Monday, February 28, 2011


This weekend, the crocuses bloomed.

The red wing blackbirds arrived.
These guys are regulars since the wetland restoration in our neighborhood was completed.

That can mean only one thing:

And so, with a hearty breakfast
Hell yeah!

we set out for a day of mountain biking. Our plan was to start at the Overmountain Victory Trail, riding to the end of it and then ride the road to the Warrior Creek Trail, ride a lap or two there and then ride back on the Overmountain Victory Trail. We headed out on the OVT, taking it easy and warming up well. The temperature was around 75 degrees according to my new-to-me Specialized Speedzone computer (thanks, Jeff!). The sky was that strange mix of sunny with dark rain clouds mixed in. The trail was perfect - fast and flowy. We didn't see anyone on the OVT on the way out.

We hit the road and covered the roughly two miles of pavement pretty quickly and went flying through the Warrior Creek parking area and up to the trail head. We downed some food, mixing espresso Hammer gel and Perpetuem solids and washing it all down with Endurolytes Fizz and then headed out for a lap at Warrior Creek.

Warrior Creek was in perfect condition. We flew, riding faster than I ever have there. It is difficult to describe how well I got into the flow of the trail. It felt amazing to get out in the woods and ride fast.

We saw the great folks from the Brushy Mountain Cycling Club building a new bridge to replace the one damaged by one of our numerous winter storms.
These guys work hard. Thanks!
We ran into a group of riders from Boone Bike and Touring (Shaw Brown, Donovan Carroll, and Chuck Luddeke among them), but other than that, it felt like we had the trail to ourselves. Warrior Creek really swallows up riders and makes you feel like you have the place all to yourself.

We finished up a lap of Warrior Creek, took the road back to the end of OVT and rode the trail back toward the car. We took a detour to include Shiner's Run on the way back in. We passed a few people, but not many. The amazing thing was that it rained several times on the ride, but we really felt anything since we were in the woods during the rainy spells. We got back to the car and took off for home. We were eager to get back to Owen. It was fun riding long and fast, but I missed pulling him on the tag-a-long.

Owen and I shot stomp rockets into the sky as Golden got cleaned up and then it was our turn. We headed out for dinner with my parents and filled up on salad and pasta. It was a beautiful, wonderful, fantastic day filled with so many things that I am still giddy with happiness, but the absolute best part was Owen's steady stream of hugs, kisses and "I love you, daddy"'s.

Thank you, Spring. You were worth the wait.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Speedgrips and Footis-head screwdrivers

Bike shops are one of the last bastions of unfettered equality left in the world. Sure, you can walk into those big, posh bike stores where everyone performs a visual credit check on you to decide whether or not to help you and how long they should wait before actually acknowledging your presence. But that isn't what I'm talking about. I mean your good old rough around the edges, slightly crusty in a charming sense local bike shop where the shop employees love bikes and love to talk about them.

These shops try very hard to offer help to everyone who walks through the door, no matter who they are. This brings us to the topic of today's little entry: equality for all doesn't mean that some people aren't still a little touched in the head. There is a whole cadre of bike shop customers who are united by a few things in common-
                1. They love to talk. They love to talk and the bike shop provides a perfect audience because our first instinct is to be nice and greet everyone who walks through the door. Problem is, these people not only love to talk, they love to talk crazy. Not weird or eccentric, CRAZY. Some barely pause between sentences to breathe. They will talk for as long as you give them an audience, so you have to figure out a way to signal that you need to get back to work or that you need to help other customers.
                    Example of actual, first person experience: Customer asks, "If a cheetah could ride a bicycle, how fast would it go?"
                  2. They ride bikes everywhere they go. I like this about them, so don't think I'm bashing anyone for using a bicycle for basic transportation. These customers don't have a driver's license and while you would think it was for DUI, it is usually because they just can't possibly pass the test to get a license or they have had their rights taken away by the court (I'm not kidding on this. I know this because they are usually very forthcoming about telling you they have had their rights taken away.)
                   3. They are usually going to make some very odd request that is going to provide an easy nickname for referring to them in the future.
                        Example of actual, first person experience:
Customer: "Do you guys have speedgrips?"
Me: Do you mean grips for your handlebars?
Customer: "Yeah, speedgrips (speedgrips spoken slowly to help my understanding since I am obviously a little slow).
And thus, the customer is now known as "Speedgrips".

The true beauty of this type of customer is in how they sort the experienced shop employee from the inexperienced. Experienced shop employees have a sixth sense that warns of the approach of the "touched" customers who are known. Be it the tell-tale squeak of their bike coming to a stop or the faint sound of their voice outside the shop, the experienced shop employee senses the approach of a known "crazy" customer and suddenly finds a need to organize things in the back of the shop, step out the back door to fetch something from somewhere/anywhere else or needs to go to the bathroom, thus leaving the FNG employee to enjoy a new life experience with the "crazy" customer. It helps if the experienced shop employees place themselves in such a way that they can make eye contact with the FNG as this provides an unexplainable amount of entertainment. The FNG usually slides quickly from a friendly persona to that of a trapped animal in under 10 seconds. Their eyes go wide as their brains desperately try to make sense of the nonsense that is being spoken at them.

I enjoy this aspect of the bike shop life. It shows that we are providing a welcoming atmosphere to everyone. It's also funny seeing the reactions of our mainstream customers when the "crazy" customer comes in. The reactions are usually along the lines of wide-eyed, open-mouth wonder. The times when a straight customer remains after the "crazy" customer leaves, they usually ask, "does that happen a lot?" To which we can confidently reply, "Pretty much everyday" and keep right on working.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New beginnings

The seed catalog from Burpee showed up in the mail yesterday, so you know Spring can't be too far behind. I've come to a good place in life when something like a seed catalog brings excitement and anticipation to the house. Golden sat beside me on the couch, flipping through the pages, circling the plants she wants, and asking me, "What do you think of this?" every few minutes. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one champing at the bit to get Winter over and done with.

Owen and I hung out in the backyard for as long as the weather tended toward warm yesterday afternoon. We turned the two mountains of compost in the bins, keeping an eye out for bugs and snakes in the inky black mass, but unfortunately, we didn't see any. I have to admit that I like composting more than gardening. There is just something about watching all of that organic material become on uniform black mass that really brings happiness to me. O played in the sandbox for the first time this year, while I took old plants and wove them through the fence for I don't know what reason, but it was contemplative and peaceful.
photo by Dvortygirltalk

This little shift in the weather back to a more seasonal coolness is good as it will give us a little chance to catch up in the shop. The first warmth of Spring always brings a flood of repairs that are typical of bikes that have been sitting in a basement or garage all winter. To help you with your early season bike repair triage I offer the following Public Service Announcement:

Bike tires are inflated with air inside of tubes (true, some tires are tubeless, but if your tires are tubeless, you know it because there is a lot of effort required to actually utilize tubeless tire systems and no, your MegaMart bike is NOT tubeless) and it is natural for these tubes to leak air over time. Just like you have to inflate the tires on your car periodically, you need to put air in bike tires frequently or else they go flat. If they do go flat, they probably just need air, so inflate them and see what happens. If you don't have a bike pump, buy one. Being able to pump up your own tires will save you money in the long run and shows a basic level of self-sufficiency. And no matter what you do, DO NOT take your flat tired bicycle to your local bike shop and expect them to patch the tube. Bicycle shops replace tubes, people patch tubes in their spare time or in acts of desperation on rides that involve multiple flats and a limited number of replacement tubes.

We are getting new bikes in for the season all this week. Both Fuji and Specialized have had a fair collection of 2010 closeouts that we have grabbed in order to offer people the most bang for their buck. There are some ridiculously low prices on 2010 road bikes while the inventory lasts from both of these companies. We are also getting in 2011 bikes in road, mountain, and greenway varieties. We'll be building them up and getting them out on the floor all week, so come by and check 'em out!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I heart you

Valentine's day is all about sharing love with someone important. I got to thinking about all those emotions of love, lust and passion, and it was passion that I got hung up on. Passion is a strong and rare thing.

I'm not talking about passion between two people despite the fact that it's Valentine's Day.  No, what got me thinking was the idea that we can be passionate about something, not someone. How completely and utterly you can fall in love with something. I stand in awe of people who have the extreme good fortune of having turned their passion into their vocation. The really tricky bit is once it becomes your vocation, staying passionate about it.

FROM STEEL: The Making of a Soulcraft from michael evans on Vimeo.

I guess it should come as no surprise that my passion is bicycles. If you have read this blog for more than a moment or two, I hope that the sense of love and wonder that I have for two wheels has been evident. It is beautiful to watch the care and effort taken to produce a handbuilt steel frame from start to finish. It is funny how disdainful people can be about the cost of a handbuilt frame, but I hope that watching the video above gives you a better appreciation for how much soul a builder can imbue a frame with as they build it from start to finish. What magic there is in taking a pile of tubes and turning it into a bicycle frame.

So whatever it is that you do, try remembering the passion that you feel for it and give it that little bit of extra love that it has been lacking. Hopefully, you'll see a little magic in the results.

ps - Oh, yeah - the song in the video is from The Mattson 2. They're rad as hell, check 'em out!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The great snowdown

 I'm pretty sure I speak for us all when I say that I am tired of winter. Sick and tired. Sick and damn tired. So now that yet another snow storm bears down on us and the prospect of having school on Saturday looms, I have to say that I am officially declaring Winter over. I am reversing the decision of Puxatawney Phil. Seriously, how many major life decisions are you going to hand over to a rodent? So why trust one with a major weather prediction?

From this point forward, we will no longer use the term snow. Instead, we will discuss "dense humidity" and its natural air conditioning effects. If we change the language, we will change the very nature of our reality.

Or we can just hunker down, suffer through and look forward to the sweet, breathtaking rewards that Spring will heap upon us in the not to distant future. As soon as next week, we may be frolicking and cavorting about in shorts with the sun dappling our pasty vitamin D starved knees and arms. We will spin along on group rides, turning the pedals over effortlessly and playfully joke about not being under 12 layers of clothing just to survive being outdoors. Ladies and gentlemen, our discontent may - nay- must draw to a close soon.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The hamster wheel

photo by Klaus

I've definitely been silent from this little chunk of the internet this past week or so. Funny how the beginning of the semester for me as a teacher and as a grad student is always the same:  scrambling around trying to find a groove I can get into and get things done. I had my second Web Design class last night and spent an hour and a half discussing the basic web pages that we have created so far. I haven't created a website from scratch since 2000, when I made a horrible site for a class at NAU. It's amazing how easy it is to have a significant web presence these days without doing any backend work to build a website. This blog, facebook, and twitter allow the shop to have an internet reach (I'll refrain from calling it a broad reach) without really doing much coding in html, except when I want to make things look pretty.

It's been an odd few days at school as my colleague Alex and I have been getting a great deal of attention for the scores our Physical Science students made on the NC end of course test last semester. What I felt was attributable to low standards, is still significant as we outperformed the other high schools "significantly" as administrators have put it. They have started asking us how we did it in order to try and duplicate our results with other teachers. If this were a movie, it would be shortly after this initial glow of success that people started accusing us of cheating. Let me go on record as stating unequivocally that I do not care what my students test scores are, I don't feel that it is a complete measure of who I am as a teacher nor do I feel that standardized tests are an adequate measure of a student either. There are too many intangibles in this life that cannot be neatly quantified in the form of a multiple choice test. Simply put: I don't care enough about standardized testing to cheat and since there is no monetary incentive, that can't be used as a possible motive either. I get paid the same no matter how good their scores are.

I don't know what to say. We were as shocked at our scores as anyone else, so us giving up the "secret" to our success is akin to asking the bird why he flies so well or the rabbit how he jumps so far. They don't know, they just do it.

I've been hitting the greenway every school commute and it is such a peaceful way to cover the miles. No cars and no one on the greenway when the weather is cold and wet, makes for an empty path that I can fly along on. I love having such a long car free stretch to commute on every day and our town is lucky to have such a progressive project going on. I've ended up facing two cars driving head on at me in my lane this past week and incidents like that really make you appreciate a safe, car free alternative.

As part of my MS 365 Project, I'd like to update you on the stats for January. Yes, I rode at least 1 mile outside all 31 days of January. I have ridden a total of 345 miles as of January 31st; maintaining a >10 mile a day average to stay on track for 3,650 miles total for the year. I have no idea if I have raised any money for Can Do MS nor have I received any new pledges since the opening weeks of the project. I promise not to shill too much for donations to this cause, so I will limit myself to some NPR-style, end of the month pleas for a small donation. If you can, take a moment and give a little to this worthy group so that people with MS can learn that a life full of exercise and activity is the way to a healthy and enjoyable life with MS.