Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I was born fifty-five years ago today which means that I’m not just old, I’m fucking old, although I guess if I were a Galapagos Tortoise or an Ocean Quahog, I’d be a mere whippersnapper.

Fifty-five years before I was born was 1902, which means in the space of my life counting backwards, we got two world wars, the Depression, the invention of television and radio, air travel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Counting forward, we’ve seen one after another failed instance of American imperialism, the iPod, hang-gliders, and reality TV. What this means I’m not sure, but if the trend continues, the next five and half decades may need a better press agent come the year 2067.

All things considered, I don’t mind particularly having reached this advanced age; as the saying goes, it beats the alternative—although, of course, had that alternative come to pass, I’d be in no position to make such a judgment.

In any case, I’m glad to be alive, even if I do have liver spots on the backs of my hands, although, fortunately, I’m getting farsighted enough to have trouble seeing them. Nature works well that way, doesn’t she?

I made sure to ride my bike both ways to school and back, so even though I didn’t manage as many miles as years I’ve lived, I did succeed in pedaling nearly 60 million kilometers. Take that all you metrically-challenged American automobile commuters!

I’ve still got all my teeth and most of my hair—as well as a few additional sprouts in my eyebrow and ear areas—so no complaints there.

I’m probably not as spry as I once was, but that’s not such a big deal since what the hell does “spry” mean, anyway?

Of course, the best part of all is that with each passing day, I get closer to being that guy in his undershirt on the porch yelling at you kids to get the hell offa my lawn.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Fifty-two racers signed up and my friend with his two kids in tow appeared, ready to ride, after everyone else had left so I’m claiming that there were fifty-five contestants.

Plus, as it turns out, 55 degrees is the average temperature in Seattle on March 24th, so even Mother Nature—who treated us to the loveliest day of the year so far—was in on the festivities associated with the 327 Words (I Can Ride) Speed Limit 55 Time Trial which were festive indeed, even for those who didn’t avail themselves of the magic truffle option at Laurelhurst Park.

I remain in awe of the four dozen-plus hardy souls whose idea of a good time is to ride their bikes up and down 25 or so miles of unnecessary hills on a Saturday and offer my heartfelt gratitude to those incredibly generous folks (I’m talking to you Jon Grover, Deven Fatasian, and Lee Williams) willing to hang out in some random park or bar for a couple hours to make such nonsense possible.

Way too much thought went into the planning and preparation, but I think it paid off for the most part, and it especially warmed my heart to see all the cardboard double-nickels that people picked up at the corner of 55th and 55th in Windermere prompting one wag to ask me, as he turned in his manifest, “What birthday are you celebrating again?”

It should be hard to forget as I move into this year of my five and fiftieth just as my mind’s eye will long recall the site of one person after another cringing with a swallow of 55% alcohol absinthe before loping across the street and clamoring aboard the bike for the day’s two-wheeled adventure.

It doesn’t matter who “won,” although I’m utterly flabbergasted that anyone could finish in an hour and 36 minutes, but props where props are due, above all, to everyone who made it grand, that is, everyone.

Friday, March 23, 2012


The Angry Hippy pointed out what was obvious: on no other ride had we ever stayed on the same street for so long and so far.

Granted, besides Rainier Boulevard, it’s hard to imagine any other roadway that could afford us such unbroken mileage—(Aurora, maybe?)—but still, it was pretty impressive to stay in the same lane for more than ten miles, continually scanning storefronts for that elusive watering hole south of Seward Park until, before you knew it—or maybe more like 10 minutes after you noticed—there we were all the way out of Seattle, in a place whose scale is better suited to airplanes than bikes and eventually, drinking beer in a pub that, had it been even a mile or two farther on, might have been the cause of real mutiny, or at least, a heckuva lot more grumbling.

As it was, though, the adventure unfolded into one of those nights where the bulk of the outside portion is on two wheels around the city (rather than on two feet around a fire) and included some fine off-road action as we entered the magic riparian wormhole that somehow connects downtown Renton with north Tukwila.

You know the evening is a success when your tires are covered in mud the next morning but you still have your wallet and keys and all the gear you stashed in your bag but didn’t need given how lovely the weather stayed from start to finish.

Tradition, such as it is, has sometimes had it that there’s a preview of the birthday bike race route the Thursday before the event, but this was much better, especially since it afforded riders the opportunity to pass by 55th Avenue South, one of the few 55-themed roads in Seattle that Saturday’s course will miss.

Which just goes to show how the unexpected is so often superior to the planned-for; even mile after mile on the same road, you’re still surprised.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I rode the route for Saturday’s 327 Words (I Can Ride) Speed Limit 55 Time Trial today and I’m pleased to say that it’s going to be suitably lovely, clever, and diabolical.

Serendipitously, streets with 55 in their names tend to be, in Seattle, ones that go up and down hills. Riders will have numerous opportunities to get their heartbeats going and to curse me under their breaths as they navigate the ascents and descents along the way.

And, having completed the route several times myself, I don’t have to take any guff from folks who don’t like climbing; I’ll even be able to say to (I’m pretty sure) everyone who rides that race that if an old guy like me can do it, then they surely can, too.

I’m looking forward to the event; it should be amusing for everyone involved. My only regret is that the song to which the race title refers was made famous by Sammy Hagar; why couldn’t it have been a “real” Van Halen song with Diamond Dave on vocals?

But, oh well, at least I’m not referencing something by Billy Ray Cyrus, although I do hope that people’s Achy Breaky Hearts make it through the course without actually breaking.

Weather.com says it’s supposed to be partly sunny on Saturday, which would be nice—and somewhat unprecedented: usually, on my race day, March is up to it’s “in like a lion” worst. Years past have featured snow, sleet, hail, and sideways-falling rain, although, to the credit of competitors, the elements have not prevented the show from going on.

I stopped at the Tangletown Pub (on 55th NE) to see if they had any beer that was 5.5% alcohol and, according to their menu, the Prometheus IPA is just that. Their online site, though, claims that it’s 6.7%, so maybe I read it wrong.

No matter, in any case; I can always just have riders consume 5.5 ounces to keep on theme.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I don’t have it right now, that feeling I often get around this time of year, when, in my idle hours, I find myself perusing custom bike builders online, imagining geometries and component mixes, trying to think up justifications for needing another two-wheeler and plotting ways to finance new purchases by winnowing the stable.

It’s not that I couldn’t conceive of owning another bicycle; why just the other day, for instance, there was a burnt-orange Rivendell All-Rounder frame in almost my size for sale on eBay; had it been a couple of centimeters shorter along the top tube and built for 700c rather than 26” wheels, I might have put in a bid.

It’s just that I’m not Jonesing like I often have, thinking, even as I ride along on one I currently own that if only I had something else to fill a gap, I’d be a complete person.

As far as I can tell, I’ve got all the bases covered: my everyday commuter/touring rig, the Saluki; my “go-fast” (such as it is) Randonneur-type ride, the Tournesol; the beefy shopper/hauler/city bike, Hunqapillar; my single-speed Quickbeam; those four form the solid foundation upon which nothing else, really needs to build.

But then, there’s the tandem for dates and kid-hauling; the triplet for occasional family outings; the powder-coated Miyata currently on a trainer in the basement to loan out to friends and acquaintances and for times I need to leave a bike double-locked overnight in a public place like at the airport or the bus station.

And, of course, I can’t bear to part with the XO-1, which ought to get ridden way more but still warms my heart every time I see it, so counts as a work of art at least.

I do, naturally, fantasize about having fewer bikes; if one could do what two or three currently do, then sure.

But to get there, I’d have to get another; and that would just be sick.

Friday, March 09, 2012


The highly-unlikely was reported in the newspaper to be slightly possible: they said there was a chance, albeit a slim one, that the aurora borealis would be visible in the late night skies over Seattle.

And while we never did see the Northern Lights, we were treated to an equally stunning visual display: the full moon reflecting so brightly off Lake Washington that a quicksilver fog seemed to hover over the water

Which just goes to show that it’s what you don’t expect that typically exceeds expectations.

Or to put it in more specific terms: just when you think you’ve seen it all on Thursday nights you haven’t.

Like all of sudden in a place you’ve been several times before, there’s a bona-fide skate park with dudes who can “shred” the half-pipe and an African-American youth who slyly mouths “White Power” (although at least one person heard “Bike Power”) when thirty Cacausians on bikes suddenly appear.

At the same time, some things never get old; no matter how many times you get to bomb non-stop downhill for such an hilariously long time it still feels brand-new.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t any unprecedented events; in addition to the moonlight sonata, I’d never seen anyone join the ride by leaving their backpack behind—although I am pretty sure that I’ve witnessed other bailouts than the Angry Hippy’s based on lost articles of clothing before.

And for once, it wasn’t Joeball with his face in the nascent fire blowing on twigs.

Or get this: we actually had more wood than we needed and no one broke a toe or melted their shoes spreading out the leftover coals.

My route out of the park to the final watering hole is one I’ve taken dozens of times. Never before, though, has it afforded me the chance to arrive at the bar concurrently with much faster riders who went the other way.

So let the sun flare and the moon shine.

Friday, March 02, 2012


My small stash of Apple stock has appreciated about 5000% in the 8 years or so since I bought it after seeing my friend’s kid play with his first generation iPod, but I think I’m going to divest myself of it any day now.

Not on financial grounds; I see no reason to not expect it won’t continue to keep going through yet another roof.

Not even on moral grounds; no doubt you’ve seen reports of Apple’s recent and ongoing human rights abuses in their manufacturing process.

No, I’m going to give the company up on aesthetic grounds: it’s impossible to deny anymore that the iPhone has made the world an uglier, stupider, and way less respectful place.

I see it everywhere I go: on the bus, in the classroom, at the bar, and even today, in this Yoga Conference I’m attending: people all around you, tip-tap-tapping on their little plastic security blankets to the exclusion and derision of everyone around them, their attention shrunk down to a tiny little screen that matters more to them than the flesh and blood world of sentient creatures and organic life that abounds beyond the tip of their noses.

The straw for me was this afternoon, in a class on pranayama, the breathing technique intended to help still the fluctuations of the mind, where whole bunches of skinny bitches in yoga pants held their phones at the ready and at least a couple of them kept regularly and obsessively reading and sending messages all through the instruction—or at least the first hour or so of it until I could stand it no longer and had to move out of range so as not to strangle each with their organic cotton shawls.

It’s a sad addiction, and one that’s making us even more pathetic creatures than we already are.

So, as much as I’ve enjoyed the ride the iPhone has given my little portfolio, I think it’s time to get off.