Thursday, December 30, 2004

Washed away, New York, NY

I'm sitting here in the place that I sometimes called home in the Big Apple. As usual, my former roommate and I ordered Chinese takeout, caught up on gossip, started watching tv, and then she fell asleep on the couch. Normal stuff.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the death toll is now up to 125,000 and 5 million people are displaced. I've been trying to gauge my reaction to this. It's almost like there's so much grief that it's hard to feel any at all. How do you comprehend that many people dead from one disaster?

Back in the belly, the traffic was pretty bad. I'm sure it's all the New Year's revelers heading into town early for the weekend. I thought about going down to check out Times Square, but I might save that for tomorrow to see how many people are camped out. No llingering, though. I've got to beat the rush out of town. This is the last place I want to be trapped.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Yee haaw! Gawd damn! I'm an Amer'kin!

Today, in a sort of off-handed way, I was accused of making anti-American comments (see the link above). I find this amusing.

I think the US is great. It's some of the people I have a problem with. It seems that the accuser is one of those people who thinks that if I don't support the goverment that I'm anti-American. This country was founded via revolt against a government. The Civil War was faught over States Rights (slavery). As Americans, we aren't supposed to agree with everything the government does! Sheesh, I thought that was obvious.


No riding today. It's positively frigid here. The windchill made it feel like 15 degrees (F). I went running yesterday as a result, so I'm now very sore. I sure would rather be riding my bike. I suppose I should just suck it up and go. Get on the right layers, put on the overshoes, and have a go. Worst case, it's too cold and I turn back, then pound the pavement with running shoes on.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Christmas day. Is there a name for that feeling that comes up when the presents are all open? You anticipate this day for the better part of a month, then it's here, then you do the normal morning activities, then the Christmas dinner, then...what?

It's like the feeling of it being a normal day sets in, when for weeks now you and everyone else has been looking forward to this day because it's NOT just another day. It's disappointing when that happens. Suddenly the excitement is over, and normal life resumes.

I wasn't even into Christmas this year. Normally I get pretty wrapped up in the holiday cheer (pardon the pun), but not this year. For that reason, it makes no sense that I should have any post-Christmas blues. Truth be told, I don't think this funk has anything to do with Christmas.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Tomato, Tomahtoe...Winterlike, Springlike

Right, so you know how I said that it was definitely winter here when I landed? That lasted for all of about 12 hours after I got here. Yesterday, it was 50. Today, it was 60. No sun though.

I took the fixie out for a ride yesterday. I really love riding that thing, despite the torture device for a saddle that it has. It's a chrome Bianchi, with a chrome WTB saddle, and I just haven't worked up the courage to put on a more comfortable saddle yet. Function follows form, after all! Maybe I should get one of those chrome SDG jobbies. Yeah, that's it!

Anyhoo...riding for a long time on a fixie isn't something that you can just go out and do after a long hiatus. So it makes perfect sense that I would hop on like I'd been riding it every day and head out for just shy of 30 miles. Today, I have some significant soreness in the nether regions, since it was probably about 10 miles futher than my body could tolerate easily on the saddle. It was probably about 10 miles further than I should have made my legs take me, as well. As a result, I was walking a little funny afterwards, and well, I won't be sitting on any 2x4's for the next couple of days. Nevertheless, I cruised oceanside for a long time, and stopped for some Mack&Manco's along the way for lunch. It was an absolutetly gorgeous day at the shore. Today, despite being warmer, it's been raining all day. What country am I in again?

If it ain't fixed, it's broken.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Land of Green Ginger

It is definitely winter here. I could see on the approach to Newark that the roads had that dried white crust over them from being salted during a recent snow storm. It was -5 C (22 F for those playing along at home) when I woke up this morning. The kind of cold that lets you see your breath when you exhale from your nose. It's going to take a great deal of motivation to get myself out on the bike. I've been looking forward to riding the fixie, though.

It's always weird coming home now. I always feel like I've had my eyes open to some things and suddenly there's a lot that I don't like here. Of course I'm glad to see my family, and my dog, and I'll enjoy driving my car which is ace...but there's a lot of fluff here as well. I can pick out all of the American stereotypes that you become immune to when you grow up in a society, and they are starting to really annoy me.

Don't get me wrong; there are many great things about the States, and lots of good people, too. There are places here that I love, and of course, it's the home of Mack and Manco's pizza. I think most of my gripe has to do with the fact that I've changed as a person rather than things being different here. I guess the change was coming, and I probably started feeling it well before I quit my job. Being overseas seems to have made me accutely aware of just how much different a person I am than say, 5 years ago.

I'm very grateful for the time I spent in the UK. I learned so many things, met so many fantastic people, got slightlty better as a bike rider (although I'm still pretty bad), and I became more aware of the kind of influence things at home have on the rest of the world. I haven't even been home for a day yet and I already miss it.

The sun is out here though, so I guess it does have its merits.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Travel time again

This will be it for a few days. I'm heading south with the Chippendale, then flying home on Tuesday.

Happy 50th Mr. Bontrager!

Friday, December 17, 2004

The people you meet...

I met John North today.

There's an incredible guy. Chipps had told me about him before, but I'd never met him. He used to be a runner, and at one point ran for the British National team. He got into cycling along the way as well. Anyhoo, after 20 years he had to have his hip replaced. He asked for a carbon fiber one because it's lighter. But before that, he had a really nasty cancer, from which he recovered. All the while he kept riding and was successful at the Three Peaks Cyclocross race, which many argue is the toughest 'cross race in the world. Chipps says he's never known him to be totally healthy. At the Three Peaks this year, he was again on crutches because he'd crashed on his new hip. Over the last year or so it, aside from the crash, it looked like he was finally out of the woods.

John came to the office today, and told us he has Parkinson's disease.

This is one of those mysteries of the universe. A guy like John, overwhelmingly nice, wouldn't hurt a fly, would probably help out someone in any way he could. For the better part of his adult life he's had some sort of ailment, yet he's still a happy guy. In the meantime, there are people in the world who carry on being a waste of space.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Oh shit! (And repeat...)

No one wants to die on their birthday. I doubt anyone wants to have a near death experience on their birthday, either.

Let me tell you about a little something called 'brake fade'. This is a lovely thing that happens to your brakes when you need them most. They sort of just stop working. Brake fade is not something you want to experience while riding down a steep, muddy, somewhat rocky descent that has a big ass drop off on one side. Brake fade isn't something you want to have when there are other riders in front of you with functioning brakes. Brake fade isn't something you want to have well, ever really. Tonight, I had brake fade and let me tell you, it's not fun. I managed to hold on, find a clean line, and not send myself flying over the side of the trail. I also managed to avoid running over SteveM, although the though of hitting him did cross my mind because at least I'd have a chance of stopping. Fortunately, he managed to work himself to the right leaving me a rideable line around him to the left. I felt the fear in my legs long after I managed to slow myself down to a normal pace. Then I got 'Elvis legs' as someone called them in the pub afterwards, uncontrollable spasming.

Certainly not my best ride. I suppose I was due for a bad one given the fact that on my recent rides I've been halfway decent technically. I wish it hadn't happened on my birthday, though. I was well spooked.

Aside from that, it was a good day. Chipps adopted a mango tree in a reforestation project for me, and I was positively showered with chocolate. And Stanny on the Coiler! I think he's found his true calling.

The best part of the ride were the people who came along. You guys are all terrific. Thanks for making my birthday special.

Now...on to the raspberry Belgian!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Today's ride, and why I sometimes hate people.

A December day that felt more like an indicator of Spring. I didn't get up in time (of course) to see the rain that Kelvin said was coming down this morning, which is probably a good thing as it would have reduced my desire to ride.

Today was almost an 'accidental epic'. We got to a point on the ride where we decided to scope out a new trail and headed off to where the map told us to turn left. The left we took found us in someone's farmyard, where we were told that there was no bridleway, and that we needed to go such and such but 'You won't get bike's there!'. Pah! Not the time to explain to her that we are rulers of the Cheek, and if anyone knows how to navigate in places where bikes normally don't go, it's our lot. Off we went in search of the right trail. Since it was a bridleway we were after, we followed the horse tracks (poop).

Several water crossings later, we found the track we were looking for. It probably took an hour from that farmyard to the right path, and as the crowflies it was all of a half a mile. Oh well, a half-decent day on the bike is still better than the best day working.

I still can't navigate the silly steep cobblestone trails though. I tried the other day and had to bail on a grassy slope because I'd locked up the brakes completely and was still accelerating downhill. I think that this type of trail is the last major hurdle of UK riding that I have to overcome. It's also the type that scares me the most.

--Subject change--

I think there should be a new chapter in psychology books about the 'internet persona'. Are people who act like assholes on a public forum, but are otherwise somewhat nice, really showing their true colors on the internet? Or are they just taking advantage of the machismo that you can adopt when hiding behind a computer screen? I'm sick of reading things that people post on forums that are purely incendiary, nasty, or rife with malicious intent only to hear from somene who knows them things like 'oh that's just him/her, if you ever met him/her in real life you'd see that they really are nice'.

Bite me, is what I have to say to that.

Everyone pretends to be something they aren't at some point or another, but this kind of behavior takes multiple personality to a new level. Frankly, I don't care to meet anyone who acts one way on a forum, but an entirely different way in person.

My only solace is knowing that there are guys out there who think they are talking to some buxom babe on a 'Do me now, I'm waiting for you' forum or chat room when in reality the other end of the cyber network is some guy who looks more like Fat Bastard.

Just freakin' be nice, people!

Monday, December 13, 2004


Clique n. A small exclusive group of friends or associates. An exclusive circle of people with a common purpose.

In my experience, the word ‘clique’ has always carried somewhat of a negative connotation. When I was in high school, the clique was that group of kids who were the wealthiest, had the best clothes, the prom queen, and the quarterback of the football team. The kids today still use the word to describe the general tone of the high school social scene, but it seems that there are more cliques than just the ‘popular kids’ of my day and each of them probably slag off the other cliques every chance they get.
What’s interesting is that the term clique has probably been tossed around by the people who didn’t fall into any other group. If you wanted to be in the Kool Kids Klub, but didn’t match their clandestine criteria, you weren’t in. Because of this, you looked with some degree of disgust on the in-crowd and your envy caused you to say things like ‘they are so cliquey’, while turning up the corner of your top lip and squinting. Of course, if you had been born into this somewhat exclusive group, or if by miracle won the lottery and became part of it, then you would soon forget any ill-will you may have felt and would certainly deny any accusations of being a hypocrite.
I was under the impression that worrying about cliques was something that people grew out of, and for that reason I was surprised to hear it used by adults to describe other adults. Surely by the time we all become ‘grown up’s’ we figure out that everyone aligns themselves with a group of friends that share common interests, have similar views on things political, have equally disturbing senses of humor, and most importantly: like to ride bikes.
While you are pacing along life’s trails, you might meet people that you really um, click with. You might be friends with people who are somehow involved in the bike industry. You might have a camera, so you start to take pictures, and have your picture taken when you are out on rides. You might even start to write about the adventures you have with your pals. You might send in your words and pictures to a publication and even get them printed. Then it might happen again.

Or, maybe not.

When you see pictures of other people riding with their friends, and reading stories about rides what is your reaction? Do you think, wow those guys look like they are having a great time? Do you wonder where they are riding? Do you recognize the scenery? Have you had a similar experience that causes you to relate to the photo or the article in some way?

Do you say that they are cliquey?

Why is it that seeing the same faces in a magazine causes one to forget that they themselves are probably part of some particular group of friends, complete with their own in-jokes, favorite riding spots, weekend getaways, and Thursday night rides? Take an individual who is new, and mix them into this type of crowd and there are bound to be some things that the newbie doesn’t ‘get’. Does this mean that there’s a clique? Well, to some degree yes, but it’s not necessarily one that doesn’t welcome newcomers.
Keep riding with your friends. Take lots of pictures. Write down stories that arise. Tell the world about your favorite moments on your bike with your friends. Most of all, be glad that there are many other people out there than are able to relate to why you love riding your bike so much.

We’re all in this clique together. Now, let’s talk about how cliquey those damn car drivers are...