Vive memor quam sis aevi brevis.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas 2016

A Happy Christmas to all!

God Jul!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

 Feliz Navidad!

Buon Natale

Joyeux Noel!

Happy Hanukkah!

And to everyone i missed, Good wishes of  the season!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

20 December, 1976

40 years ago today...

i was riding home from work downtown. As our bus neared Michigan Boulevard, we watched a sizable motorcade speeding south along Michigan. There were several police cruisers, a black lino, and a CFD ambulance, lights ablaze and sirens howling.

We soon learnt that Hizzoner, Mayor Richard J. Daley had died.

The Boss

JFK rubbing elbows with the King Maker...

Expressing his displeasure at the '68  Democratic Convention.

Love him or hate him, there was no denying that he was a force of nature. i doubt that there will ever be another mayor of Chicago quite his equal.

                                               (Soundtrack by the Late, Great Steve Goodman.) 


Monday, 5 December 2016

Signor Tonelli

That's what we called him, although we never really knew his real name.

Mr. Tonelli was the father of the owner of the pizzaria next door to our bike shop. We figured he was in his late 60's, maybe a bit older. Tonelli's was the name of the pizza place, although to the best of our knowledge no one there went by that name. He would help in the kitchen and in slower moments would come in and visit the shop.

His command of english was rudimentary, but we managed to learn from him -and his son- that he had been a racer for Bianchi's team before the war. i don't know what races he competed it- i wish now i had asked him. He told us a couple of amusing tales about Filiero Masi's womanizing and Cino Cinelli's tight-fistedness, among others.

We knew he followed the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France and was a fan of Felice Gimondi. In the summer of '73, when we asked him who'd won the Tour, he just shook his head and said, "the Spaniard."

A post tonight on Mid-Life Cycling reminded me of our Mr. Tonelli.

One afternoon, he dropped in and watched our lead mechanic toss a taco'ed wheel into the trash. He pulled it out, eyeballed it, stuck the rim under the lip of the display case and did a dance step on it, put it in the jig and tweaked some spokes, pulled it back out and repeated the process twice more, and proudly presented a reasonably rideable wheel to an admiring audience.

It was a skill he'd undoubtedly learnt back in the days when racers had to do their own roadside repairs or take the long walk home.

We didn't have the heart to tell him that we'd already sold the customer a brand new wheel, but we did keep that wheel hanging up in the back shop for the rest of the summer.

Monday, 21 November 2016


Cyclists have certain endearing terms for each other, such as "wheel leech" "sleigh rider" "ninja" "salmon" and- a personal favourite, "squirrel."

A squirrel is usually defined as a rider who cannot hold a line in a pack or paceline, who darts from side to side unpredictably or brakes suddenly for no apparent reason -in short, an erratic bike handler, very likely to cause a crash.

Then of course, there are actual squirrels.

i have dodged these critters on numerous occasions, most recently when one bolted out and froze right in front of me during a 30+mph decent. Another time,  a squirrel ran into my front wheel, bounced off and then ran into my rear wheel ( i believe it escaped with only a bad headache.)

 This is yet another reason i hold onto my 36 spoke wheels. A high spoke count allows less room to entrap the wee beasties, unlike the more modern low spoke types currently in vogue.

 This past weekend, a Chicago alderman was riding along a trail when he encountered one of these furry chaos factors:

The alderman was thrown over the bars and sustained some serious injuries. He remains hospitalised at the moment but is expected to make a good recovery.

One could make jokes about Kamikaze Squirrels (i did when i first heard the story, but then i read the news report,) but in this case such jokes would be in poor taste.                                                                                                             
Wishing the gentleman a speedy recovery. To all the rest of you, be careful out there!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

This Just in: Hell Freezes Over!

Thank you, Cubs!

(Cycling related content will resume sometime after my pulse rate returns to normal.)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sign of the End Times?

Middle East in flames?

An increasingly belligerent Russia?

Global climate change?


The Cubs are in the World Series.

Lucifer is looking for his down parka.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What Horace Knew

It was a nearly perfect day for a ride. The day dawned cool -almost chilly- and a thin fog lay in the low places and over the nearby lake. The organisers had laid out a very good route that wound over lightly traveled  rural roads, and set up well-provisioned rest stops. As the sun climbed, the temperature and wind remained moderate.

Yes, it was a nearly picture-perfect day.

Along about 90 or 100 km into the course, the countryside became more rolling. i'd fallen in with a small group behind a couple on a tandem. We rode along together until we came upon a slightly steeper rise. Determined not to get dropped i pushed along with them, only to fall behind on the way down- i'd overdone the effort, so i backed down to my usual slow pace and watched the others ride away whilst i caught my breath.

A few minutes later atop a hill in the middle of a crossroads i saw a knot of dismounted riders and a couple of stopped cars. Thinking it to be a crash, i felt a chill as i approached. It was worse than a crash.

A cyclist lay on the pavement surrounded by the others. One driver was on his cellphone, another was kneeling beside the fallen rider pushing on his chest while someone else was giving mouth to mouth on every third count.

Some of us stopped a respectable distance beyond the scene, not quite knowing what else there was to do. One man said that it didn't look good, as the rider was already pretty blue.  There was nothing any of us could do really, so one by one, we moved away in silence. A few minutes down the road, a county police cruiser blasted by, shortly followed an ambulance and a couple other police and fire vehicles.

i haven't learnt of the outcome for that rider. He looked to be a few years younger than myself, maybe mid-40's. There was no word to be found the next day from any local area news nor on the cycling sites i follow. i can only hope he was revived, but i don't think it likely.

As i continued down the  road, i meditated on that phrase in Latin that is the sub heading for thisblog:

"Vive memor quam sis aevi brevis."

 Remember how short life is.


Carpe viam, mihi crede, comes, terrestria quando

mortalīs animas vivunt sortita neque ulla est

aut magno aut parvo leti fuga: quo, bone, circa

dum licet, in rebus iucundis vive beatus

vive memor, quam sis aevi brevis.
("Seize the way, trust me, pal, since things on earth
have been allotted mortal souls and there is no
escape from death for either the great
or the small: therefore, good fellow,
 while one may, live happy in pleasant circumstances,
 live mindful of how short-lived you are.” )
-  Horace,Sermones 2.6: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse

Saturday, 10 September 2016


All hail the digesters!

Epic shelf, spotted on Oak Knoll rd.

"Indian pipes," Mt. Pisgah Hemlock trail, near Ontario, WI.

Along the Hemlock trail.

(Not to scale.)
Lonely poisonous mushroom...

Tree 'shrooms, Wildcat Mt. State Park, near Ontario, WI.

(Also not to scale...)

 i'm not a student of mushrooms or fungi in particular, but i'm fascinated by their ephemeral nature,- popping up suddenly just when their time is right and disappearing a day or two or even hours after they appear. Pushing out of the duff or growing out of a tree's bark.
My dad would never ever eat a mushroom. "They have no food value," was one of his stock sayings. i have no idea which if any of these are edible- and remember that edible does not automatically imply palatable - and even veteran mushroom hunters dispute among themselves what mushrooms are edible or non-poisonous. i'll continue to only trust commercially raised mushrooms and at that with a cautious and skeptical eye.

And this from the late John Cage:
"Dorothy Norman   invited me to dinner in New York.
 There was a lady there from Philadelphia   who was
an authority on Buddhist art.  When she found out
I was interested in mushrooms,  she said, “Have
you an explanation of the symbolism involved  in the
death of the Buddha by his eating a mushroom?” 

 I explained that I’d never been interested in
symbolism;  that I preferred just taking things as
themselves, not as standing for other things.
But then a few days later while rambling in the
woods  I got to thinking. I recalled the Indian
concept of the relation of life and the seasons.
 Spring is Creation. 
 Summer is Preservation.
 Fall is Destruction.   
 Winter is Quiescence.   

      Mushrooms grow most vigorously in
the fall, the period of destruction, and the
function of many of them is to bring about the final
decay of rotting material. In fact,  as I
read somewhere, the world would be an impassible
heap of old rubbish were it not for mushrooms and
their capacity to get rid of it.

     So I wrote to the lady in Philadelphia. 

          I said,

“The function of mushrooms is to rid the world of old 

           The Buddha died  a  natural  death.”"

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Journeyman's Test

It was the second day of the Lake Pepin 3 Speed Tour. i was about half an hour down Route 61 on the way to Lake City and the brew-up. Somewhere near Camp Lacupolis, i heard and then felt a crunch from my rear wheel. The pedals seized up and i dismounted before any further damage was done. My Sturmey Archer AW hub, production date 3/71, had gone duff.

Jon, the "Shirt-Tail-Organiser" of the tour, rode on to the next overlook and was able to find someone to come  rescue me. A very kind lady, who was following her Harley rider husband in her pickup, volunteered for the mission and ferried me Lake City. A further ride in the Lorry back to Red Wing got me back to my car. i was (and am!) very grateful for the kindness of strangers and Minnesota Nice, although it was disappointing to miss riding the back roads and taking in the beautiful scenery on the way back to Red Wing.

So my trusty Raleigh steed sat idle for the rest of the summer. i pulled the guts from the hub and found that one of the planet gears had chipped. Fortunately, the damage was confined to the one gear. i proceeded to acquire the necessary replacement gear and a few other spare bits. The inner works then sat collecting dust on the workbench from May to late August.

"For the want of a nail..."

i studied RJ The Bike Guy's You Tube video of rebuilding AW hubs. i'm also indebted to Mark Stonich of Bikesmith Design as well as the late great Sheldon Brown for S/A information.

Finally i got around to finishing the task, replacing the planet gears, as well as the axle/sun gear assembly, clutch, and low gear pawls. The old sun gear showed some minor damage, and the clutch and pawls were worn, and although they were serviceable, i felt that their replacement was probably a good idea.

Bits and spares.

While i was at it, i took the time to overhaul a unit from a '68 vintage hub with a trashed shell that i'd gotten for spares some years back.

i like to think of this project as my "journeyman's test" to qualify as a genuine bike mechanic. Back when i was a shop rat, i dodged 3-speed repairs as i was intimidated by the clockwork innards of the Sturmey Archer hub. Now i feel confident that i can keep our fleet of three speeds on the road for years to come.

 Blessing of the Bikes, 3-speed Tour, 2012.

Jocasta, back on the road.             

Monday, 29 August 2016


A warm day yesterday. Took a long ride out into McHenry county- a bit farther than i should have done. Took the opportunity to check out a berry farm just north of Woodstock...

Carried home a pint of raspberries...

They traveled just nice in the saddlebag.

The farm's just outside of town on Queen Anne road. There's only a couple of weeks left in the season, so don't wait too long.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


It seems they're always in pairs:

Standing by the roadside on Oak Knoll, seemingly unconcerned by my presence.

i never get tired of seeing these birds when i'm out and about on the bike. They don't seem the least bit afraid of people as long as we keep a respectful distance.

But will there be racing?

Seen by the roadside on today's ride:

(Couldn't resist...)

Just kidding...

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Horchata Grande

Set out a bit too late this morning. It was a hot and windy day, about 92F (33C) and couldn't ride to keep out of my own way. Did a very slow 50km ride, and near the end of it took pause...

Horchata grande, sin hielo por favor...

Muchas gracias, Mexico Uno!

(This could get to be a habit.)

Damned Raccoons!!

Last week's campout provided a harsh lesson from Mother Nature:

Never leave your bike out where a hungry raccoon may nosh on your Brooks saddle!

Nature, "Red in tooth and claw."

i dunno... maybe they like the taste of Proofide?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Free Fallin'

It was early evening on Christmas eve a few years ago. i was in the down stairs family room, dozing off a big dinner, half awake, when i heard a thump somewhere upstairs, followed closely by a second thump. i thought little about it and half forgot about it.

Later that winter there was a thaw, and i noticed a brown stain spreading on the ceiling above the front vestibule. This got my attention and i scaled the roof to see what was what. On the roof, about four feet from the edge and in line with my front door, i discovered a smallish hole about a half inch (~12mm) in the shingle. i probed the hole and felt something push through the plywood and fall into the attic. A few feet away, on  the reverse slope of the roof, i noticed another pockmark in the shingle and a few feet downslope lay a bullet.

i live in a relatively peaceful suburb,and stray gunfire is not a regular occurrence. i  called the local police to make a report and turn in the recovered slug. The officer who came out resembled  Colonel Flagg.  He was not impressed by my discovery, and offered no useful info about how far such a round might have traveled before lodging in my roof.

The round that pierced the roof fell about 6 feet (2m) past my front steps and i wonder if others may have fallen nearby. i'm glad no one was standing at my front door at the time- it could have ruined someone's day...

Well, the patch i did back then finally failed (Damn! we'd just repainted that ceiling!) causing me to scramble up into the attic crawlspace to improvise a more permanent solution. Not much fun climbing about on 2X4 stringers trying not to have my 80 kilo self fall through the ceiling! Here's the offending slug, retrieved today from the insulation:
Looks like a .45 hollow point. Nasty piece of work.

At the time they struck, the roof was less than a year old. Damn, again. i hope the crawl through the dust and fibreglass shards won't need to be repeated any time soon. Now for hop into a nice hot shower...

(We'll have more bike-related stuff soon...)

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Fin de Course

Broom wagons from all over... 

L'Equipe Belge packs it in...

Number please?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A day with Colette

i've known Colette for about 30 years. We've grown older more or less gracefully together.

Colette was born in Beaulieu, France, and her origins help explain some of the quirkier aspects of her character. i'd guess her age to be a couple of years north of 40, but best not to inquire too deeply. Over the years she's undergone a couple of surgeries and more makeovers than any Hollywood actress "of a certain age" to the point where it's sometimes difficult to determine where Colette ends and the makeover begins, but she still has an elegant charm about her.

There have been times over the years we've drifted apart- times when i was drawn to the younger and more beautiful- but we always manage to drift back together eventually. Colette can be very forgiving, but she occasionally reminds me that she can also be humbling.

Yesterday Colette and i set out on a long day's ramble, north and west into some of the more rural areas of McHenry County.

The Rawson road bridge over the mighty Fox River- gateway to McHenry County.

...and Sandhill cranes who were posing so nicely near the bridge.
An encouraging sign, but Rawson Bridge Road is pretty narrow and busy.
The west bank of the Fox is the high side and the roads rise steadily as one goes on into the town of Crystal Lake.

Onward to Woodstock:

Coming into the town centre, one finds:
The First Bank, uhm, Church of Christ, Scientist... 

And across the street:
A re-purposed church...
i wonder how many Buddhists live in McHenry County?
Someday i'll have to go inside... the original stained glass windows are still in place; i bet  the interior is awesome...

One then comes into the town square:
Does this look familiar?

How about now?

The town of Woodstock also appeared in the film The Road to Perdition. Take a bow, Woodstock!
A memorial to the Civil War vets of McHenry County.
The lady at the visitors' centre was very nice and provided me a small county map. If you ever find yourself in Woodstock, take the time to hang out along the town square.


To and through Hebron, IL:
And don't you ever forget it!
And so further on to the edge of the Great Corn Desert:
This just goes on and on and on...

If you find yourself in Hebron someday, be sure to stop at the ice cream stand on the main drag. The folks there are friendly and the ice cream and malts are outstanding!

(i know... but it's worth repeating!)


By now you probably know that Colette is my 1970's era Peugeot PX10:

 i purchased her as a cannibalised shell of her original self- a frame with headset and seatpost and a nice set of SunTour brakes for about $100 from a wannabe triathlete who wanted something more "modern" and "aero." Over the years, she's had a new Tange fork installed, and had bottle cage mounts, cable guides, and a pump peg brazed on. The Simplex dropout with its problematic derailleur hanger was modified by the previous owner to handle a Campag style changer. She's been resprayed- twice, had the rear axle spacing taken out to 126mm, and had more running gear changes than i care to remember. And let's not say too much about 35x1 bottom brackets, 26.4 seatposts, and 22.0 steerers!

A bit like me, she also has her scars and age spots- a dent here, a touch of rust there, some pitted chrome over there. As i said, we've aged together as gracefully as we could manage. We are, after all, mortal.

As for humbling- i've had some epic crashes with her, and have the scars to prove it. These include two broken front teeth, thirteen stitches, and a couple of layers of epidermis... while she sustained no damage worse than scraped brake levers and some torn bar tape (a taco'ed front wheel doesn't count.)

Colette has served mainly as a century bike, and in later years, a commuter and occasionally a randonneuse.

Yesterday i took her out for the longest ride we'd done together in a while- 180km that took us into some of the nearer edges of the Great Midwest Corn Desert. i'm pleased to report that the old gal has a lot of life left in her. There may yet be a rando or two to come for her.