The next season

railsThe sound of road salt being used as an abrasive against my beautiful rims grates against my nerves, like an old steel file on dried bones.

I reach the bottom of my driveway, where the road changes from down to up and from straight to left. I lean back and pedal hard, hooking my fingers around the brake hoods like the knitted and stuffed curtain monkey with Velcro hands that holds back our heavy winter drapes to reveal the sun at this time of year. Down the road a little ways lies the line between seasons, it seems. A 6 foot band that is, in a way, the separator of newly growing grass and the layer of white that is still serving as a blanket for the ground; the tracks. The rule growing up was not to cross the train tracks, but I never minded that rule much. 5aThere always seemed to be more to investigate and explore on the other side, this set of tracks was no different, only I was.

The sound of the little stream beside the road takes my mind away and holds it like a River Runmother holds a child; the gentle rushing of the water keeps me distracted after months of ice. The road rises against me and I am forced to stand and struggle against the few spots on my path that have been softened by the dappled morning sun, then only hearing my heart, I pause. Oh, to cherish and curse the same meter of turf.  I wasn’t used to feeling the sensations, all of them. By sensations, I am referring to those you feel when you ride a bike outdoors on a crisp spring morning.  It’s a lot to take in.

My body was bristling all over when, as I crested the first rise, I startled a raccoon from the middle of the road. He went racing off only to leap into the deep snow on the edge of the road. Better he than I, is what I was thinking, regaining my speed.

Getting on a bike for the first time in months and in such interesting circumstances was almost like I was getting to know myself again, testing my sensors with doses of balance, coordination and temperature limitations. When the snow melt meets my toes for the first Vinestime, I watch my pulse on the digital head unit as it quantifies my effort to reach a compromise between ambition and resources. I think about that monkey and swing from the vines.

I reach the top of the next hill. There is a marvelous sight ahead of me now, the first bit of clean pavement I’ve seen today.  It’s being used by a pick-up truck as a bypass to the highway at the moment, he is driving fast. I watch as it floats by in a delayed response to the irregular surface, caused by the freezing and thawing of the substrata; we call them frost heaves.

As my path heads due south, fully against the angle of the earth and the air that follows the road. That same air that once cooled me in the shade, fills my sails while resisting me at the same time. I try to form the perfect circles I have studied and thought about for the past five months, but my toes point down and my right heel rises against the force by swinging outboard. I feel awkward, I try adjusting my F.T. Weldclothing like it’s going to help. Climbing this hill with no warm-up, my legs feeling like the first taste of cold soup on an empty stomach.  I reach the peak and my heart rate drops pretty quick once the work is over.  Twenty years ago, if you knew me you would laugh today for so many reasons, I digress or remissness or something.

I have to apply the brakes to keep my face from getting too cold, it hurts terribly by the time I had gone a mile. The wind continues to fight me, which is a bit unfair since gravity has sought fit to take a rest and go the other way. I have to stop to warm my fingers. It’s a steep decent, 10-15% and a couple of miles down with another 125M of altitude to be bought back before I hit the highway.  I come home the same way at the end of the day.  Cheers.dunelt3

Once on the highway,  I slip into something comfortable, perhaps a 50/13  and take in a bit of the view. The road is really never level, though it is plenty wide which gives the world a curved appearance when you tilt your head a little the way I do to match the angle of the crosswind, and think about making the best of it in small ways.  It goes on for a while, all the way to Chester, but the wind doesn’t surrender before I do and head back down to Pleasant Valley road. Down into the valley I go, with the wind providing what feels like gravity. I notice I rarely stop pedaling. I laugh to myself because of the hours I have spent over the winter riding a stationary bike for no other reason than to be able to enjoy a day like today, and my legs feel like a couple of kids jumping out of a station wagon after an all-day road trip.farm2

I have the sun in my face and peel off my winter gloves. The road rolls over heirloom farmlands, that have carved and shaped the attendees to the same degree to which they have worked the land.  Warm sweet air delivered from the louvers above a low wooden shack fill my lungs as pedal over a lump  in the road. It wiggles between the old but proud buildings.  Ready with a wave and an experienced opinion, I cruise by the ancient farmer. He is tending to the boiling sap, which he does for several days nearly around the clock during sugar season, equally as hard as any other season. We are both so glad to be on to the next.

I was supposed to do intervals today and this road is perfect.  I had done a much greater quantity on the computerized device. The objective wasn’t a frame of mind, but a technical objective. Today it was just for myself, to feel something again like it was the first time. It reminded me of last spring and a time for another chance.

tree2I return home the same way, but I reduce my effort a couple of miles before the final climb. Part of me wished for a delay of the test date because the test date indicates the end of the study period, and the beginning of the reality period.  Part of me wanted a result.  I completed each of the three short, but steep climbs gathering my will and easing my burden on the 10% grades in between.  The easiest gear is the only one I can turn, but at my slow pace I have time to notice that the sun had peeled back the final layer of ice that had been keeping the winter veil before my eyes and I ready myself for the next season, the spring season.

sass12 A

Aluminum 650B

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Aluminum 650B dome welds

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Aluminum 650B

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Aluminum 650B drop-out

Aluminum 650B

Aluminum 650B

Aluminum 650B

Aluminum 650B

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1930′s Brough Superior

People sometimes go through what they call a “once in a lifetime experience”. Well recently I completed a project that was truly extraordinary, a “once in a lifetime” job. I was contacted by a gentlemen who restores vintage motorcycles and happens to be the only guy who restores Brough Superiors in the U.S.. I was asked if I would be interested in making a new exhaust system for a 1931 SS80, that just so happened to once belong to Steve McQueen. I took the job with enthusiasm, as this was a rare treat indeed.

1931 Brough Superior SS80 1,000cc V-Twin

1931 Brough Superior SS80 1,000cc V-Twin

Brough(Pronounced “Bruff”) Superiors were first introduced in the 1920′s and quickly became famous for their tight quality and superior performance. They were dubbed “The Rolls Royce of motorcycles” for their flashy symbolism and rather high price. The price was about $180, meanwhile the average person made about $3 weekly. Approximately 1,086 motorcycles were produced between 1922-1940 and all were built to custom fit each rider. Each motorcycle was assembled twice; once to ensure that all the parts fit properly, then it was dismantled and each part custom painted or plated, then re-assembled for final transport to be test driven and finally certified by George Brough himself. Quite a few of histories famous characters have owned a collection of these motorcycles, from Steve McQueen all the way to T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

Lawrence of Arabia on his Brough Superior "George V"

Lawrence of Arabia on his Brough Superior “George V”

Oddly enough Lawrence died from injuries sustained while racing his Brough Superior named George VII. The 1931 Brough Superior SS80 I was working on, only 117 of these particular model were made in that year.

My task was no simple one for I had to fabricate, out of straight steel tubing, an intricate dual exhaust system that twist, turned and weaved through the frame and engine casing and ended at the mufflers on each side of the rear end.

Bending the tubes, in theory, was to be relatively simple. By welding a cap onto one end of the steel pipe then filling and packing the tube with sand and welding a second cap onto the end, then heating the pipe red hot, I was able to utilize an in house custom made tube bending machine to fabricate the bends and angles I desired.

Steel Exhaust, post red-hot bend.

Steel Exhaust, post red-hot bend.

Quite often the material I was using couldn’t be bent the way I needed without collapsing or splitting. I would make a partial bend on one tube, and another bend in a secondary tube then cut them down to size and weld the bends together, which the two would combine to equal the angle I needed. Rigorous hours of sanding by hand were needed after fabrication to get rid of weld lines and scratches and a final high count grid sanding to top it off and give it a shiny new look.

Under wrapping exhaust, left side

Under wrapping exhaust, left side

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Teaching June To Ride

Most of the time, kids are serious business to their parents. I have a couple of my own and I can tell you, it is definitely a serious business. It’s not unusual for me to teach kids how to ride, but when you are teaching another persons child; it can become quite the scene. They either ride or they don’t, there isn’t much else to say. If they don’t learn now, they will surely later when the time is right for them. Generally the kids know the risks, skinned knees or elbows or perhaps a broken arm if the crash is big enough; that was the rumor anyway. Today, with the way life and the electronic environment have commingled themselves, we are now told their may be more to worry about other than bumps and bruises.

At an earlier date I had come across a chicken-scratch written note to me, more of a reminder really. There were two names on the note, one of which seemed familiar to me but the other had me stumped. The name that I had recognized belonged to my neighbor I had an idea of who the other person was and my guess was his daughter June. The half legible reminder included both of their names, as well as a phone number where June could be reached. I wasn’t sure how to respond to orders from a child, although I was impressed by the fact that she had “inked me in” before I had even looked at my own schedule. Marked on my calender for the following Saturday: “Teach June To Ride”.

We connected by phone and made solid plans. I told her that I had found the perfect spot and that she would like having the ability to coast down a gentle hill without the worry of having to pedal to maintain speed. I think I sold the job. It was a big day for me, but she was really excited as well. Win-win scenario in my opinion.

Metal is easy, I don’t have to make myself 3 feet tall to hear it speak. Tiny little June on the other hand was a force to be reckoned with. June was six and had almost ridden a bicycle at one point, but didn’t quite make it. I think a Band-Aid or two may have been involved but I couldn’t get much more information on the outcome at the time, as she had other engagements. June is the daughter of the divorced man I used to live next door from, she had only the weekends with her dad and today was the day.

I had planned out our training day as best I could. A lesson with solid structure would be a good starting point, but knowing kids you just take things as they come. Don’t apply any pressure and don’t expect results, yet embrace whatever results you get.

On the morning of Junes’ lesson, my life Lanie and I had an awesome omelet and plenty of our usual strong coffee. As much as I like to eat all I could think was ‘today is the day! I am finally teaching June to ride!’. We listened to the radio as we waited. June and her father showed up right on time, confirmed by the sticky note left on our fridge that one weekend.

I discussed my objectives with Lanie as we searched for the perfect slope to teach June how to ride. I had envisioned the location ahead of time naturally and I had assumed that I would be able to find it without much difficulty. As it turns out it didn’t end up being so natural after all. As we viewed different areas of potential Lanie described her first experience on a bicycle, it was something of a shock to me. Not unlike any of the “You’ll learn to swim once you hit the water!” type stories you hear friends and family tell.

We finally approached a spot that I had been longing to find. It was a small grassy hill, but not too big of a challenge. It was just large enough that June would be able to get on the bike and glide with very little effort. I wanted to show her the thrills and excitement, what it was like to have the wind in your face. In my experience it’s moments like those that kept me coming back for more and I was hoping it would have the same effect on June.

Not long after the bike was pulled out the back door of the jeep, June was put on it and the lessons began. With one foot on the ground and one foot on the right pedal, I told her to put her weight down and start to go. She had a look of determination on her brow as she rode away on her first attempt. Sadly she didn’t make it very far before the bicycle and Junes’ tiny body toppled over and she began to sob. Between tears she would peek between her fingers just to be sure there was someone watching.

I can’t recall how I first learned to ride, but it certainly wasn’t anything to cry about. I don’t even remember at all actually, I have been riding for so long that the beginning of it all slips my mind.

I had to get June back on the bike, the lesson had to go on. This may have been one of the “scenes” I brought to your attention before, that pop up when teaching other peoples children. The fall wasn’t that bad, but judging from Junes’ vocal reaction you would have thought otherwise. Luckily I was able coax the tears away and talk her back onto the bicycle. She sat taller this time, her original determination reinforced. Even June knew she had to ride.

We walked back to the peak of the knoll and started again. This time though, the strong willed little June rode all the way to the bottom. The look on her face reminded me of when I taught my kids how to ride. The look of pure excitement and joy, being able to be apart of this first memorable accomplishment in their lives, it was a good feeling.

The next part of our lesson was about to begin. After a few more runs down the hill, without much effort put towards momentum, it was time to learn on flat even terrain. This I felt might be a little more challenging for June. All she had to do before was hop on and go, this however, was going to need focus and patience.

Now on a level surface, I told June to get on the bike like she had done so on the hill; left foot on the ground, right foot on the pedal ready to push off and go. We call this the “ready stance”. As anticipated this portion of the lesson was a tad more challenging. June was having difficulty maintaining her steering and the peddling combined with the chatter all at once. When you are trying to keep a 6 year old steady and moving on a bicycle you must be able to maintain your own balance as well.

I had mentioned before that I was listening to the radio earlier that morning. The hosts were talking about internet security and protecting ones identity. I wondered to myself if June would be at any risk if I posted the photos of the event on my blog. Though my camera doesn’t collect the type of information that can reveal your exact location, I didn’t know if the case were the same with my phone. I didn’t really know what was what when I read about the microphone in my cell phone having the ability to be remotely activated and “tapped” into from a remote source. I couldn’t imagine someone being so bored as to wanting to listen to me ramble and curse at people, but combined with some of the weird in the road there is potential for some abuse.

June didn’t really achieve balance on the bicycle that day. We did have a lot of fun trying to get her “six-year old self” to be less “silly” and abandon her fear of balance, but that would require more silliness. To balance it takes a certain confidence that all variable are accounted for, if not under control. Albert Einstein said that “Life is like a bicycle and to balance, we must keep moving.”.

I didn’t find it difficult to end the lesson with some tumbling on the side of the hill, complete with the plucking and tossing of daisies, given the fact that balance evaded us both that day. She on her bicycle and me with the whole idea of managing ones privacy and protecting the people that I came in contact with.

The “responsibility of my actions” part is still in question. I would like to share some photos of the day because as people, cyclists, and friends, we should be able to share what we know. I have seen photos of your kids and you have seen photos of mine because that is what people do, we build on the foundations that were laid before our arrival. But today, it’s different, and harder to understand. I would imagine that some families now “opt out” on class photos because protecting ones anonymity is becoming something of a priority in today’s society.

June will know that she needs to make her next day on her bicycle more fun than the first. My hope is that she finds it to be less risk than her public profile.

 

 

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Training for days like those

photos 010I haven’t been around for a few months, ‘been workin’. Been working on saving my soul and living in the light.. That’s right, I’ve been training.

It’s not like you can be fit, and accomplish anything else at the same time. So I chose fitness over cleanliness, attentiveness, aggressiveness, beauty  and deeper reflection, all in the interests of total purity. I am bleaching my very personality of all  it’s natural traits, like procrastination and laziness, and  getting right to the task at hand. I am sorry to report what you expected to happen will be delayed until further notice… Or until I need some groceries.

photos 162You may have noted the training log I started several months ago.  I have dedicated myself to collecting data and recording it, just not in a place you will find it.  Much of it has in fact been in secret, but I continue none-the-less, with total regard for only my person.  I haven’t made those statistics available, but the chiding emails have left their impression. I have continued to train and consider the human demand for verification in the mean time.  Perhaps some day.  Hats off to Hunter Allen and Andy Coggin PhD., for writing Training and racing with power (meters) and getting me off to a good start recognizing my own obsessiveness and taking advantage of it.  For the time being, I am looking forward to my first Sunday ride with Russ and breaking his balls.  He doesn’t dabble in the internet, so our secret is safe.

I haven’t introduced you to Russ at any point in the past, but I am sure when I do, you will find him as fascinating as I do.

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We all know that to be able to ride more miles, climb steeper hills or do more gravity runs, we need to condition our bodies for the work.  We need to put time aside from our busy lives and get on a path of continual improvement.  If your schedule includes a career, preparing wholesome food to eat and caring for a family, you may have difficulty finding time.  As for me, I don’t have many interests beyond bicycles and my little circle of humans, so I tend to spend a little less of my time tinkering on old bikes and enriching my historical interest in cycling and a little more time doing what?  I didn’t say riding, I said training.

Riding is really fun. Training on the other hand, not so much. I like all the devices and wires going everywhere a bit. I often think to myself “this must be important, there are wires everywhere”. It’s the same sort of thought with setting up a fan to blow the air in my face while I ride my stationary bike. Sure, I need it to keep from getting heat stroke, but when you add that to the pixel image on Le Moniteur that I am pressing to catch and maybe even pass, it helps me get to a place where the riding seems a bit more “real”. I may not of mentioned I control his pace with a small (+/-) button on my handlebars, but that is the whole point, the distraction. All you need is an imagination.

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Or maybe not. Maybe the idea is adding enough distractions and contraptions to get you by until the conditions are more favorable for more miles (not just dressing in warm clothes, and later washing the filth off your bike which I don’t care for) and more adventure.  Sort of the way a phone call or an email keeps you in touch with people you think about, without a huge block of time being spent.

I actually like riding the indoor bike quite a bit. Part of it is my imagination and the ability to put myself in a situation and exist there for a while, though the situation is completely of my own making. If I stop pedaling, I am alone in a spare room, covered in perspiration and going nowhere.  It’s only a temporary situation of my own making that will dissolve instantly in the light of day and blow away like a letter that has already been read.  The real goal is be able to make a small investment when I have a moment to spare now, to enjoy more of the real thing later. Somewhat like the other entanglements we have that are constantly blowing something in our faces.

I have a life outside. Outside the door and outside the view of others.  It’s more dangerous and stressful in certain ways than doing little or nothing, but the majority of time must be spent in challenging conditions to be able to function well in that environment called reality.  You can set up the base miles indoors or toss about words on a screen, but neither will help you balance when your grip is in question or the breeze is blowing the wrong way.  Those are your real training days and I don’t miss them by choice.

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Welding for the stars.

It’s time for another Metal Guru welding class at Vicious cycles in New Paltz, NY!  I should have done this blog post several weeks ago and done my part to get the word out but we have a pretty full house regardless.  Oh man, it’s a week from Saturday!

It’s really an amazing experience for me to be in a room full of people chomping at the bit to try some new stuff and you can totally feel the energy in the room. The class is totally “hands on” with each student getting plenty of time to refine their technique but the real deal starts when everyone has a hot beverage in their hand and we form a circle to talk about aluminum and there is a lot to talk about. You will tingle all over as the coffee is strong and the conversation is stimulating.

Like projects, people are all configured differently and not only do we learn how to TIG weld aluminum, we cover cleaning, mitering, de-burring as well as elements of the post weld processing as individual craftspeople we do it all with what we have or can find locally. Carl’s shop is like is like a monument to ingenuity and you can see how he does it all. The intimate nature of these events brings out the best in everyone plus the food is amazing.

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The big log.

Thanks for that bit of self indulgence Saturday.

Like most people who come here, I ride a bike. But I also like to race.  I started with BMX, and I used to race DH quite a bit. While I was satisfied with my results and spent many a day riding my brains out, it was far from a serious attempt.  I really just wanted to have fun and didn’t really train, I only practiced quite a bit. I liked to race DH and had a nice formula that often ended up with me being $250 richer and my palette pleased as well. I always awarded myself Victory pizza at Brio’s in Phonecia, N.Y., after a good result  (when that was the case).

I raced at Plattekill park in Roxbury, NY not too far from Brio’s.

It’s been a few years since then and I haven’t raced in a while, but I have to admit I have again caught the bug. Since I like shorter events, I figured I would try track (velodrome) riding. I did, and it was fun, but more difficult that I had imagined. I probably shouldn’t count on any pizza for a while.

The big problem is motivation on a daily basis. I have some, but not much or sometimes too much and don’t want to rest.  I like to ride and do well at races, but I may be afraid of hard work on a bike. I feel positive and I have been at it for a few weeks now.  I jumped when I was given a  chance to race with a NY based team Pink Rhino Racing 

I have been working hard and decided to post my training diary here in my blog.  Track racing requires more than the confidence to “pin” the jumps and a good snap is far from a win though I hope my modest resume will help to some extent.

I have a spin bike as well as rollers for the road and track bikes, some wood boxes for plyometrics as well as some basic gym stuff like a bench press and a weight bar.  The idea is to get three-four good sessions a week with some stretching and yoga mixed in.  Can I up my game in the time I have to work with?  I think so.  I may need some encouragement along the way, but I can do it. It’s winter, what are my choices? Get better or get worse… That sounds heavy.

Ill keep you updated on my progress and may be if you see me doing something stupid, someone will speak up.

Kayla rounded up some nice photos of sparks flying as Matt and I move some metal. Check out this photo set!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankthewelder/11997227533/

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One of those days.

It’s not that I can’t see all of us growing old, as it is clear we all do. No one want’s to go through anything that isn’t required, but death is on that list.

My main companion at work for the past several years has been my dog buddy. At some point he decided that staying at home wasn’t good enough and he would accompany me at work.

I am not the most patient or thoughtful person in the world and figured it would be no big deal. The dog is losing his eyesight, wasn’t so confident anymore and his hips hurt a bit.  I did what was required and didn’t think much more until it became my decision when it would end. I began to like the smell of my dog, but I didn’t expect to have to carry him up the stairs every night when I returned home from work when I agreed to let him stay the night as a homeless Labrador.

You may not be able to relate, but my dog could chase a stick or ball like no other. I would examine the tracks he left under total acceleration and would marvel at the fact that only three claws of each foot would contact the ground at full speed. He could catch and eat almost anything that could or would run and had work ethics that would be a benchmark for anyone including me. Then suddenly a dear friend of Lanie’s passed without warning in the middle of this.

It was someone who she had worked with for many years and deeply admired. She had terminal cancer and decided to skip chemo and fight on her own. Her body quit weeks before what was expected and that was it. We have an appointment for buddy tomorrow where we are going to try to let him go. Can you see how messed up this is?

There isn’t any point or may be I am too tired and sad to find it. There isn’t any point in wondering what to do when things seek their own level without your permission and catch you off guard and unprepared for more; I guess I am there today.  I am just going to to write it off as one of those days.  Let’s just let it go.

 

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Ciderhaus dream (fiction)

cidr

Like any good story, this one starts at 5:45AM.

I hear the cable, pipe or whatever it is, dragging against the wall just outside my window. Each gust of wind brings another bleat of vibration. The brown wood-grain clock-radio crackles to life and moves the groan to the shallow end of my meager pool of resources. It was 5:45 after all.
I knew the screws had rusted away a while ago, as the wires were stiff and dry and the brackets were completely gone, as were any sign they had ever existed.

I don’t remember eating, dressing or doing anything in between having my first thought of the day; which were the thoughts I mentioned already, and walking out the door. In retrospect, it was my first clue that something was amiss.

I stopped and looked at the side of the house for a second time. I couldn’t remember the first time I gave it close look, but I knew it was when I was awake. I wasn’t awake now; I was asleep and dreaming.

The little bit of wheel spin upon pressing the pedals is quite familiar now, as my best days start this way; it feels good. So does the acceleration up the nearly frozen, class 4 road that goes exactly from where the dream starts and continues on until it ends and no further. It’s this road that fills my nostrils with scents of cinnamon, apples then pine and tells me it’s a dream and not anything else.

Dreams are made completely from bits of reality mixed together in a new, sometimes frightening order. I don’t know if this place I visit really exists somewhere or is simply a compilation; bits of scenery caught between neurons or electrons, somehow spilling out and providing a backdrop for a mind at play. How much of reality is made up of dreams? Not much.

It was cold earlier, but I don’t have to go through that. I remember that. It’s warmer now and I peel away my neoprene gloves early, before I regret not removing them. Dreams are perfect, as you sort of know what is going to happen, yet you still allow it.

I can hear the squeak of the synthetic material against my clammy skin as the gloves invert themselves and slide off my fingers, which at this point look waterlogged. I worry that my hands are away from the handlebars.

I was onto a wicked pace for quite a distance over mostly rolling terrain, when I came to an intersection. It looked familiar when I came to it and I knew exactly which way to turn, but once past the intersection, I had wished I would have looked at the name of the road. I had my doubts about a lot of things, but kept turning the cranks with the feeling that effort would yield results; if I just pedaled hard enough.

The weather got bitter again as I got near to what felt like the top. I felt the wind change, when I noticed something odd; I was riding by the same pattern of road debris after each left turn, which looked like the left turn before it, then was followed by a rise in the road and a slight right bend. Again and again, over and over I thought about my pillow and the cable dragging on the wall and knew delivery was assured. Dreams lasted only minutes after all.

I tapped the shifter twice and my effort quickly swallowed the difference, as I got out of the saddle and propelled myself forward. I was breathing harder and using more energy, but wasn’t going any faster. I could maintain the increased pace for some amount of time, but I was doing laps. After confirming my suspicion that I was riding a small loop over and over again, I eased up on my effort and began to marvel at the absurdity of dreams. When the scenery suddenly became new and beautiful.

I learned as I pedaled along, thinking about the effort I was making and the actions that got me to that point, the scenery never seemed to change.

I had not yet seen the end of that road or where in reconnected with reality, but when I recognized the old schoolhouse at the end of my road; I knew. And with a touch of the brakes and a lean to the left, I was back on the home stretch. I eased up and looked over my left shoulder at the sign that read, Ciderhaus road.

I rolled over in bed and pulled my blanket over my shoulders. I flexed my leg muscles, which could feel the miles I had ridden that night. And I felt lucky when I realized I had lived a dream.

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Spider box

At some point in my life I decided I liked being subjected to the elements to some degree. I never cared for air conditioning and in fact would prefer to spend the hottest days around plants that had just been watered.  I drive with the windows down most of the time and I don’t mind bugs.

I like to have the windows and doors open at home and don’t mind the neighbors cat sharing a meal with my own. We share our home with many lives.

I first dabbled in environmental partnerships of the insect type while living in Carmel NY. I had always allowed the critters to live in peace in our mutual space. One big reason is the animals often prevail. A king snake, squirrels, scorpions and  geckos have all lived in close proximity to me or my family at some point but the ants of Lake Carmel were special.

These were the smartest ants I had ever come across.  I kept my kitchen clean (for a single dad) and was pretty surprised when I poured a bowl of cereal for myself after the kids had gone to bed and found it full of ants. I totally freaked and went after them. I noticed right away they would run and hide. If I looked at them, they would move to a new location.  When I had killed all but the two most evasive, creative and durable combatants it was only a matter of time before they had exhausted their resources and finally been driven to surrender. It was on the splash panel behind the sink and the one with big one with the brown spot just came to a stop and turned to look at me. I could see this ant was different.

You always know when you meet the boss. At least if you are paying attention.
Big or small the leader is the leader for a reason regardless of the species. I knew I wasn’t mistaken when the other ant, who had slipped into the sink during the confusion tried only to reach his leader with no regard of his own safety.  Needless to say we had words, the boss and I that is, I got right in his face and laid down the law and let it be known that there would be no exceptions.  I wasn’t out to destroy the tribe I explained, only to protect my food and I made my point.

The next morning, I made sure to make a variety of staples available to my respected neighbors where they had entered my kitchen the day before. I had no further trouble.

That was a long time ago.

When I work on a creative endeavor like the track frames we just completed I like to collect all the materials I may want to use and put them in a box, one of several I keep for this purpose. I start and stop and jump from this to that, making BB shells and head tube specimens and all the while collecting ideas in the form of tangible items in boxes, tube boxes to be specific.  Many times I make several versions of a particular component before I find one that attracts my eye. Upon completion of the frame(s) some unused pieces remain.

These parts become seeds from which future designs. Designs that will be brought to the front at another time, on another frame.

One of the items I picked up early on was a tan colored spider. I don’t know what a spider would find interesting in a box of metal parts or a package of flour for that matter but this time it wasn’t a problem. Matt, my son is working at the shop these days so I guess I was feeding my family but only metaphorically and I didn’t object to the spider in the box.

She carefully wove her web in the corner as I added and removed pieces. In the course of conducting my business I am constantly upsetting the box but not the house guest. I did have to reach through a bit of web to remove the dropouts I had made early on but I tried to move slowly and with care. No objection was made during my intrusion and the damage was quickly repaired over night. I guess we are cool.

I am sure that I am as clueless to her objectives as she is to mine but I fully understand both our behaviors are linked to our existence and there isn’t a need to have the space only to myself, I can share, it’s ok with me. I don’t know but I believe. Watch as I stick my hand in the spider box.

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1900

It had been only ten years since John Boyd Dunlap had brought pneumatic tires to market and twenty since the proliferation of ball-bearing mechanisms. It was 1889.

Rice Lewis Company in Toronto for example offered components including drawn tubes and lugs for frame building as well as anything needed to build a bike right down to wheels and tires, all could be sent directly to your home address.

Cycling was a huge business in 1900. In Washington D.C. there were two patent offices. One for cycles, the other for everything else. People were using horses for transportation at the time and though the bicycle had been available in it’s crudest form since 1830 or so, the newest inventions made them more popular than ever due to one0 single event.

It was a bicycle race held in May of 1889 that pitted the world famous Du Cros brothers riding highwheel bikes with solid rubber tires (then called an “ordinary” bike) against a new safety bike  (what is now a bicycle) with state-of-the-art inflatable tires at the North of Ireland sports club in Belfast.

The invention that made the news was a gift from John Loyd Dunlap to his daughter some years before. He made the original prototypes from a garden hose. There were disputes. They were deemed to be dangerous and unpredictable but today we don’t see too many vehicles with solid rubber tires. Back in those days (and still today) the solid bicycle tires are not really solid or a tire. They are a thick rubber tube with a small hole down the middle which is for the steel wire that is tied and soldered at the joint to hold the tire on. The rubber is cut slightly longer than needed and the entire unit is tensioned with a special device that draws the wire tight and maintains a gap between the ends of the tire so the wire can have its ends fastened to each other. The tool is removed and the ends of the tire are massaged into making contact under the tension of the wire.

It didn’t take long for the new technology to catch on but it was a while before it settled down in to the two types of pneumatic tires we have now, clinchers and tubulars (sew ups). Today, it seems as though the transition was easy but you must keep in mind, the tire pump had yet to be invented!

New England was a hot-bed of development.  Elbridge H. Corson for example was a bike racer, salesman and entrepreneur who lived in East Rochester, NH. He raced in the days of the high-bike and was at his prime when the safety was introduced.  He liked to ride from his home in Rochester to Boston with his daughter (so claimed) on weekends. It’s only 45 miles on today’s highways but I am sure it took most of the day. What is surprising that even though the roads were extremely primitive,  the average speed was nearly 10 mph.

E.H. as I like to call him was a cyclist first and foremost with salesmanship as a personal best . He actually “wrote the book” on how to ride one of the unusual American Star bicycles, the “star cyclists manual”. Quite unique in it’s design and also because it was the last gasp of the “Ordinary” configuration . The larger wheel was in the back of the bike which allowed insane stunts like riding down the Mt. Washington toll road and the steps of the capital building which would be impossible on a high wheel bike.

These types of stunts were what it took to sell bikes. Thankfully, we don’t have to resort to that today. To get an idea, Here is a Thomas A. Edison film from 1899.

One of the more popular forms of social media in 1900 was the sporting journals. Individuals would pen stories of their own adventures and submit them for publishing in monthly collections. Though many of the contributions chronicled exotic adventures, the most popular contained elements of familiarity to some of the readers and those were perhaps the most popular. It was at this that Elbridge excelled.   E.H. had a gift.

Some time before he abandoned the bicycle business to sell Armac motorcycles, E.H. (or someone) doctored this photograph of his factory in East Rochester, NH. (Take note of the sign.)

corson_home_factoryThough it isn’t clear how many cycles Mr. Corson produced from this facility in its day,  it is known there was at least a single sample. Frame # 2001 as seen in the images below

Here is a couple of pictures of a Corson bike made in 1900 and some others made just yesterday:

 

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