I'd watch for icing on the approaches later this evening, but otherwise things are looking good.
The other reason I commuted by bicycle was because this may be my last chance this winter to engage in one of my favorite hobbies, which is "carcake spotting." If you don't know what a carcake is (which you probably don't, because as far as I know I invented the term), it's a great big loaf of snow that sits atop a motor vehicle after a snowstorm which the driver was either unable or unwilling to clear. Most often you'll see them atop taller vehicles such as SUVs. Here's a good example of a classic carcake, which I spotted on my commute this morning:
This is a fine carcake. Not only does the cake itself have a pleasing symmetry, but there's also a secondary structure on the rear bumper which completely obscures the license plate and looks like a headless bird in flight. Once the car gets up to speed, it should be fun to watch it the carcake fly off the roof spectacularly and land squarely on the car (or cyclist) following it.
Carcakes can also resemble hairstyles. My favorite is the snow-hawk, which results when the driver makes a halfhearted attempt to clear the top of the car from either side of the vehicle, but cannot reach all the way across, thus resulting in a strip of snow down the middle of the roof that resembles a mohawk. Unfortunately, I didn't see one of those, but I did see a halfway decent wind-sculpted "high and tight":
And besides carcakes, I also got to see a messenger riding a Bilenky cargo bike:
I'm now confident I made the right decision to skip the NAHBS in Indianapolis, since it turns out I can experience cold and exotic bikes right here in my own backyard!
But while the messenger was obviously riding a Bilenky, he was not using a "bike messenger mirror," which you can purchase for only $15 on Craigslist:
Bike Messenger mirrors - $15 (Downtown)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-03-02, 2:56PM EST
Beer cap Bike messenger mirrors. Great for riding in traffic. May caps available or send me your favorite. attaches to your helmet, made from a beer cap and a bicycle spoke! $15 including shipping.
The helmet mirror is perhaps one of the dorkiest cycling accessories, second only to the reflective vest. But there's nothing wrong with safety, and you've got to respect the seller for trying to give the helmet mirror some "street cred" by renaming it and incorporating beer. Still, a helmet mirror is a helmet mirror no matter what it's made out of, just like a reflective vest is a reflective vest even if it's being worn by a model and has a skull and crossbones on it:
Expect to see pant cuff retainers made out of hot dipped galvanized chain soon.
Speaking of things that are custom made, followers of Lance Armstrong's Twitter may recall that he received a "super sweet mix tape" during the Tour of California:
Well, it turns out that this "tape" was mixed by none other than vertically-advantaged cyclocross sensation and VeloNews diarist Barry Wicks, who is the guy below with the severe tan lines riding in his underpants:
Not only that, but I was fortunate enough to receive from Wicks my own edition of his "super sweet mix tape."
By the way, Wikipedia has this to say about the cultural phenomenon that is the "mix tape":
A mixtape, which usually reflects the musical tastes of its compiler, can range from a casually selected list of favorite songs, to a conceptual mix of songs linked by a theme or mood, to a highly personal statement tailored to the tape's intended recipient. Essayist Geoffrey O'Brien has called the personal mixtape "the most widely practiced American art form", and many mixtape enthusiasts believe that by carefully selecting and ordering the tracks in a mix, an artistic statement can be created that is greater than the sum of its individual songs, much as an album of pop music in the post-Beatles era can be considered as something more than a collection of singles.
Wow, and I thought it was just a bunch of songs! It turns out this is genuine American folk art. I guess it's not surprising I didn't know this, since I don't make "mix tapes" and instead practice my own unique forms of folk art. In addition to "carcake spotting," I'm also really into making "meals." This is a highly personal statement in which I create a conceptual mix of foods linked by a theme or mood. For me, it's not just enough to eat one single food at a time. Instead, I'll have soup and a sandwich, or pasta and a salad. Also, I believe that choosing a condiment is a form of self-expression, and in the context of sandwich eating I express my inner longings through judicious application or withholding of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and even barbecue sauce. Furthermore, a pizza is not just bread and cheese to me. Instead, it's a great tabula rasa, and when I order one I gather friends and family close and convey my feelings towards them through my choice of toppings. Extra cheese means that my heart overflows with tenderness and warmth; peppers means I'm feeling angry; and half onions, half olives means I'm feeling bitter about the past yet remain optimistic for peace in the future.
Anyway, in the context of "meals" I finally understood the power of the "mix tape," so I was excited to receive one. Wicks assured me I was getting the same mix Armstrong got, though I did get my own artwork:
Fresh indeed. Here are the toppings Wicks put on the musical pizza:
So I put the "tape" in my Discman, Velcroed it to my bicep, and listened.
Although I was skeptical, I must admit that this "mix tape" made me feel a personal connection to Wicks. I also felt one to Armstrong, who had listened to these very same songs in the very same sequence. More than this, many of the songs Wicks selected seemed to speak of an inner longing, and to simultaneously evoke a loss of innocence yet a nostalgia for it. The overwhelming sense I got was that, as the saying goes, "You can't go home again." I believe this is a feeling that many of us share and that motivates our endeavors. So much of what we do is simply a vain attempt to recapture a happiness that is really irretrievable, and the knowledge that this is just a part of the human condition is simultaneously sad and comforting. I'm confident that this is indeed what Wicks meant to express, since he reaffirmed it in a personal message to me:
I'm pretty sure the "this" Wicks is referring to is life itself, and it is indeed bittersweet. Either that, or he wants me to suck on the actual "mix tape", which I refuse to do for fear of choking.
But when it comes to folk art, the "mix tape" has a rival sitting right on its wheel, and that rival is of course the "fixed gear freestyle video." Like the "mix tape," the "fixed gear freestyle video" uses music to convey a theme or mood. But thanks to the miracle of video, it can be instructional as well. Consider this video, which not only shows off the rider's "skillz" but inadvertently gives a lesson in how to install a tire "fixter" style as well:
How To Install A Tire "Fixter" Style
With tire completely off the rim, place the tube inside of it.
Once you've got the tube inside the tire, push the tube and the tire onto the rim at the same time. (As you make your way around the wheel, make sure to mount both beads at once.)
Inflate the tube with a floor pump, making sure to hold the chuck onto the valve stem instead of using the thumb lock.
When re-installing the wheel rear, be sure to do so with the bike turned upside down.
You're done! Now bust mad wheelies on the sidewalk!!!
Like Wicks's "mix tape," this video filled me with longing, though it was simply the longing for a time when people know how to install a tire. Alas, you can't go home again...
Though you can keep your patch kit in a Ragtote!