Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cav reachs for the SKY! (and I did too!)

Well. is it any surprise that Cav is the new world champion? I have to say it's well earned...he's on track in just another few years to have the most stage wins in the TDF EVER! Most guys win one or two stages in their lifetime and that makes their career. Cav only wins 3 or 4 (in ONE tour) and everybody thinks he having an off year. I didn't get to watch the worlds tho, as no VS here in the hotel. So I had to read about it at VN (and in the comments on my last post..thanks for the update Rae!) Strange to see Cav in a SKY jersey tho. It's going to be a very odd year coming many drastic changes have been made. Levi with QUICKSTEP??? That just sounds freaky-odd. Are they going to fully support him in the Tour of California? It will be interesting, that's for sure.

So..NOW the party's officially over. But take comfort that they will be having training camps before you can shake a stick, and the Tour Down Under is just around the corner.

As to my own rides, last Thursday I did a totally new ride that was recommended to me by a girl I met on a ride the week before. She called this "THE RIDERS RIDE". It was a canyon called Tunitas Creek, and it goes east off of Hwy 1 up and over Skyline Road. I passed it on that ride whens he told me about it, and I ALMOST deviated from my plan to ride it that day...but in the end I stuck to my plan and finished the loop I had planned (had never done that either). So I parked in Woodside (I park there a lot...both rd and mt bike rides are doable from that spot) and rode up and over Skyline Rd, down La Honda rd, and turned north on Hwy 1 on the coast. 4 miles later there was the turnoff for Tunitas Creek Rd.

Immediately upon turning onto the target road, it was apparent that this was no 'usual' road. It was narrow...barely wide enough for 2 small cars to pass. There were NO lines of any sort painted on this road. And finally, the pavement was in great shape. That is an unusual combination. The first few miles were open terrain with farms and such on either side, widely spaced. And then I came to the redwoods.

It was like a light-switch was turned...a DOOR into the forest. There was a line of enormous redwoods marking the start of the good stuff...and I didn't have my camera! (I forgot it in my mt bike gear). The road went from sunny to dark and damp far beneath the redwood canopy. The creek was babbling along far below the road, as it was cut into the side of the valley following the contours of the creek. I had to stop and take off my sunglasses and iPod (I typically ride with earphones and only actually listen to them on the climbs). It was immediately apparent that listening to music on this climb would be tantamount to sacrilegious. The sunglasses were totally useless as it was quite dark until your eyes got used to the meager light making it's way thru the trees. And it tuns out you don't want anything blocking your vision here.  It was by far, BY FAR, the single most amazing piece of road I've ever ridden. If you were to custom design a piece of road for a bike, this is what you would strive for.

The climb was quite gentle at first, probably around 3 or 4% grade for about a third of the climb. But gentle grade or not, there was no 'racing' up this climb. I was spinning easy, just trying to take it all in. Looking down to the creek below, deep in the shadows you could see mighty fallen redwoods from centuries past, buried beneath eons of dirt and debris from what must have been tidal flooding going down the mountain. Pools and waterfalls (if there were more water) would be quite abundant. It was rugged and beautiful to watch. And looking uphill, just steep rugged terrain suitable only for animals. I'd imagine the deer and other forest animals do quite well in here. Even with a road going right thru it, I'd say it's still nearly wilderness. If you were to go hiking, you wouldn't get too far from the road in the steep hillside. Just cutting this road must have been an enormous undertaking.

And then the road got steep. It suddenly jumped to around 9 to 11% grade. Switchbacks were STEEP. All of a sudden I was working pretty hard just to keep moving. And all the while, the earthy aromas were almost overwhelming. And the quiet. I must have stopped 7 or 8 times just to look and listen. I think I saw maybe 3 cars the entire climb. And 2 motorcycles...but they were parked on a turn and were gawking at the awesomeness of the road just as I was. The words "magnificent, grandeur, splendor, magical" all come to mind and would not be overstating the beauty of this road. I can't WAIT to go back and ride it again...this time I'll go down and up, rather than a loop. I want to see this road from both directions, and may even do it a 2nd time if I have enough water. It's that good. I'd say it is a road that should be on the bucket list of EVERY road rider. The girl who told me about it said the Tour of California went up it one year....I didn't know that (and can't imagine the peleton going up this...I have to think they must have 'backed it down' a notch or 2 for the's not every day they ride a road like THIS!)

And after about a mile or 2 (or seemingly 7) of this STEEP climbing, it suddenly eases back to like it was at the start. You are fooled into thinking you are at the top...and fooled, and fooled so me more. It just cruises at about 3% grade for another 2 miles or so....all still quite beautiful, and it's just like the climb won't ever end (which is good, because you don't WANT it to end). And sadly, it does indeed end. You are back at Skyline Rd. At an intersection I've passed DOZENS of times...MANY DOZENS of times. And I NEVER had an inkling at what lies just across the highway....I've always turned right and gone down to Purisima Creek Redwoods. Amazing that it only took 7 or 8 years for me to find this ride! I guess that means that I need to turn a new direction in life now and then and see what's there. It might be totally amazing!

Anyway...I am still reeling in the awesomeness of this road. However I am riding Mt Hamilton tomorrow (Monday) it's ALSO on my bucket list. It's a big climb I hear...over 4000' I've been told...we'll see how it ranks with Figueroa Mt down in my neck of the woods.

On Saturday I did a Mt bike ride at Stevens Creek...I did this same ride as one of my very first mt bike rides up here many years back. It was a great ride, and at the summit of Black Mt, there was a coyote just hanging out. As I approached, he didn't' even acknowledge my presence...he was focused on catching a mouse or something. I stopped barely 5' from him, and he snagged whatever it was he was after and gobbled it down, then moseyed on by me on the double-track...passing about 2' from me. I took a picture as he was standing there, and then after he had passed me (when he was directly beside me I couldn't take the picture as he was too big in my viewfinder! Here are those shots:

He just finished eathing whatever it was he caught by the time I realized he wasn't going to run and I got my camera out.
And here he just loped away down the road like I didn't even exist.He wasn't even the slghtest bit afraid of me. It was rather cool actually.

I've seen some other animals on my rides too..lots of deer. And tbey haven't been very afraid either. On my way back from the Tunitas Creek ride on Thursday, I was descending Kings Mt Rd back into Woodside to finish the ride, and there was a road biker going up but he wasn't looking up the road, or at me...he was looking back at the switchback he had just come out of. I slowed for the turn and there on the inside of the turn was a huge buck, standing right at the edge of the road. If he hadn't moved (and it appeared that way), then the upcoming rider must have passed about a foot or 2 from him. He was at least a 3 point (3 spines on each side of his horns)..he was pretty big, and appeared quite calm.... just standing there as I passed. I was worried he might leap in front of me, but he didn't even blink as far as I could tell. It would be very easy NOT to see him, as deer blend so very well in the dark and shadowed woods. 

On a mt bike ride last week I was also deep in the canopy, and had just got to the bottom of a hill and there was an intersecting trail. I stopped and dug out my map, and had to move about 10 feet up the trail into a tiny sliver of sunlight streaming down thru the trees to actually read the map. I figured out where I was and was just getting ready to ride when I heard a twig snap. I looked around and a doe crossed from my right to left about 15 feet in front of me. I followed her and she stopped...and where she stood (which was also about 15 feet from me) was 3 other deer....2 does and a small buck. They had been there the entire time I was looking at my map, just watching me. If the one hadn't crossed my path I would have had no idea they were there. They are so amazing and beautiful!

OK...enough for tonight. It was a good weekend in MY football cheering section...both Michigan AND the Raiders won...and that seems to be a very rare combination I've discovered. I'm having a pretty good year! But it's off to bed for me...need to catch another hour of sleep before heading in tonight...ride days are always lighter on sleep than non ride days. Have a GREAT week!

Update 9/27/11My Mt Hamilton ride

On Thursday I finally knocked a ride off my bucket list: Mt Hamilton.
Turns out, looking at google maps to figure out where to drive/park doesn't really give you 'the rest of the story'. I did just that and parked at what looked like the edge of the city, heading out towards Mt Hamilton Rd...I was going to ride "Quimby Rd" up to Mt Hamilton Rd. Turns out it I parked at the base of a 11-12+ percent AVERAGE grade for the 3 mile climb, (then it dropped 500' and I was finally on Mt Hamilton Rd)....after that it was all easy! (come of the switchbacks on Quimby showed 16 to 18% was all I could do to keep moving uphill). Who knew my Mt Hamilton ride would START with a climb up Alp d'Huez!
The grade on the 7 miles of Mt Hamilton averaged a paltry 4 to 6 %...quite easy actually, even tho there were many switchbacks. My entire ride ended up at only 30 miles, but I got all of that that 5100' of climbing in that short distance. The weather was perfect, and I think I saw MAYBE 3 cars the entire ride. It was a good day. No, a GREAT day. Here are some pics:

The target: Lick Observatory atop Mt Hamilton

Looking back down

Lick Observatory at the summit, I'm almost there!

Polar altitude profile for the ride, notice how STEEP the opening climb was (that was Quimby Rd)

My shadow enjoying the view from the top

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Have you ever received a 'sign' and didn't heed it, only to learn later that it was indeed a sign and you were foolish to ignore it? I believe in things like that...that we do sometimes get signs. And we just have to be open enough to see them. And then to understand them...that's the real trick. It can be very hard to decipher exactly what you are being told.

On Tuesday I got off work at 6am per normal (I am back on the graveyard shift, and it's going GREAT!) Had breakfast, then a few hours sleep, and got up around 10:30 and started loading up. A quick snack as I'm driving out to the trail head. Which in this case was just outside the village of Woodside CA on Kings Mt Rd at the base of the climb. It's a paved road, and on days when I'm feeling rather energetic, I will park at the bottom and do the road ride up, then do my mt bike ride on the other side which usually entails 2 full climbs back to the top (around 1600' per climb).

I was parked and ready to ride around 11:30am. SWEET! Only it was getting hot already. The forecast was warmer than it has been, but I never know how to figure out how warm it will be in the various places I frequent on my bikes. It's already in the 80's where I'm parked. It could be hotter or cooler on the other side of the mountain...that all depends on the day. So. Initially I put my keys in my pocket as I'm starting to get ready...only I quckly realize that I lost my sunglasses 2 weeks ago from the very same I stow them inside the zipper pouch in my camelback, which is sitting in the back of the SUV (I have a rental Hyundai Santa Fe on this trip). I finish gearing up, hit the 'lock' button on the passenger door and close it. Go to the back and helmet up, sunglasses, MP3 player (for the long climbs)...gloves ...yep, ready to ride. Close the trunk. And INSTANTLY realize my camelback is still sitting just inside the trunk. With the keys. And my cell phone. And my wallet. I am SO SCREWED!

The things that go thru your mind at moments like these....I was SO ticked at myself! HOW could I have been SO STUPID! I am SUCH AN IDIOT! And there I stand, on the side of the road, having a discussion with myself about just how many levels of stupidity it takes to do that, and just how I'm to get out of this dilemma I have so easily immersed myself in. I have a bike. My helmet. There is a town just a few miles away. But I have no wallet. My AAA card is there, mocking me thru the steel of the car. The keys are also laughing. Apparently inanimate objects have a very warped sense of humor. This is not funny in the LEAST I assure you.

I stomp around behind the truck cursing my bad luck, trying to come up with a plan. I left my windows cracked about an inch as it's in the sun and getting hotter by the minute. Maybe I can use that. Modern cars a bit harder to break into then the older ones where a coat hanger slipped down over the lock and pop it alarm...and bam, you are in. But breaking in is the only option I can come up with. So...I wander around and find a stick about the right size. The lock/lock button is facing up thankfully, so if I can get the stick pointing down I should be able to push it and unlock the doors. HA! What a simple plan! I am THE MAN! So..with said stick, I stand on the side of the road jiggling it around trying to get it in JUST the right position, and push down. It keeps sliding's very hard to keep on the flat rocker button (the front is lock, the back is unlock). I try and try, all the while cars are driving by and I figure if someone calls the police, well, that would solve my problem I can prove it's my vehicle once I get inside. I've heard they carry slim-jims and can pop the locks of most cars.

Turns out, the unlock button is disabled once the car is locked and the doors are closed. I guess that makes it turns out I'd been pushing the button down repeatedly. If I move the stick to the front of the rocker switch I can her the locks bump each time, but alas they are already locked. I just can't get them UNLOCKED! RATS. I am NOT the man! So much for that plan...maybe the police will show up soon. But I am not one to give up I stare thru the window, there on the far side of the car on the drivers door is the unlock switch for only that door...the manual lock switch. IF I can get a long enough stick that is skinny enough to get thru the cracked window, AND if I can get it all the way across and in JUST the right spot, I MIGHT be able to flip it backwards and pop the lock. It's worth a try. So I scour the area for a new stick. And scour some more. And then more...I'm a block away from the car (with my bike standing beside my locked car) when I find a dead tree in the middle of a bunch of poison oak and thistles and such. I wade in as I NEED that stick. I break off one that looks about right, and wade out with my treasure. My legs are chewed up a bit, and I also chewed up my hands some getting said branch free from the tree...turns out it wasn't quite dead yet and put up quite a fight.

So...back at my car, I take a moment to peer at my now quite uncomfortable socks...seems I've picked up about a thousand "Klingons" in the bramble (Kling-ons are what I call the stickers and such that get stuck in your socks and have to be picked out one by one before going in the laundry). No time for Klingons now...I have to break into my car. And so...yes, the stick is too fat at the one end. But it's the only stick in town. I pull down on the window and maybe eek out another quarter inch of will have to do. I jam the stick rough measurement was goes thru to the door and sticks out the window just a few inches...however it's REALLY wedged in the window as it's too big. It also has a curve to it, and is QUITE the job to maneuver the other end about 5 feet away into a tiny slot where I have a chance to jimmy the lock. And still cars are driving by. Maybe it's bike is lying there, and I'm dressed in cycling gear...and I have a giant stick inside my car as I invent new cuss words and try to get that blasted end in that tiny little spot.

But finally...I am THE MAN once again! I got it in just the right spot, and with a quick move I popped the lever and the door is unlocked! VICTORY! HOORAY! HALLELUIAH! I pull the stick out and open the drivers door. The alarm goes off. I don't care. I press the unlock button and the locks all unlock. YES!! I close the drivers door (as it's sticking out into the road) and immediatly hear the unmistakable sound of the locks locking AGAIN! The alarm is STILL going off (tattletale!)...and yes, the trunk is locked as are all the doors. DAMN DAMN DAMN! OK..I can do this. Under a bit more pressure this time as the alarm is still blaring. Jam the stick in, flail it around, and BAM I pop the lock once more...all in about 60 seconds this time (hey..I'm getting GOOD at this!) Open the door, this time I climb THRU the vehicle to get to my camelback in the very back....get my keys out...hit the remote and all is right with the world once again! The alarm stops, and the car recognizes it's master and is content.

WHEW! I'm BEAT! It's now been over a half hour, I'm sweating and mentally whipped! What to do. What to do. Obviously I've been given a sign. But what exactly does it mean? I ponder loading up the bike and going home, fearing the sign is that I shouldn't be riding today. So I choose to ignore the sign. I once AGAIN load up my gear, this time ensure my camelback is ON my back. Lock the doors. And begin my ride. I'm not even a half mile up the road looking at the climb before me, and I think to myself:

"I can't do's too hot. I don't have enough water for 3 climbs. I'm whipped. I need to drive to the top."

And so I turn around and go back to the car. Load up my bike and gear. And drive up the 4 hard miles, turn right, another quarter mile and I'm at the REAL trailhead. parked in the shadows of redwoods. Under the massive canopy. It's cooler than I was below. Shaded. It feels right. So I again unpack my gear, get the bike out, lock the doors, and I'm off.

Turns out I deciphered the sign correctly. I was simply being told that I wasn't going to make the 3 climbs. It was HOT HOT HOT on the backside of that mountain...on my first climb it registered 99 in the sunny sections. I went back down and did it again (as I usually do) and it was 101 this time. I slowly ground my way up the awesome singletrack, tunes from my MP3 helping dampen out the pain of long climbs. When I got back to the car and unloaded my gear, I had just a few ounces of water left. Yes, I made the right call. I salvaged the ride.  Honed my carjacking skills. Suffered in the heat and conquered the mountain TWICE.

However, I have to admit my trepidation throughout the ride, wondering if I ignored the sign I was SO PLAINLY given, and was going to suffer some terrible fate because of it. A bad crash. A tree falling on me. A meteor strike. The door from an airplane falling from the sky. Goblins jumping out from the forest, peeling away my skin from my bones for a meal. Ok, maybe not goblins. But any number of other equally horrendous situations. But no. I ended up having a great ride and a great day. And a story. Survival against all odds. Ahhhhh yes.

I am SO the MAN!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pigskin fever!

Well, cycling season is all over but for the crying...and I know most of you aren't big fans here, but it's FOOTBALL TIME!

So far this season my teams are doing great! In college ball Michigan is off to a big THREE and 0 start, after knocking off Notre Dame last weekend (HUGE GAME!) and E. Michigan yesterday.  I caught the 4th quarter of the ND game here in my hotel room here in Sunnyvale after was a roller coaster ride of scoring, and I think any adjoining rooms were wondering if I had a party going on here!) I was working again yesterday so only got to see highlights of the E. Mich game. And their evil nemesis Ohio State LOST yesterday to the Miami Hurricanes (Sorry Barbara)...which also had me cheering wildly! Navy ALMOST knocked off a very high ranked team....they were SO CLOSE to knocking off tenth ranked South Carolina...that would have been UNBELIEVABLE...but alas, they came up OH so short. Still an awesome performance for the Midshipmen of Annapolis!

And Susie (haven't heard from you in a while...hope all is well over/up there), so very sorry about your Terps yesterday...they came up just short of the ranked West VA Mountaineers...

And the Raiders...they knocked off Denver IN Denver last Sunday...that was HUGE! We are actually looking pretty good this year for a change! I have high hopes this year....But as always it's going to be a LONG road.

OK..enough football. I'm still sitting in a hotel up here in Sunnyvale...started off 2 weeks ago on the Graveyard shift, worked that for 3 nights then was moved to the day shift. That didn't work out so good for me...too many managers and such wandering around during the day slowing down or stopping progress...(funny how that works...there must be some kind of formula for the number of mangers on hand proportionally slowing progress).

And for some reason I seemed to have some kind of issue with the highbay manager....she seems to HATE me.... and my life on days has been living hell all week.....she is in charge of deciding who works what jobs. I keep getting assigned to what I have lovingly named the "Furniture Moving Crew", which is stuff that needs to be done (I guess) but is a far cry from building spacecraft. I would be ok with it if she treated me like a person...howver my 'orders' are to report back to her when I complete a job and need re-tasking, however.... she seems highly annoyed when I do that, and seems to find even crappier jobs for me to keep me out of her hair. Yet if I DON'T report back and go find actual work on a spacecraft on my own (thus keeping out of her hair), she eventually finds me and barks at me like I'm a kindy-garter kid (This isn't just me in this situation, but also Greg... the other guy I came up here with). On Friday we had both pretty much had it with this lhorrible situation...I was biting my lip pretty hard not to snap, but Greg  did...he fired off a lovely email to our boss saying he'll work thru the weekend but on Monday he's packing his car and going home. I gather he (our boss) knew we were in tough straits here after his email, and was transferring Greg back to the graveyard shift starting tonight (Greg got first dibs on it as he was originally assigned the graves before I was)....but he says he's had enough and is still going home, so the boss said I can have his'm AWAY from the Dragon lady and the day-shift! Which is bittersweet...cuz the weekend shifts are awesome! (she doesn't work weekends, and we get assigned to the "A" teams...yesterday was a blast working on flight hardware again!)

No work for me today (sunday) first day off since I got up here 2 weeks ago... so am going for a long'ish road ride thru Half Moon Bay today. Never been on any of this ride hopefully the roads are decent and the traffic isn't too bad. I figure there's about a 20 to 30 mile stretch of Hwy 1 along the coast, and a good bit of climbing on Skyline drive. I'm kind of winging it, have no idea how far it will actually be...but I need to be back soon enough to TRY to get a few hours shuteye before going in at 11pm tonight for my first Graves shift. I am assuming the ride will be around 60 to 70 miles...but that's totally a guess.

And on the home front, PG had her surgery on Friday...lumps removed, and dental work (who knew doggie-dental was such a big thing?) She had 2 lumps was a pretty good sized lipoma thing ...about the size of half an orange...the other was much smaller but he cell-sucking test said that was possibly a pre-cancer blob and should be removed. So, she is home and doing well Jeannie says. I sure miss the family...been gone 2 weeks, only 2 more to go. A month is a LONG trip tho...

OK...time for breakfast and then get out there on the bike!


Sunday, September 11, 2011


Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you're quite well informed that today is (was) the 10th anniversary of the towers coming down. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years already. I arrived at work this morning JUST in time for the live "moment of silence" at Ground Zero at 8:46am NY time. I stood there alone in our break room with my head down, pondering the unfathomable events of a decade ago.

I was only 3 when Kennedy was assassinated, so I don't have any recollection of that event. However, I think 9/11 is and always will be a moment like that, where everybody will remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened.

Jeannie and I were in Hawaii, having JUST moved there. I had been in NYC just 2 weeks prior, as Sarah (Jeannie's little sister) who lives in Manhattan had been accepted to the Masters program at Yale, and John (Jeannie's twin brother) and I drove up the coast from Virginia and helped move her from the Manhattan  apartment to New Haven Ct. for the fall semester.

Jeannie and I had visited her sister in the city just a year prior. We stayed there in Manhattan for nearly a week in a friends apartment, living the NYC life. That meant no car, as ours was parked in a garage the entire week and we took trains everywhere. Also we ate every meal out...breakfast was bagels and coffee in the shop just downstairs. Lunch was somewhere in the city as we were out and about playing tourist every single day. We caught Les Miserabes on Broadway. During out stay I took Jeannie and Sarah to the most amazing restaurant I've ever been to: Windows on the World in the WTC. I can't remember exactly what floor it was on, but it was VERY near the top...something like the 112th. The square bldg had a rotating outer circle that went from edge to edge in the building. All the tables were arranged on that outer circle. So during the course of dinner you slowly circled around the building getting a most AMAZING view of the city at night...there was the Chrysler bldg, the Empire State bldg, and the Statue of Liberty among other sites. I recall as we first stepped up into the main foyer from the subway below thinking how HUGE the room was. Huge beyond anything I'd ever seen or imagined. There was no support beams on the inside, as the outer skin of the bldg WAS the support. I also remember stepping outside looking up, and being completely overwhelmed that humans could build something SO immense. It just seemed impossible that a building could be SO BIG! The scale was unbelievable!

Anyway, I digress. On that horrible morning 10 years ago, we were living in a flea-bag rental furnished appt (more of a room than an appt actually) in Hawaii (on the island of Oahu) as we had just moved to the Islands. Jeannie woke me up saying I HAD to see this. So I crawled out of bed and there on TV was video of the north tower burning. At that time the media had no idea it was a jetliner, and I think everybody assumed it was some dumb private plane that got too close and hit the tower. At that very moment I don't think ANYBODY had any concept of a terror attack. As we watched, suddenly there was a blur and ka-BLOOIE! The south tower was hit! The news slowed down the video and it plainly showed  the jet airliner crashing into it, with the huge explosion blowing right thru the bldg and out the other side. I think it was at THAT very moment I realized that the world had just been changed irrecoverably.

Like everybody else with the TV on, we sat riveted watching it burn, having NO inkling that they would collapse. It just never occurred to me. Our video in Hawaii was tape delayed (as we were watching it around 9am local time, which was around 5 hours later in NY) and all the events had already been played out, but we were seeing it as if it were live. However, the media had removed the video about the jumpers. I didn't know about them until later, unlike those that had watched it live in the mainland. Having been on the very high floors and pressing my nose against a window looking down, I can tell you that the thought of launching myself out a window would be beyond anything I could comprehend. So to attempt to imagine the horrid situation faced by those trapped on the high floors, where jumping was your BEST option....well, that still makes me want to cry.

And then suddenly, the south tower fell. I vividly recall seeing it crash down seemingly in slow-motion. I remember thinking "OH MY GOD! IT'S FALLING!" It was like a waterfall or something, as the awesome destructive power of a gazillion bajillion tons of material started pile-driving it's way down. The dust plume billowing out like it was from a volcanic eruption. The video from on the streets as said dust plume blew like a storm thru the streets. People emerging from the dust. I was in shock watching it from 4 thousand miles away, so how on earth did THEY feel? I think denial was common...thinking no, it didn't really happen. It can't have happened. And then over the course of the day the REST of the story emerged. The Pentagon strike. And the failed attempt with United flt 93 that the passengers bravely thwarted in Pennsylvania.

Once again I'm all choked up thinking of all the heroic stories that emerged. The NYFD and NYPD running INTO the scene, the people helping each other escape, sometimes at GREAT peril. And the people on the United flight that didn't make it's target. The friends and families of the dead.

Well, I don't need to go on. You ALL know the story, as I'm sure it's seared into your memory just like mine. I'm also pretty sure you will remember just how helpless you felt watching it all unfold in the coming days and weeks.That was a defining moment, forever changing our lives. And watching it all unfold once again today, bringing it all back.

As long as I live, the events of that day will haunt my memories.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Half a century, Plus one

Today (at this very moment as I type, on the evening of Sept 8th 2011) I am officially still Fifty years old.

Half a century.

I head into work in about half an hour for my final 'graveyard' shift (11pm to 6am). I am being shifted to 'days' starting with Saturday morning (I will be working 7 days a week for the duration of my stay here in Sunnyvale). I drive in tonight as a 50 year old, and I will return tomorrow morning as a 51 year old. I have ALL of tomorrow (Friday, my official birthday) off. I plan on doing my FAVORITE mountain bike ride in celebration of making it this far: Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve. The basic plan is I get off work and come back to the hotel, have a quick breakfast, grab a few hours of sleep, then get up and get moving. I will need to stay up tomorrow afternoon/evening so I can HOPEFULLY get a good nights sleep for my shifting back to the world of the that I am almost adjusted to working nights.

Anyway, I have thought about this long and hard about this, and here are some gems of wisdom that I have learned in my 50 years that I feel are some kind of universal truths, and I'd like to share them with yo.

- Almost nothing is as easy as it looks.

- It can ALWAYS be worse.

 - The more people you assign to help solve a problem slows down the process to a degree multiplied by the number of people assigned  (I have no actual proof whatsoever on this one, it just seems to play out that way).

- You never feel your age.

Let me elaborate on that last one: I have found that when I am feeling younger than my years, soon after that I will have done something stupid and will quickly feel much older. And going along with that one, there is this next one:

- There is an infinite number of stupid things you can do.

 And finally, my favorite, which I have never yet seen dis-proven:

- It's far easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
(I don't know who said this first, I've heard it credited to Navy Admiral Grace Hopper, but whoever said it first had an amazing grasp on bureaucracy).

OK, there you have tidbits of truths I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that I'm that old, let-alone that in a few hours that will be no longer true and I will be one year OLDER than that.

And now, I will stop typing, finish my coffee and get to work. When I continue I will be OFFICIALLY another year older.


And I'm back...yes, it's me...the OLD guy. It's actually almost exactly 24 hours later from the earlier typing. I had a pretty great day today overall...had an awesome breakfast (the best Belgian Waffle I've ever had) a few hours of sleep, then did my ride. The weather was PERFECT...low 80's at the top (where I parked) and down to 62 deg 1800 feet down at the bottom. I did the fun singletrack climb twice, and the awesome middle-track downhill just once. The only downer was when I got to the top the 2nd time I reached into my pocket to put my special photocramatic riding sunglasses back on. And they were gone. Fell out somewhere on that 4 mile climb, and I didn't have enough water to go down and look for them (as I  would still HAVE to climb back up to to go home). Best I can do is go back tomorrow (darn it!) and take that same trail down, and maybe by some lucky measure of fate they will be lying there unbroken. Not sure how my odds are on that, being as tomorrow is Saturday, and I can't get there until the afternoon...I'd say slim. That trail will likely have have a lot of hikers and bikers on it before I get there. But I have to try.

The ONLY thing that I can think of missing from my great day was being with Jeannie and the babies.

And so. Another birthday comes to an end. Had a pint of a very tasty cask-ale and an order of Hot wings at a local microbrew after my ride...that was my big birthday dinner. Can't was pretty tasty.
And with that, I will sign off. Hope everybody has a great weekend! Feel free to toss YOUR hard-earned words of wisdom in the comments...maybe we can compile a book...or a pamphlet, or most likely a small brochure.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Farewell to summer, and another US pro cycling team (sort of).

Well, another summer has come and gone. Labor Day weekend is in the books. Rats. I feel that once again it has flat passed me by. Oh sure, I got out on the bikes here and there...and I did the LIVESTRONG Davis back in July...but other than that I feel like I have nothing to look back on and say I DID. It's not like there's anything special that I didn't do that I had planned....nothing like that. Just the general feeling that I'm another year older. And time is picking up speed. I've been warned that it happens by pretty much everybody older than I's just now that I can feel it happening.

It doesn't help any that we were in Costco yesterday morning picking up a few things and the Christmas stuff is out in force ALREADY! Somehow that just seems to drive the final nail into the coffin of summer. Is it just me, or is it a fact that the decorations and stuff being put out earlier and earlier each year?

As to what I did this weekend, well..I didn't go for ANY bike rides! And I wanted to let me tell you...I just didn't. It was my choice...Jeannie wouldn't have said anything if I had ridden all three days. But I'm driving north TOMORROW to Sunnyvale, and I will be up there a MONTH! It's been quite a while since I was on any business travel. Years back I seemed to go for a few weeks 3 or 4 times a year. It was totally common, and I had my 'Sunnyvale' travel kit all bagged up and ready to load into the rental car. I'd take a full 'mini kitchen' as I was staying in a low budget room (on purpose...see, I got to keep the difference in the Per Diem rate of what was allowed and the actual cost of my room...but like all good things, that has come to an end). We are on 'reciepts' no more slumming for me. I have a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen. All the guys who have been going up there recently are staying there and they say it's great. Full kitchen will be more cooking chili dogs on my 2 burner stove on the coffee table. Or my little toaster oven making mini pizzas. Or any of the other culinary delights I'd whip up in my hotel room. The room with a mini refrigerator, and a mini microwave. No sirree..this time I'm living it up in the ritz!

I had to dig my Sunnyvale travel kit out of the attic (it's been THAT long since I was up there!) and go thru it. No need for the toaster, toaster-oven, mini stove, pots & pans and dishes. That will free up some room in my rental car, whatever it will be (hopefully a mini wagon or I AM bringing up both my mt and road bikes, along with all the gear for both). I will be working the graveyard shift, and at this point I can't say if that's good or bad. I typically have worked the day shift in the past, where we get out of work at 2:30pm. I'd have my bike already in the car, zoom back to the hotel (just a few minutes if I catch all the lights green)....jump into my riding gear, grab my water, and hit the road. I could usually catch about 15 minutes of the car pool lanes (they turn from 'all' to 'HOV' at 3pm) which would get me a good chunk of the way to wherever I was going. This time I will get off work at 6am, eat breakfast at the hotel (this one has free breakfast, which is a GOOD thing!) and sleep some, getting up around 2pm on ride days. Grab some lunch, and hit the road just as if I was working days. I'm in no particular hurry to get home, pretty much before dark is about my only constraint as I won't have lights. Shower up, grab some dinner, then read, surf the net, or watch the tube until I head into work around 10:30pm for my shift start at 11.  Such will be my life for the next MONTH. Oh yeah, I will be working EVERY SINGLE DAY while I'm up there. Good for the pocketbook I guess...which is why I go on trips like this. Baby needs new shoes.

Actually, PG needs surgery. Sheesh. Got some blobs to be removed. There goes another GRAND. At least we're not putting them thru college, but sometimes it feels like it! She will be going in while I'm up there, but this one should be rather easier on the it's going to be just 2 incisions with masses removed from just under the skin. No bone surgery and such for a change..whew! She might even have the stitches out by the time I get back. Her surgery is scheduled for the 16th I think.

OK...enough on all that....and on to CYCLING.

This Leopard Trek thing has my knickers in a twist. I HATE the idea! Not that either team bothered to consult me on this merger. I feel it's a travesty that LT will be letting go so many of their riders (who jumped ship from Saxo to come WITH Andy & Frank to this awesome new team). Nice. So THAT's how you treat loyalty. "Uhhm, err...well, sorry guys. We didn't win, and we can't find a title sponsor. So we're merging w/ the Shack. Bringing almost their entire team over, along with their director. Good luck finding a new job at this point in the season. Later gaters. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Quite honestly, it leaves a VERY sour taste in my mouth just THINKING about it.I just see it as a HORRIBLE thing. Levi jumping ship (most likely, as we STILL don't know for sure)...Horner does what? Back to being a full time domestique? That would be pretty sad, being as he doesn't have a lot of years left in his legs at the Pro level I'm afraid. If this is the state of cycling (and not just in the US apparently, if LT couldn't find a title sponsor either)...well, I think the whole sport at the Pro level is in trouble. There's lots of blame to be flung about....however it all comes down to the doping saga's most likely. Which is so very sad. I'm not sticking up for the dopers here, but it's just an extremely sad thing that Cycling is under the Olympic umbrella. I think that is what is killing them....being under WADA.

Look at US Football (or for that matter, the REST of the worlds soccer). You don't see them crucifying their talent. At worst a couple of games suspension is typically the norm. Nor do you see multi-year suspensions in basketball, baseball, or Hockey. All quite successful sports that have HUGE sponsor dollars. Are they any cleaner than cycling? Not by a LONG-SHOT would be my guess. They just continue to look the other way like cycling USED to do. I think that most people don't really want to know. We just want a good show, becasue at the end of the day, that's all sports really is to most spectators. The races keep getting harder and harder (look at the Grand Tours) yet somehow they expect the riders to continue to give superhuman performances day after day, but NO CHEATING. They (the race owners, television, and sponsors) all want their cake and eat it too. And IF a cyclist is caught enhancing his abilities, well, he is hung out to dry. Skinned alive. A sacrificial lamb. Dropped by his team, an outcast.

I certainly don't know where this all ends....the US has lost Team HTC and now sort of lost Radio Shack. Team BMC is based here on paper...but I have to ask you, has anybody seen any BMC products for sale in this country? I don't see ANY BMC bikes on the road...though I imagine there are a few. But I've NEVER seen any in a shop. I know they are a big  brand over in Europe though. We can CALL it an American team, but that would be somewhat misleading I'm afraid. And it's very sad, as we have a lot of up and coming US riders right now. I'm afraid with the way things are going in the Pro Peleton, they will all be headed to European teams in just a few years, if there are any left. Like it was before Lemond. Sure, we will still have zillions of recreational riders in this country, but the mighty sponsor-dollars will have been put with more lucrative sponsorships like NASCAR, the NFL/NBA/Baseball and the like.

I'm afraid the only way to save cycling is to either lose all the big money, or lose their Olympic attachment. If it wasn't an Olympic sport they would be out from under WADA, and they could make their own wink-wink testing program and then claim they are clean like the big US sports do. Would that be right? Not really, but it works. Tune into a Monday Night Football game sometime and just LOOK at the SPECTACLE! The TV ads bought with HUGE dollars! Are those guys on the field dope-free? Does anybody really care? But what about when someone IS caught dirty? Bad will serve a 2 week suspension. Lose 2 weeks of pay. Then right back into the fold, do your job. Win at all cost. And behind the public scolding, they are shaking his hand when he's back.

In cycling,  if the current trend of loss of sponsors continues, no one will be able to AFFORD to dope. That would also solve the problem. TV revenue would plummet. Races would still go on, however rider salaries the world over would be commensurate with low level pro sports here in the US: pretty much poverty level but doing what you love. Fame would still be there, especially in Europe as I don't see that changing no matter what happens to sponsor dollars. The die hard fans will still know who their hero's are.

So. We shall see what happens in the following weeks and months. Where all the displaced riders will  finally end up. I'm afraid at the moment that I'm having a very hard time getting psyched up for next season. But when it comes around, I'm afraid I will be rooting for Garmin more than ever. Sure, I'll still be cheering on George, and Chris, and Levi, and a plethora of others. But for a team? A true US based team? Not much left to choose from all of a sudden.

And on a closing note, I know that Rae already mentioned this....but Cathy, I sure have my fingers crossed that you will retain your job with the team. I know you've been awfully quiet lately, (busy is probably a huge part of that)...but still it scares me. I wish you luck. Maybe it IS time to get into writing about dog-sledding and such. That sport seems to be growing, and there's nobody testing the dogs (yet).