Saturday, March 31, 2007

This is what Winter riding in Minnesota looked like this year. This is the Gentleman's Ride which was happening on Sunday mornings until it got much colder. We would roll along for about thirty five or forty miles at a conversational pace and then end at the neighborhood coffee shop for a cup of the good stuff. The weather really helped me to stay on the bike this year. It stayed mild until January and then it was real cold for a couple of weeks and then it snowed in February. Extreme cold (below 18 degrees F) and lots of snow will pretty much keep me at the dinner table and off the bike. This year that period lasted about six weeks, which is not bad at all for this part of the country. It is now Spring and I am happy to report I am riding and it feels really good to be back on the wheel. Meanwhile, guitars are selling well and that is a happy thing. I have the perfect storm of two weekends in a row of playing at Dulono's Pizza coming up and I am both dreading it and looking forward to it. I love to play music in front of an audience and Dulono's is the ultimate venue around here for live acoustic music. I dread it because it is eight hours per weekend of standing with a fifteen pound banjo on my shoulder and I just am not able to shrug it off like I could as a younger man. I am usually pretty worn by Sunday mornings, but that is what the bike is for. Play, eat, ride; sounds pretty good.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I have been focusing on riding my bike and playing music when I am not being a Taylor guitar expert. Pam and I took some time off in October and traveled to North Carolina for some hiking and a visit with her dad. The photo above was shot up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina near Asheville. I'm guessing we timed the fall colors pretty well. The modern age (see title of this entry) is interesting. I started having some issues with email while on the trip and the problems grew until this past week and now the tide of trouble seems to be ebbing. There is no question at all that the life of Guitar Rodeo depends on the web and functioning email. Business is quiet now that there has been a few weeks of disjointed execution in regard to responding to inquiries and getting things done for people. My popularity had grown a lot this summer and fall on the Acoustic Guitar Forum (AGF). I have sold to several people there and they like my service and my prices. However, it came to my attention that emails from people were being bounced back and that the web site was not posted. This means I am out of business if the problem isn't repaired. The issues are fixed now, what with a new server farm being used by my web host and a new registrar for my domain name. Hopefully, business will trickle back and things will go better. Meanwhile, I ride in the cold and the Gentlemen's ride has moved to Sunday so we can start later when it is warmer. I have spruced up my cold weather gear and the riding is exilirating. Soon, the conditions will warrant switching to the old Gitane slop bike as it would be unwise to ride the Ottrott on the messy winter roads. I already rode the old bike a couple of times and switched back to the Serotta. There is no comparison. I am hoping the winter riding passes quickly as I will be glad to get back on the Ottrott in Spring.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Friday morning is the morning for the "Gentleman's Ride". A bunch of older ex-racers meets on the Greenway for a thirty mile easy pace spin on bike trails, greenways, and LRT walkways. Lately, a couple of the active racers from the Flanders Brothers Cycle "A" team have been on the ride. One of these guys is Scott Flanders, who at age 48 won the Senior category of the 2005 Minnesota State Championship Road Race. I reckon some folks would immediately think that the level of competition is low if an old guy like Scott could win against all comers 18 years and older. I don't think so. Scott has won hundreds (yes, hundreds) of road and criterium races over the years. He is seriously fit and may actually have more experience racing than the rest of the racers combined. In his youth he rode for the national team in races in South America. It is an honor to ride with him and needless to say he regards the Friday morning ride as a rest and recovery ride. I had seen him very early one Saturday morning a couple of weeks before going the opposite direction than I on the Greenway. When he was on the Friday ride I asked him about that because it was an unlikely place for me to have seen him. He said that he rode solo to Duluth that day and he had maintained an average ride speed of 21.5 mph. Duluth is 150 miles from where I saw him. He said he felt really good that day and he thought it was a good effort for him. I remembered that he had won a state border to border race one year (in the mid-1980's) where he rode solo for exactly two hundred miles and finished in eight hours flat. Of course, that day he had a prevailing tail wind so it was easier. Still, I have ridden centuries with these guys in the past. Riding a hundred miles is hard, even with a group to help pace and shelter you. On days like that I carefully planned how I was going to do nothing for the remainder of the day except lie about whimpering and sipping cool drinks. It boggles my little mind to think about doing some of the rides Scott does on a regular basis. Scott's older brother Jim is the ride leader for the Friday ride. Jim is also a former State Road Champ and winner of LOTS of races and a former US national team member. I met Jim and Scott in 1980 and I have always cherished their friendship and I feel pretty lucky to learn from them and to spend time riding with them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I have been busy with completing the new store remodel, selling guitars, riding my bike, doing fun stuff with Pamela, and building metal projects as a specialty fabricator. I am posting some pictures of the completed store today and offering my apology to anyone who has been checking this blog to see if I would ever publish again. I will toss out more pix as I come back to the blog with more entries. I have been playing banjo quite a bit. This coming weekend, Pamela and I will travel to Bayfield Wisconsin so I may perform at a wedding with Bill, Kathe and Lincoln. We will hang around in some of the most picturesque scenery anywhere and I will be able to pay for the trip playing the banjo. It should be very sweet.

The store is now officially open and Taylor sent my Regional Sales Manager and two technicians to my store yesterday. They had published to their email list and on their web site that they were going to do this. The technicians restrung and analyzed the condition of customers' guitars. They put new strings on, adjusted and/or reset necks, adjusted bridge height, and even dressed frets for anyone who brought their Taylor guitar to my store. I would guess that upwards of thirty to forty people showed up with their Taylors in hand during the four hours they were there. It was a lot of fun and the players who brought their guitars to the store were very happy they did.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

It is time for another entry in order to maintain the interest of the 60 or so people who drop by this blog weekly...

In the last installment, our hero had just moved his store into a new location. This event happened within ten days of his realizing he needed to find a new store, execute a lease, give notice and move the stuff out of the old and into the new. Done. Week one of the new month was design the new space and demolish the old store decor. Week two was procure the drywall, lumber and electrical components, frame the walls and move the electrical outlets to where they needed to be. Week three was drywall and mud all the time. Week four turned out to be the same as week three as the construction crew rebelled and demanded that the bike was being ridden daily in the warmest and most pleasant April in the history of the state. Meanwhile, guitar sales were strong and the folks who give me my paycheck needed to get their guitars as if Guitar Rodeo was there for them and not a temporary construction firm on a work slow down/early season training regimen. The photos today represent progress to date. The new showroom (lower photo) is going to be cool. The one wall has to "float" in order for the heat and cool to circulate throughout the entire store. The upper photo is from the same perspective as the interior shot in the last post and shows how different things look now. I will post another view next week, I promise.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

These are the before photos of my new guitar store. My old location was a 45 minute drive from where I live, and the old landlord was of a mind to get twice the rent he was getting from the space only thirteen months earlier. I just couldn't do that so I gave notice and moved closer to home and into a better and bigger space. My drive time is about five minutes now. The outside is already cool and the location is a great spot to have a store. The inside needs a lot of work, which I would be doing now instead of blogging but I need to take a break now and then and keep the guitars moving. One of the motivating factors in making the move is that I am now the largest Taylor dealer in Minnesota. In the world of guitars, like so many other worlds, the big dog gets to choose where he lays. I was in my first spot because it satisfied the requirement that I not impose on the territory of the existing dealers. When I asked Taylor what they thought about this location they were pretty easy going about it. I hope it works out. I am going to use the hour and a half of extra time I now have every day (by not driving so far to work) to ride the Ottrott and get lean and mean again. Things are looking up. I am a lucky guy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I travelled to Wisconsin last Sunday with the MSCB to play a concert in a community theater in Prairie Du Sac. We were the visiting "stars" from the big city. There were two other bands who were local that preceeded us in a three hour concert. There were at least two hundred people there and the venue was a lovely auditorium built sometime in the past decade. The local bands were staffed by journeymen musicians; competent and fun to listen to. Apparently there is a thriving Bluegrass community around that area and these bands were representative of the quality of players found there. The pay was pretty good for the time spent performing but only so-so for the amount of time it took to drive there, do a sound check, play, and drive home. This is the musicians' lot. Very few people make a good living playing music. For that matter, very few people get any sort of return on the time they committed to learning their instrument. Why do people like me spend their Sundays driving for four hours one way to play for strangers? I suppose because they can. I related in an early post on this blog that I have been performing since I was a kid and knew one song on my instrument. The graduate students in the bluegrass band I hung around with thought it was funny. I was thrilled. I was hooked too. I have always enjoyed playing publicly and stage fright has not been an issue for decades. I play banjo and I like sharing the music I make with others who enjoy listening to me perform. I also enjoy the comaraderie of musicians. The jokes are good, the stories are amusing, and over the years I have amassed enough experience to have my own stories to share, some of which are in this blog.