For the want of a good knot

Some tread was lost.

Infrared photo by Anne Cutler –

Yesterday was the first ride I’ve done with the great Anne Cutler, infrared photographer and secret blues guitarist. Who greeted me at the Halloween party last week saying: “I was going to come as YOU (Really? Moi? Alice B.? ) but I decided “software pirate” would be cool. Aarrgh! Nice to finally meet you”.

Hard to not want to go out on a ride as soon as possible with someone so gracious, kind, articulate, with such terrific taste in roll models, and whose costume has an embedded pun.

We agreed a day or two later to do the Lagunitas Loop–your basic perfect ride, all the ingredients–and maybe climb beyond the morning fog.

Barely up to Five Corners I jump off my bike, unshoulder the banjo, and ask if A.C. has ever ‘teased spiders’ before. On misty moisty mornings the webs of the funnel spiders become shimmeringly visible, diamond-studded tissues of two sizes: momma spider (doily) or baby spider (beer coaster). The latter ones come in huge numbers…a few dozen within a couple of meter’s radius.

Every funnel has a perfect little black circular entrance at its center, in ominous contrast to the light-reflecting funnel that surrounds it. I took a thin strip of soft long grass, and touched it to the web , peering into the hole. The natural tremor in my huge hominid hand shook the web.

It must have been a botched job at first, but finally OUT RACED THE SPIDER to find..trick or treat ha-ha-false alarm, no fly , just a perverted person messing with the spider’s brain. And ripping a hole in the web.

It’s very cheap sport, making ’em rush onto the web to see who’s for dinner. Kind of like me when I hear the ‘ewe got mail’ ping on my computer. So predictable!

It’d be nice to train the spider legions to swarm the MMWD trucks that regularly ply this peaceful dirt road..and maybe irrevocably harm the directors of the board that are ramming the DESALINATION PLANT that we don’t need or want down our throats.
Woops, mustn’t tilt my hand!

Rode around lake, trading life stories, damn if she isn’t from a family of six kids too! How exquisitely one chooses whom to ride with, nothing conscious, it’s all vibes and Body English. Maybe like spiders and webs? False alarms? I hope to hell not!

As we rode round, she took some astonishing pics, to be shown here or somewhere, they are only the second set of infrared photos I’ve seen (our mutual friend Gary Leo has made many fine nature photos in the low infra range)…curiously there were NO PEOPLE OUT! On the lakeshore, we saw a very friendly group (brits, who love walking and don’t hate cyclists, naturally) who even said –WITH A SMILE –they’d seen someone skinny dipping right here, on a warm day a couple of weeks earlier. .

The swimmer warn’t me..I was testing a different reservoir a different day. “You know, I haven’t ridden since March!” Anne admitted. She didn’t seem out of shape, just a bit winded as anyone would be with that steep hill route to the lakes. “Yeah… on that ride, my friend split her head open on a rock only minutes after Ihad specifically asked her not to since she wasn’t wearing a helmet …”

And then she told me about witnessing a failed brake cable accident, when her neighbor kid splatted into a fence at the bottom of the huge hill they live on. “It was just like a cartoon, and she got up and dusted herself off and explained that her brakes didn’t work, and rode away”.

I wouldn’t blame Anne for having a little bit of paranoia about witnessing (=causality?) accidents…so she must have been duly impressed, when my bike’s rear tire suddenly stopped as we zoomed at a reasonable 15 mph down the last couple of hairpin turns.

As for me, I noticed it the second I touched down from a (very rare) air-grab (the water humps make it hard NOT to catch at least a foot of air). Banjo-back-slap I’m quite used to. But somehow the back end of my ‘ham began fishtailing around to the side (I let it) and then the bike went off toward the road’s edge. Think. Think. Slide…Oh, wait… my sweater, I didn’t really tie it right around my waist, did I?

Oh, shit. It’s become entrained in the back wheel…oh, well…just don’t touch that left brake…This is taking a long time, damn, I’m going to crash oh shit oh shit oh wait OK stick out right foot, and …

Upright… and Anne looking very concerned.

“Friend, that was my fault” I assured her. “You should see my square knot”.

It has happened before. About 15 years ago, a sweater slid off my waist and into the wheel; luckily I was climbing very fast up the Sausalito hill, and just groaned to a stop wondering what the hell happened. I want to go on the record as a person who will never ever tie a sweater around my handlebars. That front wheel can’t afford to catch a garment…

We spent 5 minutes disentangling the unfortunate sweater (which happened to be forest brown, so nae harm, nae foule) and me begging her not to tell anyone she’d seen the stupidest pilot error I’ve commited in years.

Some minutes of feeling shaky because a crash at that speed would have worked wonders on my back, and that poor ol ‘El Kabong’ banjo…. I apologized for scaring her, although the more time that passed, the cockier I felt about my “superior handing skills” –so well -mated to a juvenile responsibility quotient!

Let me ride through my sixties, God, do.

~ by jacquiephelan on November 8, 2007.

4 Responses to “For the want of a good knot”

  1. I really dug your short auto biography on the cunningham page

    very amusing

    I would say more but first I want to finish this post

  2. okay…

    glad that that was just a close call and not an accident

    as far as paranoia goes

    we all deal with our demons
    on and off the bike

    we all need to be more careful

    being taken out by a sweater is no way to go


  3. Bill Champlin, my double-Grammy winning friend, once explained to me the essence of entertainment. “You repeat something just enough times so they expect it again, and then you give ’em something different.”

    Toting the banjo to unlikely places to play half a song (or not to play it at all) is shtick. Doing something once is spontaneous. Doing it every time because it worked when it was spontaneous is shtick.

    Just sayin’. Feel free to ignore. But you won’t.


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