Thursday, August 30, 2007

Riding the Tiger

Nowadays this phrase usually refers to investing in Chinese markets, but to me it's about a bicycle. I've had a lifelong love affair with America's greatest defunct bicycle maker, Schwinn of Chicago, and more recently the world's greatest defunct bicycle maker, Raleigh of England. I also have a Pashley. Here's my Tiger:

By the frame's serial number, I know my Tiger was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1966. I like to think the workers were not drunk. In any case, she's still rolling 41 years later. I bought her off a guy in upstate New York who was neighbors with the original owner. Tiger was originally a single speed, but she got a 3-speed Sturmey Archer wheel set in 1980. It was an appropriate choice, since all but a few of Schwinn's 3-speeds rolled on Sturmey gear (which was made by Raleigh). I replaced the handlebar myself. Here's the building in Chicago that formerly housed the Schwinn factory:

If you like mid-century trivia, the distinctive mid-60s elements of this bike are its clover-leaf chain wheel, unpainted chrome fenders, starburst graphics, and Space-Age swooshed chain guard. The famous "cat-eye" frame appeared from the 50s through the 80s and is still widely copied today. And by far the most distinctively 1966 part on this bike is the rare "tear drop" reflector:

Just five days after my bike was made, Schwinn stopped recording daily serial numbers, after which you can only date to the month. There's a minor exception for some 1980-1982 bikes that had a secondary serial number on the head badge, but that's another blog post for another day. My project this afternoon was to put a Brooks saddle on the Tiger. Brooks is the last made-in-England remnant of Raleigh, and their saddles remain wildly popular among hard core cyclists.

Doesn't that look nice? I love Brooks.

You might have noticed that the words "defunct" and "remnant" come up a lot when discussing the great bicycles of history. As with many things in our society, so-called "American" bicycle companies have devolved into strictly marketing organizations who just put their brand on the lowest bidding overseas frame welder (Update: I realized that statement sounds a little harsh, because this post is pertaining to cruiser and low-end mountain bikes; there are various exceptions in the high end of the market). Modern "Schwinns" have nothing to do with actual Schwinns, and likewise with Raleigh. The last Chicago Schwinn cruiser rolled off the line in 1982. With exception of a few high end models, Schwinn imported all its other bikes up until its demise in 2001. Luckily, if you know where to look, there are a few remnants of the great age of American bicycles surviving. For the only true continuously operating Schwinn remnant, check out Waterford cycles and their sub-line Gunnar. They were formerly the Schwinn custom shop which built the famous Schwinn Paramount line of cycles. Here's my Waterford-built Schwinn:

If you want an old school cruiser, the last American standing, so far as I can tell, is Worksman, a NYC company with a cool history. If you like English, hunt down the aforementioned Pashley. They only have one or two importers to the US, but they are nice bikes. There are also lots of high-end custom frame welders (and luggers) thriving in the US. Last time I checked, Trek and LeMond were still making some high end bikes in the US, but Trek has been trending toward imports, so I am lukewarm toward them. (Update: To be fair, both my road bike and one of my mountain bikes are imports. I just don't blog about them, because they're boring!)

Of course the other option is to buy an actual vintage bicycle. They're always on the market, and they all need good garage or indoor homes. They're made of steel, so outdoor parking will over time destroy them. It's very likely that your acquisition will still have the original grease in all of its bearings, which is bad. You'll need new grease in the bottom bracket, headset, and both wheel hubs. Don't attempt this yourself, unless you happen to be a skilled mechanic or engineer type. Sturmey rear hubs have an oil port on the hub shell, and you should drip a medium weight machine oil into it once a month or so when riding. If you want any more help getting sucked into the cult of vintage bikes, just ask.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Eleanor and Adam's Engagement

Eleanor and Adam chose to have their engagement photos done out at Luckenbach Tuesday evening. It rained on us a bit, but that didn't slow us down much, and the clouds made for some great sunset action! (Don't you just love how we photo bloggers make excessive use of the exclamation mark? In my erstwhile writing career, I would have stoned myself for this excess already!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kellena and Doug in Buffalo

Kellena and Doug got married in private ceremony on Nantucket Island. Lucky for me, I got to shoot their reception in Buffalo the following week. The restaurant on the harbor made for an awesome sunset.

But first things first... Earlier in the day, we cruised around on a limo-RV (a first for me) to pick up some beers and do some impromptu portraiture.

And then back to the reception...

Dear Che

I did a lot of my blogging in Geneva from the public library. They had this great painting there. Unfortunately the artist was not clearly indicated. This painting spans a lot of history. I can't figure out what agenda here is, but I like it. I know I had some interesting politics when I was 12 years old, but I'm not sure I was ever this clever. Only from the mind of a child, right?

The Wagner Attack Swan

We had lunch at the Wagner winery. Brennen said last time he was here, a free-roaming swan attacked him. I didn't believe him until we saw the new fence. I couldn't resist getting a closer look. My shoes have a few new beak marks on them now.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Buffalo Architecture

Unfortunately my schedule in Buffalo this weekend is too tight to really photograph all the buildings, but every time I come here, the Buffalo architecture really blows me away. I think especially so since I've been to Chicago twice since my last trip here, and Buffalo impresses just as much... in some cases maybe more. If you are a fan of The Devil in the White City, you probably need to check out Buffalo, too!

OK, so I did have time for one picture, but it will only satisfy radio and cold war nerds. I have a strange fascination with something known as the AT&T Long Lines. If you are my age or older, you will remember these things as dominating the landscape as you traveled across America by car. Their trademark antennae look like something from the Death Star, and they were the backbone of long distance communications until fiber optic took over. With fallout shelters in their bases, they were designed to withstand a nuclear blast as close as two miles away! Good info is hard to come by, but as far as I can tell, they were mostly obsolete by the early 80s. A few of them still operate, and even some of the decommissioned ones still host antennae that are used to communicate with Air Force 1 and other executive aircraft. In most places, the cool old antennae are being stripped and replaced by mundane cell phone relays. Well, at least the towers live on. Buffalo has one that appears fully intact. I have no idea of it's still operating or not. When I see one in good shape, I often stop my car to snap it. In this case, I just shot through the window of my hotel room.

P.S. -- I'm posting today from the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, which has great wings and free Internet. I definitely recommend it to other travelers! (I received no free wings for this message.)

Friday, August 24, 2007


... is the only way I can describe these scarecrow demands. Will this be the Christmas Card?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Seneca Falls: It's a Wonderful Life (?)

Today we accidentally stumbled upon a great bit of living film trivia, or so claims the village of Seneca Falls. Sam Wainwright? HEE-HAW!

Scarecrow Redux

Here comes the scarecrow again, this time modified for my number one blog fan and heckler in chief. Except, I'm not sure she's really heckling. This may be serious artwork...


Oliver made the trip from Savannah to Geneva with Brennen and Sarah. As you can see, Oliver and I spend lots of quality time discussing the merits of rubber dinosaurs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Anthony Road Winery

Today's Portland-like weather is not cooperating with our vacation lifestyle, so we did lunch indoors at the Fox Run winery, followed by the obligatory wine tasting there. My pick was the Reserve Cabernet Franc (which seems to be what I select every time I come to Geneva, no matter which winery, though I also have a soft spot for Riesling at Prejean). At Fox Run, I was too busy actually tasting to take any pictures. Next we stopped at the Anthony Road winery. As soon as we entered the place, a cloud of Eau de Clorox Bleach assaulted my otherwise wine loving palette. I asked what was up, and apparently it was some big periodic cleaning project we'd stumbled into. Since I couldn't actually taste anything properly, I absconded to their awesome little classic-style garden, which was full of fruits and herbs. They have an open pick-whatever-you-want policy. Their scarecrow was badass. I also liked the succulents growing in old boots.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rochester Has Actual BBQ

But fortunately, it's not made from these cute mallards who feed in the Genesee River a few yards outside the restaurant.

Here's the place, Dinosaur BBQ, from the air. Note the windmill.

Same windmill from the No Parking zone.

I think the food speaks for itself.