Monthly Archives: September 2014

Le haïku (俳句) : nº3

Balade à vélo
J’ai peur de tomber en panne
Moi je suis toute seule


Dispatch from Packwood, the end?

I awoke to the soothing touch of my dear Clarissa on my brow and the purring of a large cat on my chest. As it turned out Clarissa was not speaking sweet nothings to some dirty-boy in suede from some dank misty northern city known for grunge, glass, and falling bridges as I feared but to a kitty-cat that she was trying to feed and befriend.

‘Rupert drink this, it is pure new Postum.’ Crooned Clarissa. ‘That homemade crap you had in your pouch stank of valerian root, chamomile, and cat nip. Your mix might be suitable for a sleeping tea or stuffing a mouse for this kitty to play with, but certainly not proper fuel for an intrepid randonneur intent on spirited adventure. I am surprised you did not use poison oak for tp or for lining your sleeping bag as well. You should not go off on your own like this. Audax only for you from now on Mr. Self-destruct.’

Having no words in response I simply buried myself in her reflective vest and wept for joy, but my reverie was short lived.

‘You there! Bike boy! Where have you been on my handmade cycle all this time!?!’ The furious man in his blue shirt with his middle-european accent had found me! I leapt to my feet and declaimed my innocence.

‘What took you so long? Please release me from having to ride this chromium contraption! The tubing choice does not suit my spirited riding style, the archaic front derailer shift-rod interferes with my swirling knees as I spin with effortless efficiency, the lighting is sub-par, the bumply fenders exhibit poor lines, I had to replace that damned two-ton bottom bracket with a shimano and that shoddy home-made stem I was about to replace with a nitto technomic because of the endless creaking emanating from the steering pin, but I could not because of that damned disguised light switch in the cap! In short, Your Bike Sucks!’

I threw down my gauntlet of harsh but truthful criticism for his own good, but did he appreciate it? Gods no.

The leader of the blue shirts retorted. ‘I am rather surprised at your comments about my cycle. You people have no idea the work that goes into a true constructeur built randonneuse! The hours spent filing and polishing and in google groups seeking truthful and useful information. This bike has a minimum 300 hours invested in lively debates on the Randon, 650b, and ibob lists! Do you realize how many times I was banned from seeking wisdom? How dare you criticize my personal work as if it is a simple matter to please your own gauche taste with an idiosyncratically designed and executed work of artisanship! You are not the end-all and arbiter of the worth of my cycle! How dare you think this cycle should suit your tastes perfectly.’

I pitied the poor sod. ‘You sir, are such a poor excuse for a leader of cyclists. Do you not realize that we must pursue perfection in all things? To merely be good is to be forgettable – do we not engage in all pursuits to beat our personal best, to bury our triumphs of yesterday in today’s new achievements lest all our efforts become dross, the mediocre efforts of the forgotten multitudes? To be merely a participant is not enough for we must challenge ourselves to new heights of perfection and beauty in all things!’

I could tell I was not winning the heart of the leader, but I was noticing the rest of the blue shirts were starting to kneel and abase themselves to my great words and honest criticism. I could have continued my oration and gathered a new cult about myself (Lube my chain! Polish my randonneuse!) but I have enough minions under my sway in the readership of Competitive Randonneuring and Commuting.

At this point the shop keeper of the gas station addressed me. ‘Hey you, chubby guy. Git yerself and yer foreign buddies the hell off my property, You uppity foreigners are as bad as them injuns on the reservations (why the hell they let them into the country in the first place is mind boggling, almost as mind boggling as that gov’ment interference with my medicare, and them mexeecans seem to think California was theirs first or sumpthin) and I am not about to let you illegals loiter around and steal my job and country. Now Git!’

In the ensuing panic and confusion we immersed ourselves in a huge band of cyclo-tourists, a roving band of Americans and Chinamen, and eluded the evil blue shirts for good, but lost the kitty cat.


Rupert T. Smedeley, road test editor, cookery editor and arbiter of fashion

Dispatch from Packwood, fleeing the evil blue shirts

The passage through the benighted woods should have been a pleasure, but the sorry contraption that I had made my escape on was such a bizarre assemblage of home-made parts (a lever for the front derailer!) and obviously handmade lights I was not able to find my legs.

The tubing choice in the frame was simply not to my liking. The bike became as vague as if in deep gravel rather than tarmac when descending in a spirited manner. It were as if the cycle were some sort of yoga practitioner the strange contortions and bendings the frame could get into. I often found myself thinking of the plow or the lion yoga positions, never once becoming centered in tadasana.

If I were not expert at descending in the dark I surely would have collapsed at the roadside a whimpering wreck of damaged nerves. The tires were curiously cushy.

It took me forever to find the damn light switch – luckily I nudged the steer tube cap when I was reaching for the retro-grouch down tube shifter (my kingdom for a brifter!) and I lighted my escape route via that ultra-vibratory front generator hub. The saddle was so worn out my ass was raw in ten minutes but I found some straw at the roadside and stuffed the underside of the saddle to bolster it and tied it in place with some twine I found in the ‘sacoche de guidon’.

After several miles and countless hills I found shelter behind a 24 hour gas station. At dawn’s break I woke and sought my repast within the store. I inquired if any cyclists had passed recently. The wizened old buzzard behind the counter stated: ‘Whal, I did see one or two american youths escorting several chinese biker tourists earlier. I think there were nine of them total. Funny how those chinese tourists could speak english so well, but they paid good american dollars so I have no truck with them.’ I enquired about blue shirts and he just gave me the evil eye. I paid for my fruit pie and asked for the restroom key.

The restroom almost did me in – I have only encountered worse at denny’s restaurants on easter mornings after a few fleche teams had passed through – never follow a cyclist (even touring cyclists) when using the restroom, as to do so is to take one’s life in one’s hands. In a swoon from the fumes I neglected to return to the store ask for Postum and sought the fresher air of the road.

I crashed a few times on the center line paint while descending, but I could tell that the owner of this flexy flyer has crashed a few times in the same manner and I felt no guilt. The exposed brake wires from the levers constantly interfered with my rummaging in the ‘sacoche de guidon’ – damn retro poser cycle! My kingdom for my own bucephelus, a decent, constructeur built machine.

Approaching the cycle every time I stopped for sustenance or a nature break I was confronted with the poor assembly and fender line of those bumply fenders. A few of the parts became loose and I was force to replace a creaky bottom bracket with a decent tried and true BB-UN51. Those boutique bottom brackets and heavy and unreliable IMHO.

As I approached a minor highway heavily traveled with global warmers (autos, to the ignorant) I was ready to give up the uncomfortable flexy flyer and seek employment as a dish washer so I could purchase a decent Magna or Roadmaster when I heard her voice.

Dear Clarissa’s voice. Speaking words of affection, but not to me. At the sound of her voice I stumbled, darkness enveloped me. I remember no more.

Dispatch from Packwood, the escape

The winter of my captivity blanketed my being in cold frosts of despair, dizzying my brain in dank mists of forested misery. My evil captors ridiculed and belittled my need to seek shelter from the constant mists and damps that threatened my health and lightened my skin tone to their own ghastly pallor.

‘See how he is afraid of the sky’s blessing of rain!’ The leader would shout. ‘He is clearly from some foreign land, probably an illegal from the south I surmise! Here, lube my chain! Polish the chrome of my randonneuse. Do better than last time or you will get no crumbs!’

After prostrating myself to the leader I would meekly set myself to my given work, worried that I would not get my precious crumbs; the crumbs that I would toast and mix with herbs from the verge of the camp to make my own ersatz Postum that I survived on.

Surreptitiously hoarding bits of chain and lengths of cable from my maintenance tasks in preparation to repair my bucephalus, I ignored the rust forming on its light weight tubing and tried ever harder to ignore the sight of the mold on the saddle that infested my heart, weakening my resolve daily. The hideous pain of seeing my prized steed bucephalus neglected in the nettles and blackberry of the camp’s ash, dung, and refuse pile stabbed and rent my soul to pieces and I often feared myself lost forever to my servitude.

Some days passed in this condition when the clan, after a bonfire in celebration of some raid on a mountaintop lay passed out in their drunken stupors from too much mead and whiskey. I whispered to a fellow peeing on a tree that I had found some golden threaded super-ballon ne-plus soupple prototype tires and that he should follow me if he wanted them. I knocked the fool senseless and stole his blue jersey, white helmet and sunglasses, and mounted his silvered cycle with the bumply fenders knowing that this disguise would allow me to pass the sentries at camp’s edge.

In passing the sentries I grunted that I was off on a ‘night permanent to assure my Ultra R-12 continuance’ and that I would return at dawn. Fools.

The fool was I, for in my hubris I was not expecting the pursuit and my recapture, but that is yet another tale to tell.

Dispatch from Packwood, captivity

How long I was held captive, I do not know.

The searing amber light of the autumn days burned my eyes and skin as it pierced the towering larch. I was treated with indifference by the blue uniformed clan and forced to perform menial tasks about the camp, changing flats, lubing chains and adjusting brakes. I was soon inured to the beatings I received when I made mistakes and became expert at my given tasks.

I never learned what the games were, but I did learn they did not go well.

‘Everyone knows the randonneur type cycle is superior to the mountain bike!’ the screams of the heavily accented leader were endless and repetitive. ‘I challenged him to a roll-down double-blind and he only laughed and sucked on his water skin tube! Such insolence I will silence with hill repeats!’ The leader would soon tire himself and wrap his disgusted and disappointed person up in his space blanket and pout for hours, only to begin his rants again.

I was given the tandem they abducted me on to perform adjustments and in my horror I ran.

I ran for my life, my soul, my freedom only to trip and fall on my own cycle the bucephalus. Howling in pain from my sprained ankle I realized I had discovered my way to freedom, my own cycle. I masked my devious thoughts of freedom and set myself to work upon the hated tandem of my captivity, laying my plans.

Soon I will be avenged and free. Soon.

Dispatch from Packwood, Lost

Author, Rupert Smedeley

There I was…

Hopelessly lost in the wilds near Mount Rainier National Park not knowing where I was or remembering how I got there, surrounded by strangers.

I had left Tacoma in a shattered emotional state, for my dear Clarissa Peattebogg, my companion of some decades had left me cold at the coffee stand for a vapid fellow sporting ironic facial hair and a tweed smoking jacket which exuded a foul odor from what seemed to be a lack of bathing, judging from his lank greasy hair.

Such a hurry to be gone from my distress that I left town with no provisions, no maps, no phone. Forced to subsist on forage from gas stations and general stores I learned to be expert on differing flavors of beef jerky and soda, and soon became wary of asking directions from the aborigines that sparsely populated the heavily treed slopes.

My last waking memories are of drinking my last dregs of postum from my treasured antique speckled blue steel camping mug at the top of one of the endless washboard graveled hill paths when I swooned and my world turned as black as the night in my heart.

I awoke to find my hands tied and my body strapped to the back of a bouncing tandem cycle being ridden on one of those washboard graveled paths, choking on the dust kicked up by our wheels. Between blackouts I gained that I was surrounded by strange fellows wearing wool cycle caps and blue shirts with white letters who were mounted on cycles with large treadless tyres and useless ornamental fenders. One, who seemed to be the leader, spoke with a heavy teutonic accent. I awoke and lost consciousness many more times before I realized that we had stopped, greeted by the sound of crickets and mutterings round a camp fire.

The leader spoke first – ‘Your bike, I do not like it! It has no spirit, no planing, and imperfect clearances between the fender and tyre! I fear it will not be an enjoyable ride to the lake tomorrow for the games.’

I did not know what they spoke of with these ‘games’ but I was filled with dread of the unknown. Dread for my safety. Dread for my future.