Wednesday, August 31, 2016


#8 Readsboro (inside)

The cyclist slows just a bit before passing me. I don't look up from the wheel I have in my hand. I just make a fist with my thumb up in the air.
"Have everything you need?"
I wave him on and continue to unscrew the knurled nut from the valve stem of my new tube. I retrieve my two foot long silver hand pump from where it sits in my frame's seat stay and, after threading one end of the flex hose into the end of the pump and the other onto the presta valve, I retract and compress the pump handle 10 times. The tube fills out a bit. I remove the pump from the valve and toss the tube aside.

Rummaging in my handlebar bag I bring out my tire levers and shove first one, between the tan sidewall of the tire and the inside wall of the rim, then the other. Working with one lever to move aside the tire and prying with the other under the tire bead, I apply pressure till a section of the bead is pealed out from under the hooked edge and pulled to the outside of the rim. I hook the back end of the lever to a spoke and work the other lever under the bead next to the hooked tire lever. I run the lever along the entire bead till one side is off the rim.

The two levers slip and fall to the ground. Streaks of moisture, grease and road grime show up on my bib shorts where I wipe my hands.  I undo the knurled nut on the presta valve stem and pulling aside the tire near it, press the stem back through it's hole into the rim. I pull the useless thing out and toss it in the opposite direction of the inflated tube. I bend at the waist with the tire and rim in my hand and between my legs, turning the wheel in place probing my fingers inside the tire, going centimeter by centimeter. I smooth as much of the tire between my thumb, fore and middle fingers as I can with each swipe, checking for imperfections. The herring bone tread on the sides is missing in some places, the ribbing on the center strip has completely disappeared, some threads of the tires casing are broken and frayed. In some places, there are cuts in the tread that look vulnerable at first, but, upon closer inspection are nothing to worry about.

I pull the piece of glass from the tire. No bigger than a rice grain, you can barely tell what it is until the light catches it. For an instant, against a tar-black hand, it becomes a tiny ball of fire, that catches on the small lines of a palm that identifies you and no one else. It sears a mark that runs up the veins of a sweat stained wrist, along your ulnar nerve in your forearm, through your olecranon, around the back of your tricep, under your scapula, up your spine, jumping from vertebrae to vertebrae and colliding at the base of your skull. Your jaw clenches. I look at you standing there, your jaw clenched. I put a hand on your shoulder. I ask you who we should blame. We both shrug. I let go and pick up the tube I had inflated minutes before. Alone on the side of the road.
It isn't inflated anymore.

Friday, August 26, 2016


#14 Hoosick (inside)

Hormones and adrenaline mask the feeling of missing that is a way of life. Just how much am I missing? I slide a hand under map-flap and paw at the inside of my handlebar bag. Legs never ceasing to cycle. I pull out the first thing I find and push that approximation of food toward my mouth, it disappears. 
With my hand in the bag I could feel the outlines of a brick shape. 
During the last stop, the screen blinding me, squinting at the picture of my daughter. Ear-to-ear smile. Pride at the accompanying successful potty message. 

I pull a foil wrapped hand pie from my bag and nibble one corner of it's pyramidal shape. The foil and inner layer of parchment are held lightly, each crumb cradled delicately. Occasionally, my teeth sink into foil and I bite my lower lip to offset the confusion of my molars. Moving the foil around in my hand for a better angle, the ridges feel like cartilage and freckles. The light of my head lamp reflects off the foil beneath my chin and flashes hazel and pink. The subsequent floaters roam my vision and outline the silhouette of my steady increasing desire.
I take another nibble of the corner; the date, chocolate and cashew filling flakes into my mouth in chunks.
The white veins of the parchment paper can be traced with my forefinger. After being bent, unbent and re-bent again to match the shape of the hand-pie.

Parchment, foil, hand-pie. All formed together by my left hand closing carefully and placing, creases up, back into the bag in front of me. With my headlamp on, I'm staring down, but passed my queue sheet. The hunger won't leave. It sits there, right in front of me. I increase my cadence.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


#9 Searsburg (outside)

Three point seven eight five liters, move the decimal point to the right 3 spaces for milliliters. I do this european conversion so often that it's hard not to now. It's the constant chatter that goes on in my brain, a distraction from whatever subconscious desires I have from moment to moment. In this moment there's no need to delay emptying the half full contents of the gallon water jug in front of me. Nonetheless, I'm stuck in the same situation I was at the last controle.

The jug is on the darkly stained wooden railing that surrounds the general store, the general store is perched on a hill. When a rider enters the parking lot from the west, as prescribed by the queue sheet, their trajectory wouldn't allow for them to miss the sweating cloudy plastic container.
It's meant for me.
When I summited Searsburg I took a long pull, when I stopped half-way upSearsburg I took two, when I turned from route 100 to route 8; three short ones.

A drop rolls down the jug and etches it's way through the fine dimpled maze that gravity forces it to take. At each dimpled junction it hesitates and negotiates it's own capillarity. It never reaches a conclusion, this drop, or at least I don't wait for it too.

I exit the general store, crumple the receipt into my palm using the thumb and forefinger of my right hand while reaching for the empty jug on the railing. The full jug in my left hand partially collapses when I pull water past my my sunblock smeared lips. I stand in the shade of the general store and pull three times, crumpling the empty jug in right hand against my chest  at the same time. I put the three quarter full jug down where the half empty one had been.
My altruism is satisfied. I now feel like I'm apart of a vast hidden network of jug placers. This feels right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rest Stop

#6 Stephentown (outside)
"The guy on the bike left about an hour ago"
Hair pulled back tight in a ponytail, it's easy to see the bit of dry skin that's flaking off around the convenience store clerk's hairline. As she brings her absent gaze back from the digital clock on the register, her eyes focus on mine and she itches her scalp.
"Do you need a bag for all that?"
I'm lucky for a rare lull in counter traffic as my mind drifts to the cold air coming from a vent I can't see. When I come to, I'm asking if the Italian Ice I'm holding comes with a flat wooden spoon.
 They don't.
The El Camino pulls up to the curb in fits and starts, the weather pours through the open windows in the bassy tones of the radio DJ. The back of my neck perspires more as waves of heat radiate from the Camino 20 feet off the curb, well away from any yellow parking guides. From my spot on the cement around the store, I can hear the Camino door squeal open heavily and slam as platform heels concuss and rebound from the curb to the overhang casting the meager shade I'm huddling in. The sound changes as the person steps up from the blacktop onto the curb and then disappears with the chime of a bell on the door.

 Chipping away the melting Italian Ice, thumb on the scoop of the spoon and the handle in my fist, I hear the heels exit the convenience store and enter the Camino. The Camino doesn't pullout. The DJ continues to talk. I finish my cold repast, rising from crossed legs and squint at the bike leaning against the brick wall of the convenience store.
"The sooner you get going, the sooner you'll finish"