Friday, August 08, 2014

Partly sunny with a one percent chance of trickles

After never really starting, summer seems to be winding down already.

Last year, summer was August.  Things just kind of simmered along, with a little surge around the Fourth of July, and then furiously and briefly boiled over in the last full month of the season. The sad little remnant of the official season, in September, is left to the locals to scavenge what they can of boating, swimming and vitamin D without hordes of visitors and temporary residents. But August was pretty hysterical.

This year, a lot of August already looks like September. Not only aren't people coming in to the shop, I can't see them from the windows overlooking the water and other businesses around us. The deli that shares our parking lot has its lunch rushes, but the people who run it tell me the numbers are off in general.

Our uber-rich and their pretty darn rich extended families and associates have done some trickling, especially Mr. X and his contingent, what with the e-bike assemblies and a couple of new bike purchases. But beyond that things are way too flat for summer. I'm not looking at an overflowing repair queue, and I should be. In fact, there's barely anything waiting. This time of year we expect to fall behind, checking in several repairs every time we go out to test ride one we've completed. That's just not happening.

An in-house rep at Specialized, who called to check in yesterday, agreed with me that the industry is in a bit of a slump. Cycling remains highly regionalized, even localized. The United States as a whole still does not embrace bicycle use in any of its forms universally. Recreational path riding probably comes closest to a universal norm, but that depends on the availability of paths and a thriving non-motorized ethic. There's not much to "yee haw" about on a bike path.

We'll be busy around next weekend. The local triathlon coincides with the Mount Washington Hill Climb and the Timberman triathlon in Gilford, which offers a full weekend of events. After that, who knows?

Whatever people are doing, they don't seem to be vacationing. This got me thinking about Mr. X's family fortune, which is based in the hotel industry. No doubt they've diversified now, but the family name still automatically brings the word "hotel" to mind. If fewer and fewer people can afford to travel, and those who can travel cannot afford a nice hotel, isn't that going to shrink the bottom line?

We can't run on trickles, even if they're occasionally fairly copious golden showers. A resort town suffers when people can't or won't play. As a resident of the area I wonder what brings people in the first place. The general answer is "the lake," but what does that really mean? In the 1990s it seemed like the people who visited and the people who lived here shared a general enthusiasm for things on the land as well as the water. Maybe it's as simple as the people who have the money are getting old and tired and the young ones are using their youthful energy simply to survive. Wherever the young ones are, they may very well be on their bikes, but lack the time and inclination to pedal all the way up here.

When I lived car-free in a town, I lived within my cruising radius except for special jaunts, hitch hiking to the mountains for a weekend or borrowing a car for a specific trip. Thumbing didn't appeal to me, especially after a truck driver pulled a gun on me. Without a car to borrow I would have relied entirely on my pedal power and perhaps the bus. I was a millennial decades before the millennium.

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