Tuning up

I have turned in my notice at work. I’ve told you in these pages that I’m doing it again. That requires tuning up – both me and the bike. Four years ago I wrote about training. I won’t do it again. Write about it, that is. Doing it – training – is even more imperative when 70 is right around the corner.

In one of those “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” moments, I decided to replace my cables for the coast-to-coast trip. I figured I’d do those before the season, since there could be some stretching and adjustment needed. I’d replace the chain closer to the ride date, and mount fresh tires for the trip. So it was in March that the bike first went up on the stand…

When I put the bike up on the stand, I realized it was dirty. No sense putting clean parts on a dirty bike, so cleaning comes first. If you’re going to clean anyway, you might as well take off some parts to get at the dirt…

Calvin and Hobbes, copyright Bill Watterston 1993

Cable fishing

One of the more fun aspects of owning a bike with internally-routed cables is actually routing those cables. If you’ve ever tried it, you know I’m being facetious. Park Tools makes a kit for the job. Unfortunately, their expensive tool does not work on some bikes. One of their options is a plastic sleeve that goes over the cable end and attaches to a guide. Another is a thin cable with a magnet on the end to thread through the tube and attract your cable end. The problem there is that the opening at the end of my chain stay is smaller than Park’s guide and magnet. A third option is a magnet to run along the outside of your tubing to attract and guide the cable. The problem there is that high quality cables are stainless steel and therefore not magnetic. What to do?

I fabricated a series of tools from old spokes that accomplish these and other tasks.

Here are the tools. How they work will follow.

Trying to route cables using your old housing but you don’t want to redo your bar tape and the cable won’t go? The tool at the top will do the trick.

You are looking down at the brake/shift lever from the front. Hood is peeled back at lower right. Cable is coming from lower left and going under bar tape and into (unseen) housing at the thumb. The tool holds the cable down and guides it into the next opening. (It wants to go straight up, not make that bend.)

Trying to route through the tiny hole at the back of the chain stay? Superglue and thread.

Leave the old cable in place and cut it at the bottom bracket. Remove the top half. Thread the new cable to the bottom bracket. You might need the tool above to get it under the bar tape. Go to the bottom bracket where you now have both cables. Put a drop of Superglue on the end of the old cable. Spread the glue a bit. Wrap thread tightly around the end of the cable. Let it dry. Place cables end-to-end, put a drop of Superglue on the end of the new cable, wrap thread tightly, let it dry. Now go to the exit hole at the back end of the chainstay. You will use the old cable to guide the new one through the chainstay. Gently pull the old cable through, guiding the new cable into the chainstay at the bottom bracket. Keep pulling (and gently feeding the new cable) until both come through. You should have enough cable that you can cut above the Superglue before threading into your derailleur.

Rear brake cable travels along the top tube with no problem, but now you can’t get the end out? Try the hooks.

There’s the cable sitting in the top tube. (Looking down from above) Now what?
The middle cable hook sits on the bottom of the tube. The cable will slide onto it and you can lift it part way. The bottom hook will lift it out of the tube.

No patents on these tools. No cost beyond some old spokes and time with a file and pliers. Feel free to make some and try it yourself! The tools you need may vary with your bike. If you have a few old spokes, play around until you make the tool you need.
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Ephemera

To The Best Of Our Knowledge is a program on National Public Radio. On the way to my ride Sunday they aired a program called “Poetry in a Troubled Time”. The program began with reactions to the pandemic, the “Troubled Time” to which the title refers. It opened with a pandemic poem by a writer in Lake Mills WI, which garnered national attention. I was riding to Lake Mills that day, so the program seemed apropos.

Charleis Bukowski wrote:

“all theories
like cliches
shot to hell,
all these small faces
looking up
beautiful and believing;
I wish to weep
but sorrow is
stupid.
I wish to believe but believe is a
graveyard. 
we have narrowed it down to
the butcherknife and the
mockingbird 
wish us
luck.”

Host Anne Strainchamps called the poem “pretty dark”. Charles Monroe-Kane took great hope in the phrase “wish us luck”. Strainchamps wanted the program to be about poetry “as a refuge, as a consolation”. Monroe-Kane noted, “…heartbreak is where poetry is. That’s where poetry comes in. That’s what it can do. Look, poetry also helps us in healing. You don’t need to be healed if you don’t have pain. You got to have an injury that need the healing, so there’s going to be a lot of injury in this as well.”

Edward Hirsch noted that all poetry is about death, in that it focuses on the ephemeral – “we are trying to save something that is passing.” Perhaps all of life is about death. Nostalgia is certainly about death. How much of our memory is an attempt to “save something that is passing”? To what extent is writing a blog the same – but a particularly ineffective form of trying to “save something that is passing”? We write and we post and (maybe) someone reads it on the day it is posted. While it is preserved on the internet, how often is it seen after those first days?

“Some things in life feel unendurable yet they have to be endured. They are unbearable, yet they have to be borne.” This was Hirsch’s purpose in writing an elegy to his son, but is also about life itself. We all encounter, at some time, something that feels unendurable, unbearable. Yet we (most of us) endure and bear and move forward in life. We don’t all write poems, but we endure. How do we move from endurance to embracing life again?

To what extent is embracing life embracing ephemera? I worked in radio in an era when it was not preserved. (I just listened to Sunday’s program and read its transcript to be sure I quoted people accurately.) What we did went out over the airwaves, live, at the speed of light. It came into your home instantaneously. The sound waves traveled to your ear and by then we had moved on. In the year 2000, my brother and I were each asked to reflect on our time in community radio – for him, the 1960s, for me the 1970s. He wrote “…you did it, you sent it out into the ether, and people heard it or didn’t. It was the ultimate in ephemerae, leaving a trace only in the minds of those who did it or heard it…”. I wrote “…the reason I enjoyed radio was its ephemeral quality. What I did went out over the airwaves and was gone.” (Neither of us knew what the other had written until the book was published.) Now I write a blog. Is it something about aging that I now try to preserve, not just experience, life? Or is life about sharing? Is it not enough to experience? Is it necessary to share that experience?

In 1976 or 7, I wrote in my journal: “It’s not the experience…it’s sharing the experience.” I was in the midst of something that seemed profound at the time. I was alone. I called a friend to come over. I knew then that the communication of the experience was as important to me as the experience itself. Communication….communion…community. Is it an accident that these words are so similar?

Time

It was 23 years ago yesterday that I started my current job. Did I think I would be here this long? Who knows? I may have thought that about other jobs that didn’t last that long.

But the time has come today. Cycle America 2022, possibly the last iteration of this great coast-to-coast ride, starts in 9½ weeks. At my age, it’s time to start training in earnest. Training takes time, and is not compatible with working 40 hours/week (says the guy who did just that 4 years ago and is doing it again right now).

So today I tell the world (or at least the tiny corner of the world that reads this blog), that I am retiring. And on Father’s Day (also Juneteenth) I will once again (in a time-honored ritual) dip my rear tire into the Pacific Ocean and embark on a 9 week adventure, riding more than 4000 miles to dip my front tire into the Atlantic Ocean. In my own ritual, I will scoop up a vial of the Pacific, seal it with wax, and break the seal 9 weeks later to merge it with the Atlantic.

I did this 4 years ago, thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing. Little did I know. I will be 70 soon. If I live to beat Robert Marchand‘s age group Hour Record, I’ll have to stick around for a long time – longer than I spent at this job. I’ll probably have to start working again to be able to afford to live that long. But right now, I’m done with working.

I invite you to follow me (again, if you followed me four years ago). I plan to return to daily posts. Or maybe there will be days that I just want to go out for a post-ride beer and skip a day. I can do what I want. I’m retired. (That sounds weird.) While the route will be the same, the experience won’t be. You can read each post and, if you have time on your hands, go back and read the same day’s post from four years ago. The dates won’t match, but the days of the week will. In 2018 we started on Sunday, June 17. This time we’ll start on Sunday, June 19. You can probably figure out the math from there.

The WordPress algorithm provides links to two other posts each day that it thinks are thematically related. Yesterday’s post linked to this. Rereading it, I don’t know how anyone could think I’d still be working come June. It foreshadowed this announcement just a bit.

While I believe in retiring early and often, this was the longest I have ever been at one job. That’s why my leaving gets two posts. I wrote them at different times, not realizing when I wrote the second that I’d already done this once. There will probably be a third on my last day. Maybe the fact that I wrote two different posts to say the same thing in different ways is a sign that I’m getting old.

Let’s do the time warp again!

It was 23 years ago today that I started this job. Seems like a fitting time for an announcement.

It was about 3.5 years ago that I wrote the FAQ page for this blog. It is time for some amendments.

1) Are you going to do this again?
A: What, do you think I’m crazy? I always considered this a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Several people I traveled with have done it more than once and some are planning to do it again, so I guess it’s a reasonable question – just not of me. I’d consider a trip down the Mississippi, or in the mountains of Spain, France, or Italy; or maybe parts of this one (like Needles Highway). I don’t expect to cross the entire continent again.
Then again, I thought the Death Ride was crazy when I first heard about it. I still think Double Centuries are crazy.

Addendum April 12, 2022: Yes, I am going to do this again. On Father’s Day I will once again leave Seattle on my bike, planning to arrive in Gloucester, MA on Saturday August 20. Notice that, while I pooh-poohed the idea, I left myself an out. I guess I know myself after all these years of hanging out with me.

3) When are you going to retire?
A: I can’t answer that.

Addendum April 12, 2022: I will be retiring on Saturday, June 4. I’ll spend the next week riding every day, then a week winding down and packing up before flying to Seattle.

So I’m going back in time 4 years to ride across the USA (and a bit of Canada, if they’ll let us in by then). While it seemed nuts 3.5 years ago, it seems only fitting today. The genesis of this trip was in 1970 when I schemed to ride across the country on a BMW touring motorcycle. About 5 years later that BMW turned into a bicycle. In 1985 my neighbor tried to get me to take a leave of absence from my job to join him on a cross-country trip. He was celebrating law school graduation. I wanted to keep my job and knew my boss (his mom) would never approve a leave. In 2008 the plan to do the trip in 2018 was hatched. In 2018 I finally made the trip.

When Greg (the owner of Cycle America) announced that the 2020 coast-to-coast trip would be the last, I decided to take a couple of days off and meet the riders in Baraboo, WI with beer, and ride with them the next day. When the 2020 ride fell victim to COVID-19, Greg announced a 2022 ride. The wheels started turning. I found myself thinking about the ride more and more on my own solo rides that year. When I got hurt at work, had surgery, and came out of it in more pain than I went in, I started to wonder if I could ever do something like that again. When I realized I could, I decided I would. I have been counting down the months. With 18 months to go I started a draft of this post.

Some may think that was putting the cart before the horse. Here I was penning an announcement to you before I began the announcement to my boss. But on April 1, 23 years after I received my job offer, I let my boss know I’m retiring. Today (April 12) I announced my retirement to my co-workers. You’re next. Sorry, that’s the way the world works.

If the ride was worth waiting 48 years for, I decided it was worth doing twice. So join me again. I’ll be back to writing daily posts. You can jump back and forth in time to see how the same routes turn out on the same days 4 years apart.

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