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.

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.

Crackpot conspiracy theory

“Crackpot conspiracy theory” is not a redundancy. Granted, we have been exposed to a lot of crackpot conspiracy theories lately, but that does not mean that all conspiracy theories are crackpot.

It is clear that COINTELPRO was a conspiracy to undermine and discredit the left in general and African-American movements in particular. It is no mere theory that the FBI and the Chicago police, at the very least, conspired to murder Fred Hampton in December of 1968.

The recent spate of right-wing conspiracy theories is egregiously crackpot on its face. By definition the ruling class is conservative. Conserving its power and preserving the status quo are what it does. As Mayor Richard Dailey famously told us in 1968: “The police aren’t here to create disorder; the police are here to preserve disorder.” To think there is a Deep State conspiracy to foment radical change is nonsensical. (I also find it humorous that the “Deep State” players seem to be the dedicated public servants who work long-term in government jobs for worse wages than in the private sector. Those opposed to the “Deep State” are the opportunist political appointees who take short-term jobs in order to consolidate their power and return or advance to lucrative private-sector positions.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this crackpot conspiracy theory. Since the appearance of COVID-19, among the first drastic actions was to close down a lot of small, locally owned businesses – those with the least accumulated capital and the least ability to weather an economic storm. Business moved from Main Street to the internet even more than it already had. Now, even some internet businesses are shutting down (Sierra Trading Post among them), citing the need for deep cleaning of their warehouses and fear of spreading the disease among their workers. Who is still open for business? Amazon.

Where is one of the largest accumulations of capital in the world? Amazon. Who has been in the forefront of automating warehouse operations? Amazon. What if COVID-19 were a covert plan to consolidate business even further and to move toward full warehouse automation? Amazon can afford the capital expenditure for full automation. It could eliminate jobs under the guise of protecting warehouse workers and saving the economy from collapse. What about delivery? What if we were to fast-track approval of autonomous delivery vehicles? Amazon could bypass the normal shipping chain, with its unionized workforce, and deliver via self-driving vehicles and drones -again to save the economy from collapse. We would be left with a company owned by a multi-billionaire, the largest retailer (and one of the largest companies, period) in the world, employing almost no one after driving out of business countless other companies employing many.

I just made this all up on a bike ride. The trouble with crackpot conspiracy theories is when they sound believable.

Heigh Ho

Ironically, I have been called back to work on the same day that the Governor issued a stay-at-home (“safer at home”) order. I shocked everyone at work by showing up in scrubs. I had to field more questions about that than about the fact that I was out sick for >2 weeks for the first time ever. I have never before worn scrubs to work. After wearing a uniform as a plumber, I wanted to wear my own clothes for this career. That just changed. I will have a “clean” and a “dirty” zip close plastic bag to carry clothes to and from work. I’ll change there every day and have a separate laundry load for work clothes – just like the old days! We all look like space creatures with face shields over masks. To preserve masks (which can’t be cleaned) we cover them with a plastic face shield (which can).

Our pharmacy is now making and packaging hand sanitizer due to the shortage of the commercial product. A local distillery is selling a special 140 proof vodka as a hand sanitizer. More businesses closed today. The good news is that, among essential allowed activities, is outdoor exercise. (Photo by Jason Rice/WMTV)

Words to live by

From Dane County (WI) Executive Joe Parisi: “(A)s long as we’re looking out for one another, we will all have someone looking out for us.”

From Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts: “the GOP is a hate group – and Trump its Grand Wizard.”

And, of course, this exchange (in case the previous statement needed clarifying):
Peter Alexander, White House correspondent at NBC News: “What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”
Donald Trump: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.”
He could have appeared as the calm father figure, here to reassure us. He could have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He could have lied and told us he had the situation well in hand. (There are many video compilations of his various statements over the past two months to make that falsehood obvious.) But no, true to form, he lashed out and attacked the questioner. He attacked the question itself, and he chose not to answer.

McDonald’s spoke out in favor of new proposed federal legislation mandating paid sick leave during the pandemic. Interestingly, the bill applies only to those who employ between 50 and 500 people. Yes, your neighborhood restaurant might be required to provide paid sick leave, but McDonald’s will not. WordPress is acting up tonight and the embedded YouTube video above may or may not work. (It was working yesterday). If it is flashing and making you dizzy (as it is as I do this final edit), try this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oPbpE5EIgc&t=13s

“After food and shelter, there is no greater need or necessity than the ability to protect oneself and one’s loved ones,” the Keystone Shooting Center wrote. Gun stores are being allowed to remain open in several states that have ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close. It seems that being able to guard one’s stash of toilet paper is essential. My source is not the Onion, but the Washington Examiner and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Adopt-a-Highway

It was a slow start for the first few hundred meters, with nothing much but cigarette butts. Business started to pick up and Bud Light made a strong initial showing before being overtaken by Busch Light to hold on to its overall championship. To be fair, both are Anheuser-Busch products, so they retain the title of the most popular brand among litterbugs. Hard seltzer products made a strong showing. Tobacco products showed gains, with snuff tins, empty cigarette packs, and a vaping device in addition to the numerous butts.

Folks made a strong effort to sully a roadside stream, with an unprecedented number of beer cans clearing the guardrails on both sides and reaching the stream banks. The day set records for weight and volume, with a lot of cardboard in the mix. We picked up 25 pounds of trash, filling two large bags to overflowing. Radical social distancing, walking alone on a rural highway with almost no traffic. We saw one family out for a walk and one person shooting hoops in his driveway.

Paying your way

I often see the argument that bicyclists use the streets for free, while motorists pay for them. The Department of Transportation of Madison, WI just published a report with a few pertinent facts.

Perception that “bicyclists don’t pay their way”

  • Most bicycling takes place on local streets and roads that are primarily paid for through property taxes and other general local taxes. [ed note: i.e. not gasoline taxes]
  • Bicycling inflicts virtually no damage on roads and streets compared with automobiles and trucks.
  • A 200-pound bicyclist with a 50-pound bike will impose approximately 1/65,000th the roadway damage of a 4,000 pound car.
    * Information from “Who Pays for Roads?” Published by U.S. PIRG Education Fund (2015)
  • Motor vehicle use imposes costs on the environment and public health in the form of air pollution, noise, injuries and damage from crashes, and a host of other rarely quantified costs. These costs are borne by all of society. [Ed note: One of those non-quantified costs could be the public health cost of chronic conditions exacerbated by a lack of exercise.]
  • A 2009 analysis by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute estimated that the external cost of a mile of bicycling was less than a penny, while the cost imposed by a mile of walking was 0.2 cents—compared with external costs of driving of more than 29 cents per mile.
    * Entire bulleted list from https://madison.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=8153596&GUID=D5225649-E313-4285-B94F-85E1D72066D3

I’ve also seen the justification that, since many bicyclists also drive cars, we are already paying our way by paying gas taxes when we drive. I guess one could argue that every mile we ride is “stealing” because we aren’t paying gas tax for those miles. One could argue that, but one would be wrong. See the list above.

What I haven’t seen in print before is an examination of toll roads. The state to the south of here has many highways on which vehicle tolls are collected. Here there has been fierce opposition to the notion of toll roads. I have not seen fierce opposition to the bike trails that require a toll, either in the form of a day use fee or an annual permit. Around here, some of those are trails used heavily for commuting, not just recreation. Are those not toll roads? Are toll roads okay for bikes but not for cars and trucks?

Speaking of paying your way…

Where does your money go? Do you pay annual dues to AAA? Do you think of it as a form of insurance for emergency road service? It may be that, but it also pays for advocacy on behalf of cars and drivers. If you ride a bike, you may want to match that/offset that with a membership to the League of American Bicyclists. If you have a state organization, like the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, toss a little more their way. Do you ride with a local club but don’t bother to pay dues because you don’t think you ride with them enough? Pay your dues. You may have a local or regional advocacy organization, or one that advocates for the kind of riding you do. If you want to advocate for bicycling, spend at least as much money there as you spend for cars.

You can also help pay your way via Adopt-a-Highway programs, in which you clean up roadside trash tossed there by other vehicle users. When spring arrives, we’ll be announcing our next cleanup near Brigham Park. Other bike groups also have programs (including the folks behind the Horribly Hilly Hundreds and the Death Ride). You can probably find (or start) one near you.

McCoy Tyner 1938-2020

I can’t end this post without a shoutout to one of the greats – pianist MyCoy Tyner, who played in the seminal early 1960s quartet of John Coltrane (during the time he recorded “A Love Supreme” and “My Favorite Things”), fronted his own bands, and worked with many of the other greats of the last 60 years. When looking for one of his solo works from the early 70s, I came across this instead:

Tyner died on March 6, 2020.