Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Three books autographed by Richard Nixon.

Pennsylvania is experiencing the cold and gray time of year. Soon I will head south to Key West. For now, I am handling a case of the seasonal blergh until I can force myself to be ready to get out of here.

My intention was to buckle down about the business of buying and selling books. The more I do now, the stronger my safety net later. With this in mind, I made a telephone call. I asked some lady at the library if the book sale area was open again. She sounded like she was getting a call from an asshole with four heads. I repeated my inquiry slowly and clearly - how is this a difficult question!?

"Is the friends of the library book sale area open again?"

Maybe I spoke too quickly. I certainly wasn't mumbling, and I was definitely speaking English.

"... It hasn't been open in awhile, I am asking if it is open again?"

The library has been under renovation for almost a year. Surely she knows that.

"Are there books for sale there?"

She sounded confused and slightly fearful. Like I was asking if it was a good time to kick in some doors and rob the place.

"I want to buy books."

I literally said this slowly and calmly. It's hard to be much clearer than that.

I hate phones, but I can't take responsibility for any confusion on this call. What is it about me? In person, I might understand - some hipster looking jackass with a mohawk and neon glasses might catch somebody in bumblefuck off guard. Conceivably. Fuckit. I'm doing my best.

As it turned out, the book sale area was not open, but it would be open for a sale in two days. Getting this information was like tapping a maple tree for syrup. Two days passed, and now it is today. I arrived right when the library opened, and within five minutes I knew it was good. There was nobody else who appeared to be a book dealer, and I got a few hits right away. I worked steadily for four hours and did what I call due diligence. When the going is good, it pays to be thorough. When the books seem lousy and picked over, it is easy to become discouraged. That did not happen today.

I saw a boring hardcover book by Richard Nixon. No barcode, so checking potential value would require typing in the ISBN. Books by or about presidents almost never hold any value. But there was a slipcase, which adds interest, and I didn't feel rushed. I slipped the book out of its case, and opened it to locate the ISBN. Ha! Richard Nixon autographed this copy. That went right in my bag. Then I found another one - signed by Richard Nixon as well. Later, I found a third. Three different books, two in immaculate condition in their slipcase.

The gray sky and cold air felt like bullshit as I left. But three books autographed by a dead president took off the edge.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A way I can tell what is real.

I raised one hand up, and placed my palm on the headliner of my Toyota Sienna. I drove west with the best of intentions as the setting sun reached maximum beauty. I don't know which colors were where, but I could sense pinks and yellows and greens. I held my hand to the roof for a few seconds, and then I held my palm to my chest. I saw something beautiful and I knew that it was real.

It was dark. I was headed east in the Sienna again, toward cold temperatures and against better judgement. A radio station in Nashville was being kind with the music. (Aux In is broken, and might never get fixed.) A story was shared with advice which rang true. I held the moment gently against the ceiling. I acknowledge that this moment is happening. I raised up my hand because it was real.

I was in the shower a minute ago. I was rinsing the stink off another wasted day, and wondering what is about to happen. "Are we in this?" I asked, before knowing what that even means. "We are in this," I said, and I felt glad because I knew it was true. I raised up my arm to bookmark the moment; palm facing up for the truth. We are making a run for it. This moment is hopeful and real.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Positivity and Optimism, I Exclaim!

Hi! Aim low, and you will not be disappointed. What I haven't been saying is that I view myself as an optimist. Even in difficult circumstances, I am hopeful. I will never give up. I have a bright ball of colorful light inside of me, and I only want to let it break through and lift people up. I believe it is possible. With a little bit of persistence, I can make adjustments to my recipe and shine.

I do aim low! I am not disappointed! I've heard this phrase before. It seems like a phrase intended to pull people away from lofty goals - to protect us from the disappointment of failure by not trying in the first place. I have a different interpretation. I have had my best times living in a van. My aim is not to be rich or fancy. In that sense I am aiming low. If you don't want to become rich, then I have great news!

I made a list of my goals. None of them seem to be a major challenge. None of them seem to be aiming high in a traditional western sense. Even if I never do another thing in my life, I am still not disappointed. Why? Logic. Disappointment is not productive. Disappointment is like drowning because you are wearing a heavy coat. To some degree, disappointment is unavoidable - it is a reflex or innate response that we are born with, or learn very young. To some degree, as thinking adult humans, it is also a decision. If I die today, I did a lot better than some. I am prepared to go. But! It probably won't happen. So the rest of my life is a bonus!

We all have battles (I assume), so I don't want to boohoo as a privileged white-skinned beard-growing human in America. I have never been hungry for long. I have all of the advantages in the world.

I want to continue to aim low. None of my goals are so lofty that I cannot grasp them and feel like a success. I have been working on two lists: The first is a list of goals. The second is a list of daily actions to be rewarded, with the aim of establishing habits which will lead directly or indirectly to attaining my goals. Maybe this will work, or maybe I will die first, and that would be fine anyway. But lethargy and boredom are a terrible way to go, so lets get started!


1) Sewing. I want to build skills and confidence. I want this to parlay into a way to make money. If I am still on this path in five or ten years, I would like to lease a small space with five industrial sewing machines and have a few people working with me to make bags and camping gear. I want this to translate to $2500 per month of income on average, and I want to feel excited about it.

2) Exercise. Fortunately, I already do this sometimes. 100 miles per week on a bicycle makes me a better person. I already know that, yet sometimes I stop riding altogether. Let's ride! I would like to introduce some weights and yoga to the routine.

3) Learn to prepare 10 simple plant-based meals. I don't want to be a vegan chef. What I want is a varied list of quick and portable foods that I am confident assembling so I am able to reduce my lust for cheeseburgers. I already have brain stuff going on, and I have identified a poor diet as a probable causal factor.

4) Crochet. Keep at it. Doesn't matter where it goes.

5) Condiment Packet Gallery. It is a cool thing I made. I would like to update it in any manner, which requires me to think about it in a way which does not make me feel overwhelmed. It makes me feel very overwhelmed, but I made progress before, and it is possible again. I'd like to appear on TV and get interviewed about it. I was invited on Jimmy Kimmel a long time ago, and I declined because I was driving around feeling weird as hell.

6) Tackle alcohol for good. Realistically this is a recurring issue. I'd like it to recur less often, in a less extreme manner, or maybe never again. Any progress is great. A pat on my back almost no matter what.

7) Save $375,000 in a brokerage account, invested in index funds. People think they need millions to retire. If I had this amount, work would be on an optional-when-desired basis for life. Jobs are a pain when you need them to survive. I would rather have part time jobs to build skills or satiate curiosity and meet people.

8) Become comfortable making phone calls and approaching strangers. I'm not horrible at talking to strangers. I might almost be relatively good at it, depends on the circumstance. But I am afraid of making phone calls, which is a significant setback. You can't get as much done if you don't dial a number and ask somebody questions. You know what it is? I am super afraid that there will be a poor connection, and this makes me feel highly anxious. I am also afraid that I confuse people and they become suspicious of me or dismissive. I often make a big deal out of nothing. Here is such a case.

Daily Actions to be Rewarded* 

1) Do any action that Will or Could lead to earned income. Literally anything.

2) Consume fewer than 3 alcoholic drinks

3) Drink 64oz of water, and no soda or sugar drink

4) Eat an apple

5) Crochet any amount

6) Walk for at least 10 minutes, or ride a bicycle any amount

7) Clean or organize one thing

8) Write something

9) Make a phone call

Wish me luck. I am currently experiencing motivation because I've been sober for a few days, and I've watched a shitload of TED Talks. It is a potent combination. I recognize that we are all still just floating through space. If you have advice or input please contact me. Lord knows I am not particularly adept at life skills, and the obvious often escapes my attention.

*The reward can be insignificant - as simple as a nod of approval to myself, or a star on a chart if I make a chart with these as columns, which I might or might not do. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brain Battles of 2018 Summarized.

I read in a biography of William M. Gaines about his experience trying on glasses for the first time as a kid. He didn't know that there were leaves at the tops of trees. He thought that tall trees had fuzz at the top. He was amazed at his new clarity of vision. He didn't know what normal vision could be like.

I quit paying for health insurance last year. Or maybe it was the year before, I have no internal meter for dates or elapsed time. Seriously. In any case, I reasoned that if I could get ADHD meds from India for cheaper, then fuck the United States, double middle fingers. I despise convoluted paperwork and systems designed to take your money and still screw you in the end. So I stopped taking Adderall.

The India meds, specifically Modafinil, seemed promising at first. Over time my opinion changed. I found that as the Modafinil wore off, I was released into an anxious state where minor tasks felt more overwhelming than ever before. I adapted to the Modafinil to a point where it wasn't helping me get any more done, but the anxiety would still occur, and I was drinking much more on those days to numb the discomfort. Taking an extra half pill would help with getting things accomplished, but I am wary of increasing the dosage of chemicals I jam into my skull.

In early 2018, I was traveling back from California and I stopped for the night at a cold and dirty truck stop in New Mexico. I was lonely and uncomfortable, just as I had been for weeks. It was snowing in Joshua Tree. I was not mentally equipped to take care of myself during this time. I drank two or three bottles of wine and I woke up abruptly at 2am bawling my eyes out. Fuck. We have to deal with this again. ["we" as in "me and all of my aspects." I am usually an "us"]

I quit everything. For about three days my emotions felt short circuited. I would feel overwhelmed and weep spontaneously. Or I would burst out laughing and crying at the same time, which wasn't actually unpleasant, except that I would prefer to avoid those outbursts in public. I needed time to settle down and normalize. After a few days I got better, and after a week I had a sense of normality. I'm not sure if I can call the outcome "normality" -- perhaps more accurately, I felt a comfortable abstraction of what I believe to be the typical reality experienced by the majority of humans. This is good. I am at my best in a functional absurdity.

I made it back to Austin and replaced substances with bicycles. I was rejuvenated with a new hope. I am no longer naive enough to believe that my battle is won. As mental warriors, our battles are most likely to continue. I accept this, and am grateful for a reprieve so I can take stock of myself and prepare for the next challenge.

I left Austin after two or three weeks. This was toward the end of March. I felt strong and healed enough to head back to Kennett Square. My next mission would be to remodel my tiny house and begin a path toward mastery of sewing machines. I would make punk rock quilts, and learn to construct different types of handbags, bicycle bags, and camping gear.

What I forgot is that I have ADHD. As such, confidence and keen interest do not translate to progress. Lack of progress often does translate into frustration. A further result might be hopelessness and depression. I know I am not lazy per se - but that is exactly how this condition presents, including to those of us affected. We judge ourselves on a false perception of normal. Even when we recognize that our standard of self-measurement is flawed, we are still left with the depressing task of survival in a society designed by and for boring normals - bean counters, paper-pushers, et al. My path has been one of resistance, but to what end, employing what physics, I have not a clue.

I bought an incredible Juki TL-2010q sewing machine, and I couldn't bring myself to open the box for weeks. Progress is a battle. The fight is confounding for us. Victory appears to be easy: those around us take it for granted every day. Meanwhile, we can't tie our shoes, and we shit in our pants when we try. Not literally, of course, but the reality inspires the same self-confidence.

Kennett Square was ice cold when I returned. I got depressed. I entered again into the bad kind of abstract reality. Still I tried to soldier on and force any kind of victory I could muster. I tried to drive to the grocery store and I had to pull off the road because I started crying too hard to drive.

I paid in advance to join the annual 3 Speed Tour in Minnesota, so I would be forced to participate in something. I knew that if I paid well in advance, I would go. I love bicycles, 3 Speeds in particular, and I reasoned that a little adventure might give me a healthy new perspective. When the time came, I headed west. I slept in my van for two nights. On the second night, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store where I knew I wanted to stay over. I went inside to get food, and saw that liquor was also an option. I watched myself in slow motion as I purchased a fifth of vodka. I continued to observe myself as I poured dribbles and then drinks into a styrofoam cup with bad soda. It was awesome. I felt a bit aloof at times, but the 3 Speed Tour was a great experience, and I met people who I like very much. Happily, the 3 Speed Tour includes way more drinking than I would have ever assumed.

Time passed. Wellbeing teased me all summer, often visible, yet evading my grasp.

I was hanging out with Shelly last week. When it comes to getting basic tasks done, Shelly is my opposite. She seems to hum along confidently with a constant and steady aplomb. Shelly has had a profound influence on my life, as I have on hers, I would humbly hope I may claim. We went for a short walk in the woods while we talked and joked and caught up. On the way back, we stopped for small coffees. Then Shelly stood up abruptly and said "Come on, dude, let's get you signed up for health insurance." And so we did. Minor mental stumbling blocks were gently set aside. Beginning in January, I will have access to Adderall and perhaps talk therapy if I can figure out where to be geographically situated for a useful period of time.

I have two ten-packs of Modafinil left. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up before I go south for the winter. I had been paralyzed for weeks, unable to conquer the most basic of tasks. I couldn't move the ball forward even an inch. Knowing that help is on the horizon, I took a Modafinil pill. I was reminded of the story that I had read many years ago about William M. Gaines trying on spectacles for the first time. The effect of introducing a stimulant to my central nervous system is no less profound. The trees have leaves at the top, not fuzz. The battle will continue, but for the first time in almost a year, I mastered tasks, and then felt like I'd won the day.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

I am a botfly.

I am a botfly. We are a parasitic swarm. We multiply. When I was born I might have been anything I wanted. I believe now that choice is an illusion. Every thought and action only serves to perpetuate the status quo.

When I was growing up I believed myself to be a human. Only through the use of drugs and alcohol have I become self aware. For all the good it did, I have thought a lot about this. My life is essentially valueless, and it is not in my nature to change that. Being that I formerly believed myself human, this first felt like an enormous downgrade of status. I have recovered from my initial depression, and my mission now is acceptance. I accept that our life is to seek a host and propagate. I relinquish all claim to lofty human fantasies of control.

I have known the truth about myself for years. My post-human reality still feels unsettling, but I will no longer try to escape it with mental gymnastics. We are going to take over the earth. This conclusion is a simple matter of science. I am not in charge. Ecosystems will be irreparably altered. I no longer take responsibility for that. It is not in my nature to notice or care. Pain and remorse are a selfish reflex. Emotions are a genetically selected trait to keep our species on course.

I still appreciate humor. What is more ironic than a bumper sticker with a slogan declaring care for Mother Earth? If the exhaust from our vehicles would wipe us out tomorrow, it would be a happy hastening of the inevitable. It is a mistake to think in terms of time, but almost impossible to shut off the instinct. Don't become confused and believe we can stop this. We are gone. We are paste. Shrug now if you agree.

I am a botfly. Maybe you are still a human. Personal examination might reveal a different truth, but just as likely not. Truth does not require our awareness. My first reaction was horror and disappointment. Now I have simply fallen in line. A more comfortable path might be to think less. To this end, I am listening to more of the radio, and watching more of the TV. I drive cars to buy meat, and I am careful to treat money as more than just a concept. You can do that to. Becoming one of us is reasonably comfortable and numb. It is the easiest thing to do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

I hope we will always be close.

Hello Journal. (Hi future chrisharne),

I am back visiting reality today. I might stick around for awhile, it's always hard to tell. I hope I make more time to write to you. I miss you. You have been a major help to me, and I am grateful for the record which you provide. But I know that others read you as well sometimes. I want to be an open and honest person - especially when sharing is hard. I tell myself that the difficult entries hold the most value.

I am not concerned for my own privacy, but I am bound by honor to protect the privacy of others. When I began to share my secrets with you, Journal, I knew that this would become a problem. When you were a notebook, there were no ethical decisions to navigate.

I am not a real writer. I am not ready to be one yet. I am a human who has been writing to a journal since the first day they could construct a sentence. There have been lapses over the years. I go away sometimes. That doesn't mean I don't love you. I'm not sure where I've been, and I don't know when I will see you again. It feels wonderful to talk to you again. I hope we will always be close.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Then what

Our mind.
Theirs or ours.
Mine and theirs.
Mine vs. it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

No better clue.

We shouldn't watch television anymore. The nature of reality is obscured on there. I am designing a squat box to be assembled in a remote area. Any spot. By "squat box" I am describing a structure to be lived in. But also feel free to flatten your screens. And by "flatten" I mean "hit with a hammer." Actually, "kill your TV" stickers have been around since at least the early 90's. It's a damn sight more salient now of a statement.

The houses I'm designing can be built with junk out of a dumpster. A short cutoff rectangular honeycomb of 2x4s; easily procured. These walls can be pre-assembled, and stacked in a minivan for transport. You can live in these walls forever, sans screens. [i desperately need help/this is not a test]

I will make one variation for the desert, and one version for the mountains. I am personally constructing the desert model, but the plans will be basically the same for colder climates. The main difference is with windows and insulation.

The dimensions are 16 feet by 16 feet. If that isn't enough, then your brain is an oyster, and your skull is full of disgusting stuff which somebody braver might presently crack out and eat.

You have to communicate with me if we are going to stick together

Comment with "1" if you are currently satisfied. If you are in touch with what you believe to be reality, type "1" in the comments.

Comment with "2" if you suspect that you are also on the reverse side of the curtain. If the absurdity is making you feel uncomfortable more than half of the time, type "2" in the comments.

If you feel inclined to comment with "3" then feel free to do so. I have no better clue than anybody.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Way We All Are. (Speaking personally)

She palmed the window insistently. She banged her hand on the glass of the passenger side of my old green van. I was in the passenger seat, Shelly was driving, and all of Mini Band and friends were inhabiting the van. My old band, my old van, years ago.

She had a short gold dress and impractical heels. She needed to get in, and there was no appropriate space. I opened the door, and offered her my hand. I helped her up, and she positioned herself atop my lap, or more so toward my right thigh, leaning in. Safe. I am the safest person on earth.

Some man was chasing her and threatening to hurt her. Our new friend was a skinny lady of color thanking Mini Band for aiding her quick escape. Let me ask. Is it important that she was black? We were all white kids in that long green van. U.S.A. folks still feel compelled in our writing to mention race. It still does matter. It still is a different painted portrait, and my brush is only so precise. Concise. I love you.

We didn't need to go far. We altered our course toward her safe haven.

I think about this lady who we met. As a human mind I am pure and pouring with empathy; saturated in privilege and bleach. If I have learned anything it is that I know less as I get older. Approaching 36 gladly I am left to wonder as always before if it is mushrooms after mushrooms that have opened my mind. I doubt so. However I believe it was with assistance that I have been able to embrace science and the vastness of the universe, and the desert's own view of the stars.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Establish new healthy routines.

Establish new healthy routines. Get divorce finalized on Tuesday. Hang out with my ex, and get that paperwork stuff done. Hang out afterward maybe, or maybe just give her some weed. Reduce drinking. Going to Georgia at the end of the month. Taking Megabus and turning 36 down there. Still riding bicycles and making money ok.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What to expect from a broken thumb

One time I had a pin through my hand. A medical pin. I broke the growth plate in my left hand's thumb. There was a cast. The cast came off, and when it was time to remove the pin, it was awesome. I have a policy of watching. The "pin" slid out. Apparently pins are long, and they extend from the entry point to the other side of the hand across the bones. Woah. What a trip. Blood came up and poured over the hole. When the pin was removed it felt like an orgasm in my tummy.

Monday, September 24, 2018

My path toward enlightenment: what I'm up to now.

Plans and Goals:

1) Make money
2) Finish tiny house
3) Travel
4) Enlightenment


I'm back to buying books again. I have a friend Lisa, who I met on the Appalachian Trail while hiking with Jonas two years ago. I have been in pretty much regular texting and phone contact with her, and I showed her how I make money selling books. I also helped her build out a travel van. We both drove to Key West at the same time, which ended up... uhh... great or whatever. That's a different story and you won't be hearing it here. That's my friend Lisa. Her roommate and friend Kyle also exists and is one of my favorite people. I was at his house for weeks last year, we all hung out together a lot, and it was a genuinely happy time for me. I had an easy happy time in Georgia.

I've been sick of selling books for the last two years. Changes in the rules and fees made me all but give up completely. A few thousand dollars went up in flame, and I became disillusioned.

Lisa has been doing well with books sporadically. I go out looking for books, and she wins auctions for lots of books. She doesn't make as much as I used to, but she never had half her inventory wiped out either. The point I'm not getting to is that she flew up to Philly for a visit and helped get me motivated to pull my account out of the toilet. I'm down to just over 100 books after a previous high of 10,000 inventory items. I'm rebuilding. It isn't hard work, but it can pay like it is. I'm good at it. I intend to make money so I can travel around without worrying about running out of money.

My parents gave me $25,000 in both 2016 and 2017, which has enabled my considerable appetite for loafing around. I am not proud of privilege and handouts, but I feel dishonest if I don't mention it while writing about me and money. I invested a lot of it. They gave my sister $50,000 as well and she used it as a down payment on a house. I invested in index funds, and also some Canadian marijuana stocks. I also used the money as a crutch. I tried to pursue sewing as a valid career switch. I wasn't successful - yet. I feel much more motivated when real shit is about to hit a real fan. In those times, I tend to do well.

Finish Tiny House:

I already started. The first floor is an empty rectangle now. I've patched sections of drywall. I have plenty more spackle and trim and painting ahead, but there isn't any rocket science involved. Once the space is cleaned up, I'm putting in something comfortable to sit on, and adding some sewing machines. I'm going to be sewing more bags. I'm going to get a whole lot better at sewing bags. Eventually, I might make money at that, but I've been trying to force myself, and it hasn't been working. I need to pace myself. That will work better.

The tiny house has great potential. Potential to entertain company, to work on projects at night, to drink wine and listen to loud music, and to be a space which is under my control. Tune back in to watch the progress. If you don't see progress soon, come to Pennsylvania and kick me in my head.


2019 is the year for my second ride across the USA. I'm putting money aside. I'm taking the same route and leaving at the same time. May. I'm buying the maps this time. Some people like to travel to new places. I do that sometimes, but what really gets me going is traveling to the same places. Sure, we should check out new places - but I'm mostly always looking for a place to be comfortable and return to. That is how I operate, and I like it. I'll ride the same route across the USA a thousand times if I want, as long as it keeps being cool.

I also want to take some shorter bicycle trips. And if finances allow - whatsoever - I will be going back to Key West for approximately January and/or February. The more great places you return to, the more great places you feel at home.

I've been looking at bus tickets and Air Bnb places. You can get tickets for like $10, and stay somewhere for another $10-20. You can sorta just float to a new city every week for the same cost as dirt cheap rent. I don't think that will become a new strategy, but it's an idea I would like to explore.


I am the best version of myself I can be right now. This is the only place I can begin. Worry is not productive or logical. I doubt I will reach anything like an enlightened state. I'm off the hook for that one. Which is excellent news for somebody who wants to be off of as many hooks as possible.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

There is no downside.

That was a good post a day ago. That summed it up nicely. The fact remains, however, that I am the king.

I went and scanned the barcodes on books and dvds today. I bought media items for $1 that folks will buy for much more.

It feels good to be a king.

There is no downside.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


It's 7:21pm.

I look down at my watch - a blue Casio now - and mumble 'shut the fuck up.' Name the location: walking toward the beer store on the corner of 17th and Snyder. Sitting at home (pick one, a few different places are 'home' right now.) 7:21pm is when I cuss at my watch, because I'm not writing my life down. I press a tiny silver button to silence the nagging alarm. I'm reminded once again that I have goals - writing down my life - and I hit the snooze button every day. I'm irritated by the reminder that I ought to be getting something done. Anything. Literally anything done. Any fucking thing done, dude, any single fucking thing. Snooze. Booze. No booze? Still snooze.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ups and downs. Focusing on the positive.

My life and my emotions and my view of self - they have all been in such a state of flux that I have found it hard to make journal entries here. I still think of this blog as a daily ledger of what I am up to. I want to change this blog to being a place where I write about my progress (or lack of progress) over longer spans of time. For now, this is where I write sometimes. I'm comfortable with that.

I'm living in Philadelphia with my friend Nielle. She's in the military traveling to places where they put her to work building things and whatnot. When she is home, we hang out. When my watch beeps, she knows that it is 7:21pm. I'm not adhering to the rule where I write what I was up to at 7:21pm, but a good solid handful of times, I was hanging out with Nielle.

It's Nielle's house here that I'm living in. I'm watching the two cats while she is in Lithuania. For the last two weeks while she's been gone, I've been watching the table surfaces get cluttered, and the kitchen floor get dirtier. I'm taking note of the shit that I want to get together so her house is nice again when she returns next week. I am attempting to respect her place because she is rad. And she got me to join a kickball team that starts soon - and getting outside is important.

I haven't been getting outside as much as I should. I've been drinking a lot of beer, and sitting on a lot of couch. I've spent too many hours at the corner bar, which isn't all bad, but is certainly problematic. I'm floating through life, chipping away at savings from money my parents just basically handed to me with no strings attached. It doesn't make me feel great about myself to be blowing that windfall on beer, and making shorter the time before I need to know how I will make some fresh money of my own. I need to be making money, or keeping my savings safer if I am traveling for the winter - which I most certainly am.

I'm fine. I've been up and down. I've been having some discomfort with feeling like my body is not mine. I don't always feel like I am the entity controlling this mass of flesh and guts called "Chris Harne." At best I have been in the control tower trying to facilitate a crash landing without fatalities. Or maybe I have been behind a curtain, trying to prod the body with a stick. Drinking helps... up to a point. Logic tells me that these feelings will ebb. Experience informs my logic. Currently, I am pretending to have earth beneath my feet, while I am more keenly aware of floating through outer space.

At times like these I try to give whatever "myself" is absolute full credit for getting literally anything done at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Status Update to Juki; Coda; Self

My Fourth Sewing Machine (And Probably Not Last)

I am the proud owner of a Juki TL-2010q sewing machine. It is one of the most popular and loved sewing machines for quilting. Quiltmakers type on the internet about how much they wish they had one. I have made zero quilts so far, but I got one anyway. My recommendation to people who want one is simple: get it.

The machine is blazing fast.

That'll do. The build quality and intended purpose remind me of my 1948 Singer 201, but the Juki has some modern features that I'm glad to have. The Juki stops needle down, so you don't have to turn the flywheel by hand. The motor stops exactly when you let off the pedal - the Singer is fast, but holds momentum, meaning you let off the pedal before you need to stop, and reach up to feather the flywheel like a brake. It's a cool skill to practice, but I still prefer the Juki. I am getting more precision at a faster pace. The heel of the Juki's foot pedal has a thread cutter. The thread is cut close to the work. After cutting, the bobbin thread remains below the needle plate, and the tail on the needle thread is very short. All of this is much easier and faster than pulling the work away and trimming threads with scissors. Skilled people are a blur as they trim threads manually, and it is another impressive skill to gain. I'm still keeping the automatic thread cutter.

I've been making hundreds of lined zippered pouches using quilting cotton with fusible fleece interfacing. I started on a Brother embroidery machine, moved to my Singer 201, and used a Singer Featherweight (221) as well. The Juki combines the conveniences of the Brother with the speed and quality of the old Singer. I am still in slight disbelief that I get to use a machine like this. I am glad that I tried other machines first. Now I have a basis for comparison, and I know how great the Juki is, and why it costs more than other options. You can get a great sewing machine for under $100. I got the Juki instead. I am a satisfied customer.

I'm still not done with new sewing machines. Now I want one with a walking foot. The Juki is perfect for quilting and working with light to medium weight fabrics, but it is not the perfect machine for layers of canvas or materials as thick as leather. It also doesn't zig-zag. I want to make bicycle bags, and a walking foot machine has advantages. Overlock machines are also pretty mind-blowing, but life is long, so I can think about that later.

I made a practice handlebar bag. It's slow going, because I don't really know what I'm doing. Learning new skills goes more smoothly when you are learning from an expert and you can ask questions. I'm not there yet. I am floundering through the early stages. I am satisfied with this first attempt, but I know that I have a lot of work and skill-building ahead to achieve the level of quality and proficiency that I seek. 

The Jamis Coda Is A Frame Requesting Respect 

I am having a great experience upgrading the Jamis Coda Sport. When I pulled it out of the box, it was set up like a nerdy dad's neighborhood cruiser. Again, that is not a statement of judgement, but simply an objective fact. I have more changes to make, but I could also ride it happily forever as-is. I fixed the final piece of the three contact points: handlebars.

I installed northroad-style aluminum handlebars sold by Velo Orange as their "Tourist" handlebar. I was surprised that flat handlebars were so uncomfortable for me. But I guess that riding with northroads 99% of the time for the last decade makes a big difference in what feels comfortable. I have them set up with ergonomic grips right now, but I will set them up my personal way soon enough. I like to use standard cheap rubber grips underneath handlebar tape. I wrap the bars with handlebar tape all the way to the stem. On my Hoopty, I have two layers of tape. My hands are not small, and I like the slightly larger diameter.

Wrapping the handlebars gives two comfortable hand positions. I hold the handlebars in the curves and lean forward for an aero position, and sit up and use the grip section for cruising. Both of those options are compromised with a flat bar. Long live northroads! More options than ever exist, and I am glad that this shape of handlebar is going so strong these days. The Velo Orange Tourist has my favorite bend angle and rise, and looks most similar to the handlebars on old 3 Speeds. The Jamis Coda now feels comfortable, lively, capable, and fast.

My Mental State

I'll always be fine. I'd prefer to be better than just "fine" and sometimes that happens too. I am resilient. I feel like I'm in a transitional state. It's a feeling that I'm familiar with. This time it has become uncomfortable, and I've been having panic attacks. Sometimes I feel like I am watching myself from a distance instead of occupying a connected body and mind. I don't like that feeling. I often get the eerie sensation that I have lost contact with reality, and I am not able to access a reference for what is normal or what feels normal. I can use logic to conclude that none of this matters, and life is on track. I am learning more than ever that logical reasoning and all of the components of a great life do not assure wellbeing. It is still possible to have erratic emotions which elude your control, and cause you to feel all sorts of ways. The feelings are coming in waves, and I'm doing my best. Mostly I am afloat. I am adrift, but afloat, and alive is enough. I can wait for alive to be great.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jamis Coda Sport: Improvements Begin

And then the sun came out, and I rode my new bicycle fast. I gave the mental finger to difficulty, enjoyed a large coffee, and turned a radio up to 40, which was loud. I stopped off to get some nitrile coated gloves, because I am working at the bicycle shop this weekend, and I don't want to get grease under my beautiful fingernails.

This wasn't exactly the tone I was trying to set for turning this blog into a bicycle blog, shrug shrug shrug, lemme do this.

Jamis Coda Sport Update: Improvements Begin

I was going to put some more miles on the Jamis before changing it all around. But I couldn't wait. I got the gist of what I was looking for, and going putt putt putt on a bicycle set up for grandpa seemed like a pointless exercise. That didn't sound nice. Again: It's a wonderful bicycle for its intended purpose - going slow and not far on a comfortable and reliable machine.

Now to think about it as a frame, and set that frame up for me...

The first move was to lower the handlebars to about level with the saddle, maybe a hair below. The saddle, tires, and pedals were the first parts to go. I also replaced the cranks. I went for a ride intending to go easy and set a baseline on my usual loop. That plan fell apart quickly, and I nearly ended up with a personal best.

Handlebars: They still need to go. I've lowered them and installed a longer stem. I'll be putting on my preferred Northroad style handlebars at my earliest possible convenience. I'm surprised how much I don't like the flat handlebars. I expected them to be no big deal. My hands went numb in spite of the big ergonomic grips. It didn't make much sense, but they've gonna go anyway.

Saddle: I had a Brooks B17 on another bicycle. The Jamis is borrowing it until we get settled.

Pedals: My friend gave me some colorful "Thermalite" platform pedals as a gift. I am a colorful person who loves bright colors, but I would not have chosen these pedals for myself. I am glad she chose them for me, because now I like them very much.

Tires: I had 700x35c Panaracer Pasela tires on my 3 Speed road bicycle. They barely fit between the chainstays - there was less than a millimeter per side to spare. I made a trade: The Jamis gets the wider Paselas, and the road frame gets the 32c Vittoria Randonneurs.

Crankset: When I go to bicycle swap meets, I walk away with incredible bargains. Among my personal scores in waiting, I had a Shimano XT mountain crankset with no visible signs of being ridden. The model is FC-M730, meaning it was made between 1990-1993. The chainrings are Biopace in 50/38/28. No subsequent design changes cooked up by the bicycle industry have resulted in cranks that are better than these. If there was only one crankset forever, for me this would be it.

The XT cranks introduced two differences for me to examine: Biopace chainrings, and improved q-factor. I wasn't excited about the elliptically-shaped Biopace rings - but they looked brand new, the tooth count was perfect, and they were already installed on the cranks. So I gave them a try. The most surprising thing about them is that I couldn't feel any difference. I like them. They feel like normal chainrings. The 50 tooth big ring and wide 700c tires allowed me to go faster than I am used to before spinning out.

The q-factor of the Jamis's cheap Shimano cranks was wide at 185mm. The XT cranks brought that down to a not-particularly-narrow but still respectable 162mm. I don't know if I can feel the difference, or if psychologically I hate the original clunky looking cranks, and love the Shimano XTs. I tend to doubt most people could tell a difference. Still, I will obviously be keeping the XT cranks on there. They are better in every possible way.

Indexed Shifters: The Jamis comes with trigger shifters. Indexed front shifters can be a pain to set up. I don't mind having clicks for the back. I'm a friction shifting devotee, but an indexed rear is easy to set up, and gives fast and accurate shifting. The front is another matter. Getting the front adjusted to work in all of the sensible gear combinations without the chain rubbing on the derailleur - is annoying. I can do it, but it isn't as easy as it should be. I might keep the 8spd shifter around for awhile, but I don't think the left one will be with us long.

Note about wheels: I didn't stress relieve the wheels when I built up the Jamis. I trued them close enough, and made sure no spokes were obviously loose. I did this because I knew I could work on them later at any time. I wanted to approximate the attention to detail of a less-than-stellar mechanic at a typical average shop. I believe that steps should be taken to achieve a high quality of excellence with every bicycle build. We might as well take a little bit more time and be proud. Where to draw that line is a personal decision to be made by the lead mechanic or owner of a shop. Not greasing the seatpost should be punished by death, but there are gray areas to be found, and I also think some shops go a little over the top. Stress relieving wheels on box builds is something that a lot of shops probably neglect. I neglected it myself as an experiment, and soon enough the rear wheel went out of true and started to hit the brake pad.

Mechanics: Stress relieving and tensioning wheels on box builds should be routine. Shops: if you are skipping this step, you are not a good shop.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The shit that we self medicate from

The whole 100-miles-per-week bicycling plan seems to be on hold. Most aspects of life beyond bicycles are also on hold. The real challenge is to accept this fact and be at peace with the reality that I am not good at getting shit done. For a time I can, and then that comes apart. The challenge is to accept this and never give up. Or to rebuild again after the times when I do give up...

Goddamnit. I'll try to write about my feelings in a way that makes sense. I feel like I started with a weird delicate brain, and then I kicked it around with many years of alcohol, and sometimes I quit, and when I quit I'm left with a weird brain that I am forced to deal with. The brain has some cool tricks, but not the kind that are doing me many favors. In spite of feeling this way, I still consider myself lucky, which causes me to feel like my difficulties are not valid. I should bottle it up and move on in a stoic manner, like the man I never signed up to be. Meanwhile there is part of me that is full of aspirations and good ideas that I feel absolutely powerless to bring to fruition. I need help I need help I need help.

Living in a van, and traveling from place to place, and drinking every day is a distraction. When I try to stop doing those things, I am left with an uncomfortable vacuum. Life is meaningless and long, and stupid drone humans and systems of idiots keep forcing me to perform tasks that I hate. I reason with myself that I ought to choose between accepting the status quo personally, or else try to drop out of society more completely.

I am better than I have been at times, but my head feels kinda fucked up right now. Not that anybody can tell the difference, and not that I've tried on other people's heads.

I still have unexplored options to improve my life [aka hope]. I can improve my diet and explore natural herbs and remedies. I can meditate more. The fact is that improvement is a fierce struggle. Distractions like travel and anything exercise related can be good to a point, but the benefits come apart when I can't figure out who I am or what I want, and I use bandages to cover it up.

Being sober doesn't help a fucking thing, but it does feel novel at first, and is a good choice from a long-term cognitive and medical standpoint. The novelty wore off, and I'm still no superman. I know these feelings will pass, but in the mean time I wish they'd hurry the fuck up about it.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Campagnolo Launches 12-Speed Road Groups

I got the official announcement in my Instagram feed:

Asks @glory_cycles "What do you think about it?"

- Planned obsolescence is an understood concept, yet people continue to pay for this stuff.

- Humans are basically programmed to be kinda dumb, and there is a lot of money to be made by exploiting that.

- Campagnolo ran out of ideas, and the results of that are hilarious.

- People who buy this deserve less money.

- As an investor in the stock market, I profit from an expanding economy, and part of that strategy requires me to shrug and go along with this stuff.

- Everybody is entitled to love bicycles in their own way, so screw it, I'll just click the heart.

Friday, April 6, 2018

2017 Jamis Coda Sport vs. Rivendell Sam Hillborne

In this series I will be comparing three bicycles which are designed and built for functional do-everything riding. If you have been following for any amount of time, you will know my Diamondback Outlook, "the Hoopty." If not, here it goes: I rode it across the country, I love it, it is awesome, blah blah etc. I will be comparing the Outlook to two currently-made options which are made for a similar purpose. The Jamis Coda Sport retails for $529, and the Rivendell Sam Hillborne goes for $1400 as a frame. I will try to be fair in my testing. The findings will not be scientific (no wind tunnels). The point is to compare bicycles which are similar in function, but have a vastly dissimilar price. How much does it matter? "Some" or "a lot" or "not really at all."

The Jamis Coda is designed, marketed, and sold as a good option for a beginner. But an examination of the spec sheet suggests that it is capable of being much more. To me it looks like an ideal daily commuter, and an appropriate choice for a long loaded tour. I'm not convinced that bicycles costing four times as much, and designed for comfort and utility, offer any true gains in performance or satisfaction while turning the pedals. I am willing to be wrong, but not without examination. That is what I am aiming to do.

My 2017 Jamis Coda Sport has been built and is being ridden. The first comparison will be between the box-fresh Jamis Coda and my long-loved Diamondback Outlook. I will try to remain objective during this phase, as I compare my best friend to a stranger. So far, in my subjective opinion, the Outlook is in the lead. In spite of a low-end hi-tensile steel frame, and a road weight of forty pounds, I still like it better. According to Strava, I am actually faster on the Outlook. I expect my opinion to shift as I get more familiar with the Jamis, once I dial it in with a sportier and more familiar position. The Jamis feels like it has the capacity and desire for swift fun, but not straight out of the box while it's built like a standard hybrid. I'll report back after some changes are made.

2017 double-butted chromoly frame versus sporting goods clunker from 1997? The Jamis better feel good once set up correctly, or else many of my beliefs about life will be shattered. (Sorry, my Outlook, but you know what you are. You will always have a place in my heart and my stable.)

For the second phase of testing, I will compare the Jamis Coda Sport to a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. The nature of this test will hinge upon the willingness of Rivendell to send me a Sam Hillborne for side-by-side testing. In the absence of an actual Rivendell, I will do an in-depth comparison of the spec sheets. This type of comparison isn't likely to bode well for the Rivendell, since the Coda Sport is also a butted chromoly frame, and the geometry doesn't look like a whole heap of difference. (Bottom bracket drop notwithstanding.)

It would be forgivable to think that comparing a Jamis to a Rivendell doesn't make sense. Let me explain why it does. By their nature, bicycles are simple machines, which have been refined for over a century. Both of these bicycles use double butted chromoly tubes. Both are designed for strength and comfort over the same exact types of terrain. What then, if any, are the actual results when it comes to turning the pedals?

When I consider any purchase, especially one for more than $20, I try to remove emotion from the equation. I try to be honest with myself about whether a new item or upgrade is likely to provide quantitative or qualitative benefits. Studies have shown, and my experience has borne out, that the things that we want don't make us any happier in the long term after we have them.

What I seek to find out is whether buying a Rivendell is like buying a beautiful print from an artist who you love - or is there a component of function beyond the lugs and paint? Many people place a high value on style, which is perfectly okay, but I don't. Also: supporting a company like Rivendell - an ethical business, promoting a pure love of cycling, and a steadfast champion of sensible design - is a good which I would never argue against.

With that said, is a Rivendell just a small-batch Jamis Coda with lugs? Feel free to discuss this, or shoot me for asking.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jamis Coda Sport: Nice Frame Disguised in Cheap Parts?

I bought a 2017 Jamis Coda Sport to see if it would be fun to ride a new bicycle. Most bicycles that I own or admire are at least a couple decades old. I wanted to see if simple and reliable "classic style" bicycles are still being made at a price that ordinary people are willing to pay. For as long as I have been a bicycle mechanic, I have kept an eye on Jamis's Coda series. They appear to be well-designed bicycles for everyday riding and touring on a budget. I bought one to see for myself.

There are two ways to look at the Jamis: As a good choice for entry-level cycling, or as a nice frame disguised in cheap parts. 

Jamis Coda as a  Bicycle

For the customer who wants a high quality, low maintenance bicycle, it is my opinion that the Jamis Coda series is hard to beat. I think the Coda Sport hits the sweet spot between quality and price. You get an upright riding position out of the box, which most people purchasing a hybrid bicycle will appreciate. All of the components are simple and easy to tune, so long intervals of worry-free riding can be expected.

Jamis Coda as a Frame

When I look at the Coda Sport, I see a well designed double butted chromoly frame. I see standard diameter tubing, which will absorb road vibration. I see room for wide tires, lots of bosses for racks and fenders, and a frame that will take cantilever brakes. In short, I see a frame that has all of the functional elements of other frames costing four times more than the Coda retails for as a complete bicycle. So I bought one to evaluate. I hope that my theory is true. 

First Impressions

Before changing all the components, I want to get an opinion of the Jamis built up as most customers will experience it. I've ridden about thirty miles on the Coda Sport so far. I built it up from the box exactly like an average stock floor model. I am 6 feet tall, and I chose a 21" frame. With the tall stack of headset spacers, and the threadless stem in the upward position, the handlebars are as high as I can imagine anybody wanting. For somebody new to cycling, or somebody who will not ride up hills or go long distances, this will feel stable and comfortable. I enjoyed it myself while the road was flat, but my usual rides include hills. I am used to standing and pulling up on the handlebars to force power down to the pedals. With high handlebars, I had to sit down and choose a much lower gear. I was worn out after my 20 mile loop. My average speed was slower, even though the Coda Sport is fifteen pounds lighter than my usual bicycle.

In addition to fit, let me talk about the components. Everything that comes on the Coda Sport is solidly adequate equipment. I like the shifters and the derailleurs. I don't like the cranks, but they don't particularly offend me. They feel wide and look clunky. They operate fine, and most people won't be bothered, and frankly I don't think there are any better options possible in this price range. The handlebars have a slight curve, which is a fine choice, but they are not my personal preference. The rims and hubs are good average quality and should last a long time. Unlike the base model Coda, the Sport uses a cassette hub, which is a meaningful upgrade over the freewheel hub on the lower model. The Sport model also features a threadless stem versus the quill stem on the base model. Both stems work fine, one is not better than the other - but the threadless stem is the modern standard, and finding replacement stems for the purpose of sizing will be easier at most bicycle shops. 

I am happy that I took the time to get to know this bicycle in its original configuration. But I am not looking for a stock hybrid. I am looking for a frame that is secretly capable of more than it is marketed as. My theory is that with some changes to the components and riding position, I will have a fast touring bicycle which is fun to ride long distances in a spirited manner. I want an inexpensive frame that doesn't look flashy, but has every functional aspect of bicycles which are. Finding that balance is the part of this test that I'm looking forward to the most.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Nutrition for Cyclists (and Winners at Life)

This article is a fresh take on the subject of nutrition for the high-performance cyclist. This is a topic which (I assume) has been covered many times before on other [more reputable] cycling blogs. Everybody is asking [premise]: what can you consume to maximize and optimize your power output for a century ride or a long day of touring on your Brooks Flyer or B17? When you strip away the science and marketing, you are left with what I can share. I may not be the most reliable resource, but then again, maybe I am. I have ridden a bicycle far and survived, and that qualifies me better than some. Now that I have your confidence, let me boldly continue. 

In this article, I will be breaking down everything I know about nutrition sources, relating specifically to what they have done for me. Feel free to comment with your own go-to cycling foods. I will write the top picks on a scrap of paper, and flush it down the toilet. This is about me.

Three Suggestions To Enable Your Ride

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches: The Low-Budget Heavyweight Contender

These are likely the perfect bicycle fuel. There are only three ingredients, which last practically forever in all conditions, and you can assemble them with a spoon. I once rode across the USA. (Ask me about it, I won't shut up.) Before I even reached the Mississippi, I'd blown half of my budget on bars, and the inevitable greasy breakfasts at diners which followed, because I'd been up late at a bar. My recommendation for solo cyclotourists is to skip the bar and drink in the woods. Or skip alcohol altogether (which is my current journey) and constrain yourself to the fact that you will sometimes feel alone in the world, and the bar almost never does you any favors. Counter examples tend to be outliers, and on the balance, I think I'd be a better person if I'd skipped the bar almost every time. By the absolute worst case measurements, I'd be roughly exactly the same.

Somewhat as a matter of necessity, I got intimately familiar with PB&J. I woke up halfway inside my tent, and made the mistake of examining my expenses. The need for a course correction was clear. If I was to dip my wheel in the Pacific Ocean, and still have enough money to fly home, I would need to limit my spending. After some consideration, I decided to challenge myself to spending only $5 per day. I made rules: I could use the food I was already carrying. Indeed, I could still drink booze, but only if it fit in the budget (which it obviously would not.) Thirdly, the budget was cumulative, so if I spent zero dollars one day, the the next I could spend $10. I could save, but I could not borrow from the future.

I went to a grocery store and got cheap bread and jelly. There were not many options that would allow me to succeed with the challenge. I had a jar of peanut butter to get me started on the right foot. I remember running out of peanut butter (which happened a lot) and finding that a $3 jar would put me close to breaking the budget. Later that day, I passed a discount grocery store, and they were blowing out Jif for a dollar. I was proud of myself for waiting - I celebrated with a fifty-cent ice cream.

I adopted a new routine. Each morning, I would wake up on whatever earth I'd found to camp on for free, and I would ride until I found a picnic table or flat surface on which I could sit and lay bread. I would spread out bread on a plastic shopping bag, maybe 8-10 slices, and I would make sandwiches in bulk assembly-line fashion. I stacked the sandwiches in a bread bag, except for one, which I would eat with my instant morning coffee. I never got tired of eating PBJs. They were a perfect gauge of hunger as well as source of power: When I didn't feel like eating one, I probably didn't need it, but when they called my name, I absolutely did. I loved looking forward to a PBJ at the top of long climbs. The variety of jams and different types of bread were enough to keep things interesting - and make me feel like a king.

I arrived at PBJs from the angle of budget restriction, but I have returned to them in times of financial stability. These sandwiches are a nearly perfect source of safe and predictable energy.

Quinoa and Lentils: a Taco-Like Food

I eat quinoa with lentils multiple times per week while traveling. They are easy, and impossible to mess up. As a meal, they have all of the characteristics of an excellent travel food: simple and predictable to digest, and portions are infinitely adjustable. I stumbled upon this food-source, because I was desperate to exit the unending cycle of getting hungry enough to not care how much I spent on the closest prepared food I could find.

When I am not particularly active, this is how I prepare it, and I double the recipe when I want more. (For additional ultralight hobo cred, my measuring device is an empty vienna sausage tin. An official half-cup measuring device also works fine).
1/2 cup of quinoa and red lentils. Roughly half and half, maybe slightly more quinoa. Red lentils cook faster, and by using this method they become mush. 
1 cup of water. (Or two parts water for every one part quinoa & lentils.) 
Boil and/or simmer it on a camp stove. No need to think - it's done when the water is absorbed.
I let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then I smear it on tortillas, and eat. If I think I need more calories, I stir in olive oil. I season the individual servings with salt and hot sauce in order to maintain maximum flavor control. Leftovers can be left in an unsealed cooking pot, and be safely reheated with a shot of olive oil and eaten up to 48 hours later. Don't sue me if you die, but I've done that dozens of times. This food, obviously, is a versatile platform to which other ingredients can be added - steamed vegetables, melted cheese, or eggs to name a few.

Oats: You Don't Need to Cook Them

I choose quick rolled oats because they are easier to work with, and I cannot convince myself that there is a meaningful difference between various varieties of oats. I ingest oats by stirring them into a cup of yogurt. I stir in as many oats as I can fit, and add more oats as I eat. I add oats right up to the point where the resulting paste approaches noticeably dry. If the yogurt is plain, honey makes it better, but I tend to stick with delicious flavors. Milk also works for soaking up oats. I no longer cook oats, because I'm never impressed with the results. This method works better for me.

The downside to yogurt is that it needs to be refrigerated. I eat my oats and yogurt on a bench out in front of a grocery store - preferably with instant coffee while charging my phone.

Additional Notes To Consider

Instant Coffee: Stop Your Froufrou Buffoonery

People get overly emotional about coffee. If you can learn to enjoy instant coffee while traveling, you will have a much simpler life. The best solution, of course, is to give up coffee altogether - but switching to instant is great in the meantime. When I drink brewed coffee, I tend to add cream and sugar, but when the coffee is instant, I prefer it simple and black. The point (for me) is to simplify while maintaining a ritual, and I like the ritual of boiling water as I wake up.

I usually use Nescafe, because it is widely available. Trader Joe's brand is my favorite, while living in a van, but the size of the jar is not cyclotourist-friendly. Any Latin American brand tends to be good, so yellow packaging signals a win. I'll be the first to admit that not all instant coffee is equal: I've had some that was frankly undrinkable, while others I truly enjoy. I developed a sensory association between instant coffee and travel, so if it's an acquired taste, I have it. It reminds me of feeling free.

Goo Packets: A Fascinating Trend

Levi Leipheimer's brother once gave me a huckleberry-flavored Goo packet as a gesture of goodwill. I'd never tried one before. I waited until I was good and bonked-out to try it, and I can't report that it helped very much. PBJ continued as my go-to solution.

Spaghetti: A Convenient Alternative to Eating a Horse

Pasta might be the ultimate solution when you are hungry as hell, and you are in the mood for endless portions of food. Pasta is a perfect platform for adding copious amounts of olive oil and salt. Olive oil has lots of clean-burning calories, and when you've been sweating all day, your body will be craving the salt.

...That sums up almost everything I know about food, except for vegetables and fruit. I have a simple rule when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and it goes "try to eat more when you can." I hope you've enjoyed this article, and perhaps even gained an actionable hint. While there was a lack of supporting science, and there were no quotes from coaches, I believe the information is close enough to the mark. After all, this is merely some dude's bicycle blog, but he is a happy 35-year-old: he has made it this far. There is likely far worse information circulating, and that's where I feel comfortable setting the bar.

If you found this article useful, then give it a thumbs up (?) You can print this page by clicking the printer icon (?) and wear the page around your wrist like a bracelet.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday Headlines for April 2, 2018

I'm Writing a Bicycle Blog Now

The past handful of bicycle related posts are the beginning of a new trend. I am in the process of moving to - I've owned the domain for a couple years. I'm still sorting out what that will look like, but more blogging will continue there. I might continue the 721pm blog sporadically, but let's face it, I haven't been able to remain consistent here for years. I want to write, and sharing my passion for bicycles seems like an obvious place to begin.

Three Speed Tour 2018: May 12 - 13th

I am a registered participant in the 2018 edition of the Lake Pepin 3 Speed Tour. If you haven't heard of this, more information is at The gist is that people gather in Minnesota to ride old English 3 speeds around a lake, and brew tea, and eat pastries. (There seems to be an emphasis on pastries, and that puts me at ease.)

I've already paid the $65 registration fee, so now I am compelled to finally overhaul my 1940's Rudge Sports. My best 3 speed bicycle is still in "barn find" mode, exactly how I purchased it several years ago at a swap meet. It will clean up beautifully, and I have exactly the right tools and experience to do it, so That Will Happen Soon!

The event is May 12-13th. I am driving Hotel Sienna out there to save on lodging, and maximize every aspect of personal comfort. Consider joining me! If you have an old 3 speed, and you can get to Minnesota, then you should strongly consider meeting me out there.

Great Allegheny Passage / C&O Canal Mini-Tour 2018: May 28th - June 3rd

I am assembling a group for a week-long passage of the GAP/C&O trail from May 28 - June 3. We will ride from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. Everybody is welcome to join. A group of probably 5-10 people will be traveling by rented or borrowed vehicle from Philadelphia, to the start in Pittsburgh where the three rivers converge downtown. Each day will cover roughly 50 miles, with the first and last days being shorter. From D.C. there will be transportation back to Philly.

There will not be any support for the ride, other than transportation to starting point, and back to Philadelphia from D.C. Each rider will need a bicycle that can carry camping gear, and there will be no formal meal planning. There are plenty of food options along the trail. The pace will be up to the individual, and we will meet at a defined location at the end of each day to cook and camp and hang out. There are no cars the entire way, and the route is predominantly flat. This is bicycle touring heaven.

UPCOMING: Jamis Coda Sport Review:

I've always been a fan of simple bicycles which are capable of far more than conventional wisdom would seem to suggest. The Jamis Coda is a steel hybrid bicycle that was introduced in 1991, and is still available as a steel hybrid bicycle being produced today. I will be road testing the 2017 Coda Sport in an effort to prove my thesis that a steel hybrid bicycle is a good choice for riding on roads, and is equally capable on a multi-day tour. So yes, there would seem to be a tendency toward confirmation bias in this test. I'll be reviewing a bicycle that I very much want to like.

The utility and comfort of a chromoly steel hybrid bicycle is something that would seem to hardly need proving. Yet, in a landscape where the marginal gains of ever-lighter, more complicated, and expensive tech is pushed by the industry every single year, there might be value in reassessing the basic fundamentals that make a bicycle fun to ride. I am not setting out to make a case against road bicycles or modern mountain bicycles. (I think they are also cool.) My aim is to review a product that appears to have everything most people could want in a well-loved long-lasting bicycle, while more expensive and complicated options might offer less satisfaction along with increased cost.

I will try to make a fair assessment, but realistically this might devolve into prematurely swapping out parts, becoming distracted, and continuing to ride my Hoopty as always. I can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jerry and the Shopping Cart Folks

There was some lady and some dude pushing a shopping cart down the C&O Canal towpath. The path is all dirt and rocks. They looked to be about mid-50s and miserable. Their mission was not what they'd predicted. They had camping gear, or what I assume was supposed to be camping gear, and they were full of complaints. I was resting on top of a picnic table, and I could hear the rattle of the cart approaching from a mile away. I was disappointed that I couldn't overhear more of their conversation. I wasn't able to piece much together from the gripes.

When you travel by bicycle, you are invited to experience a reality which is altered. I would argue that it is a better reality, and one far more truthful and interesting than the one that most of us are raised to accept. From what I was able to gather, the couple with the shopping cart had cooked up a mission, gone on TV to harp about something they wanted to prove, and had only that day realized how much it sucks to push a shopping cart on a dirt and gravel path. As it turned out, we ended up camping at the same place, but I didn't ask any questions. The tension between them was obvious, and I concluded that they might want a break from talking about the shopping cart. I was riding with my good friend Jonas for the week, and as luck would have it, we encountered somebody else who was more than willing to talk.

I arrived at the camping spot slightly before Jonas. The day had been a scorcher, and as the sun faded lower in the sky, I picked my way along some small paths to swim and rinse off in the Potomac. As I returned to camp feeling refreshed, I could hear the smug assertions of a stranger, and I knew that Jonas would not mind having some help talking to this guy. We forgot his name, but we refer to him as Jerry. As you make his acquaintance, many questions are raised, but they all ultimately lead to exhaustion and shrugs.

One moment Jerry would seem to be passably rational, and the next moment he would share a blatant fabrication, which for the sake of social expedience, we were forced to pretend to believe. Jerry was also a conspiracy theorist. None of this should have been a surprise when considering his method of travel. I've met this same personality type many times before, but usually there is far more drinking involved, and hallucinogens would not be out of the question. We all share a planet, but not a reality. I am comfortable with this, because I recognize my own perception of reality as somewhat off center. But I have always maintained what could be thought of as a hotline which puts me in touch with various versions of commonly accepted realities, and allows me to communicate comfortably with most sorts of folks. Probably. This has made me feel like a phony without a true and authentic self, but as I've gotten older I've found increasing peace with the universe. I have been lucky to find other humans with an essence that I can connect with. Finding deeper connection is fleeting and rare. I have a lot more to say about this, but that isn't the story I'm telling right now.

Jerry had a huge canvas pack, and he was headed west. He was walking the whole way, and sleeping wherever he ended up as the sun was setting. He had a high opinion of himself. He handed out wisdom and advice from a throne woven of delusions. He was keeping a low profile, because he believed that the government was turning Walmarts into concentration camps for the homeless, and he seemed to believe there was a lot of killing going on. This didn't seem to dampen his spirits, or turn him overly paranoid. Jerry just kept on walking. I saw the bottom of his foot, and it looked like it had been filleted with a knife.

Jerry once had a million dollars, and he gave it all away. That claim was really the frosting on the cake. He said that, and he had about forty pounds of lighters and knives. Jonas offered him some hard gourmet cheese, and he accepted it with learned and appropriate social grace. I didn't dislike Jerry, but after an hour, enough was enough. He is a perfect example of a type of person who I find fascinating, because I can't piece together the variables that make him tick. As dim became dusk, Jerry retired with his pack to sleep closer to the shopping cart couple. Jonas and I set up tents on higher ground. We both had all of the skin on our feet, and our wheels were attached to bicycles, and because of that, we were kings.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Volunteering at the Bicycle Co-Op in Austin

Bicycle co-ops are places full of parts bins. There are enough parts to keep the Right Bicycle going for life. If you are running 8 speed cassettes, friction shifters, and long-wear tires, this is your place. If you have a steel frame, platform pedals, and flat handlebars, you are especially in luck. Bins and milk crates overflow with every conceivable part that you will need to keep the Right Bicycle running. Sometimes the co-ops are reasonably well organized. There will be a drawer for cup-and-cone bottom bracket spindles. Checked and trued wheels will be hanging above your head. It is beautiful when it isn't totally overwhelming. During open shop times the straightforward can give way to surreal.

I like to help people fix bicycles. I enjoy it enough to do it for free sometimes. I have volunteered at a few different co-ops, but it doesn't happen often. I am considering increasing the amount that I'm willing to help. I was in Austin without any pressing matters on my schedule, so I decided to show up at the Yellow Bike Project to see if I could assist. I showed up for two shifts that week, and it was better than anything else I was doing.

I told them I was a mechanic, but since nobody personally knew me, and insane people barge into bicycle co-ops as a matter of course, I was asked to sort tires. I know this is considered by some to be an unskilled task of drudgery, but I could also see vast opportunity for improvements. There was a huge pile to be sorted, and the storage area was already overflowing with every common size. I got to work. There wasn't enough space for everything, so the first objective was to figure out what was unquestionably trash. I put those in a pile for recycling. I started conservatively, so as not to offend anybody, but soon enough it became clear that they would trust my judgement. Cool. A lot of those tires had no business on any bicycle ever again. Simple fact. The tire racks had more tires that did not pass the "should ever be used" test, so the worst offenders were tossed. Tires don't stay in nice rows like books on a shelf. When people take one down, then try to put it back, knobs and friction push the other tires all over the place. After a few hundred rounds of this, there are tires pushed and folded everywhere. I fixed it. For each section, I wrapped my arms through all of the tires, placed them all on the ground, and then replaced them in neat rows to get messed up again. Some of the tires still had tubes in them. Nope - used tubes go over there. In about 40 minutes, I had those tires looking good. Not excellent - but it was an improvement to be proud of. Then I was promoted (by wandering away from the tires) to helping a guy who was there to fix a bicycle.

Some guy in a Yeti hat (coolers, not bikes) was trying to get an old Fuji to roll. This is what happens every day at a bicycle co-op. Ostensibly this is the whole point, but all projects are not created equal, and in spite of conventional logic, some bicycles should be taken to a shop. What looks like a reasonable frame, and appears to be an easy project, often has its tentacles far deeper in a pit of madness than even seems possible at first glance. Parts have already been disassembled, for unclear purposes, and the smallest seemingly insignificant parts have been misplaced, and thus must be replaced from drawers and buckets of similar, but not exactly identical parts, hoarded in the bins and drawers of the co-op. Let's get to work. He needed cones, spacers, and bearings for a rear freewheel hub. I couldn't give it a spin, but it appeared that the wheel was otherwise in good shape. I dunno man... at a bicycle shop, it would be new wheel time. At a co-op, the trend is to mend and make do. In theory, I wholeheartedly support this. But after about 15 minutes, I was ready to roll that wheel under a train.

Stupid Fuji. I didn't like it much anymore. If it was mine, no problem. But in this scenario, I wouldn't have minded watching it go right under a train. Rather than digging in a five gallon bucket of variously-threaded cones and guesswork, using a donor hub would be the expedient move - find the same hub in a huge bin of hubs, and transfer the axle, cones, bearings, and spacers to the hub built into the wheel of the Fuji. It was a Sunshine freewheel hub. There should be a million of them. The bins of hubs contained every conceivable minor hub variation, none of them the exact same thing.

About helping: I should note that it is generally the policy of a co-op to take a "hands off" approach to helping with tools. It is up to the customer(?) to handle all of the tools, and perform all of the repairs using only verbal instruction and miming from the facilitator (me.) However, in practice, that is a difficult rule to adhere to. Sometimes there are fine adjustments to be made. This rule does not factor in people with absolutely no concept of finesse, be it mechanically or as a matter of personality. I was ready to move this project along. Marginal improvements were made over the course of an hour. We fooled around endlessly on a bicycle that still left without a front brake. It was important to get the bicycle to roll, and I suppose stopping it could be figured out on the road. I assume that the bicycle will forever remain in the form of a comprehensive punch list of glaring safety concerns, rendered in steel and tape. I made him promise to address the brake issue, and then I washed my hands with Gojo. I used the remaining time to make chit-chat with a girl in a coonskin cap.

I returned to Open Shop Hours two days later, and had a far more rewarding experience. In order to maximize my usefulness, I decided to get a bicycle ready to sell, so Yellow Bike could make some money. The co-op doesn't exactly strike me as a cash cow, which of course is not the point, but I reasoned that selling a bicycle never hurts, and everybody can use some money for something. I put one of the partially completed project bicycles in a stand, and got to work on tuning it up in a swift and efficient manner. After about ten minutes I got sidetracked by an eleven-year-old with a hub issue at a nearby stand. I spent the following two and a half hours showing him how to fix bicycles. That turned out to be way more fun. If volunteering at a co-op was like that every time, I'd spend a lot more time helping out.

This kid was smart: he didn't have experience fixing bicycles, but he understood all new concepts instantly. He had natural tool intelligence, and was able to visualize basic hands-on physics better than lots of adults I've met. He was curious. Every step of the way, he was eager to learn. He was there with his mom so he could learn how to repair something mechanical. He would be excited to see how anything goes together. Bicycles just happen to be easy to get your hands on. He builds model airplanes at home. So mom took him to Open Shop and they each picked a bicycle to work on. This kid's bicycle was a perfect platform for learning. Every single thing on it needed a little bit of adjustment and help.

I showed him how to fix many things, and some of the repairs might be of practical use for his own bike. We started with overhauling a cassette hub, which is a weird place to begin, since I was later surprised to learn that he had not yet repaired a flat tire. (We did that too.) Truing a wheel is considered a little bit advanced, but I explained everything I knew, and he was able to true the front wheel with the only guidance being my confirmation that he was doing everything exactly correct. We stuck to the "hands off" tool rule, and he did everything himself. A few times, I had to step in to demonstrate the best way to get leverage, but then I undid that step so he could do all the work himself. He nailed the bearing adjustment on the cassette hub, and trued wheels in a stand and on the bicycle itself. I was impressed, and I let him know it. It was cool that I didn't have to dumb anything down. I could speak to him like a peer.

When it was time to clean up the shop, his mom thanked me for spending so much time with her kid, and said she hoped it didn't stop me from what I was working on. Ha! I told her I was having fun, and it was exactly what I was there for. Then I said goodbye to my friend, who I assume will master life by the age of fifteen.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Group Ride to Buda Texas on the Hoopty Bicycle

Group ride. I woke up at 7:30am. The sun had begun its process of illumination, but had not yet begun to warm the earth. I pushed my pile of blankets behind me. Up and over, as I move to a sitting position. I turned over on all fours, and craftily maneuvered my tri-fold mattress into its stacked daytime position. I slipped on my shoes in case of glass or fire ants, slid open the side door of Hotel Sienna, and breathed in the fresh Texas air on a spectacular clear morning.

The goal today was to join a group of cyclists on a ride to a small town to the south. I found the ride on the Bike Austin site, gauged by the description that I could keep the pace, and set my alarm to see. Mornings don't come naturally to me, but as I seek improvements to my life, I would like to consider them more. I broke two eggs into last night's quinoa and lentils, and by the time it was cooked I was fully awake. After breakfast, I unlocked my bicycle. I rode to the path along the Colorado River, stopping at a jobsite porta-john, because I live in a van.

I arrived twenty minutes early, because I can't stand running late to anything, and sitting on the ground bothers me not at all. As I sat outside a large bicycle shop on the sidewalk, I had ample time to watch the dumbness of leaf blowers pushing dust and people waiting in idling cars on a clear day with wonderful weather. I wondered which of these people with an idling Lexus was going to be on the ride. I felt actually relieved that it was none. As the departure time grew near, I saw two people on the opposite side of the parking lot with a clipboard, so I approached. I put on a mask of friendly confidence, and introduced myself with a smile. It was one guy with a road bicycle, and the ride leader was on a recumbent. And then... my bicycle. It looks a lot like a homeless guy bike. If you aren't a bicycle mechanic - and nobody ever is - you cannot detect that there is a rationale to the madness of my machine. It looks like a 40 pound behemoth from a sporting goods store circa the late 90's, with a milk crate not exactly adding credibility. (It is exactly that, but much more.)

"Have you been on a Bike Austin ride before?"

I had been on a different ride the week before, but that ride hadn't been much of a challenge.

"We require everybody to wear a helmet on our rides."

I pointed to the helmet in my crate.

"You have to wear it on your head."

I mimed placing a helmet on my head with one hand. "It's that easy" I said. "I got it."

The guy talking was on a good and reliable but not-flashy Trek road bicycle that was about ten years old. The leader of the ride was on a recumbent. I estimated that although we had never ridden together, and thus they likely assumed that I was going to either hold them up, or fail to hold on, I was probably on the correct ride pace-wise, and a recumbent usually signals that nobody is taking themselves too seriously. A fourth bicycle arrived, and it was clearly much more expensive, and the rider was closer to my age, within five years or so. We had the requisite safety talk, and we were off.

The route began with a long moderate climb. I had ridden the same section of road the day before, and many times last year. It gets a little bit steep, but nothing outrageous, and you can spin right up. The recumbent was going very slow, because... well, it is a recumbent, and the ride leader already foreshadowed that this was in the works. I didn't want to pass and fly ahead in the first mile of the ride, so I was relieved when the guy on the Trek passed and went ahead. I did not want to go off the front at all for the first half of the ride, because I didn't want anyone to think that I thought I was some hotshot, and pulling ahead early would trigger a necessary process of assassination all the way to Buda. On the other hand, I don't like to pretend that I can't climb hills at a faster pace, because doing so takes more energy, and it is also boring. The Trek guy picked a good pace, so I pulled up beside, and we introduced ourselves more properly as we spun up the hill toward south Austin.

On the handful of group rides I participated in while I was in Austin, I never mentioned that I was a bicycle mechanic, and I never mentioned that I had ridden this same exact bicycle coast to coast in 2011. I didn't mention any bicycle touring, or give any smug credentials. I didn't want my new acquaintances to think that I thought I was cool (even though I am), so I decided that I would only bring up those topics if specifically asked, which I never was, because people don't care what you are up to, they only want to talk about themselves. That's ok. Me too. Thus, I blog.

The ride was great. Buda was about 16 miles away, and we rode at a swift pace that made me work to keep up. I sweated and spun in the highest gear to stay with the road bicycles. They pulled ahead on flats, but never gained much distance. I was always able to close the gap whenever the road pointed up. Nobody proved to be the overall fastest, and the recumbent caught up whenever we stopped. On a long hill, I was passed by the expensive bicycle, but it was sapping his strength to do it, so I kept my pace the same. We went over some steep rollers closer to Buda. The road bicycles had gained some distance, so I stood on the pedals and flew up behind the expensive bicycle as he was suffering his way up a climb. I didn't pass, I just geared down and sat there, pretending to be casual as my heart rate shot up. That's what we do. We get our bicycles in a group, and we test each other's limits against our own. On a good ride, we are well matched, and everybody burns some energy and has fun. This was a good ride, and I got some sun.

We got to the rest point in Buda for convenience store refreshments, and the others voiced that they were impressed that I kept up. You're damn right, I thought. Everybody was in high spirits. We all felt good about the workout, and the wind direction was favoring an easy return.

Another thing that's great about my bicycle? If I keep up with the group, I am an absolute beast. If I don't, then I have an excuse.

The ride back to Austin maintained a fast pace for the entire distance. We'd all properly met each other now, so the return leg was that much more fun. For the first part of a ride you tend to keep some power in reserve, but as the destination comes into view, there is no longer a reason to hold back.

Riding bicycles is fun. Group riding can inspire you to push your limits. No need to be macho - there are always faster cyclists than you. The key is to find an enjoyable pace, and share the benefits of cycling with peers. Bicycles can unite you with community. From the point where you don't know which end of the helmet goes forward, to the point where you are standing on the pedals with sweat pouring off your chin - there are others at your pace who want to ride bikes. I recommend finding them. My group went out for tacos after the ride. I felt satisfied on at least a few levels.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pedalling an 80ft Snake with Bike Zoo in Austin TX

If you love bicycles and live your life with an open heart, opportunity will present itself. Sometimes opportunity comes in the form of an 80-foot-long pedal-powered bicycle snake. I stood near some picnic tables in Austin Texas, under the I-35, in a park beside the pedestrian path that circles Lady Bird Lake. Downtown. I was standing alone, about twenty paces from the reefer and beer. I wanted to be social, but it had been less than a week since I decided to stop drinking. I wanted to ride back to my van and hide under my blankets, but I knew that my severe momentary anxiety would melt away once we began to ride. Then there was a welcome distraction. Bicycle Snake to the rescue!

Slowly... a huge rolling sculpture, illuminated by rope lights, curled and slithered to a stop about ten feet from where I stood. I counted six bicycle seats including the captain. The welded structure had pivot points along the length of the frame, allowing it an impressively tight turning radius. The ribs of the snake were made from long strips of corrugated plastic, with a twist midway to add structure and make the curved sides of the snake more realistic. The ends of the corrugated plastic ribs were attached to long sections of bungee rope running the length of the snake. The head of the snake was created by stretching white knit fabric over a frame of bent tubing in the shape of the head of a snake. The eyes of the snake were made from green lens covers from a traffic signal. I didn't know this until later, but the head is also hinged to reveal fangs made from two cow horns. The length of the snake is supported on heavy duty pneumatic wheels and axles like you would find on an industrial hand truck or cart. Each of the five seats behind the captain has a set of pedals which drive a coaster brake hub, which in turn drives the axle. So each snake-driver inputs propulsion power and stopping power independently, and this is communicated verbally when it isn't plainly obvious what to do. The captain yells "Pedal Harder!" "Coasting!" or "Braking!" It is a simple elegant system. Only the captain can steer.

I walked up to one of the snake-drivers once the snake was in park, and he had exited through the ribs. "Nothing to see here" I shrugged, "just a huge light-up pedal-powered snake... business as usual." I was trying to strike up any sort of conversation. I was already far outside my comfort zone just standing there, and I was desperate for positive human interaction of any sort. Before the snake arrived, I was feeling my brain melt down my neck into my stomach and wondering if you could vomit from feeling alone in the world. I was here for the eventual healing power of bicycles, and an incredible and whimsical Bicycle Snake rolled right up beside me, so I thought the right move would be to listen to the universe and say hello. Turns out everybody on the snake was socially awkward, most of all the builder and captain of the snake himself, though if you skip ahead 24 hours, I grew to like him very much. I was in no mental position to radiate positive social vibes, and I wasn't quite sure how to break the ice with the snake-drivers, but I was given a brochure, and I overheard the snake-captain telling somebody that if they emailed him, they could help propel the snake in the upcoming days.

Shortly after this, the social ride began, and my anxiety melted away instantly as I maneuvered in a peloton of goofballs in a swift ride all over Austin. Bicycles are medicine. Bicycling makes your body produce its own natural medicine, and I do not know where I would be in life without bicycles. Probably hiking. Like a fool.

After the ride, I returned to Hotel Sienna, my minivan, and emailed the captain of the snake. The next morning, I received a reply requesting that I text during daylight hours. I complied with this request, and hit paydirt: the Bicycle Snake would be rolling out from a private residence to the north at 6 p.m.

I bicycled early to the start. It began to dawn on me that I had vastly overestimated the demand for pedaling a giant snake. I assumed there would be a waiting list, and even thought there might be a fee of $20 or so for the opportunity to help pilot this incredible work of sculpture. No. They need people to volunteer, sometimes they pay people, and if you think it's easy, think again. I have pedicabbed, and I am no stranger to the loaded touring bicycle, and let me tell you - pedaling an 80 foot steel snake is hard work. I had no idea of the route or plan. I estimated an hour or two of teamwork at an effort somewhat comparable to an out-of-tune beach cruiser. I prepared by eating an avocado and planning to work up a bit of an appetite before dinner. The reality was closer to four hours, with the difficulty sometimes approaching dragging a sled of bricks over a hill. I had an enormous amount of fun for the first two hours. The remaining two hours were a steady decline until I felt like my ghost was leaving my corpse. If you are planning to pedal a sculpture any time soon, bring a Clif Bar at least.

We cruised away from the residential location, and I was immediately having the time of my life. I was in the second to last seat in a giant snake, and I felt like I was part of a team of heroes.

The purpose of the snake ride was to increase awareness that the snake exists, and maybe somehow leverage that public awareness into creating opportunities to make money with the snake. Festivals? Rent out the snake? The profit side of the equation was not exactly ironed out, but it was clear that the first step was to ride the snake in public. As an attention-getting device, I defy anybody to conceive of something more effective than the snake. As far as clear message delivery, put simply, there was none. Thousands of people took photos and video of the snake as we pedaled it around downtown Austin. It was during the SXSW music festival, and the streets and sidewalks were overflowing with attendees who were in the mood to party and get down. There was not a single cellphone camera not trained on the snake. The public seemed extremely aware that a pedal powered snake existed, but as a promotional device the snake did not offer much. Nobody knew to hashtag something, and aside from silliness and whimsy, there was no clear point being broadcast. Sometimes people would shout "What is it???" and in response, the person in front of me would shout "Bike Zoo!" The captain and creator is a talented builder and pilot, but his comfort with promotion, he will freely admit, is not his greatest strength.

After about three hours I wanted to drive that snake off a bridge. My energy had evaporated, my blood sugar was low, and my knee was acting up because I didn't respect proper seat height from the outset. I was bonking out inside a snake while slithering and circling down Congress Ave. I had the Strava app recording our track, mostly because I have a goal to ride at least 100 miles per week. I looked at my phone, and saw that we had been pushing that fucking snake for twenty miles. I was jealous of the pilot, because unlike the rest of us, his chain was driving a three speed hub gear. I thought about killing him. Not really. I just needed tacos - a lot of them and immediately.

Eventually we parked the snake, and even though I could hardly stand up straight, I was mostly still happy to have survived the experience. Our pilot was in high spirits. Everybody loves the Bicycle Snake! Also, he had been shifting that goddamn 3 speed hub the whole time. [Recommendation for snake improvement: smaller chainrings.]

Activities like pedaling the snake are the primary reason I remain excited to be alive. There are infinite possibilities in life. If you live with an open heart and mind, and try to stay above the bullshit and distractions, you might find yourself pedaling a giant snake amidst a sea of cheering revelers with cameras flashing like the paparazzi.

I got back on my own bicycle, which now felt as light as a styrofoam takeout container, and rode directly to the nearest taco truck, where I ordered a survival soda and a plate full of tacos.