As Months Go By

•January 20, 2016 • 9 Comments
It’s four months to the day since Charlie’s “episode” (the bleed that nearly killt him–7 weeks after falling from the bike and breaking a few bones).
Now that we’ve lived through a third of a year, we understand better that the healing curve is nice and Malthusian at first…Charlie went from a curled up ball with arms pressed to his heart (I think this is a sign of a really bad brain injury, according to the author of “Over My Head”) to a guy who can, with careful supervision, walk about 4 miles with small ‘balance disturbances’ and stumbles. He still doesn’t have a clue where he is–on which trail, how far, etc. Will the ‘inner compass return?
I discovered an unfortunate fact: I’ve become my sharp-tongued, overworked mother Doreen. She had six ‘accidents’*, one after the other, and we little Phelans were just so terribly inconvenient!
Mom and Dad were party animals, and we felt the sting of their resentful ‘parenting’ too often.
So I bark : “AUUGH!! WATCH your RIGHT FOOT–it’s too close to the trail’s edge” . I had chosen a single track trail up behind Deer Park School to hear all the little rills roaring down Bald Hill.
“I’ll be careful. Sorry”.
I cringe when I hear Charlie say “sorry”.
It’s ME who should be sorry for being shrill.
Yesterday we got in 90 minutes of walking, cleverly timed between rainstorms. Life is good. It’s also not-so-great. Then it turns great again.
Our friend R. M. lost two rellies this week. Our other friend Nick F. brought us a feast of roast bird, potato, brown rice and veggies…and withdrew politely to allow Charlie that Alone Moment that his royal Shyness so patiently awaits.
This is in direct conflict for my wish for MORE people to visit….my battery gets charged by visits, while his battery drains away ….Is this TMI?
I believe one of the toughest things for Mr. Do-it-Yourself-Depend-On-No-One (so you won’t have to engage socially) is the fact that now, since he’s ‘down’, he must allow his mechanically worthless wife to seek assistance around Off Hand Manor. Our 60 yr old shingled shack, like any home, requires constant vigilance…today was typical: a leak from the woodstove flue. Somehow the ‘hurricane cap’ allows rain to drip right down from the roof to the floor. It is black and creosote-pungent. It might not be doing the unpolished hardwood floor any favor.
I discovered all that, and a wet floor just when we were celebrating the first day with no doctor’s appointments in about 3 weeks….and now, partway thru making oatmeal, I had to change gears into “supplicant of support “, when I’d been such a helpful cook and housekeeper, chauffeuse and bed-warmer.
Mike Schultz came to the rescue (he and Scott Bowman are the only guys who wear as many hats , skill-wise, as Charlie).
By three this afternoon, there was enough slack in the sched that I could get out on my road bike and catch 2 hrs of fresh air, and upon return, Nick Fain was carrying a roast bird and pile of organic roast veggies, plus a bottle of rouge under his arm…so he spared me the hour’s dinner prep. We didn’t know what to do with the extra time so I had Charlie pen one of his patented thank you notes. He’s able to write, but unable to read. Must learn more about this “pure alexia” condition, where somehow part of the brain can generate legible (if badly spelled) text, but in no way can it be re-read. It’s like, as soon as it’s on the page, a mysterious substance scrambles it, and the only way Charlie can read it is to put a finger on a letter, then look it up on the 26 letter alphabet on a plastic sheet that he keeps at the dinner table to ‘decode’ the occasional word. Each word takes about ten minutes to de-cipher. It’s maddening, and he’s trying to be patient, but both of us pray that at some point, a ‘patch cord’ will allow free interplay between the writing and the ability (not yet there) to read.
And: don’t get us started about his ruined sight. There is only about 10% of his vision remaining and we don’t know if it will come back. Of course one must be cheerful but er…can we just hurry thru the next 3 yrs to see if the eyesight returns to 50 % or so? Then he could ride a bike (not on pavement but on dirt, where things don’t pull out in front of you suddenly , etc).

Ah…well, this is the day-in-the-life. Tomorrow Robbins Peek the PBP veteran tandemist will take Charlie round the county a little bit…and get him a schosh stronger.

*Irish term for “bundle of joy”

 Here’s a shot Charlie Kelly took of us at the local park last week.

Merry Christmas

•December 23, 2015 • 4 Comments


It’s been a wild year, with the notion that I’d pick up a new language and impress the folks at Single Speed Worlds in Hakuba Japan.

But on August 3rd, while still cramming at Middlebury Language School, I got a call that Charlie’d had a crash, and had broken 7 or 8 bones. Nothing was made of his head injury, so when I came home, I was a bit in the dark about the subdural hematoma lurking upstairs in his fine mind.

He went from crutch to handmade cane to easy walking, and I was lulled into thinking I could carry out my plan of going to Japan.

Fortunately I brought my computer, and checked me email. I didn’t have a cell phone, but perspicacious Wombats Carolyn V. found a way to reach me and summon me home through this blog.

I found Charlie on life support, but he was able to squeeze my hand (showing he was not a ….er….vegetable is the uncool word, but that was what I was worried about).
Now it’s three months since that awful September 20th,  and so much has transpired…much of the news was transmitted thanks to Caroline James of BigMango, who created a funding site for Charlie. The success has been awe-inspiring. Caroline’s partner Dave Garoutte has been Charlie’s welding wing-man, CNC wizard (back when there were hundreds of orders for this or that invention) and general wise guy whose practical, no-nonsense perspective helps me keep on track.

We ‘re settling into a new normal, and an unnervingly unbusy Charlie.  When I’m typing here, he sits quietly on the couch. He never makes a demand (when he does, I’ll be very happy), for that implies executive function, which is glaringly absent.

I’m trying my hand at list-making (his strong suit, along with Fixing Everything Jacquie Breaks)  and…day-planning. Very strange.

I’ve always been the Keeper of the feminine traditions–cooking, sewing, and hamhanding delicate stuff so Charlie can analyse how Mere Mortals can mangle a bicycle component, invention, or whatever.  I get to “ruination” quicker than anyone.
These days, we BOTH knock things over, and have relied on a tight network of his old buddies to fix things…

I’m hanging the old stockings I made for us a few years ago–note the little hammer and golden wrench on Charlie’s stocking.

Mine features childhood friend Katrina Alef’s lavish embroidery. I have asked Santa Claus to bring back Charlie’s sense of direction/orientation–one of the two things that haven’t bounced back–the other being the ability to recognize letters and printed material. Oh, yes, and vision, balance…er…there are a few stocking stuffers I’ll be awaiting.
Doctors don’t seem to make prognoses about Traumatic Brain Injury. Instead they intone: “the brain has an amazing ability to adapt and reconfigure….but it will take years.” Now that’s something I will need to have put in my stocking.




Maiko Biker prepares to invade Japan

•May 16, 2015 • 7 Comments

Jacquie P1040096In January  I discovered that a Japanese biker friend –Koh Kitazawa– won the ‘bid’ for this year’s singlespeed world championships , to be held in Hakuba at the Iwatake Snow Field on Oct 10-11. Having missed the SSWC 2012 ,2013, 2014 (South Africa, Italy and Alaska) I just couldn’t let another year slide past.

I might get out of shape.

Anyone can race singlespeed at the “world level”:  for the moment at least, you simply send in your fee and get to work on your elaborate costume. Sometimes  there’s a lottery, but not this year.  Perhaps the snow field can hold 2000 bodies…..This location is where the first mountain bike events took place in Japan thirty years ago…and alas I was not part of that trip (Charlie Kelly, Denise Caramagno, and Tom R were invited, wined and dined). I imagine it’s possible the corporate ruination process could hijack this frolicsome 15 year tradition to serve its own purpose ( associating companies like Chevron, BP, Dupont, and various automobile or drug companies with our healthy, peaceful pastime).

As the self-inaugurated global ambassadress for women, I figured speaking reasonably intelligible Japanese might help me  diffuse the Women’s Mountain Bike & Tea velosofy.

Which is: An hour on a bike is an hour in perfect balance.

January 20, one day into Spring Session at COM, I decided to take a class. College of Marin is nothing if not accomodating.  Why Japanese? Because it’s reputed to be a difficult language to learn, and I figured wrestling with it would do what bike schooling does for my students: returns them to youthful innocence.

Thankfully nobody laughs at a sixty year old student; they mostly scratch their head and shrug, then revert to texting when teacher isn’t commanding their attention.

I pedal right into the classroom, past the teacher’s desk (“Konnichiwa!” and a subtle nod) and hop off, lean the bike on the far wall, unclick helmet and drag the messynger bag with its 10 lbs of textbooks, notebook and three sharp pencils to my desk. I’m wayyyyy up front (even though there are only about 8 students, they huddle behind me). I got this issue with hearing ‘s’ and all unvoiced consonants.

The kids range from 15 years old (middle school) to 21.
Even though “furui” is the wrong  word for a human, I AM a “furui kaban” (old bag).
The senseis are phenomenal. I have two  because, with my crappy hearing, i need a second helping of every lesson for vocabulary retention & grammar seepage.  It’s been a very intense 3 months. My brain hurts, and I even lost weight. Back and forth to COM 4 days a week. Worth it ! I can read a soy sauce label now.

For my final speech (a three-minute digest of who I am, my age, major, what I like & hate, etc) do it up. I pulled a ratty silk kimono from the clothing compost heap,  wrapped a Therma-rest sleeping pad round me for a pretty reasonable ‘obi’  cinched with tres chic white nylon climbing rope. Costume designer Pat Leo lent me  water-based white makeup.    My route to school has  lots and lots of flowers on fences. Charlie mollified a chain for a bit of jewelry.  Genuine passion flowers, genuine jasmine. Couldn’t find tabi (toe-socks) or 3 inch tall wooden clogs, but the bike shoes are equally impractical to walk in. Watch this space to see if I can get into a summer program, and if they let you attend classes in costume.

Fredde F. pic of jp

Pictures by Joy Sassoon, Gary Leo and Fredde Foster, who I THINK will be competing at SSWC with the rest of the wild costumed folk….

June 6th, Museum Opens. Read all about it.

•May 13, 2015 • 1 Comment

   Gentle rider, this will seem like a strange (and poorly edited) story, talking to a general reader. Please forgive the sloppiness. The story ran in longer form –i admit–it’s too long even when pruned– a year ago in the Specific Pun, an entertainment weakly (yes, that ‘a’ is on porpoise) that fails to pay its writers unless they really beg. Here, then is my lame-ass cover story for the Specific Pun.

When you speak of “a culture,” it can be the behavior of a given society, or of a group of societies, or of a certain area, or of a certain period of time.—Margaret Mead

COMING SOON!  The third or fourth “opening”  will be Saturday June 6th, don’t miss it.  Maybe you already know. Maybe you’re even going to the Day Before “opening” .The MMB (don’t call it the hall of fame) is a serious nonprofit organization that aims to educate the public about the history of bicycling and encourage biking culture, will occupy the old Big Bear Market site at 1966 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Fairfax. Lectures, movies and live TV coverage of cycling events in the screening room. The main space  holds a hundred people . I plan to share my  skills- and shrediquette-training there when I get permission to do so.*****

The people behind the MMB are  Carole Bauer,Don and Kay Cook,  of Crested Butte. Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte, Colo., to Joe Breeze, bike builder and historian, to bike pioneers Otis Guy and Marc Vendetti, to Mark Squire, building owner and partner at Good Earth Natural Foods. A community of dedicated bicycle advocates has also been involved.

Larry Galetti’s dad built  the market in the 1950s, and left the business to Larry . Galetti left it to  Al Baylocq, who joined the team at the legendary Good Earth health food store. When the customer base outgrew the building in 2012, the store moved to the huge lot in the center of Fairfax. Chris Lang, Fairfax commissioner and bike promoter, connected the dots and got Mark Squire together with the MMB team.

A snapshot of the former Big Bear Market, which was located at the MBB's future location of 1966 Sir Francis Drake Ave.
A snapshot of the former Big Bear Market, which was located at the MBB’s future location of 1966 Sir Francis Drake Ave.


With the help of Lang, the MMB team found the former Good Earth location to be  promising for the future museum. Morgan Hall, a Fairfax-based architect, wanted to return the building to its midcentury roots by creating a strong, horizontal element and exposing the beautiful bowstring truss construction. Hall partnered with Joe Breeze, a Marin-based bicycling legend in his own right, to collaborate on the building’s spatial elements. He attributes many of the building’s intricacies to Breeze’s attention to detail. “Working with Joe has been a joy,” Hall says. “He has such a good spatial eye, and his tolerances are … well, he works with metal so they’re in the thousandths of an inch. Me, I’m a broad brush-stroke kind of guy.”

To many, the museum’s opening is more than a new addition to what has long been an enthusiastic biking community—it’s a culmination of many events that highlight the Bay Area’s connection between sport, art and the landscape.

In 1998, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in collaboration with the SF Bicycle Coalition, sponsored a broad-scoped art show on bicycle cultures highlighting the history of mountain biking and displaying low rider bikes, art bikes and performance pieces. Many say the exhibit lit a slow fuse for bike culture that’s been sparkling ever since.

Momentum for fostering a biking culture grew from July of 2012 to February of 2013, when thousands of international travelers and bikers enjoyed the SFO Museum’s exhibit, “Repack to Rwanda: The Origins, Evolution and Global Reach of the Mountain Bike.” Often viewed as history in the making, the exhibit helped to unite the bicycle community—while setting a high standard for near-future scholarships and exhibitions.

In 2012, San Francisco International Airport Museum Curator Tim O’Brien developed an exhibition that focused specifically on the role Marin County frame builders. Joe Breeze was the guest curator.

“We quickly recognized Joe’s critical role in this early history, his steady involvement in the industry, the greater issues surrounding bicycling and his personal connection to so many people whose cooperation we were seeking,” O’Brien says. Having already been invited to contribute to Santa Clara University’s De Saisset Museum, Breeze was ready to commit more time and energy to exhibiting bicycle history.

Determined to avoid succumbing to the pressures many museums face today, O’Brien sought alternatives. “These are unsettled times for museums. The DeYoung and the Asian Art Museum have to push turnstiles,” O’Brien says. “Free from that pressure, our mission is to tell the truth and inspire others to learn more.”

In the spirit of no-waste, O’Brien donated the exhibit’s specially built panels, photographs and other valuable materials to Breeze and the MMB.

Breeze’s love of all-things-bicycling started early in his hometown of Mill Valley. As a child, he was sure that the mountain in his backyard was the “highest mountain in the world.” The magnificent presence of Mount Tamalpais—Marin’s original tourist attraction—and its green slopes has shaped his life indelibly. He roamed not just the county, but much of California by bike, at a time when few people rode bicycles at all.

Breeze was a road-racer on the weekend, but during the week he rode with a posse of free-spirits who sported no race numbers or uniforms. They roamed the yellow hills during long summers, astride clunky relics in search of fun and a little adventure away from the suburbs.

If you told Breeze or one of those denim-and-flannel-clad bikies that someday mountain biking, or the “world’s smallest sport,” would be an Olympic sport, a high school team activity, or the inspiration for national transit policies, they would have wondered what planet you came from. While mountain biking started to leave a trail in the sporting industry, the organic food movement was picking up momentum. Good Earth sprouted up in 1969 and set itself apart from regular grocery stores—it was where you shopped if you really cared about what went into your body. Serious coin was spent on food and bicycles, being issues of the most pressing sort.

Always looking at the big picture, Breeze regarded bicycles as capable of influencing politics and, ultimately, saving the planet. In 1994 as the U.S. Army vacated San Francisco’s Presidio District, opening spaces for nonprofit organizations, Breeze and MMB partners envisioned and spearheaded a permanent exhibit to excite the kids of the future about bicycle culture. Breeze imagined a bicycle history corner at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability. He contacted Don and Kay Cook at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame arose from businesspeople brainstorming in the summer of 1988. The Hall of Fame, which inducted mostly California riders at first, had as much to do with tourism as it did with preserving the memory of the sport’s earliest days. In a town of roughly 800 full-time residents, an influx of avid cyclists—especially in the slow season of autumn—means money. Induction ceremonies moved from Colorado to the annual bicycle dealer trade show to accommodate even more attendees. Inevitably, the industry titans who sponsored the Hall of Fame were enshrined; thus the world’s smallest sport became a tributary to the created cult of celebrity.

In the early 90s, around the country, federal funding for non-motorized transportation—mainly identified as the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), among other refreshing acronyms—swelled the coffers of many regional bicycle coalitions. The collective energies of their members resulted in greater numbers of riders on the road, including kids. Dan Freeman, a history teacher at Sir Francis Drake High School, coached Marin’s first high school mountain bike team, and 15 years later all of the high schools in the county have a mountain bike team.

And in 2012, with a space in mind, Breeze had his eye on moving the Hall of Fame and its historical memorabilia out to California. Breeze summoned his old friends Marc Vendetti, a former racer, businessman and philanthropist; Otis Guy, a local fireman, and early mountain biker/builder; venture capitalist Julia Violich,  and lawyer Keith Hastings to the team and a handshake sealed the lease—committing to a project that would house the famed Igler collection (30 bicycles from the beginning to the most recent of the bicycle era) as well as examples of the fat tire bike’s evolution.


Marin County is both the spirit home of the human-powered bicycle and the place where its adherents, despite heroic efforts, had little to no political traction. It is no longer a hidden gem, but a global tourist destination conveniently close to San Francisco.

And decades later beyond our county lines, the world caught the fat tire bug. Global production soared through the 1980s and 1990s as the industry realized: People could have more than one bicycle. This “fad” rescued the flattish-bicycle industry after the 1970s sting-ray and 10-speed boom. Trail prohibitions and inflammatory press coverage generated friction and a sensationalized trail war. A parade of journalists from The New York Times, the L.A. Times and countless European and Japanese bicycle magazines, rolled through impressed by the beautiful terrain and astonished by the grim faces of the bike-loathers. The journalists’ stories noted the incongruousness of “mellow” Marin’s cool regard of cyclists on the trail. But at the time, Marin wasn’t yet your typical tourist destination; and sharing was a new concept.

A new generation of bike-friendly policymakers, 30 years and a global climate shift have silenced the chorus of obstructive land managers and officials, who insisted that mountain bikes were ruining the tranquil outdoor experience. County residents continued to simply ride the bikes, and let the cares of a contentious, traffic-bound county slide off them with every revolution of the bear-trap pedal.

At times collaboration seemed unlikely until common goals, federal funding and expanding enfranchisement brought bicyclists into the negotiating rooms. Three decades later, Marin’s bicycle family has matured with the tincture of time. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition was founded precisely to educate this very mercurial and “skiddish” constituency. Years of lobbying, advocating, showing up and never giving up the mission of safer two-wheel transit paid dividends.

The roads are still jammed with cars and irritable, distracted motorists, but the roads have lanes being shared by thousands upon thousands of both residents and visitors.

The stampede into the county’s greensward can only grow. Farsighted Marinites preserved an impressive amount of public land, and, where once the bicyclists were coolly received, a slight thaw is taking place. Stafford Lake Bike Park—the proposed 17-acre bike park slated to include a single-track loop trail, gravity-fed flow trails with jumps and beams, several pump tracks and north shore style elevated trails—would take pressure off southern Marin fire roads.

Future generations of Marinites will remain young in the saddle. Perhaps, if we are good, there will be some narrow trails opened on Mount Tamalpais. Or all the trails will be open on certain weekdays. Anything is possible.

No car can touch what bicycles deliver on many different levels: the joy, the clean air, the clear head, the strong legs, the healthy lungs and the fascinating, translucent, black Lycra shorts—sorry.

Our love affair with the car is dying, and the romance of modernity’s first love, the bicycle, is gearing back up in its Golden Age.


The two-wheeler’s cultural center, the Marin Museum of Bicycling, will open before the rainy season this year. As a membership- and fund-driven entity, the MMB will be creating history for the foreseeable future.


  • Recently released by two professors at MIT is Bicycle Design An Illustrated History by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing. It’s a dense, rich and very readable text made up of 576 pages and 300 accompanying illustrations. Needless to say, most of the Marin inventors like Charlie Cunningham, Joe Breeze, etc. are cited.
  • Due out in September of 2014 is the memoir Fat Tire Flyer by Charlie Kelly. After a 30-year hiatus, Kelly is back on the trail and ready to recharge his wild biking roots as a much-overlooked biking pioneer.

The Deathless Green Jacket

•May 3, 2015 • 3 Comments

acme bicycle co. kansas patchshredded sleeve mollified cord IMG_8187 future patchEver since we met, Charlie’s sported a green down jacket begrimed from years in the machine shop. I think this one is his third…whenever it looked like the poor thing was about to fall to shreds I’d seek another in a thrift shop. It wasn’t too hard in the 1990s but green seems to have fallen out of favor.

My cartoon about his jacket back in 87.

Shittyness abatement in Kansas

•April 18, 2015 • 1 Comment

This just in from Gentle Rider Michelle Davis of Kansas City.

“You and your Mister inspired me just recently to do a bit of repair-via-packratting.
Below behold an improved ferrule on my Burley flagstaff using a slightly oversized aluminum pen cap and a crap tonne of Gorilla Glue. These stupid buggy-whip flagstaffs have a little plastic ferrule that connects the two halves of the pole, and inevitably, after about three months, the damn thing snaps in half. This was no exception.

Because I am sick to the teeth of replacing otherwise perfectly good flags all the time (this is my third!), I decided to attempt a modification on the design.

I had the vision to sleeve the broken ferrule with another, less fragile tube of some sort. Enter the defunct TCU ballpoint pen. This promo pen has a laser pointer in the business end, which is why I kept it around. Great cat-toy, even though the pen was always crap for writing. But I didn’t need the cap anyway, since the ink is all gummed up, so I hacksawed the clip end off, filled it with Gorilla Glue, jammed the busted ends of the flagstaff into it, and let it sit for two days.
I’ve been riding around with it on for the past four days, and so far, so good.  I’m confident enough in my repairs that I’m probably going to re-string the rainbow garland back around the poles once again.

IMG_0003 IMG_9998

The Great Brain Robbery

•April 16, 2015 • 22 Comments

Teatime at Offhand Manor. Photo: Carl Gooding


In 1999, Trek bike company parasitized my years of hard work, good will, and brand management to sell to women. I used to be able to produce and sell out women’s camps…now I barely exist. Women’s Mountain Bike & Tea Society™ was  fifteen years old when someone at Trek woke up and found out that half the population is not young white men.

Here’s a 1999 WOMBATS home page (above) and  Trek’s rip-off ad (below).

Our web site was designed by New York artist Hadley Taylor, who saw an opportunity to showcase her humor and talent for organizing information in an easy-to-follow. engaging way. WOMBATS website won a “25 best websites”  award from Wired Magazine that year (1997). Hadly made a Wombats Art Gallery, complete with “virtual cheese” and “virtual wine”, galleries to stroll through featuring black and white photos of women on & off bikes having fun. Judie Scalfano took most of them, but one was by professional photographer Carl Gooding.

Thanks to the Wired Magazine prize, WOMBATS was now squarely in the cross hairs of “advertising age’, who cast around for truly original stuff to “borrow” for their corporate clients.  Within a month or two, a dozen ad agency employees subscribed to our newsletter….Hal Riney, Goodby Silverstein, Saatchi & Saatchi…a long list. I know because the envelopes housing the applications had the company logo.

If it hadn’t been for the thoughtul, considered treatment I got from Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis a few months before Trek ripped me off, I never might have learned how things work in the ‘real world’ of legitimately acquired artwork.  In the REAL world,  agencies then contact the artist and secure an art acquisition license. Fallon’s people asked me if they could use the  WOMBATS and the women-on-mountain bikes with tea idea for their client, Timex.

“Send me what you have in mind” I wrote back.
“We’d like to photograph a bunch of women riding around” wrote Karla Olmeda, their liaison.

I suggested we invite them to a Wombats Camp. At the time, the New Mexico WOMBATS chapter was raging along merrily, but wasn’t able to foot the bill for me to come out and teach. I coordinated a special Photo-Ho camp, for anyone who cared to come, and be photographed to death. Anyone who’s been in a photo shoot knows that you have to do the same thing twenty times for the director of photography to be happy. Thus: if I held a free camp, no one could whine about us not getting to ride enough, and Timex would have their  clever “Oversteeped tea” campaign (below right).

Since Fallon put together two other advertising concepts as well, and Mr. Timex chose one of them, the WOMBAT camp was nixed….but Fallon McElligott was happy to pay a nine hundred dollar KILL FEE for taking up so much of my time and expertise.  I sent half to the NM chapter, and pocketed the other half, suitably reimbursed for about twenty hour’s work.TrailerPic-006

At the same time, the Trek ad agency, Hanson Dodge +Sutter, was reproducing my site’s main page:

the composition


tea table,

grouped beer bottles,

bikes laying against the door of the vintage trailer.

And most of all, the black-and-white photography itself.

I thought, well, I’ll write them a letter asking them for payment for creating their ad campaign.


Reader, I hope you’re as amused as I was by Laughlin’s comment “if there’s anything we can do for WOMBATS let us know”.

Like a molester asking for a date!

I invited Trek spokesman Gary Fisher out on an all-day ride that spring of 2000, asking for his help.

Said he:  I can’t do anything, you have to have a legal team, etc.

SO I pedaled out to Pt. Reyes where local artist Art Rogers lived.  He’d been ripped off by Jeff Koons, a millionaire who lifted Art’s photograph, had it carved into wood with extreme accuracy–without permission.  Rogers won the precedent-setting litigation. SItting in his beautiful living room, I learned  what a stressful three year slog he’d had to endure.

“I missed three years of my daughter’s life”.

He gave me the name and address of his lawyer, who worked in New York City. I happened to be going there in a few months, so I prepared a folio and shipped it off with a cover letter.

I was graciously deflected by the lawyer who advised me I’d need a rather impressive War Chest of funding–or a pro bono legal team.   And of course he was right. TrailerPic-003

Since then, I’ve considered the dutifully trademarked and copyrighted work I’ve done to encourage women an unpaid (as most women’s work is) a gift. This is Charlie’s approach: when endowed with a gift, give it away freely. There’s an endless supply.  Let it out into the world. And I do. But I am still grumpy about it when I discover I’ve been exploited. This might be a good place to add that I’ve been a rotten WOMBATS administrator, failing in most capacities after that heady period in the 1990’s…..

Should I be grateful to occasionally be permitted in the boy’s club?

At this point, if there is anything TREK would like to do to make things right for me and WOMBATS, “I’ll be happy to consider” a palliative offer. Talking to the higher ups like the Burke family  probably wouldn’t get me anywhere, though. The following image pulled from Wikipedia hints that plagiarism might be company policy–Mary Burke’s family owns Trek. mary burke

Right now, I  could use a round trip ticket to Japan for the months of  September and October and about eight thousand dollars. Not a huge amount of dough considering it’s today’s money.

Should I hire a helper to get a Kickstarter campaign for my “Big In Japan” project?

The Moto Ides of March

•March 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

Post Ride at Lyle the Day After Pi Day - 3.14.15March 14  (Pi day!!) and 15th (Julius Seizure Day!) marked a long-awaited road trip down to Santa Cruz. Bicycling in Santa Cruz easily rivals our riding here in Marin–both road and offroad–and for 25 hours this past weekend I was part of a group of riders who have known each other and ridden, raced, loved and lived to be that ultimate expression of biker fluency: a superb example of a  60-year old human.

Marshall Livingston, the padre of pedalheads of Point Reyes, took Tom Killion, Jeremy Fisher-Smith and me down south for a pre ride feast of salmon, a swank slumber party, and a ride the following day. We were guests of Billy Menchine and Alicia Stanton, who have hosted three decades of bicycle banquets.  “Hut Thanksgiving” was my not-to-be missed first Saturday of December, in the years when I put on a very humble benefit for Women’s Crisis Support in Nisene Marks Forest.

Jeremy and Tom spent their formative years down there, and know the roads well. I was raring to do a group ride with the fast old guys and not have to look at maps. According to Livingston, there are only about four swift saurian riders in his West Marin town, whereas Santa Cruz easily has twenty or more. I think maybe I am one of a few Undroppable dame-o-saurs.

Others joined us Saturday morning: Jeff Traugott, guitar builder, Greg Foy, a pro colleague I hadn’t seen in about 30 years, Bob Landry, a builder (practically all these men are the kind that build their own homes), Peter Vizzusi and Paul Schraub.  I took names.  If I don’t immediately scribble down their contact info, I can’t have that wild 60th b.d. party up on Tam I’m planning in rainy, stormy (we hope) first week o’ December 2015.

I need my ‘cohort’ (and a few kids, too) to pedal up unassisted to dine together for TWO days and nights….

We’ll see if I can pull that off.

IMG_7995Alicia Stanton, Billy’s life partner and breezy chef de cuisine, rolled out a whole salmon and a small bushel of  young yellow potatoes and even younger asparagus, and a merry dozen traded stories (as always with bikers, Road Rage Tales often pepper the usually more high-minded discussions of stuff like how great Procol Harum is.

I turned in early on the 9 foot couch, preferring it to the four huge beds on offer for my traveling companions.

Next morning we rode down the hill and collected our first cases of waving people, fist-shakers and random Hard To Interpret Motorist Behavior.  Made many breakfasts: eggs, rice porridge, toast, and as Billy’s in-town house was disheveled by  hungry (and in my case, rude)  guests, a small peloton formed in the back yard. It was evident that this was going to be more than a ride–it seems there were several folks besides me that hadn’t seen one another in over a decade.

Roll out was maybe 10:30, and destination #1 was Granite Hill Road and the celebrated Zayante descent. I have to call Zayante the ‘repack’ of roadies. Billy might fill me in on the specifics sometime. Suffice to say I stayed down in the drops and clung to the right edge of a bumpyish road with a few hairpins and even one car coming the opposite way. As fourth or fifth in line, there was no danger of damaging someone’s hood, but I still wonder if there’s a connection between the rambunctious descending style of the talented riders in this town and the highly demonstrative few  pick-up truck drivers  who either gun their engine or  bellow “single file” from the driver window.

I ‘d like to include Billy’s words here, and will, when I have permission to…about the early “moto” years of Santa Cruz fat tire history.
As it was, at one of the gathering points a tally was made to see what the average age was in our group, and it was 59.6 yrs, IF you threw out David M. who at 37 threw off the hoped-for high number.

Truly, we’d all pedaled an aggregate million miles, and lived to tell the tale.

Can’t write more–i’m off to Strada Rossa, with Philip Williamson, the graphic designer of note.  This event’s put on by David the Cyclotourist whose photos I avidly follow on Flickr. We’d been pen pals for a few years, finally I get to meet him.
And see Jim Harlow, my old racing friend from Team Ross.

Offhand Manor Minor Mods

•January 27, 2015 • 3 Comments

Now and then* Charlie will be confronted with small failures, disappointments and glitches caused largely by Things That Were Made Cheaply and Thoughtlessly.

A consummate machinist and tool-user and maker, he will not put up with these impediments for more than a minute or two. I hear the sequence in the shop: “squeak -squeak -squeak-saw-noise saw-noise, lathe humming, thing being popped out of a vise” etc.

And then he’ll come in the house with a broad smile,  brandishing a Cleverbacon Solution To The Problem. Usually for no money, a bit of time and a lot of personal energy directed at using what’s at hand, not going to the local hardware store. A bit of sustainability thinking, and a lot of smug Hoarder’s Revenge.

A week ago our toilet acted up, and when he pulled the old rubber plunger from the closet (actually he needed me to locate it because that closet is very Fibber MGee)  to massage the cloggage into submission, the thing wouldn’t work because the rubber was like wood. Antique. Rubber does that in a polluted environment, just hardens up and won’t conform the way it is supposed to.
I hopped on the bike with a wave of the hand, calling “I’m GOING TO THE HARDWARE STORE” to avert any objections. WHen I go to Fairfax Hoardware as a small time-saving service to Charlie,  I inevitably come home with The Wrong Size, The Wrong Formula, The Wrong Something.  It is the fate of us lesser beings, acolytes and camp followers , not being Engineers and all).

I was told I should get a strange accordion-thing that looked like a see-through single shock fork boot, made purely of plastic. It’s tough to think it would last long, and was so stiff it, too was non-conforming)…..the salesman said it was better because it forced more water through. I got the old fashioned rubber kind,  too– just in case.

But when I got home,  I found the solution curing in the sun.

Charlie’d replaced the wooden handle with a length of copper pipe, and put a knurled fitting for a hose at one end, and turned the tired plunger into a  rubber funnel that shot water at high pressure into the toilet. Our  plumber, Mike Schultz, turned us onto a fine product called “Through the Roof” which sealed the joint down around the rubber bulb…

In the end, I took the inferior pair of new plungers back (two trips are the norm around here, as I solve problem after problem the conventional way, and then solve the new problem of an unneccessary purchase).  This is all so easy, gliding around a half mile here, a half mile there times two, three, sometimes much more.

With our savings we can now splurge on another year of Jan Heine’s  fine  Bicycle Quarterly.IMG_7814improved toilet plunger improved toilet plunger2


Old, shitty, rusty and bent. What we usually have to put up with. Worst of all, too short!


The Real Deal Push-Pins for people who are easily disapPOINTed.

Then, a few days later, when he was trying to pin the cardboard in the habitat to keep sun out of his face, the worthless push pin he’d hoarded, a 5/8 ” hard-to-find longer than usual, bent as it went into the wooden roof.

Editor’s error : it was a Chinese imitation of a desirable American-made (and of course no longer produced) metal push pin he’d hoarded, and it was made of soft steel, not hardened, and the pin head was too small, etc.
Into the shop, and a couple hours later, out came the kind of custom push-pin, made with sharpened music wire which apparently has lots of great properties, namely unlikely to bend and deform, and nicely knurled handle with a rubber grip. Several lengths… behold. Note the shop motto. Make that the Life Motto. IMG_7858

*make that daily

Rapha party on Charlie Cunningham’s 66th birthday

•November 10, 2014 • 4 Comments

CC baby braceletChris DiStefano told me last week that their company  (Rapha) was welcoming a new manager at the San Francisco club/coffeehouse. The manager’s name is…Charlie Cunningham. A very familiar, friendly name.  Not Charles. Charlie. Charlie Cleverbacon.

When DiStefano told me the date–August 23rd–I chirped: that’s  MY Charlie’s birthday! Maybe he can have the 1948 era baby bracelet that Carol Cunningham lovingly saved all those years (i’d have kept it but we have a bit of a clutter issue here at Taj Mahovel).

Naturally i had to come welcome the  2.0 version of Charlie Cunningham and rode blithely into the teeth of the most densely packed Sausalito/Golden Gate Bridge tourist scrum i’d ever experienced. “This is good for me” I told myself, carefully steering around the towers needed to avoid another scrum of backward-walking, camera clicking tourists. I knew nobody in Fairfax that would actually ride 23 miles to a a posh pedalhead party, just for the food. I figured I might catch a ride back if there WERE a Marinite that’s in the Rapha inner circle.

Pulled into the Union street store, with its fantastic sawed-in-half Citroen delivery truck which now operates as a parklet.  The first person to greet me in the door was Jen Nordhem, a minx that worked miracles to quash my exuberance during the 2 monthlong 42-below commercial we were both part of….An unhappy child, she orchestrated all of the  (very few) miserable days  on that memorable tour. Weighing in at about a hundred pounds, she throws about three hundred pounds of unpleasant psychic baggage around. Drunk and disorderly was how she presented herself throughout the tour, especially at the boozy ‘parties’ hosted by the sponsor, Bacardi (they were just pretending to be the ‘cool’ folks that dreamed up 42 Below). Fights, broken phones, scary stuff for this Old Bat, who somehow missed all the dangerous parties in high school and college.

She wondered why I refused to give her a hug at the door of the Rapha shop.

“Did you forget the night you wouldn’t let me into my own bed cause you’d invited  your boyfriend over?” I reminded her.
“I prefer to remember the good things”.

I don’t know if this deserves more explanation… ok it does… to save on hotel bills, the 42 below people put two women in each bed, four women per room. In our quartet, Jen was the petulant ruler, dictating to me the terms of  our shared quarters–i.e. whether it was acceptable to walk  about the room naked (it wasn’t).

So anyway, on a 3o degree night in Austin Nevada, I stood around out of doors for a few hours, not wanting to wake anyone up in the hotel because Jen had pushed me out of the room.
Only a couple weeks earlier, I orchestrated a little favor. I’d advocated for her to take a day off from the ride, got a driver for us, and accompanied her to her  very first road race in Champaign Illinois. Coached her, lent her some kit, I forget what, and cheered for her as she rode around getting dropped, but at least  she experienced a real criterium. I remember my Very First Race, and how Darryl Skrabak ‘orchestrated’ it for me.
You see, a true bike novice needs some sort of Old Hand to sheperd them thru the registration, the bike check and even the petty stuff like Where To Put Your Non Racing Clothes.

In Belgium, mom and dad do it for the (male) rider. Here, it’s catch as catch can, since many parents don’t understand a kids wish to race a …bicycle?!

Yah, it’s hard to forget an evening of hypothermia , but I do sort of remember working hard to help her race.
If I had my cold night out BEFORE the race weekend, you can be sure I’d have let her figure out how to do the race, get there, etc. on her own.
From Nevada on, I just kept clear of her royal awfulness.

Anyway, the party was a blast, Jen pretended she didn’t hear what I told her, and I rode home (got in 40 miles, easy) in the beautiful summer night, to my beloved Charlie 1.o.


Just discovered that “Lurksmarvelous” (i think it’s Corey’s non-de-plume) has a LOT of that 42 Below adventure uploaded to You tube.

I just spent an hour catching up on other moments of the 2 month ride I’d forgotten about.