Monday, October 22, 2012

Dear Pugsley, I'll always consider you my friend....

“Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too
And I'm getting older too...”
Fleetwood Mac

Dearest Pugsley:

This is a very difficult letter to write.  My mind is reeling, my heart is aching, I can’t think too good, but I need to give it to you straight, you deserve the truth. I have found someone new...Someone that I am very excited about and this someone can give to me the kinds of things that you were never ever able to give to me...But itz not your fault...This does not mean that we still cannot be friends.  I’ll still respect you, I’ll always respect you.  As a single speed on loose terrain, you’re the greatest...but we both know that you are not that good with gears and that your wheels are too narrow, too heavy, and too old for long rides on snow. 

Please don’t take this personally...We have had a long, beautiful, rich history together and I’ll never forget the good times. We made a great team back in the day.  The early Arrowhead 135 races, when there were only your cousins to compete with, and I was young and able—we were contenders; the epic solo summer ride along the Northshore Trail to Grand Marais; last March’s classic winter trek to Ely, and even this summer’s single-speed effort at the 24 Hours @ Red Wing.  We were good together....

But there were tough times as well, like the debacle at last year’s Tuscobia 150, where the other bikes floated light-heartedly across the snow, while we continuously plowed our way through, causing great consternation and resentment on my part.  I know itz wrong, but I’ve never forgiven you for that day.  Itz me, not wasn’t your fault...itz me, I’m the one that has the problem...

I knew we were in serious trouble last week, when I spent hours trying to rig-up a hodgepodge set-up so that I could use gears on you and no matter how much I tried to adjust the old cables and yard on the bent derailleur hanger I could not get you to shift to more than a couple gears.  I know that itz true, Eki and Buff and all the other guyz blame me for your pathetic state and their right to blame me; trying to get you to rightly shift using an old chain and an even older cassette, combined with a super old back-ass derailleur and rusty cables, but  I still blame you. I’m a’ll be better off without me...  You deserve deserve someone that will fix you up right, someone that will put new shiny components on you.  Your still young, you can still do something...You need someone that will meet you half-way...Someone that will giveback and not just take and take....

I guess the final straw came yesterday when your chain broke for the umpteenth time while I was riding on the Northshore trail with my buddies.  There I was, once again on my knees, getting soaked, getting my hands full of grease and oil trying to cobble together an old chain while Eki and Buffington, atop beautiful modern, efficient snowbikes, mocked us...You deserve better... I’m a jerk.  You need a guy that will routinely take you to a bike shop and have expert mechanics go over you and build you up. Build up your self-esteem...All I do is tear you down. 

But it wasn’t always so bad...I remember when you first came into my life...It was something like seven years ago.  I was still treating the new concept snowbikes from Surly with ridicule and derision...I called them “clown bikes” and preached the gospel that the Pugsely was an abomination, a sacrilege, an unnatural instrument of the devil...whose concerted aim was to destroy the very core of the winter cyclist—the standard 26 inch mountain bike (Pramann still holds the Arrowhead record on such a bike).   Just as I now vow to never, ever buy a carbon frame or even worse, an electronic shifter, I vowed then to never own a Pugsley.  Then a generous, non-cycling woman that I work with at my school won a Pugsley frame at the Arrowhead 135 drawing and graciously gave the frame to me in repayment for a few minor niceties that I had done for her in the previous years.    I figured that since you were “free” I’d be okay with putting some used stuff on you...Maybe thatz why we never really clicked?  Maybe itz because I never truly appreciated you...You were the bike that alwayz got stuck with the used gear or the gear that I picked up at races.  For that I am sorry.  You deserved better. 

You may think that I am doing this cuz your not made of some fancy pants material like carbon or titanium or aluminum, but that ain’t the truth.  I love steel and I never minded that you were always a little bit heavier than the other snowbikes.  I know that you think that I blame you for your short fork-steerer tube, but I don’t...I know it was someone else that cut it too short, itz not your fault...but still, it drives me crazy! I hate being all hunched over...i don't blame you...itz me...I need counseling. 

Itz just that I need to move on...I need space to grow.  I’m going to Alaska in February and I need to really focus on that...You say you want to go with me, but you know as well as I do that your wheels are too small, your tires are too bald, your components are too old and brittle...I gotta think about myself, my own needs....

Please forgive me...but I be gettin' me a MOONLANDER :)

This will be for the best in the long run....


Friday, October 19, 2012

Just checking in..........

Just a quick random and unorganized update as not much as been going on for me up here in the Northland that is worthy of sharing. 

This year’s class of Esko seniors is among the best I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with in my many years of teaching. I am always encouraged and hopeful for the future because of the fact that the vast majority of young people that I interact with on a daily basis are way more interesting and intelligent that I ever was in my youth; same can be said for my friends as well…Basically all my buddies and I cared about in high school and even in college was playing sports and drinking cheap beer.  In stark contrast this year’s group, especially, are extraordinarily well-rounded, thoughtful and generous. I have many seniors that are top-notch athletes, blooming academics, concerned humanitarians, empathetic mentors to struggling younger students, political moderates, consensus builders, good stewards to the environment, and the positives attributes go on and on…If you are stuck in a rut surrounded by others stuck in ruts…consider going into teaching; it’s a great gig!

The Heck of the North did not disappoint as it went off perfectly…there was a small unavoidable glitz involving a detour near the end of the race because of a car accident and a subsequent road closing by the cops, but even in that situation the leaders of the race acted with class and integrity.  Specifically, from what I could glean from a couple of the fastest riders (I finished way back), the situation involving the road closure necessitated a kind of real-life ethical dilemma in which the final outcome proved that there are still MEN that when tested will act with honor and grace.  Essentially here’s what happened: With less than ten miles to go—There was a group of three or four lead cyclists that had been able to establish a significant gap on a strong and motivated chase group of about ten or so guyz, a group mostly comprised of Duluth’s best in terms of endurance athletes.  The four leaders were heading down a long hill whose terminus is Superior Street.  Suddenly they encountered a bunch of cops and police cars.  Upon stopping they were informed that the road was being temporary closed because of a car hitting a telephone pole, etc.  They thus were forced to start back up the hill.  A few minutes later, they intercepted the chase group.  Now all headed back up together. Once to the top, the race officials (acting well under pressure) redirected the group to a detour route.  The comprehensive group thus headed off together following the detour until they came upon the final section of off-road, which was really only a few miles from the finish.  Then suddenly (and with out fanfare) the Men that had comprised the chase group suddenly stopped (as did the four original leaders). The chase group collectively and without any semblance of dissension, informed the leaders that they would wait for five minutes allowing the leaders to contest for the victory.  Such is the make-up Duluth’s best.  I wept when I heard the story. 

I did journey the following weekend after the Heck of the North to Levis Mounds for the last of the WEMS race.  This race, too, was a blast.  Unfortunately for me I got lost and/or distracted on my way down to the race so I did not get to start the race on time.  In fact I started the race about 78 minutes after the gun had gone off.  Yet I finished the 75 mile race, got to hang with Martin Rudnick, and even turned in a few relatively fast laps.  I love that course, felt pretty fit, and I am always impressed with the generous prizes available to the racers during the post-race party. 

The Heck of the North and the last WEMS race @ Levis are both great events. 

I am starting to get really pumped and even somewhat serious about training for the 350 mile Alaskan Iditarod race that Buffington and I are attempting at the end of February…I even considered giving up beer, but then I realized that would be the act of an insane person…

More to come…….