Tradition

This was the first WNBR (Wednesday Night Bike Ride) potluck of the season. It was cold after a string of 80 degree (27 C) days. Bundling up against the cold wind, it seemed that this first potluck is always cold. Or is that a myth because it’s the cold days we remember? Legend has it that we “always” get a blizzard the weekend of the boys state high school basketball tournament in March. A look at weather records debunks that quickly. We remember those years with big snowstorms.

It is chip-seal season. We rode past multiple freshly chip-sealed roads, glad that we weren’t on them. [Chip-sealing is the process of spreading oil or tar on a road, then spreading pea gravel over it. The weight of traffic is supposed to press the gravel into the sticky substrate to renew the surface. With tar and a steamroller it works pretty well but is not a pleasant place to ride for a few days. I once rode a freshly sealed road and had to throw away my tires after the ride; they were so thickly coated with tar. With just gravel and no tar or oil and no roller, it’s a lot cheaper and results in a horrible surface to ride on for weeks until the gravel washes into the grass at the edge of the road.] Today’s roads featured oil and gravel, with the sound of pebbles being tossed against the downtube. One advantage to a steel bike is that the “ping” of gravel on steel tubing is more pleasant than the sound of gravel hitting carbon fiber. Either way, it’s a test of the quality of the paint job.

We made the next-to-last turn and found ourselves on fresh chip-seal. It was mostly a climb. Standing on the pedals doesn’t work very well on chip-seal, as the unweighted rear wheel tends to slip. That meant sitting in, putting my head down, and making steady work of it. The last 50 feet or so get really steep, but that’s okay when you know it is coming. The only thing worse than climbing on fresh chip-seal is descending on it, so we had that in our favor. Those of you who ride on gravel for fun probably have no sympathy.

Dinner was at Brigham Park. The May potluck means I’m baking a rhubarb pie (strawberry-rhubarb this year) and is supposed to mean Hottie is bringing his famous asparagus braised in a cayenne-spiced garlic soy sauce. Alas, Hottie has retired from riding, so we we had to make do with Lou Grant’s jalapeño cornbread. That and a fire helped to keep us warm. Hottie grows a lot of asparagus so I don’t know who eats it all for him now.

Final climb to the park, on a day when it was warm enough to sit on the bench and watch.

Nica songs

I made my way to the public library’s archiving lab the morning after the ride. If you read the last couple of weeks’ posts reprinting my letters home from Nicaragua, you may recall that I found Keith’s demo tape. Keith Greeninger is a singer/songwriter from Santa Cruz, CA. We worked together in 1987. During the brigade, Keith had a run-in with a chainsaw. The chainsaw won. As a result, he could not go out to the woods for a few weeks and used the time to write songs. Some of those songs were subsequently released by the trio City Folk or by Keith on his solo albums. Most are still in print and available here.

The cut which follows was never released. The first building we built on each site was a dining hall, which became our HQ while we completed the rest of the work. It was timber-framed with a concrete floor and tin roof, but was open to the air. A generator provided power for a couple of hours each evening, during which we could receive news of the world via short-wave radio or read by electric light. When the lights went out, the silence was deafening and gradually we began to hear the night sounds. Keith and Jed would play songs from the US and try out the new material Keith was writing. Then the Nicas would take over and we would hear Nicaraguan folk music.

This song captures, for me, the feeling of those nights out under the stars, listening to the insects between songs. I guess it lacked commercial appeal.

“Another Nicaraguan Night” copyright 1987 by Keith Greeninger

If I remember correctly, Keith is accompanied by guitarist, brigadista, and carpenter John Bartolero (we knew him as Jed). In 1987, the Nicaraguan people lived by the slogan “Aquí No Se Rinde Nadie” (No one here surrenders). Keith used that slogan to write another song with, as was said about Frank Zappa, “no commercial potential”.

:Aquí No Se Rinde Nadie” copyright 1987 by Keith Greeninger

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us rode coast to coast across the US. It was so much fun, he's doing it again in 2022! If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

7 thoughts on “Tradition”

    1. I’m glad you like it. The lead guitarist (John) now lives and plays in Southern Oregon. Keith is still working out of Santa Cruz. On his album “Soul Connection” he is joined by Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne and by the rhythm section of Hutch Hutchinson and Ricky Fataar (Bonnie Raitt’s band). I don’t think he’s well-known outside of the SF Bay Area, northwest, and New England (his trio included a New Englander). Besides working with me in Nicaragua, Keith (and City Folk) played at my wedding. Check out his song “Hop in the Truck”, about day laborers in the construction field and building the border wall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rmx_YL9Vec&t=9s

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Oh I see now, I read your posts through the comments that come to me at the blog, not here at your blog (hope that’s not confusing) but as your comment somehow brought me to your blog I can see it. Good tune and speaks to the plight of many laborers. I think many are slave laborers that fall totally under the radar also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get your problem. When I see the emails of new posts, they are missing links. Unless you actually go to the site, some things get left out. (So there should be 3 songs, including the link I added in the reply to Max.) When I worked in construction in SF, there was a hardware store where day laborers gathered in hopes of finding work for the day (the topic of “Hop in the Truck”). They were paid in cash at the end of the day and I’m sure exploitation occurred – either paid less than promised or not paid at all.

      Liked by 1 person

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