Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
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
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
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
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?