Monday, June 6, 2011

Time to Reflect

I started working on bicycles a  very long time ago. It all started like this: I was a kid whose dad was a carpenter. My dad literally could fix anything on your home. From the foundation to shingles and everything in between, he could fix it. My dad and my Papa actually owned a construction business, McCulley Construction.When they built the homes they would also build the cabinets that went in them. I stayed at home with my Granny before I was old enough to go to school. I learned to cook, how to be the #1 taste tester, and being a skinny ass kid I learned that trips to the grocery store in July means taking a jacket. After I started school my dad made my lunch every morning (my mom left a little earlier than my dad) and sucking all the air out of my ziploc with my sandwich. I would throw a fit saying "No Daddy, don't suck it, don't suck my sandwich". I never will remember why I thought it was bad he kept my sandwiches fresh.

As a 12 year old kid I remember helping dig the footing of a house in scorching heat making mad money for a kid my age. My dad would make me keep my shirt on so I wouldn't sunburn and wouldn't let me work too long. I would push mow and weed eat our 1 acre yard every week to keep the grass cut. If I needed to buy bike parts my parents NEVER bought them for me. My dad might have a brush pile that needed hauled off with the tractor, a truck to wash, a patio that needed swept out, or a big bucket of change that needed to be rolled in exchange for 1/2 the nickels. Always something. It was good. It was easy to appreciate my stuff because I got it. I never cried because my bike wasn't the newest and nicest and daddy didn't buy me nicer stuff. I knew a kid like that. I hated that kid. He was a punk. He still is. Racing bmx I always used affordable and durable stuff. I still have a pair of shoes I bought in July of 2003. I bought them a little big and they still fit today. I wear them on trips to Kroger and small stuff like that.

In high school I had a seasonal job working at a fireworks stand. My attention to detail, ability to sweat, and general attitude of "working when at work" made me a given hire every season. I had hours on the first day of cracking open the 18 wheeler trailer that served as our off season storage and always was around when the doors were locked for the last time of the season. I even did a summer season of pulling night shift security where I stayed there at night and gaurded the tent. It was an extremely profitable summer.

During high school I tried working in a kitchen but it didn't work out. The place was filthy, stinky, and just flat out gross. They always knew what part of the kitchen needed to be cleaned the most to pass health inspection. I remember I was the first person to clean the pizza oven in the 12 months they had been serving pizzas. I eventually quit. I started doing chores for pocket money til I graduated.

My first year of college I was a useless slouch. I didn't really work.

After my first year I went to see Hal on Highland about a used bike. I was interested in getting into road biking. I remember my first few rides being amazed that I could cover a great distance on the road with so little effort. I did a five mile road ride. I was super excited. I remember being giddy. My mom needed to run some errands in Memphis and I came out with her to get some new tires for my road bike. Mine were crap. I walked into Bikes Plus and they had a help needed sign. I told them my background, my understanding of bikes, and then I brought a resume back the next day. They hired me. It was all fun and great after that.

Steve, Glenn and Karen were really great at being nurturing and caring people. They worked around my school schedule, encouraged me to do well and helped me learn. Glenn taught me a ton about work, life, and showed me how easy it was to be happy being happy working on bikes.

I eventually moved over to RB's Cyclery to work with an awesome crew of guys. David Lyle taught me how to use a hammer to finish breaking broken crap so I could get on with fixing the bike. I remember the day he looked at me and said "I'm not showing you how to wrap bars again, you should know". Ten minutes later I had it figured out without using a crutch. David Evans showed me how to be a perfectionist. He wanted everything perfect every time. It was good. He taught me the way to glue tubulars, and appreciate gluing tubulars. To this day I have had a 100% success rate.We were rolling and kicking ass and taking AmEx. It was good. David Lyle helped place a displaced puppy who needed a good home. You all know him as Marley. I will always owe him a beer for hooking me up with who is now my best bud.

Things at RB's changed over time. For a short time Rod and I were in the shop, grinding it out everyday alone, making things happen. Sometimes we worked together, sometimes against one another. We were both passionate guys. We might gripe and bitch at each other for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes later be all cool and gravy again. Regardless of what anyone has ever said, will say, or thinks I loved working with Rod. We understood each other. Over time the Franklin shop got rolling and Rod moved away. Things didn't click like they did before and ultimately things worked out in what seemed like a crappy way. It was what it was, and things are working out now.

I had graduated and was sitting at the corner of "do I want to go to grad school" and "will working at a shop work out for me". I had only been single for 3 months, had no job, and no real ties to Memphis. It was a crazy time. I thought about packing my car with as much stuff as it would hold and running away to Colorado. I believed that I had a duty to Memphis. People always said that Memphis was a shitty place to live, shitty place to ride, shitty place to ___________. Well haters gonna hate and I thought I should stick around and try to become a banging mechanic here in town.

I started at Outdoors, Inc on January 3rd. I remember my first day of working being apprehensive about going to the new shop and trying to fit in. Its 5 months later and everyday I still feel the same. Sometimes I lose track of the fact that I am doing something that is really awesome. I work on bikes everyday. A friend put it into perspective that I am a pro mechanic. I am a mechanic. It is my profession. I am not doing this to pass the time til the next thing comes along. It is what I want to do. With that said I realized I needed to get my head wrapped around things correctly and try to make this fun like it should be.

I can remember one day being super pissed off because there was a ton of service on the schedule and the Union Ave store had flooded. Water seeped under the foundation on the bike shop side and it stunk. It stunk like we were a bike shop by day and a pasture for a huge herd of cats by night. I was showing our always on call handyman where the water was coming through and how there had been an excessive amount of leaves and trash between the parking lot and building in the drainage area where it seemed some homeless people had been hoarding stuff. I was walking up this ditch in pouring down rain and a baby bird landed on my foot, hopped around a bit, then fluttered off. That bird didn't give a shit if my shop was flooded, he didn't care if it was raining, if it was so windy that the trees were whipping around and creaking. He was being a bird. My foot was just there. He didn't have a breakdown over something as trivial as a pair of giants trampling through his home. Nope, because that's not how birds roll.

The next eye opening experience was Syllamo's Revenge weekend. I had 3 days in a row off to go race my bike with some really supportive and caring friends. The race weekend just worked out for me. I went really fast and had a great time. I had been getting faster at the encouragement and support of my friends. My parents didn't seem to freak out when I told them I wasn't going to pursue teaching at the current time, but just keep working in a bike shop. The day after the race I had a terrible time in the car on the way home. Sometimes after super hard training weekends I just feel like death in the car. It's not from the hangover, its different. My whole body revolts and hates me. Well we drove home and I took a recovery ride on my Schwinn fixed gear that has a slightly bent frame and no brakes. I was rolling down the greenline wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, cruising along just spinning and realized my rolling speed was amazing. I was cruising my fixed gear bike the same speed I would have been working to ride my geared cross bike with slicks 2 years prior. I had finally started working on being a better biker and it was paying off. I could do well in races.

I raced the Syllamo race on a demo bike from Outdoors, Inc. I have a pair of trail running shoes I got for a great deal with some hookup from the rep. A coworker traded a wheelset for a 12 pack of beer when I built my Schwinn. I have a network of great and supportive people to help me have fun in life.

Today I took home the demo longboard and taught Marley how to run beside me while I skateboard. It was super easy. He stepped under the wheel once and let his foot get ran over and then didn't get too close again.

This isn't intended to come across as a post that says I am freaking awesome. It's more of a way of saying where I have been, how I need to keep my act together, and make sure I keep enjoying myself and having fun doing something I happen to be halfway decent at.

Where am I headed? My short term plan is to keep doing what I'm doing. Riding my bike and trying to get faster, working with Outdoors, Inc bike shop to help it evolve, and having fun. Hopefully I'll keep having fun with what I am doing and will become a better, more proficient bike mechanic who can help the Memphis bike community ride bikes and have fun.

I have had a blast working in bike shops for the last 4 years, I hope to enjoy many more.

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