Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Aliens in the Sun

I dreamed a spaceship travelled to Earth from a lifetime away in the starry void of my cycling past and landed in Southern California and began sending me messages in strange, crackly languages that somehow, when I listened to them carefully, I could understand. The messages said the Heckawee Chief himself had arrived from Illinois and he wanted to ride bikes along the beach and to be inspired by the West Coast way of pedaling.

But I worried I had fallen far from the Cyclist’s Code since leaving Carbondale. I worried The Chief might not appreciate my new attitude toward our sport. For example, I had trained my dog to chase bicycle commuters.

And I had been storing bottles of urine in my freezer. J

And boo-hoo-hoo, I had been working too much at my desk and not riding enough and instead staring too many French cheeses in the eye and eating them and in general whining constantly about not caring enough to send my very best in life, which is to say, whoa, look at my freezer, people. Is that not a sign of something profoundly wrong, or what?

I met with The Chief, in any case, and we had an inspiring ride. Really. We rode from Manhattan Beach to Venice Beach and drank coffee and ate French Fries and then rode back.

This is a video approximation of the ride’s vibe:

Pretty fucking awesome, no?

The next day, after The Chief had left Southern California on his spaceship of happiness and goodwill, I couldn’t remember much about the ride I had taken with him. I knew there had been music and laughter and I had a vague sense that my cross bike was thumping along with the music during the whole ride, thumping on the every-tire-revolution basis, in fact. It so happened that I had hauled the cross bike in to the shop just prior to The Chief’s arrival – I had snapped a cable and was too lazy to fix it myself and while I was in the process of being lazy (enjoyable, really) I handed the shop mechanic four Ritchey brake pads for my Frogleg brakes.

The mechanic did a good job with the installation, except for the fact that he obviously had never installed pads on Froglegs before, and he set them up essentially like road bike brakes – tight to the rim and with the assumption that the rider would be running maximum rock-hard tire pressure at all times, et cetera.

Obviously, I am an aging citizen who is incapable of rock-hard tire pressure (aren’t you impressed with my openness and honesty?), which means that if the brake pads are mounted too tight to the rim, the pads will rub against the soft, flaccid, cushy tire.

And if the brake pads rub against the tire’s sidewall, the sidewall tears all to hell. Is this sidewall tear not equally as disturbing as the nightmare scenario in my freezer?

It is a miracle that this tire didn’t completely blow out during my ride with the Chief but maybe because The Chief was here, things turned out okay.

The luck of the Heckawee, they say, is with you wherever you go.

Oh well. Corny as it may sound, there’s nothing better than riding bikes with old friends.

The Chief has returned to his haunts now – to group rides and races and out-and-back rides to Von Jakob’s in a quiet countryside a half a country away.

And I have returned to my haunts along the Los Angeles River.


  1. Love you man, in a strict man-love sort of way, of course.

  2. That's the shit, right there. I'm envious of your ride, even with the whole shredded tire deal. And the former Seattleite in me has to ask, is that coffee in the freezer? If so, that is so much more disturbing than the bottles.

  3. Zenmaster Choak does the same thing with cross brakes. Two words that don't belong together: cross & brakes.

  4. Happy Birthday to Mag!!!! I hope it is truly inspirational!

  5. You make me laugh...your writing is wonderful. As for your riding - only the Chief knows for sure.

  6. Hey, Mike. You may not remember me, but I went to grad school with you in Mankato way back when.

    Anyways, I'm teaching creative writing and composition at a community college in South Carolina, and this afternoon, a student wrote me with this:


    You taught me about crots.

    Google further explained.

    They're awesome."

    That made me smile, and crots always make me think of you, so I thought I'd say hi.

    Sounds like you're doing great. Good deal.


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