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Category: outdoors (Page 3 of 23)

cycling log: 25 june 2011 (diabolical double)

Activity: road cycling
Location: McHenry, MD (Wisp Mountain Resort)
Distance: 125.38 miles (many steep and technical climbs and descents)
Duration: 8:25 (9:17 with stoppage time)
Weather: overcast and cool, occasional drizzle, 59-71 degrees
Climbing: 15,913′
Avg HR: 154 (max 183)
Type: aerobic

Last year, I rode the Diabolical Double – a.k.a. the Garrett County Gran Fondo – and called it “truly diabolical.”

And it still is – but this time, I was prepared.

Oh sure, in 2010 I believed I was ready, and I probably was, by and large. However, this year things simply were, well, better.

The ride organizers tweaked some of the checkpoints, adding an extra one between Westernport and Deer Park to prevent the mass dehydration spectacle that plagued the field last year.

I equipped my bike with lower gearing, taking my own advice from last year to heart.

I stayed at the base of Wisp the night before the ride, which was a big plus, as any extra sleep netted before the 7:00am start is “money” (i.e. energy) in the bank.

I ate a dinner that was balanced “comfort” food: Mexican, with plenty of protein and carbs and a little bit of fat, chased by a locally-brewed oatmeal stout and plenty of water.

And the next morning, it looked dank, misty and cloudy – possibly the best part of ride day.

In 2010, it was sunny and hot for the ride, especially after dropping down to Westernport and during the climbs back out of the river valley. It was at this point last year where I ran into a battle against dehydration.

But this year was different – very different.

Chris and I drove out to McHenry on Friday afternoon, shortly after he picked up his new bike (yes, he rode a 125 mile event on a brand new bicycle – he’s a brave man), and marveled at the undulating geography that would present itself to us first-hand the next day. After checking into the hotel and meeting up with Mark, we headed to dinner at the Santa Fe Grill to eat the aforementioned Mexican dinner, then headed to the local grocery to pick up breakfast rations (our hotel room had a fridge, so fresh juice and yogurt were nice breakfast perks). We settled down around 10:30pm.

The alarm went off at 5:00am – a painful hour, but I managed to get moving rather quickly. We wanted to be on the road to the summit of Wisp (only a 2 mile drive) by 6, as there could be a traffic jam as people arrive for the event. This year, the field was expanded to 600 riders in the various distances, with approximately 250-300 of them riding the 125 and 100-mile rides. We arrived at the summit by 6:15, prepared the bikes and decided how to approach the cool, misty morning. While Chris opted to go with short sleeves and shorts (he thrives in the cold), I opted to layer a long-sleeve tech shirt under my Connecticut College jersey, knowing that I could doff it at either of the first two checkpoints. Mark also opted for a warm layer that was a bit more substantial, made of wool.

After the usual pre-event running around (the queue for the men’s bathroom was long, though only for the toilet stalls – thank goodness I didn’t need them!), we moseyed over to the start area around 6:55, where we met up with Tim, Mike, Jeff, and John, waiting for the end of the pre-ride announcements (“this is not a race… be careful on the descents… you still need sunscreen, even on a cloudy day…”). Of this group of Potomac Pedalers riders, I was the only one who had previously ridden the course, so I knew that the initial descent might be a bit scrappy.

So when the starting call went out at 7:11am, I made sure to work my way toward the front. Tim did the same, while the others hung back a little ways. So the descent wasn’t bad for me at all, while others, according to Chris, experienced flat tires from…. well, who knows what. Within the first few miles, I had distanced myself from my crowd and settled into a nice pace through the first two checkpoints.

I spent very little time at the checkpoints: 5 minutes at the first one, maybe 10 at the second one. I saw Jeff again at the second stop, as he was arriving and I was departing. I dropped off my base layer at checkpoint two, and while it was a chilly start for the third leg of the ride, it was a good move as I wasn’t in any risk of overheating. I was eating and drinking well, too – things just seemed right.

The third leg of the ride is the hardest in terms of hills. While previous hills were steep, they weren’t particularly long, so it was possible to power up the slopes and recover quickly. The hills on leg three, however, were long, steep and relentless. Bowman Road and “Killer” Miller are epic climbs that, while separated by eight miles, seem to lie atop each other. Both feature sustained steep sections that, while scenic, wear on legs that have over 45 miles of other hills already under foot. I tapped into my power and made it up them without much difficulty, and wasn’t passed by many people as I climbed – in fact, I passed people on both the climbs and the descents, which served not only to build my confidence, but also put me in the position where I was riding with very few people close by.

The third checkpoint was another shorter stop, where I considered leaving my car keys for Chris – he originally stated his intent to ride only the century on his new bike, which would have put him back at Wisp at least an hour ahead of me. In hindsight, I’m glad I kept them with me. The next section included a lovely dirt road segment, where I bombed past a team of triathletes on time trial bikes. Let me state for the record: I have no idea why anybody would ride a TT bike on this course! The terrain is ill-suited for the extreme geometry of a TT bike, and even if it is equipped with better climbing gears, it’s still best suited for, well, a TT or flatter triathlon stage.

Ahem.

After descending into Westernport (where I did not climb “The Wall” this time, and where the temperature was in the low-70s), I pulled into the Luke P.O. checkpoint to the cheers of excited volunteers (as a side note: all of the volunteers at this event are so positive and supportive, and they make a huge difference to the riders). I spent a few minutes chatting with the women at this stop, all the while drinking (water, HEED and Coke) and eating (mixed nuts and PB&J sandwiches), knowing that the upcoming segment was my undoing in 2010.

I got back on the road (again, to much cheering from the volunteers), and started up the Route 46 climb into West Virginia. This is a longer, more “western style” climb that isn’t very steep, but is very tough after 86 miles of riding. One of the few people I saw during the ride – Tom, from Baltimore – joined me on the climb and we chatted the whole way up, all the while keeping up a brisk pace. This continued to the top, where I distanced myself on the descent (broke 50 mph on the bike for the third of five times on the ride), and he spun back up for the climb. We pulled into the new rest stop at mile 100 (Kitzmiller, MD), and I made it a very quick stop to top off the (still mostly full) bottles and drink a quick cup of Coke. Tom also made it a quick stop, and we both scaled North Hill at a nice pace: not too hard, but not slow, either.

As I passed the Deer Park water spigot at mile 103, I remembered spending a lot of time there last year, trying to cool down and re-hydrate. But not this year.

Pulling into checkpoint six in the town of Deer Park, Tom got a spot of cramp (he’d never ridden more than 87-or-so miles in one day before the DD), and after a quick stop, I left him behind and forged on toward Wisp.

13 of the final 15 miles are mostly mild rollers, with one steep climb up to US 219. The road passes farms and hugs the shore of Deep Creek Lake, passing vacation houses large and small, new and old, most available for rental (something to consider next ski season or, indeed, at next year’s DD). This is ideal time to enjoy the scenery and spin any lactic acid out of the legs (if possible), because….

….the final two miles up to the top of Wisp are a killer climb. Actually, only the first 3/4 mile is tough: a 13-15% grind to the ridgeline that is the summit of Wisp. Fortunately, Tri Team Z had established a wonderful cheering station for riders. I passed many riders who were cramping terribly on this pitch, and I cheered them on as I spun past, legs feeling remarkably fresh. As I rounded the final turn toward the finish, I upped my speed, and I finished the ride in a standing sprint, with many cheering me on.

I heard the finish timer say “4:28….” as I passed.

Wait a minute: nine hours and seventeen minutes?!?!?

Hot damn! I had eclipsed the previous year’s time by over two hours!

Needless to say, I was elated! I let out a cheer, pumped my fist, then proceeded to the scorer’s table to get my finisher’s shirt. I was 23rd over the line for the day amongst the long-haul riders (125 and 100-mile riders), which made me even more amazed.

It was a perfect ride: perfect preparation and execution.

I cheered on many others who finished after me. Mike, John, Chris and Mark all made it across a while after I did. Tim crossed at some point, as I never saw him again after the morning. Jon and Elizabeth arrived back, as well. And we all celebrated a great day of riding with beer and pizza at a local brewery that evening.

Another diabolical day, somehow made anything but. I’ll take it!

(Note: the ride is also a fundraiser for the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation, and I’m still raising money for this worthy cause. Click here to donate – thank you!)

getting diabolical (and other thoughts)

Must be the heart of cycling season, because the insanity is stepping up a notch.

This weekend I’m taking on the “Diabolical Double” at the Garrett County Gran Fondo. It’s a tough course: 125 miles with almost 16,000 feet of climbing, most of it in short burts of 12-16% grade. It’s insane, and should be a great challenge.

– – – – –

This hot and sweltering weather is not a lot of fun for me, but I’m making do. Our garden is flourishing, and we’re trying a new crop this year: peanuts! We may have a crop come fall – yum!

– – – – –

The DC political season is in full swing, and a PAC that I helped found, DC for Democracy, just held its endorsement vote for various offices’ primary elections. The meeting to vote was orderly and had great discussion – totally impressive, and the results of the vote showed a measured and thought-filled process of voting. Kudos, DC4D, you’ve grown up nicely.

– – – – –

I’m loving the FIFA World Cup! The competition has been compelling and a lot of fun to watch. It’s great to see Team USA perform beyond expectations, and the same goes for Japan. Personally, I’m rooting for Germany, and have a soft spot for The Netherlands, my fatherland.

And how can you not like the drone of the vuvuzelas? My friend, David, isn’t fond of them (at least when it comes to his podcast, The FredCast), but I think he’s missing out on a goldmine. Listen to the possibility! (This is an AAC file that works in iTunes, FYI.)

today is carbon neutral

Long day at work: spent all day outside, working the second day of my office’s electronics recycling program. Over the two days of the collection drive, we recycled over two tons of electronic goods – and I lifted and/or moved over half of that stuff, it seems.

I rode my bike to work, as I do most days, and am optimistic that bike commuting is catching on here in DC and elsewhere. I happily ride, wishing that the motorists would also do so (most only commute 5-10 miles to work, which is easily done even by most casual cyclists given a bit of planning).

I admired the spring bounty in DC – and I appreciate it more because the pollens to which I’m most allergic have subsided.

Happy Earth Day!

(Actually, every day at this blog is carbon neutral, as it’s hosted by 100% carbon neutral Dreamhost.)

carbon neutral coupons with kaufDA.de

surviving snowmageddon

This winter has been a real winter in the District of Columbia. Rather than overreacting to the chance of an inch or two of snow, this winter has packed two storms that have dumped a grand total of 40 inches at The Burrow. Other, smaller storms have dumped an additional 7 or so inches, making this the snowiest winter we’ve seen here since moving into town back in February 2003.

DC is still not a town that likes snow. It has a great deal of influence from the southern states, where frozen, fluffy precipitation is more of an abhorrent anomaly than a regular visitor. So many DC residents are ill-equipped for the stuff.

They own nary a shoe that can withstand deep, cold layers of slush on the ground.

They use umbrellas during snowfall, which makes those of use who grew up in snow country giggle as they pass.

They tend to think that monster-size four-wheel-drive vehicles are invincible. (Wait – that’s common everywhere.)

And their snowplow drivers tend to have a tough time remembering how to operate the large blade that’s attached to the front of their vehicles.

I have to admit, the current administration here in DC is dealing with the snow far better than its predecessor. When we moved to DC, it was immediately after the “Blizzard of 2003,” and our street went unplowed for over a week, as DC plow drivers routinely were intimidated by the snowpack. Eventually, plows from New Jersey were hired to finish the job (which they did in a matter of two days).

This time ’round (as was also the case with December’s “Snowpocalypse” storm), the local plows have done a decent job of clearing the roads. The same can’t be said about many homeowners clearing their sidewalks (it’s now been 43 hours since the snowfall stopped, and owners technically have 8 hours from the cessation of snowfall to clear their walks), but DC’s usual strategy is to “let it melt.”

Have I mentioned that it’s not cleared freezing since the storm, save for in sunny areas, and that the overnight hours have refrozen everything? Heh.

As far as sprite and I are concerned, we’ve done well. We had plenty of food and entertainment on hand, shoveled the walks throughout the course of the storm, and are very thankful that most of DC has its utility supply lines underground – thus no loss of electricity or phone, unlike our suburban neighbors who have lost power and cable TV during the storm.

Today I’ll take my mountain bike out onto the snow-covered streets to enjoy my snow day – should be fun, if slow.

the time, what of the time?

Okay, so I’ve been slacking off here.

It shows, doesn’t it?

Rest assured, I’ve been active. So what have I done since… August 13?!?! Okay, let’s start with August 1, why don’t we?

Riding:

  • On August 1, I rode the Mountain Mama Road Bike Challenge out of Monterey, VA. The drive down there the night before was eventful, as my trusty Subaru decided to blow almost every single oil gasket just outside of Staunton, VA. No fun, and possibly a show-stopper. But thanks to the help of friends, I was able to get a ride for me, my driving companion and our stuff to Monterey. The ride was spectacular, though I felt like ass for the first 80 miles of the ride, having expended a lot of energy the previous night getting the car to a mechanic, waiting for a ride, etc. From miles 80 to 100, though, I was strong, and did quite a bit of good, fast climbing over the final three summits. The car is fine now, after replacement of six gaskets.
  • I also organized a century on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. This was a great ride, loose and fun, and featured a sighting of a black bear sow and two of her roly-poly cubs.
  • My Tuesday night “Downtown Breakaway” club ride slowly ramped down throughout August, wrapping up on September 1 with an unfortunate ending: a crash in the paceline ended up with one rider breaking a hip, another his bike.
  • Rode the Civil War Century in early September. This is a must-do ride, given its location and organization, and a lot of people drive down to Thurmont, MD, for this annual tradition. The day was somewhat misty and damp, but it made for exceptional riding, and I got to hang out with many different friends along the route.
  • The PPTC Historic Back Road Century took place in late September, and while it is a ride that I’m not particularly fond of (the route is somewhat flat and boring), the company I rode with made up for that. I was in a great shape for this, though I left a lot in the tank when riding with my friends.

Travel:

  • My main travel was to Salt Lake City to visit my mom. It wasn’t the best of trips, to say the least, as there was a lot of work to do around her house – some of which was a surprise to sprite and me. And my mom is no fan of having her visiting family do housework while we’re in town, but we really had to do it. Needless to say, I’m now quite versed in cleaning, dismantling, moving, disposing of and installing refrigerators.
  • One bright spot on the Utah trip (perhaps the bright spot) was a lovely evening spent with our old friends, Bethy and Garrett. We drank beers, had some fun conversations and jammed out on guitar, mandolin and piano until late in the night. It brought back a lot of old memories and created lots of lovely new ones.

Anything else? Well, I’ve spent some quality time with our DC friends, though not as much as I’d like due to the craziness that is late summer and early fall in DC. But fall and winter look to be a lot of fun, once the transitional chaos inherent in the seasonal change settles down. I’ll be up in New England this weekend, which will be a bit more of a vacation than was the trip to Utah – can’t wait for that.

trip report: harpoon brewery-to-brewery ride (20 june 2009)

Activity: road cycling
Location: Boston, MA > Hinsdale, NH > Windsor, VT (Harpoon Brewery-To-Brewery Ride)
Distance: 148.0 miles (mostly rollers, some big, with one challenging climb from miles 91-94)
Duration: 7:41 (8:20 with stops)
Weather: partly sunny in the early hours, mostly cloudy for the remainder, 67-78 degrees
Climbing: 8,125′
Avg HR: 150 (max 188)
Type: aerobic

We ride north along Spofford Lake

This is the big ride of 2009 (at least according to my current schedule), and it comes far earlier than last year’s big ride out in California. This ride differed in two key respects:

1. It was a longer, point-to-point ride with less climbing; and
2. There was a lot of beer involved at the end.

This ride is sponsored by Harpoon Brewery and is a fundraiser for charities near and dear to them (they are highly involved in helping out in New England). The entry fee is steep, but with it you get a cool jersey, great support (including the Mavic neutral tech support cars and motorbikes), and an end-of-ride BBQ featuring a lot of Harpoon beer.

It’s a fine, fine ride.

The morning started off in Cambridge, where sprite and I were staying with our friends, Sam and Alexis. We had to get up early, as I had intended to start the ride at 7:45am and need to be at the brewery at Boston Harbor by 6:45, at the latest (according to the info packet I had). However, even on a sleepy Saturday morning, traffic doesn’t move slowly through downtown Boston due to poorly-timed traffic lights. On the way, we made a quick pit stop at a Dunkin Donuts in downtown (sprite made the fastest stop for coffee, OJ and a bagel I’ve ever seen) and made it to the brewery by…. 6:50.

Most riders had already embarked on the course, as the slowest riders were sent on their way at 5:45am. I was planning on riding with the 20mph group, but decided that maybe the 19mph group was a better fit, given my high level of fluster heading into the ride. It certainly caught sprite off-guard, as I left at 7:35, about 10 minutes earlier than originally planned. But she was sweet to drop me off at the ride start.

I ended up in a group of 20-or-so riders, most of whom either were members of the Team FuelBelt triathlon club or the Monsters In The Basement cycling club. I ended up slotting in with the Monsters, who were a group with a similar personality to my PPTC “wrecking crew” – it was a good and serendipitous teaming, as they invited me in to their group for the duration of the ride.

The route isn’t overly complex, as it basically stays on five major roads: Massachusetts routes 225 and 119 and New Hampshire routes 63, 12 and 12A. Yes, there are many forks in the road and other, smaller roads used, but over 85 percent of the ride features the aforementioned five routes. The entire cue sheet fits in one column on a single side of standard letter paper – that’s how easy the course is, in terms of linear routing.

And the climbing on the ride is fairly mellow. There are many rollers of various size, and a gradual rise into New Hampshire the account for the ride until mile 90. At this point, in Hinsdale, NH, the ride turns north onto NH63 and a climb called “The Leviathan” by the ride organizers. It’s no slouch of a hill, averaging around 4 percent for its duration, with a few stretches of 7-8 percent before its “summit” at mile 94. After this, the rest of the ride is rolling, including a covered bridge crossing of the Connecticut River a mere four miles from the finish.

I must have prepared well for this ride (indeed, I told sprite the previous weekend that I was ready after riding a really strong-yet-controlled pace for two consecutive 65-mile rides): I ate well and hydrated myself just enough. The bike, my Jamis Eclipse, was in great shape, with new tires and a more aggressive riding position that mirrors the Pedal Force (my usual road bike). And I had a good amount of rest.

And it showed on ride day. I was always in good spirits with a lot of energy in the tank. My first rest stop, at mile 52, was a bit longer than I’d like, but it went well, with a lot of free Clif Shot Blocks available (I stuffed my jersey with the things – they’re tasty). At mile 56, we called the Mavic cycle to aid a cyclist whose loaner wheels (from Mavic) weren’t holding air. And the third stop at mile 89 was unplanned, but one of the Monsters met up with his family at this stop. Stopping near the bottom of a climb is usually tough, but we made this stop quick and got on our way.

The Leviathan was tough, but I set into a spin pace and did just fine with it. Our group would reconnect after big features like this, which was for the best and kept folks’ spirits high. The next official stop at mile 97 featured musette bags with goodies and water, but the way it was setup didn’t allow for a smooth, pro-style hand-up, so we stopped to use the loo and refill bottles.

Monsters near the top

At this point, we were rejoined by the FuelBelt triathetes, which was an interesting experience. First, we ended up with a monster-size paceline of 16 riders. And of that group, only the Monsters and a few of the tri-folk were taking pulls (mostly by choice on our part, as we scoped out the FuelBelt riders and found that most weren’t the best paceline riders). It could have been irksome, but two of the FuelBelt riders took great, strong, steady, long pulls for the group. And they happened to be the only two women in the group – and one of them had never been at the lead of a paceline before. It certainly didn’t show, and we averaged almost 24mph for the 26 mile stretch to the final fuel stop of the ride before Vermont.

At this point, a few of the Monsters were shelled from the crazy effort we’d just made, and we all welcomed the cold sodas and fruit and the salty pretzels at the rest stop. Never before had a Pepsi or Mountain Dew tasted so good! We refueled and stretched, and let the FuelBelt crew ride ahead, as our group wished to stay together. And I admit, I got jumpy as we neared Windsor, and jumped ahead of the group until the covered bridge crossing of the Connecticut River, where I stopped to take a picture of the sign over the bridge. Regrouping in downtown Windsor, we rode together for the remainder of the ride to the brewery.

After 148 miles, the journey was complete! And my legs were ready to ride another 30 miles, at least – as I said earlier, I was prepared!

But the lure of a hot shower, a massage, fresh barbeque and cold beer was too much to pass up. It was a fitting end to the ride, and sprite met me a short while after I finished to give me a ride back to her folks’ place in Connecticut.

It was an awesome day and a superb ride – one that I’d happily do again, though I’d want to bring a few more of my PPTC friends to share in the experience.

(Click on any of the pictures to see my full set from the ride. Click here to see a full album from Will Williams of the Monsters – you’ll see more pics of me riding there.)

Me with the Monsters In The Basement crew

I really need to mention the debt of gratitude I owe the Monsters for their overall support of me. Their club support driver, Ian, provided me with water and soda along the way, treating me as a member of the team the whole day. It was really great, and made the whole day much more special. And to Peter, Will, Philip, Dan, Dave and Todd, a tip of the hat to y’all for being so nice to a stranger from the south. C’mon down to this area for a ride sometime: Mountains of Mistery, Mountain Mama, Civil War Century, you name it!

monday musings (tuesday edition)

Since we last met, I’ve been skiing in Colorado (great time – proper post coming soon, though the new header image is from this trip) and spent a weekend in Chicago, where sprite had her annual meeting (inconveniently planned to occur on her birthday). There are plenty of pics from both adventures over at my Flickr page, so have a look around.

Let’s muse, then:

  • So it seems that Chrysler – who already received $4 billion in loans from the TARP fund – needs an additional $5 billion to stay afloat. GM wants another $16.6 billion. Sorry, Detroit dinosaurs, but we need to cut you off. Y’see, I remember how things used to be in the land of business: those that could adapt to changing circumstances survived, while others failed – no bailout needed or expected. Note that you don’t see Studebakers, or Cords, or Nash Ramblers in the dealerships these days – there’s a reason for that, as their parent companies failed. And yes, many people lost their jobs as a result of these failures. But somehow, the United States survived, and the fittest of the automakers lived on to see another day.

    The issue, as I see it, is that the “Big Three” of Detroit failed to see the folly of their ways. When customers demanded fuel-efficient and reliable cars, the folks at Ford, GM and Chrysler kept on producing big, hefty, inefficient, unreliable cars that didn’t appeal to many buyers. Sure, there was a certain pride in “buying American” (a trait to which I don’t really subscribe in these modern days), but the buyers looked to the cars that looked forward: Honda and Toyota hybrids, well-engineered German models, and high bang-for-your-buck units from South Korea. All the while, Detroit over-expanded and watered down its offerings.

    Even now, the “Big Three” refuse to do a proper culling of their models and workforce to appeal to the modern economy. If they would simply specialize in their unique strengths (Ford = trucks, Chrysler = vans and the basics of the Jeep brand, GM = ummm, something), plus one “character car” (Ford = Mustang, GM = Corvette, Chrysler = Viper or some very-capable Jeep), then perhaps there would be reason to have optimism. And this wouldn’t require any federal funding to happen: it’s just a matter of cutting costs – and personnel – at all levels, top to bottom.

    Furthermore, the UAW is standing firm on post-war, sweatshop-based tactics toward job protection, moves that do not endear them to me or to the economic realities of today. Look at the most productive and motivated auto workers these days, and you’ll see that they work for Toyota, Honda, Nissan and BMW – most of which are not beholden to the UAW and its yesteryear-leaning tactics.

  • And this leads to my next point: unions need to look long and hard at how their European counterparts handle employment and worker protections. Note that the European labor unions do not rule the roost at the places where they are active. Membership is optional, and you’ll see both union-affiliated and non-union workers standing side-by-side at factories, all happy in their choices. Compare that to the United States, where unions like the UAW create all-or-nothing situations for potential employees.

    Unions have served a purpose throughout the history of the United States. They helped improve worker conditions and defend workers’ rights during times of sweatshop tactics and excessive child labor. They helped set proper safety standards, and helped negotiate living wages. Like the “Big Three,” however, most unions in the United States have failed to adapt to the new realities of the market, both locally and globally. They are paranoid and protectionist to a fault, and while there are some that still act as fair players in the grand scheme of business and societal welfare, there are others that fear any change.

  • And that brings me to the basic reality that the United States now faces: change. The voters called for it in the 2008 elections, and the current economic crisis demands it of all citizens, rich and poor. The America many have known is a relic of a decadent past, and we need to move forward to a leaner, more efficient, more inclusive and less divisive way of life. It means walking instead of driving to the store, it means less spending on frivolous items, it means setting up the basics that many societies take for granted as true civil rights – universal healthcare being paramount above all else, especially for those 18 and under. It means investing in the future: in post-oil energy, in mass transit and infrastructure improvements that will connect our neighborhoods without requiring low-occupancy cars to get from point to point.

    These are all changes to the old “chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage” post-war dream that continues to be bandied about by nostalgia buffs and social conservatives. It was a great dream, but it’s time to wake up to reality – and reality demands that we change our ways. It will involve sacrifice, no doubt. But these changes are simple to integrate into daily life: walk, bus, train or bike to places you would normally drive; use canvas, cloth or reusable composite bags for shopping needs; turn off lights, computers and appliances that aren’t in use; set thermostats lower in the winter and higher in the summer (dressing in layers is chic, after all); eat locally and in season whenever possible; hang dry your clothes. These are just a few things – little things – that most people can, and must, do in order to help enact real, tangible change.

  • And speaking of reusable bags, the Trash Free Anacostia movement is one I really support. It calls for a 5 cent fee for any plastic or paper grocery bag issued by a store, thus encouraging reuse of bags instead of introducing them into the ecosystem, where they often end up as waste – in DC’s case, that’s usually in the river ecosystem of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.

    Frankly, I think a 5 cent fee is too low – it should be more like 35 to 50 cents per bag – and should be used in conjunction with a 5 to 10 cent credit for bringing your own bags to the store. This kind of system works well in Europe (where else?), and has really changed how people shop: they buy only what’s needed, and think about what they realistically can carry. Yet this isn’t necessarily a limitation; rather, it’s a call for personal creativity.

    And while people will grouse about this adversely affecting the poor: it’s a one-time charge to get a reusable bag (most retailers change between $1-2 for fairly large, durable bags), and in DC, it’s not difficult to come upon tote bags and duffels, as they’re handed out at myriad free events throughout the District.

    So I applaud Councilman Wells’ efforts on this, and am in support of this first step toward a new mindset in American commerce – one bag at a time.

the early bird and the late bird

Sometimes it pays to be the early bird. And it sure-as-hell sucks to be the late bird.

Let’s start with the latter, because it’s better to end on a high note (at least that’s what Hollywood tells me).

Next week, as anybody not living in a remote wilderness or in a self-imposed media blackout knows, is the inauguration of Barack Obama. And living in DC, there’s no shortage of events surrounding this event, from concerts to balls and everything in between.

And in this, I’ve struck out in securing tickets to the events I’d really like to attend. A fun concert at the Black Cat sold out a few days before I decided I wanted tickets, and a more festive, neighborhood ball sold out hours before I decided to dive into the world of tickets. I’m especially miffed about the latter, as it actually stands a chance of being an enjoyable dance party (festive attire vs. black tie, big band swing vs. big-name star power), and many of our friends will be in attendance. While there’s still a slim chance of scoring tickets to this party, I’m not holding my breath.

So my only planned inaugural event is the blockbuster concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. And yes, I plan to bundle up and enjoy hearing the various acts along with 500,000 of my closest friends – snow or no snow. After all, I’m a mountain man at heart, so a little cold and snow flurry action is no big deal.

Now for the good news: I managed to get myself up before 7:00 am to login and register for the Harpoon Brewery-to-Brewery Ride: a 149-mile journey from Harpoon’s brewery in Boston to their other brewery in east-central Vermont, taking place on June 20. Only 800 riders are allowed too participate, and they demand that all riders be in good enough shape to average 16 mph over the distance. I know I have that kind of speed in me, so it should be fun.

Sadly, my friend Jason waited until 7:45 to try and register and missed out, as all 800 places filled up fast. As with me and The Hill Ball, he has a slim chance of scoring an entry, but right now, it’s not necessarily in the cards for him.

So the early bird got the spoils this morning. Perhaps I should remember that for future events.

welcome to 2009 – let’s catch up

So now we’re two full days into 2009, and it’s been… well, another set of days.

Actually, it’s been a lot of fun – though I’ll need to backtrack to last year to really recap what’s been going on.

After arriving back from New England early Wednesday morning, sprite and I got a bit of sleep before heading out on our traditional New Year’s Eve pastime: movie watching. We saw three films (with a dinner break at Ella’s Word-Fired Pizza), including Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire and Bedtime Stories. I liked all three films, though sprite really disliked Slumdog (it exceeded her tolerance for graphic violence and tension, so she left part-way through the film – Sarah and I stayed for the duration and liked the film quite a bit). The pizza, as usual, was good.

And due to the crazy timing – the third film was really short – we were home before midnight, so we got to toast the arrival of the new year with Dick Clark on the toob.

On New Year’s Day, I went out and rode 24 miles as part of the annual “Circle of Cycles” down at Hains Point. The morning was clear but brisk, and the wind was its usual strong self on the northbound side of each lap. But I got in some good miles, saw some old cycling friends, and felt alive on the bike – I guess I’m finally over my slight burnout that affected my riding in the last few months of 2008.

After that, sprite and I went to a wonderful brunch hosted by friends on The Hill, and partook of traditional Southern luck food, enjoyed lovely drink and lively conversation. So far, so good.

And today was a final vacation day for me (sure, I’m off on Saturday and Sunday, but those days are always off), so I slept in. After going out to a late lunch with sprite (who had to work, and whose lunch I delayed a tad because I didn’t realize the time), I came home to prepare a pot of chili before watching the Sugar Bowl.

And all I can say is…. GO UTES! And they once again prove that the BCS is a crooked crock: 13-0, destroyed a strong EC opponent, yet never in consideration for #1 because they’re not part of the money racket that is the BCS consortium – there was no way that they would be selected for the BCS National Championship Game, barring serious calamity. If they’re not #2 in the final rankings, it’s a sure sign that the system is rigged to favor those who pay into the scheme.

So where were we? Oh year – 2009. Should be a fun, busy year. I’m looking forward to skiing this winter (been skiing 5 days already this season, all in Vermont, all in less-than-ideal conditions), and will certainly make my way out west to Utah and Colorado. And I hope to meet up with more friends, old and new, on the slopes, because the social aspect of skiing is a real draw. And I might race a bit, too – the clarion call is there, once again.

I’ll ride the bike and race it some more in 2009, but I’ll also make sure to allow myself more time with sprite and our friends – better time management. I rode 5,300 miles and change in 2008, and aim to do the same or more in 2009.

I also plan on writing more often here on this blog. I’ve been distracted by other online social centers over the past year – Twitter, Facebook and sport-centered forums – but my real focus is this website, where I’ve been writing for years. Sure, I’ll still be writing tweets more often (easier to do on an iPhone), but they’ll be part of this site (once I get the silly plugin working properly again – it’s still mired in the past, it seems).

So welcome to 2009, everybody. Tighten your belt, exhale, and hold on – it’s going to be quite a ride.

miscellaneous ramblings

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on in my life of late:

Over the long weekend (a.k.a. Columbus Day weekend – or “Insanely Politically Incorrect Federal Holiday Weekend”) sprite and I went to New England for three things: a wedding, visiting family, and a bike ride. We got to see her best friend, Karen, marry her sweetheart, Michael, in a lovely outdoor ceremony in Massachusetts. I got to hang out with Sam and Alexis, which was an all-too-brief treat. And I got to sample both the T and Amtrak, connecting the two in Boston – go, railroads!

That same weekend, I rode the Great River Ride in western Massachusetts. I’ve done this ride twice before, though both previous times the ride was my big ride of the year. Given that the Shasta Summit Super Century filled that role this year, I was past peak form at this ride – and it showed. It didn’t help that I was out late at the wedding the previous night and was a bit short of sleep and proper nutrition as a result, but I wasn’t as fast as I was in 2007. And I didn’t really care, as it was a beautiful day for riding and simply enjoying being outside in the beautiful foliage.

Rudi and LeviThis past weekend, I got the chance to catch up with an old friend: Levi Leipheimer. Most of you may know him as one of the greatest professional cyclists in the United States, who won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, who placed second in this year’s Vuelta a España and third in last year’s Tour de France. I know him as a former teammate at Rowmark Ski Academy, back when we were both alpine ski racers out west. It was fun to see him and catch up on life – small world.

I also got the chance to try out the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 bike drivetrain, which features electronic shifting. It’s very slick, and had this Campagnolo user convinced that this could be a big deal. Campy is working on something similar, but it looks like Shimano will beat ’em to market.

sprite and I continue to prepare for our upcoming trip to France. This involves a lot of house cleaning (we don’t fancy returning to a messy apartment, though I’m sure the cats will try their damnedest to ensure that some things will be out of place), some half-baked attempts at brushing up on my French (thank you, podcasts and French radio), and narrowing down wish lists of things to see and do.

All the while, I’m hoping that Obama can keep the momentum and win this election. It’s not going to be easy, given that the RNC and McCain campaign are throwing everything on the table to try and discredit Sen. Obama. It’s pathetic, but it’s also effective when aimed at people who don’t take the time to learn the truth about claims laid out in smear campaigns. 12 more days – keep up the good, aggressive, positive fight, Barack and Joe!

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