Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Dingleberry Helps Me Dingle Berries

While reading today's edition of the Chicago Tribune I came across a full page add on the back of Section 1. "What kind of bike is that familiar looking guy gallantly looking off page holding?" I wondered. "Hmm...a Seven." Upon closer inspection I discovered that it was Rob Vandermark Founder and President of Seven Cycles touting the wonders of his Blackberry to the world.

"It frees me up." Rob says. I doubt that. Most of these nefarious devices have proven to do quite the opposite ever since the suitcase sized cel phone. As long as that damn thing is on your person, you cannot escape work or wife.

The poor, naive bastard's been brainwashed...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Analog Beast. Digital Sword.

Back in the days when the wind blew harder, cold was colder, and the sun breathed fire, my imagination boiled over with the taste of the livestock poisoned mud of Paris-Roubaix, the wailing winds of the Ronde, and Lombardy's somber rains. This acidic landscape served as the savage backdrop to countless hostile encounters with the phantoms of cycling in worlds far removed from where I existed.

Upon my bike, I was either chasing, or being chased. Punishing, or being punished. Winning, or fighting like mad for a wheel. Epic battles took place in my head. I was combating world renowned beasts such as Kelly, Museeuw, Vanderaerden, and Plankaert. Battles were always a tooth and nail struggle for skin-of-your-teeth supremacy.

Sometimes my foes would escape. I hadn't the heart to fight the angry winds of Fermilab that day. Sometimes I didn't possess enough strength to repel the attack of a 600 meter sprint. The bridge of 355 had grown too tall. Mostly though, I dispatched my nemeses in epic duels of grim fortitude and pure heart. In such cases I would grimace a sly victory scowl to the invisible cameras and throngs of fans.

I owe these cherished analog visions to World Cycling Videos and the voices of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen. The doors that they opened in my mind were an incalculable force that worked upon my impressionable psyche. They were my only real connection with a world that may as well have been a fairy tale in some long forgotten land.

In those days we read about the spring classics in June, the Giro in July, and the Worlds in December. History was passed off as breaking news in dog-eared Velonews and Winning magazines. The immediacy of todays electronic world was merely the realm of science fiction movies and undreamt dreams. Cycling News, CyclingTV, Pez,'s all a madness compared to those information starved days. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't overwhelmed and over stimulated.

I don't chase down phantom breaks or fend off hard charging, imaginary pelotons anymore. I ride because I love to ride. In the end, I suppose that's all one could ask for. However, the motivation of impassioned inspiration to push harder, faster, and farther has withered. Perhaps Peter Pan should kick me square in the nuts. Or, maybe, I've succumbed to the overpowering pervasivness and cheapened currency of information delivered at whim.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The New

The new job (in the cycling industry for life!) and all that come with it are putting the pinch on my blogging. New posts will likely be limited to one a week. I'll try for Mondays...just, not this Monday.

Allez Boonen! Hup, Hup!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ronde Photos

A friend was in Flanders for the Ronde. He took alot of photos for all to see. Let the drooling commence!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mad Props Vol. 12

Bruce Johnson: Lover of people, nature, and Edward Abbey books.
-photo by Ari

Here was a man who fooled everybody that thought he was looney. Everyone from soccer moms, corporate dads, ambulance drivers, police officers, smug cyclists, and the village of Downers Grove, Illinois were victims of a personality that exemplified humility and cradled enlightened individuality. Bruce was both an enigma and simple. Bruce was a paradox.

He could be seen on the hottest days and the coldest nights riding his Novara touring bike pulling a Burley trailer splendidly outfitted with colorful plastic butterflies on springs. He was always in his standard outfit of black t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. He occasionally wore hats too. My favorites were the one with fake boobs on the front, and another that looked as if a duck had impaled his forehead with wings jutting out of both sides.

Other than the hats and usual ensemble, Bruce wore no other articles of clothing. No gloves. No jacket. No pants. And, absolutely no socks. Ever. He had a disease that had swollen his ankles and couldn't comfortably wear shoes or socks. In the early days, we had nicknamed him "Ankle Man", which was perhaps something of a mockery at the time, but came to be a term of endearment.

Bruce often hung out at the Starbucks on Burlington and Main in Downers Grove. This was back when it was a cool place to hang out with good people and well made drinks. He would talk aloud while reading the newspaper sometimes, sighing "Ohh boy...", or "Did you hear about this...?" Some folks would venture into conversation, others would pretend they didn't hear, most would ignore him. It seemed Bruce's appearance and uncommon cordiality would cause those who were uptight or prudish to become uneasy. The kids knew better, though. They hadn't yet succumbed to the veneer of frigid banality and fear of anything improvised.

My most memorable moment with Bruce was in that very Starbucks. I had raced down in Dixon, Illinois and crashed badly, but was well enough to drive home. I hadn't eaten and it was quite hot for a two hour drive home in a car with no air conditioning considering the condition I was in. I stopped off at the Starbucks so I could get a drink as well as clean out my wounds a little better.

As I grabbed for my drink at the counter, I suddenly became dizzy and fell into a heap on the floor. I had fainted. As I came to, it was the beak of a duck that had impaled Bruce's skull that I awoke to. He told me to relax and lay still until the ambulance got there and announced to the small gathering of onlookers "I saved his life."

I remember one of the medics taking me away in the ambulance commenting that Bruce was "crazy". Unfortunately, the village of Downers Grove believed that too. They evicted him from his home where he cared for his schizophrenic sister in-law. The reason they gave was because the grass was perpetually "too long", thus condemning his home. Bruce's claim that it was a "prairie" didn't wash with them. They wanted him out. And with that, out went the both of them.

I'm not sure where his sister in-law went, but Bruce mentioned he might go to northern Wisconsin. Presumably to be where some people were not, and he could sing the University of Wisconsin fight song aloud until his heart was content.

Mad Props, 'ol' Bruce. We hardly knew ya. And, Downers Grove is a lesser city for it.