Monthly Archives: January 2010

New Year’s Day etc.

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I love fires. Especially when it is cold and snowy out. But, I can gaze at them anytime. So, here’s a little fire to start off with.

Last night nearly made it to early this morning. I think I crawled into bed around 3:30 or so. It’s amazing how much stuff you can do between 11 pm and 3:30 am. 2 hours of snowshoeing and 2 hours of laying in the sauna took up the majority of the time. Amazingly, I woke up feeling okay this morning.

The Kansans were the last men standing and the only ones to complete the snowshoe/sauna saga on New Year’s Eve. The Russians and Wisconsinites didn’t last the evening. The snowshoeing was awesome under a full moon. We didn’t even come close to having to turn on headlamps. It is strange seeing your shadows snowshoeing at night in the woods. We only made it to the cypress ridge with minutes to spare. I am a stickler for time, but it didn’t really matter. We had a few bottles of champagne to attend to before the 45 minutes back to the sauna. The sauna/snow combination eventually became a competition like a lot of other things. I can’t name an exact winner. Everyone had their moments. I’m not sure how the rules came about. It seemed like the longer one stayed buried in the snow, the more points were scored. After 30 seconds or so, it didn’t really matter how long you were down. You were pretty numb by then. I think maybe it is good for immunity training. At least that is what I was telling myself at the time.

Since I can’t use my back for much, I decided to drive back home to Topeka and hook up with Michael Aisner (Coor’s Classic promoter) who is town to see Tom Schuler’s grandmother, Ella. She is 112 years old and is 23rd on the list of oldest living people on the planet.

I went by and visited her a couple weeks ago. I helped move her out of her house into assisted living when she turned 100. Michael is drawn to stories like hers. It should be fun.

It isn’t going to be over 20 for a high for almost all of this week. But, it is 19 below 0 in Cable as I post this, so maybe 20 above is just fine. A 40 degree difference.

Midnight-New Year's Eve. Deep woods, Cable Wisconsin.

Michaeal Aisner at my house this morning.

And Tom Schuler.

Caught in the act waxing.

Hawkeye bugging Bromont.

Dennis with Hawkeye (11 weeks) and Ella (going on 17 years old).

Just like ridin’ a bike?

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You know that saying-It is just like riding a bike, you never forget? I’m not sure if I agree with that. I was riding indoors yesterday. Twice actually. And either it wasn’t at all like riding a bike or I did forget. I nearly needed to get a tape measure to set my seat position. I changed it at least a cm between riding in the morning and riding in the evening. I can usually feel if my seat is off even less than that.

I have a normal pedaling style that comes naturally, usually. When I was pedaling during the first hour, I found myself having to consciously think about pushing down and pulling up. It was almost like when I ski. I needed to concentrate on each pedal revolution. That’s not right. It was annoying and unsettling.

I started thinking that perhaps I had regressed to what I think most triathletes feel when riding. Or, someone who has never had the luxury to spend most of their lives on their bikes. It is so easy for me to glance at someone riding down the road and tell how much he is in tune with his bike. It’s as easy to me as telling what color jersey he is wearing. I can tell you if a guy is a “professional” cyclist just by the way he carries a bicycle up stairs. Or wheels it across a driveway. This might even be easier than when someone is riding.

I admit, this has been the longest time period that I haven’t ridden in a very, very long time. But, I didn’t feel anywhere near “right” yesterday riding. At least the first time. It got a bit more familiar the second hour, but not familiar enough.

This has been the worst winter weather in Kansas for as long as I can remember. There are very few times here that it is nearly impossible to ride outdoors. This is one of them. And, by the way the forecast looks, it’s going to staying this way for at least another week. I’m sure after a few more hours on the ergometer, it’s going to start feeling “right”. Then I’m going to go get on my bike and it’s going to feel all wrong again. Go figure.

Tom Schuler's rental car parked in front of my house. Maybe this is how they teach you to do it in Wisconsin. My street is one of the clearer streets here in Topeka.

Snow

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This is nuts. It could very easily be 50 degrees here today. Instead it is cold. But beyond cold it is windy and really snowy. The windchill today is supposed to hover around -30 degrees. It snowed another 6 inches last night. On top of a lot already. It is supposed to stay cold for another week. Kansas isn’t really prepared for snow removal. At least at this saturation. It is going to be awhile before it’s clear to ride. It’s nearly time for me to think about driving North or South. It is too bad I have way too much stuff to do here to allow that at this moment.

The snow on the peak of our roof is nearly as high as the cupola.

Certain days

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There are many differences between a “normal” life and a cycling life. There are certain days that I’d just as well omit from my life. I used to travel a fair amount on buses. That was my main mode of transportation from Topeka to Colorado Springs when I was at the Olympic Training Center. I hate bus travel. And I spent a lot of time in laundromats then. Not many redeeming things have happened to me at a laundromat or on a bus. If I had the choice to die early or experience these certain days, I would choose the former. I don’t want to go into details, but today was one of those days. Just omit it from my life and expire early. I’m not sure how to avoid days like today. I think that they come upon me now from errors I made previously. Or lack of forethought. I’m not sure.

In cycling, I’ve never had one of those days. I can’t recall one day that is even close to being in that category. The very worst day I’ve had on a bike doesn’t come close. There is always a redeeming value. No matter how painful and unenjoyable it might seem at the time, I know that it always will eventually pay benefits.

That is one reason I ride my bike. To make days like this extinct. At least as close to extinct as possible. I feel so lucky that I have that.

Sunflower Bicycle Shop – Lawrence, Kansas

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When I first started riding decades ago, every bike shop in each town was a destination. We would drive out of our way enroute to a race to go by a shop we hadn’t seen. Each shop was unique. With its own personality. Every shop had a discovery to find.

Michael’s Cyclery of Ames, Iowa, was the epitome of this. It should have been an art museum. The building and its contents. The first time I actually saw a “real” World Championship jersey was the first time I walked into Michael’s shop. He had Gerri Knetemann’s Worlds jersey that he won in 1978. It was made of wool, as all jerseys of that day were. That was only the tip of the iceberg at Michael’s. It was a cycling enthusiast’s dream.

The era for these shops seems to have passed. All the new shops are box/factory stores. They have no life blood. The shops of old are fast becoming extinct. I rarely go into a new shop and am wowed. But, these shops aren’t completely extinct. There are a smattering left throughout the country. River City Bicycles in Portland is one of my favorites. And, another one happens to be local, right here in NE Kansas.

It is Sunflower Bicycle Shop on Mass. Street in downtown Lawrence. It has every component of shops of old. Nostalgia, ambience, and awesome service. If they just put in a small espresso/wine bar, it would be perfect. The shop carries Trek, Specialized and other brands. They also sell camping, climbing and paddling stuff. Its roots go back to the days when it was an army surplus store. That was when I first went there. If you needed a gas mask or ammunition case, that was the place to go. Now it is a awesome bicycle and outdoor oasis. Everything you need for modern day bicycle racing, plus all the nostalgia of the past. There is a bicycle and jersey collection from all over the world. There is also an old VW Beetle to display roof racks.

Dan Hughes is the proprietor. If you want to get your ass kicked on a local ride, go on a ride with Dan on gravel for a few hours. He takes no prisoners. His race of choice is long gravel races. By long, I mean 200 miles+. It is ugly.

Anyway, if you happen to be coming through North Eastern Kansas, make a stop in Lawrence and check out its downtown. Its origins go way back to the time when Quantrill’s Raiders crossed the Missouri/Kansas border during the Civil War and torched it. And, make sure you stop in Sunflower and say hi to Dan.

Dan usually carries a bullhorn on his belt to make sure he's heard.

A wall of some of the memorabilia. On the lower left (below yours truly's jersey on upper right) is George Hincapie's booties and number he wore at Paris Roubaix. George sent them to Dan complete with original French mud.

More framed collector's items with awesome collector's bikes.

Original limestone wall with big wheel bike.

Sunflower always throws a great holiday party.

Shitty Jobs

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Did you used to take those aptitude tests in elementary school that would predict what job you would be happiest with? Those tests perplexed me. I would answer yes to about every question. And a very positive yes. Would you like to dig ditches? Yes. Would you like to be the head of a corporation? Yes. Would you like to discover a new species of mammal in Africa? Yes. Would you like to shine shoes? Yes.

What they left out at the end of those questions was, “for the rest of your life”. That changes up the question enormously. I do like to do just about anything. Making pizzas, delivering newspapers, roofing houses, digging ditches. But, I don’t like doing these things for a long duration. They don’t keep me captive intellectually.

I’ve done a bunch of different shitty jobs this winter. And I have a bunch more to complete. Jobs I don’t want to repeat. At least for the duration involved. All of them are interesting for awhile.

Cycling is different. Much different. The more you do it, the more intellectually interesting it becomes. I have said it a million times and I’ll state it here again. I have never raced a race that I didn’t learn something in. And most of the time I learned a lot. Even now. I’ve probably raced something like 2000+ races in my life. That is not an exaggeration. That is a crazy big number. Just looking at it amazes me. That would be like racing everyday of the year for nearly 6 years straight. You’d think that after doing something everyday of the week and every week of the year for 6 years, it would become pretty boring. Not hardly. The key is that it is constantly changing up. And, it never has the same results. It is very similar to chaos theory. Very minute changes occur so the outcome never seems predictable. Like the chaos theory suggests, it can be difficult to tell from observations whether the results are random or chaotic. Many races’ outcomes seem to be predestined. But, that is only after the fact. That is what I love about the sport.

Cycling in the US has been evolving recently. Probably because of the influence of foreign riders. And television. A lot of times, after I observe someone or some team make a bonehead move or rides silly, I’ll comment that they’ve been watching too much Tour de France TV. Many of the “tactics” that the US “PRO” teams seem to have adopted does not make any racing sense here. But, they don’t seem to get it because they’ve never known different. That is okay, it just makes guys like me look better than we really are. It is one of those amusing things that keeps me intellectually young in the sport.

Cycling is hardly ever a job. And when it is, it could never be classified as a shitty one.

Even redistributing debris in a dumpster has its moments, as Michael can attest to.