Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It's a warm Fall Tuesday. Perfect day for a ride. Tonight we're pushing forward the Tuesday night ride time drastically, as in recent weeks it's just gotten too dark near the end of the ride. Soon enough we'll have to call it off for the season.

It's not the cold I dread about the next six months, it's the lack of daylight. And the cars who choose not to see riders once the sun goes down. I am a bit skittish about riding when it's dark, so soon I'll retreat to the treadmill and trainer in the basement.

Maybe this year I won't wait until January to get started on my fitness for the Spring.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2008 Psimet Invitational

A whole mess of hammers got dropped on Saturday.

This past weekend was the 3rd Annual Psimet Invitational in Hampshire. This ride is pretty special and big kudos to Psimet who put it together. This ride has been instrumental in a whole lot of riders connecting in our area.

The ride is a three loop progressive century through Kane and McHenry Counties. That is, if you want to ride 100 miles you ride all three loops. If you only want to ride 30- or 60-something miles, pick a loop or two and show up to ride. And though we try to make this a social ride, it tends to get zippy once the jackrabbits hop off the front.


A bowl of oatmeal and a couple of cups of coffee and I was out the door for the relatively short car ride to Hampshire F.P. I thought I might ride there, but decided to stamp some carbon footprint and drive.

Cars slowly streamed into the parking lot and Psimet shows up with that annoying Flobots song about handlebars oozing out of his car speakers. And he had a bag of hammers. He dropped the hammers. He’s too legit to quit. Go MC Psimet!

The weather was looking wonderful. The first couple of Psimet Invitationals saw riders with arm warmers, wind vests, and knee warmers. This year there was nary a knee warmer in sight and only a few riders sporting arm warmers.

I spent my time snapping some pictures and sandbagging. Honestly, my quads were still smarting from two days prior on the treadmill, which I have not been on since the spring. I wasn’t sure how my legs would react, especially with some notoriously fast riders in attendance.

After the requisite photo ops (Psimet taking the pics, so he’s not in the group shot…. oops), the motley band rolled out to the north.

Loop the First

There was lots of chatter as the group formed two lines at a steady pace. Shider and ColorChange led the parade and began to ratchet up the pace a few miles in on Briar Hill Road. Alas, the pace was to come to a complete halt as the left line passed over a pothole that caused two flats. I was fortunate to hear Shider holler out “HOLE!” at the last second and I was able to bunny hop the flat causing road cavity.

As the tires were patched, the B group rode by. I could tell they were feeling smug about taking the lead role on the ride. They stayed up there quite a while, too, as after we got back rolling, another tire went flat. This time it was a pinch flat most likely from the same pothole earlier, just a slower leak. So again the A group stopped as Psimet worked his tire changing magic and chided MJH2 the whole way through the change about not lining his tires with baby powder. Hmmm….. I would get that same lecture. Remind me to not let Psimet change my tire until I can throw some Johnson & Johnson’s in there.

Again we rolled out, and in jest I took a flyer off the front. Note to self: Don’t fake an attack when Shider’s around. He will chase. He will pass. He will keep the pedals turning in a very fast manner. ColorChange and aham join the chase, even as I let up. Cripes. I’m in the swim now. Nothing to do but catch a wheel and hang on for dear life. Miracle of miracles, my legs reacted.

We four rolled on at a pretty good clip, mostly because Shider and ColorChange were taking monster minutes-long pulls. aham and I were taking more sane 30 to 60 second pulls. Eventually we see riders up. It’s the B group. And one of the KOM points is showing up on the map. Shider powers away thinking he can catch them and take the points, but it was not to be. iab took the points on his 85 year old (or so) steel Cinelli that only has 6 gears (or so) on it. I’m sure he’ll tell us about it for a long time to come. Way to go, iab!

The hill down to Marengo was a lot of fun. The four of us followed the map to the marked rest stop and got some goodies from the convenience store (S’mores flavored Pop Tart FTW!). A couple others showed up and then no one else. Huh? A quick call to Psimet finds that they think we have skipped the rest stop and they are waiting down the line. So we caught them and the band wandered through Marengo to get back on track.

I followed Shider up the incline out of town and turned back to only see ColorChange on my wheel. After a stop sign we saw aham hanging 100 meters back and we slackened the pace to let him back onto the four man freight train. From there we powered it back to the F.P.

38 miles at almost 22 mph average. It was a zesty start to the day.

Intermission the First

Rolling back into the lot we were greeted by a few more folks showing up for the second loop. Also The Inquisitors showed up to ride around the lot. Way cool.

Some folks left at that point, but there were some new faces. SmokinMiles and recursive were there. And the 6 to 1 odds laid down by iab that timmyquest wouldn’t show up were paid off when TQ rolled in. We’ll never doubt him again when he says he might just maybe show up for a BFNIC ride.

More photo ops and the group was out around 11 am for the second loop to the west.

Loop the Second

Another fairly sedate rollout, but as tends to happen, we hit the downhills that happen a couple of times on Kelley Road and the pace nudges up into the mid-20 mph range. With the addition of recursive to the mix, the front of the line is cooking, but this time around more folks are hanging in with the double paceline. It’s a wonder how fast riders can go when they are whisked along with the draft.

As we powered down Melms, I was looking for the upcoming turn onto Polk. The street sign for it has miniscule lettering and we were going to miss it. I hollered out that we missed the turn and the group slowed to get back on track. Well, it may have been a blessing that we missed it, as the road was done up all nice in pea gravel for a chip-sealing. In the formation we had I’m guessing at least one person would have gone down in the turn at the pace we were rolling.

We decided to skip the road and cut the loop by a few miles by staying on Melms. In doing so I missed the rabbits rocketing off down the road and splitting the pack in two. I wanted back up there and burned a few matches to catch the first group, pass them, and then try to bridge up to the fast guys. I did catch them, but it was only because they stopped to cross over IL-23. With them stopping the gang was all back together and stayed that way to the rest stop in Genoa.

For the first time I began to notice how hot the day was. Others had already retreated to the shady side of the building. Rolling out with the group, I knew another one of the KOM spots was coming up, but as we crossed back over IL-23, my legs didn’t respond. A group of four or five riders took off. I stayed back with the second group as we encountered another stretch of pea gravel road. This time we had no way out, so cranked on. The fast guys were still in sight and I thought I might have one last match to get back up there, so I pulled around, took the point and dug deep. After a few minutes I heard Psimet telling me to peel off the point. That was it for my speed for the day.

Unfortunately we were still on the gravel as the road took a left turn. I was at the back and watched almost everyone whoa up to take the bend nice and slow. Unfortunately voldemort didn’t whoa up quite enough and he ended up in a deeper pile of rocks. Out from him went his wheels and down he went. His left arm was scraped pretty bad and he knocked his head on the ‘pavement’ but otherwise was in good enough shape to keep on going. Thankfully nothing broken. Helmets are good.

So we rambled on back down Allen Road and when we got to Hampshire my legs just completely bonked out. I let a few folks around and told them to go on, that I was going to ‘cool down’ the last couple of miles. Ha! It was less a cool down and more a struggle. No more matches in the book as I limped back to the lot.

29 miles at 19.8 mph. For bonking, that's pretty zippy. Hurrah for drafting!

Intermission the Second / Postlude

I was wiped out and ready to go. Thankfully I had already planned to skip the final loop due to a prior engagement. The folks heading out for the final loop all looked a bit knackered, as well. If I read ColorChange’s stats right, this loop ended up being a touch slower than the first two.

As I headed home I took a little detour to Wendy’s for a double cheeseburger recovery meal. I made sure to give aham a call with the information and tempt him to stop at a Wendy’s to get the same corrupt meal. He needs more fast food in his diet. I mean, what else to keep one fast on the bike but fast food, yeah?

A great day. A great ride. Again, big props to Psimet. Can’t wait for the 4th Invitational!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Better than I could put it.

I usually keep quiet on politics in the public arena, but I've been searching for a way to justify just what I like about Barack Obama and what bugs me about John McCain (who I would have been okay with as president until his reckless pick for a running mate and he renounced his high road, semi-maverick status for lies, damned lies, and continuation of damned lies even after the damned lies had been debunked seven times over).

This story from D Magazine by conservative Wick Allison sums up much of what I like about the Barack Obama candidacy.

From the article:

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.

In addition, John Dickerson at Slate helped quell some of my fears and panic by reiterating that Obama's cool (and that of his extended campaign for that matter) has been kept in recent weeks in ways that echo how he kept his cool throughout firestorms in the primary season.
Or maybe [the Obama campaign is] not rattled because they've been through this before. If they'd listened to the polls and Democratic experts, they'd never have gotten in the race. In the summer of 2007, there were lots of Obama supporters who thought he should panic a little more—or risk losing to Hillary Clinton. The Obama campaign stuck to its plan and won. Aides often cite this lesson in explaining why they're not going to overreact now.

Cool under fire. I like that in a leader.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

RIP, David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace hanged himself on Friday. He was 46.

Who was DFW? He was most well known for his mammoth novel Infinite Jest, a novel I bought when it was first released in 1996 and to this day have never made it to the quarter mark despite numerous tries. I figured I just was not smart/patient enough to wade through the plot and keep flipping to the copious end notes. Who needs that hassle?

Why even try this book? Well, fresh out of college and working in a completely mind-numbing swing shift job I thought I needed the challenge. And I very much enjoyed a tennis related essay from Esquire entitled "The String Theory"1. So I saved up, bought IJ and found out that attempting to bash my way through a novel in which I had no feeling except sleepiness was really not worth my time. Maybe someday the book will surprise me and I'll get through it, but not yet.

So why stick with Wallace material? Well, a year later a collection of his stranger than fiction essays, including the Esquire article was released. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again contains some of the funniest writing I've ever encountered and it hit me at a time in life when I needed a laugh. I've loaned my copy, bought copies for others, and even own the book in hardback and paperback versions.

Wallace's take on mundane subjects, such as the Illinois State Fair2 are riddled with his own insecurities, prejudices, and elitist notions. He's a Midwestern guy with a northeastern education/mindset, who has returned to write/teach in the heart of Illinois. It's easy to feel elite along with DFW as he wanders the fairgrounds taking everything in from carnies to FFA/4H kids to politicians.3 He seems to look down on the activities, yet want to experience as those who leave their inhibitions and daily cares at the gate. But he's so wrapped up in his own experience of the experience that he can't let go. His own vision of life supersedes the event.
"One of the few things I miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid? -- that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow? -- that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit? Does anyone else identify with this memory? The child leaves the room, and now everything in that room, once he is no longer there to see it, melts away into some void of potential or else (my personal childhood theory) is trundled away by occult adults and stored until the child's reentry into the room recalls it all back into animate service. Was this nuts? It was radically self-centered, of course, this conviction, and more than a little paranoid. Plus, the responsibility it conferred: if the whole of the world dissolved and resolved each time I blinked, what if my eyes didn't open?"4

Wallace's other essays are riddled with this same self-centered notion. In writing about David Lynch later in ASFTINDA, DFW is so scared to shatter his own illusions of Lynch that though he has journalistic access to the director, he stays away lest the image explode. We don't want our own notions about the world disturbed, so we leave them alone. It's easier to opine on them from afar than to get into the scrum and enjoy the actual living and experiencing.

This is not a guess or attempt to analyze why Wallace ultimately chose to take his own life, but more my own take on the things that paralyze me in day to day life. I read these essays at a time I was pretty paralyzed by my own notions of the world, but in hindsight I can recognize that in some small way DFW's writing contributed to me popping out of a deep funk and back into the land of the living. Even when supposedly fun things turned out to be blah, at least I knew first hand why they were blah instead of guessing. And in the process I found a lot of life that was not blah that I would have missed.

It's a bloody shame we have lost one of the most unique literary talents of our time.

1. The full and ponderous DFW title of the essay: "Tennis Player Michael Joyce's Professional Atristry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness."

2. "Getting Away From Pretty Much Being Away From It All."

3. One critic I read once described Wallace as having an IMAX eye for seeing everything.

4. From essay in footnote 2.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I See You And I Dilate.

No, this is not an Ani Difranco post.
Yesterday I went to the eye doctor at lunch time.  They dilated my eyes.  Driving home in the full sun yesterday was a blast.  Short range vision blurred.  Squinting through old pair of scratchy sunglasses jammed over my regular glasses.  The works.
Hungry as I was, I decided it would be a good idea to drive through at Taco Bell.  What was I thinking?  I couldn't read the stinking board.  Here's me: "Yeah, uhh.... ummm.... I'll have a..... uhhh.....   Number 5?"  Heck, I had no idea what a Number 5 would contain, except that it would have the same 5 ingredients that are in everything Taco Bell has ever made from the dawn of time.  It ended up being Nachos Bell Grande and a hard shell taco.  With a Mountain Dew.  It's been a while since I had some Taco Bell and it was pretty satisfying.  Now I don't have to go back for another 6 months or so.
Anyway, back at the eye docs there were about six blue haired ladies checking out frames were prattling on about Sarah Palin's glasses and how there had been a run on similar frames in recent weeks.  Seriously.  I guess it was better than hearing them attempt to talk about all those in-depth issues Palin's been parroting on the stump. 
As my eyes were all out of whack from the dilating, I did not get a chance to really shop for frames, but when I go back I'm asking for some Harry S Truman frames.  Now there was a cat with style.