Monday, July 27, 2015

The Patient Photographer

"People in Hancock are hateful. Full of grudges. I'm dying and they still are determined to make me serve time for crimes that are 20 years old. I paid my dues. You have a light?"

Thanks. Can't even use my legs anymore, except for biking. But their not going to see that. This may be my last ride in a long time--maybe forever. I served 5 years for larceny. I'll be the first to admit that I deserved five. It was based on repeat offenses. It got in my blood somehow. Family, probably.

That was my wife just now. One thing you'll learn. Women want security. Men want pussy. But if you can treat her like a princess she'll follow you anywhere. Most people wouldn't suspect it but I have my degree. I'm a working professional. After my five in prison I decided I wanted to make something of my life despite my upbringing--despite the cruelty of my mother, brother, and community. And I went back to school and got a degree in psychology. I've been able to help a lot of people because of where I've been. I been down some dark roads and sometimes you just can't counsel certain types of people unless you've walked that road. I know where most of these people have been and I've helped a lot of them out of dark places.

But you, no, you are going to prosper. I can see that. See that in the way you hold yourself. Utah is a hell of a ride and I wouldn't be surprised if you make it and then some. Sometimes you just get a feeling about people. I'm pretty good at that. I've seen so many in so many different places in life. But, I can see that you are going to prosper. You married?

It's like I said about women. If you take care of them, they'll give their lives for you. They're just built different than men. I have a daughter of my own. Teenager. She's back home with my wife. That was her just now on the phone. God I love her but its not easy. Even after all this time. But this judge, he's not going to consider that. My brother used to abuse me. Really mean stuff. Humiliating stuff. Sexual abuse. Physical. I remember blacking out on a regular basis. My mom never gave any credence to what I'd tell her though. She'd just say 'oh Jodie, stop making up stories. You're a big story teller'. My family were pretty low life people. Just like a lot of our neighbors. Sometimes I'm surprised I lived to be an adult. Come to find out later, my dad had abused my brother when he was still around. That's part of the reason I decided to become a counselor. I could see how this stuff gets passed around. People need help to find a way out.

I know as well as anyone that I made choices that put me in jail and I know enough about life as an adult that I can't blame my mom or brother or community. That's a message I have to convince a lot of my clients of. But to think that I'd have to go back to prison when for me the slate was wiped clean.  No drugs, no crime, not even anything petty in 20 years. I'm a changed man. I have a job and people who rely on me. And now the legs. And then this letter came in the mail just a week ago informing me that new information was made known. The judge has missed me. Wants me to do my fair share. Say again?

No, it's not right. But I'm not complaining. Life has a funny way of working itself out. I've learned that in the time since I've been out of prison.

I'm just grateful I can still ride. That is something. Its freedom. I did 68 miles already today. The legs are shit but they can still drive the chain. There's no cure you know for muscular dystrophy. I'll likely loose my ability to walk from behind bars. I'll ride to Cumberland tonight and then turn around for home tomorrow. When I get back, I go in for my hearing.

But that brought me to where I am today--not so bad really. I do love the bike. Its the only freedom I feel anymore. Muscular dystrophy is eating my legs away. You can tell right. Hell yes. Legs like this. There's nothing left but tendon and bone. I can still bike because I still can use my core muscles. But you saw me, I can hardly stay on my feet. And this judge down in Hancock, he's not going to consider that. People in that community are not quick to forget. He's got a grudge and he's going to give me as many more years as he can.

You want to see something amazing? That's a mother and two cubs. Ranger told me he's spent 25 years in the Appalachia and he's never seen one. They're so rare here in the appalachia any more. Sometimes I get lucky. Couple months back, I took this one. Now how many people can say they've even heard of an albino deer let alone see and take a picture of one. I sat in a field for 3 hours and got the surprise of my life when that thing came walking out. And I can tell you, that's just scratching the surface. When I sit still, things just come to me. Uncanny things, most of which I've got pictures of. Sell?

No. I mean, I'd like for people to see what pictures I've taken but I don't want to sell. It's just hobby that I'm damn good at. People have told me that. And I know people. Like I said, I can see it in you. Those strong legs. This exodus to Utah. Yeah, your going to prosper. I can see that like a painting."

Monday, July 13, 2015

I then remembered that there were no other foaming drinks at high altitudes
I drank 1 oz of rice wine once without knowing the traditional end of chicken stew in Korea
I drank a coconut mixer with a bunch of God-fearing Mormons--again by accident
I tried wine at a Thanksgiving party in grad-school. 
And sipped 3 oz of fresh ground coffee brew during an Ethiopian ceremony in Awassa. 

And then, one day, in Frostburg, a guy says, 'Hey bud. Long ride eh? Like a cold one?' It was nice how natural it felt to say yes. It was even nicer going down. 

As the good Lord has said, wheat for man, and fruit for the bat, and corn for the ox, and brewski for the bicycle tourist. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Persistence Furthers

I've never met anyone of consequence at Subway. And I've eaten more meatball marinaras than I care to admit. But there is something about life on a bike that shakes one's sense of routine. Broaching the silence with the grey bearded patron seated opposite me one table away was hardly even a forethought.

"Did you win?"

He had been laughing to himself as he played what I assumed was a video game on his ipad. It seemed strange that a guy that looked late sixty would be playing games--late afternoon--at a Subway. And somewhere in the monkey chatter of thoughts that will cross a mind in a day, someone was broadcasting, 'What a looser!'.

"Yes. I did. I gamble online. Its great fun."

He laughed again, like a kid in an arcade.

Then surmising my indifference he paused and added, "Oh, not real gambling. It's just for fun."

"I won nearly $300,000 before losing it all."

He was positively radiant about this. He had a smile full of holes that nearly pushed his ears off the side of his head. I started laughing despite myself.

I've always been interested in human stories of all kinds and thought even if this one begs drama and inspiration, maybe the man has his reasons for loitering at Subway for hours while he wins and looses fake money.

"You come to Subway often?" I persisted.

He paused again. He had very clear eyes.

"Oh, I come here occasionally. When I need to escape from my solitude. I woke up this morning feeling less than great. But then I walked outside. The ground was wet. The sun was out so I decided to walk. The air here is clean. So I decided that today has a lot to offer. I ended up here and won and lost $300,000! And now I'm talking to you! I can't see what's not to like about today."

Dave Lehrner was a first rate philosopher! Also a dentist and a Jew. He had read the Book of Mormon 3 times cover to cover and cracked jokes about how pathetically sorry he was for Korihor--the outcast trampled rationalist. He thought that was wildly funny too. So did I.

"I'm riding my bike to Utah." I volunteered at some point. "We'll actually I'm thinking of calling it quits in Pittsburg. It's been harder than I thought it would be."

"Well you said you spent time in Asia, so you know some things about surrender right? It's the wu wei! You do realize that you don't HAVE to finish right? If you finish early, that's positively alright. Maybe even a good thing."

"Yeah, I just hate to finish early. I've been wanting to do this for while."

"There's value in that too! You could go another ten. That might not be remarkable but 10 is 10. You could go to Pittsburg and be done. That would be remarkable! It's a long ride. You could ride all the way to Utah. Let me write something down for you."

He scribbled something on a square slip of paper and then humored himself by drawing a tooth with a smily face in the middle. He accented the tooth with shining marks and left his name and email as well.

He handed me the slip and I read, "Persistence Furthers". It was so simple. Almost non-sense. But to me, the riding weary traveler, it was good medicine. I kept that slip of paper tucked behind the seat of my bike for the next 1600 miles. Many 10 mile segments passed. Thoughtless hours with the occasional passing of a farm truck and the clicks and chirps of field bugs. Inevitably, out of the silence, like the slightest tail wind would whisper, "persistence furthers."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Bumps in All Beginnings

You may pay the minimum for a Randonee. See the 'what you should know' section in this blog to know exactly why riding a bike for a long distance is a good idea. Please see the back of this post, (or the back side of that good journey) for all the clues you need to get you there safely and without care. In other words, forget all about casualty ins.

Because 1 mile from the house, your rear panier will fall off, the hill that you rode a dozen times with an unloaded bike will have stretched its running yellow lines already. In the hour that you left the 100+ year old trees that would be struck by lightning and come tumbling onto the C&O canal may already be earmarked by natures hand for harvest. And you and the newest bike you've owned in years will be caked with trail grime long before sunset. Enjoy those raw almonds for dinner you nut!

You can make your check payable to Shak Hill. P.O. box 3575 Akron, OH. Remember to include your policy number and allow five days for delivery. Nope. No guarantees--not of safety, success, or even a good time. The one thing you can rely on, is that in nine hours, the sun will come up, and it will be light enough to ride on.

First Purchase: fork stem
Cost: $29.95
Place: 115 West German Street, Shepherdstown, WV 25443
Ask for: Jamie
Why: an 8 hour pinch between the shoulders

Monday, February 2, 2015

A bike is a timeless machine, as anyone who has been sucked into the vortex of spinning wheels will tell you.

Last year, during the month of September, I road nearly 1900 miles between where my wife and I live in Arlington VA, to my home town of Vernal in Utah. It was an unforgettable journey. In the coming weeks, I will document some of the most compelling moments of the trip--most of them surprise encounters with the people along the way. A few key phrases will guide the documentation:

  • Fork-Stem False Start: $29.95 and the bumbs in all beginnings
  • "Persistence Furthers" --David Lerner 
  • Brewsky in Frostburg and other memories of foaming drinks at high altitude 
  • Jody Patton--the patient photographer
  • ____, Missoula Team 
  • Pike and Company and why a bike that 'fits' is overrated
  • A reflection on Ohio: redefining kindness
  • Chicago: The McDonalds Encounter, Persistence Furthers Reprise
  • Somonauk: A Personal Definition 
  • Ed Brown: A Party Not to Miss
  • Muse: Corn, Soy, Grasshopper, Repeat 
  • Interlude: Bishop's Biker Bandit 
  • Pat's Party Proverb: "I make the kite, but they are the wind."
  • The Biker's Shed and why biking is such a big deal in Iowa
  • Omaha: Or why bikers should pass through Omaha 
  • The Long Road: Stories from route 30 Nebraska 
  • Too Much Room in the Inn: The Sedgwick Vision 
  • The Stone Man: Magic in the Grasslands 
  • Early Winter in the Rockies
  • Company on the Road
  • Spiritual Ground Zero: More Blue Mountain Magic
  • Reunion: Reflection of the Importance of Motion 

Monday, April 21, 2014

...opposition series continued

March 30, 2014
On Opposition

We are
A hundred weights
And counter weights
Hanging on the Fulcrum
Of Christ

Where one is cut
Another drops into the abyss
Whipping violently
Its leash (lease?)
Around the fulcrum

Where one is heavy
Another drags
Where one is light
Another sags

We jostle and jockie by size
And make room and apologize

And knock heads
And take sides
And despair
And despise
And defend
And deride
And Abide

And we all together suffer
And we all together strive
Hanging on the Fulcrum
Of Christ

And yet
We are suspended!

I pray to know
And do not know still
And yet it is there

I would be content
With but a hint
Or so I think
Until the hint comes
And then I want two hints
A trail of hints leading
To an X which will mark the spot
Where all my suspicions
Will be confirmed or denied.

All I get
Is the hint of a hint
The inflammation of suspision
And yet it is there.

Vascilating between
Trust and Wonder
I hang as a weight and counter weight 
On a Fulcrum.

Antogonist’s synergist
Antagoinizing the agonist’s synergist

I do not
Or Run
Or Sit
Or Sleep
Or Shit
Or Move
Or Reflect
Or Improve
Without Tension

The fist that slams
That strangers hams
The cheek that bears
The fist he shares
Two bodies contend
Their motion animated
By Tension.

The legacy of our movement too,
Pivots on a Fulcrum. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Only a thing, but in space a king
That holds a place in time; a being
For when the arc of time will bend
This thing will profer us an end.

in imitation of:

Only a thought but the work it wrought
Cannot be pen nor tongue be taught
For it ran through life like a thread of gold
And the life bore fruit one hundred fold