Thankful, or: Diamond in the Back, Sunroof Top, Diggin' the Scene

I recently moved to Richmond, VA from the DC suburbs to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, combining studies in their Craft and Business schools as well as in the Precision Machining program at John Tyler Community College in nearby Chester.

Today has been interesting. It's the day before VCU classes start, so more errand-running in preparation for the semester.

Last night I discovered the rear hub on my bike was locked up, and fixing that is one of those repairs I can't do at home. So I set out today looking for a shop; the first was closed, so I tried a newish-looking one in Carytown. Turned out to be a very cool, relaxed shop, similar to one that just opened in DC that my buddy works at.

I got the hub temporarily fixed up, ordered new bearings for it, slapped on a new cog for lower gearing, and placed an order for a red-and-white Chrome Citizen to replace my aging Timbuk2. I hope it'll be very visible and sufficiently color-coordinated with existing cycling apparel.

As I was about to leave, I asked about the unpainted fork they had mounted in a cool velvet-lined box frame. That led to some framebuilding talk with one of the sales people. Turns out he's a recent VCU Craft grad, he built a lugged frame in the Craft shop, and we know some of the same people in the framebuilding universe. He's interested in doing custom bike part manufacture, but lacks access to suitable machine tools, as well as technical know-how to run the machines. Funny, I say, because I have (or will soon have) access to such tools and know-how to use them, but I lack sweet designs and ideas. Each of us realized pretty quickly we needed to stay in touch with the other. Fortunately, I'll be back to pick up my new bag in a week.

Did 45 minutes at one of VCU's two gyms, which are as nice as any I've been in (though that's not saying much, I'm new to the gym thing).

Wandered around later near the gym and art school, stopped into Pibby's, a tiny one-room bike shop that I'd bought parts from at a swap meet in Maryland earlier this year. The guy (the sole proprietor) gave me some valuable names and numbers: the guy I'd met earlier in the day in Carytown, a semi-local framebuilder, a powdercoater down the street. Just because I seemed like I might benefit from the info, I guess.

Drove to Chester, bought cheap gas and the rest of my John Tyler books. Class tonight was all shop safety, pretty boring, though by now we've started to loosen up and crack more jokes.

Then I went to the Lowe's (I know, I know) across the street from JT to get some carpet. I want to convert half of the spare room in my new apt. into a bike shop, but I need to protect the hardwood floor from the grease and stand and bikes. I picked out some perfectly grease-colored, dirt-cheap stuff and went to find a guy to cut it for me. Turns out he's a retired advertising photographer and used to be an avid cyclist. And he's got a machinist buddy with a shop way out in Oilville who's looking for shop help. He comps me a couple feet of carpet and gives me his buddy's numbers. At a Lowe's?!

Driving home tonight I was reflecting on the day and on how thankful I am:
• To live in this exciting new city, where people are interested in making things in the same way I am, and where there's resources available for folks like us.
• To not have to pay tuition out-of-pocket, or have it paid by my employer, as my classmates at John Tyler do, and to be able to go to school far from home.
• To have access to these new textbooks, which, while maybe not enthralling, will answer a lot of the most basic questions I'd had on my mind.
• To have free, convenient access to the best-equipped gym I've ever used.
• To live in this great new house, where I have room for a dedicated bike work space, and to be able to furnish it with carpet and tools and parts.


Anonymous said...


This all sounds really cool. Good luck to you.

Tom Palermo

Anonymous said...

Ethan, I just hit your blog, after going back thru old e-mails and "cleaning house" on my in-box, and said "dude, don't delete just yet....
Anyway, It's good to hear/read someone post "how thankful"
they are, for the opertunities they get.
It seems too rare, from the folks I see day to day, and I myself really am thankful for all the things that have come my way, and esp. now that I'm getting back in the bicycle world.
Anyway, it's quite refreshing to hear/read some say it, and may many more good things be there for you!
Happy Rides,