Thursday, October 15, 2009

Observation Affects Experience

Heisenberg tells us that observing the universe affects the universe. In much the same way, blogging about a ride changes the ride. Take, for example, the picture above. Mark Canizaro has mastered the "take a picture of yourself while riding" shot and has captured both me and Mike Kearsley also taking pictures. And, of course, we're all taking pictures because, as I explained to Mike, "these blog posts don't just write themselves."

Mike is on this ride because of the blog. Mike came into my shop a few weeks ago and introduced himself as a reader of my blog. Now and then, at the shop or when I'm out riding, someone I don't know says "Hi, Kent" and I've finally learned to not wrack my brain thinking where I know them. I don't know them, but they sort of know me from the blog. Being blog-famous is not at all like being really famous, it's more like being a member of a really obscure indie band. A very small subset of people know who you are. Mike is in that subset and when we got to chatting and I found out that he can often get free on a Monday or a Tuesday, I added him to my email list of potential riding buddies.

My pal Mark had some mission requiring his presence in Port Townsend, so he proposed an up Monday, back Tuesday ride. I sent out email to the usual suspects and got back the usual declines from the folks with jobs, family obligations or boats but Mike said he'd meet us at the ferry terminal in Seattle on Monday morning. "Whose Mike?" Mark asked. "Some guy who reads my blog," I replied.

Mark knew he was staying with friends in Port Townsend, so he was traveling light. I had a bit more stuff than Mark, but my camp kit is pretty compact. Mike, on the other hand, is new to this kind of travel. Mike was ready for adventure.

The trip was a blast. Much coffee was consumed. Many stories were swapped. Mike told us how his daughter saved his life, "she called me a fat man. That got me thinking, that got me riding." In Port Townsend Mike and I wound up camping out in the living room of my friends the Muellners: Jon, Carrie and Peri. I kidded Mike that he'd lugged the tent all the way from Seattle and he really should set it up and camp in the back yard but all the Muellners insisted we stay inside.

Mike was very impressed with Jon's bike shed and basement shop as well as his collection of bikes (several Bridgestones, two Rivendells, two Herons, a pair of Merckxs and a 650b Tony Pereira.) "My wife thinks I have too many bikes," Mike enthused, "wait 'til I tell her about this!"

The threatened weather never really came in force, but what rain we got did convince Mike that his heavy rain jacket was, well, too heavy. The whole trip had him questioning the weight of his choices. I told him about the first day of my fixed gear tour back to Minnesota, passing a heavily loaded bike tourist struggling up Rainy Pass. I knew that fellow was bring all those things so he'd be comfortable. As I passed him I thought, but didn't say, "well, are you comfortable now?" Of course, we all find our own balance and these trips are where we learn what we really need.

Sometimes what you need is a trip with some old and new friends.

Keep 'em rolling,



Dan O said...

Great post - nice pictures.

This Bike Geek Blog-O-Sphere is fun stuff. Since messing with my own little slice of the Internet - have communicated with some cool like minded folks as well.

None of this was possible - not that long ago....

Bruce Newell said...

I rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route this summer, beginning with 'just the essentials, nothing extra'. Of course I had way too much stuff. Way too much. Several shipments of 'essentials' home later, I could climb easier and even look around at the beauty I was riding through. My Dutch riding partners, who encouraged my divestiture of 'essentials', aptly and memorably termed this process 'weight watching'.

DW said...

Good stuff as usual. I've been reading your blog for nigh on a year or more and always enjoy it. Now that I'm back in Seattle (alright, Redmond), I gotta try and make it in to your shop to show a little support. One of these days...

Bryan Willman said...

Actually Kent, you have at least two sources of people who know you (or know who you are) but you maybe don't know or remember.

The obvious being the blog readers you just wrote about.

The other being people whose bikes you worked on at a various places, including Samamish Valley. (This would include me - we've met several times, but I doubt you remember me.)

Doug said...

Yowza -- quad panniers on an overnight? Just in case the world ends before you get home!

By the way, I know you from the blog and have a big fat three day weekend right in the middle of the week. I'm very shy, though.

brad said...

I would like to hereby stand up for those taking too much stuff. I myself commute on a bike that all told weighs in at 120 lbs, more if I'm taking a tuxedo, music stand, and shoes. Sure, the hills are a little more..... scenic, no, contemplative, but when you get to where you are going, by golly, you've got it all.
You definitely need to try stuff out and sure, I rarely take all four of my panniers, but recently, I rode RSVP with all necessary gear to help anyone else out on the road, including tubes, cables, housing, tires (2), and my drop bag. This of course made the organized aspect of the trip superfluous, and a grand waste of money, but I had a nice time offering things up and trying out new concepts.
I once also took two watermelons up Snoqualmie Pass just to share but didn't check the weather report, which was frosty, stormy, cold, and not watermelon eating weather, so I packed the uneaten one back down and had it for dinner.
Traveling too light just brings the risk of being light enough to be dragged up in some helium balloon where the 24 hour news cycle will only eviscerate your intentions.
Therefore, carry what you think you'll need, and then carry what you think you'd like.


Bob said...

Nice post and great pics. If one ever finds oneself riding along thinking "How am I going to word this?" instead of "Wow - this is a great experience!" then I think a line has been crossed separating experience from observation.

On another note, that is one serious security combination you have there. What, if any, security apparatus will you be lugging along on the Tour Divide? I am way too paranoid to leave my bike unlocked outside a store, no matter how far out in the boonies I am.

I once had a friend who solved the weight/security problem by using a huge black chain that would surely deter any thief who glanced at it. That was the security part - the weight part was that it was plastic and only weighted a few ounces.

Anonymous said...


You really are famous you know.

Johnny Sequoia

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Kent, great stuff as always.

I think that "observation versus experience" split is what drove me away from "professional" writing. At some point, I stepped over that line between life-as-something-lived and life-as-grist-for-writing-projects. In grad school, we actually called dibs when more than one writer saw the same interesting event, if you can believe that.

Bloggging -- inspired by you -- is what got me writing just for the fun of it again. So, thanks!

Nate J said...

Hi, Kent.
Funny post about the "blog fame" part. I used to produce a radio show in the Seattle area about 10 years ago and when the show was on the air, we thouht no one ever listened to it. I've been working in a totally different industry for 8 years and more often people say "hey weren't you the producer of..." now than they ever did back then.

It was always a weird experience since they always knew more about you than you did about them.

~ Nate
Seattle area bike commuter/blogger