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On life’s journey

Paths cross and we meet
Face to face, hands shake
Names soon forgotten or never remembered
Faces stay a little longer.

Others meet on the Information Highway
Paths cross the same, often by chance
No face to see, no hand to shake
Just a name.

Either meeting good or bad
Mostly good, reflecting how people are
That is, mostly good
Lives are touched.

Some glance our way and move on
We never see them again
Others sharing a common interest
Stay a little longer


Tagged Again

I was tagged last December and said at the time, if you keep multiplying by five people, how long before every blogger on the planet has been tagged.

Here we are some seven months later and I am tagged again by Lisa, a local Charleston, Goddess and Bloggess. This time the number of unknown facts about me is increased to seven.

There has to be limit to unknown facts, because each time I write about them they are no longer unknown. Anyway, here goes. Seven previously unpublished, trivial facts from my life.

The tag called for “Seven Random Facts,” but I think they read better in chronological order.

1.) I lived in the South of England, early in 1944, the months leading up to the Normandy Invasion. I was eight years old. American soldiers were everywhere, taking part in training exercises in nearby fields and woodlands.

In the days that followed each exercise, my friends and I would go out and collect empty brass rifle shell casings. Sometimes we would find live rounds; these were blank shells without the bullet. I seem to remember they had a cardboard plug to hold the powder in.

My friends and I collected these live rounds, opened them and poured the powder into a glass jam jar. We used the powder to make homemade fireworks.

One day the group decided for whatever reason to climb a tree and set off a firework in its branches. They left me at the base of the tree holding the glass jar of gunpowder.

A spark from the firework above fell into the open jar and it ignited immediately. I felt the hot flames in my face, and I threw the jar, whereon it exploded as it hit the ground, glass flying everywhere.

The other kids came down the tree and beat me up, for wasting all their gunpowder.

2.) At age thirteen I got my first brand new bike; a Hercules Roadster with a three-speed hub gear. (Picture left.)

It had dropped handlebars so to me this made it a racing bike. Everything on the bike was steel, even the mudguards. It must have weighed at least 40 lbs.

One weekend my mother took my younger sister and me on a long bus trip to visit relatives. On returning, we discovered my sister had left a sweater behind.

This was not important but I decided to ride my bike over to my Aunt’s house, the following Saturday, to pick up this item of clothing. I did not tell my mother of my plans; I thought I would surprise her.

The round trip was over a 100 miles and all I had to find my way there was a little pocket diary that measured about 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. It contained maps of the whole of England on about five or six tiny pages.

I set out very early in the morning and made it back just before sunset that same day. I proudly walked in with my sister’s sweater; my mother just about had a fit when she realized what I had done. Instead of thanks for my effort, I was severely chastised.

3.) As a teenager all my friends smoked, this was the 1950s and it was the norm to smoke. I never did, because I was serious about my cycling and racing.

Many racing cyclists of that era did smoke, and it was kind of strange when I look back and remember riders collapsing from exhaustion at the side of the road after the finishing sprint in a road race, and the first thing they did was light up a cigarette.

4.) In the early 1960s I worked as a milkman. I would arrive at the dairy at 6:00 a.m. and load up my battery powered electric milk truck. It had a top speed of about 15 mph.

After driving to the start of my round, I would park the truck and carry the bottles of milk by hand to nearby houses, before moving the truck down the road and repeating the process.

The great thing about this job, I was paid for an eight-hour day, but was encouraged to finish earlier. I would memorize the amount of milk for every house so I didn’t need to look at my order book, and I ran the entire round which covered about ten miles.

I would be finished each day by 10:00 a.m. This gave me the rest of the day to ride my bike, and build the occasional bike frame. The only day I worked later was Friday when I had to collect the money and take orders for the following week.

I bought rubber sole “Doc Martin” work boots that were guaranteed for six months, and would wear them out in three, take them back and get a free pair.

5.) When I had my framebuilding business in Worcester, England in the 1970s, a young boy from the neighborhood, aged about eight or nine years old would often stop by on his way home from school, and watch me build frames.

One day he brought his older brother, aged about fourteen, to look at my frames. After studying some finished frames, I had hanging in the shop, the older boy remarked, “They are very good; as good as the ones you can buy at the bike store.”

6.) While working in the Masi shop in California, in the early 1980s I was doing a frame repair. I was replacing the right chainstay on a Masi frame. I had removed the damaged stay and was preparing the frame to receive the new one.

I stabbed my arm on the sharp point on the bottom bracket shell, and hit a main artery. Blood spurted out in a two-foot jet, pulsating to the rhythm of my heartbeat.

I stuck my thumb over the wound and applied pressure, while I was driven to the hospital. On arrival, I was placed in a wheelchair and taken to the emergency room.

I sat there, waited, and waited my thumb still pressed tightly against my arm, afraid to let go, or I would surely bleed to death.

When I finally did see a doctor, I took my thumb away, there was no blood, and I could barely see a puncture wound. The doctor stuck a band-aid on it and charged me fifty bucks. A lot of money back then.

7.) In 1983 I opened my own frameshop in San Marcos, California. It was all work back then trying to get the business off the ground.

The bane of my life was people soliciting and selling all manner of stuff I didn’t need. It got so bad that I would lock the door to the front office.

One day a guy walked in selling Kermit the Frog glove puppets. He had a puppet on each hand, with little red tongues that shot in and out, and immediately when into his sales pitch.

I shouted, “Who the fuck left the front door unlocked.” I walked towards the guy to show him the way out and lock the door behind him.

He must have thought I was about to attack him and he turned to run. The problem was the door had closed behind him, and he couldn’t turn the door knob because he had a Kermit the Frog puppet on each hand.

As I got closer, and closer, he kept glancing back over his shoulder with a look of sheer terror like an animal in the slaughter house.

Just as I reached him, he got the door open and was through the front office and out the front door in a flash. I locked the door behind him and went back to work.

I wonder about this guy. Did he realize he was not really cut out to be a Kermit the Frog puppet salesman, and get a real job?

Maybe after this incident he at least left one hand free to open the door for a quick get away.

There you have it. I am changing the rules set by the Great Bogging Poobah, whoever he might be. I am dropping it back down to five unknown facts, and passing this on to five other bloggers.

If you don’t want to participate, just pretend you didn’t read this. That’s what I am going to do if this comes back around before the end of 2008.

I tag:



My low-tech bicycle computer

I have no desire to fit a computer to my bike; it would probably give me way more information than I need.

If I were seriously training for competition it would be a different matter, but now a days I ride for two reasons only. Physical fitness and pleasure.

The two go hand in hand; the more physically fit I become, the more my riding pleasure. The more my riding pleasure, the more I ride, which leads to increased physical fitness.

It is not necessary that I know my exact speed and mileage. However, I have a regular seven-mile circuit that I ride on; it takes in quite residential streets and some yet to be developed areas of the city. As my fitness increases, the more laps of the circuit I complete.

When I was doing up to five laps there was no problem, but now I am doing 7, 8, or 9 laps it becomes difficult to keep track. So, I installed this simple counting device; five beads on my brake cable housing.

When I start my ride, I reset my computer by sliding all five beads to just above my brake lever. Each lap completed, I slide one bead to rest just above my front brake.

The circuit is in a rough “T” formation; there are three dead turns. Each turn is at the end of a stretch of divided highway, so I ride on the left as I approach the turn. That way I do not have to cut across traffic behind me when I turn.

There are also three speed bumps to negotiate, and eight stop signs. Because of all this stopping and starting, this circuit is not particularly fast.

However, I am not out to break any speed records, and it makes for some excellent interval training, which is really the best in terms of burning calories and achieving aerobic fitness.

My immediate goal is to reach ten laps, (70 miles.) and by the end of this year when the weather cools, a century. (15 laps, 105 miles.) I like it because I pass my home on every lap and I can make a pit stop whenever I need to; replenish water and get something to eat.

My low-tech computer never needs batteries, and is unaffected by moisture and vibration. Of course, it will only work on the old skool, non-aero brake levers with the exterior cables.


What happened yesterday?

I have a little thing on my blog called Stat Counter; it tells me how many hits per day this blog gets and from what area they come from.

At the beginning of this year, I was getting about a 100 hits a day; now, six months later that has crept up to 200-250 hits a day on average.

When this suddenly doubled to 521 hits yesterday, I wondered why. It was due in part to a link posted on a British Forum; appropriately named Another Cycling Forum.

Like most of these forums, they cater to the younger generation, whose enthusiasm is only surpassed by their lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge, that is, outside their own little world they live in.

These British kids were discussing the New Jersey Quick Release Ban; old news here but for whatever reason they thought it was worth discussing. Some of them thought my blog on the story was “Silly.”

What people in other parts of the world have to understand is that here in America we have politicians who constantly pass laws to protect us from ourselves.

Then we have lawyers who uphold those laws, when what we really need are laws to protect us from politicians and lawyers.

I’ll give you a hypothetical example. On the South Coast of England there are the famous White Cliffs of Dover. Chalk cliffs that a quite beautiful and rise several hundred feet above the English Channel.

You can walk along the top of these cliffs and on a clear day see the coast of France that is only some 25 miles away.

There are signs posted along the cliff top footpath, warning people not to go near the edge because the soft chalk may crumble and they could fall to their death.

If that were America the there would be a chain-link fence with barbed wire on top because someone thought that Americans were stupid enough to go to the edge to see if it really would crumble.

Such a fence would spoil the natural beauty of the cliffs, and ruin the view for everyone. But, of course if Dover were in the USA someone would eventually fall over the edge, and someone would sue the Town of Dover for their entire budget for the next twenty years, so it is cheaper to put up a fence.

So to these young British cyclists, yes I think quick release hubs are a good idea, but here in America it is “Cheaper to put up a fence,” like fitting solid axels and hex nuts to some bikes.

In particular, the ones sold at Costco or Wal-Mart, were the checker at the cash register will not show you how to adjust the quick release spindles, so your wheels won’t fall out.


Jean Robic: The little giant

Very tall men always stand out in a crowd, but then so too do very small men who reach greatness.

French rider Jean Robic was such a man; barely five foot tall one would have expected he would have been more suited to a career as a jockey, rather than a world class cyclist.

His small stature and obvious physical strength made him a formidable climber. On the decents his light weight was a definite disadvantage and he made up for this by taking chances and pushing his speed to the limit

He crashed often and it was probably because of this he always wore a padded leather helmet. Only track riders wore helmets back in those days, so it was unusual to see a professional road rider use one as a matter of course. This earned him the nick name of "Leather Head."

Robic won the 1947 Tour de France. This was the first Tour after WWII and his win was no doubt a huge morale booster for the French people. If Jean Robic was an unusual rider his win of the 1947 tour was no less unusual; he did so by winning on the very last stage without ever wearing the Yellow Jersey throughout the race.

Robic was not even in the running until the 15th mountain stage (Luchon - Pau ) when he took off on his own to win by 10 minutes over the second placed rider.

Early on the last stage Robic sprinted up a short climb to take a prime; or so he thought. He was not aware that there was a small break-away group ahead of him, and had he known he never would have sprinted.

This was not unusual back in 1947, there was little or no communication between riders and team support, in fact team support was minimal in those days. A rider could be in the middle of the peloton, and not know that a break had occurred.

Robic was joined by two other riders and because they thought they were leading, worked together, and rode hard, but when a rider dropped back from the leading group. They never caught the leading group, but because they had ridden hard all day chasing the leaders they took 13 minutes out of the peloton that included Pierre Brambilla in the Yellow Jersey who had remained back in the peloton. Jean Robic had won the Tour with the shortest overall time; Brambilla was relegated to third place.

Throughout the rest of the 1940s and into the 1950s Jean Robic held his own among other great riders of that time like Coppi, Kubler, Bobet, etc. In 1950 Robic won the first World Cyclo-cross Championship. (Left.)
He was one of my heroes when I started riding in the early 1950s. One of the most photographed riders of that era, I remember seeing so many close up shots of Robic, his face showing all the extreme pain and agony of the sport.

Other shots of him bleeding profusely from cuts to his face, elbows and knees after falling. He was depicted in cartoons riding heavily bandaged and with his arm in a sling.

I was a little surprised to find very few photos on the Internet, even on French sites. I am grateful to The Wool Jersey for the few great pictures I did find

The picture above shows Robic dealing with a flat tire in the 1948 Tour. As I said earlier team support was minimal and all riders carried a spare tubular, usually around their shoulders.

In the picture Robic has changed the tire, the punctured tubular lies in the road under his feet, as he struggles to replace the chain. Note the pump carried on his down tube, also he does not have quick release wheels but rather wing nuts on solid axels.

Also, take a look at his tiny bicycle frame. Judging by the way the top and down tubes merge together at the head tube, this frame is about 48 cm. and still his saddle is low by comparison

Another photo from the 1950s portraying his tiny stature is the one above with Swiss rider Hugo Koblet (Left.) and Robic (Center.) as they pose with World Middleweight Boxing Champ, Sugar Ray Robinson. (Right.)

Tragically Jean Robic died in a car crash in 1980; he was still at a relatively young age of 59.

A monument to this little giant stands on the Côte de Bonsecours, in France, and of course, it depicts him wearing his trademark leather helmet.

Update July 21, 07: (Picture left.)

From the 1953 Tour de France. Stage winner and Maillot Jaune on Stage 11. Robic riding for a regonal team, was viciously attacked by a jealous French National Team on Stage 12, and a crash victim on Stage 13.

Robic crashed heavily while descending the Col du Fauredon, hitting his head and suffering a concussion. He was unable to start and abandoned the race the next day.

Picture from The Wool Jersey. My thanks to Aldo Ross for all the WJ pictures.