and they're off

Well, as soon as I make like a hockey player and get the puck out of here, a bunch of us are going to Iowa for the first two races of the season. Race reports will be appearing here in the not too distant future. But don't hold yer breath or nothin'.


git in mah belly!

Gilby just ended an IM conversation because she needed to eat some food, since otherwise she will not be able to propel herself to the Birchwood tonight to eat more food. I then decided that I, too, needed to eat some food -- not because of any difficulties in getting to the Birchwood, but so that when I do get there, I will be able to choose my meal by what menu item is tastiest rather than what is the biggest. Not that it is my habit to always order the biggest thing on the menu or anything. Heavens no.


share the road, y'all

This week is that strange but cool week, the only one of the year, where I can reasonably go for a bike ride before work. My employers are flexible enough that I can work 9 to 5-something during the winter and 7:30 to 4 during daylight savings, and the week before the change is the one week where I have nearly an hour and a half of light before I have to get ready for work. It's kind of cool. I get to see the sun rise, and (less cool) I get to see rush hour develop, from nobody but my crazy ass out on the road at 5:45 to sheer gridlocked madness by 7.

I also got reminded of why I avoid bike paths. Mostly I avoid them because of rollerbladers zooming side to side with their headphones on, erratic little kids with training wheels, and (yesterday) an entire pack of teenaged Boy Scouts wearing enormous backpacks. But in the absence of those things the paths still suck. This morning I used the path that runs parallel to Shepard Road, which is not so different from a sidewalk in that it crosses all the side streets and, as such, puts you at the mercy of any traffic that might wish to make right turns into your path without looking. And pretty much everyone in a car does this constantly.

Noncyclists tend to gasp in horror, "You ride your bike in the ROAD? With CARS? Isn't that DANGEROUS?" Well, no. No, it isn't. Riding on paths and sidewalks next to the road is infinitely more dangerous, and the accident statistics clearly reflect this. When you're in the road you're a known entity. You are visible to drivers, and (presumably) you are following accepted traffic patterns, so you are predictable. When you're on the sidewalk they don't see you, and sidewalks are a Godforsaken lawless wasteland where anybody can do anything anyway, so even if they did see you they wouldn't know what to expect from you. It ain't safe, people. USE THE ROADS.

Unless you're an erratic moron on a Huffy, then you can stay on the paths. We won't miss you.


new hell week photos

There are some more Hell Week photos at Nick Gerlich's Zoto page if you're interested. I appear in exactly one of the pictures, but other people including Nate, Sascha, Scott, Bella M, and Belgian Bella got much better camera treatment. It's like playing Where's Waldo. Go check 'em out, what else have you got to do today?

the one picture I appear in:

The true Where's Waldo test -- I can't find myself in this one, but this is the pack I was with, so I must be in there somewhere... (and the front guy here is Nate, who -- what'd I tell ya? -- was obviously much more photogenic than I)


i'm super, thanks for asking

Yesterday in the mail I got one of those "four years of tuition was just the tip of the iceberg, sucka, send us more money please" letters from my fine alma mater. Those guys are getting quite sneaky there in the money-grubbing office. For the peer-pressure angle, they listed the names of everyone in my graduating class who has donated money in the last six months, as well as the rough amount that they donated. Two of the guys that lived on my floor freshman year seem to have made it big, judging by the fact that their donations each roughly equaled one of my paychecks, and while one of them was clearly a computer genius from the beginning (but he borrowed my fishnet stockings once, and wore them, and I have photographic evidence), I cannot figure out for the life of me what this other doofus did to get himself that much money. I mean, this is the guy who occupied himself by wandering into my friend's dorm room uninvited and opening her underwear drawer to see what was inside. The world is just not fair.

Anyway, apparently they were concerned that the peer pressure angle wouldn't be enough, so they came up with a second incentive: Superhero Status! In order to be a Superhero, you have to a) donate twice as much as you donated last year, and b) put the little superhero sticker on your donation form. Now, I wouldn't mind being a superhero. Hell, I spend enough time in spandex already, all I need is a cape and I'm good to go. And last year I donated exactly no money, and twice as much as zero is still zero, so I am considering putting the sticker on the form and mailing it in with no money. Super!

Superhero this, assholes. I ain't donating a cent until my annual salary exceeds your annual tuition.


Work sucks. I want to go back to Texas.


that's all, folks

Well, we're done. 501.39 miles, 30 hours 26 minutes on the bike. No crashes, no major saddle sores, no major sunburns, nobody got lost, and out of the four of us in the non-Bella crew, no flat tires. And 25 hours in the van still ahead of us.

This morning I woke up to a faint drizzling sound. In my half-asleep state, I figured Sascha was already in the shower, since she has a strange habit of showering before going on a sweaty bike ride, but a minute later I looked over at the other bed and she was still sleeping. Only one other thing that drizzling could be. Yep, it was raining.

Sascha took one look at the weather and said "I can ride in the rain in Minnesota. I'm not riding in the rain in Texas." So Nate and Scott and I got all our rain gear on and headed over to the start, where we met up with.... one guy. What a crowd, eh? Nick Gerlich came out, having not gone on the A ride, and when I asked he said there hadn't even been an A ride -- nobody showed up. I guess seven days is enough for most people. So Nate and Scott and I and this Ben guy rode off in the rain and fog.

Ben stayed with us for the first thirty miles, but he was a local and had some sort of responsibility that afternoon, so he went back to Fredericksburg and the three of us went on. The rain let up for a while, then came back for a while, then let up, then came back, off and on all afternoon. When it wasn't on there was a thick, oppressive fog that just sat on the ground. I've ridden in nicer weather, but my feeling on the matter was that I came here to ride, so dammit, I'm going to ride, and it turned out to be a great ride anyway. We rode moderately hard for about the first sixty miles, then Nate started getting silly and stopping to take pictures of everything. At one point we rode past a cow pasture, and the cows all ran to see what we were. Nate stopped to take pictures of the cows, and more cows came to check us out, until there was a whole crowd of cows pressing against the fence, staring. Scott said "So are you going to go pet them?" Nate thought this was a good idea, but the cows did not. Nate is apparently a pretty scary thing with all his orange spandex. The cows backed away fast. So Nate gets some grass and tries to offer that to the cows, who had lots of grass in their pasture and were not fooled by this, and Scott is standing next to me singing "Here, cowey cowey cowey," and I'm hollering at Nate that if he gets mauled by a vicious Texas cow I am not toting his sorry ass home on my bike, and nobody was pedaling anywhere. There are many pictures of these cows on Nate's picture page if you like cows.

The ride was supposed to be 85 miles, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn that turned out to be an accidental shortcut, so I ended up with 80.13 for the day -- just enough to break 500. Yes, even after the cow incident we eventually got back to the EconoLodge. Sascha was waiting with a fresh pot of coffee and extra towels, which was pretty cool. Maybe we should leave somebody behind on every ride. Then we cleaned up fast -- I washed my legs and my washcloth turned BLACK -- and booked it downtown to the salsa store, where there is a sample bowl of everything they can sell and you can eat yourself into a salsa coma if you're so inclined. And for dinner we went back to the brewery for a third time, and I ordered the exact same burger for the third time, and since we had spent so much time there we had the waiter take a commemorative picture.

So that's it. Tomorrow morning we hop back in the van and head out, just the four of us this time since the Bellas all took off today. My next post will probably say "work sucks, I want to go back to Texas."



Scott has posted a bunch of photos on his blog, so check 'em out.


For everyone's information, I just bonked while sitting perfectly still in my hotel room. One minute I was just fine, the next minute I was so hungry I was light-headed and shaking and cold-sweating. Perhaps Cheez-Its are not the best post-ride food.

thursday and friday ride reports, and 421.26 miles if you're counting

Thursday morning my legs were nice and fresh after a whole day of not touching my bike, so I decided to go on the "A" ride. The day before had been the infamous Leakey Death Ride, so the crowd was pretty thin at the start and I figured I'd have to ride alone all day. Sure enough, soon after we took off about half the group rocketed past me at about 30 miles an hour, but I did find two guys who were going at a nice steady pace and I latched onto them. I ended up riding with them all day, actually. One was a Texan named George, and one was UltraRob. They set a solid pace and the miles flew by pretty fast. I did try and take my pulls, but apparently I was not fast enough because every time I got in front I got the privelege taken back away from me pretty fast. I decided not to care. These Southern guys are still bent on chivalry and didn't seem to mind one bit that I was wheelsucking all day long.

About halfway through we stopped at an apple cider mill with a store and cafe attached. I ate a giant piece of apple pie and chatted with George about racing for a while -- this was the sort of ride where when you're riding, you just ride, and you don't talk until you stop. When we left the pie stop, we picked up some more riders, including the director of Hell Week, Nick Gerlich. That guy can sure put the hammer down. I think we went 24-25 mph the entire way with him in front, and then when we got away from the gently rolling stuff and into the monster hills again (can't escape them for too long), he damn near killed us all. I hung on until about mile 90 but then had to drop back. George and Rob also dropped back, though, and I rode with the two of them until we passed Rob's campground, and then George and I fought the headwind the rest of the way into town. The course was officially only 98 miles, so just before we got to the finish I turned to George and said "As perverse as it is, I'm going to go up this road for a bit and make it an even hundred." George looked at me like I had just sprouted antlers, shook his head, and said "okay." I thought that was the last I'd see of him, but he turned off with me and rode the extra two miles too.

So I ended up with 100.26 miles for the day. Now nobody can use the "But it's the first century of the season!" bullshit on me when it comes time for the Ironman, because it ain't gonna work. I can say "I did that shit six weeks ago, foo', I'm sleeping in."

That night we met the whole Bella crew at an outdoor biergarten and drank way too much sangria, then wandered around town trying to find ice cream, which is none too easy when the whole town shuts down at 5:30 sharp. But we did eventually find one place that was open, and then we met up with some people Sascha and Scott had met on the road and chatted with them at their picnic table for quite a while. We got back to the room after ten and I promptly passed out.

Friday, day 7

This morning the alarm went off, Scott rolled over and smacked it, and we all fell back asleep. I was reawakened by Scott swearing at the coffee maker again, this time because it was overflowing. That thing is nothing but trouble.

We met up with the Bellas at the start, then cruised out with a chilly wind blowing and small drops of cold rain smacking our faces. It never did warm up much. Not to complain, considering 60 is still pretty balmy compared to home, but I preferred the sunny, 80 degree days we had earlier in the week. The group seemed to split up into two huge packs -- the group I was in had at least 50 people in it -- and I stayed with my pack until we came to the first rest stop. After the stop the pack broke up and for the rest of the day Nate and I were with Bella S and Bella A and two other people, one of whom had been in yesterday's hammerfest. It was a fairly uneventful ride. I was kicking around the idea of doing 20 extra miles so that I could hit an even 500 for the week, but when we got back we found out that tomorrow's ride is 85 miles and that'll be enough to get me there. Which was good. I didn't want to get back to the motel room and go back out to ride more.

And then I ate most of a box of Cheez-Its. Mmmmm, Cheez-Its.


shift this

Well, we found a shop in Kerrville that had an ancient Dura-Ace shifter that they're willing to loan me for the week, but after a lengthy inspection we ultimately just went with the Tim method. Tim, if I can't shift tomorrow, it is now your ass on the line. But that Dura-Ace shifter is still there if I need it. Apparently they have loaned this poor old shifter out to many Hell Weekers in the past, so I am not the first one to have this problem. And I will still be in the market for a new set of shifters when I get back, but hopefully the Tim Method will keep it running for the next 200-250 miles. If it'll go until the next paycheck I may just switch the whole damn thing to 10-speed and get with the 21st century already.

Then we went to Buzzie's Bar-B-Q for lunch. That's a picture of it up there. No tourists there, baby. Buzzie's is a dirty old shack with picnic tables inside, Heimlich maneuver instructions posted on the walls, and about five options on the menu. And if you asked for lemonade, boy did you get lemonade. They only have one size cup there and that is LARGE. It is three hours later now and Scott is still working on his. I think the boys are still digesting their all-you-can-eat ribs, too. Sascha and I practically had to roll them out of there.

Now we're all comatose in the motel room. We take our rest days very seriously here. Although I did take some time to clean my bike, since I had sweated so much sunscreen onto it that my entire top tube had developed a greasy film. Gross, huh?

lurking on the dark edges of town....

The local hospital is just down the street from our motel, so it seems like an ambulance goes by every ten minutes. Very loudly. I've never lived by a hospital before, so I don't know how much that skews my perception, but it sure seems like Fredericksburg is a DEATH TRAP. Where are all these ambulances going? What is happening to people in Fredericksburg that they need so many ambulances? I think there is something unsavory going on in the north end of Fredericksburg, guys. If we never make it out alive, you'll know why.


hell week day 4

4 days down, 4 to go. This morning I awoke to the sound of Scott swearing loudly at the coffee maker, which had apparently decided that three days was about as long as it needed to work and it was break time now. None of us could figure out why, but it wouldn't start. So we packed it back up into its box -- none of us ended up bringing ours, despite earlier plans to do so, so we bought a new one at WalMart when we arrived -- and drank EconoLodge lobby coffee instead. Walking to the lobby was probably a good thing anyway, since I otherwise wouldn't have known how FRIGGIN' COLD it was. The weather report claimed it was 35 degrees, though I'm not sure it was really that cold. Chilly though. I wore arm warmers and my wind jacket and was still cold for the first half hour.

All ten of us started together this time, but quickly broke up into smaller groups. Nate took off for a faster ride, as did Belgian Bella (they ended up riding together, I think), and Sascha and Scott dropped back, and I rode with the rest of the Bella team all day. It was a much more leisurely ride than the last few days had been, which was fine with me. I'm ready for a rest day for sure. It was by far the best weather we've had, though, so it was a great day for a long easy ride. After the first half hour it warmed up enough that I took my jacket and armwarmers off, and the high was in the low 70s with almost no wind at all and no clouds in the sky. I am starting to get a wicked glove tan to show off when I get home. You'll notice in yesterday's pictures that my natural state this time of year is glow-in-the-dark white, so "wicked" is a relative term. You Californians won't be impressed.

The route was fun too, with larger rollers than we've had the last few days. It took longer to crest each one, but the descents were longer as well. Nothing like we had when we did the Great Arizona Bicycle Adventure tour in 2004, but long enough to be a nice reward.

Now, before I even left Minnesota, my right shift lever was starting to poop out a bit. I would try to shift to a bigger cog and my lever would just flop around uselessly, not catching anything. I could get it to catch if I braked and shifted at the same time, which is rather counterproductive in a paceline, but it only did it some of the time and I didn't have time to mess with it anyway, so I just brought it to Texas and kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't get any worse. And it hasn't, really, not that way. Shifting to a smaller cog, on the other hand, is now a problem where it hadn't been before. As the day wore on it took more and more effort to get the damn thing to catch and shift, and about 45 miles in I found myself at the top of a huge hill and completely unable to get the chain off my 27 cog. (For non-cyclist readers, that is the "going up really big hills" gear, thus not a good one to be stuck in when you have half an hour of descent ahead of you.) I coasted for a long time, but on shallower parts of the descent I really needed to be pedaling. The best I could do was a 53/27. My bike didn't like that much. Rowr, rowr, rowr, rowr, it said, and went 14 miles an hour while my pals disappeared into the distance. I pedaled harder. Rowr, rowr, rowr, rowr.

Some guys passed me, chuckling. "Dropped you off the back, did they," they said. "Heh, heh."

The road tilted up a bit, so my rowr-rowring bike and I finally caught up, and I asked if anybody knew how to manually force a derailleur onto a different cog so at least I could be stuck on something reasonable instead of a 27. They didn't, but everybody stopped to try. We all failed. A couple random people stopped to try and help, but they couldn't figure it out either, so they eventually took off, and I decided to call Nate and see if he was back yet. When all else fails, call the sag wagon. But he wasn't answering his phone, so I got ready to rowr-rowr the last 16 miles at 13 mph. Right then, another group of people rode by.

When you're on a ride like this and you see people off their bikes at the side of the road, you holler "Got everything you need?" as you pass. Generally you don't mean much by it, since it's almost always a flat tire and everybody has their own tire changing stuff, but it's the polite thing to do. So as this group rode past us, they hollered "Need help with anything?" and we hollered back, "Not unless you're a derailleur expert!"

And one of the guys said "I am!" and pulled over. And he listened to my sob story, and he grabbed my lever and wrenched it sideways in a really violent way that I would never have done to my own bike, and it worked again. "You just got to get a little rough with 'em when they get like that," he said. "I've seen 'em like that before. Your shifter's about to wear out though, honey." All in a deep Texas drawl, of course.

I sighed and said "Yeah, I know." Because one of the GP guys had said the same thing. Plus the shifters are pretty old -- the Salsa, you may recall, is a mishmash of parts thrown onto a new frameset, and I don't actually know how old the shifters are. The bike I got them on was a 2002, but I'm pretty sure the guy I got it from had put older components on that frame too. So lord only knows how old these things are. And while the guy on the road got it to work for a bit, it didn't last long before it was feeling pretty arthritic again, so I'm not too excited about riding with it for three more days.

But I got going again, and a minute later Bella P turned to me and said "I've got some extra energy right now, want to go hard for a while?" I can't pass that up, so we took off and hammered for about ten minutes until we missed a turn and had to turn around. Then we met back up with the group and cruised the last ten miles back to the EconoLodge, where Nate was sitting outside the motel door in his sweaty kit, having forgotten that he had no room key when he took off for his faster ride.

Tomorrow was going to be my rest day anyway, either completely off the bike or a short 25ish mile ride, so I guess I have time to figure this out. The shop in Fredericksburg doesn't happen to have a nine-speed Ultegra lever laying around, so we may have to go to Austin, but only if we can find a shop that does have the part and is willing to fix it ASAP, since I need any and all work to be finished by tomorrow night. Or hell, San Antonio would be okay too.

Still, as problems go, it ain't bad. There were a number of crashes yesterday on the A ride, all at a slick water crossing, and while no details were really given out, injuries included at least one concussion and several broken bones, and apparently somebody had to have some surgery to "put stuff back where it belongs." So when water goes across the road for a long enough time that algae starts to grow, get off and walk. Now you know.

Oh yes, and we exchanged the coffee maker at WalMart, in case anybody was concerned about that. Whew.

quick note

We have to go to WalMart yet again, so this'll be short, but today was 66.15 miles for a total of 251.88 so far. And my right shifter has completely pooped out, so my main mission tomorrow will be finding a shop somewhere in Texas that can replace it for me. It was causing trouble the last couple times I rode the Salsa, but I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would wait until after Hell Week to die. No such luck. Fortunately, tomorrow was going to be the rest day anyway, so if I miss the 25 mile ride that we were going to do I guess I'll live.

I'll try and find time for a full ride report tonight. The group banquet is this evening, so if it turns into an all-night party you might not get a ride report, but at least then you'll get a party report.


that's all, folks

OK, all the posts from "well, we're in texas" to now have been updated with photos. All photos are courtesy of Nate, the dangedest camera-slinger this side of the Rio Grande. And for good measure, here is a picture of me writing HELL WEEK OR BUST on the van with soap, before we left Minneapolis.

look! i'm caught up!

....otherwise known as that Monday ride report, which means that dang, I've written a lot of blog today, so none of you can ever complain again.

Anyway. This morning, Day 3, dawned cool and cloudy. Cool enough that I really should have been wearing arm warmers, but didn't want to have to carry them with me when the clouds burned off, so I sucked it up and shivered. The entire Bella team, minus Belgian Bella (of course), had decided to rest their legs a bit and do the "C" ride (there are three distance options each day -- one 100ish [A], one 60ish [B], and one 40ish [C] -- we've been doing B's), so at the start we were down to me, Nate, Belgian Bella, Sascha, and Scott. The latter two were doing their own thang so we waved goodbye and took off.

Now, I had been planning on not riding with Belgian Bella today, given how wasted my legs were at the end of yesterday, but with the other half of the crew bailing on me, I found myself hammering to keep up for the third day in a row. However, without the snap in my legs it wasn't as fun as the last couple days, so after 14 miles I decided to drop back, and Nate dropped back with me. Belgian Bella stayed with the group that we'd fallen in with and went on ahead.

Today was the windiest day yet. For a long time we were buffeted by cross winds, but once the clouds burned off it was sunny and 70 and the wind almost didn't matter. Almost. I kept thinking to myself, this would be a perfect day if I wasn't riding a friggin' bike. Then we turned into the wind, and it definitely mattered. A lot. The thing about a strong steady headwind like that is that you can't move no matter how much you want to. For two solid hours I was desperate to stand up, stop pedaling, and stretch out a bit, but every time I tried my bike just stopped moving, so I stopped trying. I was ready to kill someone by the time we got to the gas station. Fortunately, there were a number of triathlete-type men with tree trunks for quads who were suffering just as bad as I was, and you know what they say about misery and company.

At the gas station I inhaled a king size Snickers (my second in two weeks, if anybody's counting) and stretched my back a bit. Belgian Bella was there too, having arrived just five minutes ahead after her group blew up in the wind, and she waited for us to finish eating so we could all leave together. A guy named Jeff joined us, and since the course was a long thin loop bearing a suspicious resemblance to an out-and-back, we got a tailwind soon after that. I still found myself working harder than I wanted to, so after 20 or 30 minutes Nate and I let them go again. They must have been really flying, though, because between the tailwind and the slight downward tilt we were going crazy fast. It was great. After a while it even made up for the two hours of misery on the way out. But like climbing and descending mountains, the fun part is always so SHORT compared to the crappy part! We were back to the EconoLodge in no time.

Now, personally, the second I walk in the door after a four-hour ride, I'm tearing clothes off and flinging them everywhere as I run straight to the shower. Nothing in the world is a higher priority than the shower. But when Sascha and Scott rolled in about an hour later, Scott was far more concerned with beer than with bathing, and I'm not sure what Sascha was doing but she wasn't in any hurry either. So now you know, guys. Those two are dirty. (I joke. They both showered eventually. But I think their priorities are messed up.)

Then we dilly-dallied so long that the front desk actually telephoned to see if we were ever going to leave so that the housekeepers could get in, so we had to leave, and the boys went to a coffee shop to play with their computers and Sascha and I wandered around downtown Fredericksburg trying to find some fun. Fredericksburg, it turns out, is a pretty crappy little town. It's very touristy in the sense that the buildings are styled Old West but everything inside the building says MY GRANDMA WENT TO FREDERICKSBURG AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT. Along those lines, anyway. Ultimately we ended up at a winery sampling shit that tasted like it came from a box, then at a salsa store sampling about forty kinds of salsa. But Fredericksburg, besides being lame in the first place, also shuts down entirely at 5:30 P.M., so Sascha and I got kicked out of the salsa store and Nate and Scott got kicked out of the coffee shop and we all went out for Mexican food. You'd think there would be good Mexican food in Texas, but no. Nothing of the sort. We ordered a pitcher of "top shelf" margaritas, then watched the bartender dump some tequila in the bottom of the pitcher and fill the rest with some greenish stuff from a water cooler. I'd hate to see the house margarita if that was top shelf. We may continue the quest for the good Mexican later in the week, but we may have to leave town. Fredericksburg is too proud of its German heritage to serve anything but sauerkraut.

And now we're sitting in the EconoLodge with the door propped open to get some fresh air, which means that everyone who walks past stares at us. As well they should, since all four of us are sitting in a line on the two beds typing on laptops, looking like the biggest nerd squad this side of Austin. I'd stare too.

Nate's trying to get the photos somewhere useful so I can post them here. All 3 of today's posts should be updated with photos by tomorrow night at the latest.

belated Sunday ride report

Sunday morning I woke up before the alarm several times and checked my cell phone obsessively to be sure we wouldn't sleep past 7:30 again. Our motel room is tucked into a corner and the windows face a brick wall, so the amount of light coming through the windows is the same whether the sun is up or not, making this a valid concern. But the alarm went off anyway and all was well... until 8:57, when I was ready and standing in the parking lot and certain roommates of mine were still fighting over the map. The ride was supposed to start at 9 but apparently it got going a little early, because all of a sudden they all went by. "I see people LEAVING," I bellowed, and Nate yelled back to just go, so I went, assuming he was right behind me, but he wasn't. I jumped into the pack a little behind Bella S and we quickly got into a whole Bella group, although Belgian Bella upped the pace as soon as we hit the edge of town and most of them blew off the back. I looked over my shoulder for Nate constantly for about half an hour but he had elected to wait for Sascha and Scott and I didn't see him again until we were both back at the EconoLodge.

Saturday had been hot and sunny and windless, a near-perfect riding day, but Sunday was overcast and muggy and windy as hell. In fact, all of Texas seems to be windy as hell. Fortunately, after Belgian Bella had us passing people by the dozens, we eventually found a couple men who were going at a pretty good clip and tucked in behind them. Somewhere along the way we picked up a woman from Florida who was there by herself and thankful to find some fast women (wait, aren't "fast women" something else entirely? oh well...). At one point I hollered to Bella P (you had to yell, the wind was pretty loud), "I thought this was a vacation, not a stage race!" And I'm not gonna lie, I'm hurting on the hills right now. The spring races should be interesting. And while I was patting myself on the back for being able to hang with Belgian Bella, later questioning revealed that she's still doing base and barely breaking a sweat while I redline to stay with her. But whatever. I only have to worry about the other cat 4's, right? ....right?

The wind picked up more and more until 25 miles in, on a long descent, we were pedaling hard to maintain 15 mph downhill. At the end of the descent was the only gas station on the route, so we stopped for a bit to refill bottles and that sort of thing, and most of the other Bellas pulled in a few minutes behind us, so we had a nice chat and all set out together again. It didn't take long to break back up into the same groups though. For the rest of the ride it was me, Belgian Bella, Bella P, and Kelly from Florida. We had a nice tailwind for a few miles but then the wind shifted and I don't think we had a tailwind again for the rest of the day. Naturally, this was when it got hilly. Not that it wasn't hilly before, but after the break there wasn't a single flat spot. It was a good time, but by the end my legs were completely wasted.

Nate, it turned out, had stayed with Sascha and Scott up until the gas station, then taken off ahead of them. He very nearly caught me -- I was still standing in the parking lot chatting with Bella P when he pulled up. Later that afternoon, once everybody had returned and showered, we passed an exciting afternoon at the laundromat and then found a brewpub for dinner. I ate a HUGE hamburger with bleu cheese, fried onions, and fried mushrooms, and a giant heap of wedge fries with habanero ranch, and two mugs of red ale, and promptly fell into a huge coma. They nearly had to carry me out of the restaurant. Of course we had to go to WalMart then, where I paraded around with my distended belly and prayed that everyone would just assume I was pregnant.

And that was Sunday. I will do my best to edit some pictures back into these last couple posts, as soon as I can get them off of Nate's computer. Sit tight. It's not like you have anything else to do anyway if you live in Minneapolis, what with the ten inches of snow and the "do not leave your house for ANY REASON" advisories they've apparently been broadcasting. We picked a good week to be gone.

belated Saturday ride report

Gilby has been all up in my grill for not blogging, or at least as up in my grill as anyone can be when they're two thousand miles away. So here ya go, Gilby.

I left you last with the bikes still locked to the rack and no way to get them off. That night I missed all the excitement because I was so wiped out from 25 hours in the van that I just passed out with the lights on and missed all the excitement. When I woke up in the morning (an hour late, incidentally, because nobody thought to set an alarm) all the bikes were in the motel room, the rack having been thoroughly dismantled. Two bikes, however, had giant U-locks dangling from them. As mine was not one of them, and because I'm a selfish bastard like that, I went ahead and left at 9 with the group while Nate, Sascha, Scott, and the unlucky Bella whose bike had been on our van (I should ask them about using their names on the internet, so no names for you yet) waited for a locksmith to arrive.

So I took off in a huge crowd of cyclists, wearing just a sleeveless tri-top and shorts -- not a scrap of neoprene in sight -- and we got all of three and a half miles before Bella P flatted rather dramatically. Our group all stopped to wait for her to change it. Well over a hundred others blew past us as we stood there. We had been in the front group, but by the time the flat was fixed even the slowest stragglers were long gone. P thought something was wrong with the replacement tube so she decided to head back to the motel and ride later with the people that were waiting for the locksmith.

That left me, Bella S (Nate, Sascha, Scott and I hooked up with a crew from the Velo Bella team who was also coming down, so there's a total of 10 of us), and Bella L, who is an 18-year-old Belgian exchange student who is on the Belgian national team and who finished in the lead pack at Worlds. We hopped into a line with Belgian Bella in front and hammered like hell to catch up, and after a bit we started passing people left and right. We let up and got into a looser, more social formation, but continued passing people left and right because we were at the tail end. We never did catch the lead group again, but we were passing people all day.

Ultimately it's a cool thing that Hell Week is so loosely organized, but we were expecting gas stations where we could refill water bottles and load up on Clif Bars. No such luck. The only stop all day was a bar -- yeah, a bar. Not just any bar, though -- an outdoor biker bar (the other kind of biker) where cheap beer and greasy food was served from barns and all the seats are picnic tables around a bonfire pit. Feel free to do a Google image search for "Luckenbach, Texas" if you want to see it. It could've been a pretty happenin' place at night with the bonfire, but for mid-ride fuel it was a bit of a letdown. I ate a giant pickle and a crapalicious hamburger, and once we hit the road again I regretted them both. Belgian Bella has pro aspirations and did not partake of the hamburgers, so Bella S and I had to tell her to slow down pretty frequently over the next five or so miles. I recovered; Bella S didn't really, so when we pulled into the parking lot it was just me and Belgian Bella left. I showered and waited for the others to trickle in, and as they did I chatted with them, thinking Sascha and Scott and Nate would be showing up any second, but I guess I overestimated the locksmith because they didn't show up until a quarter to six, by which time I'd read half my book, painted my toenails blue, and bought a huge tank of apple-cinnamon hammer gel, which I will probably also come to regret.

Then we stuffed ourselves with pasta and I discovered that Fredericksburg does indeed have Fat Tire beer in abundance, so I will be bringing it back to Minneapolis in abundance, as well as drinking it in abundance while I'm here. God, I love Fat Tire. It makes me happy.

Thus concludes Saturday. I know, I know, it's Monday afternoon, and I'm behind. I will try and blog Sunday and Monday this evening if I get some computer time -- my laptop doesn't work very well so I didn't bother to pack it, which puts me at the mercy of everyone else's computer habits. I'll try to catch up! But for those who are counting (Gilby) the Saturday mileage was 63.76 and as of this afternoon the three-day total is 185.73.


well, we're in texas

Quick note before I pass out. We have arrived in Texas... well, we actually arrived in Texas this morning, but Texas is an entire country unto itself, so we had to drive for another seven hours after we arrived in Texas. But now we're in Fredericksburg. And we have no bikes. Somehow the keys to the locks that are holding the bikes to the rack got lost. So the bikes are locked to the rack with a cable lock and two Kryptonite U-locks, and all 3 keys are on the same ring. Sascha and Scott went to Wal-Mart to buy bolt cutters. To be continued.....


i'm a real minnesotan now

So last night, against all better judgment, I went for a bike ride. Pete already posted a pretty good description of the weather, so I won't bother, but for the link-challenged amongst you, here's a synopsis:


So when I got back home, it turned out that I had honest-to-god frostbite on my toes! Now, despite living in Minnesota, I am not actually a frostbite expert, but when your toes are solid white and waxy-looking and hard to the touch and completely numb except for a vague tingling deep inside them, I don't know what else it would be. Andy doesn't believe me, but the internet says it is "real frostbite" even without the gangrene and the amputation, so somebody here has been reading too many Jon Krakauer books. "It's not real frostbite till shit turns purple," indeed.

Anyway, frostbite sucks. I sat on the couch and held onto my toes for about 20 minutes, waiting for them to get some feeling back, and then I got sick of waiting and got up to go take a bath, and of course the stupid toes chose then to unfreeze and it hurt so bad I had to sit back down and squeeze my toes and try not to cry for another ten minutes before I could get back up. They're not lying when they say that shit hurts. But fear not, an hour later they were soft and pink again. No gangrene, no amputation. Whew.

I don't get it though. It was 34 degrees, which is a lot warmer than the 19 degree rides on which I do not get frostbite. Call me crazy, but I did not think the chemical toe warmer thingies were necessary when it's 34 degrees. Fortunately, the next time I swing a leg over the bike, it will be 80º and there won't be a scrap of neoprene in sight. It's less than 24 hours now.

.......Oh, and speaking of neoprene, I have some neoprene gloves now. When you squeeze them they have the exact same texture as marshmallow peeps.


random tuesday

Today's statcounter fun: "half marathon trampled to death." If I didn't have proof that it was someone in England, I'd think it was my dad looking for anti-running arguments to present. I am number 6 in the results list for this search, and I haven't even been trampled to death once!

In other news, Yanni was recently arrested for a kicking, screaming, hair-pulling, name-calling fight with his girlfriend. The police report claims that he whined about a hurt finger; his manager, naturally, denies that anything ever happened. But if nothing ever happened, where did this mug shot come from?

O Yanni, wherefore hast thou lost thy flowing locks of yore?

Not that anyone thought particularly noble things of this guy before, but still.

Don't worry, guys, this'll turn back into a bike blog in a couple days. Day after tomorrow, in fact, when the Hell Week Molester Van peels out of the driveway like a bat out of hell. Just you wait.


and yet I watch every year anyway

So the Oscars were lame as usual. I only watched the first half, so I missed most of the big awards, but I did see the stupid, stupid song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," and then I even saw the same stupid, stupid song actually win the category. And I saw Ben Stiller's green unitard. Thank God for that.

From the vantage point of my couch, Stiller's timing was impeccable. I was reading the City Pages while half-listening to the TV, and when they announced that Ben Stiller would be presenting the next one, I said to myself, "Well, self, there's no reason to look up now, since all the men wear the same thing anyway." But I looked up anyway. Let me just say again, THANK GOD. That was the stupidest thing I've seen in a long time, and unlike the pimp song, the unitard was stupid in a good way. It made me feel a little less bad about wasting my evening in front of the TV.

Unfortunately, all the other people out there seem to be taking this business a little too seriously. If you go to MSN's Oscars page and vote for what you think the highlight of this year's Oscars was, it turns out that Ben Stiller's green unitard is in LAST PLACE with a paltry 8% of the vote. Which is obviously a grave injustice. At the moment, tied for the lead with 31% each are Jon Stewart's wit (not in evidence while I was watching, sorry to say. I like the guy, but he was just out of his element here) and the mere fact that Brokeback Mountain didn't win. That is not a highlight, that is just a bunch of people jumping in perverse joy that the gay cowboys didn't win, because gays are bad, m'kay? Lame, lame, lame. So we need to take this back for what was obviously the real highlight of the show. Quick, everyone go to MSN and vote for the unitard. Help me out here.

Also, I looked at all 17 of People's "best dressed" photos, and the green unitard was totally shut out. It's wrong, I tell you. Flat-out wrong.


MY pepsi bike is still in the basement, but....

Someone recently found my lil' blog by searching for "Pepsi Bike." Out of curiosity, I clicked on the search to see what else they found, and got this. Now that is cool.

night rider

Last night I rode with Gilby and Andy, as mentioned, while those crazy runner people were doing their crazy running thing, and you don't have to think too hard to figure out who had the better time. Plus I discovered that night riding is much better for the yellow bike than daylight riding is, because I can't see my speedometer, and I can't really see the surrounding stuff go by either, so it's essentially impossible to gauge my speed. This is good for the yellow bike because the yellow bike goes much slower than expected for any given effort. Much slower.

Andy hadn't actually seen the yellow bike in person before, so of course the first thing he did was pick it up to see if all my bitchery had been exaggerated. (Come on, people, would I lie to you?) "Holy shit," he said, then stared at the yellow bike, perplexed, for a long time. Gilby couldn't pass that up, so she picked it up too and was equally perplexed. I should take my bike to some high-school physics class somewhere and see if they can figure out how that much weight can be packed into a 50-cm frame. It's a mystery.

Anyway, I never found out what the average speed was because when I got back to my garage, my computer claimed that I had ridden 72.33 miles. Which, if true, would put the average speed around 50mph. So who knows. I did attempt to reset it before we left, but I guess it didn't work, and since it was dark I didn't know that. Probably for the better. You know that thing about all cats being gray in the dark... well, all Calois are Madones in the dark, I guess. I'd rather not be disabused of my illusions.

Gilby already blogged the highlight of the evening, which was when Andy managed to pee, while riding, with a skinsuit on. He was very proud of himself. Given that he did this while riding across the Highway 55 bridge, I imagine at least 60 or 70 passers-by are also proud of him. Way to go, Andy.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, there is one place where the darkness does not turn the Caloi into a Madone, and that is Ramsey Hill. No amount of blackness can accomplish that.



One week from today, we will stuff seven people and seven bikes into two vans and leave for Hell Week. One very, very long week from today. In anticipation of this event, we have:

1. looked up the mythical Texas open-container laws (it used to be true that passengers could drink beer as long as the driver wasn't participating, but alas, about five years ago the Texan lawmakers turned that from gospel truth into urban legend. Sorry, folks.)

2. reserved a Super 8 in the happenin' town of Oklahoma City (Sarah says: "By the way...I'm bringing wine for all of us for our first night of vacation...wine and the Super 8, a match made in heaven! Texas seems like more of a beer-drinking kind of place, so I figured I'd get most of my wine drinking out of the way before we get to Texas." And Oklahoma is a wine-drinking kind of place? Who knew...)

3. perfected the Velcro system that will affix our cowboy hats to our helmets

4. obsessively checked the Fredericksburg weather forecast eight times per person per day (at this moment it is "fair" and 79º)

5. stocked up on Chamois Butt'r and Bactine

6. compared music collections... Scott apparently owns everything the Suicidal Tendencies ever did, Nate claims Vanilla Ice, and I publicly admitted to still possessing the Paula Abdul cassette which was the first album I ever bought, back in third grade. Although before that I did get the LP (yeah, vinyl) single of Kokomo. Did I have refined tastes back then or what?

So I'd say we're ready. Although none of those six things actually have anything to do with cycling, so who knows if we're ready for that part of it. But I am riding tonight, with Gilby and Andy, before meeting the running group (you know, the ones that got me the stress fracture) at the Chatterbox. My question is, why didn't I think of this before? Fake an injury, get out of running, ride instead, and still get beer! It's perfect! Damn, I'm slow.

Oh, and on the subject of the injury, the boot came off today. I am now living the boot-free life. Actually, I figured twelve hours didn't matter much and took it off last night so I could walk the dog. My calf and ankle muscles feel ridiculously weak just from those four weeks! Which makes me appreciate the plight of the truly injured, the people who are on bedrest for months and probably have to learn to walk again because their whole body has atrophied into a wet noodle. (Cue Dad: "And if you want to avoid that fate, quit that gol-durn bike racing." Not that my dad has ever said gol-durn, but, y'know, poetic license.) Anyway, the good news is I still can't run for a few more weeks, how sad. The bad news is I can't get out of doing lunges in bodypump any more.

But I'm wearing Superman underwear today, so it's all good.

Departure: 6 days, 20 hours, and 52 minutes

First pedal stroke: 8 days, 20 hours, and 24 minutes