Saturday, February 28, 2009

Save $100,000 - buy the new smaller Roller!

Something about this NY Times piece charms me. Maybe it's the car; or maybe it's the way the folks who design and build it take each decision seriously - while seeming to take none of it seriously at all. The slide show is fun, especially if you're into "streamlined haunches," cough, cough.

Or if you have a six-car garage, and think of it as a wardrobe. A six-car garage and no old appliances in your front yard. Well, this is the new lighter-hearted, second Rolls. You might get away with one pink flamingo. Two, and you need not apply. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

For Mark Bulwinkle

Hi Mark and thanks for the comment!

I have replaced my tensioner lever and spring as you suggest. I'm glad yours did not create havoc in your engine. Your blog is super cool! 

If you are reading this and you are not Mark Bulwinkle, find his comment to my Annoying Banner post, click on his underlined name and find your way to his blog. Be sure to scroll down past the cool art he makes to see just where he lives. 

Thanks for reading my blog, Mark! And CityBike! 

Living the good life in Arizona

As many of you will know, Tamar and I moved to Colorado from Arizona after selling our house. We felt we escaped. Maybe we overreacted to the culturelessness we sensed there. Probably Arizona is no worse than many other Great States in this Great Land. Perhaps there is civilized life there after all. We didn't look everywhere. We were never in Yuma, for instance.

Here's a news item that seems oh-so Grand Canyon State. Left unmentioned in Arizona Tourist Brochures, here's a classy Mesa citizen at his sophisticated best. Oh, please read the comments and note the charming and surely intentional misspellings.

Coulda happened anywhere, right? Right. Could I resist taking the easy cheap shot? I could not.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That annoying banner....

I heard from several of you about an ad banner that obscured the text of my recent post. I think (he said, hesitantly) that I have eliminated that banner. It did not obscure the post when I looked at my blog, but the damn ad was never readable in any case. I don't know what it advertised.

Google promised me I'd become rich from ad revenue on my blog site, but the sign-up-for-payoff instructions were as easy to follow as directions to the Lost Dutchman Mine. 

I'll try in the future to keep ads out of my site, perhaps with an upraised cross or clove of garlic. 

Sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks for letting me know!

A link from my friend Corey abt the Netherlands

Here's a link to a piece from what appears to be a cool online magazine about Holland's reliance on the bicycle. That reliance seems to be increasing over the years, boom and bust. 

When I make comparisons about bicycle usage, walkable streets and compact urban areas, I use the USA and Holland as spectrum ends. I spoke with a woman from Germany last night at a bicycle industry function who said that Germany is somewhere between those poles: Not as cycling focused as Holland, and not as consistently let's-take-the-car as the US or the UK.

I also spoke with an Italian guy who works for Effetto Mariposa, an outfit that produces special (and cool) tools for bike shops. He said that he takes his kid to school on his bicycle at home in Bergamo (I believe) and he's the only parent at that school who does so. Everyone else uses the family car - for what may be (in his words) a two-kilometer trip. 

There's no provision for cycling, he said. You are always fighting for road space with the cars.

We're not alone on the planet in our addiction to the automobile, are we? Not much comfort, is it?

Friday, February 20, 2009

No breadsticks with that?

Here's an article and accompanying video about a guy in Chicago who calls his company Kinky Llama. He delivers (by bicycle) and ships sex toys to adults there. Nothing X-rated here by the way. Wanna know which gender wants delivery-within-an-hour? And which is happy with UPS? Here ya go.... 

Oh, the item, from the Chicago Tribune, was brought to our attention by my buddy Donald, who most definitely does NOT live in Chicago.

A few copies of Tales from the Bike Shop? Who'd care?

Perhaps you would care to own Tales from the Bike Shop, my first book. It's chock-full of nostalgic stories from cycling's wet-wool-smelling past. I'm informed that Vitesse Press, the original publisher, has unearthed the last new copies known to exist. I admit I thought that none remained.   

Here's a link to the Tales page on the Vitesse web site. 

It's been so long since I wrote those stories, I don't immediately recognize myself as the writer. The stories surprise me and sometimes make me smile. Or they take me back all those years and suddenly I'm the guy who wrote them, feeling exactly as I did then, leaned over my electric typewriter or Amstrad word processor writing about Bob's Bike Shop... 

Order a copy if you don't have one. You might like it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A happy photo; a sad story...

Again from today's NY Times, here's a lingering, mournful obituary for Estelle Bennett, "the pretty Ronette." I loved those girls and their music - as we all did. Were they a big deal? According to this piece, in '64 in England, the Stones opened for them!

Look at Phil Spector in the photo: his ascot and comb and heavy bracelet. You can see what's behind his eyes or what's strapped to his ankle, but neither is good news. 

Like OJ, Spector is surely a creep and a killer, but oh my, that Wall of Sound...

David Brooks: I Dream of Denver... Well, not Denver Necessarily

Here's David Brooks' column from this morning's NY Times. Brooks is talking about what we want as Americans. Do we want to live the way we would in Amsterdam, riding our bikes and walking to the charming cafe? Or do we want to live in the 'burbs, driving big cars through Starbucks for our lattes? 

Because of our (mostly) leftist, new urbanist mindsets, we may be surprised at the answers...

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Recession in the US

Bad luck...or old-guy grumpiness...?

Because most of my blog readers are bicyclists, I do not write much here about my motorcycling. Truth be told, were it not for writing about motorcycling, I wouldn't be able to get by. If you ask my tax man, I'm a motorcycling writer whose hobby is scribbling about bicycling.

I'm afraid that my motorcycling and the writing I do about it are sliding into the ditch. I'm not having my full complement of fun with my motorcycles. I can't love them; their flaws loom large. I can't tell if I'm running a string of genuinely unsatisfying motorcycles - or if I can't be satisfied. 

I'm afraid I'm growing old ungracefully, turning into an old grump right before your online eyes. 

I can't sustain a simple, happy relationship with a motorcycle. I flip-flop: I love it today and hate it tomorrow. And I bitch both days.

I like the motorcycle I have now but I hate it too. It's riddled with issues, fewer now than when it was brand new, but still enough to trouble me. They're not problems today, really, nothing is broken. Number of glitches have to be remedied to prevent (potential) problems down the road. 

I've lavished hours of labor on it this winter but still have stuff to fix before I sleep. 

The online forums have, with the best intentions, ruined my ownership experiences with at least one bike. Thanks to the forums, you can see your bike's every tiny possible fault. Your bike is no longer a pleasure; it's a series of projects. My present bike certainly is.

I'm amazed that a major motorcycle producer would offer this model as a finished product. It's nothing like a finished product. Or maybe it is. Maybe all the faults are in some online poster's imagination, and I am unfairly believing the worst of my bike. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Of the last five or six motorcycles I've owned, I've liked two. I lived with the others until I could sell them. It was one thing about them or it was another. 

My lovely blue Triumph twin got terrible gas mileage and had a smallish tank. I had to buy gas every 125 miles max. Not a problem around town but a pain when traveling in remote areas in the west. When you saw a station, you bought gas. Five times/day on a trip. 

I wanted to sell the Triumph and at the same time I wanted to fix it, to make it go further on a tankful of fuel. I was going back and forth about it when a guy called and bought it.

My yellow 750 Kawasaki's controls felt wooden. It didn't respond smoothly to its throttle. It simply failed to inspire love and loyalty. I'm a motorcycle journalist; why should I ride a bike I don't like? Or one that makes me feel like a crummy rider?

I enjoyed my green ZRX1100 Kawasaki (that's it in the "wounded blogger" photo) until my neighbor knocked me off of it in her car, totalling the bike. I surely loved my GB500 Honda (pictured on my blog) but it was just a bit underpowered to haul two people up mountains at altitude. Not a fault, really, just a reality.

My K75S BMW, "one of the best bikes BMW ever made," cost me a fortune to ride. Eventually it broke and had to be pushed home, one of three times that's happened to me - in 46 years of riding. 

Before the BMW, I rode a green, 900cc Triumph sport-tourer for 60,000 miles. I didn't love everything about that bike, but I had great luck with it. It was a fine, practical, over-the-road mount. But Triumph kept losing dealers. I'd move somewhere; the dealer would quit Triumph.

Other than the ZRX and the Honda, I haven't loved a motorbike for years. If love is supposed to be blind, I find I no longer close my eyes. I've had my newest bicycle eight years. I've been with Tamar for almost ten. I'm not always buying clothing or other sorts of equipment. 

It's just motorcycles...

Often I find fault with motorbikes that delight most people. So it's easy to suspect that it's me - not the bikes. What's worse: bikes with the best reputations for reliability give me most agony.

I don't have similar ambivalent feelings about my bicycles. I love my bicycles. After crashing on it, I sold my small-wheel bike, but I miss it. I liked riding it. 

I love my Rivendell and my Lighthouse. My LeMond frame has been hanging in the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel for three years. I miss it and think about bringing it home to Denver.

But I can't find peace with my motorcycles. There's always something, some fly in the motorbike ointment. Something about the bike irritates me: A mechanical thing or an image thing or a practicality thing. Something.

I'm afraid, as I said, that it's me. When I write four articles in six months about my baffled frustration with my current bike, risking boring my readers, and no one else in print seems to agree with me, I begin to doubt myself. 

Some of my complaints are valid, no question, but... Do I look at a sunny sky and see the one tiny dark cloud? That's not an easy question to answer. Often the issues that bother me about the bikes aren't visible or exposed in print. The magazines are advertiser-supported; they may not be the best place to look for the unvarnished truth. 

Or maybe I'm not a typical owner. Maybe no one else travels on Bike-X and realizes that he must buy fuel five times each day. Or maybe Bike-Y's reputation is based on praise from true-believers, who can see no evil in their bikes-of-choice. Or praise from guys who welcome any opportunity to work on their whatever-it-is so they can properly bond with the machine. Who'd have known that there are as many of those guys as there are?

I'm not consciously reaching out for support here, honest I'm not. I'm thinking out loud, typing my fears to bring them into sharper focus, so I can live with them. Tamar thinks that if my budget was larger, I could buy better bikes. Bikes I'd probably enjoy more. Perhaps she's right.

And perhaps also a writer cannot avoid a certain amount of self-consciousness, especially a lucky one like me, who can write about what he's thinking about. 

No need to write me reassuring comments unless you've known me for years....and know that I am indeed turning into a cranky bastard as you watch.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Casey Gibson image from VeloNews

Shot just yesterday at the Amgen Tour of California Prologue time trial, this dude is looking with envy (suggests Casey) or disdain (say I) at one of the BMC riders' TT bike. Note the guy's (wool, isn't it?) jersey. He belongs to the biggest bike club in the US! 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shimano electronic shifting - in the NY Times!

Tamar thinks it's because the Amgen Tour of California has just begun, but I'm not sure. 

This piece, about Shimano's new electronic shifting for racing bicycles, is...sound of trumpets...the Most Emailed Article in the NY Times! I'm not all that impressed by the shifting stuff, but all that attention from Times readers? That's amazing!

Lance and Paul Kimmage

Paul Kimmage is a muck-raking British journalist and author who has pointed the editorial finger at European pro cycling for rampant doping. He has persistently claimed that Lance Armstrong doped as far back as his first Tour de France win in '99. 

Kimmage is among the large press contingent at the Amgen Tour of California, starting today. At a press conference featuring Armstrong and others, Kimmage blows it by addressing a question to Lance. 

As you will see, the camera does not look at Kimmage, so media-savvy Armstrong asks him to tell the audience his name, then....  Well, watch for yourself.

Riv Email Update, Feb '09

Maybe lots of you get these email updates from Grant at Rivendell. If you do not, here is a little progress report from totally trustworthy Grant Petersen there, even including sale items and other sorts of retail offerings you're not used to finding on my blog. I frequently (but not always) agree with Grant - but I always love him. You may find yourself in the same frames of mind... 

The industry insider view stuff is worth reading for sure. When he talks about his feelings about things, what you read is what's in his heart. Grant would never fool you to sell you something.

Rivendell Bicycle Works 
Email Update - February, 2009
New year, new everything, time for an email update.
It may be long.


How we did last year
Some internal changes
Some ideas for 2009
Grant s internal attitude shifts & wishes/hopes
Observations on bikes, the bike industry, and the outdoor industry in general
About our suppliers
Current brands news
Imminent bikes
Future bikes
New Stuff
Old Stuff


We were hurt badly, and I mean ferociously, by the strong Yen, weak Dollar. It is horrible. The Japanese frames and parts are really good. As good as good gets, as great as great gets, as expensive as all get-out. We hold prices too long and raise them too little & late, always with extreme discomfort and fear.

Our Japanese prices are on the low side. It s not ideal in the big picture. Our business model is buying direct, selling direct, and that saves the day for us, but it makes life harder for other retailers who also sell the same Nitto parts, for instance.
It s the cause of much concern here, lots of internal debate (in my head, anyway). On one hand, we don t want to be low-ballers. On the other end, we are 100 percent committed to Nitto, offer virtually no other options so far, so don t feel compelled to match prices with dealers for whom Nitto is fringe if that makes sense.

Our 2008 sales were fine, but our profit is off. Our end of year taxes will wallop us, because our inventory counts as cash. We get walloped every year; but this year we ll end our fiscal year earlier, which may help. That way we can have more inventory by Christmastime without fearing the higher taxes on it.


We hired Dave and Jay full-time, and Aaron and Harry for Saturdays. They were all customers before, with plenty of skills, the right personality, good work ethics, and they re totally familiar with our bikes. Now we re going to settle in, and see how much we can do with this final staff. Payroll is higher than ever, but nobody wants a pay cut, and nobody is lighting Roi-Tans with five dollar bills, either.


Trying to get RR41 out in February, and then, believe it or not, three more Readers out this year. Trying. They ll be the OLD size, and 32 to 40pp. And we re going to shoot for smaller and more frequent catalogues, too.

In addition to the Flickr Rivendell gallery, we re going to have one on our site, too is the plan. Many of the gorgeous bikes we assemble never go Internet public, but we ll try to have them on our site.

For five months we ve been working on a new US-made line of saddlebags that will sport a new look and have some new and some old features, and the brand is Sackville. Made by a small staff of experienced stitchers headed up by two ex-chieftains from Coach and Dooney & Bourke.

The first two models have been thoroughly tested and refined, and will be harshly slick and highly functional, and you can expect them in February. Cost will be about $200 which is the place things end up when zero corners are cut and they aren t made in China. (Some more expensive saddlebags are made in China, now. So .)

I still think of saddlebags as costing $65. There s about $20 in leather on each of the SaddleSack seat bags, and that much in fabric. Only the best and most expensive hardware, and labor rates that keep the manufacturers in business in America. Labor is always the highest cost of our bags. We absorb the development cost (always) and the cost of cutting dies and prototypes. There will be a Large and a Medium before February. The large will be priced where it has to be and if it had the same markup as a women s handbag, it would be $420.


The big thing is bikes. The Toyo-built bikes are so beautiful and so expensive, so we have to cut back. We order them mostly to help Toyo, but if the ¥ keeps getting stronger, that's going to stop it.


I m less snobby than I used to be, because over the years I ve seen too many things & too much bikefinery exhibited and oohed and ahhed over and either not ridden, or maybe meticulously crafted but poorly designed, at least according to my values which I admit may not be universal.

The look I like in a bike is skinny tubes, chubby tires, high bars, fenderable, and fenders in the Winter at least, and rackable, with at least one rack, and a bag or two. Good clearance, simple decals, easy to read and properly placed. Useful gears, leather saddles (still snobby there), and I still like the lugs and crowns. I m going more and more to heavier and fatter tires, because in most cases the weight gives you something you can t get without it either a longer-wearing tread, or a tougher sidewall that can take many more months of sun, or both. I m deep in to visibility these days, and I have come to really like the look of the triangles, and spoke reflectors (the light kind we have, or simply reflective tape folded over spokes). I don t mind filthy bikes, but I hate squeaky chains. Filthy chains are OK, and recent experiments with non-Boeshield chain lubes have left mine filthy.


I m convinced that it s everybody s plan to start a new company groovy and green, establish prices based on US labor, then expand the product offering way too much, sell out to buyers who take the line to China. It happens all the time.

This happens with the old brands in Europe, some not-so-old brands in the U.S. Try to buy a thermos bottle that s not made in China. China may, in fact, make the best thermos bottles in the world, who knows? But they re all made there, except one.

When brands go to China, the price doesn t go down. The price has been established, and now there are public shareholders, so the price can t go down. You can tell a shoe that s made in China. It is a composite of leather, mesh, nylon, reflectorization, with all kinds of unnecessary stitching and features a massive complication of details consolidated into a pair of size 6 1/2s, all for $39 to $89 retail, with enough left over to ____

Another carbon fork recall. There have been so many now, and there will be many more. Any material can break, but it takes carbon to break shockingly suddenly, way out of proportion to its cost and theoretical strength.


We try to buy American-made products first, but not when they re substandard, and they sometimes are. But still that s always the first choice. Last choice are things made in China, and nothing we sell except, well, one thing, is made there. We bought some cheap tape measures from a company with American flags all over its web site, and  U.S.  in the name. Ordinarily we verify the country of origin, but with the flags and that name, dove in head first and ordered them. When we re out, we won t reorder.


 Small makers; not because big is bad, but only because we re small ourselves, and it feels right to support other small businesses.
 Traditional makers who ve been making the product in question for many years, or things just like it, for many years
 Makers to whom our business matters. Sometimes it s because they re small and have no big accounts, but many times it s just because we hit it off, and they re proud to have us sell their widget.
 Makers who are intimate with what they re doing, who refer to the widget by its name, who know exactly how it will be mounted (if it gets mounted) and exactly how it will be used. This may seem obvious, but it is not the norm these days.

This is a high-hassle and sometimes costly way to buy things. It s a hassle because often the makers are little-known and hard to find. If they make something that s almost but not quite right for us, the minor change can drag on for half a year or more. Often they re struggling themselves, and we ve even lent money to our makers to help them make payroll and pay their material suppliers.

We sell really well-made goods that tend to be expensive, and your purchase is your way of supporting this way. Since it is the only way we get things made, since it is the way almost everything we sell is made, we re deeeeeeeeeeeeeeply grateful to you for supporting us and these special manufacturers.


Got a call today from a lawyer representing the firm that owns the rights to the middle-earth names in the Movie, and we can keep Rivendell (we predate the movie by far, and there are numerous companies with Rivendell in the name); but they have a prob with Legolas, and might squawk some about Bombadil and Quickbeam (but they weren t in the Movie, so maybe not); and Baggins won t fly for sure--. So we may have to rename the Bombadil and Quickbeam. This is a much more pleasant call to get than,  Your carbon fork snapped, and my client s family...   The lawyer was seemed sincerely normal and friendly, and it s not like BIG news here, just a little things we have to deal with. If our names came before the Movie, we may be off the hook. Legal things, we ll play according to the law and the right standards, but I ll be bummed if  Bombadil  has to go. How does  Yves Gomez  sound for a mountain bike?


In March: Sam Hillborne, Betty Foy & Quickbeam. The Sam will be sold out by the time it arrives; the Quickbeam will be about 65 percent sold out.


We re continuing the A.Homer HIlsen forever. I think it is the best  production  bike of all time. It is understandable how it might be that I d think that, but it is perfect in every way, I sincerely believe. We have decent stock and are getting in more. It is the functional equivalent of the Sam, but with U.S. or Japanese labor and more detailed details.

The Bombadil and Atlantis are staying, too, and they both continue to do well. The Atlantis now stops at 61cm, and above that, we say just get a Bomba. We can t afford to stock all those sizes.

We ll do one last run of Toyo-made mixte frames. The Betty Foy will replace them in time. The Foy is a great value, but if an extra thousand won t kill you and you want the nicest mixte ever, the Glorius (for women) and Wilbury (guys) are still it.


See 'em at

Brooks B-17 Imperial Saddle
Men's: 11-074, Women's: 11-075  $175

Green Unipocketee
S: 22-938, M: 22-939, L: 22-940, XL: 22-941 XXL: 22-942    $52

Rainy Peak Cycling Cap
22-137   $30

Frames in Stock - Ready to Build/Ship

47, 51, 53, 56, 58, 68

A. Homer Hilsen
47, 50, 52, 54, 56 (650B)
55, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67 (700c)

Call - 925 933 7304

Old Stuff Lying Around - Last Chance for These
See 'em at

CycoActive Map Cases
20-058  $12

Shimano 105 rear/front hubs
32 Hole Rear: 18-159 $60
36 Hole Rear: 18-152 $60
32 Hole Front: 18-243 $39
36 Hole Front: 18-244  $39

Woolistic Jerseys Grey/Orange   $100
S: 22-587, L: 22-589, XL: 22-590, XXL: 22-591

Tioga Spyder Pedals $115
14-054 Black
14-059 Silver

Tioga Surefoot 8 Pedal  $115
14-055 Silver 
14-056 Black 

50cm Rambouillet Demo Bike, no saddle, no pedals, as is
50-327 $2000

52cm Rambouillet Demo Bike, no saddle/pedals, as is
50-328  $2000

56cm Saluki Demo Bike, silver paint, no saddle/pedals, as is
50-330 $2550

56cm Bombadil, complete, black powdercoat
50-337  $3273

58cm A. Homer Hilsen, complete, orange paint, w/fenders
50-339  $3200

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Provocative piece from Bicycling abt Jonathan Boyer

If you've been riding more than 10 or 15 years and you paid any attention at all to bicycle racing, you know who Jonathan (Jock) Boyer is and what he achieved in cycling. And you know about the scandal and jail term. You probably don't know much else. Steve Friedman, the writer of this fine piece from Bicycling Online, aches to understand. I feel sure you will too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No more Bob Mionske legal columns....rats.

Bob Mionske has decided, he says, to stop writing regular columns about cyclists-and-the-law for VeloNews. Here's a link to his so-long piece. I've often posted links to his pieces and will miss him; I figure you will too. 

If you follow the link to his last column, don't miss the section on the Scofflaw Cyclist. Not that there's anything in there about anyone you know. I just thought you might find it provocative.

On reflection, I believe the Scofflaw Cyclist is an urban myth. No one is foolish enough to do the things those SCs are accused of doing. Riding brakeless bikes at night without lights? Nah...

It's not about cycling and it's not about motorcycling. So sue me....

They NY Times does an ongoing series of interviews/slideshows with owners of unusual cars. This one features a woman from NY state and the 1973 VW Ghia she bought new and has cherished since.

I'd suggest watching the audio slideshow. Gotta love the car. Gotta like the gal.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Check it out!

If you care about old rock 'n' roll or Buddy Holly or Joe Ely or Lubbock, Texas, please do not miss the comment by Johnny Hughes to my Feb 1st post from the Mahon Public Library. Hughes, I feel awfully sure, is the real thing. Reading his comment (it's longer than my post) puts you back in West Texas in the '50s, watching Elvis sign autographs on good churchgoin' gals' untanned places.

Heart attack - by my old friend James Mason

Life in the wilds of Bush Alaska can be rough on the body. For seven years I lived in beat-up cabin with a bad heater. There was dust and there was mold, and a great big Siberian husky added to the mix of unhealthy antigens I gulped down with my air. Clouds of mosquitoes made summertime exercise tedious. In the winter, exercise dropped with the thermometer. When it’s minus forty outside you’ll sear your lungs. 

At the end of seven years my body rebelled and I came down with a dozen ailments all at once. I packed up and moved to Anchorage, the big city, to be close to medical care, to eat good food, and to live in a new and modern apartment.  

Before long I was feeling better. My doctor sent me to the heart institute for a nuclear cardiac stress test to find out why I lacked energy. Seated in her office a few weeks later, she told me the results of the test: “Somewhere out there in the tundra you had a heart attack.” I fainted, falling into her nice flower display.  

It was time to get back on the bike and loose the extra pounds. I was eating right and living right. Riding would bring me back to where I needed to be. None of my “real” cycling clothing fit, so I dressed up in camo Army surplus pants, Nikes, and a fleece pullover, and headed out on my brand new Specialized Globe.

 I was curious about the Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub. I’d began my cycling career on a Raleigh Sports with a 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub, and now internal gearing was back. I had a dozen cool bikes in the garage, but the Globe was the right choice for the aging fat man on a crusade to restore his health. 

The Anchorage bike trails are a dream. They wind through a greenbelt and along streams filled with salmon. Moose are common, bears are around but not encountered so much. The trails connect to nice roads winding through neighborhoods.  

On a fine afternoon I was exploring one of these neighborhoods and wondering where to pick up the bike trail that would lead up Campbell Creek and eventually home. Fortunately, a bike rider appeared and I asked him where the trail head was. 

He answered politely, but there was an air of resentment in his manner. As a former bike shop owner I recognized the problem immediately: this was a back-shop mechanic on his way home from a day of fixing flats, raising and lowering seat posts, and installing baby seats. He was embarrassed to be talking to such an un-cool “Fred” on such an un-cool bike. 

I pulled up beside him, admiring his piercings, the tattoos, the stylish tilt to his cap. His bike was reasonable enough, but I could see from the way it was set up he was no bike racer. He stared straight ahead, doing his best to banish me from his seriously hip world. 

“So, uh, you ride a lot?” I asked. “Yes, I do,” he answered, still not warming up to the the fat old dude on the dork bike. “You race?” I asked, observing that our road had just started to climb. It wasn’t steep, but it was a hill. 

He gritted his teeth and I could see he wanted to get out of that big ring. “No, I don’t.” The hill was taking it’s toll. It was hurting me, but I could see it was hurting him worse. I rode along close to his side, wordlessly daring him to slacken the pace. 

His breathing became heavy. He was bobbing up and down with the effort. With 20 yards to go to the top of the hill, I turned casually to him and said “You know, I’m recovering from a heart attack.” That did it. He sat up and began gasping for air. Not wanting to rub it in, I flogged my Globe and its internal hub over the top and on toward the bike trail.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This must be Oklahoma....or is it?

Hi all!

I'm home and safe but tired after a one-day trip back, thanks to the time difference giving me a one hour longer day. I noticed on the way down, and I noticed on the way back, that passing through a 25-mile (give or take) slice of Oklahoma, the Panhandle I assume it's called:

There were no Welcome to Oklahoma or Leaving Oklahoma signs. There were no signs indicating speed limits or telling you where to pass that were shaped like a map of Oklahoma. There was only one town, Boise City, on the road as it passed north-south through the Panhandle. In contrast to Texas, where every sign refers proudly to Texas, you did not see the word Oklahoma even once. 

Not once. I thought it was strange on the way down so I tried to watch more carefully on the way back. I was right the first time. Have you ever experienced a thing like that? Is that weird?

Or what?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday morning at the Lubbock Library

Yesterday evening at the reception following the seminar about Buddy Holly's musical disciples, I snared some shrimp and fruit and a huge chocolate-covered strawberry at the buffet, then sat down in a room with tables and chairs to eat.

At the next table, a guy even older than me in a pristine white cowboy hat said hi and how are you as folks do here. This is Dixie, as my buddy David reminds me. The guy, Larry Welburn, and I'm not at all sure about the spelling, is an old Lubbock musician now living in Oklahoma in what I hope is comfortable retirement.

Turns out Larry played standup bass with Buddy in '55 and '56, made maybe 25 of the early records with Buddy. Records we've been listening to for 50-plus years, records that are anthems. That was Larry playing bass.

Larry remembered that in '55, Elvis and his little group, not yet popular, came to Lubbock to do a gig at the Pontiac store, in the service department. Elvis played and Buddy played. Before the gig, Buddy and Larry and another guy hung out in Elvis's motel room while they were waiting for the gig time.

Larry says Elvis was a really nice guy. He remembers sitting there in the motel room and hearing Elvis singing in the shower.


The old country musicians I've met here in my three trips to Lubbock have been gentlemanly and gracious, never impatient. They never give the impression that they've heard all the questions before and answered them ad nauseum. You don't feel that they learned that politeness but that it's a part of how they were raised. It's Dixie here, folks are friendly.

As we are assembled here, a larger group is assembled in Clear Lake, Iowa, the site of the plane crash 50 years ago plus 8 hours. That town has adopted Buddy as its own, with a shrine at the crash site and an annual festival. Brits and Aussies especially love Buddy and come to the States to remember.

A thirtyish guy at the gathering here, Adam Barnard from London, does a "Buddy Holly Tribute Act" for all occasions in his area. Super nice guy, as fascinated as I was by the reminiscences of Larry Welburn. If you'd like to learn more about Adam Barnard:

The Buddy Holly center is screening Paul McCartney's movie The Real Buddy Holly Story twice today. I'll watch it once, attend the seminar and reception this evening, and tomorrow I'll be headed home. Wish me warm weather and winds from the south...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In Lubbock at the Mahon public library

All's well in this city of churches after a chilly ride down from Denver. The wind the second day was brutal, so that I could only cruise about 60-65 without the feeling that I was brutalizing my motorcycle for 5mph. My fuel mileage dropped below 50mpg for the first time ever as I pushed the headwind for nearly 200 miles.

The Texas panhandle isn't far from Colorado in miles. There's a narrow section of western OK in between. But when you get here, you feel an immediately cultural change. Big cars, huge parking lots, those tubing guards over truck grills, waitresses who call you darlin' and touch your shoulder as they ask if you want more coffee, the Blessings bring Blessings sign on the cafe wall, people who say hi when they pass on the sidewalk, Texas-shaped waffles in the motel free breakfast room, Texas as a slogan and symbol of something....

Maybe if we're not from here we'll never understand. Far more businesses named after Texas or West Texas or Panhandle than are named after states etc elsewhere. Curious.

I stopped at a cafe in eastern CO somewhere in a town where that cafe was everything that was open. Even the 76 station had been closed and boarded up. A sign on the cafe door said, No Public Restroom This Means You. You could rent the rest room for a dollar or buy food and qualify as a customer. I bought coffee and pie. When I went in the restroom (there was just the one) I found no paper on the roll. Above the toilet was a shallow cardboard box with 8 or 10 toilet paper inner rolls, a few sheets of paper remaining on each. The place was such a mausoleum in its silence and a loneliness that seemed eternal...the rest room was the nicest part of it. Pie was fine tho.

I've written down the mailing addresses of all of you who asked for a post card from the Buddy Holly Center. I'll send them on the 3rd if I can; that's the anniversary of the plane crash. The Center is the major tourist attraction in Lubbock, I believe, plus there's a statue of Buddy here and there's the Buddy Holly Boulevard. There are a surprising number of musical luminaries from here in West Texas, including Mac Davis, Tanya Tucker and Joe Ely. Probably I'm forgetting your West Texas favorite. I apologize.

Even here, hundreds of miles south of Denver, there are traces of snow in shadowed areas, even after several days of nearly 70 degrees. I wore many layers of insulating clothing on the way down, even an electric vest that plugs into the motorcycle's wiring. I never had to switch on the vest, but I never took off my mittens. All that said, traveling hundreds of miles on a motorcycle in January (and early Feb) is chancy at best, and I've been super lucky.

I'll post another update if I can get a computer tomorrow or Tues, but the fuss over the crash anniversary will begin tomorrow. I figure I'll meet people from Buddy's family...and maybe some original Crickets. Cool, huh?