Primary Colors


“I’m the President of the United States, not just the people who agree with me”

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A fictional president said it, but you sort of wish all the folks running now would remember it as well. I worry about writing about the election at all since no one has ever changed the mind of anyone in a facebook post, yet there are plenty of folks in the “share if you agree” part of the electorate.

There are an awful lot of manufactured controversies that get big shift and real problems that aren’t getting addressed at all. There are some things don’t make a damn bit of sense to this semi-interested observer.

People really dig Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” but nobody has asked what that means. I mean no freedoms have been lost in 8 years, gas is $2.00  a gallon, unemployment and the deficit are headed in the proper direction. Show me what you mean there, o, curiously toupeed one.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton doesn’t know where Bernie Sanders was when she was championing health care as the first lady, but a picture revealed he was right behind her, literally.

Bernie, by the same token, I sort of admired at first, because he told you what he was standing for, actually taking a view. That is a rare thing, but redoing healthcare once more? I think the Senate might have millions of our dollars to waste taking that one down. Take what we have and make it better, refine what is there into something greater, so much so, the other side will want to take credit for it. It’s a million dollar idea, and it is yours for free.

Violence at a rally? seems like guy on the name plate should LEAD and shut that stuff down.

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The same show I quoted at the top of this piece also once said “People aren’t smart during elections.” Another character countered with people are talked to like they aren’t smart during elections. While I want to agree with the second sentiment, the first seems to be playing out in greater detail. That is the depressing part.

Ted Cruz apparently wants to be the president of the white evangelicals and lock everybody else out. Trump will pay legal fees for anybody who punches a protestor in the face. His supporters have been caught on camera threatening to punch people. And don’t get me started on the Chris Matthews interview. And psst, Cruz is a bigger threat.

I get that none of them like each other. That’s fine, but they don’t seem think much of us either. Because despite all the speeches, and pointless debates, absolutely nothing has been said yet that will hold any weight on the actual Election Day. It’s like political American Idol, but we need Simon Cowell to call them all out.

You want the job, why should you have it?

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But barely.

Vote, folks.

 

A Good Night for a Ride


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When Bruce Springsteen’s current tour was announced earlier in the winter, I had a little anxiety. Our live relationship goes back to 1978 and I was a little concerned. At the time, I was between fulltime gigs and spending precious dollars on a show seemtwo hoed too much of a stretch. I’ve been ushering at the downtown arena for sometime and hoped to get the call. An vet of a number of Boss groups and collectives, I knew there might be a ticket drop of some kind, but the worry was alleviated when I got my usher assignment lists a few  weeks ago and it consisted of two hockey games and Bruce Springsteen

This seemed like nice karmic payback for sitting through cartoon characters on ice and faux-metal Christmas rock. I was a hired gun for my favorite. Like most folks with this affliction, I’ve been following the tour online and listening to a few shows. When it is your favorite, you pay more attention to everything when you report to work. When I checked in, the band was onstage soundchecking songs that hadn’t been played yet on the tour. All I could think was “wait until the gang on RMAS rebooted on facebook hears this,” momentarily forgetting that many of said group were going to be in the building.

I was curious where I would be watching the show, er, helping patrons from and the gods were smiling upon my pathetic fanboy self, with a good assignment, close enough and the corridor for the folks who were going to be standing closest to the stage got to enter. Seeing their joy and trading high fives, etc. was a lift, as was seeing my oldest pal – who 36 years earlier was my partner in crime in securing our tickets to the Buffalo date on the original River Tour. I got caught up with some other familiar faces and folks from my parents neighborhood, even bonding with a fellow usher type joking about our mutual plans to see the street businessmen about discounted concert shirts.

About an hour before the show began, a couple appeared in my corridor to survey their seats. He took a look then disappeared to get the obligatory $9.00 beer. She surveryed a little bit more and looked a little weepy. Me, being part bartender and usher, inquired if everything was okay. She asked if I was a fan. I said, of course, couldn’t wait for this assignment, and told what made it extra special on top of the band playing in great form, that of last year’s uncertain employment status, that it nearly amounted to me missing see Bruce and the E Streeters once more. She told me that it was her first show after the passing of her son, who had journeyed to a few shows with her and her husband.

She heard my story and that made her smile and she said “see, our faith got rewarded.” I replied yes, indeed, it was going to be a good night for a ride.

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I wanted to get the above poster to commemorate the experience. Like all concert merchandise, they were overpriced and scarce, and by the time I was finished for the night, they were gone to ebay.

34 songs and three hours + later and countless people who meandered during the ballads found on the River (some of the best pure musical moments of the show), it was indeed a good night for a ride.

While it is impossible to explain why your favorites are your favorites, they just do it for you. There is that extra bonus that those special moments not only happened, but they continue to still occur. Almost made me want to scramble for a Rochester ticket.

So, before I left the arena Thursday night, I did indeed order the download of the show.

Faith continues to be rewarded.

 

 

 

Ice Road Trucker


So, I got a new gig. It’s a great job surrounded with folks who are concerned with doing great work. This was one of my goals, to be in a good spot. So, it is a really good place to ply my trade. The uniqueness behind it is the location, roughly 45 minutes from my apartment. That’s a pretty normal number, but I think we are a little spoiled with proximity in this area.

I had a similar route time north in my last position, but this is a better. It does take a little getting used to as roughly half of the jaunt is on a highway, the second half is up and down via country roads & valleys that wind up and down through some impressive hills at some high rates of speed and varying weather conditions.

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My first day on the job, it started to snow while I was moving up and down through the mountains and learning the nature of the roads. The downward descent reminded me about the old Elmer Fudd cartoons where Elmer’s car threatens to pass him in adverse conditions. I made it to the office on time after making the ups and downs of the six valleys you pass through. The snow I mentioned turned into the lake effect variety and a vendor appeared at our office to note that the road I took into work was closed.

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“Oh, really?” How am I going to get home I wondered? To google I went, and found an alternative route to get back to Buffalo. It was another jaunt through unfamiliar roads, that wove their way north to Attica, and eventually up to a road that takes one straight to Buffalo. I navigated through the side road through gradually heavier snow, following the lights and ruts in the snow of a car that had the decency to be taking the same route, north and to the west. I found the street that one can basically take into the city, but that was right at the moment was when you were driving straight into the blowing lake effect snow storm.

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I took the same route the next night home only to be greeted by blizzard and white conditions that made me consider my mortality. Made it home safely after about 90 minutes of white knuckle, borderline translucent driving, having navigated myself home and completing an intense upper arm workout at the same time. I took my alternative route during a storm last week and found myself behind tandem snow plows. That’s pretty sweet until the plows turn around you are left to keep going as if they were saying “We got you this far, now finish it, Stupid.”

The same thing happened coming home on 20A where a salt truck decided he was slowing us down. I didn’t mind, it was okay.  I like to think they were confident that we have this, but it was more likely that both were of the “Let’s get rid of these goofs” variety.

I drove the reverse in the next morning and was impressed at the view and some of the inclines that I didn’t manage to wind into a ditch, gulley, set of a horror movie, etc, thinking I’m pretty good behind the wheel. In the intervening weeks, one has to watch about getting too cocky, finding a happy speed, programming what trucks you want or don’t want to get behind. But it’s pretty. An former coworker apologized about the drive. We’re spoiled in Western New York by the twenty minute rule. Many in other cities routinely invest an hour or more getting to work. We got it easy, ignore the 20 minutes and behold what you might see in 35-40. I work in “Northern Exposure” but the route to and fro has some impressive sights

The work is great, but the commute view has me thinking go pro video would be something to see

Racing in the Street


So, I bought a new set of wheels. I think it might have actually the right set this time. But the process one goes through in acquiring your car still astounds and is truly ridiculous. It is no wonder people hate the process as there is nothing good about it. It’s not a savory untaking and upon getting home after figure out what this button or that button does, along with where the hell is the aux port anyway, my first instinct was for a shower. The need for a snack and a nap won out.

I believe I got a good car. The deal was probably okay, but wasn’t “just a great deal” and more than a little patronizing.

People love cars. I know I do, but we are all conditioned to reduce the feeling of being screwed when acquiring one. The bells and whistles that get unnecessarily added have nothing to do with the customer experience. I didn’t give a crap about how big the dealership is. That means nothing….to any sane human being. It doesn’t make my deal better, it just pisses away my time.  Given that much time is wasted lugging between buildings, it wastes staff time. They seem to be okay with that, but me, not so much. It did prevent them from knowing what goes on in their own shop. Apparently many insurance companies demand a photo inspection for your purchase. “No problem” they say, just drive over to the body shop. You drive over to the body shop to find that those pictures get done between 10 am and 2pm? No, not really, helpful.

I didn’t ask for any accessories, but had to listen to the accessory lady give her spiel. Only to have the billing guy deny me the stuff I didn’t want in the first place.

By this point I needed to get something from my current car and had to ask to get my key back. I mean they were done looking for the low ball trade and I did need it to go home that night, it shouldn’t be a gimmick “we got his key, we got him…” The car I want is going to take another day to get prepped, put some value on my time and dignity and let me go home.

All this after waiting 15 minutes on a stormy night for an salesperson to emerge from the back office to give a crap for an appointment I had scheduled for a repair question. When we went for a ride in what I purchased, it took him another 15 minutes to find a license plate.  You’d think on a stormy night, they’d be a little more interested in business. Same thing happened to another woman, waiting for the sales staff to emerge from their backroom flapping.

I got a good car, but their sending me a coffee mug full of jolly ranchers isn’t the way to keep business. It can be simpler and should be.

 

Dear Boss, (book 3)


While I wait for Amazon to deliver me the one treat I’m allowing myself this tough year (“The Ties that Bind”), I was happily greeted with the news that the celebratory tour is coming my way toward the end of February, the 25th to be exact.

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Thank you for that.

The original release of the River and that tour fully brought me into the fold. I was 16 at the time and my musical notions were maturing somewhat. It’s a great record and I loved the whole thing, without the aid of the internet, newsgroups, trolls bitching about band players, leaked videos or anything. You got an E Street show over double vinyl.

I actually still have the recording I made when 97 Rock in Buffalo played the whole thing over the air, only to get myself to National Record Mart to pick up the copy that I would tape, eventually wear out, tape again as best buds would do (my buddy had a boom box but no turntable).

When the original Buffalo date was announced, you and the gang were set to play the old Buffalo Aud. My pal and I sorted what monies we had. Between the two of us, we had the princely sum of $24.50. That was enough to cover the cost of two tickets in the building. We’d figure out how to get there later (I had it bad). Inconveniently, on the day and time the tickets were going on sale, our history teacher scheduled a test.  He was sympathetic to our plight, but not so much that he rescheduled. My mom came to our rescue and took our modest fortune and cued up for two Bruce tickets while we were being good students.  Two front row lower bowl seats….yep, coolest mom ever.

We got that needed ride to my first arena sized E Street Experience and it was one of “those” shows, one of those forever burnt in your memory without the aid of youtube, you are in the moment without overpriced concessions, every detail bullying its way into your cerebral cortex shows.

35 years later and I can still picture the house lights on, the sax solo to “Jungleland” making my sternum hum and you on top of Danny’s organ set up punching the sky. The cadillac walk in “Cadillac Ranch” was fresh and new and “Out in the Street” was definitely the place to be.

So, it’s definitely worthy of some celebrating to be sure. Ironic that that set and tour announcements come 35 years to the day of the big occasion. That really isn’t much of a true milestone, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking forward to the original album songs, the outtakes, whatever the hell else you feel might fit. I am a little confused about the naysayers. Since the announcement of the shows, people have whined about the tour name (?), the dates all being put on sale at the same time, it’s a short run, people will show up when the time comes. I’ll drink the kool-aid again and enjoy the show. In the meantime, the blue rays will tide me over.

It all comes around when I can use the boost to be sure. You’ve had that unintended timing all along.

Looking forward to taking another ride.

Vicious Circles


For me, the tv show “The Newsroom” was a bit of a mess, but it had its moments. Perhaps the one most shared around the internets was the speech Jeff Daniels give at the beginning of the first episode. It’s a great monologue, but one line jumped to the fore for me. “Because we were informed.” We seem to be a little more than content for political memes to be our policy statements whether they are accurate or not. The events in Paris have demonstrated that. Everybody is posting from the gut, regardless if the gut has shit for brains.

The hysteria gripping most folks facebook news feeds is borderline overwhelming. Everybody is in either “share if you agree” mode or trying to get folks to research a little more before bloviating. I came across some good words to bear in mind:

“I think it really comes down to terminology. Refugees we see fleeing Syria and standing against chain link fences on European borders are NOT automatically eligible for refugee status as defined by American immigration standards. They are refugees in the broadest global sense. That is not all that is required to receive refugee status for entrance to the United States.

Out of the 700,000+ refugees given that status and taken in to the US since 9/11, not one single refugee has been arrested because of or linked to domestic terrorism. Some would say the Boston bombers were refugees because they left their war-torn country to come here. They were asked why they were visiting our country and stated “tourism”. They came here on tourist visas and did not get anywhere near the vetting process that people claiming refugee status get. It was only after those visas expired that they applied for asylum (an even less involved process than refugee status).

The 10,000 (not 100,000) Syrian refugees will be investigated by their port country before being investigated thoroughly by Interpol, DHS, the FBI, and 4 other govt agencies and cross checked with multiple international terrorist databases. The process is the most lengthy, involved, and secure way to get into the US legally and puts applicants under more scrutiny than any other group of foreigners coming to our shores. They will be more thoroughly investigated than any other prospective citizen.

There is a budget for refugees and there always has been. This is not an instance where we just decided to incur extra expenses. No food is being taken out of your mouths. No veteran is being denied shelter because of these refugees. It’s not an either/or scenario. We CAN and SHOULD help both our veterans AND other members of the human race that want the American Dream. Especially the ones fleeing a country which is currently being bombed by three different nation’s air forces, terrorized by Islamic extremists, AND is suffering one of the most brutal civil wars in this century while being ruled by a sadistic dictator.

Stop allowing fear to permeate every aspect of what it means to be a citizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

This was posted by a good dude name Josh Fielder and it does the neat trick of making sense, eloquently shutting down the refugees not vets posters.

If all the governors who are attempting to shut down their borders would stop and realize that they are not the governors of the people who agree with them. With attention spans at what seems like an all time low, fear mongering seems to be all the rage these days with righteous indignation not too far behind. The GOP Presidential campaigns are spouting all things worthy of school yard fights with the President and how certain religions aren’t welcome in the land of the free since “He will close down” mosques, which is wrong on any number of levels including constitution-wise. I mean if we are a christian nation and “give us your tired, your poor, yearning to breathe free” actually means something, we should walk the walk.

I’m all for civil discourse and opposing points of view because done right, that’s how you learn things and maybe become better informed with a greater grasp of what is truly unfolding, while the bad guys get bombed and not in a fun way.

I’m not sure when exactly we got so scared over what we don’t know. 9/11 isn’t the answer because refugee issues going back to World War II weren’t popular notions, despite all the US pomp and circumstance. I guess everybody is entitled to opinions to be sure, but for all those who worried about people getting their information from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, more folks than ever are picking up their data from memes.

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Even when there are some truth to them.

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It’s a complex issue and I’m just thinking outloud, but it goes beyond a “share if you agree.” Congress just passed a more stringent code for screening, which if nothing is remarkable in that they actually did sometime, so that should be “celebrated.”

In the meantime, things remain vicious and a circle.

 

 

The Things We Choose to Care about


Wow, the world would be better if, if we weren’t so full of crap.

Is the decor of your $5 coffee cup really a problem and not for nothing, who is telling you you can’t say Merry Christmas? “Happy Holidays” isn’t anything new and I think most folks say it because there is more than one holiday going on and perhaps there isn’t a need to spend foreever checking off a never ending list of platitudes when your biggest goal is to escape the conversation. It seems to me that we are for freedom of religion until somebody actually exercises that. War on Christmas – an invented sentiment by those who aren’t paying attention to the problem of the real casualty – Thanksgiving. Donald Trump says that if he gets elected we can say Merry Christmas once more. I am sort of at a loss as to what might prevent me from saying it now…..oh, right, nothing.

I wonder at what point retailers will realize that they aren’t making any more money, it’s just coming in at different times, that midnight madness allure of shopping on Thanksgiving isn’t doing much for bottom lines and that folks see that the deals aren’t the greatest.

The things we choose to care about….

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With events unfolding in Paris, the world turns into the “forums” of every news paper page. U2 had a concert set for Saturday night to be broadcast on HBO. This was understandably cancelled as security personnel have more pressing concerns, but that didn’t stop people from posting on Facebook and Twitter griping about Bono should go on and not “ask us to give while he sits on billions.” I can understand Bono rubbing you the wrong way and all, but that is complaining for the sake of complaining. Whether you like the band or not, they are prominent enough that their picture will get taken when they lay flowers at one of the memorials, but I suppose if they hadn’t gone to do that, that would inspire digital grousing as well.

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The other thing I saw was a number of folks appointing themselves to be “social media” coaches, telling scrollers that they aren’t achieving anything by changing their profile picture with the french colors. I disagree. There is a bit of “everybody’s doing it” that goes into movements like that and I don’t believe that is necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else, it does get folks more involved. Perhaps it is in a purely passive way, but that is something. And anything that gets folks to lift a finger to being more informed even by a little is a good thing.

Anybody notice Beirut was attacked too?

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Nope, we were too concerned that Friday, the President said ISIS is contained and by Saturday morning, that wasn’t the case. Okay, he missed that putt, but what does it matter? The sound bite or lack of wouldn’t change a thing, just like nothing the candidates had to say since would raised the level of debate.

The digital age has presented us with many tools. We just shouldn’t be among them

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Slumbers


It is thrilling that Western New York has been racking up major event level concerts at an increasing rate in recent months. I don’t know if it is the stability of the ownership at our major arena, but it is a good thing, as you can never have too much music. Paul McCartney and his great band are coming to Buffalo for the first time and I believe those who are going are in for a thrill.

I mean, pick your metaphor, Shakespeare the way the author intended, etc. When musical history walks among you or at least drives itself nearby, it would behoove you to do what you can to see the show. I took that in 2010 the last time Sir Paul was near this parts and it was worth the effort of schlepping up to Toronto to see him, at the surprisingly reasonably priced Air Canada Center, excuse me, Centre.

When some body of work has been part of your personal soundtrack for so long, and the guy who created it still has the goods to deliver, it is a pretty amazing experience, enough so that “Let ’em In” was a thrill to hear, and I didn’t think that was possible. He has a great band working with him, so I’m sure attendees are in for a treat as he has made music with this group longer than any other, including those chaps in the 60s.

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You are going to get that picture, proof you were there, something to remember by, something to brag from. I get it and obviously, I am guilty of that too, but stow the phone and savor the moment. The Eagles took some flack for on their recent tour having a no-phone policy, to the point of Glenn Frey even teasing a song introduction with “there is a story about this song, and I’ll tell it as soon as this guy down front finishing texting.” While jerky, he did have a point. It was a good reminder to savor the moment. The memory of hearing songs you’ve heard all your life come to life by the guy who created them will be more long lasting than any crappy video you want to share on youtube.  The above is the one picture worth taking from McCartney’s first night in Toronto in August 2010.

The band was in fine form and for a gentleman with some miles on him, Sir Paul was in fine voice. There were Beatles numbers, Wings tunes, and various McCartney solo hits that gave the audience a nice cross section from an impressive career, something even non-fans have to admit.

My son has a respect for a lot of old school British rock and it meant the world for me to bring him to his first major rock show and have it be a Beatle, I mean, a friggen Beatle. It’s pretty hard to top that. But here’s probably the best souvenir I will ever take away from a show and I’ve been to a bunch.

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He’s a lot taller and I’m a little grayer, but he still talks of the experience and unlike a lot of shows, I still remember it like it happened yesterday. I don’t have any other images, no bootlegs or crappy video. I got a pin and my boy got his first concert shirt. Part of that was the event, part of that was the idea of the event. Much was made when the show was announced for here how fast the tickets disappeared. Concert tickets for as long as I can remember have had a tough battle finding their way to fans. The screams for legislation on ticket distribution were pretty laughable to me. When you got that body of work and amazingly have never been here, there will be some demand.

I watched as a woman nearby stopped to film a few precious moments of the Eagles recent stop in her phone, complete with flash on fullbore. Why risk getting tossed out when the moment is there to enjoy.

McCartney’s appearance at the First Niagara Center is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime appearance.

Enjoy the show. Be in that moment.

 

 

Rolling on the river


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There are power boats.

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And power boats…

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And boats for the powerful. “Yes, we can go rapidly, but we are against it, something might spill, thank you.”

Summer is beating a hasty retreat, but a last walk of summer canalside is still a treat.

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Got to get outside, soup weather is coming, but in the meantime, got to make a friend with a boat owner.

Biker Gang


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“Sometimes it is good to a part of something bigger than you, it’s good for the soul.” That popped into my brain as i dove into the growing Slow Roll movement for a cruise through Buffalo‘s Elmwood Village and West Side. The Slow Roll has been a weekly growing event all summer long, but it was my first chance to partake. When you just like a nice cruise, but lycra purchases are bad notions this is ideal.

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This proved to be the biggest turn out for the slow roll yet, with nearly 1400 riders wheeling through the streets.

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If you are a serious rider, you should probably stay home. I think the top speed according to my map my ride app was about 8 miles per hour. You are getting some exercise, but the Tour De France doesn’t need to hold a space. It is an awesome spirit jaunt. You connect with some folks whose sole agenda is to take a good night for ride and go for one. It’s a trip to see the amount of people on steps and porches watching the spectacle (and it is that) go rolling past.

imageI’m not going to lie. I enjoyed having a police escort. Between the generosity of the Buffalo Police and the thorough organizing done by the Slow Roll volunteers (the “Squad”), it’s tough not to ride with increasingly silly grin as you wind through the streets and the only real thing to watch out is other riders. Everybody does a good job of giving each other space to minimalize chances of spills. A few have happened, but the general cluster of folks I was a part of did a good job of looking out for one another and unlike so many other public forums these days, realized that there were other folks in those spaces.

imageSo, it was all good for me. In the intervening couple of days, there was the seemingly inevitable bitching on facebook about the size of the group versus some smaller streets. One writer mused “I couldn’t get out of my street if I needed to.” It read to me like she was panicking over a problem that didn’t exist. There was an urgency earlier in the ride and Slow Roll Organizers moved swiftly to accomodate whatever the issue that might have been. I was a little further in the back so I didn’t see the details.

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I will be off to the next run on Monday evening. I think this time, I’ll drive to the take off spot and get the bike out of the car. As the trouble with biking to a biking event, you still have to ride home.image