Tuesday, January 30, 2007

JRA Stories

If you work in a bike shop, or have hung around one long enough, you surely have heard of JRA stories.  They are thinly veiled ploys used to get a shop to warrantee a part that has suspiciously failed.  They always start like this:

    I was just riding along when...

    …and finish with a seemingly innocent scenario that somehow results in the failure of a bike part. 

I've used JRA stories myself.  Back in the days when Gary Fisher was making bikes with 1 1/4" headsets, I purchased a headset adapter to reduce my headset size to 1 1/8" so I could install my first suspension fork.   I must have pressed in the adapter slightly askew (because I used the wood block and hammer technique?) because after about a month of riding on my new fork I noticed a small crack in the frame by the headset. 

I took the frame to Racer, who told me to call the company.  I did, and before I knew what I was saying, I heard these words come out of my mouth:

"I was just riding along when I saw this little crack in my head tube." 

I conveniently left out the part about the improperly installed headset adapter, and he conveniently agreed to warrantee my frame. 

Not all JRA stories are fabrications.  Nor do they all involve a broken bike part.  Sometimes they involve a broken body part instead.  Some of the best JRA stories don't involve anything being broken at all.  They are about legendary crashes, embarrassing circumstances, epiphanies, chance encounters with celebrities, hard-earned life lessons, or maybe even about meeting your special someone. 

My favorite JRA story is a real experience we had on our cross country ride. Mags and I were somewhere in Indiana, just riding along on our tandem bike when a couple in a brown minivan drove up alongside us.  The woman in the passenger seat said that she and her husband had done a lot of traveling and they knew how simple pleasures could be so satisfying after a long day.  She reached out and handed Mags a five dollar bill and told us to buy ourselves a Coke at our next rest stop. 

Then her husband hit the gas and they drove off, leaving us thinking that the most satisfying pleasure of all is a simple act of kindness delivered at exactly the right time. 

So what is your best JRA story?   Here is your chance to tell the world.  I don't care if it's a tall-tale or the honest-to-goodness truth; let's hear it.  Embellishment is strongly encouraged. 

Sunday, January 28, 2007



Last week in his State of the Union address, President Bush expressed his desire to reduce gasoline consumption by 20% over the next 10 years.  You know the situation is dire when conservatives (don’t confuse them with conservationists) start talking about environmental issues.  Even Utah’s Orrin Hatch is getting into the game by promoting electric cars

All this talk about global climate change has got me thinking.  If the president wants Americans to cut their gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years, every American needs to cut her or his consumption 2% each year for the next 10 years.  How can we do it?

Here are a few ideas:

•    Take the bus or carpool to work 6 times
•    Don’t drive your car for a whole day 8 times
•    Keep your car tuned up
•    Use a manual reel lawnmower
•    Trade in your snow blower for a snow shovel

Mags and I have decided we’re going to make our 2% cut our gasoline consumption in a more difficult-to-quantify way. We’ve decided to buy more locally grown produce.   Trucking melons from California and shipping grapes from Chile consumes tons of fuel.  I know, trucks and ships burn diesel, not gasoline, but the result is the same.  So whenever we have a choice, we’re going to buy fruits and vegetables that haven’t crossed any state lines.   I don’t intend to cut back on my fruit and veggie consumption, so this could be challenging, but I feel it’s my duty as an American to help the president in this effort.  It’s about time I do something to support him. 

So how are you going to cut your 2 percent? 

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Back on the wagon

I finished my fast over the weekend.  I went a total of eight days without solid food.  Stanley Burroughs suggests a slow transition back to solid foods, so on the first day I drank only high-pulp orange juice and had a vegetable soup for dinner.  I was supposed to do the same for a second day, but once I had felt solid food in my mouth I lost  my willpower.  I ate half a loaf of bread with my soup that first evening, and for lunch the next day I had two big, fatty, veggie burritos with lots of spicy salsa from my favorite taco shop.  Everything was back to normal.

Well, almost everything.  After breakfasting on hot multi-grain cereal, I went skate skiing on the morning of the second day.  This was before going to my favorite taco shop.  I wasn’t weak, but my stomach churned like a paint mixer.  Stanley Burroughs was right about what would happen if you took solid foods too soon—Kaboom! 

But things have settled down now.  I lost seven pounds over the whole period.  I’m surprised that I had that much to lose.  I didn’t go on the fast to lose weight; I did it to detoxify my body.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any baseline values of toxins to compare to, and I won’t be getting any measurements taken, so I don’t really know how effective it was. But I can say that it felt good to go without certain foods. 

For example, we celebrated a co-worker’s birthday last week with a tasty cheesecake.  I wasn't even tempted because it was loaded with preservatives, artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup, and had artificial colors in the [alleged] fruit topping.  I love cheesecake, but wanted my first real food after my fast to be just that, real food, with nothing artificial. 

I have greater awareness of the quality of ingredients in my food.  I’m not sure that needed to starve myself for over a week to realize that, but then again, that just may be the mental clarity and spiritual insight I was fasting for.   

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cut me some slack

I drove my car to work yesterday.   It's not because I was too weak from my fast.  It was 5 degrees outside, but that’s not the reason either.  The reason was that I spent much of Monday night cleaning Mags’s vomit off of the bathroom floor.  She had come down with some sort of nasty bug.  So I couldn’t hop right out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:45. It was more like 6:45 when I finally rolled out, and I’m supposed to be at work by 7:00. 

Like I said yesterday, this fast has saved me lots of time.  My liquid breakfast was waiting for me in the fridge, so I chugged it down and hopped in the car.  Mags certainly wouldn’t need it.  I was only a few minutes late for work. 

Six people asked me why I didn’t have my bike with me in the office today.  I had to repeat the above vomit story each time.  I found I was justifying driving a car to a bunch of car drivers.  I wonder why that is?   

It’s a little like as asking a Muslim why he’s eating a ham sandwich, or asking an Amish man why he sent you an email.  Have I set myself up as a beacon of bicycle righteousness?  Do they find pleasure in seeing me slip from my pedestal?  And is it because they harbor secret insecurities about their own driving habits? 

I’m just a guy who prefers exercising to sitting in traffic, burning Calories instead of gasoline, living in the world instead of watching it roll by from behind a windshield.   

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Quit now?

I ran out of maple syrup last night while I was making my six pints of lemonade for today.   That means today, my sixth day, could be my last day on this fast. 

I could go on for a full ten days, like Stanley Burroughs suggests, but I don’t see the point.  I haven’t had any grotesque black tar or rope-like bowel movements like I’ve read about and seen pictures of.  I’m starting to think that my normal diet with lots of whole grains and fresh fruit has made this cleansing fast unnecessary.  As for the cleansing of toxins from my cells, I have no way of knowing if it’s worked.  But one of my coworkers is doing this fast with me, and he plans on going for a full 10 days.  Should I do it out of peer pressure? What about my duty to support him?  What if Stanley Burroughs is right and I cut it short just before all the wonderful things he promises are about to happen? 

I’ve noticed a few things since I’ve been on this fast.  We’ve been experiencing a bit of a cold snap throughout Utah this past week, and it has affected me more than usual this time around.  My fingers get cold faster when I’m riding or skiing, and they take longer to warm up afterward.  I’ve also had a more difficult time maintaining my core temperature, so I’ve been wearing more layers and had to put another blanket on our bed. 

I am a little surprised that I have been able to maintain my usual level of activity while on the fast.  Except for my skiing difficulty Friday morning, I have felt totally fine, aside from the empty feeling in my stomach.  I skied three hours Monday and walked two miles on Sunday.  I haven’t ridden much, but that’s mostly because of the cold weather, and I'll also admit that my bowling scores on Thursday were a little below my average. 

There are advantages to the lemonade diet that I did not anticipate, like free time.  I can make six pints of lemonade in about 20 minutes.  Add another 5 minutes for cleanup and I’ve got an entire day’s meals prepared in less than half an hour.  On Thursday nights I usually come home from work to grab a snack before heading out for league night at the bowling alley.   Last Thursday when I came home, I drank one of my pints of lemonade and then wondered “what do I do for the next half an hour?” 

It’s amazing to me how much of our life revolves around food; preparing, eating, cleaning up.  Our social lives revolve around it too.   I have enjoyed the extra time it’s given me, but I haven’t liked the isolation.  I've had to leave the kitchen when Mags is preparing her meals.  We couldn't go out for dinner or visit friends.  The smells and the sights of food made me too aware of the emptiness in my own stomach.  She really tested my willpower when she made oatmeal cookies on Saturday afternoon.

Then in a surprise attack she reinforced my resolve when she came down with the flu last night.  Nothing takes my mind off eating like scooping up vomit-soaked kitty litter from the bathroom floor.   

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I’m in my third day with no food.  All I’ve consumed since Wednesday night are lemonade, laxative tea and some peppermint tea.  This morning I replaced the laxative tea with a quart of water with two teaspoons of sea salt mixed in.  It was terrible, and I fought off a gag reflex to put it down.  I didn’t finish it all but it had the desired effect.  About 20 minutes later I was running for the toilet.   

What do I expect to get out of this fast?  People fast for many reasons, including spiritual, physical and political reasons.  My reasons for doing this include all three. 

Dominion of mind over body is fundamental to my spiritual life.  If I can learn to resist the urge to eat I can learn to control other physical needs.  But if I start seeing visions I’m ending this fast immediately. 

I don’t understand the physiology of the lemonade fast; especially since Stanley Burroughs made most of it up, but things are coming out of me that I definitely have not consumed in the past three days.   I’ll spare you the details, but this morning I felt like something big was about to happen.  It’s going to need more coaxing, but when and if it happens, I’ll be a believer. 

The maple syrup in the lemonade provides me with about 1,300 Calories a day.  That’s a lot less than I’m used to, and I have lost about four pounds, but people can survive on far less than 1,300 Calories per day.  So, while my stomach has felt empty, I have felt physically fine, except for about 20 minutes yesterday. 

I went to a low-intensity yoga class Friday morning and felt fine the entire time.  My mistake was that I drank the laxative tea before the class and didn’t have any lemonade until after the class.  Then I decided that it was a good day to go cross country skiing.  It was past noon when I got to the trail and strapped on my skis, but I had had only 16 ounces of lemonade, or about 260 Calories, since ten o’clock the night before. 

I made it about half a mile before I had to turn around.  I just didn’t have the energy to propel myself forward.  I hardly had the energy to go back downhill.  It didn’t help that it was about 5 degrees F in the canyon, and that the trail hadn’t been groomed since Thursday’s snowstorm, but I was just out of gas.

So skate skiing is a little too intense for a fasting body, but I may try some classic skiing later today or tomorrow.  I’ll make sure I’ve had my fill of lemonade with maple syrup first. 

I’m going to fast until Jimmy Carter announces his candidacy for president in 2008. 


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

31 Lemons...

31 Lemons
1/2 Gallon of organic grade B maple syrup
1 Box organic peppermint tea
1 Jar of sea salt
1 Box of herbal laxative tea
Organic cayenne pepper
Plenty of toilet paper

I just purchased the above items from our local natural foods store.  I’m going to be mixing up some special brews.

About a year ago I became aware of a fast called the Master Cleanser.  One of my co-workers had a book describing it and he claimed the fast worked wonders for his body.  The fast consists of lemonade sweetened with pure maple syrup and spiced with a pinch of cayenne pepper.  The lemonade is supplemented morning and night with laxative tea, to flush out the toxins loosened by the lemonade. 

I was skeptical, and after reading through the book a bit I was thoroughly convinced that the author, Stanley Burroughs, is a crackpot that makes claims with no biological basis.  For instance, on page 28 he says that our bodies are able to assimilate nitrogen and carbon from the air into protein.  That puts us in a very small group of organisms, including legumes and certain cyanobacteria, which are capable of fixing nitrogen and carbon. Why didn’t they teach me that in grad school?   

While I dismissed Burroughs as a wing-nut, the idea of a detoxifying fast appealed to me.  I’m not the sort that jumps on fad bandwagons, but I had heard that John Wayne had 40 lbs of rotten feces in his colon when he did.  Elvis had over 60.  How many am I carrying?  Where is my body storing the preservatives from all those Twinkies I’d eaten as a kid?  Would losing that excess baggage make me a faster climber?

Cleansing fasts are sort of ‘in’ right now.  I saw an infomercial about one last summer, and know of at least two other cyclists that have recently done similar fasts.  Some fasts allow only fruit and vegetable juice, others only raw foods, but I went with Burroughs’ because it’s been around for 30 years and thousands of people have done it. 

My weekend plans of seeking out single track in Utah’s Dixie were nixed by an arctic storm expected to pass through on Friday.  Now I have a long weekend ahead of me with no plans, so here I sit with a hot cup of ‘Smooth Move’ laxative tea.    I’ve had my last meal for what could be days and will be living on spicy lemonade for a while. 

How long can I make it?  Burroughs says 10 days at a minimum.  But like I said, he’s a crackpot.  I have enough lemons and tea to last me through the weekend.  Check back here soon, I’m sure you’ll be dying to know how it’s going.   

Monday, January 8, 2007

Saved by my parents

This cartoon from 2003 sums up why my nieces and nephews can expect a book, a ball or some type of boring educational toy from me on their birthday. This is from the guy who was hooked on Pac-Man in 1982.  My parents hid the game cartridge and told me Pac-Man went on vacation.   That was one of the best things they ever did for me.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Black Badge of Courage

Bicycle commuting is hard on trousers.  The inside of the right leg of every pair of pants I own eventually looks like this:


Some looke even worse.  Some of my pants have distinct chain ring prints, others have little tears in the cuffs from chain ring teeth, a few have matching grease stains on the left leg from our tandem, but they all have some sort of black stain down near my ankle.  I buy my pants at thrift stores because I can't bear it when an expensive pair gets stained.  Some of these stains are so bad my own mother is ashamed of me.  She says she didn't raise her son to dress like a hobo. 

I call these stains Black Badges of Courage.   They are preventable, but I think subconsciously I like having them there.  They give me a subtle but macho sense of pride that I find mildly satisfying.   They're a permanent reminder of the battle bicycle commuters bravely fight every day.  You can even find us bragging about them, and showing them off, amongst ourselves. 

I could wear cycling clothes on my commute, and then change when I get to work.  That would be an easy way to keep my pants clean, but it's a terrible idea. Dressing in lycra for your commute tells passing motorists that you're hard core, a pedalhead out for a training ride.  There are worse things to be called, but that's not the point.  Your co-workers will believe that your special wardrobe is a prerequisite to commuting by bicycle, and when they see you retreat to the bathrooms every morning to change your clothes they'll decide that bicycle commuting is too much of an inconvenience. 

You should dress like an ordinary person for your commute.  The clothes you wear on your bike should be the same clothes you wear at work.  The only exceptions are a helmet and some sort of high visibility jacket.   You'll also need something to keep your right pant leg from flapping around in the chain.   I've been using the same metal clip for this for eleven years.  It was a gift from a friend.  It works really well, but only if I remember to put it on. 

When passing motorists see me on my commute they see a guy in khakis and a casual shirt and think "He's one of us, only he's on a bike.  Gee, that looks like fun.  Maybe I should try that."   See, it's that simple to share the commuting message and you just might earn a Black Badge of Courage. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Polar bear swim

Last night I got a call from Adrian, one of my childhood buddies.  He wanted to renew one of our high school New Year’s traditions, a polar bear swim. 

Nothing makes me feel alive like stripping naked and jumping into some icy water.  The mud in my toes, the wind on my back, the repressed fear, the shrieks of pain and delight, the adrenalin, the sprint back to my clothes.  It’s a great way to welcome a new year, even if we were a day late.   

I met Adrian at a grocery store near the river.  We drove together to the river and I asked him questions to see if he was really up for the ordeal.  I was secretly hoping he would change his mind so I could get off and blame it on him.  His resolve was steely, but he was asking me similar questions. 

The ice was too thick at our first choice of swimming holes.  I tried to break it by throwing a fifty pound rock on it.  I hardly made a dent.  We found open water a few yards downstream.

We sat in the car with the heater on full blast for a really long time.  The tone had changed from trying to give each other an opportunity to bow out gracefully, to convincing each other that we could do it, and that it isn’t really a stupid idea.  I’m still not too convinced about that latter point. 

There is a point in any dare when further deliberation will inevitably lead to passing on the dare.  When we got to that point, we didn’t pass.  We got out of the car and donned our birthday suits.  I made the obligatory jokes about it being a full moon and we marched down to the river. 

Adrian’s approach was different than mine.  I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible, so after taking a deep breath and collecting myself, I stepped in up to my ankles. 

I shrieked like a little girl. 

Meanwhile, Adrian had taken the first step too, and between my shrieks I heard him say “Hey, I found a bucket.”  Apparently he wanted to take it home as a souvenir. 

I didn’t waste any more time.  I leaned forward and took the plunge.  There was more shrieking; Adrian was joining in.  I splashed around for an eternity (read: two seconds) and bolted for my towel.  I grabbed my clothes and sprinted back to the car. 

I realized I was still naked when I heard Adrian laughing and running after me.  I heard myself laughing too.  Ahhh…Happy New Year indeed.