Chance Meeting in the Park

Captain Don, DJ and Anne

Captain Don, DJ and Anne

A chance meeting with Captain Don and DJ turned a rather ho-hum ride in the park into something more exciting. And yes all four of us were wearing the latest Team Kaldi’s jersey, including me, your intrepid photographer. They had ridden to the Arch and reported back that the Arch grounds are hopelessly torn up. We had just circled the park and were headed around again, when they crossed-our-T at Pine. Crossing-the-T is a naval term. They were easy to spot, with their matching jerseys, but after vainly trying to hail them, we gave chase and rode down the unsuspecting pair. We ended up riding back to the De Mun Kaldi’s with them, where we enjoyed caffeinated beverages on the patio. We even got our 10% Kaldi’s jersey discount. Don decided to ride home alone. We accompanied him as far as our house and then bade him farewell. It was almost too much serendipity, even for such a delightful Sunday afternoon.

The Need for Speed

Saint Louis Fabrication Arts Sculpture in front of Big Shark

Saint Louis Fabrication Arts Sculpture in front of Big Shark

A couple of weeks ago, while we were loitering in front of the Regional Arts Commission, waiting for the day’s bicycle ride to begin and some of us were contemplating yarn bombing a portion of our much diminished bicycle fleet, I stole across the street to take this picture. It shows the bicycle themed sculpture that is outside of Big Shark Bicycle. Depicted in outline form are two cyclists, a man and a woman. They look like they are going fast.

We didn’t go fast today, but we did complete the ride. We drove across the river to the land of Lincoln, Millstadt, IL to be specific. We participated in Trailnet’s Great Pizza ride. It was a great ride even sans pizza. Millstadt, Waterloo, New Hanover and Columbia were towns that we passed through. Both Millstadt and New Hanover are quaint German heritage towns, while Waterloo was the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory.

The Great Pizza ride is an old Trailnet ride, but with new routes this year. Ole Captain Don met us at the start and bade us to weigh anchor and heave-ho. The new route was much hillier than the old was, but also more scenic. Funny thing about that, hills and valleys lined with trees are more interesting than pancake flat corn fields. In addition to hills, at least on the outbound leg, we faced a steady headwind. What with the aches from yesterday’s ride, I was feeling it today, when we hit the first rest stop. I would have been happy just doing the short route, but Anne was determined to do the middle route. She is dedicated to being in shape for this summer’s Michigan Lakeshore Tour. We did do the middle route, but not fast. We got home and unloaded before the rains came. This was our longest ride of the year, new rule, long ride, means short post.

Two Thumbs Up!

Team Kaldi's

Team Kaldi’s

It was a gorgeous day in Saint Louis, with crystal blue skies and a balmy high in the seventy’s. I ended up playing hooky from work. I took the afternoon off and bicycled in the park. I saw Mary A. who was also cycling. We’ll attend her Team Kaldi’s party later tonight. It is not an official team event. I think with a team population now at well over a hundred riders, Team Kaldi’s has grown too big for even Bill and Mary’s large house. Looking at the invitee list, I was reminded of the above photo that has been hanging in the basement for many years now. It was taken during the fall, after the very first Team Kaldi’s MS-150 bicycle ride. It is a little worse for wear, but then aren’t we all?

Since I was bicycling alone today, I listened to the radio and various podcasts. One show that I caught part of was today’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Her show today was a retrospective on Roger Ebert, the Chicago based film critic who died yesterday. She had interviewed him several times over the many years of her show. I was most struck by two stories that Ebert told. The setup for the first story was a question that Gross asked Ebert, whether he had found actors to become petulant if during an interview a less than flattering question was ever asked. Ebert explained that this phenomenon is the result of the advent of the publicist. A person whose goal it is to script every press interaction.

As counterpoint to the modern publicist, Ebert told the story of his interview with the actor, Lee Marvin. Marvin was very drunk that day. His publicist was there too, but he was preoccupied with buying more beer. Marvin’s girlfriend was there too. Marvin’s dog came out of the bedroom with a pair of ladies panties draped across its head. The girlfriend asked, “What’s that?” Marvin answered, “Your panties.” She said, “Those aren’t my panties.” To which Marvin replied, “Bad dog!”

Ebert’s other story had to do with fame and the effects that it has on one’s life. He explained that once you obtain fame, you have to be nice to everyone, the people on the elevator, the waitress, people on the street. You don’t know who they are, but they know who you are and they will tell everyone what you did.

His second story involved Michael Caine. It occurred in the sixties, when Caine was still a young man. Caine was on his first trip to America. He had heard tales of the dirty book stores in the US. The ones in Britain were rather tame by comparison. He had just obtained fame, with Alfie, so he didn’t want to be seen in such a store. Walking by the window of such a store in Times Square, he noticed that none of the store’s patrons ever made eye contact with each other. Caine realized that he could in fact walk-in to such a store unobserved. He didn’t account for the store’s proprietor, who sat up high to see all and with a microphone usually just chided his customers, “This is a store, not a reading library.” This day the loudspeaker also blared, “And we have the famous British actor, Michael Caine, in the rubber-wear room.”

East Mound City

Our “big” weekend bicycle ride occurred on Saturday morning. We drove across the river to the Cahokia Mounds National Historic Landmark. From there we bicycled Trailnet’s Mounds Trail Interpretive Bike Ride. This ride featured a mass start of about 50 cyclists and everyone stayed together throughout the ride. Harold, our interpretive guide set the pace and one of Trailnet’s vans guarded our tail end. We rode from Cahokia Mounds to the East Saint Louis riverfront. It was a 20 miles roundtrip. The pace was slow, probably 12 MPH, and there were frequent stops for interpretation. It was a real ‘three-hour tour’. 😉

Anne Cycling Past Monks Mound

One of Saint Louis’s nicknames is Mound City. At one time there were 50 Native American mounds in the City of Saint Louis, now there is only one. While our ride on Saturday did not cross the river, the Mounds Heritage Trail spans both sides. Most of the mounds are within the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, but one outside this site was pointed out along our ride, the Sam Chucalo Mound. Story has it that a road construction crew wanted to dismantle this mound for fill dirt, but Mr. Chucalo, the landowner wouldn’t allow it.

The ruins of an ancient lost civilization were only half the story of this ride. The other half of the tour was mostly in ruins too. That would be East Saint Louis. Once dubbed the Pittsburgh of the West, because of its concentration of heavy industry, our guide joked that it is now one of the greenest cities in America. What he meant was that the natural undergrowth is reclaiming large tracts of the city as much of it slides into decay. There are a few notable exceptions to the debilitation of this once proud and wealthy city. The Federal Courthouse, the Ainad Temple and the Katherine Dunham house are a few choice examples of what has survived. While the Spivey Building, the Majestic and the Murphy Building with their once beautiful facades tell of what has been lost.

East Saint Louis is an African-American community. Fifty white bicyclists parading around town on a Saturday morning was obviously not a normal sight. Universally though everyone was very friendly to us. People would wave and call out. Motorists would toot their horns, in the nice sort of way. A Bi-state bus even tooted us a salute. A fellow rider remarked on how much more friendly the drivers were here than in Saint Louis proper. A local woman cyclist joined our procession for a while. She was full of questions, “Where did you come from?” “Where are you going?” Etc. We tried to get her to accompany us down to the riverfront, but she begged off saying, “I’ve got to get one of those Mercedes bicycles that you all have.”

The Birdman Tablet

This was one of the most interesting and moving bicycle rides that I have ever ridden. After the ride, one of the other cyclists thanked our guide and sponsors saying, “I’ve lived in Saint Louis all of my life and I had never been to East Saint Louis before. It is a part of our community that I had never seen. Thank you.” H.G. Wells once quipped, “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” I think that his quote sells the human race short, for the adult on the bicycle sees the rest of the world more clearly too.

Saint Louis Mardi Gras

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Lent is the part of the Ecclesiastical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday, next Wednesday, and ends on Easter Sunday, some forty days hence. Lent is a time for penance and fasting. It also coincides with that season of the year that in our agrarian past was when winter larders began to give out and before spring’s new growth could be realized. I suspect that in year’s past, there was an element of making virtue out of necessity, when it came to giving up things for Lent. Immediately preceding Ash Wednesday and Lent, comes Fat Tuesday, or in French, Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras has traditionally been an opportunity for one more chance to revel and feast before Lent closes in. Ground zero for Mardi Gras, at least in this country, has always been New Orleans, but Mardi Gras celebrations in Saint Louis have risen to number two in size. Two cities that are linked by river and by French heritage form the axis of festivity for this informal holiday. Saint Louis’ Mardi Gras centers around Soulard, a neighborhood founded by and named for a refugee from the French Revolution. Once dilapidated, its 19th century row houses were rehabbed in the 1980s. One such is the home of our friends, Gary and Linda.

Gary and Linda live, breath and revel in Mardi Gras. As Gary told me, “If I lived a block off of Times Square in NYC, New Year’s Eve would be my big holiday. Since I live here, it’s Mardi Gras.” This is the second year that we have been invited to their Mardi Gras party. This year we decided to bicycle to their place, because last year, parking was so tough. On the way over, we got caught up in the Mardi Gras traffic, which at times seemed a bit hairy, but as it turns out the toughest part, was the last fifty feet. Getting through the security cordon required sneaking around a fence. What we worried about most, the return run, with all of the drunks about, turned out to be a non-event. We got 20 miles, but I digress. Gary is the master of Mardi Gras. He has a portable grandstand that eliminates the need to queue up for a spot to see the parade. This year’s innovation were giant rake like claws, perfect for snagging tossed beads. Saturday’s parade began at Busch Stadium and ended at the brewery. This route underscores one of, if not the main activity at Mardi Gras, drinking. Gary and Linda were not remiss in this department either. As if coffee and Bailey’s was insufficient to the occasion, they had alcohol infused whip cream to top things off with. This year, as opposed to past years, I concentrated on photographing the crowd, rather than the parade. All of the people pictured were willing subjects and some were maybe a little too willing. We launched from our house after nine and didn’t recover until after four. After a quick turnaround, we drove to our second Mardi Gras party, Rodney and Michelle’s. This was a work related function and was more family friendly, than the Soulard affair. The food was to-die-for good.

Presidential Bicycle Dreams

We went to the STL Bike Federation’s swap sale today, bought a few things (gloves and leg warmers) and connected with some of our Team Kaldi’s friends. We had great plans to go biking in the Park afterwards, but inertia, the couch, and the warm sun shining through the window, all combined to scuttle those plans. At least on this sunny January day, we could still dream about bicycling.

The two main topics at the swap meet, at least among our friends, seemed be knees and summer bicycling plans. Our ages, as that of our bike friends, is such that many of our friends are either contemplating knee surgery or recovering from it. I am fortunate to be in neither camp, so the subject of summer vacations was much more interesting.

Anne is planning on doing the UP tour, run by the same group that organized last summer’s Michigan Shoreline tour. Some of our friends are planing on riding RAGBRAI, the Alleghany Trail and one is even going to Alaska. Anne and I are going to California, but not really to bicycle. After I scope out how many vacation days I will spend on that trip, I can figure out what to do for the rest of the summer.

Dave Bikes Mackinac Island

The following is the gist of the phone convo between me, her wyrd brother-in-law, and Jane. Convo is a synonym of conversation, but also conveys a certain hipness. Yeah, right. I tried being funny (ha-ha not looking), when the first thing I said was, “Did he feel like a Muslim?” Silence. Anne then exclaimed, “Tell her who you are!” I did and we were off and rolling, so much for me being funny. Jane’s answer was, “He felt like a Hawaiian.” Naturally, we were speaking of President Obama.

Jane attended Mr. Obama’s speech in Ann Arbor last week and got to shake his hand. News reports showed U of M students standing out in the cold all night to snag a ticket. Jane has friends and got special Whitehouse tickets to the event and spent most of her wait inside in the warmth.

The photo is from a few year’s back. Dave is obviously having a great time. Mackinac Island is a great place for family bicycling. I hear the fudge is pretty good too.