Noluck

In a normal year, this would have been the first Wednesday Night potluck. I would have brought a rhubarb pie. Dave would have brought his famous braised asparagus, with cayenne and lots of garlic. This is not a normal year. While it was billed as a potluck, I saw half a dozen people at the park shelter. Too rich for my blood and, it appears, most others’.

The ride starts in Blue Mounds and immediately drops downhill to Tyrol Basin. With names like “Mounds” and “Basin” you could have guessed what direction we ride. In those first few downhill miles, it is best not to think about the fact that you will have to go back up at the end. Enjoy it while you can. The good news is that it’s not four miles back up. The bad news is that’s because the other side of the hill is steeper.

From Tyrol Basin the route follows the route of the Wright Stuff Century for a few miles, so they are roads filled with memories. We climb the famed Fesenfeld Road. I always know I’m near the top when I see this giant oak. One advantage to riding alone is that this is the first time I have stopped to take a picture of it.

From this tree there is a bit of up and down before a screaming downhill into a gentle left hand bend. The only problem is the traffic coming from the other way around that bend. Some of them might turn left across your path. Today the pavement is damp in the shady areas, which tend to be the downhills. Feeling the water sprayed onto your legs by the front wheel is a hint to feather the brakes.

In the next valley I met two friends in a field. Right after I took the picture, the sheep started over toward the fence, whether because it likes human company or thought I was coming with food, I don’t know. Not wanting to come between friends, I cross the road to shoot the historical marker.

At the midpoint of the ride we reach the lowest elevation. While it has been up and down to here, it has been mostly down; meaning from here it’s mostly up. There is a six mile lead-in to the infamous Mounds Park Road; six miles slightly uphill and usually with a headwind. Nothing like reaching the base of a climb already tired from six relentless miles – you can never stop pedaling for those six miles. Today the headwind was brisk, but I got lucky. A group of four strong riders overtook me at the beginning of that stretch. I tucked in behind and we rode it together. I took the last pull before the turnoff, so I paid my way. We rode faster and I felt fresher than if I’d done it alone.

The best part of Mounds Park Road is that, when the road flattens out to give you a rest, the slope decreases to 8 or 9%, unlike the double-digit grade most of the way. At the top we turn into a long and shady descent. Normally this is a fast drop, but less so today due to the wet pavement. Since I had a recent patient who was admitted after a 40 mph downhill crash, I was maybe more cautious than usual.

The final climb back to the park is, as regular readers know, my favorite stretch of road and the adopted highway of the half-fast cycling club. After the ride, I sit on a roadside bench, sipping a Scotch Ale and cheering on the other riders as they climb to the finish. It is the only channel on this TV, but it’s a good one.

Trash into…trash

The winner for today’s highway cleanup (for weight and volume) was soggy cardboard. For the sheer number of items (thus the number of times we had to bend over to pick them up) it was smoking materials – butts, packs, lighters. The brand winner was Marlboro, with Pall Mall a surprising second. I guess even smokers have gone retro. Pall Mall has been around since 1899, Marlboro since 1908. According to The Guardian, five people who played The Marlboro Man in advertisements died of smoking-related diseases.

In second place overall for sheer number of items picked up were the flexible plastic reflectors that were glued down last year to mark the road for pavement striping. We picked up a bunch last fall. Today I think we picked up the rest of them. Over time the glue fails and they wash into the ditch. The road never got re-striped, so the only purpose those reflectors served was to provide a few hours of work for whomever glued them down and some more work for us to pick them up.

We were about to retire the brand championship with repeated wins by Busch Light beer cans, but today they just edged out (due to a six pack tossed in the last 100 yards before the park entrance) Icehouse Edge, a high-alcohol beer sold in 24 ounce cans. Since each Edge can contains roughly the alcohol equivalent of 4 Busch Light cans, we might call this a tossup.

Every time we clean this stretch of highway, we think about the potlucks held at this park after Wednesday night rides – it’s just about rhubarb pie time and we will miss Dave’s famous asparagus. No potluck again this year.

The view of our adopted highway during the post-ride meal as we watch the stragglers coming up this hill.

All this talk of winners who are actually losers made me play this on the way home.

We got home just in time to beat the much-needed rain. Maybe it will wash to pollen off of the car. The local weather folks recently changed from saying it was a dry year to calling it a drought.

Today in history: It was 51 years ago today that the National Guard massacred student on the campus of Kent State University; the day that another generation of white people learned that we are not immune.

I just read The Progressive interview with John Cusack. He ends by saying “Capitalism will sell you the rope to hang yourself with and then make you pay for the coffin and pass the debt on to your kids.” I don’t know if it’s original to him – it seems to be his own variant on an old line.

Karen Terrier

This is Karen.

Image credits: Generic Karen from Film Daily. Target Karen and Walmart Karen from the Daily Mail. Central Park Karen from NY Daily News. Pacific Heights Karen from sfist.com.

Karen Key: “Target Karen” destroyed a mask display while filming it. She doesn’t like to wear a mask and thinks you shouldn’t wear one, either. “Walmart Karen” blocked a parking lot and screamed profanities and racist insults at those (including police) who asked her to move her car. She was in Hawaii and yelling at Hawaiians. “Central Park Karen” called police to tell them an African American man was threatening her life – because he asked her to leash her dog in a bird sanctuary. “Pacific Heights Karen” called police because a man wrote “Black Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk on his retaining wall. She insisted she knew the owner, who would not approve. Clearly the actual property owner’s skin tone was too dark for him to live there. Luckily, the responding officer knew him and knew it was his own house.

This is a bull terrier. It was bred to harass bulls.

This is a rat terrier. It was bred to harass rats.

This is a fox terrier. It was bred to harass foxes.

Dog images from AKC.com

As a child I learned about a breed called a Cairn terrier, but I heard it as “Karen terrier”. Why not? We could use it to let the above Karens know that their attitude is not wanted.

Why not?

image from meme-generator.com

Tales of Our Only President

The New York Times has revealed that Our Only President did not pay Federal Income Tax for 10 of the past 15 years. In the two most recent years in which he paid taxes, he paid $750. In 2018 he claimed an income of $435 million in a financial disclosure, while claiming a loss of $47 million on his tax return. There are two logical and not incompatible explanations for this: 1) He is a liar and a cheat; 2) our tax code is structured to favor the wealthy. He calls the story “fake news”. Unfortunately, many in his base will probably love him even more for this. Many consider taxes to be evil and think anyone who dodges taxes is smart and a hero. Income tax evasion ultimately brought down Al Capone. May we be so lucky this time.

P.S. He is also reported (in a new book by a supporter and convicted felon) to have tried to sell his campaign on the idea of Ivanka as his running mate in 2016.

When is a precedent not a precedent?
(A letter to Senator Ron Johnson. He declined to respond. This is a slightly abridged version, cut to fit a newspaper’s 200-word limit. They chose not to run it.)

Dear Sen Johnson:
Please explain why it is not the height of hypocrisy for you to have said, in May of 2016, “Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court…Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate — elected by the people only a few months from now — should make that important decision. I can’t think of a fairer or more democratic process”; and then in September of 2020 to say, “President Trump has indicated he’s going to nominate someone. Leader McConnell has indicated he’ll give that nominee a vote, and I’m very supportive of that.” Further, in 2016 you said, “In the politicized atmosphere of an election year, you probably shouldn’t even nominate someone. It’s not fair to the nominee, it’s not fair to the court.”

I agree with you that the situations are not exactly parallel. In 2016 we were 6 months away from a presidential election. Now we are 6 weeks away from a presidential election. Can you explain this as anything but a bald-faced grab for power? Say it ain’t so Joe. Show a shred of decency.

You may want to skip the italicized section if that made sense to you. If you’re not from around here, Senator Ron Johnson is from the same neck of the woods as Wisconsin’s worst Senator, Joe McCarthy. On June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, General Counsel for the US Army, was being interrogated by Sen McCarthy. In exasperation, he finally asked McCarthy, “At long last, have you no sense of decency?”

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox allegedly threw the World Series in exchange for bribes from gamblers, in an affair known as “The Black Sox Scandal.”. While they were acquitted, several players were banned from baseball for life. Star player Shoeless Joe Jackson was indicted and Charley Owens, writing in the Chicago Daily News, ran a story headlined “Say it ain’t so, Joe”, asking him to deny the accusation. The line was misattributed to a child, making for this scene in the film “Eight Men Out”:

I’m not sure how much of this Senator Johnson understood. By urging him to show a shred of human decency, I wanted him to put himself above Senator Joe McCarthy. By calling him “Joe” I wanted to draw the parallels between him and Joe McCarthy, to be sure he understood the gravity of the situation. By adding “Say it ain’t so” I was asking him to disavow his statement. References to both the Black Sox Scandal and the McCarthy hearings (especially in the same sentence) may have made it a little dense. Also, Ron Johnson seems to be a little dense. Sorry, I don’t usually explain myself this much. And you’re not Ron Johnson.

Day of Atonement

While my wife and daughter fast, pray, and sing in the Temple of Zoom, I atone by cleaning our adopted highway. Gut Yontiv.

Mark Hirsch, of Platteville, WI, photographed an old Burr Oak every day for a year and chronicled it in the book “That Tree“. The tree blew down in a storm this summer. While I haven’t taken this photo every day, this is the same view from our adopted highway (County F by Brigham Park), that has appeared in this space multiple times, but never this photo from today. While it rained in town, and clouds stayed above me all morning, the valley to the west basked in sunshine.

Finally, happy birthday to my Big Brother who, as a young whippersnapper of my current age, sailed the Rolex China Sea Race, in the boat pictured. (Ask to see his dragon tattoo.)

Green

The word pales in comparison to what the eye sees. Corn, soybeans, hay, maples, oaks – we call them all green but they are not the same. A nearly infinite variety of greens greets the eye on a long ride (or a single view).

If one tires of green (and how could one?), there are the roadside wildflowers (some are weeds or invasive species) to add variety.

ox eye daisy
Queen Anne’s lace
tiger lily
chicory
sunflower

The fields of flowers defy the camera. The eye and brain can focus on each different flower (those above plus clover – red and white – more kinds of lilies, fleabane, and several whose names I don’t know) and take in the whole array, shifting focus from the individual to the patch in a way that a still camera can’t and would be dizzying on video.

I rode my age Sunday. When I turn 100, that will be a big deal. At 75 it will be a medium-sized deal. The only significance now is how late in the year I did it for the first time. Pre-COVID, the plan was to ride the Death Ride Saturday, about double Sunday’s ride. Riding my age should have come in April to be in shape for the Death Ride.

Have you ever noticed that TV sound effects people use the sounds of loons and hawks when they want to evoke wilderness, whether those birds are endemic to that locale or not? I must say, a hawk sounds much more spine-tingling when it crosses the road 15 feet over your head and lands in a tree on the other side. I advise that you keep your wheels on the pavement while you are trying to watch that hawk. No harm, no foul, as they say in basketball.

Leaving Lodi (where I stopped at a convenience store to buy two bottles of water) I failed to fully zip my saddle bag. I discovered it about 25 miles later, and knew that my money clip was missing. I figured that it could have fallen out immediately in Lodi (meaning either it could be turned in or my identity could be stolen) or it could have fallen out on miles of back roads, where it may never be found. After I ordered a new driver’s license and went to bed, the County Sheriff called to say my money clip with cash and license had been turned in.

I drove up to Lodi Monday (home of Susie the Duck) and discovered that the finder had taken only a $2 reward before turning it in. Since I was out and about in a motor vehicle, I continued to Brigham Park to clean our adopted highway. Once again, Busch Light beer cans were the winner for volume. For number of items there was competition from cigarette butts and those plastic markers highway crews glue to the road to show the painters where to paint new lines. FYI they don’t remain stuck forever but end up scattered along the road.

The irony award goes to a whisk broom and dustpan set. Second place goes to three Mountain Dew bottles, two Three Musketeers wrappers, and an Acucheck bottle all in the same spot. Honorable Mention to a “Pandemic Survival Kit”. The only thing remaining in the kit was the mask. I guess the owner doesn’t really think the pandemic is a hoax (hence keeping most of the kit), but tossed the mask to protect his/her conservative credentials. Speaking of which, the cashier and I were the only people in the convenience store wearing masks Sunday. Today masks become mandatory in all indoor spaces that are not your own house (in this county), but Lodi is in the next county. There are no statewide regulations here, thanks to a Supreme Court that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ruling class, with major investors The Bradley Foundation and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and a well-gerrymandered legislature. (If you ain’t from around here, the Court threw out the regulations from the Governor and Department of Health Services, and the Legislature shows no interest in regulations. Daily case counts are increasing rapidly.) (Speaking of the pandemic, the AP reported this weekend that the last words of a 30 year old man in San Antonio were “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.” He died after attending a COVID party. And just so you know the US has no patent on crazy, a group of bus passengers in France pulled the driver off the bus and beat him to death rather than don masks.)

When I die, if there are any ashes remaining after they scavenge me for parts, scatter them here. If there aren’t any, burn some wood and scatter those ashes. I grew up in a church that didn’t believe in transubstantiation. We drank grape juice, symbolic of wine, symbolic of blood; and ate cubed Wonder bread, symbolic of the host, symbolic of body. Therefore, wood ashes could easily symbolize my remains.

The wall is where we sit, out of the wind, to eat our potluck dinner after rides. The bench is where we cheer on the latecomers making their way up the hill. The spot, the view, and the climb (right to left) are among my favorites, and why we adopted this stretch of road. If you need a place to remember me, this is it. Lest you think I’m morbid, I plan to outlive most of you.