Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

The blood stirs…

2 Dec
Hartsel, CO

Hartsel, CO

I haven’t even looked at a bike in over a month. Other than when I head to the washer/dryer, that is, but then only peripherally. I believe there was maybe one or two rides in October, on top of that.

It’s okay and there are some okay excuses as well. Partly it’s burn out, partly it’s that darn Burke-Gilman closure which just makes the commute such a bummer (way more shaves with cars going the alternate route than I like). I caught the start-up entrepreneur bug pretty hard and had a close call with the big time. Then on top of that I was offered a new job at my current company, one I’m super excited about… plus I get to work with my old pal KonaLad!

Also this November I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge, like last year. In itself that month-long writing slog is like a day-long riding slog, the mental challenges being equal to if not greater than the physical ones. There were some nights I was just tapped out and couldn’t muster a measly sentence. Other days I was on fire, churning out close to 5000 words in a case or two. However I stuck with it and it’s done and I’m immensely proud of myself, and it! I intend to self-eBook-publish it, as well as last year’s Tandem! novel.

[Literary aside: I’ve crafted this book to be a mediocre American’s homage to Raymond Queneau. It’s kind of a hoot wrapped in a farce wrapped around a kernel of semi-serious philosophical over-pinnings. I even manage to include a special appearance by Barbara Wright, as herself, as she helps foil the bad guys, naturally. This book is a keeper. I had a ball just inventing stuff on the fly, those flecks of mud that whistled up through the best-laid plans proving to be the best parts of all…]

[Donation aside: please consider going to NaNoWriMo and donating to a good cause, I’ve done so both years because I so appreciate what they’re doing!]

It’s good to take some time off of two wheels in the sense that, when I return to them, I’m sort of starting from scratch. I’ve definitely added my November/Thanksgiving weight gain (I tried going to the gym several times a week, but… it’s really not the same thing). I can feel muscle tone disappearing.

But then tonight I watched the Ride the Divide documentary and could feel the old bike blood running warmer and warmer. I feel like an old bike chain has been coiled around inside me and seeing that scenery tonight and just watching those riders, those pedal motions, those cadences, those roads, has inspired me, given me a few drops of chain oil to get the mental kinks out. (Ray was the mental kink, btw, but Dave would be okay with that). The picture above is of the Hartsel jailhouse, taken on our recent road trip. I was reminded of this pic as I saw that same building from a different angle in the Ride the Divide documentary tonight! Driving through Colorado this past September already prepped me for seeing Ride the Divide and now that I have I’m more than ever convinced I want to do that route… at a touring speed fo sho.

Turning over a new... mile

So with the November writing challenge done I’m going to take some time off from the computer and spend some time getting my hands dirty nursing the bikes along for a nice bit of winter riding. The current plan is to keep the La Cruz, put some aluminum VeloOrange fenders on it, some nice Panasonic Pasela TourGuard tires (same as what SurlyLady has on her Casseroll) and convert it to be my main commuter rig. Then I’ll take that nasty rack off of the Vaya and let her remain true to her all-purpose, off- and on-road roots, to be my main adventure bike. I’ll take the Woodchipper bars off of the Cruz and put on a spare set of Short and Shallows. I think I’m also going to butcher the brown B17 saddle, put some drill holes in it and sew it up a wee bit. Then I’m going to put some new wheels on the Sarthe, the Schwalbe 25c tires and rewrap the bars… and start to think about riding it this spring and summer to prep for the High Pass Challenge! As of today I’m officially in training mode!


Back on Track-ish

29 Nov

I’m done with the novel! Whew. What a grind. Satisfying, revealing, grind. Every day (for November, for NaNoWriMo) you have to do about 1700 words; I kept up with this count nearly every day of the month, with occasional spurts to get ahead of the curve so I could coast through rough work days.

In that sense, it was a lot like some of the longer bike rides I’ve been on. Except 28 days long. You reach what you think is your limit, then you reach down a little further and put the one foot (or word) ahead of the other, one day surprising even myself with around 6000 words in fact.

Ironically, while the novel is mostly about bicycle racing, with some long descriptions of such, I felt oddly out of touch, said descriptions felt quite ‘wooden’ and/or ‘rusty’ since I hardly rode at all in November. In fact I don’t think I’ve commuted to work in nearly three weeks. Partly due to crazy weather, but mostly due to the hectic press of events and my daily obsession with keeping up with NaNoWriMo. As a result, cerebrally I feel as fit as I ever have. It’s amazing what a confidence boost it is to know that, no matter what, you can march out a certain amount of words as needed. To come up with two main intersecting themes, supporting plots, supporting characters… often on the fly in sweet inspiration… well, it’s cool. I realize this literary bragging is analogous to the bicycle bragging I often put forth here, so hope that’s okay.

The down side is, I’m flabby, pasty, easily winded, and in short completely out of shape. I went to the gym twice this last weekend and it was like I was having to start all over. I cringe to think how it’ll be getting back on a bike. The way I look at it, however, is thus: I’ve had my ‘winter layoff’… this was it. The month of November was my winter pause. Now I’m going to get back on the saddle and aim like a (poisoned) arrow at my 2011 biking goals. I know it’s not January yet, but here they are:

  1. Winter Training Series with the Randonneurs
  2. Beating that damn bridge for the Beat the Bridge 8k run
  3. Ride nearly every day for the May commuter challenge
  4. Rapsody in August – one day run with SurlyLady and hopefully some pals
  5. High Pass Challenge – gold medal buster!
  6. At some point, in some cycling fashion, go for an epic bike trip – say Seattle > Darrington > Highway 20 > Mazama > Wenatchee > Highway 2 Stevens > Seattle; or around the Olympic Pensinsula; or from Banff Canada to Montana, along one of those Adventure trails.
  7. And, of course, as much mountain biking and random road biking as can be fit in.

I’m also going to work for world peace yadda yadda, and put out an album or two of music. Oh, and edit this horrible mess of a novel I just created.

So look for me on the Burke, ‘cuz I’m back in bidness.

NaNoWriMo NoBlogMu

6 Nov

Social media friends! Apologies in arrears and advance. I’m taken up with keepin’ up with the 1667 words per day as prescribed by the NaNoWriMo madness.

As such I haven’t been able to update this here blog much. SurlyLady, in putting up with my “I have to go write on the nice computer” ‘plaint has also given up the ghostwriting.

Interestingly, I have found a way to write a novel about biking, so in a sense (and if only in my own mind, and offline from what you can see certainly) there is a continuity. BTW, a continuity editor is what I really need during NaNoWriMo, as so far my writing (I’m about 1000 words above schedule) is about 95% dialogue and about 5% exposition and somewhat rough around the edges.

And, just as you may find while you’re on the hunt for elk you suddenly see all kinds of deer, so too all the bicycle-based story ideas abounding in my life. For instance, seeing the four older bicycle guys meeting in the restaurant, clearly a post-ride beer lunch, each guy in his 50s, thin legs, slight paunches, thin tops, thinning hair, driving SUVs on top of which were pinned Rivendells, Bianchis and Treks. Yes, I felt some affinity, and envy. They had that cold ride glow about them, that certain smugness of imbibing after jersey & bibbing, the justified thirst-slaking mood you get after a long ride. (Whereas I’ve been taking it easy this week and feeling pasty and fatsy as a result).

The bike relations continued with a Craigslist adventure to a chap selling a bunch of Speedplay Frog pedals; I picked up three pairs for dirt cheap. Asked him why he had so many pairs, and it turned out a friend had given him a bunch of cycling equipment, including tandem bikes, as her husband had passed away many years ago and “she just wanted to get rid of it, have it go to a good home”…

I’ll admit, on paper it sounds sketchy, but the fellow didn’t have any kind of thievin’ vibe about him. What sort of reinforced the pedal pedigree was that he was also selling two pairs of Sidi shoes, one MTB Dominator and one road style. Two pairs of shoes, four pairs of pedals, two tandems… it sort of added up; otherwise the guy’s haul had been a spectacularly comprehensive crime. He mentioned the Sidi shoes and had me try them on. They’re an older model, when they were still made in Italy, and looked about 80% new. They were several sizes too big, but for some reason they fit pretty okay, if cinched all the way down. I couldn’t pass them up. It was a bit odd to think I was literally putting myself in a passed-away person’s shoes… but in that sort of awkward on-the-spur Craigslist haggling I couldn’t help thinking about this fellow, with his love of Sidi’s and Speedplays, and how actually I was kind of honored to carry things forward a bit.

And then on the drive home from buying the pedals and my new favorite shoes, it hit me: the perfect plot foil for my new book. I dutifully incorporated it into the book a few nights ago, the beginning seeds of it at least, and I’ll be damned if it may not prove to be the biggest ‘gotcha’ plot point of the whole shebang. All due to coincidence, accident and an odd moment of reverence.

So, maybe not so many bike posts in the next few weeks. But, perhaps, a nice bike-related novel out of the deal.

Crank-y Quotes

11 Oct

Mechanicals: Bad news on the Vaya: you know how I’ve been complaining about the front derailleur? Sometimes when out of the saddle certain spots in the arc would cause cage rub. Alignment problem, I assumed. Kept fiddling with the derailleur. Well then last week on the ride home I looked down because the cage rubbing was becoming terrible, no fiddling was helping, and noticed the chainring/crank was wobbly. Uh oh.

Got off, tightened the crank bolt (it was loose… like, about to fall off loose) and hoped for the best. Nope. It got loose again nearer home. Not as bad. Then at home using a tool with better leverage I really ‘cranked’ that puppy. Next day? Some more slippage. I have to think there’s a good chance I’ve rounded out the aluminum crankset. I have a bottom bracket on order (to replace the used one that I started off with) and will grease that puppy up and try it all over. But if there’s more slipping… and I have to think the BB probably has a steel spindle which beats the aluminum, right?

Lovely Fall weather: with weather and days like this, with winter temps and months beckoning, it’s hard not to ride every day. We’re just loving every second of our commute on these transitional days! Even the annoying bikers don’t annoy like they usually do!

Quotes: From Marcel Theroux’s A Stranger in the Earth:

He would give it all up, like a plucky but defeated Celtic leader, dumping a cartload of rusty swords at the feet of a Roman proconsul in return for a seat on the board and an executive salary.

From Stefan Themerson’s factor T:

We invent our god to exculpate us when we find it necessary to perform the unpleasant act of killing those who invent their god when they find it necessary to perform the unpleasant task of killing us. And we invented the police force, not only to prevent others from killing us when they find it necessary, but also to force ourselves to kill the others whenever this act, which we dislike, is found necessary for us.

There is a tragic discrepancy between our dislike of killing and the necessity of doing so. I call that discrepancy factor T, and it seems to me neither virtuous nor wise to ignore it.

Far North

21 Sep

Some sci fi can start like this:

Young Cyrus emerged from the Tube and automatically pulled down his sh’trithra to guard against the perishing gamma deflection from Cygnos XI’s sister sun; as perishing as the glare of the Old Mistress if I’m late to the education factory, on GuyFawlke3000 Day no less, he thought.

Some western fi can start like this:

Young Cyrus carefully closed the cabin door so as not to wake the sleeping baby brother and stepped onto the porch, pulling down the brim of his hat, it being a bright morning in the Barefoot Hills of Montana. Unless he lit out of there he knew he’d face the wrath of Miss Crabtree, followed by the smothered laughter of the other kids, already likely to be riled because tomorrow was to be the 4th of July.

While in the bookstore the other day, I thumbed through a book and within two lines was hooked on what (eventually) turned out to be an intriguing blending of the two:

Every day I buckle on my guns and go out to patrol this dingy city.
I’ve been doing it so long that I’m shaped to it, like a hand that’s been carrying buckets in the cold.

This is a great read. If you love stories in the Survivalist, Post-Environmento-Apocalyptic, Western/Sci-Fi, Little House on the Prairie/Prison Camp genre, you’re gonna love Far North. I like the anthropological aspect to it. It’s like reverse engineering sci fi, picking up the archeological artifacts and making the connection going back over time.

In addition to the main character’s treatment (and treatment), the other great character is never named but is obviously known as WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? If I ever have a kid, that’ll be his middle name. If it’s a her, the middle name will be TOLT YOU SO PIPELINE.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? is, again, never seen, only hinted at, but is omnipresent, on all the minds of the characters and on every page. Makepeace Hatfield, the sheriff and central actor, is a tour de force. I won’t ruin the details, but the details are amazing: when it comes to the plane, I picture something like an Antonov 12, some classic Russian cargo transport, but this sort of thing is never spelled out specifically and in such terms, just hinted at through the interpretive lens of a post-interpretive mindset: curvatures, smells, bouncing, g-force sensation, the shine of the metallic skin. It’s a masterful story both in what’s included but almost even more so by what’s not included.

I highly recommend this book to y’all. At work, on a Friday afternoon, one of the chaps on my team came up and said, I’m about to fly to Florida for a three-day weekend and need a book. You wouldn’t happen to have any thing?

I had just finished Far North and handed it over. He apparently read it in one go. It’s that kind of book.

And, if you like it, I highly recommend Marcel Theroux’s Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase (or also known as The Paperchase). It’s chock full of the most pithy simile/metaphor suggestions… I remember one passage, describing a kitchen oven that apparently was never used by its late owner, as having an ‘aura to it like an abandoned car in the middle of a forest’ or something to that effect. His father Paul Theroux is famous of course, and I have tried on several occasions to get past the first 100 pages of his uncle’s book Laura Warholic, published by Seattle’s own Fantagraphics (I worked there one summer! a long, long time ago…).

Helprin Report

21 Apr

The SurlyLady got me to reading Memoir from Antproof Case. I thought, after Freddy and Soldier, that he couldn’t possibly top those. Maybe this one does. It’s amazingly, absurdly funny.

I’ve just finished the passage where the narrator/protag has been to Switzerland to an exclusive, Alpine sanatarium – and so of course, doesn’t that sound like Magic Mountain?

Therefore, hasty, initial impression: Antproof is like something told by Hans Castorp, if he’d lived to be 80+ years old, and had become a Harvard educated, globetrotting Grandpa Simpson.

hills yes

11 Apr

All week we’d been looking forward to a sweet, sunny ride around Camano Island. But then the weekend went nuts and time-warped us to Saturday night and there was way too much to do Sunday to make that trip, so we decided to sleep in instead and just take care of business today. Except then I woke up at 6:30 this morning and there was no more sleeping! Which was sad, but then again kind of nice because it was early enough that I could be really lazy for a little while. So I settled in for my daily dose of Helprin—I’m actively rationing Winter’s Tale now, in the hopes that it takes me at least a year to read. This is really difficult, because I find lines like this:

“Then, Virginia breathed easy, and the rooster was so happy that had he been a chicken he would have laid three eggs a day. Or was he a chicken? Who knows? The point is, he thought he was a cat.”

And I never want to stop reading it ever. Seriously, I know it sounds creepy, but I want to marry his brain and have a bunch of little book-babies. But in the meantime I just savored a few pages with a cup of coffee and then, because we are mature and responsible adults, the lad and I decided to ignore all the stuff that needed doing and go for a ride anyway. We did keep it short, though, settling for some quick and dirty hill work. We headed over to Juanita, up the big hill, then just turned around and hit all the MLT hills. This gave me the chance to do the homework my personal trainer had assigned. She had told me to really pay attention to my pedal stroke, picture it like a clock and make sure I was hitting every hour, all the way around. So I tried it and it was pretty amazing—a totally different feeling. My legs seemed to disappear altogether, and my feet just cut through the air like oars through water. It felt so much cleaner, lighter and faster, and for once I wasn’t even winded heading up the MLT hills. I even got out of the saddle and sprinted up Frisbee Hill, which I haven’t been able to do since the height of last summer’s training. This was very exciting! The hard part will be training myself to pedal that way without thinking about it, because right now it does take a lot of concentration, and, as this blog has probably made clear by now, my brain is pretty easily distracted.