Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pedaling My La-Z-Boy to Glory

I own three bicycles, not one of which rides itself.  Two of them live on my front porch lanai behind my comfy La-Z-Boy.  That's the nice thing about a La-Z-Boy.  You never have to pedal a La-Z-Boy.

A couple of months back, in the height of our gloriously mild winter, I cleaned and polished my bikes to a gleaming luster, oiled the chains, greased the nice leather saddles.  Put them carefully back on the lanai behind the La-Z-Boy and headed out to play bridge.  Bike cleaning takes so much out of you.

Before I retired to Florida, I averaged about 5000 miles a year cycling.  As such an experienced cyclist, I am rather demanding, as you might imagine.  I have expectations of bicycling that Florida has a tough time meeting.  There aren't any damn hills here, for one thing, hills like the ones I used to devour in Connecticut.  Nothing here gets even remotely vertical.  And what's the point of riding on endlessly flat terrain?  Not enough of a workout to bother with, really.

But I do subscribe to Bicycling magazine, which I read while sitting in my La-Z-Boy in front of my two gleaming bikes.  The third bike, by the way, is a beach cruiser, a relaxed rider that I bought especially for riding on the packed sand along the miles of  beautiful beach that we have here.  I keep it in the shed, where I have to climb over it to get to my gardening tools.  That's why I never use gardening tools.  In fact, I dropped my subscription to Modern Gardening magazine.  The bike in the shed makes gardening ridiculously difficult.

I paid $40 a few months back for a three-month membership in the municipal athletic facility, which has a nice selection of bike machines.  Trouble is, they are not like the real thing - no wind in your face, and the artificial "hills" you can program in are not at all convincing.  Waste of money if you ask me.

I once rode a bicycle from Manchester, Connecticut to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Yessir, fully loaded for camping and cooking along the road.  The stories I could tell you about that week in the saddle; it was the adventure of a lifetime.  I would definitely do that again if I still lived in Connecticut.  When it comes to bicycling, you can't beat Connecticut.

Recently I decided that I should ride again, even if the roads are too flat.  I bought nice new pedals for my favorite bike and installed a new bike computer so I can track all my miles on my laptop while sitting in my La-Z-Boy.  I get tremendous inspiration from the statistics of exercise; it's the engineer in me, I suppose.  The software was much harder to install than I expected.  Stupid programmers!  How am I supposed to ride if my bike computer doesn't read accurately?

My favorite bike is a custom touring job that set me back more than any new car I owned before the age of 40.  If you look at my new picture at the top of this blog, you can just make out the seat post of that bike sticking up over my right ear.  (The picture was taken sitting in my La-Z-Boy.)  That bike has a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain and Chris King hubs and bearings, which make the bike ride like a dream.  I get tremendous satisfaction owning a fine piece of equipment like that.  It's best use is fully loaded touring, like that ride to Bar Harbor.  That was a ride, all right.  Hard to do that here in Florida.  Bar Harbor being so far away, I mean.

Anyway, I'm thinking of buying new tires to replace the ones that have gotten ratty after sitting for the past two years.  I would not want to go out on a long ride only to blow a tire 30 miles out.  Modern technology is great for tire shopping.  I can sit here in my La-Z-Boy, scanning the tire ads in my magazine and order them on line without getting out of my chair.

For shorter rides, I have a great carbon fiber bike that is super fast on flat roads and even up hills if we had any.  Trouble is there's really no place to ride here in Tampa Bay because of the traffic.  The traffic is so bad they put in a long bike trail that goes from Tarpon Springs down to the waterfront in St. Pete, about 40 miles.  That would be great except it's too flat and kind of boring, since it goes mostly in a straight line (it used to be a rail line).  Not much to look at except the scenery, which is barely above average. 

I have Google Earth on my laptop.  Maybe I'll lay out a route for next weekend.  Except it's getting kind of hot in Florida for riding.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Driving for Jesus

Once in a while something comes along that profoundly improves one's understanding of the human condition.  Take religion, for instance.  Some go to church and do good works.  I get that.  I have a daughter and granddaughter on their way in July to equatorial Africa to build a church for some friends' families.  Africa in the summer?  Sure - temperatures run cooler than in Connecticut and WAY cooler than Tampa Bay.

There is another side of religious joy that words cannot convey.  Behold the Jesus Truck:


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good Times at TPA

Nothing rattles 63-year-old bones like a week in the thrall of a couple of 11-year-olds on spring break.  Katy and friend Noelle arrived a week ago and - sandy beach be damned - headed straight for the refrigerator.  Boy-howdy.

As a non-traveling grandfather claiming children off an airplane, I still had to go through security.  It's okay; I know the drill:  I left everything in the car but keys and ID, and approached the groping zone in shorts, unbelted and wearing the battered boat shoes I now live in.  Not that I expected to be invisible - the beard alone elevated every TSA agent in the place to Defcon One.

So I shuffled on command into the electronic peeping Tom, barefoot and naked beneath my clothes.  Oops.  The machine beeped at my knees.  I knew it was my knees because the conspicuously sexless stick figure on the wall flashed two blinking red squares where you would expect to see knees.  That and the TSA guy growled, "There's something wrong with your knees.  Please step over here."

So I stepped over to the groping station with my knees.  Did I mention I was wearing shorts?  It's Paradise; shorts is the uniform of the day.  You would think the guy in the blue gloves could look at my knees and see there were no devices strapped to them.  Not really, no.

"Spread your legs wide, sir, please."  Still barefoot and unbelted, I knew that any such big athletic moves risked widespread embarrassment, but I had no interest in spending the weekend in the pokey or the newspapers.  So I spread 'em. 

Now tell me honestly: don't you think any terrorist clever enough to hide Semtex in his skivvies would know not to wear shorts if he had bombs on his knees?  I did not point this out to the groper in the blue gloves.

Eventually, I got the girls home in their customary advanced state of starvation, despite stopping on the way for sandwiches. 

Vignette:  Stick-thin Noelle standing in the kitchen at 11:30 in the morning, munching a hastily assembled PBJ - I knew it was hastily assembled because J was dripping on the floor - deadpanning: "What are we having for lunch?"

It doesn't get any better than this.