Who are we? We are our stories.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hershberger Baskets

I ended up with the Peter Mooney over there because I need a triple, even if I loop around the backside of Church Hill to the more gradual slope.

Also, there is no grocery store in Lanesboro and the Mooney had a rack for baskets. These are a sample set I had left over from my time in the basket trade, which were never put on a bike. They really are a little large for the small rack. With them, theoretically a guy could make the 20 mile round trip to Preston for groceries. Theoretically. So far I've taken it on runs to the Lanesboro Pastry Shop down in the village and on one joy ride the five miles to Whalan for pie and ice cream. And back.

You can learn a lot about your  riding posture looking at the sit-bone depressions on an old Brooks. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beer and Butterflies

Last Saturday after lunch at the pastry shop in Lanesboro, I walked down to Zoobooks at the north end of the street. "Zoobooks" sounds as if it might be a library or a quaint little bookstore. It ain't. It's a shipping warehouse for an internet business. As I stepped through the open door into the shadows of the large room, the first thing that hit me on the hot day was the strong odor of snake. More specifically, snake shit. No matter how clean, if you put enough snakes in cages in a warm room, they stink. In the center of the chaotic jumble of bookshelves, jammed with technical herpetology books and papers organized by the Eric Decimal System, sitting at a wrap-around desk lit by computers, was Eric himself. I greeted him, then went into the next room to greet the mysterious Mr.G. Actually G is not mysterious at all, but as he chooses to live at the dead end of a twisting lane on the very edge of the grid, I'm not going to out him to the cyber world. Even an off grid guy sometimes needs a computer to conduct a business these days and he regularly stops into the shop to use a computer. We talked for a while, getting up to speed on friends in common, then we liberated Eric and three cans of cold Bud Lite to the front steps.

Naturalists? Amateur naturalists? Scientists? (god forbid) Both of them would probably deny the descriptions, but maybe. Today Eric and his son Evan are winging a freebie flight to Baltimore to talk about snakes at some snakey convention, and G gets paid for helping people interact positively with the environment. To me though, they are beer boys.

Anyway, we were sitting on the steps, drinking beer, spitting and complaining about the heat. As the Root River was within earshot, the talk turned to trout and the stress the heat and drought were putting them under. Eric asked how warm the water was and G said 73 degrees, which is very warm for a trout stream. He said it was a double hit for them, both the actual temperature of the water and it's ability to contain oxygen. Then there was some talk on the temperature ranges for the different species of trout, how many sunfish there were, what species of sunfish, and so on. Neither of these guys are passionate fishermen or are employed in a fish related job. They just look at their environment.

The steps are surrounded by "weeds", mostly swamp milkweed, a few white alba versions of swamp milkweed, and some common milkweed. Eric said, "'Look at the Monarch laying eggs. She'll lay three of four, then feed. Watch drop her tail and plant one." We watched for a while, observing that the Monarchs ignored the Common Milkweed, and more strangely, the alba version of the Swamp Milkweed. We then observed that the various bees and wasps also seemed to prefer the pink swamp milkweeds. G went to his car and brought back a magnifying glass. How many people carry a magnifying glass, just in case? He lit his homemade pipe, claiming the load was legal these days. Then he squatted down, and studied the various milkweeds for quite awhile. He stood up and relight, observing that the white milkweeds were covered with aphids, but none of the others. Why do the aphids prefer the albas?  Do the Monarchs really prefer the pinks or are they avoiding the aphids. Etc. Shit, I don't know. 

What did I learn? Probably nothing. In fact I may know less than when I started, but it's fun drinking beer on a hot day with guys that are on the same wave length. And Eric sent me back home up on Church Hill with a bag of fresh turkey eggs. Not a bad day at that. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The McLean Sisters

Jack Gabus stayed with us for a day before his RAGBRAI run. Here are our McLean bicycles resting after a spin around Fountain Lake this morning. McLeans are rare and special machines. With two in one place you could feel the electricity in the air!

Yesterday we spent the afternoon sitting outside the Growlery, talking, smoking cigars and probably drinking too much beer.

Late yesterday afternoon we visited the Rydjor Bike Shop to look at the jaw-dropping vintage bicycle collection. Jack bought a couple of Rydjor water bottles and a Rydjor Bike jersey with a facsimile Ulwelling signature. I'm not a racing jersey type of rider, but the Ulwelling signature shirt is very cool. Jack had problems with the Cinelli stem on his bike. The bar clamp bolt threads into a socket which had stripped out. We made a run to the hardware store and jury rigged a setup with a stainless bolt and nut. When we were at the shop, Jack asked the manager, Chad Burma if he had something better. Keep in mind that over the years Cinelli has made dozens of variations on their stems - the odds were not good. Chad looked at the bolt and socket and said, "Wait a minute, let me look." A few minutes later he came back upstairs out of the dungeon holding a virtually NOS stem, just like Jack's. What are the odds? Jack bought the stem. Good man, Chad.

The evening had us back in Austin at the Old Mill restaurant for steaks (and an incredible beer who's name I've already forgotten). Jack is not a stupid man; he invited Lorna too, then picked up the tab for the dinner. And thank you Jack. It was a good time.

Jack's observations?  The Rydjor Shop is very clean and much larger than he thought.  And the Growlery is much smaller.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


About 70 years ago Harold Kleinpaste married my father's young sister, Kathleen. She died five years ago. This afternoon we are burying Harold. After a long struggle with dementia, he is finally free. 

It's plain to see, the sun won't shine today
But I ain't in the mood for sunshine anyway
Maybe I'll go insane
I got to stop the pain
Or maybe I'll go down to see Kathleen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Expert's View of the TdF

Norris Lockley is an Englishman who is an articulate, intelligent former builder of racing bikes. He has forgotten way more about the Tour de France than I could ever possibly know. He posted this on the Classic Rendezvous site on July 2nd :

"I must admit that I am not versed in charts and graphs, so I cannot offer any very learned contribution on those grounds to this debate.
However as a spectator of the Tour since my first one in 1953 I can claim to have observed a lot of riders trying their best to ride around France as quickly as possible. There are of course many variable such as the fitness of the riders, the weight of the bikes, the bikes' level of equipment, the sophistication or otherwise of that equipment, the state of the road surfaces, the quality of the nutrition, the quality of the back-up staff etc etc, and the actual length of the Tour itself ..the number of kilometres actually ridden in those three weeks.

I have also watched my fair share of Classics such as the Paris-Roubaix, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege etc and I have come to the general conclusion that although the average speeds have risen over the years, I don't think that the difference is particularly impressive when other improvements in the roads, equipment etc etc are taken into consideration.

The 80s decade appears to have had quite a lot of significance in the history of the Tour in that it was during this decade that quantum leaps in the design of equipment and materials took place; I am thinking here, of course, of developments such as the clipless pedal, the carbon-fibre frame, better aerodynamics. It was also in this decade that the Tour started to become truncated, ie the overall length dropped from over 4000 kms into the 3000 + kms bracket.

In the early 80s riders such as Hinault increased the average speed considerably, his speed in 1981 being almost 4km faster than Zootemelk's in 1980..and almost 2.5kms faster than his own winning speed in 1979. This improvement could be attributed to the fact that Bernard Tapie and Renault had combined to produce a far more effective racing team and team spirit .. or it could just have been of course, that Hinault, like that other Frenchman, Anquetil, was just naturally very gifted as an individual.

By around 1984 until 87, the average speeds slowed down but there again the Tour in each of those years covered more than 4000kms. When Delgado won the 88 Tour he rode over 2kms/hr faster than Roche in 1987, but was this because the Tour was nearly 1000kms shorter or because he had the advantage of a TVT carbon-fibre-tubed frame?

Throughout the 80s and into Indurain's reign in the 90s the average speed increased regularly with RIIS in 1996 winning with a speed of 39.229kms..followed by Ulrich with 39.23..and Pantani in 98 with 39.92. Then along came Armstrong ! I am naive enough to think that during the 80s via Hinault. Lemond, Fignon and into the Indurain 90s the significant improvements were down to a combination of natural talent, desire to win, better team management and..better equipment ie carbon-fibre frames. From Indurain onwards ... well we know about Riis, and Pantani..their use of banned substances, possibly Ulrich too.

As for the improvements made in the average speeds during the Armstrong years, well, to begin with, the Tour became much shorter in its kilometrage, the methods of riding, ie the Bruneel style of having the Super Team to drag along the Star rider so that the latter does not have to make much of an individual effort, and certainly not attempt to break-away. Witness the boring racing of recent years that have produced a winner in Cavendish..

I think that the jury pronounced on the last few years of the 90s and is just about to pass a verdict shortly on the Tour winners of the following decade.

Over the years I have been fortunate in meeting up with riders such as Brian Robinson, the British author of the greatest winning margin, Bernard Hinault, Thevenet, Poulidor, Indurain, Fignon, Merckx, Moser, Kelly, Kimmage, Jalabert, Boardman...and I can say without a shadow of regret that I would rather watch Tours of France featuring these riders, even though they might ride more slowly, than any Tour that features the boring massed peloton club-run style racing that Bruneel and others have introduced. The 2012 Tour will the first one that I will not have watched in over thirty years; I have a lot of paint that I would rather watch drying out.

Who cares what the average speed is if all it results in is totally boring negative racing and even more boring mass sprint finishes. I hold out some hope that Thomas Voeckler will once again animate the course."

Norris Lockley
Settle UK

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

James Joyce

I should write something insightful about this, but I'm too damned tired.
Read it yourself:  James Joyce