Monday, September 30

The World According to Chainring

This bloggular existence is for the most part a one way point of view.  I do appreciate all the input I get, and I don’t mean to diminish it by saying this, but there’s not a lot of interaction with my readers.  That’s okay with me because my internet life hasn’t always been a peaceful one.  It took me a while to recognize the dehumanizing effects of a keyboard and computer screen.  Years ago I dehumanized those avatars that spouted silliness, and I dehumanized myself with my sociopathic (though internet normal) behavior.

When I first started this blog I didn’t even tell my wife about it.  When she found out I was kind of embarrassed that she’d read it.  For whatever reason I treated this space as a kind of journal or diary.  Dear diary, I can’t stand hipsters, I don’t like reality very much, and give me more Leadville. 

If you’ve been reading this monotribe very longly you’ll have noted that I might have some issues.  I keep those in a separate tab under my helmetless header.  I have some antisocial tendencies.  I have trouble conforming.  I don’t typically march the party lines. 

You might think I take a great deal of pleasure in being such a rogue.  Most of the time I don’t.  It’s kind of exhausting to be such a rugged individualist (watch the language and skip to about 1:20).  I definitely don’t flow down the path of least resistance.  I’m one of those people that only seem to learn the hard way and who would rather hack his own trail through the wilderness than take the road more travelled.   

 
The bike is an escape for me.  I spend my days scheming to ride my bike, riding my bike, or writing about riding.  Alternately I daydream about scheming to ride my bike, actually riding my bike, or writing about riding my bike.  As a career I’d like to scheme about riding, ride, or write about riding.  So when I shirk responsibilities in my early morning cubicle to compose these blog posts each day it’s almost as if I’m actually doing that.  Then that heavy chain of responsibility starts feelingheavy.  I have to nudge it further under my desk.

I’ve not always been so shallowly obsessed with bicycles.  I used to be this shallowly obsessed with rock climbing.  Before that it was hiking.  I think I did a stint as a very mediocre guitarist in a previous life too.  I was an obsessed photographer back when the cost of film made my obsession seem financially unsound.  As you can see, I’ve kept myself busy for forty years seeking to be distracted from reality.  That’s not exhausting (see link above); what is exhausting is trying to keep reality at bay while living the daydream.

I learn best by starting at 30,000 feet and taking in the Big Picture before zooming all Google Earth-like down to the texture of the asphalt.   I learn from the top down, but it seems like the world (Google or otherwise) wants me to learn from the bottom up.  Get the details first and someday we might let you see the Panorama Grande.  Well, by the time I’ve appeased the educational experts I’ve lost all interest in the view they want me to see and have realigned my views elsewhere through daydreaming and escapism.  Thanks, but no thanks.

I don’t miss the details; I’m just not allowed to come to them in my own way. 

Recently at one of the dozens of Mozhican kids’ birthday parties I was talking non-stop about my latest schemes and Jeff looked at my wife as he reached behind my ear and asked: “Where’s the off switch?”

She lovingly rolled her eyes and affirmed that it never stops.  I do go on.

When I look at the world I see endless possibilities.  Where there are gaps, where there are holes…I see niches to be filled, leaks to be plugged, vacuums to be jammed.  As I drive down the road I see so much underutilized land.  When I say that, I don’t mean that I think the land should be developed for residential or commercial uses, but that it should be open for roaming, recreating, enjoying, and learning. 

 
Only a few short years ago I decided there was no good reason for me to try and be something I’m not.  My mom once told some authority figure during a parent/teacher conference or parent/principal conference or parent/parent conference that if everyone else was wearing black pants I’d wear white.  And I would add that I’d do it in the most annoyingly passive-aggressive way I could muster.  It took me a while to make the connection that the reality of who I was and the image of who I wanted to be could resolve into one form, and I could stop worrying about who I would become someday.  Like the Avett Brothers sing…

I used to worry that there was something wrong with me because I rarely saw things the way everyone else did.  It made me wonder if I was crazy or something.  You can laugh ha ha and say it’s a case of the old “everyone else is crazy and I’m the only sane one” syndrome, and for a long time I assumed that was the case myself, but with more miles on the odometer I’ve realized that the majority isn’t always right, and just because everyone else thinks something makes sense doesn’t necessarily mean it does.

I can disagree with the entire world and still be right.

Of course making this assertion gives me a free pass to goof up all too often and just stomp all over good sound common sense.  It’s a talent I have.  If you’re not dizzy yet from my circular logic then hold on tight…I’m just getting warmed up.  


I’ve been at war with my own self-confidence for decades.  I’d guess I have the self-confidence of a fifth grader at best, and not one of those fifth graders whose parents stand over him giving him the answers for his homework so he can get straight As and get into an Ivy League school,  but one who asserts himself by curling into a fetal position when the bullies approach.  This internet playground makes it much easier for me to speak out on issues I feel are important, and even though I rarely make a defensible argument (though not necessarily unsound) I like to plow on through the China shop and assess the damage at a later date.

I try not to loiter in a state of regret.  Learn from the mistakes and move on, I say.  Again, we come back to bikes and other vehicles of escape…I need them to put distance between myself and my foibles.  I can sometimes almost pedal away from the white noise background that keeps me on edge for far too many hours each day.  I have never been able to still the furious storms of mundane life for very long.  That means I am rarely able to step back and really get a good in-focus photo of the Sasquatch that is tearing up my thought processes at any given time. 

And since no one else can see him…

Long ago I used to write about a concept I called “surreality.”  Without having those pages to refer back to my best memory of it was that the surreality was my perception of reality.  It seemed impossible to me in my late teens and early twenties to discern a true reality due to the complexities of modern life.  I experienced great difficulty in knowing truth and judging what was sound logic and what was spin.  It seemed to me that most people talked out of both sides of their mouths all the time.  People would say things like: “Kids do nothing but watch TV all the time,” and then they’d plop their own kids or grandkids down in front of the TV all the time. 

We have a chronic cultural case of “do as I say not as I do.”  Speed limits apply to everyone else.  I am a great driver.  If I had a nickel for every time someone who is a horrible driver tried to convince me of how amazingly talented they are behind the wheel then this blog would be way more flashy and I’d be paying you to read it.  Of course you’re a great driver; no one is ever a bad driver.  Fifteen DUIs?  No problem.  We’ll say you need to drive for work-related purposes and you won’t really suffer any consequences for your crass and dangerous actions.

The Right to Drive is sacred in our country.  There is little a person can do to lose that privilege.  We can murder and maim with impunity as long as we do it with a motor vehicle.  Like me ol’ da used to say: “If you hit something with your car it’s your fault.”  Unfortunately society rarely agrees with Pop.  We protect the more protected user with greater protections while vilifying the victims, even the dead ones.  If only those pedestrians would just stop walking there…then we could go back to texting with abandon.

And so in my anti-social, anarchistic, introverted, opinionated surreality I find myself trying to be an advocate for those who are marginalized and oppressed by what I believe to be unrealistic societal expectorations…er, expectations. 

It becomes difficult to extricate yourself from the tangled mess that is our cultural norms.  We never admit that we’re so conflicted but we live in a reality where our employers expect us to get by on less, but we’re are expected by society to do it by employing a fossil fuel burning enclosed wheelchair that is exorbitant to operate.  The demands on the average US citizen are a carnival of absurdities.  There’s no way to win this game.  And for many of us it seems like it gets harder and harder just to keep playing the game.


But you can’t quit the game.  The easiest solution I see for the vast majority of my problems would be to take myself out of the economy; refuse to participate…however, we’ve reached a critical mass of land uses and population densities where it is almost 100% impossible to remove yourself completely from the economy.

While you couldlive off the grid, produce all of your own energy and food, and cease to be an American consumer, you would have to do it by breaking the law.  To live you must have the benefit of producing land.  If someone else “owns” the land then you are subservient to their economic demands.  If you “own” the land then you are subservient to those who would collect taxes on the land you claim to possess.  The only other option is to be a squatter.  That’s illegal.

Of course there is one other option:  do an apocalypse dance (like a rain dance, but while wearing a Mohawk and chaps) with urgent frequency.  In a way I’ve been doing that with this blog, but that’s not been the main purpose.  The previous paragraph is why I have post-apocalyptic fantasies that I occasionally share here as graffiti on the dusty back wall of the internet.  It’s why I got excited when I first heard about Peak Oil.  And so yes, I am a freak that would welcome the collapse of our modern society.  But I’m also a realist that understands the meaning of the word “apocalypse.”

The word does not mean the same thing as the poorly understood and most often misrepresented concept of Biblical Armageddon.  I’m not going to go into the true meaning of that concept here and only mention it so that I can push it cleanly off the table of this discussion.

Apocalypseis synonymous with “revelation.”  Revelation (noun) is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

: a usually secret or surprising fact that is made known

: an act of making something known : an act of revealing something in usually a surprising way

: something that surprises you

 


What I hope for is that the secret will be revealed.  The secret is that the façade of our modern lifestyle is simply that…a façade.  We’re overly dependent on fossil fuels and we do not pay the true costs for our use and abuse of them.  Someday soon that debt will default and that’s when the secret will be secret no more.  The surprising fact really should not surprise us.  And I think what’s truly sinister about the whole situation is that for the most part we’ve allowed ourselves to be duped into believing that our current rate of consumption of resources is our God-given right and that somehow the universe owes us the wealth that we’re currently plundering from future generations.

Its greed and deception, pure and simple.  We’ve been deceived by those with the most to lose/gain, and as a part of that dupery we’ve deceived ourselves into going along with the ruse because we’ve also been duped into believing it’s too hard to oppose the wrong we know is occurring in the world. 

Dupe, dupe, dupe, dupe…me and you are the biggest dupes.

We all have the common sense to see through the sham.  And we often talk about it.  We see that the status quo isn’t the best way to do things.  We talk about “the good old days” when things were better.  We wonder why the world has gone to hell in a handbasket.  We think younger generations have no clue.  We think our leaders are morons.  We think we could do a better job of it, but we know there’s no way we could ever get elected.  That’s all the ruse talking. 

Our current polarized political dialogue in this country is part of the façade that keeps us from seeing reality.  Industrial society’s unrealistic expectations are part of the façade.  Keep us busy trying to make the system happy and we’ll not have time to think for ourselves, or we’ll be too scared to rock the boat for fear of not being allowed to participate in society because the one true thing the powerful have over us that precludes our wiping away the façade to see the truth we know is underneath is the threat of cutting us off from the community.

Outcast! Unclean!  It’s unthinkable that we’d be cut off from our community and family, but if we don’t play the game that’s exactly the threat we face.  Social death is the death we most fear.  I think most of the time even the fear of physical death is less about the physical pain involved and more about being cut off from society.


At some point though you realize that society isn’t what you want it to be.  At some point you realize that if you could just get free of the societal expectations you could truly be free.  Freedom is about choices, not about doing whatever you want regardless of how it affects those around you.  The ultimate freedom in modern times is the freedom from participation.  I don’t think there are very many truly free people in America today. 

Wow!  Maybe that’s too big picture for my mood.  I’ve been wallowing in introspection for a week or so.  I’ve been doing a lot of self-diagnostics.  That usually leads me into a tailspin for a while.  I always pull out.

I am geospatial.  My awareness is predominantly geo-centric.  I’m compelled to collect places.  I don’t like to spend too much time in one space.  That’s why the cubicle crushes, and I feel like I need to move to a new place all the time.  I need new pathways to explore and moving to a new place gives me a temporary wealth of untrodden waymarks. 

It’s why I’m a peak bagger.  Peak bagging does more to satisfy this animalistic drive in me than anything else.  My peak bagging is a broad interest.  I ticked off rock climbs like my life depended on it.  Then I bagged actual peaks in Colorado.  Now I seek out identifiable hills to climb on my bike.  I’ll start being antsy to move once I run out of roads and trails to climb.  Strava helps though.  It makes the repeat experiences relevant where before once I’d ticked a particular node in the universe I had no reason to revisit it.  Now I am competitive with myself on a temporal plane.  It’s a virtual race to see which me can be the fastest. 

But digging deeper there are other compulsions I endure.  I have a deeply rooted desire to move.  I am a sensory seeker.  I crave proprioceptive stimulation.  So while I have a psychological need to collect places I also have a physiological need to move and to feel movement.  A fast drive on a curvy road in a car will satisfy this need, but even better is a good trail run, a bouldering session, or a rocky and rooty mountain bike ride.  And since I can’t divorce my physical needs from my intellectual needs the activity becomes a meditation on life, the universe, and everything in the course of things. 


Advocacy for me is a selfish endeavor.  Yeah, let’s get to the root of it.  I want better cycling infrastructure and more and better mountain bike trails to give myself more opportunities to ride more conveniently.  I don’t really think I want those things because I want to improve the world for the greater good.  It’s selfishness pure and simple.

If I have a good mountain bike trails system near my home then I can ride more often.  I am not motivated by economic factors or a deep sense of community.  Not unless those things relate to other better opportunities for me.  I’m not the least bit interested in the interests of others.  I don’t guess I would be motivated to support the building of a new football field to benefit local kids.  I’m not the least bit interested in football.

On the other hand, I would rabidly obsess over getting mountain bike trails built for the local kids even if not a single one of them were interested in mountain biking.  Why?  Well, I’m not really interested in doing it for the kids.  Fewer kids on the trail means more fun for me.  This is a difficult thing for me to admit and to process.  I don’t consider myself a selfish person.  And I can come up with a thousand nobly good community-oriented reasons for every scheme I hatch.  I’m not motivated by those reasons though.  I just understand intellectually that I need a more marketable justification than “I want it for myself.”

So yeah, maybe I am anti-social.  But I want to be social.  I want to like people and be liked.  I’m pretty self-reliant/sufficient, so for years I’ve told myself I don’t need people, but then during my Leadville journey I realized that—despite my best efforts to convince myself otherwise—I actually do need people.  This is a hard pill to swallow after four decades of trying to do it all on my own in my own way.  I share ball now.  That’s not an easy paradigm shift to make on your own on the fly.

I keep this blog to hone my writing skillz, annoy left-brained people, and give me a voice in the greater dialogue.  My voice has evolved in the past half a decade as I morphed from enthused recreational rider to part time bike-commuter to full-time committed bike commuter to pretentious utilitarian car-lite-er to rabidly obsessed mountain biker to wanna-be bikepacker to sometimes dabbling in advocacy all arounder…and now to a regional transportation planner with a broad cycling background.    


I do not like to be bound by conventional thinking.  That means I often challenge conventional thinking, which leads to heartache, frustration, and cynicism on my part.  Somehow I always manage to find the silver lining and come up with a new scheme, or reorganize the old scheme into something more streamlined, but I keep plugging forward with my own vision for the world which includes heavy doses of sunshine and movement.  I keep trying to align my reality with my vision.  I move my pawns around in a seemingly random pattern, but I see an endgame that I do believe can come about if I keep my focus on it.  Oddly, I can’t envision all the moves to get there.  I just know where my pieces need to be for the coup de gras. 

If it were up to me my job would be to just ride my bike.  Unfortunately I have yet to figure out how to craft a resume that will shoehorn me into the position of full time bike-tourer/trail builder/mountain biker/endurance racer/cargo-bike captain.  Still working on the employment history and formatting…

Until then I have realized that I need to simplify my life.  I need to focus on things that are truly important and stop obsessing over my schemes.  Technology is a shiny distraction that keeps me from doing really important things and being successful in what I really want out of life.  I’ve got to pare down the interface and stop running around in the rabbit warrens of social media, personal schemes, and the mundane but necessary complexities of life. 

I don’t know if that means I’m taking a hiatus from this blog or not.  I wish I could say emphatically one way or the other.  The blog isn’t directly benefitting me or my family in any meaningful way.  There’s no financial component to this and I will always refuse to include advertising.  I put a lot of energy into this that I could dedicate to more personal interactions, my job, and the rest of the real world.  I’ve spent five years exploring the cycling lifestyle and culture and in developing my own viewpoint around my experiences.

Deep down I really do abhor technology.  I’ve been dazzled by it for a while and I’d like to stop being in its thrall so I can live a real life.  That, and spending so much time plugged in to the internet makes me believe I can find the secret to success buried somewhere in all the data whizzing through my body at any given moment.  I’m just tired of trying to process it and assimilate it into a coherent picture of the universe. 

No matter what I will still write; I will still be the same old me I’ve been since the beginning of time.  I’m just tired of this façade.  I’m tired of the energy drain.

So now you have my current and disjointed worldview.  By no means is this comprehensive.  It's just an out of focus snapshot in time.  See me there, on the right, forced smile and one eye squinted more than the other? 

September Mileage Report


Blah, blah.  Here’s the stats.  Hope you enjoy.

 

September mileage: 222.57

2013 monthly average: 236.46

Projected year-end total: 2,837.52

Likelihood of hitting year end projection: 83% chance.

 

Running stats:

54.73 miles

Friday, September 27

Too Little, Too Late...Or Is It?

This should not be...

I want to use lots of bad language in this post, but I will refrain.  I came to this party…well, let me back up.

When the party was going strong I was lurking in the bushes outside not even aware that what was going on inside was a fun time.  Then I wandered off down the street.  When I came back five years later I realized there had been an altercation, and the portion of the party that I would have enjoyed immensely had been shut down.

Please feel free to scratch your head.  After you read the rest of my post you might want to go back and re-read the previous paragraph.

A few years ago when I was just a budding mountain biker I took my lovely wife to Cave Run Lake near Morehead, Kentucky for her first true mountain biking experience.  I’d only mountain biked on actual trails a handful of times myself; once on the Buckskin Trail at Cave Run.  I’d enjoyed that experience despite a 3 mile hike-a-bike after getting a flat.  Mandy and I rode the very popular Caney Loop Trail and were hugely disappointed because of the high degree of damage to the trail caused by equestrian use.  Even at that time user conflicts were on the increase, and as is stated in the decision document those conflicts had less to do with face to face confrontations and more with mountain bikers and hikers being unhappy with the destruction of the trails by equestrians.

While we lived in Colorado this project was undertaken by the USFS and stakeholder groups, namely mountain bikers and equestrian, and after a long and apparently painful process a decision has been made by the Forest Service.  I can’t say that I’m pleased about the outcome, but it was kind of my own fault for not being at the table when the discussions were going on.  But it seems the mountain biking community dropped the ball on this one and didn’t organize or complain loudly enough.   

I will say that the decision is preferable to a “do nothing” solution or a decision by the FS to throw up their hands and kick everyone out, but one seemingly insignificant component of the changes leaves me feeling a bit despondent.  And here’s why…

I have this big scheme I’ve been cooking for some time.  Big. Scheme.  I’ve been quiet about it on my blog (though have mentioned it in passing) because I didn’t want to give this idea away and have someone beat me to the punch.  I’ve decided it doesn’t matter at this point.  I’m spilling my guts.  I would have shared eventually anyway.  While I wanted this for myself, I also wanted it for the mountain biking community as a whole.  This seemed like a great opportunity to bring recognition and focus on the Daniel Boone National Forest as a mountain biking destination.  

My biggest scheme was to thru-bike the Sheltowee Trace from end to end and establish a record time.  When I’ve mentioned it to people the same issue comes up: some sections are closed to mountain bikes.  The most notable (and admittedly saddening) sections are the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park.  And after the State Park destroyed the Big Bend section another section, while not closed, became unaccessible to thru-bikers.

The decision makers in the USFS have decided to close 19 miles of the Sheltowee to mountain bikers.  
 
Facing the physical challenge of getting fit, planning gear and logistics, and negotiating time away from work, family, and other obligations is a many headed monster of effort to overcome.  For me, this decision that I had no say in and occurred when I was away chasing butterflies might be the nail in the coffin of my Grand Scheme. It seems my state is going to get farther and farther away from having a magnificent thru-biking resource like the Sheltowee Trace that is open for mountain biking.  Farther and farther away.

I have to admit fault in this.  I had a dream and I wasn’t a part of the process.  But from what I’ve heard from those that were a part of the process it sounds as if my presence would have changed little.  The process itself was frustrating to all the stakeholders.  Maybe the outcome will please the greater number of people, but it is disappointing that the USFS would effectively dismember the Sheltowee Trace as a mountain biking trail instead of doing all they can to find effective solutions so that more users can use this unique pathway in our state.

Some people would say: “What’s the big deal?”  Those 19 miles tie directly in with the long section of the Trace that’s already closed through Natural Bridge and the Red River Gorge.  What this means is a single 47 mile detour on pavement to get back on dirt.  That’s nearly 1/6 of the entire 300 mile trail, and that doesn't take into consideration the other portions of the trail that already utilize paved roads.

Between the narrow-minded people who made the decision to destroy Pot Hollow, Big Bend, and Sterling Road south of Natural Bridge, and the Federal bureaucrats that won’t allow mountain biking within the Red River Gorge, and now this regression…they’re stripping the Sheltowee Trace of the spirit in which it was created.

So I give up.  

I give up on a Sheltowee Trace race idea.  That's the bad news.  There is good news.  It's harder for me to get excited about this right now, but in time I think I'll really be excited.  Cave Run isn't exactly my back yard, but it's like my neighbor's backyard.  Or something.

The good news is that this decision does designate trails for specific uses and separates bikes and horses which eliminates the biggest user conflicts.  The decision also designates Scott's Creek Ridges and Clay Lick Loops for new mountain bike trail construction.  That's huge.  And that's hugely positive.

I think the main thing that will come out of this is that the mountain biking world can go back to considering Cave Run a destination, it can look to the future there with hope and promise.  I'll try to stop whining about my lost dream.  It's not profitable and it will only drag me down when I really need to be moving up.

Wednesday, September 25

Pockets of Resistance, Too

This is a continuation of my recent "Pockets of Resistence" post.  I was actually going to tack this on the morning that post was scheduled to fly but my wonderful iOS 7 machine wouldn't let me edit a scheduled post.  Weird.  I decided it made sense to just do a pathetic sequel two days later.  It reminds me of the time I was loitering in the video store where my wife-to-be worked.  There was a couple picking out an insanely impossible number of movies.  I mean, there's no way in heck-far they'd be able to watch half the movies in their stack before they'd be due.  The guy was basically stacking up all of the UFC tapes and the female yang to his yin was actually trying to come up with something thoughtful to watch.
 
"Here's 'Home Alone 3.'  It has a different kid in it.  I heard it's good."
 
Anyway, I'm not a fan of sequels for their own sake, but while this started out to be tacked on to another post it became a sort of 'Hobbit-in-three-parts' kind of project.  Except...I probably won't write a third part.
 
 
I'm going to start pestering the fire (pronounced "far") out of the local Forest Service personnel.  Here's my spiel:

Me:  I live here.  I am obsessed with mountain biking.  We have exactly one legal mountain bike trail in the Forest.  It has issues.  I'm not going away until you address those issues.  I'm.  Not.  Going.  Away.

Now, I've never been that persistent in my life.  I give up on things faster'n a fat cyclist bombs down a steep hill.  But Smokey the Bear don't know that.  For all Smokey knows I'm going to be all up in his face like a swarm of angry bees whose hunny has been plundered.

Saturday we volunteered at Tomahawk's first foray into organizing a 5k.  The Kentucky Wood Expo was at Masterson Station Park in Lexington and Tom was charged with putting on a running race.  It went off without a hitch and all involved had a blast.  Unfortunately due to some regional sogginess the participational numbers were low.  But that's beside the point...

On my training path to a half marathon I was due to run 12 miles on Saturday.  Since Mandy and were both involved on the non-run/jog side of the event I had to come up with another run.  Of late my knees have complained less to me on the days when I've ran on dirt than on the days I've ran on hard surfaces.  I decided I wanted to do a 12 mile trail run.

Mandy had decided she would incorporate a nap into her Saturday training plan and do her 12 on Sunday.  I couldn't argue with that logic, but I was itching uncontrollably to get out in the woodsen.  As I am wont to do I flip flopped on where I wanted to run, alternating from an Auxier Loop plus Jailhouse and Star Gap ridges and a Powder Mill Branch Trail to Spaas Creek/Hatton Ridge lollipop.

I settled on Powder Mill to Hatton Ridge to Spaas Creek.  I amended that plan when I got to the ridge after climbing up Powder Mill Branch.  To connect this loop I had in mind I had to find an obscure ATV/horse trail I stumbled upon six or seven years ago and hiked exactly one time.  This past winter I tried biking up Spaas Creek and tried to note the lower terminus of said trail but concluded that it "had probably grown over."

I never forgot that, but I hadn't fully pondered the implications.  That, and my loop was going to involve many, many creek crossings meaning my feet would get wet and stay wet as I ran miles and miles and miles and miles and miles more than I ever had.  That didn't seem like the best thing ever so I modified the plan:  stick to the ridge.

I love the Spaas Creek and Hatton Ridge area.  I've explored literally every inch of cliff line rimming Spaas Creek and much of Short Creek as well.  I know my way around.  
 
The earlier rains had started to clear out, and it was cool enough that the humidity wasn't immediately oppressive.  But when I reached the cemetery I decided to shed my cotton overshirt and my leggings.  They were just getting to be too heavy.  I draped them over the FS gate and continued north along the ridge until I snagged what I believed to be 6 miles.  Then I turned back and was almost immediately run down by three ATVs.  I hate 'em.
 
Anyway, I ran back, occassionally checking Strava, and saw that I was keeping a 4.5+ mph average speed.  It seemed much longer going back out the ridge toward the upper Powder Mill Branch terminus, but it was enjoyable to be out in the cool air, seeing the opening ceremonies of fall as I got to move my body through space.  It was a smorgasboard of sensory input and a milkshake of proprioceptive goodness.  I didn't want the run to end.
 
When I reached the upper part of Powder Mill I had 2.5 miles to go back to the car, and it was all downhill.  Reluctantly I dropped into the drainage.
 
Someone--probably equestrian--has cleared the downed logs I saw on the trail when I rode it back in the winter.  I'd been somewhat disappointed then, but this last trip down Powder Mill has me thinking it deserves to be ridden and enjoyed.  It's a really good trail.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 24

Avast There, Knave! Chivalry Is Not Dead

During the OKHT Mandy made the observations early on that the guys who ride their bikes to escape wives and family seemed to be far less tolerant and considerate on the roads than the guys like Jeff and I who actually enjoy riding with our wives and kids.  I would go one farther (due to the events I already chronicled in my OKHT TR) and say that those same individuals are less considerate and tolerant of other men they perceive as weaker and less important to them.
 
The recent Guardian article entitled “Bad Driving: what are we thinking?” hits this nail right on its noggin in the following statement:
 
One interesting paradox is that even though we're prone to dehumanising other drivers, we still act according to social status.
 
It’s not too difficult to make the connection between drivers and aggressive cyclists.  Or, for that matter, not so aggressive cyclists.  C’mon, admit it!  You’ve been impatient with a slower cyclist at some point and blown past them.  Right?
 
The Team Louisville riders did that on the OKHT ride.  I was perceived as a weaker rider because I wasn’t riding as fast or in a peloton or with some recognizable kit.  There’s no arguing that point based on the response I got when I called the other rider out.  I was the low man on the totem pole for some reason and (maybe) unintentionally I was marginalized.  
 
The jerkwad that announced to everyone at the start on Sunday that there was no need to worry, the TL riders would be passing everyone quickly after starting didn’t realize that he was doing the same thing.  He had relegated the rest of us into a category of diminished importance because we weren’t part of his tight circle of jerks.  Er, friends.
 
It was a rude thing to say, especially in front of the very people he was dehumanizing, but what was even more absurd was the fact that I’m pretty sure the guy that made the comment wasn’t a better rider than most of the people around him.  It was a cocky thing to say, especially when he probably didn’t have the pistons to back it up.
 
I use cycling as an escape but not from my family.  I don’t get to ride with my wife often enough, but I take every chance I can get and we enjoy riding together.  Same goes for the kids.  I’ve been trying to get them out recently and now that my family bike is rolling again I’m committed to making my family the cyclo-centric nuclear unit we were meant to be.
 
Mandy’s comment came after she had been cut off by a few packs of aggressive team riders.  After she pointed it out I started seeing it for myself, and it was after a half hour or so of watching their silliness that I had finally had enough and called out to the guy that cut me off: “Personal space!”
 
I wasn’t calling him out in my own defense, but to call his attention to a socially unacceptable behavior.  Jane Jacobs nailed it in her Death and Life of Great American Cities when she spoke of streets being less hospitable because citizens no longer sat on their front porches keeping watch over the peace of them.  
 
I realized that I could be a voice for that peace if I started calling people out; not in anger but in recognition of the turmoil that we’ve ignored for far too long.  A long time ago--long before I knew anything official about transportation issues--I felt that Western society has a far too blasé attitude toward driving.  What I've said for years is that we don't take driving seriously enough.  I believe that even more strongly now.

 

Monday, September 23

Pockets of Resistence

I’ve been looking desperately for opportunities to build mountain bike trails in my home county and the surrounding environs.  The eastern end of the county dips into the Daniel Boone National Forest, but the local ranger district is somewhat obstructionist when it comes to recreational pursuits.  And I’m not talking discrimination against single user groups.  They pretty much wish we’d all go away.
 
There’s also a very popular state park with large tracts of forested land, but unlike Colorado state parks (or even other Kentucky state parks) they also would rather keep the public out of the public lands than to actually abide by their mandate and manage the lands responsibly.  
 
Both land management agencies cry poverty, but they can afford to have a local private contractor come in and dig tank traps to keep the public out of their public lands.  It’s sad that my home county cannot take advantage of the natural and cultural resources that exist within our own watershed, that state and federal agencies from outside can prohibit even the responsible exploitation of our resources, and that we are continually kept from thriving as an outdoor recreational tourism center like we could.
 
No, we’re limited to those token uses of vanilla hiking and Pigeon Forge type gift shopping for people from out of town who can afford to spend money.  Well, we have ATVing and zip lining nowadays anyway.  Whoo. Hoo.
 
In an area that has such a perfect landscape for rock climbing, mountain biking, and other such activities there should be a strong local community of outdoor enthusiast working on improving conditions, building and maintaining trails and use areas, and working with the land managers and other user groups to preserve those things which need to be preserved.  
 
But instead of locals we have outsiders that have to come in and do everything that does manage to get done but little else.  I’m not knocking these outsiders—and some have even chosen to relocate here—but they don’t have the same level of cultural investment.  They aren’t injected into the local community network in the same ways.  The long time locals are the ones that can get things done, that have the knowledge and connections to bring about the right kind of changes, and who stand to gain or lose the most.
 
I’ve been criticized in the past for not being a local to Powell County.  This is a chronic problem in rural America.  It doesn’t matter how long you live in a place; if your mama and grandmama don’t live down the street, and you’ve lived somewhere else other than an army base, then you ain’t a local.  I’ve been guilty at looking at others this way too.
 
My problem is that I’ve moved away, moved back, moved away, moved back, moved away, moved back, and one last time I’ve moved away and then moved back.  Despite my tours of duty in other places I have spent the majority of my life in Powell County.  I’ve lived a total of thirteen years in three other states and the other twenty-six years of my life between Clay City, Stanton, Slade and rural Powell County.  I’ve lived a full 2/3 of my life in the County.  Both of my children were born here.  Most of my family lives here.  Heck, most of my in-laws live here.  And yet I have been accused of being an outsider with outsider ideas.  
 
Someone behind a cash register once asked my father-in-law where he was from.  Stanton, he replied.  No, where are you from?  Stanton.  But your accent…  I’m originally from New York, but I’ve lived in Stanton for 20 years.  Doesn’t matter, you’re still an outsider.  It’s how we’ve been conditioned to respond. Us versus them.
 
Why can’t someone who has chosen to become a part of the community you live in have an equal say?  Why does tenure matter more than talent or passion?  People who have lived in one place a long time seem to me to be more set in their ways and less likely to want to change even poor situations.  New ideas are not bad.  They shouldn’t be embraced simply because they’re new, but they also should not simply be dismissed for the same reason.
 
So what am I doing about it?
 
As much as I can.  Everything I can.  We have a Transition group in Powell County now.  We’re having a Community Summit in November.  Mandy and I, along with others, have been talking about starting a running group and/or a bike club.  I don’t see it as a way to socialize and have a reason to ride as much as I see it as a small pocket of local bike/ped advocacy.  Socializing and riding are good too though.  The new KyMBA chapter is mostly a dream right now, but I think it’s important, and I think if we can find that right parcel of land for trails it will become vitally important.
 
The hurdles are the usual suspects: resistance to change, comfort in the status quo, feelings of helplessness in the big scheme of things, and lack of vision or will to put forth the dreams that we have.  
 
My time away from home has empowered me somewhat.  I’ve gained the perspective I sought.  I’ve gained experience I needed and didn’t realize I lacked.  I’ve matured and gained some confidence and status through my efforts of the past few years.  While it seems to me that 40 years old is late in the game to become an advocate for positive change, it also seems to be the best time for me.
 
I find I don’t get discouraged so easily these days.  I’m much better at letting the negative noise fade into the background and keep plugging ahead toward my goals.  I’ve lived a few dreams and reached a few goals so I know that dogged persistence is the key.  If you can wait them out your dreams are on their way.

Sunday, September 22

Pass the Pancake Sauce

After I had been "subtly" hinting around that coffee (with half and half that we do not currently possess) and donuts  would elevate my temporal existence to something resembling nirvana my wife asked:  "Do you want me to put on pants and a bra and go get donuts and half and half?"

"Only if you have a burning desire to do so," I replied.  See, I hate to put people out or overtly impose my will on them, but I'm not above subtle manipulations when my tumbly is all rumbly and my caffeine levels have plummeted to dangerous levels.

I had neither the will or the pants on to go get these items for myself at that time, and trying to find either seemed to be an exercise in futility.

I think also that she felt forever indebited to me for making her laugh so hard with the "pancake sauce" comment.  While it was incredibly funny at the time no one currently loitering in my home can remember the context for said comment.  All any of us can come up with is that I said "Pass the pancake sauce."

The looks I received from my family were stunning.  No, they were stunned.  Stunning me.

"What?  I couldn't remember what it's called.  Syrup!"  I'd finally remembered!

Earlier I told the little one: "when you grow up--if it hasn't happened by then--you're going to open a coffee shop-slash-bakery in this town."

She shook her head 'no' and had the nerve to giggle.

I simply added in my oh-you-better-not-disobey-me-when-I've-not-had-coffee voice: "I command you my minion!"

A little later I had a change of heart: "Remember when I said 'when you grow up--if it hasn't happened by then--you're going to open a coffee shop-slash-bakery in this town'?  I'm bumping up the timeframe."

"And," I added, "if you don't feel my advanced project timeline takes into consideration your resource and funding base at this time you can just use the stuff we have in the kitchen here today."

My six year old got up and went in the kitchen to attempt to make me coffee.  While I applaud her inherent need to please people I was disappointed that she put already ground coffee into the coffee grinder.

So I rescued her and put my own coffee making scheme together.  I barely concealed my despondence regarding the paucity of half-n-half in the fridge.  That condition is the impetus of this non-cycling related post.

I just heard Mandy pulling in the driveway.  Oh goody!

Friday, September 20

Front Range Back Burner

I’ve got some emotional investment in the flooding that’s gone on over Colorado’s Front Range foothills this past week.  We lived there.  My old position will be seriously affected by all the damage.  That makes me glad I’m not there anymore, but it also has me wishing I could be back in the middle of it all so I’d know more about what was going on.  I felt this way when we lived in Colorado and the tornado struck West Liberty, Kentucky.
 
The magnitude of the impacts didn’t hit me until Salvagetti posted a photo of Apex Gulch in Golden on Facebook.  The singletrack trail was under a chocolate deluge.  And most likely that trail has been utterly destroyed.  As have so many others.  Too many.
 
Earlier during the news stories I kept thinking about the impacts to the urban and suburban cycling infrastructure, and believe it or not I hadn’t considered the impact to the mountain biking in the area.
 
Chimney Gulch Trail where it intersects Lookout Mountain Road
 
 
So much energy and time will have to be dedicated to repairing the crucial infrastructure.  I know volunteers will dig in and start fixing up the singletrack trails, but I also know this rebuilding process is going to take some time.  I know that there are trails that will be necessarily neglected for a long time.  For an area that has a wealth of such trails it is both a tragedy and a comfort.  There are alternatives.  Cyclists have options there.
 
It gives a bit of perspective to those areas that may not have such a robust trail network.  Get busy!  Build those alternates.  If your favorite local trail is the only one, or one of a small handful, then this kind of catastrophe could wipe out all of your hard work in one fell swoop. And when the community is focused on rebuilding homes and public structures the recreational trails will have to take a back seat.
 
A while back Fatty tweeted that a wildfire and subsequent rain storm destroyed one of his favorite trails.  In years past I had favorite hiking trails be seriously damaged or impeded by forest fires and wind storms.  Long term erosion can obliterate a good trail as well.
 
We need to consider all of these things when envisioning, designing and building trails.  We should plan for them to be resilient.  We should consider placement and structure.  We should do these things even knowing that trails fit best into the urban and suburban fabric in floodplains and other fringe areas that often get hit hardest by “natural” disasters.
 
Knowing it, we should build many trails.  Trails are good.  Trails get us into the outdoors and make us healthy and happy.
 
I’ve said what I can.  I can’t dedicate too much emotional energy to the Front Range’s plight because I live in a place that suffers from trail poverty.  Oh, we have hiking trails out the wazoo.  We just don’t have much good quality legal mountain bike trails.  We don’t have any multi-use paths or urban bike/ped infrastructure worth mentioning.  That’s something I want to change.

Cars Hate Me

The feeling is mutual.  My first car was a 1980 Ford Mustang hatchback (1990).  It came to me with a blown engine.  My great uncle Garth rebuilt the motor and transmission, and dad and I put them in the car and got it running.  A month after I started driving it I went off the road, dropped into a creek and totaled the car. 

Amphibious assault

I also owned an MG Midget for a short time after that.  Our mechanic (had him on speed dial) told me that unless I wanted to tinker a lot the Midget was a bad idea.  He was right.  It was so unreliable I finally just parked it.

Powell Co Parade circa 1991

I didn't really have my own car again until I turned 18.  It was another Mustang, an '85 fastback. (1992).  There was nothing fast about it.  Both of my Mustangs had four cylinder engines.

When I went away to college I couldn't take it with me.  The motor was shot.  Over Christmas break dad and I put a new motor in it.  I drove it for a few years through a couple of wrecks and a lot of repairs.  I ended up putting more into it each month in repairs than I'd have made on a modest car payment.

My next car I inherited from my dad.  It was an '89 Chevy Celebrity (1996).  The transmission was shot in it.  I got a cheap transmission from a junkyard and had someone put it in.  It went out and I had to get another transmission.  The car finally just died.

My next car was an '85 Honda Accord (2000).  The clutch was slipping when I bought it so Mandy's step-great uncle put a new one in which promptly went out again.  I hit a deer with that car.  Finally a host of maladies crippled it beyond repair.

I bought a 1992 Subaru Outback to replace it (2003 or so).  It had been wrecked but ran well.  Until the rear end started going out. I hit a coyote with that car.  


Road trip to the Gulf of Mexico (pre BP oil spill)



 

Then I bought an '80-something Chevy S-10  pickup to replace it (2005?).  It might have been the worst car I ever owned. It drove and rode bad, and it blew up early one morning when I was on my way to work.  I'd just checked the oil and it was full.  Boom!

We then got Forester Gump and I inherited Mandy's '93 Legacy (2007).  Last I heard it was still running, but it was the car that wouldn't pass emissions when we moved to Colorado.


Gump at Berthoud Pass
 
Boone loved this car because it was an Autobot
 

 
For four years I did not own a car.  Our family relied on Gump.  Gump has been a good car for us.  So I'm not sure what possessed me to neglect Gump to death.  I'm really, really bad about remembering to do things like pay bills, check the mail, or check the oil in my wife's car.

Boom.

We still have one car that runs...my 2001 Camry.  We can't really get by on one car right now.  We've got to figure something out.  We hadn't been planning on replacing Gump soon even though he had 300k+ miles on him.  Now is not a good time for this.




Gump never went 180 km/h


I've never intentionally tried to make enemies out of my cars, but they've betrayed me time and time again.  I can't say that about Gump.  Gump has been faithful.  But then...Gump wasn't my car.  Maybe that's the difference.

I have much better success/luck with bikes.  Bikes are simpler and easy to tinker with.  I can see and hear all their working parts and can feel every out-of-sync modulation or vibration in them as I ride.  I can then stop, make and adjustment, and go on riding in the space of a few minutes.  I'm not able to do that with cars.  I hate cars.  I think the feeling is mutual.