Three Years on Two Wheels

Why I Ride

I recently wrote, in another venue, that I ride to explore my environment, urban and rural wild places.  What I didn’t write, because it only struck me upon reflection, afterward, is that I ride, I canoe, I kayak, because the nature of these activities is not only that they are self-powered, they are self-directed.


We live in a society that restricts our freedom by demanding insane degrees of commitment and effort in exchange for a wage, and that freedom is further curtailed by legal requirements touching upon every activity we must engage in to earn that wage and live within the boundaries of society – licensure, insurance, taxes on every purchase in addition to some types of property owned, and our tax diminished incomes.

But if I buy a used bike, or a used canoe, or used gear, and then put that stuff to a use I, myself, choose, and use it to go where I like, when I like, I wage war against the constraints of an increasingly statist society.  I invite those who wish to constrain my movements and interests to experience the absurd extreme of their philosophical bent and make animal sounds moonward.  And I tread upon the idea that I require the permission of others to move about freely and freely observe and consider the environment in which I find myself.

That said, I’d buy a new bike from a manufacturer or retailer if I got a really good deal and could justify the expense – two conditions that have gone unmet for a longish time.  And if I win a bike or the use of a bike, you can bet I will subject it to frequent use, abuse, will photograph it and publish the snapshots and accounts of my exploits.

To Recap


Eight wheels, I count eight wheels; two don’t count, though – I no longer have the Trek…

Sometime in mid-August fell my third anniversary as an adult cyclist.  I took to two wheels three years ago while at a completely worthless employer mandated training at Murfreesboro.  After the work day, on two consecutive days, I drove downtown to MOAB and I bought a couple of comfort bikes – one for my wife and the other for me.  Since then, I have taken to riding really old, lugged steel friction-shifted road bikes.  A couple of years ago, my father-in-law gave me the coffee-colored Raleigh Sprite he had while stationed in Honolulu in the early Seventies.  I finally got the frame to the soda-blaster and need to finish sand it and get it to the powder-coater.  I’m thinking British Racing Green with silver or gray fenders.  A little over one year ago, I got a fairly serious injury that gave me an opportunity to rethink my hopes and dreams, to get back on course to reach goals I’d been neglecting over the previous year (2012 – 2013).  Early this year, I bought my friend’s spare Bridgestone MB-4; its top-tube was too short for him, but the bike fit me fine.  I spent a long time learning about headsets, hammers, mallets, woodblocks, jigs.  The Bridgestone’s mostly sorted out, now, but I think the headtube may need refaced and the headset further monkeyed with.  Still, the bike suits me fine so far and I’m not racing singletrack with it.


I got some 3M spoke reflectors for the front wheel

Also, back in 2013, I spent $40 at a garage sale for a Suteki Track 10 mixte in nearly NOS condition, and gave it to my wife.  A very pretty blue, lugged steel frame with 27” wheels, Shimano 600 drivetrain, Tektro brakes, etc., circa 1979.  A tune-up, some new cables, new tires, and the bike was as ride-able as the day it was first assembled.

Bikes versus Boats


That’s the RZ-96 on the roof of Thursday, probably the best car I’ve ever owned

Those are a lot of bikes.  I’m down to one tandem kayak – a Pouch RZ-96 – and one canoe – a 1974 Grumman 18’ aluminum.  I haven’t been paddling much since I started riding bikes.  It’s the convenience factor, and I’ve mentioned it before on this site – I can set off from my driveway, spend two or three hours monkeying around on the road, and return to the house (Southerners say that a lot – “the house” – when they mean to say “home.”  I have a theory about the tendency’s origins, but have not thought about it enough to write about it).  With a canoe or kayak, even a folding kayak, I have to load boat and gear into a car (if I’m smart, I do this the night before), drive to a put-in, assemble or unload the boat, rig the boat, put gear in the boat, in cold weather change into immersion gear, set out, paddle about thirty minutes beyond the point where I know I can easily turn around and make it back, then turn around and paddle back to the put-in, usually against a howling, white-cap churning headwind.  I do that to test my manly strength and determination – I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to risk their survival in tests of endurance?  I feel pretty certain a lot of women do that sort of thing, too.  But, since I am a man, it is my manliness that I put to the test – I’ve always come back without having needed assistance.


I brought this back for my wife from the furthest point I’ve paddled upstream on the Elk River

Serious or Recreational?

Because there’ve rarely been people of my personal acquaintance much interested in the things I like, I’ve corresponded via Internet message boards with others who share my enthusiasm for kayaking, or “messing about in boats.”  There’s nothing half so pleasant as messing about in boats, to paraphrase, I think, Mr. Badger or Mr. Toad or another character from those old stories the names of which I now no longer recall, but which is the source of the phrase.


Wind in the Willows – found the name when I found the image

That’s a phrase I’ve seen used a lot by people at the Folbot Forum and at FKO –  Many of the people who exchange ideas, information, comments on both boards don’t seem to identify as “hardcore” or “serious” paddlers (although some do) and, as paddlers of folding kayaks, most mainstream paddlers of Kevlar, plastic, fiberglass kayaks would consider us, almost dismissively, “recreational” paddlers.

Anyway, I’ll take the advice of my old friend, Diana Hardin, and let other people categorize me and my pursuits without giving the matter too much thought.  Let others ‘define’ you; you go and live (a life that makes ethical and logical sense to yourself) without regard to their rules, strictures, and opinions.

I find there’s not much I like more than exploring waterways and wild places.  In a kayak, or in a canoe (although a canoe is more difficult to manage in winds), you can get places where power-boaters cannot and hikers usually do not go.  The drum-song of paddle drip rhythmically striking a folding kayak’s fabric deck or one’s spray-deck like a metronome marks the beat of each paddle stroke making forward movement easier when tired.  Good it is to see and be present in places most people cannot imagine exist.

In the same way that I’ll not be categorized as a serious paddler, no one who categorizes will categorize me as a “serious” cyclist.  I like monkeying around on bikes finding it a good way to explore the world around me and get to places others don’t or won’t go because it’s not convenient for them; it requires effort, some physical exertion.  My most-used Cyclemeter route is “Monkeying Around.”  I’ve done about 2000 miles, so far, this calendar year that I’d so classify, and the route changes every time I ride it – usually a route I choose when I’m getting under way.

About ‘Selfies’

Orbea-SelfieYard King

Activities:  Paddling; Cycling; Mulching Leaves in the Yard – this is how I look when I’m smiling

I mentioned, above, that I don’t usually find other people much interested in the same activities that interest me.  I think that’s the reason I take photos of myself while out in a boat or out on the road – there’s usually no one else along to snap a picture of me doing stuff I really enjoy.  This may be true of others and may partially explain the “selfie” phenomenon.

Define Serious

Okay.  I did join the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and maintained membership for a few years, attended a couple of workshops, participated in a couple of activities, but most of those folks, locally, are interested in whitewater paddling, and I could care less about that activity.  Also, a lot of them seem to be all into some kind of advocacy or other.  I tend to be unmoved by that sort of thing.

I do prefer a Greenland style paddle and made one of my own out of Tennessee red cedar (it didn’t turn out very well, but I used it for a long time until I could justify the expense of one made by someone else with actual woodworking skills).  When I take a day trip by kayak or canoe, I usually paddle boats designed to cover long distances, dress for immersion, carry a spare paddle, and carry sufficient gear and food to see me through in the event I get stuck somewhere overnight, paddling doesn’t occupy the place that religion occupies for people who adhere (more or less faithfully) to the tenets of a religion. I haven’t learned 83 different types of Greenland rolls, I don’t spell “kayak” with a “Q” – I mean, you’re spelling a consonant sound from a language that didn’t until recently have a written form using a 26-letter (it is 26 letters, isn’t it?) European alphabet, right?  Why would anyone imagine it’s more “authentic” to write “q’ajaq” than “kayak”?  Additionally, I don’t venerate my paddles, I use them to move my boats through water, and if I occasionally use the paddle to push off from the bank, I don’t imagine I’ve transgressed against the ‘spirit’ of my paddle by having used it like a “shovel.”   Honestly, some people.  But that’s the religious bent of humanity.

And I’m not serious about messing about in boats.  When I got to the point that I felt guilty about not paddling on days I had time to do so, I backed off.  And, truthfully, I’d rather spend time with my wife and son, most days.

Wheelmen (and a woman?) 1895

Stepford Bike Club

I joined and maintain membership in a local bicycling club, attend meetings, and am slightly active in the club.  I can do some basic bike maintenance.  When I bicycle, I usually bring along a multi-tool, spare tube, a patch kit, a lot of times wear lycra bicycle specific garments, wear a bike helmet, wear cycling gloves, make it a point to be seen by motorists, have no fear of riding in traffic like a vehicle, ride every day, ride distances that would have seemed mind-blowing and impossible to me three years ago (but which are like a ride around the block for many cyclists).  But I tend to think of myself as more of a “budget cyclist,” meaning I try to justify every expense and spend as little as possible on bikes, equipment, clothing, maintenance, and so forth.  Sometimes, my wife is willing to join me on a bike ride.  She hated monkeying around in kayaks and canoes.  My son joins me on a lot of extended neighborhood rides.  Until last week, the only bike we owned that was manufactured in the current century was my son’s Trek Jet 20.   The only new bikes I’ve ever purchased where those two comfort bikes from MOAB about three years ago – both of which we’ve sold.  Until last week, the only bike we owned that was capable of indexed shifting was the ‘89 Bridgestone.

On the other hand, I could care less about competing against other cyclists, I have blinking lights (fore and aft) on my bikes when riding because I want to be seen by motorists, I’m annoyed by glaring jack-ass cyclists who take up position in the middle of the only, fairly wide, directional lane of traffic to self-consciously and self-righteously ride 16 miles an hour while holding up a line of eight motorists trying to get to work, I wave “Hello” or speak to other cyclists I meet on the road, I tend to move over to the right side of a lane of traffic for cars when I can do it safely except when closing up the gap to a red light or stop sign or about to turn left, I stop to take pictures, I ride through neighborhoods because I want to see what’s in them, I don’t wear lycra sex-organ baring garments when I know I’m going to be riding around kids, and I don’t wear those clothes when I ride my bike to congregational meetings, I have no interest in banning automobiles, I like automobiles and like driving them.  So, I probably don’t fall into a “serious” cyclist category, by many measures.  Almost forgot – I don’t use clipless pedals.

Too much information, and too few pictures – another post published.  A couple of more on the way, soon.

Caution-Lady the Canoe


I bought a canoe the day before yesterday at Eaton, Ohio.  My first hardshell paddle craft, the canoe is a 1974 Grumman 17’ double-ender.  The boat has two seats, bow and stern, as well as three thwarts.  Some of the same machinery Grumman used to stretch aluminum for World War II carrier-based fighter planes stretched the aluminum used in my new boat’s hull.  Although I could count them, it is easier to say there are innumerable small rivets holding the hull together and the “standard keel” to the hull.  Monday night, while sitting at the dinner table, we were discussing whether we would buy the canoe and I kidded my wife telling her I would name the boat for her.  “It’s about time you named one of your boats after me!” she said laughing.


On Monday, I’d driven to Eaton to look at the Grumman which I’d found on Craig’s List.  The seller was asking more than I wanted to pay, but the other canoes that were priced more reasonably had already sold, or the seller was leaving town for a week that day.  The canoes that hadn’t sold were the plastic variety with cup-holders and built-in “coolers” sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Wal-Mart, or they had holes and looked like they’d been used as bongs. 

Seeing the 17’ behemoth on sawhorses at chest level, the Grumman looked overwhelmingly huge.  Kind of cooled me on the idea of buying a canoe.  Huge boat.  I’m the only one in the family who usually has any interest in paddling.  The seller said he had some life-jackets, paddles, and kayak he would throw in to complete the deal.  On the phone, the kayak sounded pretty good, but when I looked at it, it had two large holes on the bottom fixed with Bondo.  Anyway, I didn’t think there’d be room on the racks for both boats.  I told the guy I’d have to sleep on it since he wasn’t willing, and I didn’t seriously expect him to be willing, to accept an out of state check.  Which is how my wife and I came to be discussing the boat at the dinner table Monday night.


Tuesday I woke up thinking there was no way I was willing to pay the guy’s asking price, roughly a third of what the boat would have cost new.  I called the seller and told him I couldn’t pay what he was asking and offered him a lower price I didn’t think he’d accept.  We compromised, and although I think I paid about $50.00 more than I should have, the deal was still reasonable.  My father-in-law and I drove out to Eaton again late Tuesday morning and, before money changed hands, we checked to make sure the huge canoe would fit on the 850’s roofracks; it did, easily.  That’s the photo of the test, above.

The Grumman secured easily and none of the straps or tie-downs worked seriously loose during the drive back.  No problems with handling.  Actually, handling was not significantly affected.  The 850 with RZ96 on the racks handles a little worse.  Heavy stuff in the trunk, however, has a markedly worse effect than boat or boats on the roofracks.

Mid-morning yesterday I drove to Canoe Country at Daleville and paid them for a pair of cheap water shoes and $13.00 shuttle for the ride back, put in at the outfitter’s property, and paddled/floated down to Anderson.  I was concerned that the 17 footer would un-paddle-able solo, but I turned it around and paddled it from the front seat and the stern-as-bow.


This part of the Midwest has this week had daytime temperatures in the mid-nineties.  I took three pieces of pizza, a small bag with almonds and peanuts, and about a gallon of water in addition to a couple of small drybags.  Not much weight in the boat besides my own. 

Edgewater Park at Anderson is seven bridges downstream from the put in at Daleville, an easy 11 or so miles.  I have paddled/floated this section several time over the past few years, usually in rented kayaks that look like slippers, and once in a 16’ Nova Craft or Old Towne rented canoe.  In several places the river is punctuated by mild riffles.  The water was running about four to four and a half feet at the gauge on Wednesday.  Enough water that I was able to explore a previously inaccessible backwater into which the river flowed.


I experimented with paddling from the rear seat, from a kneeling position braced against the thwart forward of my seat, and once, when I failed to “read the river” aright, using the long paddle included with the canoe to pole the boat from a standing position to get past some rocks I’d got hung up on.  The Grumman was not a problem to paddle solo, and I obtained the best results with a short paddle while kneeling braced against the thwart near the boat’s center.  Some kind of closed-cell padding would have made that more comfortable, but was not really necessary.  I was able to lean the canoe from the central position for faster turning.  Torso rotation worked with a single-bladed paddle as it does with a kayak paddle, and I modified a couple of other techniques of form from kayaking to move the large canoe.

When we drove north earlier in the week I packed a couple of fifty or so year old canoe paddles.  Miss Blanche gave them to me, although I’d offered to pay for them.  They were in the attic of her house, and had belonged to her late husband, who’d used them to propel whatever non-motorized craft he’d been wont to fish from.  I started stripping them, because they appeared dried out and their varnish bubbled in places, the week before we left. 

Although I hadn’t completed the process by Wednesday, I took along with me the darker of the two paddles, the one with the squared blade and better-carved handle, to see how it would work.  Also took the long laminated wood paddle the seller included with the canoe.  I know next to nothing about canoe paddles, so asked the guy at Canoe Country who said that longer paddles are more commonly used in deeper water like lakes or possibly large ponds. 
The shorter paddles are used in shallower moving water like rivers.  He said he thought the shorter paddle was reasonably sized for river paddling the Grumman.

Standing in the boat was pretty easy, but I’m not sure how efficient or good an idea it is to paddle it standing.  I have seen pictures of paddlers standing a canoe’s gunwales, or with one foot on a gunwale and a knee in the boat.  Not sure of the utility of either technique, but it might be interesting to try out another day.

The previous evening my wife, her sister, and her mother had been watching an old Mel Gibson film, “Forever Young,” on one of the cable or satellite channels.  I caught about the last five minutes of the movie’s happy but implausible ending.  Two things about that movie, which I’d already seen, struck me.  The first is that the things I see today in the town where I live that date from the 1930s and ‘40s were once new and looked new.  The second is that the film contrasts the general competence of people who came of age in the early part of the last century with the general ineptitude of those who came of age during its latter decades. 


I saw something shiny in the water after the sixth bridge.  It turned out to be the left rear quarter section of a plastic model B-17 Flying Fortress.  Those little windows at the airplane’s stern-section or tail-section clued me in, but the almost square opening forward for a waist-gunner also helped with identification.  The small replica bomber’s last fight was, I imagined, initiated by a bored child flinging the airplane out of a car window as the vehicle crossed the bridge overhead.  Or perhaps the youngster was interested in the model’s potential for flight.  At least it spent a few seconds aloft before shattering on the rocks below either this bridge or another somewhere upstream.

The broken airplane (even though the bomber in the movie is a B-25) started me on a train of thought about actor Mel Gibson’s recent very public living problems.  I’ve always liked the guy’s movies since Gallipoli, which I saw when I was young drunkard in the 1980s, through The Passion of The Christ, although the latter contained mythological elements that have no provenance in orthodox theology as I understand it.  I hope the guy manages to overcome whatever’s tormenting him and has a better end than the plastic B-17.

Ford-Paddles Yesterday I drove to town to buy some Tung oil to finish the canoe paddles after I’d finished stripping and sanding them.  The hardware store in the closest big town was out of Tung oil but could have sold me a gallon of linseed oil.  They directed me to a hardware store in another town, which was what I preferred to the local Wal-Mart.  Thing about Wal-Marts is that they seem to be filled at all hours with incompetent-looking people who don’t appear to have much direction.




The guy at the hardware store (first of the three pictures above), knew my father-in-law and his father-in-law, had gone to church some years ago with that aged gentleman, and grew up a couple of miles north of my wife’s family farm.  That’s the canoe on the 850’s roof seen through the car’s windshield.

Today is Friday, and we’d planned to take the canoe to the lake nearby to paddle with the kids as a watery supplement to pontoon-boat rental.  Weather radar informs me that we’ll probably not paddle today.  I will probably help out at the barn cleaning farm implements.

Weather Radar 7-9-10 

About my black and white photos – they start out as color digital photos, and I discard the color information or make other adjustments.

C’est tout.