Sunday, October 29, 2017

Them – "Here Comes the Night" (1965)

Well, here it comes
Here comes the night

I hope you’re not getting tired of 2 or 3 lines posts about biking and beer drinking yet . . . because I’ve got several more of them in the queue.

When it comes to biking and beer drinking, balance is very important.  Too much biking combined with too little beer drinking is no fun.  But too much beer drinking isn’t good either.

Crossing over Route 7 in Leesburg, VA
As I learned on a recent bike-and-beer expedition to Leesburg, Virginia – a small city west of Washington that is home to at least eight breweries.

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Most of my bike rides involve riding the same route in both directions – I start at point A, ride to point B, then ride back to point A.

When the breweries that I want to visit are scattered along my route, it’s best to get the point–A–to–point–B part of the ride out of the way first, and then break up the return trip with stops at those breweries.

But sometimes the breweries I want to visit are concentrated in one place – in this case, downtown Leesburg.  

I could have made Leesburg my point A and hit the breweries there at the very end of the ride.  Instead, I chose to make Leesburg point B (the midpoint of my ride) because that saved me about 40 minutes of driving.  

I guess you could say it turned out not to be the smartest idea that I ever had.

*     *     *     *     *

Here's a photo I took during my ride from Leesburg back to my car:

Here's a photo I took a little later:

The reason those photos are so dark is because I didn’t start riding back until well after the sun went down that night.

“Why in the hell would he wait until it was pitch black outside to get on a bike and ride the ten miles back to his car?” you’re asking yourself.

Good question!

*     *     *     *     *

My plan was to make two stops in Leesburg: Black Hoof Brewing and the Delirium Café.

Black Hoof, which is located at King Street in downtown Leesburg, is a brewery that specializes in German-style beers.

The Delirium Café
The Delirium Café, which is located on King Street only a block away from Black Hoof, is not a brewery – it’s a beer-focused restaurant that’s affiliated with Belgium’s Delirium Tremens brewery.  

Almost immediately after I turned off the Washington & Old Dominion rail trail on to King Street, I saw a brewery, parked my bike, and I plopped my ass at the bar, where I ordered a flight of four beers: an Irish-style red ale, a porter, a maple-flavored brown ale, and a Belgian tripel.

At Black Walnut Brewing
Eventually I figured out that I wasn’t at Black Hoof Brewing on King Street – I was at Black Walnut Brewing, also on King Street.  “No harm done,” I thought to myself as I hopped on my bike and rode two blocks north to the Black Hoof Brewery.

Where I ordered another flight of four beers: a dunkelweizen, a Helles-style lager, a rauchbier, and a Märzen.  

At Black Hoof Brewing
Stopping at two breweries when I had only planned to stop at one put me a little behind schedule.  The beer list at the Delirium Café put me a lot behind schedule.

That list featured well over a hundred Belgian beers – saisons, wits, blonde ales, red ales, Trappist ales, dubbels, tripels, quads, lambics – not to mention beers from other European countries and a number of American craft beers. 

I limited myself to small (four-ounce) pours of three strong Belgian dark ales and chatted merrily with the couple seated next to me at the bar.  (They had come to watch the Penn State football game on TV.  I knew absolutely nothing about the Penn State team, but didn’t let that stop from having a spirited conversation with the couple.)

The symbol for the Delirium line
of Belgian beers is a pink elephant 
Pretty soon it was pretty late . . . and also pretty dark.  Sunset was at 6:24 pm that night, but I didn’t leave the Delirium Café until at least an hour after that.

The first part of the ride back wasn’t too bad.  The part of the trail that went through Leesburg was reasonably well-lit.

But when I left Leesburg’s bright lights behind and hit the more rural part of the trail, I was in deep doo-doo.  The trail wasn’t close to the main roads, and there were very few homes or other buildings anywhere near the trail’s right of way.  

I rode through the pitch-black night for a mile or so, then stopped and began to walk my bike.  Even then it wasn’t easy to discern where exactly the trail was.

Walking all the way back to my car would have taken at least two hours – perhaps three.  That wasn’t happenin’.

The bar at the Delirium Café
So I got back on the bike and started to ride.  By looking down rather than ahead, I could just barely make out the trail’s painted center lines well enough to feel reasonably safe about riding.  (There were obviously no other riders still out at that time to worry about, and I was familiar enough with the very straight W&OD trail that I didn’t need to look too far ahead to keep from colliding with a tree, or riding off the trail into a creek, or otherwise getting into trouble. 

Eventually it hit me that I could use the flashlight function of my smartphone like a headlight.  The light my phone projected was pretty weak, but I could see the road with the flashlight a lot better than I could see without it.

I finally made it back to my car at about 8:30 pm.  If you live in the suburbs or the country, go outside tonight at 8:30 and take a look around.  PRETTY GOT-DAMN DARK, ISN’T IT?

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“Here Comes the Night” was the Them’s biggest-selling single.  

Bert Berns and Van Morrison
The song was written and the record produced by Bert Berns, a Brill Building songwriter who also wrote “A Little Bit of Soap,” “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and “Piece of My Heart.”

Berns later became a successful producer and record label owner.  He died of heart failure when he was just 38 years old.

Here’s “Here Comes the Night”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Loudon Wainwright III – "Tip That Waitress" (1993)

She handles her tray with panache and aplomb
Her brother's a Quaker, her dad was in ‘Nam
Tip that waitress!

The first three weeks of my life as a retired guy have been mostly about (1) grandsons, (2) biking, and (3) beer.

The last couple of 2 or 3 lines posts focused exclusively on biking and beer.  This one mixes in some grandson stuff, as well as some incisive social commentary.

*     *     *     *     *

The day after I returned from my Virginia Capital Trail trip, I headed to Capitol Hill to visit my younger grandson, Thomas.

I took the subway to Union Station, where I used my Capital Bikeshare membership to unlock a shared bike to ride to Tommy’s house:

Capital Bikeshare bikes are heavy and clumsy.  You don’t want to ride one very far.  

But there are Capital Bikeshare docking stations all over DC and the surrounding suburbs, and the price to ride them is right – $85 for a year’s membership, which entitles you to an unlimited number of rides as long as they last no longer than 30 minutes.  (I’m not sure what the reason for that annoying policy is.)

I loaded Tommy into his stroller and we headed to Lincoln Park, which is the largest park on Capitol Hill.  It’s a very popular destination for city dwellers looking for some open space for their kids and their dogs to enjoy.  

See the statue behind Tommy and me in this selfie?

Here’s a closeup of it.  It depicts Abraham Lincoln emancipating a slave:

Tommy was seven months old the day I took him to Lincoln Park.  He’s an affable lad, but he's sort of a one-trick pony: he doesn’t do much more than stick stuff into his mouth:

(Nice hat!)

*     *     *     *     *

After returning Tommy to his mother, I checked out another shared bike and rode to a docking station near Public Option, a small brewpub I had heard about only recently.

Unfortunately, that docking station was filled up – there was no room at the inn, so to speak.  So I had to ride to another docking station six blocks away and walk back to Public Option.

A Capital Bikeshare docking station
I called the Capital Bikeshare customer service line and politely expressed my displeasure with their misfeasance and stupidity while walking back to Public Option.  (I don’t know much the guy who answered my call gets paid, but it’s not enough to have to deal with assh*les like me.)

*     *     *     *     *

Public Option is a small, no-frills microbrewery that's about three miles north of Lincoln Park:  

A sign on the door said that Public Option’s maximum capacity was 134 people.  I would have guessed more like 34– seating was limited to a few picnic tables out front, maybe half a dozen small tables inside, and four spots at the bar.

But there were half a dozen Public Option beers on tap and free Cheez-Its:

And the brewery’s owner and the young lady helping him pour pints couldn’t have been friendlier and more welcoming.

*     *     *     *     *

One thing that’s unique about Public Option is its strict “no tips allowed” policy.  Here’s what its website has to say about that policy:


Market-based economies have bestowed innumerable benefits on humanity throughout our history by enforcing a dynamism in the ways we produce and distribute goods and services.  From ancient bazaars to the New York Stock Exchange, markets have flourished under a wide variety of rules. . . .

One established "rule" or norm in restaurants is the practice of tipping.  When I eat out, I normally leave 20%.  I know that the servers can't live on their base pay.  And I assume that they will share some of their tip income with other staff.  But let's take a look at what these assumptions rests on.  If I see that an establishment lists the price of a beer as $6, I know that the actual price is 20% higher, or $7.20.  Further, I assume that the staff at the establishment is not being paid a living wage and that it is up to me as a customer to step in with a subsidy.

You won't find one of
these at Public Option
The tipping system has worked pretty well in restaurants for many years.  But it has its flaws.  Although staff at some restaurants make a very solid living on tips, at other places tip-based income can be unpredictable.  Additionally, gender, age and racial biases can skew outcomes for individuals.  And the dynamic is complicated, with servers relying on their employment at an establishment to give them access to their wages, but relying on individual customers for those wages.  We believe it's time to try some alternatives.

The Public Option pays a starting wage of $15/hour and provides full-time (40 hours/week) work.  We ask customers not to leave tips as our prices provide for living wages for all employees.  If a customer leaves a tip, it will be added to a fund which will be donated to a local non-profit to be decided on by the staff.

Can this work?  Will this model accrue a competitive advantage to The Public Option?  Will we play a part in displacing a flawed incumbent system with something better?  Or will we just crash and burn?  Who knows?  

I don’t have strong feelings about tipping.  I’m a pretty cheap guy, so you would think I be in favor of a no-tipping policy.   But tipping doesn’t really bother me – I understand what the expectations are when it comes to tipping at restaurants and bars, so I factor that into the equation.

Having said that, I’m all in favor of the Public Option trying something different instead of just going along with the crowd.  “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend,” as that dirty Commie Mao Tse-Tung once said.  (Yes, I know it’s spelled “Mao Zedong” nowadays but I grew up spelling it the other way.)

Chairman Mao
*     *     *     *     *

A 2010 article in the International Journal of Hospitality management reported the results of research showing that the lyrical content of songs played in restaurants has a significant effect on tipping behavior.

One would think that every waitress in the country would be pushing her boss to put today’s featured song on the playlist at the restaurant or bar where she works.

“Tip That Waitress” was released on Loudon Wainwright III’s 1993 live album, Career Moves, which was recorded at the Bottom Line in New York City:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Empir3 (feat. Pit Bailay) – "Ride Like the Wind" (2016)

Gonna ride like the wind
Before I get old

(Oops . . . TOO LATE!)

In 2015, two women who like to bike started the Cap Trail Bike Shuttle, which enables Virginia Capital Trail riders like me to ride the trail one way rather than having to turn around and ride back along the same route.

I arrived too late to use that shuttle service on the first day of my recent two-day ride on the Virginia Capital Trail (“VCT”).  So I rode from Charles City Courthouse to the Chickahominy River bridge, turned around, and rode back the way I had come.  

But on day two of my ride, I arranged for the shuttle service to pick me up at Charles City Courthouse – where I left my car – and drive me to the western end of the VCT in Richmond.  That way I could take a nice, long one-way ride rather than having to double back.

Cheyenne Burnham, one of the co-owners of the shuttle service, drove the 30 miles from Richmond to Charles City Courthouse in an empty van in order to pick me up and drive me back to Richmond – all for $24.

The Cap Trail Bike Shuttle van
Once she dropped me off in Richmond, she was picking up a group of four riders going the other direction.  If I had been her, I might have told me that I could either ride with that group or go pound sand.

But she didn’t do that.  I wanted to begin riding a little earlier than the gang of four, and I wanted to ride east to west rather than west to east – and she accommodated me without complaint.

*     *     *     *    *

The Richmond trailhead of the VCT – which was near milepost 51 of the trail – was just a stone’s throw from Tobacco Row, a group of cigarette factories and tobacco warehouses that have been converted into apartments, condominiums, and offices.

The smokestack of the power plant that ran the machinery at the Lucky Strike factory has been preserved by the developers of that building:

The figure who appears to be hiding behind the building’s parapet is “Connecticut,” a larger-than-lifesize fiberglass sculpture of a Native American that was originally installed at the stadium where the Richmond AAA baseball team plays:

That team – which was called the Braves – was an Atlanta Braves affiliate for many years.  But when the team became a San Francisco Giants affiliate and changed its name to the Flying Squirrels, the statue was moved to the Lucky Strike building.

*     *     *     *     *

I had a nice view of a three-mile-long trestle owned by the CSX railroad from the VCT trailhead.

The elevated railroad that once ran along the Lower West Side of Manhattan has been converted to an elevated park known as the “High Line.”

The “Low Line” trestle
The Richmond trestle is still being used by trains, but the ground-level space below the trestle is being converted into an long urban garden and hiking/biking trail called the “Low Line.”

*     *     *     *     *

Once the VCT leaves Richmond and its suburbs behind, there are almost no places to get food or drink until you get to Charles City Courthouse – which is over 30 miles from the Richmond trailhead.  

So I stopped after only six miles to grab a sandwich at Ronnie’s BBQ, a no-frills barbecue joint that’s just off the trail.

I was tempted by Ronnie’s ribs, but I didn’t want to eat too much – after all, I had almost 25 miles left to ride – so instead I ordered a small pulled pork sandwich without side orders.  

Just I was about to leave Ronnie’s, I saw this delightful little work of art:

*     *     *     *     *

My map indicated that there was a convenience store at the halfway point of my ride, but it turned out that an antiques-and-art store had taken over the convenience store’s space.  

Fortunately, that store did sell a variety of cold drinks, so I was able to sit down with some orange juice and a few art books and gave my rear end a break:

*     *     *     *     *

The final hour of my trip took me through woods and past farms – including a couple of cotton fields:

After I reached Charles City Courthouse, I once again headed for Cul’s Courthouse Grille for a post-ride beer.

Here's the tale of the tape for my second day on the VCT: 33.6 miles covered at an average speed of 12.8 mph.

*     *     *     *     *

My next stop was Final Gravity Brewing, a microbrewery located in the Lakeside neighborhood of Richmond.

Final Gravity shares space with a home-brew supply store called Original Gravity.  (Original gravity is a measurement taken before fermentation begins, while final gravity is a measurement taken after the brewing process is complete – so the different names for the brewery and the homebrew supply store make sense.)

The Original Gravity side of the building stocks every piece of equipment a home brewer needs, plus a variety of grains, yeasts, and hops:

I prefer to cut out the middleman, so I went to the Final Gravity side of the building and ordered a flight of four beers:

The next stop was home on the Maryland side of the Potomac.  I-95 between Richmond and D.C. is often jammed with traffic, and the American Legion Bridge into Maryland is stop and go at almost any time.

But the traffic gods smiled on me that night, and I cruised home with nary a slowdown.

*     *     *     *     *

Christopher Cross’s 1980 hit, “Ride Like the Wind,” has been covered by a number of artists.

The video for the EDM cover version I chose to feature today has hot babes in bikinis riding skateboards.  ‘NUFF SAID!

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Christopher Cross – "Ride Like the Wind" (1980)

And I've got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I'll ride like the wind

Larry Skalak was born in 1952 – the same year I was born.  He died in 2014 as he was preparing to depart on his sixth transcontinental bicycle trip.

I’m a pretty active guy, but I’m no Larry Skalak, who climbed several 14,000-foot peaks, hiked a number of long and strenuous trails, and biked 80,000 miles in the last eight years of his life.

Yes, I said Skalak biked 80,000 miles in eight years.  That’s almost 28 miles a day, 365 days a year – spring, summer, fall, and winter – all after he had a total hip replacement in 2006.  (A lot of people don’t drive 80,000 miles in eight years.)

*     *     *     *     *

I learned about Skalak when I encountered the “Larry Skalak Memorial Fixit Station” while riding my bike on the Virginia Capital Trail recently.  

The Larry Skalak Memorial Fixit Station 
The Virginia Capital Trail – let’s call it the “VCT” – is a 51-mile-long paved trail that connects Virginia’s three capital cities: Jamestown (1607 to 1699), Williamsburg (1699 to 1780) and Richmond (1780 to the present).

The VCT parallels Virginia State Route 5, which provides access to a number of James River plantations, including Shirley Plantation (which was established in 1613) and Sherwood Forest (which was owned by two different U.S. Presidents – William Henry Harrison and John Tyler).

Sherwood Forest
I started my ride in Charles City, Virginia – population 133 – which is the county seat of Charles City County.

After checking out the old courthouse (which was built in the 1730s and utilized until 2007, when a new courthouse was constructed), a tiny visitor center, and a monument to Confederate soldiers, I hopped on my Trek 7.3 hybrid and headed east.

The old Charles City courthouse, visitor
center, and Confederate monument
It was a balmy fall day, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – a perfect day for biking.  The VCT, which was completed only recently, is well-maintained and relatively flat.  It was easy for me to maintain a 15 miles per hour pace on most of my ride. 

*     *     *     *     *

I knew that riding from Charles City all the way to the beginning of the VCT in Jamestown and back – a distance of some 40 miles – was biting off more than I could chew, especially since I didn’t start riding until about 2:30 pm.  So I turned around just after I crossed the Chickahominy River bridge, which was 14 miles from my starting point.

I stopped for a late lunch at the Sandy Point Superette, which was conveniently situated about midway between that bridge and Charles City.

Dining al fresco on the VCT
I had brought a sandwich and some Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from home in my silly new Osprey biking backpack, so all I needed to buy was a Dr. Pepper.

At the end of my ride, I checked my odometer and learned that I had covered 28.2 miles at an average speed of 13.9 mph.

Then I put my bike in the car and walked across the street to Cul’s Courthouse Grill, which had about a dozen craft beers from Virginia breweries on tap. 

Cul's Courthouse Grille
I enjoyed a Legends Oktoberfest and picked my server’s brain about which of the Richmond area’s 20-plus breweries were worth a visit.

*     *     *     *     *

After checking into my hotel and taking a quick shower, I headed for the Hardywood Park brewery.

When I arrived at around 8:00 pm, the joint was jumping – especially the bocce courts outside the tasting room:

Bocce under the lights at Hardywood
Hardywood’s brewery was full of beer being aged in barrels:

Here’s a list of the barrel-aged beers that Hardywood is releasing in the near future:

Every summer, Hardywood makes a pale ale especially formulated for Capital Trail riders:

Unfortunately, they were sold out of it when I visited.

*     *     *     *     *

My second stop was Triple Crossing Brewing’s brewpub in the Fulton neighborhood, which offers brick-oven pizzas as well as some very interesting beers.

The Triple Crossing brewpub features some happening murals:

The Triple Crossing cans are pretty snazzy, too.  Here's the Radiohead-inspired Paranoid Aledroid pale wheat ale:

*     *     *     *     *

In the next 2 or 3 lines, we’ll ride the western half of the Virginia Capital Trail and visit a couple of other Virginia breweries.

In the meantime, enjoy this SCTV video featuring Rick Moranis channeling Michael McDonald, backup singer sans pareil:

Here’s “Ride Like the Wind,” which was a #2 hit for Christopher Cross in 1980:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Paul Simon – "Kodachrome" (1973)

I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So, momma, don't take my Kodachrome away

I can’t remember the last time I took a photograph with a film camera – or any kind of camera, for that matter.  Like the rest of the world, I use my smartphone to take photos.

When I retired recently, I had to give up my Blackberry Priv (which belonged to my law firm) and buy a phone of my own.  

No, I didn’t get an iPhone.  (Do I look like a lemming to you?)  I chose a Samsung Galaxy S8 instead.

I’m not sure what the point is of being able to take photos like these, but I did it anyway:

Lake Needwood

A house in Hancock, MD

On the Western Maryland Rail Trail

*     *     *     *     *

Kodak stopped selling Kodachrome color film in 2009.

In 2010, the final roll of Kodachrome manufactured was given to Steve McCurry, who is best known for his photo titled “Afghan Girl,” which appeared on the cover of the June 1985 National Geographic:

That roll was processed by Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, which was the last photo lab in the world that processed Kodachrome.

*     *     *     *     *

“Kodachrome” was released on Paul Simon’s first solo album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, in 1973.  

The recording of the song on that album says “Everything looks worse in black and white,” while subsequent live recordings of the songs say “Everything looks better in black and white.”  Simon has said that he doesn’t remember whether he originally that line with “worse” or “better” in it.

Here’s “Kodachrome”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: