Friday, November 28, 2003

Back from Thanksgiving dinner at Mom & Dad's. More on that maybe but first I thought I'd mention two recent things I read.

The first, several weeks ago was about the mythology developed by homeless kids in Miami. It was several years old, and possibly was a hoax but the story was compelling and disturbing. You can read it here.

The other was in Dirt Rag magazine, and was the winner of their reader-submitted story contest. It was about racism, alcoholism, death, friendship, courage and the Portal Trail on Poison Spider Mesa. I can't get it out of my head. (Nothing online that I saw, you'll have to buy the issue.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The photos from the Which Brew Halloween Party are here.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The Joe man is back...
-- Big Black, "Bazooka Joe"

Sunday night, and I actually have enough energy left over to write here...

Last weekend I went camping, on a backpacking trip with my friend Joe. He's a natural athlete and avid outdoorsman, but last December he blew out his knee so we haven't done much outdoor stuff -- and no riding at all -- since then. Anyway, he'd been bugging me to do a backpacking trip for a few years, even convincing me to get a really good backpack (which has been gathering dust ever since), and his knee has rehabilitated enough to give it some exercise, so we decided to finally get in a hiking trip. We went to a place in the Poconos called the Thunder Swamp Trail System, which can be wet, but is relatively flat and non-technical, a fairly easy trail as these things go...

It was the hardest three days of my life. The trails were rocky in places -- it is Pennsylvania -- but not all that difficult; it was just that I was totally out of my element, and not used to walking with a pack (weight: 40 pounds) on my back. Joe also took care of the food, and he's a militant "organic food only" vegan and thinks I eat too much anyway -- we were starving ourselves by my standards!! Not enough calories as far as I was concerned, which might have contributed to the fatigue, but luckily he's a good cook and the stuff we did eat was tasty. All told, we hiked 15 miles or so: 3 on friday afternoon, and about six each on Saturday and Sunday. Considering that he did the entire 29 mile trail with his old girlfriend, on a 3-day weekend a few years back, it was a a woefully disappointing performance -- and we (I) couldn't blame his knee, since he managed to be ahead and constantly waiting for me... I was totally whooped. I basically blew off all exercise for the rest of the week, and pretty much blew off everything Sunday and Monday nights except sleep. My legs, especially the little stabilizer muscles, were killing me through Wednesday. Great weather though, flurrys on Friday, sunny and not too chilly for the weekend.

Thursday was a trip to Linden, NJ to a job site. Nothing special, they just wanted a few more pairs of eyeballs going over a unit problem area. Some questionable piping (small lines, like 1" pipe or less), problems with supports, everything was under control without my two cents but it was a day out of the office, though Linden ain't exactly the Bahamas.

Friday was a late-night towpath ride, then a quick trip to Which Brew to see Endless Mountain, that bluegrass band.

Saturday: back to hanging out with Joe in the woods, this time on bikes. Beth & Kevin McGatha have an annual "Chili Ride," which starts with a ride at Allamuchy and ends at their house with a party, bonfire and chili cook-off. Great time, rode with Lauren Detoro who I haven't seen in a while (jeez! when did she start smoking?), and a bunch of other people I don't really know except through Beth. Kevin didn't ride -- old motocross injuries finally caught up with him, and he's also recovering from knee surgery, so he and Joe talked knee braces and ACL tissue replacement... We left about 7:00 and raced back to Easton to see the George Bush "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" effigy ride in and park at Center Square. About eighty self-conscious "protesters," and one pro-Bush heckler (give him credit, he wasn't shy) for them to argue with. (In the paper this morning, it was a "white hot debate.") I owed Joe dinner for doing the food last week, so it was my treat at Touch of Thai, then another early bedtime for me.

Today was yet another Joe day: myself, Joe, and his ex-girlfriend, Cosmia -- and he just broke up with that non-biking girl he's been dating since the knee, hmmmm... We went up to Jim Thorpe, rode the singletrack out in the strip mines for a few hours (hard, technical riding, lots of fun), and checked out the scene in town before taking off. That might be it for Indian Summer.

Anyway, those were my past two weekends. One other piece of "news:" greedy Don now has an Amazon wish list. More on this as Christmas approaches.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Wow, here it is November already... just got back from voting, hope you voted too.

Killer weekend: Last Friday was a Halloween night ride (in costume: I was Frankenstein) down the towpath, where Genesis Bicycles mechanics set up spooky scary stuff. After that it was down to Which Brew (sheesh, where else?) for their Halloween bash. Saturday I was kind of hurting, but did my normal coffeehouse/gym/errands day then went to Alan & Colette Flory's --remember them? -- for a "Hot Spicy Food" dinner party, saw some people I haven't seen in a while, like Al Flory and Mike Hess, another old Chain Gang member. His wife works at the gym I go to, so I see her maybe once a week depending on schedules, but I literally haven't seen him in years. He looks the same... Sunday was a Lehigh ride on South Mountain, plenty of fun, then lunch at a new Mexican place on Main Street in Bethlehem.

Other things: My brother Kevin got married in early October. The wedding was down in Florida, and needless to say it was a blast. We also had a great ride maybe two weekends ago, two laps around Blue Marsh Lake to simulate the Vermont 50-Miler race. Only the Workmans got their entries accepted (web-based entry forms, filled up within hours); unfortunately the real race -- unlike our Blue Marsh 50 -- was a deluge and a fiasco. (I wrote at length about both of these, but my post got screwed up & lost, and I didn't have the heart to re-write it. More on both of those some other time, maybe.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A Cultural Weekend:

Friday nite was bluegrass and cask-conditioned Troegs (speaking of culture) at Which Brew, probably the best nite there so far, and that's saying something...

Saturday I checked out the Allen Ginsberg photo exhibit (apparently he was a bit of a shutterbug all thru the beat years) at the Allentown Art Museum. I highly recommend this for anyone who's in the least interested in the Beat poets, or even just plain good photography.

Sat nite was back to Allentown for "Bat Boy: The Musical." I still love Bat Boy, but I'm pretty sure I still don't like musicals, let's just leave it at that...

Sunday was a tag-team whoopass ride with the Workmans, as Bob led an Allamuchy ride, which ended up at Kittatinny State Park where Karen took over at breakneck pace, then back to Bob for the suffer-o-rama back to the trailhead: 35 miles, all very hard and all fast. Ouch!!

Saturday, August 30, 2003

"I said roadrunner once,
Roadrunner twice,
I'm in love with rock & roll
& I'll be out all night."
- Jonathan Richman

WNTI-FM is having a banner day. I'm out running errands (drycleaning, food shopping, buying underwear, all a part of my glamorous lifestyle you know), and I turn the radio on to hear a "non-standard" version of Roadrunner which is just too cool, so I have to wait in the parking lot for the song to end before getting my drycleaning. Good but skippable song while I run & get my shirts, but then, on the way home, I hear Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, which is a legendary song, at least in my mind. Finally, to top it all off, there is an accordion band (complete with dorky/ironic singer) doing a cover of Jimi Hendrix's Fire. Stuck in the car listening once again, before I can go in the house.

By the way: Allamuchy was great -- pics and results are posted here. Pretty soon I'll post a few stories from the race & also the Cancer Ride. Meantime, back to the chores...

BTW#2: rereading High Fidelity and A Walk in the Woods, both excellent and both very funny.

1952 VINCENT BLACK LIGHTNING -- by Richard Thompson

Oh says Red Molly to James "That's a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like"
Says James to Red Molly "My hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme"
And he pulled her on behind and down to Boxhill they did ride

Oh says James to Red Molly "Here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man.
For I've fought with the law since I was seventeen,
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you.
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride"

"Come down, come down, Red Molly" called Sergeant McRae
"For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery.
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
Oh come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside"
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
He said "I'll give you my Vincent to ride"

Says James "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won't do,
Ah, they don't have a soul like a Vincent 52"
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
Said "I've got no further use for these.
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home"
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Jest passin' thru...

Back from the Cancer Ride, where I finished John Adams, reread Vineland (it's being read & discussed on the Pynchon mailing list) and picked up The Recognitions where I left off, as well as riding 560 miles... Tomorrow -- actually, today at this point -- I'm going to Allamuchy to set up camp for the race on Saturday. I have plenty of stories, but they'll have to wait to show up here. By the way: rode hard all day, every day for a week, got home & got on the scale -- gained 5 pounds.

Listening to the Acoustic Charts on, reading Runciman's Byzantine Civilization and thinking of Arianism ("one iota of difference"), Monophysitism, yadda yadda...

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I'm starting to get ready for Allamuchy, and I have this week to shop/pack/prepare for the Cancer Ride, and I have like zero free time for the rest of the week, so of course I go and buy a new book.

Mom emailed, her book club is reading Founding Brothers, which I borrowed so she wants me to ship it back. Meantime, she recomended that John Adams biography, which came out to much fanfare about a year ago, so I picked up the trade paperback last weekend.

Really good book so far (about 250 pages in, maybe halfway or a little more), and is giving me a more sympathetic view of our 2nd Prez than the one I had.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

One banana, two banana,
Three banana, four,
Four bananas make a bunch
And so do many more!
-- "The Banana Splits Theme"

Just a quick fly-by to say yes I'm still alive...

Last post was before July; since then was Independence Day (engagement party for my brother, at my parents in NJ), then a weekend visiting Dona & Shawn in MD (road ride Sat, MTB at Michaux on Sunday) and back in time for Easton's Heritage Day fireworks., and last weekend a trip to French Creek, a Lehigh Wheelmen ride sponsored by Joe & Cindy -- it was pretty much a Chain Gang ride though, based on who showed up...

In between all that was work, and lots of riding, and the realization that I could stand to lose quite a few pounds, so now I'm buckling down, bought good healthy food to eat at home (I eat out too often: expensive, hi-calorie meals, plus a beer or two to wash it down, that adds up quickly even with the bike burning it off.) So, my goal is to lose 10 pounds by Allamuchy, which is a month away. I should be able to get close, the 500-mile PPRAC "cancer ride" is about a week away...

Speaking of Allamuchy: this year I'm not doing it solo, that's right I will be on a team. The Chain Gang theme this year is "Saturday Morning Cartoons," so our team is The Banana Splits -- I get to be Bingo! I'm on a four-man team with Doug, Brian and Eric.

Speaking of Eric: I was over Doug's yesterday (stopped by after a trip to UPS), and Lori said I'd just missed Doug because he just ran up to UPS -- like ships passing in the night -- but could I stick around? He had a mission of mercy to go on, and could use some help.
Seems Kris & Eric's new house has some serious water problems, which really only manifested themselves after that heavy rain. Eric was stuck at work, but Doug had some sandbags he was going to bring over to try and reroute the water flow. Naturally I went with him, and we had a most exciting adventure driving through flooded, hilly Bethlehem areas (uh, why do they call it "Fountain Hill?"), streets knee-deep or more with water raging like mountain streams, cars stalled everywhere with wet wires etc, and Doug blasting through with his 4WD pickup, like the Dukes of Hazzard or something... Kris was home, had a real "refugee" look to her eyes, told us of a pretty rough night digging ditches in the lawn in the pouring rain, pumping water out of the basement etc. We set up the sandbags, and though we would have liked to do more there really wasn't much else to do (& her dad was there, to "hold my hand while my house washes away," as Kris put it), so we took off. Pretty serious rain last few days, thunderstorms like the end of the world.

That's it for now. Tra la la, la-la la la...

Monday, June 30, 2003

Writing this on "Sunday night," aka Monday morning.

Yesterday (Saturday, that is) I woke up to a call from a telemarketer, but with a twist: the message was a recording. There came a point where the recording said "Press 9 to order your Williamsburg vacation," so I did, then asked a lot of questions like "Who are you?" and "Do you know it's a federal crime for a telemarketer to use a recording like that?" and the human on the other end immediately hung up -- or rather, she transferred me to some (no doubt randomly chosen) landscaping business, possibly to screw up any star-69 (or whatever) attempts to track them down. Ahhh, but I'm on to them now...

Ran my usual Saturday-morning errands, had breakfast at O'Neils Coffeeshop downtown, then hit the gym for a light (ie summer) workout. First time back in a while, but the anti-vertigo stuff has been working really well, especially the spray, and I have no problems with lying down (say, to lift weights, or for that matter to sleep). Anyway, I felt good.

It was nice out, but since I rode every day since last Sunday and would ride today -- which of course is yesterday's tomorrow, or something -- I decided to take it easy physically for the rest of the day. I got a sub, some sodas and a frappucino, then grabbed Mason & Dixon and went down to Riverside Park (Riverview Park?) to spend the afternoon, about four hours and 100 pages and watching the Lehigh flow by.

A little revelation: I think I like M&D so much because the story (strange as this might sound) reminds me of myself, and of my own life.

Anyway, today (Sunday) I rode with Lee S and a few of his old Spoke'N'Wheel teammates, at Chimney Rock in Jersey. They were sort of taking it easy (when Lee or his friend Dave really open it up, I can't even keep them in sight) but we weren't slacking, and I felt good and could hang comfortably at the pace we rode; I felt especially confident over the many log crossings, just floating over them suckers. Ride wise, it was a very good day, and they're a fun bunch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

"I'm healthy as a horse,
Ahh, but everything is spinning."
-- Iggy Pop, "Nothing Comes My Way"

Yep, the vertigo is back. Shit. Shit shit. Shit shit shit shit shit!

It hit me last Monday at lunchtime, thought maybe it was a food allergy by the way it came on. Left work, went to doctor on Tuesday morning, and now I'm back on meclizine and a new nasal spray, but now I have to get an MRI as they go looking for the underlying cause.

Meantime, rides. Luckily, the balance problem doesn't seem to bother the riding as much as the walking (especially walking in the dark); I guess the biking balance is visual enough to compensate. Anyway, felt better Monday afternoon, so I rode the towpath. Ditto Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, so 75 miles in for the week by that point...

Thursday I packed, and Friday morning I left for Mountain Bike Weekend in Jim Thorpe, got there around 11:00 AM. This was the 18th annual MBW, and my 11th. There was still a crowd (1000 participants as usual, but I suspect they had fewer people to turn away this year after it filled up), though I couldn't unload one ticket, and one of my friends was a no-show, and Brian got there Saturday morning only to leave very early Sunday morning... just not the same as the old days...

Anyway, Friday was OK, Fri nite was rainy, Sat was OK except for a few storm fronts or something that came through, Sat nite was OK (good campfire weather), and Sunday was beautiful but by then the show was over.

The traditional "Chain Gang Jim Thorpe Epic" was slated for Saturday as usual, but because of the Game Lands situation, Broad Mountain would not be a part of the ride, so there would be no chance of epic distances if we stuck to tradition. Instead, we went to Tamaqua, where there was going to be a race on Sunday, and rode the race course as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. (Did I mention we rode Tamaqua the week before, in an unsuccesful attempt to put together a connection between the Summit Hill and Tamaqua trails? I know there's one out there, we just haven't found it yet...) We were on top of the mountain when we heard thunder, so we went back to a teenage party spot we'd passed earlier, that had a lean-to, and we waited out the storm there. After the storm passed we rode some more up top, then dropped down through terra incognita back to the race course, which was at the base of the hill. We finished off with a lap of the racecourse, but it was all one soggy mess and really wore us out: our fifteen miles today felt harder (according to some of us) than the standard epic's 40.

Got back a little earlier than usual, ate, got a massage, then chilled and celebrated Brian's birthday with a few brewskis, then I passed out around midnight. Woke up again aroiund 1:00 to check out the naked chick riding through camp...

Sunday was my day. Everyone else was leaving early, but Pete H and I had tickets to the church breakfast in Summit Hill. Pete drove -- he was also leaving somewhat early -- but I rode down and we ate, and ate, and ate...

After that I checked out the trails west of Summit Hill, then hit the singletrack near the strippings, where I picked up an entourage of lost riders, and finally dropped down the Marble Trail (in front of an audience -- and I made it!! woo hoo!!) and took the Switchback back to camp. Packed up, swam in the lake -- my first actual bathing experience since Thursday -- and then headed home.

Dinner was Thai food w/ Joe G, who said his formal knee rehabilitation is coming to a close and he should be back in the saddle soon. (He called today to say he rode the towpath.)

So now here it is Tuesday night, and I'm ready to crash.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

"Daily Spew???" weekly is more like it...

Kind of a quiet weekend, and no riding trips. I helped a friend move on Saturday, and today has just been one long lazy day; we were supposed to do a leisurely road ride, but it was rainy and more importanly, very windy so I basically rolled over and slept until about noon...

Had "brunch" at the Quadrant Coffee House and bookstore, where there was live music (acoustic guitars and banjo, singers taking turns), cheese & bread & fruit, plenty of coffee and a book I selected at random: Mud on the Stars, the (somewhat autibiographical) first novel by William Bradford Huie, the guy who wrote The Fight for Air Power and The Execution of Private Slovik, among others. Very good book, I ended up buying it. Kind of funny because at least part of why I went down there was to see about dumping a lot of my old computer manuals, textbooks etc, not to end up with new books...

Monday, May 26, 2003

Ahh yes, another fine weekend! This was the Chain Gang "40th Birthday Bash" trip out to the Laurel Highlands (southeast of Pittsburgh) for Memorial Day Weekend.

We stayed at the Lingonier Country Inn, in Laughlintown PA, not far from Speedgoat, which I'd always assumed was mostly a mail-order retailer, but they also have an awesome store... Our home base (the Inn) was a sort of B&B with a bar -- need I say more? Both of these places get five stars for biker vacations.

In terms of riding: We rode in the Forbes State Forest, just outside of town. I'm not sure how much total mileage is available there, but with some backtracking we did 17 miles on Saturday and 25 on Sunday -- that's the day we got lost. The trails are a good mix of jeep road and sweet singletrack, and when they are labeled "expert" they aren't kidding. The riding was so technical, so "total body workout," that we were wasted by these rides.

...of course, the alcohol might have had something to do with it: when Brian, Matt and I got there about 11:30 Friday, we were worried no one would be up, but we found them all in the bar and going strong. We closed the place at 2:00, so we were nice and fresh for our first ride. Saturday night ended earlier and was much more subdued, but the pain/exhaustion never really went away. Sunday night was the birthday celebration, which sort of split the difference between Friday and Saturday, though there was a fairly long "discussion period" in the bar.

Check out was this morning, and we were on the road by about 11:00, with a side trip to the Flight 93 crash site and temporary memorial.

(Never did make it to Fallingwater.)

Friday, May 23, 2003

Did a little running around last nite, errands/laundry etc etc, managed to stop by Which Brew for dinner (2nd official nite open, looked like a good crowd) & hung out w/ Joe G & his new knee brace. Tonight is the trip out to Laughlintown, to spend the weekend bicycling in the rain, being old and checking out "Fallingwater" (if it's open).

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I was probably the last person on earth to do it, but at the semi-insistence of my friends I recently got a cell phone. The reason I got it (hooking up with friends, making and changing plans on the fly, sort of like these smart mobs) hasn't really panned out so far, but I did notice one thing: when I don't have the phone it's a non-issue, I don't feel naked without it or anything, but when I do have it, I feel like the phone legitimizes my presence in whatever place I happen to be, as if I'm some kind of suspicious character but luckily I've got my phone to prove my bona fides. Pretty wierd...

One other observation: I seem more attuned to other people's phones, who has one, what kind they have, what kind of features etc. Usually I'm pretty unaware of most gear, and immune to stereo/car/dicksize "Men's Health Buyers Guide" talk, so maybe this'll pass.

Next up: laundry, then the Chain Gang meeting. Our Memorial Day Birthday Party Trip out to the Laurel Highlands looks like it's going to be less than perfect, weather-wise.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Tonight: towpath (ehh), then WB for a charity event, but I was too late & things were winding down by the time I got there, oh well. Good night for an early bedtime. The new _Harper's_ came today, maybe do some reading.

Pretty nice weekend, I must say! Starting Thursday night: got in a good ride at Jacobsburg, had the place mostly to myself (it looked like rain), until I caught up with Scott & Lance... was riding easy and ran into a few groups, who were working hard & riding slower, so it was a bit of a confidence booster -- especially after Wednesday's super-fast "hanging with the big dogs" butt-whooping...

Friday night was the towpath, a little drizzle but very pleasant. Things are finally lush and green, like *really* green down along the river, it's like riding through Dinosaur Land or something. Met Doug and Lori, rode with them for a while. Which Brew is now up and serving beer (investor appreciation night), so that was Friday evening, followed by a stop at Porters to punch my ticket.

Saturday I blew off the gym and went hiking instead when the day turned nice. I hiked up Mt Tammany at the Water Gap, checked out a couple of game trails once at the top. Very unusual & gratifying sight: there were quite a few younger people out (high school / college), and they looked like they were enjoying themselves, not just dying from the walk. Nitelife: back to Which Brew (mug club nite) to assist Brian in his mug-buying and mug-utilizing duties, then when K-Jo threw us out we absconded to Porters for a bit more.

Sunday was fundraising for PPRAC at the Whitehall Wal-Mart. Kris R, Janna and myself on stationary bikes, Kris & Janna's dads, John Agentis & (later) Brian working the crowd for loose change. I thought it was a pretty good haul, but Kris said it looked a little light compared to other days. Needless to say, a very enlightening experience, crowd-watching-wise. Home, nap, frappucino, then down to Jabbers with Joe G.

Everyone here (at work) is complaining about the crappy weekend, but I've got *my* sore legs & sunburn...

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The important part of the day: a post-work road ride from friend Brian's house, with seven other riders. Tree pollen season (or something!) turned me into a total snot factory, & even without "post-nasal issues" it took me a long time to warm up, which was too bad because it was a fast and hard ride, with a crew that likes to sprint for the road signs... I felt really good for the later sections though, and everyone was riding well & flying, a total blast.

Full moon tonight, or close to it, and supposedly a lunar eclipse tomorrow night.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

So... how was my day... pretty exciting, went to work, came home, did chores...

On the way home I saw a nasty accident: there was a bike smashed in the middle of the I-78W offramp at Exit 11. Hard to see any other damage but the front wheel was totally taco'ed, plenty of state troopers and an official-looking guy photographing the scene. No sign of anyone hurt or any ambulances.

The bike looked familiar though. I see the rider there all the time, slightly shabby older guy on a beater bike; he passes through that intersection probably every day & I see him there maybe twice a week. I doubt if I'll be seeing much of him for a while.

Of course, I already have plans in place to begin biking to work again, starting next week...

Monday, May 12, 2003

"We have the Papacy, now let us enjoy it." - Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici)

(Ah, something like that...)

Now that I have this thing set up, I can't think of anything to say. Dang.