Tag: richard sachs

Alrighty then, Baffled

In which we learn how Richie and Deb spend their non-race weekends

Sunday, 7:05 AM

Deb is concerned. She has been concerned for weeks now. The woodstove’s ceramic baffle has a hole in it. The only directions she could find for replacing it were the stern warning to “have it replaced by a qualified Hearthstone dealer.” As if. The conundrum: risk replacing the part themselves or live with the defect and pray that nothing goes horribly wrong in the depths of January? It is on this fateful Sunday morning that she decides. They will replace the part. She informs Richie. He, recognizing her uncompromising tone, sighs, swallows the last of his bagel and puts his computer aside. Deb frowns as she reads the instructions that came with the replacement part. Why do the “tools needed” include a hammer and chisel? She hands the instructions to Richie, sure he will only read the first line and then go at it his own way. Mentally, she says goodbye to the woodstove.

8:10 AM

They are still on step one: Remove the cotter pin. Richie has bent it, pinched it with needle-nose pliers, and sawed it with a hacksaw blade. It seems to be a permanent fixture. Deb decides to re-read all the instructions for the tenth time, as if that will make the cotter pin come loose, and to feel that she is doing something productive. She also re-reads the pre-instruction and this time she grits her teeth. Doing the pre-instruction means they are all in. No returning part, no backing out. “Using a utility knife, cut the part in half at a 45 degree angle.” Uncharitably, Deb wonders why they don’t cut the part in half themselves at the factory. As she holds the utility knife poised over the baffle like a surgeon, she hears Richie, in the other room, still struggling with the cotter pin. She takes a deep breath and makes the first cut. The second cut. The third cut. Finally, on the fourth cut, the part separates. She goes to tell Richie, who has his head in the wood stove. There is soot everywhere. Deb decides to go upstairs for a bit.

8:34 AM

Richie gives a grunt of satisfaction. Cotter pin is out! Richie tells Deb he needs a restorative look at his computer. Deb goes on to step two: “Slide heating tubes to left.” She does and they fall out, along with a few other pieces of metal. She is not too worried, since they have marked the pieces with a Sharpie. She will regret this insouciance later. She lays the two halves of the baffle in the stove. All well and good! She begins to replace the heating tubes. As she struggles with pins and holes and slots, dark childhood memories of Fisher-Price square blocks and round holes come unbidden. She mutters.

9:02 AM

Richie puts computer down and says he will try. Deb can’t watch his defeat, so she leaves the room. But in a very short time, he informs her he has succeeded! She is elated but suspicious. Surreptitiously, she examines it. He has done it! Perhaps, Deb thinks, decades of honing motor skills building renowned bicycle frames has prepared him for just this challenge on the Hero’s Journey of Life! A feeling of pride for him wells up in her. They are over the hump and on their way to victory!

9:15 AM

Richie has another restorative look at his computer, while Deb (a.k.a. “The Closer”) struggles to fit the final part in in without breaking the baffle. Eventually, she reluctantly concludes that this final part must be put into place before the tubes go in. She mutters not-nice words to the writer of the instructions who, it is now obvious, has never replaced a baffle before.

9:35 AM

Richie is still having his convivial computer moment when Deb informs him that the heating tubes/ Fisher-Price-from-hell-game must be taken out. She thinks he looks resigned, but patient. If he did it once, he can do it again, his expression seems to say. He takes them out. Deb puts in the metal part. Or tries to. She realizes this is the one piece they forgot to mark and she doesn’t know which way is right side up. She asks Richie. He doesn’t remember either.

9:45 AM

On the Internet, they find an exploded diagram of the wood stove. The part appears to go that way.

9:45 AM

They look at each other, eyes wide with uncertainty. They shrug. It is what it is. Deb puts the part in. Richie replaces the tubes a second time.

Sunday morning 10:06 AM

They have done it! And the staid pace of country living is gratefully resumed.


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Alrighty then, Charm City

‘Cross done right.

Richie and I live in the country. Not the suburban-we-have-a-big-yard-with-some-woods-behind country, but real country. Our town encompasses a little over 37 square miles, with a population of 780. Doing the math, that makes 21 people per square mile. By contrast Amherst, a nice medium-sized town, has 1400 people per square mile. All this is to say that we mostly have no idea what day it is or when there is a holiday or anything. We work for ourselves and at home. Calendars are not really part of our lives, except for ‘cross racing season and even then we just block out the days we’re gone and I use that info to set things up with my neighbors, who take care of the birds.

Charm City race is on Columbus Day weekend—a three-day holiday that completely eluded us. Until that is, we started driving. We figured, oh about seven hours of driving, and so we decided to start about 11:00 or so on Friday. (I can see you rolling your eyes…yes, I can.) We’re not prompt, so we actually left at about noon. Perfect timing, as we found out, to hit New York City right at 5:00. I was okay with the New York thing, thinking we were stupid to leave so late, but when the traffic snarl extended past New York and through New Jersey, pokey, pokey, pokey, it finally dawned on me that something else was going on—and that something was a holiday weekend. So, it took us eleven hours instead of the planned seven. And then we had to drive home on Sunday. (But that took only nine.)

Even with the god-awful drive, though, Charm City charmed me. Yes, it’s true the team did really well, and that helps with the bonhomie—BrittLee was on the podium both days and Dan and Sam either in the top ten or close. A racing team thrives on these kinds of results—it is like pouring oil on the machinery. But I saw something else happen, something important, that these excellent results were the place-markers of. I saw a determination in those kids that I’ve never seen before. I saw them grab confidence and never let it go. I saw them believe in what they were capable of—and act on that belief. It made my heart swell with pride.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Joe Pugliese when he was at our house photographing Richie for Bicycling magazine this summer. Joe has photographed bazillions of famous and successful people, people like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, so during lunch I asked him if he noticed any particular quality these people had in common. He said, “confidence, they have a lot of confidence.” We went on to speculate whether they have confidence because they are successful or their confidence made them successful. Either way, we decided, the confidence was fundamental. And that’s what I saw happen this weekend: the kids seized confidence.

But the charm of Charm City was more than successful results. Charm City has a vibe—perhaps it’s the MAC series—that made it a real pleasure to attend. It lacked the feeling of hype, of frantic-pushy commercialism, of bigger, bigger, bigger, that I have felt at other races. In addition, the course was laid out so that we pit-people could see plenty of it, and let me just say that is a big perk when you spend most of your day in the pit. There were gobs of relaxed families and dogs (Buddy appreciated that) soaking up the perfect weather, and really good ethnic truck food. The little kids’ racecourse was set up in the infield, so it was easy to observe as I trudged to and fro from the pits. Watching tiny tots haul their bikes over the six-inch barrier, determined and inspired (and hilarious) makes you realize what these race days really should be, and are here—a celebration. And parking. Was not a problem. At all.

Charm-ing City.

charm city

photo by Erik Annis

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What Makes a Life?

Recently, Richie has been posting, on Facebook and his website, pieces of ephemera from his bicycle history with his reflections and backstory. Since his involvement with bicycles, bicycle racing, and frame building dates back to the early 1970’s this project, taken as a whole, has become a testament of sorts to his life—his choices, his experiences, his observations.

Tonight, we go to my parent’s sixtieth wedding anniversary dinner party. To give them something, my four siblings and I have been combing through photographs. There are lots of photos of sailing—comfy coastal sailing and gritty ocean sailing. There is one of my Dad hang gliding, another of my Mom horseback riding in the Grand Canyon (looking none too thrilled), a lovely one of her resting on a Swiss mountaintop à la Sound of Music, and one of them in Russia with a young Russian couple they met when they were stuck there for a bit.

Reading the ephemera and perusing the photographs makes me think, what makes a life? Is it adventure and experiences—new places, travel? Is it people—those you’ve met and interacted with within your passion? Or is it something more fundamental?

The common denominator in Richie’s ephemera and my parents’ travels is connection. Each of them has lived—is living—a life filled with connection. Connections to people, places, adventures, experiences, words, ideas, nature.

So what makes a life?

The courage to connect is what makes a life.


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Last Dance of the Season

This weekend, the NBX Grand Prix of Cyclocross, is the last cyclocross race of the regular season for Richie and me.

The kids—that’s what I call them (probably not to their joy) have worked hard, achieving proud results. Dan C. got a UCI fifth place and was on the podium numerous times in local races. Dan T. has won himself many second places in hard-fought UCI races. He’s bummed that he hasn’t stood on the top podium this season (yet) but that’s only because he’s a competitor with a capital C. The rest of us are in awe. BrittLee has regularly finished in the top ten of her elite women’s races, often scrambling to best a place or two just before the end.

Richie and I like to put team memories and sponsor loyalty above race results, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want the kids to kick ass. I once read an interview with the founder of Bikram yoga (a controversial person to be sure, but I appreciated this sentiment) and he said that he loves watching the students push themselves beyond what they think they can do, because then he sees it—that moment when they fall in love with themselves.

A person should not try to take away someone’s right to fail, and when its converse, the right to succeed, is initiated, well…you suffer, your body wants to stop, your mind doesn’t let it, and at the end of the race, you have done better than you ever thought possible. How is it that I can be so strong, you ask yourself? How is it that I can suffer so much to achieve my goal? I must be wonderful.

And you are.

dan t 2dtIMG_1855

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A New York Postcard

Richie and I drove to New York yesterday to attend the House Industries/AIGA event at Rapha Cycling club in the Meatpacking district, where Richie was a part of the panel discussion. House redesigned Richie’s bikes a few years ago and this event was the unveiling of their new typeface, Velo.


There was a crush of people, mostly designers, it seemed, judging by the innovative eye-ware.The event was standing-room only and I met the children’s book writer and illustrator, John Segal. We had a great chat.

Buddy, the Adventure Maltese, was in peak form–he likes New York– and much adored, especially by the staff at our hotel, The Gansevoort.


At the Gansevoort, we were, to our delight, upgraded to a suite and the manager came out to greet us personally. Hmmm. I don’t know any of those people in the wall decoration.



Then he sent up a bottle of wine and some chocolates. Yum!







Right now I am chillin’ in my suite and looking out the window to NYC, idly planning the morning. Breakfast somewhere, then maybe a bit of wandering in the West Village, then maybe a trip to Uniqlo to get a serviceable cashmere sweater.

photo 2

Yes, that is a swimming pool on the roof.






And here’s the Hudson River, from the balcony of the suite.


All in all, pretty sweet.

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Robin and Me

I was at NAHBS—the North American Handmade Bicycle Show—and Robin Williams was there. He had a bike on order with Dario Pegoretti, the renowned Italian custom bike builder and I guess he wanted to meet him in person as well as tour the show. Dario’s booth was across the aisle from ours and when Dario came in that morning, fresh from Italy, he pulled out, from the voluminous folds of his overcoat, a bottle of Italian wine. “This is for you and Ricardo,” he said in his wonderful Italian accent, “for a romantic moment.” That’s Dario—the consummate romantic and artist. I just love him.

So Robin Williams toured the show with an entourage of fans, and you could always tell where he was by the hive of people buzzing around him. (Not that I was looking.)  FINALLY, he got to our booth, but two people were talking to me (endlessly) and despite my frantic glances over to where Robin was talking to Richie (who didn’t at first know who he was: “Hi, I’m Richard,” he says holding his hand out. “I’m Robin.” Not that I was spying.) Then Richie called me over. “Sweetie,” he says, “this is Robin,” (well, duh.) “Robin this is my wife, TLD, The Lovely Deb.”

Robin shook my hand, and started to do his thing, which was an amazing riff on TLD—my very own Robin Williams riff, just for me. It went on for about, oh maybe thirty seconds, while I stared in amazement, grinning. Then he shook my hand again and walked off.

I felt like one of the anointed. He had riffed on me. We were connected. Which was why I did what I did next. As the show was closing, Robin, exhausted, was sitting in Dario’s booth, which, remember, was across from ours. I stopped my packing-up, and walked over to ask a question that had been nudging at me. “Why haven’t you ordered a bike from Richie?” I asked (but in a nice way) genuinely curious, since Richie is so well known in the bike-building world. Robin looked up at me, “I will, when I’m older,” he said, probably sick of people. “If you order it now, you will be older,” I quipped.

And Robin Williams LAUGHED.


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Respect Your Elders

This past week, I heard a talk by Terry Farish, author of the YA novel, The Good Braider. I had read an early draft of the book in my Editing class, and I was eager to hear Terry speak. Her book is a delicate story about a harsh subject—that of Sudanese refugees. In the talk, someone raised the topic of the relationship between parents and children in different cultures and Terry replied by quoting one of the Sudanese she had interviewed for her book:

“In this country [United States], parents respect the children; but in my country, the children respect the parents.”

This observation goes to the heart of what is worth respecting and also to the heart of the two cultures. In a culture of tradition, like that of Sudan, it is the parents who have the knowledge and the children respect them for that. In the United States, the culture is one of rapidly changing technology and the children have the knowledge to use this technology––more than the adults since the children are growing up with it.

But there’s something missing in a culture that respects its children over its adults for their fluency in technology. Since we, in the United States place such value on the new, we have been misled as a culture into thinking that youth is better than age.

While it’s nice to admire our children’s proficiency at mastering technological change, it’s important to remember that it is simply, as my husband Richard Sachs says “the ability to process information that someone else has put out there”.

Deeper than fluency in technology and by and large missing from our culture is the role of the elders (and by elders, I mean adults). The elders’ value lies in their life knowledge. If we take away the bells and whistles of society, we have what we have always had: people looking for a community and people looking to express themselves in a satisfying way. These are the urges that are part of our human legacy and the elders have lived these urges over and over. They know that life is a cycle; that it will be good, it will be bad, it will be interesting, it will be boring. And most importantly, they know that all that is just fine. 

As a dear elderly friend often said to me as I poured out my teenage heart to her: You are so young. That always comforted me. I didn’t have to figure it all out. I was young. I was finding my way. This is what the elders offer. The wisdom of perspective.


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At The Races


I was walking around the Cyclocross Nationals venue with my husband, Richard Sachs, and we remarked that it looked like one of those giant slums in India. Mud everywhere churned underfoot. Tents, some blown over. A general look of poverty and monsoon effects. But nothing could be further from the slum reality. People spent thousands of dollars to experience this deprivation and visual ugliness. They travelled across the country, flying and driving and all for this. A mud-slung venue in a frozen prairie. (the mud is from a warm rainy night, now the front has moved out and the cold arctic air has moved in.) People want to pit themselves against others in their sport and see how they rank up. And that makes me wonder about this whole competition thing.  As a species, it seems we must always be competing and engaging in that summation of competition; giving out awards. The best this, the largest that, the fastest, the slowest.  I used to work in video production and I once jokingly said to my camera man that production companies could just make up an award and give it to themselves in plaque form so they could hang it on their waiting room wall, thereby giving themselves the look of credentials. He said, “Don’t think they don’t do that.”

Way back when, in cave man days, we needed to compete to survive. That, like so many of our patterns, has stayed with us, even though the necessity for it has largely disappeared.

Today, we compete to help define who we are as a substitute for actual survival. Pretty harmless behavior until competition becomes our sole definition of who we are. I was struck by that actualization as I watched Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah. He had to win, or to put it another way; he had to beat other people. That seems like such a lonely way to live your life.

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