Weekly Roundup: Flyin’ Low And Feelin’ Less Mean Edition

As the constant reader will recall, at the very end of September I broke my right fibula and ripped a ligament off the inside of my ankle riding BMX trails in Austin, TX before the press preview of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. I stayed two additional days in Austin to get my drive completed and to visit my old friend Robert Farago before coming home for corrective surgery in the first week of October.

My cast came off three weeks ago and I’ve been trying to rehab the ankle and leg a bit. Yesterday I went outside to ride a bicycle for the first time. With a little encouragement from my son I was able to put some motion into said bike. While I have some reduced range of motion, it’s all on the “up” end. I can point down as well as any ballerina (well, any ballerina of my size, anyway) which means I can jump a bike. So I tried about ten hops, eventually getting up to about an 18-inch gap between ground and tire. The world record for bunnyhopping a BMX bike is 42 inches, most pros can do 30-36 inches easily, and prior to this injury I was probably capable of hitting 24 on a good day — but I will not pretend I am not enthusiastic that I can pull 280 pounds of bike and rider this far off the ground on a withered calf muscle and a recently-repaired joint.

Also, as Ted Williams said in the famous anecdote about hitting modern pitching, I’m 49 years old.

So this is all good news. And it’s been instructive for me to consider how sour I’ve been over the past two months, entirely as a result of not being able to ride.

There’s a currently-popular phrase in use that goes something like,

“There was a time you (X) and didn’t know it was the last time.” Sometimes it’s funny:

There was a time you sent your last T9 text message and didn’t know it was the last time. Sometimes it’s bittersweet:

There was a time you were excited about a new album and didn’t know it was the last time. Sometimes it’s depressing as hell:

There was a time you had your dick pop right back up after you had sex and didn’t know it was the last time. The journey of the late-middle-aged “extreme cyclist” is a lot like that, only we don’t have the equivalent of Viagra to put us back in the game. There was a time I pulled a serious bunnyhop up a two-foot concrete obstacle and didn’t know it was the last time. The time I did a five-foot drop onto solid ground and didn’t know it was the last time. And as you age, these moments come thick and fast. I’m not sure I will ever get six feet of air over a wooden box jump again; I used to do it every day after work. I know I’ll never pull an “X-up-to-X-down” trick again, so the last time for that has already happened.

In the next fifteen years, there will be a lot of “last times”. Some of it can be delayed via technology; much of what I can do now is entirely the result of having ten-thousand-dollar mountain bikes with motorcycle suspensions and bulletproof componentry. I can slow the rate of this decline by losing a little weight and being more consistently focused on overall fitness as opposed to cycling fitness, so I’m going to do that. I have some kind of hernia or something I picked up on a pump track in Missouri back in August and it’s not getting better. Gonna get that fixed.

Between now and then, I’m happy just to be riding again. And I’m grateful that I’ll be able to ride the upcoming season with my son. This will be the last time I can keep up with him, and I know that in advance. Thirty days, I gimped down the side of a local trail to catch him hitting a couple jumps when he thought I wasn’t watching:

By the time he is thirteen, it will be an embarrassment for him to even ride on the same line with me, and with good reason. It’s okay. Three years ago I wrote about a fellow who told me, “That’s why we have the bike.” It’s cheering to think I will continue to have the bike for a while to come. Not forever, but nothing is.

* * *

For Hagerty, I talked about God-dammed Accords again and set the time machine to 1973. Any coincidence between the fictional writer of that second piece and any existing autowriter is totally coincidental and if the same paragraph appears non-ironically in someone else’s work it’s a coincidence!

27 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Flyin’ Low And Feelin’ Less Mean Edition”

  1. John C.

    On your car buying advise to the Honda guy, you made two points that I found interesting. You mentioned that the ILx Acura in 2.4 liter form is underappreciated and the current Accord isn’t much of a step forward from the previous. I going to go out on a limb and translate that to mean that Honda’s switch to small turbos and higher percentage CVTs on the current generations is not welcome by Honda fandom.

    As an auto journalist, how directly are you able to attack a change like this that you don’t like, and you don’t think your readers will like? An example recently was when the RWD 6 speed BMW 2 series coupe became a FWD four door gran coupe hatch that was a lousy restyle of the Mini Clubman. Why not chronicle who was behind the change and perhaps suggest letter writing. A generation ago Bentley got to keep their traditional big block when the bastards tried to foist BMW motors on them. Same with Morgan in the mid 60s when some fool had the idea to offer me too modern bodies.

    My advice to the Honda guy. Base, new, under 20k, 6 speed VW Jetta. You still get your fun stick shift, but you also get a roomy, more mature body that will allow you to drive it for years as you gradually get more comfortable with the adult world you are taking your place in. It is more suited as a lead in to the near luxury cars of your future than the female appliance style offerings from our Asian friends.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I can personally say anything I like. Our website doesn’t have a penny’s worth of automaker advertising on it.

      As to what Motor Trend can write? Whatever Honda tells them.

  2. JustPassinThru

    Interesting bit of alternate history, if a bit hard to follow. But, from what I have been able to glean…based on being alive, an underage truckophile, and child of an owner of a Kaiser Jeep and former Rambler owner…there was a bit of history that’s always been overlooked.

    That is, Henry Kaiser’s unrequited lust to own a car company. He nearly made it with Kaiser-Frazer; what felled him there was undercapitalization and his stubborn refusal to listen to Joe Frazer’s sound advice. He overproduced; undersold; didn’t have the money for a V-8 and chose the costly path of trying to develop one in-house. That, of course, was aborted, and the designer, named Potter, later surfaced at AMC with design drawings in his briefcase.

    Anyway. What Kaiser understood was government contracting, so Willys-Overland, struggling, was his escape hatch and also his toe in the water. As he remade Willys into Kaiser-Jeep, he ALSO tightened his connection with the one of the Big Four without a truck business…AMC. After his OHC engine (modified Continental design) proved an unreliable failure, AMC was the primary supplier for engines for Jeeps. That only changed in the horsepower race – changed, FWIW, after Henry Kaiser had died, in 1968, with adoption of the Buick V-8 in J-series FSJs and purchase of the Buick V-6 line.

    But, long before that, Kaiser Industries…had been buying up AMC stock. AMC, even then, was seen as a long shot – it was, in the words of David E. Davis, born on the steps of Bankruptcy Court, and raised where creditors outnumbered customers. The stock was always a gamble; and just as with Willys-Overland, Henry Kaiser was ready to take a crap shoot.

    What did it was his own mortality. Apparently he made little in the lines of estate planning; and Kaiser Industries and all its subsidiaries, had to be sold or liquidated to pay taxes.

    Kaiser Industries, and/or Kaiser Jeep Corporation, owned a significant block of AMC stock. With the IRS pounding on the door…instead of making a bid on AMC, Kaiser raised the proposal with AMC management of doing the reverse. Buying the Jeep company.

    And (IIRC) Roy Abernathy thought it was a great idea. Directors voted yes, and Jeep passed into AMC hands. Edgar Kaiser, who would have played the role of Edsel Ford in the new Kaiser-AMC takeover, instead was reduced to bagman, paying off Uncle Sam and disappearing into obscurity.

    What if Henry Kaiser had lived, or had planned for estate taxes? Kaiser, in those days, had fresh ideas – the Jeepster Commando, the original J/SJ line; Jeep Universal (CJ) campers. Would AMC have become The Other Car Company, smaller and more nimble, with fresh ideas, that would have let it grow like Nissan or Honda?

  3. -Nate

    The very thought of riding a bicycle with a hernia makes me shudder Jack .

    Follow the P.T. exactly else you’ll be suffering ~ you’re too young to be stopped now .


    • Depressed Clutch

      The “last times” thing is sad, but for most of us, our 40’s are realizing how many things we will never do.

      • -Nate

        Maybe so but one should not give up trying…..

        I don’t think I’d enjoy a 30 +/- year old woman these days but I see plenty younger than I by decades that I’d take on were I not contented where I’m at .

        I’m in my 7th decade and plenty of younger women give me the eye or try to chat me up .

        I’m still riding Motocycles and trying new things as well as trying to keep up fixing things, why the hell not ?

        I’ll be still when I’m dead .


        • Depressed Clutch

          Sorry, Nate: my comment was nested under yours accidentally; it was intended as a reply directly to the article, rather than a disagreement with yours.

          Nevertheless, your perspective is appreciated (although my personal situation is more complex than just age).

          • -Nate

            Understood .

            Age is the smallest part of my problems, I wasn’t careful enough growing up and managed two near fatal Moto crashes since 2007 .

            For those who live in blue collar areas, mangled bodies and missing digits and so on are a pretty normal thing .

            When I was growing up in rural New England most of the farmers had serious injuries but had no choice but to keep on working….

            It’s all in the mind ~ if you can manage it, you can keep on going .


  4. Eric L.

    i c u, lynskey. My 40-something neighbor has a Chinese (?) carbon fiber Ellsworth from ~2015 that he thinks is Just Okay and rarely rides, but also a hardtail Lynskey that he takes to all of our black trails, because It’s More Fun That Way. He would sprint down the street on that Ti frame and leave me astonished every time. Surely it’s stiffer than a $10K Specialized Tarmac.

    I didn’t know Ellsworth used to make bikes here. Who was the last boutique California manufacturer to call it quits? I remember your post about the BMX guy who said the consumer child safety thing helped do his CA factory in.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      There are a couple — Squid still does, Santana makes CARBON in California, probably a few more that don’t come immediately to mind. None of them is working at Lynskey’s volume.

  5. Ronnie Schreiber

    “Also, as Ted Williams said in the famous anecdote about hitting modern pitching, I’m 49 years old.”

    Ted hit .388 at age 39, but I believe the Satchel Paige version of the story is better: “How would Satchel Paige do against modern hitters?” “Okay, but then he’s in his 60s”.

    In one of Athletics owner Charley Finley’s great stunts, he had Paige start a game at 59. Paige pitched 3 innings, giving up only one hit.

  6. Ronnie Schreiber

    “There was a time you had your dick pop right back up after you had sex and didn’t know it was the last time.”

    Perhaps, but it was so long ago that I can’t remember.

    Speaking of old age and decrepitude, there’s a 39 y/o divorcee who was day caring my grandsons this summer. Am I too old to ask her out?

    Like the great philosopher Wayne Gretsky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    • benjohnson

      >>Am I too old to ask her out?
      There’s a formula for that: $your_age_in_years <= ($her_age_in_years / 2) + 7

      More seriously, would your son and grand children love her as a mother and grandmother? Would it please G-d?

      If so, then please GO FOR IT!

      • benjohnson

        ?LGK EROR IN LINE 1 : swap “your” and “her” and flip the comparison operator.

        Just to be safe: Refill only with Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

        • John Marks

          Supposedly, the formula “Cut the guy’s age in half and add 7 years” (E.g., 66 cut in half equals 33; add 7 to get 40 as the lowest acceptable age for the woman) comes from French culture.

          Supposedly, French political culture accepts that married guys are going to have a girl on the side if they can; but no cradle robbing. So, a 35-year old politico can have a 24-year old mistress but not a 21-year old mistress. A 66-year old politico can have a 40-year old mistress but not a 32-year old mistress.

          All of which calls to mind the quip attributed to Voltaire: “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”

          I was told that Jascha Heifetz stopped talking to Toscanini because Toscanini divorced his wife. Heifetz did not so much have a problem with Toscanini’s having a mistress. He had a problem with Toscanini, to his mind, shaming the woman he’d married.

          Autres temps, autres moeurs.

  7. Guns and Coffee

    Picture a sweet, demure English teacher, even though most English teachers are none of the above. “Greetings class. Yesterday, we learned about satire by reading Johnathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” Today, were going to read a more modern writer and explore the fine line between satire and being an asshole.” <– This is meant to be funny, not offensive, although I will never be able to consume a parenthetical explanation of, well . . . anything quite the same way, ever again.

  8. benjohnson

    Look forward to new things?

    I don’t want to climb up Mt. St Helens and ski down anymore, but I’m scheduled up to get my private pilots license when the WuFlu abates.

    I’m not wise in the way of Honda – but a low mileage 2017 Acura ILX seem to be under $20K around here, have a V6, decent suspension, and probably decent safety and room for progeny. Would hold it own at a Track Night in America.

      • benjohnson

        Thanks for that! Holy moley I got it wrong – it’s the RLX I was looking at and seems like a neat car.

        The bad news is that after double checking – you’d have to go back to 2014 models to get below 20K.

        I have a soft spot for unloved larger sedans as the seem to depreciate like a rock. I was trying to find the Honda equivalent of a Buick Lucerne.

  9. VTNoah

    Stoked to see you back on the bike Jack. Have you looked into stem cell injections? Lots of fighters and folks like you and me (people who huck their bodies through the air) have seen great results. Pricey but could buy you some more time.

  10. Jason Rogers

    I would have recommended a 2018+ Honda Civic Sport instead of another God-damned Accord. Nothing wrong with the Accord, but the 10th generation Civic chassis is just that good. It’s an absolute joy to hustle around canyon roads and tracks. A stark improvement compared to the 9th gen design. The Sport trim, especially, is in a sweet spot and pretty much in Jonathan’s budget. The 5-door is family-friendly without being too frumpy. I have teenagers and we’ve driven half way across the country at 85 mph, knocking down 44 mpg tank averages in some states. Admittedly the seat padding is a little down-market for that long of trip but we did it again the following year, so not that bad.

    I do miss the old K20’s and their hyper redlines. The 1.5L turbo is boring but makes a huge lump of power throughout the low and mid ranges. Hondata can boost (pun intended) the whole curve up while 86’ing the obnoxious rev hang. The little L15 is a tough little brute too.

    PS: My advice to you, Jack, is to trade in your fleet of non-Neon racecars for a factory homologated 10th gen Si or Type-R racecar. Hurry down while supplies last.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      It’s great advice! But the Type-Rs in SRO spec are mechanical nightmares, and the Si only really works if you can cheat using factory-stamped cheaty parts a la the fellow who got his hand slapped for doing exactly that in World Challenge.

      • Jason Rogers

        Don’t write off the Si. The SRO is a BOP game, as you know. The Si had 400 lbs of ballast, nearly a small block Chevy, to slow it down to Subaru BRZ pace last year. When that was eased mid way through the 2020 season, Kevin Boehm starting winning races in TCA.

        My team has also had extremely competitive lap times in NASA ST5/E2 in SoCal. We’d have won the 3hr Enduro at Willow Springs earlier this year were it not for the limited capacity of the fuel cell. We’ve got a fix for that in the works.

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          Fair enough — once you-know-who stops driving the cars, they can be BOPed fairly.

          That’s a ton of money to run hard in ST5, though…


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