Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Rock Game

My dog, Bender, who will be 10 years-old this year, has been training me for his whole life how to play The Rock Game.  On the surface, The Rock Game looks like a game of fetch, only there's a labrador-maw-sized rock to be tossed around instead of a ball.  But The Rock Game is not what you think.

So far, in my 10 years of training, I've determined that the flow of the rock game is basically this:

Step 1)  Trailwork, ideally benching trail.  I'm working my ass off with a rogue hoe, and Bender vanishes only to...
Step 2) Bender arrives back with a rock.  Any kind of rock will do, quartz, granite, sandstone, whatever - so long as he can barely manage to pick it up.  There's a fine balance here between a rock that is big enough to play the game and one that is too big for him to lug up the hill from the creek to where I'm working.
Step 3)  This is where it gets tricky.  For years I assumed the object of the game was "fetch" where I'd pick it up, throw it, and he'd chase it down and return it.  But he's given me enough hard looks now after watching me chuck it into the woods again, for me to have learned that's not it.  And he's shown me...many times, and I've finally realized that the goal of the rock game is to kick it around, toss it some (but not too far), stress out about the fact that he's about to lose it, and to eventually lose it in the berm I'm building.  Where fetch is a game with a treasured object - a ball, a stick, a toy - where you always manage to retrieve said object, the rock game is just that, a rock, and the eventual, unavoidable conclusion of the game is to lose it.

This is hard for me to understand.

On Monday, I had to sell my Subaru, the history of which I've written about several times in these here pages.    In a physical sense, the Subaru was a complete piece of shit.  It leaked oil.  Needed new tires.  Didn't run very well.  Sometimes didn't run at all.  It was well past time for it to go, and I knew that, and when I saw that the KBB value for the car, even if it were in good condition (which it was not) was $650, I realized it was now or never.  This is how people end up with piece of shit cars parked in their yard that won't start.   But in her prime, she was a hell of a car - a road-tripping, bike-hauling, cross-country party on wheels.  She'd seen both the pacific and the atlantic, had parked at trailheads from Arizona to New Hampshire and back again.  That car was the last real physical thing I had left from my seven years in Colorado as a 20-something bike bum, where the sum of my responsibility on any given day was to simply go to work and ride my bike.  To me, she was a symbol of a life I used to have, and despite her physical state of disrepair (and my own, for that matter) that car was like a part of me.

Full disclosure: I cried like a fucking baby.  I got $1,000 for it, which is murder if you ask me, maybe for both of us.  As a bizarre frame of reference about the nature of monetary value, it would have taken greater than FOUR of such Subarus, which could still travel at 85 miles/hour if you needed it to, to equal ONE of my race bikes.  Chew on that rock, whydon'tcha.

There are so many things in your life, as you start to push 40 years, that are on their way out.  Those pets you got right after college, the ones that taught you that you could actually love something more than yourself.  The car you brought your kids home in.  The existence of a thing we used to call "front derailleur."  Democracy.  If the things you love are not already gone, most of them have at least packed a bag, gotten their affairs in order.

Bender naps in the yard, the sunshine feels pretty good on his old bones, I can tell, but otherwise he seems unaware of the passage of time.  Around lunchtime, he'll sit right outside of my window here where he can keep an eye on me to see if I'm going to take a break, pick up a hoe, and head for the trail to try to beat whatever this is out of me.  We play The Rock Game pretty much every time now,  his best and only way to help me understand, but still I don't get it.  We keep losing the rocks.  They're in the trails around here.  The loss of each one is enormously stressful for him, as evidenced by the grey hairs along his chin and around his eyes.  He has to nap for 3 hours when we get back.  And still, he keeps wrestling them out of the creek, dumping them in the dirt, and looking up at me with his tail wagging like a puppy, "see.  See!  SEE!"

I still don't really see, but he hasn't stopped trying and so neither have I, as evidenced by all of these trails around here with stray rocks packed into the berms at weird angles that don't make any sense.  Not everything makes sense.

My hope is that their strength will help them hold together, that what doesn't trip us or kill us now will one day help to hold us up, up, up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

At least I'll have warm feet

First and foremost, Mike Doughty will be at the Southern, tomorrow, Jan 12th.
With him this time through town, Wheatus, of "teenage dirtbag" fame.

I don't get too hyped up for concerts in this day and age, but given our current political conundrum and the very fragile state of the world, this one would hit the spot, whatever that spot is.
Also, it's a full moon.
Also, also, it'll be 66 degrees tomorrow.
And with King Trump on the doorstep of the White House, along with his legion of goons, and presumably half the Kremlin, I say tomorrow night is a good night to do something awesome, whatever that may be, wherever you can find it, while you still can.  I'll be night riding for 3+ hours in an attempt to quell the inner demons and so forth, but you do you.

But really, REALLY do you.  It's important right now.  There's a moderately good chance we'll be at war with Russia, China, North Korea, Ourselves, ISIS,  Iran, Mexico, or perhaps even all of those at the same time within the next year or so, so you might as well fit in the good stuff that you really want to do now, while you still can.

Nuclear Winter, right around the corner?  No one knows. (Except the Russians.  They know.)  But I picked up some of those $300 Bontrager winter boots, because at this point, why the hell not?  If it all goes black, at least my feet will be warm.

Supplement those boots with my new, legit hot fudge sundae pop tart branded socks, and 8+ hours at 800 lumens or greater, and I feel better about things already.

Into the darkness, good friends and otherwise.

As a fallback, there's always one way to get warm, and it's up, up, up.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I've seen the Kansas of your sweet little myth.

Not that Kansas is particularly easy either.  And certainly they have more rules.  But I like to think that what we do up here is at least adequate in terms of the amount of pain it causes.  And right on schedule, nigh 5 weeks out from Il Pantani 2017, it is time for me to address all of the questions that I've been getting, have gotten for years, and will hopefully continue to get until I either stop sending people on The Pantani Route, or die.

Most of these questions I've addressed in years past.  In places like here, here, here, here, and even way back over here once upon a time.  It always reminds me that we've been doing this for quite a while.

The first question, every year, is basically this: How Do I Sign Up?
Because people are used to doing that.  Bikereg,, etc - people pay to play these days, and that's worthy enough.  But that's not how we do it here at Pantani HQ, mostly because Pantani HQ does not exist, nor does any kind of actual event that is any more significant than just a big group ride, because, for the record, that's all we're doing.  Just a huge pile of jerks getting coming together for a ride.  No reg.  No waiver.  No competition. No course marking.  No support.  No team car.  No aid stations.  No prizes.  Nothing.
But with that said, there are, in an organic way, some of those things too.  Just not officially.
So make sense of that if you must, but either way no one will be taking your money.  10 AM, the ride starts from The Paranormal Field, and it'll work itself out.

The other main question I get - after people wrap their minds around revolutionary concept that no one is going to be taking their money at the start line in exchange for pain - is basically this: What Do I Do?
And that question comes in various forms from, "what bike do I ride?" to "how do I follow the route?" to "what happens if a bear eats me?"
Those answers are all out there.  You just have to find them in places like herehereherehere, and even way back over here once upon a time.  So give those a read next time you're taking a huge dump and can't stand to read even one more CNN World article about whatever global disaster we're all about to experience, and then report back here if you still don't get it, because if you don't, I can send you this photo of Todd humping the rooster at the bottom of Brokenback circa 2008 or so.

Because it explains so much.

Anyway, relax.  If it helps your pucker factor any, know that I'm in phenomenally worse shape than you are right now, and I still think I can finish.  So really, we can do this.

Everybody sing along like big jerks.
Up, up, up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sometimes the clothes do not make the man.

Am I the only one that turned this magic little corner of pop history up to 11 on the day after Christmas, locked all the doors, and sing-cried his eyes out in the shower?

Then I made some tea.

If the Death of George Michael doesn't mark the aging process for you with another huge black line, consider this - was Will Leet even born yet in 1990?
I don't think he was.
The whole thing hurts me.

Most things do now, I've noticed.  I walked with my kids around D.C. for the better part of the day yesterday, touring the History of Space Travel and Mankind and so forth, and though my mind is blown by the progress and destruction of our species in such a short span of time, today it feels like someone beat my legs with a Saturn V Space Rocket.

Foot travel, misery.  New Years Resolution #314,098: make better choices.

As the relevance of that dialog you've been having in your head for the last however many years about the existence of Heaven and Hell becomes only more relevant as the time draws nearer and, indeed, your idols pass on to find out for themselves, one thing comes ever clearer into focus: Enjoy Today.

Ride your bike before it's laughably outdated, and so are you.  1990, where did even you go?
To win the race, a prettier face.
Brand new clothes and a big fat place on your rock 'n roll TV.

Up, up, up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Only a fool would complain

Oh, Canada.  A little piece of rock n roll history.  Eat shit, cancer.

Only a Canadian could write such a ballad about freezing to death.  Which brings me straight to the subject of Il Pantani Ride in what is certain to be the weirdest year of our Lord, ever, 2017.  BE CAREFUL UP THERE.  I know you gotta get your train on - I dig that most of all.  But going up there in shorts at 3 PM, because you know, climbing, is a good recipe for not coming back down.  So be smart and wear some wool or something.

With that said, train away.  And if you want to start from here at the Rancho Relaxo, contact Shawn at BRC and he'll get you the quick and dirty approval to park your Subaru right on the official start line.  It's helpful for us to know whose car that is, still parked there 24 hours later, for when we have to start searching for your dead body.  We'll at least know what bike you were riding.  It's 50 miles, which if you're Dave Flatten, is just a shade under 3 hours of beating your subconscious (and Jeremiah Bishop) into submission.  The rest of us, it takes a long time.  So be prepared, and a badass.

Also, can we talk about how in the name of Trump people are doing this loop in under 3 hours?  I'm just hoping to get back under 4 this year.  And finish.  Finishing before dark would be a tremendous achievement from where I'm sitting right now, which is directly on my huge ass.

To ease the pressure, I've set the start time to 10 AM this year, not 11 AM, providing me an extra 1 hour of sunlight to try to limp around the course and make it home alive.  I like my odds, but that could be the eggnog talking.  So who really knows.

No one.  And that's the beauty of it.  It's December, and from here you can dream your own reality, maybe even steer a little for a change.  Free will vs. Destiny.  No matter how much time you spend considering those things, you're the only one to blame on Feb 10th and, conveniently, I'll blame you too.

So we've got that, whatever it is.

Anyway, if you wanna get down, you gotta get up first.
And up, and up, and up.