Everywhere is local

A couple of days ago I traveled to Philadelphia for my eldest son’s college graduation. It felt good to be away from the bike, not overtrained or undertrained, just mediocritrained. Sometimes it’s nice to leave your bike behind.

On Saturday I posted a photo on Facebag and immediately got a message from Skip. I met him last year when he was in Los Angeles. He’s a national masters champion and rides for the Time Factory Team out of Pasadena, even though he lives in Boston. He showed up for a couple of NPR sessions, handily outsprinting everyone, and hung around afterwards to trade lies and drink coffee on the bricks at the Center of the Known Universe.

Skip was in Philly on business this past weekend and was just around the corner from Franklin Field, where graduation ceremonies were taking place. We swapped a couple of messages and agreed to meet up at Monk’s Cafe that evening. If you’re looking for the inside track on the best beer joint I’ve yet to find in Philadelphia, Monk’s is the place. They don’t have a beer menu, they have a beer telephone book. Bring your reading glasses.

Fortunately I didn’t have to read much farther than on the first page where it listed “Lost Abbey Devotion” as one of the beers on tap. I couldn’t make up my mind whether it was nicer to meet a familiar face or a familiar beer in this faraway city, so I compromised and agreed with myself that it was great to meet both.

The night went on and the empties kept piling up and everything got foggy and all the women started looking beautiful and the proprietors of Monk’s Cafe began to shake the entire place so that the floor and table swayed in the oddest way, but I endeavored to persevere. Back in the hotel it occurred to me that Skip had never shown up, which was weird. I checked my Facebag messages and saw that many hours ago he had taken a picture at the cafe, surrounded by food and drink, wondering where the hell I was.

“That’s a great question,” I said to myself. “Where the hell am I?”

The next morning Skip and I exchanged messages. “Sorry, dude,” I said. “I never saw you.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “I was at the bar right next to the door the whole night.”

“How much longer are you in Philly?”

“Leaving later today.”

“Want to grab a beer after I’m done with the commencement exercises?”

There was a pause in messages, as if he were trying to work out how someone who couldn’t find someone else in a small bar was going to make contact in a big city like Philadelphia. “Sure,” he wrote.

One thing led to another and that afternoon we were seated at the City Tap House. Now here’s the weird thing. When you don’t know someone all that well but you’ve ridden with them, it takes about five seconds before you are talking like old friends. You know lots of the same people, you’ve done lots of the same races, you’re both suffering from the same mid-life cycling delusionary syndrome … you hit it off.

I’m not sure if it’s like that for golfers or soccer players or bass fishermen, but my bike follows me everywhere, even when I leave it at home. And that’s the way I like it.

17 thoughts on “Everywhere is local”

  1. Sandy Hackney

    Not commenting on this post, but an earlier one on negotiation with cagers. I feel that where you live is very important here. There in the car-crazed LA world where so much of life, time, ego, etc. is tied to the car, it is understandable how conflicts between real people, i.e., cagers on the move, and lesser mortals, i.e., fools on bikes, arise.

    Here in the more slow upstate NY, we wave at cars (here cars, not cagers) and trucks (lots of pickups – very few with gun racks) and they wave back. We give them room and they move slowly around us. I guess it helps to be riding with lovely women, too…

    Anyway, also many thanks also for the chapters in your book. On our rides several of us always discuss the Daily Reading of “The Wankmeister.”

    1. Thank you!

      I wave and smile quite a bit myself (don’t tell anyone), and it’s true, different road environments require different adaptations. Nice that you live in a place where there is so much mutual acceptance. On the whole, bikes are accepted here, too, it’s just that the times when things go sideways or when someone gets violent in a car, it really grabs your attention.

      Ride on! (Happily of course!)

  2. I thought your response in the first comment was going to be “bikes are accepted here, too… except when they’re not.” 🙂

    For this blog, yes, golfers are the same. I live and socialize with one. And I actually enjoy listening to their lively stories about sand traps, wind, clubs, etc. It does remind me of my friends and our bike conversations.

  3. I have noticed that the early drivers aren’t as bad as the rush hour drivers. And there are far fewer of them on the road, which makes it much easier for them to get around cyclists. And a wave/smile/friendly greeting tends to bring out the nicer side of those I see on the road.

    As regards your Philly story, so did you end up at Monk’s, or at the place next door to Monk’s (and you never actually went to Monk’s)? Not that I drink much beer (lest I creep up to 130 lbs, or break 140 lbs including the bike), but I just want to get my story straight on whether you have first hand info attesting to the greatness of Monk’s, or rather the greatness of the place next door to Monk’s.

  4. Nice Seth! I always find it takes a few minutes to even recognize a riding buddy without his/her helmet on. Cool to hear of another rider named Skip, one that’s got some accomplishments on the bike.

    by the way, do you miss the twitter? I’ve missed your presence as you were my 2nd or 3d follower. I don’t do facebag. Anyway, I’m thinking of dropping it altogether. Lots of nice people on there but man it’s easy to be misunderstood in 140 or less. Summer is coming, lots to do outside!

    1. I miss all the social media I’m no longer part of. But there were only 24 hours in the day, so I had to pick and choose.

      Currently self-limit Facebag to a couple of posts a day.

      I miss scrolling through Twitter for news. It’s the most up to date global newsfeed that there is.

      MasterCard lied to us. You can’t have it all.

  5. Have had a few at city Tap with Quaker daughter, but don’t know about Monks. One year left so will have time to get there. Hit the gelato/expresso just below City Tap?

    1. I may have hit it, but it wasn’t intentional.

      Monk’s Cafe is slightly off the beaten path most immediate to the universities, but it’s got the best beer list by far. It’s really worth the extra 1-mile stagger.

      Our last night in Philadelphia we went to Brauhaus Schmitz. Whoa! You had better like German beer; that’s all they have, and they have tons of it — with much of it on tap, fresh, and very good.

      But more than beer, the food is excellent, which I can’t really say for Monk’s. Not that anyone gives a rat’s ass about food after the fourth Racer 5. Brauhaus’ waiter said to me laughingly after the third basket, “They come for the beer but stay for the bread.”

      Enjoy these two spots. They’re well worth it. Wish my son had stayed in college for a fourth year so I could have gone back more. Well, okay, I suppose I’m actually glad that he finished in three. But still …

      1. Weird, great minds, I guess, per my other comment, we went to Brauhaus Schmitz last time I was in Philly as well. Now, i wish I could remember the name of the French Restaurant we went to…

  6. Haha, I grew up down there, and we used to go into the city every Saturday after Thanksgiving before having kids with my mom and sisters. The last bar I drank at we just walked into on a whim. It was Monks.

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