A Real Tear-Jerker, but More

Written by larry on November 26th, 2013

First, go here, and read the article.

Its a touching story, about an honor provided for a man who never expected it, and was left with a wonderful experience to relive during the remaining few days of his life.

Having never served in the military, stories like these resonate with me in a couple of different ways. There’s the part of me that realizes I’m indebted to those who did serve. I can never repay that debt, but I can show interest in and respect for the exploits of the men and women who, essentially, make my life possible. And I can donate to soldier-friendly causes, for those currently in the service as well as those who once were, both the living and dead.

But something else that made this story interesting for me was the camaraderie that Bud shared with the sailors on board the Dewey, The article doesn’t mention Bud’s age, but some quick calculation puts him in his early nineties. Yet there he was, hobnobbing with soldiers one-third his age, like they were old friends. And it got me thinking that there is no past experience in my own life that would afford me such an opportunity. High school reunion? Bah. I asked a friend who attended one  of mine a few years ago about who showed up. He reeled off a list of twenty names. Nineteen I didn’t recognize and the twentieth I remembered as someone who had made my life a living hell back then. So no, I don’t think I would have gotten a reception like EM2 Bud Cloud got on board the Dewey.

Should I consider this a shortcoming? There’s a saying that you should live your life so that the undertaker doesn’t have to lie at your funeral. I’ll call that baseline; I’d like to try for something more. Perhaps a good metric would be to have a decent turnout at my funeral. I think I’m on track for that one, though I’ll admit that for best results, the venue would have to be chosen with care.

When I think about it, given the choice, I would not be willing to endure Pearl Harbor in exchange for what Mr. Cloud experienced. But within my own limitations, devoting a little more energy to broadening my social horizons might not be a terrible thing. Perhaps the writing will be a conduit in that direction.



Cranking up the presses… slowly

Written by larry on November 24th, 2013

Yes, I know, I could upload a copy of Saimon’s Gift to Amazon tonight and become a self-published author almost immediately. But I want to do this with at least a little bit of class and style. That means copy-editing, finding a cover artist, and tweaking the manuscript to make the story as good as… well, maybe not as good as possible, but certainly as good as I can make it. That will take time, and more beta reading. There are also the small matters of writing a blurb for my author’s page, a dedication page for the story, buying ISBN numbers, and on and on. It can be a bit intimidating. But no piece by itself is particularly challenging, and I’m confident that once I establish a road map, the second, and third, and (so) forth will come relatively easy.

The first cover artist I found had a promising portfolio, but the combination of a seven time zone gap and a language barrier made it difficult to get anything accomplished. Probably I could have made it work, with enough effort, but I’d rather spend that effort elsewhere. I’ve identified one closer to home who is more expensive, but has other powers and abilities that I think will make it worthwhile.

ISBNs are another issue – I can’t quite bring myself to pay the absurd small quantity price, but I can’t quite bring myself to spring for the total cost of a large block of numbers either. Hopefully I can find others interested in sharing the burden,. so we can form an impromptu publishing company, and share a block.


Yes, lots of trivia. In a way, it’s kind of like manufacturing a high-tech product. The design is one thing. But then there’s manufacturing, distribution, packaging, materials, inspection, and on and on. I’m slowly getting to understand what Mr. Howey meant when he said that those who treat self-publishing as a business are succeeding at it.

Silly me. I thought the hard part was going to be the actual writing.



The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

Written by larry on November 17th, 2013

When Voltaire said that, more than two hundred years ago, he surely wasn’t talking about self-publishing. Or maybe he was. After all, the guy wrote more than 2000 books and pamphlets. They couldn’t all have been perfect.

For me, what it means is that after collecting a double handful of rejection letters, I’ve decided its time to try self-publishing. The reasons are many. Part of it is I’ve got a belief that in most creative endeavors, there is a lot more talent out there than there is bandwidth in the traditional distribution network. Take music for example. There are probably hundreds of great songs being written every week, but only twenty slots in the top twenty. That means lots of losers. One of the great things about the Net is that all those other songs can be heard. I think the same thing may be true for the written word.

Another factor is that for the average writer, a first-time book contract may not be such a good deal. The advance will only be a few thousand dollars, and the publisher will do little if any promotion of the book. Six months on the shelves of the major chains and, if it doesn’t turn into a best-seller by then, onto the $1 discount rack. Meanwhile, the author has already spent his $4000 advance and in all probability the book hasn’t earned out; that is, its royalties have never reached $4000. Now the book is in a weird state of purgatory; It’s still ‘in print’; owned by the publisher, who has no interest in doing any thing with it, and the author is pretty powerless.

As for me, I’m not in it for the money. At least, not for now. Would I like a $4000 advance? Well, sure! But after taxes it would be considerably less, and from what I’ve read of the state of the industry, the whole experience would be too much like selling my soul.

Short stories? Again, it seems like there are an awful lot of stories chasing a very small number of slots in Analog, et. al. So the chances of a successful sale are not high. And a successful sale might net a per-word value of about $0.07 per word, so a 6000 words story would fetch $420. Sold on Amazon for $0.99, that same story would need to sell slightly more than 600 copies to reach the same profitability. Is that reasonable thing to strive for, over the lifetime of a story?

I don’t know. Ask me in a year; by then this experiment will be more completely underway.

So what does it take? Well, getting the printed word onto Amazon doesn’t seem to be that big a deal. But, like anything else, its the details that get to you. Details like:

  • Cover Art
  • Copy editing
  • ISBN numbers
  • Typesetting
  • Etcera

So there’s more to this than just dragging a file over to www.amazon.com and clicking ‘publish’. At least if you want to do it right. But like any other overwhelming problem, it can be broken into smaller pieces. Take cover art, for example. A quick (and free) post on elance.com yielded a dozen graphic artists, in everywhere from New York to Bulgaria, ready to create my cover, at price ranging from $60 to more than $500. With plenty of examples of their work. There are lots of copy editors out there, too, including the one recommended by a member of my writing group. (And even as I was writing this, an email popped into my inbox, from a friend about to start a copy-editing business.) The proper application of money will easily solve the ISBN problem. And so forth.

So, graphic artists at the ready. Copy editors on hot standby. ISBNs entering the pipeline.

Let the Adventure begin.



The Free Tablet

Written by larry on November 10th, 2013


Well, not quite free. But 59 bucks is close enough that I’m going to call it free. Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 59 dollars is less than one day’s wages… even if you’re working at minimum wage. And for that sum, you get a 1.2 ghz processor, 4 gig of memory, 800×480 color display, WiFi, two cameras (admittedly neither with great resolution), a microSD slot, and a “4-dimensional gravity sensor” (great for time travel?).

But it it a good idea? Well, maybe not. The Amazon reviews were pretty negative. But still, if you’re of limited means, want to get online, don’t want to do it at the library, and for some reason don’t want to find a nice used tablet on ebay, this would certainly do the trick. Free WiFi might not be quite ubiquitous, but its surely common enough that a gadget like this means that anyone who wants to own and use a tablet can get one.

There are also some other implications. For one thing, it kind of makes you wonder a bit about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, which provides toy-like monochrome-screened laptops for third world children, with the units costing more than $200. If Kocaso can quietly produce their $59 laptop, why all the fanfare about OLPC, and all its political intrigue?

There’s also the perspective of this crotchety old geezer thinking back to his first computer. I won’t say exactly when that was, but I’ll drop the hint that the president in office was a former peanut farmer. That computer took up most of a desk, and was equipped with a 0.002 GHz processor and 0.000064 GB of RAM. And the screen resolution was, I think, 480×200. In monochrome. Green.

Progress is nice. The downside, of course, is that we expect so much more of our devices. Sure, I can check my bank balance while riding the train, but why can’t I look at images of my checks? Sure I can place a free video call from my cellphone to someone in Madrid, but why does the image have to be so jumpy? Etc.

The usual platitudes apply. I’m sure glad to be living now, I can’t wait to see what’s new in five years, and so forth. But I’m also wondering about the next great opportunity. You know, the one that will be completely obvious in a few years, but that I’m hopelessly missing right now.
Any ideas?


Town On The Edge of Forever

Written by larry on November 4th, 2013

Business in Huntsville, followed by vacation in Memphis. No reason to travel all the way back to Boston, with the two destinations less than 200 miles apart.

Road Trip!!!!!

A quick browse of the web reveals that Avis will make this possible for only slightly over one hundred bucks, so the die is cast. A few days later, with the business part of my mission complete, I swing past the rental counter at HSV, sign my name a few times, and get handed the keys to a fairly new Ford Edge. Not quite what I expected (a compact sedan), but the trade of fuel economy for comfort seems like a reasonable one if I’m going to spend four hours on the road. I climb into the thing, turn the key, and get greeted by three separate LCD screens lighting up. That’s two more than in the panel of the Trinidad. Eventually I figure out enough of the touch panel to coax the climate control to a decent setting and tune the radio to an acceptable station. Having been to this area four times in the last few years, I’ve developed a taste for WDRM Huntsville/Decatur; I won’t be able to hold it all the way to Memphis, but its a good start.

With a four hour trip anticipated, but no need to meet my bride’s flight into MEM for eight hours, the previous evening had been spend studying the map to see if anything worthwhile was visible along the route. Corinth, Mississippi was the only town of any size, and it was close enough to the middle of the route to be stopworthy. Being a town of only 15,000 or so, I wasn’t expecting much, but Tripadvisor mentioned a Civil War museum that looked like it might be worthwhile. Route 72 turned out to be a county road, not an interstate, making it a bit slower but far more interesting. Some small towns (be sure to observe the speed limit), fewer farms than I’d have expected, and lots of undeveloped woods. Plenty of rain.

The miles click off on the GPS, and eventually I roll into the teeming megalopolis of Corinth. Its already 1:00 PM, so I opt for lunch first. Tripadvisor mentioned a Mexican place, but I accidentally blow past the address. While I’m turning around, I notice a bar-b-que shack that doesn’t exactly look Yankee-friendly, but what the hell, I’m hungry and what’s a road trip without a little adventure?

The place is one large room, with the obligatory license plates on the wall, soda machine off to one side, and a counter up front where you place your order. There’s a list of specials on the wall encoded with the local crypto key: 4 BN BBQ FF SLW $7.49. It takes me a few seconds but I manage to decode it, and it seems like a reasonable deal when I find out that it includes ‘pop’. The locals look like…well, locals. Lots of jeans, overalls, beards, beer. One guy has his daughter in tow, a blond positioned somewhere between the farmer’s daughter and Lolita. I’m out of place in my business casuals, but the proprietress is still willing to serve me, and even cracks a smile when, between ribs, I give her a thumbs-up about the food. Which was a bit charitable, but what the hell?

Now sated, I program the coordinates of the museum into the navicomputer and head over. The parking lot contains only a single car, and at first I think the place may be closed. But I decide to hike up the hill to the building anyway, and find that it is in fact open for business. I chat a bit with the park ranger/docent and begin my trek. My knowledge of the civil war is limited. Probably the last time I learned anything about it was in high school, and that was years ago. Quick version: Painful, bloody, brother against brother, some question as to whether it was about slavery, or keeping the union unified, or perhaps something else. Possibly it wasn’t necessary. But I suspect most wars look that way in retrospect.

Today’s lesson begins: At the crossroads of two critical rail lines, Corinth was of tactical significance to both the Union and Confederacy. One of the first battles of the war was fought in Shiloh, just a few miles to the Northeast. The losers regrouped in Corinth, which pretty much turned into a hospital. Not that it did much good; a combination of primitive medical technology and typhoid wiped out nearly as many soldiers as were lost on the battlefield. The town was also home to the first of the ‘Contraband Camps’; compounds where newly-freed slaves were fed and educated, and directed onto to the long road to citizenship.

The war lasted four years and took over 600,000 lives. Nearly one in fifty of the 90-year-old country’s population. How might it have played out if the Union had instead offered to ‘condemn’ the slaves, compensate their owners under eminent domain, and turn them free? Sure, it would have been expensive, but so was losing the lives of more than half a million citizens. The idea is not original, nor is it mine. One of John Roth’s characters speculates about it in Unintended Consequences (a definitely worthwhile read, if you can find a copy), But it’s always easy to Monday morning quarterback. And the teachings of the museum suggested that when the war began, people on both sides thought it was going to be a short one. Maybe that’s the case with all wars.

The rain makes it difficult for me to spend quality time contemplating the fountain behind the museum: a long rectangular pool flowing downhill, with each step representing a year of the war, and marble blocks commemorating each battle strewn across the pool, each in its appropriate place on the time line.



Despite the wind and downpour, I spend a few moments out there, and then head back in for a movie that does a pretty good job of reenacting the battles surrounding Corinth, what led up to them, and their aftermath. A short while later, I’m back in the car cruising downtown Corinth, trying with limited success to trace the route described on the ‘historic drive’ map I picked up at the museum. The sites of critical skirmishes now look like nothing more than grassy hills; it’s tough to imagine the amount of blood that was shed there. A visit to the Corinth Contraband Camp park is more rewarding. The site of the original camp is now a park, with bronze statues commemorating the activities of the past.


Tranquil and thought-provoking, at least until the winds knock down a tree that takes the nearby power lines with it. Yikes! By now time is starting to run out, and a short while later Corinth is receding in the rear-view mirror as I continue my trek west toward Memphis. I’ve learned a bit about Mississippi, and my country’s history, which is surely a Good Thing. And I’ve put Corinth on my personal map; if it ever makes the national news for good reason or bad, there will be a personal connection that there otherwise would not have been. But most of all, I’ve yet again underscored my incredible gratitude for the fact that I was born into this particular time and place.

And that’s a Good Thing, too.


The Most Valuable Cargo

Written by larry on October 28th, 2013

Aloft again, this time in 27F between ATL and HSV, in what must be one of the few remaining DC-9s still in service in the US. Mercifully, Delta has maintained the interior of the tired old bird in a way that belies its years, though the 3+2 seating gives away the fact that the machine has been flying since Clinton was president.

Atlanta is one of the largest airports I’ve ever been to. Not the biggest airspace; that honor goes to New York, with three international airports in each other’s shadow, sharing the same piece of sky. But Atlanta has four runway of its own, well over 100 gates, and a railroad to get between them. There’s a saying in these parts that if you die and go to hell, you’ll have to change planes in Atlanta.

I arrive late AM on a Monday, a time during which the vast majority of my traveling companions are doing this for business reasons, not for vacation. And because of that, if they’re not paying top dollar for their tickets, they’re certainly paying more, on average, than they’d be paying if they were heading to Disney World.

I’m heading out this morning to visit a customer of a client; to investigate an elusive technical problem. The folks around me could well be on a variety of missions: sales people calling on prospects, executives making business presentations, experts resolving problems. How much of this might be done on the phone, or by FedEx? Presumably not much; after all, most people would rather go home after a day of work than check into an anonymous hotel. And surely most employers would prefer to avoid the expense of business travel.

It dawns on me that the most valuable cargo, the thing worth shipping thousands of miles, is talent: skills, abilities, instincts, or perhaps even an impossibly deft touch. What makes it special is that, whatever the talent might be, it’s not available anywhere closer than thousands of miles away. And so it makes sense to ship it, however far it needs to be shipped.

I reflect for a moment, in the pride that comes with realizing that someone thought enough of my skills to ship me down here. It almost makes up for the fact that I’ll be spending the next few nights away from my home and bride.

The perspective might also bear on my thoughts as I catch the train between terminals at ATL on the way home in a few days. Everyone around me will have proven themselves good enough at something that they were worth shipping all that distance. Viewed from that angle, my fellow road warriors seem just a bit more noble. And that’s something worthwhile.


The End of Retail

Written by larry on October 20th, 2013

Most of last weekend was spent installing an electric door opener in a rolling door intended for a golf cart, a task I’d put off for more than three years. Having finally acquired said golf cart, it was time to get the job done.

Like most projects of this nature, one generally has most, but not all, of the necessary materials in inventory. Missing from mine were a decent quality 15-foot extension cord, and a 3/16” Alan wrench with a shaft long enough to reach the back of a deep hole. Well, actually, the wrench wasn’t needed for the electric door project, but it was needed nonetheless.

With plans to head over to Hyannis on unrelated business, I added a trip to Home Depot to the agenda. With the Big Orange Box about half an hour away, going there is not a big deal, but its not a completely casual trip either.

The not-so-big day arrives. Quick trip over to electrical. There are plenty of extension cords to be had. But one with a round cross-section, single female non-right-angle connector, and fifteen feet long is not to be found. Skip parameter two, and a solution is available, but its sixteen bucks, plus sales tax. Seems a bit pricey for something that isn’t exactly what I want.

Next stop: tools. The kid behind the counter gratefully turns away from chatting up the sweet young thing across from him to tell me: “Allen wrenches? Try the middle of aisle 12.” I head over there. A few kits, but nothing with a shaft long enough to suit my needs.

That evening I head onto eBay, generally my first stop before Amazon. In less than five minutes, I find exactly the extension cord I want, and for only twelve bucks, including shipping. The Alan wrench took a bit longer to find, and at $8.99 (again including shipping) was a bit more than I was hoping to spend. But looked like a nice one, and turned out to be exactly that when it arrived a few days later.

So next time I need something and I’m not in a desperate hurry, where do you think I’ll shop?

Multiply that by however millions of customers are out there, and it would seem prudent to dump your Home Depot stock and buy United Parcel.

Now admittedly one sample point does not a trend make. And if I was buying sheetrock or landscaping supplies, eBay wouldn’t exactly be an option. But if I were a company specializing in small, light items or, worse yet, small, light, expensive items (can you say Best Buy?), I’d be quaking in my boots.

Either that or desperately trying to figure out how I can add some value so people will shop with me. It’s tough to compete on price, when the other guy is working out of his mother’s basement. But who wants to compete on price anyway? Make the shopping experience ideal: fast and convenient, with courteous, knowledgeable salespeople, and… well, maybe the world won’t beat a path to your door, but at least it will show up some frequency, perhaps even enough to keep you in business.

And maybe even enough to keep your shareholders happy. Sure would be nice if someone gave it a try.



Reflections from 21B

Written by larry on October 13th, 2013

I’m sitting in an only slightly uncomfortable leather seat, closing in on the end of Encounter With Tiber, sipping a cup of tea. To my left is a woman deeply engrossed in Of Human Bondage reading it on her iPad mini. To my right, another woman, with a map of Maine unfolded, is planning her camping itinerary.

Its hard to believe that we’re actually sitting in a pressurized aluminum can six miles over Lake Michigan, hurtling through the air at six hundred miles per hour while being tossed about by forces we can’t see or comprehend. From time to time I find myself reflecting on the enormity of it all, and take a moment to be grateful for having been born in this particular time and place. When Lewis and Clarke took a similar trip a couple of centuries ago, it took about eighteen months, and arrival wasn’t guaranteed. Neither was survival.

I think the thing that would most impress the early American colonists, if we could sent the message back, would be that in less than 250 years an average Joe would be able to make it back to England in about eight hours, for only a few days wages.

Miraculous times, if you stop to think about it. I can’t help but think of the G. K. Chesteron quote:

 “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

 I wonder if it was always that way. Did folks in the age of the steam engine say “yeah, whatever” when months of backbreaking labor vanished? Did those who witnessed early airplane flights turn their back in indifference? When penicillin, the first real wonder drug was discovered, was the general public reaction apathy?

I can’t say with certainty why our view of the incredible world around us seems to be “…yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” But I’ll take a stab at it. Once we’ve experienced this level of prosperity for a few generations, I think we begin to view it as normal. But its not. And I think its healthy to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis. It may be far more fragile that it appears, and if its we’re going to try to preserve and improve it, the first think we need to do is stay aware of just how special it really is.

So when you’re cooped up in 21B, elbow-to-elbow with your seatmates, take a moment to reflect on the enormity of what’s actually going on.




Why Fi?

Written by larry on October 6th, 2013

The ubiquitousness of WiFi coverage these days never ceases to amaze me. When I sat down at our local pub last weekend, I felt a brief vibration from my belt; my phone telling me that the BritishBeerCompany free WiFi access point was available. I opted instead to access a bottle Wells Banana Bread beer. We’ll leave the discussion of whether that was an optimal choice for another time, but now that WiFi is nearly as common as running water, it would be worthwhile to consider whether it’s always a good idea to quench our thirst.

Tomorrow I’ll be spending several hours in a 737. In the past, I’ve considered this to be an opportunity to catch up on some combination of the three Rs: reading, (w)riting, and relaxing. The isolation was a Good Thing.

Now, I’ve got the opportunity to fork over ten bucks or so for some moderately wide-band coverage during that six or so hours aloft. I tried it once when, during the introduction, it was free. They block video, which is fine. I never tried Skype. For browsing the web and checking email, it did the job. I ssh’d into my web server just for the hell of it. Probably, I spent most of the flight catching up on my favorite blogs and my email – I don’t really remember.

Generally, if I want to get online while I’m on the road, I want the WiFi to be free. When it’s not, I’m moderately annoyed, especially if I’m in a top-dollar hotel. It’s been my experience that the fancier the hotel, the less is included in your room charge. At the Hampton Inn, WiFi is always included, but it never seems to be so at the Embassy Suites.

But when it comes to the airlines, I’m actually kind of glad that WiFi isn’t free. It’s new technology, so when it was introduced it wasn’t free, and given the sad state of the airline industry today, it’s unlikely that it will be free any time soon. Which is just fine for me. Tomorrow, I’ll get to work on a few short stories with one less distraction, and most likely the world will survive without receiving my emails for a few hours.

Generally, I’m not a fan of unplugging. While I’m too old to spend my every waking hour texting, I fully understand why today’s yoots don’t want to break that connection. I wouldn’t voluntarily give up any of my five senses, so why would they voluntarily give up their sixth.

But there’s another metaphor that comes to mind, too. My taste in music is diverse, I love conversation, I’m fascinated by the subtleties of sound as a telephone call is established1, and I could listen to Air Traffic Control for hours. Sound is very important to me.

But sometimes I just want quiet.

So tomorrow, I’ll skip the ten bucks and enjoy the quiet. There’s a time for everything, and some things are easier at 35,000 feet.


1 –  If you’re wondering how big a deal this could be, take a look at Exploding The Phone, a very worthwhile read


Farewell Voyage

Written by larry on September 29th, 2013

Given that bicycling is pretty much the only thing I enjoy that has anything to do with fitness, I try to indulge it when the opportunity presents itself. Which is how I wound up owning four bicycles, not including the stationary exercise one. And having not ridden the folding recumbent for quite a while, I was starting to think it was time to thin the herd.

I’d bought this one some time ago, when I had both a recumbent fixation and a desire to be able to get the bicycle in an airplane. Green Gear, out of Eugene, Oregon, offered just what I wanted, but at an outrageous price. I kept my eyes on the ‘closeouts’ page of their web site, and when the right deal came up I jumped on it.

The Sat-R-Day folding recumbent was sort of a ‘dancing bear’ item – what made it special was not how effectively it folded, but that it folded it at all. In about ten minutes it could be disassembled into pieces small enough to fit into a large black zippered bag. Somewhat unwieldy, but still able to fit in the back of a car or airplane. That bike and I visited perhaps a dozen airports in maybe half a dozen states, yet surprisingly, I think I only put about 700 miles on it.

A new bike better suited to longer trips surfaced a few years ago, and then, when a Brompton showed up on Craig’s list for a price that was only unreasonable and not completely absurd, that joined the stable as well. The Brompton is a marvel of engineering, a design refined over more than twenty years of incremental improvements. It’s lighter than the Sat-R-Day, folds into a much smaller package, and I can unfold it in about a minute. (There’s a guy on YouTube who does it in ten seconds!)

So the Sat-R-Day tended to be left behind when a trip requiring a folder came up. And no bike should be left gathering dust, so I reluctantly decided that it was time for this once pride and joy to find a new home.

Wanting to be sure that it was performing properly, I decided to take my signature ‘Shining Seas Triangle’ ride, about twenty-eight miles, the centerpiece being Cape Cod’s Shining Seas Bike Trail. The season, at least for me, is nearing to a close; as I left the house I was disappointed to see my breath fogging in front of me. RIP summer.

A few miles out, I’m cold, but not desperately so. The gloves help, nothing can make a ride as miserable for me as frozen knuckles. There’s close to zero wind, which helps. At one point I ride past a large open field that’s in direct sunlight. A warm mass of air envelopes me – nice. Its humid air and my glasses fog over immediately – not so nice.

The ride continues. It’s said that recumbents and conventional bikes exercise different muscles, or exercise the same muscles differently. Something’s definitely going on – I’m having a much tougher time of this than I expected. After about seven miles, I make it to the north end of the bike path. The next ten miles will be mostly level, through forest and cranberry bogs, past lakes and marshes, and even along a section of sandy beach alongside the Martha’s Vineyard Sound. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this ride, but every time it’s a delight. I slow down for a moment to enjoy the view across Fresh Pond in North Falmouth. I do a double-take at the dog statue dressed in a Halloween tee-shirt thoughtfully provided by a homeowner whose property abuts the trail. I jump on the brakes to avoid a chipmunk who darts across my path.

Eventually I make it to Woods Hole, and park the bike in front of my usual breakfast place. Standing up for the first time in ninety minutes, that thought about leg muscles and recumbents surfaces with a vengeance. Maybe being mildly sore doesn’t mean I’ve burned more calories, but it does make the pancakes incrementally easier to justify.

Heading back to the bike, the discomfort in my legs is even more obvious. The remaining ten miles back home will definitely take longer than the previous ten.

But a combination of patience and low gear ratios results in my pulling up in front of my garage about an hour later, very much alive, but not quite ready for another ten miles.

Mission accomplished. I survived the ride, and I can sell the bike in good conscience, knowing that, despite its age, its functioning well enough for a not-particularly-fit rider to knock out twenty-eight miles on a beautiful, clear Sunday morning. Hopefully its next owner will have as much fun with this interesting little machine as I have.