Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Steno Pads

I am at work, along with three mechanics, building the Volt that will be shown at the Detroit Auto Show next month. Because this is a GM holiday, I am the only Engineer here. My responsibility is to sit patiently at my desk and just wait for problems to come up, fix the problem, then go back to my desk and wait. I'm not sure if I am here to fix problems as much as I am here to make decisions so if later they turn out to be the wrong ones, it will be easy to find the person responsible. Decisions are never black or white, just different shades of gray. I am a whipping boy. I guess I am cool with that.

I am cleaning my office while waiting for problems. I just threw out a year of used steno pads. I thought I was hanging on to them so I could go back and look at notes in case questions came up about who said what, or why certain things were handled the way they were.

I flipped through the pages of these note pads as I threw them out and it occurred to me I was hanging on to them because, in between my legitimate engineering notes and original art work, I wrote down non-work related plans: my plan to rent a cabin so I could pre-ride Yankee Springs last April, times I was shooting for at different races, rough drafts of emails I planned on sending, plans for the future. Well thought out, though often half baked plans, now sitting in a dumpster along with coffee grounds and banana peals and broken car parts.

On the way back from the dumpster I went to our office supply cabinet and got a new steno pad.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Befuddled Santa

Santa brought Allie that electronic dead bolt for her room she wanted. I am already getting tired trying to explain this gift to friends and family. Oh yeah, her other must have gift this Christmas was one of those mouth guards that football players use. Don't ask. Watching the kids open their presents is a highlight of my year for sure but watching the presents change over the years from dolls to I-Pods is a little hard for a sentimental, neurotic father like me. Actually I'm not all that sentimental or neurotic, I just have a little trouble letting go.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Building a Base

Like most racers in Northern states, I am early into my base training. It is low intensity but that shouldn't be confused with easy; the boredom is just painful. I don't watch much TV during the year but every December I find a TV series on DVD and watch it while I ride. Last year was It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The year before that was The Office. I watched Lost the year earlier, CSI and South Park during previous base stages. This year I am watching Prison Break. Emilie has gotten hooked on this series. It is nice to watch TV with her, even if I am doing it at 140 BPM.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Poignant but Pointless

I drove a prototype Chevy Volt for the first time today, a car that runs on battery power for about 40 miles after being charged through a normal electrical outlet. After 40 miles, a gasoline generator kicks in to recharge the battery. Driving the Volt was an emotional experience for me, something I might tell my grandchildren when their memory of the gasoline powered car is as blurry as their parents' memory of the rotary dial telephone. I will be spending my Christmas vacation getting a Volt ready for the Detroit Auto Show.

I am a car person. When I saw GM collapsing all around me last year, I considered other careers. I was befuddled. I don’t have passion for much other than bicycles and automobiles, and there is little opportunity to work for a bicycle company (outside of China, of course). I was offered a position at Nuke Proof (a now defunct maker of beautiful titanium and carbon fiber bicycle components in Ada Michigan) the same week I was offered a job at GM. It was a tough choice. Few people share my frustration with, and affection for, the U.S. auto industry. I left the voice mail from the owner of Nuke Proof on my answering machine for 5 years, seriously.

So this morning I am checking email over breakfast. AOL has an article on the Volt where people can post comments. I spent a half hour reading comments showing how much people hate GM in general, and the Volt in particular. They say irrational things...like Chrysler could have developed this car much quicker than GM, or that the Toyota Prius makes more sense. GM deserves a lot of the bad press they have received lately but I am increasingly convinced that if the Volt was powered by solar panels or wind power, and hovered above the ground like in those 1950’s science fiction movies, people would still be unimpressed.

I remain optimistic about the future. My grandchildren, I’m sure, won’t remember this dark period in GM’s history. And Scott Quiring wont be the only person still making bicycles in the States.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Spirit...Sort Of

Today is the office Christmas, err, I mean Holiday party. Walking in to work this morning I noticed I was the only person who didn’t decorate their office. I took out a red and green hanging folder from my file cabinet and quickly made a non-offensive, politically correct holiday decoration. I use to, maybe subconsciously, make an effort to be a little different, or maybe I was just indifferent. When I was fresh out of U of M and working for EDS (I think it stood for Everyone Dresses the Same since we all wore blue suites), I proudly drove my Kawasaki GPz 1100 to work; the only motorcycle in the huge parking lot. The exhaust would set off car alarms. Sweet. Now I’m 40-something and try to look like everyone else. It is easier this way I guess.

I don’t talk about bicycles much at work.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tooth Faries and Santa Claus

Allison lost a tooth while we were at the movies last night. She put it under her pillow like a normal child but also left the Tooth Fairy a note asking a lot of specific questions that only the Tooth Fairy would know (what the Tooth Fairy eats, how old she is, etc.) Allie wants to believe, but she needs to be sure.

I adore Allison, as I do Emilie, but I interact with them differently because they are…different. Someone called Allie “spirited”. I don’t even know what that means but I assume it isn’t correct because Allie transcends the English Encarta Dictionary. Cin and I use the word “Allie” as an adjective to describe something that doesn’t make sense but it is so real that it is pointless to argue, as if it is on some other plane that we just can't comprehend.

Typical of Allie, the one must have Christmas gift for her this year is one of those electronic deadbolts for her bedroom door, where you enter a code and the door unlocks, like they use in commercial office buildings. She wants this electronic deadbolt more than Ralphie wanted a Red Rider BB gun. She asks to go to the Home Depot just to look at them. Allie wanted one for her Birthday in September; however, I dismissed this idea because it didn't make sense. I have had to hear about her disappointment every week since. I disappointed her but Santa wont. As a father I am incredibly jealous of Santa. He works in a magical, non-unionized toy workshop. I work in a dirty garage at GM. I race a 26" wheeled, rim brake ghetto bike. Santa probably has a Quiring Titanium 29er with a Fox fork.

I was driving the kids to dance and Emilie pointed out a wad of gum on my seat’s headrest.

Me: “Hum…how did that get there?”

Allie (texting on her phone, not looking up and very casual): “I put it there last week.”


Me: “And you put gum on my seat because…?”

Allie (still texting and still casual): “I wanted it to get stuck in your hair.”

Me: “ah, okay, why?”

Allie (as casual as ever): “I was mad at you for not letting me spend the night at Anna’s.”


Allie (stops texting for a minute and looks up to emphasize what she was about to say): “You don’t put your head all the way back…that’s the problem.”

That’s the problem??? What the, who in, how….I didn’t even know how to respond. She is Allie.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Believing In Things I Don't Understand

Bill and I rode this morning. It was cold, really, really cold. My heart rate monitor transmitter was frozen like that rose your 7th grade science teacher dipped in nitrogen then smashed with a hammer but instead of smashing it, I put it around my chest. My heart rate spiked. God bless Michigan.

This was my first ride with Bill and his new 29er. He seemed faster. I didn't have to soft pedal to let him catch up. Maybe it was the placebo affect but regardless, we took over a minute off the time it took us to do the 7 mile Murry Lake loop last week, and today there were frozen parts we had to slow down for and we were riding in full winter clothing. I am almost convinced I must have a 29er but I still don't get it. People, smarter than me, have tried to explain it. They use terms like "angle of attack". Once a reason has an engineering sounding term to explain it, it becomes hard to argue.

I will go to church tomorrow morning like I have done every Sunday morning of my life. Sometimes the girls go with me. I understand religion less than I understand why bigger wheels make you go faster. It is hard for me to believe in things I just don't understand.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Riding Partners and Other Things One Shouldn't Take For Granted

Bill bought a new Giant 29er yesterday. He called, still hopped up on endorphins from his first ride, and told me it was unbelievably quick, like the extra three inch wheel circumference magically transforms a bicycle into some type of a perpetual motion machine that rockets up hills all by itself. I may have to euthanize my 26” wheeled ghetto bike this winter.

I couldn’t ride with Bill yesterday; Cindy was out of town and I was playing the part of mom again. I am getting much more adept at being a mom. I spared the kids my lecture on complex carbohydrates during breakfast, helped Allie floss, and warmed up the car before school. I have been riding outside a lot lately. One reason is, even though it has been rainy and cold, I know soon the trails will be snow-covered and my CamelPak will be frozen like a popsicle. Living in Michigan, one learns to appreciate mildly crappy weather. The other reason is my riding partners are nuts.

Bill spent the summer and fall working in Illinois. He moved back to Michigan last week. Bad weather just does not faze him. I have also been riding with Renee, a teacher both my kids had in first and second grade. She seems just as unaffected by crappy weather as Bill. She might casually say something, in her quiet, sweet voice, like: “Hum…I can’t feel my toes” but she is the one who asks to go riding in the feezing cold. I figure if she is man enough to ride in this, then I ought to be too.

I am a bit fussy in choosing whom I ride with. I've moved from one riding partner to another as things changed and never gave it much thought. This summer I found myself alone and it sucked. My hectic life off the bike made it difficult to even join the MMBA group rides. Going forward I need to be a better riding partner and won’t assume others will always just be there. Yes, this is an open apology to everyone I use to ride with.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

My Aunt Margret is a very kind and graceful lady. She sits down next to me, looks me in the eyes and starts a conversation:

Aunt Margret: “So…you’re still riding your bicycle?” The tone of her voice wasn’t mild curiosity but restrained concern. Apparently she has been talking to mom and I imagine the last childhood memory my aunt has of me was during my obsessive BMX stage, no less mediocre or obsessive than my current mountain bike stage.

Me: “Yes; in fact, I just did a race with Denny in Traverse City.” Dragging Denny into the conversations did two things. First, I just wanted to make it clear I am not the only grown man still riding a bicycle. Second, Aunt Margret knows Denny since we all lived in the same neighborhood growing up, maybe this will change the conversation.

Aunt Margret: “How is Denny?” (I am brilliant.)

My brother Dave is highly motivated and has this ability to make girls swoon. He retired early from the Ford Motor Company and now has a very successful business restoring vintage AC Cobra sports cars. My brother Glen is charming and an amazing storyteller; he can even make his account of a trip to the Home Depot riveting. Glen is currently building an experimental airplane in his garage. I ride bicycles.

I imagine my parents try to frame me in a favorable light when talking to friends and family, like you would do with any child whom you are quietly embarrassed with, as in: “oh, my son [so and so] is doing fine, he moved to New York and is dancing in an off Broadway musical [awkward pause] and is a successful hair dresser [another awkward pause]. He always was the artistic one [insert slightly embarrassed, forced, reminiscent sigh]".

Mike emailed me earlier this week and said he read my blog. I pointed out to him that every childhood picture of me in the blog was from Espanola, a small town in Northern Ontario where Mike still lives. My older sister lived in Espanola and I would often visit when I was younger. That, of course, is how I met Mike. I thought about how most of my childhood pictures were from Espanola. I pulled out my old photo albums to verify this.

What I found interesting is that almost every picture I have of me that wasn’t taken in Espanola somehow involves a bicycle.

Kids ride bicycles, that’s a fact, but the pictures reveal more than a passing fancy, they reveal some type of obsession with bikes I hadn't really noticed before.

I suppose, as a child, my bicycle expanded my universe from just my block to the Levagood Park a mile north of my house to the woods along the Rouge River, a mile south. Maybe bicycling still expands my universe. Maybe I should grow up.

Maybe the fact that I still ride a bicycle could give my graceful aunt reason to be concerned. Maybe that shouldn't concern me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bathrooms and Bicycles

I enjoy working on my bicycles. I don't mind working on my truck. Remodeling the bathroom sucked. I would lay awake in bed at night worrying that the pipes I soldered together would leak and ruin the dry wall or that I didn’t center the wax ring on the toilet correctly and raw sewage would fall like rain into the basement. The bathroom is complete and everything is fine.

Allison drew a picture thanking me for working on the bathroom. It was untypically sweet of her. I had to look at the picture for a minute before I realized it was a picture of our tandem I sold exactly a year ago. Allie hasn’t forgiven me yet. I told her I would buy a new tandem but there always seems to be a better use of money. I thought about how the money I got for our tandem was about what the bathroom cost to remodel, and how buying a new tandem may have been a better use of that money. I lay awake at night thinking about all my stupid decisions; much more worrisome than sewage falling like rain.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let's Go Girls

Cindy is out of town so I took some time off work to play the part of mom. I spend a lot of time with the girls but I never had to get them off to school by myself before. Cindy and I have different parenting styles. This morning I tried to convince Em of the merits of whole grain bread over refined white bread, a well thought out argument about starch and simple carbohydrates. She was unmoved. We left for school early so we could go out for breakfast. Apparently IHOP doesn't open until sometime after 6:30 AM. When the heck do people eat breakfast? We ended up at Tim Horton's. I came home to get Allison ready. Alllie didn't want to eat. I launched into my neurotic speech about the importance of breakfast. She agreed to have Raisin Bran but didn't want the raisins. I tried to explain how raisins were a good source of iron. She was no more moved than Emilie. I picked them out for her.

Wednesday morning I took the kids to the dentist. The hygienist accused me of doing a lousy job helping the kids floss. Thursday was parent teacher conferences. Allie's teacher was disgusted I didn't know the name of Allie's book for independent reading. Both kids were disappointed I don't warm up the car before school like mom does. Sally the dog was mad I didn't take her to school to drop off the kids. It occurred to me that maybe I am not the stellar mom I thought I was.

I thought as a mother I would have time to ride outside. Apparently not. I did go to a spinning class at the fitness center last night, with the other moms, while I was waiting for the paint to dry in the bathroom. The first song that played was that "Let's Go Girls" song, I think by Shania Twain but that is a genre I know little about. The spinning area is surrounded by mirrors just like the work out area. I noticed how my Pearl Izumi shorts made my butt look big.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mirror in the Bathroom

I am still following the training plan I laid out for myself 2 weeks ago. November is a wind-down month. The reduced riding this month allows time to button up things around the house. Cin and I are planning on selling our house and the bathrooms are one thing that would send a potential buyer running. I would much rather ride than solder copper pipes together. I would rather have my wisdom teeth extracted without nitrous oxide than solder copper pipes together.

I think I have a very good sense of smell. I can often smell people (especially the perfumy smell of girls) before I see or hear them on the trail. I like the smells of riding. Autumn has that crushed leaf smell. Winter has the crisp, dry smell. Spring smells earthy and summer is floral. The main change to my training plan is adding weight training. The fitness center has the horrible smell of sweaty men.

And the wet goat stench isn’t the worse part of lifting. Lifting is boring and the vanity is crazy in the workout area. There are mirrors covering the walls and pillars because everyone there seems to enjoy looking at themselves. Hell, maybe the problem is just me. I weight 145 lbs, and only about 45 of those pounds are above my waist. I don’t question the importance of weight training. Research has found that weight training can enhance cycle endurance performance independently of increases in VO2max. And presumably independent of decreases in VO2max. I’ll see.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hunting Season

This is opening day for deer season. Renee and I rode Maybury this afternoon since it is one of the few trails around here that doesn't allow hunting. I hunted as a kid but I never considered myself a hunter; I liked to go into the woods with my friends, and hunting provided me that opportunity. You can't just hang out in the woods without a purpose, that's just awkward. Now mountain biking gives me that purpose. And with mountain biking, I have no obligation to eat gamy meat loaded with bone fragments and led shot, which is no fun for someone who doesn't really eat meat in the first place. I suppose this is just another example of getting older and changing tastes.

Emilie changed her room around this weekend. I see she threw out her Hannah Montana poster. Kind of sad, but kind of inevitable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lattes and Lactate Thresholds

Emilie, in an unusually exuberant manner, asked to go get a Pumpkin Latte last night. I was tired and not exactly in the latte mood but when your 11 year old daughter asks to spend any time with you, you grab that opportunity with both hands. I would suffer through a Carrie Underwood concert if she asked. I am optimistic that we will have lattes together every week for the rest of my life but, sometimes, I try to be realistic.

The Iceman is always the official end of my racing season. I just re-read my second blog entry from back in January:

Maybe my problem last season was just motivation. What if I am a little more careful this year to push myself when I need to and find clever new ways to fit cycling into my schedule? Is it possible to have your breakthrough season at 43?

I am so optimistic sometimes that I just crack myself up. I try to be optimistic even if it flies in the face of reality. Okay, this wasn’t my breakthrough season; however, I was faster than I was last season so I will count it as a win. I joined a fitness center by my house yesterday. I have really neglected core strength training these last couple years. And I chucked my way too complicated training schedule based on Joe Friel’s brilliant but too complicated book The Cyclist Training Bible. I have a solid plan now where I will dedicate specific time to active recovery, easy distance, endurance, intervals, and max sprinting efforts. I am going to make a real effort to separate bicycling from any other disappointments that I can’t seem to get over. I think 2010 will be my breakthrough season.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Of Many Iceman Posts...

Okay, the cliff notes version is I finished 82nd out of 149 in Expert 40 - 44 at 2:04:04. I didn't hit my goal of 2 hours but they changed the course from 27 miles to just over 28 miles. I figured I hit the 27 mile mark very close to 2 hrs. I'm satisfied.

Cin and Laura were the only two in our group who didn't race. They were our enthusiastic cheer section and shuttle drivers.

Denny and Barb did the Sport Tandem race while recovering from the flu. A mechanical 3 miles from the finish line took them out but, as usual, they seemed to have the most fun.

Brad and Kevin finished 71st and 72nd out of 113 in Sport 47 - 49, 6 seconds apart. They had no idea they were so close until the results were posted.

Paul did his first race. He actually registered for the Iceman before he even owned a mountain bike, or rode a trail. He borrowed my bike a few times this summer before he got his own. He did a very respectable 2:29. He is just one of those naturally athletic people.

This was Renee's fourth bicycle race ever and she finished 3rd in Beginner woman, and got the nicest medal I ever saw. This morning I was so sore I could hardly make a pot of coffee. Renee went out and ran 7 miles. What ever. Mike started riding a lot more this summer and took about 20 minutes off his time from last year. I am having trouble rapping my little mind around such an improvement.

To try and put Mike's improvement in perspective I went back and looked at the results from my first Iceman in '97. I did the course in 2:11. So, after changing my life style, dropping 20 lbs, going to bike camp, and riding before work, taking my bicycle on family vacations and business trips for the last 12 years, I shaved 7 minutes off my time. But that is fine because David Wagoner only beat me by 11 minutes yesterday. Who is David you wonder? I don't really know but apparently I have raced him several times. I know this because when they post times at a race, I always see his name at the top of my class and, because he has a similar last name to mine, I think it's me for a second. Then I feel stupid for thinking this. And feel stupid for falling for this every race. When I went back to look at my results for '97, I noticed he raced Elite back then. He finished just 12 spots below Tinker Juarze (the winner) in the 1997 Iceman. David beat me by 24 minutes that race. What I have really accomplished is to hold back the ravishes of old age, at least as it relates to bicycle racing. That ain't bad.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Traverse City

I like Traverse City...seriously thinking about quiting GM and moving here...maybe get a job rebuilding 2-stroke snowmobile engines, the only thing I am qualified to do this far North.

What started as just replacing my cables morphed into a derailleur hanger, rear derailleur, cassette, chain, chain-rings, rear wheel, and bottom bracket. That's OK, the ghetto bike was working as good as new. And the sleet stopped and the sun came out, nothing but blue skies ahead. 15 miles into the pre-ride with Kevin and Brad yesterday, a stick got caught in my rear derailleur and bent everything like a pretzel, again.

It's one thing to sort out this kind of problem at home with a week to spare, it is entirely different when you are in a cabin in Traverse City and racing in 2 days.

I bent everything back as best I can. It sort of shifts. I am still optimistic, sort of.

On the way to get my race packet this morning I considered getting a new bike from one of the vendors that I knew would be there. I drove past the town of Acme. I considered getting one of those ACME rocket packs that Wile E. Coyote uses to catch the roadrunner. Both choices seem reasonable.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ghetto Bike

So Cin pulls into the drive way and opens the garage door. There I am trying to breath a little more life into my bike. I replaced the rear derailleur hanger but then discovered the derailleur was bent like a pretzel. Bending back a derailleur is more difficult than one would think. I'm cold and greasy and quietly frustrated. Cindy says, with an air of disgust, "your bike is ghetto, just get a Superfly..."

Hum, interesting. Her argument can be broken down into two parts. "Your bike is ghetto." Yes it is old but not exactly vintage, and it has fresh bearings and weighs less than 21 lbs; hardly the reason for my lack luster season. And I'm not sure a bike can be ghetto anyway. Putting my bike down only strengthens my resolve to fix it.

But..."just buy a Superfly" does sound nice. I really like those bikes and there is something warmly satisfying with owning a bicycle that has a higher residual value than the truck that halls it around. And shops with '09 Gary Fisher Superflys left have been selling them for under $3,000. I transferred $3000 into my checking account and went to look at new bicycles. I couldn't do it. I really am ghetto. And Emilie needs braces.

In the process of sorting out the issues with my bike and shopping for a new one, I was thinking about the difference between good bike shops and bad ones. South Lyon Cycle is a bad one. I went there to check out my new local bike shop when I moved out here to Brighton 13 years ago. I was in the market for a new Yeti frame and I knew they carried them. Instead of just blurting out "I WANT TO SINK $1000 INTO A BIKE FRAME!", I tried to strike up a conversation, I asked about which barrel adjuster goes on which shifter on a road bike I was building. The guy at South Lyon Cycle didn't answer me but asked where I bought the shifters. I bought them from BikeSport, the LBS from my old neighborhood, if somehow this matters. I haven't gone back to South Lyon Cycle since.

Yesterday I called Wheels in Motion to see if the had a low-normal M770 Shimano rear derailleur. The problem with finding this derailleur is it is a rapid rise design for the integrated brake/shifter set up. I think it is a brilliant design but apparently no one agrees with me so it's a hard derailleur to find. I wanted the derailleur before Iceman so ordering one is out of the question. They had one, and gave it to me for 20% off, some type of Iceman special. This is exactly what a customer wants to hear. While I was at the shop picking up my derailleur I asked Matt about building up a rear wheel with my Chris King hub. He asked what rim I wanted. I sighed and said a NOS 32 hole Valiant ASYM rim. The problem with that is they haven't made this rim since around 2003. He said he thinks the Trek warehouse still has some laying around. I thought he was being sarcastic since I knew my choice would be a long shot; I couldn't even find them on ebay. He was serious, and he then explained they were clearancing them out. I won't have the rim before the Iceman but I will have a nice wheelset for next season. This is a good bike shop. And they carry Superflys.

Today is my last day of work this week. I am driving up to Traverse City with Kevin to pre-ride the course for a few days. Cindy will drive up Friday with Renee and Mike who are renting one of the cottages with us. Denny and Barb and Paul and Laura will rent cottages too. This will be a good week.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Today was my second cyclocross race. Those guys are just nuts. I got the hole-shot and was by myself for about 100 yards and, even though I was in the 40+ C class, started to gain an ever so slight level of self confidence. Then, one by one, people started passing me, and they seemed to do it so effortlessly, like they were just taking a warm up lap. I drifted back to my normal position in the middle of the field. Towards the end of the last lap my chain somehow got stuck between the derailleur pulley and the cage and I snapped off my derailleur hanger, which then got tangled in my wheel and took out some spokes. I carried my bike along the course to my truck. Most of the racers who hadn't already passed me, passed me. It was frustrating. I really made an effort, not just today but ever since I started racing. My improvements come in small, microscopic really, waves, unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Each person who passed me felt like another year of training I was losing, one by one, until I walked past the finish line, very close to last place.

But I am optimistic. I found a bike shop that had a rear derailleur hanger for my bike. My old hanger was bent anyway, the derailleur would ping against the spokes when I tried to use the big cog, like a card hitting spokes on a kid's bike. The broken spokes were a little more problematic. The only 260 spokes I could find were used 14 straight gage spokes and, even if I could find good spokes, I have trued my rear wheel so many times that most of the nipples were worn smooth to the point that any further truing is impossible. The wheels are 10 years old and I really needed to have the hub laced to a new rim. The broken spokes where the final nudge I needed. If I can't get a new wheel built before the Iceman, I have other wheels. And I am healthy; in fact, I'm the only person at GM who doesn't have the flu. The sick, brave souls that came to work talk and cough all over their cell phones then hand their cell phone/virus ridden petri dish over to me to answer some question the person on the other end of the line has. Thank you. For some reason that isn't entirely clear to me, I just don't get sick so I should be OK for the Iceman.

Emilie is at a friend's tonight. Allie didn't want to go trick or treating; she wanted to hang out with mom at work, a take your daughter to work day of sorts. Allison gets nervous around spooky things and I suppose that is where she felt safest. But Allie got board at the bar and called to ask if I would take her trick or treating. We went to my old neighborhood.

All in all, pretty much a perfect day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Over Barriers

This was a quiet week. The kids were not feeling well so we skipped some dance practices. I didn't feel right leaving them home alone sick while I went off to ride so I set up barriers and practiced my cyclocross techniques in the backyard. I have been eyeing cross bikes, with a hint of lust; even have my bike picked out, hypothetically. Damn, pretty soon I will be shaving my legs and manicuring some hip facial hair. Actually I don't think I will take cross too seriously but I do want to race respectably. I embarrassed myself Sunday and won't let that happen again. I finished 15th out of 25 in the "C" class. I know a lot of things affect heart rate but I only averaged 164 BPM in that race, about 10 BPM less than during a 2 hr mountain bike race. Not making excuses, I just think I was more concerned about not crashing and getting over the barriers with a little dignity than worrying about racing. I am doing two cyclocross races this weekend. Hopefully I will place a little better.

Other random things during the week:

I replaced brake and shift cables last night because I was board. I am normally a little superstitious about working on my bike the week before a race. I was reallllly board.

I couldn't find my BlackBerry holster. 'Thought it might be in Cin's truck. I opened the liftgate and realized it would be quicker to just go to the Sprint store and buy a new one.

I don't go in Em's room very often. I am big on the idea of Emilie having her own space. I took a peek in her room this week and saw a copy of her heart rate file from our ride together at Island Lake. Sweet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Losing A Child to Adolescents

Emilie wanted to go to a haunted house yesterday. I snuck in a quick mountain bike ride then we took off on an hour drive to Westland, the only place anywhere near our house that I could find a haunted house open on a Monday. In the car ride I noticed how Em is changing. I thought about how the music we listen to in the car had evolved from The Wiggles and Kids Bop CDs, to 910 AM Disney Radio, to 96.3 FM pop rock, and now we were listening to the band Cake on 89X, an alternative rock station. I couldn’t tell if she liked it or just tolerated it, either way it showed a lever of maturity I hadn’t seen before. Our conversation has evolved too, from games we played to keep ourselves occupied, to hearing about her day, in great detail, to now where we were talking about why some people are the way they are. She told me about her plans for the weekend, none of which included me. We were suppose to go trick-or-treating together in West Dearborn, the neighborhood I grew up in, since now we live in a white trash neighborhood with houses far apart on a dirt road. I was looking forward to trick-or-treating in the neighborhood I trick or treated in as a kid. I would peek into the door of the house I grew up in, a huge brick house, complete with a huge garage and a library, a house much nicer than I will ever live in again. I would see if there were still ghosts there. It is a humbling thing not to reach the same level of fame and fortune as your parents. Anyway, since Emilie and Allie would be at parties and sleepovers all weekend, I am free to do a two day cyclocross race in Ann Arbor this weekend.

We got to the haunted house and Emilie was on the fence whether or not to go in. She really wanted to experience it but she was scared. She decided to go in but put her hoody on backwards so she could cover her face with the hood. It made me happy to see there was still a kid in there. She looked cute, face buried in her hood, her hair recently cut by her girlfriend during a sleepover last weekend. It is only a matter of time until she pierces her own ears. When I was her age I gave myself a prison tattoo with a sewing needle and ink from a broken BIC pen; the name of a girl I met earlier in the day, just because.

It was late when we drove home. Em asked if she could sleep in the back of my Chevy Tracker. I made a bed out of coats and she fell asleep. When we got home I carried her, like a baby, into the house. She weighs 80 lbs. I may never be able to do that again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Cyclocross Race

I signed up for a 5 K run last year, I don't know why. The only running shoes I own are the ones I cut the grass in. I showed up at the starting line in my camo cargo shorts, sweatshirt, and grass stained shoes. I had never felt so out of place in my life.

I felt just as out of place at the Maybury cyclocross race this morning. I did install a rigid fork and 1.5 Continental Cross Country tires on my mountain bike just so it would look like I made an effort to fit in. I got a 10 minute lesson on how to race cross right before we lined up. I was the last person to get a FaceBook account, I wasn't going to be the last one to jump on the cyclocross band wagon. Actually I was just board. And Denny has been trying to talk me into giving it a try.

I didn't take this race serious. I didn't expect to be struggling in the middle of the C class; I might be in trouble for the Iceman in a few weeks. I didn't stay for the results.

There is a cyclocross race in Ann Arbor next weekend. We'll see...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NC Photo Essay

My trip to the Pisgah National Forest was a great vacation. I know it was selfish of me to leave all my responsibilities back in Michigan while I rode 5 hrs a day and ate Thai food and drank lots of Starbucks in North Carolina. I got calls from friends while I was there, just to say "hi"; when I told them where I was and what I was up to, they seemed puzzled and concerned. Nothing to be puzzled or concerned over, I just wanted to ride. Maybe I got something from this trip that will help me make up for everything I neglected while I was gone. Anyway, here are my pictures:

North Carolina looks a lot like Northern Michigan, just a little more scenic.

Well, Like Michigan but with the odd cemetery here and there.

And rapids all over the place, actually not like Michigan at all.

There is the constant sound of rushing water.

The National Parks and Req. does a good job of protecting themselves from any liability by constantly reminding you that by riding the trails, you may very well die.

Photo Op.

Here is an abandoned air strip that is only accessible by trails. I am sure there is a story there.

The descents are crazy technical. I needed to take breaks on the down hills. The bikes of choice in North Carolina seem to be Foes full suspension bikes with through axles; perfect for descending but I have no idea how they lug a 40 pound bike up the trails. My 21 pound Felt felt about 21 pounds too heavy.

Some of the trails were smooth, solid rock.

Small lakes all over the place.

The vegetation was so thick the trails look like tunnels.

Small streams constantly crossed the trails. Some of the trails were small streams.

The trails all sparkle. It doesn't show up in pictures. You will have to take my word.

There are 100's of miles of trails but they are made up of 100 individual trails. This means every 4 or 5 minutes you need to decide which way to turn. I tried following maps locals drew on the back of bar napkins for me at first but it really got complicated so I started just making decisions on the fly. The trails are so well marked that it is difficult to get completely lost.

It is difficult to see the mountains because the trees were so thick. This is the best I could do.

The trails were...I duno, different, like they were fabricated by Disney.

My home away from home. It was foggy every morning.


Someone did a clever job of building bridges over the bigger streams with existing logs. The MMBA might learn something from this.

Lots of waterfalls. Very un-Michiganish.