The Summer of 1988

Here at 20 Prospect the memories of my youth seem inextricably interwoven with the enormous metal projectiles of 1970’s Detroit. My 20th birthday is no exception the trend. It is one of the sweetest memories I have of my young adulthood. An unexpected evening of tender camaraderie with my closest and dearest friends.

You could pack a lot of fun into a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba

You could pack a lot of fun into a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba


It began as a very ordinary day at the tail end of May. I’d been home from college for about 2 weeks, and had just begun my quintessential summer job mowing grass around the electrical substations of Western New York. It was a high paying job ($8.90 / hr) that my Dad had managed to get me working at Niagara Mohawk, his employer of 35+ years. It would be a hot, dry summer in 1988, the temperatures would set records, and the creeks would dry up. I would spend my days driving in circles around Western New York, from the hills of Cowlesville, north to Medina, east to Brockport, and south to the shores of Hemlock Lake. It was an enormous expanse of country to cover in a company pickup truck with 2 others, pulling a trailer loaded with mowers, gas cans, trimmers, and the tools of our trade. By July the grass has burned out to straw gold, but our work continued, making the rounds of rural back roads from substation to substation, tending to the weeds, and holding back nature from the electron laden arteries of civilization.

summer weeds

summer weeds locked in heated battle

In some ways it was the best job I had ever had. At first I had considered the painting crew as the pay was around $12 / hr, mostly due to the inherent danger of climbing the electrical towers. But in the end, my fear of heights got the better of me, and caused me to chicken out. It’s just as well. My friends on the crew complained about the long hot days in full coveralls, burning in the sun and “bitch-a-mastic” paint, as they worked their way through the mosquito infested swamps of Bergen and Alabama. By contrast, my days were spent driving the idyllic farm roads of Western New York, familiarizing myself with every short cut, and coffee shop between the waters of Ontario, and green hills of Wyoming County. I learned more about my home during that summer, than in the other 19 summers combined, and fell in love with the place. But I digress…

Heights + Electricity + Bugs + Bitumastic = No Way

Heights + Electricity + Bugs + Bitumastic = No Way

The evening of my birthday was not intended to be anything special. I had made some plans with Dan’l to get together and hang out, and he was due to pick me up shortly after dinner. To my great, and ever lasting surprise, when he pulled into the driveway of 20 Prospect in his 1978 Chrysler Cordoba, the front and back seats were full of my 5 closest friends in the world. When I jumped into the back seat, I noticed a case of Molson Golden sitting on the floor, and was informed that we were heading to the lake.

stay gold, Ponyboy

stay gold, Ponyboy

It was a gorgeous, warm summer evening. The sun was slanting in golden rays across the landscape as we drove due north through the muck lands of Elba, across the fabled canal at Albion, through the orchards of Orleans County, and on up Route 98 like an arrow for the shore of Lake Ontario. Six of us laughing in the car, with the windows down, and the moon roof open, and Steve Miller’s greatest hits playing on the radio. We arrived at the beach, and sat on a break wall, looking out at the Lake, drinking beer, and talking until well after the sun had gone down.

Bridge over Erie Canal in twilight

Bridge over Erie Canal in twilight

It was a simple evening, and one that we would repeat many times over the course of the summer. A group of kids, a case of beer, and a remote rural spot where we could share a laugh, and some stories, and discuss our dreams for the future. We were a cocky bunch, like all 20 year olds are. We were chafing at the restraints of being stuck in Batavia for another summer, and looking forward to the day we moved away to somewhere important, and exciting, and did “real” work. I look back and laugh about it now. If we’d been told how lucky we were, we’d have never believe it. We were convinced that somewhere “out there” important things were happening, and we were somehow missing out on them. We were so eager to get out there and stake our claims in the world.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

The time would come soon enough. It was the last free summer we had. The next summer was the interim between our Junior and Senior years of college, and most of us had moved on to internships, or “important” summer jobs in our fields that would prepare us to land that all important post college job when we graduated. It would be a time to lay the first brick for the foundation of that all important resume. But the summer of 1988 was one last fling. A summer to be spent in idleness, drinking in the cool of dusk, leaning against the warm hood of a piece of Detroit steel, watching the swallows dart through the twilight, chasing mosquitoes like so many dreams. I loved those days, even though I wished them away, and I miss those dear friends. And despite the times and distances that have grown like weeds around us, I love them still. God bless them all, wherever they may be.

Sunset at Hamlin Beach

Sunset at Hamlin Beach

The Davis Bros. Motor Lodge

As a follow up to my posting about our 1975 family vacation to Florida…

It took me a few days, but I finally remembered the name of one of the motels we stayed in during our visits to Florida in ’75 and ’76.  (The human brain is a amazing thing, considering I was 8 – 9 years old at the time.) So I did some googling and lo and behold…

The finest in 1970's Motor Lodges

The finest in 1970's Motor Lodges

Yes, it lives on.

If my memory is correct, this was a fine motel at the time. We spent a few nights here, as Bartow was pretty centrally located for both trips to Disney (1 hr) and Busch Gardens (45 min), and I’m sure the price was right. I met a kid named Sydney swimming in this pool one night. I think he was from one of the Carolina’s. I remember him because for the life of me I could not pronounce his name. It kept coming out “Cindy”.

I wonder how many kids spent vacations swimming in this pool

I wonder how many kids have spent a vacation swimming in this pool?

From the sound of the reviews, the place may have seen better days. But what do you expect for a 40+ year old motel? The fact that is has survived, and not succumbed to redevelopment, or conversion into a Motel 6 is impressive.

Man, just looking at these photos is giving me a hankering for some Andy Capp’s Hot Fries, and a can of Fanta Red Cream Soda, I wonder if Dad has some change for the vending machine…

It doesn't get any better...

than this.

It doesn't get any better than this...

Decisions, decisions…

Sunset over Santa Clarita

Sunset over Santa Clarita

Life is funny sometimes. Just when you think that things are going in one direction, something happens, and fate intervenes. I sometimes wonder about the infinite number of events that led me, step by step, from the original 20 Prospect to my virtual 20P here in Minnesota. So many little things had to happen along the way for me to end up in St. Paul one February evening in 1992 visiting a dear friend from home, going out for Pizza and some beers with his friends from the lab, and meeting the future Mrs. 20 Prospect. So many little things could have gone the other way, and I could have been in countless other places on that day and time, and we might never have met, and this life might have flowed into an entirely different direction. But it didn’t.

I was reminded of all this yesterday, when out of the blue my dark corporate overlords approached me with a proposal. A potential promotion and relocation to run a small business that we acquired (conquered?) last year in California. I was flattered, and flabbergasted. The offer itself was yet another instance of the seeming randomness of fate. Some background…

After we acquired this company last year, we sent a young and rising manager out there to become the new general manager of the business. He was about my age, but much more motivated and career oriented than I have ever been. Let’s face it, what success I have had has happened despite my disdain for corporate life, not because of any great effort on my part. This was not the case with this colleague. He had worked hard, and earned this promotion. It seemed like a good fit, and by all accounts he was doing well in his first year out there running the business. But 2 weeks ago, while he was out on a ride with his cycling club, riding in a long single file line down a well marked road for cyclists through Santa Clarita, a drunk driver crossed the road into their lane and ran through their group. They had no chance. 5 were hit, 2 are hospitalized, and he was killed. There but for the grace of God…

It was a shock and a blow to many of us in the company and a reminder that in one instant a life can be snuffed out. As a cyclist it is yet another reminder that you can do everything right. Ride in the right place, in the right way, with the right equipment, and still become a casualty of someone elses recklessness.

Those thoughts of the seeming randomness of fate ran through my mind when they approached me yesterday to see if I would be interested in moving out there to take over, and try to replace him. I was humbled, and honored to be asked. It would be a promotion for me, and a huge step up in challenge. To be quite honest, it is the kind of role I would embrace. The business has been hurting from the downturn in the economy, and now with the sudden tragic loss of the general manager, I am sure they are hurting in other ways as well. A part of me would embrace the chance to try to repair and fix some of that brokenness. If would give meaning to an otherwise pretty meaningless corporate clamoring for profits. As a disillusioned cog in the corporate machine, I seek more profound meaning whenever, and wherever I can find it. So it is with regret that I have to decline this opportunity.

It looks like a beautiful place. I am certain it would be a wonderful challenge and a boon to my “career” (if you can call slackerdom a career). But no. Minnesota is our home. It is where our family is. It is where our life, and our roots have been planted. I don’t want to pull up those roots, and put our family through that kind of upheaval. I know that “people do it all the time”. But not me. Not anymore.

So forgive the reflections on fate this morning. It’s one of those mornings on the front porch. A time to sip coffee and reflect, and be thankful for all the things we take for granted. A family, friends, a connection to the world, and a place that can be called home.

The Return of Rocinante

As I mentioned previously, this past weekend I had to put down my road bike after she broke a leg. She was a good and faithful steed, lo these many years, and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye. But alas, the work of a Knight Errant goes on, and as a chivalrous servant of Dulcinea del 20 Prospect I cannot be without a sturdy mount for my adventures. And so I am proud to announce the return of Rocinante.

Rocinante

Rocinante

He is a fine and noble beast. And is resplendant in his new Open Pro wheels. Sure, he is a bit large for me, but his size is matched by his gentleness. (And a quick adjustment to the stem wouldn’t hurt either)

I particularly like the relaxed head tube angle, as seen in this photo…

Relaxed Head Tube Angle for Epic Rides

Relaxed Head Tube Angle for Epic Rides

The stoutness of his frame is impressive, and riding him on Sunday evening brought back sweet memories of my epic races against the toughest CAT 5 competition that Minnesota had to offer…

CAT 5 racer on the attack!

CAT 5 racer on the attack!

As intimidating as the terrain, and competition was around here in the late 90’s, it was never a match for the skills of a Knight Errant, and the brave heart of my Rocinante!

Ready to handle the attacks of foul traders from Toledo

Ready to handle the attacks of foul traders from Toledo

Oh, fair Dulcinea of 20 Prospect! I have regained my trusted steed Rocinante! Do not fear, I am coming to rescue you and win your hand dear maiden!

Update on Beloved Muckdogs…

Woof, Woof

Woof, Woof

Well were are just past the halfway point of the NY Penn League season, so it’s time for an update on our beloved Muckdogs. The next 10 days will make our break their season, as they open a stretch of 5 games against the division leading Mahoning Valley Scrappers, 3 games against second place Williamsport Crosscutters, then head into the belly of the beast for a 3 game series against the league leading Brooklyn Cyclones in Coney Island.

Last night, in the first game of the home portion of their series with the Scrappers the ‘Dogs put two on the board in the 7th, and chewed up the MV bats to win 2-0. They have now clawed their way back to within 2 games of 1st place. We here at 20 Prospect applaud this teams’ doggedness, and seek out new canine cliche’s to describe them.

You too can follow their hunt to repeat as NY Penn league champs here: Batavia Muckdogs

Or, if you are really into it, listen online at WBTA, the radio “bark” of the Batavia Muckdogs.

Aren’t these Internets a wonderful thing? You know, I think they just might catch on.

Lumberjack Daze

Another classic Minnesota summer weekend here at 20 Prospect. Our staycation continued on Saturday with a trip to Stillwater for Lumberjack Days.

Stillwater is a great little town on the St. Croix river, known for it’s late 19th Century Main Street, slew of Victorian Homes, and historic lift bridge. It got it’s start as a mill town for saw milling the bazillions of board feet of lumber that was floated down the St. Croix from lumber camps in Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin. Hence the name for their summer festival.

Main Street Stillwater, MN

Main Street Stillwater, MN

It was also the northern most terminus for Steamboats bringing settlers up the Mississippi. As the tour boats below will remind you…

Paddle Boat

Paddle Boat

As festivals go, this one covers all the bases. Food vendors, parade, concerts on a floating stage, 5K run, assorted competitions, fireworks at night…

The crowds were big, so we were not the only locals enjoying a staycation in these trying economic time. The focal point of Stillwater is the historic lift bridge over the St. Croix, to the promised land of Beer-Cheese-Food.

I just can't get enough of this bridge...

I just can't get enough of this bridge...

The highlight of the day was the Dogs & Logs competition, presented by Stihl, as seen on the Outdoor Channel, brought to you by…

I had never seen an athletic  competition for dogs before. Jumping, retreiving, swimming, the Indomitable Moxie would have loved it had we not left her home.

Go get it boy!

Go get it boy!

And the Lumberjack games are always a crowd pleaser…

Pole Climbing

Pole Climbing

log running...

log running...

Celtic Dancing on spinning logs...

Celtic Dancing on spinning logs...

unfortunately we left before the beer drinking, skirt chasing, and bar stool throwing events.

On the way out of town we stopped by the ball grounds to take in a game of “Base ball” (two words) played according to 1860 rules, between the Quicksteps and the Rochester Roosters.

The civil war re-enactment of sporting events

The civil war re-enactment of sporting events

I noticed however, the participants were not drinking 1860’s beer unfortunately, but cans of a more recent vintage. It looks like fun.

As Mom was in town, Mrs. 20 Prospect and I enjoyed a date night that evening as a small, intimate little neighborhood restaurant, followed by a movie.

Have you heard of it?

Perhaps you have heard of it?

The finish to the evening was the fireworks of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festival, which we viewed from a hilltop in St. Anthony, against a backdrop of the Minneapolis skyline. A lovely way to end another priceless day in Minnesota.

Aquatennial Fireworks over Mississippi river

Aquatennial Fireworks over Mississippi river

Is this a great state or what?

Is this a great state or what?

Requiem for a Bicycle

A sign from the laws of physics that I have gotten too fat?

A sign from the laws of physics that I have gotten too fat...

Good bye old friend, trusted steed, fighter jet, etc…  We had some good rides together over the years. Sniff, sniff…

not good...

and the aluminum too old...

The funny thing about Road Bikes is the more they cost, the less you get. Sure, they get lighter, and “higher tech” as the price increases, but they also push the margins of the engineering closer, and closer to the limit. We live in a broken world. Engineering is just the efforts of man to use the forces of nature in a way that was not naturally intended, to hold back the forces of decay and death. And so we melt rocks and minerals in the furnaces of hell, to create alloys that can be put to our purposes in a way that natural materials cannot. Thus man invents steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber, and creates lithe machines capable of carrying a 180 lb man over a mountain and down the other side using the forces of gravity to reach speeds that our nature alone will not allow. Until one day, when climbing a hill the forces of decay and death overcome the fatigue strength of the man made material, and a crack appears that quickly propagtes into a failure.

And this is how a plane falls out of a sky, or a bridge collapses, or a bike breaks. Then man stands there cursing man for his inability to overcome death and decay, and forces beyond his ultimate understanding or control.

Or at least that’s how I’m rationalizing it. It was out of warranty anyway…

2002 Litespeed Hyperion

Nature 1 - Litespeed Hyperion 0