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  1. #1
    King of the Hipsters
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    Does the bike really matter?

    Many years ago I worked in Cameron, Louisiana with another helicopter pilot, now deceased named Bob Hill.
    The word Cameron comes from either the French or the Spanish words for shrimp and refers to the remarkable numbers of shrimp in the waters there.

    Bob and several other helicopter pilots and I lived together in trailers in the bayous and, as pilots, we supported the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
    We co-existed with alligators and flamingos, and our footprints filled with water.

    At that time, having more money than I needed, I owned a very expensive camera; perhaps the most advanced 35mm SLR camera available on the retail market.
    I had a giant lens, filters, attachments, motorized winder and pistol grip, and carried this huge, impressive camera around with me wherever I went.
    This camera system could take any picture, capture any image.

    In contrast, Bob had a little pocket camera, the kind that unfolds.
    It had no bells, nor whistles, and Bob had manual control only over the exposure time; how long the lens remained open and admitted light.
    Bob took many pictures with that tiny little pocket camera and two pictures in particular which, although I don’t have them today, I will never forget.

    He took the first of the two memorable photos on a day when we flew a hundred miles out into the Gulf to get some roughnecks and bring them back to the beach.
    Bob and I flew pilot and co-pilot for each other, switching duties with each leg of the flight.
    As we passed the beach outbound, Bob took his camera out of his shirt pocket and held it in front of both of us, pointing back at us, and he pressed the shutter release.
    A few weeks later he showed me a picture that looked like a professional Hollywood studio had taken it for a movie, and it showed Bob and me flying the helicopter, side by side, as if viewed from the outside, in front of the helicopter.
    A happy accident, a fluke, I thought.

    Bob took the second of the two photos as he and I stood together in the Louisiana Bayou night, with the stars and the sounds of the swamp around us.
    The sole man-made light came from a pole lamp, which illuminated our biggest helicopter, a Boeing-Vertol 107, as it sat on the only concrete pad in Cameron.

    I had flown this type of helicopter in the Marine Corps, where we called it a CH-46, and I sometimes served as co-pilot on it there in Cameron as needed.
    I had significant memories of flying this type of helicopter as a Marine, including mock dogfights against Cobra helicopters, in which we, in this powerful, agile machine had humiliated the gunship pilots.
    In Cameron, as peacetime civilians, we used it for very long missions, carrying 20 roughnecks out to the most distant platforms.
    We also used it on occasion for heavy lift, since this helicopter could carry a ten thousand-pound oilrig part suspended beneath itself by cable.

    As Bob and I stood talking we both found this ship, white, with a simple orange stripe down its length and dark swamp surrounding it, surprisingly beautiful in the light of the pole lamp.
    Bob took his camera out of his pocket, opened it up and set the exposure time to...I don't know...30 seconds or so.
    He then placed the camera on a nearby 55-gallon oil drum and pointed it at the big Boeing-Vertol glowing out of the darkness.
    He double-checked the image through the viewfinder as gravity held the camera there on the oil drum, and then he pressed the shutter release of the camera.
    I heard the shutter open.
    Bob turned to me and looked at me, although I could not see his face in the darkness.
    After a precious eternity, I heard the shutter click shut.
    Bob picked up the camera and put it back in his shirt pocket.

    Two weeks later Bob handed me the picture he had taken the night we stood talking and looking at the Boeing-Vertol.

    Years passed and I heard through the pilot's grapevine they had found Bob in the wreckage of a helicopter, dead.
    No one knew the details.
    As I tried to imagine the wreckage and Bob's body, instead I saw myself holding a photograph of a beautiful Boeing-Vertol, glowing against the darkness, as Bob had so exquisitely captured it that far ago night…with a pocket camera.

  2. #2
    Iguana Subsystem dolface's Avatar
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    i think the bike matters less than the person who rides it.
    scratch that: the bike DOES matter less than the person who rides it; it only goes as fast as you pedal it.

    that being said, if all bikes are roughly equivalent, why not ride the one that makes you the happiest, or most comfortable, or both? chances are if you're comfortable you're lilekly to ride faster and further, and enjoy yourself more while you do it.

    it's arguable that fixies are the foldable pocket-cameras of the bike world: incredibly simple, some might even say limited, which makes something as ordinary as a commute into something extraordinary.

  3. #3
    cab horn
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    That's a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
    King of the Hipsters
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    Dolface wrote:

    "it's arguable that fixies are the foldable pocket-cameras of the bike world: incredibly simple, some might even say limited, which makes something as ordinary as a commute into something extraordinary."

    How true.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Msngr's Avatar
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    ken, write a damn book already! your posts are better than anything i've read in years.

    that post about columbus' sailors is still with me. i'm thinking of naming my messenger company "Columbus Messengers" or something like that.

  6. #6
    Making Records dokushoka's Avatar
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    Thanks for this post, I think about this kind of thing constantly.

    I make records for a living, which, like the bike industry, is full of all kinds of BS new technology that is heavily marketed.

    I generally like to take a minimalist approach to my work, and whenever possible, try to impose strategic limitations on myself and the client.

    More and more, what this teaches me, is that greatness doesn't't come from perfect circumstances or perfect equipment, but when a person understands the limitations in front of them and uses them to their advantage.

    This is the exact reason I got a fixed gear bike. Its the physical manifestation of my whole philosophy.

    Crazy.

  7. #7
    i believe in me evanyc's Avatar
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    holy ****! you lived in cameron, la? that's intense... i'm from down in the swamps! well... baton rouge and new orleans... i grew up in the swamps though.

    great post!

  8. #8
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    A good story that has more important lessons than the quality of a bike.

  9. #9
    Senior Member jasonsan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Msngr
    ken, write a damn book already! your posts are better than anything i've read in years.
    Yes! I really enjoy your posts as well, Ken. Thanks for the story.

  10. #10
    THC Freedom Fighter karmical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cox
    Many years ago I worked in Cameron, Louisiana with another helicopter pilot, now deceased named Bob Hill.
    The word Cameron comes from either the French or the Spanish words for shrimp and refers to the remarkable numbers of shrimp in the waters there.
    how many years ago was this? i really miss cameron, lots a great fishing & more shrimp during season than you can ever eat. i used to live in lake charles for a while, spent many a day down in cameron...

  11. #11
    Spoked to Death phidauex's Avatar
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    A champion time trialist was once asked by a reporter, "If I were riding the top of the line racing bike, what sort of bike would YOU have to be riding for me to beat you?" and she replied, "A tricycle!"

    Good story, Ken.. Less can really be more, and in the end, the fanciness of your gear won't predict what you hold precious later in your life.

    peace,
    sam

  12. #12
    pure noise blipzandstripz's Avatar
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    The reason one is riding determines whether or not the bike matters. I'm never going to be a racer or a messenger or anything like that, but when I'm on any one of my bikes all the little day to day **** doesn't matter. Photography is another one of my hobbies and some of my best shots have not been taken with my Nikon photojournalist rig, they've been taken with whatever cheap camera happened to be available when the moment presented itself.

    Life is about moments. One can be wrapped up in their own bubble or one can be aware of the moment.

  13. #13
    cxmagazine dot com pitboss's Avatar
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    Ken - you have a great writing gift. Please continue with it here. Thanks for sharing the story.
    josh


    Quote Originally Posted by Msngr
    i'm thinking of naming my messenger company "Columbus Messengers" or something like that.
    awesome! Syphillis and small pox for everyone!
    Deathlap - cyclocross, training, beer,...escape hatch

  14. #14
    XX
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    Quote Originally Posted by karmical
    how many years ago was this? i really miss cameron, lots a great fishing & more shrimp during season than you can ever eat. i used to live in lake charles for a while, spent many a day down in cameron...
    Don't forget the fur festival!

  15. #15
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    Wasn't it Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon explained that some people can just look at a piano and it makes sense to them? It sounds like your fellow pilot could make sense of the camera and it's capabilities.

  16. #16
    sometimes it hurts...
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    I love the story Ken, and I think that the brief descriptions of the helicopters provides the perfect exception to the phographic metaphor. i.e. You used Boeing-Vertol because you had the need and the knowledge to maximize its purposes. If you had been attempting to use a Schweizer 300 or (God forbid) a Robinson 22, you never would have gotten what needed to be done accomplished. But, you no doubt put in countless hours in similar small helicopters to get to the point where you could safely manage, and maximize the use of, larger birds. No one first learns in a Boeing Vertol, it just wouldn't make sense.

    On the bike, if one doesn't have the need or the ablility, the nicer bike isn't going to matter in the least; but, there are the rare one's among us who can justify the expense, and prove their worthiness.

    Of course, I enjoyed my time in my friends Bell 206 quite a bit more than in his 300C. And since the cost difference is far narrower in the cycling world, if the nicer bike means you'll ride more, then by all means get the bike that you'll actually want to ride.

  17. #17
    King of the Hipsters
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    Powerjb wrote:

    "On the bike, if one doesn't have the need or the ablility, the nicer bike isn't going to matter in the least; but, there are the rare one's among us who can justify the expense, and prove their worthiness."

    I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to ride a world class track bike.
    Would I go faster, or have more control, or feel more poised and comfortable?
    I don't know.
    I do know that the Nagasawa's pictured on the site below look like they would fly.
    Maybe just in my mind...

    http://www.businesscycles.com/nagasawa.htm

  18. #18
    Senior Member p3ntuprage's Avatar
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    if you buy a better camera/bike/instrument or whatever, and use it more than before, and start getting better at what you do, or you even just enjoy it more than before, then who's anyone to argue?

    if you buy it just because you think you become imbued by the powers of an expensive piece of kit, then nothing's going to happen. if anything, it's going to end up in the cupboard/garage collecting dust. *that's* stupid.

    few things i can stand less than camera collectors/ people who wank over leicas.

    USE THEM YOU FU<KWITS!

    in conclusion: yes it's all in the mind. in the end you're limited by yourself. you can always improve your game. a bad worker blames their tools. and anyone can play guitar.

    fsnl
    sparky
    http://www.anarchistblackcross.org/i...ls/blkred2.jpgwithout a worker's army, the workers have nothing.[img]

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