Does it compute?

So last year Emma and I made a pretty conscious decision to get serious about biking.  Emma bought a nice new bike.  I bought a nice new used bike.  We began riding on a regular basis, an almost daily basis.  We did the Pedal Pgh metric-century.  We did the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and C&O Towpath to DC.  We biked from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  We put a lot of miles on our bikes, most definitely more miles than we ever had before.

When talking with my family they have been pretty amazed by how much we’ve been riding and the mileage we’ve been putting on.  My mom has suggested on a couple occasions that we should get bike computers so we can keep a full record of all the mileage we are putting on our bikes, so we can say at the end of the year that we did X miles.  It’s a tempting thing.  That number would be kinda fun to know.

It is even more tempting as we prepare for our Pittsburgh to Philadelphia roadtrip.  When you are on a designated trail with clear milemarkers ticking off the miles (like the GAP and C&O), it’s a lot easier to know where you are and to understand your pace and know how much farther you have to go that day.  The route we’ll be taking on this trip is mostly rural highways and roadways that are less likely to have clear milemarkers.  It would be nice to have something that would give us a general inclination of how far we’ve travelled on a particular day.  Very tempting.

But I also feel like I really just like to focus on getting on the bike and riding.  It’s just so nice to just ride if that is the case, or to enjoy the trip from point A to B, without worrying if we’re making good time and hitting our targets.  I don’t want this to be like a job, or to be like a workout.  I’ve enjoyed feeling like I am getting stronger, getting better able to tackle hills or go for longer distances, but I feel like having that little computer spitting numbers at me turns the focus too much on the accounting and not just the joy of riding.

As someone who is definitely a logical, numbers loving sorta guy, that little computer is calling out to me.  But for now I think I need to leave a bit of the rational behind and just enjoy the ride.




That “old dog/new tricks” thing

“I don’t know when I first got this way.
I think that I used to be someone with something to say,
but for the first time in my life, I feel more lonely than anything.”
– Endless Mike & The Beagle Club

One of the reasons that I decided to begin this blog is that over the last few years I feel like i’ve really lost my ability, or maybe just my desire, to speak my mind.  Part of it was just a desire to live by example.  It seemed that everywhere you went there were just too many people yelling about this, that and the other and very few people listening.

And so gradually over the years I think I decided to just try to be a good guy.  And that’s great and all, but sometimes it really does pay to speak your mind.  There are times when it does matter, when it really makes sense to shout out your beliefs, and I think I really found myself unable to really speak up.  On one hand, I just found it hard to put together the words to express myself and on another it just seemed so futile and so I would often find myself just shrinking back into myself.

This also coincides with a general sense of “lack of direction” in my life in recent years.  It’s not that I haven’t been doing things.  It’s not that I haven’t been reading about new things or seeking out new ideas or getting shit done, but I just have a hard time figuring out what it all means. How do I take all that i’ve done for the last 39 years and use that as the launching pad for what could very well be another 39 years on this planet?

In my original post I talk about seeing this stage of my life as an opportunity, a chance to use the resources i’vc collected over the years as a jumping point for something greater.  I feel I need to find my focus to do that.  And I think before I can find my focus, I need to find my voice.  I need to feel a lot less disconnected and a lot less alone.

I went and saw John Porcellino speak over the weekend and he was talking about growing up in the pre-internet days and how finding other people who were doing comics and zines made such an impact on him.  He talked about how finding those people with similar interests made such a big difference to his world view and made him feel not so isolated.  I thought about how kids today (and really anyone of any age) can theoretically go online today and find those virtual communities and how once again, in theory, that should mean that kids today shouldn’t ever feel isolated.  They should be able to find like-minded communities and make those connections, but we know that’s not completely true.  Isolation stills exists.

And I think that’s what i’ve experienced.  The punk rock world that originally made me feel so connected moved itself into the realm of the internet and even though i’ve stayed connected with people, it just doesn’t have that same affect.  And now it is really weird that I am using the internet as a way to try to re-find my voice.  Now that I type that out, it doesn’t make much sense, but there’s probably a lot of shit I do that doesn’t make sense.

There’s an idea in this post, perhaps even several, and i’m not sure that it has gotten adequately expressed.  I hope you’ll be understanding of that.

But for now i’m gonna go make some tea and read the new Cometbus (#55) and maybe play with some camping gear.




Things found on top of hills

Yesterday we drove from Pittsburgh to Morgantown, WV to see Billy Bragg perform.  It was as part of a recording of the Mountain Stage radio show for NPR, so it was a limited set (I think he only played like 7 or 8 songs).  Nonetheless, it was a great show and needless to say I could have watched him for another hour.  He started the set by playing “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key ” really fast compared with the recorded version.    At first I thought he was trying to pull off some Ramones-esque, let’s play all the songs faster than they are recorded, so they could squeeze more songs into their limited timeframe.  However, most of the rest of the songs were slowed down compared with their recorded versions.  Still sounded great.  Still loved them; just something I noted.

Anyhow, we drove down to Morgantown with our bikes, had dinner with one of Emma’s co-workers who lives down in Morgantown and then biked some beautiful bike trails that lead along Deckers Creek and the Monongahela River to get to the show.  It was approximately a five mile trip.  We had been warned that taking the trails back at night was not recommended, so we were going to have to ride through town.  We knew there would be some hill climbing, as we had gone down a big hill to get to the trails originally.  All we had to do was to find Richwood Road and follow it until we came to Darst Street and then we would be back to the car.  So we found Richwood Road and started climbing.

It was a cool night.  Too cool to not have a jacket and gloves on, but once you started climbing, a little too warm to be completely comfortable.  After climbing a bit, we were riding along a ridge and there was a great view of the opposing hillside with houses all lit up and the moon overhead.  It was wonderful.  Then we hit another hill.  It was about 3/4 up that hill that I glanced over and read “Charles Avenue”.  My heart sunk for a moment.  Somewhere along the way, Richwood had turned off and we had missed it.  Here we were likely climbing a hill that we didn’t need to climb.  What the hell?!?

Luckily I had the internet in my pocket and we looked up a map on the phone.  At first, in my state of overheating and heavy breathing, I was having trouble orienting myself and thought we had gotten way off course.  However, after another minute we found out that if we just climbed Charles Avenue the rest of the way of the hill, we would connect with another street that turned into Darst Street.  So we chugged the rest way up the hill and found ourselves at the pinnacle of a great downhill street.

Dark, curvy and incredibly pitched, the road we needed to take lay before us.  Armed only with the smallest headlights on our bikes, we began our descent, hoping we didn’t come upon any bad potholes or other road obstacles…and it was awesome.  Seriously, it was one of the greatest descents I had ever experienced.  After such a pleasant evening of good food and good music capped off with this somewhat bumbling route around town, that hill, both the up and the down, was really the thing that we needed to make the night transcend to that next level.

There’s something about conquering a hill.  Last year after only a couple months of seriously committing to biking on a regular basis, Emma and I did the Metric-Century during Pedal Pittsburgh.  We took on a good number of hills that day, including the hills of Troy Hill and 18th Street all the way up.  That ride took a good bit out of us, but there was a good month of so beyond that day where we both really felt like we could conquer the world.

As we slowly exit winter and move into spring, we’ve begun to venture further and tackle longer distances and bigger hills.  In a few weeks we’ll be riding across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.  Emma expressed concern that we weren’t in good enough shape to make this journey, but I think those hills in West Virginia helped put those concerns behind us.  We might still have to strengthen our legs some and build some lung capacity, but if nothing else, I know we have our heads in the game.  We know what’s at the top of each of those hills.

So much time…

The title of this blog is taken from lyrics that I wrote nearly 20 years ago.  They were originally written while I was in a band called Gasfight.  I revived the lyrics about a decade later for a band called He Taught Me Lies.  It’s weird how these words have followed me.  There’s probably not a lot from my writing in the early 90’s that I would freely share, but this is one of those things that has stuck with me over the years.  Part of the lyrics go:

I walk.  Not for distance, but for depth.
The seemingly endless road which stretches before me, beckons for me…for me to hurry,
but I have time…so  much time.

It was written as a song about place;  about the difference between staying put and growing roots on one hand, and being on the move and getting to experience many different places, things and people on the other.  I come from a stock that are perhaps not very adventurous.  My folks were happy to settle miles from where they grew up and to rarely travel or seek out new things, whether that was places or food or whatever.  Then I got involved in punk rock which seemed to be a culture obsessed in many ways with constantly being on the move, experiencing new things and challenging traditional.  I could see value in both paths and this song was my way to determine a third path for myself.

I’ve spent much of the last couple decades doing just that.  My life is very different than the one my parents imagined for me, but I also don’t think I can be accused of living a generic punk rock existence.  I think i’ve done a good job of balancing those two paths — building roots while also letting myself branch out to experience new things.  As I approach that milemarker of middle age (the big 4-0), I am not confronted with crisis, but reflection and opportunity.

I’m at a point in my life where I am ready to make some big changes, not because I regret what I’ve done or where i’ve ended up, but because I think I still do have “so much time” and it’s not the best use of that time to keep working this same old groove.  And that’s where this blog comes in; this is where I hope to think out loud a little bit about where i’ve been, where i’m going and how i’m gonna get there.

I’m going to try to post something here at least every other day – maybe some writing, maybe an interview, maybe some drawings/photos/etc from my everyday. Some of this will hopefully make its way into a hardcopy zine in the coming months — whether that is a solo venture or the triumphant return of HERE.BE.DRAGONS zine is yet to be determined.

If you wanna follow along with me  a little bit closer, i’ve got a twitter account set up these days at HRDTRVLNQ.