Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Steve Makin, It Is Your Birthday

So this post is pretty much entirely for SteveM, since it's his birthday, and he's been waiting for an update.

This doesn't mean that I have anything worthwhile to say, but I suppose I'll just keep typing and see what happens. Maybe I'll just talk about SteveM.

SteveM is one of my best friends in the entire world. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that he's one of the best friends I've had in my entire life on this Earth. The thing is, he got to be that way in a stealthy way. I can't even remember exactly when it happened. I just know that over a period of time, he became my hombre, my homie, my brotha frum anotha motha.

It wasn't too long before I realized that everyone loves Steve. He won't take that well, because he's far too humble to accept how valuable he is to everyone who knows him. He's the consummate friend. He listens, he offers advice, he encourages, he teaches, he reads poetry at fireside. He also absorbs the feelings of those around him and masks how stressed he really is so that he can be there for everyone else.

So Happy Birthday, Steve. I hope you see rainbows for many years to come.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 14-Cassiday

Today was supposed to be a day of running around. First, take Cassidy to pre-school. Then, go back to the house and make breakfast. Oatmeal, of course. Next, go back and pick up Cass from school and then take Kim to work. Shop around in Trader Joe's for dinner provisions-and more importantly chocolate-and then take Cass shopping for a backpack for her first year of big girl school in the fall. Then we had some other things to do.

Things changed when we got word from Kim that she was getting off work early. Conveniently, we were just down the road when she made the call. So back round we went to fetch Kim, then home for lunch. By the time we were done with lunch, it was time to fetch Dylan from school. Then we did the backpack shopping, hot beverage buying, and email checking. At some point, the time became 5 and that meant I needed to start making dinner.

I generally try to make dinner at least once when I come to stay with Kim and Michael. They are both busy people and parents, and since they are kind enough to let me invade their lives, I try to repay the favor at least once by taking the pressure of dinner prep off their hands.

Of course, the two small children never like what I fix. They are always happy with chicken tenders and fruit, rather than the fancy schmancy spinach and sausage frittata with parmesan cheese that I made. I don't take it personally. It needed salt anyway.

Tomorrow I start ramping up for work mode again in preparation for 3 demos in a row this weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 13-More Ohio, But With Less Hair

Quiet day today. I woke up, did some emailing, chatted to some people, ate some breakfast.

I got my haircut. I wanted it to rest just above my shoulders, but the little stylist took off more than that. I say little because she was not a tall person. I was heads and boobs above her. She reminded me of one of our surf instructors in Costa Rica, I wanted to put her in my pocket!

Anyhoo, it hasn't been this short since Dan came to visit me during the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. I know this because he took a picture. But it's just hair, so it will grow back.

Then it was time for a mad rush hour dash to pick up Michael from work so we could meet up with Kim, the kids, and my favorite Aunt Betty. Cassidy is graduating from pre-school, see. It was a special day.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 12-Oh, How I Love My Cross Bike

I planned to ride today, and ride I did.

Random had told be about some bike path stuff he did while he was here a couple of weeks ago. It included a path that is not too far from the house here. I did some research on Google Maps and found the path and the way to it.

I took the cross bike, just because. Once again I was rewarded for my choice by loads of little singletrack sections straying to and fro from the paved trail. It was so. Much. Fun.

I worked my way down to the campus of Ohio State University, which Michael says is one of the biggest schools in the country with it's population of something like 60,000 students. Wow. I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was that big. I continued from there towards the German Village, which Rando had also mentioned. I found a little deli and had some food before starting back.

Rider, meet headwind.

It was breezy when I left, and I could swear that it was in my face until I noticed some branches near downtown blowing in the same direction. This meant that when I started back, I was going to hit the wind head on. For a long way. It was probably 15 or so miles back to the house, with no way to really escape the gusts. I was worked when I started heading back, probably because in my glee I was turning the cranks pretty hard. I am completely tired now, and have that nice little leg burn that we all love in our weird, sadistic way.

The good, and completely unrelated news, is that Michael informed me that they now have wireless at the house. This spares me from having to go find a coffee shop to bring all of my readers, all 2.7 of you, your daily dose. I know how excited you are.

Kim arrives home late tonight, so tomorrow should be complete with many tales of her exciting weekend. I might ride my bike again.

Day 11-Columbus, OH Kim and Michael's House

First morning waking up at the home of my cousin Kim and Michael (her husband, and that makes him family). Kim is actually down in Savannah, GA with her sister, my aunt, and my sister visiting Lauren. It was a surprise to Lauren that Ruth was going. We knew there would be tears. It wasn't a question of whether or not tears would happen, but how many tears there would be.

Anyhoo...I had a leisurely morning. I started by making some steel cut oats for breakfast, then sat outside on the deck enjoying the morning with my book (I was reading David Cullen's book Columbine, which revealed the events leading up to the massacre, and the errors that took place during the investigation a decade ago).

The plan for the day was to take the kids to the Columbus Museum to see a traveling exhibit on Egyptian burial rituals. It was good, but I was more impressed by the permanent exhibit of George Tooker's work. Amazing stuff.

The rest of the day was spent engrossed in the book to the point of finishing it. I ate some dinner, did some laundry, talked to Tori on the phone, and started reading the Idiot's Guide to 2012. It turns out that it's not quite the doomsday that everyone fears it to be.

The Maya had a cool way of writing numbers. It gave me an idea for another tattoo.

Day 10-Brighton, MI Island Lake Demo Day

Demo day today. Island Lake Recreation Area outside of Detroit this time. This one was a big'un, and the whole East side demo crew was present: my pal Troy from Cannondale (who you may remember was part of the Costa Rica trip over New Year's), Ken our demo guy, Louis from GT, the Giant guy, and the Specialized guy. The local Jamis rep had his little trailer there, and there was a Scott Sprinter van present as well.

The weather was GREAT! For about an hour. Then the sky suddenly got very dark, and the rain began. It didn't really let up, and soon the bikes started coming back covered in cack. Troy had hooked up his hose to the back of the bathroom building, so I started washing dirty bikes as they came off the trail/road. This would prove to be a good move later.

At one point, we made a group decision to stop sending bikes out. Reports from the riders were that some parts of the trail were starting to pool water. The bikes were only going to get dirtier, the trails were going to get more rutted, and the inexperienced riders were going to face more risk of injury. The rain would let up, then start again. The packing up process began, with Troy leading the way. No surprise there. It doesn't take much for Troy to decide to call it a day.

Everyone else started to catch on to the hose. I had a couple of bikes left to wash, which was good because the last time I went behind the building, there was a rack of bikes and about 5 guys waiting around to wash bikes. Score one for planning ahead!

People were still trickling in wanting to try bikes. It's never easy to tell people no. I sent a couple of road bikes around, which I had to wash again, of course. I started to dry the bikes the best I could, and put on some chain lube to prevent rusting. The worst part of days like this is putting everything in the trailer while it's wet.

The sun reappeared around 4pm. The demo was scheduled to go until 5. Troy had his massive 43 foot trailer completely packed and closed up before anyone, and probably by around 3pm. Evan, the Giant guy, was close behind. I took my time and closed the door around 4:30. I stood around and chatted with Troy and Louis for a while before heading out. I had a 3 hour drive down to my cousin's house in Columbus.

No hotels for almost a week.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Day 9-Livonia, MI

Time to pack and ship out, but first! a bike ride!

I spent the morning rounding up the various things I'd taken into my little suite. I tidied up the two-sided Dakine bag full of my clean clothes, put away all the foody provisions into the waterproof Rubbermaid storage container, put the dirty laundry into the laundry bag, rounded up the toiletries from the shower, packed my overnight bag with a work shirt and change of clothes for tonight's hotel, and gathered up Frazier's food and water bowls.

The cross bike went back into the trailer, the shoes were stored under the seats in the truck, or in little nooks in the trailer, the dog and food containers went into the back of the truck, the few items in the fridge were placed in the little cooler with the two trays of ice from the freezer, the few bottles of beer and wine that were left were carefully wrapped in paper and nestled into a box in the trailer, and various cables and leads were put into the small messenger bag.

Once everthing was ready to go, it was time to bid farewell to the Traverse Bay Inn. I'd like to say I'd stay there again, and I would, but next time I think I'll find someplace a bit closer to downtown, and maybe on the water side of the very busy road instead of on the other side of it, requiring a perilous road crossing to the shoreline.

Off I went to Brick Wheels again to meet up with Paula, the woman from last night who wanted to try the Madone. I got her bike ready with pedals and a quick once over of the gears, then got my bike ready and changed into some riding kit. A quick saddle addjustment later, and we were off up the peninsula that runs between the East and West Grand Traverse Bays. Stunning. The people who live in this area and get to ride here all the time are really very, very fortunate.

At some point we took a left so Paula could check out the bike on a hill. It was fairly steep. At the top we were greeted with rows and rows of blossoming cherry trees (this is a huge area for cherry orchards), and a vineyard on the right with a tasting room. Paula hadn't even finished making the suggestion that we stop for a tasting before I had my bike halfway turned around toward the driveway. I highly recommend mid-ride wine tastings. It reminded me of our little adventure in Napa during SSWC last year. This time, were in full riding kit. There's nothing quite like the shocked look on the faces of people who see riders clip clopping their way to the bar in a tasting room.

After the ride, it was time to get ready to head out of town. I had one stop to make at Jan's house to drop off a couple of bottles of wine I'd gotten for her as a thank you for the use of her back yard, and for her general kindness towards a weary road warrior.

Leaving Traverse City was not easy. What a great place. I was truly sorry to say goodbye.

Now I'm back near Detroit for a big multi-vendor demo tomorrow. Back to the grind.

Day 8-More Traverse City, and Women Drinking Wine At A Bike Store

Let's see...Today started out pretty quiet. I caught up on some emails and forum posts while the rain moved away. Then I headed over Brick Wheels to check in and see if I could help get ready for the event. They seemed to have things under control, so to kill some time I headed to downtown Traverse City to check out the scene. What a great downtown area.

I went back to the hotel for some food, then set off with the trailer to get the rig washed up all nice and shiny for the event. My responsibilities were rather few: park the rig on the front lawn for maximum visibility, hang around the store and answer questions for the women. I helped fit a few helmets, talked about lights, installed one light, discussed bikes, and consumed some very nice late-harvest Riesling. People seemed to have fun, and the store sold some things.

I talked to a woman for quite a while who was looking at a Madone 6.5, or a Specialized Ruby. I wasn't going to be in a huge hurry to leave town, so I offered to meet with her tomorrow for a ride so she could really get a feel for the bike.

Tim Brick, the store owner, took the industry reps out after the event to one of the Mexican joints in town. Fortunately for me, mole was on the menu. It's been a while since I had a nice mole sauce, so it was a nice way to fill my belly.

That pretty much sums up the day.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Day 7-Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Four hundred foot high sand dunes.

This is not something one sees every day. Maybe the Egyptians and other desert dwellers, but even they don't have the benefit of a massive body of water at the bottom.

Today I went to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It was recommended to me by several people, starting with my sister. I like sand, and I like waters. I from an ocean town, complete with dunes, but they are just little ones. I was intrigued by the idea of dunes so high, getting to the bottom wasn't feasible.

I started the trip on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. I'd spotted this on Google Maps, and it seemed like it offered the view I was hoping for. Bonus: it's still off-season here, so I didn't have to pay the $10 entry fee. Normally, I would have zero problem supporting a National Park by paying admission, but I'd left my cash back at the hotel so I was doshless. The drive is long, and has a bike lane the whole way round. I was salivating as the one way road undulated and periodically offered glimpses of the views to come. I arrived at the first parking area, which was on the backside of the lakeshore, and was one big set of sandy mounds.

I carried on around to the 'Views of Lake Michigan' lot. This is what I was after. There was heavy equipment in the form of front loaders (JCB's for my UK friends) that were scooping up the foot-deep sand that had blown over the path over the winter. A closer look revealed that there was still a significant amount of snow that was hidden under the sand. It made me wish I could see that place in the winter. The photo ops must be incredible.

Anyhoo...As I got to the top of the path, I saw Frazier descend over the edge. There were a couple of people on the viewing platform above me commenting on his movements.

"Oh look at the dog!"
"Uh! He's off!"
"He's going down!"
"Woop! Whoa!"
"Oooooh, it's all over now!"

I heard all of this before I even got far enough to see over the edge of the slope. By the time I got there, all I could see were his tracks. Then I realized just how high these dunes really are. Wow. I was both overwhelmed, and worried about Frazier. The slope carries on right down to the water. No ledges, fortunately. I looked down to the bottom to see if he was in the water. He wasn't. I tried not to panic, and took my mind off things by snapping a few shots. Still no sign of Frazier. More picures. Lots of whistling. Picture. Scan. Whistle. Then I started heading down the slope. Shit, those things are steep.

I was trying to take in the scenery, take pictures, and look for Frazier the whole time. At one point, I started to call him. I couldn't see him anywhere. I got about halfway down the slope and saw that his tracks had gone left at some point, then disappeared out of sight again. I tried to traverse sideways on the 45 degree bank. This was much harder than walking straight down. One more set of whistling and calling, then finally the people on the observation deck yelled down to me that he was back up top running around. Shit.

Going downslope was pretty easy. Trying to traverse was really hard. Scaling back up was downright painful. My legs were tired from yesterday's ride, and another ride I did this morning. The sand was loose down several inches, so every step I took slid about halfway back again. It felt like an eternity to get back to the top, and by the time I got there I was hot and tired and very out of breath. Frazier was back at the car already. At least he recognizes that as the rendezvous place. He was all tongue-flappy happy when I called him back to me. Thanks dog.

With the reunion over, I was able to focus on enjoying my surroundings. I spent quite a while at this first stop, then went off to explore elsewhere. Jan (the nice local lady) told me about this place called Pyramid Point. I found it on a map and headed there.

It was about a 15 minute hike up the backside of the dune, which was totally unlike anything resembling a beach. The landscape around here is amazing in the amount of different types there are.

Once again, Frazier got to the top before I did, and my efforts to call him back to try and get him on the leash before the apex were futile. I got to the view spot, and a man and his dog said that he'd gone down the slope. Again!? Geez! Oh yeah, another amazing view. Unbelievable.

This time, I saw Frazier waaaaaay down at the bottom, probably another 300-400 feet, in the lake. He was merrily splashing away and no doubt having a big drink. He was so far away that despite me being able to see him, I don't think his 11 year old eyes could see me. I just hoped that he could hear me, so I started whistling and calling again. The man with the dog chipped in with his more booming voice. I was hoping that I wasn't going to have to work my way down, then scrabble back up the second huge pile of sand of the day. Finally, F started to work his way back up. He was completely worked by the time he got to me. I got him on the leash and attached it to a sign post, and turned my attention back to the camera.

Then we went to a spot lower down so Frazier could have a proper swim, I could scour the beach for rocks to bring back to Ruth, and I could simply take in the scale of everything.

An outstanding day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Day 6-The Joy of Riding A Cross Bike

As the neon says on the hotel sign, YES!

I went for an ACE ride today! Let me back up...

I did some work this morning, then called the very kind Jan who offered to let me keep Frazier in her back yard. I took him over at noon and met up with Jan, who had ridden her own bike back from the office (this town is overwhelmingly bike friendly, and there are people on bikes everywhere). Frazier was happy to be outside and running around with Jan's two Golden Retrievers. I left and I'm not sure he realized I was gone.

Then it was off to an embroidery shop to get a couple of new shirts I bought logo'd up with the new Trek Women graphics. They should look pretty sweet. And cool. Literally, since they are DriFit.

At last, I got back to the hotel and prepared for a ride. I had planned to check out the rail trail that runs through town and then out along the western side of West Bay. I rode from this end of town, through the downtown area of Traverse City, then along the bay for a while before cutting in to the trail. This really is a nice bike path. At some point, the coast gets hilly, and the trail follows the old railroad bed between one set of hills, and another that lies west of that, near Lake Leelanau, another significantly large lake. It was gorgeous. I went through thick pine forrest, orchards, farms, and rolling hills of green, green grass. Eventually, the pavement ended and turned into double track. I was so happy to be on the cross bike. It made the ride so much better, and exciting. I loved having the right bike for a variety of surfaces, and not being forced to carry on via road.

I was a little conscious about the time. Jan had to be out by 6pm, and it was getting to be 4. I was hoping to go all the way out to Sutton's Bay, which would have been 40 miles or so round trip, but I didn't want to take advantage of Jan's kindness and keep Frazier there any longer than I had to. I cut back over to the paved road along the shoreline to speed things up. I got back just before 5, and headed to pick up F after a quick shower. 33 miles and change of mixed-surface, view-laden, cross bikin' lovliness. The only thing that would have made this ride better was to have you, my lovely readers, along with me. All 2 of you.

Frazier was rewarded with a nice swim in the bay again, and I had plans to reward myself with another self-made meal and some serious damage to the bottle of Moscato I had chilling in the fridge. I didn't have an opener, so after my ride today I went and got one of those cheap travel ones, instead of paying the 4 extra clams for a proper waiter's friend type.

I pulled, and yanked, and caused bones and tendons and veins to bulge out from my arm, but no amount of strength was enough to budge the cork. I gave up and unwound the opener. I heard a 'pssshhh' of air, which suggested that I'd poked a hole in the cork. For fun, I thought I'd see what would happen if I tried taking a swig. Lo and behold, with a little water bottle-like sucking action, I was able to extract the wine from the bottle.

I've now had nearly half the bottle via this method. It just doesn't get any more classy than this.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Day 5-Port Huron to Traverse City, MI

I had a leisurely morning today. I set off for Traverse City around noon, and made a stop at a big outlet center in Frankenmuth. I wanted to check out the Nike store to see if they had any 6.0's around, and they did. A nice addition to my shoe collection.

It was another 160 miles to Traverse City from Frankenmuth. The drive was uneventful, and the temperature was cooler by 10 degrees when I arrived in town. The scenery changed somewhere along the way from flat and straight to suddenly hilly and full of pine trees. It reminded me of home, and a flatter Colorado with the added benefit of water. A great first impression, all in all.

My hotel lies on the edge of town, and directly across the street from Grand Traverse Bay. The first step in the arrival process was to back the trailer into a parking spot, and unhitch. This is an overwhelmingly liberating feeling. It's almost fun to drive the truck when the trailer isn't albatrossing it. Next, a treat for Frazier, who stuck with me through the drive and even put up with my shopping side trip. It took him next to no time to hit the water. He startled a couple of Canada Geese who decided to linger about 30 feet off shore. Frazier ignored them for the most part, but at one point he couldn't take it any more, and he started to head out after them. "Honk honk!", they protested. I was expecting him to start swimming and realize he couldn't make it to them, but he just kept leeping through the water. I realized that it stayed pretty shallow, and he was probably 80 feet away from shore before the bottom dropped. Fortunately, he then turned around and made the trip back to shore. I thought for sure I was about to get my feet wet to retrieve him. He is now sacked out on the floor, once again.

I read recently about how great dollar stores are. I passed one on the way in, and had heard that you can save a bunch of money on olive oil. I'd found a co-op in town, and since the hotel I'm in has a kitchenette, I started looking forward to being able to cook my own food. I went to the dollar store and bought olive oil for a song, a cheese grater for the parmesan I planned to buy, and some storage containers for any leftovers I might wind up with. Then it was off to the co-op for fresh produce, garlic, red onion, some sort of Japanese sweet potato that I never knew existed, various other things, and chocolate.

Outside of the store I ran into 3 people on bikes who saw the truck and started talking to me. I noticed that there are loads of people on bikes here. These people had plans to attend the ladies' night I'm here for later this week, so we got to chatting. They gave me some great local knowledge, including the fact that there's a rail trail that literally runs right behind the hotel and goes to some other bay for 15 miles one way. Then one of them offered to let me keep Frazier in her fenced in back yard so that I could go see some of the local attractions. Numbers and names were exchanged. Things are suddenly looking up.

Back to the hotel for cooking, and a nice veggie and chicken sausage stir fry later, I'm happily sitting here typing away with a belly full of veggies and rocket salad.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Day 4-Port Huron, MI

Woke up in Warren again this morning with the intention of heading north 54 miles to Port Huron. I'd stopped there last year at a park located under the bridge to Canada, so that was the destination for the morning. Frazier got a nice swim in Lake Huron before Random kindly chucked the ball too far from shore, into the current. Despite being about 15 feet from the shore, the water was too deep and the ball too far for F's old legs to swim out. Another ball bites the dust, or floats away as the case may be. Friggin' Random.

We sat around in the park for a while just enjoying the day, then Rando's belly alarm starting going off again. We went into downtown Port Huron in search of food, and found a diner with outside seating and a sign advertising 'Steamed Burgers As Seen On The Travel Channel'. Result! We were sold on the steamed burgers after the waitress gave us the description of them. "The fat steams off but the flavor doesn't. And the white cheddar cheese is steamed as well, so the end result is that it's gooey." Who doesn't want to eat something described as 'gooey'!?

After lunch, it was time for Rando to head back over the border into Canadia. It was great to see him as always, and I truly appreciated the company. Thanks, pal. Can't wait to see you in the future.

I was at a loss for what to do next. I spaced and didn't make arrangements for tonight, so I wasn't sure where I was going to stay, or what my plan was for tomorrow. I thought about heading inland towards Frankenmuth. My mother recommended that. I looked around for a wireless signal to use the power of the internet, but couldn't find one. I wound up spotting a Petsmart and replaced the lost ball with a fresh one, and then saw a Barnes and Noble and killed an hour buying books, one of which was a Michigan guide. I went back to another lakeside park I'd seen so Frazier could have another swim with a new ball to fetch. Then I called around to find out which hotels allowed pets, and settled on the Comfort Inn. It was almost 6pm. Using the time to pick a shot of the day, write this post, read up on Michigan, and lounge around was more appealing that driving for a couple of hours into the unknown.

Not sure what the agenda is for tomorrow. I'd really like to do a ride along the water in the morning, and then I will probably head off in some direction. I have until Thursday to be in Traverse City, which is on the western shore of the State.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Day 3- Warren, MI

Demo today. I just couldn't get excited about it. The weight of the economic impact on the US auto industry weighs heavily on this place. There are dozens of factories devoted to making cars and car parts. All of them look either desolate, or slowed down, or shut altogether. The feeling is accute. It's probably the hardest hit area in the entire country.

I found myself having a hard time being 'professional' today. Or maybe the better way to say it is that I was a consummate professional; providing a high level of service even though I was really having a hard time finding the motivation. I just didn't want to talk to people, mostly. But, I had to. So I did.

Random helped at the demo, even when a guy who just wanted to ask the same questions over and over again to whomever would listen, started asking him about 29ers vs. 26ers. This was one of those 3 day shoppers who just comes in for days to talk about the same things, but just can't commit to the purchase.

We were both more tired at the end than we expected, and plans to head north along the lake were scuppered from a combination of fatique and not finding a place that we were excited about for accommodation. We're back at the same hotel after a nice Italian meal at a local place, complete with Geezers Playing Poorly But Really Getting Into It.

Frazier enjoyed being outside all day, and he is now passed out on the floor.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Day 2-Buffalo, NY to Warren, MI, or How A Day Of Driving Can Still Be Crappy

The first half of my day wasn't so ideal. Last night I picked out a spot that looked like it might be a nice place to take Frazier to the lakeshore for a swim. Conneaut, Ohio was the destination. Right over the Ohio State line, and a couple of hours after we set off. Just the right amount of time to drive before a pit stop.

The park was gorgeous, and had a really long beach to access the water. I descended the steps down the very steep embankment and started the walk along the long, wooden planks to the water's edge. There was a man off in the distance, probably two hundred yards away, moving debris from the beach with a tractor. I started to cut left along the beach, and noticed that he was driving towards me. He then pulls up alongside me to tell me that dogs aren't allowed. Shit. He suggests I go 'over there', but that they'll want F to be on a leash. Pfft.

I went 'over there', and Frazier somehow managed to lose a ball while pestering some Canada Geese. Crap. We left Conneaut after the dog had a chance to splash around some, and headed west along the lake towards Ashtabula. The coastline is pretty high, so there were few places to access the shore. I found another gorgeous park 8 miles down the road with prominent signs saying 'NO DOGS ALLOWED'. Thanks, Ohio. I gave up and continued back to the highway.

I feel like I am constantly battling Frazier's travel water bowl. I had it sitting on the arm rest of the truck, and at some point forgot it was there and knocked it over. It spilled out into my half-open messenger back. There wasn't much water in there, but enough to soak some mail, a bar of chocolate, and a few other things that could get wet and survive. The cleanup was a bit of a hassle, but what really made it go south was the bottle of ibuprofen that somehow managed to open while I was sopping up water, and of course most of the bottle spilled into the puddle at the bottom of the bag. I finally got off at the next exit to deal with the mess. Every time I put my hand in the bag my fingers took on a Moab-red color from the coating on the stupid tables. Shite.

I finally made it through the maze of highway closures to my stop for the evening: Warren, MI. Along the way I passed Eminem's hood 8 Mile. Wow. Scary!

The Random Canadian drove over from Canadia to spend the weekend with me. We had Thai food. The day ended better than it started.

Day 1-Departure

I left home on a gorgeous, 75 degree day. I would rather have been riding my bike. The drive was pretty uneventful, other than driving into rain somewhere along the way. I stayed overnight just outside of Buffalo.

Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing remarkable. Oh, there was one fender bender in Albany that caused a bit of a slow down. Frazier stuck his head out the window a few times during the drive. Those are about the most exciting things to happen the whole day.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Appreciating What You've Got, When You've Got It.

So I finally did my first road ride of the year at home today. I've got this little 12 and a half mile loop that's got some nice rollers in it. It takes about 45 minutes to ride it, or, it takes longer than that and I'm not as unfit as I thought I was.

Anyhizzle...It was the first hilly ride I've done this year. I've been riding around my parents' house, on the flats with constant headwinds for all of my rides so far. Now that I'm back home, I've decided that maybe I've missed the hills after all. It's not that my legs and lungs missed them, but the variety makes a nice change.

I got to thinking about the good and bad parts of riding in mountains vs. sea level along the coast. I realized that fighting those persistent headwinds in every direction, on roads with no topographical variation whatsoever, is probably pretty good for the pedal stroke. There's no real place to stop pedaling at the shore. There aren't any hills to power up, with descents to coast down. You aren't really resting. Ever. All you can do is vary your speed, depending on how aggressive against the wind you feel like being. Never, in my case. Except in 10 second bursts of 'Oh yeah wind!? Is that the best you got!!?', followed by a return to my senses, or a feeling of breathlessness.

Now that I'm back in the hills, I am enjoying that approach-to-anaerobic feeling, followed by the brief recovery period that follows on the downhill side. It makes a nice change of pace, literally and figuratively. I was thinking about some of the loops around here, and how much I dread the thought of going up some of the hills. But at least I have hills to dread here. And quite roads that provide periods of great views and heart rate increases.

I may sound like I'm slagging off riding at the shore. I am and I'm not. I love riding over to the coast and taking in the salt air. How could I not love the mid-ride stops at Mack & Manco's for a slice and a birch beer? And I do appreciate the end result of the strength I gain from the wind and the flats, even though it feels like the life is being sucked out of me during those rides.

It's hard to say what type of terrain I like better. I'm no great climber. I'm quite bad at it, actually. But I don't have the fitness right now to maintain a high pace on a 40 mile flat ride, either. At the end of the day, both types of riding have their place. And either type is better than no riding at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WIHP: The Catholic Edition

Alright, at the risk of inciting violence, I'm going to go ahead and write this post because I just can't take it anymore.

As I was driving to North Jersey for a day of shop visits this morning, I was tuned in to NPR. It was the BBC News Hour, and the subject du jour was Catholicism in Africa: How Prayer and Denial Will End The AIDS Crisis, Honest*. I guess Pope Benny XV(%&@!^I is about to make his first trip to Africa to go visit the converted.

The Pope stated on the way over that the distribution of condoms is not a solution to the AIDS problem in Africa. Yet, the Catholic Church is at the forefront of the AIDS battle, and preaches that abstinence is the way to stop the spread of the disease.

Ok seriously, how can people believe this shite!? How can human beings still be so completely brainwashed and gullible that they are actually buying into the notion that the best way to prevent the spread of a sexually transmitted disease is to teach people to not engage in sex, and even WORSE, expect THOSE people to actually listen!? When is the Church going to wake up and face the reality that this method has never worked, not for the oh I don't know, 15 or 20 years that they have been telling the people of Africa crap that is going in one ear and out the other?

I am gobsmacked, again. It simply adds fuel to my ire, and convinces me that the Catholic Church is perhaps one of the most hypocritical and corrupt institutions on the face of the planet. It's ok to molest and abuse little boys, but you are absolutely not allowed to use a condom in the process, oh no. And people actually believe that if they don't follow Catholic doctrine, that the salvation of their souls is doomed to purgatory for eternity.

You know what? I'm going to go ahead and support the idea of condom distribution in Africa, if for no other reason than it might relieve some of the hell on EARTH that those people are living in in *this* life. I am so, so incredibly happy that I am not Catholic.

*May not have been the actual title of the story.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Let the Wonkiness Commence!

Chipps is on deadline this week, which of course means he's looking out for anything non-magazine related to distract him from his deadlining duties. Out of such distractions usually come things like new guitar purchases, and moustache growing. But TONIGHT he presented me with the best news I've heard this month; this YEAR, I daresay!

He found this little tidbit:

From this blog post:

Lambs! Lambs! Ok, just one lamb. But still!

That's right, folks. The lambs are a'rriving. Spring is certainly on the way, and soon there will be fields of the cutest things you've ever seen, frolicking and trying to learn the ropes of those leg things, to see and 'aww' at.

Pictures, please!

And a heartfelt THANK EWE to Chipps.

Monday, March 02, 2009

10 Observations

What did we do before the advent of cell phones, blogs, instant messengers, and social networking sites?

People did things like make the movie 10.

Now, depending on how you feel about that film, you may feel that cell phones, et al, are the best things ever. I happen to really love the film, as I think it is the best example of the comedic brilliance-nay GENIUS- of Sir Dudley Moore. For that reason, I can appreciate a time when we didn't have what we probably now look at as basic necessities for work and play. How DID we ever survive back then!?

A movie like 10 couldn't have been possible if cell phones and Facebook existed in 1979. All the missed calls, busy signals, one person hanging up while the other is picking up, constant ringing, and the worry over not being able to get in touch are now a thing of the past in this world of instant communication between the masses and you. The story line wouldn't make sense in this modern world. People who don't remember the days before we had the ability to update everyone on our comings and goings in 140 characters or less, probably wouldn't find this movie funny if they saw it for the first time in 2009 instead of '79, or even '89.

Now that I think about it, there is still worry over not being able to get in touch with someone. Maybe that worry is actually worse now, since if you can't get in touch with someone within minutes, something is obviously wrong.

Do we think things are better now? Has our ability to keep in touch every second of the day, from any location in the world, made things better? Or, have we lost some of the simplicity that existed when writing love letters gave people something to look forward to in the mail? I'm not talking on some grand, existential level here. Certainly many things are improved by advancements in technology. We clearly survived without these things, though. And many others.

So I'm very happy that the beach running scene exists. Not because I'm hot for Bo Derek, but because of the many other funny things that not having a cell phone made possible.

Friday, January 30, 2009

WIHP: Airborne Edition

A cracking example of Why I Hate People on the flight from Boston to Heathrow today.

I was settling in to a relatively empty flight, and just starting to enjoy having a row of 4 to myself. Then, like mold that grows slowly behind the walls and creeps up on you, making you realize after it's too late that you have a life-threatening infestation, I started to hear her. More accurately, her grating tone started to work it's way into my ears.

She was kneeling on her seat, leaning over the seatback talking to the person behind her. They were four and three rows in front of me, respectively, and on the opposite side of the plane. I was desperately trying to focus on my book. After I'd read the same sentence 3 times without absorbing it, I realized that what I had retained was information about her that I didn't care to hear. There were words like 'human rights lawyer' (a noble profession, to be sure. Not sure it's what she does, though), 'Oxford', 'Cambridge', and 'fellowship'. Since she was flying from Boston, I'm surprised I didn't hear 'Harvard' somewhere in the mix. I got the impression that she wanted everyone else to hear her drop the names of places of significance.

The captain came over the p.a. to deliver his greeting, which is the only part of the pre-flight dronings that I care to hear. Her loudspeak made it impossible to hear what the captain was saying, which only heightened my annoyance. The only thing that would have made it worse was if she'd been talking on a phone about running into Derek Jeter.

When the time came for us to take our seats-an announcement that I miraculously WAS able to hear-I thought this would mark the end of my audio agony. Oh how wrong I was! She continued talking over the top of the seat, and once we reached the magic, tone-signaled altitude, she was out of her seat like a shot and back at it.

To add insult to injury, the two seats next to her, AND next to the man she was talking at, were empty. She could have spared us all and sat down next to him and had a nice, quiet conversation. Instead, everyone in rows 44 and back can now recite to you her comings and goings, and those of her children, including 'the little one', to whom she referred more times than I can count.

I had followed a woman down the jetway who was wearing black pants with crusty white lines around her pant legs that resembled an EKG of someone with an irregular heartbeat. I saw this same woman again in baggage claim, because the capillary action of salt mixed with melted snow on city sidewalks is pretty unmistakable, particularly after a heavy snow fall. I realized that the woman with the salty pants was the same woman who was the source of my ire.

The only solace I can take from this is that she was returning home, and the odds of me having the same experience on the way back are slim to nil. I hope.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Being An Intermediate

The thing I thought about on the chairlift was the concept of 'intermediate'. It occurred to me, while I was looking at the blue run pass by underneath, that the term 'intermediate' applies to me across pretty much every recreational endeavor I do. I've described myself as 'intermediate with expert tendencies' in the past, and I thought that this sort of summed up the whole idea of what being an intermediate is. You have moved past being a beginner, and you are working your way towards being an expert.

You are in the middle. Middlin'. Average. Straddling the fence. Equidistant. Mezzo. Moyen. There are moments of absolute fluidity, when you and the bike/board feel as one, and you move into that trance-like state in which things just happen on their own with no intervention from you. Then, on the very next section of trail, or run on the piste, you feel out of balance and have no flow or finesse. You get to the bottom and wonder what the hell just happened, and ask yourself why you can't repeat the previous feeling constantly. Why is there no consistency? Oh that's right, it's because you are an intermediate.

Being in the middle has varying degrees, though. You can be closer to the beginning of the middle, or more towards the end. I think I display less beginner and more expert, so I'll call myself someone who is departing the middle and moving towards the more advanced.

The problem is, I've been stuck exiting the middle for a Very. Long. Time. So long, in fact, that I should have progressed to being a full-on expert a while ago, and at this point I should be a bit embarrassed that I'm not any better than I am. This applies to riding and snowboarding, but if I thought about it for a while, I'm sure I can come up with some other metaphor that this analogy also applies to.

I have a huge fear factor. This is what holds me back from the necessary push that I need to get better. The thought of getting hurt, and thus being unable to ride again for 6-8 weeks, is more agonizing than being conservative and sticking to what I know. I suppose I've learned how to really enjoy the lack of extremeness that I've achieved. I see other people doing things I wish I could do, and I think how amazing it would be, yet I can't bring myself to try. I still have fun, but that fun is almost always laced with the hidden desire to be better, and perhaps have what my subconscious feels would be 'betterer, more funerer fun'.

Oh well. The world needs it's intermediates to keep the balance between the staggeringly graceful, and the agonizingly clumsy. I can accept that, and I'll keep looking for those moments when I feel more like an expert, and I'll keep asking myself how I can make that happen more often than not. In the meantime, I'll have a fantastic time doing whatever it is that is better than riding the couch.

At least I'm an expert at that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All Are Equal

I had a whole different post in mind to write today. I was sitting on the chairlift when the idea came to me. I was excited about the notion of typing the post up, not because it was some profound observation, but because I felt like I sort of learned a little bit more about myself.

Then, I got home and saw the inauguration of President Obama. I left the TV on for Frazier while I was out boarding. It had been on ABC this morning, since I knew they were planning on having a lot of coverage, which meant there would be a lot of talking going on. I think having the TV on soothes my dog a bit while I'm away. Maybe not.

Anyhoo...I got back just in time for the swearing in. Anyone who knows me probably understands that I don't consider myself to be all that patriotic. It's been a tough 8 years for this country, and although we are taught that we are to respect the office of the President, even if we don't respect the man in it, I have to say that the actions of the most recent occupant have made me lose faith in our government as a whole.

Like most people who are happy about the election outcome, I was looking forward to today. Out with the old, in with the new. As I watched, I started to get that same feeling of hope that others have had about our new leader. So, as I continued to watch, I found myself sort of compelled to write a post about this instead.

So, for the first time in nearly a decade, I feel a little bit patriotic. Maybe it will be cool to be an American again in the near future. I'm hopeful.

Friday, January 16, 2009


This whole concept of making New Year resolutions has, over the years, become irksome. Making decisions that benefit yourself and others is something that should be done on a regular basis, not just once a year. How many people live up to their resolutions anyway? And when they don't, how often do they feel down on themselves? So, I've given up on the idea of a resolution at the beginning of the year, and instead, decided to carry on making good choices all the time, and conducting myself in such a way that I at least give the appearance of being a nice person.