Conflict at the skatepark.

Yesterday I took my nine year old son to a skatepark. He was having fun but I kept seeing his head spin everytime someone dropped the F word. He’s a good kid and won’t hang around others if they are cursing. He just knows it’s wrong. I wasn’t happy about the situation but what can you do when you are at a skatepark.

The park was full of bikes, boards and scooters. There was a group of about eight kids on scooters that kept all riding the bowls at the same time or standing right on the lip so nobody could ride that section. It was mildly annoying for me but Jack took a slam when he was dropping in and a scooter kid snaked him. Jack was sore in more than just the physical sense.

After a while three or four black kids showed up on beat down department store bikes. They were all having fun but the scooter kids started giving them a hard time. I didn’t think much of their banter back an forth until I heard one biker say “That’s why I don’t like to come here, they’re racist.”

I went over to the kid and said that if any of the other kids said something messed up, let me know. He looked a little confused but smiled. Jack and I kept sessioning the park as the two opposing groups kept calling each other names and arguing. Jack came up to me and said “That kid is like eight years old and cursing a lot.” It bothered him to see a kid even younger than he with such a bad mouth.

A couple of minutes later, I popped out and heard the foul mouthed eight year old call one of the bikers “nigger”. I threw down my bike and went right up to the kid.

“I don’t want to hear that word. That’s messed up and if I hear any of you say that I’m going to kick you out of the skatepark.”

The kid said to me “It’s not your park!”

He was right so I countered “But I’m bigger and I’ll everytime you come here I will throw your scooter over the fence!” as I pointed to the twelve footer next to us.

His face dropped.

I picked up my bike and rode away shaking my head. Only then did I notice a black father sitting on a ledge who had seen the whole thing. He just looked at me blankly. I muttered “Sorry” as I rode by. He just looked at me expressionless as if to say “It happens everyday…”

On the drive home I talked to Jack about that and apologized for freaking out in front of him but I just can’t tolerate the N word. He just looked me square in the eye and said “You should have thrown his scooter over the fence.”

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By brettdownsconspiracy

Keepsake.

Keepsake.
There was this one girl…
Well, actually not a girl.
A woman, the embodiment of a dream.
She was the one I always imagined just the same.

She told me “I love you”.

Her beauty was unquestionable and her presence undeniable.
An awkward yet elegant stature, both clumsy and graceful.
She was strong but needed me for a shoulder to cry upon at times.
Her humor was spontaneous and off the wall,
much like my own.

She once told me “I love you”.

A mother to a single child and knew that the world didn’t begin and end with herself.
She enjoyed the same things as me, disliked the same things as me.
We made each other laugh, smile and feel better about our place in the world.

She once told me “I love you”.

Everything I wanted or ever dreamt about was wrapped up in her.
Past, present and future.
Even though we were apart most of our lives
we somehow found each other.
Even though we are now miles apart, leading individual lives,
we are together.

She once told me “I love you”.

That’s all that matters.
Distance, time, life, people.
No matter what gets between us, keeps us apart,
she said that to me once and meant it.

By brettdownsconspiracy

2013

The long winter doldrums have been getting to me lately.  We’re on the cusp of Spring and I know they will pass soon but the cold and damp and wind are having their way with the psyche of this bike rider.  My job is to sell bicycles to bike shops.  Doing that in this part of the country isn’t the easiest thing in the winter and especially after the local economy is still struggling after what the news calls “Super Storm Sandy” devastated both personal lives and businesses. My house needs work and my kids cost a ton of money that I don’t have.  Not much different than the problems most people endure.  My refuge has always been the bike.  Getting out for a few hours and doing what I enjoy to escape the pressures and worries.  Doesn’t matter if it’s tricks in a parking lot, the trails in the woods or a visit to a skatepark, my mind finds an escape.  I just haven’t been able to find enough time or opportunity to get out.  This leaves a lot of time for reflection.  Reflection while being in a blue mood is rarely a good thing.  It leads to depression.  I look at my 45 year old divorced ass in a little house and even littler bank account and it gets overwhelming.

Luckily, I have a great friend who has been there to listen to me when I need a talk, distract me when I am thinking too much and offer support.  Most people offer support in the form of suggestions.  That’s not what is needed.  When someone comes to you with their problems, offer support and comfort.  If they ask what they should do, only then is it appropriate to make suggestions.  Through this supportive friend I am getting some thoughts together and feeling more positive about the future.

We are a sum of our experiences.  Growing up I was part of a group of BMX riders that made a difference in the sport.  A couple of the guys are considered to be two of the best in the world.  One of them pretty much invented the BMX video industry.  Another is a writer and has made a life based on a little BMX ‘zine he started in high school.  Now I was never the great rider, writer or video producer that came out of the group.  I was just the average rider and I still am.  I didn’t have the success on or off the bike my peers did.  This Winter I have been thinking about that.  Why didn’t I do more?  Why haven’t I made a better life for myself?

A big chunk of it is that I had a life outside BMX my buddies didn’t.  I went to college and got a degree, I had a girlfriend who became a wife, I had kids, I worked when they didn’t.  While I was doing that, I kept riding as much as I could.  I couldn’t dedicate myself 100% to my BMX life because I had a life outside BMX.  I couldn’t dedicate myself to my other life because I had BMX.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it at all but I’m realizing that I half assed it.  The average person would think I’m crazy for saying that but I have been witness to people who really dedicated themselves to a solitary pursuit and seen what it takes.  I understand what Michael Jordan did to become Michael Jordan.  Did I put in that much effort?  Hell no.  To be that successful, you can’t do it all.  Something has to give.  Only now I am realizing that was my downfall.  My friends who are successful were focused.  They chose one thing and did it.  Did it a lot.  True, they have lives outside this one thing but they took a back seat and were often sacrificed in ways that I wasn’t willing to do.

My supportive friend has pointed out that I have dedicated my life to BMX and bikes as a whole.  I have worn so many hats and helped so many people.  I’ve made a difference.  My tragic flaw is that I have often done these things for everybody but me.  I thought up tricks that I couldn’t do so I told my friends and they did them.  I designed bikes and technologies that I couldn’t make but someone else did and got the credit and money.  I guided friends through sponsorship opportunities that I never got so they could surpass me.  I promoted products that weren’t mine.  I shot photos and wrote articles for other’s publications and websites.  I’ve ridden in hundreds of shows where someone made more money off my countless hours riding than I did.   I have driven more friends than they have driven me.  I have given away more bikes and parts to keep people riding than have ever been given to me.  Looking back at all this I think that the biggest return is I will get a nice eulogy when I die but for now that doesn’t help my present situation.

I’m not looking for a million dollars or accolades that I earned and others received.  All those things are in the past and I’m pretty much OK with it.  I’m not sour about what some people would call exploiting myself.  I have come to realize is that I have a lot to offer and I need to offer it to myself.  Now I just need to come up with a plan to do just that.  I want to be consumed with a project that makes me jump out of bed in the morning and pass out exhausted every night.  For now I am just going to do my best at every task at hand whether it’s my job, my kids, my riding, my home.

When I think about it, the people I respect have made a career out of their passion.  They did something because they loved it and figured out a way to make a living.  Some are financially secure, even rich, but most aren’t.  At the end of the day they are happy with what they are doing and the life they designed for themselves.  That’s where I plan to be soon.  Exactly what my future holds I can’t tell you – yet.  I do know that I am worth more than I have to show.  Time to take advantage of my skills, knowledge and experience and do something awesome.  Something I’m proud of.  Next time I open the door of opportunity I’m not going to be holding it for someone else to walk through, I’m going to use it myself.

By brettdownsconspiracy

After school lessons

I can remember the long days before school let out for summer as a gift. Leaving the house in the morning wearing a sweatshirt which would be left in my school locker because it was simply too damn nice not to be in short sleeves when the dismissal bell rang. The bus ride home would be a flurry of sounds of the passengers making plans and wind blowing in from every open window.

I’d get home and grab a quick bite to eat of whatever was handy. With six kids in the house the choices quickly downgraded as the week progressed farther from the grocery shopping trip made on Saturday. Mondays offered chips, cookies and a tall, cold soda. By Thursday I was stirring a pitcher of Kool-Aid and spreading peanut butter on Ritz crackers. It was never a big deal because I had a good four or five hours of daylight left and food was just fuel, not something to enjoy.

Sometimes we’d find a note with chores that needed to be done. Sometimes we just knew what was expected by the time Dad got home. I can remember hustling behind the lawn mower, the pungent, blue exhaust mixed with the smell of the sweet, green grass. The twenty year old engine roared in my ears for the whole forty minutes it took. These were the days before we all wore headphones so the noisy mower was all you could hear. Now that I think of it, I really don’t have any idea what my lawnmower sounds like anymore…

After cutting the grass I’d hop on my bike and ride. Some days had a purpose and somdays were just a wandering adventure. I’d ride to Brian’s house to ride his ramp. I’d bomb down the hill to the Turkey Hill store to get an orange drink and a TastyKake fudge bar. Sometimes I’d just ride around the neighborhood with a quick stop at the dirt jump near the church. The salty sweat would drip down my forehead and sting my eyes. By the time I had to get home for dinner my appetite had grown to a huge proportion.

My step mom would get home first and start making dinner. My dad would show up a bit later and we’d all sit down for dinner together every night. Dad was big on family dinner. I can remember more often than not he’d come home in a bad mood. It was amazing how the chill would come over the house. We’d all be tentative as we waited to see where he went with his frustration.

Trying to get on his good side, I’d let him know that I did cut the back yard as soon as I got home from school. He’d never really acknowledge my work as it was considered my contribution, not something worthy of praise. I was just trying to head off the question before he asked. After dinner he’d bark out some orders and turn on the TV while the coffee pot brewed the next few cups he’d drink before bed. He’d sit at the dining room table, the geocentric center of our house, and smoke his cigarettes and maybe watch the news or Jeopardy. It always amazed me how he could just smoke and drink coffee all evening right up until he went to bed.

Often he’d wander out into the back yard to look over his vegetable garden. That garden had a little bit of everything growing in it, except weeds. He made sure we got

them all on the weekends. As he was trodding back to the house he called my name. I snapped to attention and presented before him. He looked left and right and told me I cut the grass wrong. For the life of me I had no idea how that was possible. I just stared at him. He pointed to the lawn and waving his hand from side to side he said “You cut the grass East to West. That’s how you cut it last time. You were supposed to go North to South. You’re gonna wear goddam ruts in my lawn from cutting the grass the same way every week.”

When he’d say things like this my mind would jump into overdrive. I’d wonder if that was really true. Had I ever seen a lawn with ruts from the wheels of the mower? How many times would it take? Could I really cut the grass in precisely the same path every time to cause said ruts? The mower was 24” wide and it took a good 50 passes to cut the grass. Do I always start at the same point and trace the same route? Was it even possible?

Now, I could never say these things out loud. Early on I had learned that it was best not to try to talk to him when he was going off. It just fueled the fire. So I’d end up staring blankly at him until I mumbled “I’ll cut it the other way next week”.

“No” he replied, “Go get the mower and cut it again. North to South this time!”

The sun was setting behind the trees as I once again gassed up the mower and rolled it out of the garage. Here I was cutting the grass for the second time this afternoon. Figuring it may be easier this time as there would be less resistance, I’d just keep my head down and focus on keeping the lines straight in the dwindling light. Once I finished I’d look over the yard to make sure I hadn’t missed any spots. Putting the mower away, I walked into the house and filled a glass with water and said “I’m done”. He barely noticed and I went downstairs to the cool basement.

My number one rule in life is “There’s no excuse for being a dickhead”. Looking back, I wonder if episodes like this taught me that lesson. One thing I learned for sure was that parents teach their kids what to do but it’s up to the child to learn what not to do.

By brettdownsconspiracy

Bike Check with Explanation.

I realize that not everyone that reads this is a bike rider so let me explain what this post is about.  Serious riders have custom bikes, not just something off the sales floor.  Each part is generally picked for one of two reasons.  The first reason is the rider gets the part for free or at a great discount.  The second is because the rider likes the part either for performance or style.    A bike check is an overview of the parts on a rider’s scoot that lets other riders know what he’s using.  We see these often in the bike media.  Bikers geek out on this stuff.  I’m usually rather bored by them because of reason #1.

I have noticed people often ask questions about my bike.  It’s a compilation of friends, experience and personal preference.  It’s much more than a collection of parts.  That being said, welcome to the world of my flatland bike.

Frame– Deco Succubus, 19″ top tube.
When it was time to get a new frame there were really only two on the market I liked.  One was made by a company I have always respected.  The other was by a friend who had a new start up company.  When I saw this finish, that clinched the deal.  I didn’t mind sending Chad my money.  It really does ride nicely and the build quality is amazing.

Fork– Odyssey Flatland Fork- This is a bit older and came out before the Flatware brand.  It has minimal offset and is heat treated so it should never break. There really is no other fork in my opinion.

Handlebar– S&M Intrikat, 8″ rise.  These are brand new, a gift from my girlfriend.  Just wanted to go back to a 2 piece bar after years of 4 piece.  Wanted to see how a few tricks felt with it.  The key to this bar is the 6 degrees of back sweep.  My favorite for flatland.  Maybe I’ll be able to get Surfers back now!

Brakes– Odyssey.  Evo II brakes with stock brake pads, M2 lever for the rear, monolever medium for the front, Odyssey Slic Cables, Snafu Mobeus detangler.  Odyssey does help me out but I would honestly use their stuff anyway.  Performance, price, looks, weight are all on point.  I never use linear cables as I think they are spongey and don’t bend tight for the front brake.  I use an Odyssey London mod because I don’t like being a slave to gyro cables.  I can re-use cable pieces for my rear brake.  I’m running the Snafu Mobeus because I needed a gyro and that was all the local shop had in stock.  I usually run an old school gyro since they just seem to work without a problem.  I’ve only ever broken one.  The new style fancy gyros have blown up on me a few times.

Stem– Season.  I got it from FlatlandFuel because the reach was over 25mm.  There is really no other reason but it works.  I put it on and forget about it.  I don’t like super short stems as they don’t seem to have the leverage over the front wheel or make the bike snappy when pivoting on the front.  The Headset is generic.  I firmly believe the headset is the least important part of the bike.  It can work like crap and you can still ride it well.

Grips– ODI City lights.  These are low flange versions of the original Mushroom grip.  They stopped making them around 1990.  I have a stash.  I got sponsored by ODI in 1985 and it’s the only grip I have ever used on my flat bike.  Perfect feel.  Odyssey Par Ends in the end of my bars.  They are tougher than most plastic, don’t fall out and metal ones get scuffed up an occasionally need to be filed so they don’t cut my hands. I also run ODI lock on rings against the flange of my grip so it doesn’t creep in toward the lever.  I have always run my levers about an inch away from the grip to get the feel I’m looking for.

Cranks– Odyssey Twombolt, 170mm.  I don’t think they made too many at this length so I got them as soon as they came out.  I don’t believe in short flatland cranks because it makes the bike no fun to ride around.  With the 41Thermal heat treating, these should last forever.

Pedals– Odyssey twisted PC.  I actually got these from another bike.  They just don’t die.

Sprocket– Odyssey Vermont, 28 tooth.  This is big for flatland but again, I want to ride this bike around the block with my kids.  Another part I have been running for 5 years.  Most guys have their bikes geared easy to ride out of tricks but seriously, I have been riding long enough that I have some torque in my legs.

Chain– Odyssey Bluebird.  I used to run a regular chain but this frame necessitated a half link.  I didn’t want the bulk of a full half link chain so this was the obvious choice.

Seat/Post/Clamp– Odyssey 99’er seat, Intac post, Shadow Conspiracy seat clamp.  The 99’er seat has been out of production for a while but I have a stash.  Cushion where you want it, hard plastic where it’s needed.  Has the best hand hold underneath.  Huge rails keep them from bending and offer the fore/aft adjustment a pivotal seat doesn’t.  The Intac post was long enough and fits the oversized seat rails.  Somehow it has lasted for years which is rare for an alloy post far out of the frame.  My friend, Kip, sent me the seat post clamp because he said it would look right on my bike.  I like it because it is low profile and doesn’t catch the edge of my shoe when my foot is on the top tube.

Front Wheel– Odyssey Hazard Lite rim, Vandero hub, 14 gauge spokes, 3 cross lacing.  Again running Odyssey parts for economic reasons but they work perfectly.  The wheel is light and strong.  The axle has lasted forever without a whimper.  I lace my own wheels and put a blue dice valve cap on there as a nod to my old school roots.

Rear Wheel– Odyssey 7KA rim, Odyssey 14 gauge spokes, 3 cross lacing, Federal Freecoaster.  A couple of years ago my old Nankai was getting wonky and the wheel was pretty beat so I built up this wheel.  My buddy, Ivan, recommended the Federal freecoaster hub as you can adjust the slack, they seem to work without too many problems and they were on sale.  It isn’t my favorite but it’s good enough.  It has an 11 tooth driver.  I don’t like going smaller than that as I think it puts too much strain on the chain and hub.  Drivetrains are like life, they are easier when the pressure is dissapated.  I have a green dice valve cap on the back wheel to match the green hub.  I hate that it’s green but you can’t be choosey when you’re on a budget!

Tires– Odyssey Frequency G, 1.85″.  I have always run 1.75″ tires on my flat bike but when I got the Deco frame the bike was so damn fast and twitchy I wanted to slow it down a bit.  The 1.85″ tires did the trick.  Now that I’m used to it I could go back but I have a fat tire stash to burn through first.

Pegs– Tree Big Balsa.  Years ago my friend, Leif, designed 1.75″ diameter pegs.  I got hooked on the size.  The Primo Tube Steaks were too big and the 1.5″ street size made my feet hurt.  These days there aren’t too many big pegs to choose from.  Tree had the best colors so I got them.  I was pleased to find out they were crazy light and are made of an amazing alloy that is super hard so even after years of use, the gnurling doesn’t wear down like some cheaper pegs.

Protection– Contraption Forcefield.  This is a neoprene pad Leif made years and years ago.  I had a stash.  This is the last one.  It keeps you from snagging yourself on the gyro and offers some padding for the knee knocks against the stem.  Someday it will die and then I’ll be stuck.  I haven’t looked down and seen my stem in over 15 years.  I hate that!

Stickers– A couple of Haro stickers as they are my employer, a Spitfire logo because it’s cool and a tennis racquet sticker that says “Head” that I found on a court because it was funny.

So that wraps up my bike check.  Odyssey has always been good about helping me with parts so I have a lot of them.  Even if they didn’t, I’d still swear by them.  I respect them as a company and the thought in the design.

When I look at my bike I see friends.  Chad D for the frame, Chad J for the bars, Kay and Herb from ODI, Chase on the tires, Leif, China, Chris and Jim at Odyssey, Kip, Ivan and Pat at Flatlandfuel.com.  I like riding with these guys.  I don’t mind supporting them or sending them my hard earned cash for their products.

So that’s the story of my bike.  Here is is.

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A week before…

Christmas isn’t the best of times since the divorce.  The kids wake up at my house and we do presents then they are off to their mom’s house and I’m alone.  Couple that with a tight budget and there isn’t much to say.  I still haven’t gotten a tree yet.  As the saying goes “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything”.  Let me just share this with you.  It’s something I introduced to my kids and they constantly remind me.

By brettdownsconspiracy

Quick hits.

Remember as a kid how you’d sit in school staring out the window longingly at the perfect day outside?  I still find myself full of that angst.  These days I’m not sitting in a classroom but behind the wheel of my car watching the last few great days of the year quickly fade to dark through my windshield.

Every once in a while I find myself with an opportunity of the sun hitting my face just right and inspiration hits.  That’s why I carry my bike in my car.  Sometimes it’s just a quick spot I see, a jump or wall ride.  Sometimes it’s the perfect flatland spot.  The bike comes out and a quick session goes down.  Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s a bust.  Sometimes, it’s perfect.

I work in the bike industry and the “lunch time ride” is a standard for office workers.  I’m not in the office these days but every once in a while I pretend I am and grab a piece of these fleeting days.  Even if it’s just a quick session, it puts my head right and reminds me of just how amazing a bike can be on a sunny day.

 

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By brettdownsconspiracy

Good Session

You know when you show up somewhere and your friends weren’t really expecting you?  You are greeted with smiles and high fives? Well, happened to me last night.

After a grueling day of work, I drove about two hours to go to the skatepark.  My son had an after school trip with a bunch of students and one of the teachers who is an old skateboarder.  The kids’ session was from about 4-8.  I showed up about six o’clock and snuck up behind my boy.  He gave me the biggest smile and more of a “bro” greeting than a “dad” hello.  He was stoked I showed up to ride with him.

We hit up a bunch of different obstacles, I met his friends, got asked a few times if I was a Pro (which I answered with “No, I’m just old”) and got to see him among his peers.  I love watching him with his friends no matter what they are doing.  Their interaction brings me back to my own adolescence.  Now I was the one who was smiling.  I gave him his space to do his thing while I did mine.  We rode separately for a while and then back together to do a new line.  What a blast it was.  I highly recommend riding with your kids if you have them.

Lew once wrote about never taking a riding buddy for granted.  Last night, I didn’t.

 

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Life Cycles

Yesterday was one of those glorious Autumn days.  Cool air mixed with brilliant sunshine prompted me to take the twins out for a bike ride.  I told them we don’t have too many days like this left in the year so we need to get out and enjoy it.  Our ride destination was Rita’s Water Ice as they close for the season today.  Always a good end to a ride, especially when you are 8 years old.

Not far from my house is a huge cemetary.  There are paved roads totaling a couple of miles that are perfect for riders, runners and dog walking.  It’s like a giant park filled with ghosts of people lost.  The kids and I ride there often.  We watched the squirrels scurry about and read names and dates on stones.  Jack was interested in the veterans with the flags marking their graves.  He checked them to see what war they had been in.  Kelly joined in as I gave an impromptu history lesson.  Our bikes lay in the grass as people drove by after visiting loved ones and a couple of dogs gave them the cursory sniff as they were walked by.  The sun shone through the golden leaves.  It was a great day to be alive even though the population around us wasn’t.

As I was walking toward Kelly to help her pronounce a Russian surname, an old man pulled his car over next to our bikes.  Our eyes locked and he said “Excuse me”.  Replying “Yes, sir?” as I walked toward him, he said nothing.  He just stared at me.  I approached his car yet he remained silent until I reached the door.  Figuring he couldn’t hear so well, I repeated myself, “Yes, sir?” as I stood next to his car.  He started to speak but nothing came out.  His pause lasted and lingered between us.  His eyes darted beyond me and then back to my face.  He inhaled deeply and said “I wish I had memories like the ones you are going to have” and seemed to choke back the rest of his thought.  His hand gestured toward my kids as his voice drifted off with a sense of sadness.  I looked at his worn face and assured him “I think of that every day”.

He wanted to say more but couldn’t.  He just looked up at my face, nodded and almost gave a smile.  He took his foot off the brake and started to roll away.  One final look to the kids and then his gaze peered forward through the windshield and he was gone.

We continued our ride as I wondered what was left unspoken.  What had this man lived through to make him not only realize but say that to me?  We looked at some more stones and fun things when I noticed a large tree that had been hollowed out by rot.  I stopped the kids and told them to come see something with me.  We approached the solid side of the tree and as the kids walked around, they smiled with the surprise of the find.  Fishing for my phone, I told them I wanted to get a picture.  The tree wasn’t big enough for them both to get in so they took turns posing inside the trunk of this giant.

We continued on to Rita’s and Kelly spilled as much as she ate, as usual.  Jack had his vanilla/chocolate twist cone and we laughed about how we were cold after eating the frozen treats.  When we were finished we hopped back on our bikes and headed home.  Again, I thought of the old man.  He was envious of the memories I was going to have of days like this with my children.  Little did he know the memory of our brief encounter will stay with me as well.

 

 

By brettdownsconspiracy

Oxymoron.

One thing we all have in common in life are what I call “want to’s” and “have to’s”.  As the father of three kids this rarely leaves my mind.  I want to give my kids a good home, clean clothes, proper food.  In order to do this, I have to have a job to pay my bills.  Not an uncommon situation.  Most of the time we get bogged down with the constant battle of these opposing forces but every once in a while, they join in a beautiful symbiosis.

Recently, I had to take a business trip to New York.  Now anyone who has ever driven in a large city knows the anguish of gridlock, the hassle of finding parking and the expense of the inevitable parking ticket.  Well, I sure didn’t want to deal with that so I came up with a better plan.  I loaded about 40 pounds of work materials, minimal clothing and toiletries into my saddle bags and hopped a train into the city.  Approaching Penn Station I felt a foreboding gloom as I realized I was throwing myself into an unpredictable situation with few personal supplies and a whole lot of responsibility to my job.  I emerged from the station about to not only get my job done but to do it my way.  Just like the cassette as I glided down 6th Avenue, everything clicked once I got on my bike,.  The sky was bright but an October wind funneled between the buildings and I decided to pull out the nylon jacket I had tightly bundled in my pannier.  Zipping up to my chin, I went off to my first stop.  As I finished my day in Manhattan I headed off to Brooklyn.  I paused over the East River to snap a couple of pictures and it occurred to me that this work trip was a “have to” but with my bike I was making it a “want to”.  This potentially annoying work trip became an adventure I’ll always remember.

About to go under the first arch of the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

 

When my friend called me and asked if I wanted to do a flatland show, I immediately said yes.  It surprised me actually.  Over a year ago I decided to retire my “show pro” status.  I felt kind of silly out there riding when I was older than 90% of my audience.  I figured after over 25 years of doing shows I’d let some other rider fill the spot and have a chance to earn some money from riding his bike.  I had no intention of ever performing again.  Why the change of heart?  Honestly, I figured I could get a week and a half of groceries out of the paycheck.

I got the the show location and did the meet and greet thing, set up and started riding.  Now it was a beautiful day. About 70 degrees and the sun felt brilliant.  As I rolled around I noticed the surface was absolutely perfect for me.  It was huge, clean and had a slight down hill that was conducive for rolling tricks and a flat area for spinning tricks.  No matter how the show turned out, I knew it was good day to be out on my bike.  As the kids came out and sat around the perimeter their excitement built.  We did some warms ups and the kids all cheered and reached out for high fives.  Once the show started, the announcer got the 700 kids screaming and the air was bursting with adrenaline.  I felt their energy flow into me.  My runs were longer than I expected.  The feeling of riding well and making the crowd happy made me realize that this was more than just getting a paycheck.  By the time we finished the show my smile was as big as any random 8 year old in the crowd.

 

Both of these stories were based on my “have to’s” but I somehow managed to combine them with my “want to’s”.  I’m a lucky man that I get to do this sometimes.  Actually, I bet we all do.  We just need to pause and pay attention to these rare occurrences and appreciate them when we have the chance.