Friday, September 29, 2006

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

So, I finally retired my beloved Horse Tuesday. In his place I built up a Specialized S-Works Tarmac. A bit lighter, a whole lot faster. But this is Horse's "obituary":

Tuesday, September 26
At approximately 3pm the Schwinn Paramount OS "Horse" was laid to rest, having been deactivated from frontline race duty after nearly 16 seasons and 132,000 miles. Born in August of 1990 in Waterford, WI, Horse was rushed into service in May of 1991. For the next 16 seasons he competed in races from Maine to Missouri, Canada to Texas.

Deciding to give his faithful steed a rest, Horse's owner Mike will make sure that Horse is rejuvenated at his birthplace to like new condition. "His paint is a bit faded, and there's some rust here and there, but when he returns, Horse will be free to go out on fun rides, and not worry about ice and ran and crashing like he has all these years. I can't express how close we are, as he's shared all my triumphs and failures in this sport. It's the end of an era for me, and I am happy to have had such a reliable, potent ally all this time. I'll miss him, but his time has come. Of course, should the need arise, I'm sure Horse will be ready to do battle once he's back from his restoration."

Horse 8/90-9/06 May all roads be sunny, the air warm, and the wind at our backs when we ride again, buddy. You served me well and we made each other proud.

So there you have it. I finally retired my signature green machine. Now I'm on a less distinctive bike, but I'm figuring out ways to make it stick out. Now if I can only dial it in by nest Friday when I have three, yes three hour long races in the evening. The 2nd Street district will never be the same...

Oh, totally unrelated. If you're a proponent of windpower, go read the current issue of Adirondack Life magazine. Has some good articles and pictures on the subject. That's all I have for social commentary.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!!!!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wish all Mondays were like this

Today was perfect in big ol' TX today. All of it. I went on a fun, relaxing and slow paced ride with two coworkers today. It rocked. My wife wasn't exactly thrilled I was abandoning her at 830am to meet two female coworkers to ride, but I digress.

We went to Bastrop State Forest, and it was effin great!!!! The park was almost empty, we rode on pine tree lined roads filled with the scent of pine needles, and the weather was perfect. Totally perfect. It reminded me of home, with the roads being narrow, no houses, lots of trees, and constant up a steep hill, top out, and drop right down again. We saw deer, and squirrels, and not much else.

I have to say in terms of terrain and relaxing, it was the best ride I've done yet in TX. It makes me want to hunt out places to ride that are within an hour or so of town to drive to. I really liked it that much. All three of us did, and we're thinking of trying to make it a weekly work thing so our other coworkers can go.

Most times I ride I ride alone, and I don't focus on anything but the ride. today reminded me that sometimes you just gotta relax, and listen to the wind in the treetops. By riding with people not as fast as me, I just enjoyed the ride. Like I did when I first moved here with Lost. I enjoy the easy rides for a change of pace, and it helps my body, too.

After the ride we had to eat, and we ate on the deck of a place called the Roadhouse. Great food and very reasonable. Then we returned to Austin. A perfect way to spend a day off.

So it got me to wondering why I ride. For fun? Fitness? Or is it because I love to race, and I have to? Probably all of the above, but it got me to thinking of places I want to ride and where I want to return to ride. The list is too long for here, but it would be a fun way to spend a vacation with Lost. Or I could ride and she could tell me all about the great deals she got in the outlets and local shops of wherever we visit...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I thought this was the way to nirvana

So, lots of interesting stuff showing up on the news lately. We watch more tv. We are getting obese. There's a connection. There are people claiming that "Big Oil" gets tax breaks, and kick backs. Blah blah. Take a look at big oil. Most of our cost is taxes. So why is the government going to reduce what gives it solvency? Riddle me that, Batman.

Alternative energy. Yes, wind power is a good concept. But do you know how many windmills it takes to generate a kilowatt? And, how many of the proponents of wind power want a windmill farm in sight of their (chosse one) home, office, city, etc? Those things are ugly!!!

Enough pontificating. Want to solve the energy problem and oil prices? Build a new refinery. Non have been built in 26, yes 26 years!!! So when Katrina knocked a bunch of production offline, we have price spikes, because the other refineries still working in the country are running at full capacity. Doesn't take a genius to figure this out.

But a more permanent solution would be to have people use mass transit, carpool, ride bikes, or walk. Wait, that might mean some type of effort must be extended, so trash those ideas.

Healthcare? HA!!! Why must I pay the same rates at my job as a smoker? Why not make it like car insurance? Better health, lower premiums. This all gets me aggravated.

I actually had some type of witty post in my head, but I lost it, as usual. Guess I'll just go do some laundry and hope for a return to creativity.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why do we feel this way sometimes?

I just got in from work and decided to check my email. Long story short, someone I dated years ago is on the same email list as I am for cycling. Though we aren't really friends I read her post and was saddened by the death of her oldest stepson. I never met the kid (he was 18) and I barely know her husband, but I couldn't help but feel bad for them. Funny how something like this casts all the animosity aside. Not like we'll ever say more than hi if we ever cross paths, but it puts it into perspective what a waste of time disliking someone is after they're out of your life.

So strange. However, on to more exciting things. Well, to me anyway. I am slowly getting my fat self back into shape, as in October I have a bevy (how long I've waited to use that word in a post you can only imagine) of races. Not just the Tuesday Nighter and the Thursday night crits, oh, no, there are also some bona fide, mega-important races. I know you've got the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge...

It all starts off on Friday, October 6th. That spectacular evening at 520pm I line up for my first race of the evening in downtown Austin, in the 2nd St District. @nd and Lavaca is the area of the finish, though I have yet to find out the entire course. Later on at about 8 I do my 2nd race of the night. Both are 1 hour and both promise to be fast and fun. Hopefully I can get a bunch of coworkers to cheer me on. So mark your calendars, kids.

Then the next day I have the TX Road Championships. This will be hard, as it's age based, so I'll be in the 30 plus group. A bit daunting. Finally, on the 15th I have the TX Road Championships but it's done by racing category. There I have a slight chance. Very slight.

So, if you want to get sunburned or wet, go to a road race. However, if you're in the Austin area and want to see fast racing and be able to eat and drink alcohol while doing so, go to the Amli Downtown Criterium. That's it. Oh, and here's a pic of me suffering at Columbus, TX again. Just found it the other night.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shut up and do something

I'm a bit pissed. Let me get the most aggravating bit out of the way. Why is it that colored people get all pissed when someone refers to them as a nigger, then they turn around and call another black person a nigger? What isn't firing in their brains?

Here's an example. Kanye West has his song Goldigger, and uses the term "broke niggers" in it. Kanye, if you want to be respected when you open your mouth about politics, don't use the word nigger. It defeats your credibility. This leads to a much larger issue.

Until colored people stop using the term nigger, they won't get the respect they crave and deserve. Why respect people who freely use a term that is one of the most derisive in our language towards them? You don't hear Afghanis calling each other caffers, do you? Leonard Pitts has touched on this issue in the past. If you stop using nigger, do you suddenly sell out? If you do sell out, is that wrong to get a better life, home, etc? I don't get it. So I guess it's ok for Poles to call each other Polack, Ukrainians to use mongol (centuries old derogatory term) and the list goes on.

If that's the case, and it's accepted among the people it's directed to and coming from, why can't another race use those words? Why can't I use the word nigger to refer to a colored person? I mean, they do it to each other! So why get upset if someone from another race uses it? It must be ok, right? Oh, wait, I'm white, so it must mean I'm a racist, but if I were colored, it just means I'm colored. Makes perfect sense. To an idiot.

I raced this past Tuesday night. It was fast, I enjoyed it, and it rained. Rain means roads like ice here in TX, so a few miles from the end when my bike started to try and get out from under me, I backed off a bit and finished about 5 seconds behind the lead group of five. Not bad.

But the real point is a guy who was with us had a prosthetic adaptor on his left leg. It was from the knee down, and was a titanium or steel rod, with a plate on the bottom, and his cleat mounted to that. He was very fast, and a good rider. Turns out he had his leg blown off in Iraq, and was now out of the Army. He was upbeat, not bitter about it, and moving on. He was happy to be there, rain and all. He stayed in the main group once the rain hit, but I was impressed. At one point I put my hand on hs back to help him keep from letting a gap form ahead of him up a hill. He was upset, but I told him it was easier for me to do that than to use a bunch of energy to get around him, and I'd do it no matter who it was so it wouldn't upset the flow of the paceline. Later he gave me a shove and we both laughed.

This guy has every reason to be bitter, but he's not. He's got a lot of things to deal with and to overcome in the future. Next time you get pissed look at what your problem is and put it into perspective.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm actually thinking for once!!!!

So Anna Nicole Smith's 20 yr old son was found dead. Weird. Of an apparent heart attack. Very odd. However, lest we get too giddy that this genetic strain be stopped, she has another child. So close... Seriously, though it is a tragedy. But it's almost like a Greek melodrama with her. At least with a Greek tragedy the show actually ends.

Let's see, Ohio beat UT this weekend. Personally, I can care less about football. But it sounds like everyone behaved, and enjoyed the game, so that's a good thing. Besides, now that UT is #8, if they can win a national championship it really would be something special. A bit of the underdog complex there. I like seeing the champion in any sport have to struggle a bit. It humanizes them, makes it more believable. Truth be told, I'm a huge fan of Lance Armstrong, but his last Tour performance was so dominating, it was kind of boring. He never really had to rally when the chips were down, because they never were.

So, with that segue, let me address some things baout the current state of cycling. I have found myself somewhat accepting that many top cyclists cheat with banned substances. Surprisingly, I almost don't care. This year the Tour was the most exciting in years, definitely the most exciting since 1989. Who's to blame? Us, the public. Like 10,000 Maniacs song Candy Everybody Wants, the athletes give us what we want. Drama, excitement, records being broken. Look what happened to baseball when the home run craze was going on. Same with football. Winning isn't enough for the public anymore. Winning with a superhuman performance is. Then we look away and say how shameful the behavior is, but we are the ones who brought the behavior to begin with. More drama is more money.

Even in a poor sport as cycling, where the season is 10 long months from early February through November, the drugs make more exciting racing. That means more fans, more sponsor money. Odd that cycling is the only truly free sport in the world. No one has to pay to see a race. More odd is the fact that in the ProTour, the top level of the sport, the major leagues, if you will, has a base salary for a cyclist of $38,000 for 2007. You read it right. A little over three grand a month to travel all over the world, live from a duffel bag, and spend an average of 30 hours a week on a bike in all weather. In a sport where a 2 year contract is still rare, it's all about what have you done for me lately. And the drugs ensure that something is done for many racers.

Last topic for tonight. It's 5 years since 9/11. We all know and remember. I'm ok with it, but last night we watched the documentary on CBS. I've seen quite a bit, and not much compares to my tours in the Army. But what gets to me is the fear in the eyes of those firefighters and police, and when the radio traffic got crazy, I could feel it. When things are quiet on the freqs, the situation is under control. When everyone's jamming the waves trying to get through, it's not good. For me, hearing the chatter and seeing the looks on the faces choked me up, for I could empathize. The men were scared, the officers were worried, and the anguish they felt will never go away. Part of me died all over again when I saw that, and I know those guys would give anything to get rid of that anguish.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Five years On

Where were you on 9/11? I was 95 miles north, in Kingston, NY. A friend's brother was in the Pentagon when it got hit. I knew a person in the WTC who was killed. Everyone from my area knew at least someone who was.

Why did it happen? Well, there are many reasons as well as theories. Basically, it was a long list of factors. No one is entirely to blame, no one is free of blame. The CIA was hunting terrorists in the 90's, especially after the embassy bombings in Africa. Then the funding was cut, and the programs died. More of the same followed.

I think it's unreasonable for the American public to think that we do and should follow the rules when we have terror suspects in custody. I mean, if someone is captured in a firefight with US forces, and has tapes and letters connecting them to a terrorist organization, then why not torture them? They'd do the same to us. You need to bring a gun to a knife fight is all I'm saying.

Oh, and to anyone who thinks we didn't shoot down the plane over PA, examine the evidence. Find out what happens when a plane depressurizes quickly, or ask yourself how an F-16 couldn't get to the plane in time from the DC area after it was scrambled. Do the math, and then read the phone transcripts from the passengers who called the ground. Connect it all together and ask yourself what happened. An F-16 at nearly full throttle could easily have vectored in.

However, what have we learned? This is becoming a religious war. It will take generations to end if the hatred can be bred out. Don't hold your breath.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Shhh, it's a secret

Ok, so I have both my bikes back together. Finally. Horse is back up and running, and run he did tonight. Too bad I let him down. I went to the Thursday night crit series here in town. I did my first race, and it was fast, but not too bad. Since I hadn't ridden at all since Sunday, I was happy to stay with the field.

In the end I finished somwhere from probably 15th to 20th. Then I did my second race and it was about the fastest race I've done in a few years. I dropped off the pace about halfway through. But at least it was good training, I felt ok other than a lack of miles, and I made a few new friends. Plus I got to feel out horse after a rebuild, and I learned the course. So next time I have a Thursday off, I'll be there.

I ended up meeting a guy from Syracuse, NY, and even funnier is the fact that he's best friends with an ex-girlfriend's husband. Small world. So we exchanged email addresses so I can be kept informed of all the local hot spots to race at, etc. Did I mention that there's a free barbecue afterwards? Yes, there is. So I'm all happy about that.

Speaking of food, I'm beginning the cutback of food I need to do, and am going to try and implement a somewhat structured training regimen so I can not embarass myself. At least I haven't had to deal with the dreaded "I remember you from way back, you were really good, what happened?" but I'm sure that question is skulking about.

Do I have anything else to add? Not much, except that I've dealt with some UT students lately and they need to get over their egos and the notion their school is as good as an ivy league school. It isn't. It's a great, well respected university, no doubt, but not ivy league. Funny how if you check out any UT student's blog or hear them speak, they always preface sentences with "Here at UT", or "At UT", etc. Not "At school today" or "In class". To be honest, most people and places care less where you go to school, they just want to see you can play the game, pay yuour dues, and get a diploma, to prove you work well with others.

Lastly, before I left I had a fascinating discussion with a rep for a sports drink company. Oddly enough, I understood all of what he was saying, even with the organic chemistry, nutrion physiology, and other scientific stuff. Maybe our brains change as we do, and what was once abstract is now easy to understand to us. Just don't ask me to multiply or divide fractions, but if you need a drag coefficient and torque and power curves, I'm your guy.

Oh, and my parents celebrated their 40th anniversary this past Monday. It's an achievement that's definitely worth noting in my mind, and I'm happy and proud. Later.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Hmmm, isn't it funny how many times reality is different from expectations? The story of my life. Being married has far exceeded all my expectations. Austin is better than I expected, but things like traffic and the lack of truly quiet rural roads anywhere near the city is a mild letdown. But I've found other places to ride that make up for it.

So we shift to my latest project. I tore down Horse, and used the shifters from him to build up my Specialized Allez. So after all is said and done, Horse weighed 21.25 lbs in his last state, which is quite heavy. One of the guys at work rides a BMC which is 14.5 lbs., so you can see how much of a disadvantage I was at. Anyway, I spent a lot of time on this other bike, Jack O Lantern. Being aluminum, I thought it would be quite light. Today I rode it to work and weighed it, and it weighs 20.25 lbs. What !!?!! Ok, I can get the weight down some by throwing a carbon seatpost in, a lighter seat, a carbon stem and bars, but after that it's pretty much impossible to lighten this bike much more.

Now Horse is on the stand to be rebuilt in a lighter version. We'll see how that goes. I really should be more concerned with getting down to the weight I was in late May than trying to pare off weight from my bikes. Cheaper, too.