Busking a Rube

British Busker and Rube at Covent Garden Market

I’m almost famous, because that’s what it’s all about, fame and fortune, people, fame and fortune and women too. Let’s not forget the women. For example, I was riding in the park today. At mid-morning, I almost had the place to myself. As the bike path crossed Pine, I encountered another cyclist though. He was eastbound on Pine. He was tall and fit and riding an all white bicycle, while wearing a team all white bodysuit with white helmet. He made quite the cycling fashion statement. Because it looked like we were going to intersect, we both slowed. He eventually nodded for me to proceed. I acknowledged with a profunctionary, “How’s it going?” He responded with, “Fine, Mark.”

It wasn’t until we had passed that I realized what he had said. For the life of me, I did not recognize him. This is not all that unusual. I’ve been living in this town for over thirty years and have been cycling in it for more than half of that. I’ve made quite a few biking buddies and have even more acquaintances in the cycling community. For a while, when I was doing the oh-dark-thirty dawn launches to ride in the park before work, I would routinely pass the Clayton Crew. John, a former neighbor, was a regular member of this 40+ boys club. I would call out, “Passing on your left,” and John would answer back, “Hey, Mark.” It didn’t take many repetitions before the entire crew knew my name and then by proxy, very soon after, almost everyone in the park. I felt like the mayor of Forest Park, fame and fortune, folks, fame and fortune. 

Madonna of the Prairie

Madonna of the Prairie, W.H.D. Koerner, 1921, Center of the West

In the western novel “Covered Wagon”, the heroine Molly Wingate traveled the Oregon Trail in a wagon train of settlers. Encountering prairie fires and Indian arrows, the beautiful maiden eventually reached Oregon, where in the conventions of popular fiction, she found true love. In this illustration for the novel’s book jacket, W.H.D. Koerner used the covered wagon to form a halo around the pioneer woman’s head to symbolized her purity. This romanticized view of womanhood is emblematic of dime westerns that idealize the feminine, often forsaking reality.

On Wednesday, I was cycling through the park. I was on my way to view the exhibit “Making a Monster”, which was on display in the Bernard Becker Medical Library, at Barnes. I looked at this outing as preparatory research for the evening’s Science on Tap lecture, which also involved “Frankenstein.”

On the way there, I witnessed an accident on the bike trail. It involved a woman cyclist, who was heading in my direction and two black men, both of whom were on electric scooters and heading in the opposite direction. I was following the woman and saw that as she passed a walker that was also heading in her direction, she nearly collided with the first scooter, before hitting the second. She and the second man fell, but fortunately on the grass. I stopped to ask if everyone was OK. She said she was and although neither of the men spoke, both seemed OK too. So, I headed on my way to the hospital.

It all happened so fast that I still cannot say whose fault the accident was and I had the best of all possible eyewitness views. The two men were both hugging the centerline and the first seemed to momentarily cross it just before his near miss. She actually passed him on his opposite side, which seemed to cause her to lose control of her bicycle, before colliding with the second man and ending up sprawled in the grass on the opposite side of the path.

About an hour later, I was heading home. As I approached the accident site, I had a premonition to look for something. Maybe in the rush of events that was the accident my subconscious noticed something flying out of someone’s bag. It was there in the grass, a Power Juice battery phone charger ($23.49 Amazon). There was no one else around, save for two city workers, both on rider mowers.

Over the years, I have collected my fair share of swag and more rarely donated swag back to the park community, but in all of the previous instances, I never had an inkling to the original owner. I would have taken it anyway, even without the impending mowers. I promise to keep a lookout for the individuals involved in the accident and return the charger to its owner. I don’t really need it, because I already have a Power Monkey charger and I don’t need another one. If it was the woman’s that could be quite likely, since her route and mine coincided for several miles that day. If it was one of the men’s I would judge it less likely, primarily because they were riding rented scooters, but I’ll keep an eye out. 

Tour de Lafayette

Tour de Lafayette

Anne and I dined last night with Don and DJ. We tried a new place, at least to us, called Polite Society. The food there was quite nice and the company was even better. The occasion was the kickoff for the Gateway Cup, a Labor Day weekend of crits. A crit or more formally a criterium is a one-day bicycle race on a closed course. Last night’s races circled Lafayette Square. This residential neighborhood was first laid out in the 1840s. Located a good two miles from where the Arch now stands, it was part of the Saint Louis suburbs of its day. A few miles further west Henry Shaw had purchased undeveloped land around then that would eventually become his gardens.

Once a year, this quaint middle 19th-century neighborhood is invaded by hordes of bicyclists and their groupies. My crowd is firmly ensconced now in the latter category. We like to watch. However, someone somewhat tongue-in-cheek asked Anne while she was crossing the course, if she had finished fourth in the last race. She was wearing street clothes and not bike duds at the time. His question and the fact that you have to watch out for speeding cyclists caught her a little off-guard. Never mind that the last race was a men’s race. 

Later, we moved down the block to Tom and Audrey’s place with its curbside view of the races. It was you typical late August evening, both hot and humid, but every two minutes, when the peloton passed by at 30 MPH, there was a cooling breeze. We met up with a few of our other cycling chums, before bidding everyone adieu. It was a nice way to kickoff the holiday weekend. 

A Flight from Destiny

A Flight from Destiny, Bill Schenck, 1994

I continue to bicycle, most days, in the park. I get out and ride even on days when the mercury has risen. On those hotter days, I just slide my riding time earlier in the day. Forest Park Forever, the charity dedicated to the maintenance of the park has been planting more signs. First, it scattered “you are here” maps everywhere. Then it erected a marble edifice, at the southwest entrance that announces that this is Forest Park. They have been working on this structure all year. Now, they’ve started planting more new signage along the bicycle trail that circles the park. They are fundraising oriented and are targeted at people who use the trails, with the slogan, “Happy Trails”. In other park news, the Dwight Davis Tennis Center is hosting the US Open Wheelchair Championship now.

Closer to home, we did not escape lawn damage is the current round of utility work. Workers are laying new street light electrical wire via boring, but every time they cross another underground utility, like my gas line, they “pothole” the junction. So now there is a hope in the lawn that is currently covered up with plywood and further decorated with stakes and orange tape. Interestingly, when they potholed us, they found a few bricks underground. I have no idea why they were there. Our house was built in 1937, but it originally didn’t use gas. We have a coal chute door that had a hole cut in it to allow the filling of an oil tank. We also still have the old oil tank in the basement. I don’t know when the house was converted to gas or why bricks were around the gas line. It’s a mystery.

Finally in this potpourri post, it was announced that my former colleagues here in Saint Louis finally won a contract. For $802M Boeing will build four drones for the Navy. Called the MQ-25A Stingray, this unmanned aircraft is slated to be used as an aerial refueling tanker. If successful, this win could be parlayed into another eighty planes worth $13B. Congratulations team! Looks stealthy.

Boeing MQ-25A Stingray


Back on the Bike

Lake McDonald Boat Ride View

This picture is from Glacier. We took a ride on the De Smet, a 1930s tour boat, around Lake McDonald. This wooden boat was suitably quaint/idiosyncratic. It had sliding windows that were so tricky that we were asked to have the crew do them for us. This alpine lake was so placidly smooth, so that only the boat’s wake disturbed the surface of the water. You can see some of that at the bottom.

Anne and I bicycled today in Forest Park. It was the first time that I’ve been on a bike for a month and only the second time for two months. For Anne, it was the first time in almost three months. But we are now both back in town and are committed to getting ready for next month’s Bike MS challenge. Look forward to hearing about more of our two-wheel adventures to come. Today, we toured the board walks in the northeast corner of the park and saw a little blue heron.

This species used to be extremely rare in Saint Louis, at least compared to its bigger brother, but over the last few years, it has become a park regular. iBird shows its range to be more coastal: the gulf, southeast coast and the Caribbean. Maybe global warming is pushing its range further north?

In less happy biking news, our friend Chris from Rochester shared a photo of himself, after his latest bike accident. He took quite a few hit points. He’s got bandages everywhere. My question to him though is how’s the bike? 😉

After our ride, I drove up to Schnucks for groceries and two boys approached me in the store. After having gotten my attention, one of them spoke. What he wanted to say was, “Don’t hate the player hate the game.” But what he said was, “Don’t hate the game hate the player.” Realizing that he had messed up, they then both walked away. Later, I looked up the correct phrase on the Urban dictionary, which translated it to, “Or society made me do it.” This phrase is also trending on Twitter, in the wake of Trump’s midnight castigation of Lebron. I hope that those kids didn’t think that I’m a trumpeter. 😳

Bicycling Groupies

Point Iroquois Lighthouse with Black-eyed Susan’s

Anne drove Jay to the airport, while I slept-in. Later, we drove to Point Iroquois. On the way there, it soon became apparent that today was the day that the MUP passes by the cabin. MUP stands for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and this bicycle tour is put on by the League of Michigan Bicyclist. We rode it in 2015. This year we were just bicycling groupies and hung out with the cyclists at the lighthouse and also chatted them up some too. We’ll probably see the bikers again tomorrow, because they will be spending two nights in the Soo and we have to go into town to do laundry. After the lighthouse, we stopped off at Jack’s Pub and Grub for some lunch. There we continued our groupie ways with the bikers that were also dining there. I had their whitefish, which was pretty good and Anne had a salad. We each had a glass of Grizzly Pear Cider, “made with real pears, not bears.” It was quite sweet, but still refreshing and tasty too.