Stems, but no seeds

April 15, 2021

This “Shop Talk” cartoon appears in the April 2021 edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, available in fine shop bathrooms everywhere.

This cartoon from the most recent issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News seems to be eliciting a few chuckles, so I thought I’d let you civilians in on the gag.

There’s a bike boom going on, in case you hadn’t heard, and pretty much everything involved in the creation, distribution, and maintenance of our beloved two-wheelers is as scarce as Christian charity, thoughtful discourse, and mental health in the GOP.

The dope-dealer angle came to mind when it became clear that New Mexico would be green-lighting the sale of recreational weed, the only retail gig I have ever held. The Mud Stud and Dude have been pushing a legal high (bicycles) since 1992.

If I had it to do over again I’d be a little more subtle in the first panel, having the dealer say something like, “Psst, guys … want some good stuff?” But this sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking is fairly typical for me. I’m rarely satisfied with the way my stuff turns out.

Sanitized for your protection

April 14, 2021

The new descent.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Elena Gallegos trails lately. But somebody has been putting in the hours over there. And not on a bike, either.

Two rocky stretches have had the kinks ironed out of them, which is both good and bad.

The old climb out of the sand pit has been rendered impassable.

Good in that they’re much easier to ride on a cyclocross bike now. And bad in that they’re much easier to ride on a cyclocross bike now.

One I usually rode as a short descent. It was a real tooth-rattler, rocky and rutted, and I always took a good look around at the top because I didn’t want to meet anyone coming up when I was halfway down. It dumped into a sand pit and turned into a short, rocky climb with poor line of sight, so I usually hit the bell a time or two on the out of the pit.

The other I generally rode as a short climb after a longish rocky descent. It required some negotiation with medium-sized stones in tight corners, and I occasionally dabbed because it looked like it should have been easier than it was.

Well, they’re both easy now, which means people will be riding them faster, even me. No good deed goes unpunished.

Hustling the East

April 14, 2021

One disabled vet’s recollection of his tour in Afghanistan.

In his piece on the latest proposed withdrawal from Afghanistan, Charlie Pierce recalls a wounded veteran’s bitter assessment of his time in-country.

The disabled vet was Dr. John H. Watson, soon to be introduced to Sherlock Holmes, speaking in “A Study in Scarlet.” The tale was published in 1887.

The Holmes stories, which I first read in the 1960s, may have served as my introduction to warfare in Afghanistan. Later, there was Rudyard Kipling and his “epitaph drear.” The Soviet debacle I observed from a series of newspaper copy desks. Our own I read about courtesy of journalists like C.J. Chivers. A time or two I spoke with American vets about their own experiences.

Very little of what I read or heard inspired confidence in the ability of the American military-industrial complex to effect change — “Peace through superior firepower,” as the old joke goes — in a place where so many armies had had their asses handed to them. Nobody seemed to really want Afghanistan except the Afghans, and only a few of them wanted it badly enough to fight for it.

So here we are, nearly 20 years later, with 2,400 U.S. service members in their graves and $2 trillion pounded down various ratholes. And for what? Another epitaph drear.

Will we ever get the message that no matter how hard we sell it, “democracy” will never be America’s biggest export? When it hits the doorstep it often looks a lot more like vengeance.

God is said to have made us in His image. If so, He likewise has been compelled by circumstances to live with disappointment in His creations.

Dire portents of the End Times

April 13, 2021

I had a ton of Hawaiian-style shirts once, before I checked my privilege as a second-rate copy editor at a third-string newspaper.

Gosh. Another fashion option out the window.

I guess I’ll have to go back to my top hat and tails. Mahalo, pendejos.

Aren’t some of us just kind of stretching a bit to find things that piss us off? I mean, I was a Maoist, f’fucksake, and even we were less easily enraged.

We were also less nattily attired. But god damn it, nobody ever accused us of being “fashionable embodiments of the history of American colonization, imperialism and racism.” ¡Venceremos!

Let’s go get stoned

April 12, 2021

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em,” says the governor. After June 29, that is.

Just remember what Brother Ray said:

Ain’t no harm to have a little taste
But don’t lose your cool and start messing up the man’s place

Purple haze

April 12, 2021

The lilacs exploded more or less overnight.

Our yard has suddenly decided that this is not a drill — it’s spring, for reals.

The daffodils and tulips are popping up. The lilacs and holly are flowering. The ornamental pear has already flowered.

Our backyard maple greets the morning.

The maple and wisteria are leafing out.

I even had to mow the damn lawn yesterday.

Perhaps best of all, it’s not too hot. Yet. This morning, when I rode home from downtown after dropping the Subaru at Reincarnation for its annual checkup, I needed arm warmers and knickers for comfort’s sake.

The ride was so pleasant I added a bit of extra credit/scenic detour mileage up Bear Canyon from Juan Tabo to the Embudito trailhead. What the hell, I was riding a cyclocross bike, and there were no pressing matters awaiting my attention.

The guys at Reincarnation weren’t taking five for any bike rides or flower-sniffing, though. That op’ was hoppin’. After a year of living cautiously it seems some Burqueños are ready for a drive that lets them get out of third gear.

Coasting into climate change

April 11, 2021

Sandia Peak Ski Co. wants to build a mountain coaster as a hedge against climate change. And who can blame them?

Well … plenty of people, it seems.

“Ski areas have found it very challenging to be dependent on winter alone,” notes Sandia Peak president Benny Abruzzo in a chat with the Albuquerque Journal. And the U.S. Forest Service seems supportive of the project.

But the Journal says the majority of responses during a public comment period have been less so, and a random sample indicates that they do not lie.

“If we built a mechanical bull ride at the top of the Sandias, yes, more people may go up there, but at what cost to the land/view?” one critic quipped. No, not me.

Every time I hear of a project like this I’m reminded just how little I understand about business. How does Sandia Park Ski Co. expect to make bank on this deal? A casual glance at mountain coasters in Steamboat, Gatlinburg, and Branson tells me that tickets are cheap — $16-$20 a rider — but I’ll bet construction and maintenance dollar up on the roof right smart.

Maybe there are enough sedentary bucket-listers to make a dog like this hunt in a town where Topgolf is considered economic development. Ride the Tram, ride the coaster, ride the rental car back to the motel. Whoop, watch out for that fairy on his bicycle. What’s for lunch, hon’? I really worked up an appetite clenching my butt-cheeks on that coaster.

But frankly, it doesn’t seem very imaginative. The Duke City has thrill rides aplenty, with infrastructure already in place.

For instance, anyone who craves a hair-raising vehicular experience in Albuquerque need only take an automobile for a spin on I-40 when the motorcycles are in bloom.

Bench press

April 9, 2021

The rocky wash leading to the bench between Comanche and Candelaria.

The old red flag was flying again today, so instead of cycling Herself and I scrambled into the neighboring Sandia foothills, working our way along bits and pieces of the Candelaria Bench Loop.

Herself bouldering upward. There’s a bit of singletrack off to her left but it’s a slippery sonofabitch.

It’s only a four-mile hike, but there’s a fair amount of vertical at the beginning and the end, much of it on crumbly gravel switchbacks lined with sharp rocks and cacti.

After the first steep, loose climb east of Comanche we stuck to a stair-stepped, boulder-studded wash that was a whole lot more fun than the narrow singletrack I took a digger on last year, slamming my left thigh into a big round rock.

Oddly, the winding descent to Trail 365 near Candelaria seemed less challenging than I remembered.

Once I met another hiker on that stretch who said she simply sat and slid down some of the steeper sections (glissading, for the aficionados among you). I’ve done this a time or two myself, but never on purpose, or without consequences.

Didn’t happen today, to either of us, so yay, etc.

And we didn’t see another single solitary soul, either. Unless you count the three circling crows who seemed to be tracking our cautious movements downward and providing an appropriate soundtrack. Haw … haw … haw.

Herself inspects the Greater Duke City Metropolitan Area
from the Candelaria bench.

Green Hills of Albuquerque

April 8, 2021

Descending Tramway Road to Tramway Boulevard.

Down, down, to Goblin-town, you go, my lad!

Well, not exactly. There’s some gobblin’ at the corner of Tramway Road and Tramway Boulevard, all right, but it involves barbecue at The County Line.

The place smells wonderful when your snotlocker works, which mine mostly does not, thanks to seasonal allergies (oak, cottonwood, juniper, mulberry, grass, etc.).

Between being all boogered up and tweaking my lower back the other day I have been in something of a mood. Maybe watching part one of the Hemingway documentary on PBS last night helped a bit. Wasn’t anyone pulling a couple hundred bits of shrapnel out of my legs in an Italian hospital, and I’ve managed to hang on to my first wife, too. So, yeah, winning, an’ shit.

True, global literary fame has proven elusive, but that’s not exactly a surprise. My agent warned me against titling my debut novel “A Farewell to Arfs.”

Saddle up, buckaroos

April 6, 2021

Longtime Friend of the Blog Hal Walter got a little teevee time on the Tube of You recently when Nancy Hobbs, executive director of the American Trail Running Association, popped round to his place with a videographer in tow.

Nancy wanted to chat about burro racing, which Hal has been doing for more than 40 years, winning seven world championships along the way. So naturally he had a few thoughts on the topic.

The video is a three-parter. The first is up top, and you can catch the others here and here.