A Short Trip Up the Elk River


I’d planned to bring our canoe to Tennessee after our summer trip to the farm, but reckoned the 18’ aluminum Grumman behemoth would not fit on the wagon’s roof racks with my bike on the hitch-rack at the tailgate.  The end of the boat would conk the bike resulting in a loss of the bike’s ride-ability and aesthetics.  So, I figured I’d drive up and get the canoe on a quick weekend trip.  But in July, when my wife’s parents came to visit for a week, they brought the Grumman with them.

A couple of weeks later, my friend, Adrian, and I took the canoe for a short paddle up the Elk River from Prairie Plains bridge to the point where the river became too shallow to paddle it upstream any further.   It’d been well over a year since I’d gone paddling, and I’m not sure Adrian had ever paddled a canoe.  We took lunches, bug spray, and water with us, setting off on a Saturday morning in August.

Cyclemeter's trip webpage screengrab

Cyclemeter’s trip webpage screengrab

We saw no one else on the river, but did hear gunfire from a nearby shooting club.  Paddling a canoe is more tiring than paddling a kayak, but they’re different types of boats for different purposes.  We took a sixty year-old paddle, a fairly new lightweight paddle of reasonable quality, and a really long, double-bladed Klepper paddle.  We stopped for lunch at a riverside pavilion at the edge of a farmer’s beanfield, then paddled a little farther upstream before heading back.






Catlike Kompact’O Follow-Up Review


Not only have my cycling gloves failed, but my helmet has also failed, and in the same relatively short period of time.  My helmet’s retention system’s adjustment wheel will not adjust anything, the screws that hold it in place have rusted, and the helmet’s matte black finish has developed spider-weblike accretions that originally looked to me like some kind of fungus.  I tried to clean them off with water and a cloth, with not much success.  I resorted to scraping the stuff off, and that sort of worked.  But instead of a fungus, I now think, the result of the matte finish layer reacting to the extremes of heat, humidity, rain, and so forth to which I routinely subject it.  I think the finish layer is ‘drawing up’ and away from the helmet’s shell, and where it draws up or folds upward and away from the shell, it creases, and those creased ridges look white.  I bought the helmet back in late June, I think, so it seems a bit new for this kind of failure.  My initial review of the helmet can be found here.


Last week, I contacted Bike Tires Direct, the Portland, Oregon, based online retailer from which I bought the helmet, and they sent me a replacement that arrived by last Friday along with a prepaid mailer to send the defective helmet back to them.  I went by the UPS store yesterday to get that done, and cussword if it wasn’t a U.S. Postal Service mailer they sent me.  The helmet arrived UPS, thus my understandable confusion.  I’ll get that mailed back today.


I’m not totally sure how I feel about wearing an all-white or mostly all-white helmet, but it does increase visibility and my son thinks it’s cool-looking.  Fit’s about the same as the black helmet, but I think the shiny finish will be less likely to come to grief in the space of three months in normal riding conditions.  I could be wrong, though.  Winter’s coming.

Kucharik Leather Tan Knit Back Cycling Glove


Back in late June of this year (2014) I needed to replace a pair of Airius Retro Mesh half-finger gloves I’d bought from an Amazon vendor in April 2013.  The Airius gloves had got to the point where there was little point in continuing to wear them, but at the less-than-seven-dollars-a-pair pricepoint, by my reckoning, they’d served me well.  You can see the pictures and read my Amazon.com review of the Airius gloves here.

I’ve been very happy with the Burning-Sun-Orange colored wool long-sleeve Kucharik jersey I got last Christmas, and had looked at the Kucharik website to see what other clothing and accessories they offered.  Kucharik’s a California company, located in Gardena – a place I’ve been that’s not too far from where I grew up.  I like to buy U.S. manufactured items when I think their quality makes the usually higher price a reasonable value.  Kucharik offers a leather and knit-back short-fingered cycling glove priced a little more than twice that of the Airius gloves I wanted to replace.  But I thought, “Heck, their jersey’s very high quality, so their gloves will be good, too.”  At the same time, I bought a pair of clearance bib shorts, a cotton-poly blend jersey (also on clearance), some cycling togs for my young son, as well as a cycling cap for him because he kept taking mine.

When they arrived, I started wearing them right away.  The Kucharik gloves fit correctly, and, although lacking a snot-wipe strip on the gloves’ thumbs, were quite comfortable and satisfactory.  The leather palms have simpler construction and stitching than the Airius gloves, but more padding.  They are quite comfortable to wear and I liked them very well.

Here in southern Middle Tennessee, climatic conditions tend to the humid, during the warm-weather months.  I ride almost every day and sweating is my mutant power (and yes, I’m an Alpha-class mutant in this regard).  So, when I hang the gloves up sopping wet in the garage after a ride, they’re usually damp the next day when I put them on again.

Within a couple of weeks of purchase, I noticed stress tears forming between thumb and forefinger.  Here in the last two or three weeks, those very small tears have become gaping holes.  I snapped some pictures last weekend while out riding with my son and they appear at the top and bottom of this post.  I emailed the pictures to John Kucharik to let him know the product wasn’t holding up well – it’s probably been more than ninety-days since I bought them.  He emailed back saying I am the first to report this problem and suggesting that if I ride hard and ride often, these may not be suitable gloves.  He also suggested washing the sweat out of them every couple of weeks with cold water and letting them dry indoors, out of the heat.  If you’ve read my Amazon review of the Airius gloves, you’ll know that it never occurs to me to wash cycling gloves, and, anyway, for this pair Kuchariks, it’s too late.

I’ve got a new pair of Airius gloves on order.


Left glove's left index finger tore when I removed the glove a couple of days after taking the pictures that appear above this one.

Left glove’s left index finger tore when I removed the glove a couple of days after taking the pictures that appear above this one.

Europcar Cycling Cap Repaired

I wrote a couple of months ago about cycling caps describing how I chose and bought a Europcar cycling cap from Performance Bicycles, and about how that retailer failed to post my critical review.  Heck, it appears their link to the cap is dead, too, and site search indicates they’ve only got Europcar bibs and jerseys.

Elastic band at the back of the cap has been repaired by my estimable mother-in-law.  Really, she's awesome.

Elastic band at the back of the cap has been repaired by my estimable mother-in-law. Really, she’s awesome.

Anyway, in late July, my wife’s parents came to stay for about a week, and my amazing mother-in-law repaired the broke down cap’s elastic band.  The cycling cap’s now functional, even after several washings.  And, even after several washings, its fabric still feels as if it’d been soaked in paint to get the graphics and color on it.  Maybe it had been soaked in paint.  Feels stiff, and retains the delicate aroma of my perspiration after treatment with extra-strength Febreeze.  I’m not kidding, I really bought some to spray on/in the cap.

I bought a bottle of this stuff to spray in my Europcar cycling cap.  Maybe my shoes, too.   And my car's rugs.

I bought a bottle of this stuff to spray in my Europcar cycling cap. Maybe my shoes, too. And my car’s rugs.

Return to Asheville–Part Three


A little over one year ago, I returned to Asheville to meet Brian Rider and exchange my 1962 Pionier 450 S kayak for a small sum of money and a 1990’s mid-range lugged steel Mississippi-built Schwinn Traveler bicycle in celeste green with Suntour drivetrain.  A little higher end and more modern groupset than what I’ve got on my Miyata.  Swapped the bike to my friend, Bruce, in exchange for some metal-smithing, and he’s made it ride-able, but has yet to venture with it beyond his neighborhood.  Also, he’s scared of wearing Lycra.


I got two blog-post installments written and published here, but before I could really begin the third, got what turned out to be a life-changing injury on a Friday afternoon in September, then found kittens on our front porch and had to teach them to feed and find homes for them, then had to deal with the ensuing flea-infestation after the cats had got homes, then hit the half-century mark, then embarked on a complete vocational rethink that involved considerable upheaval.  Difficult it is returning to something left off after this much time has elapsed.  I’d planned something more elaborate, but this post may end up as more of an image-dump than a cohesive narrative providing a meaningful end to the two posts preceding it here and here.  Click on any picture for a full-sized version.


The Cat That Walked By Himself

The Cat

Although I like to think of myself, and actually do often function, as independent of most people in many circumstances, that’s probably an adaptation I’ve made to a social awkwardness you’d have to be me to understand.  I’d been looking forward to a chance to visit with Eric, my best friend from seminary days.  Eric’s niece, a young woman who is a freelance writer as well a musician, also planned to meet us for supper and accompany us to a local music festival.

Monkeying Around

I got up pretty early Saturday morning and looked up local bike shops in order to engage in a little bicycle tourism.  I picked out three or four shops in the Asheville area and wrote out their addresses, took a shower, went downstairs for breakfast, finished getting ready and then headed out.

I remember my dad once telling me that, according to his then recently acquired religious orientation, it is considered unethical to enter a retail business having previously made up one’s mind not to buy anything.  He said that would produce a false hope in the mind of the shopkeeper, and that it’s plain wrong to intentionally disappoint another person, especially in regard to his or her livelihood.  My intent that morning?  I was shopping for bargains – maybe some heavily discounted Endura shorts or some chain-lube or an incredible deal on some new old stock bike that’d been gathering dust under a stairwell or had been demoed for a couple of years.  Also, Asheville’s a little cooler, weatherwise as well as in a social sense, than Stepford, and I’d forgotten to bring a windbreaker or sweatshirt, so I reckoned I needed one of those, too.

The first bike shop I went to was near a Walgreens on the city’s outskirts, but not far from the hotel, in a newer brick stripmall, but it was closed when I got there.  I did stop in at Walgreens and buy a good toothbrush, because I’d forgotten to pack one and the toothbrush supplied by the hotel as a courtesy was not fit for the purpose.

After that, I drove to the local R.E.I. which is situated in a sort of outdoor mall intended to resemble a groovy urban village public space and square.  Actually not horrible, and with adequate parking, families out for early strolls with their little ones in strollers, kind of upscale.  I got a gray, house brand water-resistant hooded, full-zip synthetic material sweatshirt on sale and some waxy chain-lube.  Then I drove on the freeway to the other side of town where there’s a large, upscale, full-service bike shop on the property of a large shopping mall of the sort that sprang up in many places about 20 years ago.

I test-rode or demoed a 2012 Raleigh cyclocross bike in carbon fiber all over the largely deserted parking lot and the adjacent huge new-car dealer’s lot.  What a great bike, but the price was still beyond what I could justify spending, even at a large discount.  One of the guys at the shop had previously lived at Stepford and worked at a bike shop in Stepford when the town had a bike shop, back in the 1990s.  He sent greetings to one of the founding members of the Stepford bike club, and I wrote down his name and eventually did pass along the greeting.

After that, having spent the greater part of the morning out looking at bikes and driving around, I went back to the hotel.  Eric called up after a little while and arrived by about lunch time, I think.


We drove to the downtown area where Eric managed to score the best parking place in Asheville – a prime slot with a municipal canvas bag padlocked over the space’s parking-meter.  Weather was amazingly pleasant – clear, blue skies, warm, sunny, cool mountain breeze – really beautiful day.  The sidewalks were crowded with walkers, buskers in evidence everywhere.  I listened to the Carolina Catskins at one corner and bought one of their homemade CDs (turns out they’re A LOT better live than recorded).  I snapped a photo of the band – the female playing the washboard looks irked at being photographed (indeed, I have taken her soul captive thereby – not really; what would I do with it?).  The woman with the dog was not, as I recall, a band member – she just looked like a spacey hippie and seemed to want to be a part of the picture.


Monkeying Around

I don’t remember clearly, but I think Eric and I had both eaten something before we met at the hotel on Saturday.  We did, I think, get something to eat while out walking around.  I snapped a bunch of pictures – amazing sights in Asheville.  I liked the old buildings, odd retail establishments, and the crowded streets.  There was a even a pedal-powered pub, allowing patrons to legally drink and drive, after a fashion.  Saw a transvestite costumed as a nun riding around on a strange bicycle.  Saw some different bikes chained up; I guess bicycle theft is a problem at Asheville.  Here are a few photos:






Hearn’s Bicycle Shop


Hearn’s Cycling and Fitness, actually; they claim to be the oldest continually operating bike shop in the United States.  Eric and I stopped in there and looked around.  That’s Eric in the picture above and left in the blue shirt and tan hat.  Hearn’s has a bewildering array of used bikes, funky bikes, super old bike, really odd bikes hanging from the ceilings and in racks on the garage floor.  The building’s obviously a former garage, possibly auto dealer property.  The building looks as if it were built about the middle of the last century.

The fellow with whom Eric is exchanging speech in the image above is, if I recall correctly, named Clark, and he was an interesting and helpful fellow.  If I had to guess, I’d say his FSIQ falls in the well-above-average range of measured intelligence.   The bike he’s holding in both pictures is consists of a 58 or 59 cm (it’s bigger than you’d think if you judged it solely by the headtube) Milanetti lugged steel 1980s frame with full Campagnolo groupset, don’t recall wheels and hubs, and cage pedals.  The bike’s gears are indexed and shift at the brake levers – to me, totally space-age refinements of bicycle technology.  I liked the bike, but couldn’t justify expenditure of $500 that day in Asheville.  Since then, I’ve occasionally regretted not buying the bike.


That August 2013 weekend I went back to Asheville was the last weekend of the mountain music festival called Shindig on the Green, and that turned out to be the reason I’d been unable to find inexpensive lodgings near downtown.


Megan Northcote, Eric’s niece, accompanied us to supper at a vegetarian restaurant the name of which I no longer recall, and then to the music festival, and then on a walk through the downtown area where we observed graffiti, street musicians and doorway singers.  When we met her at her apartment, she agreed to play the banjo for us – she is musically inclined and I asked her to play the song she liked best.  Below’s a still snapped while she was tuning the instrument, and then a short video Megan playing a song the name of which I noted at the time, but have forgotten.  Well, the short video if I can figure it out after posting this from Windows Live Writer.  She was unwilling to sing while she played, although I would guess she has as pleasant a singing voice as her speaking voice.


We ate dessert at a red, double-decker bus that’s been permanently moored and converted for use as a coffee-shop/confectioner’s shop.  I took way too many pictures there because I thought it looked really cool and I liked the ceiling.


The festival musicians and singers ranged from traditional bluegrass or folk singing about spiritual strength and bearing up under the vicissitudes of a life sometimes harsh but worth living to dirty-living trash-culture singing about and taking perverse pride in booze and infidelity.  You may as well know I preferred the former.


Asheville appears to have a vibrant street-musician scene.  During my earlier walkabout with Eric, I noted an older man playing a zither near a hookah bar, as well as the Carolina Catskins, already mentioned.


After the sun had set, Megan, Eric, and I walked around the downtown area where we watched and listened to various street performers and artists.  One of the singers, and I am annoyed with myself because I didn’t get her name, sang the ABSOLUTE best version of Funny Valentine I’ve ever heard.  That song’s a sort of benchmark by which I measure the talents of buskers wherever I find them.  This lady belted out a version that nearly stole my soul –  I mean, it was a moving, evocative rendition of that old song.  My stars, but I was an idiot not to have gotten her name.  If there’s going to be choir in heaven, and this lady’s numbered among the elect, she’ll be in it.  There she is, in the picture below



We also saw a man juggling tools including, if I recall rightly, chainsaws.  I feared for the safety of the children crowded around with their parents.  The guy had an array of household items and tools on the sidewalk, around where he stood, and he invited the children to choose things for him to juggle.  From what I could see, his performance was flawless, but I stood well enough back to avoid getting struck by anything if he missed.  Didn’t get a picture or a video – the Iphone’s limited as to shutter speed and low-light video.  A woman standing near the juggler sketched portraits and was remarkable for her graceful posture.  We also saw a bigger band, similar in composition to the Catskins, but with a different sound, playing and singing a song the chorus of which I recall went something like, “There’s soooooo muuuuuuuch bloood.”  The woman with the banjo, center, was the one singing, and she sang the words slow and with an audible awareness of the oddity of meaning that I was not expecting.



The rest of these pictures are all out of sequence, but they’re snapshots I took of graffiti I saw while we were walking around Saturday.  Megan surprised me with a spontaneous and clever photobomb; I was really annoyed for a second until I realized what a cool thing she’d done.  But joking I did ask her what her parents would think.  The Charlie Brown artist’s work I saw two or three places around town, and I liked it best.  I probably have some more graffiti pictures, but I think the time has come to abandon composition and publish this post.



Elk River Valley 36 (or 37.3)

A longish flat stretch of Elk River Valley 36-mile route.  I liked the fog over the distant hill.  I think this was in Bedford, as opposed to Moore, County.

A longish flat stretch of Elk River Valley 36-mile route. I liked the fog over the distant hill. I think this was in Bedford, as opposed to Moore, County.

Yesterday morning I rode the 36 mile route of the Elk River Valley 100 – the Highland Rim Bicycle Club’s annual big event. Since I’m riding 33 year-old equipment and have been having trouble with the drive train (again) the past couple of weeks, I reckoned the 36 mile route was the most appropriate. I would have preferred a 50-mile route, but none was offered this year, also, as I am now in my 50’s, that would have been cool. 

WordPress, or any blog posting service, really, should have in addition to a feature that allows the writer to add tags, a feature that allows the writer/”athlete” to add excuses:  Here are mine, besides the drive-train thing, above:  Bad cold the preceding week; A cough which likely heralds some kind of upper respiratory illness; A gut that didn’t feel quite right.

Friday night, I cleaned and lubed the Miyata’s drive-train. Did have some trouble getting the rear wheel back on the bike – had never had that trouble previously – all quick-release and easy, usually.

When the ride started, Saturday morning, I positioned myself at almost the back end of the pack, because I lost track of time, and had to use the toilet one last time (yes, this happens, anagrams happen). The air was cool, the sky clear except for some remaining patches of fog, and the pavement was mostly dry even after Friday’s multiple heavy downpours.

A couple of miles into the course, ascending Hilltop (usually a piece of cake, even for an old man on an old bike), while shifting into an easier ring in front, the chain in back banged down into the hardest gear in back, and then came off the freewheel, altogether. So I stopped riding and addressed the problem, walked a few yards to a flatter spot on the hill, remounted and rode.  From that point on, I made all my shifts with caution and usually in advance of the point they were really needed.

At the food stop, about, I don’t know, 10 or 12 miles further on, the guys from Woody’s Bicycle Shop of Sewanee had set up a mechanical aide station.  I asked Woody to have a look at the problem, and he opined that something – derailleur-hanger or part of the derailleur, was bent.  He made some adjustments and pronounced the bike fit to pedal.  I rode on.

I stood up to pedal a couple of hills on the way in to Lynchburg, home (as most readers probably already know) of the Jack Daniels distillery (those guys want to verify your age before they let you look at their site – seems strange to me).  For those of you who need to know, the public toilets are behind the square, more or less, behind the BBQ Caboose Cafe.  The cafe was closed Saturday morning, by the time I got there, although I think most Saturday mornings, they broadcast a live radio program showcasing Bluegrass music, performed live.

I walked up most of Tanyard Hill Road with another cyclist, and that turned out to be the pleasantest part of my ride – getting to meet and converse for awhile with an intelligent, articulate person.  We swapped dog-bite and gun stories; talked about cycling.  I wound up riding on ahead and finished the course, as I rode most of it, solo.

Back at Motlow College, the ERV’s start and finish, by an exercise of self-control, I ate only three bratwurst.  Then I drove home with good intention to mow the yard, but wound up taking a shower and then a nap.  Maybe I’ll mow later today.