Said goodbye to an old friend over the weekend. Tough duty. Been a steady and faithful friend...providing more joy and entertainment than I deserved...but none of us are meant to be here forever. We get to see, feel taste this place and then...and then...what? Heaven, purgatory, nervana, do the lights just go out? Do we get magically transported to a land where we ride unicorns that shoot Skittles out of their butt, the trails are somehow downhill both ways and every switchback has a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies?
Whatever happens...my friend is not there. It's hanging on my garage wall.
Yep...my old Raleigh John Tomac edition mountain bike is done. It's been like that pair of jeans you can't let go of. Holes here and there? You patch them. Pocket is coming off? Sew it back on. Cuffs are frayed? Trim 'em. They just feel so comfortable...it's ridiculous...they're well beyond their prime and now relegated to only getting worn around the house or out on walks in the trees. They don't see the coffee shop anymore...but man aren't they the perfect pants at 6 AM when you're having that first sip? Then you realize it's not the room that's drafty...it's a huge hole in the rear of your pants and the folks aren't laughing at your joke...they're laughing at your He Man underwear.
My Raleigh was like that. It was my first real mountain bike. Not my first...but the first bike I ever lusted after, ever. When I saw those gawdawful tan Tioga tires...anodized bits and Tomac's signature...Oh man oh man! Had to have it! I found reasons to go into Board and Buckle (quaint little bike shop in Grand Junction ran by a rad family) almost weekly just to look at it. Damn...had to have it. It took a year to save up some dough...and at least a year to convince my Ol' Lady (not so old at that point...but still my Ol' Lady) I *needed* that bike and the loan to augment my savings. But, that day came and I rolled away from Board and Buckle with that shiny new rig in my truck...and straight to Gunny's and Holy Cross...wow! What a ride!
That was my rig...my main squeeze for a long time...we did *every* trail in GJ...Gunnison...Moab...all of 'em. The ones the rags now proclaim require 6" of travel and the latest in hydraulic damping to ride. Whatever. I abused that rig...and it came back for more. Loved that bike...and it rewarded me with horrible traction, skeery steering precision from the Mag 21 and some serious pucker factor performance out of the DiaCompe centerpulls. But...we owned what is now called Lemon Squeezer...before it was legal. The views we saw...the blood we saw...awesome.
The upgrades came...first: Shimano XT v-brakes...legit. Stopping was no longer a proposition my hands made to the levers. Finally...Marzocchi came out with their Bombers! Z2 BAM? I think I will thank you! Speed springs upgrade? Heck yes, I'll rock 100mm and own the DH! Then...oh yes...some years later...the Ultimate upgrade: Spin's three spoke wheels! That was my gift to myself when I finished college at Mesa and we were packing up the wagon and heading west young man...Oregon or bust! Speaking of bust...those awesome wheels lasted about 30 miles until the hub shell exploded. At least they gave me my money back.
Then...well...the top tube died in a semi-tragic accident. Bent.Dead frame I was told...stay off it. Good news: Brockelman gets a new full suspension, a Santa Cruz Heckler, brand spanking new: 1998's finest rig. The old Raleigh pined on the shelf...collecting dust. Kept only as a token of the good old days. Then...that fateful meeting with a framebuilder who says he can fix it! Really? Done! Tomac lives!
All is well. I have my Raleigh back as my secondary bike...awesome. Singlespeed, disc tabs added on the back and back from the dead. Then the upgrades continue: disc brakes...new suspension fork...yep! Still killing it, but the SS conversion isn't awesome...too much fiddling and skipping. Framebuilder, add Paragon sliders please. Done...and awesome. No more skipping or fiddling. Great winter SS rig. But...the party can't last forever. The long loved and steady companion was fading...time was short.
I took the Raleigh out for one last run. A slog around Whypass. The short classic XC layout and geometry and ride of it was painful. Not suited for my nu-Skool habits and mannerisms...preferences...demands. The bike was clearly asking me to slow down in the berms...wanting to back off on the lips of some gaps and tables as I pushed it through. "Please...please...it's OK Brock...let go...I'll be OK...I need to rest. My time is over. We've had our fun. Let me have peace in my final moments, please." rang clear as I rolled down Tree Hugger at 30% of normal velocity. So...we went home. I washed it down. Carefully rubbing the dirt out of the creases in the paint. Running my fingers across the faded paint...I remember that ding! Oh my gawd...that was the best day EVER! Buffing the bike...finding a long scratch in the paint: Ah...my first gap jump...man I was pissed I stacked and scratched my bike. It was almost ritualistic...primal. Saying goodbye the only way I know how to say goodbye to a mountain bike.
It's in the garage. In a place of honor. Able to watch as new bits go on new bikes. Bikes with more aggressive angles, longer forks, stronger tubes shinier bits and fancier whatever...none of whom will ever match that lust factor the Old Raleigh had for me.
Believe it or not...I'm not one to mind being by myself. Although I do enjoy the company of all different manner of folks. That's not to say I enjoy the company of *everyone* mind you, but still...I'm no hermit, yet. I'm told I'm working my way into being a hermit...more on that another day perhaps. I ride with a small crew of buds most often and as small as that group is, I rarely ride totally alone...and even more rarely alone at night. I don't enjoy riding at night, I really don't. I have bad depth perception these days (and it's getting worse) in the best light conditions and it's downright ridiculous at night. Darkness makes high-tech descents I clean in daylight seem like something out of the Redbull Rampage...not necessarily always fun even though I do love a good pucker factor.
Because of that most of my night riding is done on pavement. It's a relatively safe alternative to pinballing off trees at 25mph in the dark and blowing through turns you thought were 6' further out...relatively safer. The Ol' Lady appreciates it when I ride with buds and so I make the effort...for her you know, not because I *like* my buds or anything...the sacrifices we make to stay with the ones we love. I had a couple good friends I enjoy being around lined up for a ride up/around Dorena last night. Nothing big, 30 or so miles of mellow pavement riding under an almost full moon on a crisp fall evening followed by pancakes and camaraderie? Sounds damn fine to me!
Wouldn't you know it...one gets called to work and the other has a fatal bike issue on the way home from work...I'm riding alone tonight. At least I know the company will be good...err, wait.
It was as foggy as a Jack the ripper novel at Rancho del Brocko when I took off. Kind of awesome and kind of spooky...I like it. My HID light didn't help though...like driving in fog with your brights on...but it's the Row River trail, no surprises...right? My seizure light in the back was awesome looking in the dense fog. No speed records were set, but I felt pretty good (for a fat guy) and just found a pace and maintained it, kind of shut my brain off and stared at my front wheel...until that depth perception issue showed up. Fog+my vision+leaf cover=Brockelman ran off the side of the pavement at about 19mph. I held it together in the mud and didn't lay it down...pucker factor.
Once I regained my pace and composure I fell back into the front wheel trance, contemplating my deficiencies as a parent, friend, guardian, superhero...the usual. Interesting note, a deer can maintain about 19mph on pavement pretty well. Also of note, when you're totally "alone" and absorbed in your own self, hypnotized by chain/tire whirr and cloaked in your own fluffy white tunnel...a deer jumping up next to you and pacing you in your fluffy tunnel at 19mph can create a chamois staining moment, just so you know.
I started paying a bit more attention at that point, kind of. There were some interesting moments with the cracks and bumps in the pavement and then those freaking radioactively reflective poles at every junction are always fun for me at night...but I stayed on the path and bike. As I payed attention...I wasn't alone. No, not talking about the voices in my head. The wildlife was out in full force. I think they were enjoying my comedy of errors...silly human, in your tights. Above the reservoir the fog lifted and it really was a gorgeous night. Chilly as hell but a beauty. I missed rapping with those cats I had planned to ride with but the solitude of that fluffy white tunnel and the whir of the chain ended up being good juju for me. I did a good reset of the grey matter and the thighs got tired. That's gotta be a good thing, right?
Alone...it's not so bad, if you do it right.
Now...I consider myself a fairly cool cat. Pretty even tempered when I'm not being a raging asshole.
I don't get skeered by a whole lot...don't get too excited by a whole lot...don't get too down about a whole lot.
After a particularly hairy moment some time ago a person involved in the mayhem said he was stunned by my calm...my focus...my nerves of steel. At the time I just thought: "Stop being a pussy and learn to take care of business." Now I'm thinking: "...but steel, while being a pretty strong and semi-resilient material rusts really really easily and takes a lot of care to last in most circumstances."
What brought this on you ask (or not)? I've been in a spin getting ready for our trip to Whizzler for the last couple days. Bike issues had me worried...but I got them fixed (I think...). A bud's passport issues had me worried...but he got it finally. Equipment issues had me worried...but I got it replaced. Old man body issues had me worried...but it's not gonna get fixed so...why worry? Now...Brockelman being a spaz when jumping big has me worried. Remember, steel is pretty tough and resilient but I'm not exactly known for being easy on things...especially me.
Anyway, nerves of steel? Maybe. Right now I'd prefer nerves of carbon fiber...with titanium inserts and unobtanium support brackets.
Hang on tight...it's gonna get hectic.
We're pretty lucky here in the Willy Valley.
I mean, we have green hills all around...bike trails to ride in those hills...pretty decent bike trails, not much traffic, we're not getting shot at (trust me, the excitement of getting shot at is way overrated), decent living to be had...we're pretty lucky. Now, I'm sure one or two of you grumpy types (yes, yes you) are zipping through your rolodex (remember those ya old bastard?) of complaints, shortcomings and myopic reckonings of the good old days thinking how wrong the BigTattooedBastard is. OK fine, it's not perfect...but you and I don't deserve perfect, but we're getting a pretty good deal here.
I've always thought that, it's why we moved here...settled down here...started a family here...moved our family here...planted roots, planted them deep. Once in a while though I let something get in front of that for a moment. Saturday it was the 100 degree heat, a redlined heartrate, aching joint and near cramping thighs while catching my breath after playing pingpong between groups of clients on a ride of Alpine. It was a great ride...great...with a really fun and enjoyable group...but I rode about 5 miles more than everyone else so I could go between groups, check on folks, etc. I like that...it's fun...but it was HOT and I was running out of water after giving half of mine away to someone ill prepared for the day. As I rested my head on my handlebar trying to not puke after pegging it on a particular steep and challenging section to clear and an extended "catch me" section I hear clients coming around the corner laughing, cussing, enjoying the day and as they walked up and asked me if I cleard the section (I did, thank you...).
As we regrouped and caught our breath they were sharing stoke on the day and talking about how big of a PITA it is for them to ride and all of the barriers in their locations and lives are in the way for them to ride as much as some of us do. Now, we all manufacture our own barriers to unlimited riding (jobs, mortgages, relationships, eating...) and those are our decisions...yes: our decisions (I'd love to debate that if you like). But where we live can also add a whole crapload of barriers to our riding opportunities. That's another way we're pretty lucky here: we have tons of places to ride. Most are not too far away. Hell, I'm 25 minutes from Crawfish, Brice and Whypass...that's pretty decent! Even driving 49 minutes to Oakridge isn't bad compared to some "poor folks" living elsewhere. We've got it pretty good.
It's getting better too. We did some buffing, primping and such at Bloomberg last night. Thanks to Taylor's determination and a dedicated crew of locals there's a really fun little loop out there. We're lucky he's got a plan. We're lucky there's locals willing to come out after work and dig, dump, pull, chop, whack, work. We're pretty lucky. It's getting better every time I go out there too.
Anyway, next time you're lamenting how much it sucks to do/not do/start/stop/finish/go/not go...remember: the Willy Valley rocks...and you live here (unless you don't live here...! Hahahaa...but you could!).
Disciples...come out and play!
I'm light on new music.
I listen to most anything...mostly. Anyone have a lead on some good tunes? Keep your Yanni or Celine Deon albums ya nut job.
Slow and reflective. Aggresive and angry. Bouncy and...errr, scratch bouncy I think.
Am I right or am I right or am I right...right?
I've had a few folks get butt-hurt in my vicinity lately. Not that there's anything new with that...I'm pretty much an expert at making people realize they are capable of anger, contempt...feelings of inadequacy, you know...not so happy feelings. What's been the theme though: Rights...they have a right to do something. They have a right to say, do...not do...
Sure, sure you do. You *do* have a right to remain silent, just sayin'. Saying you have a right to do something because you've done it a long time is ignorant. If I'm controlling access to a private party at your "friend's" house and they don't want you there 'cuz you're an ignorant, whiny, self-absorbed douche, well...you don't have a right to be there. Even if you cry...especially if you cry. Look inward for your rights...not externally. You have a right to live to your fullest, to be a kind, selfLESS person, you have a right to consider others, you have a right to be an honorable person...you have a right to do what you say and say what you do.
In this vein, don't hide behind "I have freedom of speech. I can say anything I want." Sure, sure you do. Mao isn't running things, sure...but just because we can't come take your left arm and hang it from a bamboo stick for saying margarine is better than butter doesn't mean you can say stupid, hurtful, dishonest things and be free from what comes to you for those words. It means you can *say* those words and *live* with what comes...ya friggin' ignorant dolt. It's freedom of...not freedom from.
Oh, and there's: there...their...and they're. Know them, love them. Finish 4th grade maybe.
I hear I'm arrogant and stubborn though so maybe your problems are my fault.
I'm standing in pink Crocs in my garage, threading spokes, "....mother do you think they'll drop the bomb?" strolls out of the speakers and there's a perfectly good bike shop 15 minutes away with every size spoke I'd ever need. Hell, there's two perfectly capable cats who'd love to lace my hoops for me there...even have a good conversation with me while they do it. And here I am, in my garage...alone...cutting spokes, threading spokes...the girls are dreaming of games of tag, sandcastles to craft, boogers to eat...a toddlers' paradise...and here I am, doing things the hard way, again.
Not that doing things the hard way is new for the arthritic 265lb ex-offensive lineman who manages to chug his way up hills and pinball down the hills while giggling like his girls. OK, not too much giggling on the ups. The hard way...teaching myself simple trigonometry so I don't have to rely on online spoke calculators....like there's gonna be a wheel building emergency when the power is out. The hard way...living in 10 different towns before graduating high school. The hard way...being a preacher's kid. The hard way...more titanium in my body than a boutique frame builder's shop. The hard way...the white kid trying to impress the local gangsters.
The hard way...whatever. Like my life's been so hard, right. There *was* that one Festivus my GiJoe didn't have the kung fu grip though.
It's not the hard way. It's the way. It's what makes us: Time, tension and patience...it's what makes my wheels. Damn fine wheels...or they end up that way. With enough time...tension...and patience, maybe I'll end up damn fine too.
Half my life. That hasn't always sounded like a long time, but it does now.
A few weeks ago the Ol' Lady, daughters and I went on a celebratory camping trip to the coast. What were we celebrating? The Ol' Lady and I had been a couple for 20 years. Cinco de Mayo 1992 we went on our first date. "Good lord I'm old" went through the old rust bucket brain more than once on the drive over. Thoughts of being thankful for a loving, lovely, forgiving, patient, funny and wonderful partner went through my mind as well, but still: damn...I'm old.
When the excitement of the day was done, marshmallows toasted, stories read and kisses given I remained by the campfire and let the mind wander: damn it feels good to be a gangster...err, holy crap I'm old. Of course I reminisced about how lucky I am to be with the Ol' Lady, to have my daughters and feel their love every time I see them...except for maybe when she first walks in to an ER or recovery room after yet another joint surgery, crash, experiement gone awry or such. Those sorts of things come to mind often anyway, but as I was thinking of those ladies being the best...the best things to ever happen in my crazy ass life I was also thinking of mountain biking, crazy that *I* would be thinking of mountain biking huh?
The best trail I've ever ridden came to mind...damn, fun, challenging...and painful. The best riding partner I've ever had...what a patient, funny, scary fast prick they are. The best bike I've ever owned...and destroyed, mercilesly. The best "invention" for mountain bikes...love that they don't slip, can't steer if you can't hang on. Best post-apocolyptic ride meal...mmm, so spicy and tasty.
Best...funny word. Gets some curious and some scoffing.
It's been a trip. Long at times, strange a time or three (yes, yes I went there ya stinky bassturds)...but it's been a good one. Enjoy the ride...it's the best you'll ever have.
I've been to a lot of meetings this week, a lot. Not all DOD centric...but all necessary. And frankly, not too many of them were fun. However, without exception, they all had a more positive tone than I went in expecting. I hope they will also all result in more positive outcomes than I expected while going in. With these meetings I've done a lot of homework, prepping, resolving, exploring, reversing, drafting, starting over. Felt like an undergrad all over again.
I've had to hear some difficult things, share some unpopular opininions and face some tough criticism...as a mountain biker and person in general. After one of these meetings, I was carefully listening to some grumblings by a few, eavesdropping if you will, about how they were disatisfied with the tone, outcome, feedback, possibilities for the future. I recognized the folks as ones who had been talking amongst themselves during the meeting, making snide remarks, being critical...yet never once did they do so loud enough for anyone more than an arms length away to hear. They didn't stand to be counted, they didn't make themselves heard...not really.
As I smiled and stared at them after one particularly offensive and passive-aggressive comment towards a group other than themselves a man said: "Oh, you heard that?" "Yep. Pretty lame approach to problem solving." "What's your solution? I mean, since you have all the answers." "I tend to communicate with the one I have an issue with. Not with expectation of finality, winning, or being friends...but none of those things can happen when all I do is cry or preach to the choir."
His eyes glazed over and he drifted off to what I can only assume was his happy place of Natural Light beer, cheese doodles, muffin-tops, rebel yells and Skittles flowing forth from some unfortunate unicorn's rear.
I used to say...and fully believe...that the world is run by those that show up, period. Not true though, huh? You can't just show up. Sometimes you gotta tiptoe out on that limb, sing your song, run the flag up the pole and see what the hell happens.
Stand up, be counted.