And So it Begins… 100 Miles of Nowhere Prologue!

Here we go, here we go, here we go go… go, on the Sickle Court Tasting Room and Grill 100 Miles of Nowhere.

A few months back I signed up for this fun fundraiser at the Fatcyclist website, benefiting Camp Kesem, a camp for kids who have parents with cancer.  Essentially, it’s a 100 mile bike ride, this weekend (or when you can fit it in) and you get to make up the  course as you see fit.  Some folks ride in a window on a trainer, some folks go in circles around their neighborhood and others do something else.  Here are some examples from the website:

*** Everyone who does the 100 Miles of Nowhere has done something ridiculously epic. There are some folks, though, who have truly raised this crazy event to an art form. Here are a few:

Read about how this works here.

I’m going to have to break this up into separate stages, in a manner very very similar different than the Tour De California/France/Italy.  We’re heading to Oceanside tomorrow for vacation, so today was the Prologue!, defined loosely as: “an early morning ride of about 16 miles done prior to the 100 degree temps that are decending upon Northern California out of flippin’ nowhere”.  You can see it here

Prologue strava

So, headed out this morning about 6:15, tried to use the Timelapse App on my phone to capture some of the outing but only got about a mile, stopped when I met up with my buddy Terre.  Off we went, down through the countryside, past the dairy, church we attend, some goats, future hamburger patties and some significant road kill.  A good start to the big race, nobody was injured and the Black Jersey was mine!  Terry tried to hang but since he bailed out early at his house, I won the Prologue!.  Mainly because I’m the only member of the Sickle Court Tasting Room and Grill Racing Team participating.

Arriving to the sounds of thousands of adoring  silence, I proceeded to immediately replenish the calories expended in the Prologue!  A few eggs wrapped in tortilla awesomeness and some coffee. Then the real work began.  Unfortunately, my support crew was still sleeping (hard to find good help these days) and when one awoke, he had baseball practice to get to.  The other one we let sleep, for the good of the earth.  I was therefore left to my own devices to find, assemble and install the support vehicle bike rack and luggage case.  And, once again, my masseuse was unavailable for a quick rub down. Is this how other professionals participants finish Day 1 of their personal 100 Miles of Nowhere?  Probably not.  Finished product here:

100MilesSupportVehicle

And thankfully, I was able to capture the moment of victory on my own podium of one:

100milesprologueWinner

Yes, that’s a flower (no bouquet available) and a lovely refreshment (Captain and Coke).  That’s how the Prologue! finished.  Tomorrow is a travel day and I’m looking forward to getting to Oceanside, finding a soft spot on the beach and praying that the 6 teens that are coming along with us provide the race support that I’m accustomed to,  hoping for.

Monday’s stage:  TBD but probably something like a run up to San Clemente through the Camp Pendleton Marine Base.  Dodging tanks…

The things you see on a bike…

Thought I’d give some of you out there (all 3 of you) a picture of what you see while out on a bike ride. Or at least what I’ve seen.

Animals: Cats, dogs, dogs that chase you (big and small), squirrels, lots of birds (hawks and owls are cool), turkeys, quail, raccoons (in the city), cows (dairy and otherwise), horses, etc.  The strangest was the racoon that I saw early one morning crossing Franklin Blvd. in South Sac.  Big guy, ran from left to right and climbed a fence as well as any cat. And just the other day I was out by the Stone Lake Wildlife area taking a break and watching ducks fly around when a goose came by and the size difference was similar to a big 747 landing alongside a Cessna.  These are BIG birds.

Dead things: mostly road kill of the rabbit, bird, skunk, dog, cat, rat, possum, snake, variety.  I think I saw a muskrat the other day too. Fortunately none of the human variety.

People:  all kinds, shapes, sizes.  Homeless guy at 5:45am walking around in the street with a cart piled high with cans; people holding signs; moms walking kids; kids walking to/from school (love this actually, better than getting picked up all the time); farmers running cattle through pens; UPS/FedEx guy; runners/walkers/bike riders; gym members getting a very early workout; coffee drinkers.  Lots and lots to see on a bike, as long as you’re paying attention to the road and cars too.

Smells: hmmm.  Let’s start with dairy smells.  When you’re in a car, it goes by fast.  On a bike, not so much.  And normally you have to go by twice, coming and going.  Campbells Soup has a plant in South Sac (closing soon) that would stink with tomato soup, which I can’t stand. Last week I’m pretty sure I got a contact high from all of the folks smoking pot in their cars on my way home. More than usual it seemed.  Fresh cut grass/hay/crops are great, the pollen in them not so much.

And the best:  Sunrise/sunsets if you’re so lucky to see them on a bike.  Add in a moon rise/set and it’s really pretty cool.

Have a great weekend ya’ll.

1st Bike Commute of the Year- An Essay…

Well, that was quite the eventful first ride to work of the year yesterday.  Last year I bought this road bike so that I could save some money and ride to work, getting exercise, save gas and produce less CO2.  Or, if you are this guy, perhaps you think I’m actually hurting the environment by breathing too much.  Whatever.

So, hopped on the bike around 5:20, trying to get out in front of the 5:45 rush down Franklin Blvd. through South Sac.  And I didn’t feel like rushing on the first run of the year.  It’s dark, I’ve got a head lamp on my helmet, a flashing light on the bike pointed forward and then also a red light on the back of the bike.  Whatever it takes to make sure people in cars, and the occasional homeless guy walking in the street with his cart, can see me.  I’ve also purchased a bright yellow vest this year, keeps the wind off my chest and makes me even more visible, day and night.  Safety first, you know.

That being said, over the past year, I’ve ridden close to 1500 miles, about 45 days of riding to work @22 miles round trip.  I’ve been close to cars in the past but nobody has really almost hit me.  Until this morning.  In a residential area, cruising along with all of my bright shiny lightness and yellow clothing, some bozo rolls up to a stop on my right (I’ve got no stop sign here, it’s a T intersection).  Dude slows, stops and while I’m coasting and watching him, it looks like he’s going to stay put.  I keep going and he pulls out.  This is the exciting part, dontcha know.  I’m braking, trying to pick a good spot on his front left fender to hit and starting to skid when he finally stops.  Fortunately, I was able to stay upright and not have to click out of my pedals, rode around in front of him and kept on going.  Needless to say, I was fully awake at that point.

So, lesson is, assume that they don’t see you unless you can look right at them in the eye.  Which I knew already but it really looked like this guy was stopped completely and letting me go by.  It was good to know that I can still handle a bike like when I was a kid, rather than just riding straight down the street.

More to come.  Feels really good to get back on the bike and ride to work, even at 40 degrees. And the contact high I got on the way home from all of the dudes smoking Skunk in their cars helped I’m sure.

Next post should probably be about all of the strange stuff I’ve seen in the morning/afternoon riding along….

Jackass, Ridiculousness and my (your) son- a blog

“Hi, my name is John and I enjoy watching Ridiculousness”

I just spent the last 2 hours watching Ridiculousness with my son and loved it.

First of all, let’s clear this up. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a female (girl/woman) do something so stupid that it showed up in a video on Ridiculousness.  Girls/Women are smarter than boys/men.  Clearly.

That being said, upon watching this show for about 5 total hours now, happily, I’ve come to the conclusion that it does not “give good kids bad ideas”. In fact, it gives relatively intelligent 13 year olds a window into what might happen to them should they attempt something stupid. The relatively (see how I use that word) intelligent ones are able to perform a rudimentary cost/benefit analysis based on what they’ve seen on TV/YouTube and at least not get seriously injured. I hope.

This type of insight was unavailable to me and my idiot friends (Mike K., Steve and Jeff B., Mark B., my brother, etc.) when we were putting a bunch of 2×4’s and a piece of plywood together with no nails and making a bike jump out of it.  It always ended well.

In the final analysis, I’m not doing that kind of stupid stuff anymore and it’s fun to watch on TV.  Better than Dallas, The Good Wife and Squatch, that’s for sure.

Watching Jackass in Italy now and loving it.  I might have to call my sponsor after this episode. Or the next…

Triathalon? Are you nuts?

I’ve done it. I’m desperate for another idiotic challenge and have joined the Elk Grove Triathlon Club. I even attended a meeting and everything. They served beer. And pizza. Very sneaky of them, luring me in with crack  pizza & beer.  These are smart people.  So the next step would be to actually sign up for a triathlon, you might think.  Which is correct except that I’m trying not to spend too much money and of course the deadline for the current price isn’t until May some time, for the July event.

Hello Mr. Procrastination…

So I guess I’ll actually sign up for one tonight.  Jake said he would do the Fathers Day one with me, a 400 yard swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run.  I’d love to take him up on the offer but the little bugger might beat me, which would be humbling and lead me to acknowledge the obvious:  that I’m not 21 and fit anymore.

I also need to check to see what my Fathers Day will be, since I’m not usually in charge of that day.  (ahhh, Mr. Procrastination returns).

Back to signing up… Maybe I’ll do two, the Fathers Day and the July one.  Hmmm.  $140 for both.

Shoot gosh darnit.  What to do?  I’m not a good swimmer but I’ve already been in the pool a few times back in December and I’m sure I can get enough work in to swim .5 mile.  What’s that, 650 yards or so?  I can do that, right?

Let me know if this sounds like you (sorry, a friend of yours).

Ok.  I’m in. Now if I can just figure out what Speedo to wear that will most embarrass my kids….

 

Calbuzz, Fox News and Authortarians

Just got done reading the Calbuzz article on “Why watching Fox news will, in fact, rot your brain” and this quote at the end popped out at me, from Walter Lippmann:

“It is only when we are in the habit of recognizing our opinions as a partial experience, seen through our stereotypes, that we become truly tolerant of an opponent. Without that habit, we believe in the absolutism of our own vision, and consequently in the treacherous character of all opposition.”

And he wrote that in 1922, before we ran into Carl Rove’s “say it enough times and it becomes true” strategy.  Read the full article, it’s pretty good.

Kind of ran home the concept of getting out of your comfort zone, traveling, talking to people who look, act, worship and dress different than you do. It comes up in many forms, from the kids at the local high school who “look” like thugs (but are AP students) to the buttoned down Baptist/Methodist/Presbyterian who attends church on a regular basis and votes Democrat, always.  Lots of different examples, insert your own here, because you just never know who you’re talking to…

If you believe that your world view is the only one and it’s always right, then there is not much we can do to make things better.  But when you acknowledge that perhaps, just one time, you might be wrong and the world will not come to an end, maybe there is still a chance to find common ground.

With regards from the couch, coughing up a lung or two…

Las Vegas, Good Friends, College and Parents

Just returned from what used to be a sort of annual trip to Vegas with old college buddies, put on hiatus for the past two years for all kinds of good reasons. But the reason’s for going I think out weigh staying home and saving some cash. It’s important to keep connections to your friends and this is one good way of doing so. The details of the trip are so mundane compared to the bad old days that if you’re looking for that, don’t bother. And I wouldn’t tell anyway. I could have titled the post “I just got back from Vegas and my butt hurts”… from bowling, you dirty minded people.

A little background on this group. When I got out of high school, I had zero desire to head off to a 4 year college, nor did I have the best grades. Delta College (a community college) in Stockton was the destination, with a hazy goal of finishing in 2 years and taking off to wherever I could get in. Fortunately, I enjoyed History and Political Science, got involved a little bit and somehow was accepted to UCLA. But not UCSB, which is a good thing and a story for another day.

In any event, not knowing anybody in Westwood and having never actually been on the campus, I took a trip down, found an apartment with 3 random dudes and settled in. They had a party before school started, it was a boring train wreck and out of desperation, I wandered the apartment complex looking for the other party that I could hear. Met three guys there, told them we had a keg back at the lame party, they came along and turned out they knew some of my friends from Lodi. One thing led to another, I went to fraternity rush at their house, found out that this particular fraternity did not believe in hazing and all of that crap, I got invited in, moved out of my apartment asap and lived in a frat house for 3 years. It’s important to note that as a transfer, I didn’t want to deal with some punk 19 year old kid yelling at me, making me drink whatever he handed me, etc. So the non-hazing, no BS, you can move in right away thing really appealed to me. Intramural sports teams, help with what classes to pick, a tolerant attitude compared to other fraternities, assistance in getting jobs on campus, all of that came with this fun group of 70+ young men. More to the story another time but suffice to say, this is a group of dudes that I grew up with in many ways.

Fast forward to a year ago, when one of these friends lost his father after a long battle, after overcoming his own health scare a few years prior. Then two months ago, another friend lost his very healthy and fit dad to a series of strokes, at age 62. Remember, all of these friends are age 40-44 at the most, so we’re not that damn old. And just in the past 3 years, I’ve seen guys my age pass away for any number of reasons.

So the idea of bringing a few of us all back to Vegas, some who haven’t been in years, to pick up our friends spirits (he lives in Vegas now too) was a good idea and my lovely wife told me to go, before I even asked. I don’t deserve her sometimes. And I dig Las Vegas.

Now, the upside to this particular trip was that I got to see these friends, hang with some of their buddies who I’ve been around before and get along with well (funny how that seems to happen most of the time if you choose good friends) and bet on March Madness from the comfort of a good sports book. And the Presidential Suite we got to hang out in for a while on Friday was fantastic, thanks to our friend in Vegas who used to work for the casino we were at.

Makes me realize how fortunate I am to have had great experiences with people who continue to be good friends after 20+ years and who are solid citizens (never convicted at least). I got lucky to get into UCLA and bump into three guys at a party and I’m not happy that it’s beginning to take people passing away for us to get together but sometimes that’s how it works out.

Steve Martin, talking on the 92nd Street YMCA pod cast that I listened to this morning, (Funny People, download his and George Carlin), spoke about a friend who had lost both parents in tragic ways and told SM that “if you have anything to clear up with your parents, do it now”. Good advice.

A last word on this rambling post: These great experiences I had in college make me want the same for my kids. But the reality is that the costs are becoming so out of control that I worry if we can afford to send one or both to a UC or CSU, even with our decent incomes. How can it be that a middle class family will struggle mightily to send their kids to college, perhaps even sacrificing their own retirement/future in the process. My parents spent about $10k a year for 3 years on me. Not easy as they were both teachers but much more doable than $30k per year at a UC right now. Makes me angry and sad, I hope that I can at least provide the opportunity for my kids to attend the school that they want to go to/can get into.

So that they can meet good people, develop great friendships and have a support network of friends that they can count on in rough times. That’s perhaps even more important than the degree they get at the end of college.

Could I be wrong? Thoughts on helmets…

Helmets.

Motorcyclists need to wear them, would be silly not to do so because your melon hitting the pavement at a high rate of speed makes a mess.

Riding your bike (at least farther than around the corner): you should wear a helmet. See above for melon vs. road comment.

Skiiers: Hmmmm, this is where I start acting like a Libertarian (more than usual at least). I see the reasons, mainly because idiot skiers and snowboarders run into other innocents on a regular basis. But I don’t like having to pay for one more expensive piece of equipment for me and my kids. Yes, my kids. I said it. They both have helmets but today I told one of them that she didn’t have to wear it as we would be on the easy runs and it was going to be 50 degrees by the end of the day.

First run, she takes a fall (because I didn’t get her on the correct run) and as I’m just helping her up, some woman skis up and says: “Hey, you’re too pretty not to be wearing a helmet” At which time I tell her that I’ve got it, she says: “Daaaadd, come on, she’s too pretty…” blah, blah blah. I refrained from saying much more at that point because I’m trying to help my kid, a 14 year old, not a little one.  Oh, and thanks for the “your too pretty… to be that dumb” comment, nice lady.  Because that’s what you’re saying and that’s a whole other effing problem I have with that comment.

So, I’m pissed and she’s upset but we spend the rest of the day having a good time skiing, without helmets. I wasn’t the only one on the hill without one and she wasn’t the only teen without one but that’s not a reason for picking one way or another.

However, upon further review, I wonder if I’m wrong. I started researching it a bit and, interestingly enough, the results are inconclusive as to the relative benefits of wearing a helmet. Most deaths occur when you hit something really hard, like a tree or another person and get a head injury.  But that’s where the research seems to focus, rather than on more common injuries on the slopes like concussions.  The example many point to is Liam Neeson’s wife, who fell on a beginner slope and hours later was rushed to the hospital and died. I would assume that she fell at a slower speed, which some research shows actually is common with skiing/snowboarding injuries (this was interesting to me). I can’t find that link right now but will try to post it again.

Is that enough to warrant a helmet?  Is the mere threat of injury to your head why you should wear a helmet?  Am I being stubborn and should just go with the flow and wear one, because at one point we all know that I might get hit in the head? Because we all used to not wear seat belts but now do be one way of looking at this?

I’m not sure.  What I’m sure of is that I have a feeling that the wearing of helmets was caused by several things:  More snowboarders and skiers doing increasingly more dangerous tricks/jumps, lines than we did when I was young (a good reason to wear one); an industry that saw a market and exploited it (don’t think this doesn’t happen) and the typical “bubble wrap” mentality that so many of us over the age of 40+ bitch about but increasingly seem to find as acceptable behavior.

I’ll finish with some stats from the research but understand, I don’t want my kids to be hurt but I also don’t want 1) someone in my face telling me I’m a bad parent (go find a smoker with a kid and bitch at them, I’m on board with that) or 2) the “crowd” (the market?) pushing others to “conform” without a solid foundation to support that decision.  Why does this feel like the post 9/11 rush to push back individual (and Constitutional) rights based on what the government chose to tell us?

Is it my lack of a desire to conform, reading “1984” in 1984 (thanks Mr. Hatch) or something else that makes me question this rush to have everyone wear a helmet while on the slopes?  Or am I “cranky old guy” already and I should just get with the program?

I still don’t know. But both kids are wearing one next time. I might not but then again I might, especially if I go off in the trees again like today.  Not so smart, really.

From the article here:

“…the fact remains that the risk of such an injury remains too small to insist that everyone on the slopes must wear a helmet. It should remain your personal choice at the end of the day. Nevertheless, parents should think long and hard before sending their kids out on the slopes without a lid on……”

“statistically a death can be expected for every 1.49 million visits to a ski area.” From 1991/2 to 1998/9 Shealy, Ettlinger and Johnson

“Head injuries account for at most 10-20% of all injuries from snow sports – although some studies have shown higher rates in children (up to 43% in one Canadian study though I have not seen that reported anywhere else). But even taking this 43% rate coupled with the highest injury rate gives a rate for head injury of 2.4 per 1000 skier days – really very low. A more average risk would be about 0.3-0.5 per 1000 skier days. Most of these injuries are minor (usually concussion) and as I have already mentioned the bad ones are usually the result of skiing or boarding out of control.”

Exercising Basic Rights

 

Went to the rally last night to support our local teachers in their negotiations with the school district.  The local union feels that the district is not negotiating in good faith, which has been an issue for the past 7-8 years or so.  It has gotten to the point where 1500+ teachers showed up last night, along with former teachers like myself, put on black and walked to the district office for the board meeting.

It goes without saying (so I’ll say it here) that I support the teachers in this situation, having worked with them and been around good and bad bargaining for many years.  These are people that I trust and know that it takes an awful lot to get them motivated to show up after work and have a protest.  Even the elementary teachers were on hand, which is never a good sign for the district if they are upset.

I’m a big believer in the Constitution and our rights to assemble, speak, etc.  So I took my kids to the rally also, so that they could see what sometimes needs to be done in order to make a point.  Some might feel that it’s a waste of time and that the board/superintendent will not move on their positions.  But you never know until you try.  Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement in the US might be the best example of that but there are so many others in history.  When I was a youngster, my parents had to go on strike as teachers and while I wasn’t sure of what was going on, there is a great old picture of me and my brother somewhere from the local newspaper, holding a sign supporting teachers.  I’m glad my parents took me along for that and while the specific event may not have affected me later on, the general principles do.  From what I understand, that strike lead to many years of good relationships between the teachers and district, because of both sides learning and trusting each other.  That ended with a superintendent change and it appears that a similar progression is occuring locally now.

It makes me smile to think about all of those teachers last night, coming together, some who may not totally agree with the situation but still showing up to support the larger group. That can only mean good things for the local educators in the future, it brings them together and makes them more powerful. Ahhh, unintended consequences are fun.

This is a great country and it can only survive if we are allowed to protest, demonstrate, peaceably assemble, speak, etc.