Saturday, October 25, 2014

If Bicycles Grew on Trees...

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center
Imagine for a moment that, after drooling over images of beautiful bikes of an evening, as is your custom, you fall into a deep slumber and begin to dream. And in this dream, you are walking though a lush, beautiful forest. Exotic in its flora, this is not any forest you are familiar with. All manner of palms and giant ferns thrive in its humid depths, as flowering vines curl and twist overhead, their blossoms releasing bittersweet musks.

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center
Filled with curiosity and wonder, you gently sweep aside the flopping oversized leaves in your path and walk toward the hushed gurgling sounds of a distant waterfall. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
And just then, you not as much notice as become gradually aware of something most unusual… Beside every fern, beneath every palm, beyond every curling mossy garland in your path, stands a dazzling bicycle - its jewel-tone finish to rival the tropical blossoms, its polished components to outshine the gleam of the waterfall's spray. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
It is then that you understand you are dreaming. You are dreaming of a paradise, an enchanted, impossible place where bicycles glitter like fireflies and grow on trees like oversized tropical fruit...

New England Builders Ball 2014
As if to confirm this, a gray-eyed figure emerges from the shadows, bathed in a golden light, and you see it is Richard Sachs. Having already determined you are dreaming, you are not surprised. "Richard Sachs," you say, pointing to a cluster of bikes that has, in the meantime, materialised in front of a spiky evergreen hedge, "Your bikes are not their usual red!" And you watch Richard Sachs as his eyes turn serious and, with a finger pressed to his lips, he whispers: "No more red bikes..." then vanishes into thin air. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
Spinning around in surprise, you find yourself facing a locked box mounted to a rear bicycle rack. "What can be in it?" you wonder to yourself. And just as this thought floats across your mind, a pair of pale hands emerges, turns the key in the lock, and slides open its panels - removing a stunning array of objects from within. Out come bottles of sherry and stacks of paperwork, winter coats and ballroom dancing shoes, bread rolls and bags of coal, model boats and balls of twine… Made dizzy and confused by this demonstration, you cover your face and turn away to run. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
But you stop in your tracks at the sight of none other than Michelle Pfeiffer! Clad head to toe in cycling clothes, she is sipping a beer while texting on her phone with slender dainty fingers, you can hardly believe it. "Michele Pfeiffer!" you say, awed yet emboldened by this dream reality, "How pretty you are! But I really must get out of here…" Smiling serenely, she puts her hand on your shoulder. "Don't go," she says,  pointing to something right beside you, "This is one phat party…"

New England Builders Ball 2014
And as the words echo in your ears, Michelle Pfeiffer herself disappears, and you find yourself astride a monstrous bike, navigating a viscous path you first take to be mud, before realising it is thick with tropical honey. You pedal through it, marveling at the width of the tires and glad to finally have a vehicle on which to navigate this strangest of places. Although on a path like this, honestly you might be better off on a horse.

New England Builders Ball 2014
"A Horse?" a voice booms behind your shoulder, "of course!" And, as hollow laughter follows, you realise just how treacherous this place is. It's as if the vegetation can read your mind, transforming your very thoughts into half-sensical velocipedian apparitions. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
Galloping about, it's not long before you sense that you've been going in a circle. And at that very moment you pass a neon sign declaring this very thing. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
"Just how long have I been doing this?" you start to wonder, as you pass another sign, now with the number 44. "Forty-four hours? Forty-four miles?" you ask, hoping for an explanation of this mysterious number's significance. "That is for you to decide," says the enigmatic smile of the man standing beside it. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
Now feeling somewhat depleted and ravenous with hunger,  you pause to rest beside a Dill Pickle stand, which, naturally, appears in your path. Here handlebar and saddlebags sit bursting with pickles, prepared in accordance with the finest Eastern European recipes. Yet no matter how many you take, the bags remain perfectly full. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
But while the pickles you gorge on are delicious, they alone do not fill you, and you find yourself next to a finely carved sculpture of a bicycle, made of pure custard. You give it a stealthy lick and know at once that you face a terrible dilemma, as the custard bicycle is as stunning as it is delicious, and to eat even a morsel would destroy its perfect form. With difficulty, you tear yourself away from it and seek sustenance elsewhere.

New England Builders Ball 2014
At last, you find yourself in front of a pumpkin patch, presided over by a sly-eyed bearded man who snaps his fingers to make the orange orbs grow and swell before your very eyes until they burst to pieces, revealing freshly hatched bicycles. Impressed with his tricks, but starving, you scramble to pick up and eat the pumpkins' pulpy remains, which - just as you had suspected - are baked and deliciously seasoned by the time they reach your mouth.

New England Builders Ball 2014
Well fed now, you stroll beneath some ferns and watch as a tropical ant you happen to notice stretches and grows to amazing proportions, until it transforms into a work bike, inviting you to hop on and continue meandering along the forest path. Indeed, this is a fabulous dream and all is well, you think ...if only you weren't so thirsty. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
Steering your steed toward the sounds of the waterfall you'd glimpsed earlier, you reach out to it with an empty water bottle, only to find that it too turns into a bike, its droplets flowing along the tubes with a glittering sleekness, with only a sprinkle escaping here and there. And as you wish for more water, you hear a terrific sound of thunder and suddenly, the technicolour drops are all around you - falling in buckets through the leafy canopy of jungle trees and drenching you head to toe.

New England Builders Ball 2014
No longer thirsty, but wet and dejected, you wander about dazed - until you fall into the arms of a golden-haired fairy, who envelopes you in voluminous, luminous garments until you are warm and dry. 

It's in this comforted, satiated state, you curl up and drift off, to the sweet sound of violins. And when you wake up, the forest and the whole bizarre fantasy are gone.

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center
You rise and stretch your limbs and, with a shake of your head, marvel at the dream you've just had. You then look around and find yourself not at home. Rather, you are on a bench, at the entrance of a grand transparent structure that you soon understand to be a greenhouse. 

New England Builders Ball 2014
Gingerly, almost on tiptoe, you walk in, and you are overcome by an eerie, yet not unpleasant sense of deja-vu, as a kindly-eyed bearded man in a dark suit welcomes you. "Where am I?" you ask. "At the New England Builder's Ball," he replies. And as you walk past him, toward the lush vegetation and waterfalls and handmade bikes you already know await you, you realise, with a start, that you have just spoken with none other than Albert A. Pope, the father of US bicycle manufacturing. You shrug, and smile, and keep on walking. Whether it is another dream or not, you are not quite sure. But it's a dark October night in New England, and magical things are not unheard of in these parts - not least when it comes to handmade bicycles. 

22 comments:

  1. AwesomeSauce....I want to go there. Maybe if I just close my eyes.........

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  2. A couple of years ago I went to the UK equivalent - Bespoked Bristol held in Brunel's old engine shed - bicycles in the perfect setting, maybe? But I love the idea of taking my dog for a walk and finding my perfect bicycle tucked in under the trees. Thanks!

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  3. I've really got to warn you against glueing up tubular tires without wearing some kind of air filter. Those mastic fumes can get hella trippy.

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  4. Didn't your mother warn you not to follow the white rabbit down into that burrow? Or maybe it was was ducking into a coat-filled wardrobe that landed you in such a magical place. How else do one explain those bikes, those amazing people?

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  5. Wow.....you've really gone through the looking glass this time.
    What a great venue for a bike show.
    Great story!

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  6. I was there and this report is pretty accurate!

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  7. All due respect, Big Al Pope was a bit of a douche, being that he insisted on buying any bike-related patent he could, and really stuck it to his competition by demanding royalties. Pope Manufacturing was the Specialized of the 1890s.

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    1. I'd like to hear you say that to his face!

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    2. If you can arrange the time travel, i'd be glad to. =D

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  8. Velouria In Wonderland. Missing, a caterpillar smoking a hookah made from a crazy looking tandem frame.

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    1. I would have photographed that, but the designated smoking area was outside and waaay down the road.

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  9. Well I guess that's one way to experience a bike show!

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  10. Was looking forward to your report on this event but this through me for a loop. The fiction/fantasy thing is less interesting than seeing the bikes and builders and reading your take on some trends or favorites. Oh well….

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    1. I guess this post reflects my feeling that, while the show on the whole was lovely and magical-feeling, the venue and atmosphere dominated over the actual bikes and products. The greenhouse was disco-dark, with few power outlets provided - so that many bikes were displayed in nearly pitch black, making them difficult to get a good look at (or at times, even notice). The DJ was fantastic, but the music was played at nightclub volume, making it challenging to speak to exhibitors. The show was also quite densely crowded with cyclocross folks (in town for the race that weekend), and at times felt like a party catering to that demographic, rather than an event optimized for bicycle builders and accessory makers to show off their products to potential new customers. Finally, there were beautiful bikes from local builders, but as far as trends or newsworthy developments I did not see anything that I felt compelled to analyse or report on here. It was a beautiful, exciting, well attended event. But to me it felt more like a party set in a bike-sprinkled rainforest dreamscape, than a bicycle show.

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    2. Okay, thanks. Parties are wonderful. I guess this is like an art opening where the subject is less about the art than the experience of the opening itself. I kinda like hearing about the art.

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    3. I appreciate your take on this Velouria; I was there too and had a similar experience. It was an amazing space and fun environment, but perhaps I was hoping for more diversity, or maybe I forget that “bike” means many things to different people. A good number of the bikes on display seemed to be of the fat/race/cross persuasion, which is totally cool, but not so interesting to me.

      Brian Chapman's bikes were a gleaming exception and stood out among the crowd. Looking at his work made the event for me. I mentioned this to a friend and she remarked that perhaps this was because it was a small leap of imagination to see all that I could do on one of his bikes, and I think she nailed it on the head.

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  11. Having been to the RWP Botanical Gardens, I'd be hard pressed to picture it as a bike show venue without the help of your photos!
    Best regards,
    Will

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    1. When I first heard the show was going to be at the Botanical Gardens, I thought maybe they'd built a new facility there since the last time I visited; it didn't even occur to me it could be inside the greenhouse. But apparently they've held charity fundraisers and such there in the past. It does make for a beautiful venue.

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  12. The only Oh Well here is that I missed an awesome event!! Wow, what a great piece of non-fattening prose candy! I wish there were pages worth! I had a lot of work to do otherwise I would have loved to take the drive up and meet you + company and see the awesome event. This definitely looks like something to mark the calendar for next time 'round.

    Keep up the good awesomeness !!

    vsk / Back in Brooklyn!

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  13. Loved the imagery. It reminded me of Winsor McKay.
    The nightclub-volume music would have spoiled it for me, I fear.

    I was thinking maybe you'd had a pre-slumber snack of
    "Radler-rarebit" - embrocation on toast.

    RS certainly looked like he was in on the joke, though. So cheerfully diabolical.

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  14. For the curious, why did the Michelle Pfeiffer link go the Cyclimas site? I couldn't find anything about her on the site.
    Thanks!

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