photo block

Saturday, April 30, 2011

the big apple, a tire tale

In the beginning of October of last year I blew-out the rear tire on the Mule. It was a bummer because it was a great tire and expensive and it was so almost reusable but the slash was just large and irregularly shaped (star-ish) enough that I couldn’t really trust it to ferry me along the outer ranges of my rides.

The tire that blew was a Schwalbe XR. Really a super tire that is nearly indestructible. But no tire is without its Achilles Heel. So kablamo it went with several thousand unused miles of tread.

But I didn’t want to replace it. I was feeling cheap. Actually, I tried to find another one for a while but they apparently don’t make them anymore. And they’re become increasingly rare. So I took the healthy XR from the front and moved it to the rear and found an old spare in the shed and threw it on the front. Thinking to myself, This will just be a temporary fix until I figure something out.

Well, temporary turned into permanent as it often will and I’ve been riding that mediocre tire for half a year. I guess it couldn’t really be called mediocre as it’s performed okay, almost well. I’ve had a ton of great rides with it but it’s just not quite rad enough for me. The primary problem being that it’s got sort of a sharp edge on it. It’s like squared off in its profile rather than rounded so that when I’m bombing around corners it’s a little unstable and potentially unsafe. Plus it’s a little narrower and shorter and, well, I gave it its fair temporary-into-permanent re-useful life but now I’m finally excited to report that I’ve ordered a new tire.

The new tire on the way is another Schwalbe – the model they call the Big Apple. That should restore proper geometry and awesomeness to the Mule. Why do they call it the Big Apple? I guess because it’s big and round (profile) and has a lot of air volume in it so it sorta cushes along and absorbs a lot of shock and vibration. And it should take abuse from all manner of urban road debris (as well as the XR anyway). An appropriate tire to ride the streets of New York.

I spend so much time on that Mule that I figure I might as well make it just right for full enjoyment as well as functionality – it really is a race mule after all. It’s funny though – this is such a big deal (a big apple) to me and I want to go out and tell it on the mountain but somehow the world I live in seems not to understand how a kid (1973) could be so excited about “a new tire!” So it gets repressed except for this blog with its few readers that might understand. So, thanks for being there for me to tell my tale. I might even take a picture…

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

currently reading

A Way to Measure Time: Contemporary Finnish Literature
by (multiple)

Mountain Home: The wilderness poetry of ancient China
Translated by David Hinton

Monday, April 18, 2011

the slow bicycle movement and what it can do for you

I keep hearing about The Slow Bicycle Movement. The phrase seems to have been coined by the creator of Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic, also, two very catchy phrases/movements/sites. Copenhagen is a city where every body bikes. Not everyone, but something like almost half of the people ride bikes a lot. But it’s not like a bunch of Lance Armstrongs (sorry, he’s getting a little overused in this context but whatever). It’s like a bunch of grandmas and bakers and candlestick makers and whatnot and so such. Copenhagen is like the bicycle friendly streets advocate’s Mecca. They’re the role model for the world.

And the Slow Bicycle Movement is spreading the concept of what riding there is like and applying it to individuals and cities around the globe. It’s basically a big Whoa, Nellie! What’s everybody in such a freakin’ panic about out there on the streets. And, in our lives, too.

I assume the Slow Food Movement was first. And that’s where the name came from. Slow Food being the opposite of Fast Food. Words like local, quality, real, wholesome, organic, and community might be applied to the Slow Food Movement. Not the same words most people would apply to Fast Food.

On some level the same applies to the bicycle movement. There’s no such thing as Fast Bicycle or the Fast Bicycle Movement but there is the Roadie crowd that pretend to be pro cyclists and dress up in Team Kits and ride 16 pound bicycles. And that’s great. That’s fine. I wore my tights just yesterday. It was a nice ride. I don’t choose to wear clothing with unpaid sponsorship or advertisements on them but to each his own. I’m not against the Roadies. And I don’t think, at it’s core, The Slow Bicycle Movement is either, although it tends to sort of pivot off and away from the idea of lycra and carbon fiber as the devil’s realm. If anything, the Roadie Movement, we’ll call it, is something separate and irrelevant.

The Slow Bicycle Movement is about getting around with ease and simplicity and awareness. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride but it should be capable of allowing you to carry some extra weight around on it. Maybe it has a basket or some panniers. It should be durable and functional. It can be heavy. It can be light. You don’t need special clothes. You don’t need a helmet. You’ll probably want a sweater at night though. The SBM is a guiding reminder that a bicycle works pretty darn well for more than you think.

But in addition to all that, I found that the philosophy of the SBM also gets into your head and makes you a safer rider. When you’re in the SBM mindset you’re not competing with cars or trying to get through that yellow traffic light. You’re just moving along and merging with other people in various other forms of transportation that they’ve deemed appropriate for their tasks for that day. It’s very mellow.

And a mellow rider is a safe rider. Mellow creates a force field. A mellow bubble. Try it and I think you’ll see what I mean.

On the SBM website they’ve got a bunch of video links of people riding really slow. Slow racing I suppose it is. They, the SBM, seem to be a little stuck on this theme. I see how it could be sort of fun, once or twice to race real slow. I think the idea is whoever crossed the finish line last, of like a hundred foot race, wins – and probably you can’t touch the ground. These slow races are not, in my view, the SBM. They’re more like a promotional tool. An event. Or maybe like practice. A group of people getting together occasionally to strengthen the community. Afterwards the individual cyclists ride away with renewed hope and calm. As if they’d just been to a meditation circle and were now out in the world with a little clearer mind.

The SBM is something. It is something remarkably powerful. If it spreads. Or if it doesn’t. I was in the grocery store this morning and those places can be an excellent place to observe the need in our society for slowing down. And an excellent place to practice slowing down. There was a moment when I was coming to a corner of an isle and there were a couple other people kind of freaking out and changing direction and grabbing things off the shelf and trying to pass each other and I found myself walking very very slowly as I read all that was happening in front of me. I noticed each foot placement and the rocking forward down over the arch of the foot and the slow lift up again of the heel and lingering stretch of the toes. I had entered the slow life movement while searching for slow food because of my practice on a slow bicycle. It all slowly adds up to a lot of time and space and calm.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

currently reading

The Mindful Hiker: On the trail to find the path
by Stephen Altschuler

so much beauty before the grey
by robert galbraith

Thursday, April 7, 2011

arroyo ghost running

I’ve been sick a lot lately so the running has been a little crazy. I’m this close to being recovered but I just can’t quite kick it. It doesn’t even seem to be tied to anything in particular but just comes in waves of randomness. I’m still getting some good distance in and even some great timing but also every other run seems to fall flat. Alternating super fast and inspired with super slow and dragging.

Yesterday was both. It started out slow and horrible. I had a headache, I thought I was going to vomit and pass out. I had no reason to be out running. But once you start it becomes very difficult to disengage yourself from the path, the route, the rut, the ritual. You don’t even want to take one more step but you do. Your legs just want it and they’re not listening to the head. All the head can do is pour water constantly down the throat hoping to avoid a dehydrative crash.

Once you’re at the top, the turnaround, the halfway point, well then there’s nothing left to worry about because you’re out of options. You can either run home or you can lie down and die. I guess that’s an option but generally a last resort. Not one I was quite ready for. And besides by that point, my brain having given up it’s fight, having nothing left to fight for, wasn’t hassling me any more so the legs just ran and ran faster.

The mind freed from worry but still in it’s fever induced state set upon creating morbid and hallucinatory entertainments. The morbid thought being like: death – the miracle tonic – it cures what ails you – and realizing that really that’s not a bad deal – we pick up all these quirks and aches and diseases and blocks throughout our lives and we do our best to live with them even if they’re ain’t no cure – we run through them – and then one day – all of us – set free from all of it – reset…

The hallucinatory thoughts being like: when I got back to the pedestrian/equestrian underpass under the “Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway” as they’re calling it now (don’t go thinking it’s still a freeway!), the place where on the way up/out I’d nearly passed out from the ill I was feeling, now seeing my dead grandfather standing there waiting for me. Waiting for something anyway, not me maybe, just standing there, really. But it was surely him. Unmistakable. He couldn’t see me though or hear me. I just ran right by him, right through him maybe. I didn’t dare to look back. Well, the Arroyo seems like as good a place as any for him to hang around – I know it’s where I’ll be spending a lot of time when I’m gone. Not to mention while I’m here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

currently reading

A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway

Tropic of Cancer
by Henry Miller

Both books are centered around life in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s respectively. Both are biographical (or at least semi.) I think there will be some similarities in theme (life lived well) but widely different approaches to relating them – in particular what is left out in Ernest’s case and what is left in in Henry’s.

I didn’t have any books on my reading list (any suggestions?) yesterday at the library but I do like reading about California and I do like Big Sur and anything coastal and so Henry Miller popped up. I’ve been to his library/book store in Big Sur but never read any of his books. At least now I can, this book being banned in the USA from 1934 to 1961.

So two books of Paris. One Mindful. One Mule. The first few pages have already seeped into my dreams of last night so they must be dangerous...