crossing.original copy
Beggars Would Ride

Crossing The River

Words Mike Ferrentino
Date Jun 16, 2022
Reading time

The Old Man and I had ben dickering about the bikes for months. I’d been introduced to him by the local KTM mechanic, who, perhaps tellingly, had said; “you two probably have a lot in common.” That introduction eventually led to me standing in a 40-acre patch of forest high in the Santa Cruz mountains, amidst a staggering number of old cars and motorcycles and tools and heavy equipment all quietly being buried beneath a thick carpet of redwood mulch. The Old Man was interested in rekindling his love of mountain biking, but a broken ankle from an incident on one of his dozen or so trials motorcycles a decade earlier had made it painful to turn the cranks with conviction and so he was looking to electrify.

My admittance into this wonderland of mechanical decomposition was a first generation electric mountain bike that I felt was dragging my soul straight to hell. I was realizing, for the third time, that ebikes and I just don’t get along (feel free to quote me on that for the sake of hypocrisy in the future), and was doing my best to deny that perhaps, just maybe, I might have an ever so slight motorcycle collecting problem.

This place was amazing. Somewhere close to 100 cars and trucks, ranging from pre WW2 era Packards to comparatively recent Mazda rotary-engined machines, all complete, intact, and in some slowly corroding variation of the old “ran when parked” theme. Maybe two thirds that many motorcycles, where the pickings ranged from some British classics dating back to when The Empire was still a thing, through some arcane East German wonders, into a whole slew of mid-‘60s to late-‘80s European and Japanese dirt bikes and small-bore two stroke street bikes. Bulldozers. Graders. Tractors. Plate compactors. Welding equipment. Lathes. Drill presses. Containers stuffed to their ceilings with tools of every possible description and function. This was the forest repository of one man’s entire life, a 70-or so year arc of obsessive mechanical curiosity and accumulation. There was a Corvair Greenbrier Loadside pickup with no wheels, propped on redwood stumps, body perfectly straight, every piece of trim accounted for. It probably had not run since it was parked there “back in the ‘80s sometime.” I could swear it was whispering my name…

ornamental

The Old Man values his privacy, so there will be no images of his patina paradise beyond this...

Many tires were kicked. At some point we managed to haggle a trade, I crammed the van full of rusty old beasts, none in running condition (a 1968 MZ250, a Fantic trials bike from around 1980, an old Bultaco Frontera so rotten that it was barely recognizable, and yet another sorely neglected XT500 Yamaha to add to my growing collection of the same), and the Kenevo found a home amidst the metal chaos in the forest. I must have muttered something out loud about becoming a hoarder. The Old Man ran his fingers through his long grey pony tail while serenely contemplating his sprawling domain.

“Mike,” he said, “let me tell you something. The difference between a hoarder and a collector, see, is that a hoarder is just a collector who’s run out of room.”

Gesturing expansively out across the forest, where tarnished chrome body striping and headlight surrounds glinted from beneath their coatings of grime in the late afternoon sun, he beamed; “You and me, we’re lucky. We’ve got plenty of room. We’re collectors!”

That was several years ago, and I am now facing yet another of the many moves that have bracketed phases of my life. The scabrous motorcycles that I accumulated in that trade are in exactly the same shape they were in when I collected them, choking up the dirty side of my barn along with several others, all plans for restoration somehow evaporated in the absence of the massive time commitment required by each dead motorized carcass. In the same space, an absolutely massive pile of bicycle parts is daring me to take inventory of my life, my past, and my habits. A few decades earlier, moving was easy. Now, not so much.

“A few decades earlier,” I was living in San Francisco at a time when renting a room in an apartment full of bike messengers and musicians would run somewhere around $300 a month. Due to the space constraints and constant moves that were part and parcel of this particular time in life, there was not a lot of accumulation going on. I had a mountain bike, a road bike, and a cruiser, and at least one of those bikes would be stashed at the bike shop where I worked. I owned a futon, a couple boxes of paperbacks, an incredibly shitty stereo setup, and a couple 2x12 planks and some cinder blocks that served as a bookshelf. I do not think I owned any cooking or eating utensils.

My friend, Stephen D Gillett The Third, had a saying that he was fond of trotting out whenever one of us had to uproot and find another $300 room in another part of town. “Never own more than you can carry across a river on your back,” he’d proclaim with the confidence that only someone in their early 20s can muster. He claimed that this phrase originated from the Sioux, or maybe Cree, or possibly Blackfoot natives. I never questioned it, and we quietly amended this alleged wisdom to reflect our circumstances at the time, which included my ownership of a beat 1980 Chevy van. “Never own more than you can move from the Lower Haight to the Outer Richmond in a single vanload.”

IMG_9839.original copy

Ahhhh, 1990. A time when all your worldly possessions would fit in a single load of a van that sometimes got stuck in 2nd gear until you climbed underneath and hit the shift linkage with a hammer. A time when you took your hair so much for granted that you'd cut it into a mohawk. A time when the only fancy shoes you owned were Sidis... I don't miss the van, but sometimes I miss the hair.

To facilitate this life directive, I would employ a technique pioneered by a fellow housemate from this same period. This technique was known as The Imaginary Housefire. Pretty self-explanatory, and surprisingly liberating, The Imaginary Housefire involved making sure that you were wearing clothes that mattered, that the van was packed to the gills, and that whatever was left and did not fit in the van, regardless of sentimental value or perceived usefulness, was consumed in a sudden and unfortunate METAPHORICAL blaze. Drive away, do not look back. Wistfully recall that really awesome $20 pure wool army surplus trenchcoat a decade later and wonder where it went, then recall Imaginary Housefire Number Three, or maybe Imaginary Housefire Number Seven, and feel a brief flicker of regret.

burn

"No no no NO! I said IMAGINARY housefire! It's a metaphor, damnit!"

Nowadays, I have a tire pile that in and of itself might take up an entire van load. Somehow, those tires have been accumulating since I moved from San Francisco to Santa Cruz in 1992, for reasons that I cannot explain. There are old Tufo and Dugast tubulars from my cyclocross days, even though I haven’t pinned on a number to participate in that particular masochism since about 2006, and haven’t owned a set of sew-up friendly wheels since about 2002. There are SO MANY 26” tires. Panaracers, from Smoke to Fire XC. Continentals, from Grand Canyon to Mountain King. IRC, remember when they were legit? Kendas, my God, so many damn Kendas. Tires I loved, and purposefully saved “just in case,” even though they were half worn out. Tires I hated, peeled off the bike after one ride, threw into the pile and forgot about. Nokian Gazzaloddis, for cryin’ out loud.

Why?

I can’t answer that. I don’t know. Some of them, maybe, I thought I might use again. But the thing with tires is that they age. No matter how amazing a tire may be when new, unless you’ve got some sort of climate controlled sealed chamber to store the thing, after a few years the rubber hardens, the casing begins to deteriorate, and the only good thing left about that tire is the memory that “back in the day, this tire was awesome.”

But there it is, this hulking mound of useless butyl and nylon, daring me to pretend set it ablaze and walk away, challenging me to stop collecting so much useless shit, burdening my thoughts with yet another item on the endless checklist of things to do when prepping to radically downsize. Maybe it’s time to talk to the Old Man again, see if he wants to repossess his old junk, for free. All he has to do is come get them, along with this pile of tires and unfinished daydreams.

IMG_5195

Anyone want to buy a used unicycle, cheap?

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Comments

cheapondirt
cheapondirt
1 week, 4 days ago
+11 Andrew Major Grif Spencer Nelson Mike Ferrentino hankthespacecowboy MTB_THETOWN PowellRiviera Timer shenzhe Pete Roggeman justfrogurt

Can't carry anything across the river Styx.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
1 week, 3 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino shenzhe cheapondirt

Couple of pennies for Charon.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 5 days ago
+7 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Dogl0rd OneShavedLeg MTB_THETOWN trumpstinyhands IslandLife

Anyone want some front derailleurs?

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
+11 Dave Smith hardtailhersh Rick M Spencer Nelson Andy Eunson meepmoop24 JVP MTB_THETOWN IslandLife pedalhound justfrogurt

No.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
+6 Velocipedestrian Cr4w Mike Ferrentino Merwinn Pete Roggeman mtnfriend

Less is more!!!

Thanks Mike for the reminder I need to declutter my garage.  That old 36 hole Hope rear hub with the broken spoke holes really needs to go.  Ditto the worn out drivetrains I've been saving for winter.  One thing I have been good with is tyres - I have a winter set and enough for the wheels I am using.

As I get older I want to have less stuff.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 5 days ago
+9 Mike Ferrentino Niels van Kampenhout Pete Roggeman Derek Baker Spencer Nelson OneShavedLeg IslandLife pedalhound mtnfriend

agreed with the older / less stuff sentiment. while not quite marie kondo mode, i try to resist sentimental attachment to material goods, and the drive to accumulate ever more unnecessary trinkets. excess shit give me stress, and i enjoy the purging process. that said, i have ejected a couple items i kinda regret in retrospect, but apart from a couple wallhangers that remain near & dear to my heart, i try to keep a relatively lean inventory.

also - god damn, i miss good storytelling. nice work, mike.

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fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Perry I hope one of those wall hangers is the Lahar.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

indeed! up until a couple years ago, i've been keeping it running for an annual whistler retro session, but it's now in need of an injection of capital (fork is roached; surprising what people are asking for old 26'er dc's still), so's been relegated to a hanger for the time being. will again see trail one day...

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 4 days ago
0

The Lahar is definitely a keeper.  A very iconic mtb. 

I'm going to have the same fork problem when/if I resurrect my Keewee Cromo 8.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
1 week, 5 days ago
+6 Andrew Major Mike Ferrentino HughJass Merwinn shenzhe Pete Roggeman

Having children has accelerated the accumulation, and so my desire to shed the superfluous content of the shed.

It's the plan... But those children also take up much of the time and brainspace required to sift the treasure from the trash.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Don't I know it.  I have lots to take-offs from kids bikes as well.

You can always use the 6 month rule - If you haven't used it in 6 months it goes.

After all clean garage*, clean mind.  * or shed as appropriate.

Reply

cxfahrer
cxfahrer
1 week, 5 days ago
+4 Mike Ferrentino Dogl0rd Pete Roggeman Timer

If I remember correctly, the phrase “Never own more than you can carry across a river on your back,” is from one of the Carlos Castaneda books. There were some other good phrases too.

I sell everything that I have no use for or give it away.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 PowellRiviera Timer

Huh. Maybe it's time to reread those Don Juan and the Yaqui way of knowledge books...

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
1 week, 5 days ago
+4 Perry Schebel Pete Roggeman Deniz Merdano Timer

Paging Perry Schebel and his raftered collection of murdered boutique brands and assorted patina'd bits to the conversation

Mike - re: the hair.

In the 90's, I once shaved a big old horse shoe in my hair for an aging/balding head banger costume - Life can be ironic and somewhat cruelly prophetic.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Dave Smith Andrew Major

the rafter frame collection is a side effect of riding bikes into the ground, rather than flipping every few years. either broken &/or worth nothing & we've developed a bond forged over years of experiences that overcomes the urge to recycle. the bits that i do hold onto have earned their place. 

interestingly (or not), a few years ago i was into retro bikes for a bit, scouring CL for the trick late 80's, early 90's hardware i used to drool over in my primordial days of mtb. i picked up a pretty cool klein (fluorescent fade paint, cook bros cranks, bunch of syncros stuff), but ended up unloading it a couple years later; with no personal history / sentimental connection, holding onto it wasn't compelling (and it wasn't getting ridden enough to justify as a practical possession). a collector i am not, i guess.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino Dogl0rd Kos

Damn it Mike! I just started hoar.. collecting all over again after my jet setting between continents.

2 years in the new house and I already need another storage solution for the pile of tires and bike chemicals.. 

That's the one i have the most problem with. Being unable to recycle lubes and sealant that I will never use and can't give it to friends cause you know... They are no good.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino Dogl0rd Pete Roggeman

Literally today my brother (who is driving up for a memorial) is bringing me my old 2003(4?) rocky mountain slayer that I bought new in highschool. Fork is unusable, unfixable. I already have way too many nostagia bikes... I have space and zero shame!

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
1 week, 5 days ago
+5 mnihiser Pete Roggeman Rick M Andrew Major OneShavedLeg

Also, I like re-purposing old parts. I screwed some old seatposts (rigid ones and a gen 1 reverb) onto a 2x4 turning them into hooks for hanging garden hoses and extension cords on. I'm thinking about redoing it with posts spaced out with derelict hubs screwed to the 2x4 as hooks between the posts. I want to screw some old wheels to the exterior wall of my garage for a vine plant to climb on. I put a viney, hanging house plant into an old crashed full face, with the plants hanging out the face hole and down the back, thereby representing my brain cells draining out the last time I wore that helmet. It's hung from the chin strap in my living room. Three dh frames hanging as deco, a few forks. I like it all.

Reply

zigak
ZigaK
1 week, 4 days ago
+3 Mark kcy4130 shenzhe

Schrödinger's Law of spare hardware (gbyrne's interpretation) :

Invariably, I’ll hold onto these things for years, decades even, across moves to multiple addresses, and yet always find myself absolutely requiring one within a month of discarding it.

comment from: https://cyclingindependent.com/robots-useless-reviews-spare-hardware/

Reply

mrbrett
mrbrett
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Merwinn

I ditched a good chunk of my tire collection about a year ago, while moving again. Felt sad to do but I haven’t missed a single thing yet. 

Live in the now, Wayne!

Reply

craw
Cr4w
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Timer

Where is Stephen D Gillett The Third now and is he still living with just what he can ford a river with?

Stories like this remind me that maybe I don't collect enough. Almost every bike or part I've had I sold to buy another so I guess that's just a different way to pursue the same thing. But there are some that now I dearly wish I'd kept as a memento.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Somewhere in Massachusetts, last time we were in touch a few years ago. Wife, kid, dogs, probably more than a river crossing-worth...

Reply

Timer
Timer
1 week, 2 days ago
0

I think yours is the smarter approach. Its more respectful to the material and work that went into those parts. Selling them on so that someone else can benefit from them while they are still useful. Hoarding or throwing them away seems so very wasteful.

Reply

cyclotoine
cyclotoine
1 week, 5 days ago
+2 slimchances57 justfrogurt

While I have owned multiple dirtbikes in my past. I have made a loose commitment to myself to not own any motorized off-road vehicles. An e-bike will likely change that... Right now I just have too many flipper bikes. I can't resist a good deal on a functional piece of transportation that needs a little love to become a solid commuter for someone. This means I have 5-10 too many bikes at any ones time. Like others, having kids is making this practice less tenable and I might have to cull the heard to essential bikes only. I also have about 5 "collector" bikes and as each year passes I come closer to deciding to sell them. Unfortunately, I think the COVID collector boom is waning but Cook's cranks are worth north of $500 these days, it's crazy.

Reply

kos
Kos
1 week, 4 days ago
+2 Spencer Nelson Mike Ferrentino

Awesome sauce, Mike!

Just went through the purge two years ago -- including giving away the unicycle -- and the tire pile is back already....

Bummer about the old man's privacy. I get it, but I'd have loved to see a pic of the Corvair.

Reply

Rowdy
Rowdy
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Tire collecting is real and second only to hoarding boxes and packing supplies.

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Dogl0rd

This comment has been removed.

justfrogurt
justfrogurt
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

I feel like I've seen both that old van of yours before and ridden past that old guys spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 justfrogurt

That van found a new person somewhere around 1991, so it'd be someone else probably driving it... As for the Old Man's stash, it got pretty badly burned up in the CZU fires, I heard. Also, if you happened to be riding past his spot, you'd have been down a very long and steep and winding dead end road off of a different long and winding road. Cue banjo music...

Reply

justfrogurt
justfrogurt
6 days, 23 hours ago
0

All the winding dead end roads in the Santa Cruz mountains blend together...

Reply

justfrogurt
justfrogurt
6 days, 23 hours ago
0

but that could just be the edibles.

Reply

krisrayner
Kris Rayner
1 week, 3 days ago
+1 justfrogurt

This hits home for many reasons.  My father was a self employed mechanic who kept many, many things for that "just in case" scenario.  Pretty sure I overcompensate for that by throwing away many good things because I tripped over it twice and got mad. But between cycling and my recent adoption of motorcycling, I'm on a dangerous precipice. An older friend of mine passed away a little bit ago. He was an old time motorcycle magazine employee (advertising) and had so many unfinished projects I tried to help him with, but inevitably one thing leads to another.  He had a lot of cool vintage stuff, like old race Triumphs that actually ran at Bonneville.  But after he passed, one mans treasure turned into his spouses nightmare.  What to do with all of it? The only one who knew the true worth was long gone.  Recently I found this article on Revzilla and it reinforced the need to simplify.  I am by no means a minimalist, but I work hard to not have sentimental attachment to things that qualify for the house fire scenario.

Reply

MTB_THETOWN
MTB_THETOWN
1 week, 3 days ago
+1 justfrogurt

I really need to do something with the growing pile of tires on my shop floor. The problem is that my three bins of tires are full...

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justfrogurt
justfrogurt
6 days, 23 hours ago
0

I swear they procreate when you aren't looking!

Reply

Captain-Snappy
Merwinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

In all seriousness, if you have bikes that work, sell 'em now, because new parts and bikes are still scarce. If they don't work, fire sale the bits that do, or just recycle them. The older they get, the less they're worth because, let's face it, we don't collect limited run European super cars.

Reply

Crabbypants
Crabbypants
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Mike: You don't happen to have a 650c 1" steerer road fork that is drilled for brakes hiding in that collection of junk do you?

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