Rants on Cycling and on Life


Off to Snowshoe....
I am out of bed, coffee is brewing, time to walk the dogs
while I walk the dogs I will run through a mental checklist of what I best not forget....
bikes...lights...many changes of cycling gear...several pairs of shoe...two helmets
it seems so easy!
all I need is multiples of what I would need to ride
but something vital can easily be overlooked
when the coffee finishes brewing and I take that first morning sip
then my mind will think more clearly
I am off...
wish me luck!
think dry!
and if your feel the need to know how the race is going for me and for others, Granny Gear has REAL TIME RESULTS

hope my bike and body hold up!
this is the equivelant of many races in one weekend
if it is dry I expect to do roughly 5 laps
which would be the basic equivelant of doing 5 races in 24 Hours!


check this out


Absynthe and Gripe Water
When Dean was a baby, which seems like many lifetimes ago when it is actually days longer than three years, we delt with his pain, his discomfort, and his tears. Everyone but the doctors said that he had colic, I thought he was just hungry. One product that we found that had moderately good results was something called GRIPE WATER. It was a great little natural product....don't recall what it was...maybe pickle juice or something just as odd. But it was banned and unavailable most everywhere. We searched everywhere for it, even the stores in Chinatown that sell Elk Antlers and Tiger bones as afrodesiacs did not have this BANNED product. I ended up buying it from an Indian Market that had an online store that was based in London....then later we found the product in other similar markets in the states including the 'bodegas' in my neighborhood. No one knows why this product worked, but for us it was the Medicine Show! And the bottle itself had that Medicine Show feel. Seems that we often think that our cures rest in a bottle; whether it be for our baby or for our cars...head over to Track Auto and take a look. There is an isle at Track auto that has a bottle or a can that claims it can cure most any issue a car can have....flat problem.....knocking and pinging...easy.....leaky radiator...try isle 6.....the list is endless....
the sad reality....
The answers are not in these bottles. There is no resolve here. Perhaps a temporary solution, but definitely not a cure. Time and growth cured Dean's stomach pain.....not the Medicine Show. (but it did help him to calm down and stop crying)

Anise/Anis, Absynthe, and Wormwood
Last week my father and his wife (my step-mother, joyce) went out of town for a wedding. The timing was perfect, they needed someone to watch the dog and we wanted to use their swimming pool and backyard for Dean's 3rd birthday party. On one of the nights before the party I was spending the night there and watching their black lab, Max. Max and I had settled down for a DVD and I thought that if I was going to watch, "Blazing Saddles" I better have a beverage in front of me. The basement has a closet that has been modified into a liquor cabinet, a well stocked liquor cabinet. With the doors open wide the choices seemed endless. Without much thought I went with my initial inclination that a red wine would suit my mood best. So I grabbed a bottle or red, accessed the label, checked the year, and thought " is red...this will do." Went upstairs to grab and opener. Immediately things did not seem right. The cork was dry and crumbly, the bottle had been left in the upright position; the cork was damaged and the wine was ruined. I took a sip and poured the vinigar scented sediment filled bottle down the drain. Had I been camping this bottle would have suited fine, but I was in my parent's house in Bethesda, no need to rough it. Then back to the basement to grab another bottle of wine. As I opened the doors to the liquor cabinet my attention was drawn away from the wine to a few bottles at eye level...there right before my eyes was a bottle of Absynthe and a bottle of Anis. I grabbed the Anis and headed back upstairs for the right glass and a few cubes of ice.
I followed the mixture instructions loosely and poured a 1 to 5 mixture of Anis to Water with a few cubes of ice. The cloudy concoction was had a bold licorice flavor....smooth! It numbed my teeth. I had a few glasses and laughed my way through a Mel Brooks comedy that still has me questioning what makes that film a classic. I could appreciate that they really backed this movie with a budget and played it straight like it was a real western, but I did find the plot to be a tad thin. I killed the power and drifted off to sleep with a sense of satisfaction that I had finally seen the film classic Blazing Saddles in its entirety. No longer did I feel left out from all of those playground conversations in grade school where the children replayed their favorite scenes.
That night I had a very odd night of dreams. I may have drifted off to sleep before the effects of the alcohol wore off. What I drempt I can not recall, but I do recall that it was very disorienting to wake up in the dark basement of my parent's house. I glanced at my watch and discovered that I had failed in setting the alarm correctly. It was 8:30, an hour later than I had planned. Life is different without the sunlight and a 3 years old son to wake you up before 7 each morning. Rather than leaping out of bed in the classic Dagwood Bumstead panic I went ahead and accepted that I was going to be a tad late and got up and walked the dog.
It was interesting.....for as drunk as I got I was not in the least bit hung over.
This was the miracle drink. It was going to travel home with me.
Here it is a week later and I have nearly finished this bottle.
Today when Chinese carry out from Mei Wah was not ready I thought I would kill some time in the liquor store along side of the chinese restaurant. They did not have the Richard's Anis product I was looking for, they did have an Absynthe product I have tried before, but it is not Absynthe, just an Absynthe product, it does do the job, this package even came with a nifty Absynthe Spoon. I talked with the well informed sales people in the store and they assured me that such a product is illegal in the states and would not be found locally....
The long and the short of it....
good thing my dad has never been much of a drinker and will not miss this bottle
I better have him get me another bottle next time he is in France
cause I need to have some for backup the next time I want to have a special toast for a special occasion
an occasion more special then Blazing Saddles film in Technicolor

amendment: I have only been to that one liquor store in search of this product, but I am confident that there should be an assortment of Anis products and quasi-Absynthe products available in the states....but the real drinks derived from Wormwood.....that is what I seek and have yet to find.



very odd
very very odd
I had this beautiful little piece about reading to my son and blogging about bikes
it was stream of consciousness
oh well, the electronic world and its wonderful glitches washed it away.
in any case
I was checking out and catching up with the words and images (more images than usual all images worth a look and a reservoir of links well worth checking out)
after viewing a long list of thought provoking images I caught a glimpse of the links
and along side a link to me, gwadzilla, was the word FRESH!

with the attention drawn to me
I return the favor
check this out


(although the link has been there all along under Bikes and Blogs)
so bikes and blogs equals

Abusive Bosses...
Years ago I worked at Big Wheel Bikes.
It is an interesting shop, as all bike shops can be. But this one is a little different. The multi-shop owner Mike Sendar is a total character, and often a bit of an asshole. There is a NY TIMES ARTICLE that discusses research about such "bullying bosses" and also their second in command who adopts the same behavior, which in this case would be the Arlington Store manager, Mike. I worked for Sendar on and off again for a couple of years, it was like one of those late teens/early 20's dating relationships. You know the ones....the ones were the couple keeps falling back into the arms of the other, knowing that they do not want to be there, but feels that it is better to be with someone rather than to be alone and at least they are getting laid. Well, Big Wheel offered me that same similar security, except not in dating, but in the world of employment. Is that metaphor too flimsy for ya? Are you stuck on thinking that I was dating Mike Sendar? PLEEEAAAASSSE!
In any time at Big Wheel was a colorful time. Not the most productive, but it had its flavor. I worked hard and did a good job, but kept getting slammed by the boss. Sort of like a big dumb labrador retriever who keeps bringing his master his slippers, only to be slammed upside the head with the newspaper on each approach. Then rather than biting the master or running away, this big dumb lab just stood there wagging his tail.

For those who don't know about Big Wheel Bikes, ask a friend....I am sure that someone has a story about being screwed by Big Wheel or having Sendar take their money and slam the door right in their face.
Funny thing....for those not in the bike world there is a similar book store in DC and the surrounding area, Second Story Books. This used book store employed all sorts of indy rockers for years and years long before there was even the term indy rockers. The employer treats his employees in a similar fashion and runs his stores in a similar manor....and Mike Sendar is this shop owners lawyer. Birds of a feather?


explain why I am pissed (or is that pist?)

Several years ago, and this one is easier to estimate, some of the facts may be blurred or confused as life has gone through some changes. But it was the weekend before the wedding and this year was our fourth anniversary, well last year in October 2003, so that means 1999 I was in Moab Utah racing the granny gear 24 hour event out there. I was teamed up with a fireman from Idaho and a well traveled east coaster who had been out in california for so long that the east coast was almost all washed out of him....well almost. The fourth rider on our clydesdale team was the only racer I had not raced with before, well, had not raced with on the same I met him in California at the 24 Hours of Donner Pass where we camped and raced along side of each other. This racer, Greg, had never been considered as a race partner before, it had nothing to do with speed or personality. Greg was plenty fast as well as way cool to ride and hang with, but he was definitely not a clydesdale.....he was not even a clydesdale for his height. The race team was put together on short notice, and not knowing anyone in Utah, well, not knowing any fast fun clydesdales ready to race, it made more sense to ride with someone we knew. And Kurt the well traveled san franciso kid, well....39 years young, had been spending a fair amount in Downieville riding and hanging with Downieville local/shop owner/shuttle bus runner/and fast riding dad aka greg. We all came out to the race days early. It was a party. Kurt had traveled from SF with his pigtail wearing girlfriend and seasoned 24 hour racer, Michelle. While Aaron drove in from from Idaho picking me up in his little japanesse truck at the Salt Lake City airport. Aaron's dog Auger rode on my lap, there was a third passanger, but not sure if he slept or rode in the back of flatbed. But once his presence was know.....HIS PRESENCE WAS KNOWN. This kid was pumped. He was riding and racing some Cezch frame as a single speed.
It was quite a gathering. Great riding and great friends. Good times all the way down to the food. Whether we were going out for pasta or hanging in at the camp ground.....

We were all having so much fun. The race was important, but a good deal of it was background noise. Had we been taking it seriously, well, we would have been freaking out. All the shopping for certain parts or shoes, hanging out while the pumped single speeder from Boise trades forks with me, as the Judy SL was not just blown out, but it was not Clydesdale worth. This kid, Jake, which was his full name much like Cher or Madonna go by one name. Picture him. Hold that image. And think fast and fun! Okay
You got him. In the right situation he is awesome....and riding/racing/and hanging is the right situation.

enough with this wandering rant
seems that this cloudy glass of Annis is going to my head

the circular story was supposed to be leading down a path of a shot gun start in Moab Utah, riders running to their bikes leaving behind them a cloud of dust....a cloud of dust and one lone rider tailing behind. Trailing behind moving on one leg with the aid of crutches. This image was supposed to be carried from the deserts of Utah to the wooded mountains of West Virginia. Where in these lush green woods of West Virginia, where the trail was a path of slick rocks and slick roots, separated by mud, deep mud. The roots had gone beyond slick from moisture, enough riders/racers had crossed the roots to tear off the semi textured bark, leaving behind the pale white/green inner rooted.
While off the bike lugging my knobby wheeled bike through a textbook hike-a-bike section I gained ground on another rider. Riding the unridable previously described terrain. I marched with long strides moving faster on foot than I could mounted on the bike crashing every 3 feet and then remounting again.
As I get closer the image becomes more clear.
The racer is riding with one leg.
He is slow and precise, more cross country than trials, moving forward all the time.
When he crashed it was like Q-bert bounding around on his spring like body. USing his bike to stabalize his balance and hanging on till the last second, never wanting to dismount his bike.
We spoke as strangers on night laps often do.
What amazed me was not his miracular riding, but his positive attitude. I am healthy and whole, yet I am not this positive.
Actually I am pissed!
Why am I pissed?
What is my damage? Where does this anger stem from? I am too old to be PUNK ROCK! Actually it is not 1977, so the time does not all anyone to be punk rock, even the mall rat walking out of the salon with his green mohawk as his mother pays the cashier and tips the stylist, even that kid does not get to be punk.
I travel with him and we exchange tales, well, I probe him with questions.

And he delivers answers.
The talk goes from the classic mountainbiker exchange as we discussed our bikes of choice. Two bikes ranked very similarly.
The Rocky mountain bikzzard and Voodoo Bizango...equally rated steel hardtails.
I learn from his words that he works for Voodoo and lost his leg in a motorcycle accident.
No Whinning.
No Complaints.
No Excuses.
Just the facts.
He did not give anyone the finger.
why am I pist? why do I give the world the finger?
with all that I have
why do I wake up angry?

enough with this rant
that is where it was supposed to go
but the path to get there was so long
that I lost the energy and focus to direct my idea

but maybe I need to wake up each morning and borrow the copeing techniques of Stewart Smally
because....I am good enough....and I like myself and my family likes me
even my dogs like me

not sure if anyone likes my tales/sagas/flashbacks whatever you want to call them
but I do want to make it clear
I am not some character hanging out saying, "back in the day..."
after all, TODAY IS THE DAY!
this is not what I am trying to do
nor do I think I am a thick skulled marlin brando type laying back and saying, "I could have been a contender"
there are people faster and stronger
there will also be people faster and stronger
it is not that I am so great
it is that I have such a good time doing it
it is all about biking
and biking
biking is all about living
biking makes me feel alive
and keeps me sane
well more sane
or at least less insane

Flashback: Canaan 199something

I can not recall the exact year, but I am sure I have a glow in the dark Frisbee (excuse me....flying disc, not the registered trademarked product Frisbee from Whamo) that tells the year. Without the glow-in-the-dark Frisbee I can still was before Snowshoe, I was not on a Clydesdale team, and although the industry had them...I had no idea what suspension or clipless pedal were. Part of this was ignorance, part was economics, and another part was just poor old stubbornness.
Concepts of training were as foreign as homework was to me in school. People cheered rigid as I rode rocky, rooted, off camber trails on a 19 inch Bianchi grizzly. I did not know that "rigid rules" as I did not know the comparision. My bike fit was so small that it was easier to abandon as I flew over the handlebars or got tossed to the side. I am not sure how, but somehow a few friends talked me into this madness of my first 24 hour mountainbike relay. Sure I had raced before....but with a 10 watt headlamp on my helmet! That was a whole nother level....thank goodness for the Cateye battery operated handlebar mounted light for backup! That is almost enough light to shine on your foot so you can tie your shoe...but you better know where your foot is to point it there, cause that is not really enough light for anything more serious. Candles in hurricane lamps would be a sufficient surrogate. At this race we learned friendship and camaraderie, and not just with our own team, but with the other racers and with the spectators.
My lap times were vague, but such things were vague in my mind across the board back then. I battled my spirit and I battled my will, what I did not have in experience/training I made up for in heart. And a little luck flavored with some pigheadedness....crashing at high speed into trees was just something I had accepted as part of mountainbiking....there was no other way to go fast for me. Braking power was too weak to do anything but decelerate. And if you doubt me, think this discs kick v-brakes ass, but the v-brake kicked the cantis ass twice. So as great as cantis are over ain't much. But in some ways that was to the rider's advantage...the rider was commited and the rider had momentum. If you were going down....better hang on....cause there is no stopping you! well, nothing to stop you other than the tree directly in front of you.

On a late morning lap as the sun was coming over the horizon there was a mist in the lap was coming to a close and so was my contribution to the race or maybe I had one more lap, but the specifics are vague. Excitement ran through me as the night was behind me and so was this lap. It was the last off camber loose rock downhill. I had hike-a-biked a short section of rocks that suited a trials rider better than an unseasoned racer with a Clydesdale build. But not too far into the rock garden my bike was off my shoulder and I was lifting my leg over the saddle. Then marching up the hillside I saw a man dragging his bike up the hill, without covering the trail he was working his way to the top. With closer inspection I could see a bugle in his pack, I recalled seeing him the night prior...he had invited himself to play with the band that was playing some jam band country/blues cover type stuff. He worked it and he worked it right in. So I asked as I mounted my bike, "so bugler can you play me a tune" and he paused, rested his bike and pulled out the bugle, which could have been a trumpet but the memory of this is also too faded to remember. Perhaps he worked the keys or just moistened up the mouthpiece again specifics are vague. This gave me enough time to mount my bike, put my foot into my toe clip, access the trail ahead, and begin peddling. My energy of the morning was being given a turbo boost bugler style. Then just as I started to think I was cool...WHAM!!!!!.....slam on the loose rocks. The music stopped, my bugler or perhaps trumpeter pulled his brass instrument from his face and spoke, "well, are you going to ride? I am not playing for free." With that added inspiration I was back on the bike, foot was in the toe strap, and I was peddling. The music grew fainter and fainter, my smile grew larger and larger, the light got brighter and brighter as I rode out of the woods into the START/FINISH pitt with REVELRY taking me all the way there! The power of his music gave me the added push to rock and roll through the last miles of the course with the greatest of ease.

here is a race report that I sent to my team mates on the City Bikes Mountain Bike
it may not be the most dramatic or exciting report
maybe I will get more try to put a more creative spin on it later
Race Report: Cranky Monkey #1 at Wakefield

2004 is the Year of the Monkey!
And not just for those of Chinese descent, but for me as well.
Early in 2004 I bought a Surly Karate Monkey and had it built it up as a rigid single speed. After riding and racing the 29 inch wheel bike I felt that I had finally found a bicycle that fits me. The 22 inch frame is part of the equation, but the 29 inch wheels are the "clincher." With the 24 Hours of Snowshoe rapidly approaching I had considered making some upgrades to my Rocky Mountain Blizzard, this bike which is a few years old is in deep need of some TLC; some vitals included new bottom bracket, handlebars, new cables and was also thinking that I would upgrade the well used v-brakes to disc, well, disc in the front which would also merit the purchase of a new wheel. The initial inclination was to buy an inexpensive steel bike out of a box, Jamis has some great bikes with some solid features and I have a good deal through City Bikes. Lucky for me the bike I wanted with the parts I needed was not available, thus causing me to rethink my needs/direction. Then the Monkey to surface. After some discussion back and forth with friends and resources around the country I went ahead and called Mike at the Chevy Chase store. HE HOOKED ME UP! It did not seem like all of this could happen two weeks before the 24 Hours of Snowshoe, but he it did. He said he would...he said he could....and he did....and for that I am beyond grateful. THE MONKEY HAS LANDED! Landed with plenty of time to break things in. Made the inaugural dirt voyage at this Cranky Monkey race at Wakefield. All those hours of stress and fear that the bike would not arrive in time are forgotten, now my heart rate can concentrate on the race and the long climbs instead of whether my bike is ready or if it will hold up for one more race/ride.

I had the original intention of heading off to Delaware for the Fairhill Classic, lucky for me I did not take that drive as that race is not till the 18th of next month. It was not clear if I was going to race or just going to ride on this Father's day Sunday, but as we celebrated my older son Dean's 3rd birthday at my father's pool I got to talking with two other City Bikes Team members; my brother Marc and Dave Vannier. They were both planning on racing at Wakefield. So I opted to follow their lead, local and close is the family man's way to go (especially if it is the only way to go.) The Cranky Monkey did not offer a Clydesdale Class so I went with the Experts. This being a smaller local race without any climbs I figured I would get my money's worth and race the greater distance. After all, someone needs to be last and why not let that person be me. This is not to say that in the future on a different course with a more competitive field I will not drop back down to Sport.

The Cranky Monkey had a good showing and City Bikes was well represented, with a handful of racers in the single speed category and Joe Foley bumping up to Sport. My brother Marc also lined up in the Expert category as well did some other riders/racer friends of mine that I knew I was similar skill as; so I did not feel entirely out of place in this class on this course this day. At the line up all the racers chatted as the morning sun started to bake our skin. The prerace anxiety was a tad less than usual because on this day my experience was more about riding my new bike hard rather than racing and placing. Clydesdale is more my class than sport or expert, so to me there is a little less on the line when I am not racing my fellow big boys. Eventually the race started. There had been a long drawn out description of watch out for this and avoid that and remember to turn here and not to turn there, but as I have not ridden the course before it would be a waste of my energy to try and memorize these recommendations, more than likely I would be asking myself, "is this where I stay right when the beaten trail goes left?" So I opted to follow the racers in front of me and look out for arrows marking the trail. The 15 mile expert class was going to be a three lap race, sending the racers up a gravel hill towards the singletrack. As to be expected it was a tight in the single track, which ease was not aided by some moisture from rain some days prior. I managed to crash several times, at the same point on the course during lap one and lap two, but wiser on lap three. There were some tight turns on some wet roots, not sure if less tire pressure would have helped me maintain balance. Tire pressure is a riddle that I have yet to figure out.....took me years to combat the snake bite, now I have to learn about traction. This PSI thing may be a balance that I will never learn.

The Monkey treated me well. The large frame and the large wheels are a different ride and it may take a few more hours of riding to get accustom to the demands of a 29 inch wheel machine and what it has to offer. Keep in mind that even if the 21 inch bike with 26 inch wheels was an improper fit, it is the only fit that I have known for all my years of riding. A good metaphor for the move from 26 inch wheel bike to the 29 inch wheel bike may be the idea of going from a 164cm snowboard to a 174 cm. Sure on the flats and the wide open the may be some speed advantages, while it may take some learning to maneuver in the tighter more winding sections (ie the bumps) Sure this longer board may land airs with greater stability, but the increased size will add more weight so getting into the air may be more of a challenge. There was a great deal of stop and go, a tall bike with wide bars can be difficult in the tighter sections of single track. The wet roots were a barrier for all. I am sure that I am not the only person who slide out on certain corners. I could feel the taller wheels rolled through some sand and mud just like the reviews said, but only with momentum. Without momentum this bike can stop dead without touching the brakes. The bike climbed well enough, but there were no real climbs to really test the geometry/positioning and whether or not the heavy bike would be an issue going up the climbs. In the end it is a good fitting bike and not all that different from a 26 inch wheeled bike, other than a more comfortable fit. On this bike I managed to ride and race with moderate success and very little disappointment. Am I significantly faster on the bike with taller wheels? Perhaps not, but a new bike with any sized wheels will ride better with the well lubed and finely tuned parts. The bike held up well and I feel confident that it will treat me well at the 24 Hours of Snowshoe this weekend. So confident that I will be traveling to Snowshoe with my two Karate Monkeys, leaving the Rocky Mountain Blizzard at home. It is a tad sad, I do not want to abandon the Blizzard, but it may be time to say goodbye. I knew the time would come, but I never thought that I would leave the Blizzard for another hardtail, not to mention a big burley 29 inch hardtail.

you want results?

Cicadas and Popcorn
I am not trying to be the next Dave Berry, sure I do like to waste my time and others by discussing some of the humorous circumstances of life. Yes, I can appear to be a tad Seinfeld-esque when I drag on endlessly about how calf high socks are too much material and that we should all wear ankle length socks unless we it is cold or we need the fabric to hold in shin guards while playing soccer. As the harmonic drone of the 17 year cicada is a faint memory we have found the hype of the cicada to be as unnecessary as the prep for the Y2K Bug. Although I do miss the loud background noise of the cicada, it sounded like the mothership was calling me home.
The other day as I was rolling down the Capital Crescent trail on the new Karate Monkey with gears with dean tucked in the trailer in tow I had the pleasure of witnessing a bird snatch a cicada out of the sky just feet in front of my eyes. It was a visual opportunity of a lifetime. The bird was gliding in along side of me and then accelerated in on the cicada, meeting at the point of intersection dead center right in front of me, yet not so close to cause me to panic and crash my bike. It was then that I thought about what this bird was going through. A month ago this bird and all of its bird friends had all the cicadas they wanted.....more cicadas then they ever thought they could ever consume. They may have enjoyed the taste and texture of the first couple cicadas, but then after a while there were just so many cicadas that they just gorged themselves. But now that the cicadas are nearly gone they are searching far and wide for a fresh little morsel. The once over looked scraps are being snatched up and picked at, and a fresh live cicada flying clumsily through the air...well that is a delicacy.
How is this like popcorn?
It is not uncommon to go to the movies and purchase an absurdly large barrel of popcorn, so much that I could never imagine eating it all. The theater grows dark and I sample a few lone pieces of popcorn, savoring the flavor. Then as the first preview is ending and the next is beginning I find that I have moved from a few popped kernels, to handfuls, mouthfuls, and soon stomachfuls, then after the 4th preview and the alledgely tasteful product advertisement the feature presentation is beginning. At this point my barrel is nearly empty, my belly is full, and I am scouring the bottom of the barrel looking for fragments of the popped corn and risking breaking a molar crunching on a less than desirable unpopped popcorn kernel. That is how popcorn and cicadas are similar, not how they both taste better with Old Bay.