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Zen and the Science of Mountain Bike Maintenance

“I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.” 

I know little of Zen other than it is a Buddhist meditation practice that does not involve shouting “serenity now.” I also know little of Mountain Bike Maintenance but using the “serenity now” technique I am I am learning the science of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

Now I’m sure that those that know more than me about mountain bikes will say that this is an art. But for me art is either something related to baseball or Navy ships that I hand on my wall, something beautiful that Judy produces or something that I hate and wonder just how the hell the artist got paid for it.  Of course none of these categories fit in the paradigm that I call the science of mountain bike maintenance.

I have ridden and destroyed bicycles for decades though until I moved to Emerald Isle I have had few places that I felt safe to ride the Mongoose E303 that I bought just before I deployed to Iraq.  My attitude with bicycles through most of my life was like Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie Kelly’s Heroes named “Oddball” who said in regard to work being done by his men on his tank “I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.”

I always had a habit of riding my bikes hard and though I learned to do a few rudimentary tasks I really had no clue what made them work. I remember doing an “Evil Knievil” jump over a wide construction ditch with my Schwinn Stingray which came up just short wiping out my bike and leaving me with a broken arm.  Then there was the 10 speed touring bike with dual headlights that my dad brought me back from Japan in 1972. That bike was a heavy duty warhorse that I used in games of bike to bike chicken against other neighborhood kids in Stockton California.  That bike was like the “Deathmobile” in Animal House, it was not aluminum but steel and its tires were heavier duty than most American bikes.  Those were good times, maintenance other than to patch flat tires was not a priority.  That bike got me through Junior High School but I gave it up like a broken down stead when I got my first car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a 287 V-8 and 4 barrel carburetor.  I had a bike when I was a student at Cal State Northridge and nearly ran over Joni Erickson Tada as she motored about in her motorized wheelchair and nearly drove into a filming set of Dynasty to get almost up close and personal with Heather Locklear. Both were unintentional but a product of my rather reckless riding.  Once again maintenance was a secondary concern and I drive that 10 speed into the dirt as well.

The next time that I used a bicycle was when I was deployed to Würzburg Germany to support the Bosnia operation.  I had the use of a used 18 speed road bike which I would ride down the big hill from my apartment to the city center on almost every decent day for weather. I also took it on longer rides around the countryside.  But that was pretty much the last time that I rode a bike until this year. I bought the Mongoose in 2006 as I was recovering from an IT Band injury while overtraining for the Marine Corps Marathon having just completed the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.  Back then I was even more stupid than I am now and would run 12-20 miles 4-5 times a week.  It was great for the endorphin rush but hell on my legs.  Unfortunately there were no interesting places to ride in Virginia Beach unless I wanted to pack my bike on my car to get to the Oceanfront or a rural area.  I hate being bored and feeling like a target for any typical Hampton Roads driver.

So finally I get stationed at Camp LeJeune and bring down my nearly new bike, 5 years old but no wear and tear.  I got it tuned up and then started to ride around the roads and trails near the Island Hermitage which is rapidly becoming the Island Heritage of the Church of Baseball.  I have permission of my land lady to paint outfield walls in the living room to match the baseball décor.  Since I plan to keep it as a place of refuge for Judy and I whenever I am stationed back in Virginia Beach I should not have to paint over it for a while.  But I digress….

I finally have a place where I enjoy riding again even a couple of places to go off road and actually use the bike as it was intended to be used.  I also discovered that hard riding also requires maintenance and that maintenance on a mountain bike is a lot more intensive than the bikes that I rode in times past. It is also a lot more expensive to have done by a bike store so I am learning the science of mountain bike maintenance.  The first thing I had happen was a flat rear tire which occurred about a mile into a ride. I had to walk the bike back because I did not have a hand pump and when I tried to fill it at a gas station the tire blew.  The next chance I got I went and purchased a heavy duty inner tube as well as a Trinitarian Allen Wrench, a hand pump to keep with the bike and lights since I tend to ride near dusk in order to get pictures of sunsets and wildlife.

I discovered something. I had to remove the brake pads to change the rear tire. It wasn’t enough to have to take the damned chain off but I had to take the brakes off to get the tire off. That brought me some measure of discontent but I persevered I got the tire off.  I also got some tire levers to help me with getting the very heavy tire off the rim. Back in my previous life when I rode bikes changing a tire was a snap, the tires were thin and came off without difficulty.  Well if you haven’t ridden one a the walls of a mountain bike’s tires are fricking thick and harder than hell to get off the bike, I even broke one of the damned levers trying to get the tire off. But I was successful despite a number of “serenity now” moments. I replaced the inner tube and put the tire back on the bike. I adjusted the chain and put the brake pads on. I thought that I had cracked the code. Sure I was covered in grease and sweaty but I had done it, or so I thought.  I had no idea that the damned tension on the brakes had to be reset.

So I went to the internet for a “Google how too” session. The sites that I found were no help and I had to travel to Virginia the next day so I said the hell with it. When I returned this week I stopped by the bike shop and asked for a demo of how to fix the damned thing so I could get back on the road.  The man at the shop demonstrated on a bike and I locked the information into my brain housing unit.  I ended up having to leave work early today because I have not slept more than three hours in the past three days. After crashing at home I got up, had dinner and decided to do the brake adjustment which went surprisingly well. I then took the bike out for a ride in the evening, got a couple of nice pictures and came home to watch baseball and relax. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight. I noticed that on nights where I got a ride in that I slept better so hopefully that continues.  I will need to do some more adjustments on the bike to get it where I want but I think I am beginning to crack the code on the science of mountain bike maintenance.  So long as it does not rain tomorrow evening I will do the adjustments and take another ride.

So until tomorrow, have a nice night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Eins, zwei, drei g’suffa! Padre Steve Muses on German Beer

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
-Benjamin Franklin

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
-Dave Barry

From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.

–Saint Arnold of Metz, The patron Saint of Brewers

I have lived in Germany a number of times and have a good number of German friends that I have served with either in the Army or the Navy that I am still in contact with.  I have a love of good beer and my taste tends to gravitate toward German Pilsners and Lagers or an occasional Dunkel or Schwartzbier. I do have a fondness for a number of Irish beers and when overseas like Kilkenny which is finally just available in the US in a few locations. Hopefully it will be more available in the coming year.  I also like an occasional English Ale such as Newcastle.  Call me a beer snob but I find most mass produced American beers pretty substandard but I do like Sam Adams and Yuengling lager as well as some beers by some smaller brewers.  I’m sorry but “light beer” scarcely qualifies as beer.  I have to agree with the folks at the Capital Brewery in Middleton Wisconsin which says “People who drink light ‘beer’ don’t like the taste of beer; they just like to pee alot.” Life is too short for bad beer as was known back in medieval times in Danzig Germany where the town council made an edict stating: “Whoever makes a poor beer is transferred to the dung-hill.”

Alan Young, Master Brewer at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach

In the US I also like a number of the more German type micro brews, especially Gordon Biersch where I am a member of the Virginia Beach Stein Club.  I like Biersch a lot and since I know the master brewer Alan Young at the Virginia Beach location know that the beer is prepared to the German beer purity standards and that the hops used in the beer actually come from Bamberg Germany.  However, today is not so much about the Biersch beer, which I will write about in detail in the near future.

Today is a day where I talk about Germany and German beer.  When we first went to Germany in 1984 we lived in a tiny little town in the Saarland named Eckelhausen and I was assigned to the 557th Medical Company (Ambulance) which was based at Neubrücke, just over the Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz state border.  These are little towns, Neubrücke is a few kilometers from Birkenfeld and Eckelhausen is in Kreis Sankt Wendel.

The nearest large city is Trier on the German-Luxembourg border. When we were stationed there the local beers severed at the local restaurants were primarily pilsners.  Some of those more local beers included Kirner Pils from the town of Kirn on the Nahe River, Barbarossa Braü from Kaiserslautern and Bitburger Pils from Bitburg. Bitburg has become much more than a local beer and can be found throughout Germany and around the world.

The 557th was moved to Wiesbaden in November of 1984 and this led us to other beers including Binding Bräuerei and their Römer Pils and Henninger Pils. Some of the beers from Hessen were very nice including Licher Pils from the town of Lich northeast of Frankfurt. This brewery also produces an “export” as well as a Weizen. It is advertised as the “number one beer in Hessen.”

Well we came back to the states just after Christmas of 1986 and suffered for years without a lot of German beer available in Texas and later West Virginia.  However, in 1996 I was mobilized from the Army Reserve to serve in Germany supporting Operation Joint Endeavor, the mission to help end the conflict between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I was stationed with the 417th Base Support Battalion in Kitzingen but had significant duties at the Würzburg Army Hospital and the 4th Battalion 3rd Air Defense Artillery.

I lived in Würzburg and commuted to Kitzingen and in my time in this area which is in the state of Bayern but historically is the capital of Franken.  Of course I always gravitate toward pilsners or lagers and in Würzburg I came across a very old and good beer in Würzburger Pils.  I also was able to have more access to other Bavarian beers including Bamberger Pils, St Georgen  Kellerbrau, Reichelbräu Pils , Spaten and Löwenbräu as well as beers from just outside the area to include Michaelsbräu of Babenhausen and Braugold which I had in Weimar.

I have travelled elsewhere in Germany I have encountered many other beers.  I do prefer the beers from the more southern and central parts of the country than those of the north.  Probably the most unique beer I had was not so much to the quality or taste was Wittenburger Luther Beer which I came home with a stein which reads “Zum Gedenken an den bedeutendsten Wittenburger Luther Bier “ein kannlein bir gegen den teufel ihndamit zu verachten” or “To commemorate the most important, Wittenburger Luther Beer, a mug of beer against the devil is to despise him.”

So the Germans have taught me well.  I only drink good beer and I think that it is something to be savored and not abused.  I like the way that the Germans do life, unlike others who revel being Puritans, the Germans have balance in life.  Unlike some of the lack of “fun-dementalists” that I have met and spend their time reveling in the misery of their condition I totally agree with Luther when he said:

“God does not forbid you to drink, as do the Turks; he permits you to drink wine and beer: he does not make a law of it. But do not make a pig of yourself; remain a human being. If you are a human being, then keep your human self-control.”

And since I am not as young as I used to be: “We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old.

Amen and peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under beer, purely humorous