August 30, 2007

You don't know the POW-ah...

Once again, the full moon calls...
This time, four brave souls amassed -- as much as four people can "amass" -- for the fifth edition of the Dark Side Ride aka Full Moon Fever.
Ok, fine I can't really pick a name. Full Moon Fever is probably good, because that's what it is, and it can only be what it is. The Dark Side ride will only invite people to occasionally dress weird.

Wrong bike, Darth.
Commander, tear this ship apart until you find my bicycle.

Anyways, I tend to forget that we're dressing funny ALREADY. I think the occasional storm trooper helmet wouldn't be too out of place. Maybe when winter comes.
Toasty... I digress.

The weather, for once, was nearly perfect -- a cool front blew through early in the afternoon, and temps were (dare I say) moderately chilly at one point -- actually, I heard someone mention that after the first (and only) stop on the route as we started rolling again. Chilly? Well, yeah -- compared to 103 degrees, it WAS chilly at about 11pm! Honestly, it felt fantastic. It never really got to the point where warmers were waranted, but it was close.

The forecast originally calling for some showers, it was also surprisingly clear outside, and the moon began to make it's way up into the dark sky amid thiing clouds. It was surreal, spooky - and looked fall-like. Ahhhh, finally -- the first tastes of fall were coming out to play. There was a taste in the air that made me smile.

We rolled out from the new Spring Hill High School a little after 9pm and onto the new section of 199th street, freshly opened. Pavement, glassy smooth and inviting, with hunks of hay strewn across the shoulder from the wind, botching the county's landscaping plans. Eventually there will be a bridge here taking traffic over the railroad tracks - but not yet. I still frown a little, but I know why they're doing it -- it's for the high-school traffic. No-one wants to hear excuses about missing first period bell because of a passing coal train. Still, part of the mystique of the area is lost - and with it Ocheltree, KS at Woodland and 199th - lost under an overpass, like so many bypassed Kansas towns of yore. So many cyclists ride right past it, thinking it's part of Spring Hill - but it's not. Originally founded in 1867, it's pretty old -- back when the passing rail-line wasn't BNSF, or Burlington Northern, or anything modern - it was the old St.Louis and San Fransisco line, long since gone, bought, traded and absorbed by modern commerce. In the 1910 census, the population was 75... in 2010, I doubt much more. Now, with expansion and this new overpass, there's a good chance Spring Hill will simply annex it. History marches on in, and over, these little forgotten villages.

Heading south on Woodland Road, just to the east of town, we rolled through the bar district (which lasts about three buildings near the old CO-OP) and south, past the county line, silently and without fanfare. The old haunted barn floats past on our left, barely visible in the waxing moonlight -- I kept it for myself. I find myself often on these rides going on about local history - but at the time it seemed appropriate to just let come of it slip by. This was a good ride to just float.

We approached 223rd Street to the haze of red lights and the hum of a pushing locomotive engine on our rights -- a slow moving coal train had just begun it's run south to Hillsdale, and was holding up traffic three deep on both sides of the crossing -- lucky for us we were headed east, so we got a little respite without the rush of passing traffic. As neat as this route is, it may be held in reserve for early Sunday mornings; I have noticed that a couple roads had been upgraded from
45 MPH speed limits to 55 MPH. Which is instant license to cruise at 65, usually. In the back of my mind was the fact that a slow-moving coal train has the tendency to hack off the casual driver in this day and age of get there NOW life. When those gates came up, we were gonna get it from behind -- MAN, that sounds wrong - but I'm too lazy to backspace that far, so I'm leaving that in there. In any case, when that first white Crown Vic, 1994 model, KS license plate VLD something-or-other whipped past us at 70-MPH, I didn't catch any bumper stickers that indicated he knew we were there. If he did, he was out for blood -- as if WE had something to do with the slow coal train. Fool.

The next fifteen or so cars were actually decent citizens, and life went on nicely. The highway, as I'll call it, of 223rd St. strecthed on for another mile before our turn came up for Lackman, and some southbound solitude. I'd only been on this road a couple times in the past, and it was as good as I remembered. Smooth, quiet, very little traffic. We approached the old town of Chiles, KS., another town that time forgot nestled in the northern Miami County landscape, marked only by the railroad crossing of what used to be the Missouri-Pacific, upon which Chiles was a station and stop. Tonite, it's asleep as we roll silently past. What would be really interesting to see, but completely impossible without serious computer-graphics, is a time-lapse sequence looking south along the railroad tracks here. After all, after all the fires, accidents, barns rising and falling, silos, farms, cattle, tractors, horses, trains and new home construction recently as folks try to find their "dream" home, after all that, these railroad tracks were here first. Maybe the road. You get the idea. With all the history, all the people that have rolled through here, our four bicycles occupy a blink of time as our tires touch the rails, one at a time, and then fade into the eastern darkness.

247th Street, or what was once called Cleveland Road, points us east towards US-69 highway, and during our stay we see maybe three cars in five miles, finally crossing over the highway and stopping at the OLD highway at Metcalf. We pause for granola and fruit here, basked in the dull blue glow of our headlights. The north wind awaits us, as we begin to roll up the miles of this, another newly-upgraded to 55 MPH road. Hmmmm. I guess the law is catching up to people's habits. Another road that is probably better navigated at night for the lower traffic density, and the fact that arguably at NIGHT cyclists are easier to see up the road, compared to the harsh grey-tone of daylight on pavement, and the thin silouhette of a bicycle tucked on the side of the lane. With bright flashers and reflective gear, I feel safer here at night. We only see a few cars, which is nice, as the pack splits and Clem and Badger head up the road quickly looking for the c-store, while Focu-Shacks and I take up the rear, and have some good conversation about fixed gears, wind noise and ultra-distance.

We finally arrived at the c-store at the 21 mile point and took a much needed rest. The pace was much lighter than last month's ride, but I was still feeling out of shape and like I hadn't ridden any distance of any kind in a while. I was able to get off the bike without laying it down on the pavement this time, which is a plus - but I still felt a little whipped, even though we hadn't ridden much farther than my total day's commute takes me. The mileage-charged and injury-free members that surrounded me looked fresh and ready - and I felt light-years away from the guy that finished a 600K only a few months ago. Yeah, I will get it back - but the road back is a long one. A quick shot of OJ, and we were back on the road. Trying to remember my plan, I was careful to not give in to the call of donuts and sugary sports drinks. HEED waited for me in my 2nd water bottle.

Only a month ago 199th street was closed off for construction - now lay before us a glassy smooth and shouldered thru-way, with a nice center multi-use lane for cars to pass us safely. Part of me really wanted to take this all the way to Ridgeview, just to see if it was like this all the way through, but tonite we turn north for an exciting bit of downhill action on Antioch -- another road that only a year and a half ago was gravel. Now fully paved, there is a nice, fast downhill right before you reach 179th Street. Chomping at the bit, and knowing it was coming up, it's hard to maintain composure -- the run-up to the downhill is deceptively long, and
the closer we got the higher the speeds became. Eventually, FoShacks and Clem were up the road by at least 1/8 mile, and in anticipation of high speeds and limited light Badger and I fell back a little and seperated. It was time to see just how effective our headlight beams would be. The hill is quite steep - something I've only ridden a few times from the north, and it's a BEAR of a climb. At night, the view is neat from behind other riders; as Clem and Shacks hit the beginning of the descent, their taillights literally disappeared from in front of me -- it's THAT sharp of a decline. Slip, and their helmets drop from view, while I still have 100 yards or so to ride before I get there, too. As I approach the drop-off, their taillights are merely dots, WAAAY below me and up the road from the instant rush of gravitationally-enhanced warp-drive. It's a rush during the DAY -- at night, the speed and wind noise come up quick, bearing singing, headlight beam and vision narrowing in the rush of high speed -- I check top speed on the other end: 42.1 MPH. Not bad! Ok, so there is one advantage to having put on a few pounds.

We all re-group up the long climbs of 179th Street, greeted in silence by the County Trooper sitting in the dark at the entrance of the Arboretum, hoping for a speeder, and probably wondering for a few seconds what we were, coming up the road at him at this hour at a snails pace. A brief flash of a red light from inside the cabin, and then darkness again. Whatever connotations come come across when I see them from a car, it's comforting to know that Johnson County is on staff 24/7 and as a cyclist basically alone on these dark roads, that's nice to know. After conquering the basically 2-mile climb back up from Antioch to almost Quivira, the pace evens out -- until Clem gets some notion or another about training -- which I actually welcome in light of my feelings of lethargy and underpreparedness. People ask me, "are you ready for Tejas?", and I honestly have to give pause and ask myself the same thing -- the answer is a shaky "yes"... but I feel disconnected from the hammerheads that will dominate the field next month, whom will turn in finishing times on the order of 28 hours and change -- I have to put things like that out of my head, and ride my OWN race. But, these little forays into the upper reaches of the aerobic range make me feel alive, and I know they will be good for the bank. I let him advance, then I slam it into the big ring, old-school Warbird style, and hammer hard - head down and out of the saddle towards his rear wheel. Collapse into the saddle, downshift, spin it out... repeat! Clem is on a hard tempo pace, and I toss the ride rules aside and enjoy a little training of my own, with Badger and Shacks in tow. We close the gap, let it grow again, and repeat at least four times, uphill and on flat. 175th is a long piece of road, and the speedplay makes the miles go by a little faster as minds wander and mental count-downs of the distance to the start/finish begin to make the legs slow a little.

We arrive at Ridgeview, and turn south --- Badger calls out that I don't really need to follow him to the start finish unless I really want to, knowing that I live to the north -- and the hour of the day makes me consider it. Then Clem and Shacks show up moments later, and I repeat it to them -- to which they scoff; "common, let's go..." I smile, click back in, and we go. Shacks mentions something about rotten eggs and finishing last, and I start to get interested again in pace-work. A few shifts, help from a downhill, and the remains of the north tailwind, and the game is on again. Speeds come up, and gears click over, and soon I'm up in the 20's again -- it feels good to push, and it feels like I'm pushing the bad stuff out of my body, the toxins, the remains of injury and the sloth of not riding enough are starting to fall away from me on the road surface as I push a big gear - maybe too big - up the first of two climbs between me and the school. The shadows cast of my spinning legs rom headlights behind me begin to fade, and soon it's me alone about 1/4 mile up from the three man pack. For a few moments, I forget they are even there -- I completely leave my own ride, my leisure ride, and see myself in the darkness at Tejas, coming up Park Road 21, the city below me, taillights ahead to chase, and 40 hours to go.... push push push, because the clock WILL NOT STOP ticking. I shove over the big gear, the bike willing and quietly humming mechanical perfection beneath me, as if she's glad and finally ready to blow out some cobwebs. The darkness conceals the numbers of my efforts, but I feel the wind, the pavement flies by under my headlight beam, and I'm at the school quick, a welcome burn in the legs. My spine tingles with the remains of the effort as I downshift and whip the bike into the parking lot, a little twinge in the deepest parts of my lungs from finally using them to capacity again. Ahhhhhhhh..... NOW things seem possible again... hang on to this feeling....

The rest of the pack arrives, and we set up for departure again, Badger headed for home while the three remaining point the bikes back north for the trip homeward. these last few miles will bring the average down, but I don't think any of us cared. A great night, the breeze cooling us, the skies inviting and clearing - even a few flashes of lightning way off to the south -- it's picture perfect in the glow of the high moon, as we chat it up and roll north in the ether of a magic night - conversation flowing. We bid our farewells at 159th, and I am alone in the night, shielded by streetlights, tires swishing and hissing in the runoff from night-time sprinkler overspray, floating quietly through green lights while the city sleeps. Midnight approaches as I hit the driveway, then the shower, then the bed.

Another magic night-time ride in the books.... morning will come quick, but the memories will last. I can't wait to get down to the maps and plan the next one of these!

Special thanks to the other three of the "four wheelmen", without whom this would have just been another boring solo ride. It's always a treat --

g'night for now...

August 29, 2007

Ready for the fall.

This time next month, I'll be sitting in a Mexican restaurant in or around Cleburne fueling up for 500 miles of mayhem. If I get past the 375 mile marker, I'll be happy enough -- but I honestly see no reason why I can't conquer this distance and mark it off as a success. There are some challenges, however: I have not been able to meet my training mileage consistantly since the bike accident in July, and the car wreck. Life has literally been crazy this summer - but I feel a sense of relief lately; like all hardships, they are usually temporary - it's nice to be sitting on a solution now and finally being able to relax a little bit. Training mileage aside, the weight goal I had for myself continues to elude. I think in times of stress the body is just not working correctly, and I have been floating at the same weight (which I suppose is good in some way) for the past 45 days. NO change. Of course, that also means no changes for the worse, so I have to remember that point. I have a feeling the MS-150 coming up in two weeks will act as something of a metabolic springboard, and should hopefully get me back into a solid training routine. That is, of course, cutting things awfully close - but I'm banking on the notion that if NOTHING else, my leg muscles and cardio are well-rested. I have been able to commute by bicycle again, finally, which in the wake of the hip injury is a good thing. Finally, no more lingering pain, no more swelling -- I have actually been able to push the hills, hammer the flats if I want to, and generally enjoy riding again - instead of suffering thru it. I haven't lost too much time, but I also don't feel totally prepared. I've been looking back on the year's spreadsheet, and have noticed that consistantly I've under-shot myself with regards to pre-event mileage, and I have not seemed to suffer; sure the speed wasn't stellar, but I did in-fact finish the 600K within the time limits, so that means if NOTHING else I can indeed finish the Tejas 500. I will not age-group, place, or impress -- but I *WILL* finish, and that is my only goal. The 600K was *ONLY* three months ago -- it seems like FOREVER. The bank of endurance is still there -- the weight will hurt me, I have a feeling, but I can also - if I REALLY want to - lose ten pounds in the next 30 days. Women hate hearing things like that, but if I buckle down I can do it - and that will be an advantage. I'll worry about the other 30 this fall, during marathon training. Next spring -- look the F out. I don't want the perfect physique; I only want to feel good, fit into my clothes, and look like I belong on a bike. I remember saying that LAST year after Tejas wrapped... ugh. This time, I actually need to REALLY lose the freaking weight.

This weeks' commutes have been pretty good, especially yesterday's.

The morning was dark, the way I like it -- makes me feel ahead of the game, keeps heat at bay and traffic at a minimum. A special treat, however, this last morning was the nearly full and totally eclipsed moon! I knew it was coming, so I knew where and when to look for it -- but I tell you, seeing astronomical phenomenon from the saddle of a bicycle is fantastic. Big, dim amber, and downright spooky-looking, the moon hung low over the western horizon, giving a grand show while 80% of suburbia around me was still asleep. Awesome. I regretted having a camera, but I honestly don't own one that would have done the scene justice; I think it'd be neat to have a shot of the bike with the eclipsed moon in the background. Maybe I'll try again in February '08, when the next one is scheduled to come around.

While the car-free lifestyle still eludes me, yesterday I had a good taste of it. MS-150 packet pickup was held at a local mall, about 8 miles from work, so I mounted up on lunch and headed out. For once it wasn't blistering-hot, so it was fairly pleasant and a little breezy. I arrived, got my packet, and headed out to the eye doc's place to pick up some new specs, another car-trip saved. Not bad! A creative route back to work, some mild headwind issues and a few hills that I haven't climbed since I lived NORTH of work, and I was back at the office again with a full bag.

The ride home in the afternoon, with full bag, was a tough one. Hot, humid, and windy - I was blown dry, literally, for 15 miles or so. Dehydrated and whipped, I arrived home just in time to change and get ready to head to job#2 - something I was gonna have to ditch to the car for since my headlight crapped out in the later part of the morning commute - internal circuitry problem, and no time to swap to the older halogen light. So be it.... ugh. The high-pace hammerfest towards home, while only 15 miles, was excellent heat training for Tejas - unfortunately, it also reminded me that I was going to have to remember to drink a LOT more than I had. The rest of the night was suffered through with a vague headache and fatigue, and while I was pounding water and electrolytes all night, I barely caught back up. Probably better that I drove.

The trip home would have been better by bike, though -- the full moon rose right as the workbell rang, and I was treated to a massive orangish disc of light and shadow coming over the eastern suburbs; magical, and it gave me pause again while traffic zoomed around, oblivious. Sometimes I feel like these moments are reserved just for me - the rest of suburbia just too preoccupied to notice. Makes me sad to wonder how many moments like that are wasted to iPod fiddling and PSP hammering in the back seat of some SUV. Poor kids... I hope they will discover this stuff for themselves someday, or the wonder-ment that truly makes our existance here on Earth will truly be at risk.

Finally in the evening, showered and with al my stuff put away, I sat on the back porch and watched the moon grow brighter and brighter as it crawled up into the deep night sky and listened to the bugs singing in the grass. It was a little cooler, and my day was over - a little lingering soreness in the legs from the afternoon -- crawling into bed was gonna feel pretty good. Some commutes are hum-drum, but riding days like yesterday make it all worthwhile. I felt very satisfied with myself, and that is good for the soul.

Am I ready for Tejas? I dunno. But, I am ready to get my life back on the straight and narrow. Ready to relax a little, ready to enjoy the little things and get the mind stress-free again. Summer has hurt here and there -- I'm ready for a good Autumn already.

August 24, 2007

Song of the Week - 8/24

Yeah, it's still the same week, but so what?
Music has no season or deadline...

Marvin Gaye - "Let's get it on"

August 20, 2007

Song of the Week - 8/20

"Funky Tonite" - The John Butler Trio

A brief taste

Last night I stepped out onto the back deck and was pleasantly surprised by what I found - the subtle hint of rain, a south wind at 15 MPH - which was actually cool. A drop in humidity, and a drop in temperature - and all of these things coming together in something of a fall-like break from the sweltering humidity of the last two weeks. It was only relative, however, as the temperature was still firmly in the mid 80s, but it felt nice. A gentle rain began, and it gave me pause enough to stop the world around me to allow me to take it all in. Birds, hiding from the sun nearly all month, fell from trees and hopped in the wet grass, singing as if to thank the heavens for the break. It was a good moment, refreshing, and enticing... my favorite cycling season is coming in only about 6 weeks.

Today, unfortunately, it was short-lived. Merely the remnants of tropical storm Erin, the cloud cover, fast upper level winds, the spotty rain and cool breezes would not last. By the time I woke and prepared to ride to work, the tables had already turned back to mid-August. The rain would only serve to clog the air with moisture as it lazily evaporated into morning fog, and the temps today will rise to remind us that summer is still here.

Last night I started to look through some of my old ride journals and mileage logs, with hastily scribbled notes and figures from ride after ride from 1998 to the present. Notes about headset adjustments, cables breaking, new freewheels, new bags, old bags, tires - but mostly weather notes. Temperatures, humidity notes, the agony of forgetting sunscreen, the shudders of forgetting gloves or wind-vests. I marveled at the coming temps, seemingly in the last couple weeks of September each year logged there are notes about the first sub-freezing morning commute, the first use of tights or warmers, notes about chilly drizzle and 40 degree north breezes -- ahhhhhhh..... I smile.

As oppressive as the heat has been this year, moreso the humidity, it serves a good purpose - it serves to remind me why I like fall so much, the same as winter makes me appreciate spring. It's a cycle that only exists in certainly latitudes, true, and I'm grateful for my locale. It's not so much the season itself but the changes between them that I enjoy. Transitions; watching things move and scurry and leaves fall while floating silently by on a bicycle. That first hint of burnt leaves, the first smell of firewood. Suddenly being able to see the stars thru the trees. Hot soup. The chill of cold rain, the comfort of that extra layer, the taste of hot coffee after a cold ride, the feeling coming back into my face amid soothing ribbons of flavorful steam.

As I tucked away the ride journals and began packing for this morning's ride, I had to remind myself again that the cool air outside was only temporary. The appeal of pulling on wool, thicker socks, and the comfort of a good pair of gloves will have to wait a few more weeks. I had to remind myself that for this year, this summer, there is still training and work to be done. Once again, this passing weekend saw no mileage gained, alarms ignored, plans ditched. I'm trying to stay positive and convince myself that it's because I need rest - the body knows best. With continuing allergy issues teetering towards something more serious, I'm thinking I might be on the right track here - but the numbers aren't coming. There is still time for training - but I find myself not wanting to. I think it's nothing more than being tired, and starting to show my age.

Opposed to that, I know how the spring went. The brevets were not without hardship, but were finished, one by one. Another first, my first 600K, was checked off this spring - and yet, it doesn't feel like this is the same year. It seems like a different time, a time of hardship and stress. I need to reconnect with the positives, and get moving again. The taste of fall reminds me that there are indeed things to be happy about, some things to look forward to. Giving up now would be foolish - triumph, accomplishment; once these goals are checked off a feeling of resolution will wash over me, and the feelings of fall will be all the more sweet.

Only a few more weeks...

August 17, 2007

Old School

Lately I've been trying to simply things. I pulled the rack off the bike, put the Carradice back on. I pulled that off and ran the messenger bag for a couple days. I dunno what my problem is, picking a mode lately, but it IS fun to experiment. There are some of us that try something one way, it works, and there is no reason to alter anything. There are others of us that are never satisfied, and feel the need to tweak and tweak and tweak some more. That'd be me, depending on the season. Today, for example, I'm back on the Carradice bag on the neo-classic bike. THAT seems right, comfortable, and appropriate for that bike. If I was riding a fixxie, the messenger bag seems better. Hard to explain why portage seems to follow vehicle, but it does.

Speaking of subject changes...

The other day I totally lost it in traffic, however, laughing out loud -- but nodding in approval at the same time. There was a guy on an old blue ten-speed bike and he had the drop bars rotated in the stem up 180 degrees from their intended position. Yup, like that one scene in that one movie with the catchy 80's music playing while this suburban jock was riding his red ten-speed over to some ladies house to "get the business on", bars high, collar high. Hair, feathered. Hellll yeah..... This guy was dopeness in motion. 115th and Metcalf, too, one of the LAST places I like to be on a bike, yet I still find myself there occasionally, and this guy comes across the crosswalk on this sweet ride, wearing a white button-down and a black tie. Yup, like the Blue Brothers. No sunglasses, tho.

People in traffic were looking at him like this:

we're gonna jump it.

It made me wonder, THIS guy is totally just doing things the way he knew how. I don't think he cared how he looked. Made me wonder why *I* do sometimes, and with the baggage shuffling I do. He's comfortable with himself -- maybe I'm not? Maybe so... or maybe it's because all these individual commuting solutions work so well, but each had interesting challenges associated with it, and I can't find a happy medium. But, I can tell you it's not for fashion -- I have no delusions that way anymore, because at the end of the day, I'm still a grown man getting sweaty in tight black bike shorts on a bicycle in the middle of a car-centric culture. I look dumb.

I quote Ice Cube: "Girls in biker shorts are so fly to me."

Girls. Not men. Men in biker shorts are fly to no-one, not even broads. Or chicks, I can't remember. Hell, I just quoted Ice Cube. That alone is gonna get me no play.

I might get play if I DRESSED like Ice Cube, tho. Damn.
I gotta say, that's a handsome fellow. Course, he looks like he's about to kill someone, but that's okay.

ANYways... down to one bike now, but it's all good. The bike I rode at the memorial ride gave me the last straw big middle finger, so I'm hanging it up and getting on the main bike again. It's actually more than "good" - it's pretty sweet. Now I don't have to fidgett with the tape measure trying to get all my bikes set up identically -- I can swap a few wheels around, and everything stays the same from weekday grind, to weekend fun. Yeah, that'll change as soon as I get the cash for a new fixxie or something, but for now it's great considering what I'm training for. As long as I have a monster tired fixed-gear back in the stable before winter, it's alllllllll tasty.

Subject changes like this will give you whiplash.

Today's commute was fantastic - left the house early, and enjoyed quiet streets for once, and the solitude and warm comfort of my headlight beam showing the way as the crickets and bugs still sang out in the warm pre-dawn air. Ahhhh....
Riding the good bike to work makes things better -- smooth shifting, steel ride...
...and Carradice bag. I had this notion that it wouldn't be big enough, so I bought these panniers, which ended up being big enough to take a small mammal to work with me. Combined with heel strike that I couldn't get adjusted out, and those have been retired now. The Carradice is perfect, always has been. Style, function, quality, and it's centered over the rear wheel and up close to the bike's center of gravity. With D-rings on the outside, it's easy to lash extra layers to it with some old toe straps. Reminds me of how I had the old Trek 720 set-up for the winter of - you guessed it, 2003.

Dammit, Dude, shut up about 2003 already.

I feel like that Uncle Rico.

doncha ever wish you could go back.... things'd be different....yeeeah...
How much you wanna bet I can throw this bicycle over those mountains over there?

Welp, that's it for now. I'm gonna go wallow in my continued snot-ridden existance whilst I type away in my cubicle. Snot. Yeah, you thought it was rain... get a towel, because it's laid out like that.


August 16, 2007

Sniff Sniff

How anyone gets a head cold when it's like 105ºF outside, I don't get. I felt a little tweaky during last night's ride, and today I'm a snot bomb. When I talk, it's like I'm inside a tunnel - and it's full of snot. Snot. SNOT.
Clean-ecks (tm) loves me.

What the hay-fever??!!


Larry and Sierra Gaunt

You will not be forgotten --

Many thanks to ACME Bicycles Sarah and Chrissy (who I saw in the saddle for the first time ever last night) for the Ghost Bikes, as I sincerely hope the message will get across.

There were a LOT of people out there last night at the Longview Rec Center, and the news channels that reported on the event varied the headcount anywhere from 400 to 650 riders -- I think there actually might have been more. It seriously looked like the start of the MS-150 itself, but much more somber.

I was, I think, overwhelmed by it all while I was actually there - the magnitude of the whole thing didn't really sink in until I watched it on the news that night, and it hit me. I hope everyone watching felt the same way. The madness needs to stop!

During the ride, it was good to see a to of folks that I hadn't ridden with in a while -- MAN the Longview crowd is a good crowd, and I really need to get back out there for some training soon. Good people. Badgerland and Noah were in attendance, and several others that I hadn't ridden with in a while, like P-Mo, Fine Jewelry, Big Chris, the Bicycle Shack Racing team, Reggie and company, Big Shark Kelly, and more. While the mood was muted, and all of us knew why we were there, it was good to be among friends -- I think all of us were taking stock of our friends, how lucky we are every day, how many cars pass us from behind and how many times it could have been us. We reveled in the handshakes and smiles.

For one night, Longview Lake was ours, Raytown Road was ours - the whole city was ours.

Rest in peace, Larry and Sierra -- I ride for you.

August 14, 2007

Song of the Week - 8/14

"National Disgrace" - by Atmosphere

oooh, wait, I changed my mind:

"Revolution 1" - The Beatles

August 10, 2007

Feeling the heat, and taking it, too.

It's hot, man. For the last five days, temperatures have been in the upper 90's, and the low 80's at night. Humidity is a whoel other story, and there is a LOT of it right now. It's wonderfully miserable outside.

A perfect week to make my debut return to the bike!

It seems like Monday was forever ago; what a week. Unfortunately, we lost two riders this week - memorial rides are being planned, looking like the primary ride will be Wednesday night next week at 6:30PM from Longview College Parking Lot.
I don't have all of the details, but I am planning on being there.

It's just sad, every once in a while this kind of thing happens.

I know it's random, I know it's rare - and more people die in car wrecks annually and on the highways than any number of bicyclists do -- but still, it was someone's Dad, someone's grandpa, and the girl was someone's daughter. It sucks. I mean, common, she was training for her first MS-150, a bike ride that is held to help other people. Granted, some of us ride it for different reasons, but I'd like to think that we're out there for the cause - and for a 14 year old to be thinking of anyone other then themselves in this day and age is rare and commendable. It just sucks, no matter the cause, when you hear of the passing of someone that was trying to do the right thing. A combination of random events and variables that ultimately led to an untimely meeting on Raytown Road. It just sucks - have I said that?

Then I hear about this supposed anti-bike blogger in Kansas City? Well, I investigated it, and it's not specifically anti-bike. It's kinda of "anti" in general, but the guys apparent intent is basically to drum up controversy on just about any subject, several dozen times a-day in some cases on one subject or another. Some of it is actually quite funny. However, since this latest post hits close to the belt for me anyways it's hard to read it without prejudice.
What's really unfortunate is that his initial comments on the incident from Monday (what does he sit and watch the news and just type away about stuff?) seemed to mirror the likely initial notions of probably half of the viewership of the TV station that reported it; if they had been in an SUV, they would have survived. It SUCKS, but the state of the roads today seem to mirror this notion, and if you are not driving the latest GM gas-beast, you might as well not exist. I feel this way sometimes when I'm driving my little gas-miser of a car. These people are out to kill me. I tell you, NOTHING would excite me more than $10.00 per gallon gas. I would LOVE it. Bikes aren't the problem - cars are.

Dammit, already, this kind of B.S. has to end. Some days I love this town, some days I freaking hate it -- but it seems like it's getting harder and harder to be a cyclist out here. It's already hard in many cities, sure. Keep on ridin', right?

I just have to throw up my hands on this. Some teen in a basement with a keyboard got me all wriled up, ok? Fine. Comedy is in the eye in the beholder and much like what happened with Michael Richards, I just can't watch Seinfeld the same way anymore. Some of what this guy was saying about other stuff, like the Sprint Center, light rail, etc., WAS funny as hell and probably correct. But, he lost me with this cycling stuff. I know it's probably tongue in cheek, but clearly he's never lost a friend, or he isn't old enough to gain a mature perspective on the value of human life. The line HAS to be drawn. Robin Williams doesn't do this kinda crap, and neither does home-grown journalist Jason Whitlock, whose early career works focused on exactly this kind of sardonic wit and reverse psychological idiom - someone gets seriously hurt, tho, and the PROFESSIONALS act appropriately. Bicycles involved or not, we're talking about PEOPLE here. Grow up, asshole.

No, I'm not giving you the link.

It's kinda funny that all of this comes on the completion of a new trail section that FINALLY takes me out of harms way with regards to US-69 highway and Metcalf, and Antioch and 123rd. After over two years of rolling the dice (with no close calls, thank you.) I can finally kiss these horrid sections of the suburban grid GOODBYE, and disappear into the trail system. BUt, part of me wants to just keep riding the roads, you know -- putting it out there, showing that we belong, maybe setting the bar for other cyclists that might NOT follow the rules quite right. The other part of me knows I have kids and a wife to ride home to, and after rolling the dice in this town as a bicycle commuter for almost ten years now it might be time to just log a few trail miles and reduce my risk.

Is there anything WRONG with risk reduction? I'm still on the bike, still saving gas, still showing my co-workers it CAN be done, and I still enjoy every mile. The people whose minds I'm *NEVER* gonna change will just have that much less of a chance to hit me from behind. Still, I feel like part of my actions, part of my abandonment of the roads, raises something of a white flag to the automotive world. I give up. You win. Fine, the roads ARE yours. NOW what? If trail culture really IS the wave of the future, if we really AREN'T gonna get on-road bike lanes and tougher penalties for drivers that hit cyclists, if we really AREN'T ever gonna get more Share The Road signs, what chances do we really have to keeping our rights to the roads after all? If big groups of riders are just gonna keep running all the stop signs, if riding five abreast is a trick that "serious" roadies CAN'T un-learn, what fate really awaits us?!? If otherwise intelligent people take their new bikes home and remove EVERY last stitch of reflective and safety equipment from their bikes for the sake of fashion, and THEN dress in gaudy spandex corporate-advertising shrink-wrap suits, is there hope for ANY of us? What IF the good folks at MoBikeFed and KCBikeFed don't get anything passed, and we keep seeing political resistance? What if the people that refuse to sacrifice an extra three feet of their backyards and precious landscaping needed for bike lane additions simply refuse to fold? What if the on-road bike lanes in Shawnee are just a fluke? Now what?

People get into cars every day. People that multi-task while driving. People that drive with the newspaper up against the steering wheel. People that had a fight with their (blank), and are pissed at the wheel. People that TEXT. People that are eating, talking on the phone, zoned off in a conference call. Is it smart for *ANY* of us to add another variable to these idiot's already-impaired situations? Will they see us? Will they react? Will I get killed today?

Worry. Fret. Panic. Ride scared and assume nothing.

And then raise your middle finger to the whole thing, and just ride to work.
Use the trail, because they finally built something for US. Use the roads because we have the right, but DO IT RIGHT so we don't LOSE that right.

Do everything you can. GET MAD. EARN IT.

I'm not giving up. I'm still gonna ride, and write, and show up, and protest, and rant, and fight for my right to be on the roads. And if someday the dice roll and they come up snake-eyes, my time will come, and I will die doing what I loved, and standing up for what I believed in. Will it be sad for my kids and wife? ABSOLUTELY -- but I don't get to pick when or where my time comes. No one does. Be smart, but don't run and hide under a rock! Noble causes are seldom majority causes. While the rest of the world continues to give up around us, WE WILL still be riding. It's a risk, yes, but so is getting behind the wheel of a car -- or BREATHING for that matter. Green Beans from China are a RISK. My record will show that one week in July I wrecked on my bike, and a week later I got in a car wreck. Sometimes it just doesn't matter, and none of us can control it.

Wake up, take a deep breath, and live your life the BEST you can. Do what you love. Hug the ones that care about you. And then get out there, because it's the right thing to do. Life is too short as it is.

I've rambled long enough. I have to ride to work now.

August 6, 2007

Song of the Week - 8/06

I blame the wife for this one, since Friday night was bad-movie-night at the homestead. She got to pick. We watched "Xanadu". Holy crap. What a complete waste. But, of course, the soundtrack is brilliantly mind-sticking, and therefore the song of the week is....

"Have to Believe we are Magic" by Olivia Netwon-John.

Dammit. The ONLY redeeming factor is that Jeff Lynne had something to do with the soundtrack, so it's musically interesting and nice. But that's it.
Can't get the damn thing out of my head, tho. I love ELO, but I really want to hate this song.

Curse you, early 80's roller-skating craze.

August 3, 2007

Making things right

You know, I think I read it in an article once by Grant of Rivendell fame -- specifically, it would have been Rivendell Reader 37 or something -- I paused writing this to do a quick search of the forums and such, and that opened a huge can of worms, so I gave up. Ack! I couldn't find the exact issue, but some that have read it will know of what I speak.

Anyways, Grant was going on about how much seatpost should be showing, how much stem should be showing, stem angle, color of materials, "beausage"; a term I really agree with, to a point; and logos, advertising, etc. It's a decidedly American thing, perhaps a decidedly WORLD CULTURE thing. In the UK, there is a certain way a phone box should look, for example. In Chicago, there is a certain way a hot dog should look. There is a certain way shoes should look in Italy. There is a certain way hats should look in Belgium, ad nauseum. For bicycles, there are many arguments in this vein, steming from modern materials, gaudy paintjobs, advertising logos on everything, flashy graphics and stickers, and minimalist, blacked-out motiffs. Bikes that are SO engineered to have a certain purpose and look that the wrong seat-pack can potentially "ruin the lines" of it all.

Then there are the old-school arguements, which I don't think a so much "old-school" as they are "pre-marketing". Back when bicycles were legitimately considered viable transportation options, bicycles were simply engineered for the intended use, and the FORM seems to have followed. RAcing bikes existed, but they were the ones that were hard to obtain! The norm were the smooth lines of a Huret, with chrome fenders, matched racks, smoothed headlight bezels and trademark items like a Brooks saddle, cork grips, and baggage. these things are seen as retro nowadays, but "back then", only 50 years ago - maybe less - that was just the way it was done. Brooks wasn't the first choice because it was a certain look, or because it was "retro" -- it was the first choice because it was the best item for the job, period. This goes to the entire "we had it right the first time" argument. The only things that have changed are mass-marketing, racing culture, and weight weenies. No matter how timeless, and comfortable a Brooks is, it is NOT flashy, light, or aggressively marketable. So, they fade in lieu of rubber and plastic and emblazoned grahpics - only to enjoy a resurgence by those that refused to let them die (thank you, or I'd never have known about them in the first place!)

Still, modern bikes have a certain look that is "right", for what THEY are. But, for the same reasons you wouldn't have wanted to commute to work on a 1970 Pinnarello racing frame back in that day, you wouldn't want to commute to work on a Cervelo R3SL today - they are both specific machines, simply not built for the hard riding that IS commuting. The thing that has changed for today is that there are seemingly no alternative bicycles to offset the racing bikes in many shops. Back in 1970, you could actually buy a racked and fendered tourer to get the commuting job done. Today, you have to start with something of a compromise, and add your own gear to it - assuming you have the outlets to get that gear, like fenders, smoother tires, and bags. The very fact that I am not the only one making these arguments is reflected in more places recently, as more appropriate bicycles are becoming available and shops are no longer ashamed to stock them. The "Lance-Era", like it or not, IS over - and some of that heavy-handed marketing towards completely inappropriate bikes is ending, too. This is a good thing. Being thrust into the everyday of it all, the bicycle retail business, has given me an opportunity to have some of this re-inforced by the fact that - yes - we see a fair amount of racers come in for service with their high-zoot gear, but we are also seeing more and more people coming in for adjustments and new tires on bikes that they use EVERY day for transportation. It's refreshing!

So, back to the whole "how a bicycle should look" discussion, last night in the garage I sat down with a bottle of mineral spirits, turned on some music, and began the arduous task of de-logo-ing my wheelset on the Kogswell. A tire swap was in order, for training and the upcoming MS-150 - I switched the Gommitalias out for the 28c Paselas - and while I was in there I decided it was a perfect time to get this latest step in the Kogswell evolution completed while the rims were tire-free.

Carefully, the Mavic logos were peeled from the rims and the leftover adhesive buffed off with the mineral spirits solution. After at least an hour, only shiny silver rims remained. The optical illusion was staggering, as the wheels themselves looks physically smaller than before. Instead of broken circles with weird spokes, the wheels now look whole, clean, simple. I mounted the Paselas, aired them up, and put the wheels back into the frame. Stepping back from it, I smiled - nearly shuddered - at it. Without those stickers on the rims the entire bike looked GOOD. Appropriate. The silver rims contrasted next to the tan sidewalls and black tread of the Panaracer tires, against the dark green paint of the frame - and all of it coming in concert with the silver stem, pedals, derailluers, seatpost; a modern classic, indeed. Still light enough, but not TOO light. With all the technology of the last decade, but none of it LOOKING like a blacked-out carbon-fiber nightmare. I again thanked myself silently for not selling this frameset. (Pictures are probably coming soon, I'm so proud)

So, how does this contrast to what other riders at Tejas will be riding? Who really cares - right? I'm sure I will get a few looks, but they probably will be looks of jealousy. After all, with the task of 500 miles ahead it's going to be a hard call as to who will be more fatigued than whom -- but I'd like to think that a couple extra pounds and a couple extra millimeters of tire width will be my friend after it's all said and done, while others may well be cursing their 20c tires and stiff, aero frames. I can nearly guarantee that I'll be the only one riding a bicycle that LOOKS as appropriate as mine does now. There will be carbon fiber, aluminum, disc wheels, low-low handlebars, and skinny tires. And then there will be me. Will they finish faster than me? Oh, probably. Am I there to win? No. I'm there to finish. I will get labeled -- "retro", "old-school", the "run-what-you-brung" class, maybe even "randonnuer" HORRORS!!! Uh, that's what I *AM*!

I'll just smile and pedal, because I can't think of a stronger addition to the mental tool-kit than simply being on a bike that *I* am comfortable with. Whether or not it's totally appropriate for the task at hand can be discussed at length after the awards ceremony - where I'm pretty sure everyone that finishes gets the same trophy. I may never learn to leave things alone - but I think now I'm at a great stopping place. No matter the trials the last month has wrought, I feel like I finally got this one right.

On to the healing of the leg, finally this morning I awoke, stretched, and got out of bed without wincing. I finally walked downstairs without clutching the bannister for dear life. I think I'm finally healing! I'm still going to play it safe and wait a couple more days, until Sunday as orignally planned, where I will rise early and head out for a quiet, slow (I mean it this time) paced coffee run, down to Spring Hill and back, most likely. If all goes well, I'll start up the training spreadsheet again, work the math backwards from Tejas, and pack the bags for Monday's return to commuting!

Be sure to check out the main webpage -- we're (ok, *I*) am starting this little thingy where I'll be adding the C'Dude logo to ride photos I get that I deem worthy of the front page. I call it, the front page photo. Catchy title.
This latest edition is CommuterDude Ort, down Tejas-way, leading the entire contingent of 600K riders up the first of about 1000 climbs in Texas hill country. In the rain. He gets the Dude-O-the-Month slot for August, based on this heroic finish of his first ever 600K, and gets the additional distinction of earning the MacGyver award for completing a catastrophic flat repair with a toothpick, duct tape, electrical tape, baling wire, a postage stamp, a Busch Light can, and a piece of dryer lint. He's also in the process of completing his R-12 award for RUSA, which is riding at least one 200K brevet or permanent ride for every month of the year.

If you are even remotely interested in getting your mug, or a photo from one of your rides, on the main page of the website for a month, then this is your casting call. I'm looking to grow the comradeship - so if you have even ridden to work once in your life, you enjoy cycling, and have an eye for photography from the saddle, then send your submissions to me, including a full bio for the CommuterDude Comrades page. That's right, you have to be a member to get a shot at it, but membership is cheap -- free -- and doesn't commit you to anything other than being generally cool to your neighbor and occasionally riding a bicycle. Check the webpage, and email me your stuff! I don't care who you are, where you live, whether or not you've ridden to work 600 times, or 6. Photos subject to severe cropping, editing, and style will be judged solely by me and my vast expertise of skiing technique.

August 1, 2007

Wishin', and hopin', and healin', and plannin'...

Welp, the injury persists -- it's been a while since I've had the energy, nay the will, to blog anything. Those in the know, know, but the wider audience may be new to this latest life challenge.

Last Thursday, my leg, from the previous week's biff on the railroad tracks, was starting to feel good enough that I decided to ride. I woke up and rode in to work on the new steed, logged 22 miles and change by the time I got home, and THEN held a night ride where I logged another 37 miles ---- I never got around to blogging about THAT ride because of what happened the next morning that kinda eclipsed my attention. Still, the night ride was GREAT, a perfect night, clear skies, a nearly-full moon, and a nice, quiet country road where we saw maybe three cars total for 15 miles. It was pretty cool, and a good group - got to shake a few new hands, too, and got a record attendance for a night ride to date, with 6 riders total in attendance. I don't really know what possessed us, however, because - mainly for selfish healing reasons - this ride was supposed to be a REALLY slow, conversational ride. Instead, it seemed like everyone was on some sort of mission, and the pace was hot. Granted, we didn't average anytihng like a Cat.3 gorup might have, but we did finish about an hour and a half sooner than I'd planned, and that was WITH a break at the halfway c-store. The tailwind-fueled run back north on Metcalf reminded me of the Cabin-Fever 15 ride of 2003, except at night. We hammered, and based on Badger's handy GPS Motion-Based playback, we didn't drop below 18 MPH for the entire trip north and that was on the hills -- mostly we were blowing along at 22 to 27 MPH, with a wicked downhill blast at 37. Sweeeeet! Thankgoodness for nice headlights -- oh, speaking of which, and this is no reason to sell a headlight, but it's still a pisser: The Dinotte LED headlight is pretty nice, but desperately needs good optics. Half of the light is up in the trees, since it's essentially a spot-beam like a NiteRider is -- maybe I'm spoiled from the Lumotec's fantastic optics, but hey I don't think I'm asking much. The light would be all that more powerful if it had a little shaping on the lens to get more light on the road where it's needed. Also, however, I don't have any stats from the ride that night because the Dinotte seems to produce a fair amount of spurious emissions, which is fancy talk for interference in the RF spectrum - enough that it blows out the signal to my wireless computer. Again, not a reason to ditch that headlight -- I honestly think the solution is to mount that bad-boy light up on my helmet, and run the generator light down low. Not sure if BOTH are needed for Tejas -- I'll probably bring the Dinotte as a back-up light, but I thought that was a little frustrating. Still, a GREAT ride, and a lot of fun speed play on the dark roads, with great friends!
Here's a couple shots:

If you've never done a night ride, you need to - seriously.
It's a great way to beat the summer heat, and get a GREAT ride without cyclists' number-one complaint: traffic.
Plus, its a great way to experiment with lights and reflective gear, which is one of MY chief complaints, and why - sadly - a lot of amateur riders are killed needlessly each year: they can't be seen. Reflective gear is cheap - probably the cheapest cycling "clothing" you can buy, and it works!
It's a blast! If you wanna ride NEXT month, email me - we'll keep doing it until it's just stupid cold outside again.

Let's see.... oh yeah --- After the fall on Thursday LAST week (er, week before last, 7/19) -- things WERE starting to get better, marginally, but I have to face it -- this was a MAJOR injury, really. I should have rested it further.

Friday morning, the dice rolled again, and I got into a car wreck. Yeesh -- Let's see, it was LATE getting home from the night ride, and so I lost the fight with the snooze button the next morning, as I was supposed to ride in to work. Instead, I drove, and on Metcalf someone decided to not move when the light turned green, so I started slowing down, had plenty of room -- but the guy behind me wasn't paying attention or something, and slammed on his brakes, was following me too close, slid into me, and pushed me into the car in front of me. Great. SO, I won't even bore you with the car details, but it's ALMOST totalled -- that's a whole other deal. But, it seems to have flared up the leg injury again, as it was excrutiating that night after work. When I say excrutiating, I mean it. I'd like to think that at this point in my life I have a pretty high tolerance for pain - but this HURT. So, Saturday I decided to go have the experts look at it -- it seriously felt like something was broken, but thankfully the x-rays came back just fine. Major contusion, internally and surrounding the right hip, tho. Ugh. While the doc didn't put me on any kind of "don't ride for XX weeks" thing, I'm still staying off of it. It's frustrating -- like the ankle thing last year was, but this time it's BEFORE a major event, not after. I can't just lope around, like I did last year when I was injured -- this time, I REALLY want it to hurry and heal, because Tejas is looming HUGE on the horizon, only 7 weeks away. Can I possibly get enough of a ramp-up in time for the event? I refigured my training spreadsheet, and there just doesn't seem to be enough time to do it at 10%, but I can squeeze it at 20% week-over-week mileage increases. Of course, I can't START that until I heal completely, which I'm hoping will only take a little while longer. Yeesh.
Whether or not I like it, as many times as I've taken one for the team on the MS-150, this year they will have to take one for me, because I'll seriously have to use that weekend for training. Still, it will be fun -- it always is, but I won't be able to poke along this time. If I'm going to be successful at Tejas, I'll really have to work at the MS ride - but that was all part of the plan. With only five months left in the year, I don't want to start putting red "x"s in the BikeJournal goals chart. So far this year has been really successful, if not a little challenging in other areas -- so I'm really motivated to end the year on the same notes I started it off with. This is the first year I've completed an entire brevet series, the first time for a finished 600K -- there's no way I can stop now!

But, care is in order. If it takes another two weeks to heal, so be it -- I will have to make-do. It's better than taking a something temporary and making it a permanent injury. Patience, dude!!!!
All I need to do is one 20 mile lap, and then 8 metric centuries. (Dang, that's depressing.) Ok, maybe five century rides. However I divide it in my head, it's a BIG ride. But, no matter what training and the next 7-weeks bring, pacing and consistency is key to success. I don't have to be the fastest, I don't have to be first -- I only have to finish, and it's only 200K more than the 600K I've already completed this year. It's do-able. 48-hours. That's a 10.4 MPH average: only slightly faster than the minimum pace required to finish a brevet of the same length. Focus on that, and I'll be fine. Pace, pedal, eat. Maybe sleep after the 300 mile marker, just like on the 600K. But, first - HEAL.

Stay tuned! That "wire" they are talking about is coming down! Or maybe I have that backwards.... whatever!

MAN I wanna RIDE!!!!!

Song of the Week - 8/01

White Stripes - "Icky Thump"