Friday, December 26, 2014

The Truth About Bicycles

I saw this video on youtube and just had to share it.  Its short, sweet, and to the point.  I love my bicycle and so does this young man.  Brush the dust off that saddle and hit the road.

Tragedy Before the Southern Tier

This story ought to be known among all cyclists across the United States of America since not all touring rides are happy stories.  The ride of my cousin, Mark Boyd, never started before two thugs lured him away from a bus station in Fayetteville, NC, stole all his belongings, and brutally murdered him in the street.

Although bicycle touring stories are generally positive and the communities cycled through greet riders with curiosity and often times with generous offerings such as food, and places to sleep, it ought not go un-noticed when a tragedy befalls our riding community.

No where, except for this story in the LI Newsday did we learn of my cousin's demise after traveling the world over by foot and by bicycle.  In a time when Fergusen, MO took to the streets and the media displayed support for a bad individual, a criminal, Michael Brown, little was known about Mark Boyd who hurt no one, and who lived a humble life and sought only to enjoy what each day could bring.

I write of this story knowing little about my cousin.  I am 14 years older than he.  I lived much of his childhood life in Florida. I missed many opportunities to actually know him.  When the family celebrated holidays in New York, I was in college or working in FL.  The one time I remember him most was when he was about 12 years old when he visited with his parents to my parents house outside Orlando.  He and his two brothers at the time swam with my oldest son.   Any other knowledge of Mark came from family members who discussed Mark in terms of being "somewhere" in the world.  He lived and worked in S. Korea for a time; he lived and traveled in the Middle East and even in Rochester, NY.  I guess you could say that Mark lived an adventure everyday.

Many of us "grow up".  We "settle down".  He lived where he traveled.  I would say he knew the people because he trusted them.  Some folks may say that his trust of strangers betrayed him at the outset of his southern tier bicycle tour while in Fayetteville, NC.  He had hoped to catch a bus from Fayetteville to St. Augustine and start his journey across America's southern tier to San Diego, CA.  Wow! What a ride that would be although he had completed a transcontinental ride several times before.

I read about cycling the southern tier across country on a few days after attending Mark's funeral on Long Island.  It takes a strong man to accomplish such a task.  Strong in character-- heart and mind-- not to mention in good health.  Mark had to be strong.  His entire family, parents, brothers, and sister are all athletic and well disciplined individuals.  I don't know any of them to be anything less than accomplished and talented in sport, song, or mind.

What is my point?  My point is threefold:
1.  The world lost a wonderful person, a free spirit who loved and trusted people enough to travel the world without fear.  Yet, he was stolen from us, from our family before we could actually know him as we should have.  It was a loss that no one, other than the LI Newsday mentioned while a criminal like Michael Brown is celebrated by the media through lies and misinformation. It's a shame. Mark, and the people like him, deserve a memorial reminding the world of how we should be; free and able to travel safely in what is surly supposed to be a nation upon a hill.

2.  Cyclists must know that there are bad folk out there on the road although violent crime is at its lowest points in decades.  Be careful. Choose to trust while discerning to stay put when being led astray. Nothing good can ever come of turning yourself over to thugs hoping to survive by doing as they say.  Unfortunately, appearances do speak volumes; after all, we must acknowledge the value of personal safety above offending someone we do not know.  Toss the false idea of racism out the window and hold tightly to the reality of the danger that can snuff the out the light of your soul.  Just be careful out there.  Don't fear others; be aware of bad intentions and take first impressions seriously.

3.  I wanted the world to know that Mark has inspired me to bicycle tour.  I was introduced to road cycling by Mark's dad, my uncle, a few years ago.  Cycling has replaced running as my best form of exercise and recreation.  Although I had always wondered about long distance cycling rides, Mark's story has pushed me to give it a whirl since life is so short.  I want my experience of learning how to bike tour to help me learn about my cousin and to try to see the world in a more positive light rather than through a skeptic's lens.  Ultimately, as a way to honor Mark's legacy of living each day as an adventure and to spread the love of cycling.

Mark's story will not end.  I will carry it every day of my life.  I think about him often.  I think about his adventure in India sitting on the top of a train like the regular folk, who cling on to the rails hoping to reach their destination.  I ponder what it he must have thought about as he rode passed the many natural wonders of the world.  He actually rode a camel and saw the ancient pyramids of Egypt.  I will not accomplish all that he did, many of us won't, but if we can only have a taste and spread that flavor for adventure and shared experiences, it may be possible to make an even safer world.

I will see you on the road.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Central New York on a Bicycle

I have started reading this book, Around the World on a Bicycle.  The author, Thomas Stevens wrote a few pages regarding his brief ride through central New York that I wanted to publish on the blog because I found it rather cool that he included our region, not only as part of his "most excellent" journey, but as part of his book.

Although Tom Stevens made his bike tour over a hundred years ago, his ride is a testimony that bike touring can be done by anyone.  His bicycle was not a Surly LHT.  He did not wear special clothing nor did he travel with lightweight gear.  All he had were his wits, a few essentials, and the kindness of strangers who he met along the road.  Mountain passes, dirt and stone, or grass was where the rubber tires of his two wheeler rolled upon.  Without a doubt, his record, in volume one, of his journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic is inspiring.  I have read up to his arrival in Massachusetts.  I love it so far.  Its more than just a journal. Its a story of perseverance; its a discussion of a nations culture and its varied peoples.  The concept of diversity today is nothing as it ought to be. Political correctness and the false idea that differences of  opinion and differences in preference as being a blight on America has created an atmosphere of forced similarity (actually a forced denial of reality and truth) and declarations of racism at the slightest comment concerning stereotypes and conversations of American Society.

Thomas Stevens book, Around the World on a Bicycle is free of our modern sensitivities of national differences.  Its a fun, simple read of interactions among people from coast to coast.  I am looking forward for the rest of the story.  So, below is an excerpt concerning his ride through Central New York.

"...Inquiring the best road to Geneva I am advised of the superiority of the one leading passed the poor-house.  Finding them somewhat intricate, and being too super-sensitive to stop people and ask them the road to the poor-house, I deservedly get lost, and am wandering erratically eastward through the darkness, when I fortunately meet a wheelman in a buggy, who directs me to his mother's farm-house near by, with instructions to that most excellent lady to accommodate me for the night.  Nine o'clock in the morning I reach fair Geneva, so beautifully situated on Seneca's silvery lake, passing the State agricultural farm en route; continuing on up the Seneca River, passing through Waterloo and Seneca Falls to Cayuga, and from thence to Auburn and Skaneateles, where I heave a sigh at the thoughts of leaving the last- I cannot say the loveliest, for all are equally lovely-- of that beautiful chain of lakes that transforms this part of New York State into a vast and delightful summer resort.
" 'Down a romantic Swiss glen, where scores of sylvan nooks and rippling hills invite one to cast about for fairies and sprites,' " is the word descriptive of my route from Marcellus next morning.  Once again, on nearing Camillus outlet from the narrow vale, I hear the sound of Sunday bells, and after the church-bell-less Western wilds,it seems to me that their notes have visited me amid beautiful scenes, strangely often of late.  Arriving at Camillus, I ask the name of the sparkling little stream that dances along this fairy glen like a child at play, absorbing the sun-rays and coquettishly reflecting them in the faces of the venerable oaks that bend over it like loving guardians protecting it from evil.  My ears are prepared to hear a musical Indian name-- "Laughing-Waters" at least; but, like a week's washing ruthlessly intruding upon love's young dream, falls on my waiting ears the unpoetic misnomer, "Nine-Mile Creek."  Over good roads to Syracuse, and from thence my route leads down the Erie Canal, alternately riding down the canal tow-path, the wagon-roads, and between the tracks of the New York Central Railway.  On the former, the greatest drawback to peaceful cycling is the towing-mule and his unwarrantable animosity toward the bicycle, and the awful, unmentionable profanity engendered thereby in utterances of the boatmen.  Sometimes the burden of this sulphurous profanity is aimed at me, sometimes at the inoffensive bicycle, or both of us collectively but oftener is it directed at the unspeakable mule, who is really the only party to blame.  A mule scares, not because he feels skittishly inclined to turn back, or to make trouble between his enemies-- the boatmen, his task master, and the cycler, an intruder on his exclusive domain, the Erie tow-path.  A span of mules will pretend to scare, whirl around, and jerk loose from the driver, and go "scooting" back down the tow-path in a manner indicating that nothing less than a stone wall would stop them; but, exactly in the nick of time to prevent the tow-line jerking them sidewise into the canal, they stop.  Trust a mule for never losing his head when he runs away, as does his hot-headed relative, the horse; who never once allows surrounding circumstances to occupy his thoughts to an extent detrimental to his own self-preservative interests.  The Erie Canal mule's first mission in life is to engender profanity and strife between boatmen and cyclists, and the second is to work and chew hay, which brings him out about even with the world all round.  At Rome I enter the famous and beautiful Mohawk Valley, a place long looked forward to with much pleasurable anticipation, from having heard so often of its natural beauties and its interesting historical associations.  " 'It's the garden spot of the world; and travellers who have been all over Europe and everywhere, say there's nothing in the world to equal the quiet landscape beauty of the Mohawk Valley," enthusiastically remarks an old gentleman in spectacles, whom I chance to encounter on the heights east of Herkimer.  Of the first assertion I have nothing to say, having passed through a dozen"garden spots of the world" on tour across America; but there is no gainsaying the fact that the Mohawk Valley, as viewed from this vantage spot, is wonderfully beautiful.  I think it must have been on this spot that the poet received inspiration to compose the beautiful song that is sung alike in the quiet homes of the valley itself and in the trapper's and hunter's tent on the far off Yellowstone-- "Fair is the vale where the Mohawk gently glides, on its clear, shining way to the sea."  The valley is one of the natural gateways of commerce, for, at Little Falls-- where it contracts to a mere pass between the hills-- one can almost throw a stone across six railway tracks, the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River..."

There it is.  A short excerpt from Thomas Stevens Around the World on a Bicycle.  The writing is not spectacular and the sentence structure is not perfect, but it communicates a nice tale of a man's trek across country, in this case CNY.  I hope this excerpt may provide a glimpse of motvation to step outside your home and begin a personal journey in your neighborhood.  Run, walk, or ride.  I can't wait to start my journey along the Erie Canal and then the Adirondacks State Park.  Riding my Surly LHT around the state, maybe the USA one day.  You never know where curiosity may guide you, but you will never know until you take that first giant step.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Cycling

I love running in the snow, but cycling can be just as much fun... slipping, sliding, and reason to get some new gear.
Be safe out there and wait for the snow to stop and the roads to be clear.
Til then, run or spin. See you on the road.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rear Rack and Vaude Panniers

I slowly woke up this morning and anticipated receiving my rear bicycle rack and panniers today; I was not sure when they may arrive, but I knew they come since the tracker said so. 

Guess what?

They came about 30 minutes after I crawled out of bed.  Yes!

Upon opening the box, I noticed one problem, the panniers were blue, not black as I thought I had ordered.  Not a big deal since I like the blue.  I will stick with the blue.

I digress.  As you can see above, I installed my Tubus Cargo EVO rear rack.  Although I am not much of an installation guy and usually cannot make heads or tails of manual instructions.  This rack was simple to install, however.  The instructions were lame, but the diagram helped.

I needed an allen wrench and a screwdriver head shaped like the Star of David.  The allen wrench turned the brazon bolts on the Surly while the "Star of David" screwdriver turned the bolts supplied by Tubus.  All in all, a simple process with few hiccups.

The rear rack, as you can see, fits perfect. It looks great. It can carry up to 88 pounds.  My Surly LHT is coming along.  Now the Vaude Panniers...

Wow!  Look at those panniers.  I decided to purchase the Vaude rear panniers because the reviews were as good as Ortleib, and the cost was slightly less.  Like the Ortleib panniers, these are rollers and 100% waterproof.  These are 48 liters vs. 40 liters with the Ortleib rear panniers. I wanted to spend less money and attempt to tour this spring without front panniers so going to the 48 liter size may accommodate that plan.

The Vaude rear roll top panniers, aside from being waterproof, offer two inner pockets that I thought may help organize the smaller items I place in my bags rather than having them lay willy-nilly on top or on bottom of the panniers.  I like the roll top design which I think will make overloading these panniers easier since there is not a lid to pull over a FULL bag.  There is also a small cord that allows for the pannier to be locked to the bicycle.  I t may be easy to cut, but it offers some piece of mind knowing the crook wold need to have a wire cutter to take them.  I also like the design of strap locks on the side to anchor the roll enclosure and the over the top strap lock to assure a secure roll top seal.  Its very clean.

The panniers also come with a detachable shoulder strap.  A nice convenience for carrying the bags when necessary, but they will be stored in the pannier inside pockets.

The bar grabs that are activated by the bag handles clip on easily.  The bottom of the bag has a clip which adjusts on a circular track to attach and secure the pannier to the bottom of the bicycle rack.  I found this clip needed some force, after loosening the screw, to make the adjustment for a secure fit t the rack lower tube. Now that it is adjusted and attached, its not an issue any longer.

I am looking forward to gong for that first trip along the Erie Canal.  My thoughts are to camp at Delta Lake State Park in Rome, NY.  Not too far from home.  Stay in a one or two person tent and cook on a Trangia stove and return home next day.  There are many sights to see along the way following the original canal path.  Each piece of gear gets me closer to my ultimate goal of riding to Fayetteville, NC.  Well, I will keep you all posted as to my plans and outfitting.  Til then, I will see you on the road.