It was finally here, the day I had been awaiting for months. The day RBA’s ace photographer John Ker, would join me for a road trip to Sacramento to attend the 8th annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show. One of the interesting things about NAHBS is that is leads a rather nomadic existence in the way that it always chooses a different local each year. This would be the second year running that I’ve attended the show (it was in Austin, Texas last year) and as I told someone in the halls this year after it was announced that the show would head to Denver, Colorado in 2013, NAHBS is a show that I would attend no matter where it was held.
Another draw for me this year was the idea of driving with John. Over the years we have spent plenty of hours together, both on the road and in and in various airports, cafes and hotel rooms across the country. I love John. I think he likes me. I know he hates driving with me. Although we share a certain kinship by both having been inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, we really couldn’t be more different in personality – and driving habits. John leads a much more measured, calm and cautious life than I do and his driving style certainly reflects that. While I would admit to having certain idiosyncrasies when I get behind the wheel, I would argue that it is more often the mis-interpretation of my driving skills by the passenger (John) than any real fault of my own where the real friction derives.
Okay, so maybe I am a bit aggressive in traffic, but as I have coached my daughter over the years, the reason we drive is to get somewhere. And the best way to achieve that end is to simply “drive with purpose”. It's a style of driving that is nothing to be ashamed of. If the job is to get from point A to point B, well, why linger & dawdle with a soft foot on the throttle? I'm not advocating reckless driving by any means, just make it happen! And if someone goes wide in a turn, I always figure it’s incumbent of me to try to take the inside line. Not only might it help gain me time to my destination, but it’s also a service to the other driver by reminding them A. the inside line is always faster, and B. they will and should get passed if they a hole open. I mean really, if the driver ahead of me leaves some corner space open, and it's paved, it would be unfair to not use the inside line!
We hadn’t even gotten over the Grapevine when John mercilessly started picking apart my driving with this query that was dripping with implication…“Is there a reason we’re driving so close to the car in front of us?” Like the old NASCAR cliche' goes, it's not tailgating, it's drafting! As he often does, John tried to correct my behavior by drumming up a list of parables of flaming auto wrecks, none which had any effect.
The last time we drove up “The Five” together was to attend the Hangtown Motocross National
a few years ago, also in Sacramento. That was the trip when he questioned (repeatedly) my disdain for air conditioning. Whether it’s in movie theaters, airplanes or restaurants, I hate the feeling of artificial cold air being blown against me. On this trip, John also caught on to another of my dislikes…“I’m aware of your moral and philosophical objections to air conditioning, but do you also have something against using the wind shield wipers?” I replied that although the brief rain shower we were encountering as we drove through Stockton was somewhat heavy, I could still see through the (increasingly) murky windshield. I could tell John was growing uneasy so I flicked the wipers on (ever so infrequently) just to be nice.
Once inside the halls, John as usual displayed his own quirky traits that have become (in) famous throughout the industry. If you asked John to shoot a simple, quick, unimportant photo of a corn dog found on the floor, he would attack the challenge with the full vigor of a cover shoot for Vanity Fair. To make sure that any shot, every shot, is as good as it can be, John will enlist complete strangers to act as models or assistants to hold his remote flashes. He will shoot every angle and every exposure possible. He will say he “has it”, but then go on shooting the same shot “just to be sure”. While I understand his penchant for photographic excellence, I’m always watching the clock, aware of what still needs to be shot and how much time we have left to get it done. This year he had us carting a 12 foot ladder through the packed aisles so that he could get an aerial shot (above) of the show floor. I do have to admit, although I always end up trying to rush him, John will persist and in the end he always gets the gold. On more occasions than I can count, John’s quest for excellence has made RBA a far better magazine than if the photo duties were left to anyone else. For that I am thankful.
When it comes to dining out, well, let’s just say that John A. hates to spend (his own) money on good food, B. takes forever to figure out what he wants, and then C. hates to leave even the smallest, minute scrap on his plate before he stops eating. To watch John (literally) ensure that he has transferred every last grain of rice or smudge of egg yolk on his plate to his mouth is to watch a guy imagining that he his eating his last meal.
Four days later, after seeing so many wonderful bikes and people, it was time to head back home. Not five minutes into the drive as we rounded a freeway on-ramp, there it was…”You know, I heard that these mini-vans call roll-over pretty easily if you corner too fast with them!”
The drive home went pretty good, John intermittently sleeping and asking about the music I was playing, “Is he saying Jungle Boogie
?” "Why do these guys (Stiff Little Fingers
) sound so angry?"
But I guess in the end it finally got to be too much for JK when after accusing me of forcing a driver in front of us to swing wide (I wasn’t even that close to him!) going through an on-ramp corner, John pointedly asked, “Why do you drive like such a jerk?” Luckily, for both of us, by then we only had to get back over the Grapevine where I could drop JK off and we could go our separate ways. It was a great weekend - thanks John.
QUOTE OF THE SHOW:
“Yeah, I showed my wife what you had written about me and the first thing she asked me was, “Is he gay?” Craig Calfee commenting (in a round about way) on all the nice things
I say about him and his bikes.