2008 MS Bike Tour Report

On September 13th and 14th Karen and I rode the Bike MS Historic Bike Tour out of New Bern, NC to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We rode a total of 175 miles – 100 on Saturday and 75 on Sunday. For both of us Saturday was our first “century” (100 mile) ride so it was an extra special occasion. We also both raised over $1000 (over $1350 for me) for MS thanks to the generous help of our friends. This is the third year that Karen has done this event and my second year. Last year I was moved to tears at the start of the event – over 2000 riders massed together at the start at the waterfront park in New Bern, all the volunteers cheering – so many of them living with MS themselves, the sidewalks lined with well wishers. It was last year’s ride that made me aware of the scope of this disease. Almost all of you who donated wrote back to tell me of friends or family members who had been diagnosed with MS. Realizing that so many of the volunteers working the rest stops for the ride also had MS was a big shock to me. It turns out that I knew some of those people. This year I started noticing the number of riders who also had MS. Many riders wore a sign on the back of their jersey listing the names of the people they were riding for. On some of those signs I saw that the rider had also listed him/herself. It also turns out that one of the guys we ride with almost every Tuesday night has MS. I just always assumed this middle-aged slightly overweight person who is usually the slowest rider in the group was just trying to get back into shape. He’s riding to save his life.

Most of us know someone with cancer or AIDS or some other life threatening or debilitating disease. There are so many opportunities to volunteer or raise money for worthy causes. I like doing this ride because 60% of the money we raise, that you donate, stays here to directly fund services, programs, and advocacy for the 4,300 people living with MS right here in Eastern North Carolina. The rest of the money supports national research to find the cause and cure of MS. And I benefit, too. Getting to the point where I can ride a bicycle 100 miles has made me so much healthier and happier. It’s a wonderful form of exercise and I’ve seen more of our beautiful part of the state in 2 years of cycling than I ever did in 25 years of driving around in a car. I’ve also met a lot of great folks and so many of them participate in these fund raising rides. You could do this, too! There are MS rides all over the country and the one we do out of New Bern has added a 30 mile course for those of you frightened by the idea of peddling a bike 75 or 100 miles in a day. 30 miles still sound scary to you? Really, it’s not bad and it’s FLAT in New Bern (well, there are those bridges to go over….). A little bit of training over the summer and you could join us next Fall.

The weather for the ride this year was great though a bit hot. On Saturday there were over 2100 riders at the start. As you can imagine the first 10 miles or so things are a little thick but the group stretches out pretty quickly. Four of us more or less rode together – Karen, myself, Karen’s brother in-law Rich, and our friend Joanne. Sometimes we’d be four or sometimes we’d be two in various combinations. You could go for miles and not see another rider once the group got spread out. The rest stops, of course, were teaming with people. Lots of food, water, and the life saver on this ride – Gatorade. There are rest stops every 15 miles or so and I think we stopped at all of them. The lunch stop on Saturday even had a band. There are church ladies with home-made desserts, various companies sponsor some of the stops, and there are even some impromptu things like the woman on Sunday with a sign in her front yard thanking all the riders and her standing out by the road with a garden hose spraying anybody who needed cooling off. Sunday was very hot and, sadly, we lost Joanne 11 miles from the finish. She had been feeling bad and at the previous rest stop sat in a van with the air conditioning running for a while until she felt better but I was riding with her a few miles down the road when she just veered off into a shady place, got off her bike and lay down in the grass. She was cramping so bad she couldn’t move at all. We called for help and eventually a van took her to the civic center in New Bern to rest but they promptly sent her on to the hospital where she spent the evening getting fluids to bring her electrolyte balance back up. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful ride but oh so satisfying. That’s us in the picture at the start on Sunday. From left to right – Robbie, Karen, Joanne, Rich. You ever wonder about that spandex stuff that cyclists wear? It’s all about the padding. Those shorts are very padded on the seat and I can’t tell you what a huge difference that makes on a 100 mile ride. The jerseys are all about being seen on the road – some motorists are not very observant. Bright, obnoxious colors keep you safe. Just so you know – I’m not into fashion – it’s about comfort and staying alive.

Thanks again for your support. A whole lot of people appreciate it!
2008 MS Bike Tour


Thank you Brother Yu

bro_yu_funeral_annoc_copy.jpgBrother Yusuf was the person responsible for me coming to this area in the early 80’s. He brought me into the jazz community here and saw that I got good work. I had the honor of playing with him for several years along with Bus Brown, Eve Cornelius, Al Neece, Ray Codrington, Steve Wing, and many others. His greatest contribution to the community was in his bringing together people of all races and religious beliefs through his spirited music. Everyone was his brother or sister – even those that started out hating him for his race or religion. He overcame all with love and grace. All hatred, all bigotry, all intolerance melted in his beaming, joyful presence. He was a damn good jazz pianist, too, and brought up more musicians than any univeristy professor could ever lay claim to. Patience, love, encouragement, joy. Peace and love to you, Brother Yu!

Special Guests

The Bernie Petteway Trio gets a new look and a new sound for this Thursday’s gig at the General Store Cafe in Pittsboro. Sadly, Ed Butler can’t be with us this time but we’re making up for his smile and great playing with not one, but two of the area’s most loved percussionists: Beverly Botsford and Sara Romweber.
Plus, the GSC’s new music room is a treat for both performers and listeners alike, and the food just gets better every time I go there. Come on out Thursday, June 5, starting at 8:00 pm. There’s no cover charge but we do rely on the generosity of your tips!

“Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss”

I don’t have a dog in this race but I watch with great interest:
As artists seek to bypass the RIAA/Mafia and turn to the web and self publishing/promoting, interesting things happen. Sites have sprung up to help fledgling artists get their work out to the masses but who benefits? One new site – Bebo – has just been sold to a subsidiary of Time Warner, generating some controversy. I like the reference to “sharecroppers”. The ever-wise Burning Bird has this to say. The plot, as usual, thickens.

Holding the Line

Last year was a good year for continuo playing. This year promises to be even better. “Getting in the groove” is a concept that goes back to the beginning of musical time. Whether it’s a bunch of guys in animal skins banging rocks together or a modern jazz trio or a guy scratching on a turntable or tuxedo clad musicians playing Bach it doesn’t matter. We’re all doing the same thing – keeping time. It doesn’t have to be a march time beat. It can ebb and flow. The groove is round like a record or it’s a line from here to infinity or it’s the path of a snake in the sand. The main thing is – we’re doing it together.

It used to be the continuo section would have Brent Wissick playing cello. The cellist and the bassist are almost always playing exactly the same thing an octave apart. The bassist shadows the cellist who is the leader and effectively the leader of the entire ensemble (even if the conductor thinks he/she is the leader). The melodies and harmonies ride on top of the continuo line the way a jazz soloist rides on top of the rhythm section. If the line falters, the whole ensemble falls. The bassist and cellist have to be of the same mind. Intonation, timing, articulation. There are so many shapes the line can take – some are dictated by the lyrics or the melody, but often it’s just a matter of style and preference. Playing with Brent for many years we almost never had to talk about these things – it just happened. We were of the same mind. It made playing with other players feel tedious.

Those were the years of the Society for Performance on Original Instruments which later became Ensemble Courant which is now at best plays only one or two concerts a year. Brent and I rarely play but like old lovers meeting again we never have to speak of mundane details when we play together. Still of the same mind.

In more recent years I’ve been “holding the line” with Barbara Blaker Krumdieck, who can be heard this weekend with the baroque ensemble Pomodoro. When we met at our first rehearsal together a few years ago we were both eyeing each other suspiciously as the person who had the greatest potential for making the weekend a miserable one.  Happily we clicked from the first note and the line snaked onward and we have been playing together in many ensembles since. Our next performance together is February 17th with the Aurora Baroque Ensemble although we’ll be in a different configuration this time – taking turns playing continuo for each other and for the rest of the ensemble. Barbara on baroque cello and me on the new bass viol. Barbara has put together many wonderful ensembles and programs and I have been very fortunate to be a part of some of them. Watch for Wild Rose Ensemble, Ensemble Serendipity, Aurora Baroque with the great violinist David Wilson, and occasionally I even get to perform with Ensemble Vermillian.

Lastly, dear friend of 25 years Virginia Hudson and I have finally been getting to hold the line together. We’ve played in many ensembles over the years but only recently have been doing continuo together and I can say that a solid friendship really helps. The give and take and close listening required come much easier if you’re accustomed to doing that in real life. Virginia took over principle cellist duties in the ensemble for the annual performance of the Messiah in Duke Chapel and we’ve been getting other opportunities to play as well.

Additional links:
The Theory and Practice of the Basso Continuo
Triangle Early Music Presenting Organization

Viol Debut

The new Pringle bass viol will be making her debut at the Horace Williams house on Sunday at 3:00. She’s pretty cute as you can see here, though a bit chubby-cheeked.
She’s a copy of Nicolas Bertand’s Paris 1720 7-string bass. She’s got a bit of a smirk from the side. I’ve yet to name her yet. Suggestions? Bessie? I think she’s up for singing Rameau on Sunday but we’ll see if the player is ready.


It’s been happening more and more and it’s really getting on my nerves. You’re at a concert in Duke Chapel listening to delicately written music from the 15th century being sung by women with heavenly voices. Just as they reach a delicious dissonance and the tones are suspended in air, the audience collectively holds it’s breath waiting for the resolution and cli-ick!  comes the loud shutter of the camera shattering the fragile, shimmering harmonics.

Why, with all our modern technology, we can’t have cameras with silent shutter mechanisms is beyond me. And it seems to be the flashy digital SLR’s with their enormous lenses that are the noisiest – even noisier than my old Nikkormat. They seem to be saying “look at me, I’ve got the latest and greatest!”.
Until the idiots behind these cameras at least learn to hold their shots until the loudest part of the music, or better yet, use something quiet, they should be banned from any musical event. They’re even a nuisance at outdoor folk music events and the like.
This particular instance (and he took many pictures during the most delicate parts of the performance) was at the Women’s Voices concert in Duke Chapel last night.

I’d Rather Be Biking

The luxury of being self employed. I managed to adjust my schedule to accommodate a weekly Wednesday morning bicycle ride with the Tarwheels. I’ve been doing this almost every week since August when I started training in earnest for the MS150 Bicycle Tour. What was a 9:00 AM ride became 10:00 AM when daylight savings time ended and then starting in December it became 11:00 AM. Figure about 3 hours for about 40 miles plus rest stop plus a little socializing before/after the ride. That’s a big chunk out of the day. Plus shower, change clothes, and somehow I manage to work up a huge appetite so there’s an extra meal in there somewhere. The people are wonderful and the scenery is great. I’ve learned more back roads in my area in the last six months than in the whole 25+ years I’ve been living here.

But – I’m not out there today. I’ve become a big fan of weather websites since re-becoming a cyclist. But – we all know where trusting the weather man gets us. Last night the projected temperature for the duration of our (also weekly) Tuesday night ride (lots of blinky lights!) was in the low 40’s. What actually happened was that it was already down into the 30’s when we started and right at 32 when we finished. That was OK. A few numb toes and fingers but it was a great ride – 20 miles out in the country and then through some Carrboro neighborhoods to check out the Christmas lights.

Today? Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain in the morning. 20%. Translation (using the new updated drought-stricken North Carolina interpretation of weather forcasts): 20% chance of rain means no rain in sight for the next 40 days and 40 nights. But then there was that ominous red sky this morning. “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” So at 9:30 it started raining. And 10 degrees cooler than the projected temperature. At 10:30 it’s still raining. I have to leave at 10:40 to make the 11:00 ride. I decide no. Rain, OK – I can handle that. Cold, OK – I can handle that. But rain AND cold. No. I’m drawing the line. 10:40 it’s still raining. I’m reading the paper. 10:45 I look up. Rain stopped. 10:50 – clouds are breaking. 11:00 on the dot the sun comes out. Temperature is rising. It’s a beautiful day for a ride.

So – I could have gone out on my own but the truth is I really like these group rides. And there is strength in numbers when biking around here. Plus, I’m taking the chain of weather events as a sign that I really should stay home and get some work done today. Work. Oh, OK.

Did I mention that the sky is almost completely clear now? It’s a beautiful day for a ride.


MS150 Ride a Success – Thanks!

Thanks to all my friends who donated to our MS150 ride. Well, it turned out to be the MS105 ride. Tropical storm Gabrielle caused the ride directors to cut the Sunday course down to 30 miles in case the weather turned nasty so no one would be stuck too far out. As it was, we rode through a couple of rain squalls but nothing too bad. But Saturday’s 75 mile course was beautiful and we took a leisurely pace through the flat countryside around New Bern. That was after a bit of a rough start. Karen and I got separated at the start – so many people on bikes!!! They did a staggered start and she went off with the faster group by mistake. I was stuck behind the line until they started the slower group. Then I got stuck in a pack of riders who missed the first turn and in the process of turning the group around I did what EVERYbody told me I would eventually do but until that moment had managed to avoid doing – forget to unclip. It’s almost comical, that moment when you realize you’re stopped, locked in your pedals, and about to go over like a tree. There’s no stopping it. Fortunately I only scraped my knee but also twisted my seat around so had to pull out the tools (glad I packed them) and get it back on straight and then wind my way through hundreds of riders hoping to catch Karen. I didn’t see her until the first rest stop at 15 miles but then it was great after that. We took advantage of all the rest stops staffed by volunteers many of whom have MS – some of them people we know. Over 1800 riders took part on Saturday. There were over 350 of us on Sunday who didn’t get scared off by the dire sounding weather reports. The whole thing was a great experience and a wonderful way for us to raise money for this cause. I’m so glad I did it but mostly I’m pleased that so many of my friends agreed with me that this important cause deserved time, effort, and money. I can’t tell you how moved I was by all of your support. And especially the number of people who responded with stories about their friends or family dealing with multiple sclerosis.

Never having done any kind of fund raising before I started out with the recommended goal of raising $500. I agreed to bring in a minimum of $250 and half expected to be paying some of that myself. When the responses started coming in I quickly passed $500 and so raised my goal to $1000. You helped me pass that in a very short time and so again I raised it to $2000. As of today I have almost $1700 in donations to the MS Society and all together we’ve raised almost $800,000!!! They’re still tallying the donations brought in the day of the ride so that figure will still rise. I’ve got until October 1st to turn in the rest of my donations so if you want to help out go to my ride page at nationalmssociety.org or mail a check to me made out to the National MS Society. I am so happy to have been a small part of this effort. I had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people, saw some beautiful countryside, and rode the most miles in a day I have ever ridden. YOU could do this, too!!! Really – there were people there of all ages – some in their 70’s, kids, everything in between. There are several ride options from a kids fun ride, to 30, 75, and 100 mile/day options and it’s flat in New Bern so it’s pretty easy. Lots of well supplied rest stops, take your own pace, lots of support from volunteers and medical people and police. There are over 100 events across the country. Think about it for next year – it’s an experience I highly recommend.

Thank you again for your help and support.