Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Letting Go

I took the day off work to get some things done around the house. Bill stopped by as I was taking the girls to school and asked if I was up for a ride later. I said I was always up for a ride. Apparently that sounded as non-committal as I intended so he had Randy text me. With that much peer pressure to ride with them, I caved. I almost squandered a perfect summer day cleaning the garage.

Yesterday was my third attempt to empty out the shed. Silly how hard it was for me to get rid of things I don't need. I decided to hang on to my Yamaha but everything else was on the chopping block. I left some items on the porch for Bill, including my 1932 Silver King. Bill belongs to this group called Freak Bike Nation. They build from scratch or heavily modify bicycles, much like people do with custom motorcycles; not my cup of tea but I appreciate their art work. I knew Bill would like to subvert the Silver King into something.

Bill loaded the bicycle tires and trailer hitches and saw horses into his truck. As he loaded the bicycle, he turned to me and said he would take my bicycle, and hang it from his garage rafters, but when I get my shit together, to come back for it because it is still my bicycle. It was very cool of him to say that. I feel bad he doesn't really comprehend how long he will be storing my bike.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rain King

I down loaded my heart rate files last night. Apparently I rode less than 4 hours a week in May. In addition to life's normal distractions, there has been this strange phenomenon where, when I ride alone, the simple act of snapping into my Shimano pedals causes it to rain. Not gentle Spring showers; torrential rains. Rivers crest their beds, parking lots are submerged. This has happened with alarming consistency. And I feel responsible.

So it is with this back story I rode Brighton today. Alone. It was an excellent ride. I thought about how silly it was to think I was causing the rain, like god had nothing better to do than mess with me.

Halfway through the ride, the skies turned green. Then tornado sirens went off. Allie called me from her friends to tell me they had taken cover because of the tornado warning. Nice.

As I rode home, I pictured the wind pulling me up into the sky, like Miss Almira Gulch. I survived.
Earlier in the day I took another shot at cleaning out the shed. Last week I tried but I think the problem was I had too much ambition: I tired to get rid of the motorcycle that was a integral part of my tumultuous youth. Today I just tried to clean the rafters of the shed, nothing but an old bicycle and used tires. 20 sets of used tires. No one needs 20 sets of tires, I get that, but you need more than one set. A set of studded tires for riding on ice. And 2.2 Kenda Nevegals for snow, 1.5 Continental Cross-Country Pros for mud, 1.9 Maxxis Maxlite 310 for non-technical hard pack conditions, Gearx slicks for riding on roads in the Spring before the trails thaw, and apparently 15 other reasons because I didn't end up throwing out any tires. I will revisit the need for tires and my Yamaha RD350 later.

I considered the bicycle. My dad's 1932 Silver King. It looks like a mountain bike but of course it would be another 40-some years until Fisher (or Ritchey or Cunningham or someone) invented the mountain bike. But still, the bike has an 18" aluminum frame, wishbone rear seat stay, double butted spokes, and front suspension. And, although this bike has tubes, my dad said he had friends back in the 30's who had tubeless tires on their bikes. Sure seems like a mountain bike to me but so many people agree the mountain bike was invented in 1979 that I am not going to stand up and argue the point. Maybe they didn't have dirt trails before Gary Fisher either. What do I know.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Putting a Price on Sentimental Value

This weekend provided me a rare break in the weather and my schedule; I got a few excellent rides in. I didn’t even pretend to train.  I ride at Pontiac Lakes every so often but I think yesterday was the first time I rode there at well below my lactate threshold.  I never noticed what a pretty trail it is.

I intended to spend the weekend emptying out the house in anticipation of moving to Canton. I looked at some storage units in that area, $187 a month, much more expensive than the storage units here in Brighton. This changed my calculations for what I keep and what I pitch. I will likely live in an apartment for a year. I’m not sure the sum total of everything I own is worth the $2,244 it will cost me to store it for 12 months.

I started with the shed because I figured this would be the easiest place to start purging. It is full of things that are useful when you own a house: generator, mower, wheelbarrow, jack stands, ladders, etc. As I looked at the stuff in the shed, I realized it was more than just tools. My dad made the sawhorses for me. The shovels were from my Grandpa. Everything had a story and witness marks that meant something to me. My heart raced as I considered scrapping or craiglisting the stuff in the shed.

In the back of the shed was my 1982 Yamaha RD350LC. Wow. What do I do with this? It is much more than just a motorcycle. I bought it new, back in the olden days before Suzuki came out with the GSXR, when people were road racing GS550s. The RD350LC was a wonderful 2-stroke production race bike: light, fast, and could wheelie easier than my RM250. Best of all, it wasn’t legal in America, just the challenge for a smug teenager who though he was smarter than he was. I went to Canada to buy it. The US Customs agent tried to prevent me from bringing it across the border but I tied him up in the same bureaucracy that the government created to prevent people like me from importing bikes like that. I was happy to debate hydrocarbon parts per million and DOT standards with him. He finally granted me a onetime exemption from Federal emission and safety standards just to get me out of his office. Then I had to get a Michigan title and plate. The girl at the Secretary of State thought she could send me away empty handed. I am nothing if not persistent. I got a title and plate. I think I made her cry in the process.

I really like this motorcycle. But it isn’t worth $2,244. How do you put a price on sentimental value?

I was thinking about this as I took out the trash.  I noticed Cindy threw out her wedding dress.  It cost more than my motorcycle.      

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Brighton Race, Blah

Today was the Brighton Cross Country race. This was my "A" race since the trail fits my riding style and it's just a short bike ride away from my house. I finished 3rd which, at a glance, doesn't look bad at all. But there were only 4 people in Sport Single Speed; I guess the cold temperatures and rain kept away all but the dumbest racers. And I DNF'd. This will likely be my highest finish this season so I will proudly take the medal even though it doesn't really mean anything.

Actually today's race was part of a two day stage race but I skipped the races yesterday so I could go to the girls' dance competition. I will trade my Inglis for a recumbent before I miss another dance competition.

Allie spent Friday night at a friends. I told Em we could do anything she wanted. Anything. One should carefully consider signing a blank check like that. She asked to go to the Detroit Hoedown. Why couldn't she just ask for a pony. Em took my I-pod to Florida last month. She told me it was because I had Pearl Jam on it. I thought I was moving her past her country music phase.

I went to the Hoedown about 20 years ago. I didn't like country music back then either but I figured it would be a spectacle that could not be missed. I went with the right group of friends and we had a good time.

Either I have changed or the world has changed but regardless, I am not clever enough to string together the right combination of words to adequately describe the skankfest I stepped into.

I try to turn everything into a learning field trip. Em and I talked about how clothes make a statement and we tried to guess what statements the people at the Hoedown were making. I treated it like that "Scared Straight" program where kids that were headed down the wrong path spent a day listening to inmates in order to get a sense what prison was like. Em seemed horrified and I felt like I was making progress nudging her towards my way of thinking.

There were a few parents there with their kids. As parents, we all try to nudge our children into our own way of thinking. It is probably best we don't all succeed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mud, Sweat, and Beers

Today was the Mud, Sweat, and Beers race. They didn’t have a Sport Single Speed class, and I knew I would have my ass handed to me in Open Single Speed, so I dropped down to Sport 45 – 49. I finished 13 out of 70 (I think), further proof I can have a good time and still finish poorly.

I had a little trouble finding my starting wave. Normally finding my group is easy; it's towards the front of the sea of racers and the bikes only have one gear. Saturday I had to work my way back until I found my age group. First the Single Speeders, then teens, next guys in their 20’s, further back men in their 30’s. I finally came to a group of older men with grey goatees. Their eyes looked tired.

I am likely delusional and I have an irrational (?) fear of aging but I scanned their faces and could not believe I was that old. What the hell happened? I mean, I don’t feel old. I like to think I am really immature for my age. My skin tingled and heart raced, like when you start to go over the bars but at the last second save it only to immediately hit something else and jettison from the bike, and as you are soaring across the sky you have a moment of hyper-clarity. It’s funny the things you consider in a moment like this. Perhaps it was just a clerical error on my birth certificate. I thought about how Shirley Temple found out her mom had been lying to her and the public about Shirley's age for years. Maybe I wasn’t old. Maybe this was all just a horrible misunderstanding.

I sheepishly asked a gray goateed racer if this was 45 – 49 Sport, like I was walking into a Leper Colony for the first time. “No” he said, “Those are the old guys behind us.”

It was a good race but I felt guilty for going. I missed my kids' dance competition last weekend so I could race at Fort Custer, leaving me riddled with guilt. Last night I left the kids before Cindy got home so I could drive to Traverse City early. Allie didn't want me to go. I told her she could come with me. She decided to stay home but as I drove up North, Allie kept shooting me with arrows made of pointed texts telling me how selfish I was, very well thought out texts for a 10 year old but her spelling is atrocious. They hurt because they're true.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fort Custer: Licking Wounds and Changing Gears

I finished 8th out of 17 in Sport Single Speed yesterday, another reminder of just how remarkably average I am. A hard crash and resulting mechanical pretty much ended the race for me on the first lap but things were falling apart before then. I have been training. Almost. I don’t think it is a physical thing. I mean, I think my heart is fine; it just isn’t into racing anymore. It was a perfect weekend despite a disappointing finish.

Next weekend is Mud, Sweat, and Beers. I’m pre-registered for Open Single Speed. I will try to get moved down to 45 – 50 Sport geared. Tonight I will replace the chain, cassette, pedals, and brake pads on my Tomac. I am going to order Stan’s valve stems and sealant and finally make the switch to tubeless. I am slow to jump on band wagons.

Before bicycles I was into motorcycles. I had a wonderful collection. But it seemed the two best days of owning any particular motorcycle was the day I bought it and the day I sold it. It isn’t that way with bicycles. The days in between are just as good. With that said, I was giddy when I got my Tomac. I never had a high-end bicycle before. I bought this bike used from the Kenda race team. It worked as perfect as I knew it would. I’m still smitten. Every relationship should be like that.