Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh man.

While it would be easy to instigate the conflict that generally comes with the publication of the last post, it would also be hollow if I just left it at that. I am not interested in fueling the fire that burns between the cyclist and the motorist. Rather, I think it is important to raise the awareness of both the motorist and the non-motored traveler to this ever increasing dilemma. How can we peacefully co-exist? How can the cyclist and the motorist travel the same course without conflict? Does it start with education and end with action and implement? Probably.

I learned how to ride a bike as a child in a small town where there was no conflict with motorists. There was no need for my parents to discuss that aspect of two-wheeled freedom with me. It just didn't come up. In fact, I cannot remember a time when there was a car involved with my cycling until the summer between elementary school and junior high.

At the time I lived a decent distance from the new school. So much so that I would need to be bused when the actual school year started, but to get acquainted with my enrollment in summer school, I would need to ride my bike. My family didn't live outside of the city, but the road I needed to take to make the commute crossed one of the areas largest motorways and traveled along an essentially empty frontage road.

I remember leaving my house that day and picking up my friend who had also planned to make the maiden voyage to our new institution. When we left our neighborhood we pedaled and laughed and made our way down the hill toward the major artery crossing. When we arrived at the traffic light that controlled the highways only intersection, we waited. The light turned green and we made our way across and onto the frontage road that would take us further into the city and ultimately to our destination. We weren't more than a half-mile from the intersection, riding two abreast (it seemed natural at the time) in a designated bike lane when a car struck me from behind. I was riding on the lane side of our duo so I was the one who took the majority of the impact. The car pushed me into my friend and I ended up going over the handlebars somehow. I can remember the feeling of the loose rock being driven into my hands and chest. I can remember the terrible feeling of ripped skin and broken pride. I can remember watching from the ground as the car sped away into the distance. I can remember feeling fear like I had never known it before.

At the time of the accident our ride was just past the halfway point which meant that turning around would involve more work than continuing. I picked up my bicycle and estimated the damage. It appeared to have survived with a fair amount of scratches and a slightly un-true rear wheel. It rode though and so did I. The next two miles that day were grueling, but now where near the pain that came with having my wounds cleaned by a counselor who had never had kids. when I arrived at the school that morning, I went to the nurses office and was met by a woman later admitted to being a counselor (not a nurse) and never having kids. She addressed the situation with the utmost professionalism and took care of me the best she could. The trouble was, she used rubbing alcohol to clean my wounds instead of peroxide. Not so much fun, but man it makes memories.

I left school that day and rode the very same bicycle home. The wheel got fixed and the wounds healed, both inside and out. It didn't keep me off my bike and I never really held a resentment towards the driver. At that time (I was 13) I just assumed that it was an accident and that since I was technically alright, there was no foul.

I bring this incident up, not because I think I am a great person for not holding angst against the driver that day, but rather because that accident shaped the way I have looked at cycling ever since. Whenever I am on the rode I see myself as a visitor. A guest along the pavement and in being such, I am at the mercy of the motorist. I realize this is a sort of backwards train of thought, but for me it has always worked. I ride on the right and try to keep my wits about me. When being passed, I will always try to form a single line when riding with others. If I'm coming up a hill (on gravel or not) I always try to find my way over to the edge of the road. I understand my rights to be on the tarmac, but I also comprehend the reality of the situation. I am a slower moving vehicle and as such I need to relate to the other, quicker moving traffic as such. It doesn't always work and sometimes there is conflict, but for the most part my approach has been successful.

My point is that I learned to ride in traffic by being show first hand what not to do. I learned that it is not okay to talk and ride and disregard the cars around me. I learned that I should always try to be aware of what's coming up behind and move over when I can. I learned it on the road and I'm not sure I had to. I think those ideas could have been introduced a bit sooner. Maybe at the elementary school level? Maybe the cyclist information should come with a driver's education? Frankly I'm not certain of the answer. I learned it the way I did and I guess that's my story. What I do know is that by talking about the conflict it will most likely be resolved. Pointing out the efforts to halt the cyclists use of the roads in Iowa is raising awareness of the issue. Talking about points on the other side does the same.

There are more than a few organizations making efforts to raise cycling/motorist awareness in the youth of today. A quick search on the Google left me with a place to start. Here are two that I found right away.

Momentum Planet
Youth Bicycle Education Network

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh Boy.

So I was wandering around the Internets tonite and I stumbled across something regarding some "concerned" citizens in Iowa trying to petition legislature there to BAN CYCLISTS FROM USING FARM-TO-MARKET ROADS. It struck me as odd that people would gather themselves to actually push for something like this. Either way they've set themselves up with a website and are inviting Iowa residents to sign their petition. You can see everything related to their efforts here (including the names of the people who have signed so far, even the ones that wish to be left anonymous....cowards).

Here's a sample from from the petition list. (I put my favorite lines in italics):

# 136:
5:10 am PDT, Jul 28, Name not displayed, Iowa

"Farm to Market roadways are no place for bicycles. Bicycles slower speeds and visibility makes them inherently dangerous for bicyclists and motor vehicles alike - this should be so obvious. Farm machinery is also slow and a dangerous mix with other motor vehicles (although much more visible), and for that reason, I would prefer that they too be banned from these roads; BUT the difference between the two are obvious - the use of farm machinery is commerce not recreation. I have a family with young children that depend on my welfare. My wife and I have determined that operating even a motorcycle is not safe behavior for someone in my position, let alone a slower moving bicycle! While I am generally a defender of personal rights, this may be one case where the law needs to be changed to protect people AND THEIR FAMILIES from wreckless behavior, not to mention we motorists. Bicyclists - quit worrying about your precious rights (better said PRIVILEDGES), and start thinking about your responsibilities!"

# 61:
Jul 25, 2009, Anonymous, Iowa

"Because bikers think that they need the same privledeges and rights and cars and they can't maintain near the same speed as a car. Plus it gets annoying hearing about bikers complaining about "speeding" cars or getting hit when they are riding on a road with blind curves and steep hills. The state has plenty of bike trails or other recreational areas for the bikers. Roads are for cars."

# 60:
Jul 25, 2009, Anonymous, Iowa

"It is unfortunate that a bike cannot compete with a car/truck/etc. in an exchange of inertia, but that's the way it is. The laws of physics cannot be changed. A vehicle's driver is then the one left holding the bag. A bike that does not yield, and that is usually the case, never seems to get the blame. Unfair. I would like to walk along the interstates."

# 52:
Jul 25, 2009, Rich Smith, Iowa

"They are a hazard to themselves and others, also when they get hit the driver of the vehicle is automaticly at fault. I too have encountered them riding three abreast and totaly ignoreing the cars. If They want to ride on the highways require them to spend a couple hundred up to six or eight hundred dollars for registration plates like I do for my car. Also I believe proof of insurance like we do would be in order."

# 51: (my personal favorite)
Jul 25, 2009, Pat Mcnamara, Iowa

"there is alot of money spent on farm to market road. Licence the bickiclist. Like the rest of of. I go to work as early as 5:30 and have to look out for the bikes. In the middle of the road."

# 7:
Jul 15, 2009, Leroy Wolfe, Iowa

"Until bycyclists are forceed to obey all vehicle traffic laws the same as cars, I oppose them riding on roads period."

It never ends.

So the big European race is over and the crap just continues to get thrown around. Here is a decent article outlining the high, sorry, low points. Either way it's interesting and I'm certain we can look toward a Contador/Schleck/Schleck Saxo Bank team for 2010....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So I took some time off from here....

My head has been a bit of a mess having left one part of my life behind and headed out toward identifying the next, but it is getting better. Good news though, I have secured two days a week at another local watering hole and have decided to continue the search for more gainful employment. I suppose the natural move would be to continue my efforts to supply the community with all of the thirst quenching goodness that I have been serving up for the last 12 years, but there is a part of me that longs for something new. Something more in-line with my current aspirations. Something more creative.

While I try to figure that next move out I'll point you over to another blog I started up. This one is just for photographs. I have some old work on there as well as some new. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


For those that care to know, there is a road-tested, Almanzo stamped & certified, gravelesque wheelset in the works. That's right Almanzo wheelset. More details down the path a bit...


I am still having dreams/nightmares about my former place of employment. I hope they end soon. Until then, this is about how I feel.

From here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Film at eleven.

I was in Minneapolis on Friday and rode my bike over to the Cedar saw a couple a pretty nice films that were playing as part of the BFF. The first was titled "I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes". It's just plain rad. Here's a trailer for you.

I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes Trailer from BAD BREAKS on Vimeo.

The second was titled "Down by the Weep Hole: The Story of Stupor Bowl" and it is magic. Heck, it even makes me long for the cold and snow of winter. Here is a trailer for it:

If you get the chance to see these as part of the festival...DO IT! You won't regret it.

Also, the Almanzo picked up a new sponsor. Capricorn Bicycles! That's right, Brad, the Minneapolis based handmade steel bicycle craftsman has thrown his hat into the proverbial ring for the 2010 running of the great Almanzo 100. Check his site, as well as all of the other great Almanzo sponsors via the logo/link list on the right. Enjoy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is it really shamless?

For the last 10 years I have tended bar at the same place. For the last 16 months I have been slowly forced to accept things that have been removed from my control. It started with a lack of space behind the bar, to which my cries for help were answered by "just make it work". I did. Next, my right-hand-tender was fired so I was left to pick up the slack. I asked for more help and was told "......". A replacement was finally hired 8 months later. When something would break behind the bar I would ask to have it replaced. Nothing ever came. No repairs were ever made. I was asked to add more juice than liquor to my own drink recipes. I did as I was told. Eventually the owners selected another member of the team (not a bartender) to create the drink recipes. I went along with this as well. For the last 16 months the entire place has been in a state of constant change. I did what I was told to do until I was forced to do as I saw fit, until I was forced to answer for things I knew nothing about. I had become the face for a business that was falling apart.

As all of these things were happening as the business was beginning to slow. Some blamed the economy, others the ever changing face of the restaurant. It didn't matter much to me, I was still making money. I was still having a good time. I was, I mean it. I was enjoying myself right up until I heard that the owners most recent idea to bring about the positive change included bringing in another bartender (from another of their restaurants) to "help increase the bar business". This would have been alright had they just sat me down and told me, but I heard it from the other tender. He was the one who told me about the shift. So when I finally saw the schedule and he was indeed scheduled to work one of my nights I popped. I had seen it all. Ten years and this is what I get? My shifts taken away from me? Why don't you just come over to the house and take my kids food off their goddamn plates? I was furious. I was sad. I was speechless.

I left there that day thinking about a lot of things, but mostly about moving forward. I thought about the race and the Almanzo project. I thought about what I had learned in ten years. I thought about the reality of bringing home some money to buy food and pay bills. I sat in a park and looked at my bike and I thought. A lot.

I went home that night and shaved and cut my hair and decided that I would go out and get a new job the next day. I woke up, pulled out the nice dress shirt and the nice dress shoes and I went down the street to another restaurant and introduced myself. I was invited to sit down and talk for a bit and by the end of the conversation I had landed myself another "drink pouring" position. I was ecstatic. I was pleased as could be.

The next step was to turn in my notice as I wouldn't be starting at the new place until the 18th of this month. I walked into my bosses office, shaking with fear and nervousness. I sat down and asked for a moment of his time and began to speak. I told him that I had been there for a long time, ten years, and that I unfortunately had to turn in my two week notice. He asked something about me having had enough. I replied with my thanks and appreciation for the past ten years. He countered with some small thank you and proceeded to ask about the remainder of my time. I suggested that I work my upcoming scheduled shifts and he said, "I don't like lame ducks, so I think it would be better if you would just be done". The shaking stopped. The fear left my body immediately behind the nervousness and I concluded our conversation with a thank you and a handshake. I left that office with a smile.

I knew since the remodel that things were not as organized as they had been for the previous 8 years. I knew that eventually I would no longer be able to continue to work in an environment that left no room for order. I was hesitant to leave because I had put in so many years of my life. Ten years is no small task, but when I had no choice left, but to stay or go the answer was made clear in the emptiness of my bosses face. With no question as to why I was leaving and no efforts to try and convince me otherwise it was clear that this man has no thought for the people that work under him and no concern for the efforts they put forth. No real compassion for those that feed his children before they feed their own. I wish this gentleman all the luck in the world and I hope that his business succeeds and his family prospers, but I am afraid of the results should he continue to operate under such disorganization and chaos. There are still people there that would go to any length to help his place survive, but they must be recognized. They must be appreciated.

So why do I write all of this? Why here, on the Almanzo blog? The answer is simple. This is what I love. This project, born from my own two hands is a big part of why I get up everyday and while I would love to spend my hours working on this I must part from it from time to time and work for someone else. Someone else who can pay my bills. Someone else who can fund my dream, the Almanzo. I write this story here to get it off my chest. To put in words what I have felt for so long. The working population deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and the stories of those who are not deserve to be told. I am certain that running a business is a difficult task with plenty of stress and plenty of worry, in fact I know this because I am pretty sure that running a free bicycle race is almost identical.

If I have learned anything in the ten years that I spent working behind that bar, it is how to treat people. All people. More importantly than that though, I have learned how not to treat people. I have learned how not to run a business or a race. I have learned how not to make my money. I have learned how not to be a superior and I have learned how not to be a co-worker and a friend. These lessons are priceless and I thank all those that took the time to teach. I really appreciate it.

So, here I am without a job for two weeks and stuck in front of my computer. Spending the days with the kids and the nights on the bike. These are good times and I intend not to waste them, but alas, I have no extra money. No money to continue to market the 2010 race. No money to maintain the website and the blog. No extra money at all. I have paid for every penny of the Almanzo (with the exceptionof the patches this year) and loved every minute of it. I wouldn't want it any other way, but to say that I haven't thought about it would make me a liar. I have thought about starting a USCF gravel road stage race that would generate enough income for me to work fulltime on this stuff. I have thought about starting another race similar to the Almanzo and charging an entry fee. I have thought about it all and at the end I cannot commit to any one idea and still look at myself in the mirror. I like to ride my bikes just as much as you do and I would never want to keep anyone from doing so by charging to ride in an event like the Almanzo. This stuff ought to be free! For everyone.

So here is my plan. I used a survey to determine the pace of the Gentlemen's Ride and it worked wonders. I have created another survey to determine whether or not the creation of a Paypal Donation button would take away from the spirit of the Almanzo. I am not looking to get rich through the contributions, but rather to have a little support as I attempt to make this event one of the greatest of its kind. That said, here is the survey:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A gentlemanly tease.

I've tallied the results from the survey and it appears as though the overwhelming opinion is that the Gentlemen's Ride should be a ride and not a race. So, that's that. The Gentlemen's ride will be just that, a ride. That isn't to say that you cannot pedal ahead and grind out your best time ever, but just so you know, there is probably no one else that will be waiting for the right time to overtake you and roll into Rochester the crowned victor.

Where does that leave the formal registration process? What about the teams? Here's the deal:

1. Where the teams are concerned, there will still be groups of four. These groups will still start together and still be required to leave the checkpoint together. These teams will still have there riding time recorded and displayed right here for the world to see. The only difference now is that there is no formal competition.

2. I need to know if you're coming. I will have cue sheets printed for every rider and I would like to reduce the waste, both environmentally as well as financially, that comes with people who say they're coming and don't. Commit. If you can come, that's great! If you can't, I sorry I'll miss you. If you're wishy-washy, just make up your mind.


About the party:

On Friday night, the 18th, we are going to install a couple of photos at Kathys Pub here in Rochester. We are going to be screening a short sample of the forthcoming gravel road film that we are working on and there might even be some atmospheric appropriate music being played while everyone chats and drinks. I was at my studio last night looking over some of the possibilities and this is a bit of what I saw.