Could be worse. …

August 2, 2021

August slipped in wearing its gray flannel suit.

Sixty-four degrees at 8 a.m., with a monochromatic sky and a forecast that would have Noah muttering, “Not again,” as he reached wearily for the red phone next to his spyglass and Mae West.

“Hello, San Diego Zoo? Two of everything, please, chop-chop. No, no delivery necessary. I’ll pick ’em up. Just truck ’em up to Hot Springs Mountain and keep a sharp lookout for a real big boat.”

Welcome to August.

It’s not what I expected, frankly. With The Visitation on hiatus and my calendar remarkably free of to-do items I had been pondering a brief escape from the sodden Duke City to air-dry the old brain-case.

Fewer deer, more roses.

But the weather is proving uncooperative, and it seems silly to drive somewhere else to watch it rain when I can do that right here at home.

Especially since travel involves either a cheerless motel room that was no bargain before the daily rent shot into the mid-two-hundies (plus you can’t find one anyway), or pitching a tent in a flaming puddle full of vampire bugs, shape-shifting cooties, and hobos who wish all these slumming hipster dickheads would just dig into their Hilton points and piss off so they could enjoy their mulligan stew and squeeze in peace.

Masque of the Dread Breath

Well, at least we’re back to the face panties again, hey? Some of us, anyway. The checker was not up for casual banter as I hit the Sprouts to replenish the larder, possibly because The Great Remasking seemed to be a few faces short of a full team effort at 9:30 on a gloomy Sunday morning.

I had noted some diamonds on my windshield during the drive to the grocery and was hoping the actual tears from heaven would hold off long enough for me to sneak in a quick ride without fenders or jacket.

Sure, we need the moisture. And no desert dweller should bitch about rain, unless he parks his shopping cart in an arroyo. But I’m just enough of a hipster dickhead to need the ride, too.

With the deer rustling their own grub up in the hills we were getting a rerun of roses in the yard, so, yay. But the murky mornings and low ceilings recalled Corvallis, Oregon, the only place I’ve ever lived without a bicycle.

The clouds sagged all the way down to the ground in that burg. The moist walls of my tiny apartment closed in around me like hungry freegans swarming a Whole Paycheck Dumpster and the firewood steamed before it burned in the cheap tin wood stove.

A neighbor’s ducks loved that climate, quacking contentedly outside my bedroom window. I drank a lot.

Horses for courses

Back home, with the groceries put away, I took another glance at the sky and decided to go for it. I used to race cyclocross, I thought. I’ve covered school-board meetings. I can do anything for an hour.

I felt another drizzle tuning up as I approached the base of the short climb to the tram. So I swung around and headed back south, weaving Tramway and a network of foothills avenues into a rolling 20-miler. It was just the ticket. Smoove like butter and dry as a good martini.

Today — eh, not so much. The rain started before I even left the house.

I thought about taking the day off, but I ride with a small group of graybeards on Mondays and Wednesdays, and had already committed to the meetup. I had a feeling they’d be out in it, and it was unfortunate that I had mentioned my fondness for cyclocross in their presence.

So I left the New Albion Privateer parked and pulled a Steelman Eurocross down from its hook. A cyclocross bike for cyclocross weather. A man must carry on.

Sharp-dressed man

I stuffed a jacket into a jersey pocket to make sure the rain stopped, but it didn’t work. Didn’t matter, either. The rain continued, but never turned into a frog-strangler; it was barely even chilly, though I kept my arm warmers on. The jacket stayed in its pocket.

And yes, the geezers were all there. And yes, the Steelman drew many admiring glances. So yes, I’ve fooled ’em again.

At one point as we took shelter under a tree there was a short discussion about cutting a climb and subsequent descent from the usual route. It ended when one of us (not me) observed, “Well, we’re already wet, so. …”

So on we rode, taking the downs along with the ups.

It made me wonder what I’d been missing by not riding a bicycle in Oregon. I mean, I was gonna get wet anyway.

R.I.P., Dusty Hill

July 28, 2021

One of the many ZZ Top albums I’ve worn out over the decades.

ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill has finally bottomed out.

According to the band’s website, Dusty shuffled off in his sleep at home in Houston. He was 72.

Dusty, Billy Gibbons, and Frank Beard helped keep me between the lines on many a long road trip over the years, pounding on the steering wheel and singing along. Now he’s up there jamming with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Guy Clark and the rest of them hombres.

’Scuse me while I crank up some “La Grange,” y’all.

It never rains, but it pours

July 28, 2021

It looks like feckin’ Ireland over by the Menaul trailhead.

We New Mexicans should probably apologize to the Pacific Northwest for stealing their climate.

But hey, you left it unlocked with the keys in the ignition, so. …

Puddles on the Duke City trails are as rare as original thought in government. (See the latest iteration of publicly funded downtown stadiums for privately owned sports teams.) This in a town where we have a six-pack of dudes — half of them part-time — to plug holes in the bike paths along which the homeless pitch their festive tents.

Standing water on a Duke City trail in July? Truly these are dire portents of the End Times.

In DeeCee, meanwhile … well, the less said about that, the better. But can we at least agree that a few more Republicans would be on board the Investigation Train if the treasonous fucks who invaded the U.S. Capitol, pounding a few John Laws along the way, had been socialist, gay, people of color, or any combination thereof? You know: Democrats?

Jesus H., etc. In Hell Mao is all like, “Damn, and I thought I had a cult of personality going on.” But this feels more like the Israelites and their golden calf, only with “Christians” and a plastic pig from the Dollar Store rattle-canned with metallic-gold Krylon.

This sort of behavior failed to amuse either Moses or the Lord, as I recall. Doesn’t do shit for me, either.

Speaking of things that are a monkey or two short of a full barrel, I see we’re back to wearing our face panties.

Bernalillo County is tagged orange, with a “substantial” level of community transmission, so the CDC would like us to cover up when visiting indoor public spaces, shots or no shots.

Oh, good. I was already sick of seeing smiling faces and understanding the speech emerging from same.

The bright side is that in the past two weeks a half-dozen family members from far and wide have been able to visit Herself the Elder before the portcullis drops again, as seems likely. So, yay, etc.. May yis all be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.

Sweet dreams are made of this?

July 25, 2021

Cyclocross weather. Not just in my head, either.

So last night I dreamed that I was racing the cyclocross national championships, and since I was the only competitor I felt I had a strong chance to podium.

But somehow I was managing to fuck it up.

Everybody’s looking for something.

I was missing some important bits, among them a helmet, a race number, and the faintest idea of what the actual hell was going on. Nobody in the dream seemed any wiser.

And at one point I was having a helluva time making the bike move at all, which is a familiar feeling to anyone who’s ever raced ’cross, but this bordered on the ridiculous, like I was trying to cycle through wet concrete with two flats and a dropped chain while the Klingons had a tractor beam on me.

It seemed increasingly likely that the officials would call the race due to there being no actual racing taking place, and I was looking at a DNF in a one-man nationals, when I saw a shooting star in my peripheral vision and abruptly woke up.

There was more to the dream, and I should’ve written it all down while it was still fresh in my mind, but Mia had somehow slipped into the bedroom and was yowling for my attention and grub, not necessarily in that order. Women were hatching schemes in the kitchen. The day was thrust upon me. Coffee was indicated.

I probably should’ve ridden a cyclocross bike but no. After last night it was the road for me, thanks all the same. And I barely made it home before the rain came. No medals or prizes were awarded.

It’s a family affair

July 24, 2021

Beth, Herself the Elder, and Herself.

We’re halfway through round three of The Visitation, this time hosting Herself’s elder sister Beth.

The sisters have been working mom over pretty good, inflicting a pedicure, salon cut, shopping, and restaurant meals.

Me, I’ve been keeping my head down, trying to stay out of trouble. This is not easy, with three women barking orders and nowhere to hide. Four, if you count Miss Mia Sopaipllla, who is not shy about expressing herself either.

The photo is courtesy of Beth’s giant iPhone 12 and its gee-whiz camera array, which makes my original SE look like a Mesopotamian wax tablet and stylus.

Looks like rain

July 20, 2021

Isn’t rain supposed to fall down?

“Huh,” sez I, casting an appraising glance at the clouds glowering down at me from atop the Sandias. “Think I’ll mow the lawn.”

Boom. About 30 seconds after I finished and put the mower back in the garage, Thor gave the neighborhood a solid power-washing.

The deluge only lasted a few minutes, but that shit was coming in sideways. It was surf’s up across the cul-de-sac, and the mom next door probably wished she had an airboat to fetch the kiddos home from wherever because Nissan Altimas don’t float like the original VW bugs.

But hey, nobody bitches about rain in the desert. Unless it catches them from behind with the earbuds in, walking the Chihuahua down an arroyo.

Trail tales

July 20, 2021

A 2019 shot of the Paseo del Bosque trail.

A hop, skip, and a jump from the moneyed boutique community of Aspen, an abandoned coal mine with a grim history, an environmental disaster one expert called “the worst coal mine site I’ve seen in the West,” has become “a mountain biking park for the masses,” thanks to the grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Writes Jason Blevins in The Colorado Sun:

The word “model” comes up in almost all discussions of Coal Basin, used by the landowners, trail designers, mountain bikers, land managers and locals alike. The single track trails are a model for restoring environmental danger zones. A model for Forest Service managers seeking partnerships with private entities to help build and maintain trails. A model for open space protectors offering landowners a way to marry recreational access with an easement that prevents any other type of development.

Down here in Duke City, meanwhile, just six full-time and seasonal workers strive to maintain about 160 miles of trail, including the fabled Paseo del Bosque, known to many of us here around the old burrito cart.

According to park-and-rec PR person Jessica Campbell, via D’Val Westphal at the Albuquerque Journal, our limited trail money “must also accommodate public demand for new trail segments” in addition to maintaining what we already have.

I guess the Waltons can’t be everywhere, though of course they are, especially when it comes to selling you something. Maybe we Burqueños need a new model.

If you build it, they will come, as folks are fond of saying. But don’t neglect the upkeep of your particular field of dreams.

Willin’

July 18, 2021

Nope, not a church. It’s the chimney for the bedroom kiva fireplace.

The Lowell George song is pretty much all I know about Tucumcari. That, and that round two of The Visitation occurs today, as another smallish herd of Texicans gallops in from there to see Herself the Elder.

Their trip looks like a stroll through the daisies compared to what Herself’s sis will endure when she jets in from Maryland midweek. Holy hell. That itinerary is why I drive any distance under 3,000 miles that does not involve an ocean crossing. A UPS driver at Christmastime makes fewer stops. Plus there are fewer psychos to duct-tape to their seats en route.

Meanwhile, the news of the world remains an ongoing refutation of both Darwinism and theology. One envisions the Son having a Word with the Father while the Holy Ghost spitballs a new PR campaign:

“I got nailed up for these people? What were You thinking? I’m going to put You in a home while HG and I try to figure out how to turn this thing around.”

Good luck with that. Me, I’d think about starting over with a fresh crop of monkeys. But judging by the state of the place, maybe that’s already occurred to You.

The meaning of life

July 15, 2021

We enjoyed quite the early morning rainstorm today, with thunder and lightning. Makes for one hell of an alarm clock.

Busy, busy, busy. Even a slacker has to take hold now and then.

We have a dispersed conga line of kinfolk snaking through El Rancho Pendejo, all of them from Herself’s side of the family, come to visit Herself the Elder between plagues.

The first of four visitations occurred yesterday; some very nice folks out of Texas, who took time away from a visit to Pagosa Springs to pop down and say howdy. A bit of tidying up was mandated, because somebody around here is remarkably untroubled by clutter (not Herself).

Round two commences Sunday with more visitors from the Lone Star State (Herself the Elder was born in Nacogdoches back in 1933). Then Herself’s eldest sis pops in from Maryland for a week starting Wednesday. Finally, yet another Texican niece drops by sometime in August.

Meanwhile, The Work goes on, as it must. I banged out a cartoon for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News yesterday, learning in the process that the Outside+ Global AdventureStuff Conglomerate had snatched up a couple more properties, Pinkbike and CyclingTips.

This, as Monty Python has taught us, “brings us once again to the urgent realization of just how much there is still left to own.”

Me, I’m still a rental. And something of a fixer-upper, too. Still, I’m open to offers. …

Adventure capitalism

July 11, 2021

Unlike VSS Unity, the local blat goes into orbit.

Christ, what a bunch of homers.

How is “rich guy does something you can’t” in any way “historic?”* That’s what I call “business as usual.” Just another limo ride for Sir Richard Branson.

Back In the Day®, working people rode the lightning to heaven. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took a lap around the planet in April 1961. The next month, American astronaut Alan Shepard became the second man in space, a quick suborbital trip up and down.

Soon, North American X-15s were being carried aloft by B-52s, set free to fly to the edge of space and beyond, then return to earth. Thirteen missions met the Air Force criterion for space flight, and eight pilots scored astronaut wings.

Moon landings, shuttle flights, space stations all followed. We were on the edge of great things, and then we stepped back.

If we hadn’t been so busy croaking each other down here on terra firma we might all have condos on Mars by now, and we could tell Elon Musk to piss off when he came calling. Private property, bub. Try Venus, I hear it’s a fixer-upper.

So don’t talk to me about “historic.” If you overlook the non-essential personnel, this trip would have seemed very familiar to the Mercury astronauts and X-15 pilots.

The only thing I find remarkable was that somebody managed to drive a vehicle out of New Mexico and back again without getting pulled over by la migra. But then it was a white guy driving, so no worries.

* Sheeyit. NPR also called this wankfest “historic.” I may have hysterics.