Daydream

You know how, sometimes on a bike ride, your mind wanders? Some rides, you’re totally tuned into the world around you – the smells, the sights, the sounds. Wow! Listen to those spring peepers! Who knew such tiny animals could make so much sound? I hear a sandhill crane, but where is it? Wow! Way over there! It’s like the sound totally fills the sky! Look at the delicate green of those maple flowers! Hey, look! Those trees are leafing out and it’s a totally different green! Roadside asparagus! Is that an eagle? Why is that redwing blackbird dive-bombing me? Nest nearby? I smell honeysuckle! Where is it? I love the smell of new-mown grass! Is someone burning off a field? I remember the smell of burning leaves in the fall when I was a child. We don’t do that anymore – now they become mulch or compost.

Some rides, you’re totally tuned into your body and how it feels to ride. I’m one with my bike! We are perfectly matched. My legs could spin like this all day. 100 miles? Let’s go for 200! Something’s not right with my left knee…have I noticed that before? Will it go away? Oh yeah. My knee hurt before. I forgot. Feels fine now. Can I force any more air into my lungs? Are they going to burst before I reach the top of this climb? Can my heart beat any faster?

But on days like today, you just drift. Enough of your brain is tuned into riding that you stay safe, but some of it is elsewhere. I wrote of this before, how all my best ideas came when I was 13 years old, riding my bike in the pre-dawn darkness, tossing papers. Today I noticed all of my thoughts drifting to Cycle America. Don’t tell my boss or my wife any of what follows. I was thinking about the 2018 coast to coast ride. Not just the good parts, but about how the soles of my feet burned on endless days out west. I wanted to scream. (Okay, I did scream – just not when anyone was around.) At water stops I took off my shoes, doused my feet, walked around barefoot, and dreaded getting back on the bike. But I did. And I survived the day. And the ride is over. Was the agony that bad? What happens to agony once you’ve lived through it?

I thought about how I considered a coast to coast ride a once in a lifetime adventure. And that I want to do it again. Greg said he promised a 2020 ride but then might retire. I was going to meet them with a case of beer when they passed near here. The 2020 ride was canceled due to COVID-19 and Greg now promises a 2022 ride – and sent me the schedule. I was going to retire in the summer of 2023, after I turned 70. But other things (which are in a draft of a future post) have me wondering if I’ll make it that long. And this is only a year earlier. I spent 35 miles thinking about the ride – remembering and planning. (What did I bring last time that I wouldn’t bring again? What didn’t I bring that I should have; or what do I have now that I didn’t have then? Will any of the 2018 riders be back? Maybe a who’s who of prior years. Will I blog again, or just go out for a beer with the others after the day’s ride instead of sitting and writing. If I take pictures, will they be totally different? Will I need to buy some iCloud space?… ) At the end of the ride, the miles had flown by, and now I was left to think about what I had just spent the evening thinking about…

They even hang out in town now

And this is the first post in a long time that is going up right away, with no time to edit or think about whether I really want to post it.

In praise of keeping stuff

I spent the afternoon reading multiple issues of Bicycling magazine. Why? As a member of the League of American Bicyclists, a subscription is included. It is a cold and rainy day. They were piling up next to my bed and it was time to clean up the pile. This morning I finished the book I was reading.

What did I learn? You need new stuff. The latest and greatest bike is way better than the bike you ride. Your clothes are outmoded. Short socks are out. Tall socks are in. Mostly I was reminded that magazines aren’t supported by subscriptions as much as by advertisers. Advertisers sell stuff. Therefore, magazines exist mostly to sell more stuff.

Over the years I learned that steel bikes were outmoded and everyone was riding aluminum…then titanium…then carbon fiber…and then I learned that “steel is real” and everyone should go out and buy a steel bike to go along with their fixie, areo bike, climbing bike, cyclocross bike, gravel bike, downhill bike, cross-country bike, trail bike, cargo bike, and e-bike. I’m sure I left out a couple of market segments, especially in the mountain bike world. To make it weirder, they started “Eroica” rides in Europe that require old bikes; old enough to have brake cables that route out the tops of the brake levers so you see a big loop of cable. That ended some time in the mid-1980s. In case you don’t have a bike that old, you can now buy replicas – brand new copies of 1985 technology. (So my bikes are just old, not classic. Just to be clear: the weird part, in my mind, is buying a brand-new replica of a 1985 bike; not riding an old bike.)

I’ll admit that there have been some useful changes in bike technology since I bought my Motobecane in 1974. And some of the new stuff I eschewed when I bought the Davidson in 1990 turned out to be good ideas. More gears are useful. Toe clips and straps with cleated shoes were way better than what came before, but modern pedal and cleat combinations are way better still. While I was skeptical of indexed shifting when it arrived on the scene (I know how to shift), it seems to have stuck around. Maybe electronic shifting will actually be useful (but I know how to shift). I remember the first wireless electronic shifting system. It didn’t last long. I don’t have any trouble reaching my downtube to shift, so those combination brake-and-shift levers seemed like just another way to take my money. But, by golly, I found it really helpful on the coast-to-coast ride to be able to shift without moving my hands. I realized I spent more time in the optimal gear (and it helped to have more of them to choose from). So I’m not a total Luddite, just slow.

I learned from household organizers that you should get rid of any possession that doesn’t bring you joy. Then, I suppose, you’re supposed to buy some new stuff that does. But when you talk about being green, the first step is not to buy the latest “green” product. The first step is to keep using what you have. So buy stuff that will last. Buy stuff that is of high enough quality that you won’t need to throw it away in a few years. To throw your old shit in the landfill and replace it with new “green” shit is not a net gain for the planet; just a net gain for the companies that make and sell stuff.

My dad bristled at the cost of down parkas when he took me shopping (the only time he ever did that) for my 18th birthday. We looked at cheap stuff. At the end of the day (I mean that literally), he bought the North Face parka I wanted. He paid a lot of money, but decided it was worth it. Forty nine years later I still have that parka. The cuffs are a little frayed. Granted, I only wear it when it’s really cold. It also gives me one of the few good memories I have of my dad. I bought a new Sierra Designs down vest last year. I wrote to them to complain that my old vest was leaking down and it was only 40 years old. I told them I expected this vest to last the rest of my life. I just spent too much money on a new jacket. But I bought it from the guy who made my winter bike mittens. They also cost a lot. But when it is -25 degrees, I don’t think about how much they cost. I think about the fact that my hands are warm. I plan to wear them for many more years.

I bought a tent in the 1970s. In the ’80s, the waterproof coating on the floor began to peel. I took it to the factory in Berkeley (yes, such things were made in the US in my lifetime – I’m that old). They told me that shouldn’t happen and gave me a new tent. Several years later a cow got out of its enclosure and trampled the tent, breaking a pole. Being in Nicaragua at the time, I used the repair sleeve to keep the pole together for the next month or so. Returning to the US, I took the pole to the factory to buy a replacement. He asked the circumstances of the breakage, handed me a new pole and a warranty receipt with “Contra cattle” listed as the reason for the free warranty replacement.

Bless your own damn bike.

This Sunday should be The Blessing of the Bikes at Vermont Lutheran Church. The minister is supposed to bless our bikes and we’re supposed to eat a pancake breakfast that can’t be beat, with the first taste of this year’s maple syrup, and mediocre church basement coffee.

Vermont Church

But there are no group rides, and there are no church basement breakfasts, and there are no crowds of bicyclists having their bikes blessed whether they believe in such things or not, because it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride and the road up to the church is great and the minister is a funny guy and the church members lay out a great spread.

And tonight should have been the first Wednesday Night Potluck of the season, which means Dave should have made his famous asparagus and I should have baked the first rhubarb pie of the season and we should have sat by the stone wall, sipping a beer and watching the sun set over my favorite stretch of road as we watch the last riders struggle up the hill on County F, our adopted highway.

But instead it was a solo ride, and I climbed that hill into a 20 mph wind with no leaves yet to block the wind or mar the view of the barren fields. And I got home just ahead of the rain and I drank wine with takeout Laotian food instead of beer at a picnic.

And it’s all because of this damn virus. And our State Supreme Court, in its Infinite Wisdom (and infinite is no different from nothing), has decided that the Safer at Home order is null and void, that the Director of Health and Human Services has no authority, and the state and all of its businesses are henceforth allowed to return to their pre-COVID state effective immediately, and we can gather in crowds as big as we want, and share that virus freely, because we are Americans and we are Free, and they trust business owners to Do the Right Thing because we know that business has our Best Interests at heart because what’s good for General Motors is what’s good for America and the god of quarterly profits must be appeased by human sacrifice and Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Virus that doesn’t really cause any symptoms and we only have 15 cases and that’ll be down to zero in a few days and when spring comes it will miraculously disappear and what’s a hundred thousand or so deaths among friends and we don’t need no stinkin’ rules.

The court ruled that the order wasn’t an order, it was a rule, and an unconstitutional rule at that; because this is Wisconsin and out constitution says we are “endowed with certain inalienable rights, and among those rights are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of drunkenness in a crowded bar.” So folks bellied up to the bar in large numbers within hours and you can’t drink beer with a mask on so of course no one wore masks. I shouldn’t complain because crossing county lines to get drunk in bars is what makes my livelihood. I should be in those bars, making sure everybody has their keys and that they understand that the faster they drive the less their chances of getting caught by the cops for drunk driving. The trauma unit has been quiet the past two months.

But the county I live in decided to pass its own rule within hours, so we still have safeguards here. They just end at the county line, so like in the old movies where the bad guy just has to cross the county line to escape the cops, this virus just has to escape this county and is then free to wreak havoc but that’s okay because it’s all China’s fault so it doesn’t matter if we’re irresponsible because it’s all China’s fault.

IRS scam?

If you have been waiting patiently for your stimulus check, wait no more! While we have been led to believe the payment is automatic, it ain’t necessarily so.

If you haven’t already received a payment, log on to the IRS website (irs.gov – don’t trust this link, type it in yourself – it’s not hard) and click on “get my payment”. When I did that, the site informed me that I am eligible for the payment, but they couldn’t process it because they didn’t have my bank information. I have been filing electronically for 20 years and using the same bank account for that entire time. I filed 2019 taxes and received a refund to that account, so I know they have that information. Nevertheless, I filled out the form. They will ask for your social security number, date of birth, and address. Then they’ll ask for your bank routing number and account number.

Once you’ve done that, keep checking back. Eventually you will get a notice that includes the date they will deposit the funds. When that date comes, check your bank and check their site again. The date for my electronic funds transfer has come and gone, but no funds appeared in my bank. Going back to the IRS site, I now have a date that they plan to mail my check. There is no mention of what happened to the electronic funds transfer that was supposed to have occurred already. I won’t be holding my breath.

BREAKING NEWS: According to the Washington Post, if you don’t notify the IRS of your bank information by Wednesday, May 12 at noon, you could be waiting until June or July to (if you’re lucky: ed) get a check. (And, as noted above, notifying them is no guarantee of an electronic payment.)