Different Kind of Fighter

October 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Immortal ClassTitle: The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power

Author: Travis Hugh Culley

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Memoir

Length: 324 pages

My bike club went camping this weekend.  I love bikes and I love camping, so it was excruciating knowing I had a pre-Halloween event at my store, bills to pay, and a general inability to leave my husband and child to go on a frivolous trip that would inevitably involve a lot of drinking and riding.

I love books more than anything, and I adore Chris Rogers (the author we had in the store Saturday), but my mind was off in the distance with my new friends – family really – their tents, their bikes, and the dirt and grit far away from my rows and stacks of books.

Woodles 9.12.13This isn’t about me whining about not getting to go on a camping trip, though.  This is about the discovery I made because of where my mind was not and my body was… in the city, longing for my cycling friends who were partying it up and having a blast.

The stars aligned, the shelves at the store all seemed to point me in one direction, and a copy of The Immortal Class seemed to fall from the heavens.

So overly marketed as to appeal to the counter culture, zine reading crowd, The Immortal Class is one of those small square-shaped trade paperbacks.  With phrases like “adrenaline-spiked” and “frenzied rawness” slapped across a black and grey jacket in egg-yolk yellow.

Months after becoming obsessed with the world of cycling and setting goals to really hunker down, figure it out, and join this world – I discovered this weekend why it appeals to my soul so completely.

“[T]he world down here was remarkably organized.  Even if it was loud and bombastic, rebellious and unconventional, the people were often fixated on levels of personal status.  With one another, messengers were highly cooperative, and yet competing against one another, they were fighters to the bone. It was a tight society where one could promise lasting respect and recognition for what one could offer to the community.” – pg. 230

stanceOf course this appeals to me – this whole world of simultaneous independence and camaraderie.  I grew up in a Kung Fu studio.  I trained, I relied on muscle memory and instinct. I know so well the feeling of not remembering what it feels like to not be sore somewhereI built very specific familial relationships that were directly tied to how much blood, sweat, and tears were spilled in each others’ presence.

I still do my work outs. I still teach occasional students. But I am no longer that kind of fighter. I remember when I knew I would never go back in the ring – at least not in the way I used to.  It wasn’t the hairline fracture on my sternum.  It wasn’t the broken and busted fingers.  It wasn’t even the shin injury that twelve years later hasn’t seemed to heal just right and still swells up when it rains.  It wasn’t any one thing, really.  It was actually before I got my third degree, something I only got because I promised myself I would.  It was actually a summer before that when after working out no less than 55-60 hours a week for months on end, after more than a decade in uniform and sash, I realized I was tired – mentally and physically.  My mind was ready for something new and my body needed a break from the routine.

I love hitting the streets at night!

I love hitting the streets at night!

I started running more avidly.  For a few years I ran 3-5 miles a day.  I enjoyed that thoroughly, and I still run periodically.  (You may remember a post about Born to Run, a book on barefoot running that kick started the running bug again recently…)  But there’s always been something missing from my running – speed.  A rush I can’t manufacture on my own two feet, that I used to get in the ring, has been absent.  Running didn’t fill the void Kung Fu, my years of being a tournament junkie, and finally the days of bleeding for money had left behind when I said ‘Enough.’

Cycling, though, cycling has suddenly lit up my world and started to warm my soul in a way I haven’t been warmed in a long time.  Probably since I fell in love and got married… yes, it’s that good of a rush!  Seeing all that I have to learn excites me.  Inspecting bruises from crashes and the act of getting to know my bikes (or loaner bikes until I own my own, rather) fills me with the pride that though I am a far, far cry from being any good at this sport – like a white belt dropped in the midst of advanced ninjas – I am at least one step, one bruise, and one fall closer to the perfection I seek.

I have no illusions of grandeur.  No presumption that I will be great at this.  I’m pushing 30 and my body feels 50, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

Trails with Mike

Inevitable black eye commencing in one… two… three… GO!

Face Plant

Haven’t felt so myself in a long time.

I dare you to read The Immortal Class and not get the urge to hop on a bike.  I dare you.  And just remember this: The more you ride, the more you’ll want to ride.

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When I’m Not Reading – Riders of the North

July 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Riders of the North

Riders of the North is a Social Bike Ride in the northern suburbs of Houston in an attempt to get a Critical Mass going.  Our first run was last night (Thursday) from 7:45 pm until… well… much later.

First Riders of the NorthWe had our first ride last night and at any given point in time had between 15-20 people.  Not bad for a first run.  We met in Old Town Spring and traveled to The Woodlands, hung out in Market Square at Bar Louis, and headed back to OTS again.  Depending on where you were coming from, whether you rode your bike or drove your car to OTS, the ride was between 20-25 miles.  My legs feel AWESOME, aka this is one of the best work outs ever.

We’re going to be doing this weekly until we get enough people interested in doing a formal Critical Mass at the end of every month.  We’d love to have more riders join us, just hit up our facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/610444132308669/

We stopped to eat at Bar Louies where I downed a Chicken Caesar Salad, a crap ton of water, and Angry Orchard Beer.  That beer was phenomenal and extremely refreshing after cranking out ten miles on my bike.

So while I’m not reading, come join me for a bike ride.  Even in the Texas heat, after dark with the wind in your face, the world feels great.  There are some great peeps on the ride and despite a few kinks along the way (people riding at WAY different speeds, two flat tires, and a spill), I think we all had a blast.  I certainly did.

If you know of any great bike books, leave me a comment.  I’ll read them.

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When We’re Not Reading – Critical Mass (1.25.13)

January 27, 2013 at 1:51 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , )

CMJan2013photo2

Photo uploaded to Facebook by Jeremy M. Caballero

I finally made it to another one! Critical Mass Houston is amazing and I’m working on making it happen every month.  Having a two year old can put a damper in these kinds of plans, but once it’s worked out, it’s worth it.

Last night was the first time we went without a “chaperone.”  My bestie’s brother, Desmond, is a bicycle extraordinaire and we rode in a little pack with him last time.  This time it was just me and the bestie… and a crowd of cyclists en masse.

The first ride I ever did was the Halloween 2012 ride… see here: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/when-were-not-reading-critical-mass/. There’s links and info about CM.  After that ride, I purchased lights for my bike, both out of necessity and a reward system for myself.  This time, I only did 15 miles of the ride because we had to go home early, but I think I’ve earned myself a bell.

CriticalMass ArtWhat do I love about CM? Well, what don’t I love? I love the large group of people who seemingly have nothing in common except their desire to be on wheels.  I love when one thing can bring an entire community together like that.  It’s beautiful and exciting.  This will sound cheesy, but I totally love the wind in my hair and against my face.  Even if it’s cold, I think it’s heavenly to have a bit of a breeze that you’re creating yourself through motion.  (But it wasn’t cold last night, last night the weather was perfect.)  I love my sore legs the next day, reminding me that I did something fun, productive, and good for me.  I love my  bike.  I love other peoples’ bikes.  I love the road.  I love the city at night.

DSC02437And despite my efforts last night to find out where we were headed in advance, I usually love the mystery and adventure of it all.  After all, I’m a reader, so mystery and adventure and not knowing what comes next absolutely thrills me.

Last night, though, I had an old school mate trying to meet up with us part way in.  So before the ride began, I was asking people who I thought looked like they might be in the know… “you know where we might end up tonight?” Of course, I got a wide variety of answers:

“Wherever our legs and wheels carry us.”  I know, I know, how very zen of you.  But tonight I’m actually trying to find out a real answer.  Just tonight.  I’ll never ask again, I promise.

“My house!”…. Ok I totally opened myself up for that one, come on man, really?  Really.  It turned out, the guy was supposedly actually planning an after party.  Something I would have gone to in college before I was married and had a baby!

DSC02457Later, at first break when I was trying to determine where exactly Foodarama and Speedee Mart (the buildings I was standing in between) were located, I started asking around.  Sorry, people, it’s not that I’m helpless, it’s just that I don’t have one of those fancy phones with all the map apps.  Frankly, I was too lazy to walk out in the middle of the street and hunt down a street sign.  So I tried to convince my bestie that sometimes it’s ok to talk to strangers.  At which point the guy telling me we were at Ella and West 18th grinned and offered me candy.  He dug out a cough drop from the bottom of his pack.  Funny.  Very funny.  Also, kiddo, when you’re old enough to read, if you stumble across this blog post your mama wrote – DON’T talk to strangers.  Although I thought Candy Man was kinda adorable for being a smart ass.

If you were at CM last night – or any night for that matter – leave me a story in the comment section.  I’d like to compile them sometime.

DSC02456

P.S. Thanks again to everyone who complimented my bike.  It makes my night every time.  See you next month!

CMJan2013AWESOME

Photo by Heather Vidrine

 

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When We’re Not Reading – Critical Mass

October 28, 2012 at 12:54 am (Events) (, , , , , )

As much as I love to read and review books, I’ve really been enjoying finding things to add to my When We’re Not Reading segments.  It has forced me to be bold and adventurous in the Houston area, re-visit my attitude from my college years.  Which went something like this: It could be fun, Its free, Why not?

This month my best friend invited me to a not-so-little shin dig called Critical Mass.  Cyclists all over the world get together in their home cities and take to the streets on the last Friday of the month every month.  Hundreds, easily nearly a thousand, people on bikes trekking through downtown together for 20+ miles.  It was nothing short of amazing.

I’m not the biggest fan of getting info from Wikipedia, but they do have some interesting tidbits on what Critical Mass is all about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass.

For some people this event is an agenda to gain respect on the road for cyclists, make a statement, and more.  From my bike seat, it was a fantastic rolling party.  It was a blast that still managed to create a new appreciation for the world of cyclists, and for my need for headlights, tail-lights, and a helmet.  I would also like a bell and basket.

One of the guys taking lots of pictures got one of me!

Last night’s ride was a Halloween ride.  There were costumes and all sorts of excitement.  In advance, my friend and I had agreed that if we lost each other to simply look for “the hat and the tutu” (two costumed people that were easy to spot and part of our collective mini-group).  This is a good plan.  If you ride a Critical Mass, whatever you do, don’t stop to look for someone… just keep on rolling and catch up to each other when you catch up to each other.

Many motorists cheered, took pictures, and had a general blast right along with us.  However, there were the occasional drivers that got really pissed off that 600 people were holding up traffic as we had to roll through the red lights.  I understand that this is technically illegal, and with an individual or a crowd of 2-30, very ill-advised.  But with 600 riders, stopping at the red light is far more dangerous than holding up traffic.  You wouldn’t ask the Macy’s Day parade to stop at all the red lights, and it is obvious that an event is happening.  So if you happen across this group on a Friday night, please be patient and don’t hate; 99% of the people involved in this ride are trying to be as safe and friendly as possible.

Check out this awesome crowd:

Photo taken by of one of the members of the Facebook group for Houston’s Critical Mass during the October 2012 ride as well.

Initially, I was under the impression that it was a 10 mile ride. My husband was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it, as owning a bike is something that has only been a part of my recent adult life. I’d never taken the thing farther than around the block a few times (most likely about a mile, 3 miles at best but that could be stretching the truth of reality). Come to find out, it is actually about a 20 mile ride. Someone gps-ed it as we went and came up with this map after the fact: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/149370997. Include our ride to the event and back to the house when we were done and I can safely say without exaggeration that I rode 22 miles.

Needless to say, I’m quite proud of myself. Here we are at the first break… 10.2 miles into the evening:

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