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themanfromvan's Bikin' Blog
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Now Playing: Cars - Gary Numan (1979)

Wow !!  It's been one hell of a long time since I've even attempted to sit down and type any kind of blog entry.  It used to be that people would ask me about why I hadn't written anything for such a long time.  I'd always have an excuse.  Valid excuses, mind you, but still an excuse.  Finally, it got to the point that eveyone quit asking. 

 Truthfully, I just haven't been as active as I once was.  I am ashamed to admit that I rode my bike ony 130 miles the entire year of 2008.  That is only 10% of the miles ridden in 2007 !!  But, after working 10 hour days and getting home at close to 7 PM every night, I just do not have the ambition to do much else.  

So, I bet you're probably thinking, "Okay - he's titled this entry 'Cars' and he's got a picture up of that damn Blazer.  I wonder what's up with the 'car' this time?"  Well, you're right - the 'car' has struck yet again.  

 Yesterday, after spending a good deal of the day in the house, staying warm and doing some cleaning, I decided it was time to get outdoors for a while.  My plan was to drive down the Coal City road to the intersection of East Sandy Creek Road.  I was down there last weekend, on my way to the river, and noticed a road, East Sandy Creek Road, for the first time.  It was snowing and I knew from the looks of East Sandy Creek Road last weekend that I would never be able to travel it for it's entire distance.  But, I thought if I could pinpoint it's distance from the intersection of the Rockland and Coal City roads, I may be able to find it in my Gazetteer atlas and determine where it goes without actually going there.

Leaving the house about 2 PM, I was wearing jeans, a long sleeve tee shirt, GoreTex hiking boots and a Carhartt work coat.  On my person were my wallet, my check book and my all-important camera.  Many of you know my disdain for cell phones.  While the rest of the family has TracFone's, I refuse to own one.  So, there wasn't one of those taking up space in my pockets.  Besides, I had no intention of ever getting out of the car until I'd procurred my mileage figure, then I would stop at the Cranberry Mall on my way home to find a Christmas gift for my wife, Betsy.  

Away I went, taking in the sights, looking at the trucks, cars and SUV's of deer hunters that were pulled off along the road.  The fact that the woods was filled with hunters and I wore no blaze orange only reinterated the fact that I needed to stay in my car.   I drove, without incident, to the intersection of Coal City and East Sandy Creek roads, determining it to be 1.5 miles from the Rockland Road.  

As I turned around in the last driveway before a sign that read 'No Winter Maintenance', I figured, just for good measure, I'd put the Blazer in 4WD.  Even though I'd just come down the same road in 2WD having followed in the tracks made by deer hunters, I thought it would be a good idea, just to make sure the four wheel still worked.  I pushed the button and repushed the button.  I tried to put the 4WD in while the Blazer was in park, neutral and drive - it simply would not work !!

"Thank God I'm not somewhere that I actually need it," I thought as I drove back towards my starting point.  

Suddenly, the Blazer started to sputter and I looked down to see my dash lights flickering.  The volt meter on the dash fluctuated between 8 and 14 volts.  Knowing I was in trouble, I mashed the gas in an effort to get as close back to civilization before the thing died.  Occassionally, the ass end would break loose in the snow and I'd have to let off the accelerator.  Watching intently as the gauge dove to 10 volts and stayed there, I knew I was running on the battery only and didn't have much time before my SUV would die.

Miraculously, I made it back to my intersection and the vehicle quit as I stopped at the stop sign.  Fortunately, it couldn't have happened at a better place.  Number one, I was off the main road and second, there was a repair shop only 300 yards away.  Yeah - believe it or not - there are automotive garages in the middle of Podunk for the people who live on the outskirts of Podunk !!  I was mad - I was hot - but the 20 degrees temp and the 18 MPH winds still chilled me to the bone as I trapsed through the snow to Jay's garage.  My teeth chattered so badly that I could not even swear under my breath.

I'd never done business with Jay before, but after introducing myself and telling him how I'd gone to high school with his younger brother's and sister, he put me in the garage with a cup of hot coffee as his employees went down with another battery and a tow strap to get the Blazer back to where it could be worked on inside.

Two hours, a new battery, a new alternator and a serpentine belt later, I was back on the road headed home.  No need to stop at the mall now as my checkbook was now overdrawn by $130 for the repairs.  But, Jay assured me he'd keep the check until I called and told him it was alright to take it to the bank.

Cars - yeah, we can't live without 'em - we can't live with 'em.  As I write this the fate of the American auto industry lies in the hands of our federal government.  In 1979 the song Cars was considered 'strange'.  Let's face it folks, everything about cars is pretty unusual.

Posted by themanfromvan at 4:48 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 14 December 2008 8:57 AM EST
Sunday, 6 January 2008
Do You Compute?
Now Playing: Do You Compute? - Donnie Iris (1982)

On late winter's night back in 1981, I was on my way home in my old 1966 Chevelle.  Having just left the home of my then girlfriend/now wife, my teeth chattered in the car's frigid confines.  Not exactly the most airtight of vehicles, tiny snowflakes infiltrated the floor boards and it was all the defroster could do to keep ahead of the ice crystals that formed on the inside of the windshield.  In an effort to keep warm and take my mind off the bone chilling ride, I tuned the primitive radio to the only AM station that it would pick up.  Back then an iPod was where a guy with a glass eye stored his prothesis at night. 

 Every Saturday night at 11 PM, our local station would play a featured album.  Some were old, some were new - but in most cases, none were very good.  This night was an exception, though, and I cranked up the radio as the strains of 'Ah, Leah !!" by Pittsburgh's own Donnie Iris sounded through the Chevy's cheap, distorted speakers.  Somehow I thought if the music played loudly, it would generate heat that would soothe my stinging skin.  As soon as I heard the ripping guitars, the layered vocals and Donnie's trademark scream, I was an immediate fan.  Now some 27 years later, I've owned every song Iris ever recorded on LP, cassette and now CD.  I've seen him live many, many times.......

As you know, it's been about three months since I've made a post in this blog.  I could lay the partial blame on job schedule conflicts and of course you know about me banging up my hand, which put a kibosh on most outdoor activities for quite a while.  I can type now and straighten out my finger, but I must admit that it still hurts a little bit.  Really, I probably should have had it medically examined when I injured it, but due to lack of medical insurance at the time, opted to just 'let it heal'. 

So here it is, January 6th, 2008.  I turned 46 years of age yesterday and my Dad would have been 79 today.  My bike is stored in it's winter home in the basement with 1084 miles on the odometer for the year.  Our family's camper is resting quietly in my Mother's garage until another season comes upon us.  Other than a few walks in the woods, most of my time has been spent in front of a new computer that we purchased a week before Christmas.  A far cry from the photo of the Apple computer on the cover of Donnie Iris' 1982 album cover, the monitor is as large as the first TV Betsy and I bought just before our wedding.  The photo you see at the beginning of this entry was snapped about 45 seconds before I started to type and I am listening to a CD that I 'ripped' and 'burned' from one borrowed from my sister less than 24 hours ago.  The music sounds pure and sweet from the computer system's tiny speakers perched atop the desk.  No pops and crackles like the tweeters in that '66 Chevelle.  And what's more amazing is that 26 years after I first heard the grinding rock n' roll of Donnie Iris, I'm listening to the light hearted sounds of the '70's Swedish group, ABBA !!

In the same amount of time as it's been since I popped the clutch of that old Chevy to leave for home that night in 1981, it'll be the year 2034.  I'll be 72 years of age and hopefully living a life of retired leisure.  My children will be in their mid '30's and God willing I'll still be pedaling bicycles and sleeping on the unforgiving mattresses in that pop up camper with my wife of 50 years. I'll be playing 'air accordian' along with Lawrence Welk while I listen to 'bittlefuggers' on my 'U-top'.

Ana one - ana two.......Do you compute? 



Posted by themanfromvan at 2:55 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008 6:35 PM EST
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Haven't Got Time For The Pain
Now Playing: Haven't Got Time For The Pain - Carly Simon 1974

"I haven't got time for the pain.  I haven't the need for the pain.  I haven't the room for the pain."  Boy, Carly Simon sure said a mouthful when she crooned those memorable lyrics back in 1974. 

So, you've probably already guessed that I'm still in rehabilitation from my little face plant a few weeks ago.  Yes, there is significant improvement, but I still can't straighten my finger out.  Every night, I sit and work the finger in both directions.  I am totally convinced that nothing is broken, but I overstretched some ligaments or tendons or whatever the guts in your hand are called.  So, I guess all I can do is keep 'stretching it out' by bending the finger back and forth with my left hand.  I am typing, with some difficulty, the correct way.  Reaching that damn 'Y' key is still quite a challenge.

This post is going to be short and sweet, just like the past couple.  I really haven't been able to do much.  Between 'the finger', early darkness and seasonal allergies, I've pretty much been a couch potato.  Work is going well and as you can see from the picture this week, it is AUTUMN !!  The fall foliage is spectacular !!  Today, I got the treat of being given a 170 mile joy ride at work.  My trek took me through the Allegheny National Forest on the way to Ridgway.  It was all I could do to stay on the 'direct' route.  I considered a ride down through Hallton, Belltown, Clear Creek State Park, Sigel and Cook Forest State Park, but didn't take it.  Instead, I came home through Marienville, like a good boy, although a side trip to the Cook Forest fire tower was a REAL temptation.  I was not led into temptation, though. 

I hope, really-really hope, I can give you the details of some activity other than watching the leaves change by my next entry into the blog.  I don't know if I look it, but I certainally feel 'plumper' than I did a few weeks ago.  Don't know what I'll do once the snow starts flyin' !!  Well, I'll see you later - gotta get a beer and candy bar. 

Posted by themanfromvan at 8:41 PM EDT
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Colour My World
Now Playing: Colour My World - Chicago 1971

In the past week, I've had numerous questions and comments.  "David, where's your blog post?", "Aren't you writing in your blog anymore?".  My mother has even received phone calls asking the same question.

The truth of the matter is, I am still in pain with my hand and am having extreme troubles typing.  I can type with kind of a "modified" method.  Typing with the left hand is not a problem, but can not reach the "Y" or "H" keys with my shortened, smashed  right index finger.  In all honesty, I probably should have had it examined by a doctor last week.  It is getting better, but still turns green by the end of a day's work.  Despite being somewhat swollen, I can bend it pretty good now.  However, I can not straighten it out and therefore can't reach with it to catch the keys as I type.

I am really trying to limit the amount of typing that I'm doing because I don't want to get in the habit of it and not be able to type correctly once I can use the finger again.  One thing I'll never regret is taking two years of typing class while in high school.  Besides being one of the few guys in with a bunch of teenage girls, typing is an attribute that's come in handy throughout my life.  Oh, and being the teachers paperboy counted a long way toward getting a good grade.  You better believe Mrs. Ziegler's daily news was always dry and on time !!

The fall foliage, as you can see from the photo above, is spectacular this year.  While a little late in it's peak because of the unusually warm weather we've had, the colors are unlike anything I've seen in several years.  Right now, all the maple trees are very unusual looking as the undersides of the leaves are red or yellow and the tops are still green.  The effect this creates when the leaves rustle in the breeze is beautiful.  

Looking out at our local landscape reminds me so much of the painter, Bob Ross.  You know, the afro-headed guy who had the artist instructional show on PBS?  It was so amazing to see him paint a fall landscape, the way he haphazardly smeared the paint on the canvas with a brush.  Everytime he'd take that dry brush and "dust the colors out", I'd about have a heart attack that he was gonna ruin what he'd just done.  I'm sure there were other people, like me, who waited for him to exclaim an  "Oh shit !!" as he took the canvas from the easel and pitched it in the corner.  

Well, hopefully with some rehabilitation and therapy, I'll be able to do a little better with the typing, as well as gain some new ideas to convey my words.  It's been tough to concentrate or conjure up any new thoughts lately. 

Enjoy you 'coloured' world !! 

Posted by themanfromvan at 9:50 PM EDT
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Now Playing: Freefallin' - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1989

Howdy !!  Howdy !!  Better late than never, as they say.  But, as you will soon learn, I have an excuse this time.  What I do not have an excuse for, though, is the fact that the bike has not moved in several days and will not move for several more......

So, now you're probably thinking, "Oh my God, we have a blog post titled 'Freefallin' and a picture taken from high above some cliff or rock or something.  What did that dumbass do now?"

Well, I did not pull a stunt quite as drastic as bungee jumping or hang gliding or anything like that, but I did do some 'freefallin' of my own last weekend.  Allow me to elaborate.

All last week, we watched the weather like a hawk.  We wanted so badly to be able to camp one more time before our little pop up was to be put to bed for the winter.  Our first obstacle to clear was the fact that Olivia had to have two baby teeth pulled to make way for her permanent teeth.  We did not know how she would do with that.  I've had teeth pulled and I sure didn't feel like doing much for a couple of days afterward.  But, true to her 'tough cookie' form, you'd never know she had anything done.  So, that left the weather as our only hurdle before weekend plans were made.

Now, you know yourself that extended weather forecasts are about as dependable as..... well, as an extended weather forecast.  But, lo and behold - throughout the week the prediction never changed.  Sunny - summerlike - temps in the low 60's and highs in the 80's.  It seemed too good to be true.  Not only that, Betsy had Friday scheduled as a vacation day already, to avoid being in town on the first day of Applefest, which makes downtown Franklin look like the crowd at a Willie Nelson concert.   Besides that, our kids had no school that day.  "Why," you ask.  Well because of Applefest, or course !!  I don't really see the logic, but it worked to our advantage, so I'm not bitchin'!!

Despite not being hardly one iota packed on Friday morning, we were on the road by about 1 PM.  The Blazer was packed to the gills with our belongings and the camper purred along behind us.  We pulled into Chapman State Park to find the place nearly empty.  Our favorite spot was open, but we circled the campground a couple of times, seeing if we just might want to try a different site.  In the end, though, we backed into that favorite spot and proceeded to make it into our own real estate.

Upon completing a quick set up, we went on a short hike with, Heather, the park naturalist, who explained how plants and animals are getting ready for winter.  We walked along the lake, which shimmered in the sunlight.  Leaves fluttered down upon us and the ferns, once stunning green, shook their brown, dying leaves in the wind.  In one spot we found a large red oak tree that had fallen across the path.  The park's maintenance crew had cut it up in nice two foot long pieces, that just begged to become red hot coals on which to cook.

The kids played on the playground, I strung our 'tacky lights' on the awning and a few more campers straggled into the grounds.  The sunset was spectacular and by 8 PM the sky was filled with millions of stars.  It was like heaven.  

Saturday dawned and or course I was up before most everyone else in the park.  I started a nice campfire to heat our water and fry our sausage.  I sat and watched it burn.  In the back of my mind was that firewood down by the lake.  So, I made a trip through the woods and retrieved a couple of pieces, one for each hand.  Onto the fire they went and the straggly, hairlike folicles on it's partially rotted exterior caught fire immediately.  By the time everyone else arose, the fire was perfect for cooking.  The smell or our sausage patties filled the air and folks walking by our site flared their nostrils and took in it's aroma.

Saturday afternoon, we made our way to the park's beach to meet Heather, who's program that day was a canoe trip on the lake. It was beautiful as we paddled along - Betsy, Robert and I in one canoe and Heather, Olivia and Elizabeth in another.  Heather was estatic that we showed up for the program, as it got her out of doing odd, labor intensive jobs within the park.  Robert, who often looked puzzled at the canoe we have tucked in the shed, was beside himself with excitement as we slid gracefully through the lake's headwater stream.  

Later in the afternoon was a geocaching hike, which Betsy and the kids went on.  I elected to stay behind, though.  For what reason, I'm not sure.  I took my place in my chair, thinking about that firewood again.  

So, off I went down through an empty campsite to get to the spot where the logs lay.  I gathered up my two pieces, one for each hand, hoisted them over my shoulders and began my trek back through the woods.  Upon reaching campsite 12, I proceed to climb a short embankment, which goes up into the site.  On the ground was some 'Creeping Charlie' or some kind of bastardized viney plant.  I felt my feet getting entangled in it's growth and began to fall forward.  Instinctively, I put my hands forward to break my fall.  The two red oak logs did 360's in the air, and as I planted my palms in the pea gravel, each log fell on top of each hand.

The pain was intense.  I rolled on the ground, I swore, I winced.  I looked around to see if anyone had seen me.  Then I rolled and swore some more.  If I'd have had one of those 'Life Alert' pendant thingies, I'd have pressed the button and screamed, "I've fallen and I can't get up !!"  After a while the pain subsided somewhat and I gather up my logs (no sense in making the trip in vain) and retreated to the campsite.  There, I surveyed my injuries.

The left hand hurt the worst, but the right hand had a nice stab wound from a sharp edge on one of the logs.  As my hand swelled and swelled, blood seeped from the puncture.  By the time Betsy and the kids returned, I was still bleeding.  Unbeknownst to me, both my knees were skinned, too.

We did our best to stop the bleeding and bandaged the hand in gauze from our first aid kit.  Later that evening, we made our way to Jakes Rocks, where the picture you see above was taken.  I drove left-handed and did my best to move the right one around, so it wasn't in they way.  At the rocks, we hiked, took pictures and Robert scaled some of the smaller boulders.  

When we returned to the campground, I exited the car to find blood, which had soaked through the gauze, had stained one of my favorite pairs of shorts.  Betsy doctored me back up and I took my place back by the fire.  In a fit of frustration, I heaved the logs that had fallen on my hands onto the blazing fire.  We'd be going to bed shortly, but I wanted the satisfaction of watching them catch fire and meet their demise.

By Sunday morning, my hand looked like a - hell, I can't even describe it - but it was about twice it's normal size.  My index finger, which 1/3 of is missing, was plumped up like a Ball Park frank on a hot grill.  With some struggling, I managed to get the girl's bicycles on top of the car.  More help than usual was required to get the camper torn down and the roof lowered.  But, by 4 PM we were on the road and on our way home.  The hand continued to bleed a little.

So, here it is Thursday, several days later.  Well, I'm not bleeding !!!  But, the hand is still swollen and turns a lovely shade of green as I work my 10 hour days.  I have not gone to a doctor or hospital, but everyone I show it to has a medical opinion.  Some say it's broken, but I insist it's not as I can bend my fingers......  Let me restate that, I can move my fingers...... it's not broken, dammit, I don't have time for a broken hand !!!

Typing?  Well, I've spent over an hour typing everything you've just read.  Fingers on the home keys just don't work.  But, my work week is over and I am going to nurse my injuries by holding ice cold bottles of beer for extended periods of time.  So, until my next post, I promise to stay out of the woods and leave the firewood for somebody else !! 


Posted by themanfromvan at 9:03 PM EDT

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