Jan 16, 2019

How We Spend Our Days

Lest you get the idea that I do no writing, here's just a few examples of recently published work:

THE PERSIAN GAMBLE

CODE OF VALOR

THE TINDERBOX

The catalog introduction HERE

Heavenly Amish Mysteries & Three Sisters Island Series

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I can't---and won't---keep up with an ongoing list of every fiction feature I write. But if you've wondered what it is I actually do as a copywriter, this is a pretty good sample. 

I should mention that this is the polished product of editing and proofreading. I can't churn it out like this. But in most cases the wording and most of the content is mine.

Dec 31, 2018

The Whitehead Option

I was standing alone in the woods, it was now dark, and something up the hill was making a squeaking noise, like a pig---or a rabbit who's being eaten alive. My decades-old seatpost had just snapped in half. I'd hoped that the severed top half would simply insert into the seat tube and be much lower, but because of the way it broke, that was not going to happen without a file. Needless to say, I wasn't carrying one. Nor did I have time to use it even if I was. 

So there I stood, with my new leather saddle and a bag of tube and tools in my hand. I WAS close to a road, so that I could stash them both and come back later, but we're talking about $40 worth of supplies in a $20 bag, under a $75 saddle---not to mention that I'd have to explain to my wife if by some chance they weren't there when I returned. I decided I'd just hold onto them. 

I tried using the bag's straps to attach it all to the frame. This interrupted my pedaling and moved around, bringing the new saddle dangerously close to the spinning tire. Not a good option. Then holding the seat rails in one hand while also gripping the handlebars. 

But after a little walking with the bike, I realized that I could remove the bag from the seat, remove the broken post, and have 3 relatively compact packages, that would fit in jersey and jacket pockets.



*******

The year was 1986. Racer Cindy Whitehead was competing in a mountain bike race called the Sierra 7500 in Bishop, CA. About 1 mile into the 50-mile race, she pushed her bike through a sandy section and jumped back on, only to have the seat break off underneath her. She went on to win the race, riding 49 miles of it without a seat. It was a legendary performance that's still talked about 32 years later.

*******

I rode to a small  dirt road that led back toward the parking lot where I'd started my ride. Thankfully, this had street lights---and potholes. But as I approached the bigger road that led to the car, I realized it was night, and a busy street connecting two towns. Would I go back into the "scary" woods (a section that I know well enough to ride it reasonably in the dark)---or face certain danger on the road?  I chose the woods. And about a minute later, the more powerful of my two headlights went out. 

I still wonder what that sound was, though.

Oct 13, 2018

Streaming Consciousness

Going to try a little experiment here. [I'm] in the middle of a ride and I'm going to try speaking [a] blog post into my phone.

So, I'm sitting on the edge of what I believe is Round Pond, but I'm not certain of that, near Gordon College. And about half of my vision is taken up by the lake. [It is] making strange little almost figure eights of light and waves on most of the surface, but to the right of me for some reason it's smooth. The trees are about half changed. It seems to be that the yellow ones are the ones that are changing so far and I see two really tall Pine trees straight in front of me. It's almost the middle of October, but for some strange reason it is hot today and humid. Also, I noticed there's a birch tree right in front of me with some beautiful little twigs hanging off of it, and all of its leaves are gone. I'm out here, among other reasons, because my mom is in the hospital. She went in just a little bit dizzy and now she says her vision is completely swirling around when she opens up her eyes, so I don't know what's going on. They seem to have ruled out a stroke. They flew her down in a helicopter. So I'm out for a bike ride because there's not a whole lot I can do. I found myself just thinking about what could be wrong not trusting the doctors, and I realize there's no point in that at all, because even if I somehow miraculously figured it out I wouldn't have any way of telling them. So I decided to take a ride and stop thinking about it, which is exactly what I'm not doing,so maybe I should get riding again. I've just come through a tunnel of leaves: I can still see it behind me, kind of a ledge trail right next to the lake almost on the edge of the lake in fact. Almost? It is! Just saw two dogs out walking and now I'm sitting on a railroad tie next to the Lake.

-------

Now I'm sitting back in the car and I'm trying to decide if I have a concussion because I went over the handlebars on a really steep downhill that I really should've walked! I think I'm alright, but I figured I'd put this down on virtual paper. I'm hoping I might get a scar out of the cut on my knee though. Remember to wear your helmets, kids! don't walk down walk down things you can't ride down.


 [Maybe I was confused- I meant the opposite (this was almost a week ago. No concussion, and believe me, I looked up the symptoms thoroughly)]

Sep 14, 2018

Stuff. Too much stuff.

I just left my favorite bike shop. And even there there are so many different kinds of bikes that it just makes you want to leave and go into the woods. Bikes don't even look like they're supposed to look or like they used to look. there are 500 different kinds of them.

No wonder the ridng seems to be going crazy! The bikes are 2 times as big as they used to be- with so much suspension  you should be able to comfortably jump off a house. I fail to understand why we need three different kinds of wheel sizes and plus (fat) sizes of those wheel sizes.

Unless of course we don't, and the bike manufacturers are just making them available because they need to make money. And why do they need to make money? so they can stay in business? No. so that they can always grow- constantly. At least the Treks and Specializeds.

And it isn't just cycling. It's happening everywhere. 15 types of Oreos. Whole aisles of toothpaste. And don't get me started about bibles. Check out the number of ice cream flavors at your local supermarket. Why? Are vanilla and chocolate not enough? How perfectly tailored does ice cream need to be, anyway?

All of this points to the same fact about the modern world. What makes us feel that we need/deserve the PERFECT experience? Not just a bike ride but one perfectly suited to us. Not just a snack partway through, but the precise flavor we crave. To relax we listen to streaming music that caters to every whim.

An aside: The bike company Yeti released 3 new full suspension bikes this summer. The first has 100 millimeters of spring. About 3.94". The second arrived a few months later, with 150 mms, or about 5.9". Yesterday, they released a 130mm bike. (5.12") REALLY? So, basically, you want me to believe that there's enough of a difference between 4, 5, and 6" of travel, that it justifies making all three? Any of us could probably feel the difference between 4 and 6, but between either one and that inbetween model? I call BS.

And that's all fine. Whatever. But are we losing some resiliency from all this choice? Are we unable to enjoy simple vanilla or a random bryan Adams song anymore because we're so pampered and catered to?

Maybe that's why we can't get along with each other.



Sep 3, 2018

Further Adventures Of... The Final Chapter


Here's two little tid-bits about me. I'm scared of heights. And I recently drove our Toyota Camry up Mt. Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeastern USA.

I'm certainly not the first. We've all seen those bumper stickers: This Car Climbed Mt. Washington. (because they give one to every car that goes up). It wasn't the first time I've been in a car that has driven to the summit (my third, actually).



But it was the first time I've driven a car up it myself. And I don't think I'll be doing it again. Ever.

I'll be the first, and usually am, to comment about how modern life is too sanitized, how we're too protected from ourselves. But as I drove up the hill with the worst weather on earth (the world-record highest wind speed of 231 mph was recorded here), there were no guardrails, only a yawning abyss---and that was on the side AWAY from the big drop. I didn't even dare to look at that side. Just keep my eyes on the yellow line and keep moving. Don't think about our whole family tumbling to our deaths. Don't think at all. Just keep moving forward. And certainly don't think about the fact that then you'll be imprisoned on the top of an island of height that would surely require a much more nail-biting descent. Flow state. Don't think, just drive...

The pictures show you most of what we did on the top (other than freeze. The wind was 55 mph that day, and I didn't catch the temperature, but wearing a flannel shirt and a t-shirt, I was cold enough to put on a long-sleeved base-layer underneath... and even then I wasn't very warm. It was about 85 degrees F
at the base of the mountain.

It turned out that going down was much better, oddly enough. We waited until the road had closed to cars coming up (not on purpose as much as it just worked out that way, but I was certainly aware of the fact before we headed down) and as per instructions, put the car in its lowest gear. So I drove down the center/left lane all the way down, and honestly didn't even use the brakes as much as usual.


Then we started the endless drive in the dark that was our trip home. An entirely different sort of looking into the abyss. But that's a story for another time.


Sep 1, 2018

Further Adventures Of... (Part Two)

After spending the morning climbing Red Tail Trail, as I talked about in my last blog, I wanted to spend the rest of the day with my family. And luckily, the weather cleared up and got really nice in the late afternoon.
The beach of rocks

I even managed to talk them into checking out the trails across the road, and playing near/in the river. 
Looks easy enough, right?

Have I mentioned that it rained hard all morning. In the mountains? Know what that does to a river? You guessed it. So we got over to the Saco River, and it looked beautiful as we walked out onto a big "beach" of rounded-off rocks. There was even a rock island in the middle of the river, with some rapids in between. I've been wading in streams all my life. I wasn't scared---but maybe I should've been...


So with Kathy and Lucy watching (sort of), I took off my shoes, rolled up my shorts, and began wading across. Immediately, I noticed that the current was much harder than I'm used to. But as long as I was standing still, it was fine. Splashing up onto my shorts, but fine (I should mention at this point that I'd brought three leg coverings on vacation: casual (baggy) bike shorts (wet from the morning), cut-offs that I was wearing, and a swimsuit (wet from swimming in the hotel pool.) So this splashing was concerning.
The real achilles heel, though, was the fact that the stones on the bottom were unpredictable, unstable, and sometimes sharp. If I'd worn water shoes, everything would've been fine, but as it was, I stepped on a sharp rock, instinctively pulled my foot back, and lost balance a bit. Now, in a calm stream, you could just put a hand down, and right yourself. But it turns out that in a river---and a slightly swollen one at that---it's not quite that simple. I was rudely and roughly shoved backwards, and began rather quickly descending the rapids. Now, as you may be able to see from the photo, they didn't last long. And they cerainly weren't all that deep. So it's not as if I was in real danger. But my dignity was another story. Also, my shins. I ended up with a slight abrasion on my right, and a rather large bruise showed up on the left a few days later.

In hindsight (that is to say, when I did it again, and then when Lucy wanted to try), I tried to go across the narrow---and therefore highest pressure---point. Even five feet up the river, the current was much more gentle, because the funnel/channel was wider. 

But I was soaked. What to do? In the back of my mind, I'd been considering something pro xc racers often do after a big race: an "ice bath" in a river or stream. You can read more about the practice HERE if you'd like, but as many of you know, my cycling life (at least as far as these sorts of high-performance training methods) is mostly a Walter Mitty sort of fantasy camp. But standing there soaking wet, with my only formerly dry pair of shorts literally dripping water, I made a decision, stripped off my shorts, put them on a log to dry (or try to, anyway), and found myself a nice spot to give this ice-bath business a try. After all, I'd hiked up a 1500' mountainside, and pounded my body on the way down until it was cramping (see part one), so surely this was the time to try it out.

Nobody was anywhere around, and even if they had been, the boxer-briefs I wear are practically shorts on their own!

But the point I'm getting at is not whether the ice bath worked (it seemed to, but was inconclusive), but that despite the nearly nonexistent risk, going in the river like that was... soothing. It felt natural and right. And it got me thinking.

I'm not saying I'm ready to join a nudist colony, but I do think modern society---and maybe America and New England with its puritan heritage most of all---fills us with layers of guilt, and confused notions about our bodies.

And nature perhaps helps us figure those things out just a bit.