Fatigue Limit – 3

Start of a race in the 1890s.

That was an understatement. The young rider’s reputation spread like a raging wildfire across Northern California. His exploits on the bike rewrote the record books, overshadowing the accomplishments of the best riders. He proved in every race he entered that he could beat the best cyclists. Carl made adjustments with his spoke wrench while I watched. Carl knew everything about cycling, but his knowledge was worldly. In his travels to the East Coast and Europe he met the great minds of engineering, knew some by first name. He corresponded so frequently that it took the postmaster extra time to gather up all the letters.

I shuffled through a pile of missives strewn across his dining room table. The names read like a Who’s Who — John Dunlop, Pierre Lallement, John Kemp Starley, Albert Overman, Henry Sturmey, Eugene Meyer, Hans Renold, Alfred Reynolds, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche. His Renaissance man attributes shown through.

“You do know some influential people,” I said, my mouth agape at the names I had perused.

Carl continued turning spokes, listening for the right pitch when they pinged and settled into place. At moments like these he was more piano tuner than wheelbuilder. After each wheel tightening, he carefully stress-relieved the spokes by grabbing pairs and squeezing them. Was there anything this man could not do? Here he was, a piano repairman one minute, a dairy farmer with the right “squeeze” the next.

“Certainly. These fellows understand scientific principles.”

“Including Sigmund Freud? Isn’t he a psychologist?”

“He’s a blowhard. I don’t buy what he’s selling, but he has a few good ideas. Besides, he’s German. I understand his writing.”

“And what about Friedrich Nietzsche? I learned about him in school. He’s a nihilist.”

“Don’t say that. It’s a highfalutin word for a realist. He doesn’t believe in prophets or fairy tales, nor do I.”

Fatigue Limit home

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