restores your faith in mankind... seriously, the positive things that are coming your way have to be something to stick around for."

Speaking of which, I got to hug my mother for the first time in over a year yesterday, so there's that.

Love, love, love this trail... but as a fifty (almost) two year old human, I've had to get used to change.  I liked $.25 hamburgers at McDonald's, having a full head of hair, body parts that don't always hurt, heavy metal music being played on the radio...

Change, for better or worse, is sometimes inevitable.  I can remember coming down Black Mountain with V-brakes and innertubed 26" wheels over two decades ago.  Now, the trail has turned into something it never was intended to be.

Pretty much a ditch... that carries sediment down the mountain and into streams and rivers and such, generally fucking things up for species that were here before bicycles, Five Ten shoes, and flat brim hats.

Who's to blame?

I guess I'm slightly tired of the "locals only" attitude when it comes to Black Mountain.  I get it.  People are partially to blame here, a large portion that don't live in the 828.

"All these out of towners blasting it when it's wet, creating ride-arounds, and generally ruining things for those of us who grew up here (even if I started growing up there in my thirties)."

The local economy is booming with tourism dollars.  Although I grew up in a mobile home, the nearest populated area was a "lake town."  I know what it's like to hate tourists.  People who had vacation mobile homes that made ours look like a shed.  Hate.  Clogging up the roads and the drive-thru line at Dairy Queen.   Hate.  It's just a thing you do.  I feel your pain.

Now I'm old, and I get it.  Live in a desirable area, be prepared for visitors.

Even if we coulda kept "all the gawdam tourists" off of Black Mountain, Mother Nature would still be doing her thing.  Inevitably, it was gonna be a ditch.  You know how many "out of towners" know about Schoolhouse Ridge in the Grandfather District of Pisgah... or how many "locals" actually ride it?  Not so many, but Mother Nature do what she do.

Yes, that's a trail... built before bikes went on trails...that probably sees 1/1000th the amount of traffic Black Mountain does.  Tell me "apples and oranges" and I'll say "tomato potato."

BTW:  It's true.  Locals never ride Pisgah when it's wet.

So it's an unsustainable trail that's not getting any less popular that sells beers and burgers and bikes and flat brim hats and fills Airbnbs and hotels and pumps gas and pays coaches and bike mechanics and guides... whatever else people spend their money on while visiting Pisgah.  What are we gonna do?

Build a new SUSTAINABLE trail.  More SUSTAINABLE trail than what we had to begin with... with a more attention on how to use the terrain more wisely.

BUT IT WON'T BE WHAT IT WAS BEFORE!?!

I guess bitch all you want, but with the option of closing down an unsustainable trail altogether or getting new (more) trail, I'll take the latter.

I'll admit, I'm a dated mountain biker.  I prefer the late '90s/early '00s rips that go straight down the mountain.  Zero talent required, just hold on and let your nuts (or ovaries) hang out in the breeze.  Trace Ridge (in its current state) is my absolute current favorite in the PNF.

If you don't hear Mötley Crüe's "Ten Seconds to Love" playing in your head as you hit mach chicken going down Upper Trace, you're ded to me.  The only problem with Trace is (actually was) that the lower portion of it was a ditch that (you guessed it) was dumping sediment into the North Fork Mills River.  So a reroute was done (by the same folks who are doing the work on Black Mountain), and to be honest, I hated it the first time I rode it.

If there's one thing I've (s-l-o-w-l-y) learned in thirty something years of mountain biking, don't judge a newly built trail.  Honestly, we bumped into Shrimper t (the person who ruined Trace Ridge *winky emoji) that day, and he led us to the new section.  It was soft.  It had no flow.  No tech.  We still dropped over 200 feet to the river, but it felt like a climb.  I missed the old ditch run down to the bottom.

But now, years later, it's a blast.  The rocks are popping their fuck faces outta the ground and the trail surface is hard packed and it's a hoot.  And it's longer.

The same can be said for the "new" Spencer Branch.  Hopefully in a few years, the same can be said about the longer and sustainable reroute on Cantrell Creek (which used to pretty much ride down the creek towards the bottom of it).

And no matter what, the work will continue.  There are more plans to reroute, fix, and reclaim old trail.  The last period of extensive trail work in Pisgah that I can remember was after Hurricane Whatever-It-Was a bunch of years ago when a portion of the work was done by the dubious "lowest bidder," and we got the quality that was expected.  When I look at the "recent" work that's been done on Spencer, Bennett, Buckwheat, Lower Black, Avery... I feel like we're in good hands, and things will only get better.

The traffic getting outta Pisgah on 276 on a sunny Saturday afternoon tho?  Until they build the roundabout at 280, mebbe they'll let food trucks set up on the side of the road so nobody starves to death waiting at the traffic light?

Wanna halp?  Pisgah Area SORBA is raffling off this bike:

So, if you're a shitty out-of-towner like me who likes to head to Pisgah when it's raining and loves to drag your rear brake all the way down the mountain (I kid), why not throw $20 (or more) at this bike and fixing everything we fucked up?

This has been a pubic service announcement.

Tuesday, April 27

Fifty Two Year Old Hipster ISO Pants?

Gawdammit.

My friend Chase sent me a link to a podcast the other day.

I had no idea when I walked into Bike South back in '96 that I was looking for a new work bike.  I'd gone down the typical messenger devolution of old mountain bike to old road bike to single speed road bike to fixed conversion road bike up to this point.  It was fine.  Just fine...

But they had this blue Cannondale on consignment, and I took it for a quick spin.  It truly felt like The Fastest Bike in the World.  I didn't know what made it special, I just knew it felt right.  So I walked outta there with crank, bottom bracket, headset, stem, stock steel fork, and a '92 Cannondale Track frame...

and now I'm on my sixteenth year of commuting and working astride this piece of history...

Which unfortunately I never knew was a piece of history until it was too late.  I'd let a local powder coater experiment on it with a bunch of colors before I settled with "whatever you're shooting today, I just need it back."  It has multiple dents in a wide variety of places.  I might cross-threaded a bottom bracket into it once (I totally did).  I might have drilled the bottom bracket shell so that rain water would drain out the bottom (I very much did).  It's been banged against every park bench, street sign, bike locking station in uptown Charlotte, and my U-lock (about a billionty times).  Up until COVID hit, it spent nine hours a day, two hundred fifty days a year sitting out in the weather.  It has not lived a coddled existence.

My buddy Andy had told me that the early Cannondale Track bikes were "a thing" a bunch of years ago.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  The damage had been done.  It wasn't until I listened to the podcast that I realized what a total gem it is... at least to other people.  You see, I really do love this bike... most of the time.  When I'm out riding on the roads, it just feels right.  It makes all other bikes feel a little stupid in the street.  I don't know what it is about the handling (the Track bike expert Amy Danger went into some detail about what makes it so in the podcast), but it feels nothing short of perfect.

From a handling perspective.

But unfortunately, it makes some sort of unpleasant noise about 90% of the time.  A creak, a tick, a groan, a crunch, crunch, crunch.  A drive train that's in the totally separate stages of wear.  A rear Suntour Superbe Pro 28 hole hub that's been rebuilt with new bearings mebbe once or twice, inner races polished with toothpaste, and repacked a thousand times in its twenty or thirty year existence.  It is never totally happy.  The front Campy wheel was bought at a swap meet, half its spokes bladed, the other half replaced with standard spokes as the aero spokes broke one by one over time, and with its unfortunate adjustable cones that have flats that are 3/4 the width of any spanner I own.  The OG cup and cone Dura Ace bottom bracket replaced with a tasteless cartridge unit.  The headset a composite Cane Creek/Campy... for "reasons."  The stupid quill stem that's way too tall... I have no idea why it exists on the planet.

 
90% of the stickers placed there by either people who don't respect private property or me.

It certainly is my love for this bike that makes me weary to invest in something so sexy as the Squid SO-EZ.  It is even possible that it could make me as happy as this bike... when it's not making some sorta noise... which is does 90% of the time?

Anyways, I guess the point of this post is if you like fixed gear history and/or are just super bored and like listening to other people pine about the days of 1" threaded head headsets and 2" down tubes, give this podcast a listen.

BTW:  What my bike is supposed to look like if I wasn't an idiot:

Salud.

Wednesday, April 21

Letting good times roll

Buck (still jealous he has a Wiki and I don't) comes down to play in WNC every once in a blue moon.  I never seem to be able to coordinate with him... but now that I'm off every other week, it should be able to happen... right?

Come to find out he was swinging in to meet up with a bunch of folks in Brevard.  This past Saturday evening.  Which means we could only have a play date on Sunday before I returned to the mines.

"What time do I need to get to Brevard?"

"The shuttle is loading up at 10:00AM."

Followed by "heart-eyes poop emoji" and also "big heart emoji."

So buenos.  Dick gets to sleep until until 6:40AM or so.

Fifteen minutes later...

"Update 8:30 here."

You see, the problem is...

We just got a foster dog back in the house after a specialist had a look at her.  She's going to be staying with us until they raise enough money for her heart surgery.  The good news is that she's not ded.

The "bad" news is we have to settle back into a "routine" with a very energetic, large, insecure puppy.  That means when I get up at 5:00AM, the rest of the house probably will to... unless I sleep on the couch... and the dogs sleep in the bed (instead of her in the cage which we've only successfully done one night so far)... and the dogs have to share the foot of the bed... which they'd never been good at.

The last time she stayed here, The Pie slept most nights on the couch with her just to keep the peace.

So there I am, on the couch at 10:00PM by myself, staring into space because although I've slept poorly the previous two nights, the neighbors are partying, and I can't get the thumping music out of my head.  And the overwhelming Cameron Frye feelings...  but I know I'll regret not going... so I'm cursing my own personal Ferris Bueller.

I hate driving.  I also hate driving alone more.  I also also hate missing out on "once in a lifetime opportunities the most.

The Pie had to toss Boppit out of the bedroom at about 1:30AM, and then he joined me in that disturbing way that he does in times like these, thinking he's a forty five pound Chihuahua that needs to dive under the covers every hour or two.

5:00AM comes and my fitful night of sleep is rewarded with Pop Tarts and coffee, and I almost slip out of the house an hour later... before Leela starts her first barking of the day.

Fortunately, when I pulled up the the meet up spot, I was not disappoint.  There was plenty of action going on, and instead of driving all the way from Charlotte to join some locals on a ride... and have to wait an hour for them to be ready, these yinzers were on point.  It wasn't long before eleven bikes and eleven people were headed up to some place way higher up in the air to get dropped off.

No mountain pizza because I gave my joining this ride a 50/50 chance.  I was ill-prepared.  Dammit.  I will argue that a QT sausage/egg/cheese on a croissant is a solid second.  Croissants don't flake apart like a biscuit or stick between your teeth like a wrap.  Pretty sure sausage can be unrefrigerated for a week before it goes to the bad.

#shirtlessclubformen

Dave being style-ee.

Stubbie being stubbie.

Amelia plain sending it.

No idea who this person is, but I'm now more familiar with who I want to be when I grow up.

Rhodo hung with us all day long.  Almost 7,000 feet of down and close to 4,000 feet of up.  The question has been answered.  He is a good boy.

So pleased that I woke up and made the drive.  I rarely ride with that many people who are way beyond me in terms of skill level.  Some of them tried to climb the stairs at the top of Clawhammer and the ones past the Buckhorn Gap Shelter.  I couldn't keep most of them anywhere close to in sight on the descents.  Not.  Even.  Close.  Hopping and jumping and playing and having a grand old time whilst I felt like the jaded curmudgeon hanging off the back.  I couldn't do my hard charge on the climb to get over the top and start down to get photos thing... so the images are quite lacking.  I couldn't see getting ahead and missing out on the social hour at the top of every descent just to catch some blurry images of people I hardly ever see.

Sadly, I had to part ways and head back to Charlotte while everyone else was high-fiving and beer drinking and settling if for a week of gnarr shredding.

Chocolate milk and Coke for supper on the way home with no side of FOMO.  Thanks for the invite, Buck AKA "anonymous" in the comment section.

Monday, April 19

Where (ITF) was I?

Thorry not thorry.  Went outta town for a bit, lost touch with reality, came home to find out someone planted a jungle in my yard while I was gone, and then tried to make the most of these last few glorious days of sunshine before heading back into the mines for a week.

The Pie and I went down to Florida.  Again. Where?  Ruskin.

Did you say "where?" again?

If you know where it is, you probably don't understand why we go there.  We like it.  We get to do the things we like to do, and there's not a lot of other people down there.

The following images loaded in no particular order, but since you weren't there, mebbe you'll be okay with the lack of chronologicalness.

Balm Boyette on another solo ride where The Pie had plans in Orlando (this time volunteering at Give Kids the World).  That means she drops me off, then I play until I've had enough, and then I spin myself across the flatness of Florida on a 32X18 for eighteen or so miles.

The Pie did not let a downpour on Sunday keep her from doing her thing.  I'd say she spent 24 hours sitting is this tub over five days.
During the random between-the-deluges road ride I went on, I was below sea level.  Strange.  Twenty miles and thirty two feet of elevation gain.

But those sights tho.

The Real Florida Man (aka Joe) scooped me up and took me to an all new place, Carter Park.

Indeed, we did.

You Mom, not to be confused with Big Momma... you know, named after the gigantic alligator that lives in the neck of the... woods?  Swamp?  Dunno.

Tiny hats for tiny Tiki gods.

Have no clue how I missed  these gigantic jumps lines at Balm Boyette last time.  Guess I had my head up my ass.  Can't say I really missed them tho.

I don't remember these Florida snow men either.

It's probably because I never made it over here... but with my favorite trail closed (Ridgeline... no, not that Ridgeline, the other one), I needed to add some more miles before hitting...

Sweat Loop.  What an apropos name for the miles of pavement that I got to enjoy after popping out of the woods(?), swamp(?) and heading home.

I passed a zoo.  A zoo.  In the middle of nowhere.  Camels, and zebras, and what have you.

I'd heard good things about the glory holes in Florida, but COVID and all...

One of the reasons we come here, The Sunset Grill.  Guess why they call it that.  Open air and pretty much locals and out of towners here to fish (make fish late for things).

I solo'ed over to another new trail ride in Croom.  Lots of trail.  Lots of it flat.  Lots of it not so much.  Drunken Monkey was not.

Had to bail out to a flat bike path to get back to the car in time for... something we were doing that day?  Dog park mebbe?  So. Many.  Recumbent riders.

It was a long ride back.  Boppit wasn't feeling it.  He may or may not have had the shits.

Me doing that one trick I do, the drop to almost but not entirely flat.  You know, on those progression drops that all your local riders say "hey, they should build those in my home town."  Whoever "they" is.  I pay taxes, and I want this.

Boppit on the dining room table hiding from the shame of diarrhea.

Riding in that area is always such an insane mix.  Trails where a rigid single speed makes all the sense, and then you're trying to punch up a steep, loose climb on a knife like ridge littered in rocks and the penalty for failure is a swim in the swamp (not woods).  For someone who has a fear of heights and a fear of falling from them and a fear of water and the fear of the things that live there that want to eat me, it can be unnerving at times.  Roll down a steep and be ready to manual into the next up or get doinked and lose all your momentum.  A whole lotta looking before leaping.

But I do love it, and it was a great trip with The Pie, so there's that.

Back to just biking and working and tryna think about what to do next.