Garaging. Not Good.

This, from the department of self-disclosing dumb things I have done.

For a while I had the habit of placing my bikes on top of the car in the Thule/Rocky Mounts/Yakima rack, and then forgetting that there was, in fact, a bike up there.

You can guess what happened next.

A few years ago, at a local bike shop, when I took my mountain bike in after the headset cracked on a downhill while riding, the guy asked me if I’d hucked the bike off a 10 foot drop or something.

“Uh, no,” I said, “Never.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Well, there’s really no other way this could happen. Except for one thing.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Smashed it against the top of your garage because you forgot it was up there on your car.”

“Oh,” I said. I’d been outed.

He took one look at my guilty expression. “You garaged it, didn’t you.”

“Yeah, I did. I garaged it,” I said.

My riding buddy Ed says that it’s acceptable for every person to garage their bike. Once. After that, he says, you have a stupidity problem.

Over the years, I have garaged several bikes. Several times each. I’ve broken a frame, horribly dented and scratched the roof of the car, bent racks beyond repair, and ruined a seat. It’s gotten to the point where I hide the garage door opener in the glove compartment as soon as I strap the bike onto the rack. Or I stand the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the garage, so I can’t pull in. And then, hours later when I open the door, I’m like, who put the damn vacuum cleaner right in the middle of the garage?

Maybe I have a stupidity problem. (I see you, dear friends, nodding in agreement.) I blame the fact that I smoked pot all through my freshman year in high school. Killed lots and lots of brain cells, I did, walking the streets of my hometown, listening to The Doors, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin on a gigantic boom box that my stoner friends and I took turns carrying.

Whatever the reason, I have often found myself in space cadet land, forgetting all about that very expensive apparatus on top of the car. Therefore, I must protect my self from myself.

Funny, how that goes.

PS. In below pic, you can see the tell-tale signs of garaging: several deep marks where the handlebars smashed into the siding.

Is This Going to Live Forever?

No riding today: blah gray sky, melting snow. The trails are probably total muck. (I am going to overhaul my Mavic rear hub and go for a road ride, though. Wish me luck.)

In the meantime I’ve been lying around reading the New York Times Magazine from last Sunday–specifically the article “Things To Do in Cyberspace When You’re Dead.” (It’s either that or watch an NFL playoff game, or clean the garage.)

The article asks the fascinating question: what happens to our digital lives when we die?

I know: how macabre, sordid and depressing. And not related to biking.

But still, I wonder: what will happen if I keep writing this blog–a kind of focused recollection of my life–until I die? (At the age of 113, I hope. Hayzeus, this post is getting weird, bringing me down, man.) Who will own it? Would it be important for someone to keep it intact or should it be left alone, and someday forgotten forever?

And if this blog thing–for me, for anyone–is a kind of memoir, is the future of memoir and life story not narrative-based, but technological? I can see it now: I wrote my memoir on FaceBook, Twitter, with images on Flickr and Vimeo and such. My tax returns can be found on, and my doctor’s reports are on the XYZ Health Plan website. You can buy my book, which is not a book, per se, but actually a program that sucks up all this information and posits it in a PowerPoint in date order. Enjoy!)

Surely we are not at that place yet, and yet as I contemplate my life via biking, which is my current-life memoir, to be sure, I see the truth of it. I don’t have to write a book. I am writing it now. And it may even last forever. Each ride, each musing, each image of trail and rock, trees and sun. (With or without readers, which is the writer’s most true question, isn’t it?)

PS: For some reason this song is blowing through my mind. I guess it’s that one line: Is anybody out there?

After Biking Up the Mountain

A cold snow is flurrying down this morning and it seems like a dream that I rode yesterday for over two hours, up the long trail of Mount Falcon, in the sun, along mostly dry trails, occasionally over long stretches of crunchy dry snow.

It seems almost surreal to have done that in January, as if I were in a waking dream, running against the laws of nature. And when I dreamed last night, I was biking, and then I made my way home on the bike to encounter my family playing a game in the living room, and my grandmother (gone three years now) folding laundry–brilliant white towels–in the garage, of all places. And when a tornado siren went off and the clouds began to swirl–still the sun burned brightly along the horizon, like it did yesterday as I rode–we collected in the basement. The game (I think it was checkers, but the image is unclear) kept on. My eldest daughter and I hunkered down by the basement stairs and listened for signs of our neighborhood’s dismantlement. But the giant gray-black tails curled high in the air, and kept on their way to the east, sparing us.

Somehow this dream recalled for me Robert Frost’s poem, “After Apple Picking.” The languid, almost sleepy tone and soft rhymes are very much like the ease I felt in the dream, and the ease I felt while riding yesterday. I was fully in the moment, a little weary and sentimental, in love with the slow repetitive action and the gentle feeling that such a task (riding, apple picking) will soon be going into hibernation, which is a very long sleep indeed.

At any rate, here is the poem.

–Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


And here are a few images from yesterday.

A shaded section of the trail, about two-thirds of the way up. Gentle, smooth pedaling was all that was needed to keep cranking on the snow.

High up at the peak of the trail, on a rocky ridge, John Brisben Walker–who once owned the entire area–had wanted to build a summer home for the U.S. Presidents, but  never got any further than laying the foundation and cornerstone, which you can see in the above pic. (Behind the cornerstone is a very steep drop, and in the distance you can see the snowy summit of Mount Evans.)

Here’s what the summer home was supposed to look like:


Welcome to the new year, all cold and white, finally. Riding on this day isn’t possible. Being outdoors is possible only in small tokens of time (it’s 7 degrees here in Denver as I write), and so for a while, each day of the new year will now be spent under a roof, breathing artificially warmed air.

On holiday weekends like this, it seems like time slows down and opens up, while doors and windows are closed and sunlight is fleeting and cool. There is much to do–things that were forgotten, or put off–and suddenly there is time to do it.

I have cleaned the cupboards, finished some of the touches on my old ten-speeder from high school, converting it into a single speed cruiser. I have reorganized the pantry, the front closet, my dayplanner. I’m almost done with a book that I got as a Christmas gift. I have plans to tackle and reorganize the gigantic pile of toys in the basement. Maybe tomorrow, after I take my kids sledding.

Riding takes time, and in reality, it’s a fruitless endeavor. You bust your lungs and still you end up getting nowhere. You end where you started, having blown away several hours. (It’s kind of like writing poetry, my other passion–it produces no money, no progress, no tangible social value.)

But then again, there is great power and redemption in such actions. The exertion. The focus. The fear and the thrill. It’s the way we become more human, perhaps. By challenging ourselves, by sacrificing: blood, energy, water, time, money. Or maybe it’s the way we engage our animal natures. Outside, moving hard and fast, full of fear and adrenaline, never giving up.

Perhaps that’s what makes humans so interesting–these dual natures in their everyday ebb and flow.

P.S. Here’s a pic of the new bike.

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.

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