There’s a hilarious scene in A League of Their Own when Jon Lovitz—who plays a baseball scout—finds himself sitting next to a salesman on a train. The giddy salesman is talking excitedly about how he has sold 10 percent more widgets than he did last year. Lovitz listens for a while until he leans forward and smiles at the salesman.
“If I had your job,” he says as he slaps the guy’s knee, “I’d kill myself!”
I went out for lunch today and was hoping to read a few pages of a book while waiting for my food to arrive, but I kept getting distracted by a couple of guys at a nearby table. They were middle managers who handle some sort of contracting work, and one was a Southerner in town on business.
The chubby guy was talking about Alaska’s high cost of living, and how he’d someday like to move back to a place where he could afford a big piece of land where he could shoot his guns and put up a building in which he could rebuild old Chevrolets in his spare time.
“You’d love it where I come from,” bragged the Southerner. “I can shoot right off my back porch.”
“See, I really miss that,” said the chubby guy.
I got up to leave as their fried okra, onion rings and gravy-covered biscuits arrived. If they noticed me at all, they probably wondered why I was smiling.
I was imagining how much fun it would be to stop at their table and say …
Sometimes in the building where I work, I run into people with whom I am only slightly acquainted, and they try to make small talk like normal, functional adults. Anyone who has ever attempted to chat with me for more than two minutes has figured out that I am saddled with a socially crippling addiction, so some of them just save time and take the shortcut.
This happened yesterday when a guy said, "How ya doin'? Still ridin' that bike?"
Most people—even incurable bike junkies—have the social acumen to simply reply with something like, "Yup. Sure am. How have you been?" But not me.
Now, I'm fully aware the guy really didn't give two shits whether I've been riding or not, but for a few milliseconds my brain raced through the conversational options.
Was he referring to my usual habit of bike commuting? I haven't been riding to work much lately, which is a source of frustration and uneasiness. Should I lapse into a defensive mode and start explaining myself to a guy who drives every day?
Or should I fixate on the singular nature of his inquiry? What did he mean by "that bike?" Perhaps I should lapse into full bike-dork mode and say ...
"That bike? What do you mean that bike?
"Damn it, man, which freaking one are you talking about?!"
That would certainly be one way to discourage idle chatter in the men's room.
The headline in Saturday's Daily Snooze was bleak: "Winter recreation around town all but rained out"
After finally getting some decent snow that had put the trails in bomber condition, we got creamed last week with rain and warm winds that turned most of Anchorage into a depressing, slushy mess. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was wallowing in the funk and believing what I read in what's left of our local newspaper.
Fortunately, afternoon reports from the Frigid Bits "Loogie Boogie Woogie Foogie Or Whatever The Hell It Was Called" course sounded promising enough to get me off my ass. I loaded the rig with a studded-tire bike and a cooler full of beer and took off. And what a good move that was.
The singletrack was crusty and firm, the beer was cold, the burn barrel was hot and the company was great. I had almost forgotten how good it feels to stand around a fire drinking beer in the cold air. (I said almost.)
So what if I pedaled up ahead of the non-racing group only to realize—as I got ready to set up for some pics—that I had forgotten my camera? I got to ride with some new people. I got to watch Manny's singlespeed soar through the air when he chucked it into the woods after multiple chain derailments. And then I got to drink beer.
I didn't need the camera anyway. I'd never have been able to top Manny's shot of SkiMonkee's frozen weiner.
Winter recreation rained out? Only if you're one of those people who can't get beyond thinking that winter recreation means skis, skates or snowmachines. And that's narrow thinking.
I often say it, and I always mean it: Mountain bikers are the coolest people alive. In spite of warm winds and rain that have been turning the trails to slush, nine people showed up last night for the first-annual Cranksgiving ride. Several of us had even decorated our bikes or helmets with strings of holiday lights.
The ride was short, slow and slippery, but full of fun riders who would rather slip through some ice on two wheels than piss away a night in front of the TV. It was a good example for my 13-year-old daughter, who came along for her first winter ride, as well as her first full-darkness ride. She doubted anyone else would show up, so it was nice to have proof that the madness goes beyond her dad.
After I thanked my friends for helping me pull my kid deeper into the cult, Tim "Grillmeister" Kelly said, "I've always said that if you're going to get abducted by a cult, the CWC (Cult of Winter Cycling) is the best choice."
I couldn't agree more. Besides, this way we get to spend all our money on bikes instead of doomsday bunkers and stockpiles of guns.
Dip your ladle into the vat and take a sip of the Kool-Aid.
We are officially off and running, boys and girls. Winter riding is kickin' into high gear and gettin' ready to roll its fat ass over everyone's social agenda. Not only do we have our first purely social group ride Wednesday night—the first annual Cranksgiving event—but Saturday will bring the first Frigid Bits tailgate party of the season.
Saturday will kick off with the "Loop A Loogie 4 U" ride at 7 p.m. (Sign-up will be from 6:30 to 6:45 p.m. in the Goose Lake parking lot.) The ride will run south across the Tudor Road overpass and up the Tour of Anchorage Trail before turning onto some nebulous trail network that will be mapped before the event. All I understand at this point is that it'll include the Moose Track and Lore Road trails, and somehow include Rover's Run (I don't give a damn what the ski-jorers have renamed it, it'll always be Rover's Run to me) and back to the Goose.
Once people start showing up in the parking lot, it won't be long until the famous Frigid Bits Burn Barrel—a comforting piece of modern art from the hands of our man Thirstywork—is lit up and dead things get thrown on the grill. Bring some food, some beer and some bullshit to throw around over the fire.
And save a beer or two for when my slow carcass gets dragged in.
Thanks to all our recent snowfall, I think we should kick off the holiday season with a nighttime social ride. No rules, no stopwatches, no excuses.
If you're in the Anchorage area, show up at Westchester Lagoon on Wednesday evening. The ride will start at 7 p.m. in front of the Trail Watch building (the former police substation) at the northwestern edge of the lagoon. Bring a flask if ya want. Decorate your bike. Wear a tutu. Whatever gets your motor runnin'.
Maybe we'll even get Miss Yellow Pogies to show up on her Pugsley.
We'll ride the Coastal Trail to the Kincaid Chalet and back, with the option of a side trip to downtown or Goose Lake for anyone who wants to ride longer. If ya want more information, post a comment or send me an e-mail from the link I put somewhere on this here blog.
As much as I hate riding near ATVs during summer, I'm learning to like them in winter. I really wish a few more had passed over the Eklutna Lake trail before a bunch of us rode there today. They might make noise and stink up the air, but those fat-tired buggers also pack snow, and that's a valuable service for winter cyclists.
Still, I learned a few things. First, my new Camelback HAWG carries a ton o' stuff—too bad we couldn't make it to the cabin so I could have made use of the camp stove and fuel I was carrying. I could have used some carbs in a tasty, hot dish.
Second, the price of carelessly releasing air from an Endomorph in a desperate search for better traction in new snow can be high. Riding on an almost-flat rear tire is like riding in loose sand. And that sucks.
Third, fighting my way through 12 miles of frustrating powder is enough to confirm that I have no interest in ever doing the Susitna 100, despite being tempted in the past. I didn't blow two large on a Pugsley so that I could walk beside the damned thing. I like the Pugsley for the terrain I can ride with it, not for the shit I can push it through.
And fourth, plowing through snow in the mountains with friends is still more fun that sitting at a desk. To paraphrase that old bumper sticker about fishing: The worst day riding is better than the best day working.
(Thanks for the flattering pic of me slurping Leonard's hooch, Bubba!)
Porn: (Informal) noun Television programs, books, etc., regarded as catering to a voyeuristic or obsessive interest in a specified subject.
A few days ago, my friend Leonard posted a “roll call” on MTBR’s Alaska Forum. Everyone was supposed to respond by giving their real name, listing the bikes they own, and telling anything they want to share about why they ride, how they started, etc.
As I was looking over some of the responses, it occurred to me that bicyclists really enjoy shooting—and showing off—pictures of their bikes. Manny photographed all the bikes in his garage; Adam posted a pic of his Surly Cross Check; and The Grill Meister used a shot of his Giant NRS. The only reason I didn’t put up a picture was that I’ve never taken a group shot of all four of my bikes together, and I couldn’t decide which one to show.
We even have a name for pictures of hot bikes: Velo Porn. Does this make us freaks? Do people in other sports have this habit? I’ve never heard of skiers shooting pictures of their skis, surfers their boards, or golfers their balls, but then, why would I? I don’t hang out with those people.
All I know is, if two bike riders are swapping e-mails and one asks the other what one of his bikes looks like, there’s a good chance that a digital picture will blast back at him like a ricocheting bullet. And the person who receives said photo goodness will ogle the other person’s bike, even if he already has his own harem of rides that give him all the satisfaction he can handle.
I don’t really understand it all, and I don’t really want to.
I just want to be left alone now. I’m going to go look at Adam’s Cross Check again.
The snow has finally arrived. After too much fun Saturday night, I was slow to get out on the Pugsley. I finally went out Sunday afternoon and tooled around the neighborhood for 90 minutes or so. I rode through the woods in John's Park, then down to Ocean View Bluff Park, where a somewhat androgynous kid who was sledding with his friends called my bike "really cute."
After that strange encounter, I felt like I needed to do something manly, like go to a hardware store, so I pedaled over to Lowe's to return a part. Riding the Pugsley through fresh snow is such a hoot. It's like getting to drive a tractor without having to do all the shitty farm work.
As I rode past a couple of four-wheel-drive pickups that had slid off the road, I had to stifle a smile. I had the best—not to mention the cutest—vehicle out there.
Ever since I built my Pugsley last March, I've had to deal with the hassles of transporting the thing. Because of its wide fork and super-fat tires, my only options were to put it on the hitch-mount rack—which usually isn't on my 4Runner—or stuff it inside. And stuffing it inside means lowering the rear seats and letting snow melt in the back of my rig.
I knew about the Fork Up adapter but, as far as I was concerned, the folks at Hurricane Components forked up when they welded two metal tabs to a tube, shoved a cheap QR skewer through it, and set the price at $60. I mean, come on. I'm a bike junkie and I'll happily spend money on stuff that would make a civilian's eyes roll, but sixty bucks? If you're going to try that, you'd better buy me dinner and drinks first.
Then last weekend, some nice Pugsley owner in Nebraska put a note on MTBR's Alaska Forum to let everyone know that Jenson USA had the Pugsley-specific Fork Up on sale for $20. I couldn't type in my credit card number fast enough.
The box was waiting for me when I got home tonight after a game of bike polo and a couple of beers at Speedway. The Pugs is movin' on up. Right up to the roof. All I need now is a strap for securing the rear wheel to the gutter of my roof rack and ... let's see, what was that other thing?
Cabin fever shouldn't happen in November. Then again, November in Anchorage shouldn't involve bare ground. I'm gettin' itchy for some time on the snow bike. Hell, I'm gettin' itchy for time on any bike.
I finally put the studs on my old Stumpjumper and bagged a rare (these days) commute to work this morning. Then I rode to Blockbuster tonight to return some DVDs. I had to get some ride time before I lost my mind. I caught myself glancing at the rifles in a sporting good store last weekend, and I've taken a strange interest in the rooftops of tall buildings. (Note to the CIA and Homeland Security spooks who are scanning the Internet for references to rifles and rooftops: I was just kidding. Go spy on the foreigners, you dipshits.)
My winter bikes are ready and my light batteries are charged up. I'm ready to sneak out for some nocturnal trail time.
"This is a beautiful thing here," Pete said as the light turned green.
Fifteen or so rain-splattered mountain bikers rolled across Minnesota Boulevard in the dark and began pedaling east on a side street, moving in that way that only a group of bicycles can: first a large mass, then a morphing, flexing blob that stretches out and reshapes itself in response to the brake lights and headlights of cars. Pete was right. It was beautiful.
It was as if we were holding our own little Critical Mass ride. The drivers were stuck in their metal boxes watching the rain hit their windshields and wondering why a bunch of yahoos were out riding bikes in such cold, sloppy weather. But we were out there feeling the cold raindrops, the warm blood flowing through our legs and the beautiful sensation of rolling on two wheels.
An arrogant Christian, upon hearing that my beliefs differed from hers, once told me she felt sorry for me. Sorry, lady. I don't want or need your sympathy.
Bicycling is my religion.
You want to feel sorry for someone? Feel sorry for someone who doesn't ride.