Monthly Archives: June 2012


The problem with organizing things is that things get so organized.  There is little room left in the conversation for individuation and free will.  Once the move is made to get organized, God help the outliers.  The nature of any compromise is for everyone to sacrifice a little something for the greater good, and the volunteers line up down the block to take on the burden of suggesting what you might wish to sacrifice.  The result of a good organized effort is the lowest common denominator multiplied by the exponent of the shrillest among us, divided by those with the most free time. 

Don’t believe me?  Check my logarithm-

I am glad so many people are interested in trails and biking, except when I am riding of course, because then there they are- riding their bike on the trail at the same time as me, which threatens my status as a unique dewdrop on a precious lily. 

There’s nothing wrong with being in a club, I just don’t want to belong to one that would have me.


Van Love

People have some pretty strong opinions about vans, and van drivers. There is something about the capacity and versatility of a cargo van that makes people jealous.  I don’t understand the vitriol.  Nobody is stopping them from getting a van of their own.  The limitations exist in the mind.  Like wearing Crocs.  You swear on your life you will not be caught in them and then there you find yourself, eating mayonnaise from the jar in the ugliest shoes on earth.

Non-van drivers see van drivers like this
We see ourselves like this

So maybe there are a few too many coffee cups, moldy bike jerseys, and stale almonds under the seats. There could always be more. You might think you are too good for it, but I have room for you, your bike, some dental floss, and some nasal spray and we can go anywhere we want.

Vans lead the way-


Title IX

We spent another magical weekend at the Pole Barn, undeterred by an ominous forecast of 10 inches of rain.  The weather caught us eventually, but not until we had soaked up all the love Reddick, FL has to offer. 

Tree Climbing was the order of the day, and Cousin “City Hands” Todd, and my dearly beloved both established their superiority in the canopy straight away.  City Hands made a point of arriving before us so he could already be on rope and underway when we got out of the car.  Melissa awoke Saturday morning and said to me, the ceiling, and the trees themselves, “I’m going to climb that tree today.” Thirty minutes later she was jugging up the rope, immersed in the gear and culture of recreational tree-climbing.  While she enjoyed the elite air of the “the lounge” 70 feet above, I spiraled below awash in sweat and discomfort.  It is a joy to watch someone discover new talents, and there was a lot of joy to behold on Saturday.  Hooray for Title IX. Athletic women kick ass.

Soon she will have a mountain bike, and then I will really have something to cry about.

After celebrating arboreal victory and toasting old friends all night, we delayed the sad, rainy drive home with brunch at Sisters in Gainesville.   There needs to be a special word for the pride one feels when enveloped in the successful dream of a friend or family member.  To relax  in the care of the folks at Sisters is a gastronomic vacation to the Mediterranean.  With Tropical Storm Debbie dark and drizzling outside, coffee, champagne, and fresh eggs inside, it was another charmed visit to the Alachua-Marion vortex where  for reasons I will never question, I am lucky to know great people.


Echo de menos todo el mundo

  Many of you reading this used to be here–  Now you are in Royal Oaks, Michigan, Singapore, Hood River, OR, Bozeman, Montana, Bristol (outskirts), Panama City, Portland, Reddick, Ft. Myers, PSL, Miami, Sarajevo, Hoboken, Jensen Beach, Korea,  Asheville, NC, and parts unknown.
Last night we celebrated the Summer Solstice down at the All Saints Hop Yard.  They ran out of lanterns by the time we got there so we had to make wishes on strangers’ light.  For me, I thought about many of you, and the years that have passed, and that in spite of so much I have hung on in this place and built a life.

  We learn to do without. We make room for something new.  That’s the hard part.

We let go of each other and trust that the wind will carry us where we belong. 
But for a time we lived together in this place. 

Titus Racer X: Retired

I swear it’s a perfect fit.  12/07/07
I have to reunite with the Titus before I can put any words together.08/12/2008
Despite all efforts to avoid conflict and mitigate the frequency of assaults, in the end the rider must succumb to the savage nature of his surroundings and procure himself a shiv.  I prefer the Titus Racer X. 08/29/2008
It is time to lay my sword of righteousness down and pick up my one true weapon- the fully automatic Titus Racer-X. This year in honor of sweet victory it will read “This machine kills fascists” along the top tube. 11/06/2008
I’m staring over the next few days like the unengaged battlefield, polishing the grey gun-metal of my Titus Racer X.  1/12/2011
The Titus Racer X is secreted away in the trunk of a rented Impala like a doomed starlet.1/25/2011
I have been riding the Dogboy’s spare 29’er for weeks and the Titus was headed for the dustbin of history. 10/24/2011
The Titus tracks like a laser and I jumped from wheel to wheel like a red sucker fish. 12/30/2011
I just finished cleaning the Titus stem to stern. It is beginning to show some wear and tear. I can tell we are now in the sweet zone where everything works, it fits like a pair of skinny jeans, and I can’t imagine life without this bike. This is a sure sign that it is probably in its last year before the unraveling begins. 3/12/2012
I already own the greatest modern mountain bike available, the Titus Racer X for which I am most humbly thankful. 3/15/2012
It might be time to sell the Titus. 3/19/2012
Officially de-commissioned this day, June 20, 2012.


Before the great trail boom of the early Tens riders of the Seven Hills trails were tenuously affiliated by common interest and a desire to not associate with one another.  Riders marauded in groups of 3-5 chopping their way along deer runs and drainage culverts harvesting ticks and impetigo picked up in the people-free zones of unintended spaces and unmonitored woods.  They rode bikes, but they did not go on bike rides. Cycling was a fierce and  vagrant way of life.  Conflicts were settled by jousting in a bull ring until one rider remained to defend territory.  Lesser riders slunk off to the FSU campus and the Power lines to gather skills and strength for the next encounter.

Bottom brackets had to be drained of rusty water and bearings were stolen and scavenged wherever they could be found.  Rims were straightened against Water Oak or Slash Pine.  If you could not repair your bike alone, you were left in the woods to die or learn.  It was the way of things in the pre-enlightened epoch.

After the turn of the new millennium, the Seven Hills experienced a period of cataclysmic growth, an asteroid of public interest and government-sponsored development occurred.  The indigenous tribes adapted or died off, with a rare few retreating to the confines of the Live Oak Connector to survive on dead trees and no trespassing signs.  Trails became faster, and a source of pleasure.  New routes mushroomed in park and forest.   Cycling evolved. The trails soon bore scars of too much love, like a burn from Daddy’s beard.  Gradients were nuanced, and technology began to merge with nature, improving on the organic design of terra firma.   New tribes swept in on these changes and rolled the trails in powerful numbers.  As farmers and builders they came to stay and make their mark upon the lands. 

Many years passed.  Zip-lining  emerged as the new dominant force in the Seven Hills.  The government was forced to turn their attention to the trees as the demand for new branch-free pathways became shrill.  The trails below fell into disrepair, but the proud infrastructure of the builders held true. Roots entwined through bridges and kudzu covered wall rides.  Red clay sank below cinnamon sand and held a firm base just below the trail like a secret. 

Refugees banded together, some carrying the genes of the indigenous riders, and some were descendants of the Great Builder Era, unable to adapt to the trees, and left to grunt and scratch at yesterday while their kin zipped through tomorrow.

The Seven Hills trails became wild and beautiful, sloppy and dangerous, with breath-taking lines unattainable by humankind or nature alone.


The Union Suit

Cousin Todd and I moved to Bozeman, MT within weeks of each other, and remained roommates for the duration of our three years there.  For most of that time we lived on Babcock St. in a 1-bedroom apartment.  For a year of that time, Ma Ingalls, from down polebarn way, lived with us as well.  It was cozy quarters for three college friends from Florida looking to experience the Bridger Range and the Molly Brown.  We had one bathroom, a red pleather couch, and a 6’x6′ painting of St. Gabriel and the Devil done by local  artist, Edward Hemingway.  We all three worked at the Leaf and Bean Coffee Shop on Main Street.  Between us we owned about 5 official work shirts that we shared indiscriminately.  None of us had known a winter. 
Cousin Todd lived in the breakfast nook.  He slept on a nest of dirty clothes, afghans, and quilts made by our Grandma Jewel.  Sometime in late August of 1994 he received a red union suit in the mail.  He took it from its plastic wrapping, put it on, and never took it off again.   
I remember those days warmly.  Ma Ingalls lived in the only bedroom.  I lived in a 3 season Eureka tent within that same bedroom, and Cousin Todd in the nook.  Winter lasts from late July until the first week of June in Montana, and we spent many of our evenings holed up near the wheezy radiator playing chess and loathing the smells and sounds of one another.  Pop that gum again, I would think to myself, and I am going to put you out of your misery with the cast iron skillet when you look outside Ask me whose turn it is again you brainless dolt and I will drag you out in the snow while you are sleeping, he probably thought to himself.  Ma Ingalls would nag us about what we were going to cook for dinner, why couldn’t we save money, or find dates.  We were a family and a team.  
Ma and I each wandered our own way back to Florida, and found our densities.  Cousin Todd settled in the Willamette Valley, in a town called Port Land, Oregon.  He lives with his steadfast and capable wife and his two little boys.  All wear union suits.  They wash them on the 4th of July.
One week from tomorrow we will have our first family reunion of the Babcock Gang.  Up in the trees above the Pole Barn we will toast the years. 


I did the stand up thing and rode San Felasco, rather than drive by on I-75 pretending it is not there.  It was 4:00 O’Clock on a June afternoon, which ain’t shit compared to August or September.  The temperature was well below 100, lingering in the low-nineties- child’s play by Central Florida standards.  The humidity was up there, and that’s the real killer.

Still, I was so glad to be above a trail and moving through the shady trees.  A 700 mile round trip shot to Northeast Alabama is a fine way to spend a weekend, with the pontoon boating on Smith Lake, a marvel that deserves its own post when I have time to comprehend its 500+ miles of shoreline. Stately cruising and swimming in fresh deep water is magnificent, but I am an Earth sign, and dirt brings me refreshment.


Taco and Me

The Apalachicola National Forest after a good soaking is as good as North Florida riding gets.  The soft crunching of wet sand under tires is satisfying like popping bubble wrap, or picking at a scab.  You just can’t leave it alone.

That is me in the front, wearing the yellow jersey, and behind me is my old friend Taco.  We quit calling him that in the mid-nineties, but I am bringing it back today.  He grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, which is a state somewhere in the U.S.A.

  Being of Sicilian heritage, his olive skin set him apart in the mostly Germanic and Scandinavian community.  Children, being of limited experience, assumed he must be Mexican, and named him accordingly. 

That’s how I remember it anyway.

We hit the late afternoon woods under ominous navy blue clouds, but the rains had already come.  The dew on fragile ferns whished off on my ankles and salamanders salamanded as fast as they could to avoid being tracked over.  Carve and pedal, carve and pedal, the Twilight trail just gives up the love on a late summer roll.

Wrung free of the day we loaded muddy bikes into the van, both a little amazed at how great the ride was, and what a good long ride it has been.

Peace Taco!


A Rising Tide

Two straight weeks of bicycle-less free fall, my longest break since The Crash of Great Clarity. Truthfully, the ride I am counting two weeks ago was itself not much to speak of, but just an interlude in a long lull. I drove to Munson Monday last night, passing harder riders as they pedaled their way to the trail head in the heat. Cold A.C. blowing on my face, it was drive or nothing for me.

My routine in disarray, I pulled on a pair of mismatched gloves, one from the late Eighties, the other a remnant of my messenger gear from the mid-Nineties. My helmet was nowhere to be found. I put a Park Tool sweatband and some sunscreen on my shiny head and rode off to accept my fate. Just one lap around the trail, no big deal. It doesn’t matter if I feel good or bad, ride fast or slow. This might be a good day to ride back with the Noobz and give back like all the goody two-shoes harp on about. Juancho- humanitarian.

Then Wrecking Ball appeared in the crowd with his enforcer son. My mouth went dry and my eyes dilated.

9 weeks back on the bike and riding every day, WB is moving back up the charts. I track his progress daily, measuring my slide against his climb. How far can I let the rope out before it slips from my fingers? Time to find out.

Our lap time was in the range of being slow for a fast ride or fast for a slow ride, depending on your perspective. I’m calling it slow, and I pray WB is calling it fast.