Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Year's Day Ride: All Are Invited! Santa Monica Mountains: three distance options & start/finish spots

Let's kick off the New Year in style, doing what we love! Please join me on a road ride around and over the Santa Monica Mountains on Wednesday, January 1, 2014! There are three possible starting points and times, so your route can be 78 miles, or about 60 miles, or about 45 miles. This is an excellent route with a nice, easy first 1/2 to 2/3 and then a goodly amount of climbing in the final 3rd, up, along, and over the Santa Monica Mountains.

Got a steel bike? Ride it! Even better if it's a classic steel bike!

Coming? Post a comment below, and tell your friends. All are invited!

Map, schedule, and start/finish/distance options:



78-Mile Version: Start/Finish in Woodland Hills
Route is as depicted above and on my Strava link from New Year's Day 2013.
Meet-Up: 730am, Starbucks on Topanga Canyon at Dumetz: 4900 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA 91364: Google Map of the location. Departure: 800am sharp.

60-mile Version: Start /Finish in Calabasas
Meet-Up: 820am, Starbucks off Las Virgenes at 26521 Agoura Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302. Departure: App. 840am, or, more specifically, once the main group arrives.

48-mile Version: Start / Finish in Westlake Village
Meet-Up: 900am, East Coast Bagel at intersection of Agoura Road and Westlake Blvd in Westlake Village. Departure: App: 915am, or, more specifically, once the main group arrives.

Rain cancels (at least for me). Please come prepared with a wide variety of clothing, food, drink, bike repair needs, money, ID, map or GPS, etc. 

NOTE: The ride is unsupported and all are on their own. We take no responsibility for anyone or anything.

Further updates will be posted here and to my Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/ChrisKostman

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

1993 24 Hours of Canaan (Rhymes with Insane)

1993 24 Hours of Canaan (Rhymes with Insane)

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in Bicycle Guide in 1993, although they basically ruined it when they edited it. This is what I really wrote.

Above, L-R: Harry Winand, Gene Oberpriller, John Stamstad, and the author, Chris Kostman at the 24 Hours of Canaan. Photo by Grant Petersen.

I was in the shower with one shaved leg. Suddenly my teammate Harry Winand bursts in the door and tells me that I've been bumped up from fourth rider out to third. I've got five minutes until I have to hit the trail. So with one hairy leg and one shaved, I throw on my clothes and head over to the start/finish line. What an auspicious start it would prove to be. Not having had the luxury of pre-riding the course, I had little idea of what to expect. Let's just say that 11.5 miles of mud, swampy bog, puddles, rocks, five crashes, and six river crossings was not what I'd expected.

In common parlance this 24 hour four or five rider relay race held in the Canaan Valley of West Virginia is called the 24 Hours of Canaan, but it's more like the 24 Hours of Insane. Why? Well, there was a LeMans start with the first riders out all lined up across a river from their bikes. At the gunshot, they sprinted across the river, scrambled up the bank to mount their bikes, then turned around and pedaled straight back into the running masses to ford the river yet again. Each lap would start and finish with this river crossing. Got the picture?

The 11.5 mile loop was something like The Longest Mile, eleven point five times in a row. There's mile after mile of solid mud fireroad (how could there be a fire with this much water on the ground?) and singletrack that's worn down and rutted out with every passing rider (factor in 98 teams doing from twelve to nineteen loops each). Puddle after puddle of indeterminate depth would force two options: ride high on the edge of the trail and risk having your tyres slide right out and dumping you in the water, or blasting hell be damned through the puddles. Sometimes you'd plow through like Moses in the Red Sea, other times it was an over the bars projection lesson. Oh yeah, some of these "puddles" were 50 yards long and up to three feet deep.

Then there were hills so steep that crawling up on all fours would be difficult. With a bike, in the mud, in a race, turned one of the hills into a medieval torture machine. I glued Ritchey Z-Max tyre treads to my Vittoria shoes to try to get more traction. Teammate Gene Oberpriller, who passed up a ride in the CoreStates PRO Championships to join the rest of us from Team Bridgestone in this mayhem, swears that the tree roots were glowing flourescent green when he scrambled up The Hill on his last lap. In daylight, no less... (Of course, he did post the fastest lap average of the event, so maybe he just pushed a little TOO hard...)

Then there's Moonrocks. Huge expanses of slab rock on this downhill stretch had water eroded ruts covering it that never headed in the desired direction. It was all but unrideable and I for one didn't even try. I just shouldered my bike and sprinted down, down, down. The 300 yard mud bog prior to Moonrocks sometimes added twenty pounds to my XO-1, making this stretch even more brutal and treacherous

And the six river crossings? They were actually the highlight of the course, for they cleaned the gobs of mud and blood off of the bike, making it lighter and functional again. It got to the point where  we couldn't wait to ford the icy waters, even if we did face plant occasionally. Heck, when else would we get our face clean, anyway?

That brings up the best part of the race, the four hour stints between rides. Some camped out in the mud, cleaning themselves and their bikes in the river. Some of us had the luxury of cruising back to a hotel, showering, putting on clean clothes, eating warm food, having our bikes cleaned, lubed, and tuned by Grant and Ernie from Bridgestone, then napping or watching Beavis and Butthead on MTV. What a life!

"I'm just paranoid the whole time I'm out there," said teammate John Stamstad at one point, summing up the common theme of the weekend. There's paranoia about crashing. Paranoia about getting lost. Paranoia about a major mechanical necessitating a long walk out. Paranoia about getting passed. Paranoia about losing the baton that needed to be handed off each lap. (You get to go back out and look for it!) Paranoia about all of the above happening to the teammate that's out riding while you're trying to relax and get ready for another 70 to 90 minute interval session. Paranoia? INSANE!

Oh yeah, about the race... The local heroes, Teams Black and White and Nukey Boys, edged us out for first and second. They're tough riders with the homecourt advantage of knowing the best lines, not to mention the alternate routes to avoid some of the more impassable sections, but they claimed to have won fair and square. (Late in the race, both teams passes us without actually passing us...) Still, we're happy with third, considering that we're composed of a crit racer, a roadie, an ultra marathon weenie, and a triathageek, and that we rode bikes (XO-1's with Moustache bars) that one magazine called "suitable only for riding to and from the trailhead, but not on the trail." To slightly modify Arny Schwarzenegger's famous line: "We'll be back, and so will our 'road bikes.'"

Fan Mail for "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?"


I wrote "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them" over twenty years ago now: it was originally published in the February 1993 issue of Bicycle Guide, then the coolest bike magazine in the USA. That article has been on this blog since it went live in 2007, and still generates comments and emails direct to me. This first email came in today, proving, once again, that the writer didn't really read what I wrote. (Boiled down simply, I wrote: What most people call "mountain biking" doesn't require a mountain bike. Likewise, as our ego-bruised writer states, and as I wrote, real "mountain biking" does generally require a mountain bike.):

You sir, are the most ignorant ass hat I have encountered on the internet and single-handedly represent everything that makes road cyclists come off as self righteous douchebags. Just because your idea of mountain biking is a chicken shit ride down a sandy road doesn't mean that road bikes are appropriate or even safe to recommend for most mountain bikers. Virtually every mountain bike ride I take involves some sort of terrain or impact that would disintegrate my Foil faster than you can say something stupid. The idea that the 30 foot doubles or jagged rock gardens that can be conquered at speed on my M9 could even be ridden on a fully rigid road bike is nothing more than your lack of perspective at what is being done on mountain bikes, your hubris at your own skills, and the tremendous ignorance and arrogance that would allow you to post this stupidity online for all to see. - TB, 12-3-13

Adding extra irony is that TB's Facebook background photo shows him on a road bike, even though, in his own words, apparently everyone who rides a road bike is a "self righteous douchebag."

OK, since I'm writing this post, I'm going to take the time to post the emails I've received over the years about my article, so here you go, in chronological order, completely unedited:

I really hate the way you dis mountain bikes. I dispise road bikes they are very    (no extremely) primitive. I ride a full suspension ATB. I wouldnt ride anything else. Do you have a problem with technologie????? - RP, 5-10-98

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HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

You're funny!

Come to Phoenix and ride our rocky, sandy, harsh trails on your road bike so we can laugh at you.  You said in your article that you might only need an mtb for something like Slickrock trail.  Slickrock trail is a freakin' sidewalk compared to my nearest trail; which I RIDE to on m full suspension GT with 2.35 tires.

I started riding on an unsuspended Cannondale in 1986.  Trails that were impossible for me then are cake now.  Believe me I'm thinking for myself.  No marketing hype is going to snatch $2000 from my pocket for a new bike.  I checked them out, rode it and decided the comfort and control advantages of suspension were worth the investment.  I wouldn't go back to riding a hardtail let alone take a road bike on the trail.

Have fun riding cuz after all that is what it is about.
- MC, 12-9-98


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Are you the same Chris Kostman that wrote "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?" back in 1993?  That great article had a dramatic effect on my cycling, and all I can say is "thanks you!"

At the time that article came out I was starting to ride off road with an old road bike and loving it.  When I read your piece, I couldn't believe any mainstream mag would print it, and the tips really helped. because of that piece I really went all out, and eventually god rid of my mtb's all together (I won't be riding the Iditabike any time soon). Now I just own one road/bike for everything - and my bike handling skills and the types of terrain I can cover on it have grown exponentially. Your piece really snapped me out of the money-draining, must-have-the-latest-hi-tech-gizmo thing. As I recall there were some pretty amusing letters that followed that piece - along with that great follow up article you wrote (in the BOB mag?). - GK, 5-13-99

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Dear Mr. Kostman,

I chanced across your self-defense rebuttal about mountain bikes.  I'm not a biker myself, but I want to pat you on the back for standing up for yourself.  It is truly sad when ignorant people beat up on another person's ideas which they do not understand.

When you speak from experience and others complain by theory, I'll believe the guy with experience every time. Like you said, if you're biking on a road, then use a road bike. If a person is biking across broken rocks and fallen trees, THEN get a (highly mortgaged) mountain bike.

I'm too old to bike now. I did grow up in the country and rode a "road" bike to school from grades four through eight. Did own a baby "hog" (Harley) for a short time.

Mr. Kostman, you seem to be doing all the right things. Head forward. Don't spend too much time "throwing rocks" at the complaining dummies. Maybe, issue some open challenges, some "put up or shut up" dares: my bike and my skills against whatever you think you've got. Get witnesses, too.


To a winner from CM, 9-14-00


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I couldn't agree more, when I was a kid we built trail bikes from 19'" frames and had no gears, one speed, one brake, street tires, and modified short stick handle bars, and I'll bet those bike would smoke any mountain bike on the market today, even without alloys, they weighted nothing, we could pull almost any incline, and fly down any hills at crazy speeds without worry of blowing shocks,,, shocks....? I like to feel the ground. Love the article, bet it pissed off everybody...... lol EK, 5-10-01

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Great article about "Mountain Bikes- Who needs them?," though I just came across it in August 2001.  Have you written any updates? 

I'm sure that all of your views have stayed fairly firm, though I'd wonder if you, like me, have embraced more suspension as you get any older? Granted I don't have the skills to set records on 24 hours/ distance races, but for the intermediate/advanced rider who has hit 30 years old and would like to take the shock out of drops, washboards, roots, etc. have you looked to more comfort as you have gotten older?

I don't intend this to be a topic for another article, but I'd like to see your views on the advances in technology/weight loss for some of these 21lb. full suspension bikes and if anything has changed with age. Thanks,
EV, 8-21-01

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I have been relieved of my job at the local bike shop for 'being too roadie.' I am living in a fairly pavementless area on the northern shore of lake superior, where I ride forest roads and trails on my rb-1 or my steel bianchi cyclocross bike.  When I feel like pavement riding I usually grab my old Bianchi Pista. - CJ, 5-22-02

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I think you have a serious attitude problem and feel sad that you have so much anger towards a truly wonderful pursuit. Perhaps a bit of therapy or a change in ethnicity might make you a happier and less critical soul. Have a nice day. - Y, 7-30-02

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Chris Kostman invented under-biking, first in Bicycle Guide on an RB-1 and, later, in the '94 Bstone catalog. I singletrack my Romulus because Chris told me it was possible. - JB, 4-21-04
 

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It occurs to me I need to thank you for writing all those years ago about riding road bikes on unpaved surfaces. Inspired by your writings, I've developed a love of dirt and gravel road travel on my Mercian fixed-gear. - RF, 5-3-04

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That link was a jumping off point for a bunch of weekend reading in the Way subdirectory of your web space.  Much great stuff, thank you.

One Nit:  You say "trust me when I say I'm just an Average Joe, not a Superman."

Ahem.  someone who will go out for 125 rides with two bottles of water and a energy bar?
 

Someone who will do the triple iron-man thing in France?  Someone who races RAAM as a 20 year old?

Helllooooo!! Reality knocking! "Average" is not an accurate adjective.

Now, if I complete the Cascade 1200 this June - less than two years after my first century ride, less than three years after ending 20 years of sedentary living with becoming a bike commuter - I'll stand up as your "Average Joe".  Until then you need to find another "average" stand in.


Done with the nit.

Thanks for the training advice on the site.  I'm applying it.
- MR, 2-29-05


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Hey Chris... Its nice to hear from the author himself. What I meant by flushing it out more, is that you tell us to develop skills so good that technology becomes meaningless. You don't dig further and tell us how to maneuver a skinny tire through 2" of sand. You take the approach of "Go for it!". Which is great, but takes a giant leap of faith for someone who isn't accustomed to the idea.

I'm willing to take my 23mm up and down a nearby fireroad, but I also have trails near me which require creek crossing (will hitting an unseen rock produce a pinch flat faster than a knobbie), or sand patches, or wide singletrack with deep ruts from the knobbies before us.
 

It seems you gave birth to the idea of US cyclocross, early!  Last month, I was planning on quelching my bike desire by building up a go-fast, a tourer, a singlespeed/fixte, a grocery getter, a you name it. Then, I realized, I could do all of this with a change of wheels. Specialized bikes are for specialized people. If all I did was tour, I think I'd want to get a tall touring frame for myself (I'm 6'6"). But, if all I did was MTB, I don't think a tall tourer would work for the agility needed of some trails.  Perhaps I'm mistaken, I'm still new.  :)

Anyway, I've got my eyes on the surly cross-check and acquiring a couple set of wheels.   I look forward to experimenting with different options. Thanks for writing your article!
- DB, 2-28-05


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Thanks to you also for your efforts over the last 15+ years. I was really psyched on you and the B-stone boys rallying XOs in the dirt when I was in college and on your lightning rod "road-bikes-on-the-dirt" article. There was a whole crew of us at that time in North Georgia riding beat old 700c roadies on these great epic dirt loops, some of us on tubs. Anyway, it was a big influence on me. After a short trip into MTB style equipment in the late 90's (still rigid onespeeding with cantis), I ride nothing but skinnies in the dirt (35s). Later on pal, MC, 3-9-05

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Well, if the photos on your site are an indication of the kind of "trails" you ride, then no, you don't need a mountain bike. Come on out to the Rockies and see how long your wheels last.

Beautiful rides, by the way. They remind me of my commute. I'd take my Atlantis on them.
- HCH, 9-5-05


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Anyone who is seriously into mountain biking, knows that training on a road bike in addition to trail riding, is the key to mountain biking success. In other words, to be good on a mountain bike, especially where endurance events are concerned, spending more time on the road bike than the mountain bike is often necessary.
 

I would not, however, designate one as "better than" the other, they are just "different". Which many people will not hear in their rush to "defend" since becoming defensive is a normal reaction in human nature, when people perceive that their beliefs are being questioned or attacked. There is a definite place in any cyclists arsenal for a mountain bike. I sure wouldn't take my carbon Cinelli with flyweight carbon fork up any mountain bike trail, and the mountain bike allows us to ride where the road bike doesn't, but for pure conditioning, the road bike is essential as AN ADDITION, not as a replacement.

Here is an interesting fact I discovered quite by accident. When riding El Moro a few times I used to see people hiking with poles, and asked them what they were training for. They replied "Whitney". OK, well I'd planned to do the Whitney hike before meeting those people, went forward after my encounters with the pole hikers, and did the hike solo, without any sort of "hiking training" whatsoever. I pretty much aced it up and back in less than 13 hours, since it is not really hiking, but more like stair climbing, two steps at a time. Much like the leg movements we make when cycling, and using the same muscles. I never once trained by hiking, and I am quite sure, as I passed all those people with hiking poles on the trail, that all of my road and mountain biking prior to doing the Whitney hike, was the key to my success.
 

Why polarize people with the idea that "my ride is better than your ride"? Each bike has its own function, the applications are simply different, not better or worse. - BM, 3-30-10

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I was amused in Chris's article re "mountain bikes." During the early '60's I was known, to the Oakland East Bay Regional Park Service, as that crazy "Mountain-man": IF I couldn't ride it (over the terrain) I carried it. Me and my trusty English-made traditional 10 speed!! There wasn't a fire road or mountain trail that ever slowed me down. If it was there ... I traversed it. On another note, six years ago, I encountered an hysterical mountain-biker: he was riding DOWN a trail that only a mountain goat would ever attempt ....... of course ........ I was going UP:)  It seems that he felt that his $7,000 mountain bike (I bought my first house for less than that) would take him, safely, anywhere. Wrong! But for this old guy (me), he and his $7,000 "magic carpet" would have ended at the bottom of a jagged rock filled ravine. I saved him and his trusty steed from total carnage. I did everything to put him back together except wash his "dirty laundry":)) I remember this well because I still have two torn rotators that, periodically refreshes my gallantry:) Ah, yes: $7,000 for a luxury ride to near total destruction. I may not be able to enjoy the trails any longer but at least I don't have to worry about saving some nut ass pedaling a $7,000 hype. My old ten speed had Dunlop Road Speed radial tires with heavy-duty inner tube. I rode this bike thousands of miles ...... NEVER had a flat!!!
 

So, my enfashionados/demons: reread Chris's old article re: 'Any bike Anywhere' .... get real and save yourself some $$. By the way ..... I ride, daily, 30 miles of 'Alpine Pass' mode, on my $3000 Star Trac recumbent stationary bike:)) But, if any of you, out there, with an old "clunker" AND a healthy pair of gams ....... I'll gladly trade you ....... just kidding. I wouldn't ask that of anyone. In the meantime ..... I'll just peddle my ancient hulk to no-where. And .... I'll be happy in knowing that I'm still able to grunt, huff, pant .... AND complain:)) The signature of a true jock.

The worst incident with my old 10 speed was when I was tooling down College Ave. in Berkeley, California ..... some IDIOT opened his, parked, car door in front of me. I had no choice but to grab the door frame. My bike ended in some shrubs. I got a big grass stain on my posterior. The car?: popped windshield, broken door hinge, and a smashed hood where this 250 pound muscled cyclist bounced from the hood onto a lush green lawn. The driver?: wet pants .... as I read him the riot act!!!!!!!!!!!! You guys have been there so you know how good it is to ride the trails and away from two tons of steel with a loose nut behind the wheel!!!

Yours in the sport of friendly humor along with just plain common sense.
- AA, 3-3--10


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Over this winter I think I will finally scan and post all the letters to the editor which were sent to Bicycle Guide back in 1993, many of which were very supportive from those who "got" what I was saying, while others were just hilarious. That 1993 article is truly the gift that keeps on giving, when I consider how it still evokes knee-jerk responses from people whose identity is tied up in the width of their bike's tyres, along with positive, friendly emails from those who got my point and appreciate the adventurous way of life.
Meanwhile, enjoy the ride, everyone. Life is short!

Monday, December 2, 2013

First Time for Everything: Tyres Grow Tumors

I was just riding along recently, descending Stunt Road in the Santa Monica Mountains, when I started to detect a slight hopping in my rear wheel. As I was on a fast descent with curves, I didn't want to risk my rear wheel sliding out, so I stopped to check it out. Imagine my shock when I saw bubbles between my tyre tread and the tyre casing, something I have never seen in my 31-year cycling career! I could tell there was nothing I could do about it, so I kept on descending, albeit more slowly. 

The hopping soon became almost unrideable, so I stopped again after a quarter-mile. At this point, the "tumors" were really large, as you can see in the photos below.

I always carry a spare tyre when I ride an event, but not when just out riding in my home turf, so swapping out the tyre wasn't an option. I always carry several Park Tool tyre boots, but those weren't going to help, so I decided to just coast along and get closer to home before the inevitable happened and I had to call for a ride or hitch-hike.

But then, not only did my tyre not blow up, but all the tumors miraculously disappeared! Yep, just riding along, the ride became smooth. At the next stop sign, at the intersection of Stunt Road and Mulholland, I looked at my back tyre and there was no sign whatsoever that this crazy circumstance had unfolded. If I hadn't photographed my tyre, I would have almost thought I had been hallucinating.

I finished my ride without incident, but then the next day my back tyre was half-flat, suffering from a slow leak. Coincidence, or related? I will never know.

The tyres in question are my all-time favorite, best riding, best performing: Challenge Paris-Roubaix, 27mm wide. I love these tyres and will definitely continue to ride them (new ones). In this particular case, perhaps an issue was the age of the tyres. They were originally installed by Velo Cult on my Raleigh in January of 2011, but after a few rides I parked that bike for a few years. Recently I reconfigured the Raleigh and put the tyres on my Rivendell Roadeo instead. Therefore, though the tread was essentially new, the tyres themselves are at least three years old. Perhaps that's a factor?



Thursday, November 21, 2013

"What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved."

 Above: The host of this blog on the right, Chris Kostman, with 1986 RAAM champion Elaine Mariolle at Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills in 1991.

A special guest post today by one of America's most beloved radio commentators, Paul Harvey (1918-2009):

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved.

There's not a problem in America today - crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency - that wouldn't be remedied if we just had more Dirt Roads, because Dirt Roads give character.

People that live at the end of Dirt Roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride.

That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it's worth it, if at the end is home...a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.

We wouldn't have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a Dirt Road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along.

There was less crime in our streets before they were paved.

Criminals didn't walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by 5 barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun.

And there were no drive by shootings.

Our values were better when our roads were worse!

People did not worship their cars more than their kids, and motorists were more courteous, they didn't tailgate by riding the bumper...or the guy in front would choke you with dust and bust your windshield with rocks.

Dirt Roads taught patience.

Dirt Roads were environmentally friendly, you didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk you walked to the barn for your milk.

For your mail, you walked to the mail box.

What if it rained and the Dirt Road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody.

At the end of Dirt Roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap.

Most paved roads lead to trouble.  Dirt Roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole.

At the end of a Dirt Road, the only time we even locked our car was in August, because if we didn't some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini.

At the end of a Dirt Road, there was always extra springtime income, from when city dudes would get stuck, you'd have to hitch up a team and pull them out.

Usually you got a dollar...always you got a new friend...at the end of a Dirt Road!
 

By Paul Harvey