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Sunday, April 26, 2015


It's been almost two years since I did this one. A bike overnight to Lawrence, that is. Right after I did it last, I had to have open heart surgery (a double bypass). My wife, who turned me on to touring in the first place crashed her bike right before my surgery, suffered a nasty brain injury and hasn't had the stamina for touring since.

If not for that, I'd probably have been out on tour by now, before she got hurt she did it every chance she got. A few months before she got hurt, she did a 170 mile leg with stops only to pee, eat and drink coffee, in a snowstorm. For that matter, a few years ago on Thanksgiving she and I rode to Lawrence to just eat a meal and rode back the same day.

Before I left, Corinna asked for my camera so she could document my departure. SLRs aren't really very well suited, generally, to the 'selfie' but she managed one.

Anyway, I loaded it all up with everything I'd need to camp at Clinton Lake on the far side of Lawrence. Brought my mushroom books and mesh bag, too, so I could scour the woods around the lake for morels. It rained pretty good the first couple hours I was out, a lot more and later than the forecast had led me to expect, and when it dried out, what came next was a strong north wind.

On the way out, I saw a Red Neck Tale Gate. I waved to the guy, he was filling up at a gas station in Bonner Springs. He explained to me that he had bought the truck without a tailgate, balked at the price even the junkyards wanted for a replacement, then decided to make one out of a discarded closet door. His wife told him, 'You are such a redneck!.' So he wrote what you see on it, and she said, 'Please tell me you misspelled 'tail' on purpose!'

By the time it quit raining, a viscous north wind had manifested itself, and while it dried me it also chilled me considerably. I could have done some wardrobe adjustments but dressing by the roadside seems such a hassle and it was right on the cusp of comfort either way. Bare arms cold, long sleeved t-shirt hot, that kinda weather. But as I got into Lawrence, I was kind of dreading the whole pitching a tent thing, and someone had said there was more rain on the way that night, and I know a few people in and around Lawrence, but nobody I know so well I can call them up and couch surf with 45 minutes notice. I passed the Airport Motel, a seedy looking joint on the fringe of Lawrence, and as I did, I said to myself, if that's under $50 a night, stay there.

Motel 6 used to be like thirty bucks, but lately I can't recall getting a motel room for less than $75ish. So I really didn't expect that it would be under $50, seedy as it looks. I have to have electricity for my CPAP, so even camping at Clinton costs something like $17 or $18. When the guy said it was fifty but I get five back the next day as a key deposit, I was sold.

It's a bit of a dump, honestly. I'm not faulting them saying so, if they spent anything on updates and upgrades, they couldn't possibly rent rooms so cheaply. There were cigarette burns on the carpet and vanity, the sink was crackled, a door was missing from the vanity and climate control was a window AC and a space heater. But it was clean-ish and as far as I can tell innocent of resurgent bed bugs. There was a lot of static on the TV (which was probably at least 30 years old), but I wasn't there for a TV.

I dropped off my bags and went riding around Lawrence that evening. There were lots of outdoor parties happening and I scored a free beer at one just for my helmet mohawk. Which was the opposite of a little incident that happened on the way in.

Not long after the redneck tailgaite, I got buzzed by a monster SUV in Edwardsville. This was in a stretch where K32 has no shoulder, and I got passed by hundreds of cars who thought to change lanes but then this one Ford Excursion passes me so close the mirror barely cleared my head. It happens, you get over it. But this time, the car slows and turns at the next corner, into a driveway. I was pretty rattled, so I stayed in the street to ensure a civil discourse. At this point, I'm thinking educate. I'm like, you passed me awful close back there I'm just trying to get there alive. And she said, 'Oh bullshit!' At which point I realized education wasn't in the cards.

"You stupid cunt!" I said and rode off. I couldn't think of something more offensive to say or I'd have said something else, but the response I got was bizarre. She called out, "I'll pray for Jesus to forgive you!"

Jesus to forgive me for calling her a stupid cunt? Or for riding a bicycle through Edwardsville.

I was a little shaken up but I was really, really hungry, and I thought there was a little pizza joint in Edwardsville though it has since become a Mexican restaurant. As I was locking my bike up to go in, one of Edwardsville's Finest came and asked me if I had been on Eastbound K-32 lately. I said yes, and he asked if I had called in a disturbance, and I was like, no, that would be the stupid cunt who almost hit me and didn't understand why I had a problem with that.

I'm like, dude, maybe I shouldn't have called her a stupid cunt, but if your response to being called that is to say you hope Jesus will forgive me and then call 911, you're pretty much proving to the world that you're a stupid cunt.

Maybe I wasn't quite that smug about it, but almost. Really, if charges were going to be pressed, it'd be me charging her with attempted vehicular assault and the notion was tempting. Normally you don't get to confront these goons because, let's face it, I couldn't catch a fat man on a scooter with a fully loaded touring bike. Unless the fat man on the scooter was 100 feet from home and turned into his driveway.

By the time the other cop (who went to the stupid cunt's house) cleared the call and I was asked what I wanted to do, press charges or what, I was like, all I want to do is eat some fajitas and ride my ass to Lawrence. It's not like the stupid cunt would learn if I pressed charges, she'd just gain a story about how put upon she was by the maniacs riding bikes on her highway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Kansas City doesn't have the best reputation for bicycle friendliness. But things can change. Portland, the one-time Utopia fell to fourth place in the latest 'official' ranking, where New York City jumped from seventh to first. And ten years ago or so when I visited NYC, riding a bike in Manhattan was reserved for insane bicycle messengers and credible suicide attempts.

So my 311 complaint rant the other day, I didn't give much chance that the problem would actually be addressed. I was wrong. I noticed it as I was riding up Beardsley (in a lane that is not prone to forestation so much as to piles of broken liquor bottles—and I can't blame the city for those), they'd done a righteous prune job and restored the northbound bike lane to usefulness.

I sent Deb Ridgway a thank you on Facebook because I'm sure her job is a thankless one most of the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gone Shroomin'

I had my fortnightly torment session where an otherwise adorable Asian nurse grabs my arms with meathooks. It's unpleasant, so much so that my fetish for cute girls in scrubs has pretty much worn off from Pavlovian negative reinforcement. And it was super slow at work on Monday, so rather than head from my exhausting session with the needles (apheresis therapy looks roughly like donating plasma to yourself—but it's probably my best shot at finding out if Social Security will be there for Generation X), I decided to go shrooming.

I only had my first success hunting morels last Saturday. Since then, I'd read more on the subject, and the guy I ran into who was hunting the same property (and his bag was much fuller than mine got), I think he was shitting me.

I had just started to find a few along the creek's edge when he suggested we walk side by side. In hindsight, he steadily steered us away from the creek and while I found a few morels at first, it wasn't long until they dried up. The places he suggested we look weren't crazy, they were old, partially dead trees and such, but somehow the mushrooms just dried up. And more than once, he said we just hadn't had a few 80º+ days to really make them pop.

That book I was reading said when you get a few 80º+ days, the season is over. You might find a few leftovers, but nothing more is going to jump. This character I met in the woods, though, he made it sound like that's when I should start looking.

I read a Facebook post by a professional, a guy who travels the country starting in Alabama and eventually getting all the way up into Canada I think. He had a scout offer to show him where morels were to be found in an area, and after leading him to several dead spots, and telling him not to bother with these other areas, the pro went to double check. The areas he was told had nothing to offer, he and his girlfriend picked 15 pounds of primo morels in an hour.

I think the fellow I met hunting our mutual friends' place did the same thing. He knew I was hunting mushrooms, his bag was pretty well full, and when I got to the area he had filled it at, he tried to steer me out of it.

I remember feeling a little territorial when Greg told me someone else had been down a few days before and found a mess of them, and I thought, but those are my mushrooms!

But really they're Greg's mushrooms and if he wants to share the with a friend or three, that's his prerogative, right?

When I went back today, I made a bee line for that creek I was finding them on Saturday when the old-timer intercepted me. I found three times as many mushrooms in about two thirds the time. There was still a lot of time where I wondered if I was wasting my time, thought maybe I should just go home and take my bike out for a nice long ride. But then I found that colony, maybe a dozen shrooms in maybe a 10' diameter circle around a dead tree, instant recharge.

So today's batch was a bit over 1-1/4 lbs, 21.4 ounces according to our postal scale. I sauteéd a few, the rest got battered, fried, and devoured.

I think I like the breaded and fried version even better than the sauteéd version. I know it's off menu, but a diluted egg wash and a dusting of flour really seemed to bring out the meaty flavor of the mushrooms.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Four Seasons

I'm not sure whether these Philip Haas sculptures on the lawn of the Nelson are part of their folk art exhibit, or if it's a separate deal.

What I do know is the Haas Four Seasons sculptures are totally badass.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I was starting to think maybe morel mushrooms weren't real. I was just the victim of an elaborate hoax. But I was at it again. I went last week, got nothing. When I emailed Greg about coming down to his place near Freeman, MO again, he said yeah, go ahead, a lady came by Tuesday and got a bunch.

I was jealous. I had scoured those woods for three hours Sunday for nothing, someone came two days later and got a bunch? Those are supposed to be my mushrooms! Though really, I guess, they're Greg's mushrooms, it's his 80 acres and if he was really into them he wouldn't let any of us go tramping through his woods harvesting them.

My xB doesn't have the traction or ground clearance for Greg's driveway so I park by the entrance to his spread and walk in. As I'm walking up the grass, I spot a morel. Four morels actually, right there in the freaking grass, not even in the woods. I let out a shriek.

My first morel. Ever. I'd never even eaten one to know if they were worth the bother, but here I'd finally found one. I think between last year and this, I spent eight or ten hours in the woods scouring for these before I found one. Could it possibly be worth it?

An SUV pulled up the drive and I thought it was Greg's roommate. Looked about right for what I remembered the last time I met him.

I passed Greg's old van and went down an area he indicated last week he's found them before and got nothing. But then, the lady from Tuesday might have beat me to them.

Walking along a little further, gunshots rang out. This is the country, so I didn't hit the dirt and cover my head the way I would if I'd heard this exact burst of shots in the city, but you have to respect gunfire. Way the world is, it's never entirely impossible some lunatic is trying to kill you, right? I doubted anyone was trying to kill me but I still wanted to know the source and direction of the fire. Some clown who didn't know I was there was a far likelier menace, when I thought about it. I called out, 'Did you hit it?' Nothing.

But I had shrooms to hunt. And I already had a few in the bag, so I knew it was possible. I walked on.

Didn't find any. Until I did. I made my way down to the creek that runs through Greg's property, reasoning rightly that it was the best place to find morels there. A voice called out and I jumped more than I did when the barrage of gunfire broke out. It was the guy from the SUV, not Greg's roommate but another friend he'd encouraged to come hunt mushrooms on his place.

I asked him if he was finding any, he said a few. He had a good sized mesh bag already full of mushrooms. Around this time I found a thumb-sized grey, the only solitary I found today. At first, Don was as stand-offish as any other mushroom hunter I've met. Nobody wants to share knowledge, locations, etc. Just as I felt the lady from Tuesday had trampled on my mushroom hunting hopes, Don and I were both interlopers on each other's harvest.

I think when he realized how green I was, and how excited I was to find even a few morels, he started trying to teach me. He'd say, there's one, and another about four feet away. And I'd look for a minute before I spotted them. I can tell it's a skill you develop, and Don allowed that he's 64, and I think he's been foraging for shrooms since he was nine. Meaning he's been getting morels longer than I've been alive.

I found a few more along the creek, then we started checking other places, areas where there were old trees, dead trees, half dead trees. Elms, sycamore, ash, promising trees. Areas where the sunlight is filtered just enough to allow warmth. Yeah, not so much.

Don saw my Garden of Eden bumper sticker and came back after he'd left to talk to me about that and folk art in general.

At some point I decided to quit looking. My hips and knees hurt, I'd spent another three hours tromping through the woods. But at least I had some morels.

I brought them home, washed them, sauteéd them in a little butter with garlic, salt and pepper. And wow.

Before I cooked them, I put them on our postal scale, it was 7.6 ounces of mushrooms total.

Work out the price for that, if you count my failed trips, probably 13 hours or so for just under a half a pound.

Yeah, I'm hooked. They're not just pretty good. Meaty texture, earthy, delicate flavor, I gotta go back out and find me more of these.

Friday, April 17, 2015

No Bike Lane for Old Men

Bike lanes get mixed reviews from seasoned transportational cyclists. They define boundaries and roles, invite cycling, create a false sense of security, calm lanes, make car lanes unnecessarily narrow, ask anyone. They're great, they're horrible, they're meh.

Casey Neistat did his own stunts (sans helmet, brave lad) to illustrate the limitations of New York City's bike lanes. And I'll just say, in case any of you don't know, it's always an asshole move to park your car in a bike lane. It's as wrong as parking in a handicapped spot when you're able-bodied, as wrong as parking on a sidewalk. Don't be that guy.

So my commute includes one of Kansas City, Missouri's handful of bike lanes. Credit where it's due, they must have quadrupled their miles of striped bike lanes in the last year or two, but four times a mile doesn't make Portland. They're moving in the right direction even if they're moving so slowly it feels like being stuck behind that dork riding his bike uphill on Broadway, taking the lane like he belonged there.

I decided to make a 311 complaint about the bike lane on Beardsley awhile back. I'm Facebook friends with Deb Ridgway, KC's bike-ped coordinator, who has the pretty near impossible task of dragging Kansas City out of 1967 on this subject. She'd posted something on Facebook about making 311 complaints and I was ambivalent to hostile to the idea.

My first 311 complaint was after I ate a grate and met my soulmate. I broke two fingers, one required surgery and has permanent disfigurement/disability, was concussed, had contusions on my shoulder, knee, knuckles, etc. Ruined my bike frame, too. I presented a 311 complaint at the time and the reply was basically, 'So sue me.' I think the exact words were, 'You have a responsibility to look where you are going.'

I did sue, and ultimately prevailed though not against the city. I didn't realize the extent of my damages when I made the 311 complaint, so they could have bought me off super cheap if they'd been inclined to do the right thing. So the city did me a big favor by being shits when it came to my 311 complaint, but they were still shits about it.

But, I thought, give it another chance. There's brush growing out in the bike lane on Beardsley basically to the white line for a stretch of maybe 75 yards at one point, then intermittently as you go down the hill. It's a two lane road and one of those wide open stretches people drive 20 over the speed limit on. It's posted 35mph, but I'll bet half the cars are going over 50. I guess I could make a video like Casey's if I was inclined to get all scratched up, but that bike lane is fucking useless on the northbound side of the street. Some speed humps and/or some actual law enforcement would be helpful too, and I did go through the police department's form on that subject, telling them if they want to meet their quota, just set a cop with radar up at 12th & Beardsley, the harvest will be plentiful.

But when I went through the 311 site, it gave me an error. I was tired, probably had a beer or two more than I should have, went to bed pissed off. Tried again the next night, it still wouldn't work.

Then I'm riding home and there's not just a forest in the bike lane, there's a rock slide of enormous boulders taking out the bike lane plus a car lane. You'd think this would slow the cars down, and maybe it did but not by much. It was nervy just photographing the damage. There was already caution tape around the rocks (as if you need a caution bigger than a few tons of giant rocks in your way) so I figured the city knew about it, but damnit, I was going to try that 311 thing again.

Nothing doing. So finally I messaged Deb Ridgway on Facebook. I tried to be civil because I know it's not her fault. She was actually great about it, got with their IT people about the website not working, thanked me for letting her know, and gave me a detailed update on the removal of the boulders and the planned brush trimming (apparently the equipment needs repaired so it'll be another week before the bike lane can be reclaimed from the woods).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bike Advocacy

I rode over to Overland Park City Hall for a council meeting on Monday. I don't live in Overland Park though I grew up there and pass through it plenty.

They were voting on a comprehensive bike plan for the city, mostly striping bike lanes and such in places where it is long overdue.

Local politics being what it is, the city council in this case is made up almost entirely of cagers. To my surprise one of the council members brought up riding in Fort Collins, Colorado, and how nice that was, and another talked about trying to commute one day a week and not doing it sometimes because a short section at the beginning and end of the route freaks him out.

Tell me about it. I rode a couple miles out of my way on the way to Overland Park City Hall just to avoid a half mile section of 87th Street that I know from past experience is daunting during rush hour. It's a stretch of road that has plenty of room for a dedicated bike lane and two relatively wide car lanes in each direction, along with a sensible 35 or 30 mph speed limit. Instead it's all striped for cars piloted by absentee smartphone addicts going 54 in a 45.

Councilmember Terry Goodman was the sole nay vote when it finally came down. He kept hammering on what an excessive cost this bicycle plan imposed, between $3 million and $28 million over 10 to 15 years. Uh, yeah. He also said he got a smart phone to try and take pictures of people waiting for the Jo along Metcalf but hadn't been able to find any.

Dude, if your busses ran more than a couple times a day, maybe people would use them. When I've visited New York and Chicago, I don't have to rent a car, I take mass transit. And I spend every penny I would have pissed away at Avis in New York and Chicago restaurants and shops. Go to a place with good transit and it's like you have a buddy to take you wherever you want to go. You don't have to spend the money on a car and deal with the stress of driving in a place you don't know. And even when you do know a place, being able to sit back and use your smartphone without worrying you might run over a mother walking her toddler across the street, that's golden.

So I guess I'm a born again transit fan, I used to think busses were dumb but I was wrong. It would be much smarter to spend the resources it takes to build an ever increasing number of lanes for cars and funnel it into promoting and providing legit transit. Car salesmen and contractors who build streets will think this is a mistake, but your other businesses will be shitting in high cotton.

For that matter, as Goodman's objections to the cost of this plan (pretty modest really) spun out, I thought, how much money does Overland Park spend on sewers, sidewalks, curb and gutter streets wide enough to support on street parking plus traffic both ways even on tiny cul de sacs in their continuing drive for ultra-low-density residential development? If you want the cheapest way to get the job done, loopty-loop dead end streets with single family houses three to an acre is not the way.

And so far, Overland Park's model is a success: people are willing to pay dramatically more to live in little boxes made of ticky tacky in Overland Park than almost anywhere else. And the taxes those real estate prices support seem adequate to cover the cost of this highly inefficient storage of people. We'll see how that goes after a couple of fracking groundwater disasters make Chernobyl look like a ride on the bike trail and gas costs $18 a gallon, but for now they've got a good thing going.

A good thing that will be better with bike infrastructure. It's the cheapest infrastructure a city can buy, really, and it pays big dividends. What Goodman was really saying isn't that he can't figure out where a few dollars is going to come from, they have the money for all kinds of city services and amenities. What he was saying is he thinks bike lanes are silly.

There was lots of hedging going on too, where everyone from the mayor on down the row was making sure they were on record saying if these bike lanes turned out to be stupid they just wouldn't fund them. Which means in terms of bike advocacy, this (the end of a three year process) is just step one. It's going to take continued badgering to get this stuff implemented.