Thursday, January 29, 2009 go on pilgrimages

Often (I'm confessing to you here) I feel old. I ride like an old guy; maybe I even write like an old guy. I say to myself: You never DO anything. You never test yourself, never do hard stuff, never take risks. 

I know I haven't changed much inside. My heart still harbors most of the same passions I felt years ago. I don't often act on those passions, don't put myself in new or uncomfortable circumstances in response to those impulses. 

I've wanted for years to ride my motorcycle to the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Buddy's West Texas hometown, on February 3rd, the day the music died. Why should you care? I'll try to explain. Why Buddy Holly? I don't know that I can explain. 

I've never been to Graceland and wouldn't walk across the street to visit there. I wouldn't ride across town to meet Chuck Berry, wouldn't care to visit George Harrison's grave or Jim Morrison's. Would I ride 1,000 miles to visit my parents' graves? I don't know. I went to my father's funeral and watched the box go into the ground, but I've never been back and probably won't ever go. 

I've lost other people, family and friends, over the years but never wanted to visit their hometowns - only the one guy's, Buddy Holly's. Maybe it's like Harley guys used to say: If I have to explain, you just won't get it. 

Holly only had a two-year career, y'know. Whatever he did that we remember he did in those two years. I liked his work then and feel it still stands up today. My musically savvy friend Phil says that musicians who control their own output owe a debt to Buddy Holly; he asked for control and got it. The Beatles were called the Beatles because Buddy's band was called the Crickets. Lubbock, weirdly, is rock 'n' roll holy ground. 

For whatever reasons, I still think of Buddy Holly, dead 50 years this February 3rd. If you think that's just too strange, cut me some slack. Leave me be with my idiosyncrasy.

My idiosyncrasy and I live in eastern Colorado, not far from Kansas to the east, a few hours from the New Mexico line to the south. Lubbock is not all that far from here by western US standards: seven or eight hours in a car - or one day's hard ride. Maybe.

The idea is to be there to visit the grave and the super-cool Buddy Holly Center on February 3rd. If you've read this far you probably know: That's the anniversary of the Iowa plane crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, who was known as the Big Bopper. 

On a nice spring or summer day, you could ride from Denver to Lubbock between sunrise and sunset. February days are short. The weather is unpredictable. If the wind's blowing or it's raining or the bridge roadways are icy, you might not make it in a day. Probably you wouldn't.

Here's my idea. I plan to ride to Lubbock. I've seen Buddy Holly's old Ariel 650 twin in Fort Worth at the BMW store. He was a rider, at least casually. I feel it's appropriate to ride there, to do this pilgrimage by motorcycle.

If I can't ride there, if the weather looks too awful or the bridges are too scary or it's just too damned cold, I'll rent a car. I'll get there somehow for the 3rd. 

Here's where you come in. Maybe a few of you miss Buddy Holly the way I do, or loved the music or the glasses or something about him that you can't even explain. If that's how you are, and you'd like to pay your proxy respects in Lubbock on the 50th anniversary of the crash, here's what to do:

Email me your snail-mail address at 

I'll check my email on the computer in the motel lobby just before I go to the Center. I'll write down your address. I'll pick up a souvenir postcard at the Center and mail it to you from Lubbock, Texas, on February 3rd, 2009, the 50th anniversary of the day the music died. 

The plan is to be there midday on the second. There are evening seminars on Buddy's musical legacy on the 2nd and 3rd, and a reception after the seminar on the 3rd. Both days feature Center tours and screenings of Paul McCartney's The Real Buddy Holly Story.

Perhaps, in your heart, you'd like to be along on the ride. If you can't make it but you'd like to follow my trip, here's the route and probable dates. Check the weather for Denver and Lubbock. See if you think it's doable on the motorcycle. If it's doable but not easily, decide for yourself if it'll take one day or two. I'll use the same route riding or driving.

There's an I-70 on-ramp a few miles from my home. I'll travel I-70 east to Limon, CO, where I'll turn south on US 287 through the OK panhandle and into the TX panhandle. I'll spend the night in Amarillo (if I get that far) and head south to Lubbock the next morning. 

Postcards are on me. Be my pleasure. 


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In other news...

Tamar informs me that a woman gave birth to a baby this morning in one of the entrances of the library where Tamar works, Denver's Central Branch. A security guard made the woman as comfy as possible during the arrival. The (female) baby is to be christened Michelle Graves - because Michael Graves was the architect who designed the building!

Remember, you heard about it first on my blog!

The followup's in VeloNews!

David Brinton sent the followup to my post What Mike Barry Said to Ben Delaney at VeloNews, suggesting to Delaney that he'd love to draw the cartoon that accompanies VN's At the Back columns. I'm delighted to tell you that the column will run in the upcoming VN - with a terrific Brintoni drawing! 

I was the exclusive At the Back columnist for a few years in the mid-'90s. When I do occasionally sell a column to VeloNews, it's a thrill for me. Perhaps I'll ask Ben Delaney if I can post the piece on my blog after an appropriate time has passed... 

Thanks for the encouraging comments!  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where's the followup to What Mike Barry Said?

I promised I was going to think further about the joys of group riding, and I did. I started on a blog post that got longer and longer. As I worked on it, things happened that convinced me I was not the only person thinking about the subject.

I saw my friend Jake at Turin Bikes here in Denver. Jake told me that a friend of his is starting a club aimed at guys who will not ride the Tour this year but who would love a safe, organized training ride. I got the guy's email address, wrote him and asked to be put on the list.

I heard from Dave Brinton, famous VeloNews cartoonist, that their club in Boulder, a club with much the same focus, is working out well. In my post, I repeated a story that Brintoni had told me about one of the rides. To make sure the post wouldn't upset anyone, I copied the text into an email note and sent it to Brinton. 

He suggested a small change or two. I made those changes and sent him the story again. As I did that, it occured to me that my post had outgrown my blog, and had become a column for a cycling magazine. When Brinton responded, he said he thought that the piece had At the Back in VeloNews written all over it - and that he'd love to draw the accompanying cartoon. 

So I fleshed the piece out a bit and sent the result to Brintoni, who will present it to Editor Ben Delaney and lobby for its publication in VN. We'll see, as Brintoni said, how good an agent he is.

Wish us luck...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Mike Barry said...

As I read Mike Barry's post (there's a link in my previous one), I thought again and again about what he said about the social aspects of road cycling. He drew a lovely picture of a group of maybe half a dozen riders, arranged two by two, chatting as they ride the miles.

That's cycling as I came to know it in the '70s and '80s. It's cycling as it was when it hooked me, when it inspired me to decide to ride until I could no longer climb on a bike. The social aspect was as vital as the athletic or the competitive. 

It was more important, really: you could quit racing or lose fitness, but you'd never give up riding with the guys. Cyclists who did not come up in a traditional roadie way don't get it. They ride alone or they ride in scraggly groups. Whatever.

I miss that aspect of the old days. I don't miss it once in a while. I miss it every day.

Lance has come back to racing. It's my hunch he missed the guys, the riding along two by two and chatting the miles away. I've told you I miss it. If you're an old roadie and you find good social cycling difficult to arrange today, I'll bet my best floor pump that you miss it too.

I'm going to think about this more and write about it again soon. Please comment if the urge arises....

Thanks to Greg Eastman...

Blogger Mike Barry is a recent ex-bike shop owner and the proud father of pro cyclist (and VeloNews diarist) Michael Barry. Michael is the husband of the wonderful Dede Demet Barry. Mike wishes his readers a Happy New Year in this stellar post and writes about the joys of riding in small groups. Not a false word in this piece. I wish I could have said it as well.

Thanks, Mike Barry! Thanks for the heads-up, Greg Eastman! Happy New Year and many happy social rides to us all!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

One in Eight Million - Christian Hubert's cycle commute

This audio slide show from the NY Times is one in a series of descriptions of commuters and their journeys. Beyond those few words, I feel sure this photo-interview needs no introduction.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

For Kirk: The meditation retreat...sigh...

My friend Scott learned from his brother about a Buddhist doctrine involving days of directed meditation. Scott attended one of the organization's 10-day retreats - in far-off Washington state, so he would be unable to bolt. He'd heard that the hours all alone with oneself could be difficult, troubling. Day after day after day....

Scott seemed, on his return to Denver, to have had a genuinely life-changing experience. I was curious. He suggested a book to read about the doctrine. I bought the book from an online seller and read it more than once. I decided I'd attend a retreat. After investigating local opportunities, I settled on a session to be held in the country SE of Denver in late November of '08.

Most of what follows I learned from the organization's literature. Some of it I learned when I got to the venue.... Oh, the organization's web site included a ride board. I hooked up a ride for Scott and me with a woman who lives north of Denver and, like Scott, was a returning student.

Note: I don't want to point fingers here or assign blame. The retreats are set up for people who want to be there, who thrive there and who leave at the end. I was only the first of those things...

The retreats are silent. Students do not speak, nor do they meet the eyes of other students. I struggled with that a bit: I want to say good morning and excuse me. I enjoy human contact. 

Students are asked to behave as if they are alone. They are asked not to hold doors open for the person behind or to act as if there is anyone standing in line next to them or sitting next to them at meals. 

There's no music, no photos on the walls. No distraction. Men and women students are separated so that students of one gender seldom see students of the other. There's a curtain across the dining room and it's dark in the meditation room.  Men have a taped-off area for walking outside between meditation sessions; women have a different one. 

Meditation begins quite early; one arises at 4:30. Breakfast and lunch are vegetarian meals; dinner is pieces of fruit and a cup of tea. Students sleep in bunk beds in summer-camp dorms for kids. On arrival, the instructors or staff collect all cell phones, laptops, car keys, books...and the cars are parked in an off-limits lot. 

Tamar and I are not vegetarians but we don't eat a lot of meat and very little beef. When I got to the retreat and began eating meals there, the strictly vegetarian food disagreed with me. I had awful gas, more than I've ever had, and I had it day after day. 

I could just make it through a meditation session, uncomfortable the whole time, my stomach rumbling loudly all through the session, before running to the bathroom. Miserable.

Because there were no laundry facilities at the venue, we had to bring everything we thought we might need for 10 days. I did that as directed, but I made a serious mistake. I did not think to bring genuine American toilet paper. 

Sure, there was toilet paper in the bathrooms, but it was Crimean War surplus paper, it was paper for refinishing the hulls of wooden boats, it was criminally cheap, uncivilized toilet paper and the company owners and factory workers who make it and the merchants who sell it can burn in hell forever. I'll stop now about the toilet paper before I get mean.

Because I spent so much time in the bathroom, and because each visit mandated the use of the toilet paper we talked about, my bottom was soon raw. A raw bottom is one thing, but a raw bottom at a meditation retreat is another. Awful.

I would sit there on a chair (because of my healing leg) trying to focus on my breath as it passed through my nostrils. My stomach would gurgle and rumble, my bottom would scream in pain... I couldn't decide what the condition of my gut was: should I drink laxative tea...or eat stuff that would constipate me? Remember, there was no one to talk with about this.

Eventually, I called one of the staff aside and talked to him. He arranged a chat with our instructor. As I talked to the one and then the other, my stomach rumbled and my butt hurt. 

The meditation was going well, I thought. I sat still for hours each day, focusing on my breath. I was having tiny telltale experiences the instructors suggested that we might have if we were going about it correctly. 

I was remembering things and names and people from my past that I thought I'd surely lost. I found that remembering to be especially gratifying.

In between meditation sessions, I'd walk our area of the grounds and do my physical therapy: leg lifts and hand exercises. I did more exercises than I'd ever do at home - to fill the time and for fear of letting my healing go during the retreat. 

On the fourth day, I admitted to myself that I wasn't getting better. My stomach (or intestinal) disturbance was ruining the retreat experience. I was in the bathroom every hour during the day and several times each night, finding my way there at night with a flashlight, almost surely waking the other guys in my dorm room. 

I told the staffer-in-charge. I talked to our instructor in an empty meditation room. We could not decide what to do food-wise. I said I wanted to go home. 

Going home was, and I'm minimizing the hassle here, not easy. No one would tell me anything so I felt helpless. I was made to feel like a stubborn, ill-willed teenager. I had given my cell phone to Scott, who'd asked our ride down to lock it (and his phone) in her car. We could not speak to the women nor could we visit the cars. I could not get my phone so I could ask if someone from home could come get me. 

I did not know and was not told, but there were old students who would come to the retreat for a day or two. One of them might be leaving on the fifth day, I eventually learned, and might take me to Denver, or to a nearby town where I could catch a bus. 

I offered to walk the two miles to town and hitchhike home, if someone would put my luggage in the car we'd come down in - Scott could return my stuff to me when he got home.

None of that seemed to matter to anyone. I realized that I was getting very little cooperation. I began to want out of there more desperately. I thought of simply walking out. But I couldn't get my phone. And I couldn't carry my bags - full with everything for 10 days, remember. 

During the fifth morning, as I waited for someone to leave and haul me out of there, I was told to stay out of sight of the other students so as not to disturb them. I got up at 4:30 and we left at noon, one of the longest mornings of my life. 

I got my phone back a few hours before we left and to my relief, I had a signal there in the sticks - and could call Tamar and a friend or two to break the solitude. As luck and T-Mobile would have it, Tamar and I got cut off early in our call. 

I've written about the ride home. My ride, really quite a nice young lady, was the nightmare driver whose existence we want to deny, fear of whom wakes cyclists and motorcyclists at 2AM in a cold sweat. 

Without a mean impulse, she did everything we dread in a driver. And she did it all in both lanes and on the shoulder - fiddling with her phone and the radio, distracted every moment, unaware of what cars in front of her were doing. 

My already frazzled nerves protested. I'd have gotten out of the car but I couldn't carry my goddamn bags - everything for 10 days, remember.

Do I think that meditation retreats can be valuable, life-changing experiences? I do. Would I do another? I might do a weekend one. Maybe. Have I formed meditation habits? No. Tamar and I go to a meditation class one evening a week. That's good. More is not necessarily better.

What do I remember most vividly? Climbing out of that girl's Volvo in front of our building and knowing that it was all over. That soon I'd be reunited with Tamar and could resume my life, eating agreeable food, saying good morning and listening to music instead of my churning gut.

I guess I'm glad I did it, that (more accurately) I tried to do it. I'm glad I'm still the kinda guy who tries new things. Not every new thing we try works out, huh?  This one didn't. Maybe the next one will....

Tying up loose ends...

Many of you who lived with me through my crash and recovery will have noted that I stopped posting updates on my condition. I felt I would bore too many of my readers with regular reports.

But...five and a half months since my crash: I still limp a little; I rock side to side as I walk. I do exercises every day to strengthen the muscles in my butt. I think those are the largest, strongest muscles in the body, so they toughen up slowly after what my doctor calls the two "insults:" the crash damage and the surgery. I hobble a bit after I get up from bed or after sitting in my chair at the computer for a half hour or hour. 

I can do everything I did before the accident, but climbing onto a bicycle or onto the very tall seat of my very tall motorcycle are difficult. I have to have the sidestand down to climb on the Kawasaki; I can't hold it up and throw a leg over the seat as I've always been able to do. 

Two fingers on my left hand are still swollen at the midway joint. The middle finger was dislocated in the crash; the ring finger was not noticeably injured at the time but was "buddy-taped" to the middle finger for a week. I've been doing therapy exercises for the two fingers but healing is oh-so slow. I don't have full range of motion with my left hand - almost six months later.

Luckily, heh-heh, I'm old enough to have Medicare coverage. My crash cost the government $56,000, no kidding - for the surgery and eight days in the hospital. Because I have Medicare Part A and not Part B, my ambulance ride is on me: $1,000. Plus my subsequent visits to my surgeon. I did not realize that they are not part of the paid-for package...and they're maybe $400 each time. I've been to see him four times, I believe. You do the math.

I'm trying to get help from the state of Colorado because I am low income. Wish me luck.

I'm getting hand therapy every couple of weeks at the VA hospital here thanks to my sorry attempt to serve my country in the early '60s. I hated my time in the service but now - if it wasn't for the VA I'd be in trouble in 100 ways. Had you told me all those years ago how I'd feel about my status as a veteran now...I'd have called you a liar. Not much in life is for sure, huh? 

The heroes in this drama are the EMTs who arrived so quickly and took me to the trauma center at Denver Health Hospital; the staff at DHH; the US Veterans Administration and my therapists, physical (the leg) and occupational (the hand). 

And, biggest hero of all, my sweetie Tamar, who endured the shock-horror call from the ambulance, held my hand in the ER when the nurse put the catheter in my tallywacker, walked with me as I hallucinated in the corridors to the pre-op room, brought me books and sat at my bedside in the hospital, pushed my wheelchair a mile each way to outpatient visits at DHH, helped me in and out of the shower, catered to my every banged-up whim for a few weeks, set off with me (on my crutches) barely a month after my crash to fly to Indianapolis to see my family and spectate at the MotoGP there. I'll stop; this could be a very long paragraph.

It's exhausting just reading that last paragraph. Imagine having all that responsibility thrust on you suddenly...midday...when you call your boyfriend and he tells you he's in an EMT van on his way to the hospital...and he thinks he's broken his leg. 

It's a TV lottery ad, but....

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will Frischkorn's diary - Winter Training in Boulder

This is a fine piece, from VeloNews Online, featured here for its totally accurate description of this winter in Boulder/Denver - in contrast to the last two. Tamar and I moved here in November two years ago and suffered through two awful snowbound winters. This winter? Bring it on....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A great piece from the NY Times about a great guy

Here's a terrfic piece about Earl Blumenauer (Dem -OR), the foremost bike advocate in the US House of Representatives. He's from Portland, he's a born leader and he's been leading the government toward appreciation of the bicycle as a remedy name it. We knew that but congress evidently did not.

Hand-held ones are okay, aren't they?

Surely they are not. Check out this article from today's NY Times....  I present this as if it's news - as if every cyclist or motorcyclist hasn't seen convincing evidence 1,000 times. And don't call me Surely.

Monday, January 12, 2009

From Ian Dille's VeloNews interview w/ Taylor Phinney (Team Trek-Livestrong)

VN is Ian Dille. TP is Taylor Phinney, 18yr old track sensation, son of Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. The entire interview is interesting; I like this part best.

VN: Lance probably shared a lot of the same experiences you’re having. Does he relate to you in that way and offer you any advice?

TP: I consider him a close friend of mine. He’s a homie. I came down here a month or so ago with Ben King and we stayed in his guesthouse. We go on bike rides and pretty much talk about girls the whole time. I feel like he’s an older brother. He gives me a lot of grief. When we were staying with him, Ben and I burned some steaks on the grill. We left them on there at like 800 degrees and forgot about them. He gives me a hard time about that pretty often. But he’s there for me when I need him, and I guess I’m there for him too. I’m not sure what I’d do for him though. I guess I bring a younger vibe. He’s getting old, man. He hangs out with a lot of old people.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ignore those other guys....

Here's a link to a provocative piece by the Managing Editor of the Manteca, CA, Bulletin. I'd say it's about "pacing yourself" and listening to your "inner drummer." We've all heard these warnings before, but seldom in such charming, self-effacing packaging. Nicely done, Dennis Wyatt!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I couldn't resist...

It's Tamar and I, dressed warm but cold nevertheless. We're on the way to Buffalo Bill's final resting place atop Lookout Mountain, Golden, Colorado.

It was a dark and stormy night.... No it wasn't, but it was the kinda day that made you think: One more layer and I'd be toasty!

If you look on top of the hill behind us, you see a "human" figure against the sky. That's Buffalo Bill himself, or his ghost, searching eternally for the shade of Calamity Jane.... Eerie, huh?

Happy New Year from both of us to all of you!


Champagne on Lookout Mtn - New Year's Day

On top of very cold Lookout Mountain near Buffalo Bill's grave, we see (l-r) Rob, Bob, Tamar and Maynard. Rob and Bob rode their big Vespa scooters; Tamar and I rode two-up on my Kawasaki. We met a guy named Leon on the way up. He was riding an old (1964) Vespa two-stroke, a 125. Leon took the photo. Scooter folks are fun!