The things we carried: Door County 2015

IMG_0816What’s a cargo bike? It’s a bicycle that carries things not directly related to the support of rider or machine during the ride.

To determine whether you have a cargo bike, consider what you’re hauling around with you.

Bananas? If you’re eating them on the go, you may not be riding a cargo bike. Couch? Unless it has wheels, you’re riding a cargo bike. Common bicycle tools? Not a cargo bike. Park repair stand? Cargo bike.

Books from two businesses on Washington Island, Door County, Wisconsin, back to your bed and breakfast in Ephraim?

Cargo bike. It just looks like a tandem.

Let’s see what we pulled out of the handlebar bag—and why we put them in there in the first place.

IMG_0817Picked up this book at Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm. The author is quite the celebrity, though in true masters-of-awareness style, we’ve never heard of her. Instead, we judged the book by its cover and a judicious skimming of its contents. Did you know a healthy blackcurrant bush produces nine pounds of fruit?

IMG_0819Here’s the first of three books from Fair Isle Books, formerly Islandtime Books. Michael Perry writes cleanly about the world he moves through and the people he lives among. And this year the Wisconsin pig farmer came up with a novel. Buying this book breaks the rule one of us has about fiction: either the author must be dead or the work must be short. (The other of us has read every stinking Harry Potter book.)

IMG_0822Dervla Murphy’s book, Full Tilt, Ireland to India With a Bicycle, is the most important bicycle book we’ve never read, even though it’s been in our library for years. So we had to pick up On a Shoestring to Coorg. This book will remind us to read the other one—or the other way around.

IMG_0824One of the uses of literature is to keep us curious about the uses of literature. It’s possible that an Italian born in Cuba in 1923 may have come up with a use we hadn’t considered.

IMG_6727A Sister Bay business owner once said that the Door County peninsula was unique in that everyone there meant to be there, because no one was on the way to somewhere else. What a great observation. It really stuck with us.

The next year, his store closed.

He went somewhere else.

You can carry a lot of things on a bicycle with a rack, bag or basket, but you don’t need any of those things if your cargo is time. Here are a few of the years we’ve picked up, pondered and carried around with us while riding a tandem in Door County.

1848:  Wisconsin becomes a state, and because of the shape of the border, this is probably the first year someone says it looks like a mitten, kind of like Michigan looks like a mitten with a bad toupee. Door County is Wisconsin’s thumb.

1859:  Ephraim’s Moravian church is built. The church is later moved to the first hill we ride when leaving town in the morning, maybe because someone thought we should have something to look at as we’re gearing down. (Wisconsin folk moved a lot of buildings up hills or across frozen lakes more than a century ago. Imagine: “I like it; I just don’t like it there. Hitch up the horses.”)

IMG_67381906:  Wilson’s Restaurant is established. Today it’s where you get ice cream before you cross the road to watch the sun set over Eagle Harbor because the sun sets over the harbor, not where you get ice cream. And if you think that sounds ridiculous, you need to take a look at your own commute.

1941:  As world events heat up across both oceans, a giant coffee pot is installed on Washington Island. It wasn’t that long ago that the pot served as an information booth. Whatever, it’s still hot.

1989:  The Washington, one of a fleet of ferries that connects the north end of the Door County peninsula with Washington Island, is launched around the same time we first visit the area. Not in our honor, mind you: sheer coincidence.IMG_6705

2007:  Ellison Bay’s Pioneer Store reopens, replacing the original 136-year-old building leveled by a 2006 gas explosion. The road into town is anything but level. At the bottom of the hill we’re going 40 mph. Pure coast–no pedaling.

2014:  It’s happened again. We’ve arrived in Door County after Wimbledon has wrapped up. But we’re not tennis fans. So why are we disappointed that it’s not playing on the screen at the Bayside Tavern?

2015:  First time we have dinner outside the Cornerstone Pub in Bailey’s Harbor. Unrushed. Calm. Delightful. How has this not happened before?

Notes: 1) Yes, that was my thumb in some of the pictures. I like how it kept you guessing. 2) If you missed the first external link in the story, you missed the story behind the design of New Belgium Brewing’s couch bike. Here’s another chance to catch a slow ride.


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Released into the wild: Bicycle ride t-shirts from the 1990s


There’s been a lot of great food served on the No Baloney Ride over the years. No baloney, however. All photos by Lar Davis.

I’m told Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” says the secret to organization is to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. This doesn’t explain where my fiber pills went or the prominence of a digital clock in my living room, but let’s assume it’s a workable strategy; it certainly is a popular one.

11036497_1016204981731370_3561995621100004912_n(Though I think skimming 4,271 Amazon customer reviews may save me from buying the book and running the risk of bringing something into my house that might b11223552_1016204628398072_5816998750959547940_ne, at best, joy-neutral, seeing as its acquisition would require the exchange of money for knowledge. And yes, I realize borrowing is an option.)

Anyway, while my friend Lar says he’s downsizing, not necessarily organizing, I’m amazed he surrendered 28 vintage bicycle-themed t-shirts to Peoria’s Salvation Army, even if they were too small to wear.

He did, however, take a few pictures before relinquishing his collection, stirring memories among those who failed to keep the same apparel as long.


Who can forget sleeping–yes, let’s call it sleeping–on a leaky air mattress at Eureka College?

11800513_1016204808398054_7676279494754887615_nThe Pedal-In name was an antique term in 1995, though you’ll note the sponsoring club had already replaced the “e” in Wheelmen with the current, gender-neutral apostrophe. By the way, have you registered for this year’s No Baloney Ride?

11800619_1016204905064711_7960506754341166592_nNo, not the Tour de Poulet of St. Louis fame, but chicken was involved and the cause remains righteous.

11826018_1016204681731400_6447942416110832096_nJust realized I might have modeled for the art at the top of this warm-weather Christmas tree. Did anyone else ride an ordinary around Bloomington-Normal?


If any ride deserved to survive on the strength of its graphics, it was PACRACC (Pantagraph Area Cyclists Ride Around Corn Country).


Twenty-five years ago, all the cool cats were wearing this. And now it’s gone. All of these great bicycle shirts–gone. Still, it could have been worse.

I could have written about the 122 running t-shirts that Lar gave away.

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Winslow takes it easy on Washington Island


Julie is a nurse.

She likes her Dahon Vitesse i7 folding bike because it’s easy to transport in the back of her car and easy to store. And because the gears are inside the hub, there’s no derailleur to get dirty and bent out of alignment.

Winslow seems happy just to be along for the ride.

We caught up with them at Nelsen’s Hall Bitter’s Pub & Restaurant on Washington Island. Pretty good salad bar and excellent soup.

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Catching up with Jeff while crossing Porte des Morts

IMG_6712Jeff is an “almost retired” brokerage professional who continues to work as an expert witness in legal proceedings when he’s not riding his road bike hundreds of miles each month just outside of San Francisco. (He stays away from off-road riding because he doesn’t want to risk falling on his artificial hip.)

IMG_6717On the ferry to Washington Island, Wisconsin, he said he was in the midst of his second Carolina Tailwinds trip, the first being the group’s Chesapeake Bay Bicycle Tour along the eastern short of Maryland and Delaware. This fall he plans to ring up his third Tailwinds outing: the Florida First Coast Tour in the northeast part of the Sunshine State.

Jeff’s hometown? Toluca, Illinois, about 40 miles northeast of Peoria. He talked about catching a double-header against Peoria’s Manual High School–and then almost being carried from the diamond due to exhaustion from the heat and humidity.

Of course that was well before getting married in 1966, moving around the United States and, more recently, celebrating his 75th birthday.

On the ferry this fine July day: little heat, and no humidity worth mentioning.




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Fat times three. You’ll want to sit down for this


A Surly fork and a 26 x 4.9 tire? Sure, that happens. A Surly fork, 26 x 4.9 tire and one-piece crank? That doesn’t happen as often…


And I believe this cosmic confluence is even rarer.

But it happened at least once once. The proof is in Wheel & Sprocket’s Brookfield, Wisconsin, store.

Not big on a fat trike? How about a fat tandem?

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The welder will see you now: Eriksen’s Brad Bingham

Brad Bingham at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Brad Bingham at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. All photos by Mitch Hull. Thanks again, Mitch.

Brad Bingham welds titanium bicycle frames today because he went to school next door to the Newberg, Oregon, company that created the world’s first successful air-powered saliva ejector.

“My school shared a property line with A-dec, the largest dental equipment company in the world. The company had a cooperative work experience program, so junior, senior years in high school I got to work there half days. I kind of fell in love with making stuff, and one of the engineers got me into mountain biking.”

Eriksen's isn't the only name you might find on an Eriksen frame.

Eriksen’s isn’t the only name you might find on an Eriksen frame.

In short order, Bingham broke two bicycle frames, and the engineer asked him why he didn’t just make his own. So he did.

“I went to UBI [United Bicycle Institute], took a framebuilding class and learned from Gary Helfrich, the founder of Merlin. He was incredible, a great teacher. Moots got my name from that class, said come on out and weld for us. So I took a 69-cents-an-hour pay cut. Worked with Moots for 15 years and came to Eriksen two years ago.”

Best TIG-welded joints in, well, the joint.

Best TIG-welded joints in, well, the joint.

Kent Eriksen Cycles is a four-person operation based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that turns out a wide variety of custom singles and tandems–and piles up the awards, including, most recently, Best TIG-Welded at the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

  • Bingham loves titanium. “It’s a real nice material. To weld it properly, it has to be almost sterile. The welding process doesn’t create any smoke. It’s a pleasant environment.”
  • Not that he avoids other materials. He was more than happy to work with the steel and aluminum that went into his restoration of a 1973 Airstream trailer.
  • And he likes variety. Asked about his own bicycle stash, he lists a road bike, full-suspension mountain bike, a fat bike, a hardtail 29er and a commuter. “My girlfriend also has one of each.”

    In English, laser-etched motto reads,

    In English, the laser-etched motto on this particular Eriksen reads, “Nothing without effort.”

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Time shifting in Louisville: 1950s derailleurs


Derailleurs displayed in The Kentucky Wheelmen booth at the 2015 Handmade Bicycle Show in Louisville.

It’s a deceptively simple thing, the rear derailleur: a mechanism that moves the chain from cog to cog at the rider’s command. But it took decades after the bike boom of the 1890s to arrive at a configuration we’d recognize today.

These derailleurs were built in France in the years around 1950. Five of them mount to the chain stay, forward of the freewheel, and operate without a parallelogram, the deformable rectangular structure that is today universal among mechanical derailleurs.

The one in the lower right features a parallelogram and mounts to the rear dropout, close to current practice, but it sports just one, not two, jockey wheels, which Disraeli Gears contends doomed it to uselessness.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke contended that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But once that technology ages, particularly when you’re dealing with the relatively transparent technology of a bicycle, the magic fades and disappears.

Today’s gear shifters work much better than these old French devices, but we expect precision. And precision is not the realm of the indefinable, the ineffable or the mysterious.

I’ve been told the speed and accuracy of Shimano’s Di2 derailleurs make them magical things. And they may be, to the extent that tight tolerances, electricity and hidden motors are magical.

But these old derailleurs (and earlier, three-speed hubs and Campy’s Cambio Corsa) were closer to the wizard’s wand.

Change gears on the go. Adapt your strength to the irregularities of the Earth itself. No stopping to move a chain by hand from one cog to another. No electricity. No motors. Just your desire and intent to change.

All you’re changing is gears, of course, but if you can change gears on a bicycle, what else might you be able to change, accept, improve or discover?

What magic might you find at the end of a derailleur cable?



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