Air Subaru flies again

October 4, 2017

Bibleburg, as seen from the overlook at Palmer Park.

Another week, another flight aboard Air Subaru. This time it was back to Bibleburg to clear some stuff out of the garage at The House Back East™, which is to have a new proprietor by close of business Friday.

We’re talking your basic high-speed up-and-back, so apologies to the many Bibleburghers I missed during my whirlwind tour.

I was able to visit our old friend and former tenant Judy, who’s now living in a senior center off Lower Gold Camp, and looking fit despite a bad fall that required surgery, some aftermarket parts, and a whole lot of rehab.

Looking stormy this morning off the side patio.

Too, I caught up with John Crandall and the rest of the gang at Old Town Bike Shop, where we spoke of Tim Watkins, another recent victim of gun violence.

Then I beat it back to the Duke City in time to vote in Tuesday’s election, sign closing documents for THBE™, and score a half-bushel of freshly roasted green chile, some of which went almost instantly into vegetarian quesadillas for Herself and Your Humble Narrator. A green chile stew is to follow directly, as the weather is said to be turning damp and chilly for a couple of days.

And now, after piling a couple thousand miles onto the odometer in two weeks, it’s time to give the old hunk of junk a break. The Subaru could use one, too. So it’s back to human-powered transportation for a spell. Look for me on two feet and two wheels for the foreseeable future.

R.I.P., Tom Petty

October 3, 2017

Adios, TP.

Yesterday was a sad day in so many ways, not least because of the departure of Tom Petty. He was just 66.

The fake news was a wee bit early in declaring that he had left the stage; Tom managed one more short encore before taking his final bow. He always seemed like a regular dude to me, a craftsman devoted to doing his best in a culture that often settles for much, much less. And he just kept on doing it, right through a massive U.S. tour to celebrate his 40th anniversary as frontman for the Heartbreakers.

His music, so clearly influenced by The Byrds, has been part of my mental playlist for the better part of quite some time, starting with “Damn the Torpedoes.” And I expect that he’ll get a warm greeting from Roy Orbison, George Harrison and the rest of that ever-growing, ever-better Next World Orchestra.

Here’s one of my favorites — “Louisiana Rain.” Damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead.

The American nightmare

October 2, 2017

Mandalay Bay, pictured from the walkway into the neighboring Luxor.

If Charlie Manson checked into the Safari tomorrow morning, nobody would hassle him as long as he tipped big.Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”

If we learned anything at all from the good doctor, it’s that anyone can bring anything at any time into a Vegas hotel room.

I’ve been doing it for years. Big black rolling suitcase with a big black messenger bag strapped to its handle, a camera bag, a 25-liter backpack, even a cooler. I always thought if anything drew a floorwalker’s eye, it would be the cooler.

“Sir, you’ll need to return that to your vehicle. We have beverages for sale in the resort.”

But nope. Not a peep. Not at the Luxor, anyway. And I’m gonna go way out on a limb here and speculate that Mandalay Bay doesn’t hassle Charlie either.

Regulars here know I own firearms, but nevertheless believe the Second Amendment was in dire need of a copy editor. And I’ll leave it to another Charlie, the invaluable Mr. Pierce, to bring the heat regarding our national acceptance of blood sacrifice on the constitutional altar.

But I will note that while eyes pop at massacres like the one in Vegas, their lids droop at the day-to-day body count in places like Albuquerque, where we are on pace to exceed last year’s 61 homicides, up from 56 the previous year and the highest number in two decades.

So I’ll encourage you to pester your legislators to consider both the cascade of blood and the steady drip, drip, drip. Urge them to do more than send thoughts and prayers, which have proven remarkably ineffective against the gun lobby. Remember that elections matter (we have one here tomorrow).

And cling to hope while remembering another quote from Thompson, a man with his own firearms fetish:

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hugh Hefner hits the silk

September 28, 2017

Do they have silk pajamas in heaven?

No matter. Hugh Hefner pretty much built his own heaven right here on earth. He died Wednesday at 91.

Say what you will about Playboy — and people said plenty, fans and detractors alike — Hef’ gave a home to one helluva lot of top-shelf cartoonists. Gahan Wilson, Bobby London, Shel Silverstein, Jack Cole, B. Kliban, Jules Feiffer, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman — the list goes on, and on, and on. He even had the distinct honor of being mocked alongside Peter Max in Bijou Funnies by Robert Crumb, Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson.

Playboy paid well when everyone else paid for shit. For cartoonists it was The New Yorker, but with a centerfold. R.I.P., Hef’.

The days grow short

September 27, 2017

Leaves are turning, and so is the sky.

Some evildoer swiped my beautiful desert climate while I was on the road. A fella can’t leave nothin’ unlocked and unguarded in these parts.

I should be out and about, logging miles on the Marin Nicasio. But instead here I am, in the office, catching up on correspondence and expense reports, brokering real-estate deals, and drinking green tea.

Why, I may even put on pants. That’s how dire the situation has become.

Damp, gray weather like this is why the Mid-Willamette Valley and I proved such a poor fit back in the early Eighties. It makes me want to eat everything, with a side of everything else, and wash it all down with buckets of brain-eraser. Cost me my girlish laughter it did, along with a few buttons on the old 501s.

And now Twitter is testing a 280-character tweet, doubling the previous limit we’ve all come to know and love. Good Gawd Awmighty. Has the world gone mad? Zombie Russian novelists must be running that op’ these days. Tolstoy needed more than 140 characters just to clear his throat.

What Twitter really needs is an editing function. But if we had that, I expect more of us might come to realize that we only have 140 characters’ worth of wisdom in us on a good day.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Batter(y) up!

September 25, 2017

The Tern GSD in mango.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (MDM) — To e-bike, or not to e-bike: That is the question. …

We all know the e-bike is the latest and greatest entry in The Next Big Thing™ sweepstakes. Previous contenders include mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, single-speeds, city bikes, cargo bikes, fatbikes, etc., et al., and so on and so forth (thanks for playing).

Some of us think you can’t sell a certain subset of Americans a two-wheeler if it doesn’t have an engine — and sometimes, not even then (Harley sales hit a five-year low last year).

That said, in comments Comrade Herb warns: “Let’s all be careful and not snark too much about e-bikes. Lord [knows], anything that gets people out of the house and out from behind their SUV’s wheel is a good thing. And if it keeps my local bike shop alive I’m more than happy to go along with the addition to the two-wheel choices.”

And Consigliere Larry adds: “I’ve boiled my e-bike opinion down to this: E-bike instead of car? Wonderful. E-bike instead of bicycle? Not so good.”

Maybe this is the ticket: When it comes to commuting or cargo, a little electrical assist is preferable to dinosaur drive.

CyclingTips tech editor James Huang said on Twitter yesterday that he’s been living the e-cargo-bike life since January 2016, adding: “No other bike in the fleet has as big an impact on my life as that one, no question.”

The bike that most recently caught his eye was the Tern GSD. James first saw it at Eurobike, and the rest of us saw it at Interbike, and I have to admit it was impressive. With MSRP starting at $4,000 the GSD can haul kids, and cargo, and it can tour — the Bosch motor with dual batteries is said to have a range of more than 250km, which is further than I plan to travel on my meat-powered machine today, or even this week.

But questions remain. Who’s gonna buy it? And who’s gonna sell it?

I’ve heard some folks say the e-bike is a natural fit for cycling’s aging demographic, which means they’re hoping to pitch it to the same faces they’ve seen under helmets since hairnets were cool. Others say the e-bike is attracting an entirely new customer.

And still others want nothing to do with the goddamn things, wary of the sales-and-service downsides of becoming an early adopter. Some of these folks might be stuck holding fatbikes they can’t unload, or worried about the rules, regulations and fees that Big Gummint might decide to tack onto these beasties should they begin turning up on America’s streets in quantity.

Are these shop owners missing out? Ceding TNBT™ to specialty e-bike retailers, or motorcycle dealerships? Yamaha’s in the game now, and the bike biz is basically a rounding error on that balance sheet.

What are your thoughts? Anyone out there own an e-bike, or sell ’em? Give us the buzz in comments.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Pipe down

September 24, 2017

A brief but fierce rainstorm welcomed me back to New Mexico.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (MDM) — I didn’t expect the bagpiper.

I was just settling into my room at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites in Kingperson on Friday afternoon when I heard a faint but unmistakable bleating.

“Who in billy hell would be listening to the bloody bagpipes at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites in Kingperson on a Friday afternoon?” I asked myself, being alone in the room save for the voices in my head, one of which may very well have been playing the pipes.

I put an ear to one wall, and then to the other, but couldn’t locate the source. And then I looked out the window.

There he was, three floors below, all kitted up and marching about, not so much listening to the pipes as playing them.

Turns out there was a firefighters’ gathering at the hotel, and also a Teamsters’ meeting, but I’m going to guess our man was affiliated with the former as I don’t believe the bagpipers have gotten themselves organized yet.

The final day of Le Shew Bigge proved uneventful, as it always does, and so after a hot lap to see if I’d overlooked anything I fled south and east to Kingperson, where I finally got a decent night’s sleep.

The rest of the trip was without incident, save for the inevitable construction slowdowns peppering I-40 and one exasperating 10-minute stop just outside Ash Fork caused by a mechanical (not mine). These were the only downsides of flying Air Subaru. All departures were as scheduled because they were unscheduled, the only person dragging me around was me, and my luggage didn’t wind up in Lesser Spaminacanistan when I reached my final destination.

“But Your Dogship!” you may expostulate. “The show! The show! Did you see anything that delighted you no end?”

Why yes, yes indeed, I did notice one thing that put a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. And here it is.

Th-th-th-that’s ALL, folks!

Last Roundup in Sin City: A rendezvous of strangers

September 22, 2017

Everybody’s working for the weekend.

LAS VEGAS (MDM) — Every morning I get up a little later, and a little slower, and every morning the line at Starbucks gets a little longer, and a little grouchier.

I remember the women working this location just off the Luxor lobby. We’ve seen each other for three mornings in September for years, and I always tip massively, because nobody should have to deal with me for free first thing in the morning unless they’ve committed some outrageous sin, like saying, “I do.”

So I get my cuppa, with smiles and light banter for dessert. One asked if they’d see me tomorrow, and I said, no, I’ll be checking out, and she wished me a safe journey home.

I didn’t tell her that we’d never see each other again, because once I snap that pic of Sin City in my rear-view mirror, I will never come back to this place, not in this life. But I will remember these women working their 21st-century assembly line, building new mornings for strangers, one cup at a time.

Speaking of sunny smiles, I caught up with Larry over lunch at Rí Rá yesterday. He knows all things Italian, but had a few questions as regards the menu at this Gaelic beanery in the Shoppes at Mandalay.

“What do the Irish drink?” he enquired.

“Everything,” I replied. Hey, you gotta swing for the fences when they pitch ’em slow like that.

On Wednesday my Adventure Cyclist comrades Alex Strickland, Nick Legan, Rick Bruner and Your Humble Narrator passed a couple pleasant hours discussing the eternal verities and remembering Mike Deme over Mexican food at the El Dorado Cantina.

You may recall from our 2015 coverage that the El Dorado adjoins a “gentlemen’s club,” but as in ’15, we restricted our activities to the side of the joint where everyone was keeping their clothes on.

And the show, you ask? It’s the show. A little smaller, a little less vibrant, and surprisingly short on bikes without batteries. But we managed to find a few unenhanced models suitable for the adventurous cyclist, and we’ll discuss those in greater detail further on down the road.

Next: Leaving Las Vegas.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Luxor-ious

September 20, 2017

The golden idol of Mandalay Bay stands watch over the empty pools of the Luxor.

LAS VEGAS (MDM) — A long march through the desert that ends at the Luxor is exactly backwards. Moses fled the pyramid-builders for many sound reasons, and I expect the accommodations were high on his shit list.

Everything in the joint is old, faded and noisy. Like me, only more expensive.

Granted, it was early Tuesday afternoon when I slouched in, but there wasn’t much of a crowd. Nevertheless, checking in involved the usual fraud, bunkum and clusterfuckery, because this is the Luxor, and the room is ridiculous because likewise.

Vegas does not want you bunkering up in its hotel rooms committing journalism. It wants you out in the open, where it can get a clear shot at you. Thus there is no desk for the serious scribe, or even an unserious one, just a tiny, battered circular table with two stained, scarred “plush” chairs that are too soft and low for the comfortable generation of fake news.

There is, however, a phone next to the toilet. One never knows when the urge to conduct an ambush interview may arise.

“What the hell are those sounds, O’Grady? Do you have a Berkshire hog in the room with you again?”

There is a TV the size of a billboard because of course there is, and I turned it on once to see if there really was a Fireplace Channel (there was). No coffeemaker, of course, because there are a thousand Starbucks in the feedlot downstairs.

And no matter, really, because Le Shew Bigge is a mile away from here, in Mandalay Bay. It’s a long march through the clangor of a neon desert, and even at 6 a.m. a Marlboro haze hangs low, like many a throbbing head.

Sheeyit. Moses had it easy.

Next: Le Shew Bigge.

Last Roundup in Sin City: Kingperson

September 19, 2017

Welcome aboard, and thanks for flying Air Subaru.

KINGPERSON, Ariz. (MDM) — Yes, there it is, the obligatory shot of Ye Olde Hometowne in the rear-view mirror.

I beat it for Interbike yesterday, deciding to drive to Kingperson (“Gateway to Laughlin-Bullhead City”) instead of overnighting at Flagstaff as per standard operating procedure. Perhaps I collected an undiagnosed head injury when I stacked it into the cholla a while back.

No matter. Here I am.

As per usual I-40 was filled to overflowing with speeding asshats, aggro truckers and construction projects that made the trip through Arizona feel like motoring to the Colorado Belle Casino in Laughlin with your blue-haired granny at the wheel of her ’72 Mercury Marquis (75 mph, 45 mph, 75 mph, 45 mph).

Plenty of Florida license plates on the RVs, all headed away from the place (imagine that). And it seemed all the truckers were piloting Volvos while the civilians were herding Mercedes-Benzes. There was even one red Lotus with a vanity plate (MIAOU). I felt distinctly plebian in the rackety old Furster.

After seven hours behind the wheel I wasn’t interested in exploring Kingperson’s culinary jungle so I hoofed it down the street to a Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was on the joint’s playlist, followed by “Walk of Life” By Dire Straits. Somebody had my number.

This morning I had to flee the breakfast nook at the luxurious Hamster Inn & Suites due to some horrific oinking coming from the teevee. When I returned for a second cuppa it was still going on and I was compelled to jam fingers into both ears, which made carrying the java problematical.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Word from Rumor Control is that yesterday’s Outdoor Demo was sparsely attended and that the traditional rending of garments and gnashing of teeth awaits at the Luxor registration desk.

I think I’m gonna need more java. LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEEEEARRRRR YOUUUU!

Next: Sin City.