The Greatest War

In remembrance of Armistice Day, I went to a concert Sunday night called “The Greatest War: World War One, Wisconsin, and Why it Still Matters. A Live Rock and Roll History Show”. 

I didn’t expect to learn about the war from rock and roll, but I did. Straw polls in city after city across the state showed the populace overwhelmingly opposed to entry into the war. Senator Robert M (“Fighting Bob”) LaFollette declared, “The poor, sir, who are the ones called upon to rot in the trenches, have no organized power, [but] they will have their day and they will be heard.”
[Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/fake-news-and-fervent-nationalism-got-senator-robert-la-follette-tarred-traitor-his-anti-war-views-180965317/] Nine of 11 members of the Wisconsin delegation to the US House of Representatives opposed entry into the war. Some were pacifists, opposed to the war on general principal. Some saw it as a war between British imperialism and German militarism. All were vilified as traitors. (Wisconsin also had/has a sizable German-American population and there were calls to treat each and every one “as a potential spy”.)

I learned in history class that the US entered the war due to the sinking of the Lusitania. What I didn’t learn is that the Lusitania was not an innocent ship of civilian tourists, but was carrying armaments to the British. There was a second explosion on the Lusitania after the initial explosion of the torpedo which struck it. Speculation includes that it was the boiler, coal dust, or additional secret armaments in addition to those on the cargo list. None of the theories has been proven.

While it was billed as the “War to End All Wars” the US has been at war constantly since then, except during the years of 1935-1940, according to multiple sources. We are currently embroiled in the longest-lasting war in US history. Ironically, we are also in the period referred to as “The Long Peace”, as there have been no direct wars between major world powers.

The program consisted of a Prologue (Armistice), Act I (Europe’s War, the World’s War), Act II (Over There) and Act III: (The War to End War). Each act was depicted visually via archival photos, musically via historical and original songs, and in the words of people at the time.

What does this have to do with bicycles, you might ask? Glad you asked. Troops used bicycles as transportation, as depicted in the photo below (or to the left, depending on how you’re viewing this), behind The Viper and His Famous Orchestra.

What does this have to do with music? Saxophonist Hanah Jon Taylor played before a backdrop of an African-American US Army Band. Soldiers from Harlem are credited with introducing jazz to Europe.

The penultimate number was performed by The Kissers before a scrolling backdrop listing the names (by city) of all Wisconsin war dead. As the names scrolled on, Sean Michael Dargan performed “Flowers of the Forest” on bagpipes.

All in all, it was a phenomenal night and one I will not soon forget.

PS: Thanks to A Dude Abikes for the inspiration. After reading his post about Das Hugel, I’ve decided to ride the Horribly Hilly Hundreds (“Biking like a Viking”) next spring. It has become so popular that there is a lottery for entry, so I’m not guaranteed a spot. Wish me luck.

 

The Last Roundup (Blue Spoon to Little Village)

“It was a fine fall morning; early and cold and sweet as cider. It was one of the prettiest times of year at one of the  prettiest times of the day…” (Ken Kesey, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear)

And so we met at the Blue Spoon Cafe in Prairie du Sac, WI.  Breakfast (for me) was cakes bluespoonand eggs with coffee. It was about 35 degrees, no wind, a bright sun low in the sky. By the time we finished our breakfast and were ready to hit the road, it was over 40; still pretty crisp, but with a promise of warmth to come.

We (the stalwarts of the Half-fast Cycling Club) headed out, crossing the Wisconsin River and making our way to the Merrimac Ferry.ferry (For Cycle America folks, the morning route was more or less the route from the July 26 posting “I will never wear shoes“, only in reverse.) We wound our way up the switchbacks of Devil’s Lake State Park and on to lunch at the Little Village Cafe in Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum (and former home of the Ringling Brothers). Lunch was a grilled chicken sandwich with pesto accompanied by an Argentine Malbec, followed by bourbon pumpkin cheesecake and espresso. No pictures of food. I’m not that kind of guy.

Leaving Baraboo the temperature was over 60 degrees. The wind began to pick up, out of the west, meaning we’d have a headwind early but a tailwind to push us home. The afternoon is the hillier part of the ride, so it was a good thing we were well-fueled. We headed up Happy Hill (and were happy), Freedom Road (where we felt free) and Swiss Valley (where we saw Brown Swiss cattle).  Rollie and I waited for the others by an old stone barn foundation with a silo in the middle. Since I’m used to seeing silos outside of the barn, I decided it’s really the top of an ancient and long-buried castle.

You can see the slits for the archers to shoot through at the top of the parapet, and the lookout tower above. After crossing a busy highway (with only a few feet of milled pavement – see the August 6 post “Back in the US, back in the US, back…”) we crossed onto a bike path for the last few miles. We saw a bald eagle perched above the river, which looked much better through the viewing scope than in the accompanying photo.eagle

Back to the Blue Spoon for drinks and hors d’oeuvre on the patio overlooking the river (just upstream from the eagle) and then it was back home for dinner, driving into the rising and nearly-full moon. Today was probably the most beautiful day of the month, a perfect day for what may be the last ride of the year that is just for fun and not to get somewhere. We’ll see how many of the Half-fast Club are up for the New Year’s Day ride.

Life is what happens…

…to you when you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon said that in the song ¨Beautiful Boy¨.

He wasn’t the first to say it. Cartoonist Allen Saunders (Steve  Roper and Mike Nomad, Mary Worth, Kerry Drake)  said it in 1957. I don’t know any other writer who had three comic strips in syndication at the same time. Saunders’ strips were soap operas before TV came along, though they continued into the TV era.

Comic strips are the thinking person’s Twitter. Squeezing something pithy into one or four panels is a pretty good trick. A weeklong (or longer) story arc is like a tweet storm. When I say ¨the thinking person’s Twitter¨, I’m thinking less of Saunders and more of Watterston (Calvin and Hobbes), Mallet (Frazz), Wiley – last name Miller, but he signs “Wiley” –  (Non Sequitur), and Trudeau (Doonesbury).

Back to Lennon; I can’t help thinking of our president whenever I hear Lennon’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – “Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime.”

Today’s plan was for the annual Fall Colors Bike Ride – the famous Blue Spoon to Little Village festival of fine foods.  Tim, the instigator, announced that he’d be out of the area after we set a date. I found out only the night before that “area” meant “continent”. Tenny was the next to bail – a bad cold. When we were down to two, Rosebud begged off, saying he could do this week or next, but not both.

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Sugar Maple

I decided to do it as a solo ride. Since I’m used to following Tim, I thought it would be safer to scout the route ahead of time via map and make myself a cue sheet. That’s what I did but, when going to bed last night, the bathroom faucet wouldn’t turn off. When getting up this morning, the kitchen light wouldn’t turn on. I also realized that the point of this ride is mostly getting in one last ride with my friends and I would miss that doing it alone, even if we do it next week.

So it was off to the hardware store for parts to do some home repairs. On the walk back I ran into a couple standing at a bus stop and asking where to find the Capital City Trail – “the one that goes to Milwaukee”. I pointed out the trail, which they were standing next to (a bit confusing, as it is a sidewalk for the short stretch in their view).

I mentioned that Milwaukee is a long walk. She replied, “Seven hours. It’s a nature walk, plus we’re trying to get home.” She told me how their plans had been derailed and this was their contingency plan. I pointed out that the trail is not continuous to Milwaukee and how to get to the actual trail to Milwaukee after the Cap City trail ends. If they make it in seven hours, I’ll be mightily impressed.

By early afternoon the temperature had climbed to >40 degrees. Time for a ride! Instead of the Blue Spoon and Little Village, I settled for Farm and Fleet and the library. But the cafes wouldn’t have had the replacement water filter cartridge I needed, nor the library book that was on hold. So much for plans. Now life, on the other hand…

The Last RoundUp (take two)

Today was (probably) the last organized ride of the season. A year ago I might have looked at today’s forecast (50 degrees and rain) and decided to stay home to do the laundry. But I already paid the registration fee, and it’s warmer than it was from Thompson Falls to Missoula.

Sunday, October 7. I leave Madison in the dark. There’s not a whole lot of traffic at 6 AM on a Sunday. I’m listening to a Nigerian American artist and writer talk about his work on the radio. It starts to mist as I head out of town. I stop for coffee in the Only Waunakee in the World. As I start to dictate this in their parking lot, I realize that my phone is trying to type the nearest Spanish phonetic equivalent to what I am saying. When I say “Change to English”, it types “sangre”. When I say it again, it starts typing in English.

After riding with 2500 people in the Door County Century, on today’s ride I saw a total of five on the road. There were two people at the registration table when I arrived but I didn’t see them again. I saw a family of five about 20 miles in, but they were going the other way.

As a result, I had plenty of time to compose a letter to the editor.

Dear Editors:

The Wisconsin State Journal, like most of the mainstream media and the Senate, had the narrative wrong on the Brett Kavanaugh story. By casting it as a tale of “unsubstantiated allegations” you were able to reduce it to a he said/she said story. Since the “corroborating witnesses” had a vested interest in failing to recall the events of that night in 1982, and were self-professed blackout drunks, there is little surprise that no evidence was found to corroborate Dr. Ford’s testimony.

This way, Senate Republicans (and you, by printing their narrative) could cast this as the tale of “two lives utterly destroyed”. One of those lives can spend the rest of his life drying his crocodile tears with his new black robe.

Missing in this narrative is what we learned in the past week. Mr. Kavanaugh perjured himself more than once. He told us that his high school drunkenness was totally legal. Unfortunately, the record shows that the drinking age was 21 when he was engaging in his teenage hijinks. He told us he got into Yale with “no connections”. Unfortunately, the record shows that he was a legacy student, as his grandfather had gone to Yale. Why were these lies not the story? We didn’t have to go back 35 years to find out what kind of man he is, he showed us in his testimony. If he will lie about small things in order to gain power, why should we believe him about big things when he comes to power?

He showed utter contempt for the Senate and for the democratic process when he refused to answer direct questions and instead turned those questions around and asked them of the Senator questioning him. I’m no lawyer, but even I know that when you are testifying under oath your role is to answer questions, not to ask them.

So now we have a Supreme Court justice who shows himself to be a liar under oath and contemptuous of our constitutional form of government. And he is there for the rest of his young life.

As for the ride. It was misty/drizzling for most of today’s ride. When it got a bit chilly, I received the warming gift of a 20% grade to climb. After about 25 miles it became chilly enough to put my shoe covers on. That way, the next time we had a 10 or 15% grade, I was not in need of that grade to get warm. Leaves are turning, though with 100% cloud cover, we had to rely on the leaves themselves for their brilliance. There was no sunlight to add dazzle.

At one point I realized that it was not raining. I really don’t know when it stopped. I do know that the hardest rain came in the last 5 miles. We were provided with a cue sheet that recorded mileage to the nearest 1 1/1000 of a mile. Unfortunately, it was off by as much as 4 miles some of the time. Many road signs were missing. Being on a route with virtually no other riders and almost no route markings, this made for an interesting adventure finding my way back.

Most of the roads had names with “hollow” or “ridge” in them. It was clear we’d be going up and down a lot. One of the roads was “Dog Hollow”, which had me singing this:

Remember, there’s only a week left to vote in Madison Magazine’s “Best of Madison” awards.

Next week: The Famous Blue Spoon to Little Village Ride.