Monday, November 30, 2009

Fashionisticly challenged

This is my column for the December issue of "Wheel Issues", the Red Dirt Pedalers newsletter.

To my considerable annoyance, I somehow ended up on a mailing list for men's bicycling 'apparel.' This is not mere clothing. No, no, it's called apparel because the word 'clothing' is too plebeian. This stuff represents a lifestyle choice reflecting one's highly refined taste, fashion sense, and apparently, over-filled wallet.

Garrison Keillor said that he had some friends with lifestyles while other friends had children.

These 'apparel' people are trying to sell me a two hundred dollar pair of pants. Oh, they're nice enough, what with being made of some miracle fiber that repels coffee and wine stains while retaining a plush, lightly brushed surface that's oh-so-comfortable. Tell you what - I have a nineteen-year-old son working in a garage. Let's see if he can put some irreversible stains on these pants. Better still, let me wear them while I work on a couple of commuter bikes. How's that magic fabric stand up to chain lube?

Besides, I've bought old, used cars for two hundred bucks. My first 'adult' bike cost less than that.

One other thing - these are essentially knickers meant to be worn without knicker socks. I suppose it projects a cosmopolitan, care-free attitude as you cruise down the boulevard on your fixed gear bike, perfect for bar-hopping on weekends or making that run to the trendy coffee shop down the street. Honestly, unless you're going cross-country skiing, men over the age of 15 should not be seen in public wearing knickers.

Curiously enough, this company is based in southern California - where 'winter cycling clothing' consists of a long sleeve jersey. Let's try this stuff in North Dakota come January or February. I'm sure the frozen body will still look fashionably chic when the spring thaw arrives.

I can imagine the scene if I came home in a pair of $200 pants. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wouldn't give me a 'come hither' look and say, "My, you look so handsome and devil-may-care in those! Be still my heart!"

No, it's more likely she'd make a disparaging comment (or two, or three, or however many days we still have on this planet) involving my lack of intelligence, shortfall in common sense, and inability to think clearly and logically while various kitchen implements fly through the air toward my head. She's not very good at throwing knives, but I'd still prefer to avoid it.



OK, OK, I'm easily distracted by shiny objects, fire trucks, and computer gizmos. But I like this new Blogger feature! I just posted a piece to CycleDog after saving it as a draft over the weekend. Rather than show it as being posted two days ago, I changed the date and time to today's date, but flubbed the time. I mistakenly set it to 6:28 PM, then went ahead and posted.

Blogger will automatically publish it at 6:28! That's cool. So I can get ahead on writing, stuff some pieces in the drafts folder, and Blogger will publish on a schedule.

Like I said - shiny objects. Look for the next one at 6:28 local time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ask Dr. Wally

Dear Dr. Wally

What are the proper libations to serve after a cold winter ride? One of my friends said the traditional Italian drink is something called grappa, but I've never hear of it before. Is he pulling my leg?

Buzzed in Bartlesville

Dear Buzz

Don't drink grappa. Try kerosene instead. You'll thank me for it. Grappa is made from what's left over after grapes go through a wine press. Supposedly there's 'good' grappa and 'bad' grappa, but only someone who drinks cleaning products for recreation would know the difference.

Besides, alcohol causes skin capillaries to dilate, increasing heat loss. Consider another warming drink instead, like espresso since we seem to be stuck on an Italian theme. You can impress your friends with a complicated and expensive espresso machine, or you can make equally strong coffee in a humble mokka pot like any Italian grannie.

If you simply must have alcohol, wait until after cooling off and taking a shower. Then open a bottle of stout or porter. They actually have a lower alcohol content than beer, but they have far more carbohydrates, sort of like a Power Bar in a bottle.

Dr. Wally

Next month: Sauerkraut - the new cure for saddle sores!


Very dark gray Friday

Lyndsay contemplates cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
(Canon Canonet GIII Q17, exposure unrecorded)

I was up at 4:30, not for shopping, but to make coffee and see my daughter off to work. She's lucky enough to have a hospital job that doesn't require nights, weekends, and holidays, but like most employers, her's doesn't recognize Black Friday as a holiday. Not that any of them should, of course, since it's a day devoted to the basest of human desires - low, low discount prices.

My scanner is busy. In the last hour, the local cops settled a dispute over housewares and sheets at the W**Mart. The were called to a possible road rage incident nearby, and some heartless POS stole a purse from a woman in a handicapped cart. The W**Mart is so crowded the police are having a hard time moving around inside.

I too, have to do some shopping. That means I have to get some money from the ATM first, and my credit union is - you guessed it - right near the W**Mart. I don't want to go there. In fact, I'd prefer to avoid the area until sometime in February. Since I have to pass the airport, I'll stop at the maintenance base and use the ATM there instead.

Now there's a dispute going on in lawn and garden. That's where the Christmas stuff is located. I have a perverse hope that it's two shoppers duking it out over a nativity display. I have a taste for irony.

Yesterday's dinner went well, but I forgot to take some photos of the table groaning under the weight of all that food. We had a six pound turkey breast because we gave the big turkey to a woman across the street. That six pounder fed the five of us, and in the evening, Lyndsay loaded up a plate for Mrs. W., one of her former clients from her home health care job. Mrs. W. can't travel, and all her family was out of town. She lives in an assisted living apartment complex. Lyndsay and I visited with her for almost two hours. I have to report that I was yawning and getting sleepy, partly from all that food, and partly from just being tired at the end of a long day.

One other happy moment came after we returned home. Mary discovered a forgotten cache of beer in the garage! I had three bottles of Sam Adam's Winter Lager out there. Okay, okay, my excitement threshold is fairly low when it comes to beer, but after that dinner I was really looking forward to a glass of beer. I thought I was out, and there wouldn't be a chance to get more until Friday. Sure, the grocery store was open. I could buy beer there, but if I'm going to pay the same price, why not get good beer from the liquor store?

Now there's a call about a suspicious vehicle driving slowly through one of the neighborhoods. It's stopping in front of houses, then moving on. It would be a perfect time to do some home burglaries as many people are out shopping already.

The eastern horizon is brightening. Jordan's alarm just went off. He has to be at work this morning too. This is kinda nice - watching my kids go off to work while I sip coffee!

I'll post this, then make some breakfast to power Jordan through his morning. Afterward, I'll leave for Tulsa and my very own shopping adventure. Fun, fun, fun.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving morning

My usual workday starts at 4:30AM, but today I was able to sleep in until after the sun came up. What luxury!

As I write this, it's still early. The house is quiet. Mary and the kids are asleep. I'm in the living room, sipping at a cup of coffee. The cats insisted that I feed them immediately once I opened the bedroom door, and now that their bellies are full, it's romper room time. A toy mouse is taking a battering and a piece of purple ribbon seems to be a favorite at the moment. They can be awfully noisy.

I like quiet mornings like this one. It's a good time to write, and given the hectic cooking festival coming later today, it's a welcome respite, a calm before the inevitable storm breaks.

Holidays make me think of what my children have missed. Mary and I grew up with big, extended families that had enormous holiday dinners. Those of you of a certain age may remember a television commercial with the line, "Bring out the second turkey!" My family actually did that when we had nearly 20 people in the house for Thanksgiving.

Maybe my kids aren't missing out on being relegated to a card table in the living room at mealtime. It's just the four of us here, though our friend Wade will be joining us for dinner. He gets a turkey dinner by presenting She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed with a two liter bottle of Pepsi. He knows a good deal when he sees one.

It's traditional to reflect on those things we're thankful for on this holiday, and like most others, I'm most deeply thankful for my family and friends. My children are growing up and soon they'll be out on their own. I know there will be holidays that they won't be able to spend with Mary and me, so our tradition will be changing once again. That's painful to contemplate, but it's equally inevitable.

I'm also deeply grateful for those of you who read this. Every writer has an audience in mind, and I'm no different in that regard. It's humbling to realize that CycleDog has had some influence on other cyclists and their own writing. Along with that realization comes a responsibility to keep an open mind and pursue the best practices that provide real benefits to real cyclists.

It's almost 10AM now. I'm going to post this, make more coffee, and cook a big brunch. Chances are, the aroma of food will bring the kids out of bed. Pancakes should do it. Then I'll clear off the kitchen and get ready for the afternoon onslaught.

Again, my thanks to all of you reading this. If you're in the US, enjoy the holiday. But even if you're not in this country, remember this and cherish your family at that next big dinner. Ultimately, the only real treasure we have are those people around us who share our table and the joys and sorrows of our lives.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Canon Canonet GIII Q17

I've been playing with this Canonet for awhile now. I'm impressed by the sharpness and contrast of its 40 mm lens. These photos were taken with an ISO 200 film in heavy overcast at the Ronde Van Oakkenberg cyclocross event a couple of weeks ago. I dropped off the film for processing at our local Drug Warehouse where they offer a CD with the prints. The files are about 5 megs and I've reduced them for display here. They've also been sharpened slightly.

This is an enlargement from the full size photo below. I was surprised at the fine detail at this magnification. Any larger, however, and you could see the grain.

This afternoon, I loaded this camera with an ISO400 black and white film. And I spun a yellow Y2 filter on the front of the lens. I know I can get the same effect by using color film and altering the images in Picasa, but I want to experiment. I've had very little experience with black and white film.

I won another camera at auction last week, a Yashica Electro 35GT - a very sexy all black rangefinder camera that's about as old as the Canon. One big plus is that much of the maintenance and repair information is on-line, so I'm planning to work on this one myself. But first, the old Minolta Himatic 9 will be going under the knife - my first victim. It's expendable.

Wish me (and the Minolta!) some luck.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And now, a word from our Wally

Some of you may remember the Crank Index piece from a couple of months ago. In it, I proposed an index consisting of the following points, to be used whenever we encounter anti-cyclist comments in blogs, newspaper articles, web forums, and the like. Here are all eleven:

(1)Bicyclists need tags, licenses, and insurance.

(2) All bicyclists are scofflaws. They run red lights and stop signs all the time!

(3) Public roads are for the use of all, and it's clear that bicyclists have an equal right to that public space. But they shouldn't ride on busy roads when there are other, less traveled roads and parks nearby.

(4) Bicyclists don't pay taxes.

(5) They impede traffic.

(6) They should ride on the sidewalks.

(7) They should stay on the trails.

(8) Motor vehicles must slow down to avoid cyclists, risking a rear-end collision.

(9) Bicycle travel is dangerous. You may be right, but you'll be dead right.

(10) They just don't have any 'common sense.'

(11) They wear funny clothes that make them look gay.

Yeah, I know, it's eleven. Just like that guy in Spinal Tap said, it's one louder.

Since I wrote that, I've been reading various newspaper comment sections here in Oklahoma and out there in the rest of the world, and so far, no one's scored a perfect eleven. But there's one outstanding contender for the highest score on the Crank Index.

Drum roll, please.

The winner is...the petition to ban cyclists from rural roads in Iowa! I know, I know, you were probably wondering what happened to this unseemly piece of faux populism. Apparently the petition closed sometime in October after gathering only 911 'signatures'. Every post on the site counted as a signature, even if the poster was against it. Anonymous posts also counted as signatures. So even that 911 figure is grossly inflated.

As near as I can figure, the petition scored a nine on the Crank Index, although I'll be completely honest and say that I didn't read each and every post. My stomach wouldn't take it. Especially nauseating were those comments that began, "I'm a cyclist too, but..." Here's a clue - if you don't exercise your right to the road, you don't actually have a right to the road.

The bottom line, however, is that the petition was a miserable failure.

But what of the people who signed it? I wouldn't want to play on their paranoia, but now we have a list of people who've publicly stated they don't like bicyclists. How difficult would it be to match up that list against police reports or newspaper stories involving harassment or assaults against cyclists? Say there's a hit-and-run in Sleepytown. We simply look for any posts from an individual in that town or a nearby one. That's not showing guilt, of course. It's merely a starting point for an investigation, a chance to round up the usual suspects.

Just a thought.


Monday, November 16, 2009

And now something completely different...


Toe straps for those of you who simply cannot leave your bike for any reason...perhaps because your leash is far too short. You know who you are.

Honestly, this looks more like S&M stuff rather than bike stuff. So far, the UCI hasn't ruled on its legality, though given the 'get medieval on your ass' mentality of the UCI, they'll be all for it.

I could mention the Spanish Inquisition here too, but you'd be expecting that, and as we all know, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"I don't use my brain anymore. I have technology for that."...overheard in a restaurant yesterday.

It started off as a nice day. Wade and I had coffee and solved the world's problems from our regular seats in the coffee shop. I stopped at the drugstore and bought some 35mm film and a heating pad for Mary. Lyndsay was just waking up when I arrived at home.

"I'm up early, Daddy, because I fell asleep early - about 10:45", she said. This working for a living and getting up at 4:30 AM takes its toll.

I wanted to take a broken camera down to Tulsa for repair, so I asked if she wanted to go along. "I'll get ready and go with you", she said.

It was 9AM.

I did the update for the Ronde Van Oakkenberg, posting it both here and on the Examiner. I read all my email. I played on StumbleUpon for awhile, updated my anti-virus program, updated iTunes, downloaded some podcasts, juggled cats, watched the new neighbors moving in across the street, and otherwise wasted time waiting for her.

I went back to her room twice to inquire as to whether she was ready to go, with negative results.

At 10:30, she was ready.

Note to future prospective bridegrooms - she'll make you crazy too, but she's worth it.

We went to Tulsa and I dropped off the digital camera that a kitten pulled off the table onto the tiled floor. The tech gave me a flat rate that was slightly higher than the manufacturer, but the company wanted that much just to look at it. Repairs could involve additional charges. This camera has better resolution than my Canon A590IS and a better telephoto as well. Chances are that Lyndsay will end up with it anyway.

After a few more errands, we stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, site of the hilarious comment up at the top. Two women left a nearby table and were passing behind me when one ot them said it. Lyndsay had a mouthful of food at the time and I thought it was going to come out through her nose.

After lunch, I curled up around that big ball of Mexican food in my belly and took a nap on the couch. It had been a busy morning, what with juggling cats and all, and I needed the rest.

As I write this early on Sunday afternoon, the weather outside is cool and wet. There's a 90% chance of rain and the temperature is hovering in the mid-fifties. Perfect cyclocross weather! Jordan and I are leaving in about half an hour. Expect an update on the Ronde Van Oakkenberg later today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ronde Van Oakkenberg cyclocross race in Tulsa (Update)

Cyclocross action from October practice session.

This is a reminder about the Ronde Van Oakkenberg cyclocross race scheduled for Sunday, November 15th.

The Crybaby Hill jazz ensemble will be performing.

Soundpony will be providing free beer on the Oakkenberg while it lasts. Due to licensing requirements, the free beer must remain outside the lodge.

There's a cash bar inside the lodge, and it will feature Chef's Award Winning Chili, Pork Sliders, and accompaniments from 2:30 to 4:30. Domestic beer is $3 per bottle. Imported is $4 per bottle. They'll have coffee and hot chocolate too.

Doubleshot Coffee will be providing coffee on the Oakkenberg also. Don't miss this!

The awards ceremony will be inside the lodge following the last race.

Malcolm McCollam sent this list of 10 reasons you should consider being a participant or spectator:

1. Euro-style course with tough climb (the Oakkenberg) that will test every part of your game.
2. Amazing views of downtown Tulsa.
3. Support joint efforts of local clubs - Bicycles of Tulsa, 918XC and Tulsa Tough Racing.
4. Spectator zone at top of the Oakkenberg.
5. Warming hut at top of Oakkenberg (okay, maybe that's a stretch - but there will be tents and a fire pit)
6. Free beer for spectators at top of Oakkenberg furnished by Team Soundpony, fueled by the Soundpony Lounge.
7. Free food in lodge from 2:30 - 4:30 (chili, award-winning pulled pork sliders, cole slaw and more by Post Oak chef)
8. Drawing for Stevens Cross frame (for participants only)
9. Beautiful facility I'll bet you didn't even know was 10 minutes from downtown Tulsa.
10. Last chance to race before Oklahoma State Championship.

There's more, but you'll just have to come experience it to see.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

In honor of those men and women who gave so much in order that we may spend our time complaining about the government, taxes, traffic congestion, crappy cellphone service and other ephemera.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Musette: 10NOV2009

Ronde Van Oakkenberg

First up, a reminder about this upcoming cyclocross event. For a taste of the excitement, take a look at Elisa's post on the BikeSkirt blog. She attended her first ever cyclocross race and is now well hooked.

Barring accidents, family emergencies, earthquakes, tsunamis, or another abduction by those pesky super-models, I'll be at the Ronde Van Oakkenberg this Sunday.

Draw your own crash

This site insists on calling them 'accidents' which would be true enough if they were acts of god. Getting hit by a meteorite or a falling tree branch is an accident. Getting left hooked by elderly Aunt Edna in her '71 Chrysler New Yorker is a crash - despite old auntie's insistence that 'she never saw you.' Crashes are preventable. Acts of god are not.

This tool includes bicycles, motorcycles, and various trucks as well as automobiles. Bookmark this for future reference, or, if you're extremely 'accident' prone - go use it today.

Typewriter erasers

Who still uses the humble typewriter eraser? These were ubiquitous once upon a time. I always kept one in the case with my manual Smith-Corona portable typewriter. They look like a pencil with a nylon brush at one end and a coarse, high pumice content eraser replacing the pencil lead.

I still use them, though in all honesty, I haven't used a typewriter for decades. (And no, I don't use them to erase mistakes on my computer screen!) These days, they're very handy for removing corrosion from battery terminals and cleaning the threads of small parts. They're slim enough to reach down inside battery compartments. And if you have recessed fasteners like Allen bolts, they can be used to remove rust. The white erasers are natural rubber and do not contain oily coloring agents. So they're a good choice to clean camera batteries, cyclocomputer batteries, or similar low current devices. Just don't touch the contact areas with your fingers afterward. Fingerprints leave oils and salts behind.

Aches and pains: An update

I recovered well from Saturday's fall. Sure, I was stiff and sore all of Sunday, and who would have thought that it's possible to pull muscles in the abdomen when tumbling onto your back? It's mostly gone, anyway.

And my shoulder is improving. It doesn't wake me up at night anymore, though it's still noticeable. I damaged it by carrying my upper body weight on it while laying tile last year. Yes, last year. This getting old stuff really sucks sometimes. We have more flooring to do after painting the living room. Oh joy. But this time I'm manning the table saw, cutting wood flooring, rather than being down on my hands and knees doing tile. Oh, there's still MORE tile to do, but I'm not in any hurry.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Gravity still works opposed to comedy, which only works when it feels like it.

Yesterday, Lyndsay said she wanted to go to Woodward Park in Tulsa. Our kids referred to it as 'squirrel park' since they were small, because we went there with peanuts for the squirrels. It's fun to watch a toddler who's both excited and slightly frightened by these wild animals. Lyndsay caught on to the idea of getting the squirrels to take a peanut from her hand. Jordan would let the get only so close, then he'd hurl nuts their way.

But that was years ago. Yesterday, Lyndsay was intent on using some of the information she'd learned in a digital photography class last month. She roamed around, shooting leaves, flowers, and inevitably, some squirrels. We'd arrived armed with peanuts, as usual.

While she wandered, I took some leaf photos too, but I took more shots of her. I'm not foolish. I know that my daughter will only be here at home with the old folks for a short time. Soon, she'll be off on her own, so I cherish these afternoons together.

The trip was not without incident. I wanted to get this photo, but in moving around to get the right angle, my foot was caught on a rock. I toppled over backward, landing flat on my back. My only concerns were to keep my head tucked in case another rock was behind me, and I cradled the camera in my arms. Fortunately, there was no damage to my back as I landed on grass and dirt. This morning, though, I was moving quite slowly. My back aches from the impact.

Ibuprofen is my friend today.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Apocalypse or something like it

I was indulging one of my two talents - staring vacantly into space, the other one being annoying my wife - when Wally plopped down on his usual bar stool. "I'm worried about this whole Mayan calender thing," he began. "I was just talking with Larry and he says that their calendar ends in 2012, but when you translate that date to binary and parse it, it spells 'apocalypse' in ASCII."

That was a lot of paranoia for just one sentence, even for Wally.

"Larry's just messing with your head, Wally." I smiled. "He's had you spooked ever since he said the IRS was looking for you. It's the after effect of Halloween. People pretend to believe any damnfool thing if they think it's scary. And what would scare you more than a supposed visit from those Treasury agents?"

"Well, maybe," he said. "The only thing scarier than Halloween is when the presidential election season coincides with it every 4th year. And you're right, people do believe a lot of damnfool ideas." He jerked a thumb toward the far end of the bar. "It's a lot like that movie, Resident Evil, but without the light-hearted whimsy." He mentioned the movie because it was playing again on the television. We'd all seen it many times, so Larry wisely turned the sound off. Some of the patrons mouthed the lines in some sort of drinking game as the silent movie played out.

Wally had a story to tell. He'd bumped into Bill Howard at work. Bill is the chairman of the Philosophy Department at the Broken Elbow extension campus, a big fish in a small pond. Howard was that breed of pompous academic who insisted on being called William and positively beamed when brown nosing students called him 'Doctor' Howard. He had a masters degree in education, and that nicely framed piece of paper coupled with his skill could land him a job stocking shelves or flipping burgers. Wally despised him, but always greeted him with a big, cheery smile. "Bill! How are ya? How you feeling this morning, just peachy or just Nietzsche?" He deliberately pronounced it Nee-Chee in an effort to be annoying. They nearly came to blows in a faculty meeting when Wally called him William Howard Daft. Over the years, Bill had produced a huge, steaming pile of wisdom, and we felt sorry for the students who had to sort through it.

Wally had just started into his tale of the latest assault on Bill's over-inflated dignity, when Bill himself walked into the bar. He looked around in the gloom and spotted us near the back. Fixing his eye on Wally, he walked toward us with a rapid, purposeful stride. It was one of those western movie moments. The Resident Evil drinking game stopped as did all conversation. If Larry's had a piano player, he would have ceased playing too. Larry reached under the bar for a cut down pool cue. Fistfights were not permitted in the bar. Combatants had to use the alley out back among the garbage cans, like civilized people.

"Wally, I just ran over your damned bike. It scratched up my car and you're going to pay for the damages!" Bill was furious. His fists were clenched and he was ready to start throwing punches.

A big surge of adrenaline makes time slow down. Wally stood up so quickly that his barstool went flying. Bill's right fist delivered an uppercut into Wally's chest. The air whooshed out of him and his eyes bulged. Larry's pool cue tapped Bill on the head. He collapsed onto his knees. My kick to his shoulder put him on the floor. Wally's barstool clattered to a stop.

Shelly, Larry's pretty young barmaid, called the cops. Fred and Ethel were on the scene within a couple of seconds because they'd seen Wally's old bike crumpled up on the sidewalk outside. They came into the bar. Ethel was hoping to find Wally equally crumpled. "What's all this?" Fred asked. He talked with Larry about the incident while Ethel glared at me and Wally, obviously intent on cuffing and arresting the two of us. Any pretext would do. He'd tried reckless bicycling, public intoxication, jaywalking, and even mopery. We still didn't know what mopery was, but none of the bogus charges had stuck.

He stood close in order to prevent our escape if we decided to make a run for it. Wally was still gasping for air, his voice little more than a croak. He couldn't run the length of the bar. And my bad knee wouldn't hold out to the door.

Shelly came down to our end of the bar and fixed her lovely blue eyes on Ethel. "I thought this was a quiet little town," she said. "Do things like this happen often?" Ethel blushed and stammered a reply. He half-turned toward her, finding Shelly's gaze as compelling as any moth in a candle flame. Adrenaline also causes tunnel vision. We quietly slipped off our barstools, crossed behind Ethel, and went out the front door unnoticed by either cop. Shelly, of course, was sweet on Wally despite him being twice her age. I will never understand women, but she gave us an opportunity to escape.

Sure enough, Wally's disreputable Peugeot was strewn across the sidewalk next to Bill's Volvo. Both wheels were tacoed. The tires were flat. And one chain stay had pulled out of the bottom bracket, revealing extensive corrosion. The bike wouldn't have lasted much longer, but on the other hand, anyone else would have consigned it to the scrap heap more than twenty years ago. Still, it was the bike Wally had hoped to ride to the White House during his campaign to be our next vice-president. It had some historical value, in that regard.

Wally was heart-broken. He picked up some pieces, a broken shift lever, the scuffed Ideale 90 saddle, and carefully set them back down on the concrete. "How did my bike get over here? I put it against the front wall on the other side of the sidewalk. Someone must have moved it."

No one in their right mind would dare to ride that bike, so about half the town's population was above suspicion. Still, there were some questions to resolve. First, how did the bike get under Bill's Volvo? Second, what kind of bike should Wally buy to replace the Peugeot? And would I have to accompany him on a shopping trip to some bike shops? Maybe I could fake appendicitis.

To be continued...


Friday, November 06, 2009

Movie remakes

This is my regular column for the Red Dirt Pedalers newsletter.

November is coming. The weather will be turning worse and there will be days we're stuck in the house. I'm not a sports fanatic, but I do loves me some old movies.

Hollywood has about thirty different plots that we've seen endlessly. We pay big bucks to sit in a dark room watching flickering lights on the wall, so if the movie moguls want us to keep coming to their theaters, they really should offer something for us cyclists.

Imagine the possibilities if some iconic old movies and television shows were remade with bicycles as a central theme. Some, like Cannonball Run, Vanishing Point, or North by Northwest, just wouldn't work as bicycling movies. Others, however...

Route 66: Two cool guys wander along the Mother Road solving problems for a host of guest stars. One big plus comes from the simple fact that bicyclists travel much slower than automobiles. In the original program, the guys traveled in a Corvette and may have driven between Chicago and Los Angeles half a dozen times. On bicycles, a whole season could play out in Oklahoma alone. And when you consider the multiple alignments of the road over its history, the story line could include frequent dead ends and tales of characters becoming profoundly lost.

The Road Warrior/Mad Max: It says tons about our culture when a post-apocalypse story revolves around motorcycles, automobiles and the omnipresent search for fuel. This takes place in a stinkin' desert without a water hole in sight. Yep, these folks are fighting over gasoline. When I last checked, humans don't really need gas for survival, but water is a necessity. We can't last a week without it. So imagine a remake with a bunch of punk wannabes duking it out over some water. If you don't think it makes a compelling story, see Humphrey Bogart in Sahara. Keep a Big Gulp handy. You'll need it.

Christine: Sure, this was a horror move, but the bicycle version would involve a young man's slow descent into madness as he tried to find parts for an old French bike, finally losing it completely when he discovers that breaking in an Ideale 90 saddle is an exercise best left to committed masochists. Finding proper French parts for a bike was a pain-in-the-butt back in their heyday. It's infinitely worse now.

Lonely are the Brave: Kirk Douglas plays a cowboy, a rugged individualist wandering the modern west. He cuts fences. He's a throwback who just doesn't fit into the modern world. Douglas gets tossed in jail where he's beaten up, and later escapes. If you've seen First Blood, with Sylvester Stallone doing his shirtless, thespian best, you've seen the basic plot of Lonely are the Brave. The latter is a far better movie. Douglas keeps his shirt on. Substitute a battered mountain bike for the cowboy's horse, and it would work.

While the rain beats on the windows, make yourself a bowl of popcorn and watch some of the good stuff. If you have an idea for a remake, let me know!


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ask Dr. Wally

This is Wally's November column from the Red Dirt Pedaler's newsletter.

Dear Dr. Crankset

What is cyclocross racing? There's talk of it growing in popularity but I've never heard of it until recently. What gives?

Newbie in Nowata

Dear Newb,

If you're the kind of rider who enjoys cold, wet weather and copious amounts of mud, you just may like riding in cyclocross. On the other hand, if you're the type who'd rather stay indoors with a hot drink when the weather turns foul, you may like watching those other fools race in such conditions. Cyclocross events are usually no more than an hour, so they're not too hard on spectators even in bad weather.

Cyclocross courses are short and include both paved and off road sections, barriers that require dismounts and running, and sometimes water crossings or even stairs. A skilled racer will barely slow down as he dismounts, runs and jumps over barriers, and remounts to continue. They make it look easy. It's not.

For competitors, the races begin as a mass start that quickly devolves to an individual time trial. Slower racers struggle to avoid getting lapped, and if it's muddy, everyone struggles to stay upright in slippery conditions. It's difficult, exhausting - and a whole lot of fun!

There are events nearly every weekend somewhere in the area. Better yet, most are open to anyone who wants to compete. Local events generally allow mountain bikes, but it's best to confirm this with the race organizers.

Dr. Wally

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tulsa Cyclocross piece

I just posted the Tulsa cyclocross piece to the Examiner. This is the Ronde Van Oakkenberg, possibly the forerunner of an annual multi day event. It sounds great. Since I've ridden in cyclocross races, I have a small appreciation of the difficulty. But even if you've never raced, cyclocross is a spectacle. Trust me. And this one includes beer!

Sorry to keep this so short, but 'V' is coming on in a very few minutes. I can't wait to see if there's any hampster eatin' goin' on!

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Monday Musette

Just two items today, but there's something tantalizing for tomorrow. I just haven't had enough time to write it. Yep, that's a teaser.

56th Street North

I was out wandering yesterday, trying to get some photos of the road construction along 56th Street North just east of US169. This is a popular and useful route for cyclists as it connects Owasso with Tulsa to the south. It's not the only route as Mingo Road is another north-south road off to the west, but 56th sees far less traffic, making for a pleasant commute.

A year or two ago, I met a survey crew out there. They were drilling for core samples to determine the soil and rock composition under the one lane bridges across Bird Creek. Presently, there's a steel bridge spanning the creek and an old wooden bridge just to the west. The wood bridge has been reconstructed at least once already. The survey crew said that there was a plan to replace both bridges with a new span.

Improving this road makes sense. It will connect the highway to Owasso's new 400 unit housing area to the east. Unfortunately, my quiet rural commute will be lost.

These photos show that heavy equipment has been operating on both sides of the existing roadway on the approach to the steel bridge. Perhaps this is preparation for widening the road and replacing both bridges. Time will tell.

Cyclocross at Mohawk Park

In my wanderings, I blundered across the crew from 360 Sports in Owasso as they were preparing to leave for a cyclocross event in Mohawk Park. I was very tempted to go along, but another household crisis intervened. Our drier vent plugged up, and rather than have a house fire, I decided to fix it. One thing lead to another - as they usually do around the CycleDog ranchero - and what should have been a 45 minute job took the rest of the afternoon to sort out.

Anyway, here's a truckload of cyclocross bikes, all shiny and bright. I'll bet they looked considerably worse after the event.

And here's the 360 Sports crew, all shiny and bright.

There's more cyclocross news coming up, but that will be tomorrow's subject. It's a goodie, I promise!