Who are we? We are our stories.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bicycle Haute Couteur

Some things are perfect; they are usually perfected shortly before they are taken out of production. The Gilles Berthoud bags are close - French haute couteur purses for the discerning bicyclist. In 1985 Gilles Berthoud saved the perfect bag and took over production of the decades old Sologne bags, which were developed by years of trial and error. Every one is presently made by Veronique Durant, from sturdy cotton canvas trimmed with cowhide and goatskin in various sizes to fit the different handlebar and rack configurations. The clear map pocket on the top is probably a relatively recent development- within the last 30 years or so. I don't go far enough off the beaten path to lose my bearings often, so mine protects a map of a cycling area south of Paris - just in case.

Front jacket pocket and side pocket, perfect size for small hip flask. Coincidence? I think not.

Two rear pockets and rear opening top flap - so the rider can access the contents while decending at speed down a high mountain pass.

The rear view, flap open, showing the quick release decaleur, the attachment which holds the bag in place.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Madonna del Ghisallo

People who follow bicycle racing casually are all familar with the Tour de France and the other one and two week tours. I, myself, am more fascinated by the one day races which bookend the season, the Spring Classics and the Fall Classics. Whereas the Tours are tactical, team events, with the team leaders conserving energy for two or three major days, the 10 or so Classics are long, let it all hang out, one day races where they race through cold Spring rains as if there is no tomorrow, because there isn't. They are historical races riddened by tough, hard men riding in the shadows of past champions. The season starts with the Tour of Flanders (since 1913). Then come the cobbled races which I love, such as Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North, (since 1896) run over awful, narrow cobbled back roads - a wonderful mixture of sweat, blood, tears and mud. Then there is Leige-Bastogne-Leige (1892) an out and back, and after the major Tours are over come the softer Fall Classics. The season is finally capped by the Giro di Lombardi, a new comer at only 102 years old. While this isn't as difficult a ride as the Spring races, it makes up for it by the scenery along Lake Como, truly one of the beautiful places on earth.

The last climb leaves the lake shore and climbs up to the top of the peak of the Chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of bicyclists, then back down to the lake to the finish. The peak is crowned by the church, a small chapel filled with the donated bicycles and jerseys of the great champions. Only in Italy could there be a Chapel with a statue, not of the Christ, but of Il Campionissimo, Fausto Coppi. This is the Cooperstown of cycling - and, for a small fee, you can get your cycle blessed.

This is the Ghisallo medal on the back of my bike. I'm not a religious person, but it can't hurt - a little like the whistles people used to put on cars to warn the deer away - you never know if it works or not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


In the New Yorker this week, James Wood critiques the Republicans misuse of words and now their attack on words in general. Buried in the depths of the article was this rambling sentence that would make any 19th Century writer proud:

She may claim, as she did in last Thursday’s Vice-Presidential debate, that “Americans are cravin’ that straight talk,” but they are sure not going to get it from the Governor—not with her peculiar habit of speaking only half a sentence and then moving on to another for spoliation, that strange, ghostly drifting through the haziest phrases, as if she were cruelly condemned to search endlessly for her linguistic home: “I do take issue with some of the principle there with that redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you.”

Now I must admit that I have some sympathy for Sarah Palin, as I often have the same trouble organizing my thoughts and, much to Lorna'a irritation, lose interest in the thought and leave unfinished sentences hanging in the air, leaving the listener waiting for the other verbal shoe to drop. But God, don't you just love, "...that strange, ghostly drifting through the haziest phrases, as if she were cruelly condemned to search endlessly for her linguistic home".

Yep, that's me too

Sunday, October 12, 2008


So let's talk about Christianity. How come when we go to funerals there is all these talk about Mother's gone to heaven to be with Pa, or Ol' Johnnie's up there in heaven drinking with the angels? As I recall, even a passingly close take on the New Testament tells us that we die and stay dead until the Next Coming when Christ will return and the dead will arise; the good will then go to heaven in a blaze of glory and the rest of us sign in for eternal damnation. I hate to be a nit picker, but if we're going to be irrational, let's at least be consistently irrational. Personally, I'm opting out; I'm just going to die and be dead, and I'm okay with that. It's much less confusing and in a way, much more comforting.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I've seen a few references to "Minnewisowa" recently by politicos who reason that for political purposes Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa are one state because of their overlapping media markets and similar demographics. I wonder what planet these people are on. Socially and politically Minnesota has much more in common with Massachusetts than Iowa. Except for Madison, even Wisconsin is much more blue collar industrial than Minnesota. Iowa is a much more conservative and rural than either of the others. Mostly, I don't like being put in the same bucket as Iowa - no offense.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stock Market Again

I have now lost the value of my second home too. The only thing that makes it bearable is the knowledge that most of America, even the world, is in the same boat.

A Double Compliment

As I mentioned earlier, I am temporarily working part time for the company where I used to work full time before my retirement. The company is now under the Berkshire Hathaway umbrella and things are changing fast. I'm working on a new product line which hopefully will get things back to acceptable profitability. Today, as I was walking through the manufacturing area, an old worker flagged me down and asked if I had come back to work full time. When I told him I was only working part time he said, "Hell, you ought to be working full time. You're the only one who actually knows what the hell is going on around here." When I told him that I was retired and not interested in working full time, he expressed disbelief that I was that old. Of course both were lies, but it was still nice to hear it from someone who is actually struggling on the front lines - someone who is actually making something.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


For years the B & B Cafe was an Albert Lea institution. It was one of those places where people waited politely in line for the next booth or stool to open so they could sit down for good conversation and a hearty breakfast, anchored by Denny's famous pancakes. Normally, I don't eat pancakes, don't even particularly like them, but these were different, hitting your tongue with wave after wave of subtle favor - almost too good to swallow. Eventually Denny and Roxy retired to travel and play with their antique cars. At first things seemed almost the same at the B & B, but it slowly deteriorated, without the drive of the master of the cake, forever monitoring quality. Finally it all went to hell enough that the lines were gone and then regulars wandered off to find other restaurants. This evening Denny called, inviting us over to his house for breakfast Saturday morning. Now I consider breakfast with the Brues quite an honor. In the words of that great, world class gourmand, Homer Simpson,"Ummmmm. pancakes!"