February is a non descript month for those of us in the bike business. While a large portion of our business depends on seasonal weather, and economic conditions alike, we still need to continue to profit regardless of time of year. Hitting January 1st is always exciting, and looked upon with great anticipation rather than trepidation. Resolutions regarding diet and fitness are promised, friendships vowed to be renewed and strengthened, and more time spent with the family. All worthy intentions, but once January begins it's cold, slow paced crawl toward February, and rides become more and more forced, and premeditated, we focus more on tolerating February than embracing it...Let's call it the "Red headed step child" of the calender year. All the month has to offer is Valentine's day, and that just puts undue pressure on all of us along with looking for a pair of pants that still fit!
On a 10 degree, 14 mile, Sunday morning ride at Stewart, I found myself during the ride questioning both sanity and intent. Was I trying to stay fit, or was I trying to prove something to myself and others that I was a devout cyclist? I didn't have an honest answer, and quite frankly after 10 minutes on the trails didn't care. My main concern was maintaining enough blood flow in my fingers to be able to shift, and two hours later, be able to hold a cold bottle of Stone Pale Ale without dropping it on the cloth seat of my truck! I managed both quite well, and one probably too well...you choose whichever satifies your priority.
If you've never ridden in winter, well frankly, you're missing out on a unique experience. The lead up to riding is probably just as bad, if not worse than the actual ride itself. Getting dressed properly is the ordeal. You must choose your gear wisely knowing full well if you have too much clothing, (technical wear if you will), or too little, it could mean the difference between enjoying the experience, or screaming at the top of your lungs, "This sport is stoopid, and I'm not gonna do it anymore!"
I find I remind myself of Ralphie's little brother in "Christmas Story", when his mom bundles him up, and he has so much on he can't move. At this point, the general feeling is most of us would rather be too warm, than too cold. You can always remove the clothing, but if you don't have it, you can't wear it. Some words of wisdom as most of the guys I ride with don't even want to carry a spare tube, or an inflation device, or even a life saving multi tool in case of a break down. You can rest assured however, that back at the parking lot are ample amounts of recovery drinks frowned upon by most nutritionists, but championed by hops growers worldwide!
Trainer workouts are adequate, but like one of the guys said to me, and I hope he wasn't speaking from experience, "the trainer is kinda like making out with your sister...you get the experience, but no one gives you credit for it!" No wonder I look over my shoulder at my Cyclops fluid trainer and shake my head in denial...I have higher standards than that!
Riding in fresh powder is a wonderful experience. I always get a kick out of the sound the tires make in the snow...kind of like a hushed, rhymic, squeaking noise. It has a tendency to lull you into a sort of hypnotic state that keeps your mind off the cold. The spell is immediately broken however when you turn to another rider to share your joy at the moment, and are greeted with a two inch stream of snot extending from cyclist nose all the way to cyclist chin! And said chin smiling unknowingly due to the fact that exposed skin has been rendered useless due to ambient temperature! Thus was born the "trail oyster!"
The best part of all, is the after ride shower...few feelings in life remind us of our mortality like ice cold extremities being reborn under hot water, giving you an idea what it feels like to be stung by a Man of War jelly fish off the Great Barrier Reef. Or when you dry yourself off and look in the mirror at your butt cheeks resembling that four pound Maine lobster fresh out of the pot...only chafed, and covered with Vaseline! Vivid reminders of why winter riding is so rewarding.
My father used to tell me, "The road to the poor house is paved with good intentions", and while my feelings are "Screw you February", my intentions are to stay fit and prosper. I guess I can focus as long as I have my friendly support crew willing to suffer alongside me. If they can tolerate both me and the weather, I'm sure I can get through Gobbler's knob, the Saints winning the Super Bowl, and treating my wife to some greenhouse flowers. Yes, along with slush, February strives to provide the male populace with a contrived holiday intent on making us wallow in guilt and self pity for even trying to remember that Valentine's day falls on the 15th, or is it 16th...right before Saint Patrick's Day!
"Yours in denial" George
Thankfully, someone my age does not need to justify why I welcomed 2010 in at 12:03 A.M. Kathie tried to roust me for the obligatory midnight kiss, but after a growler of Hurricane Kitty consumed while cooking a crockpot of chili for the New Year's day ride, I figured the ball was going to fall with, or without me! Once again I was right. Only thing left now was the goodnight kiss, and another entire night of listening to the Honeymooner's Marathon...does it possibly get any better than that?
I always viewed the beginning of a new year with ambivalent feelings. I'm never sure if I feel relief at the passing of the previous year, or the rejoicing of a fresh and promising 365 days. I do know the older I get, the more rapidly the holidays come and go. I will admit that in the course of the year, I feel thanks for each and every day, and do my best to maximize the alloted time given to me. I have no regrets, and given the chance, would change nothing. I lost one group of riding buddies, and gained another...both have their good and bad points, but frankly, this gang I'm with now, more than before, share my burning passion for the sport.
2010, is destined to be the year of George...I hope. We are going to be building a new shop on 2 acres of the most beautiful property that this area has to offer. I feel pretty darn good for a guy my age, and after 29 years, my wife still wants me to come home nights...go figure! My mother is back living alone, and although insisting she's not vacuuming, or dusting, is fooling no one. As long as she gives me chocolate everytime I go over to throw out her kitty litter, I can look the other way. Hell, she's still my mother, and mom knows best.
After 21 years in the bike business, my passion for the sport burns as strong as ever...probably stronger. I never stop trying to set the bar higher and make the sport more enjoyable, and exciting for anyone associated with Dark Horse. This is supposed to be fun, and healthy, and if anyone is willing to follow me, well then I'm more than willing to lead.
One observation I've made recently, is all those things that seemed so darned important, actually are trivial. Once disected, those annoying situations are actually not so annoying, as they are humorous. Why obsess over the little things? What helps me through is a bike ride, a pint of micro brew, and if convienent enough, a half rack of BBQed ribs! If ribs aren't available, then a ride, a pint, and Kathie's Shepard's pie will do just fine! Point is, I finally learned to look the other way, and move on to what really matters. This ability comes with age, and should not be attempted by anyone under 30 years old...it's a right of passage, and aquired taste...sort of like 20 year old Port, or Del Maguay tequilla...Is that a good analogy...I don't know, but at my age, who cares? Just thinking about it makes me laugh, and there you have it.
We rode today at Stewart State Forest for almost 11 miles in the snow and ice, and welcomed in the next year amongst friends, chili, and booze. We all feel good...we all like each other, and we all look forward to sharing the new year with each other. I like that feeling...it's nice to be a part of something nice. I think I will stop reading the headlines on the internet, because for the most part, they are not nice. I would stop reading the headlines in the newspaper, but because Kathie likes to do the crossword puzzle, I will keep subscribing for home delivery, and since it's here already, and there's coffee involved, might as well see what's going on. Stoopid planet, you all need to ride more, and stop fighting with each other...that's what marriage is for!
So, let's welcome 2010 with open arms, and give the year the benefit of the doubt. We should all be smarter now, and realizing our mistakes, should be able to turn things around for the better. Keep in mind, the Mayans predicted 2012 to be the end of days, but I don't believe it. Too much riding, too much loving, too much giving to cram into two short years...besides, if they were so smart, and knew so much, why aren't they still here?
In closing, let me leave you with these words of wisdom..."This sport is stoopid, but damn, who doesn't love a little stoopidity?" "I do, I do!"
"Yours in winter bliss" George
In all the years I've been in business...I think 34 to be exact, I've worn a lot of different hats and taken on many difficult projects. I was never one to shy away from adverse situations, and even welcomed tough assignments...thus my current "Bulldog" moniker!
With the recent purchase of the 2 commercial acres, and thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on permits, and paperwork without swinging a hammer, my frustration is starting to mount. A world class sprinter would find troublesome the hurdles I've surpassed in dealing with the town, and foolish regulations. I understand that standards must be adhered to, but once you enter town hall, all rationale is thrown by the wayside. Where it reads Town Hall above the door should read as in Dante's Divine comedy upon entering hell..."Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"
The county tax map has the new corporate property listed as 3 acres. I was thrilled that I had purchased 3 acres for a very reasonable amount, until I had a survey done, and found out it was indeed 1.89 acres...Crap! I just paid the school tax bill on 3 acres. Approaching the town tax department I was instructed to file the survey map with the county tax department since they had initially listed the mistake. After doing so, and hearing nothing for 6 weeks, I decided to visit the town tax assessor . Yes, they had received the paper work 4 weeks ago, and there it was sitting in the in box...go figure.
Upon arguing my case, I once again became privy to the most hated phrase in the English language used by a bureaucratic agency to absolve themselves of guilt..."I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do!" "Did you file a grievence back in June?" "No, I tell them, I just bought the property in October." "Too bad, they shoot back...the former owners didn't file a grievence either...now it's too late. You need to come back in March to file an application to file a grievence in June....and that's not to say you're going to win!" Incrediuosly I ask, "So you're telling me that even though I proved there's less acreage, I still have to pay on 3....and we demolished the existing barn that I was taxed on as well!" "Exactly, sir...you'll be taxed in January on 3 acres and the barn because in the eyes of the town, the barn is still there!"
Truth be told, this was one time that I was truly rendered speechless. I managed a weak smile, or perhaps more a grimace, and wished everyone a happy holiday and walked out. What made it more surreal, was most of the staff in the tax department were wearing Santa hats when they should have been wearing ski masks!
I am getting some education during this whole process...what should be straight forward is turning out to be an exercise in both futility, and humility. I am acting as my own G.C. In layman's terms that's General Contractor, when it should be short for "Gutsy Character!" Makes you wonder why anyone would subject themselves to all this aggrevation. I went into this with my eyes open, and upon being semi pummeled by estimates from everyone from the concrete guy to the landscaper am crying "Uncle!" Like Rocky in his corner, I look up in self pity and beg "Cut me Mickey when I should be yelling in triumph...."Adrian!!!!"
I will win...I have to. I am in deep...not too deep to float however. I still have my dream, and a burning desire to be the master of my own destiny. This time next year, I plan to be celebrating the holidays in the new shop, landlord, and land owner all rolled into one big kinder and gentler George. All it takes is money...lots of money, and a unique sense of humor. I need to laugh more during all this contracting nonsense, and I figure as long as my funds hold up, I am the man.
For now, come the 14th, I will be sprinting out of the bureaucratic starting bloc, appearing before the planning board for my initial presentation. I have good people behind me, and am confident we will eventually get the go ahead and break ground this spring.
In the meantime, I am planning on how I'm going to get even with everyone who stood in my way, and took unwarranted funds from my anemic bank accounts! Perhaps I'll sneak into Town Hall and steal all the toilet paper and replace it with 200 grit sandpaper, or even move the handicapped sign to the assigned parking space of the head tax assessor...hey, if you think about that one...if the shoe fits...so forth and so on....Oh functioning kegerator, how sweet thou art, and shall continue to be!
"Happy Holidays to all, and keep your fingers crossed" George
November is possibly my favorite time of the year. The weather usually is not so bad, and it affords us a colorful Autumn landscape that is the envy of every state except Vermont. While Vermont rivals us in leaf peepers, and mass production of maple syrup, we have the New York Giants, and Brooklyn Brewery, with the brewery doing better this year than the Giants!
With the clocks going back one hour, total darkness comes by 6 o'clock, and what this means is it's time to pull out the lights for night riding. This is a good thing because with all the advances in modern lighting systems, there's no excuse to limit the riding season, and affords us an excuse to have pizza and beer every Wednesday night...not that we need an excuse but it looks good to the young guys!
But by far, November means to me, firstly my anniversary, and then my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. How I remember my anniversary is it happens to fall on the same day President Kennedy was shot, November 22nd, and my constant reminder that it's Thanksgiving, is my mother asking me every year if I remember how many people she used to cook for back in Ridgefield New Jersey.
We had a pretty small house, with a finished basement, on one of those standard Jersey lots, where you could open your window and smell what was cooking in your neighbor's house. It was a matter of pride to my parents to cram as many family members and friends into the basement, while still being able to latch the door shut. My mother would begin preparing for that day immediately after Halloween, and for the next 24 days, complain constantly about how much work it was.
Why I loved it was, my buddies and I would meet at the county park for a day of touch football, and upon returning home and walking inside, would be greeted by a sensory overload of turkey aroma, and sweet potato pie. There's few memories in a child's life like coming in from a cold fall day, and being overwhelmed by the sweet warmth of home. My mother and father were young, as was I, and never did the thought enter my mind that these moments might someday end.
Friends would begin arriving as well as relatives, and I always waited with anticipation for the arrival of my aunt and uncle from Jersey City, bringing along their maid, Willamae. Willamae was black, and frankly, both then and now, neither color or race meant anything to me as long as you were nice. Willmae, loved to come on Thanksgiving for the simple reason my mother could relax to host her party, and turn the entire kitchen project over to "Auntie Mae's" capable hands.
I used to hang in the kitchen, and watch her finish cooking, and preparing the food on the platters. She took her job very seriously, and we would talk about school, and not much else because as the surrogate queen of the kitchen, she had to concentrate to keep on schedule according to my mother's strict serving agenda.
I never viewed Mae as a servent, but as another member of our family as she worked for my aunt over 30 years. Why this memory is so vivid, is as soon as my mother and everyone else left the kitchen, Mae would look at me, and say," Auntie Mae is thirsty", meaning since no one was around, I should pour her a glass of Canadian Club whiskey. I was always happy to oblige for the simple reason, when she began to slice the turkey, I got first dibs on the most crispy piece of turkey skin available.
This went on with each course during the day, and needless to say, by the time clean up began, both Mae and I were ready for a nap! Fortunately for us, with all the other drinking going on downstairs, no one seemed to notice. I guess I just looked like the perfect little host!
These were wonderful times, and I will cherish them forever. Sadly Mae is gone as well as most of the people who used to come to 620 Elm Avenue, but when I visit my mother, and she wonders if I remember Thanksgiving, without much fanfare, I assure her I do, and before she notices, I head to the kitchen to get a tissue for my eyes, and fondly remember my Aunt Willamae, and all those wonderful people who forged the holiday memories that will last me a lifetime!
"Yours in fondness" George