Acquisition = Good Citizen?

At our house, now that Christmas is over and we are finished cleaning up the detritus of plastic packaging, shiny bows, torn wrapping paper, and the like, we can play with our stuff. And, like most, there is a lot of new stuff.

Yesterday, my two daughters opened around 12 packages each; we tossed out at least four garbage bags of packaging. Most of it went into the recycle bin, but still, that’s a ton of waste.

I know this supposedly makes us good parents because it makes the kids ever so happy, but still it seems a bit, um, unseemly.  All that excess. All those little plastic dolls that they covet so much. All those tchotchkes we don’t need (Snoopy earmuffs? Thanks, but you really shouldn’t have. Really.) And yet, all day, we were enthralled by our new stuff. The girls were enthralled by their new dolls–Liv dolls, and several Monster High dolls, which are pretty cool–and played together all day, without incident.

My big present didn’t come in packaging, of course. And while I didn’t park the new Felt Virtue under the tree, the idea of it sitting in the garage certainly enthralled me. And yesterday, on a gorgeously and oddly warm and sunny morning, I rode White Ranch with my riding bud, Ed. The new Felt frame handled amazingly. Since it’s a tiny bit smaller than the old Rocky Mountain, it’s a little bit easier to handle in technical sections, though downhill was a bit scary, as the front tube angle is a degree or so steeper. I’ll have to be careful; this will probably make me more prone to endo, which I am so so tired of doing. I am tired of landing on my face. (Note: the YouTube vid is not me, but certainly could be.)

I suppose you could say that biking is a green sport; you use no gas or other resources when you ride; you don’t destroy anything, you don’t make piles and piles of waste.

But I do drive the car to the mountain. (How I wish we lived close to a trailhead!) I do have a big pile of old rubber tires in my garage; I do have the old Rocky Mountain frame hanging in there, too.

Perhaps I will use the frame as yard art, or make some kind of plant stand. Perhaps I will strip the shock and anything else I don’t need and try to sell it on ebay, for cheap. Perhaps I will find a good use for all those worn tires. And perhaps I am a good citizen because I just paid around $100 in taxes on the frame and build, and supported a local bike shop in the process.

Perhaps I should let my consumptive guilt go and just be happy.

P.S. After some web searching, I found a cool use for old tires–though it’s another thing to buy–at Alchemy Goods. Or, you can make your own sandals. If you are still using tubes, you can make some handy tie apparatuses.

Felt, But Not the Super Soft Kind

Now that my old Rocky Mountain bike frame is RIP, there is both sadness and glee in my riding heart. I will miss that old frame. And yet, now I am free to purchase a new one.

We can’t really afford it. However, I have impressed upon my wife that I am a riding shark: I must move forward (on wheels, on dirt), or I shall surely perish.

I’m happy that she believes this is so, because it is true. Riding is my drug of choice. And need.

So, after a few weeks of checking craigslist, ebay, and local bike shop (LBS) sales voraciously, I have found a new oh-so-sweet ride: a 2010 Felt Virtue Team, size large.

It’s way light, way cool looking. Chosen by Outside Magazine as the best ride of the year–in the 2007 Summer Buyer’s Guide.

It has a one-of-a-kind suspension element, called the Equilink. It’s supposed to eliminate all pedal bob when climbing, and then, when you aim it toward sea level, it’s said to handle like a downhill bike, with 5 inches of suspension.

I haven’t ridden one, yet–I know, stupid, but what the heck, I’m no expert in feeling out subtle gradations of machinery and geometry, I just ride. But I’ve been interested in the Felt for a while now. And I like how the Equilink looks like a large wad of bubble gum that’s been stuck to the frame and stretched to its limit. And perhaps this is mostly a guy thing, but it’s very much fun to check out gear. And buy new gear. Impulsively. After much research.

We’ll see how it goes. The mellow, friendly, and unpretentious guys at Golden Bike Shop are stripping down the Rocky and building up the new frame. It should be ready by Tuesday, and if I’m lucky and don’t catch my wife’s gnarly cold, I might squeeze a ride in sometime this week.

Like a kid in a candy store, I am. With a gob of new bubble gum.

Memory, Emerson, and the Speed of Time

Yesterday, I rode my single speed up onto North Table Mountain, just outside of Golden, on a new trail, one I hadn’t ridden before. The steep grade made turning the pedals over almost impossible. Slow I went, stopping a few times to regather myself and suck wind.

I am well familiar with the pain of severe oxygen debt, climbing slowly, trying to keep the crest of the hill in sight. (All those years of running cross country have served me well). Both in the real, physical sense, and metaphorically, too.

I am also well aware that life seems to have sped up and our attempts to capture time–scenes, images, happenings–has become for many an imperative process. Perhaps that is due to technology: it has both sped up our sense of living, and it has given us new and simple ways of capturing specific points of time (e.g. this very blog). It has also given us a new frame in which to tell our stories to others in intimate ways–and yet, oddly, very anonymous ways. I am not sitting at the dinner table or in the living room entertaining my family and cohorts with the story of my ride and the recent thing I read lately. I am alone, typing at the kitchen table. I am both alone and very close to you–to everyone–offering a glimpse of my yesterday and my thoughts about it.

Which, perhaps awkwardly, brings me to this passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Memory”:

“In solitude, in darkness, we tread over again the sunny walks of youth; confined now in populous streets you behold again the green fields, the shadows of the gray birches; by the solitary river hear again the joyful voices of early companions, and vibrate anew to the tenderness and dainty music of the poetry your boyhood fed upon. At this hour the stream is flowing, though you hear it not; the plants are still drinking their accustomed life and repaying it with their beautiful forms. But you need not wander thither. It flows for you, and they grow for you, in the returning images of former summers…. You may perish out of your senses, but not out of your memory or imagination.”

It is, all of it, always with you. It was all there, with me, as I grunted to the top of the mountain, and when I saw the deer staring back at me, and when I flowed back down the hill to some singletrack, and when I returned to the car to drive home, and when I entered the house and was welcomed by my wife and daughters, all warm and beautiful.



I am a nostalgic fool, though less so than I used to be. I sometimes find myself lost in the past, glorifying it, deifying it, lamenting it, deconstructing it. And really, most memories are all pretty wonderful in their own way. Or lousy. Or happy, or sad. Either way, I guess you could say that I’m in love with experience–and the act of recalling it. (Most writers are this way, I suspect. For after all, we write what we know, what we’ve tucked away in our brains.)

That said, I miss the summer of 2010.

It was a great summer. Personally, I spent lots of time with my family, with my girls, my father, my sister and her family, with my cousins, my wife. I got to see my little sister graduate from University of Rochester, the same school I (barely) graduated from. I got a personal after-hours tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I wrote a fair amount. I rode a bunch.

And on those rides, I got incrementally better. I got a glimpse of what it’s like to be in superfine shape–which recalled those moments at U of R, when I ran on the track and cross country team, those few meets and practices when it felt like I could run forever–fast and forever.

This summer, I avoided crashing in terrifically aggravating and painful ways. I cruised over sections of trail that used to stymie and scare the crap out of me. While on the trails, I saw, in no particular order:

  • Moose
  • Marmot
  • Snow (in late July)
  • A gigantic brown bear (no lie)

For some reason, the bear is a signifier of something: Large. Quiet. Gorgeous. Unafraid. The endless charge of time, maybe.

I was riding on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park, just outside the town of Grand Lake, completely alone. The bear stared at me for several moments, though I never met her gaze. (Why a she? Who knows. It just seems to fit.) There were the few traumatic seconds where she stepped sideways, and I wasn’t sure if she was going to charge, or what, but then she slowly turned away, her gigantic rump covered in sandy chocolate brown fur. She disappeared into a green meadow, and I never saw her again.

But I still remember her. As I will always remember the summer of 2010.

This pic was taken a few minutes before I saw the bear.

In perhaps related fashion, here’s a great poem about a bear, from Galway Kinnell.