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.




Davis hosts a party for the pedalocracy

•November 9, 2014 • 2 Comments

helmet hairAutumn in Davis is always colorful, exuberant, and bicycle-intense. Thousands of new students on campus figuring out how to get around the campus on two wheels (not all are adept, but most become graceful members of the gliding parade in the downtown streets.

For me, it’s an annual visit to the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame that re-establishes my ties to the #1 bicycle city in the country. Six years ago, I took a train, but this time I pedaled to the bus, and met up with Peter Rich, father of West Coast road racing in the modern area.

As I write this, I’m listening to my hero Dervla Murphy in a 2 hr program (interspersed with music and news from Radio Scotland). She’s the writer/cycler whose books continue to blow my mind upon re-reading….I visited her 3 years ago (blog is somewhere around here). She has just uttered a central truth: that the consumer culture and modern lifestyle is killing the planet and not slowly.

But I was going to just surprise my 300 readers (or is it 30?) with a note about hanging out with mountaineer and fat tire champion Sara Ballantyne and three time Olympian cyclist Inga Thompson. This year, the Hall puts two women in–a first. I’ve dreamed of, and demanded, an all-women induction year. Please let this still be possible, eh?

I met Sara in Crested Butte–when I was the unbeaten champ–and when I couldn’t keep up with her on a long ride out in the aspens, I suggested she race me later that summer and be the first to beat me. She was busy that weekend, but certainly rolled into mountain biking with successes piling up for the next 12 years.

Inga I met before I became a mountain biker—when I was a hopeful roadie, and she was a really raw, gifted college runner in 1984, the first Olympic year that permitted women to ride astride bicycles (before that, we had some track and field, gymnastics and synchronized swimming). I was not quite the future Olympian I’d dreamed I’d be, but about ten years after a pretty fun romp in mountain biking, I undertook a stage race in Idaho and got to really know Inga, and visited her at her horse ranch in Halfway, Oregon.

Both of them look as fit as ever, though Inga claims she’s not been on a bike in 20 years.  Before the ceremony we three rode with a pack of locals to the nearest town, Winters, 13 miles away.  It was windy, and one little pack surge shelled me,   while up ahead Sara herded Inga into the dirt along the walnut orchards.
“She converted me into a mountain biker!” said Inga, as she gave her brief, touching tribute to a high school running coach who taught her about maintaining a joyful attitude in the middle of arduous competition.

Sara spoke of her gratitude to always have been in the right place at the right time–the ground floor of the fat tire boom, for example, and also shared stories about her bagging the Eiger with husband Chris Haaland while at a race in the Crans Montana, Switzerland.

I schmoozed with Brooks, Inga’s big brother, and Lee, her little brother (separated by at least 14 years) and was flabbergasted at how supportive her family is…Their mother was also on hand, a gracious woman in pearls, happily witnessing her kid up there in one of mom’s sequined gowns from the 1960s. Very cool.


great shot