If you can remember this

you’re old.

  • sprocket boards at the bike shop, so you could build a custom freewheel
  • “corn cob” or “straight block” freewheels (14-15-16-17-18)
  • “alpine” gearing (14-28)
  • “Half-step” gearing (in which each shift between chainrings is ½ of each shift between cogs) or the “half-step plus granny” touring variant
  • downtube shifters
  • pre-Hyperglide cogs, which you could flip over when worn and they’d be like new again.
  • Zeus (the Campagnolo clone company)
  • Jack Taylor, Ron Cooper, 3Rensho, Cinelli, Ciocc, and other framebuilders
  • Framesets hanging from ceiling hooks in the bikeshop – you ordered parts to have them built up custom.
  • Suntour, Stronglight, Atom, Regina, Normandy, Simplex, Weinmann, Dia-Compe, and other component manufacturers
  • center-pull brakes
  • No braze-ons – all accessories clamped onto frame tubes
  • Braze-on pump pegs
  • When Cannondale made bags (panniers, handlebar bags), not bikes
  • Tire savers
  • Tubular (“sew up”) tires

How old is old?

  • “40 is the new 30.” (Douglas Coupland, author of “Generation X”)
  • “50 is the new 30…and delusion is the new self-esteem.” (Steve Kelley snd Jeff Parker – from the comic strip “Dustin”)
  • “Don’t trust anybody over 30.” (Jack Weinberg of the UC-Berkeley Free Speech Movement)
  • “14 or Fight.” (Christopher Jones, fictional character from the movie “Wild in the Streets”)
  • “Your old road is rapidly agin’/Please get out of the new one/If you can’t lend your hand/For the times they are a-changin’.” (Bob Dylan)
  • I saw a sign advertising Senior Apartments the other day. This is old to them:

I discovered the lifespan of a Campagnolo Super Record cassette is 3 chains. I placed my fourth chain on the Wilier last week and took it out for a test ride. Fine around the block, so we headed into the countryside. Soon, one cog began skipping under load. Fine, I thought, I can get by without that gear for today. I’ll change before the next ride. Then another and another began skipping. I realized I could not get up the infamous Mounds Park Road missing 3 of my lower gears, so I cut the ride short. I still got to see (and climb) this:

Actually, Campagnolo 11 speeds come with two groups of 3 and 5 loose sprockets, so individual parts could be replaced, if one could buy them that way – or if one chose to take some of the parts out of the box and leave others behind.

Note that we are moving on from the trees blooming to the trees leafing out. This is a few miles down the road from our adopted highway, and a few seconds before I came upon a rider with a broken derailleur hanger – which kind of ends one’s ride. I didn’t feel so bad about cutting ten mostly uphill miles from my ride.

With a new cassette in place I headed out again on Sunday, riding into a strong headwind for 25 miles. It was 45 degrees (7 C), so I tucked a bag between my jersey and my jacket for the first several miles to add insulation and wind-proofing. My luck held and the wind was still blowing for the tailwind part of the day when the temperature soared to 55 (13 C).

I was thinking that the bike is almost ready to go (more so than I), but that it needs new shoes (tires and tubes) before the trip, which brought this to mind:

The wind had me singing wind songs – the mind brings up what it brings up.

(2)

Busman’s Holiday

Not really, but that sounds better than a “working vacation.” The British coined the term in 1893, referring to a bus driver taking a road trip for a holiday, so it was much like work.

My job includes paid vacation (not a big deal outside of the US). We used to be allotted our vacation at the beginning of the year, to use at any time. If we left the job before the end of the year, any pay that we had used before earning it would be withheld from our last check.

That system worked pretty well, which is why they had to fix it. Now we can’t use vacation until we earn it, so the year starts at zero. If we want to take a winter vacation, we have to save time from the prior year. And, we have a “use it or lose it” system now. If we accrue too much vacation, we stop gaining any new hours until we use up enough hours to get below the ceiling again – a definite incentive to go on vacation.

The pandemic has not been conducive to taking vacations, so last fall I realized I was going to have to use some hours this spring or lose them. I took a week in March for no specific reason. I often take a week in May to work on a home repair/maintenance project. This year the project is my own body.

It was a cold, dark, and wet April – not just by gut sense, but by the numbers. I spent much less time on a bike than planned. My dry erase board calendar for this week says “Ride” and “Ride more”. With six weeks until the coast-to-coast ride begins, there is work to be done. The “working vacation” means riding every day. As I haven’t ridden long distances yet this year, I clearly haven’t ridden long distances on back-to-back days.

At the age of 69, I’d be a fool to think I can “ride into shape” on the transcontinental tour. The 105 mile third day would ride me into the ground, not into shape. This week’s focus is on riding, not numbers. As such, I will start the week with no Garmin, no Strava, no bike computer. (Then again, since I don’t own a Garmin and I’m not on Strava, 2 out of 3 are no change from any ride.)

Sunday 55 degrees (13 C) and cloudy. It being Mother’s Day, I stayed home with family.


Monday 80 (27 C) degrees, bright sun, 25 mph wind gusting to 40. I was glad to have the weight of a steel bike under me so I didn’t blow away. My first day of the year over 50 miles, which grew to the first day over 5 hours of riding. Soles of my feet burning by the end, just like old times. Tailwind for the last 10 miles, which saved me.


Tuesday I met a friend for coffee to tell her about my retirement party and ran a few errands, so by the time I was on my bike it was 90 degrees (32 C). The wind was down to 15 mph. Late enough in the day to settle for an old classic – the Paoli Ride. The ride to Paoli was a classic when I first rode it 48 years ago. The A&W Two-Tyred Wheelmen rode there regularly. They were sponsored by A&W and met at a local root beer stand for their rides, enjoying a frosty mug at the end. While I never rode with them, I adopted the tradition and often rode to root beer stands – once I rode 60 miles for a root beer. When I told them they were the first root beer stand in 60 miles, they were unimpressed. Sometimes while riding to Paoli we would stop at the old Same place for pizza, served by Tim and Kathy Same in their gazebo after the ride.

Driveway to the old Same place

In the hardware store I saw a guy with a t-shirt that said “I like my puns intended”, so I told him about the standup comic I saw with a monologue of puns. He was desperate for one of his jokes to get a laugh, but no pun in ten did.

I rode through the arboretum, where we usually go on Mother’s Day to see the lilacs. Mother’s Day was early this year and the blooms are late. The magnolias are dropping but the crabapples (which bloom before the lilacs) are just beginning to bud. These sandhill cranes seemed to find plenty to eat. I also saw a few turkeys – the birds, I mean.

Wednesday The air conditioning is on. How many days ago were we needing heat? The “windows open” season was really short this year. I hope it returns. Over 90 degrees. Wind down to 15-20 mph. Rode the Wednesday Night ride with friends. Heat stroke for one, but he made it to the end.

Thursday It dropped below 90. Too cold for a ride 😉 Began gathering tools and parts for the trip, making a list and checking it twice. Actually, I was wrong. My indoor/outdoor thermometer stopped responding. It was hotter yet.

Friday Today was supposed to be an early ride. Replace the chain, adjust the front derailleur cable, and head out on the bike that is going on the trip with me. I’ve been riding the other bike for weeks. I was derailed by unforeseen problems. It wasn’t a cable problem, it was a shifter problem. I disassembled the shifter (which required removing the bar tape I thought I had saved earlier this spring, so I could remove the lever). Putting everything back together, the cables (both front derailleur and brake) magically became too short. This was not the quick job it started out to be. It is now over 90 degrees again, I feel like an idiot, and my whole house is shaking due to the huge machine out front tamping the sand back into place after replacing the sewer main and laterals. This is the third time the street (I use the term loosely, as there has been no pavement for weeks) has been dug up. We are getting new gas, water, and sewer lines, then new pavement, curb, gutter, and sidewalk. They are not burying the power lines because that is somehow too expensive. Since power lines are smaller and more flexible than the other three, and the ground is already dug up, there is a logic here which escapes me.

Surprise! The bar tape that I like so much (but whose brand name I don’t know, having gotten it somewhere on sale) is so good that, after removing it to take the shift/brake lever off, I was able to rewrap it. Being late enough to decide not to go for a ride, I started packing.

Saturday A beautiful day. Still under 90 degrees when I got home from a long ride. After 4 days of record highs and record high lows ( a datum that I didn’t even know they kept), today was a day to wander in the countryside and sing along with James Brown:

Sunday A week of firsts for the season: first ride over 50 miles, first ride over 5 hours, first consecutive days of long rides, first week over 200 miles. First time I feel like I can make it across the country. When I no longer go to work 5 days/week, will I still have a Sunday Feeling?

A humbling experience. Forty miles into the ride I was feeling worn out. I briefly considered a shortcut home, then realized that, any other time, a shortcut would be reasonable. But with five weeks until I’m supposed to be strong enough to ride across the country, I opted to stop for lunch instead. I made it back but “fun” would not be the word for the last 20+ miles. That paragraph above about feeling I can make it across the country? That was written early this morning. At least I have five more weeks to be ready.

Wisconsin (as I’ve said here before) used to have the best system of secondary (county) and tertiary (township) roads in the country. With thousands of small dairy farms needing milk picked up every day, roads had to be maintained for the tankers. With the consolidation of the dairy industry and general decay of our infrastructure, the roads are no longer impressive…but today I must have encountered a township flush with cash. Instead of potholes filled with gravel (as I encountered later in the day) , or slapdash chipsealing, or ribbons of squishy tar-filled cracks, I rode on several miles of new asphalt. I was in bicycle nirvana this morning.

Say Goodnight Dick.

Before embarking on my soon-to-end career, I took a course called “Labor in Literature and the Arts”. For that course I wrote a series of poems about work (including delivering newspapers, selling concessions at football games, driving cab, plumbing). After several years working in healthcare, I realized I had not yet written about that endeavor. I decided to do something about it.

Fast forward a dozen years. I was looking for some old photos on a seldom-used hard drive. I came across some poems about health care that I’d forgotten about. I’ll reprint some here so that you can forget about them, too.

Surgery

Surgery is better than medicine.
That’s why surgeons get paid more than physicians.
If I give you a medication,
You have to keep taking it.
But if I cut something out of you,
It’s gone forever.
But then maybe you’ll have to take
Some medication.

I used to be a plumber.
I could be a vascular surgeon.
It’s the same work,
But it pays better.
It’s usually cleaner
And doesn’t smell as much,
But that’s not always true.

I can use a snake to clear a clog
But in your arteries we give it a different name.
I can replace your pipes
And if I were a surgeon I wouldn’t even have to
Know how to solder.

I used to be carpenter
But now I’m an orthopedic surgeon.
The tools are pretty much the same
But smaller and prettier.
I love stainless steel and titanium.
The work is still the same
But I get more respect.
I get paid ten times as much
And no one complains about the bill –
Not to me, anyway;
No one wonders if I’m worth that much.
No one complains about the materials cost
And asks me if I could use something cheaper.
No one tells me they can get a hip for less at Menard’s
And asks me if I can install that one and only charge for labor.

Alphabet Soup

There is a poem waiting to be written
But I don’t know how to write it.
I’ve been in this hospital for ten years.
There are stories to tell
But I still don’t know how to tell them.

You come in with a medical history written in code.
CAD, DM II, CHF, ESRD on HD.
The we ask you what’s wrong
And make a diagnosis.
Diagnosis means telling you what you just told me,
but saying it in Greek and Latin.
Just because I can recite your symptoms in another language
I get paid in 6 figures. 
Well, not me
But someone like me.

We still don’t know how to fix it.
We can give you some drugs.
They’ll make some of the symptoms better
But only as long as you keep taking them.
The drugs will cause some other symptoms
But we have a drug for that.

We don’t use the word “drug”.
That’s how you know I’m not really a doctor.
If I were a doctor I would have said
“Medication”.
Drugs are what you take.
Medications are what we give you.

(3)

Hurricane

Since we’ve been cleaning our favorite stretch of highway, the most discarded item has been the Busch Light beer can, consistently through the years. Busch Light has been dethroned by Hurricane, a malt liquor from the same manufacturer, so Anheuser-Busch retains the distinction of being the most-littered company.

Music starts at about 2 minutes in .

It is a cold and wet spring; not the most conducive to training for a coast-to-coast ride…then again, we will be riding in all kinds of weather so I’d best hit the road. Last week’s evening club rides were rained out. Sunday’s ride was cold and wet and started an hour earlier than the previous Sunday rides. I missed it. After cleaning the highway I got on the bike for a “choose your own adventure” loop of unknown distance. The temperature topped out at about 50 degrees (10 C).

I headed out on favorite highway F to ID (old US 151) with a plan to turn down JG to Little Norway. I was feeling good along the ridge and missed the turn, deciding I might as well ride along the ridge into Mount Horeb and take JG to Stewart Lake instead. And so it went. An unplanned ride, long enough to get some exercise, not long enough to get tired after 4 miles of walking up and down the highway picking up beer cans.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a middleweight boxer in the 1960s. Being the child of a boxer, I grew up watching boxing on TV every weekend. As Dylan’s song tells, Carter was wrongly convicted of murder. He was eventually released from prison and died of prostate cancer at the age of 76. He was cared for at the end by John Artis, who had been convicted of murder along with Carter but released on parole. After two dubious convictions, all charges against both were dropped eventually. Carter later worked to exonerate other people who were wrongly convicted.