Tuesday, August 5, 2014


In my line of work, (real estate appraiser), I see folks at home.  It's kind of personal. Hell, it's a lot personal, to have some stranger come to what is your supposed safe place, and wander through taking pictures, scratching notes on a clipboard, and asking about your septic system's functionality.  I always try to make folks feel at ease.  They typically need me to be there, but are not always all that excited about it.  

But once in awhile, folks surprise me.  

I see it all.  Hovels maintained as if they were the Taj Mahal, and McMansions on the verge of meltdown.  It will shock you to see how some folks live.  On this particular day, I had just left an 8 year old manufactured home, in the woods of eastern Havana.  Folks bought it in 2006 right at the peak of the real estate boom.  Brand new and shiny, and freshly installed on their own private acre.  As with many after the Great Recession, something went sour.  They've lost their palace, and the bank has it now.  This is where I come in.  Once again, I am to let the bank know how best to liquidate this property.  I arrive and find the front door has been kicked in, the A/C unit is gone, as is the water heater, ALL of the kitchen cabinets, appliances and  fixtures, and the shower and garden tub from the master bath.  Apparently those bath fixtures didn't fit through the stock bathroom door size, so the walls were "customized" to allow sufficient exit space. The place is a shambles, and is likely no longer worth much more than the land it sits on.  I ponder this on my way to my next appointment.  That type of scene is not at all uncommon.  Sometimes it's an angry homeowner.  They figure that if the bank is taking it, then so be it.  But if they can't have it, nobody can, so destruction ensues.  Other times, it's just the rural location and a home sat vacant too long, so local thieves step in, and help themselves to anything that may be cash-worthy.  Regardless, it's not the pretty side of the human animal.  

My next stop is a much higher end home, but again, it is under contract as a short sale.  Something went wrong in someone's dream, and their homeownership path is altered.  I'm a little nervous on this one.  I've just left the bad, and due to a miscommunication, this particular gentleman had been around home all day the day before, awaiting my arrival.  I however, had no idea he was expecting me, and so was a bit on edge as to the attitude I was walking into, today.  

Nobody is home, so I proceed with my sketches and measuring.  I'm around back when I hear a car horn blowing.  Apparently my truck was in the way of where HE wanted to park.  Here we go, I think, and steel myself for the interaction.  I round the corner to see an all black SUV with gigantic chrome wheels, FAMU Rattler plates, Pittsburgh Steelers stickers on the windows, and a necklace swinging from the mirror, consisting of 5 large rattlesnake rattles threaded on a leather cord.  Blaring from all 4 rolled down windows, so all the neighborhood could enjoy........ the twang of country music.   This was not what I expected.  Out of the vehicle climbs an older black gentleman with a big straw hat, and a scruffy grey beard.  Again, not what I expected.  I give him my name, and ask how he is doing.  Typical cordial pleasantries.  

T N T!! Taint Nothing Ta-me, my man!  Taint nothing ta me!, he exclaims.  

I can't help but smile, and tell him I'll go on about finishing my inspection.  He opens the doors, offers me a drink, and tells me he'll be outside mowing the grass.  I get inside, and see he's already pretty much moved out.  But the place is spotless.  There are signs of cleaning still ongoing, but predominantly, this place is move in ready.  I just keep thinking that this guy is out here mowing the grass, which looked perfectly fine to me, for a house he's losing in a short sale!!  

I finish my inspection, and head back out to be on my way.  Mr Homeowner stops the mower and asks about my bike in the back of the truck.  I'm used to this.  It happens.  But then he asks if I'm married.  Not any longer, I answer.  I suppose I had a funny look on my face, probably because I was trying to figure out why I had answered this way.  A simple "no" would have sufficed.  He throws up his hands.

Let's just call it vicissitude!

Again, I can't help but smile at this guy.  He keeps surprising me at every turn.  He tells me he lost his wife of 41 years, last year, and that's why he's giving up the house.  

I was gonna say, that if you are married, just be sure she rides, too.  

"Funny you should say that.", I told him.  "The young lady in my life now, does.  In fact, it's how we met."  He smiles broadly, and tells me that's an excellent thing.  

I hope to be in that exact same place in my life again, someday.  

This man is experiencing more than enough vicissitude right now, yet his positive attitude was infectious.  The man's head was high, and he was on his way, wherever that may lead.  I wished him luck on whatever the next chapter of his life brings, but after I left, I more felt that I should have thanked him.  Thanked him for showing me what folks can be.  Thanked him for reminding me what I always want to be.  Keep them guessing, but show them substance.  Put something in this world that is worth being there, even if it's something as intangible as simple good will.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Five months and eleven days.  I saw the date on my last post, and realized this little piece of the interweb may be considered dead, or at least so severely atrophied, that it likely can't survive beneath its own diminished weight.  

It's not that nothing has happened, its just that my motivation to write has been clogged like a mistreated artery.  I feel like I'm searching for something to fill a void.  My motivation for most anything is nil.  I don't want to go to sleep at night.  I don't want to wake in the morning.  I don't want to take the time to think of something to write.  Creative juices are as dried and tacky as last week's Kool-Aid spilled on the kitchen floor.  

Bikes always motivated me, kept me amped.  Lately, the very machines seem to reject me.  In the past 6 months, I've had more mechanicals that any one man should.  I may need to relieve Wrecking Ball of his moniker.  One of the few things I've considered myself good at, the love and care of cycles, seems to be in question.  The logical part of my brain recognizes most of these failures as outside the normal realm of prevention. But the frequency...  The frequency just keeps banging away at that common denominator.   Broken derailleurs, broken spokes, broken hubs, broken seatposts, and broken confidence.  

Now, it seems to be broken motivation.  I got excited to do big hours in preparation for Fool's Gold.  That race kicks my oversized ass, and that motivated me.  I've done it twice, and improved the second time, but there is so much room to continue.  I put down 38.5 hours in 3 weeks.  Took a week off, and was ready to repeat.  Life stepped in and hid my bikes, my shoes, and any pride I felt in following through.  Again, rational brain recognizes life is just that way, and you just do what you can to work around.  But emotional side steps in and says to hell with all this.  I hate failure.  Failure triggers the garbage that muddies my waters.

All just speed bumps.  Speed bumps that seem like mountains when staring at them, without motivation to get over.  I miss my friends.  I miss the big rides with them.  I miss seeing them 3 or 4 times a week.  My social life has been on two wheels for more years than I can remember.  Now, with everyone missing, it's just harder to get excited.  The slightest rain or schedule conflict, and going home seems more intriguing than getting out for the ride.  


Well, that should be just about enough crying in my beer.  Sometimes I spend too much time Huck Finn style, drifting on my raft.  Time to get back in the driver seat.  Let's see if we can't get this old bus moving in the right direction, or at least turn the corner. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Leads to Old

My last post was all about seeing something new; doing something different(ly).    I think that ultimately, I'm just burnt out on my mtb, lately.  Winter brings the dark, and dark traditionally limits us to mtb night rides.  Truth is, we limit ourselves.  Last week's night cx ride opened my eyes to other dark options.

I brought up the desire to do a dedicated clay road ride and the crew jumped all over it.  Last night found 7 of us rolling into the twilight, while the clay roads unfolded beneath.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I for one was just plain stoked to be doing something new.  

This morning I was looking at the map of our route.  I was looking at other options, kind of like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books, I read as a kid. What happens if I choose this turn over that other?   I had this one particular right turn in mind.   I zoomed out on the map, followed the little track through the trees to the north, and see that it pops out just south of Blackshear Rd, off Thomasville Rd.   Blackshear rings a bell deep in the recesses of my memory.   I dig a little deeper, and it all comes to the surface.   The aerial photos became a playground map of my youth.  My grandmother lived on Blackshear, when my Grandfather was the superintendent of Hines Hill Plantation.  I see the roof of the little old house, and it looks like the pond out back has succumbed to algae or lily pads.  It looks so green compared to the black water I remember being told to stay out of during family events in that backyard.   A slide show plays instantly at the thought of that pond out back.  The green grass backyard as big as all the world in my child's eyes.   Family scurrying about, as my Dad and his Dad fried fish in the cookhouse. Aunts and Grandmother shoeing us away from underfoot, as they carried pies and other goods down to the picnic area by that pond.  Running around with a stick of some sort that made the perfect sword, fishing pole, wand or whatever else was needed in any moment of unbridled. imagination.

I look just north of Blackshear and I see where my old house used to be.  It was referred to as The Cracker Shack, back then.  I wonder if that was a pet(or derogatory) name my Mom and Dad made up for the place, or if it was "officially" known that way by the plantation in general.  I follow the smaller plantation tracks through the woods, to the 3 Small Ponds I always bragged about.  "Where I live, we have THREE ponds in the woods behind the house!"   In my mind, it was quite the brag, in the 2nd grade.  We rode bikes all through those woods.  My first bike was a Huffy that looked like a dirtbike.  20" knobby tires, fenders, number plate, the works! My brother had another 20" wheeled bike, with a bass-boat red banana seat, sissy bar, and apehangers.  Dad would take us out on those roads, my brother and I on our own, while the youngest brother rode in a child's seat on the back of Dad's Sears 10spd.  Knowing what I know now, I honestly don't know how he rode those skinny road tires on those dirt roads, with all that extra weight, and absolute garbage for brakes.  Riding 2 rut roads covered in pine straw from pine trees that had to be at least a million feet tall.

The Cracker Shack is gone now.  It makes me sad seeing that. Reality is, it was ancient when I lived there and that was a loooong time ago.  My first thoughts when seeing it replaced by a big storage building were bitter.  My history replaced.  But that old house was probably long past any functional use.  That old house was home for awhile, and now it will always have a home of its own in my memories. 

I think I'll be taking that right turn I was looking at, in the near future.  If I remember right, there was a little church at the end of that road, just before the highway.  I think I'll go see about that.  I think I may need to see if I can get into my old yard, too.  The house is gone, but I bet the roots of  those memories are still planted pretty deep in that piece of earth.

Last night's ride made me happy... because it was something new.   But today, seeing how something new can tie so deeply into fond memories of my past, well,  that was a very unexpected gift.  One that makes me infinitely more happy that I opted out of the same old, same old, and opened another future door to my history.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dead Ends

This first month of the year feels all out of sorts. In my head, one warps up tools, ideas, and plans for a "new" event, at the tail end of a "closing" event.   In other words, prep bikes in December, for events of January. 

My January went nothing at all like that.  The opening week saw me scrambling to bandage a hemorrhaging bike, in time for Felasco.  She came together, and I suffered through my 12th tour of those woods. After Felasco, I found that the Tallboy was still bleeding beneath all those bandages.  The rear shock was scritching and squirting(technical terms) with every cycle.   No time to send it off for a rebuild before Ididaride.  So I borrow, not one, but 2 rear shocks from folks, only to find both of those in worse shape than my own.  Scramble, pillage, rape, salvage, beg, bailing wire, and too many freaking hours in my shop later, and she's bandaged, yet again. 

Ididaride starts fast as always, to get that coveted spot in the singletrack, ahead of the lollygaggers. It will slow to downright hiking speed, if you get mired in all that.  About 12 miles in, I've been long bittered by my cold wet feet, and the fact that my body is not settling in after the fast start,  I feel tired, but hope it will come around.  The only thing that came around, was my rear wheel, after I clipped a pedal in a corner, planted my knee firmly in the trail(causing the first ever tidal wave in the Suwanee River), flipped ever so gracefully around to land on my back, slammed the back of my head into the ground(causing 2nd ever tidal wave in the Suwanee River), and watched curiously as my bike flew overhead, and tried to kill Tiny Might, who was still in front of me at the time.  I get up, and though I very much love Mexican food after I ride, I was not at all enticed by the spoke and rim taco that used to be my front wheel.  I had zero interest in walking, but knew the wheel was never going to be the same again.  I took the wheel calmly from the dropouts, and proceeded to bit the ever living shit out of it against the ground.  Mechanically speaking, I was trying to straighten it enough to allow it to spin between the fork legs, so I could limp out.  Metaphysically speaking, I was absolutely trying to kill something that was raging inside me.  I sent the group on, knowing I was effectively done for the day.  Once they were clear, I continued the mad thrashing of rim and earth.   I found a large tree, about 6-8" in diameter, and set about trying to bend the rim around its trunk. A loud crack, the tree that I was now recognizing to not look so healthy, vibrated, shook, and began to fall.  Ahhhh hell!!!! I was struggling between my natural desire to run, and the desire to not kill any innocent rider, that just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  I gave it one last hard push towards the woods, and backed off. Crisis averted. 

The wheel spun just straight enough to get me rolling.  It heaved, jerked and swayed, but rolled. The spokes creaked and groaned with every rotation, but they got me to a highway, and back to White Springs.  I must have looked like Debo, riding that hoopty down Main St. 

The Tallboy is now on blocks, and I started trying to get another bike together in time for Urban Gorilla.  After 6 hrs in the shop, and driving all over hell and back to chase down parts on Saturday, I made it happen.  Sunday dawned wet and foggy, but I was stoked. Bike looked good, and rode great.  I was very ready to get in some much needed hours.  About 4.5 hrs in, I pick up a stick, that wrapped my rear derailleur up like a...well....I don't really know what.  She was a mangled hunk o' metal, I know that.  I tried to convert the bike to a singlespeed, but 3 pedal rotations later, she bound up tighter than all hell.  Unrideable, and unfixable with the tools on hand, I sat dejectedly on a park bench, and waited for evac.

It gave me plenty of time to ponder some things.  Mostly, I pondered retiring from mountain bikes.  I'd spent probably 25-30 hrs in the shop this month, only to have 2 bikes more dead than they began.

Today I drove all over Gadsden County, and found all these cool roads, that I couldn't wait to ride on my road bike.  Sweet roads that climb and descend the crazy topography as you move south towards Lake Talquin.  But every one of these sweet roads came to a dead end.  At first, I wrote them off.  For some reason, it just feels wrong to use roads that don't connect, when laying out a new ride loop.  See, there it is right there. Loop.  But then it hits me. Who made that rule? Why do I have that feeling?  Maybe that's just bullshit.  Maybe I need to to readjust my thinking, and be okay with all the backtracking.  Continuity is great and all, but does it have to be the only way? 

These threads of thought may seem incongruous, but in my head, those dead end roads, and all of the  dead end wrenching I've been doing, seem to tie together about perfectly.   I've already begun backtracking across the nuts and bolts, the assembly, disassembly, and reassembly of those bikes.  While it seems like rehash, it's simply a necessary evil, of riding bikes. Though I really wanted to, I could never really just write off those bikes.  And this weekend, backtracking be damned, I'm going to go ride those dead end roads, both ways, and enjoy their gifts, coming AND going.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sales Technique

Customer  -  Why does the back of the frame look like that?

Shop Guy  -  This bike has elevated chainstays. It allows them to tuck the rear wheel up underneath you, real tight. 

Customer  -  What's that do for you?

Shop Guy  -  It makes the bike more responsive; real good for doing wheelies.

Customer  -  Oh really?  Show me.

Shop Guy  -  Umm, uhh, naahhh, I'm not a wheelie guy. I'm more of a jumper.

True story.  (Names withheld to protect the not so innocent.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weather or Not...

I look out the window at the gray day. Winter is finally showing in North FL.  The high today is far below what we've had recently, and the wind bites a bit at bare skin.  Yesterday, I got texts and emails, saying it would be okay if we cancelled the morning ride due to in-climate weather. It was cold for us. High 40's when we rolled out.

But when I look out that window, I imagine the lone figure plowing his way against the wind. Doing the work that others save for fair weather.  I romanticize the struggle against the cold.  Maybe it's the images of Andy Hampsten over the Gavia.

Maybe it's wanting to emulate a fraction of the perseverance of those hardmen that raced the 2013 spring classics.

Maybe it's just me enjoying watching the local skinny fast guys shiver and shake. They certainly showed me no mercy during the summer, when my clydesdale sized fame wilted with core temps in the millions. 

I think mostly, I just like the change.  Cycling can take many flavors in our home town.  The brutal oppressive heat and humidity of the Summer, gives way to golden yellow Fall light, and the smell of leaf fires in rural yards.  Winter brings the cold black of night rides, until Spring rolls around with all of its colorful visuals and the sweet smells of nature awaking from its slumber.

Each has its time and place in forging us in our pursuit of fitness, growth, perseverance, mental toughness, or simple peace.  Like any great new album, play it long enough, you'll be ready for a change. Right about now, I must be ready.  That cold gray road sure looks good to me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let It Go

Daylight savings has ended, and it's quite dark when I leave the confines of the office, at the end of the workday.  Last week I dug out my light systems, to see what was still functional, and what was in need of repair.  Repair is a tough call on these light systems.  We ride a lot at night, and the guys I ride with go damn near as fast in the dark, as they do in the light. Consequently,  the light systems have gotten expensive, to produce the light needed to keep up with these fast bastards. I try to take care of them, but during the long hot summers, cycling through battery charges is far from my mind, and the batteries occasionally come up short the next season.

Batteries have gotten outrageous!  A new battery for my HID light runs about $135, ON SALE!!! That kills me, as I can buy an overseas built, new school LED light, for about $85. The whole system for $85, and they work great. I have one now, and use it almost every ride. My hang up is with the waste. I cannot stand to toss a perfectly good light, that simply lacks a battery. In the appraisal business, we call this incurable functional obsolescence. The cost to cure the problem, exceeds the contributory value of the item damaged. Or in this case, it exceeds the value of the ENTIRE system.  But the waste....

I go through the same thing with cordless drills. I have two drills that I bought for about $135. But both batteries are roached, and no longer take a charge. New batteries run $45/ea. Here we go again....

I have two dead drills and multiple dead cycling lights, all sitting in no man's land on a shelf. I can't bear to toss them, but they don't work.  I have a few friends that have dared to call me a hoarder. These are close friends, and can get away with that, but still... Is it truly hoarding when you just don't want to be wasteful?  I have a shop full of 10 generation old cycling parts, and I'm a hero when I pull out that 1994 widget that saves your favorite ride's shifting.  But the rest of the time, folks snicker and point, and suggest that I should be on that damned TV show. I can see it now, bald and wailing as some bright shirt and glove wearing jackass tosses my first generation XTR cranks into a trash bin, and a counselor tries to discover what grave happening in my life triggered my salvation excess.

Maybe there is some great issue in my past, that my psyche decides to bury beneath bike parts. But mostly, I believe it comes from not having money as kid growing up. So now, when I have something nice, I intend to hang onto it until it rots away in my fingers. Even in my shop days, I was a fixer, more than a replacer.  I always tried to get that guy's shifter to kick out a few more weeks, because I knew his money was hard earned, too.

But now I'm at a crux. These lights, they cost more to fix than a whole new light, so that runs counter to my saving the cash ideology.

But the waste...

I think I have a problem.  Anybody know a good hoarding counselor?