Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Own Ride For Others

I had a nice three day weekend.  I did a lot of stuff, but of course it wasn't enough time.  The fact that I had an extra day off wasn't lost on me though.  I know why we "celebrate" Memorial Day.  To me, it's not for cookouts or any of that stuff, but it's okay if that's how you celebrated.  As a veteran, I wanted to do something to honor those that came before but gave much more than I did.  At first I wanted to go the National Cemetery up in Salisbury but that would have required driving.  I wanted to do a bike ride of some sort (and didn't have the legs to go that far and back), so I eventually decided to ride down the the Mecklenburg County Vietnam Memorial.

I took off out of the house a little later than I wanted to, but that's okay because I pretty much had all day if I wanted.  I rolled out of my neighborhood and said a quick hello to some of my friends.

My route into the city is pretty easy, and without even trying I was making good time.  That is, until I got within sight of the tall buildings.  I heard something that sounded like whistling, so I stopped for a minuted and noticed that I had a flat.

No problem.  I looked in my bag and found a brand new tube and some co2.  I changed the tube and when I went to fill it, I realized that I had forgotten to put an inflator in the bag.  Shit.  With almost two miles to my destination and no bike shops open nearby I had to figure out what to do.  I briefly considered calling the little lady for an extraction, but she was on call for work and I didn't want to bother her.

So I did what any former soldier would do...

I hoofed it.

It was hot outside already and my shoes weren't exactly made for walking.  Still, I pushed on, considering that my little bit of suffering was nothing compared to those that I was thinking about on my ride.  Besides, the views were sorta nice.

It didn't take too long (maybe 45 minutes?) and I had made it to my destination.

The monument honors Vietnam Veterans from Mecklenburg County, and it also lists the names of those from here that lost their lives in that conflict (think smaller version of the one in Washington.)  I walked the entire length of the wall, and I read all 105 names on it.  I must be getting soft in my old age, but it brought a tear to my eye.  I was definitely moved.

While I was there, a group of bikers rolled up (motorcycles) and I chatted with them.  One thing I've noticed about bikers is that many of them are veterans, and they do quite a bit to honor those that served.  They told me that they do this every year.  Awesome.

I'd spent quite a bit of time there until I had to get back to reality.  I still had a flat, no air to fill up my tube, and I was far from home.  Again, an extraction was out of the question (because I'm stubborn) so I walked over to the local department store to see if they anything to help me.  On the way, I was mocked by some local wildlife.

I walked inside the cool store and I found a little shitty (but expensive) air pump and bought it (along with a snack and something cold to drink.)  I sat on a bench out front and attempted to fill my tire.

The gauge said it would go up to 120 p.s.i. but I had trouble getting it to 60.  That would have to do.  I hopped on my bike and rode away, trying to keep my 230 pound ass off the seat so I wouldn't get a pinch flat.  So far so good.  Since I was still in the area, I stopped back by the wall one more time...

Then I hopped on the greenway and started to make my way home.

The ride home was nerve wracking.  Every time I would go fast downhill, I imagined my tire giving out and sending me crashing to the pavement.  That didn't stop me from taking a selfie though.

Just before I got home, I made a slight detour to the local VFW and chatted with some fellow veterans.  These guys were from the Vietnam era, so they talked about their experiences and the friends that they lost.  They were very welcoming, even offering me some food and a beer.  I declined since I had to get home to my own beer.

After many more hours on the road than I had planned, I made it home.  I parked my bike, grabbed a beer, and sat on the deck with my buddy Carl.

It wasn't a "happy" Memorial Day but it was a good one.  I think I'll do this every year from now on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It Keeps Getting Better

I skipped yesterday not because of my extended bouts of laziness, but because I was le tired.  I "worked" again all weekend, and this time it involved a road trip.

From the photo above, it's probably pretty obvious that I'm not talking about working at my real job.  Yes folks, I worked another race for the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League.  This race was held in Mayodan, NC and to be honest, I had no idea where that was (even after looking on a map.)  I figured that a trail in a park in the middle of nowhere would not be much fun, but my attitude change when I rolled up to Farris Memorial Park.

The town of Mayodan really pulled out all the stops and welcomed our league with open arms.  There were signs/bike decorations all over town, and I have to say that I've never felt more welcome at any race...ever.  And the park I thought would be full of nothing was full of decorations too.

I was amazed at this place.  For such a small town, this park had it all.  Standard ball sports stuff, a gold driving range, mountain bike trails (of course), paddle boats, fishing, and even a mini golf course.

The league staff gathered around and broke off to start setting up.  The infield of the course was amazing, looking so pro that I almost forgot that this was for high school and middle school students.

And the trails.  Wow.  I had low expectations, but I was blown away.  The trails are machine built (which means fast and flowy), but they made use of the terrain and included lots of features.  I mean, there were tons of rock gardens.  It was awesome.

I rode the course several times, since we had to set it up for the racers.  It was hard work but I had a blast.

It was super hot outside and we worked hard, but the course was ready to go for the next day.  I chilled out at the park well into the night, playing guitar and enjoying the atmosphere.  It was late and I was tired, so I headed back to my hotel just as the storms were rolling in.

The next morning I was up at 6:00 a.m.  I hit the road a short while later, and the skies looked less than ideal for a kids mountain bike race.

The rain mostly held off though, wetting the course just a bit.  At least the weather was cooler though.  Anyway, after checking the course again and getting everyone ready to go, the first wave of racers lined up to start their race.

I've seen it before at our other races, but I'm still pretty moved by it.

It was an amazing weekend.  The kids had a good time, and I'm pretty sure every single one of them loved the course (I asked as many as I could.)  The Mayor of Mayodan and other important town-folk were there too, and they seemed just as excited as we were.  We're doing a great thing here for these middle and high school athletes, and even though it wore me out I was feeling really happy.

I'm "retired" now from racing, but that doesn't matter.  This feeling is better than anything I had when I did this stuff just for myself.

Funny how that works.

Special thanks to the town of Mayodan and Rockingham County for making us feel welcome and working with us to make this a successful event.

I can't wait for the next race in less than two weeks.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Too Busy For Bikes

My weekend was shit.  I had some (loosely made) plans that I figured I'd have to change.  Being on call for work is not conducive to making any kind of set in stone ride plans or for doing any other kind of activities that require advance notice.

Still, I complicated things by purchasing an adult puzzle.



Since I'm a kayaker now, I've been spending a fair amount of time getting my shit together so I can fully enjoy being on the water.  In addition to that, the little lady will be getting a kayak soon too.  Since my boat is so big I can't carry another one on top of my gas guzzling SUV.  To make things easier I bought a little utility trailer Friday afternoon that I can modify to carry multiple boats.  The only problem was (in addition to having to customize it later) was the fact that it came in those two little boxes pictured above.

I had to put the damn thing together and decipher some pretty bad Chinese-English translations.  To fit everything in those smallish boxes, there were a lot of parts...

This was just part of one box.

Friday evening I laid out all the parts from both boxes (not all were pictured above), grabbed a frosty beverage, and got to work.  With the fear of getting the call to go to work, I hurried along.  You Tube videos I looked up said that it would take about six hours to assemble completely.

I did it in three.


Two hours in, the little lady came home from work.  We took a dinner break, I sent her off to bed, and went back out to the shop to continue.  One hour later (and one more beer) I was finished with the main part of it.  It was close to midnight, so my plan was to save the lights/wiring for Saturday.  I went upstairs, took a shower, and by about 1:00 a.m. I was out.

I tried to sleep in.  That didn't happen.  Early in the morning my work phone went off while I was still in bed.  I got up, let the dogs out, fed them, then hopped on the computer.  What should have been a simple issue with one of our customers turned into over nine hours of work.  I was on the phone/computer with people all day, and by the time I finished (and resolved the issue) it was too late to work on my trailer lights.  I went out to grab us some dinner, we ate, then I was in bed sorta early.

No bikes, no beers, no trailer work.  I was pissed but hey, it pays the bills.

Sunday was a new day.  I ran out to the garage and started running the wires on the trailer to see if I would need any additional parts/connectors.  Once I determined what I would need, I took off to buy a few items and get some lunch.  While I was on my way back home, the same customer from the day before called again.


Luckily it was a very small issue, and I was able to help get them working in about five minutes (over the phone.)  Back to the house, I ran the rest of the wires for the trailer lights and tested them.

I had a working trailer!

It's 4 feet by 8 feet with 12" wheels.  It will work great for my kayaks once I put a floor on it and build a rack.  That part is easy.  If I hadn't been on call for work, I probably would've had that part done too.  For now though, I'm happy to have a little utility trailer for my kayaks, or anything else that may require a trailer.

No step here.  Beer here okay tho.

This little trailer was cheap, but it will do the job.  I saved a shitload of money by building it myself but that wasn't the best part.  I really enjoying doing things myself, so spending what amounted to an entire weekend doing this was pretty rewarding.

No bikes for me though.  I'll have to make up for lost time really soon though.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fun Friday

It's Friday.  You know why I'm here...

Done with the pooping yet?  No?  Okay.  Mebbe you need medical halp...

Just like every Friday, I'm taking the easy way out.  Well, not as easy as the days I skip out on here all together.  Whatever.  I'm trying to make some weekend plans, but I'm on call for work.  I don't need to go anywhere for it, but I do need to stay close by a phone and be able to get to a computer soon after.  That sorta kills any plans I can make.

Who gives a shit.

I'll ride my bike (probably) and do some things around the house (also probably involving bikes.)  Will I haz good stories next week?  I dunno.

That's why I like to provide the funny.

See y'all next week.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Best Race I Didn't Do

I've been busy again.  Work stuff and all that.  Blah, blah, blah.  Last week, I told you that we had a race coming up at Fisher Farm for the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League.  Well, that's what I spent my weekend doing (and this week recovering.)  I worked harder all weekend than I do a whole week at my real job, and this stuff is much more fulfilling.

Yes, it's that cool.

Saturday.  Get up early, drive thirty minutes up the road and meet the rest of the race crew.  I spent most of the day getting my stuff ready for the next day, then the rest of the time I was out on the course to make sure everything was safe and the marshal points were marked.  It was hard work, but at least I was on my bike.

I ended up staying late, not getting home until 9:00 p.m.  That wouldn't have been to bad normally but I had to get up even earlier the next day.

Sunday.  Race day.  The alarm went off a little before 6:00 a.m., which for some reason seems extra early on a Sunday.  I roll into Fisher Farm right at 7:00 a.m. and immediately started making new friends.

I was still sorta asleep when I got there, but the 32 ounces of high octane coffee I drank finally kicked in and I was suddenly full of energy.

Radios.  I haz.  ALL OF THEM.  Photo cred:  Mike L.

The first race doesn't go off until 9:30 a.m., but I was crazy busy getting my stuff together.  A big part of my day was training the course marshals...

Before I knew it, my folks were out on the course and the waves of racers started going out.  I was busy communicating with my peeps on the radio, and the only "action" I saw all day was mostly from a distance.

Another long day.  It was successful though.  We're making history here in North Carolina and I'm happy to be a part of it.  After the awards and all that, we broke the course down and reflected on what we'd all accomplished.

And then I found a whole tray of pickles among the leftover foodz.

Which I promptly gave to Eastwood...

Because he loves pickles more than blogging (which he used to do once upon a time.)

What an awesome weekend.  I'm still tired from it.  And I wouldn't change that for anything.

Luckily we have another one coming up in less than two weeks.  Maybe I write another blog post before then.  Maybe I don't

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fun Friday

I have much busy this weekend.  I'll be "working", but it's all good.  Race number two in the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League is Sunday, but I'll be at the venue all day Saturday too.  Usually I hate working weekends (and do so rarely) but in this case I'm very happy to do it.  It's for a good reason, you know.

Okay, enough about me.  Let's get on with the Fun Friday.  I'm kinda in a hurry today, so I'll just throw this shit out here...

Funny enough.

See y'all next week.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Still Ride Bikes

Just not all the time.  Actually, let me clarify.  It isn't my whole life anymore.  Things change I guess.  Maybe so much racing in such a short amount of time did it.  Maybe it's the cycling companies with shitty marketing people that have no idea what their customers want.  Maybe it's all these consumers falling for whatever bullshit the bike companies put out there.  Maybe drifting away from my bike friends when they invite me places caused me to rethink how much I ride.

Maybe it's just me.  I'm an asshole.

Who gives shit.

I still love bikes.  And I will still ride often.  I just want to do other things too.  Like fishing.  I did that a lot down in Florida.  And I still rode bikes.  When I moved here though, bikes took over full time.  I didn't go fishing again until just a few weeks ago.  I enjoyed it.  Actually, I enjoyed the fact that I was enjoying something other than riding bikes.  Maybe I just enjoyed being alone.  I dunno.

That's probably it.  Alone is nice.  There are no people there.

I still have lots of bike friends.  We just don't hang out like we once did.  That's all my fault.  Sometimes, I just go off into my own world and don't want to be around anyone.  That's just me.

Oh, back to fishing.  When I got my fishing license a few weeks ago and dropped a line in the water for the first time in ten years, there was a reason other than the fact that I hadn't done it in a while.  Since we moved to the other side of town (and closer to the river), I'd starting thinking about getting a boat.  Then I started thinking about how much of a pain in the ass it would be to maintain a boat.  Hell, I hated having to put our motorcycles away for the winter and struggling with getting them running again.  There was no way I wanted to do the same thing with a boat.

So I started thinking about other ways to fish off shore.  Down in Florida, I always had friends with boats.  Close friends too (not the ones that you felt guilty about asking to go out with.)  Here, maybe not so much .  Plus, I wanted to go out whenever I wanted without having to ask someone.  I started looking for an alternative.  I'd done some canoeing down in the Sunshine State, but I remembered those thing being really unstable.  So, I started looking at kayaks.

I didn't know shit about kayaks.  I knew that I would eventually want to fish off of one (duh), but I had a lot to learn about what kind I needed for that (to make it fun.)  Luckily, when I don't know something, I work my ass off to learn about it.  I learned much about kayaks over the last month or so, and armed with that newfound knowledge I went out and bought one.  It's a twelve foot sit on top fishing kayak, with plenty of room for my big ass and all my shit.  I still had one problem though...

I'd never been on one before.

That didn't stop me from taking it out by myself (which the experts strongly advise against) right after I bought it.  I'd already found a place to put it in the water on the Catawba River (see, I did my homework) that was only about three miles from the house.  I put on my PFD, grabbed a paddle, and started floating away on my new little boat.

What the hell was I doing?

I was a little frightened.  I can swim just fine (I grew up on a lake), but I still had this uncontrollable fear of tipping over.  After about five minutes though, I'd figured the whole thing out.  My lifelong pal Mr. Shepherd told me how easy it was, and he wasn't kidding.  So, I drifted off toward my first solo adventure on the water...

The Catawba river is pretty cool.  The current isn't super strong, plus there are all kinds of little creeks and coves that branch off of it.  I'd looked at a map before I shoved off so I kinda knew where I was headed.  I had no idea what I would see though.

Like this houseboat out in the middle of nowhere...

It was creepy as shit too.  It looked like it had been abandoned for years.

When I showed Lunchbox that picture, he said it was probably the scene of a murder and the bodies were still on board.  I don't really doubt that one bit.

I cruised up that creek (with a paddle of course) for a good while before I turned around.  I headed back out to the open waters of the Catawba and I had the place to myself.

After that first creek, I didn't really have anywhere else specific to go.  I just wandered up and down the river, taking photos when I felt comfortable doing so.  Or when I passed under neat shit.

It was a good day.  I was out on the water for maybe an hour and a half and I had a blast.  And it was much easier than I thought it would be.  I figure that I'll take one more trip in it to get comfortable before I bring all my fishing gear.  And next time I plan to be out on the water for much longer.

And no, this piece of shit blog isn't gonna be all about kayaks from now on.  I still ride bikes and do bike stuff.  Hell, I do a lot of things.

Mostly whatever the hell I want to do.

See y'all tomorrow for Fun Friday most likely.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Werk Werk Werk

These days. I'm not as regular as I once was.  I'm talking about blogging, not dietary issues. Sometimes, I don't post because I'm busy.  Or don't have much going on outside of work.  Or, I just plain forget.  The last one is true lately, because I forgot to mention that I'm now part of something pretty damn awesome.

Yes, I'm part of the race crew for the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League.  Since I "retired" from cross country racing I'd been looking for something more fulfilling that involved bicycles.  And yes folks, I've found it.  We've already had one race, and the next race is the series is this weekend.  It's a state-wide race series for middle and high school kids,but this particular race happens to be local.  This past Sunday, we teamed up with the Tarheel Trailblazers to get the course ready for the big event.

So yeah, I got out for some trail work.

We walked most of the race course and spent a little time clearing some drains.  Luckily though, there wasn't much to do in that department because that trail is one of the best maintained in the Charlotte area.  So, we moved on, cleaning up a "new" section that cuts the course a bit to keep us within race standards for the league.  

Once we finished there, we hit the rest of the trail to address any problem areas.  It was nice to see so many folks out there for a work day.

Our volunteers worked hard in the hot sun for hours...

And some people even got to use fancy machinery.

When it was done, we got off the trail and talked about what we'd accomplished.  We had a good turnout and I think everyone had fun (despite the hard work and the heat.)  

I wasn't done though.  A few folks wanted to ride, and I sure as hell wasn't gonna pass that up.

The North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League is an awesome thing, and I'm proud to be a part of it.  A lot of people keep saying, "I wish they had this when I was in school."

Me too, but it's too late for us.  But it's not too late for the kids that are out there helping us make history here in NC.  And it's not too late for you to get on board.  If you're local, you should join us out there this weekend to help these young riders have an awesome time being outside, racing bikes, and building confidence. 

We still need volunteers, click the link below and sign up:

I hope to see you out there!