26 August 2023

Archival footage: When did you get slower?

The following essay was originally posted to the Fifty+ Years Old forum at mtbr.com on 25 August 2023.

Am I slower? I really don't know. That's the honest answer.

I mean, I've got almost a dozen years of Strava data that conclusively says: maybe?

How do I really know? And how much do I really care?

Facts are facts: My bikes have all changed for-the-better by several iterations in the aforementioned dozen-year time-period; fires, floods, and new construction have radically changed our local trails, in some cases for-the-better; technology, frame- and tire-design have all changed my riding style and abilities for-the-better a thousand-fold; and sure, inevitably, so has my body changed (tho not always for-the-better) as well as the way that I sometimes feel before, during, and after I ride (again, not always for-the-better)... So, which of these variables am I looking at when trying to determine if I'm slowing down?

I still get the occasional Strava PR, though they're certainly fewer and further between these days... but does the interval between improvements mean I'm getting slower? Maybe? Or perhaps I'm just drawing closer to the top-of-my-game given where current technology and new, better-built trails have gotten me.

I know I'm getting older, and maybe I am slowing down some. But, hand-on-my-heart, having done this mountain-bike thing for 30-plus years, I've never enjoyed riding more than I am right now, in the present moment, at my present age. I know one of these "days" my last ride will ultimately literally be my last. But for now I'm committed to try to "live to ride another day" and to savor each moment of each of today's rides, and push against the unavoidable envelope of entropy as best I am able. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, right?

So slow, fast, or somewhere in-between doesn't really make a lot of sense to me anymore. Sure, I still like to check where I stand in the Strava pecking-order after most rides... and I'll be honest, I'm never the KOM, but when was I ever, really? Nevertheless, in general my times going up and going down are, to my mind, well within the respectable range and nothing to be ashamed of for a hairy-legged 200-pound 56-year-old dood on a hardtail.

But, to tell the truth, despite my somewhat voyeuristic interest in where I stand on the segment-achievements list, my heart-of-hearts simply wants to know after each ride:

Was it Good?
Did it Flow?
Did it get Rad?

25 August 2023

Archival footage: Should I move to Arizona?

The following essay was originally posted to the Arizona forum at mtbr.com on 28 June 2023.

@Hurricane Jeff started a stand-alone thread today, says he wants to know the "pros and cons" of living in Flagstaff. Sounds like a perfect question for our new sticky! Even tho this topic has been beat-to-death over the course of the 20 years I've been mostly-lurking around this forum, I'll bite on lure... why not me? I've been "trapped" in this little mountain town since 1991 with no way out, nor much desire to leave (that's both a pro and a con, I suppose... I'll explain below). Good thing I like it here.

What's a pro to living in Flagstaff? That's easy: all the trails (more all the time thx to @rockman and his crew), lakes, ski runs within easy striking distance of town. For me these features are the reasons I find myself so content living here. Also, there's a couple grocery stores, a few places to eat pretty good food, and about 1000 bars. It might sound like I'm speaking hyperbolically, but I most definitely am not. Other pros? Hmmm... there's mostly decent people here. I've know a few assholes, and heard about several others (we're kinda a one-degree-of-separation sort of place). But most of the folks I know are pretty cool. I think it's because almost everyone is here on purpose, so you don't meet too many people who are "this place sucks" except high-school kids who don't know any better.

Cons? It's a bit expensive. My wife and I got lucky and got our toe-hold established in the 1990s when things were a little cheaper, if not perceivably so at the time, they certainly were looking back in comparison to today.

Bureaucratic things move slowly around here, be it the town council, or the local USFS agency, the school board, or the county government... it all just kinda churns around the same drain most of the time. Until disaster strikes... then everyone's pretty good at rallying together.

Turns out we've had some practice in this regard (the striking of disaster), which brings me to "the big con" which is: the simple truth that we're all just here bronc-riding a giant bomb-casing, hoping like hell it doesn't explode and kill us all... and by that, of course, I mean: THE THREAT OF WILDFIRE.

If you're really good at pretending... or super-good at putting all your hope/trust/assurance in any of a half-dozen or so public service agencies that you think might be able to try valiantly to save you and/or personal property, then how-doo! Welcome to Flagstaff, pardner!

If, on the other hand, the prospect of losing all you have (and possibly, let's be honest, everyone you love) to a massive out of control FIRESTORM (or the flooding thereafter) that will probably be started by some tweaker a-hole living in his van "down by the river" (note: we have no river) who believes his right to a high-summer campfire is enshrined in the Second Amendment, then maybe take a beat, think it thru... perhaps a townhouse in Anthem, within easy striking distance of Flag but well out of the burn-zone, is better suited to you.

'Cause here's the hard reality of life in Flagstaff: always knowing, in the back of your brain: it's all gonna burn. We don't like to talk about it. We like to pretend we can do something to mitigate the risk of it (thinning projects, controlled Rx fire, closure orders, let-burn lightning strikes, etc). But the bottom line is, these things don't really work, we're merely "tilting at windmills" trying to look like we know what we're doing, but basically we're just fukt.

Those of us whose roots are set too deep, who have been here so long, most of us can't do much to get out of the path of what's coming... And maybe we just don't want to. I gotta admit, there's the constant draw of all the sweet singletrack out your back door, just begging for a shred, which, I think, causes a lot of us to live rather cavalierly day-to-day perched on the razor's edge of disaster, like the good lord said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." The riding and the skiing and the paddling really are that good most days. I think we're just kinda hoping it's not coming for us today... maybe even that "the big one" will wait 'til we're gone, aged out of the living process, ya know. But who the hell knows... Nobody does.

Except, truth is, we all know: it's coming, bummer of it is: we just don't know when.

24 August 2023

Archival footage: A MacGyver Story

The following essay was originally posted to the Vintage, Retro, Classic forum at mtbr.com on 13 June 2023.

JRA in a lonesome meadow which runs for a couple quiet foresty miles between two outlying upscale neighborhoods on the north side of town, I determined, as per usual, to take the higher-harder track this afternoon, the one that climbs over a rough basalt bench, rather than the other, which nearly everyone else takes because it's less angular (in all dimensions) and heads more directly and expediently back into town.

Threading the needle, I pushed the front wheel of my 1987 Panasonic Mountain Cat 7500, oh-so gently between two pointy black rocks embedded in the track, both firmly bolted down with the force of eons of volcanic glue, when, despite the confident finesse with which I executed this fine maneuver, the stem slipped, quite unexpectedly, about 15 degrees to the right of center.

No big deal. Hop off, out with the six-mil hex, a bit of righty-tighty and viola! With the last twist of the wrench, the unpainted aluminum top-cap on the ain't-she-sweet 1" quill Salsa roller stem crumbles to a mixture of crappy metal bits and a smattering of what I'm guessing is fully adulterated AL2O3. The bars now swing freely side-to-side...

A tube, a pump, a couple nylon tire levers, and a Cool Tool seat-post quick release are all the tools I've got. The Mountain Cat is my slackcountry commuter rig, afterall. Hasn't been on a long ride in the woods in decades (it's got seatstay breather-hole cancer). But for years it’s gotten me around town via the sidecountry and interstitials so darn well. So, there I am, not so far from home that I can't self-extract on foot, but reluctant to do so because, in some 30 years of riding, I've only ever walked out twice, once for a broken rear triangle (snapped both chainstays on the only FS bike I've ever owned), and once for a broken fork (fully snapped off one leg of a red Ritchey biplane... didn't want to risk snapping off the other, ya know).

A couple minutes looking at the bike, trying to puzzle out where a flat washer with an ID close to the stembolt's OD might be hiding, and I can't think if a thing... 'cept prolly there's a washer behind the crankbolts that would work (can't actually recall), but the Cool Tool QR tool doesn't have a 15mm socket for this purpose like the original Cool Tool does, just a 10.

Clock ticks off another minute or two as I contemplate other options... not. walking. home.

And then it occurs to me: I might could flip the two remaining parts of the top-cap so what remains of the flange will act as a washer to the recessed retainer and see if it'll bind enough without crumbling to steer without slippage sufficient to get my ass home. One foot-pound of tork, twist-check the bars, then another and another half-a-turn 'til it's juuuust tight enough to ride as slow and as straight as I can.

Something like this:

06 October 2022

ex evangelical et al

That's me in the corner 
That's me in the spotlight 
Losing my religion 
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it...
Oh no, I've said too much
Michael Stipe, R.E.M. (1991)

I was born early on a Sunday morning in the second week of November 1966. 

Some years later, the presidential election of 1984 was held on Tuesday, November 6, exactly one week before my 18th birthday. At that time I was senior at an exclusive private evangelical Christian high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and I was crushed that I wouldn't be able to cast my first-ever vote to re-elect Ronald Reagan to a second term as president of the United States, even though he didn't need it.

Not long after that, as an undergraduate at Arizona State University, I can still recollect the visceral intrinsic disdain that I felt toward the Young Democrats whenever they would gather on the lawn near the Hayden Library to exercise their First Amendment rights, shouting down the wild-eyed itinerant preachers holding their horrific anti-abortion banners, demanding fair treatment and representation in student government, better access to campus facilities and healthcare, and any number of other liberal concerns du jour.  Despite my membership on the ASU Forensics Team, and my sincere, abiding friendships with my left-leaning teammates at the time, many of whom were also a part of the flourishing "out" community on campus, I nonetheless eventually gravitated toward the ASU College Republicans organization and soon rose to various leadership positions within it. As an pro-life, born-again, lifelong twice-weekly-attending evangelical church member, I had hopes that my involvement in CRs would fulfill my desire to have an outlet for demonstrating and professing my faith while at the very secular ASU. At this point in my life, I genuinely perceived these two things, my religious faith and my membership in the GOP, as two sides of the same coin, actively and inextricably intertwined, one with the other.

Shortly after he left office, in March 1989 Ronald Reagan visited Arizona State University. Reagan gave a well-attended speech to the student body and a pantheon of local conservative dignitaries in the ASU Activity Center.  Despite now being the brand-new duly-elected president of the school's College Republicans, I was afforded no special access nor did I receive any kind of invitation to the event, not that I really expected one.  Instead, I attended the speech with everyone else, as a walk-in general-admission member of the public, and listened excitedly with great interest to the former president's words from an otherwise anonymous seat high-up near the top of the stands.  Reagan was the epitome of Celebrity in my world at that moment in time.

Likewise in the spring semester of 1989, my Arizona Government class hosted former US Senator Barry Goldwater for an in-person hour-long lecture one day. I was thrilled to be able to spend a few minutes speaking with him one-on-one after the class period concluded. As a native son of Arizona with burgeoning political aspirations, on the brush-with-greatness scale, this was, for me, a moment likely akin to a Catholic penitent having the chance to meet the pope

Around this same time, I made arrangements for the then executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Kurt Davis, to speak to the College Republicans in a meeting room we'd booked in the Memorial Union on campus.  Mr. Davis asked to be provided with a ride that afternoon to the Tempe-campus event from his office at the state party headquarters in the Barry Goldwater Building on 24th Street in Phoenix. As the proud president of the CRs, I was more than happy to oblige.  As we drove there, and likewise afterward as I returned him to his office that evening, we discussed a number of issues and concerns that were before him as the de facto leader of the state Republican organization.  He encouraged me to seek him out, in anticipation of my need to complete an internship prior to my graduation from the Cronkite Journalism School, if I wished to discuss "working" with the party in an in-house capacity in the future.  Some time later I did so, and was given my first-ever legitimate sounding job-title (communications intern) and a small office in the back of the building doing public- and media-relations work for the Party.

I did not last long in this position, however.  Just a few months after stepping into my role as communications-intern with the Party, I was given the chance in June 1989 to move into a somewhat more elevated and exciting (albeit still pro-bono) role as an assistant communications director when Burt Kruglick, then the Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, determined to run for mayor of Phoenix against popular incumbent, Democrat Terry Goddard.  I soon moved myself into a noticeably larger office space in Kruglick's newly leased campaign headquarters in a Central Avenue high-rise in downtown Phoenix.  I was extremely excited to be given this opportunity, which to me felt quite prodigious since I was still nearly a year away from receiving my degree.

It was here, I am certain, that my exvangelical awakening began. I was 22 years old.

The Kruglick for mayor team was, to put it bluntly, an odd bunch, if not a cross-section then surely a reliable random sampling of the innate strangeness, privilege, suspicion, and lurking duplicity that permeated conservative circles even back then.  All of them GOP party functionaries who had quickly become, at least by name, well-known to me during my time at the Goldwater Building. Now, by virtue of our common membership as campaign staff and volunteers, I was thrust into a situation where I was compelled to get to know any number of them personally, now not only by name, but sometimes, and quite shockingly so, by their unusual predilections and prejudices.

Without naming names or delving into the details of the abundant weirdness, selfishness, and super-paranoid xenophobic bullshit that I encountered while working with many of these individuals, while trying to get the City of Phoenix' grumpiest, most uncharismatic, king of coin-operated-laundromats elected mayor, I was disgusted to learn that their central-strategy in doing so was to sully the reputation of the incumbent mayor by impugning his sexual orientation through thinly veiled innuendo. Suffice to say, my eyes were opened to who and what the GOP is and was through this experience.  I did not want to be associated with them. I did not want to become like them.

Because of this, I spent less and less time "volunteering" as the campaign neared election day. And because I lived in Scottsdale at the time, I was logistically released from the burden of having to deliberate about how to cast my vote in the Phoenix mayoral election. Fortunately, in the end, Kruglick lost. Goddard was always the better candidate. And I was pleased to be able to vote for him several times in subsequent years, first when he was seeking the office of Arizona Governor and later Attorney General. 

I finished the Kruglick campaign disgusted with the GOP, disgusted with myself, and determined to rescind my party affiliation immediately. I resigned from the College Republicans and registered myself as an independent soon thereafter. To the best of my recollection, I haven't cast a vote for a Republican candidate for any office since 1989.


Our church made me an elder in the summer of 2007. I was 41 years old. 

Most of the congregation was willing to defer to the current board members in their recommendation of me that day, and showed up to deliberate and vote for the agenda at the quarterly meeting only out of dutiful obligation.  But there were a few aggrieved voices in the crowd that afternoon, chiefly men close to my own age, who came prepared to speak against my nomination, for numerous reasons: my career spent in (and my abiding commitment to) public education, my rumored admission to having voted for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, the tattoo I have worn on my hand since 1997 as a wedding ring and indelible commitment to my spouse, and my failure to ascend to the position of elder without first occupying the subordinate positions of deacon and usher. One individual went so far as to testify before this assembly that he "could not focus on worship" whenever I was singing with the small acoustic church-music ensemble I was a part of one or two Sundays each month due to the "liberal political positions" he knew I held. 

Only one other person spoke against my nomination, a former elder's widow named Marilyn who stated, "John's little daughter is only two years old.  You should encourage him to focus on being a dad and a husband at this point in his life.  He doesn't need the contention of being an elder now. He needs to be at home when he's not at work, not here at the church managing and debating its affairs."  Turns out, she was the wisest voice in the room.

As I understand it, one of the most important qualifications for anyone serving as an elder in an evangelical church is to hold each member of the congregation in a place of empathy and compassion in one's heart and mind, to love them, in fact, as one would a member of one's own family.  And well, truth be told, I just could not pull this off.  In fact, I could not stand some of them, especially a few of the guys who spoke against me when I was joining the elder board.  Not because I resented them, or because I was embittered toward them for what they said or implied about me on the day of my nomination.  No.  I couldn't stand those guys, and likewise a number of other individuals in the congregation, because of what I learned about them as I served on the board for many years, most especially their perpetually angry, prideful attitudes and groundless ugly prejudices, in both word and deed, which they directed toward the "unsaved" members of our civic community.  Their hatred and disdain of these folks was palpable, their attitudes of superiority ever-present, and their slurs describing these enemies of their perceived freedoms seemed ever on their lips: the gays, the lesbians, the meth-heads, the drunk Indians, the unmarried cohabitors, the single moms, the queers, the panhandlers, the gun-control advocates, the ecumenicals, the dope-smokers, the cult members, the liberals, the unbelievers, the baby-killers, the illegals, the trannys, the welfare queens, the bums, the deniers of creationism. I could find little (indeed, often nothing) to love in any of those who felt and spoke of others so scornfully.

When the congregation, almost universally, and also quite vocally, hitched their presidential political fortunes to John McCain in 2008, a man who had cheated on his first wife with his second and operated deceitfully and deceptively as a member of the Keating 5 during the Savings & Loan Debacle in the late 1980s, and then later to Mitt Romney in 2012, a man who had been a lifelong faithful adherent of Mormonism, which was described as an accursed unbiblical sometimes-Satanic cult by many members of our evangelical congregation, I began to question their allegiance to their own belief system.  Likewise, my own questions regarding my allegiance to them as a congregation continued to grow as well.

I left the board in 2012, using the fact that I, for professional reasons, truthfully needed to continue my education past my master's degree as an excuse.  We left the congregation for good at some point thereafter when my wife, in tears one morning on our drive to church simply said, "I can't do this anymore.  I can't worship with people like this, who wouldn't welcome so many of the people we love into their church service because of who they are or ow they live. I don't want to go back there ever again." I thought her sentiment very well timed. I had been feeling the same way for quite a while.  Turns out neither of us wanted to associate with evangelicals any longer.  We did not want to become like them.

We went and got bagels that morning instead, and we never did go back.  

To this day, no one except the senior pastor has ever contacted us to ask why we left or to inquire about where we've been or how we're doing.  He and I went for a coffee together one afternoon many months later and, while I was not ready to fully disavow my faith to him at that point, I did make it clear that an eternity spent alongside the bullies and bigots I'd been trying to shepherd at his church for some five years was no longer a very enticing prospect.

We bumped around for a time, sporadically searching for another church to call home, a few Sundays each month, for the next several years, in fact. But we never really found another place to land. We were always feeling like something was amiss, like we were just going through the motions of worship and fellowship with an ever diminishing faith, a kind of slow entropy leading to nothing.

And then, in 2016, came Trump...

01 June 2022

Between every two pine trees

 "Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life."

- John Muir

A deeply personal thematic photoblog:
A half-century or so of inadvertent tree-doorway photography

05 May 2022

Archival footage: Kind of New

In late January I finished up at the FUSD Transportation Department, where I had been asked in September 2021 to return to work temporarily as the interim Student Discipline Coordinator.  Became just kinda done-with-it for a number of reasons, mostly because of the grumpy drivers, recidivistic students, uncooperative parents, and even a few unsupportive building and district admins.  It felt really nice to have the luxury to be able to simply decide, "Nope. I don't want to fight about stuff anymore."  When I met with the director to discuss my decision to leave my interim role in his department he basically said the same thing, "Must be nice.  I'm actually a bit jealous. You did good work while you were here, thanks for your service."

Dove head-first into the whole patrol-volunteer gig after that.  Went up "to work" at Snowbowl four or five days a week, five to six hours a day, from February through the end of April.  Ended up having the best season of my life, despite the relatively meager winter. Skied almost 60 days in all, nearly 300 hours total, got to assist with any number of interesting/urgent calls-for-assistance, and loved every minute of it, doing what my ski-patroller supervisor calls, "skiing with a purpose."  

In anticipation of the end of the ski season at Snowbowl I've been mulling over for a while now other means for making a productive and satisfying use of my retired-guy time.  Lots of ideas, but the one that keeps rising to the surface is Flagstaff's lack of a legitimate new/used independent retail record store.  It vexes me that every time Record Store Day rolls around, all of us Flagstaffricans have to drive down to visit Puscifer in Jerome (a very cool store with an amazingly well-curated selection of new vinyl; you should definitely visit if you're ever there) to shop the Day's exclusive releases, simply because Flagstaff (the largest town in the region by far) doesn't actually have a store that qualifies as a dedicated, independent retailer of new music.  We have Bookmans.  Don't get me wrong, Bookmans is great!  I'm a former employee, former manager even, and a very loyal customer for the last 30 years. But it turns out, Bookmans doesn't qualify for Record Store Day because, I guess, they don't commit enough square footage of their large, mulitfacited operation to the sale of new music on vinyl.  Sure, they sell a lot of new music on vinyl. Definitely more than any other store in town.  But apparently not enough to satisfy whoever makes the decisions about which stores get to sell Record Store Day exclusives. 

So it's off to Jerome we go.

20 April 2022

Just about a bike: This old frame

My dad drove me way across town early one Saturday morning at some point in late 1975 or early 1976 so that, for the very first time, I could buy a bike with my own money. I was in the fourth grade and had saved up what was to me then a massive amount of cash doing odd jobs around the house, 40 bucks, so that I could get my very own BMX bike and shred with my buddies up and down the canal banks, and through the shady orchards, and across the vacant desert lots that lay between our Scottsdale neighborhood and the Circle K convenience store and the local Schwinn bicycle shop.

The bike that was to become mine had been advertised for a week in the classified ads in the Phoenix Gazette and fit perfectly into my adolescent price point. As soon as I laid eyes on it, leaning against the front steps of the west Phoenix house that had been its home, it looked really good to me: fully chrome with silver bars and a simple black fork, kitted out otherwise with what looked like cast-off Stingray parts as most BMX bikes were back then.

08 March 2022

Credo: This is my yellow jacket

ca. 2004-2005
This is my yellow jacket. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My yellow jacket has been a good friend to me. Without it I am vulnerable.

My yellow jacket has faithfully guarded me from the ravages of weather.  It has protected my body from injury.

We are a part of 
one another, my yellow jacket and I. Together we have endeavored to master the mountain.

* the work of the Courtesy Patrol includes:
 lost family-member reunification,
detached ski reinstallation,
perplexed guest reorientation,
Ski Patrol incident notification,
uprooted signage restoration,
downhill-slope traffic mitigation,
& general ski-area explication
I have been volunteering as a member of the Courtesy Patrol at Arizona Snowbowl this season, skiing more days, and also longer days, than I've ever skied in any previous season, usually 3-5 days a week, 4-8 hours a day, weather and snow conditions notwithstanding.  Over the course of some 40+ days on the mountain thus far this season, and despite having one of the most amazingly fun and interesting ski seasons ever, I have nonetheless reluctantly been forced to conclude that my old yellow Marmot jacket is no longer able to keep up with the demands that my new work* has been placing upon it.  Lately, I've been getting increasingly colder, and wetter, and more wind-blown. And I've deduced that this is happening because my trusty old yellow shell is, quite simply, worn out.

Precise recollection fails me, but my best guess is that I probably bought my yellow jacket in 2004, nearly twenty ski seasons ago now.  I have worn it every winter, on practically every single day that I have skied since then (I did attempt to replace it back in 2011, with a newer, fancier jacket, but, well, that plan did not work out the way I had intended it to).

It has reliably sheltered me from the mountain's most brutal elements, and the weather's harshest conditions, during literally hundreds of great days, down many thousands of great runs, throughout what must have been the linking of at least a million great turns (How many Telemark skiers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? At least three, one to install it, and two more to say, "Dude, great turns!").

19 January 2022

Let's adopt a rescue cat!

“A human being with no dæmon was like someone without a face, or with their ribs laid open and their heart torn out; something unnatural and uncanny that belonged to the world of nightghasts, not the waking world of sense.”
— Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Our cat, like our dogs, is a rescue. You can tell by her one docked ear. Our vet has told us that she was likely captured when she was young as a feral stray, spayed, and then released back into the world to fend for herself. Later on in her wild early life she must have been recaptured, probably by animal control or a rescue agency. 

Fortunately for her (and us), it seems she somehow fell into the care of our local no-kill shelter at that point. That's where my wife and daughter first encountered her. They brought her home soon afterward.

They named her Rosie.

I just call her Cat.

She is, of the many many good cats I have known in my lifetime, easily the best-of-cats, my Pantalaimon, a chatty, constant companion to me at all times (except, of course, when she is cat-napping) whenever I am at home. 

03 January 2022

Archival footage: 04 January 1997

I wrote the post reproduced below for our 20th wedding anniversary, 04 January 2017. A lot has happened in the five years that have transpired since then, too much to mention here for certain. Suffice to say, we're still together, still in love with one another, still trying to figure it all out, one day at a time.

I wanted to republish what I wrote back in 2017 today, on the eve of our 25th wedding anniversary, because this one seems to me to be an even more significant milestone than was our 20th, for lots of reasons, and not just because it's a bigger number.

26 November 2021

Let's ride a singlespeed!

"When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run."
- Henry David Thoreau

3.0:1 gain ratio, 41.6 gear inches

I recently converted my Surly Pugsley "fatbike" from an eight-speed to a singlespeed.  After a thousand or so very rode-hard miles in the past 8 years (and having been put away wet more often than not), the original drivetrain components had become seriously clapped-out.  Rather than replace them (at great expense), I decided to just remove them. Best part of this decision: stripping off the no-longer-necessary gears, shifters, cables, and derailleurs shed almost four pounds. Today, the Pugs, and her one 34x22 (3.0:1 gain ratio) gear, is revitalized as a bike that is (as it truthfully always has been) an unmitigated hoot to ride!  In a way, it feels as though this was how she was meant to have been set-up all along.

I've been riding singlepeed bikes in the forests of northern Arizona for almost 30 years. My newly reconfigured Pugs SS is the fourth legit singlespeed mountain bike in the garage. I really dig riding one-speed bikes. Always have.  Geared bikes are lots of fun, but only singlespeeds are truly enlightening (pun intended).

13 October 2021

Let's use a dropper-post!

Sure, 2021 is more than a little bit late-to-the-game to be writing an article advocating for the use of dropper-posts on mountain bikes. But I ride on a regular basis with a few old doods, militant Luddites all, who have yet to upgrade their bikes to a seat-post that drops with the pull of a trigger. I've been trying to convert them for years, at every opportunity singing the praises of dropper-posts loud and clear, to no avail. This blog post is all I've got left, my last-ditch effort to try and get them to see the light.

Hite-Rite & Rock Lobster
both ca. 1985
I got my first dropper-post as stock-spec on my Specialized Fuse Expert when I bought it new back in 2017. 

Actually, no. That's not an entirely accurate statement. See, I've had a Breeze & Angell Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster singlespeed for years. The Hite-Rite is undisputedly the world's original dropper-post and it's actually very effective and efficient. But, it's also super tough to operate on-the-fly. Unlike contemporary dropper-posts, which can be moved up or down with the flick of a trigger, a stop-and-dismount is required of all but the most practiced riders in order to move the saddle up or down using a Hite-Rite. As a result, the Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster was installed as period-correct bling, mostly for show (the frame, fabricated in 1985, even has a specific braze-on on the back of the seat tube intended for it), and, for the first fifteen-plus years that I owned it, I used it on rare occasions, only to move my seat down at the top the most ridiculously steep/sustained descents (and sometimes not even then), otherwise it mostly stayed-put and looked pretty.

05 July 2021

Archival footage: Curriculum vitae [UPDATED]

Some things in life are bad.
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle.
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
Monty Python - The Life Of Brian

Select images to enlarge
I was never crazy about my job as a school principal.  It feels a bit silly now to admit that I only took it on because our out-going principal and the then-district superintendent asked me to, but that's the god's-honest truth about how I ended up doing it.  I never aspired to be a school leader and I struggled every day, for seven long years, to try as best as I could to graciously manage, keep safe, and empower our staff and students.  Despite my best intentions, each of my many missteps were all too glaringly public, and any meager successes I may have wrought from the endless stream of contention that always seemed to be waiting at my office door, were far too few in number.  

In the final months of what was to become my last year in the role, when a midcareer faculty member on one of our hiring committees responded to the question asked of her by an earnest young interviewee, "Why do you love working here?" with the shoulder-shrugging reply, "I'm sorry, you should skip me. I've got nothing," I knew my time as a school leader had to be done. My disappointment now complete, I sent a 3:00 AM email to our new superintendent that night asking to be relieved of my administrative duties, and to be allowed to return to the classroom for the remainder of my career.

27 May 2021

Just about a bike: Matt Chester MuTinyman singlespeed

3.4:1 gain ratio, 46.3 gear inches
Near as I can figure, Matt Chester, a resident of Leadville, Colorado, began fabricating and selling bicycles made from titanium tubing out of his home workshop sometime early in 1999. Per his now-mothballed website, he only built bikes from Ti, focused his work exclusively on singlespeed bicycles, and tried very hard (though not always successfully) to convince all of his customers to get their bikes built with 29" (700c) wheels.  He refused to install disc-brake tabs, entirely shunned eccentric bottom bracket shells, yet nonetheless eagerly charged people for repairs to other manufacturer's broken or damaged titanium frames.  

Also, near as I can figure, sometime around 2003, Matt Chester, now a resident of Salida, Colorado, had moved his operation down-valley to the south and was building his bikes in a friend's garage.  It would seem that, around this time, Chester began to carry-out a kind of haphazard, perhaps even initially unintentional, deceptive scheme amongst his customer base, apparently taking new orders along with hefty deposits, purchasing tubing and supplies for older as-yet undelivered orders with the new-customer money, and hoping everyone, including his friend (a mutual friend of both of ours, as a matter of fact) who was leasing him shop space in his garage, would remain none the wiser (he did not; he got wise).  As with most such schemes, Chester's seems to have eventually come apart, as he most likely fell further and further behind in fulfilling his orders. It appears he was at times years behind, failing to deliver to those who had put down $1000, $2000 or more, anything but empty promises of "Soon," proffered only after persistent pestering and almost always via email.

15 May 2021

Cosmic Ray [UPDATED]

It is no small thing to say that the course of my life was, quite literally changed forever, when, shortly after moving to Flagstaff, on one of my first visits to our town's original mountain bike shop, Cosmic Cycles, I spent a few of my then very-limited funds ($5.95 plus tax to be exact) on an early edition of a little day-glo green self-published guidebook entitled Fat Tire Tales and Trails written by some dude who called himself Cosmic Ray.

I moved to Flagstaff, into a dank charmless little studio apartment, located conveniently right next door to the Greyhound bus station, in the middle of the summer of 1991, admittedly quite broke and, also, more than a little bit broken of heart/spirit/mind/body as well. 

During my first weeks in Flagstaff I had absolutely no idea (and no friends to show me) where to ride my bike. To learn the lay of the land, I regularly bumped around my neighborhood, rambled around downtown, and cruised through north campus on my bike. A couple times I rode down the two-track dirt service road that ran beside the railroad tracks as far as a big red-sandstone bridge. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, I struggled in my first days in town to find a good way into the woods. All I found on my first forays along the railroad tracks were a few abandoned transient camps, the shell of a wrecked car or two, and several piles of surreptitiously dumped trash.

Cosmic Ray's little green book changed all that. I was hooked on page 4. 

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey