I heard a supposedly true story one time about a skilled wood carver, working on a huge pair of doors for some grandiose building.
The design he was working on was extremely intricate, with leaves and scrolls, and included all manner of symbolic creatures and characters.
Someone watching the old craftsman at work asked him, "How do you know when it is finished?"
He replied, "It is never finished, I just keep working on it until someone comes and takes it away from me."
This story came back to me thinking about my friend and fellow writer Red Evans; Red lost his fight with cancer and died last Sunday. Some of you may recall, I wrote about Red's illness here on January 2nd. My thoughts on hearing of Red's passing centered on the fact that his book "On Ice" was published only last September.
We were members of a local writers' group here in Charleston, South Carolina, and he had shared with us earlier last year that his book was to be published.
All writers, or for that matter, all artists of any kind start out as raw amateurs, and work on their craft initially for their own enjoyment. I remember Red reading to the group, and telling us, "I just love writing this stuff."
He obviously enjoyed sharing his writings with the group, and the group in turn shared his joy when his work was picked up by a publisher.
Now just a few short months and Red is gone; he got to see his book published but didn't get to see the next stage, the success of his book. He is no longer there to promote his book, and attend book signings, etc. Something else he was obviously enjoying.
It occurred to me that life is very much like those doors the old wood carver was working on, you just keep on working on it until they come and take it away.
When that time comes you had better be content with the way those doors look; you can’t say, “No wait, there is a little bit here that needs more work.”
Red had done many things in his life, including being a radio DJ, a Television News Director and Anchorman, and a lobbyist in Washington. Writing novels was just another little corner of his door he happened to be working on when they came to take it away.
I remember Red at the writers' meeting last November. He must have known the seriousness of his condition, but never gave us a clue, and was still full of the same wit and enthusiasm as he shared his latest writings with us.
There was no writers’ meeting at the end of December due to it being close to Christmas, and I wonder if he knew this was possibly his last meeting with the group and he made a special effort to be there. I feel privileged to have known Red Evans, albeit briefly near the end of his time here.
The way he lived his life to the fullest is an inspiration to me. Had he lived a little longer he no doubt would have achieved even more, but in the end, he seemed satisfied with what he had done.
I have learned recently that Red had three other novels finished, so more of his work may live on.
At a time when most in his position would have been reluctant to buy green bananas, (Red would have liked that one.) he kept on with his work until it was taken away.
I have often tried to analyze what it is about cycling, in particular riding a road bike that makes it a life long passion.
Many people, including myself, have had periods when we stopped riding, but we are always drawn back at some point or other.
Non-cyclists can’t understand it, and it is only another cyclist having the same passion who can.
Passions derive from sensations, feelings. I don’t think anyone can explain why certain simple things in life give us so much pleasure.
A beautiful sunset, the taste of a favorite food, or a particular sound. These things have to be experienced to understand, and even then, another person may not have the same sensation.
Out riding alone last November on a quiet country road, the weather was dry and sunny, but cool. The sound of acorns popping under my tires caught my attention. The whole road carpeted with acorns, freshly fallen from overhanging Live Oak trees; it was impossible not to ride over them.
Driving a car, that sensation would not be there, even if I had the windows down and could hear the sound. Walking or running, or simply stomping on the acorns would not have had the same affect.
It had something to do with the speed, and a feeling that only another cyclist would fully understand; the feeling that came from knowing that I was the source of propulsion. The feeling of effort, muscle power transformed into forward motion.
The sound somehow drove me to push harder, and gave me renewed energy. The faster I rode the more rapid the popping sound, and the more intense the feeling.
This feeling was close to the sensation of flying, without actually leaving the ground. In fact, the minimum contact with the ground or road was a large part of the feeling.
As a seven or eight year old, I remember running two miles to school and back home twice each day. Running was effortless, there was no pain, and it seemed like my feet were not touching the ground. Rather I was flying, with each step a fraction of an inch above the ground.
Later as an adult when I ran, I felt every jarring step. However, riding a road bike at speed I sometimes get that same sensation of weightlessness and just barely skimming the surface of the road.
I am guessing the rapidly popping acorns enhanced that feeling by adding a sound to the sensation.
Out riding the same road yesterday, the acorns now swept to the side by passing traffic. It was still possible to ride over them by riding close to the edge of the road, but now soaked by recent rains; they no longer produced that same pleasant popping sound.
It looks like I will have to wait until next fall to experience this sensation again. It is sensations like this that turn simple pleasures into passions.
Here is a handy little tool you can add to your toolbox for about two dollars.
You can buy these at a Model Airplane Store; they are made for fueling those tiny engines used in model aircraft and cars.
Made from clear plastic, they make great little grease guns. The plunger pulls completely out, and you can place oil or grease inside the cylinder, and replace the plunger.
The curved spout is small enough at the end to fit in the tiny hole in the side of your hubs.
You could also drill a small hole in your pedal dust caps to lubricate the pedals. The great thing is, you don’t have to disassemble the part.
After greasing your hubs in this way, take a rag or paper towel with you on your next ride. The surplus grease will ooze out of the side of the hub, and start traveling along the spokes. Needless to say, you should wipe this off before it reaches the rim.
Thanks to Fritz for the following comment on my previous post:
“I'm a generally lawful and courteous cyclist, but when was the last time motorists who are just part of traffic was labeled "arrogant"?
And just because other cyclists break the law and are hoodlums, why are you and I the ones who are somehow held accountable? We don't expect motorists to apologize for the idiots among their midst.”
I agree with all you say, but who said life was fair, and that everyone in the world plays fair. Cyclists as a group are a minority in the mindset of an automobile society, and minorities always tend to get the shitty end of the stick.
Any minority group, not just cyclists, are always labeled by the worst behavior of those within that group. In place of cyclist say “Illegal immigrant” and are they not all painted as bad? However, the truth is the majority are good, decent people. It is the way that society justifies the prejudice; this is how bigotry works.
Bigots don’t like minority groups who are different than they are, and they wish they would just go away. By labeling the whole group as bad, they gather like minded people to their cause, in the hope that this minority can somehow be stopped, driven out, or eliminated.
As cyclists we can whine and complain to each other about the unfairness of society’s attitude, but will that change anything or make anyone on the other side, listen to our point of view?
All we can do is ride our bikes, and obey the laws of the road, and try to behave in a civilized manner. We have no control over the way others act twards us, but we do have control over the way we re-act.
We can try to convince some amongst us who have a hostile and arrogant attitude, that this type of behavior may not be in their own and other cyclist’s interest.
If people like myself and other bike bloggers, keep pushing the message in a positive way, maybe in time it will find it’s way into the mainstream media.
There was a link to my last Thursday’s post about the Matthew Parris apology, on a cycling blog called Turnings.
It posted my piece with the following comment:
“Here’s the problem, none of these cyclists who are forever watchdogging all the comments of others (and granted beheading is a bit strong) ever wonder or decry the fact that cyclists the world over are perceived the same way. What can we, as a community, do about the issues the press and individuals raise? No small impact the clothing, packaging, manufacturing, etc have on the environment, or the lawlessness and discourtesy that are often foisted on an unsuspecting public that has no framework to understand our point of view, and worse, we do it with a righteous attitude rife with implication that we are saving the world! How about we work on *that* some more?”
The comment by Daniel Berlinger makes an excellent point. Yes actually, I do wonder and think about the subject often. It seems at times we are our own worst enemy.
Cyclists are arrogant is always the cry, Lycra Louts in some parts of the world. In defense of the cyclist a person could say, is it any wonder they are arrogant, anyone would be after being cursed at, honked at, had stuff thrown at them on a daily basis; cut off, knocked down and even seen their fellow cyclists killed.
But, as the comment above points out, the public has no framework to understand the cyclist’s point of view, and do most care about that viewpoint anyway?
The cyclist can argue that he has the right to ride on road, and he does by law. Does he have the “perceived right” by public opinion? Definitely not, the mindset of some is that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and just by being there appears arrogant. However, is acting in an arrogant manner, and giving people the finger the best way to change public opinion?
The lycra and the helmet has nothing to do with anything, it is the cyclist’s different color skin. It is what sets us apart and causes others to judge us by our appearance. And, like any minority group, the moment we put on that skin and get on a bike we are all judged by the worst standard of behavior of those within our group.
Just because a person in a car hurls abuse at a cyclist because he impedes his way, is it any different if the cyclist then does the same to the pedestrian who steps out in front of him? Does the shouting and abuse help, or make the situation any better? We are all just people trying to get to and from somewhere or other.
Does it help the cyclists cause when a car has to wait at a stop light and a cyclist rides straight through; what gives him the divine right to do that? It is just plain rude, a person wouldn't push in front of someone in line at a movie theatre. Where is the difference?
Change in attitude on both sides is needed; however, it will have to come from the cyclist first. Why? Because the cyclist has the most to gain and at the same time the most to loose. Everybody gains something, but most road users can’t see that yet.
More bikes, less congestion, for one. Safety, and less people killed on the roads will be another. It will cause everyone to slow the fuck down, and realize they will still get where they are going on time, without the carnage we have today.
I think the best way to bring change about, is not by any cyclists’ rights movement, but by individual riders, clubs and small groups of friends who ride together setting their own rules and codes of behavior.
When I’m out riding, I expect sloppy and poor driving from some people. I see it all the time when I drive my car, so it is not going to change just because I am on a bike. I stay alert; I ride defensively, and try not to let it spoil my ride.
When someone is waiting to turn or pull out from a side road, and they see me and are obviously waiting for me to pass, I give a thank you wave. Even though they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
I do this because it is no effort, it costs me nothing, but does a lot for the cycling cause. It lets them know that not everyone in lycra and a helmet is a jerk. A thank you wave will do more for the next cyclist they see on road. Giving someone the finger if they cut you off, will most likely make them deliberately cut off the next cyclist they see.
But this is just me; when some bike riders can’t acknowledge and return my wave as a fellow cyclist, I wonder if I am expecting too much of this same person to give a thank you wave to a motorist. However, think on this, if you can give the finger if someone wrongs you, it takes no more effort to recognize someone doing the right thing.
As for the save the world issue, that is a band wagon that many of us have jumped on. Let’s be honest with ourselves; if cars ran on pixie dust and had zero carbon emissions, we would still ride because it is what we do, we are cyclists. And the fact that millions of little polyesters died to make my jersey, is neither here nor there.
Any other watchdog bloggers out there care to expand on the subject and add their viewpoint.