I haven’t completely abandoned this blog, but have actually started a couple of long posts and just not finished them. Doing okay here – over the past almost year of online absence have worked two jobs, developed a couple of additional interests, coped with family pressures and responsibilities, remained active in my congregation, bicycled far less and consequently gained about 6 – 7 pounds and an inch or two around the waist. Still middle-aged, identifiably male, politically conservative, satisfied with my European heritage, unashamedly and unapologetically Christian.
I’m curious, and I want to know things. Can Southerners exercise their God-given freedoms (some few of which are enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America and Bill of Rights) by publicly speaking up and standing for their heritage? Is such speech inherently racist? If it’s not racist, is it still offensive and wrong? Does having one’s opinion contradicted and does feeling offended cause actual harm to a person or group of people?
On Saturday 18 July 2015, I arranged my ride through the three towns of Alamance County to place me in the courthouse square at Graham in time for the rally organized to protest demands by the local NAACP chapter for the removal of a monument dedicated to the memory of the county’s Confederate soldiers killed in the War Between the States. It’s an old monument, and appears to have been standing there for about a hundred years. Here’s what it looks like:
Here’re two declarations from the monument’s base and visible in the photograph above at right: To commemorate with grateful love the patriotism, valor, and devotion to duty of the brave soldiers of Alamance County, this monument is erected through the efforts of the Graham chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Faithful unto death, they are crowned with immortal glory. Neither statement do I find offensive, racist, white-supremacist. Theologically, as a Christian, I find fault with the latter of the two statements I’ve quoted because it strikes me as unlikely that all of the Confederate war dead of Alamance County were numbered among the elect. The sentiment likely falls into the category of a civil religious statement declaring gratitude and remembrance but makes no salvific claim. A study of civil religion and its expression in the United States as related to the American Civil War might be an interesting and instructive undertaking.
Local police and state troopers had roped-off the four street approaches to the square. People attending the rally left their cars wherever they found parking places. Most of the people attending wore ordinary, casual jeans-type street clothes, ball-caps, sneakers – about what you’d expect most people to wear on a day they’re not at work. I did, however, see a lot of people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with patriotic and other statements generally in favor of First and Second Amendment rights. Some wore camouflage and kepis. A few members of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans wore reproductions of uniforms worn by Confederate soldiers during the War for Southern Independence. Many, many of those in attendance carried, waved, and walked back and forth through the crowd around the base of the monument and courthouse steps carrying versions of the “Stars and Bars (actually, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia),” as the flag is colloquially known by some. I saw two or three men in the crowd wearing flags like capes or, literally, wrapped in them. That struck me as odd. Some of the flags bore in their centers the image of a bearded, cowboy-hat wearing person whose identity I didn’t recognize, but who must have been pretty well known to some – maybe a country music personality?
I showed up on a mutant Jamis Supernova cyclocross bike wearing slightly loud but almost-matching road-cyclist lycra jersey and shorts, helmet, and gloves. Unlike most of those around me, I was appropriately attired and outfitted for the prevailing climactic conditions – hot, humid, thunderstorm threatening. I walked into the crowd pushing my bike up near the monument. I openly photographed the event. No one seemed to react with rudeness to my presence, and, for myself, I calmly observed the goings on and listened to a really well-thought out and interesting speech given by one of the SVC members present on the courthouse steps.
Because I found what the man was saying interesting, I searched online and found a copy of his speech included in the newsletter linked here: http://scvcamp813.org/images/newsletters/201508scv813newsletter.pdf The blurry picture above is of the man giving the speech. I’ve cut and pasted below the newsletter’s text identifying the speaker and reproducing his statement in its entirety, and have taken the great liberty of setting one paragraph in bold print. Read the speech and let me know whether you think it racist or white-supremacist. I thought it pretty reasonable, and as I was leaving the event, getting ready to ride through the rain back to my friend’s house, I saw the man walking to his car and thanked him for his effort.
Below is the Speech given by Northern Piedmont Brigade Commander Mitch Flinchum on Saturday July 18th at The Rally for the Confederate Monument in front of the Graham Courthouse
I am honored and humbled to be able to speak before you at our rally for our Alamance County Con federate monument. I feel that in order to do this properly I need to go back into our history, and to share with you some information that you may not have heard in school. Today I would like to share with you my remarks entitled Duty, Honor, and Country.
These are terms that don’t mean much today. But in generations past, the men that answered the call to arms knew a thing or two about duty to country and about personal reputation and honor. They knew that freedom wasn’t free. It had to be purchased with the price of blood.
In 1776 our forefathers faced off against the most powerful nation on earth, Great Britain, in what must have seemed like a futile quest to earn their freedom. After seven long years of misery and sacrifice, they prevailed, and the Southern colonies contributed greatly to this victory. The war had basically been won by the British, but patriot victories at Cowpens, Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown turned the tide. In the Treaty of Paris which officially ended our war for independence, the British crown recognized each former colony as a free and independent nation. This was the beginning of our basis of republican government and the formation of the United States of America.
The fledgling states were small and weak by international standards. They were rich in land and raw materials, but short on men, capital, and manufacturing capacity. The only real protection they had from any number of powerful European nations was the vast Atlantic Ocean. Our forefathers knew that the former colonies had to band together much as they had during the war in order to insure the permanence of their hard-won freedoms. In order to insure that they could work together for common goals such as protection from foreign enemies and the promotion of international trade, a general or federal government was formed under the charter of a constitution. This constitution ceded some powers to the general government and gave it the power to act as an agent on the behalf of the states. The powers, obligations, and duties ceded to the general government were specific and limited, and there was no misunderstanding that true power and sovereignty remained vested with the states. Southerners understood this for Southern statesmen had contributed a great deal to the writing of the new constitution. North Carolina in particular was one of the last states to ratify the constitution, and she would only do so once the Bill of Rights had been added. Of particular note is the Tenth Amendment which spells out that all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government are retained by the states or by the people.
I could say much on the question of secession. It is my belief that if my ancestors were wrong in 1861 then my ancestors were wrong in 1776. The founders recognized that if secession was specifically not al-lowed under the constitution then the states would not ratify it. In fact, several states specifically stated that their right to secede was retained in their ratification documents. Secession had been threatened by different states many times before and it was thought of as the last defense of a state against federal overreach. It was recognized by most statesmen and constitutional scholars as a given right, up until 1861. As Walter Williams stated in his recent article, upon noting that constitutional amendments were offered in early 1861 prohibiting secession, why should these have been necessary if secession was unconstitutional?
Also consider what Chief Justice Salmon Chase said on the question of bringing Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders to trial for treason:
“If you bring these [Confederate] leaders to trial it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution secession is not rebellion. Lincoln wanted Davis to escape, and he was right. His capture was a mistake. His trial will be a greater one.” Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, July 1867
By 1860 it became clear to many states of the deep South that they were no longer represented by the general government. Since 1789 the general government had grown such in size and scope that it had over-stepped its constitutional mandate and usurped many powers not specifically granted it by the constitution.
Weary of serious philosophical differences on the issues of tariffs, the transcontinental railroad, the homestead acts, fishing bounties, coastwise shipping, the issue of slavery, and the rise of power of the Republican party, many in the South began to see that existence on an equal footing together with the powerful industrial interests of the North was becoming almost impossible. After the elections of 1860, which saw Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln win the presidency even though he lost every single Southern state, the Deep South states felt that they must leave the union in order to have any control of their political destiny.
It was the desire of the Southern states to leave the union peaceably. The new Confederate government sent a peace envoy to Washington in order to discuss such things as the assumption of their share of the federal debt and the fair consideration for former federal property, such as defensive forts. But president Lincoln refused to meet with the peace commission to discuss these items. Unknown to them at the time, the federal government was making a plan to provoke the south into war.
It is here that I do want to speak on the institution of slavery. I do not think there is anyone alive that thinks this was not a brutal institution. There is certainly no one that would ever praise it or wish for it to return. But what I want people to realize is that this institution had been commonly accepted in the world. We did not start it. It had been practiced here under the British flag since 1619. It had been practiced under the federal flag since 1776. If slavery was THE issue of the war, then why did the north propose the Corwin amendment, which would have forever guaranteed slavery in the states that practiced it, in order to entice the seceded states back into the union? If slavery was THE issue of the war then why weren’t all slaves in the north freed before the war was over? If slavery was THE issue of the war, then why was the Crittendon Resolution passed by both houses of congress which stated that the war was being waged to reunite the un-ion, and when that end was accomplished hostilities would cease? Lincoln had repeatedly said that he had no right or desire to interfere in the institution of slavery. He also said that he would do what he had to regarding it in order to save the union. Slavery was only introduced as an issue of the war in order to keep France and England from recognizing the Confederate States as a nation. It was political expediency, and nothing more.
After leaving the union, one of the first orders of business for the fledgling Confederate government was to drastically lower the tariff rate for international trade in Southern ports (the rate was about ten percent versus the U.S. average rate of forty-one percent). Faced with the massive loss of revenue and trade to Southern ports, the Northern industrial interests demanded that Lincoln take action. Lincoln even admitted that he could not let the South go because the North could not do without the government revenue. Thus one can see that the issue of greed, and not slavery, was the real cause of the conflict of 1861-1865.
Unwilling to back down in the face of a determined federal effort to reinforce Fort Sumter, the Confederate forces did fire the first shot of the war. The truth is that both sides knew that a confrontation over the possession of this fort would likely result in war. But it is not always true that he who uses force first is to blame, but he that makes the use of force necessary. In fact Fort Sumter was South Carolina property, and the North had no claim to it. It had never been completed or garrisoned and the federal troops had taken it under cover of night when there was an armistice in place between SC and the federals. This was actually an act of war. Another fact is that Lincoln knew the act of resupplying the fort (with a force large enough to invade Charleston by the way) would draw the Southerners into blocking the action and give him his moral high ground to go to war.
Finally given the excuse to retaliate, Lincoln called for the remaining states in the union to supply 75,000 troops to crush the “rebellion.” Four Southern border states, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, that had previously chosen to remain in the union, promptly joined the Confederacy rather than provide troops to make war on their brethren. When asked to provide 2,000 troops to march into South Carolina, NC Governor John W. Ellis replied “Your dis-patch is received, and if genuine which its extraordinary character leads one to doubt, I have to say in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the Administration for the purposes of subjugating the States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurpation of power. I can be no part to this wicked violation of the laws of the Country and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.” North Carolina was faced with the possibility that she would be attacked by the very government that she had been a part of forming, so after twice declining to call a secession convention, Lincoln’s call for troops pushed North Carolina away.
Our state supplied more men and materials to the war effort than any other state. Having 1/9 the population of the entire confederacy, she supplied 1/6 of her troop strength, and bore ¼ of her losses. Over 125,000 of her sons marched to war and over 40,000 never returned. But our TarHeel Boys were unmatched in the field. “First at Bethel, Farthest to the Front at Gettysburg and at Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox” was touted and emblazoned on the Confederate Me-morial at the Capitol in Raleigh.
Facing overwhelming odds against an enemy possessing every advantage in manpower, manufacturing capacity, and monetary wealth, the men of the South fought bravely for four long devastating years. Finally the South was crushed by the invading army that was willing to win at any cost, including the making of total war against a civilian population. The court historians will tell you much about the noble aims of the federal soldiers, but they will tell you little of the murder, rape, arson, theft, plunder, and destruction of civilian property. The fact is, the only way they could win their war was by making total war on civilians. That sounds very noble.
We remember the sacrifice of the men of Alamance County, the State of North Carolina, and the entire southland that answered the call of their country to arms in the struggle for Southern independence in the great war of 1861 to 1865, and gave their lives in that conflict.
We come here today to pay homage to these men; to recognize the strength of their character; to offer the thanks of a grateful nation for their service. We remember a time when the words “duty, honor, and country” really meant something and were not just words. We remember that these valiant men did not die in vain, even though their cause was eventually lost, succumbing to an overwhelming enemy that would have victory at any cost. We praise these men, who fought and died honorably, on fields purchased with their patriot blood, all over the South and in northern prison camps like Elmira, New York, Point Lookout, Maryland, Camp Douglas, Illinois, and many others.
Why honor these men? These men fought for their families, community, state, and country, willing to protect hearth and home with their blood and treasure. They were willing to give their all for honor and principle. They were patriots, certainly not traitors. After the war the question of state’s rights was put to rest, decided by the sword. But might does not always make right. We honor these men who rest in the earth because no one is left to speak for them. As sons of Confederate soldiers we take up the charge left with us by General Steven Dill Lee in 1896 to protect the Confederate soldier’s good name and to champion the cause for which he fought. Those of us from Southern heritage know the truth and strive to see that it is told. Consider what one man saw in the future “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be im-pressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.” — Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864, writing on what would happen if the Confederacy were to be defeated.” The victor of a war not only gets the spoils, he also gets to write the history. Our purpose is to see that our history is told correctly, without shame, so that our children can be proud of their heritage and can know that our ancestors did not shed their blood in vain.
Although we can never thank them enough for their sacrifice, we can make sure that they are not forgotten. That’s what a memorial is; something that insures remembrance. We remember the valiant Southern soldier, the patriot that marched off to war to defend his home and family against an invading army. There are many that would try to bring politics into the reasons they fought. Today we seek no political controversy. Today we only wish to say to our fallen brethren “Sleep on Brothers and take your well-earned rest. Know that we will not forget the price you paid. Know that we know all too well how high was that cost. Know that you are honored among men. Know that we will never forget.
Based on the law of the United States, Confederate Veterans are to be treated as veterans of the United States. By Public Law 85-425, May 23, 1958 (H.R. 358) 72 Statute 133 states – “(3) (e) for the purpose of this section, and section 433, the term ‘veteran’ includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the term ‘active, military or naval service’ includes active service in such forces.” As a result of this law the last surviving Confederate Veteran received a U.S. Military pension until his death in 1959, and from that day until present, descendants of Confederate veterans have been able to receive military monuments to place on graves from the Veteran’s Administration for their ancestors. A Confederate Veteran should therefore be treated with the same honor and dignity of any other American veteran. If you tear down this monument you are destroying a piece of history and a place that honors those “American” Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
I’d like to offer you a quote from the Bible. Proverbs 21:28 Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set. People need to remember why memorials were placed in the first place. Why were the events they commemorate important?
This monument was not erected as a symbol of hate, or for the glory of the confederacy. It was erected as a symbol of love. Love for the fathers, the sons, the husbands, and the brothers that never came home. It was not done by the government, but the money for it was raised by private donations. It is often said to us as Southerners “that war was over 150 years ago, you lost, get over it.” I would like to say to those that oppose us in honoring our ancestors that I have never owned a slave, and no one alive today has ever been one. You cannot judge nineteenth century people by twenty-first century standards. No one today wishes to see a return of that institution and no one believes it was a good thing. I would say that it has been over 150 years since anyone has been a slave in the U.S. and while we can’t change that ugly past, we can only hope to be a better society in the future and maybe it is high time that we all should get past that. Who gets to decide what history needs to be erased? What is divisive, derogatory, bigoted, or racist? What happens when something you love gets taken away? Where do we draw the line?
I would worry more about what is in the hearts of the people I see around me every day. People can do harm, but that statue of marble and granite cannot. Do you feel threatened by people, or by symbols? If I felt threatened by people in this community, then I would not want to live here. Symbols cannot harm you, and if people did not erect them for the purpose of intimidation, then what is the reason for removal other than a general purge of past culture? Before last month, there had been no controversy over this statue. Strife is being sewn where there was none, and there is no need for this. It really is like the novel 1984 where items from our history are being thrown down the memory hole to erase who we are as a people.
I will leave you with this quote from Robert Lewis Dabney, a chief of staff to Stonewall Jackson. “Sirs, you have no reason to be ashamed of your Confederate ancestors, make sure they have no reason to be ashamed of you.”
That’s a good word.
So, in answer to the questions I asked at the top of this post: 1) Yes; 2) No; 3) No; 4) No. I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post discussing culture.
In middle of last month (July 2015), because Americans are free to travel at will within the country by car and I wanted to visit my friend, Eric, I took a bike with me and drove to Alamance County, North Carolina. He’s been out this way to visit with us several times over the past few years, so I thought it might be a good time and simple neighborliness to pay him a visit at home. You may remember him from my earlier posts about swapping my Pouch E68 kayak for a Razesa road bicycle, and my posts about going back to Asheville to sell my Pionier 450S kayak – Return to Asheville Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Eric and I met in the 1990’s, when we were both attending seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, and were housed on the same dormitory floor. His room was at the top of the stairs and was a natural meeting place for the floor’s residence. Eric was sort of the community social director. We became friends, and some years later, Eric served as best man at my wedding; he is my son’s godfather and probably my closest friend.
Garmin Confusion at Asheville
The drive to Asheville was pretty uneventful I-40 through Knoxville and then follow the signs and drive up the winding, mountain road. As I ascended the mountains nearer Asheville I saw river outfitters’ school buses carrying rafts on top and crowded with tourists within. I listened to the Minor Prophets on the car’s CD player while driving because I’ve been studying Nahum to preach through the book, and all of the Minor Prophets in order and context convey a message I’m trying to discern.
I’m down to one pair of bib-shorts for cycling and my old Castelli jersey is showing signs of wear – threads coming loose, zipper-pull broken off – generally looking worn-out enough to replace. On my way to Eric’s house, I planned to stop for lunch (I brought a couple of sandwiches with me in the car) and buy a jersey and bibshorts at Hearn’s Cycling & Fitness downtown Asheville. I remembered that odd used bike shop from my previous visits as a friendly place, and thought it would be cool to have a Hearn’s bike jersey.
At Asheville, Garmin GPS – I used “Voice Command’s” Find Place feature – routed me to an address on Broadway that has no bike shop. I tried to remember the location of Hearn’s from my several walks through the downtown area, but consistently failed on my own to find the bike shop. I did drive past all the places I’d walked past or eaten at or window-shopped with on my two prior visits to the city.
Without any difficulty, though, I found the Four Points Hotel, where I stayed during my first visit to Asheville. Helpful hotel desk staff found for me the correct address for Hearn’s, 28 Asheland Ave. Garmin, supplied with the correct address, got me there without difficulty.
The vibe at Hearn’s was completely different than it was at the time of my first visit to Asheville. I had the impression that the grownups had gone off and left the store in charge of an indifferent and underage staff that knew little about cycling. Or, rather, knew something about cycling related to their own use of bicycles, but had little or no idea how to communicate that effectively to customers in a friendly, welcoming, and productive way. I did buy a set of cleats for my old SPD shoes to try out with the old SPD pedals I bought used at Stepford a couple of months ago. Next time I need a bike shop at Asheville, though, I’ll look elsewhere.
Before leaving Stepford, I googled cycling routes in Alamance County, North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has detailed information in the form of maps and brochures by county and region. Here are the county maps: http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/mappubs/bikemaps/ The State of Tennessee offers nothing remotely close to the wealth of data North Carolina provides to interested cyclists. The cycling maps I’ve reproduced here were taken from this brochure: http://dotw-xfer01.dot.state.nc.us/gisdot/DOTBikeMaps/Alamance/alamance.pdf In addition to the NCTDOT website, googling this morning the phrase “bicycling alamance county nc” returned this link, as well: http://burlingtonnc.gov/index.aspx?NID=1499 . Burlington’s one of the three bigger towns of Alamance County. The other two are Graham, the county seat, and Gibsonville.
Heat and humidity in Alamance County during mid-July were oppressive. Daily thunderstorms provided some relief from climactic conditions and opportunities to practice rain-riding skills.
Eric lives in a 660 square foot two bedroom, one bathroom, condominium on the good side of one the three Alamance County municipalities that all run together to form a more or less seamless small urban or large town area. The condo, as these owned apartments are colloquially known, is part of a development built in the 1940s that resembles housing built for married officers during World War II. Brick exteriors, well-built interiors with hardwood floors throughout, but tiny compared to what we’re used to nowadays. Our expectations of comfort and personal space have changed a lot during the past 75 years.
Eric’s condominium reminded me a lot of his old dormitory room from seminary, only quite a bit larger. Books everywhere, as well as photos, pictures, wall hangings. Actually, a pretty comfortable small home. Eric filled me in on the goings on in his neighborhood; he seems very well informed and seems to know his immediate neighbors pretty well.
I arrived in the late afternoon Thursday, and got my travel gear moved into the spare bedroom, where I camped out with an inflatable mattress and a sleeping bag. I parked the bike in the living room, against a small couch Eric had inherited from a deceased aunt or uncle. We spent some time catching up, and then Eric gave me a driving tour that included a 20+ mile route he used to ride pretty regularly before he swapped me his old roadbike for my old kayak.
For this trip, I took the Jamis Supernova rain bike because stormy weather had been predicted by www.noaa.gov; turns out I made the right choice. I got caught in rain and thunderstorms every ride. The Supernova, equipped with Clement X’Plor USH tires handled slick, wet conditions in town and in the country without the slightest problem. I visited Elon Bike Shop initially in search of cycling togs, but also out of tourist-like curiosity; while there, I did buy a bell and some wheels.
My visit lasted five days and four nights. I rode every day, even the day I arrived, if I recall correctly, except the Monday I left. My rides took me through Graham, Burlington, and Gibsonville – the Troi Villes referenced in the title line, above. I also rode through Elon (and visited the university there as well as the famed Elon Bike Shop) and Ossipee near which municipality I crossed the Haw River on my way to and from Berea Christian Church’s building (built in 1903) – where on a couple of rides, I rested and drank Gatorade, ate a snack, and snapped a few pictures.
During my rides I saw fields of cultivated tobacco growing green and healthy-looking, as well as soybeans and corn in abundance. The crops in Alamance County looked better than most of what I’d seen earlier in the summer while riding through East Central Indiana. While riding I came upon a couple of derelict houses. One appears to have been built of cinderblocks stamped with a starfish design, and intended to resemble houses built over a century ago. The other house appears to date from the 19th Century and could at this point provide shelter only for the birds of the sky and the small, wild animals of the fields and hedges. The chimney is still standing, but it appears the section of house in back where the kitchen was probably located has long since returned to the ground. After I rode past the broken house, I wondered about the family or families that’d lived there. Were they happy? Did things turn out well for them?
On Friday, Eric and I visited his family’s lakeside dacha at a private hunting and fishing club. I saw an albino deer stuffed and displayed in a glass case at a gas station bait shop on the way out to the lake.
We grilled out (chicken soaked in a marinade that defies adequate description) and spent most of a lazy day reading (me), fishing (Eric) and talking. I’d gone for a ride in the morning and was pretty worn out by the time we got to the lake. Because I was pretty spent, I didn’t take my old companion, the Pouch E68 folding kayak Campsis Radicans, for a paddle around the lake. Still, it was good to see the old boat again, and to remember how ill its badly fitting hullskin made me (which is why I was so willing it to swap the kayak for old roadbike). A family of ducks swam over to the dock and disruptively demanded to be fed. Eric gave them some dog food he’d gotten from somewhere, and the ducks were satisfied for a while.
On Saturday, 18 July, my grand tour took me on a circuit that included the county seat, Graham, where I attended a rally in support of a monument in remembrance of the Confederate soldiers of Alamance County who gave their lives during the the American Civil War. I listened to an informative and well-reasoned speech made by a member of the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans camp. In a separate post, I’ll talk more about the rally, but here let me say that if 20 years ago you’d told me I’d applaud and express hearty agreement with the statements made from a man wearing a Confederate uniform in support of Southern heritage and values, I’d have said you were crazy. But I would have been wrong. After the speech ended, a thunderstorm broke and rain poured down on me as I rode on.
The town of Gibsonville is memorable for its model railroad hobbyist store, Bobby’s World of Trains, an outdoor model railroad, a Saturday market on the green, and an ice-cream shop. I visited the hobby shop where I snapped some pictures of its train-table. If you have any interest in electric model trains or railroading, you should pay this place a visit. The owner and customers seemed friendly and knowledgeable. They’d even heard of Tennessee’s Chapel Hill Ghost Light, a phenomenon I saw many years ago. Bobby’s World of Trains is located at: 113 Lewis Street, Gibsonville, NC 27249 Telephone: (336) 449-7565.
I visited Six Scoops ice-cream shop and ordered two scoops in a cup getting something closer to two pounds of ice-cream made on site. Six Scoops has a Facebook page here. I got lost on the way out to find a very old Lutheran church building, but found my way back to the familiar course I’d been riding since my arrival. One of my ancestors, William Jenkins, was a Lutheran pastor who made his way to Bedford County, Tennessee, from North Carolina.
On Sunday morning, I attended a worship service with the church to which Eric belongs – a mega-church in nearby Greensboro called Westover Church. I enjoyed the service and the outgoing friendliness of the diverse, upscale congregation. This came as a great surprise to me, given my tendency to disparage big, showy, institutional Christianity. On reflection, though, it seems that should not have come as a surprise – if a large congregation did not offer a pleasant experience, it probably would not long remain a large congregation. In the afternoon, I again rode a circuit that included Berea Christian Church and Gibsonville. In the evening, I worshiped with a Reformed congregation – Beacon Baptist Church near the Burlington airport. If I’m able to visit Eric again next year, I plan to again attend that congregation’s worship service. Again, on reflection, it seems to me that Westboro Church presents as informal, but its organization is doubtless highly structured and somewhat formal in its operation. Beacon Baptist Church presents as formal, but I had a sense that it may be less so in its actual operation.
A Long Drive Home
The drive home was uneventful – I stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the Tennessee side of the mountains for lunch. Getting back to my own county, I encountered heavy rain. Rain bothers me less than it used to.
During my visit to Alamance County, North Carolina, in the middle of last month (July 2015), I spent a couple of hours at Elon Bike Shop. My friend, Eric, had told me about Elon Bike Shop previously – a small, one-man enterprise that selling used bikes out of an older brick roadside store. Not far from the college (actually a university), Eric said, so there’s likely a whole new crop of buyers each Fall and Spring semester.
Mike, the shop’s owner, does not sell cycling togs, but he is a dealer of new KHS bicycles and carries an impressive array of medium to excellent quality used bikes. He reports he has a degree in mechanical engineering and that his previous employment was as a designer and builder of machines used to make tools, if memory serves. Work that, he said, required precision measured in microns. Mike said he started the shop as a sideline to his regular employment because he enjoys working on and riding bicycles. Originally, he said, the plan was to build frames in the shop’s basement, but that basement is full of bikes. Oh yeah, Mike LOVES having his picture taken, as you can see from the photo below.
Like Mike O’Neil (owner of Greenway 500 Bike Shop near Muncie, Indiana), Mike at Elon prefers to ride Campagnolo. Regarding top end groupsets, though, he opined that “SunRace has really stepped up its game” and is producing a quality to groupset to rival the best Shimano has to offer, at a fraction of the price. His personal bike is is a Litespeed frame built up with Campagnolo Record components. He’s got some nice, older Italian bikes on his wall of honor (back wall on the right side of the store as you walk in). Some good bikes on the other walls and the floor, too.
Also, like most of the bike shops I’ve been back to more than once, Mike has fostered a sense of local cycling community. During my two visits to the shop, I observed him helping new customers with questions related to nearly disposable kids’ bikes, bikes in boxes, as well as interact with some of his regular customers – a local policeman and a couple of guys from a nearby biological specimen company. Friendly, easy-going, bargain priced bikes, good advice, and an air-conditioned store.
Mike does sell bike accessories, and I bought my son a bell for his Trek Jet 20 to replace the Lightning McQueen bell that finally broke and which came packaged with his first bike helmet (I think he was three, then). I also bought the boy a set of Mavic 650 wheels with decent hubs for when he’s older.
Elon Bike Shop is located at: 2437 W Webb Ave, Burlington, NC 27217 Telephone: (336) 584-5002
There’s a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ElonBikeShop/207623399287639
Turns out my new bike’s frame probably isn’t made of Columbus Starship tubing, according to the helpful inside sales representative at Orbea USA. He thinks it is probably made from Columbus XLR8R tubing. That said, the frame lacks the usual decal or badge identifying the tubing’s manufacturer and type. Both, according to the Columbus website, are at the high end of their various aluminum product lines.
On a group ride yesterday (I was able to ride all the hills I had to walk last weekend) the Orbea’s front derailleur cable delaminated and burst through its housing. Bummer and an expense for me. Today I drove over to Woody’s Bike Shop where Brian changed out all the bike’s cables and re-wrapped the bars in a blinding yellow that vibrates in harmony with that of the frame’s paint scheme. I saved a hundred dollars by opting for ordinary, as opposed to Campagnolo cables and housing. Also reduced the bar’s height by two spacers for better fit. The visit with Woody and Brian was educational, too, and easily worth the longish drive.
I rode about 28 miles this afternoon, and the last five or so miles, the seat provided a level of discomfort usually experienced only at about the 60 mile mark. Either I’ll get used to the seat (which to the good does not numb my external genitalia), or I’ll replace it with another that will hopefully fit better. Nice day for a ride, though.
I took the Orbea out yesterday afternoon and rode a few small, local hills in the vicinity of my neighborhood. The ride was fairly easy and just under 20 miles. Magellan Cyclo 550 reports my average speed was 15.8 mph and my fastest 31.2. Riding along suburban and country roads, one of my eyes is weeping due, I think, to allergies. More salt water mixing with my sweat and blown back behind me like the windshield of an automobile spritzed by its hood-mounted washers seen from behind while under way. So much sweat that no one who sees me will wonder, “Why is he crying? If he feels that way about it, he shouldn’t be riding.”
When I started riding roadbikes, I pedaled the Razesa mostly on the small front chainring – about 42 teeth, I think, not 39. Slowly and heavily I lumbered when riding on the big front ring. So much so, that I only rarely tried it except when barreling downhill.
Since getting the Orbea, the cranset of which is not compact at 53/39, I’ve made it my goal to ride only the big chainring except during steeper climbs. A young woman of my acquaintance has a blog entitled something like “Life on the Big Chainring.” She and her husband race their bikes and are way more serious about cycling than I am, but that title is what inspired me to make the decision to adapt to my bike’s gearing and not worry about trying to find a Campagnolo Record 10-speed compact crank. The recreational budget savings and hopefully strength and endurance gains I make should be worth whatever pain I endure to realize them.
As for making use of what I’ve got – I’ve taken the MKS Lambda pedals (remember, they’re the ones that resemble Gimli’s axe-head from the Lord of the Rings films) off the Supernova and put them on the Starship. And what about these science-fiction and space phenomenon bike names, anyway?
The Orbea came with a set of Shimano SPD pedals, and I’d already got an even older pair of SPD pedals from odds-and-ends sale in the neighborhood. While at Asheville, North Carolina, middle of last month, I bought a set of cleats thinking I’d try out those older pedals with my ancient Shimano SPD cycling shoes. I threw away the shoes’ hardware with the box long ago, never intending to clip-in. What I seem to have thrown away in addition to the cleats that came with the shoes were the cleat nuts that go inside the shoe, under the insole. So, I have ordered some from Amazon.
During yesterday’s ride, I found I was able to ride up hills without too much difficulty and without having to resort to the bailout cog (26, 29 teeth – which is why the deraileur cage is on the long side, I think). Also, increased pedaling effort seems to result in forward motion more easily than when riding either the Miyata 610 or the Jamis Supernova. Maybe it is that while riding the Starship, I am more willing to make a greater effort when pedaling? Possibly. As the chart at the top of the post indicates, though, I’m not a very fast cyclist on flats or hills.
Some sad news is that I’ll have to sell my Bridgestone MB4 and very likely the Miyata 610 to make room in the garage for my more modern bicycles and to a small extent offset their cost.
The Miyata 610 failed me by banging down into the smallest cog at the rear hub and failing to derail the chain at the front ring. I walked up a hill I could have ridden in a reasonable gear. The effort I expended to get the bike rolling again to get it shifted caused my heart to literally beat painfully against my ribcage. That can’t be healthy. When I got home after what should have been an easy 20-miler, I began to search Craigslist for a solution.
What I found was the bike I wanted to buy last year, listed at about half of last year’s asking price. I’d thought the bike had sold because its previous listing had been removed, and I’d felt pretty sad about having had to settle for a lesser bike and get an upright freezer instead of an old superbike. Even so, I made the right decision last year and both the freezer and the Jamis Supernova have provided better than expected service in their respective spheres of, er, serviceability.
So, there it was. I exchanged emails with the seller who reported she’d tried to email me about the drop in price, but her communications had bounced back to her. My email account’s provider has been having some odd problems over the past few weeks. It’s probably bounced back notifications informing me I’ve won motorcycles and diesel pickup trucks, as well. Still, the bike’s the thing. Yesterday evening, I drove over to the seller’s house, near Nashville, looked the bike over, took it for a spin on a greenway path, and made the purchase.
I’ve only ridden two other bikes equipped with Campagnolo components – my friend Adrian’s 1987 Bianchi Trofeo, and the Cannondale R900 MOAB’s been trying to sell for the past year and a half – it’s got Veloce and some Cannondale parts. The Trofeo’s got mostly Campagnolo, but downtube friction shifts. The Orbea has got Campagnolo Record bottom bracket, headset, crankset, brakes, shifters, front and rear deraileurs. The wheels and hubs are Bontrager, but spin well. Fork’s Bontrager HCM – I think a straight-bladed cyclocross fork. Stem and handlebars are Bontrager, as well. The saddle, also Bontrager, is a nad-buster – hopefully, I’ll replace that soon.
Today, I rode the Orbea around the neighborhoods here – about 13 miles – just to get a feel for the bike. As noted, I found the saddle less than satisfactory. The Campagnolo drivetrain seems a little more clickety than does the Supernova’s Dura-Ace and SRAM mix. I rode the Orbea on the 53-tooth big ring without much trouble. I think the large cog at the rear hub has about 29 teeth, which is helpful.
The bar-tape, which reminds me of the steering wheel wrap my parents had on their cars during the 1970s, is probably real leather. And it’s degrading – as evidenced by the dark tan particles adhering to my cycling gloves and the black patches on the bars where the leathery shininess has worn off. As for the bar, I can ride the drops and the hooks comfortably and still able to reach the brakes and shift-levers. And at 42 cm, they’re wide enough for me.
It’s a pretty bike – the only jarringly off-kilter thing about it is the Bontrager bottle cage that’s off-center. And only one bottle cage; why only one? Here’re some of the picture I took today: