Sunday, June 29, 2008

Help me, help you

Long ago I made the weighty declaration to live my life in such a way that would be beneficial to humankind. Like Gandhi and Mother Theresa before me, I have vowed to sacrifice my own well being and luxury to help others; only instead of liberating countries or feeding the hungry I contribute by using my finely tuned, highly trained scientific mind in an attempt to solve some of life's slightly less pressing but no less irritating problems. There's no doubt that starving or being systematically oppressed can put a damper on letting the good times roll, but smaller problems too can have life-inhibiting consequences and thus should not be neglected.

In my quest to solve the problems of humanity and bring happiness to the world, I have decided not to be bogged down with matters huge, glaring and/or obvious. Instead, I focus on small conundrums specific to my time and place and habits. By focusing on myself I am really concentrating my already impressive talents into a tight, dense ball of genius; idea bullets to be muzzle-loaded into the musket of hope. As cohesive and logical as that may sound, there are unique difficulties in focusing on too small of a realm. Creating solutions for extremely specific or esoteric instances can lead to inventions like the hands-free umbrella, extravagant wastes of talent and time that don't even make you look good.

I have long been perplexed by the options available for cycling-related personal object transport. And by my ''C-" math-student calculations I am convinced that a substantial proportion of cyclists are too. My solutions took the form of numerous cleverly designed bags and pouches, of which I have since refined and streamlined in attempts to mass distribute.

In my first small-scale attempt at fulfilling this dream, I partook in the semi-annual R5 productions Punk Rock Flea market. This past weekend I unloaded a cornucopia of colorful canvas creations, my very own Camp Cupboard U Lock holster hip pouches, onto a charmless wooden veneer table at the Starlight ballroom. I was selling my bags along with thingys, doo-dads, and other curiosities at fair and affordable prices. Fueled by whiskey ginger-ales and cheese-fries, I espoused the numerous life-changing benefits of comfortably carrying U locks while looking really, really good. There were some onlookers rife with disbelief, some interested yet impecunious parties, and many passers-by using the derogatory term "fanny pack", but my spirit was high and my sales tallied up as pretty damn decent.

As scintillating as my stitching my be, I am begrudgingly aware that carrying stuff while riding may not be a true scourge of many of my peers. Many of my sweet, charming patrons did complement the logical design coupled with interesting and pleasing aesthetics, and thus reinforced and reinvigorated my mission. I wish to give a giant, sappy, and totally appreciative thank you to everybody that came out to visit my table, and to everyone that used their money on my table as opposed to someone else's, or even just stopped to chat.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gotta be starting something

I often take pop song lyrics from the 80's directly to heart, and since I don't wanna be no vegetable, I've been starting many many somethings.

This week I made my triumphant return to the bicycle, I've been working full time at Trophy bike shop, and I've been slaving away in preparation for this Saturday's R5PPRFM.

I've got many glorious things in the works; including but not limited to setting up an Etsy shop, posting newer, more genius-er bicycle related designs, buying my first 'cross bike, and training for the D2R2.

So please continue to enjoy the internet documentation of my adventures, as I'm so busy in "real life" I've become rather impossible to keep track of.

Nature Vs. Nurture

I had a typical middle-American childhood. And by that I mean I was a depressed, friendless, awkward, chubby, socially isolated youth held captive by padded walls of modern suburbia. My concept of "outside" was that of a toxic landscape rife with spiders, snakes, and boogey-men; a place that one dared not enter lest one truly desired to be ravaged by the heat, sun, flora and fauna. Leave the house and the possibilities of victimhood abound; one could be the recipient of a watermelonesque welt from an unidentifiable insect or even be chased by MadDog swigging wilderness men. Or if particularly lucky, one could hike around the local canals and be the first to discover a freshly dumped human corpse--my fear of "outside" was not completely unfounded.

I have often expressed my disdain for heat and bugs and dirt and nature and being outside, and usually my tirades are intercepted with the lame yet well intentioned references to the beach. Oh yes, I am from Florida, and thus I had 2,000 miles of glorious shoreline to savor. The beach however is akin to a bowl of wax fruit on a table in a furniture store. I suppose it looks good in photographs, but there isn't much to really do with it. People go to the beach to sit on towels and get sunburned. Maybe they'll go into uncomfortably cold jellyfish infested water for six or eight minutes then sit around soggy for the rest of the day. Maybe they'll swallow some red-tide and have heinous diarrhea for a week. Usually a trip to the beach involves a lot of driving, getting sweaty and sandy, getting your car sweaty and sandy, and coming home with inescapable exhaustion yet having accomplished nothing. In short, the beach is for assholes.

Cycling was the first activity I came to enjoy that placed me inexorably inside the outside. At first I was just road riding though urban areas or riding a paved rail-to-trail which tended to buffer me from the real icky sticky of nature. But like so many first dates, one thing rapidly lead to another and I was borrowing mountain bikes to ride in the local trails; I was all up in nature like a bouncing balloon of narcotics inside a weary drug trafficker's duodenum.

While I built up a hefty tolerance to the outside due to my love of riding, my unease has eased since I moved north. From the first ride though the Wissahickon I discovered there is a different kind of nature here that is increasingly eroding my long standing grudge. There aren't alligators in the lakes or massive glistening webs filled with bird-sized spiders. I can even stop riding for a moment without worrying about attracting a swarm of rabid mosquitoes. The trails are dark because massive clusters of old growth trees have canopies which actually shield the ferocious sunshine.

It isn't merely the lack of irritating stimuli to which I had become inured that so rapidly changed my view of outside. The background noises aren't frantic insect mating calls but bird songs. The dirt here is rocky and full of mica so even the mud sparkles. The forests run along major rivers so there is always a breeze, and the patches of darkness are soothing. During the daytime rabbits and beavers frolic across the trail, and at dusk there are fireflies. The forest here twinkles with magical blinking creatures and glitter dirt and I have realized there is a reason the Transcendentalist poets were not from the South. Try and wax nostalgic about the swamp all you want, but I can not fathom romanticizing about humidity that makes you feel like a claustrophobic at a mouth-breather's convention held in a gas station bathroom.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bedrest and beyond

Like the expulsion from Eden, my post-hospital bed rest was replete with cursed suffering. Not long after absconding from my foggy, supine corner of the ICU, the pain returned with vicious ardor. My enthusiasm for freedom was extinguished with the realization that being on an IV drip of Dilaudid for three days lead me to greatly under appreciate or even realize my injuries. For three much longer and unfortunately much more cognizant days I endured mental and physical battles with low energy, low appetite, and a most uncharacteristic sluggish wit.

While I am an acidic pickle I am absolutely not one to dilly dally. The very day I felt completely not-so-bad-ish I set off with the vigor of a fifteen-year-old house cat to resume fulfillment of my life's goals, dreams and aspirations. I'm very happy to say that I finally found some work. I have merrily joined the ranks of the post-collegiate purposefully underemployed, as I will now be (wo)manning the sales front of a very fine shop. This shop deals in all matters pertaining to the bicycle, and hence this career move places me somewhere between cannon fodder and Civil War Reenactor on the battle ground that is the cycling industry.

I now have the life-affirming pleasure of enlightening the layperson on all topics surrounding the glory that be: the bicycle. Aside from the obvious perks of working with awesome, interesting, like-minded people, I am also the lucky recipient of vast amounts of mechanical knowledge to which I am accepting with pious reverence and perhaps poorly concealed avarice.

A week spent on cajoling my liver to re-congeal and landing a steady job did not sate my appetite for exhaustion. I've also been in steady preparation for the great big R5 Productions Flea Market, at which I will likely sell out of my impeccably designed and highly limited batch goods. Because of this I seriously advise all planning on dropping by to come to my table first, to spend all your money on my stuff, and also to donate pizza and beer to my needy stomach. Seriously.

Happy riding.

It's coming


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Party Crashing!

Life on earth is a ceaseless battle between your existence and that of the rest of the universe. It is an eternal tug of war set on a rainy field day; to which your only strategy is coercing your fat friend to sit in the loop at the end of the rope to serve as an anchor. Typically you'll be lurched across the line in an anticlimactic few seconds and simply go home with blistered hands. Use any tricks up your sleeve and the fates will level the field by stirring up a bout of lactose intolerance or case of mono. I'm fairly certain the universe was becoming uneasy with my silky smooth transition into the cycling realm; as I was just dealt a random albeit excruciating and training-schedule-halting blow.
Last Monday, on a gloriously swift training ride though beautiful Wissahickon park, I suffered an epic disaster. While navigating a downed tree, my back wheel was violated by the grubby paws of a tree branch, and I was unceremoniously ejected from my bicycle. The wind was knocked out of my chest with violent force and I was lodged in a Venus fly-trap of mud, gasping for air and waiting to be digested whole.
Shock rapidly evolved to panic as I could not find the strength to breath; nausea came sharp and fast but the retching proved too laborious for my body to handle. I was found in a tight ball moaning and drooling in the mud.
As I was presumably riding at an effortless yet formidable pace, my riding partner was too far behind to witness the crash; she merely came up upon this surly absurd and chaotic scene. Helpful strangers offered assistance, and I did what any frightened, immobilized, and injured person does: I became unnecessarily combative and likened the sounds of their voices to emetics. After more peaceable deliberations with passers-by and many trips made by them into and out of the park for cell phone service, a sensible course of action was generated. We reasoned that since a substantial amount of time had passed and I was still unable to breath without agonizing pain or even stand up, calling an ambulance was likely the best decision.
A harrowing trip via ambulance was made to a local ER trauma ward where I was briskly escorted absolutely nowhere and left sobbing and alone on a gurney near the entrance. After impatient discussions with the hospital and EMT staff I was subjected to the most unholy of hospital procedures: the trauma triage. This included having my cycling kit cut off leaving me totally nude aside from mud splatters, fingers and/or needles in every orifice imaginable, and being forced to answer the same four questions to twenty different people. My pain-induced hostility and impatience was palpable and apparently yucky-tasting to the triage team, so a large dose of narcotics was squirted into my IV to allay my inappropriate rage. After the burning sensation in my neck subsided, the glare of the fluorescent white room dissipated to become a pleasantly glowing bubble filled with silvery-winged worker bees graciously attending to me, their glistening and revered queen.
A few X rays and either a PET or DOG or CAT scan later, the full extent of my injuries was revealed. I had no broken bones and hardly a physical gash, but my internal organs suffered some intense sloshing. My spleen had lesions and my liver was actually severed in two. I learned that much like my ego, my liver is needlessly massive. In an average human being, the bulk of this organ is primarily tucked in the upper right quadrant. In my extraordinarily unique body, my liver goes fully from right to left, serving as a kind of frosting to the delicious cupcake that is my abdominothoracic cavity. While this surly offers me some sort of extreme advantage survival wise, it also put me at risk for this bizarre and immensely painful trauma.
After three days in the ICU I could no longer stand the indignity that comes with being a patient. I left against doctor's orders and was not given any pain medicine or real advice as to my course of healing, aside from "don't do anything where you could fall". Obviously by being bedridden and drugged I had not been able to convey just how graceless and clumsy I truly am in daily life, so I took this advice to mean "Watch DVDs and eat pudding until it doesn't hurt anymore". And unlike haughty New Year's Resolutions, that is a self-prescribed regiment I can abide by.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Some tips and tip-offs (#1)

Over the past month I have come to the realization that cycling is one of the least approachable sports to begin. Aside from the substantial monetary investments and the vast quantities of time spent riding, the most prohibiting aspect has to be its difficulty. Becoming a dedicated, serious, non-competitive amateur hurts.

So far I've suffered breathing difficulties, back stiffness, knee aches, lung soreness, debris lodged in my eyeballs, near-choking, falls, scrapes; and these are merely the physical injuries. Never mind the mental and emotional tolls of incessantly beating myself up over my stubborn physical ineptitude, the taunts shouted from passers-by, or the way I envision gravel roads to be constituted of a billion tiny middle fingers aggressively mocking my efforts.

As it's nearly been four weeks of grueling effort, I feel I now have amassed enough experience and anecdotes to begin passing on helpful, enlightening, life-changing advice. So today and in further posts I will share some handy tips intended for like-minded riders: the utterly, at times dangerously, clueless.
I will inject some drama by keeping today's counsel short yet weighty.

The most valuable tip to becoming a serious amateur recreational non-competitive cyclist:

Never, ever forget how much you suck. Every time you swing your leg over your saddle, remind yourself that as a beginner, you start at the bottom caste of the cycling world and that you may as well have leprosy and the plague. That your current state of athleticism in no way has prepared you or offered you any advantage. That your questions are irritating, your confidence laughable, and that nobody cares you rode for the first time up that big scary hill instead of your usual dismount and walk-up. Always remember that even on your good days you are still miserable, slow, and weak.

While that sinks in, I'm off for the weekend to watch a whole lot of cyclists who do not suck, as the pro cycling tour Triple Crown is in Philadelphia this week.

Happy Riding!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Black and blue sabbath.

Days of rest are highly recommended not just by acolytes and labor unions, but by athletes and trainers too. Luckily resting has always been one of my strong points; and I believe that it is vitally important to asses and nurture strong points on the rare occasion they exist. In my undertaking as a fully committed yet non-competitive amateur cyclist, I have thus far taken the time to examine my strong and weak points to better tailor my severe and intense riding regiment. In this I was mostly hoping to be afforded less training time due to my innate cycling prowess, and thus spending time analyzing myself would have ultimately added efficiency to my work-outs. After a final tally, however that may not be the case.
Here is a list of my strengths thus far:

a) changing a flat on a front quick-release wheel in less than twenty minutes.
b) descending.
c) grabbing and eating snacks out of my jersey pockets without too much veering.
d) getting repeatedly asked "Are you all right?" by concerned roadies.
e) looking good.

And remember- I list these not to brag, but to assess where I stand as I start this endeavor. To prove that natural talent only goes so far, here is my list of mostly technical feats I have yet to master. Or more succinctly-
My list of weaknesses:

a) clipping into my pedals. Specifically the right.
b) clipping out. Both sides.
c) climbing hills.
d) pedaling on flats.
e) braking.
f) coordinating drinking out of the water bottle with breathing.
g) inhaling bugs and choking (see letter D in strengths above).

So I may have a ways to go before I can hold my own. Fortunately I typically ride alone, so there's little to no accountability of even that.

Rest days are also paramount to getting other things done. Like today, I signed up for this:

R5 Productions Punk Rock Flea Market. I will be there hocking my beautiful, life-changing creations for minimal profit and maximal goodwill.
I have some good stuff in the works for this, and you can bet your sweet ones I'll be tantalizing the masses with masses of tantalizing photo-laden updates.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Training pants

There are very few things in life I'm good at, and of those even fewer have ever proved to benefit me. Thus far, my penchant for effortlessly taking multiple naps in the same day or for inhaling an entire box of Little Debbie® Oatmeal Cream Pies in one sitting have yet to manifest meaningful results or even practical uses.

What I am good at is embarrassing myself, and at subjecting myself to undue torture for the sake of wasting a lot of time. To sufficiently exploit these abilities I have decided, not without exhaustive excogitation, to become a truly dedicated novice amateur non-competitive strictly recreational cyclist.

Becoming an amateur non-competitive athlete isn't something to be taken lightly; and as such I've been reading about cycling training, events, and culture. I found an issue of Cyclist Magazine from 1988, and Dan even let me borrow some biblical book to aid in my enlightenment. The magazine has far more pictures so naturally I've focused my attention on that, but it's hard to elucidate any usable advice when I can't stop giggling at the 80s style hair-dos. (More like Hair DON'TS!)

By now I'm assuming that you are astonished, shocked, and likely curious of the hair in my magazine. You might even be impressed but confused with my resolve to dedicate my recreational time to one seemingly healthy yet fruitless endeavor. Well it turns out that in cycling, like in soccer, goals are good make. My summer training regiment is actually to prepare me for this. The D2R2 is a 107-mile randonnee primarily on dirt and gravel roads through Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. It is here that my brutal, couple-days-a-week training will bear fruit.

I have nearly twelve weeks from today to become confident and capable in a saddle for seven+ hours. Currently, my athletic capabilities wane around mile 30 but my confidence dissipates just after I'm done clipping my right foot in.

And readers, here it goes: along with life-changing avant-guarde design creations I will be keeping updates of my training progress here as well. So please, join me in my cycling toddlerhood and help me pick out some good training pants.