The Winter of our Discontent

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Where have you been all  of my (winter of 16-17) life?  Perfection on Grassy Mtn.

If you survived Western Oregon during this winter of 2016-17, then fair-play would have already provided you a settlement for therapists fees incurred…we are a grumpy and soggy bunch.  True, this pattern of eternal rain and bluster has provided an unusually robust season for skiing and TV watching, but the number of viable laps of how to train your dragon is finite, and we are all way beyond that by now.  Add in a bout of injuries, a few random aging events and a weeklong vacation to MOAB that was no less soggy than a normal trip to the Oregon coast, and we have a cabin-fever inducing cocktail of truly extraordinary proportions.

Then, on a recent Friday, all consulted forecasts predicted 100% chance of not rain, and TDM pounced, telling his boss to count him out, and calling around  for partners in solar collection experimentation.  There were any number of possible options, with a long list of list-rides ready to be crossed off, and consultation with Yetiwheel resulted in an agreement to go try an alleged classic del LoggingRoadCyclist:  the Grass Mountain Loop.  The short version; TDM feels much better now, despite the current pattern of returned and utter wetness.  Indeed, TLRC tells no lies this time around…this is a sweet little adventure close to home, and TDM is saved…for now.

Exhibit 1:  The ride up involves some pretty solid climbing, spaced by pleasant sections of relatively low angel cruising, mostly through second growth timber as the road rolls along streams, past waterfalls, and eventually onto the fabulous Easter Ridge.  Several times the promise of vistas in the form of light pouring through the trees taunt, but the first real views come at the clearcut shown above.  Don’t worry…it gets better, as evidenced by…

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Views of Marys Peak and the more distant Cascades, with most of the rough climbing behind us.

The steep stuff hit about the time TDM began thinking to himself that this climb seems like it should have been a little harder, but that is so often the case, no?  Luckily the brutal parts don’t last long, and  scenery like that shown above distracts much of the way.  Sometimes a clearcut can be a best friend.  About this time some patches of snow began to appear, and then, quite suddenly, the road ended.  At first TDM was perplexed, but a scant trail was found.

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The doubts improve the adventure in the end, no?

After a short tussle with some salal and nobles the first meadow is found (see below and the photo at top of page as well).

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The Honzo appears to like this breed of April Day a bit more than most recent versions. Cool geology and views of the summit (and the ocean) don’t hurt.

Some scanning of maps and head scratching took place from the above vantage, but then a series of cool decommissioned roads was found, and two miles later, the top was made.

After a snack and some mucking about playing in the snow and investigating other summit mysteries, the final descent begins by charging free-ride style through a meadow, then picking up an old road that winds a short distance south to a waiting logging road in a clearcut.  Max speeds and a few loose turns took TDM past a few big trees, and then finally back to his waiting car near the town of Alsea.

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Trailish qualities with a freedom to stray off-line.  So damn novel!

More info on this route is available through the Logging Road Cyclist’s awesome website, with a map of his route here.  There are several ways to connect the dots, but the route he shows  seems to be a good place to start.  Enjoy!

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To Whom it May Concern

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TDM and the W Pony contemplating Windy Lakes majesty on an overnight circuit…a rare  singletrack opportunity in this or any state of the union, and something now threatened.

There is a well-intended proposal for a new wilderness boundary with the Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal.  This current proposal may eliminate 233 miles of premium MTB single track in our back yard.  Most notably, the Lake Timpanogas area, Upper Middle Fork, Umpqua River Trail and the Rogue River Trail.   

The Trans-Cascadia  non-profit organization is acting as a vehicle to gather thoughts and opinions and get them to the right people, and TDM is 200% behind them on this.

If the loss of trails like the Umpqua Trail is something you would like to raise your voice about, TheDirtMagnet staff would like to salute you, and then provide these links to get involved.  Also helpful: post links on your social media and get word out there!

Please complete this  5 minute survey to help with this effort!

You might want to consult this list of trails and\or this map.  There are a bunch of classics on this list folks!

Below are my thoughts on the issue…a bit less TDM persona than usual, but…important

To Whom it May Concern

I am an Oregon Native who has been raised with conservation and wild places in the forefront of my personal and family life.  After living abroad for many years I returned to Oregon because of my love for many places and activities found here.   Despite the many rewarding opportunities I have turned down to live here, I would make this choice again.   These interests permeate everything in my life…my career is in the conservation field, and then on weekends I hike, fish, kayak, hunt, surf, and bike in areas that rival the best in the country for each pursuit and interest.  I do this alone, and with friends and family.  Sometimes these activities are large scale adventures, while other times they involve tiny outings with kids, my elders, or friends for whom these types of activities are new.  To me, the strength of this state has always been found in the balance of things.  We have one of the highest ratios of wilderness per square mile in the union…a fact that I have celebrated, fought for and enjoyed for all of my 48 years.  But we also have areas which are backcountry and wild by nature, yet remain accessible to a wider variety of uses and users.  I value these lands in equal parts, and for different reasons.

In recent years I have increasingly become aware of the amazing resources Oregon has available for mountain biking, and exploring both new and familiar spaces on a bike has become a large part of my personal and family life.  While there are a  number of trails open to bikes in the state, it is the trails which have a backcountry and/or high cascades aesthetic which have the most appeal for myself and many of my friends.  These trails are in much higher abundance in the southern half of the Oregon Cascades than almost anywhere else in the country, and they are not only a state treasure, but a national and international jewel, as demonstrated by the many foreign friends I have met in these places.  While there may be more of these trails found in this area than in the majority of other places, they are still a rare commodity.  This is part of why these trails are known internationally, and picked by cyclists from around the globe (and region) as their next vacation destination or annual pilgrimage.

While I can relate strongly to the desire to conserve these wonderful areas as a part of a designation that might protect them from various future threats, to me I find a greater risk in losing the balance of different types of engagement in the Oregon I love.  We have so much to share in this state, but ruling out one of the fastest growing and most proactive user groups frequenting these areas strikes me as short-sighted.  If these trails were not so beloved and perfectly suited to bike use I would likely not bother to protest, but in this case, many of these trails are among the finest and most well-loved cycling trails in North America, offering long sections of rare beauty, adventure and all with relatively easy access.  In particular the Umpqua Trail, The Brown mtn. loop, the upper Middle Fork Willamette trail, and the trails in the area of Timpanogas and Windy Lakes are considered iconic sections of trail in the world of mountain biking, recognized on every continent as reasons in themselves for visiting Oregon.

On a more personal note, the loss of bike access to these trails would be a tremendous blow to myself and my family and friends.  The fact that these trails can be linked together to create a huge variety of bike-packing options is one type of loss (as this characteristic is extremely rare, even in Oregon), but also I would lose the chance to explore areas on a bike that I might not otherwise venture…as an example I would not bother to use or recommend use of the Umpqua trail to hikers, as there are other locations nearby offering traits better suited to backpacking or day hikes. But on a bike…there are few trails in the world that I could recommend more, and I return annualy because of that. As it is I hope to someday visit nearly every trail on this list on my bike someday, and that is many years’ worth of weekends away where I get to stay in-state.  If these trails were to be lost to bike use, I would likely visit only a handful of these, and my current interest and engagement in these areas would fade quickly, lost to other places (of much lower quality) that allow me to occasionally ride my bike.

In my perfect life there are places and times for backpacking, horsepacking, and venturing into declared wilderness. In this same perfect life there are places and times where I might ride my bike on wild trails as well.  These two dreams need not occupy the same space and time, but as it is right now, they coexist in my home state, and I and my friends and family would be crushed if it were otherwise.

Regards, TheDirtMagnet

The Secrets That You Keep

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Remote Sensing will reveal the location, or TDM and his kind could just blab about it.

If horizons mark the extent of our vision then our worlds are defined too by the edges of our maps; those places where the illuminated familiar meet the vagaries of the terrra obscura.  The compulsion to push into these geographic vacuums is not universal, but our neural systems are tuned to detect motion and edge, and certain types of curious souls cannot resist the tiny dark horizons still left to our imaginations.  Place TheDirtMagnet squarely in this classification, and then picture him searching a sea of maps with a cup of tea in one hand (very dignified), and a slow smile on his lips as he circles his latest area of interest with the other.

It is still true that maps do not describe every detail, but the amount of information available at a swipe is staggering, and adventure is increasingly an act of willful ignorance where the practitioner finds just enough data to hint a scheme[1], then ventures out on their own terms to verify their hunches[2].  The results of chasing these blank zones most typically lie in a mundane place between the horrific and the sublime…a surprisingly boring outcome for a bold vision.  Indeed, the occasional fiasco is in some ways a more desirable outcome, as the stories last longer than the pain, and there is little harm in sharing a chuckle at one’s self-declared idiocy with some friends over a beer.

But what happens in those rare cases when the practitioner finds their unicorn?  Do they drool like Gollum or babble to themselves in the manner of certain animated gulls?  Do they hide it away to all but a few chosen ones, and there-in maintain the feeling that they are the keepers of some great beauty, and others are not so worthy as them to know of it?  Or do they post it on Instagram with links to KOM’s or whatever, and thus declare the former secret in their name?

Many options exist, and TDM has lived them all at one time or another. For the finder, the battle of the blab is a nuanced thing, and the decision to talk may bend less around images of grandeur than it does visions of monsters…overcrowding, loss of ownership, damage to the resource, or in the case of bikes a very real concern about access loss due to the complaints/abuses of other users of trails. These are real things, and are reason enough for any aspiring Vasco De Gamma to pause and consider.

But there is a second class of discovery that is actually pretty common when chasing rainbows in the Oregon land of MTB; that of the near miss, the almost perfect, the if only.  These are trails, marked on maps and accessible to all, but lacking in some class of fate, luck and design, and therefore sustained as a question rather than an answer.  Occasionally one of these is underserving of this status, having nothing more offensive than the habit of a few downed trees as a primary dooming feature.

For TheDirtMagnet and a few other souls there is currently an example of this exact scenario, where within the Old Cascades trail system (the Pyramids)  the finest singletrack dreams have been lying in wait since well before folks first rode bikes on the soils of the Cascades. When TDM first began rolling about the old cascades trails he was left (relatively) speechless at the promise they exude, but each season showed adequate trail maintenance in these parts to be a rare bird indeed.  At first he tried to contact the USFS to divine chopping schedules, but quickly it became apparent that there was no solution, the local district being overwhelmed by 500+ miles of singletrack, and only a few hands to wield saws. As a result, TDM and a few others sampled what portions they could for the few weeks in October they were clear each year, and the other 10.5 months of the year dreamed of chainsaws and able bodies.  After several cycles of waiting and wishing and dreaming, TDM (among others) put up what flags he has.  After all, the pyramids are not secrets to keep, but trails marked on maps, with posted signs and ample parking.  With so many other secrets still out there, there seemed little reason to deny us all a treat in the name of a Gollum’s desire.

And then this:  the other day TDM received via email a few hints of bodily harm for his part in releasing the cat from its bag. Such strong reactions can only come from a feeling of fear for what can be lost, and though the vehemence of the delivery mystifies most casual observers, sympathy can easily be found for this overexcited individual’s concerns and the strong feelings they precipitate.  In this case it is easy to see that, like recent political trends, the urge to lash out may come from a place of deep fear that should be honored to a degree, even though in reality there nothing here that the perpetrator should fear to loose.

Other than love, what do we as people want more than that space to be ourselves which secret places provide us?  Aided in our freedom by the wheels beneath us, those in the know have found the Pyramids to offer ample opportunities in this regard, and for some of us this is truly a secret garden.  With that truth being evident, TheDirtMagnet has much room for the fears of change and loss. Though many gems lie in remote areas, this solitude is no longer available in places like the nearby McKenzie trail, which on a prime summer day can have a hundred bikers and untold others buzzing around its 25 miles of stunning line, so it can be excused if the thought of loosing yet another zona zucreto makes someone like TDM (who have done their homework and found these private zones on their own accord) break out in hives or a fit of violence at the thought of loosing it to the  hordes from Portland, Bend and beyond arriving unbidden and unearning.  Indeed, there are areas which TDM will never expose for these sorts of reasons, but here is the thing in this case: The Pyramids will never be the Mckenzie.  There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the physical difficulty and backcountry nature of riding here.  An excellent example could be drawn to the O’Leary Loop, which is now enjoying global fame as one of the best rides in Oregon.  Despite massive amounts of trail improvements, and much hype in print and web, it remains, by in large, a lonely place.  In three rides there this summer (all on prime weekend days) TDM saw a grand total of six people, all of whom were shuttling the final 4 mile descent, which is a ride that has been on the Oregon A-list for years.  Sure, tire tracks are now observable, and the trail rolls a little better from use, but it still feels, and is, remote and socially unobtrusive.  The Pyramids are similar in nature, but physically even harder…it may or may not be exactly secret, but the garden will still be ours to enjoy in solitude on any given day. Only now, we can simply pick a summer day and ride without having to consult a saw-sensitive genie to give you the green light. Fear not, pick your day, and go love it.

Cheers from the staff at TheDirtMagnet

 

[1] TheDirtMagnet  has perfected the spilling of  foodstuffs across maps as one method of data avoidance.  Gazpacho and/ various chowders work well, but a beet-based slurry is most effective.

[2]…perhaps further handicapping the self by riding naked into the semi-unknown on a rigid single speed tricycle…tassels not optional.

The Year that was: 2016

Here we have a new year, with the old one already largely forgotten and thrown aside.  Still, TDM feels some pressure to reflect from (the) two individuals who frequently frequent this site and leave TDM crumbs of their approval and needs.  So, for them I will now proceed with the (now) annual Magnet awards for the year that was; 2016.  Selfishness will also surface, and some mention of future plans will be mentioned in the below.  You may now commence with the yawning and droopy eyes.

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Low snowpack meant riding in places TDM often skiis for the second winter in a row.  If one comes equipped with toys, all eventualities are covered.

The broad summary is this: TDM rode less often, and failed to grab as many list rides as he might have preferred, but dude more than made up for that by the quality of the times had…a few lovable disasters helped as well, as did his 2nd new hardtale of the year (obtained after breaking the Dark Horse only 30 days into ownership).  Dark clouds, then bright sun, then clouds again…repeat.  Life in a nutshell, eh?

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Grasshopper delivers, but is better ridden after the saws have done their work.

2016 in Review:

TDM’s 2016 rating: B+, with signs of brilliance.

Best ride nominations: 1) Grasshopper day with the crew ( Finally put it together, and we did a lot of hooting on the final descent)  2) O’Leary w Gnat-Man and Big-Papi (Great to get the boys out on this one), 3) Ollallie via the back door (Big solo day, and saw zero people) 4) Pyramids via Soda w the crew (Great crew, and got to show off the whole pyramids deal….EB off the couch was impressive)  5) Pyramid Day with Tricky( getting to know a rad guy a bit better, snapping some piccies, and laughing and hooting most of the time)  6) Alsea Falls w the Meilo & the schreddy kids(Last time I rode w these kids they were solid.  Now they shred, and we rode tight and pretty fast)  7) Prairie Peak-Alsea Falls linkup w Gnat-M  (A novel linkup of a classic TLRC ride w a good buddy.  The look on an enduro dude’s face as we descended to the top of the normal Alsea singletrack…priceless.) [Shit that’s a lot of stiff competition]

 

Winner is…a Tie!  O’Leary w Gnat and Papi, or Pyramids W TrickyMeans…, two of the better riding days o TDM’s little life.

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A boy and his bike…Trick and his new Honzo atop Crescent Mtn.

Best Descent nominations: South Pyramid Trail, A secret Location in the Cascades, The Twinns,  Marys Peak, Crescent Mountain, The GBC (Grasshopper through Box Canyon), The Mining road off the top of Canal Ridge.

                Winner is…The GBC…but S Pyramid takes 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

                Honorable mentions: South Pyramid and a Secret Loc in the cascades,

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The White Pony getting ready to drop the GBC to end a session on Grasshopper.

And now for TDM’s favorite annual award:

Spectacular failure nominations:  1) Bad Bridge- braking my brand new hardtale (and nearly myself) in the middle of nowhere on a cold, snowy day in the cascades.  Thanks for nothing slimy bridge. 2)  Failure to loop due to a cliffband on Canal ridge…I’m coming back, and bringing a rope.  3) Hopper Fail 1 -Trying to do Grasshopper the week before the Cascade Enduro crowd cut it out (lots of trees down, and had to retreat…glad I was alone for this caper).  4) The unmentionable fiasco at a secret location in the cascades…one of the best descents in Oregon, yet I won’t return again….Am I an idiot because I loved it?

Spectacular failure award: Bad Bridge…though I like my new Honzo even more than my departed Dark HorseJ.

Other Notable moments:

  • Amazing partnerships with the USFS, COTA, SATA, and others in working to improve the Old Cascades area trails.  The Pyramids are getting the attention they deserve.
  • One particular moment watching tricky loam-strafe some ferns w detritus on S Pyramid Trail, only to experience the same sensation and sounds myself seconds later….a moment forever frozen in my mind.

Biggest Regrets: Not one bikepacking effort, failed to treat himself to Round-Lookout Mtn AGAIN this year….sigh.  One of my favorite rides in the world, and yet…blew it for the second year in a row.

2016 themes to come

  • Riding with people more frequently…so revolutionary, this social interaction thing.
  • Helping with trail work at the Pyramids, Alsea Falls, and the Mac…get out there!
  • Big 1 day loops linking trails and cool logging road routes, a la Bohemian Crayfish…I’ve got some epics in mind, and at least one grudge with the Canal Creek Traverse and a certain cliffband that keeps fucking up masterful plans.
  • Bigger loops involving bikepacking.
  • A continued ticking away of various list rides and untested areas…TDM has several promising ones already marked on the maps and ready for trial..

Thanks for (not) checking in, and talk with you all soon – TheDirtMagnet.

Party of One

With a long life of following his obsessions alone due to the outright obscurity of those endeavors, TDM has been raised to proceed Han Solo style, with the various Millennium Falcons of his life carrying him alone along the lines his maps point out.   We are told it is a bad idea to engage in backcountry pursuits alone, but the D-Magnet’s imagination begs action, and for the last 40 years, with or without your company he has loaded up and headed out.  Do you blame him?  The maps that spill across his little study hole contain many clues worth pursuing, and some of the best moments of his life have occurred without fanfare, away from the eye of strava, photographers or other vouchers and proofs.  This solo-mission ethic has evolved from its early incarnations, which were born of simple necessity; with no peers available to play with the boats, rods and bikes of his earliest adventures, he simply hauled off alone each time a bad idea seemed worth pursuing.  Later, as (boating) ambitions increased, TDM assessed that slipping away undetected in the cover of early morning light might just be the safer option for all concerned.  Over time these practical solutions became habit, and eventually the lonely road was assumed to be the only path available, and TDM simply stopped asking others for the pleasure of their company on whatever maneuvers he was dreaming up. While admittedly a bit desolate, the proof has been in the pudding for our hero…up to now this has been a good life, and adventures of all scales have been achieved…most of them as a party of one.

But recently something different has been going down, and an assumed preference for solo has at last given way to a trend of companionship and camaraderie.  It began with some shared gravel grinding with Gnat-man in the coastrange, but then friends and fans alike began to notice some of the obscure choices that make up the TDM weekend ride logs, and suddenly there were partners begging to go along. Coinciding with the interest of others was a rising fear in TDM that he was fast becoming one of those mossy curmudgeons lost in the hills and drinking black and heated beverages while muttering strings of unsociable commentary under his steaming breath.   In a turn of personal habit, The DMagnet has chucked his lonesome ways into the shrubs and started calling folks up whenever a list ride presents itself.  To his surprise, a cast of characters have eagerly agreed to join, even after a few of these dreams panned closer to nightmares than originally advertised.

And what lessons have been learned here?  First, there is no doubt that solo missions are a fine breed of spice, and in TheDirtMagnet’s opinion certain levels of achievement, pride, and presence are best achieved via unsure and  unsupported travel through the world.  But a spice is not necessarily nourishing, and the recent sharing of humble adventures points to a richer reason for following lines on maps than the habitual need to find a reassuring discomfort among the hills of a home state. It is in the simple act of sharing a day with friends doing whatever comes to mind that TDM currently finds his highest rewards, and this sharing is a thing that he had forgotten many years ago he’d the right to claim for himself.

Balance this

The choice is yours

The choice is yours

Obsession left to its own devices will end in tears every time, and thedirtmagnate has done some crying in his time.  Bikes and rides are no less threatening to the afflicted than other forms of addiction, and the struggle to not beat a dying horse is a constant among those who do love it all a bit too much. This year I endeavor to make choices, and will try to steer this ship only into ports of apparent plenty, and even then, only when I really want to make land.  I will also work on speaking only in metaphor…a good start.

In this spirit* the dirt magnate suggests that you check out this brief reminder of how TDM came to fly his most meaningful contribution to humanity strait into the F%#@ing ground: The Blue Box Effect

* which is not quite the spirit of enduro

Dark Horse

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Shiny, but not for long.

For several years now TDM has been quietly saving for a new mtn bike… a feisty hardtale to allow a more restful winter for the real star of the stable….the white pony.  The pony’s resilience has been notable in recent years, but  the burden of maintaining  such a prima donna in the mud-slicks of the PNW winter have resulted in a drastic reduction in TDM’s enthusiasm for winter riding…and thus the want for a body-double arose.  After the research cloud had settled (and Pinky had nodded an enthusiastic go-ahead, most likely as a way of getting her somewhat antsy partner to chill the fuck out during darker months) a local shop made TDM an offer he could not refuse, and suddenly Mr Magnet found himself sitting on a new rig in his freezing garage, making moto sounds and dreaming of gravel roads, sketchy maps, and wet roots.  Seldom has a person of TDM’s wholly compulsive nature been so content to sit on his ass and do nothing but be there…content.

Despite what the (non-existent) reader might think from his previous rants, there was precedent in TDM’s life for this rare pause amidst the sea of activity…a moment of hope for the future while being present in the now.  The best of these occurred when he was about seven years old and his father had driven a sweet puke-green 1976 Plymouth van onto the cul-de-sac with a spanking-new camo driftboat in tow.  The miniature TDM stared in awe as the dry-docked craft came to rest in the driveway. ”is it..ours?’ he asked.  “Yes” replied the elder DirtMagnet…”all ours.” After tracing its gunnels on a 360 degree tour of lines, we both climbed in and simply sat there in the bow side by side, grinning stupidly for much of the remainder of the afternoon. 

And as it turns out, those grins were not as stupid as they might have first seemed.  In fact, prophetic is a better descriptor.  This boat formed a bond within the family that remains to this day.  It was the father’s dream to explore rivers and fish; it became TheDirtMagnate’s  as well , and things just sort of went on from there, never to be the same again, and in such a good way.

It is the opinion of many that life is something a bit short of  a living highlight reel, and why individuals persist through the clutter of being each day is a query several leagues profounder  than TDM is philosophically (or emotionally) equipped to handle.  Each seem to have our own reasons for being here, and  emotions such as spite, hope, love and denial allow us to hang on long enough to occasionally claim not only the cake, but the icing on top as well.  In this pursuit TDM can no doubt assert that bikes, boats and boards can help reach these higher moments, and there is little mystery that many of us are drawn to tools such as these, which excuse us from the truths of our more common existence, and place us somewhere a bit more extraordinary.  Whether we use these carpets as portals to freedom, or perhaps more eerily, as tools of emotional avoidance, it seems that up to a point one can, in fact, buy happiness in the form of a toy.

But the fact is that sometimes it is more than just purchasing a new bit of shine…sometimes these inanimate objects open up rooms and horizons in our lives that allow us the creative, the instinctual, the self we didn’t know was there.  In this case TDM will not be so vulgar as to claim that this silly bike will change his life…that already happened the second his parents let go of the back of his purple sears stingray, and the moment the driftboat arrived in his lap…but the Dark Horse (as blurry Frank has already deemed the new bike) has sparked an imagination in TDM, and the (nonexistent) reader should picture TDM sitting in that garage, with that little thought bubble located over his head filled with dreams of horizons and unknown roads which he also knows are soon to be found.