Ain’t that peculiar?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_2072.jpg
I’ve ridden past this corner many times. Tonight I finally stopped for a picture.

I startled a pair of deer on a recent ride. Rather than run uphill away from me, they ran along the shoulder of the road for about 100 feet, then dashed across my path and headed down to the wooded creek bank. Trying to think like a deer, I imagined that they figured that if they were going to be pinned down somewhere, they wanted water and shelter. Either that or they’re just stupid, running across the highway in my path, instead of away from it.

I came around a bend quickly and encountered a pair of sandhill cranes. I braked and swerved to give them space. One paid me no mind. The other, with a few graceful wing beats, rose a few feet off the ground and soared 20 feet down the road, coming to rest in the road again. I was enthralled by how such a big bird could get airborne so quickly and gracefully, and come to rest so smoothly. Apparently it had realized I wasn’t a threat. Its partner was still strolling. Thinking anthropomorphically, I imagined the flyer was trying to be cool and pretend it hadn’t been startled. “I just decided to fly a few feet. It’s cool…”

Another red tailed hawk flew over head. I managed to keep both wheels on the road this time as I watched it soar by 15 feet off the ground. It helped that it crossed just ahead of me, rather than directly over head.

In my continuing Wednesday Night‘s Greatest Hits tour, last week I rode from Lodi to the Baraboo Bluffs, crossing on the Merrimac Ferry and climbing Devil’s Delight Road – short but steep enough to require switchbacks anyway. If any of you remember biorhythms (a popular schema in the ’70s), the theory posits that we have three rhythms that follow sine waves at different periods. If all three line up at the top of the wave, you have a great day. If they all line up at the bottom of the wave, it will be a bad day. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I had no energy. Every climb was a chore. Even going down was hard. There seemed to be headwinds in all directions. After climbing Devil’s Delight, I turned around and headed back down, short of the ridge and cutting at least ten miles off the loop I had planned. At least I got two ferry crossings in.

Luckily I saved the ride that is usually that week and did it tonight. The ride starts at Black Earth; if you see the ground being turned in the spring the reason for the name becomes obvious. The Black Earth Creek watershed contains incredibly rich, black soil – even after 150 years of farming. The route crosses the ridges multiple times, with five steep climbs. The person who wrote the cue sheet for this ride illustrated the climbs with evil grinning jack o’lantern demon faces. I felt much better tonight and the five climbs were great fun, as was the 5 miles along Blue Ridge Road, staying on the ridge until the 40 mph downhill. One of the ridges is occupied by the Camp That Must Not Be Named, where my daughter spent many summers and some winter weeks – and I was a counselor-in-training there 51 years ago. The route includes the “easy” side of Sutcliffe Road, meaning that the downhill side is the one where I have hit 50 mph on my steel bike. Tonight as I approached 50 mph I felt a little oscillation in the frame. Rather than just squeeze the top tube with my knees, I feathered the brakes. Either this bike feels less stable at that speed, or I’m just getting old.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_2073.jpg

One couldn’t ask for a better late July day for a ride…85 degrees (30 Celsius), dew point 59 (15 degrees Celsius), winds less than 5 mph, just enough clouds to give the place atmosphere, and the smell of corn ripening in the fields.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_2074.jpg

My post-ride beer was a timely one. I’d seen it in stores but hadn’t tried it. Since I forgot my church key tonight I needed something in cans, and voila!

While my guitar gently weeps

The song could have been written (but wasn’t) while listening to Peter Green. One more round from his guitar gently weeping. First is this BB King song, with an opening that sounds like Mose Allison could have written it – “I’ve got a mind to give up living/And go shopping instead”:

There is also a great 1968 live recording of BB himself available on YouTube; BB being the other great guitarist who knows it’s not the number of notes you play, but the soul you put into those notes. That recording also contains a great organ part and a horn funeral dirge. I’ve been listening to Peter Green all week. Slow blues may not be your cup of tea, but he and his guitar continue to weep with his own song:

It almost hurts to listen to Peter Green. He doesn’t play notes, he draws beauty and suffering from the instrument. His voice aches. But when the song is over, I feel at peace.

RIP Peter Green

The world lost one of its greatest and least-appreciated guitarists today. Peter Green (born Peter Greenbaum) has died at the age of 73.

Green replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1966. When a producer expressed dismay that Clapton had left the band, Mayall replied, “Don’t worry. We got someone better.” Lucille Bogan’s “Sweet Black Angel”, made famous by BB King as “Sweet Little Angel”, was recorded by Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Green on guitar.

Mayall introduced some of the best British blues guitarists to the world. Green, like the others, soon left to form his own band – Fleetwood Mac, with the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (the only constants in that band’s long tenure). There he recorded his song “Black Magic Woman”. While most of the world associates this song with Santana’s cover version, here is Fleetwood Mac:

While Green was a phenomenal blues guitarist, he and Fleetwood Mac soon branched out, especially as they added additional guitarists. Here is Green’s instrumental “Albatross”:

With the album “Then Play On”, they went in another direction. Here is “Oh Well” from that album:

Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970. Within a few years they had morphed into a phenomenally successful pop band; unrecognizable to fans of the original Fleetwood Mac. Green disappeared from the public eye after an unpleasant LSD experience in Germany. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent electroconvulsive therapy. He resurfaced a few times over the years, including in the 90s with “Peter Green’s Splinter Group”.

After all those years, it was clear he still had it. He reappeared one last time with “Peter Green and Friends”. While he could no longer tolerate the ravages of touring and his voice was shot, his fingers still worked, as did their connection to his heart. Here, from 2010, is his cover of “Oh Pretty Woman” (not the Roy Orbison song but the A.C. Williams blues song made famous by Albert King).

Peter Green 29 October 1946-25 July 2020.

This post may have nothing to do with bicycles, but it seems like everyone has the blues these days and could use a dose of the blues as treatment.

Happy birthday! (and Welcome E.T.)

Today we’re arriving at Devil’s Tower. As anyone who has seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind knows, this is where the aliens landed. If anything like this happens tonight, I’ll try to keep you posted.

It is also my wife’s birthday. Our first date was to see Los Lobos at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. Since I’ve already posted links to two Los Lobos songs, she gets this instead:

The first live music I ever saw in a bar was BB King playing with a local pickup band in a club called Dewey’s. I was just 18; it was a school night. That’s another story. For copyright reasons, I am linking to a poster for that night rather than reproducing it here. Tickets were $3.50.

OtisDewey’s was just a couple blocks from The Factory, which is best known as the club that Otis Redding was going to play in on December 10, 1967. His plane crashed in Lake Monona that afternoon.  My sister was waiting in line to get in when she heard the news. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” became a posthumous #1 hit. It was his last recording before he died.

The show was to be opened by The Grim Reapers, a precursor to Cheap Trick. The poster was designed by William Barr. If you zoom in, you will see the word “tenderness” in the image on the right. The image was Barr’s attempt to illustrate Otis’s song “Try a Little Tenderness“. The song was actually first recorded in 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra.

(I couldn’t resist linking to both the single version of Otis’ interpretation and a live version. I will restrain myself from another aside about Booker T and the MGs, arguably the best house band around.)

(For another aside, Aretha Franklin recorded this song years before Otis, though he is the one with whom it is identified…only fair, since he wrote “Respect”, which everyone identifies with her.)

(Dewey’s has been torn down. The Factory is now A Room of One’s Own Bookstore.)

Crash, bang, boom

Friday was one of the best and worst days I have ever experienced on a bike.

After the torrential rain of the night before, everything was dry – the driest it has been on this trip. The grass was dry. The tent was dry above and below – usually both the rainfly and the ground cloth are wet when I pack up. There was no sign of the night before.

We started out on a quiet road, slightly downhill, and with a light tailwind. The morning was still cool. We saw deer and pheasants. One deer lay in the grass maybe ten feet off the road and just looked at us as we rode by. About a dozen calves ran alongside us for about a hundred yards  – it looked like they were doing it just for fun.

We stopped at a tiny bar in the middle of nowhere, having covered 40 miles before  9 AM. Coffee and cherry pie, and we were on our way again.

It was now hot and windy. Two miles before lunch I hit a rock and heard a pop and a hiss. My front tire was flat. A quick change and we were in to lunch. Rechecking the pressure with the shop pump, I blew a second tube. After the third one blew, I gave up, we looked at the tire again and found a cut, and it was time for a new tire. Now both tires are new.

We rode in to the “town” of Spotted Horse. Our route planner said he had stopped B0F0185D-8074-4383-BAAB-053E738F3AA6in the bar the day before and they weren’t too friendly. We bought ice cold bottles of water. (I’m not usually a fan of bottled water, but this was a worthy exception.) After we guzzled water the owner brought us a big bowl of sliced watermelon. I guess she just didn’t like Dan.

By now the temperature was in the 90s. Our route was a 103 mile semi-circle, starting north, turning east, then turning south. We turned south into a nasty headwind. Had I been alone, I might have just sat at the side of the road and cried. Instead, we pressed onward, trying to stay cool and hydrated. There was no shade to be found.2714C8A4-951D-4B7B-B3F3-8FF71FA43414

At mile 90 I made the mistake that leads to today’s subhead. I couldn’t find a link to Jessica Harper’s song “Nora’s Room”, which contains the refrain “Crash, bang, crash bang boom/something’s going on in Nora’s room”.

The good news is that helmets are cheap. The bad news is that I needed one. Early in the day, Steve had said he doesn’t ride in pacelines and what should he know. I said the most important thing is not to touch the wheel of the rider in front of you. You will go down hard and the other rider may not even notice.

I can now say that experience proves me right. The good news is that I have very little road rash. The bad news is that that is because I led with my head.

I lay on the shoulder and took a quick inventory, deciding it was okay to sit up. I did another inventory before I stood. I then asked myself orientation questions – I knew the day and date, where I was, where I had started, where I was bound, who I was riding with, where I had stopped and what I had consumed in those places. I decided to get back on my bike.

Someone from the local senior center stopped and offered me a ride in to town. When he said he ran the senior center, he quickly added that he didn’t mean to imply anything. I let him know he was welcome to make the implication, as it is true.

He asked how my bike was. I realized that I am more of a trauma therapist than a bicyclist, as I had not yet cared about the bike. I wanted to make sure the patient was OK. I gave serious thought to accepting the ride, but wanted to get muscles moving again before I stiffened up, finding out what else hurt. Something had to hurt. Bike and rider were okay. We’ll see how the rider feels in the morning.

One of the vans passed us about five miles later, as we made our way through the industrial wasteland of the outskirts of Gillette. I tried to hail them, ready to give up on the day and get a ride to a bike shop for a new helmet.

I couldn’t get their attention and finished the ride. Then I got a new helmet and tried to award the old one (tonight was awards night) to Steve and Kevin, who stuck with me through thick and thin (and even thinner). Instead, it is in the trash.