Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today my friend Don turned 34 years old. Don is a very special guy, a raw foodist, owns a veggie oil vehicle that he made himself, practitioner of yoga, extensive world traveler, spanish teacher, and fixed gear bicycle rider. We also happen to work together, so today when he told me in confidence that it was his birthday i wasn't at all surprised that he didn't tell everyone, because he's very humble and low key. I had been planning a longer bike ride than what i'm used to for today being Thanksgiving because i figured that at night there wouldn't be much traffic. Spur of the moment i invited him to ride with me, and he lit up. Apparently every year on his birthday he likes to do something special, take a trip, something that he can remember so when i asked him he immediately said yes.

The idea was to do the local Sarasota Roadie weekend ride which is a 30 mile out and back ride, mostly on a barrier island covered with million dollar homes, over a nice size bridge with a 20degree incline over .3 miles(if i did my math right) which is a total blast, but can be hard.

In my mind i wanted to do this ride in the same amount of time that the Roadies do it, with their full kit, super geared bikes and goo-gels only we'd do it on our fixed gear bikes, with no brakes. A steep challenge but i though it obtainable.

We set out at 10pm and from where our starting location was it's only about a half a mile to the bridge, so it's not a lot of time to warm up, but up we went and onto the barrier island.

The night was balmy, maybe 70 degrees and on the island there was a very light mist that was left over from the afternoons rain, all covered by a nearly full moon, with the sound of the surf crashing on the beach. In short it was a perfect night for a ride.

We sped along nicely under the cover of trees and past immaculately landscaped lawns.
I must say that working with Don is great. He's got tons of interesting stories about travel, all across Europe, south america(the guy spent a month in Columbia, basically in the jungle), he's very in touch with current events, green living and activist going-ons. He's one of those guys who always has something interesting to say, which can make it hard to work with him since i always want to just stand and talk. Needless to say, it was great riding side by side with him so we could really chat without the burden of work.

Making good time we reached the turnaround point, so we decided to take a quick break and walk half way across a bridge that takes you to the next island north. the view from this bridge is great at night, open water to the Gulf of Mexico to the west and a calm estuarine/inlet to the east.

Back on the bikes, pushing harder into a good headwind, both of us starting to tire a little bit, a quick stop at a oddly located 7-11 for a snack, and in no time heading toward town and that bridge again, looming like it does. after 29 miles i was really starting to feel a burn in my left thigh, and the slight formation of a cramp, but who can stop at that point? No other choice but to put my hands into the drops, tuck my head and give it my all.

I'm not one for pictures but i wish i had one of the face I'm sure i was making... the perfect mix of grueling struggle and complete bliss. Yelling like a madman upon reaching the top, Don not to far behind me. descending that bridge is one of the greatest thrills, I'm sure i reached somewhere very near 30mph going down, flying, you feel you could ride another 500 miles, no one is stronger than you, no one feels as connected to something as you do right now. And it's really fucking sweet.

I hope that Don had as good of a time riding this ride with me on his birthday as i did.

As a side benefit, i got home right at 11:45pm, we rode the ride just fifteen minutes longer than my Roadie friends ride it, which i'm very happy with. Once stopped in my drive half collapsing onto my bars, not from exhaustion but from a thankfulness to have just done this ride. It's Thanksgiving, and it just started to pour rain, we needed it(the rain). I needed it(the bike ride), and i know Don needed it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

So it's interesting to me to note several things that have been going on lately.

First, last week while cycling i was hit by a car. Nothing too bad, just some bruises and some damage to my bike. The woman who lives 3 houses away from me, stopped and agreed to pay for the repairs which was very nice of her to say the least. I'm sure this is the exception not the rule, i consider myself very lucky.

Secondly, some friends and i are putting on Sarasota's first alleycat race which we're very excited about. Here's the flier.

I, at least realize that this is not going to be a groundbreaking race, and certainly won't compare to races that take place in cities like Portland, Seattle or NYC but none the less it's the first in Sarasota, but it will be really fun and we've got some really cool stuff planned and we're proud of it.

Third. I read a good bit of blogs about cycling and cycling culture and i like to keep up on what's going on around the world. But I've noticed a funny occurrence, especially in blogs that are written by guys and gals in smaller towns. It seems that they're all the same. Every blog that's smaller than the big guys seems to be very contrived and second rate. They're basically just day old copies, like reading yesterdays news paper from the trash, and they admit it. It's frustrating, how can there be innovation at a grass roots level if everyone at that smaller level is just copying what the guys in Seattle are doing? I'm sure there are pockets of really "hardcore" riders who are trying new and harder stuff, and that they'll never get the exposure that riders in bigger markets get, unless they move or come out with something truly great it seems really boring.

The problem i see with track bikes and the fixed gear culture on a whole is that it's completely limited in its scope. Guys start skidding, then putting one leg over the bars while skidding, then doing 180's in the skid, riding backwards circles, wheelies, backwards wheelie circles, ramping up stuff... how far does one take it? If you've got a bmx or flatland background this stuff come very naturally to you and you'll ride your bike accordingly. If not then you've got a lot of catching up to do. I know that these tricks and all the hype around them may be a natural progression that comes from riding on the streets but from what i can tell, the whole fixed gear "sub culture" has become only about how long you can ride a wheelie and how many bar spins you can do. It doesn't make sense. This like the Florida housing bubble is bound to burst and when it does, of course they'll be a ton of bikes and accessories up for grabs, cheap and the hopefully there'll be a few riders left who just want to ride their bicycles.

I guess I'm just tired of all of these kids viewing bicycling as a means to and end to do trick, and not taking cycling for what it is, riding the fucking bike.

I'm tired of reading blogs about the new video that was just posted, or a review of a review of a new frame. I want to read about 200 riders showing up for a critical mass in a small town, or about 3 friends who rode 300 miles in 3 days.

Which is what I'm planning to do, February 1st. Across the state and back, in 3 days. We'll see how that works out.

Call this a return to traditional cycling values.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

From Fast Food to Fine Clothing,

Everyday i bike downtown, primarily because i live downtown, in a nicer neighborhood called Laurel Park, where the exterior paint on all of the houses are a lively color, yards for the most part are either eccentrically or meticulously kept and young professionals, struggling students, and the middle aged artist live side by side. About a year ago i met two middle aged men in Gainesville, who after talking to them for several minutes we realized that we had both lived on the same street downtown, 30 years apart. These men regaled me with stories about acid parties, communal living and free love for several minutes until i felt the need to interrupt and explain to them exactly what had become of the location of their glory days, to their horror.

Things change.

Of the kids who grew up in Sarasota or Bradenton who could forget going to shows at Light Painters Gallery, The Monterey Deli, The Atari Info Shop or the Brownstone? Hell, i saw my first show ever at the Info Shop but with "growing up"(which i don't think I'll ever really do) you have to face cetian facts that everything you knew has changed, or will change. Robert Frost said once "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." and it's true.

The point of all of this is that i remember being in high school and going to local shows downtown and eating at a Burger King just up the street from The Monterey Deli, which has now long since closed, I'll never eat another burger there, ever because it's now a Brooks Brothers clothing store. Which I'm slightly okay with because i happened to be wearing a pair of Brooks Brothers shorts while riding my bike as i happened to pass this new retail outlet.

But alas, a part of me cringes. How much more money can we, the people of Sarasota dump into the downtown economy after the housing bubble has burst? Is this not regression? Granted i understand that location is the number 1 factor in real estate, and they're not making any more downtown property, which will probably mean that in the next few years the house that i live in will either jump in value or fall, but regardless my rent will stay the same, or even go up, and i will probably be the subject of gentrification, again.

As a consumer(yes i am one, and you are too whether you like it or not) i understand the need for clothing, hardware, grocery and brick-a-brack stores in the downtown area, especially since our economy here thrives off of tourism and seasonal residents but how far do we take it? I also understand that a store front will do no one any good sitting dormant, someone has to make a profit from owning the land but i feel that it could be put to better use, but don't ask me how I'm not necessarily the problem solver I just have a knack for finding the problems in a situation.
If one were to drive just one mile north of this new Brooks Brothers they would find people who are relatively impoverished, people who couldn't afford to shop in the store which of course is natural, there are businesses everywhere around the world and everywhere in the world there are people who are too poor to shop in some of these stores. And of course that's not to say that you won't find me in this new Brooks Brothers, browsing. It's just that i can't find the rational for it. Does consumer demand really warrant a new high end clothier? As far as i know there are no community outreach programs located in the downtown area, save the Salvation Army which really only serves the majority of the homeless in the area, who by all accounts are taken well care of.

And I know there are Goodwill centers for job education around town, but i guess I'm just looking for a greater diversity in my downtown, where i live. It's becoming very apparent that downtown Sarasota is rapidly becoming very exclusive catering to a select few, omitting the vast majority of the population in the area based on a ridiculous class structure that rivals any other wealthy community in America. I do live in a smaller town in White America, but it just seems that our downtown community is very different from any other downtown I have ever seen. There is a complete lack of diversity. They're(yes them, you know who i mean) making it harder and harder to live in a very beautiful city that has a lot to offer it's residents year round. I suppose that the point is that i grew up here, and i like it, i just don't like what it's becoming, but can't we all say the same thing about anything we're fond of but changes with time, as everything does.

At the end of the day all i know is that it does go on.

Question is, do we go with it, or kick against the goad and try and change it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It could just be the weather.

I've got to say that i have felt great for the past few weeks. I've been sober almost 6 months, which is ironic concerning bicycling because once upon a time i sold my Jeep to buy a bicycle in order to get sober, and it worked for a time, and now i think it's going to keep working.

I'm feeling completely unencumbered from everything. I feel completely free, from everything and i don't think i could do this or feel this way without bicycling.

I've been thinking about a statement a lot lately,
"The traditional critique of mass society suggests that most people are members of the herd, cogs in the machine, victims of mindless conformity. they lead vacuous, hollowed-out lives ruled by shallow, materialistic values. they are manipulated to serve the functional requirements of the system, and so will never experience true creativity, freedom or even complete sexual fulfillment."

And i'm going to go ahead and say that although i feel it's impossible to break free of mass society, and i believe that it would be ill-advised to do so, i think that i'm far enough away from most conformist thought processes(or lack thereof) to live a happy life, without want of things that i do not need.

One may question why i keep a livejournal and now i have a blog. Well, it's simple, i want to keep my livejournal for my friends and very personal stuff, and i will maintain this blog for more philosophical topics and things relating to life and of course bicycles.

What's funny is that at times i get the feeling that if one could just compose the perfect rss feed and the most diverse bookmarks and create the most mood specific playlist you could be complete. which isn't true, but it feels, at times nice to have these things.

Oh, and i will attempt to keep these entries as extrinsic as possible, otherwise why would i have two journals?

One final note, everyone should go and get the new Zookeeper album "Becoming All Things". for fans of The Gloria Record, and Mineral. Chris Simpson has done it again.

Stream the album here.