Monday, February 20, 2017

Lord of the Gorge


I will now bestow upon you the knowledge of glorious singletrack in the Red River Gorge.  Or rather, the glorious singletrack that will soon exist in the Red River Gorge.  I had a mostly uneventful weekend.  I volunteered as tribute and stuck around the house with the kids and their sleepovers on Saturday.  It was good to just check out and veg on the recliner for a few hours. I watched a mindless (not really) action movie and played Fallout Shelter.  I’m really not a video game kinda guy, but occasionally I’ll concede defeat and glue eyes to the screen for far too long.

I’m yet to be rehabilitated, but I was able to tear myself away from the game to go for hike with my favorite girl.  The kids had both ventured away asserting their independence so we took off for the Gorge to explore a little around Tarr Ridge.

In my Singletrack Dreams post I wrote about this new scheme and vision for new bike-optimized purpose-built singletrack trails in the Red River Gorge area.  This is a revolutionary concept for a lot of people—and I’m really not sure why—but the reality is we have ample public land, a fantastic terrain for mountain biking, and an almost completely untapped niche of the market. 

Mandy and I started at the KY 77 parking lot and hiked out the west ridge.  We noticed a pickup truck with a bike rack in the bed and one bike on it.  There was a guy sitting in the cab, but we opted to hit the trail instead of socializing.  This was more my influence than Mandy’s. 

The first user trail we plodded out ended up fading into the mountain laurel and greenbriars long before we got the end.  We’d not planned for serious bushwhacking so we turned back and then went out the trail I’ve been riding this past year out to the top of Fortress Wall.  We made our way along the top of the cliff to the overlook at the top of Bedtime for Bonzo.  There was a party topping out as we arrived and we chatted with a couple of the guys there.  I introduced myself simply as “Chris.”  Later as we were hiking away Mandy chided me for not giving my full name, as they might have known who I was.  Hence the title and the opening sentence of this post J

We had a nice hike.  The spring weather was great.  In February.

When we got back to the parking lot the mountain bikers were sitting on the tailgate of their truck.  And I knew one.  It was Josh from Winchester.  He came out and helped Bean and I do some trail work in Bald Rock a couple of weeks ago.  He’d brought his dad out to explore around on the ridge.

As Mandy and I had hiked around I’d pretty much decided I needed to put together a group ride to tour the ridge area and whip up the interest and influence to make this Tarr Ridge thing a reality.  Josh is one of the guys I need to be on that ride.  When we got home I sent out a few more facebook messages and texts trying to get the word out. 

The other thing that became apparent is that Mandy and I need to ride more, hike more, and get ourselves into gear and climb more!  I miss climbing and chatting with those guys on top of Bonzo just reinforced that even more.  And I’m not sure why we hiked around on Tarr Ridge when I had the rack on the Jeep and the bikes were pretty much ready to go.  Mandy almost suggested that we went over to Cave Run but we got such a late start decided not to.  Still, it was an enjoyable hike and I got to spend a beautiful spring after noon with my favorite person.  In February.

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ramming Speed Friday: Six Dollars to Fame Edition


Friday, Friday, Friday.  If only Friday were the answer to my questions and the solution to my problems. 

Today I have subjected the Ol’ New Bike to the indignity of being hauled on the back of the car to Lexington for a lunchtime ride at the Park of Veterans on dirty trails.  Ol’ New Bike…N+1…the Auld Pion Mowtun.
 
Not Veterans Park
 
Whatevs.

Speaking of “whatevs,” I had not previously mentioned because I didn’t want to skew the campaign / election / impeachment cycle, but I am now the chair of the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  LAMPO BPAC for short.  Well, it’s not really short, and this is mainly a ceremonial role.  But it’s a ceremonial roll with cream cheese icing that I fully intend to put on my résumé.

Anywho.

Speaking of “anywho,” interest has been growing for my Tilting at Windmills Club, aka, the Red River Gorge Mountain Bike Trails Initiative and World Domination Plot.  Minions are traipsing to and fro over the Cumberland Plateau looking for old logging roads to surf and ply.  Well, not really, but I like to fantasize that they are.  We are on the verge of launching the Cave Run – Red River Gorge Mountain Bike Alliance (CRRRGMBA for short [see above]).  Lots of strings of letters in my life now.  Lots of strands in the Ol’ Duders head.
 
 

Leadville or Bust is steaming off the presses right now.  In a figurative sense; I mean, if you have poor grounding in your house your Kindle may get hot when you charge it, but otherwise Kindle publications don’t come hot off the presses. 

There is a print-on-demand version and I’m working on a better CreateSpace print-on-demand version that should look like a real book.  I got the proof in the mail yesterday and now my kids think I am a famous author.  Let ‘em believe whatever they want.  Bean teared up when she read the acknowledgements in the back.  I could see the gears in Boone’s head turning when I told him it only cost me six dollars (printing and shipping costs) to produce the book.  I informed him he was not allowed to create books on Amazon without his parents’ permission.  That kid could easily have grown up to be an evil genius if we’d just neglected him a little more.  I guess we still have time.
 
The proof is in the kitchen.
I try to keep it out of the pudding.
(with alternate CreateSpace cover)
 
That’s really the updates for now.  Spring has sprung and it’s only February.  A whacko reality TV show star is jacking around with the fate of the world.  But otherwise all is quiet on the Eastern Front.

      

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Winter Light



The day is over.
There is still light in the sky.
I returned home.

The bike has waited
In darkness but not knowing
That I have bike plans.

Long sleeves for the chill.
Gloves tucked in jersey pocket
For the descending.

The GPS beeps;
Cleats snap into the pedals
Tires hum on pavement.

First I climb a hill. 
Then I climb the tall mountain.
Nose to the grindstone.

Gears drop like rocket
Stages falling from the sky.
Meditation time.

I leave the blacktop.
Signs tell me to go away.
I sing right to roam.

Light falls through the trees.
Winter bare branches cast shadows
Across the old road.

Sun shines bright on stone
A hole in the earth beckons.
Vistas swell the chest.

I spin the pedals.
Fat tires churn through flyrock.
Synapses flash burn.

Two laps or three again.
Grinning and spinning I ride.
Over my shoulder…

Winter light casts low
Pale white and grey shadows and
Clouds in a late sky.

Reluctant return
Drop back into the real world.
Pedal home again. 




Monday, February 13, 2017

Singletrack Dreams

Just shy of a month ago I wrote about a particularly enjoyable ride in the Gorge.  This time I’m prepared to go into more detail about why I was out on the ridge west of the Frenchburg Job Corps and what this means going forward.

Back in January I had a long phone conversation with the new District Ranger for the Cumberland.  He asked if I had ever ridden the ridge west of the Job Corps and I had to admit that I had not.  I wasn’t even aware there was a doubletrack road on that ridge.  He encouraged me to go check it out and that resulted in a very fine Misty Mountain Bike Hop.

Friday he and I had a chance to catch up again.  After riding FR 173 and the user created trails on the east and west sides of KY 77 at the top of the hill I mapped out a conceptual trail system using the existing trails, the road, and then connecting it all up following roughly the 1,220’ contour.  What I discovered was the potential for twenty miles of trails.  Twenty miles of trails.  What I proposed to the District Ranger was a self-contained area to be a hike/bike network.  He said he really liked the idea and gave me a lot of good advice on how to see this forward.  In the end the crux is going to be money.  So I’m going to need to go begging from rich mountain bikers and mountain bike companies.



All that said, I had planned to go for a long road ride Saturday morning, but the wind was whipping and I didn’t relish the idea of fighting a headwind on rubbery flabulous legs.  I flip flopped but then decided I would take the ol’ new mountain bike for a spin up Tarr Ridge.  It took me a mere twenty-five minutes from home to reach the parking area at the top of KY 77 and in short order I was off for the Job Corps.

FR 173 is great!  You have to boldly ride past numerous “Authorized Personnel Only” and “No Trespassing” signs to get through the Job Corps, but the District Ranger assured me that the public has a right to access through the facility to the National Forest beyond.  The best advice is to park at the “geologic marker” sign at the top of the climb on KY 77 and ride the road to the Job Corps.  By doing that, riding FR 173 out and back, then returning to the parking area and then riding the user created trails out the ridges on both sides of 77 I got in 12+ miles of riding. Almost all of it was decent singletrack or really good doubletrack. 

At the "geologic marker"

For a couple of days leading up to the weekend I wrestled with my depression demons.  I was not enjoying much of anything in life.  When I changed my mind at the last minute from road riding to mountain biking I was already aware that I was in a funk. But that kind of indecision in me is a sure sign of depression.  When I’ve got a free block of time on a Saturday to do whatever I want and can’t decide…that’s not because I’m so excited it all sounds good.  No, that’s me not being able to get my heartrate up even for things I enjoy most.

I’ve found that it’s crucial for me to push through the funk, and I did.  Somewhere around mile eight of my ride I realized the clouds had parted and my mood had definitely improved.  I’m not cured, but the self-medicating through proprioceptive stimulus worked.  Sometimes all it takes is some good old dirt therapy to set me right.  

Shut up!  There's no mountain biking in the Red River Gorge!!!

The District Ranger said I should get some folks together and ride at Tarr Ridge to begin building interest.  I think I’m going to plan a ride sometime before the leaves start coming out.  I’m hopeful that if we work together with the Forest Service that this project could be a huge success and bring the Red River Gorge into the limelight as a mountain biking destination. Twenty miles!

In the meantime I’ve decided that when I’m not working in Bald Rock on the new trails there that Tarr Ridge should just be my go-to mountain bike ride. So far it’s two for two fortifying my soul when I need it most.

I do need to get back on the road bike eventually if I want to have the legs for the Mohican…  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ramming Speed Friday: Not Busted Edition

 
I made a lot of assertions over the past few years that I was on the verge of publishing my book about doing the Leadville 100.  Let’s be up front about this…I lack self-confidence and this one is tied up in a lot of my own personal issues.  The book is basically as close to an autobiography/memoir as I’m ever likely to write and it included a lot of passages about personal demons.  It’s also my first real attempt at writing a full length book and to date is my only completed book-length work.

I couldn’t beg or bribe anyone to read the damn thing and give me constructive feedback.  I’m not mad, and I’m not implicating anyone in this, but that alone made it hard to feel confident in putting it out.  You have to realize I don’t have a community of authors that I sit around drinking coffee with and discussing our writing.  If only!  No, I was asking friends and family and in some cases perfect strangers to help me out.

Again, I’m not fussing at those people, and I am so unbelievably grateful to everyone who has offered words of encouragement and who has expressed persistent interest in seeing my book in print. 

A few weeks ago I was driving somewhere and it occurred to me…the book is doing no one any good sitting in a file on my computer.  It might not be perfect; it might have spelling, grammar, and artistic errors.  Some passages may read awkwardly.  At this point does that matter?

I tried to shop it around to conventional publishers and got absolutely no response.  Admittedly I didn’t shop it hard.  I also didn’t want to seek out an agent whom I would have to share profits with.  I know the pros and cons of hiring an agent, but I’m running on a shoestring budget, and I never expected this book to make me rich.  Why not put it out for my own gratification and let it ride?

So here we are.  Leadville or Bust by Chris Chaney is now on Kindle*.  The book will only be available on the Kindle platform and as a print-on-demand book for now. 
 
 

If you have an interest and buy the book please, please, please write a review, even a brief one is helpful, and give it a rating.  Don’t feel like you have to spare my feelings, I just want an honest take on the book.

If you’d like to review the book for a legitimate outlet please contact me and I’ll get you a copy: ascentionist@yahoo.com 

Anyway, so it’s out there.  I’m currently working on the In the Red collection and getting some great stuff.  My goal is to publish it by next fall; ideally in August.  Reading and editing the In the Red submissions has somewhat inspired me to actively write again.  For whatever reasons I’m really struggling right now to write anything of substance.  That was another reason I wanted to put LOB out there.  If it started to generate any positive response maybe I would really feel the urge to kick into high gear on the novel and keep moving forward on ITR.  

So there you have it.  We made it.  We didn’t bust.  There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I’m really not at liberty to share here at this time regarding my feelings toward the mountain bike race that inspired me, defeated me, and resulted in my writing of a book.  Those feelings are now mixed, and corrupted, and I am certain that chapter of the story isn’t finished.  Likely it’ll never be a chapter written in an actual book, but I hope someday soon to be able to share it here with you on this back alley wall of the internet.

Happy Friday!


* As of Thursday morning I had submitted an updated file to Kindle Direct Publishing because I found an error in the original (the climax of the book was mysteriously missing!) and it may not be updated by Friday.  I'll try to remember to edit all of this out once I get the all clear, but if I forget the changes still should be made by the weekend.  And I believe even if you purchase the first version Kindle will push an update once the edit has gone through.  If you have any problems let me know and I'll look into it.

ADDENDUM: The print version is available, but I realized I used the wrong option and am working to correct that.  There may be a short time when print won't be available, but ultimately you will be able to get a print-on-demand copy of the book very soon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hump Day Harangue: I'm NOT a Professional Music Reviewer!


My eventual obituary should mention something about me being a hopeless Tyler Childers fan.  Paragraph or two tops.  I stumbled across him searching for new music on Youtube a couple years ago.  I believe the first two songs I heard by him were the Shaker Steps productions of William Hill and Charleston Girl.  They’re still two of my favorite songs of his. 

I don't want to deny Mr. Childers his due fame and fortune.  He's talented and works hard and clearly deserves it, but there’s something appealing about having him to ourselves; him being our little secret and not sharing him with the world.  Of course when you have a local favorite musician or artist you fear how the wide world will change and perhaps mar their art.  It would be hard to take the Eastern Kentucky out of this boy.

It seems that he's not trying to be anyone but Tyler.  A talented singer songwriter with a unique voice?  That's a winning combination.  While he could be classified as folk, Americana, or maybe borderline country he doesn't wallow in nostalgia for traditional folk tunes.  The songs Tyler writes embody—not pithy frontier kitsch, but—a modern reflection of central Appalachian culture.  The line “ain’t got bars nor the charge to call her anyway” describes the reality of modern technology in rural romantic transactions while “keep your nose on the grindstone and out of the pills” is a stark line that is rooted in one of the direst problems that face Central Appalachia today.
 
Tyler Childers at the Mountain Arts Center
 
Last Friday evening Mandy, her dad, and I traveled east to Prestonsburg to see Tyler Childers open for the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Mountain Arts Center.  Fittingly the home town boy was the main attraction.  The place was packed.  Until Tyler’s set was over, then the crowd moved to the lobby where he was mobbed by a throng of fans that were probably family, old high school friends, and neighbors who were proud to see their talented Tyler teetering on the big time.  Many of them didn’t come back to see the headliners, a fantastic group in their own right, that recently played backup band to comedian Steve Martin’s successful foray into mainstream bluegrass music.
 
Steep Canyon Rangers
We had great seats!
 
Tyler’s appeal in Eastern Kentucky is genuine.  His songs strike at the heart of the natives because they know where Virgie is, they've driven White House Road, and they know all the vague or explicit references from Tyler's life.  They've met the namesake of his crowd favorite Lady May.  We met his wife Senora May—a talented singer-songwriter in her own right—at the CD table that night.  The music of Tyler Childers is accessible, approachable, and relatable for us common folk. 

While I’m a borderlands Eastern Kentuckian I still don't talk like Tyler.  My accent transects too many geographic areas, but his word choices, inflections, and accent are the same as the people around me every day.  He talks like my people.  I think for me this is the main factor that keeps drawing me back.  His stories are eerily similar to stories I’ve heard in my own life.  This is my native language spoken in music and poetry unlike any I’ve ever experienced. 

Tyler Childers can go from a heartfelt Lady May to a rousing White House Road and carry the room like driving on some twisting Eastern Kentucky country road with the radio blasting and the tires screaming in every curve.  He doesn’t just strum chords, but exhibits a familiarity and love of the guitar which I don’t think a lot of his fans even appreciate.  I was never a great guitarist myself, but I played for the better part of twenty years and can recognize someone who plays for enjoyment.  His songs are rich with a playing style that goes beyond simply strumming some twangy chords. 

I keep hoping for a full length studio album, but the truth is Tyler’s live performed original compositions have a weight that I think will be lost in production.  It would take a genius in the studio to capture the life and energy of this guy’s art.  I’m not saying he wouldn’t put out a phenomenal studio album, but there’s something deep and abiding in the voice of Tyler Childers that doesn’t translate to a recorded medium.  Listening to his live performances is like having a deep conversation with a dear friend in a hopelessly crowded and loud room.  You strain to hear every word and cling to the truth and poetry of the words as chaos swirls around.  You can’t bottle that.  You can’t inscribe it on plastic with a laser.  It has to live in the wild.

I’ll buy every album he puts out.  I’ll be a huge fan even if he goes mainstream country (my least favorite genre), but at this moment in time Tyler Childers is in a perfect place and producing a perfect musical experience.
 
As we were walking out Mandy said: "Well, there's Mister Childers himself!"  Sure enough, he stood a few dozen feet away talking to a group of three or four.  The place had pretty much cleared out.  Tom offered to take a photo if I wanted to go over.  I thought about it but decided not to.  I hate to impose on people and I know he'd had a big night.  He looked like he was getting ready to head out himself.  So we walked across the parking lot back to the hotel with no photo of the fanboy and the artist. 
 
The next morning as we were loading up for the drive home I had a revelation.  Murphy's Law strikes again!
 
"He's going to be huge.  I know it, because last night I had the chance to go meet him, and I'll probably never get another one."
 
Tom nodded in agreement.  Tyler Childers is going to be huge.

 


Monday, February 6, 2017

Post-Apocalyptic Allemansrätten

Quick!  Before Drumpf notices!  I jam corpse-white legs into padded lycra shorts.  I yank a long sleeve polypro shirt over my head and zip the XXL jersey over my belly.  GPS beeps its acknowledgement. Let’s do this.

I step into the gray sunlight, look both ways from the mouth of the Bike Cave, and shove the New Bike outside.  Outside!  I rocket toward the Plateau at the speed of smell.  It’s been a while since I rode, and it’s been an eon since I rode from home.

I plowed slow over Granny Moppet—segment “Granny’s Fanny” on Strava—and rolled up to the toe of Furnace Mountain.  Once I was a climber.  I cranked my way up and over so many Cumberland Plateau grinds.  Furnace was the first.  It was my first taste of blood.  Well, maybe my own as parts of my lungs hacked up.

The lower crux goes easy as it usually does.  It’s too early to give up even though the legs feel hollow.  The 1x11 setup works; heck, maybe even better than my road bike with its 27t “granny” gear.  A couple of cars pass at the worst possible spot—the second curve—but nothing is coming down the hill so it’s no problem.  But then I’m on the narrow section before the upper crux.  A quick glance over my left shoulder is all I need to take in the vista over my hometown.  The trees are bare but the landscape is dull brown, gray, and the dull off-white of concrete and buildings.  Not much to see anyway.  It’s a better view at night anyway.

A truck jams past as another car descends.  Of course speeding up is the only solution to meeting a bike on the road with an oncoming car.  At least he didn’t point a gun at me.  Or nudge me off the road.  Or throw anything at me.

I keep crawling toward the summit.  There’s really no doubt I’m going to ride the whole thing without putting a foot down.  Short of trying to tackle the Furnace Mountain climb on the Stupidly Simply Bike I don’t guess there’s anything to really prevent my success at this point in life.  Success is somewhat mental anyway.  Oh, it’s no giveaway, but it’s also no Cobhill.

At the top I take a hard left off the pavement, duck under a rusty cable (failing to read the nearby warning signs) and pedal into the woods along an old road along a ridge.  I pass two small stone buildings with no door.  It’s easy enough to dodge the soft spots in the road.  And I can’t help but think the broad, flat ridge would be a great place for a system of singletrack trails.

In just a few short minutes the already bare forest opens up.  There’s a huge hole in the ridge.  It’s an old limestone quarry at the end of the ridge.  The hole has only a small opening on the western end.  Otherwise is an oblong round-ish affair and probably thirty feet deep. The walls are crumbling vertical ramparts.  I always thought the deepest part of the quarry would make for a great post-apocalyptic open air arena like Mad Max’s Thunderdome.




I ride around the perimeter of the upper level of the abandoned operation before descending the narrow road to the level of the lower “arena.”  I give it a circuit, climb back to the broad artificial plateau overlooking town, and point my wheel toward home.

The sun is setting though it is obscured by watery clouds.  I realize I’m racing the light.  I didn’t bring a bike light at all, so I need to be off the road before it’s too dim to be visible.  That shouldn’t be a problem as I drop like a space capsule on reentry down Furnace on my plus sized tires with low PSI.  Not the best decision I’ve made in recent months.

Still, I survived, cut over Granny Moppet in reverse, and was back on the creek.  I rolled up to the mouth of the Bike Cave exactly an hour after having left.  Good ride.

I don’t know why I don’t do this more often.  Round trip was 7.7 miles.  There was little traffic.  I only had one pitbull try to gnaw on my ankle.  It was absent on the return trip.  With some small hand tools I could likely open up a whole network of rough trails on the ridge.  But I worry that the rightful owners have game cams and a poor sense of allemansrätten.  I think I need to do some research at the PVA and make some inquiries. 

Anyway, I rode in lieu of running.  While I’ve not had problems enjoying my runs of late I decided to mix it up and break out the ol’ new mountain bike.  I’m glad I did.  I need to ride more.  I’m never going to get back into climbing shape running flat at the park and sitting in the recliner composing creatively destitute blog posts about my mundane daily adventures.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hump Day Harangue: Trumped Up


 
Ugh.  I don’t want to write about politics.  At this point I don’t want to think about politics.  I’m well past wanting to discuss politics on social media.

This morning I turned NPR off and listened to Tyler Childers.  I may not turn NPR back on for a long time.  I get an endless barrage of current events on my phone and computer (not to mention the office rattletrap).  So why do I want to listen to it while riding in my car?

I’m seriously concerned.  I firmly believe the new administration is testing the limits or power.  If they were focused and concerned on making America great again they wouldn’t care about power.  In his inaugural address Trump said January 20th, 2017 was the day the people took America back.  I’m afraid that was code for a certain group of people recently ascended to the White House not “We the People” people.

But no, it looks like Trump and his cronies (or rather Bannon and his cronies) are foregoing sleep and decent meals to stretch the boundaries of executive power.  This is disturbing.  They are exhibiting all the signs of developing a fascist dictatorship.  Can that happen in modern day America?  My knee jerk response is: YES, THEY’RE DOING IT!  But I wonder…

I think about all of the decent people I know.  I think about the community I live in.  At worst there is a majority that is ambivalent about most things, but we’re a homogenous community for the most part.  There aren’t enough minorities and “others” to truly divide us on lines of pigment and ideology.  We’re white, “Christian,” and rural poor.  That said, there are political differences, and I know my left-leaning independent views are in the minority.  Yes, I’m owning it now.  I lean left.  The right has driven me to it.

The great unknown is this: how many people are out there who pine for a Mad Maxian existence so they can be free from all semblance of order?  How many prefer chaos over order?  Again, most of the people I know prefer order.  My fear is there really is a silent majority in rural America who hates laws and hate uppity folk from town enough to ride roughshod through the apocalypse raping and killing just for the sport of it. 

I know we have a lawless drug community in the western end of the county who know that the police keep bankers hours.  How do you combat that?  The lack of law enforcement is not choice.  I’ve been in the city council meetings where they mourn the inability to provide better protection.  They just don’t have the money.

Here’s the rub, regardless of whether or not society collapses I just don’t see how Trump’s campaign promises and the policies he’s implementing hourly (and grinding the polish off the country) are going to help my rural non-coal Central Appalachian community.  If society collapses I am uncertain if we’ll band together or eat each other’s hearts.

What truly saddens me is that I know a lot of good, honest, and well-meaning people who take every word out of Donald Trump’s mouth as gospel.  Trump has redefined lying.  There are three (new) kinds of lies: lies, alternative facts, and Trump’s statistics.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hey Heisenberg!

I took my grandmother (Mamaw) and my 9 (soon to be 10) year old daughter and a friend of the daughter to a bluegrass concert this past weekend because Lily wanted to go for her birthday.
 
We had a great time.  Once the concert was over we left, took the friend home on a dark country road, then headed back toward town.  As I drove along at a reasonable clip a pickup truck came from out of nowhere and started tailgating me with its lights on bright.  I do not negotiate with tailgaters; I slowed down.
 
When we reached the intersection with the main road I curbed the urge to roll down my window and yell: "do you have a problem?"  If two of the most important people in my life hadn't been in the car I most assuredly would have.
 
I looked both ways three times before pulling out and continued toward town, with the intention to get on the parkway so the jerk in the truck could pass at his leisure.  Except there was a passing lane before the intersection with the ramp.  He pulled alongside and matched my speed.
 
I looked over, expecting to see his middle finger or him cursing.  Nope.  He's pointing a gun at me.  And Mamaw Lacy.  And Lily.
 
I let off the gas and he sped away.  Not before I got his plate number and dialed 911.
 
We continued home.  We're safe.  But it took all of my self-control not to go back to town after I dropped them off and look for him.  ALL of my self-control.
***

Originally, I had assumed this incident was part of the Trump Effect.  I posted the preceding portion with an ending that lambasted Trump and his supporters, and reminding the world that I had predicted this sort of thing would happen in a Trump/Tannen reality.  I posted it up at 5:00 am this past Sunday morning (the dogs had woke me up to go out and bark at the coyotes that live up the way). A Facebook friend replied and said they didn’t think it was the Trump Effect but instead an effect of the local drug problem and cited some examples.  I thought about it, being a little more awake after I let the traitor dogs back in, and took the post down.

The more I think about it the more I’m fairly certain our felonius friend was involved less in local politics and more in the local drug scene. Then my thoughts turned to the current situation in my own neighborhood.  Drugs haven’t creeped in; they came strolling up with the mail wearing familiar faces.

We’ve had people come to the door looking for the dealers asking for them by names we know all too well.  Recently a guy came to the door and tried to sell us some scratched up DVDs.  When we said we weren’t interested he tried to get us to buy the whole case for twenty bucks.  So he could walk across the road and buy meth? Heroin? Pills?

We’ve started locking not only all of our house doors but our car doors at night as well.  I worry about the garbage that gets burned at the drug house.  We’ve had to educate the kids about what to do if they come across needles.  We’ve had to tell them not to talk to anyone along the road (that goes to their great grandmother’s house) or answer the door to anyone they don’t know...well.

This is our house.  This is where we live.  Our home.

I know I’m not the first father to worry about these things and I know what we’re dealing with isn’t a fraction of what a lot of people have to deal with.  I understand and I’m not trying to cry victim or garner pity.  I’m pissed.

I’m tired of watching the Breaking Bad Amateur Hour.  How long before a deal goes bad and bullets fly?  Or the house catches on fire?  Or someone inadvertently or advertently harms my kids?

I don’t know if the road rage incident was the Trump Effect.  Frankly, I don’t care if it was Trump or drugs.  We’re living in a Biff Tannen fever dream all the same.  There is a bigger problem in Powell County.  We don’t have enough law enforcement.  We have too many criminals that know that.  Drugs in Eastern Kentucky are running rampant. 

This is not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in.  I thought by getting out of the big city (Denver) and moving back to rural Eastern Kentucky life would be more relaxed and satisfying.  I was terribly wrong.  The most galling things about the situation at home is that its family that has brought drugs to the neighborhood.  Its family that has attracted the criminal element. 

The genius that pointed the gun at us though…

 
When I was a full time bike commuter I used to confront reckless drivers.  Sure, go ahead and cut me off to get to the red light.  I'll just pull up to your window five seconds later and we can "chat" about how you almost hit me.  Mandy used to tell me that one day I was going to get in a fight or get shot.  The other night when I told her I almost rolled down my window and yelled: "do you have a problem?" she said that should be a lesson to me; that I probably would have gotten shot.
 
Would it have been wrong for me to demand an answer for the tailgater's behavior?  And if he shot me—while no real consolation to me or my loved ones—it would have been him morally accountable; not me.
 
Why do the bullies get to win?  I know, I know, I should turn the other cheek.  When they go low, I should go high.  But where is that line between letting it go and taking a stand to protect my family and myself?  The other night I was able to let off the gas and the problem sped away.  What if he had decided menacing us wasn't enough?  He'd already committed a felony by pointing the gun at me. What if he'd ran us off the road?  What if he'd followed me home to prove some idiotic point? 

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been threatened in recent months.

One night a few months ago about 11:00 we hear a Gator shaped object revving up on the hill.  We look out the bedroom window and the neighbor has driven a hundred feet from the house to a flat spot just off the property I call "the dump."  Old tires and stuff.  He starts screwing around in front of the GSO on the ground for ten minutes or so, then drives it back to the house, parks it and goes inside.  The next day when I got home from work I parked up the road and kind of sneaked through the woods to see if I could see what he had been up to.  There amongst the normal junk was a truck toolbox sitting upright on the ground.  I figure that's where he was stashing stuff.

A few days later he comes by when I'm outside and wants to chat.  We never chat.  He asks if we've lost any chickens.  Says he saw a bobcat on his game cam a few nights back.  Tells me his boss bought him a gun and they've been sitting up in the woods waiting for it.  I'm a dim light bulb.  It doesn't register right away.  It’s such a bizarre non-sequitur I ponder it for a few days before I realize: I'm the bobcat.

Whose boss buys them a gun?  I kept wondering that.  Make absolutely no sense.  Unless your boss is a drug dealer.

This weekend has been that movie moment for me when Marty McFly finds his father’s tombstone in the Hill Valley Cemetery.  The dark dystopian reality has come home.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ramming Speed Friday: Time Enough Edition


It’s hard to top my last post.  I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, but instead to expound on the fact that my ride that day is still haunting my daydreams.  It was just a good time out in the woods and the blog post is there to remind me of just how enjoyable that day was.

This past week has been full to overflowing with race planning.  The Red River Gorge MTB 100 is off and running!  My lovely and amazing wife put together a budget.  We’re shuffling paperwork all around the state trying to get things in order.  We have a venue lined up for the start/finish/awards and to act as a base of operations.  We have entertainment lined up.  And I finally nailed down the route.

I won’t be sharing the route too soon.  Instead I’ll be sharing training rides.  There is a good reason for this.  I’m not ready to explain at this time.  But it’s the best route the area can yield.  I’m certain of it.  I hope over time we’ll be able to improve upon it and make the race even better.
 
 

That’s what I’m focusing on right now: putting on the best race I possibly can.

So we’re moving ahead at ramming speed.  While it seems like we have plenty of time it’s really only eight and a half months away.

And then one day you’ll find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

Ten years.  Our youngest turns ten in a few days.  She’s excited about the double digits.  She feels like she’s hit the big time.  That’s kind of exciting.  I’m not the type of parent that mourns the passing of my offspring’s childhood.  We’ve not squandered our time with the kids as kids.  We’ve not spent too much time focused on the “important things” while leaving them to the care of others.  While I say that I will also emphasize that I could spend more time with my kids.  And lately it seems I’ve had more opportunities to have conversations with the thirteen (nearly fourteen) year old.  He’s really not a kid anymore.  He’s smarter than most adults I know and has a grasp of things that absolutely blows me away.  I mean, he’s likely to burn the house down trying to heat up a burrito before he graduates high school, but he’s really got a depth of knowledge about the physical world and of history that most full grown people I know don’t.  He’s like Einstein with his shoelaces.

What scares me is that I absolutely failed to find the direct route to opportunity myself.  I’m not sure I have a clue how to guide my children to a smoother path in life than I have trod.  I don’t want my kids to have all of the things I never had a child.  I want them to have a better experience transitioning into adulthood than I had.  Except…I have no experience doing it well, and of course I can’t go back and practice.  All I can say is “learn from my mistakes.”

The hardest thing for me is to decide what were true mistakes and what were things society would regard as mistakes.  I’m not one to abide by conventional thinking for its own sake.  I like to question things and make my own decisions.  Some people would view that approach as a mistake in and of itself.  I would like to tell them to do something sexually difficult to themselves.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the inauguration.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.