Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tree Farm

I had a feeling I fractured a rib during the Abominable Snowman Ride a few weeks ago but I didn’t go to my doctor because I figured there was nothing he could do. I broke down and went last week. He said I fractured a rib but there was nothing he could do. That right there wasted a morning in my life I can’t have back. He also told me to avoid crashing for the next 8 to 10 weeks.

Last night I did a group ride with Team Tree Farm; a fast night ride on a technical snow covered trail with worn 1.9 Kenda Karmas and clipless pedals. Nothing could go wrong with this plan. It was a hoot.

It was tempting to stay home and ride the trainer in the comfort of my house but the thing is, there were people in Ohio doing a figure 8 crit on a frozen pond last night. And registration has opened for the Yankee Springs TT. December is too early for things to fall apart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Only A Fool Learns From His Own Mistakes

I usually don't learn from my mistakes.

I went to spinning this morning. I have mixed feelings. It is a good workout. The instructor is very motivational; I guess last Saturday someone had chest pains and had to go to the hospital. Kelly is a good instructor in the same way a good interrogator can get people to admit to stuff they didn't even do.

Let me recap December. Two weeks ago I went to spinning and was disgusted by the cesspool of humanity around me and vowed to stick to riding trails on the weekends.

True to my word, last Saturday I rode outside. It was so cold my CamleBak froze and my snot covered mittens slipped off the bars. I smacked the ground so hard I thought I broke a rib because it hurt to breathe; coughing almost made my knees buckle. I think I'm OK; I can breathe now without wincing, pretty much.

Thursday I went to spinning again. As I was leaving Jim called. Jim was my auto shop partner in high school and is now my occasional hunting buddy.

Me: "Hey Jim."

Jim: "What are you up to?"

Me: "Just finished a spinning class."

[Pause]

Jim: "You're taking a spinning class?"

Me: "Yeah, not real manly but too much snow to ride outside."

[Pause]

Jim: "Seriously?"

Me: "And it's dark before I get home from work.  So what have you been up to?"

Jim: "Like, do any other guys take that class?"

Me: "A few, mainly fit women. Has Brandon had a wrestling meet yet?"

Jim: "So...do you take the class just to meet girls because dude, you really need to get laid."

Me: "That's not really how I look at it, it's good exercise that's all. Done Christmas shopping?"

Jim: "I'm getting concerned..."

[Pause]

Jim: "Are you making a rug? Bro, you're turning into a chick."

Me: "What the hell does that even mean?"

Jim: "Right, that would be weaving."

Me: "Wait, not spinning like making yarn, spinning is an aerobics class where you use stationary bikes."

Jim: "That's not much better Neil."

After spinning this morning I went to Target to get Allie a new Caboodle for her makeup.  Maybe I am becoming a chick.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Abominable Snowman Ride

Last week I committed myself to ride outside on the weekends and not whine about it. Noble plans are easy to make when the task itself is off in the future. Today was the annual Abominable Snowman Ride.

Bill calls...

Bill:  "Are you riding or are you hiding?"

Me:  "What, oh yeah, of course I'm riding.  Pfft, are you kidding?  You want to ride.....right?"

Bill:  "Yeah, Abominable Snowman Ride, you want to swing by on your way there to pick me up?"

Me:  "Uh, sure.  You're serious about riding right?  I mean, it's 19 degrees."

Another in a long line of perfect rides. The trail was icy but fun. I went down pretty hard but it had nothing to do with the ice; I was a foot or two above the ground when things came unraveled. My snot covered mitten slipped off the grip. I grabbed for the bars and found the grip just as I was landing but by then my ass lost the seat and a foot lost a pedal.

Falling face first on a pile of snow covered rocks is fine. The problem is Bill rounded the corner just in time to witness the tail end of my landing.

Bill:  "You're on the wrong side of the bike."

Nice.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Befuddled Santa Part II

I took a couple days off work this week.  I had vacation days to burn and I thought I could get a solid start to my 2011 training by taking advantage of the trails before they are buried under snow.  I didn't ride much.  My days filled with tasks so quickly that I was left wondering how I ever had time for work.

Last year Allison asked Santa for a code activated deadbolt for her bedroom and, even though it made no sense, he did not disappoint.  This year she asked for an I-Touch.  Santa spent the day trying to set it up with her songs and configuring it to her email, facebook, and our wireless router.  He has a good heart but is technologically inept.  He spent the morning just trying to load I-Tunes on his computer.

The Santa I gave my list to 30-some years ago would not have put up with these shenanigans.  He was a stick German Engineer and wonderfully practical when it came to gifts.  Had I asked for an I-Touch, and if they were invented, he would have pointed out that there were plenty of MP3 players out there that play music for much less.  Anyway, I had to hide my Rush albums under the bed like most boys hide their Playboys.  My daughters have a gentler and less practical Santa.

Santa really did come through when I was 11.  I wanted a BMX bike, one I could race.  Every bicycle I had up to that point was pulled out of the neighbors' trash by Santa.  But Christmas of '78 Santa left me a beautiful high end Raleigh Rampar.  Back then it was popular to drill out any possibly unnecessary metal, around the chain ring, brake levers, frame gussets, etc.  My bike was carefully drilled out by a bike shop mechanic, metallic paint and gold anodized parts. That was 33 years ago.  I still think about it every Christmas.     

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spinning

Last night Allie and I watched the Suite Life on Deck Christmas special.  Zack is the cool, slacker twin who gets all the cute girls.  Cody is the studious brother who suffers the brunt of their mishaps, normally caused by Zack.  Everyone was making fun of Cody because he had to dress up like a Christmas elf. Cody complains: "Why do I always have to be the elf?" to which someone replies:  "Because you are the only one with their own elf tights."  Cody says, slowly and in frustration, as if he had explained this several times already: "They are not tights, they are compression pants, for my spinning class."

I went to the gym this morning.  Most of the people in the gym early on a Saturday take fitness somewhat seriously.  The men tend to go to the free-weight area.  I went to the spinning class with the fit women and a few older men in matching kits.  I'm not sure which group I identify with better, neither actually.

Riding in tight quarters with Lady Gaga blaring over the speakers is a bit much at 8:00 AM but spinning is an easy way to go anaerobic when I would normally be drinking coffee and checking email.  15 minutes into the class, a huge man walks in and takes the bike in between me and a fan.  He has a lot of cologne on.  I am already at 173 BPM so this is horrible.  I have an amazing sense of smell.  I can smell girls before I see or hear them on the trails.  I actually smell large spinning guy's scent transition from over the top cologne to a complex stench of rotten milk and dead and bloated animal.  As the eternal optimist, I consider if there is some useful purpose for this.  I think about how the four student demonstrators were shot at Kent State in 1970, and how the police could have dispersed the crowd in a somewhat more humane manner if they took a dozen large spinning guys and set up fans behind them.  Then I became terribly concerned that the other people in the spinning class downwind might think it was me wafting over towards them.  And I thought about how much like Cody I am.  And if compression pants might actually help.

Bill has recovered from his meniscus surgery and started riding again.  Cold weather does not discourage him.  I think I might stick to riding trails with Bill this winter.       

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Relative and Peer Pressure


Cindy and I both love our families but neither of us wanted to deal with them this Thanksgiving.  We spent the holiday with Renee and her friends and family.  Renee makes a warm, nonjudgmental surrogate family, like the Island of Misfit Toys.  After Thanksgiving dinner, Renee, Randy, Bob, and I agreed to do the Second Annual Black Friday Ride at Rolling Hills.

This seemed a better idea when we were sharing a bottle of wine around the warm glow of the fire than when I was loading up my bike in the damp, grey, subfreezing, windy morning.  But the thing is, Randy and Renee are so hard core, I couldn't back out.  As I was leaving I text'd Randy: "Are you riding?"  He responded something like: "It's pretty cold, think I will spend the morning in bed."

I don't like doing group rides where I don't know anyone.  The ride was in Ypsilanti so I figured I might be on my own.  As I was unloading my bike I hear: "Hey Neil."  It was Cyclo Dan, the rolling encyclopedia of bicycle stuff.  He can spend an entire ride talking about the art and science of wheel building.  He was on a beautiful titanium Quiring 69er (29" wheel in front, 26 in back), so beautiful it actually made the hair stand up on my neck.  The last I knew, he had a Trek 69er, a bike he adored.  We rode together and he talked about geometry and how the 26/29 is the best design ever.  He has so much bicycling knowledge that it is hard to argue with him, but I suspect he just likes saying "69er".  

It was a no drop ride, which normally would be cool because I am typically the one getting dropped; however, this was a very slow bunch.  I almost toppled over we were going so slow.  I am not arrogant, it's just blocking a whole morning off to ride is a huge deal for me.  People don't have to be fast, I get it.  But if you are going so slow that your 29" wheels cannot generate any gyroscopic affect, then those wheels better not have Chris King Disc hubs because that is just disrespectful to Chris King.  Despite creeping along at 5 mph, we dropped someone.  I don't know how this was even possible.  They wanted to go look for him.  I suggested the deer hunters would find him, if not this season then next.  We went back after him.  It was a good ride.  When will I realize every ride is a good ride.  Getting out of the house is always the trick. 

Em ran a 5 K race Friday night.  I am so proud.  She was spending the weekend with friends and they all decided to do this race.  It is amazing what peer pressure can do.  The race was right before a light parade in down town Howell so there were lots of people lining the street.  It was cold.  Allie and I drank hot chocolate trying to stave off hypothermia.  Allie insisted on waiting until we saw Emilie.    

I didn't know how Emilie would respond when she ran by with her friends.  She will be 13 in January so I'm not cool anymore.  She stopped when she saw me, walked over and gave me a hug, like when  a racer in the Tour de France passes through his home town.  It made standing in the cold and the last 12 years so worth it. 

Denny called earlier in the week and asked me to go riding with him at Pontiac this morning.  It seemed a better idea when I was talking to him on the phone than when I was loading up my bike in the damp, grey, subfreezing, windy morning.  Another perfect ride.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Off Season

I rode at Maybury today.  It is one of the few trails near me that doesn't allow deer hunting.  I am not a hunter but I don't want to mess things up for those who are.  I understand others have rights to state land even if how we choose to use that land doesn't always fit together well.  It is a slippery slope when you pick and choose who's sovereignty to infringe on.  That and I don't want to get shot.  

Now that my race season (I'm rolling my eyes) is over, I'm starting to follow some type of actual training plan.  When the weather is perfect and it stays light past 4:30, I just kind of meander along, riding with no focus at all.  This shit makes no sense.  I suppose right now I can look down the road to April and, in my little yet optimistic mind, comprehend doing well and wrap said little and optimistic mind around the tasks I need to do to get there.  I'm always optimistic in November; carrying that over to Spring is the trick.  I have a good feeling about next year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Special Edition

I rode before work today.  And I have been dragging my tired old soul to the gym.  Yes, I am a racerwannabe. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dear Hunter Sonnet

That shadowless time of year where cold winds dost blow,
When weekday riding outside is nye,
Early night hides me inside, stationary and slow,
Ushered in by the Energy Act of '05.
The trail, its sultry sweet voice like a Siren's call
Whereon hunters fall upon like Autumn's cold rains,
As they have done, like I once did, early every Fall,
Descending from Taylor and Drayton Plains.
I could ride on roads or write a bitter sonnet instead,
Maybe ride dark trails woken up by lights,
Since a bad ride is better than a good ride shot dead,
And worse than dieing is infringing on rights.
Rights and sovereignty left scattered in the sand
Takes the shape of discarded Budweiser cans.

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 Iceman

That child who refused to smile, first row 6 columns across, is me.   Third row down third column across is Denny.  A couple years later Denny would crash in front of my house and lose his two front teeth.  I kept thinking about that as I raced on the back of his tandem Sunday at the Iceman.  We finished 14th out of 30 in the tandem class, 2:46.  I'm satisfied.  I averaged 164 BPM, which I believe is what I averaged at the Yankee Springs TT.  I think that's all I'm capable of anymore.

I felt completely out of control, probably because I was.  I just pedaled and didn't worry about things that were out of my hands.  There is probably a metaphor that hints at some larger truth somewhere in all this.


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One Trick Pony

I had today off work.  Voting day I guess.  I don't understand it but thank you to my brothers and sisters of the UAW.  I spent the day reading email, making sure the kids played nice together, and raking leafs. It was nice having Tuesday off from my normal routine of reading email, making sure the technicians work well together, and cleaning up messes that then leaves a vacuum which is filled with almost identical messes.

It was a perfect Fall day. I got a ride in.  An easy ride.  A ride that concludes my taper for the Iceman; a taper that started, hell I don't know, about halfway through the Yankee Springs Time Trial in April. I am going into the Iceman well rested and with no overuse injuries what so ever.

As I was leaving to ride, Emilie looked up from the TV and said: "You got a new jersey?"

I said: "Yes I did, it's from Marshall's," and strutted down the hallway as if it were a catwalk, turn, hip out, and over my shoulder I continued: "And it was 80% off."

Em looks back at the TV and says to herself in her typical early-adolescent sarcastic tone: "Hum, I wonder why."

Somethings don't change.  Actually very little really changes.  Kids get older, people walk in and out of my life, I replace my bike every couple years, my time fluctuates a minute or two either way at the Iceman but life is amazingly the same.  I'm not saying this as if it were a bad thing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Singlespeed World Championship, Sort Of

Today was the self-proclaimed Singlespeed World Championship.  I'm not sure how official it is; in fact, the race brochure stated, several times, it wasn't even a race.  The winner took home the coveted Singlespeed World Champion beer mug.  It looked like a race from where I was sitting.  

I didn't do the race.  I was on the fence this morning.  A singlespeed race at the Poto the week before Iceman seems a perfect venue but I wasn't in a racing mood.  I wasn't even in a riding mood.  This is odd.  I haven't been riding lately but it hasn't been lack of desire, just collateral damage from a hectic schedule.  Kevin and I took off on our geared bikes a little while after the racers.  

The Singlspeed World Championship is an annual race but this year it was a fund raiser for Jason Lummis.  Jason is a local pro who represents Michigan well when he races out of state.  I don't know him personally but I heard he is a great guy.  Jason was hit by a truck and left for dead in a ditch while riding his bike home from work about a month ago.  It's not clear if he will ever be the same.  What is clear is today when I was quietly whining to myself about the grey skies, cold temperature, and my lack of fitness, Jason was home in a full body cast.  I thought about Jason a lot on this ride, and how I complain about silly things, and how easily I lose prospective.  It was a good ride and, as always, I came back with a better attitude than I left with. 

I went right from the ride to pick up the girls from dance.  Em wanted to go to a friend's house in Canton then for me to take them to a haunted house after dark.  This left me with 3 hours to spend with Allie, not quite enough time to go back to Brighton but a lot of time to spend in Canton.  Allie wanted to go to Jungle Java like we did in previous years when we had some time to kill.  I wasn't half way through my cup of coffee and Allie wanted to leave.  She is getting a little old for a play structure.  Kids don't get old all at once, it come in little waves.  We went shopping.  

One of the stores we went to was Marshall's, a store that gets other stores' overstock items.  99.9% of what they have is crap.  In between all the crap is often a jewel or two.  The jewels they had today were Columbia Highroad cycling jerseys, windbreakers, vests, and jackets.  I picked up on a long sleeve jersey, normally $70 on sale for $15.  I left the store with a better attitude than I walked in with.  Finding cycling apparel at 80% off MSRP while looking for clothes for your daughter can do that.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Diabolical Plan

I just reviewed the 2010 Iceman website looking for help with logistics. They had some good information, like it might be cold in Northern Michigan in November so bring winter riding gear. Here is my favorite quote from the website:

And, oh by the way... 27 miles of hard riding, especially if the weather is nasty, is not only hard on your ride, but physically demanding as well. Ride your bike regularly for at least eight weeks before Iceman.

Oh crap, Iceman is two weeks away, now I read their training suggestions. I have done this race since 1996 (I think) and never have I been so unprepared. This is fine, the year was just a little off, it's not the beginning of a downward spiral. Still, I am screwed. I will look back someday at all my times and this one will look pathetic. Worse than that, every time I ride with a new group of people next summer, someone will casually ask what my Iceman time was. I will take a deep breath and tell them with no good way to explain it away and they will relegate me to the back of the group.

It was raining today so I set up the trainer. I have 6 weeks of training to get in today before I pick up the girls from dance at 4:00.

But, I have a plan, a way to get out of turning in a poor time at this year's Iceman without anyone noticing.

Denny recently asked me to race his tandem with him. I wasn't his first choice. His wife has a family obligation during the Iceman weekend. His second choice, Paul, fortunately ruptured a disc in his back last week leaving the position of stoker open for me. Racing on the back of a tandem is actually terrifying but I can blame our iffy time on Denny. Denny, like so many people recently, has fully jumped on the cross bandwagon so he is in good shape right now but that doesn't matter, next year during a group ride when someone asks me my time, I will tell them but immediately explain I was on a tandem, in a tone that suggests I had to lug my partner across all 27 miles. Brilliant. Diabolical and brilliant. I am so glad no one reads my blog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Silence

Yesterday was beautiful. I had a lite schedule but got up early to ride because life has taught me if I don't ride early, I often squander my opportunity. My dad called before I rode and asked to take me out for breakfast. On my way back from breakfast I got a call from work. Apparently a VP had an issue with the cars I had waiting for the media to drive at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester. I went to see what I could do. I hate working on cars in hotel parking lots. I went to a local Home Depot, bought a rivet gun, and helped the techs put the cars back together as best we could.

I should have stayed later but I had to pick up the girls from dance. We are living with one foot in Brighton and one foot in Canton. I went to Canton to pick up the girls. They each wanted to spend the night at friends in that area. It kills me when they choose friends over me even though I would have done the same thing when I was their age; a decision that doesn't even require a lot of thought. I delivered them to their friends' houses and drove back to Brighton alone.

It was quiet ride home. I don't like silence. I stopped by Bill's house to get a light I loaned him and to talk him into doing a night ride. He will normally ride whenever I ask but he hurt his knee and was going in for a MRI Monday. A night ride alone sounded pretty pathetic but it seemed my best option.

Sally doesn't bark, she doesn't even realize she is a dog. She growls in a deep, deliberate, fluctuating tone. It sounds like she is talking. But Sally had nothing to say when I got home. It was very quiet.

I spent an hour trying different lighting configurations on my bike in the dead silence of my garage. I feel like a drunk on roller skates when I ride at night and thought a few extra lights might help. I took off on my ride and made it a block from home when Emilie texted and asked for me to come pick her up. It was 10:00 pm when I got to her friend's house in Canton. I was glad to have her back. She hopped in the car and asked if she could lay the seat down and go to sleep. I drove back to Brighton in silence.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unremarkable

Today was beautiful. I was overcome with the desire to play hooky, but it was just not practical. I had meetings to go to, spreadsheets to fill in, cars to build. I went to meetings and filled in spreadsheets and built cars and came to terms with the reality that I would end the year with two weeks of unused vacation days.

Cindy called and said she was taking Emilie to the hospital because Em was having chest pains. My heart broke. Em removed her sticky little EKG pads and turned them into finger puppets.

The physician's assistant came in. She was younger than me. This is getting common but still makes me uneasy. She told me Emilie's X-rays were "unremarkable". Uh what? She repeated, slowly, and clearly, as if I were deaf or just dumb: "UN-RE-MARK-ABLE". No, I have a pretty good grasp of the English language, just an odd word to choose. She could have said "normal" and saved us both 10 seconds of our lives. She apparently does not have kids because if she did, she would understand that there is nothing unremarkable about our own children. It was just a virus in Emilie's rib cage, fairly common I guess. She gave Em a shot in the butt and sent us on our way.

I took Em home, snuck back into work before the next meeting, sped through my emails like Evelin Wood, and no one noticed I was ever gone. I left work on time, which is seriously frowned on ever since GM went bankrupt, and made it to the MMBA group ride tonight.

I was dropped, even worse than last week. First by the fast riders, and then by the Fred's, and then I was on my own. Seems my twice a week training plan still isn't yielding the results I was hoping for. Apparently one must start off with some type of athletic disposition for it to work. It's unfair, that's all.

I haven't been riding but that's not to say it has been a bad season. Spending a Sunday at a cider mill is hardly a harsh sentence. Watching the kids grow up is nice. I'm looking forward to Iceman. Riding can wait.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art of Living in Denial

Last night was the Poto MMBA group ride. I struggled and took chances and went down pretty hard. I don’t care about the road rash, the body has an amazing ability to repair itself, I care that I went through yet another pair of shorts. I am down to a mere two pair that are appropriate to wear in public. I can tell I lost a lot of skin; I had to rip the bed sheets off my thigh this morning like a band-aid. It’s best to do it quickly and with authority.

I forgot lights so I didn’t do the North loop. I rode the last part of the trail by myself. In this slow, quiet rhythm, I contemplated if my poor performance had a medical explanation. I normally blame my waning performance on weight gain but fortunately I have been under so much stress this year that I have no appetite at all, very convenient.

Maybe my arteries are restricted. It’s not my fault, it’s McDonalds’. Perhaps I need to go in for a routine angioplasty to crush fatty deposits in my blood vessels. The increase blood flow should catapult me up hills.

Maybe I have chronic pneumonia. Those poor microscopic air filled alveoli in my lungs are under water, or whatever fluid that is which fills one’s lungs. Sure, I haven’t noticed any symptoms but when it comes to overlooking ailments, few can live in denial better than me. I went to the doctors two years ago because I crashed pretty good and landed on my knee. The arthropod looks at the x-ray and points out a partially calcified fracture at the bottom of the image. He asks if I realized I fractured my tibulae the previous summer. Uh no, I did not notice. He asks: “Well, did you crash your bike last year too?” I didn’t even know how to respond.

Maybe my testosterone level is low. I was tested before and my levels were high, off the charts actually; however, I’m not in my 30’s anymore. Again, nobody can live in repudiation better than me but I see myself in pictures and shutter and realize I am not immune to ravishes of old age. I might go get tested. Maybe pick up a six pack of EPO while I’m there.

Maybe my poor performance is my fault, the result of only riding twice a week, and typically uninspired rides at that. No, that doesn’t even make sense.

Maybe it’s my bike…

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Triple Trail Challenge

Today was the annual Triple Trail Challenge, a very cool ride that uses a combination of the Poto, Waterloo (which is normally closed to bicycles), and the Lakeland trails to make a 47 mile loop. Tree Fort Bikes supplied the corn roast, chili, and beer afterwards, very nice.

Randy, Renee, and I pedaled over to meet Brad and his friends who were waiting for us at the trail. Just as we reached them it started to pour. Brad and his friends took off on the ride; Randy, Renee, and I went back to wait it out. Typically Randy and Renee seem completely unaffected by crappy weather but they spent the last two weekends racing in a cold down pour and just didn't feel like riding in the rain again today. Shew.

After an hour of waiting they decided to go home, I waited around for a bit longer because I wanted to buy a Brighton Bulldog jersey from someone who was doing the ride. I just wanted the jersey, apparently I joined a club. That's cool. The sun came out shortly after Randy and Renee left. Poto is sandy so it perks wonderfully, the trail was fine. I only did the Poto section of the ride since I was taking off about an hour after everyone else.

I like the atmosphere of this ride, it is almost like a race but without the pressure. And lots of vintage bikes with rigid forks and V-brakes and non-racey bicyclist which is a refreshing change. There are the over the top people with shinny new carbon-fiber Superflys that will crawl into a cold outdoor shower with their bikes but mostly just people who like bicycling. It's like an alternate universe where I seem almost normal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Almost Done With Base Miles

Iceman is 8 weeks away and I seem to be still stuck in my base building phase, without the quantity of junk miles that normally go into this phase. That's fine, I got a lot out of riding this season even if fitness wasn't one of those things. I spent some quality time this week playing complicated games of hide and go seek that require the use of walkie talkies. I still don't understand all the rules.

I rode with Bill and Jeremy yesterday, first time on a bike since Traverse City. Since we ride to the trail from our neighborhood, we don't enter the trail from the trail head. We paused before we hopped on the trail to take a drink, start our HRMs, and respond to texts. A couple riders went by as we were getting situated, then two girls flew by, Bill noticed and took off. I rolled my eyes, one girl had a SSE kit and the other one had a Dark Horse kit. I don't know who they were but it doesn't matter, I'm pretty sure all the girls on those teams are faster than me. Those kits are like the chastity slashes the girls wore in the book 1984: symbolic clothing that made it clear we were not going to reach them. We never did see them again but we passed a lot of guys, guys who had their egos run over by SSE and Dark Horse girl.

Earlier in the day I went grocery shopping by myself. I had a simple task: get frozen sugar cookie dough, SOS pads, laundry detergent, and snacks, nothing that took a GED to figure out. I go grocery shopping all the time but normally my responsibility is limited to pushing the cart and paying. I am becoming more independent, today I was on my own. I was baffled. The pre-cut cookie dough didn't look very fall-like so I tried to figure out what type of frosting to buy to accessorize it; I have no idea. For some reason they don't put SOS pads by dish soap, that would make it too easy I suppose.

Laundry detergent...I never noticed there were so many to choose from. I wanted Tide, but did I want fresh scent, mountain scent, with bleach alternative or stain lifting formula?

And snacks for the kids' lunches? How have I never bothered to notice what they like. My parents would never let me have snacks made with enriched flour, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, or partially hydrogenated palm kernel. I try to be a little more lenient, it's a delicate balance at best.

But the groceries were nothing compared to me trying to help Em pick out makeup last night. I have no idea. I didn't even know what to say, or where to start. I'm not dumb, I just have a limited number of brain cells and perhaps I have been overly selective with what I put in each one. Em was understanding but I could tell she was disappointed with me. "Just wait up front dad." Ouch.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Traverse City Extravaganza Part II

My vacation in Traverse City is reaching its end. I like it here but I am glad I wasn't raised in TC because if I were, any other place I lived from that point on would seem a little, I don't know, ordinary.

As always, Tom and Tammy were the perfect hosts.




Thursday I rode with the Cherry Capital Cycling Club near the VASA trails. Don led the group on unmarked trails. He picked out an amazing route. It is encouraging to ride with an older man who isn't afraid to go down, a couple times actually. It was a leisurely pace until it got dark and we turned on our lights, then they flew, or maybe I am just slow in the dark, either way I struggled to keep up. I missed a turn off and when I got to a straight away I realized I was alone. I accepted the fact that some hunter was going to fine my lost, frozen corpse in November but Don came back and shepherded me towards our group, very kind indeed, typical of everyone I met this weekend.

Renee and Randy came up late Thursday. Friday I wanted to show them where Don had taken us the night before but I knew I would get lost. We rode the normal VASA trail and I got lost, not because I am an idiot because even an idiot couldn't get lost on perhaps the best marked trail ever but because I tend to get lost in my own thoughts. Often I end up back at the trail head and have little or no memory of the previous hour. It's a problem for sure. I made a wrong turn Friday and met back up with them at the truck.

Saturday we did the Logsplitter Challenge. I am legally required to give Diane Ursu credit for this picture; however, somehow through lighting and other tomfoolery, she manipulated this image to imply it was much more pleasant outside than it really was. The weather held out for my previous two rides; however, Saturday looked bad. Right before the race started the sun came out, so quickly and so dramatically that as I walked into the bathroom, someone walked out, looked up, and asked: "How long was I in there?" This was fortunate because the extent of my winter riding gear was a set of foot warmers apparently left in my bag from the Iceman last year. It rained towards the end of the race but by then my tolerance for pain was way up.

I didn't really want to do this race. I planned on subtly talking Renee and Randy out of it but before I could plant this seed, Randy mentioned that Bob was coming up to do the race too. With three people planning on racing I kept my mouth shut. It was a good race, well marked and a fun atmosphere. My goal was to finish in the middle of the pack. I finished 29th out of 58. Mission accomplished I guess. I met Ali and Di at the race. I was kind of star struck actually.

The best part of the weekend was riding with Emilie and her girlfriends. When Em was young we often rode single track on our tandem. She was fearless and loved it but as she got older she lost interest in riding, that's fine, she is her own person. As soon as we got on the trail Sunday, Em said her braces were cold. She must have been smiling. Sweet.

The VASA trail was a little long for three adolescent girls so I took them on a short cut, and got lost. Getting lost with three giddy girls (four if you count Renee) isn't a problem, it's an adventure. We ended up on a road that dead ended at an oil pump. Renee and the girls climbed up. Irresponsible but fun. Most fun has an element of irresponsibility.

Em followed me on the trail. I would give advice but I was careful not to sound like I was telling her what to do. I suggested she look where she wanted to go, not at the sand and roots and rocks. Em thought about this for a minute and said: "That would be a good quote for life, 'look where you want to go, not at the obstacles'." That is exactly what I would have said if I was just a little more clever than I am.

Kevin, my original riding partner from 1990-something and the person who introduced me to mountain biking, happened to be in Traverse City this weekend too. He brought his bike and google Earth maps of the Iceman course. We met Monday and did half the Iceman. For the third ride this weekend, the rain held off until after we were done riding and had the bikes loaded up. An excellent way to end an excellent holiday.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Annual Traverse City Extravaganza

Cool nights, leafs on the deck, Bill and I did a night ride last weekend…it’s the end of summer. I handle autumn no better now than when I was 8 and really didn’t want to go back to school. My summer swan song will be our second annual Labor Day trip to Traverse City and, possibly, the Logsplitter Mountainbike Challenge Race. The challenge part of the race is not getting lost, a challenge which my friends and I all failed miserably at last year.

Allie and I went grocery shopping last night for snacks for the Labor Day weekend that will start Wednesday night. I let her pick out everything on her own; I was careful not to encourage or discourage any choice, I just walked along, neutral, like Switzerland. Allie can make the right decisions without any input from me, encouraging but with a hint of sadness at the same time.

Paul and Laura decided against going to TC this year. That’s a pity. They are a fun couple and such good cooks, they made the kind of meals you lay in bed at night afterwards just thinking about. We are on our own this year, I imagine we will just put Vanilla Bean Gu on store bought bagels and call it good. Bon App├ętit.

Now to try and find some locals that can show us the Iceman course. I tried to pick out the course on my own before and got lost. I am often lost.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Art of Being Un-Cool

Nothing blog worthy this week really. Tuesday I rode Poto with Randy, Rob, and Renee. The ride was interesting. We left later than planed, it took longer than planed, and it got dark earlier than planed. We did the last few miles in the dark. Pretty fun actually. Rob and I went pretty hard then we would stop and wait for Randy and Renee. I never talked to Rob before. He is maybe 21 and the polar opposite of me. He works enough to save a little money then goes hiking in a foreign country. He has been through Europe and South America. He told me stories, like when he tried to leave a bar in Peru (?) and the police wouldn't let him because it was too dangerous at night. He meets people along the way that let him stay at their house and show him around. Very cool. He is planning to go to Antarctica next, with no real plan as I understand it, just head south until he gets there. When I was 16, Mike and I drove my truck to Colorado with no real plan, just headed west, spending the nights at rest stops. Antarctica is a completely different animal.

I hit and killed a deer Wednesday and felt awful. I was getting ready for bed when Emilie asked for a strawberry banana smoothie from McDonald's. She just got braces and apparently smoothies are the only things she can eat. I couldn't let her starve so I went and when I was almost home a deer leaped out from the woods and ran into the side of my truck.

I normally drive very careful around my house. The woods are loaded with deer. I noticed the cool, adolescent deer egg each other on to play this game of chicken where they wait at the side of the road for cars to come by, leap out in front of the unsuspecting motorist at the last second, and watch the cars swerve. They then prance back into the woods and have a good laugh. I think they post video clips of these encounters on their facebook pages. The deer that ran into me miscalculated.

Yesterday I picked up Emilie from a friend's house. She asked to stop by the Apple Store on our way home. Apparently all the cool kids use MACs. The Apple Store was giving a class on how to use the I-Phone to a half dozen retired people, all looking very baffled. The Trekkie trying to teach them how to text had a hint of frustration in his voice. I think the problem wasn't they couldn't text, I think they didn't understand why they would want to. I felt very cutting edge compared to them, then realized I was the only person there who doesn't have an I-Phone. Maybe, just maybe, I am not only un-cool by "free-spirited lets go to Antarctica on a whim" standards, but also by "hip adolescent deer" and "retired and living in Novi" standards. This could be worse than I thought.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If I Had It To Do All Over Again

The girls were with Cindy all week in Traverse City, leaving a horribly empty vacuum in my evenings, filled slightly with riding all I wanted. By Thursday my legs felt like goo. I didn't think I had it in me to do the Thursday night MMBA group ride so I rode with Randy, Rob, and Bill instead. I think they all did their first races this year so I figured I should have no trouble keeping up. I would have struggled if they didn't ware themselves out by crashing so much. Ptfff...young bucks, except Bill, he's my age, and managed to stay upright this ride.

Saturday was the Maybury race. I had to work in the morning but took my single speed with me so I could do the race on the way home. It rained right before I left and this race didn't mean enough for me to do it in less than ideal conditions. The significance here was I intended to race. I don't think god intended me to be a racer; instead of making me in his own image, he made me a fat little kid, always the last one picked for baseball, the atrocities of which I haven't forgotten.

Saturday afternoon I met Cindy in the parking lot of Caribou Coffee to get the kids. Not to sound all introspective or anything but on the way to pick them up I considered if I would have lived my life differently if I could have a do-over. I made a lot of dumb mistakes. It's a silly thing to dwell on.

The kids ran to me in the parking lot and everything seemed normal again. We went into the coffee shop. I get coffee all the time, a pretty mundane experience really, but not with kids, they make it an adventure. Allie somehow got hot chocolate in her nose. God I love them.

Em asked me to take her to a friend's house when we got home. Allie asked to have a bicycle race, a very complicated race with ambiguous rules that seemed to change on a whim. Allison won. But I should point out that since I didn't know the course, I had to follow her which made passing pretty much impossible. And I haven't really been training this season. Why do I feel so compelled to explain my poor race results.

After the race, Allie asked to go swimming. We didn't have our suites or towels but that didn't curb her enthusiasm.

Which leads me back to my original question: would I live my life, a life filled with unforgivable mistakes, differently if I had the chance? Absolutely not.