Two updates

The Adventure Cycling Assoc. posted “Following the Monarchs” (referenced in the post below) to their website. Now you can read the whole thing and not rely on my photo! Side note: dirtbag panniers 4evah!


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#coffeeneur no. 3: ☕ & 🥯 in Durham #coffeeneuring

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Handbuilt Bike news has coverage of the New England builder’s Ball (Two Wheels X 2). They did a much more complete job than my ‘ooh shiny’ reportage. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Below is a photo I should have taken – I really liked this ANT rig.



The migration south is still going strong here in southern NH, so monarchs have been much on my mind. The starting point was finding what I think was a freshly emerged female in the back yard a few weeks ago. I’m sure she would have been fine, but I moved her to a protected perch on the breezeway to rest and warm up a bit.

Then the Oct/Nov edition of Adventure Cyclist arrived. It’s the house organ of the Adventure Cycling Assoc. – a great group that’s created some amazing route maps. The cover story was Sara Dykman’s 10,000 mile ride following the multi generation migration from Mexico to Canada and back. Naturally, I’m wondering if I should swing south after either Baja or Barrancas del Cobre. Hmm.

monarch story

Ms. Dykman’s web site is here and I’ve embedded a map of her route below. A dang cool ride, I must say.

From ButterBikes to Butter-Gliders – shifting gears a bit, the Venture Bros. are back on teevee, For those who don’t know the show, one of the main characters is a supervillian called The Monarch (née Malcolm Fitzcarraldo). The new run – Season 7 – is superb and gets a strong recommendation. The AVClub has a TV Club 10 post with ten essential episodes; let me quote the intro to give those of you unfamiliar with the show a sense of what it’s all about.

When it started, The Venture Bros. was an unsubtle parody of Jonny Quest, centering on a super-scientist, a burly bodyguard, and a couple of rambunctious teens who love a good adventure but are also just a hair too naïve to really survive for long on their own. Calling it a Jonny Quest parody now is almost comically reductive, though, because the show spent its first six seasons expanding into one of the most complex and bizarre universes of any animated series—including its newer Adult Swim contemporaries like Rick And Morty. It’s a superhero parody, with deep Marvel cuts that have become a lot less deep thanks to the movies. It’s an outlet for obscure musical references, where David Bowie somehow became a regular character until creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer decided that was too limiting and just made him into a shapeshifter who pretended to be David Bowie. It’s a G.I. Joe parody, where the good guys and bad guys all need a silly gimmick and a codename. Mostly, though, it’s about a family that always sticks together, even in the face of constant, inescapable failure.

That’s the word that always comes up when trying to describe The Venture Bros., but even saying it’s a show about failure is reductive. That reading doesn’t take into account how the characters have grown and changed over the years or how they sometimes completely stumble into success. Really, if you want to cleverly say that the show is about any one thing, then it’s about subverting expectations. The show knows what people like and what they’ll want to see, and then it goes off in a different direction that deepens the characters in an unexpected way or throws a needlessly complicated wrench into a plot that is already needlessly complicated (or maybe it pulls the wrench out and lets a complicated plot run down to something more simple).

From an earlier season, DRAMA!

And back to the real thing – while out for training rides with Lotte the Adventure Teckel, I’ve come across monarchs that are sure to be squashed by traffic unless they’re moved. So I move them. There have only been a few, but with the world in the state that it’s in, every one is worth an effort.

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Road rescue.

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Two Wheels X 2

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love two wheeled vehicles. My own riding has been restricted to bicycles for a long time, but I love looking at a nice motorcycle too. The presence of an engine gives builders freedom to be less minimalist and practical – expressed esp in the world of choppers. Last Saturday there were two bike shows: the Welcome East motorcycle show in Portsmouth NH and The Builder’s Ball handmade bicycle show in Boston. I spent time at both as I made my way back to Scituate.

There was an an amazing range of bikes at the Welcome East show; a diversity that led to my favorite juxtaposition of the day: two bike conversions next to two superbikes.

Good juxtaposition

My favorite was this perfect BMW. I am a sucker for Earles forks.

Bay Em Vay

The Builder’s Ball was smaller but in some ways even more amazing. The attention to detail was incredible. Brian Chapman used spare spokes as chain slap protectors:

Chapman Cycles spoke chainslap guard

Bilenky Cycle Works fabricated a gorgeous rear dropout to accommodate a Gates belt drive:


There needs to be a break point in the drive side rear triangle of Gates-equipped bikes so that the belt can be threaded into place. I’ve never seen the problem handled so elegantly.

There was also space for less Apollonian stuff. A bike chopper with what I assume is a combination running light and butt warmer:


And this amazing machine:



I thought at first that it was some sort of e-bike conversion. And then realization dawned: hydraulics! The owner was given the bike by its creator, a Worcester machinist, as he was heading off to a retirement home. The current owner has had the bike for two decades and it is still immaculate. I’d hang it on a wall if I owned it – art.

Locally, preparations for my bike trip continue. Today’s task is choosing books that will live at the Scriptorium in Breuklyn – Lotte and I are heading south tomorrow to celebrate my b-day with friends and fam!

Red hands with missing fingers

As noted in the post below, I zipped back home from the salt marsh last Friday to take care of some loose ends, One of the things on the to-do list was replenishing the bee feeder with more sugar syrup. A bit of backstory: I didn’t keep bees last year – my hives were winter-killed and I missed the windows for ordering replacement packages in the spring. This year, with plans for the Big Bike Trip well underway, it made no sense to start beekeeping again, so I didn’t. But I did leave a hive out in the back yard the past couple years, mainly because I’m lazy that way. Come early August, I noticed some bee activity in and around the hive. “Checking it out to see if they can scavenge some supplies.”, thought I. But they stuck around! I gave them a few weeks to get settled in, then did an inspection. Capped brood (iow, the hive is making new members)! A second inspection and hey! there’s the queen! At this point I realized I needed to start feeding them if there was going to be any chance of them surviving the winter. I’m not big on feeding hives; sugar syrup provides calories, but precious little else. But, just as, given a choice between Soylent (vc) and starving to death, I’ll happily consume the sludge, so too will I choose syrup over losing a nice gentle hive with what I am guessing is a wild-bred queen. They’d been going through a quart of syrup every two days, so I expected to find the feeder empty. I did not expect this:

trashed frames


I was stunned. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to wildlife ID – I’ve heard too many stories about peregrines killing songbirds at people’s bird feeders – so I figured it was a big ole raccoon or a skunk or maybe, just maybe a bear. I composed myself and started cleaning up. And then I noticed a small cluster of workers in the corner of the hive body, looking very much like they were protecting the queen. I grabbed another body, put in 10 untrashed frames and carefully brushed the bees that were left (many had already relocated to the new digs) in the old body into their new home. As of this writing, there are still bees in the hive; I haven’t done a post-attack inspection yet, but the fact that workers are staying put gives me a little hope that the queen survived.

New hive body/frames

When I took a close look at the smashed up hive body, my perp ID changed. Take a look at the distance between the pairs of tooth marks:

toof marks

toof marks

I have never seen a raccoon or skunk skull with that kind of gap between canines. I’m pretty confident it was a bear. There have been bears in the neighborhood before – I hadn’t heard of any sightings this year but that doesn’t mean much.

On the ride back down to salt marsh paradise, I listened to the latest episode of Ken Layne’s excellent Desert Oracle radio show (in podcast form): Lycanthropes of the West.

Bronsplåt pressbleck öland vendeltid.jpg
By Unknown – Oscar Montelius, Om lifvet i Sverige under hednatiden (Stockholm 1905) s.98, Public Domain, Link

One of the topics? Bears, were-bears, and shapeshifting. Properly synchronous! Mr. Layne set me thinking about circumpolar bear cults – the Ainu, the Finns, Siberian shamans – and that circled me around to Gary Snyder. No, not the Smokey the Bear Sutra (though it did come to mind), rather The Way West, Underground.

You aren’t getting out of here without an explicit Smokey reference, though. My favorite psychedelic blue jeans wearing were-bear at Hilton Park in Dover, NH:

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StB's jeans 4evah.

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Next: 2 wheels 4evah!

P.S. bears also call to mind one of the two dog breed recommendations I’m proudest of. A friend and fellow trainer wanted a working breed – a dog that would do well in obedience work and potentially Schutzhund – but she wasn’t esp interested in any of the shepherd-y breeds. I suggested she look into Bouviers – she named her Boov puppy Osa (bear).


A lovely week

A week ago yesterday I headed to the salt marsh in Scituate Massachusetts for a writer’s retreat. I didn’t write, but I did walk and take photographs and cook. Friday, I zipped home to take care of some things and had a bit of additional fun that I’ll cover in a couple follow-on posts. Saturday night, it was back to the marsh for another day and a half. Given that messing with the camera was a focus for me, this will be an image-heavy post.

rainy marsh

Last morning on the marsh

dawn on the marsh

Mornings were mostly cool and drizzly,



while sunsets tended towards the spectacular.

The marsh was loaded with great blue herons, great egrets and snowy egrets. National Geographic level.I’m not, but the way to get better is to practice!

NatGeo 1

NatGeo 2

Great Blue Heron

I got one bike ride in with Lotte the Adventure Teckel and during the ride managed to snap a photo of a gorgeous teardrop trailer that I’d been ogling for days. The sailboat reminds me of a Stone Horse – it isn’t a variant, as far as I can tell, but the flush cockpit sure calls that design out. Figuring out the name of the craft, Ataraxia, led to a shallow dive into epicureanism. It’s good to be curious,

Epicurean teardrop camper

On Sunday, K and I went to the Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum; Scituate had (has?) a small industry devoted to harvesting and drying Chondrus crispus as a source of the thickener carrageenan. A small and charming museum that is only open on Sunday afternoons – worth a stop if the timing works for you.

Irish mossing

Next up: Yogi visits Madbury.


*  Big Electronic Human Energized Machine, Only Too Heavy

I was wandering around the yard with the dogs this morning, messing around with my phone: taking some pix, catching a Pokémon or 2, texting my dóttir, when I had a sudden contrast-and-compare flashback. I’m taking a few devices with me on the big bike ride, primarily for convenience’s sake, but if I wanted to go minimal, I could manage with one gadget – that selfsame phone. It’s got 2 ways to connect to the internet, GPS, 2 cameras that will do stills and video, a bucket of storage, etc., etc. The flash I had in the yard took me back to a bike project from Olden Tymes: Steven K. Roberts’ Winnebiko, Winnebiko II and BEHEMOTH. All three were (successful) attempts to stay connected while pedaling around in the 1980s. My guess is that I first encountered Mr. Roberts’ project in the pages of Whole Earth Review, a publication that bridged what I’ve come to think of as the paper hippie internet, The Whole Earth Catalog, and the the real capital I Internet. The ’80’s were full of transitional critters – the WER in print and Compuserve. GEnie, AOL, and bulletin board systems in the on-line world (for those of us – the vast majority – who did not have access to the Internet). Steven’s technomadic hallucigenia bikes fit perfectly into the Cambrian-explosion 1980’s networking stew.

via here

Unsurprisingly, the connected bike idea was catnip to yours truly and I kept an eye on the projects as best I could. It really was a different world – doing a search and pulling up all the info I would need for a post like this, let alone the ability to blog as I’m doing now, were years down the pike.

So we come to BEHEMOTH. a second system effect instantiated in a 3rd system.  Five hundred and eighty pounds, three laptops, a heads-up display and handlebar mounted keypad. I suddenly feel a lot better about the size and weight of Molly Fin plus Lotte, fishing rods, cameras, kite, and other toys.

via here

It’s now on display at the Computer History Museum.

As far as I can tell, BEHEMOTH didn’t cover a ton of miles – just too big and heavy. Then the Internet and cell phone things happened and I can hold all that capability and more in the palm of my hand. For now, anyway *wry grin*.

Deli bal

I was sure I’d posted on this topic before, but a search is yielding no joy, so here goes nuthin’.  I first ran across ‘mad honey;’, aka deli bal in Turkey, while reading about Apis dorsata laboriosa – the Himalayan giant honeybee. A few years ago Andrew Newey’s photographs of Gurung honey hunters were everywhere on the internet.

Below is a video from NatGeo of folks from a different group, the Kulung, harvesting honey. I especially like this for two reasons: it’s a 360 degree shot and it breaks the outdoor videographer’s 4th wall – there is a photographer in frame, roped up. I encourage you to watch it full screen and pan liberally.

Many of the posts on the photos noted that springtime honey is psychoactive. It’s because the bees are visiting rhododendrons, and rhododendrons produce grayanotoxins.

Physical symptoms from grayanotoxin poisoning appear after a dose-dependent latent period of several minutes to approximately three hours. The most common clinical symptoms include various cardiovascular effects, nausea and vomiting, and a change in consciousness. The cardiovascular effects may include hypotension (low blood pressure) and various cardiac rhythm disorders such as sinus bradycardia (slow regular heart rhythm), bradyarrhythmia (slow irregular heart rhythm) and partial or complete atrioventricular block.*

Note the mention of low blood pressure. One of mad honey’s uses, at least in Turkey, is to enhance sexual performance. Oh, yes. Turkey… Nepal is one place with rhododendron forests

Rhododendron Forest

and the Black Sea coast of Turkey, where Rhododendron ponticum grows, is another. There’s also a very interesting falconry tradition in that area, but that’s for another day.

Why a mad honey post now? I’m re-reading Gore Vidal’s Creation and his narrator, Cyrus Spitama (grandson of Zoroaster), tosses off an offhand comment referencing it.

Mr. Vidal is way more well-read than I, but this reference isn’t a deep dive; there are many classical accounts of mad honey poisoning. My favorite is Xenophon, because it is from the Anabasis, a rippin’ yarn in its own right and the story that The Warriors is based on.

After accomplishing the ascent the Greeks took up quarters in numerous villages, which contained provisions in abundance. Now for the most part there was nothing here which they really found strange; but the swarms of bees in the neighbourhood were numerous, and the soldiers who ate of the honey all went off their heads, and suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea, and not one of them could stand up, but those who had eaten a little were like people exceedingly drunk, while those who had eaten a great deal seemed like crazy, or even, in some cases, dying men. So they lay there in great numbers as though the army had suffered a defeat, and great despondency prevailed. On the next day, however, no one had died, and at approximately the same hour as they had eaten the honey they began to come to their senses; and on the third or fourth day they got up, as if from a drugging. *

I’ll end with a picture of a walk I took with friends almost exactly a year ago from Van Cortland Park to Coney Island, hitting many of the shooting locations that the movie iteration of The Warriors used.

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Thálatta! Thálatta!

Weimar Berlin

The proximate cause of this post is friend K’s recent re-instagram of Drawn & Quarterly’s book announcement.

Initially I figured that it was a combined re-issue of books 1 & 2: Berlin: City of Stones and Berlin: City of Smoke. Turns out it’s more than that – the third book in the series, Berlin: City of Light comes out tomorrow as does Berlin (referenced in the instagram) which collects all 3. Even though I should not be buying any additional books *Snake from the Simpsons voice* YOINK! Maybe the Berlin trilogy will live at the Scriptorium for a while… All three books (the 3rd, sight unseen, obv) get my highest possible recommendation.

There are a couple reasons Weimar Germany has been front and center for me. The first and critically important reason is the current political. moment. If a Washingtonian can reassure a federal government employee that a dinner party will be judenfrei… Do I have to diagram it for you? A less world-historically awful reason is a fantastic show – Babylon Berlin on Netflix. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Politics! Drugs! Crime! Sex! Subtitles! Watch it!


Babylon Berlin‘s creators have said that part of the appeal of setting a narrative in that particular era is to be able to show that the Nazis didn’t appear in a vacuum. There were forces at work in society that Adolf Hitler effectively tapped into to propel his own vision forward, and show is a good framework in which to let them play out. In fact, you’ll only hear the name Hitler once throughout the 16-episode run (the equivalent of two seasons), but his shadow looms large, namely through a number of language cues that indicate a growing nationalistic base.*

Triple bonus points for a paternoster, by the way. I think I’ll read Lutes’ Berlin trilogy and re-stream Babylon Berlin. And while I’m on the subject, I’ll take the opportunity to post a couple pieces by George Grosz:

Methusalem. Costume design for the play Methusalem


Daum marries her pedantic automaton George in May 1920, John Heartfield is very glad of it

*  I removed a link to The New Yorker. As I hit ‘publish’ on this post word came in about an event they’re sponsoring featuring Steve Bannon. Nope. Always. Be. Punching. Nazis.

Indy punches a nazi.




The Rivermen

During my visit to the Waterfront Museum a few weeks ago, David Sharps and I chatted about a range of things, but of course the topic of New York (City mainly, but Erie Canal, too) history was a biggie. I mentioned that I was reading Up in the Old Hotel and he immediately pointed out a painting of shad fisher’s barges in Edgewater, NJ as mentioned by Joseph Mitchell.

Jos. Mitchell reference

I haven’t been devouring books as quickly as I once did; I blame media hyper-saturation  – just too much to absorb – but last night, in Mitchell’s The Rivermen chapter, I finally encountered the old barges.

edgewater barges

I’m thinking rivers may be the most interesting form of water. Bold statement, I know. I need to ponder it.

[Side note: I can’t see Edgewater without thinking of the hotel in Seattle.]


Bicycling companion

One of the sub-projects that I have had on *simmer* for a while is rigging a crate or basket for my cycling companion – Lotte the Wonder Teckel. I like mulling over projects for a while; though I’m not averse to trying an approach, failing, and trying a different tack, too many iterations frustrate me. But – it’s time to get Lotte on the bike. I  did a little shopping for crates – her crate is just too heavy – no joy.I have a coroplast tote that I’d been eyeing as a potential dog basket; I strapped it to the rack and went for a test ride. It was obvious off the bat that my first guess on orientation – long axis of the tote parallel with the long axis of the bike – wouldn’t do, so mid-ride I adjusted it to ride cross-ways. To keep it from nudging my butt, I moved it back a bit and tried loading the tent in front of the basket and the much lighter sleeping pad behind. Success! The rack has 6 tapped holes so one can bolt stuff to the deck. I used 1 pair and added 4 re-usable zipties.

I put a U-bolt in. centered in the basket, and cut up some closed cell foam to pad the bottom. Time for a test ride with a gallon of water filling in for Lotte. I am going to be the anti-shred on this ride: I don’t want to deal with busting myself up and I certainly do not want to make L uncomfortable, let alone put her in harm’s way. I figured if I could keep the gallon jug upright and in place (not sliding around), I’d be in good shape. It did fall over twice, but both times were during mount/dismount efforts. Acceptable.

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Partial load w/ erzatz doggo.

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On the doggo side a harness was needed. Lotte will be leashed into the basket and a collar will not do. I wanted a harness with attachment points both top (walking on leash) and bottom (secured in basket) and couldn’t find anything that would suit locally. Off to the internet! While we waited for delivery, we did a few ‘sit in the basket/get plied with treats/ear skritches’ sessions. Time well spent.

The harness came today. I fitted it to her and let her wander around the house – NBD. So we went for a walk. She didn’t care.

Moment of truth! I got a pocket full of treats and put Molly Fin in a shady spot, scooped up Lotte and leashed her into the basket, fed her a couple treats and took the bike off her kickstand.

[side note/a bit of my dog training philosophy: quit while you are succeeding! Too often, the two-legger gets all “I want one more repetition!” and keeps going until the dog stops cooperating (out of boredom or fatigue or sheer cussedness) and then one is faced with ending on failure or pushing through and forcing the issue. Neither is as good as, “Yes! Excellent job pup! We’re done now, let’s goof around!!” So I was ready to pull the ripcord at the first sign of Lotte not having fun from this point on.]

I pushed the bike down the road a couple hundred feet, watching Lotte like a hawk the whole time, until I got to the back entrance to the elementary school next door. She was still happy and curious. I threw a leg over the bike, looked back at her (still fine) and started pedaling. Woohoo! We spent 10 minutes or so in parking lots and on paved paths, then I did pull the plug. Back home – and I acted like this was something we’d always done, even though, internally, I was over the moon. Now, we just need to take it slow and keep it fun…

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*heaves a sigh of relief* 🚀🐕🚲💨

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