Jul 26, 2010

Awash in Colporteurs and Other Irritations

Pardon the bitchy post, but...

Like most of us, I suspect, I came off of a great weekend only to be confronted by the slow moving onslaught of minor annoyances and irritations that is known by most as "Monday". No one event was significant, and yet the cumulative effect of these mood suckers leaves me cranky and tired.

Colportage, and those those that engage in colportage (the eponymous "Colporteurs") seens to have overrun Nicolet Mall lately. The booming voice of preachers rises from the mall to the windows of offices 10, 12... 15 stories in the air. Leafleteers press pamphlets and cards on innocent people heading out to lunch (who usually drop them on the ground, where they blow into the street and swirl behind the buses), and young people button-hole passers-by, wanting to talk about "protecting the Boundary Waters" on literally every corner (and by "talk about", I mean "get you to donate").

Add to that noise the steady stream of minor disappointments and angst's that result from working with people, rather than machines, and it's enough to make you want to go home a little bit early...

Acting on that impulse, I was confronted by the final insult - yet another Biker-Wannabe chugging around on an ancient Varsity. She had the look nailed; shants, sleeve tattoos on the arm and leg, a bohemian-chic, customized bag over her shoulder. No harm there, so what's the insult? A chain that has permanently landed in the "small/small" gearing combination that seems to be so popular with these people.

I don't fault the gear inch selection - that's a comfy combination in a lot of situations, but the unblinking, remorseless cross-chaining, and lack of shifting (or chain lube for that matter) is unforgivable. It confirms a total lack of understanding the capabilities of a bike and enough apathy and indolence to not care. It's style over substance - "I am on a bike, so I am cool right?".  I weep silent tears for these poor neglected chains and shake my fist at humanity for allowing people like this to go unpunished (okay - that's a little hyperbolic, I will admit, but in every jest there is a grain of truth).

On a brighter note, I connected another very nice young person to a decent bike tonight and she is THRILLED. I showed her how to shift, too, so if I ever see her on the roads I won't be disappointed.

Perhaps there is some hope in this universe after all.

Jul 25, 2010

3-Speed Ride!

I am organizing a laid-back 3-Speed ride for Sunday, August 8. If you have an old 3-Speed and want to meet a few others that enjoy the genteel, and occasionally cantankerous, ride of these machines, join me!

We will be meeting at the Minnehaha Falls Depot at 1:00 on Sunday, August 8. Plan on a leisurely ride between 10 and 20 miles, with a stop or two on the way.

Dust of the old bike, oil up the Sturmey-Archer hub and come on down. No tweed required for this one, but avoid clingy synthetics if possible.

MBL Picnic 2010

The 4th Annual MPLSBikeLove.Com birthday party was held this past Saturday at Brackett Park in South Minneapolis. I have made at least the last three of these, and they have always been at Brackett Park. Usually we get rained on a little bit, eat potluck picnic food, stand around and talk and generally have a good time.

This year's picnic was a little more special, though. The 2010 event was billed as the "Bike Love is Dead - Long Live Bike Love!" party. The name is apt because the old forum will be going away at some point in the future to make room a new and improved platform that will be easier to maintain and have improved functionally.

Although I am not much of a socialite, it's fun to meet people you usually only interact with on-line, and by now I've met quite a few Bike Lovers, so there's always a few people I know, and others I'd like to get to know, at these kinds of gatherings. Many Bike Lovers are a little quirky (myself included), but without a doubt, the Bike Lovers are the most accepting community I have ever seen - there are not many hardcore roadies (a stereotypically judgmental and stand-offish scion of the bike community), but brakeless fixie riders rub elbows with triple chain-ring tourers and commuters are as welcome as ultra-marathon riders at these gatherings. It's very refreshing.

Every year, something interesting happens, as well. One year, it was slacklining (a surprisingly large number of people can do this). This year we were treated to a visit by Ari Gold.  Ari is a guy that's riding his bike around the world. Seriously. He's got a highly customized bike (an old Specialized Stumpjumper with a Spiderflex Saddle, ape-hanger bars, some unique waterbottle mounts, and about 150 pounds of gear strapped to it.

I am not sure exactly where he is on his journey, but he started in Las Vegas, had some mis-adventures with Canadian Customs and Immigration, and is now couch-surfing in Minneapolis for a week or so. He happened to find out about the picnic from a local bike shop and rolled over to make the scene. It's an amazing story and Ari is quite a character. He has a website and a Photobucket page that I checked out (I emailed him links to my photos from the picnic, so you might see some of them on his Photobucket, used with my permission).

Ari is seriously looking for sponsors, so if you want to support him, I can give you his email address. I am sure he would appreciate it.

I didn't stick around for the ride and Alleycat, but it sounds like those went well and I am glad I went to this. Thanks to hereNT and the admins for setting up MPLSBikeLove and keeping it running. I have never seen a more successful platform for bringing cyclists together and advancing bike advocacy.

Long live Bike Love!

Jul 21, 2010

The Best of the Best

One of the unanticipated benefits of marriage is the ability to claim bragging rights on a whole new family. Of course, you also get their baggage in this deal,  but if you marry well, this can be net benefit.

My in-laws are a co-mingling of southern Minnesota farmers and North Dakota ranchers. The Minnesota farmer group is fabulous, but the North Dakota ranchers make for good stories ("Uncle Phid rescues the horses from an over-turned trailer" is particularly good).

The best story to come from the ND clan lately is Hillary Gietzen. I have met Hillary once or twice at family reunions, but I doubt he would remember me. Hillary is a sheep-shearer. In fact, he's a damn good sheep shearer. How good is he? He won the sheep shearing competition at the Calgary Stampede this year, that's how good he is!

Go ahead. Expend yourself. Take the time. Click the link, because it's worth the time and effort - this is an epic tale. I'll wait for you to read it...

The upshot is that Hillary beat his rival not just on speed, but on quality. Sheep shearing is judged based on speed and worksmanship. The rival was faster, but Hillary won once the judge's assessment (i.e. nicks on the poor sheep and tufts of wool left over) was factored in. The opponent blamed lanolin build up on his sheep as the reason for his defeat. That excuse is pretty damn limp in my book. Hillary probably had just as much lanolin to deal with, but he assessed the situation, applied his experience and did a workman-like job of it nonetheless, I am certain.

I count this as yet another major accomplishment that will go unnoticed by most of the world. Still, this is something that most people wouldn't even know how to do, and the few that know how to do this would have been smoked like a fish in this competition.

Way to go, Hillary! The next time I see you, I'll re-introduce myself and slap you on the back.

Jul 17, 2010

Sailboat Hunting

Montgomery 15
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I've wanted a boat for years, but have never acted on that impulse. This summer, as I contemplate life and the future, I've decided to act on a few things that I have not previously explored, including boating.

It turns out sailboat shopping is best handled slowly and methodically. A good boat doesn't have to cost a fortune, but a cheap boat can cost a fortune to repair if one is not careful. Good boats seem to move pretty fast in the secondary market, as well.

This is case in point; it's a Montgomery 15 that was up for sale at Hooper's in Afton recently. A friend that is coaching me through the sailboat hunt alerted me to it. I traveled out to Afton a few days later only to find that it had sold the previous day.

Disappointing, but probably all for the best, seeing as I have never sailed in my life. Next week we are starting sailing classes at Lake Calhoun, so I expect we'll learn a lot from that adventure. In the meantime, I continue to prowl Craig's List and watch the other sites for decent boats at fair prices...

Jul 16, 2010

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

740 East Lake St.
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
According to a short biography I read last winter in a re-issue of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote most of this classic in an apartment over Robert's Shoe Store in South Minneapolis. This is only a few miles from my house, and I see this intersection fairly often, because Chicago Ave. is a good alternative to Park/Portland Ave. to get to or from downtown.

Pirsig was an instructor at the University of Minnesota for awhile, and the story line on Zen and the Art starts with him and his son, and two friends, leaving South Minneapolis for a motorcycle trip out west. The trip was factual, but it's also metaphorical in the book.

At any rate, I like that this building is so close to home. I have seen Emily Dickinson's house in Amherst and Mark Twain's mansion in Hartford, but somehow this modest building on a sketchy corner in So. MPLS has equal significance to me.

Jul 14, 2010

Crap Shoot

The weather forecast was partly to mostly alarming today; something like a 60% chance of thunderstorms, with a good potential for severe weather, tornadoes, etc., etc. At the office, we were even treated to a severe weather refresher from the folks that run the IDS Center (basically, the upshot is don't hang out in the "Crystal Court" during a tornado).

I applauded myself for being so prepared for contingency as I mounted the bad weather bike at 7:15 AM under glowering skies and headed to the office. This bike's sole purpose is to take the blows from rain, snow and whatever other hostilities the world can dish out and serve as the sacrificial anode that preserves my Rawland, LeMond and other Sweet Rides. I am all-weather-capable and ready for anything, damn it.

I had the chance to ride this bike home in a torrential downpour last Thursday and it was delightful. I couldn't wait for the rain to start today. Chuckling to myself* and rubbing my hand together like a mad scientist, I carefully monitored the weather radar throughout the day, anticipating an interesting ride home (much to the alarm of my co-worker's).

Sadly, the storms moved north and/or never materialized, so I ended up riding home in bright sunshine into a hot, stiff headwind on a single speed mountain bike with a heavy bag on my back.


* in other words. laughing maniacally

Jul 12, 2010

Mental Hibernation

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
It's been quiet here lately because I have been expending most of my mental energy at work and pretty much just zoning out in front of the TDF when I get home, but fear not, I shall live to post again...

In the meantime, here's a picture of Skeletor. Somehow he's not quite so scary waving a soft drink around.