Stupid Road Wars

Lansdowne, PA 1971

I was riding my bicycle home after school when a station wagon blew its horn, passed me real close and cut me off. It had to stop for a traffic light, I caught up, passed the station wagon, ran through the red light and gave the driver the finger. Thirty seconds later I heard screeching wheels behind me. Oops. The station wagon was gaining fast. Fortunately, I found a one way street where I could turn left and make my escape.

Cooperstown, NY 1974

I was riding my Honda 360 motorcycle with Martha on the back. We were on our way to Cooperstown to visit Jim and Kathy. I was going about 60. An old car with two rednecks pulled out from the right and cut me off. I zipped by the car and gave them the finger. Ten seconds later I heard the engine roar behind us. The car quickly re-passed us and the passenger threw a can of beer at us. It barely missed my head. Martha was mad.

Boston, MA 1979

Martha and I had driven to the Boston area so I could interview for a job. We were driving our 1974 Ford Pinto that was missing a muffler and made a lot of noise. It was about 11PM and there was little traffic. We were stopped at a traffic light that seemed to be broken. There was a car beside us in the other lane. Finally, we decided the light was never going to change and proceeded through. There was no traffic.

The car that had been sitting beside us patched out, passed us, pulled in front, cut us off, then slowed down to about 20 mph. I pulled out to pass and the car sped up. We were going about 60. I slowed down, the other car pulled in front of us and slowed down to about 20. I tried to pass again, same thing. At one point we were doing 80. No way the Pinto had the power to pass the other car. At one point I slammed the brakes, did a U turn, accelerated as fast as I could. Didn’t work. The other car was behind us in an instant, passed us, pulled in front, and slowed down to 20. Martha was frantic.

I tried to pull onto a freeway. The other car pulled in front, then turned sideways on the entrance ramp and stopped to block us. The driver got out and walked back to our car. He was really big. He was raving like a lunatic, yelling something something incomprehensible. I rolled down the window to try to talk to him. He tried to pull me out of the car and Martha pulled on my other arm to keep me in the car. Finally the wacko punched me in the face, walked backed to his car and drove away.

I went to the job interview the next day with a black eye, but still managed to get the job offer. I turned it down.

Carnation, WA 1987

Martha and I were riding our tandem bicycle north through Carnation Saturday morning. A station wagon driven by a mom with two kids blew its horn, passed us real close and pulled in front. I gave them the finger. The car pulled over and the two kids jumped out – they were in their early teens – and started screaming and cursing me with words even I rarely used. Martha had not seen me give them the finger. She asked why they were so upset and I replied, “I dunno.”


Steak Cooked in a Skillet

Our gas grill on Bainbridge Island does not get hot enough to cook a good steak, so we decided to do it on the stove top and we quite pleased with the results.

  • steakInSkillet2 Steaks – N.Y. Strip, or similar
  • cast iron skillet
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • Remove steak from fridge 1 hour before cooking. Season both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder.  Cover and let stand at room temperature.
  • Add oil to skillet, heat until it starts to smoke.
  • Add steak to skillet, cook on one side until seared, about 2 minutes on our stove
  • Flip steak, sear other side. Then flip 90 degrees, sear first one edge, then the other edge of the steak.
  • Pour off excess fat.
  • Finish cooking steak on low heat, according to preference.  Our steaks were about an inch thick, so we removed the cast iron skillet from the heat completely; the iron skillet was hot enough to finish cooking the steak.
  • Place steak on a platter, cover with aluminum foil, allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Fixed Gear to Port Gamble

Because rain was forecast, I rode my fixed gear to Port Gamble.  No one else showed up at Winslow Green for the start of our Saturday ride, so I enjoyed riding alone.

Unstable air created beautiful cloudy skies and blustery wind.  A few sprinkles cooled me on the way home, and a 25 knot crosswind tried to blow me into oncoming traffic crossing the bridge over Agate Passage.

Clouds over Port Madison
Clouds over Port Madison

Changing Bars

Bars and cables before replacement
Bars and cables before replacement

Because I’ve been having some problems with Cyclist’s palsy, which started soon after putting new bars on my bike, I decided to switch back to the old bars just to see if that might alleviate the problem.  Changing bars means unwrapping the tape, removing the STI levers, removing and replacing the stem and bars, sliding the STI levers onto the exactly correct position on the replaced bars, clamping them in place, pre-loading and tightening the stem onto the stearer tube to ensure no play in the headset, doing a few test rides and re-adjusting until the levers and bars are positioned correctly, then re-taping the bars.  Also, on one of the test rides, discovering that one of the brake cables is too short on the replaced bars, necessitating finding a replacement cable in my bin of bike parts, threading the new cable into the levers and housing and brake calipers, cutting the cable and crimping a cap onto the cable end. Happily, it’s easy to find how-to articles, even videos for each of these steps.  How did anyone manage to work on a bike before Google?

Actually, part of the answer is, before Google, bikes were simpler and didn’t change as frequently.  Like car manufactures, companies like Shimano, Sram and Campagnola are creating new and improved designs every year to suck more money from naive cyclists.  Each new design has different methods for installation and removal.

Karl on Peterson Hill
Karl on Peterson Hill

Anyway, the final step in my bar replacement was a test ride around the north end of the island to verify all was good.  Bike was good, everything tight and in the right place.  A light rain was just starting to fall as I reached the top of Peterson Hill, about four miles from home.


Leaving Philadelphia

The first year after we were married, Martha and I lived in Lansdowne, right outside Philadelphia, where we worked.  The year was 1973.  Martha was teaching preschool at Blankenburg Elementary and I was working at the AV department at Drexel University. The director’s name was Beatrice. Martha and I were happy and at the same time I was restless.

When B. decided to leave, I was offered her position. It was a dream job opportunity, but I was not happy with the salary offer. Drexel offered to pay me $10K, a 25% increase over my current salary.  Because I knew B. was earning $17K for the same job that’s what I thought I should get. (Yes, at 23 I was a bit naive.)

I suggested an alternate plan for both Martha and me: tell Drexel to go to hell, quit our jobs, travel and explore the country. We had little money saved, about $2k; we were also in the middle of a recession and prospects of getting employment anywhere were uncertain at best.  We were clueless.


Amazingly, Martha acquiesced, and then I vacillated for several weeks between the sensible choice and the stupid choice.   Eventually of course, we made the stupid choice and embraced the dream: go west, discover for ourselves the Rocky Mountains.  We quit our jobs, packed up our belongings. left a network of close friends from college like we would never again have, and drove off in our red Dodge Dart to look for America.  Our lives were forever changed.


Nine months later we were settled in Cobleskill, NY, where Kathleen would eventually be born.  I had a job doing similar work to what I had been doing at Drexel, but at a lower salary.  Martha never again found a job like she had at Blankenburg.

We stayed in contact with friends from Philadelphia, but as years passed,  drifted apart.  For more than a year afterwards, I often regretted leaving Drexel, which built a brand new AV center, with many new toys and a budget to do many cool things.  I was working at a much smaller school with less money and fewer toys.  We never developed the network of friends in Cobleskill like we had in Philadelphia.

We were also living a dream shared by both of us – in the country, beautiful upstate New York, and we continued to dream of new adventures.

Halibut with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Mushrooms

Modified from a recipe by Dakota Kelly in  Serves two people

  • halibutWithZucchini3/4 pound fresh halibut
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 c diced zucchini or summer squash
  • 1/2 c minced sweet onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 c sliced mushrooms
  • 2 c diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 c crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease shallow baking dish
  • Saute zucchini, onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil until soft, about 5 min.
  • Remove from heat, add tomatoes and basil.  Season with salt and pepper
  • Arrange halibut, skin side down in baking dish.  Smother with vegetable mix.
  • Top with feta cheese
  • Bake in preheated oven until fish flakes, about 20 minutes.

We used our outdoor propane grill as an oven on a summer evening.


The Tall Trees
The Tall Trees

Yesterday I rode 47 miles to Port Ludlow and back. Sunlight peeking through a canopy of tall trees created dappled patterns on the quiet roads. Deep in thought, I noticed the forest, not the trees.

Often my rides serve as a crucible for creation.  In my reverie on a beautiful day, a faucet opens and ideas become a steady stream of water.  Some ideas  I will later decide are good and pursue them; other ideas I will reject as ridiculous, or maybe too scary, perhaps only until the next long ride.

I have a job that is in many ways a dream job that I’ve been thinking about leaving.  I’m vacillating.  While riding yesterday, I thought of all that is good about the job, why I should stay and what I should do differently.  I thought about email I would write to the VP, composing, re-writing, editing in my mind.  Today I will recreate some version of that email and actually send it.

Often I think about what I want to say to people.  Being an introvert, I don’t talk all that much, and most of what I think about saying never gets verbalized. That’s mostly a good thing because I’m an INFJ.  The J is for judgemental.

Yesterday, I thought of all kinds of things to write in this blog, mostly stories from the old days that seem worth telling.  Titles like Dennis, Martha, Anne Marie, Leaving Philadelphia may eventually appear in this blog.

Zucchini Soup II

Stolen from somewhere on the internet

  • 3 1/2 c zucchini
  • 1/2 c chopped celery
  • 1 c diced carrots
  • 1/2 c diced onion
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1 3/4 c milk
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 1/4 c chicken stock and water
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • Saute veggies
  • Combine flour and milk, stir until smooth, add to veggies
  • Cook until thick and smooth
  • Puree, then return to pot and simmer
  • Add cream of mushroom soup, stock and sour cream


August 26, 1967 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  It was the day I met Alice.  She was 17, just going into her senior year in high school.  I was 19, home from my freshman year at Drexel in Philadelphia.  My friend Jim was dating her sister Barb, who he had met earlier that year.  They introduced me to Alice when we went on a double date to a lake in Pinchot Park, south of Harrisburg.

Coop and I were working at the Shop.  That’s how our family referred to the family business, MiKar Manufacturing company, named after my brother and me. It was mind-numbing repetitive work.  Coop quit working there when he got a better job working for the State of Pennsylvania.  That’s where he met Barb – it was in an elevator, or a parking lot, I forget which.

That was one crazy summer.  I was madly smitten with Alice from the day we met.  She was my first girlfriend. I went back to school in Philadelphia a few short weeks after meeting Alice, but came home most weekends to spend time with her.  It was a two hour trip by train or bus, longer if I hitchhiked.

My mom started giving me grief for spending too much time with Alice and told me to stay in Philadelphia and focus on school.  I came home anyway, often hitchhiking, staying somewhere else.  I remember sleeping on the couch at the house of my best friend Dennis.

In January 1968, I got my first co-op job with Bell Telephone Co. in Harrisburg, renting my own apartment in the north end of town.  Alice and I were together frequently for six months. The following September, I convinced her to come to Drexel in Philadelphia.  I don’t think her heart was ever really in college, but she and I were together constantly until December.

January 1969, I started my second co-op job in Rochester, NY.  Denis, Alice and I drove up there together, and the two of them returned to Philadelphia.  She flew up to visit me one weekend.  I flew to Philadelphia to visit her on Valentines Day. That’s when she broke up with me.

I was devastated, more crushed than I ever remember feeling.  I returned to Rochester and stumbled through life, living in a house with four other guys, working at a job that was not very interesting.  It was cold, dark, and I would walk to work over icy sidewalks. All I could think about was Alice. Walking home from work, the ice on the sidewalks had melted, and I would dream that she would be waiting at the house for me.  Sometime in March, I received a letter from Dennis saying he and Alice were together.  I went berserk.

That’s when I started smoking.  I got drunk a lot.  Several times I disappeared on weekends without telling anyone where I was going.  One Thursday evening, I recall wandering aimlessly in south Rochester, figuring I was going to skip town and disappear.  Somehow I ended up in Washington, D.C., probably by hitchhiking.  I remember going to visit Fast Eddie, who managed a strip club.  Then I went to visit my friend Mike from high school, who was attending George Washington University.  Sometime during that weekend, I decided to return to Rochester.

The six months that followed were difficult times for me.  Thinking about them is still painful.  Even now, nearly fifty years later, as I am writing, I feel these feelings. They hurt.

Alice as a high school senior - I keep this picture in a drawer, not knowing what else to do with it.  I can't throw it out, but it's not like I want to display it anywhere either.
Alice as a high school senior –
I keep this picture in a drawer, not knowing what else to do with it. I can’t throw it out.

Sawdust Hill

Wanting to accumulate some mileage while the weather is still pleasant, I rode about 40 miles, north off the island to Sawdust Hill and some good climbing. Strava said I climbed about 3200 feet.  Mostly it was a pleasant ride through the country.

In Travels with Charlie, Steinbeck says he did a lot of thinking while driving – planned houses, planted gardens, created turtle traps, written long detailed letters,  all in his mind.  That doesn’t work for me; I find driving a motor vehicle mind numbing.  For mental stimulation, I listen to NPR or podcasts saved especially for the trip.

Riding a bicycle is different.  On days such as yesterday, I think about all kinds of things: dream of living in farm houses that I pass, or in cabins along the coast.  I dream of sailing, raising livestock or harvesting a garden.  Often I solve problems from work, or come up with new creative approaches, some good, others terrible. Other times I just ride and forget about everything.

Little Free Library
Little Free Library

Bainbridge Island has little libraries like the at the right all over the island.  Each one has a unique design.  People are invited to take or leave a book as the choose.  Somewhere there is a registry of these libraries. I’ll put my copy of Travels with Charlie in one of these libraries when I finish reading it.

The farm below sits at the top of Sawdust Hill, overlooking the Olympic Mountains.  Two dogs sauntered out of the pasture to greet me shortly after I took this picture.

Farm on Sawdust Hill
Farm on Sawdust Hill