I haven't been around for the last 10 months, thus the lackluster performance in writing my article. Actually, that's only partially true...physically I've been here, but mentally, I was caught in the void of a bureaucratic, and financial beatdown. Building the new shop has drained me. Focusing on a singular goal, that is rapid completion within the boundries of Town compliance, has made me feel as helpless as a 5 year old who peed their pants on the school bus...what that means in essence is, for the moment there's nothing you can do but ride it out!
Having always been a prideful, and up front individual, complying with utter lunacy has humbled, and pained me...alot! Believing in the saying "Pride goeth before the fall", jumping through hoops in the name of zoning has mentally exhausted me. The sense of exhaustion I'm speaking of goes beyond merely being tired of a situation...I'm speaking of that mental numbness that cannot be shaken by anything short of a marathon bike ride, or a six pack of beer...either way, both are only temporary.
Regardless, we have persevered...we are in the new shop, it is beautiful, we are happy, busy, and in awe of ourselves at what we accomplished. Checks flew out the door faster than those pesky, shiny green flies that always sneak in the second you crack a door or window. Whereas writing a check for hundreds was nerve wracking, try writing checks in the thousands...a couple times a day. Actually, it became so common place that as long as I didn't run out of checks, it became natural. I finally got a taste of how Wall Street operates...financing a project with money you don't actually own.
We are about to celebrate our first monthof occupancy, and the project is on going. We are tweaking the interior, and figuring out the storage situation. We just had a beautiful 12X16 Dutch mini barn delivered to be used for housing boxed and built bikes. More checks, and more circling of the "Town Buzzards" looking to pick this Horse's carcass...$100 C/O fee, plus .25 per square foot because you are an evil commercial entity...if you were an abandoned, overgrown, wrecked car parking lot, residential dwelling, it would only be $75...ante up boy! My brain suddenly hurts again!!!!!
The move was swift, with lots of help from the gang. The set up was even faster, and will be a project for the winter. For those curious few, the kegerator was the first piece of equipment set in operational postion, and it has been cranking way beyond it's expected capacity...go figure! Jeez, I wonder if I need a C/O for that, or a minimal amount of pint glasse on premise!?!?
Running the business has been difficult with us hosting 2 major mountain bike races in the interim...Singlespeed-a-palooza, and the Dark Horse 40. Both were smash hits, and frankly, where the incentive came from during our construction I do not know. Mike was a whirling dirvish when it came to trail work...without him, the races would not have happened. It's amazing how sharp my supervisory skills become after a few beers on the trails!
So, just to clarify, I am not asking for pity or forgiveness for that matter, only understanding. Am I a better, and more intelligent individual for the experience? Only time will tell. While most men my age are planning for retirement, or their eventual demise, I am planning for my future. I want to have fun now...I call it "George" time. Someone said that's selfish, but I don't think so. I have plans...not the type that require zoning changes or fees, but the type that's going to insure that Dark Horse Cycles continues to set the standards for what a bike shop should be. The toughest part is behind me, that I know.
Did we win? I don't think there's a win or lose in this situation, only a compromise. I did what I was told...I did what was expected of me, and I got what I wanted all along. Expensive? And how. Worth it? You bet. Do it again? I'll think that one over when I get my next bank statement. Proud of the achievement? If I wasn't me, I'd be giving me high fives all over the place with my left hand, while still cutting checks with my right! As long as I don't run out of checks, everything will be all right...Can you hold that check till September??? Of 2011 I mean...I'm working a deal...trust me!
"Yours @ 628 Rt. 17K in financial bliss" George
P.S. Excuse me while I go and change my pants now...the bus ride is over!
I've always been a firm believer in the saying "You are what you're supposed to be!" What that means is no sense going around complaining that you should have stayed in school, or made that investment when it was offered, because if it were meant to be, then it would have happened...kinda like wondering if you should have taken that left instead of the right!
Now, I'm a little more relaxed in my beliefs concerning pre-ordained destiny, because this year George the bike guy, which I am definitely supposed to be, semi-morphed into George the "General Contractor!" This new title has a tendency to be a bit misleading, in that when the word "General" is used, it mostly denotes some sort of hardened leadership. That being said, I have once again, later in life, been proved so wrong as I walk around trying to ignore everyone pointing their collective fingers at me saying "there goes George, the "Private" contractor"...I've been demoted, having disgraced the very position I hoped to excel in!
I have been forced to wear many hats in this new position, most notably, the tardy clean up crew hat! What that means is after each and every contractor finishes their job, leaving excess mess behind, I am expected to get in there and clean it up before the next crew comes in, and leaves their mess behind. Who knew I needed to get the extra siding out of the way so the insulators could leave their excess insulation behind, covering the millions of roofing nails on the ground littered with the roofing shingles that no one wants, along side the rain drenched sheetrock splatted with ladle sized gobs of joint compound that I was supposed to clean up yesterday! The extra duct work that now houses that giant wasp nest shoved into the spackle buckets that inadvertantly got shoved inside the empty cardboard boxes should have been taken to the dump...who knew?
When asked why one job has not been completed so the next guy can come in and not complete their job, if they even show up when promised, all I'm able to do is weakly declare that I will make a phone call. It has become my responsibility to find out why said contactor is running around with my check in his wallet and finding easy side jobs to work, all the while blaming the weatherman having declared there was a 25% chance of rain that day!
Since I took on the job of "General Contractor" I have relegated myself to what is commonly known as "contractor's liability diet". I am bound by mere virtue of my position, and limited time to consume as much beer, pizza, and wings as is humanly possible, all the while keeping the suppliers within a 2 mile radius. Normally, this would be considered beneficial in that with the increase in empty calories, and accumulated weight gain, I would become more jolly. We all know it's a proven fact that the heavier you are, the more fun you are to be around. The down side to this theory is that my ability to move about the site, and bend down without kicking my leg out like a dog marking it's territory, has greatly decreased. Thankfully, the local hardware store still sells those broom handles with a nail at the end...pass me another slice, will ya!
The upside to this whole project, and new position is I am doing my very best to spend my money locally, and not frugally as has been sternly suggested. I go around throwing a smoking debit card around like a sideshow cowboy spinning a waxed lasso. The local beer distributor stands by the window watching for my truck, and when I pull in the lot, he runs behind the counter to hide the travel brochures that have the print of Dark Horse on them. How many dusty bottles of micro brew does it take to fly one to Cabo Wabo I wonder? I'll have to run that past Sammy Hagar as soon as the building is complete.
The local pizzeria, to the best of my knowledge, has designated one of their girls to be my pizza lady just so there's no confusion as to my order...they know just the way I like my 2 dozen hot wings. I have even learned to share with the workers on the job, as long as there's no objection to six types of meat on one slice...all that protein only serves to keep one's strength up.
I've become something of a minor celebrity at the hardware store as well. I like going there because no matter what you buy from sandpaper, to nails, to propane cyclinders, they give you a couple of those little wooden paint stirrers which we all know make for great sword fights after consuming a couple of beers!
The only place I've been made to feel unwelcome is at my local bank. Before I started the project I was treated like royalty with a bloated checkbook. Now, the tellers turn their backs on me, and have even begun charging me for deposit and withdrawal slips...is that even legal? I never knew an anemic checking account could promote such a drastic personality swing. I did notice when my builder walks in, they pour his coffee for him, and even filled out his deposit slip. That kind of treatment is now a fading memory for me, but rest assured, this 'General" shall return!
Any way, we are almost done. I've done a pretty decent job of keeping things going smoothly, but I know in my heart, this is not what I was meant to be. It's allright to try different things in life as long as you don't lose focus as to where you really belong. It won't be long till I'm in the new shop fixing bikes, and trying to figure out where all the money really went. Who knew that once the pharse "commercial building" came out of the "General's" mouth, that labor automatically doubled along with quadrupled application fees. Must not have been in what I said, but how!
I won't soon forget those who helped, and especially, those who hindered me in the last 4 months. I also won't ever forget the exact moment I decided to reach for the brass ring when most guys my age are discussing retirement...this new place will be my retirement, and no amount of discussion could possibly convey the pride I am feeling, albeit a tired pride for sure.
I can only hope that once I turn the key on the very first day, should I accidentally drop it, I don't have to look for that nail tipped broom handle that is buried somewhere in the shed, and forever buried in the memories of when I became something that I wasn't supposed to be...Goodbye "General"...hello "Bike Guy!"
"Yours not yet in debter's prison" George
Social networking is an interesting media for sure. While it eliminates that one on one personal interaction, it certainly hits the masses with both interesting and mundane issues in one's life. While I enjoy sitting down and chatting live with someone, I do get a kick out of sharing what I deem at a certain moment interesting, or of glaring importance.
I was told as a local business, I needed to interact with both friends and strangers alike so they would be kept abreast of what was going on in my life 24 hours a day. Pleading ignorance regarding matters of cyberspace, and Facebook in particular, I turned to my wife to hook me up with a free account, since to the best of my knowledge, wives know practically everything there is to know about what's free! No coupons needed here, only a burning desire to share daily occurances best chronicled with a grainy cell phone photo.
Not owning a cell phone capable of taking pictures, this task was relegated to my partner Mike, who changes cell phones as frequently as I change bikes...and that is often. He takes the picture, and I allegedly, post some witty comment. Once we post, I check back often to see if anyone "LIKES THIS", or comments back to see if we enhanced, or offended anyone's existence. Who knew that anyone could become infuriated, or mellowed by what I decided to share in a moment of boredom!
The one aspect I have been enjoying is the daily posting of pictures of the new shop. We have developed quite a following of well wishers, from both the "Empire State" from which we plan to profit, and even as far away as Portland Oregon. What interest anyone could have from Oregon, I do not know...perhaps the same interest I show in checking on what happens at Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. While I have actually visited Oskar Blues, and plan to again, I can only hope someone from Portland plans to visit me and spend some money at the new shop...and then post that they "LIKE THIS."
Another aspect of Facebook that I am enjoying and have used to our media advantage, is the posting of both stories, and pictures from our recent race, SSAP, or more commonly Singlespeed-a-palooza. Waking up to cold April showers after a week of sunny and 70 degrees, we offered up 25 of the muddiest and cold epic miles that a singlespeeder could possibly ask for...or not! The race went well for the conditions, and for days afterwards, we were reminded pictorially, with videos in particular, what a fine time was had by all...or not! Memories were shared, and re-hashed over and over, and everyone declared this race to be memorable and the "LIKES" over-ruled the "DOESN'T LIKES"...or not...I don't really know because I just ignore whatever I don't like!
One of the coolest features is if someone says something that I find offensive, or posts something that goes against what I believe, I can just "Remove" them. Also, if someone requests my friendship, and I just get a bad vibe regarding them, or don't like their face for that matter, I can just "Ignore" them without fear of retribution! What you have to be careful of in this instance is that the removed individual shouldn't take a cheap shot at you on some obsure forum under an even more obscure avatar. I've often thought however, the fact I might be visiting this obscure forum makes me fair game for someone who perhaps decided they just don't like me, or my face for that matter. Maybe they just don't like the fact that the building is red, or were offended that I woke up on the wrong side of the world that particular morning...who knows what drives the ire of the devout "Dark Horse" follower???
To be perfectly honest, I am enjoying posting daily progress on Facebook. I haven't decided if it's an undeniable need to feed my ego, or just a way to nurture interest in our future bike shop. Either way both needs are being satisfied, and so far I think I only minimally may have offended a few followers. If I did, I really didn't mean to. If you've been removed, it was only on impulse, and If I knew how to re-instate you I probably would. If I've ignored you it's very possible that you posted too many pictures of girls kissing, or your dog riding your bike in State Parks while wearing a team kit on a bike brand I don't sell. Try to re-friend me and I'll take it under consideration. I want you to know all there is to know about my daily routine, and whether I like you or not, take it under advisement that I can always remove you on the spur of the moment, then you'll never get to see the shower being installed, or a picture of my dog being the first to squat on the lawn of 628 Route 17K, and Mike my partner cleaning it up...George "LIKES THAT!"
"Yours in Social Mis-management" George
March marked my 21st year in the bike business. It was an anniversary that actually went unnoticed until I sat down to write my column. There's so much going on with Dark Horse right now that even if I had remembered, it would have taken a back seat to current events.
Or first race of the year, Singlespeed-a-palooza is sold out at 250 entrants...this race has become for us a darling sibling to the Dark Horse 40, and apparently to everyone else as well. Our theory is if you throw one hell of a party with a race wrapped around it they will come! This race is no joke...it's difficult, especially with only one gear. If you had told me two or three years ago that singlespeed bicycles would be so crazy popular, I would have told you to go drink a Bud Lime, and stay away from Dark Horse...not now however...c'mon in I'm buying!
At 57 years old, I decided that I was no longer content to rent a space to run my business, so while most guys my age are figuring out a way to retire, I figured I'd swing the opposite way and build my own shop. The way I saw it, it was no big deal as long as I was able to borrow some money from the bank, and cultivate in rapid order the biggest set of...well you know what set I'm refering to( and in honor of decency will leave it at that) that a gentleman my age could cultivate. I managed to do both, and the shop is progressing beautifully, and I couldn't be more proud. We will be there soon, and rent, fellow tenants, and pestering landlords will be but a distant memory.
Dark Horse Cycles being my second shop, both of which I started with only a few bucks and a convoluted business plan, is my third child...(Bryan and Sara came first) I have nurtured it and loved it as only a parent can love an offspring...as in real parenthood, there have been some down, and painful times, but we always seemed to make up and go on. As a parent, there can be many training sessions and seminars telling you what to do, but nothing provides you with a stark reality check like the actual thing...same thing in business. Until you stand there in front of a customer wanting their cash, and them wanting to keep it, will you understand the daunting task before you.
I have written so many times in the past about my burning passion for the sport of cycling and how it allowed me to escape seeking professional help from certified head doctors. It has allowed me to see things I would not have seen otherwise, and has allowed me those private, meditative moments that enable one to take back rational thoughts, enjoying private solitude. It has kept me fit...it has kept me young...it has kept me focused...and most importantly, it has definitely played a part in keeping me married for 30 years!
Mike, my partner of two years, is a show in itself. Where I fail in the personality department, he excells. He loves the sport as I do, and is as dedicated as I am to making sure the new shop becomes the area's cycling mecca. We are honest to a fault, and go out of our way to make sure you have a pleasant and rewarding experience at Dark Horse. Many folks have told us the best way to describe Dark Horse is cycling "Dinner and a theatre"....you get the meal, and a show to boot! Do I hear Discovery channel kocking on the door?
Anyway, it's been a crazy ride the last 21 years. I thought initially that selling my service station was a big mistake, but not now. I became a firm believer that you are what you're supposed to be...if I was meant to still be there I would be, but I found my calling. I have had some of the most rewarding experiences provided by the bike industry, and have been invited to attend shows and seminars that provide a bike junkie such as myself total sensory overload. I have met and ridden with some of the founding pioneers of the sport, and have dined with some of the most famous cycling legends in mountain biking. I've had owners and CEOs of big bike companies ask my opinion, and actually put some of my suggestions to use. I have made many new friends, and gotten the opportunity to ride in some of the most exciting lacals in the country...who lives better than this I ask you?
We're not quite sure when we'll be in the new shop, but we're hoping for June. It's going to be so cool I promise you. There will be two floors of cycling goodness set on two acres right across the street from 6700 acres...who could ask for more? We have many events planned, and with on site storage now, rest assured there will still be plenty of room in the work area for one tired old mechanic and his tired old kegerator...together, we make quite the entertaining couple! 608 Rt. 17K...see you there!
" Yours in construction"...George