Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why do Scottish men wear kilts?

Because sheep can hear a zipper drop from a mile away.

That is the only Scottish joke I have ever heard, but damned if I now understand why. There are more sheep here than women, at least from what I've seen so far. Ok, no more beastiality jokes.

After a kickass weekend of riding in blustery winter conditions, I hopped on the red-eye flight to Edinburgh via Frankfurt. Surprisingly, the snow storm blowing into Philly didn't delay the flight too badly. Aside from the de-icing fluid they sprayed in the ventilation air intake, it was an uneventful and easy flight out. That de-icer sure sucks to breathe in though.

We are staying and working around Dumfries Scotland. It is beautiful here, and I am trying to take pictures, but who knows how they will turn out. We are actually staying at a hotel on a college campus that was formerly an 19th century insane asylum.

Sadly, my associates that I am traveling with are more excited about the hotel bar then exploring the local area, so my exposure has been limited to the 2 hour drive from the airport and to a run I went on yesterday. Speaking of driving, it is very unsettling being on the left side of the road, and my associate doing the driving is neither comfortable nor skilled at the task. The worst part is, there is no shoulder anywhere, I don't know how or where people ride their bikes. Maybe this is why there are no famous Scottish road cyclists.

Work is going well, travel is good and bad at the same time, I apologize for the shitty entry, but the food here is wreaking havoc on my guts.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mile 114

Tonight I took part in New Ark's Critical Mass bicycle ride. I must say, it was overall a very delightful experience. Pictures here: picasaweb.google.com/forty15/CriticalMass.

In my past life, I took part in the Albany NY Critical Mass, and was left with very mixed emotions. I do truly like the ideals for which CM rides stand: bike equality, cyclist rights, "share the road", bikes as viable forms of transportation, community togetherness, etc. It is also amazingly freeing and fun to ride at a slow parade pace through a nice city. The roads are so wide when there are no cars with which to compete. It's kind of like when Kramer paints over the white lines on the highway. "Ah, you know how in planes they got first class? More leg room, better ride? Well, I'm bringing that concept to mile one-fourteen."

Sunset stroll 3 lanes wide.

However, some CM riders use the monthly ride as a way to get back at that car that took the right turn in front of them or pushed them off the shoulder a week earlier. They use it as a tool to oppress the motorist. Singling out individual drivers and going out of one's way to make their life even more miserable, after they are probably already annoyed about the hold up of bikes blocking traffic will not improve cycling's image. That SUV driver you just pissed off is probably going to take his anger out on the next solo cyclist they see on a country road. Not cool. I must admit, the rebellion and idea of pissing off some prick in his H2 is appealing, but it's a fine line when it could mean someone's life down the line.

Singling out one car is not helping anybody's cause.

Critical Mass should be a celebration, not a castigation. Same roads, same rights, same rules. It's a two way street, if you want respect from car drivers, you've got to do the same in return. Obey traffic laws, take your lane, but no more. Inform drivers of the true meaning of the event. Smile, cheer, wave. Invite drivers, pedestrians, gawkers to join next month.

Stopping at red lights. Word.

Albany rides tended to have more mayhem and anger than I witnessed tonight. The ride was a meandering stroll through downtown Newark, along Main, Delaware, Cleveland among others. The laws were mostly obeyed. Red lights were waited upon. It was cold, but everyone was happy to ride. I will probably go back next month. But with flyers to hand out to drivers, standers-by, pedestrians. Invite them, any bike will do.

Cars R Coffins.
Look at all the casualties on the left.


Afterwards, a delightful dinner with E-town, Megan with an H, Jan, Fatmarc, and Chunky Monkey. Fish n' chips, good beer, good laughs, lots of cat bashing. It's a dog's world baby. Tomorrow, a nice ride with some locals up in PA. Hills beware.

Much love.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ice Climbing and Free-Soloing...

Sunday brought me the opportunity to try something new, something I've been putting off for 2 or 3 years now. JF called me at work on Friday and asked if I wanted to go ice climbing with him and his coworker Andy. He assured me Andy was on board for both taking two novices and lending me gear so I could send the ice.

We met up early Sunday morning at Andy's house. Of course, I forgot ALL of my climbing gear, and only remembered the warm clothes. Thankfully Andy had a harness to lend me, and some crampon-compatible boots. We headed up to the Narrows, near Allentown PA and the adventure began.

We realize that it is a 3 or 4 pitch ascent. Sadly, there are 2 sets of axes and crampons for 3 climbers. This means that one lucky climber gets to go ahead on lead, and wrap off a top rope. Climber 2 gets to climb up to Climber 1 and bring back the gear for Climber 3, who is patiently waiting with NO gear - halfway up a 300 foot ice covered gully. Andy was #1, JF was #2, and I was lucky # freezing-my-balls-off-waiting-to-climb.

Climbing the final pitch.

None-the-less, we send the first 2 pitches with no real issue. For the final pitch, a vertical 60 - 70 foot headwall, we decide to drop down a top rope. This involves scrambling up a sketchy walk-around to get to the top of the waterfall. I have never been so sketched out. The footing was decent, but we were unprotected, and one wrong step meant you were taking a 300 foot ride to the bottom, probably in a pool of your own bodily fluids.

We finish the scramble, drop a top rope, rapel down (Andy without crampons because I was wearing his), and each send the final pitch. It.was.amazing. I felt so lucky to try something so few people on earth ever get to do. Additionally, the view was amazing, the wind was insane, I was surrounded by beautiful blue-white ice, and we were at the mercy of mother nature and our climbing / cold weather gear. I definitely pushed the limits of my fear-o-meter. But once we were in the car again, I forgot about the cold, the waiting, the fear, and thought only of getting that final pitch clean.

Windburn and chapped lips = a good day out.

We did see one guy on the ice free-soloing. He climbed right past us, finished everything but the final pitch, then downclimbed the whole thing. He didn't touch a rope. It just seems so senseless and unnecessary to me. Which brings me to the Michael Reardon talk.

Reardon: Glam ain't dead.

Four of us went to see free-soloist Reardon give a talk on his adventures at UPenn. He is a sick climber. But he also climbs without ropes or any protection. And we are talking thousands of feet off the ground. I was fascinated by this obsession, but also felt my palms start sweating every time he talked about sending a 5.12 1,500 feet off the ground.

My impression of Reardon was that he was arrogant, cocky, and completely talented. He claimed he only climbed "for himself, not to make a statement", but several times completely contradicted himself. Talking about doing a second ascent of Romantic Warrior for National Geographic, and climbing in a Wonder Woman suit to prove a route shouldn't be bolted. I think he wants to convince himself that he is only doing it for himself, but he's had a taste of the drama and he really kinda likes it. Come on, we're talking about a guy who was in a Glam Band. Either way, he's got the skill to back up whatever he says, I just wish he wouldn't say it's only about the climbing... and not the fame.

I really think that free-soloing is pretty dumb, and unnecessary, but he did provide some justification. The best being this: once you get over the fact that if you fall, you're dead, then nothing else matters aside from the rock directly in front of you. It doesn't matter if you're 50 feet up or 500 feet up. You fall, you're dead. So focus on what is directly in front of you. Focus on the moment. Make every move deliberately and thoughtfully. This, to me, is important because it can transfer to every aspect of one's life. Don't get caught up in the past, you can't change that. Don't worry about the future, that is subject to change at any moment. But the NOW, the present, you can control. Every movement and thought is yours.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My other bike is a sled...

Went out last night in Newark to see the Hockers off to NY. It is sad to see them go, but they will be very happy living in Troy, and a little bit of me is jealous that they will be back in the North. After happy hour at the Deer Park, JF, Mike, and myself headed down the street to Klondike Kate's. We walk in, start up the stairs to the upper bar, and JF trips me by grabbing my knee from behind me. I fall back down the stairs and stumble into a couple people. Apparently that is enough to get you kicked out of Kate's. Three ugly mugs carried me out the back door as I laughed my ass off.

Today met up with Paul, Tom, Jan, Lisa (big deal) at the MAC champion household. I pulled my cross bike out of the quiver. It has not been ridden since racing at Reston. It was looking far too shiny since I cleaned and polished it. We decided to do a little snow/road ride. The development we rode from had not been plowed at all, and the snow had packed to an icy sheen. It was a blast slipping and sliding all over the road. I definitely took a spill trying to do a burnout with my rear tire.

Lisa and some blindingly white snow.

We rode for about 2 hours, in and out of the snow and slush. It was a blast, and the highlight was coming home. We passed through Rockford Park in Wilmington and there were a bunch of people sledding. Tom decides to bomb the icy packed sledding hill on his bike, and of course Jan and Paul follow. I have no option at this point, so I point the front wheel down and go. It was bumpy, sketchy, slippery, and awesome. Everyone just stared, and one lady took a picture.

After the ride we hit up Moe's for some tasty burritos, and I got a chance to tell the story about the time I dove across a game of beer pong in just a speedo. Good times. Damn it feels good to be healthy again.

Props to Paul, who set me up with his prototype coffee table. It needs a little love, but some sand paper and urethane should give me a pimp looking table.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

On the mend...

I think I'm finally on the mend. The blood in the phlegm from the violent coughing was really the highlight of my weekend, but that is seemingly in the past. I'm still coughing a little, but feeling much better. Thinking I was on the mend, I decided to go out last night for a few beers, and decided to go climbing today at Go Vertical.

JF had recovered from our whiskey and beer night on the town in Newark, so I gave him a call to see if he wanted to tag along to GV. Hit the road, got to GV and met internet climbing friend Sam. We warmed up on some easy routes, and then did this fun dihedral climb called Beware of the Dirty Sanchez. It was a solid 5.9, and I worked hard to get through it, but sent it on sight. I was thinking, damn, I'm definitely feeling better.

It was all downhill from there. I climbed like SHIT. Floundered on a 5.10 crimpfest, then decided to take it easy and still floundered on some easy 5.6/7 stuff. Whatever, not a big deal, still sick. I didn't realize how much being sick really saps one's energy.

Sam was climbing like the lady pimp she is, and JF was a serious hustla today... the two of them were whooping every 5.10 they tried. It was a pleasure to watch them climb. I just can't wait to be healthy again and be riding my bike. 12 hours of Lodi is coming so soon, and I'm thinking a solo effort might be out of my reach this year. The squarewheels 3 man team may have to make another go at it.

I may be getting healthy... but some people in this world will always be sick: Jesus Camp.

Friday, February 09, 2007

sick.as.a.dog

I feel like someone crapped in my lungs. I've been coughing since Tuesday and the phlegm has spread from my lungs up into my sinuses. So it's two times the fun! I took a 1/2 day at work yesterday, but couldn't today because of a meeting. Lame.

So no riding this weekend. Maybe some climbing, which is good because I have definitely lost a lot of ground there lately. But mostly, the plan is to lay low. Watch some movies. Look at my road bike which is now pimped in a SRAM Force tuxedo. and of course wish I was doing the extended donut ride. Fuckin'-a being sick sucks. But I really have nothing about which to complain. There are much tougher hands dealt to better people than I: www.blizzardd.blogspot.com.

Liz is doing well from what I hear. I wish I could go visit, but I do not want to get her sick. The last thing she needs is a cold. Here's to a speedy recovery, and to having 1.25 lungs that I'm sure will have greater capacity than my 2 lungs by this time next year.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

hipster hunting...

I went up to NYC this past weekend to hang with some friends. It all began when Megan offered me a ticket to see Cat Power play at an opening event for Doug Aitken's Sleepwalkers at MoMA. I was super stoked, and decided to make a full weekend out of it.

Anyway, we got a little pre-gaming on, then headed over to MoMA for the happening. The crowd was very big, very talkative, and very hipster. Tapered jeans, greasy-plastered hair, and vintage duds were the name of the game. MoMA was also serving free booze at this event, which at first seemed like a major bonus.

The event opened with some girl reading from a recent book. I have to admit, it was pretty crappy. The crowd more or less ignored her, which isn't surprising for any opening act. Her piece segued into a kickass percussion ensemble, whose beats increased in intensity until some random cowboy and cowgirl walked out of the crowd and started auctioneering. It sounds nuts, it was nuts, but it was also awesome. They were auctioning imaginary things to the drum beats. Very intense. The crowd still did not quiet down.

Finally, silence from the stage, and Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power - who is known for her extreme stage fright) walks on. She sits at her piano and starts playing, and the crowd just keeps on talking. 4 songs in, and you can barely hear her soft folksy voice over the mellow piano. The crowd didn't give a shit. There were a couple meatheads who yelled from the audience at other crowd members to Shut Up! But it was just as rude as anything else.

Needless to say, Ms. Marshall walked off the stage after 4 songs - I found out later - she was just plain disgusted by the rudeness of the audience. It was a shame. It was quite obvious to me that the hipster crowd was more excited about the show being a "fashion accessory" than they were about seeing some very talented people exhibit their art. I was ashamed to be part of this crowd.

Anyway, it was really cool to see 4 songs, and I had a great time with some old, everlasting friends. Plus we went ice skating in Central Park. Finally winter is here.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Be Content...

I liked Zayne's last post where he quoted Tao te Ching:

Be content with what you have and take joy in the way things are.
When you realize you have all you need, the world belongs to you.
A mantra I could definitely use more often. It is hard though when you look at the pimp bling here: www.cyclingnews.com/cross/2007/jan07/CXworlds07/tech/index.php?id=/tech/2007/features/cross_world_bikes

Just a little taste: