Getting in a rut is easy, at least for me, not to mention hazardous. Not long ago I caught my rear wheel in a jagged hole in the asphalt at the intersection of St. Vrain Road and Highway 36 north of Boulder. A few pedal strokes later I was replacing a tube with not one but two cuts in it. At least I wasn’t flying downhill out of control when the tire went flat.
I found my way out of another kind of rut over the past few days simply by picking a different route for a late afternoon bike ride home from work. I alternate between bus and bike commuting on a sort of haphazard schedule and had gotten in the bad habit of pedaling the shortest, quickest way home. That route also has the most traffic, so the mind is often occupied with staying alert for drivers (and other cyclists) doing really stupid things.
The more scenic route that I’ve taken the past couple of rides home is so much nicer and relaxing that I’ve had time to think. Not only did I get out of the same-old-route rut, but as I got closer and closer to home I realized how my WIP-S (work-in-progress, slowly) will end. I came home and wrote the last few paragraphs.
Now that I know where I’m going, I can work on filling the gap between a halfway written novel and the very end.
Earlier this summer I had a chance to visit Beaverdale Books, a for-real independent book store in a Des Moines neighborhood where I used to spend a lot of time. The neighborhood is also home to a fictional bicycle shop / taproom that I made up for my second Detective Red Shaw novel.
When you’re in Beaverdale, you can actually buy both of those crime novels at Beaverdale Books. However, you won’t find the bike shop Red Shaw and Phil Vega visit in the following excerpt from North of Grand.
In which detectives visit a Beaverdale beer & bike shop…
…while investigating the murder of a cyclist.
Beaverdale Bike-n-Ale sold bicycles in the same spot for
twenty years before new owners came along with a new business model. They
thought they could draw in more cyclists, many of whom liked good, trendy beer,
if they also attracted a share of the growing numbers of craft beer drinkers
who didn’t necessarily give a rat’s ass about bicycles, resting heart rates, or
power-to-weight ratios. The bicycle side of the shop sold custom-fitted road
machines and mountain bikes that cost more than Shaw’s first two cars put
together. The taproom offered an ever-changing menu of craft lagers, ales,
stouts and other concoctions as long as they came from anything other than a
brewery that had even the faintest whiff of international consolidation.
A chalkboard behind the bar caught Shaw’s
attention. “If you want Bud Light, leave now,” read the top line. The day’s
list of carefully selected brews on tap filled the rest of the board.
A bearded twenty-something behind the bar
sported a red farmer bandana and a tattered Tour de France t-shirt. He was
rinsing pint glasses and four-ounce tasters in hot water before setting them on
a mat to dry. Clean glasses hung in rows from an overhead rack. Vega eyed a
pair of patrons at a nearby table and nudged Shaw, nodding to indicate where he
“That’s a man bun, Phil,” Shaw said. “You’d look good with one.”
Bun Man overheard the comment and turned
to the detectives. “I can see that,” he said, pointing at Vega’s black waves.
“Let it grow a couple more inches and you could definitely rock a bun.”
“Yeah, and Rosa would definitely snatch it
off in a second.”
Bun Man’s companion commiserated by
rubbing his shaved head and laughing. “Sssssnatch
you bald,” he slurred.
Shaw flagged down the bartender, who
looked over after putting up the last beer glass.
“What can I get you, sir?”
Shaw caught a name on the whiteboard that
told him the Ale Agent on Duty was James. “Nothing right now, James,” he said
as he held out his badge, “but we need to ask you a few questions.”
Vega produced his own shield and James
yawned as he glanced at it then looked back at Shaw. “What?”
“Do you know a Zachary Costa?”
“Yeah, I knew Zach. He used to come in a
lot. Every few days. Not lately, though.”
“So you heard about his death?”
“Who hasn’t? It’s all over.”
“Fuck that, the newspaper,” he said as he
snatched a smartphone from a back pocket and held it out. Shaw saw Vega twitch
toward his Glock before catching himself and relaxing. “It’s all over the
internet, man. Where you from, fucking 1990?”
Vega pulled his own smartphone out and
laid it on the bar. “Nice attitude, James. When’s the last time you saw Zach
James took a deep breath and exhaled,
slowly. “Week ago. He had a couple of pints with Emma, his girl, and they
“Did you know him outside of here? You
guys hang out or anything?”
“No, we just talked beer and bikes when he
came in.” He nodded toward Bun Man and Bald Guy, who were heading for the door.
“Those guys probably knew him better.”
Shaw caught Vega’s eye and nodded their
way to send him after them.
“You know their names?” he asked James.
“Yeah. And I’ve got one of their credit
cards. Tab’s still open.”
“It looks like you need to close it out
and call a ride for them.”
James grabbed a rag to wipe down the bar.
“No, I think Gav’s okay, and he’s driving. Jeff has probably had enough,
Shaw picked up Vega’s phone. “My partner
has some pictures of Zachary Costa’s bicycles we’d like to show you.”
James smiled. “To hear him talk, he had
some nice rides.”
“He had a couple of higher-end Treks that
he raced, and another one he called his ‘investment.’”
“What was that one?”
“A Paramount from like the sixties. He
thought a collector might buy it for four or five grand.”
Bun Man and Bald Guy were back soon, after
a quick smoke in the alley, with Vega trailing behind.
“Detective Vega, can you show James Mr.
Costa’s bicycles?” Shaw asked.
Vega took the phone and flipped through
the images one by one as James provided a running commentary. “That’s one he
probably raced … that’s a beater … another beater … yeah, that’s a time trial
bike he talked about.”
“Thank you, James,” Shaw said. “That’s
“What about the other one?” James asked.
“The Paramount? No picture of that one?”
Vega dodged the question. “Let us know if
you hear anyone else asking about it, okay?”
This morning was perfect for a bicycle ride from Longmont to Lyons, a distance of about 10 miles if you start at the Smith place. It’s always great fun to be on the road with nearly as many cyclists as motor vehicle operators. Mrs. Smith and I aren’t the slowest people on bicycles, but we’re not so fast that we miss the scenery, the road-killed snakes, and all the yellow skins apparently shed along the way by bananas that no longer need them.
We’re also noticing more and more of those e-bike things, which I thought were referred to as such because they have electric motors. Silly me.
I read in the Denver Post after our human-powered morning ride that the U.S. government has decreed that e-bikes are actually “non-motorized.”
And up is actually down, unless I have that backwards.
My favorite and funniest part of the article, even though this is no laughing matter:
“The Interior statement said riders must use the motor only to boost their pedaling on the trails, and not zip along on motor power alone.”
The absurdity is obvious: The Department of the Interior has determined that the riders in question don’t have motors. What’s more, we all know that cyclists, motor vehicle operators, and even riders of non-motorized contraptions that do have motors routinely fail to do many of the things they must do.
I wouldn’t deny anyone the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as much as or even much more than I do. The arguments in favor of using e-bikes to get around are numerous, and many of those reasons are actually good.
As a writer and editor who cares about language, however, I do take exception to calling things and people something they are not.
By the way, I thought I’d share a picture of my cat, since people love cat pictures so much.
Doing crossword puzzles will never be the same once you read Blood Solutions: A Detective Red Shaw Novel.
Not that I want to wreck your crossword experience, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I was addicted for a while.) It’s more of a heads-up that you will look at crossword puzzle clues a little differently after this.
* I rarely do this, for a couple of reasons. 1. The world is cluttered with too many free ebooks that are just plain crappy and I worry that it reflects poorly on the book. 2. I make my living as a writer and prefer to get paid for what I do. Both Red Shaw novels are worth a few bucks. 🙂
Last week I posted my own reaction to Jon Caldara’s column in that Sunday’s Denver Post about the use of words. Today Tony Frank, chancellor of the Colorado State University system, chimed in with his take.
It included this:
Do I think several of the suggestions in the list are just plain silly? Sure. Do I wish there had never been any debate about the use of the word “America”? Of course — it makes me personally sick because I and everyone I know at our university is proud of our country. (Still, as an American, I’m not going to tell anyone what they can and can’t debate, even if it personally offends me — especially on a college campus where free and open debate is our job.)
Tony Frank, Denver Post, August 4, 2019
Caldara, predictably, missed the mark completely. Not having paid much attention to Tony Frank, I don’t know but will speculate that his response was entirely predictable, too. I was surprised to read that he is personally sickened by discussion of how the word “America” is used.
So much for the part about “free and open debate” being part of his job on a college campus. Let’s hope Frank feels better soon and begins to think more clearly.
How ironic that the president of a Denver “think tank” would rather the citizenry not think about the words they use.
In a column in today’s Denver Post, Jon Caldara derides efforts to promote the use of inclusive language by Colorado State University and others with an ignorant, offensive rant that includes this:
For those offended by our president’s vile use of words, you might wish to consider Trump was the inevitable reaction to the truly offensive indoctrination from the likes of CSU, public broadcasting and the educational establishment.
Caldara, Denver Post, July 28, 2019
So forget the bogus claim that Trumpsters became Trumpsters because of economic anxiety rather than their misogynistic hate for Hillary Clinton, or their racism, or their fear of others.
Caldara’s explanation pins it on their offense at the idea that we would do well to use our words carefully. He thinks we’re all better off remaining ignorant. Hogwash.