Monthly Archives: May 2012

What’s Up with Gift Cards

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I walked into a local grocery store here in Dallas yesterday and couldn’t believe the number of gift cards they had hanging there. They nearly needed a complete aisle in the store to display them all. It seems like gift cards are becoming more prevalent everywhere you look. You could probably buy one for The Home Depot at Victoria’s Secret. It is stupid.

I do buy gift cards sometimes at the grocery store locally. Our grocery gives 4 X the gas points when you purchase gift cards. So if I buy $250 worth of cards at The Home Depot or Lowes, that is $1 off a gallon of diesel. So, I save $35 when I’m going to buy something anywhere.

I don’t know this new fascination with gift cards. And I don’t have any idea why they sell gift cards in the grocery stores. Maybe the retailer pays the grocery a percentage to sell them, I don’t know. And I can’t think of any reason that all these stores want the gift cards out there other than a certain percentage of them will never get redeemed. I came up with this because I know at some bike shops, they are sitting on thousands of dollars worth of gift certificates that no one ever uses.

I looked it up and this place says that only 7% of the gift cards go unredeemed. I don’t think that number is high enough. Not even close. I’ve had a ton of gift card go unused. I don’t know how many, but some of the ones I used had a expiration date or they started losing value every month after a year or so.

Even if you use the low 7% number, that means that each American household has $300 of the things laying around. That number seemed big. It’s about 30 billion dollars total. That is a lot of free money being “gifted” to the big retailers from us. I think that is just what they want.

This is just a small portion of the offerings. If you double click, you can see they offer a Facebook gift card. I have no idea what you could use that for.

This was my favorite gift card I saw yesterday. A gift card for gift cards. When you thing about it, it is probably the best gift card someone could give you.

I don't know if it is local thing from Dallas, but they offer Southwest Airlines gift cards here. That wouldn't be such a bad one to receive.

To Race or Not to Race

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I wrote a post about how screwy it seems that these Tour contenders, such as Bradley Wiggins, take over a month off a couple times a season to just train. I personally can’t see being about to hold any form for that period of time by just riding.

I’ve always done the same thing. I train until I’m fit enough to race. Then I race and race to get into shape. It is easy. It is proven. It has been done for decades by thousands of pros.

Now, ever since Lance rode a total of maybe 12 (?) race days before winning the Tour one year, lots of guys seem to be disappearing for long periods. There are so many riders now, that you hardly miss the guys. It says here that Chris Anker Sørensen, Saxo Bank, is training at altitude for Tour de Suisse and the Tour. Man, with all these guys going MIA, the climbs in Tenerife must be much like trying to get to the top of Everest right now.

I think it is strange that in this day and age of exact science in training that the best riders could be so all over the map about whether it is better to race or not race to get into superior form. Tom Boonen said at the Tour of California that he was going to be flat because he hadn’t raced since the classics. And then Peter Sagan went and won just about every stage, even though he hadn’t raced since the classics.

There is an article at Velonation about Alexander Kolobnev. He had an issue with a diuretic and couldn’t race while they sorted that out. Then he had an accident and had to have surgery.

Anyway, he obviously hadn’t raced in a while. Kolobnev knows that he’s several months behind the other riders in terms of racing mileage. He wants to try to catch up and thus raise his form, and is receiving help from his team in that regard.

“I have asked to do as many races as possible in order to get back my rhythm,” he said. “My calendar is Trofeo Melinda, Gp D’Argovie, Tour de Swiss, National Championship, either the Tour de France or the Tour of Poland – we have to decide – then the Olympic Games.”

So, he is stressed that he doesn’t have the proper racing to allow his body to perform well in August, just all the guys that are trying to win the Tour and such, won’t have nearly as many race miles as he will.

My question is with all the testing that we have nowadays and the advancement of sports medicine, you’d think it would be proven which method is best. Because the methods are completely opposite. It seems like you could do power and blood testing and be able to figure out exactly where you are at every exact point during the season. “Resting” over a month seems extreme to me. Especially starting in April and when you’re winning races, resting, then planning to win the Tour.

I just don’t get it.

This is going to be the best race prep pretty soon. Getting dressed to ride, then casually cruising over to a nice viewing area and sleeping.

The Giro

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Wow, it is hard to believe that Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro on Sunday. It seems unbelievable, but it is also a good sign of things to come in the sport.

His win was a struggle. It was nice watching the climbing stages and not have everyone going up the hills at mach 5, breathing through their noses. To me, the race seemed more realistic.

I’ve know Ryder since way back. Since he was nearly a junior racing MTB bikes with Roland Green. That was back in the dark ages of the sport with the prevalence of drugs rampant in the road scene and was spilling over to the MTB scene. It was a very hard time to try to rationalize, as an athlete, what the reasons were to keep competing in the sport.

Ryder soon switched over to the road with the Discovery team. It took a while, but here it is, years later and he has won the Giro.

My friend and ex team mate Andy Hampsten is the only other rider from North America to win the Giro. That was back when everything was on a more even keel. Andy won the race just two years after riding his first Tour de France. He finished 4th in his first Tour and could compete with nearly any rider in the world on a climb. During that era, you could race here domestically and still go over to Europe and be able to win races with the best in Europe. That all changed somewhere in the early 90’s because of the prevalent use of EPO throughout the sport.

It is nice seeing the tide turn the other way. Guys like Taylor Phinney and other young riders that are going to get their chance to show their unbelievable natural abilities and not get lost in the background to a bunch of guys cheating to attain their stardom.

The Giro was very exciting to watch, especially the last week in the mountains. As the sport returns to a more level playing field, it is going to become much more exciting and spectator friendly. Mark my words. We haven’t been able to watch much of that kind of bike racing since it has become commonly televised here in the US. I think you’ll enjoy it that much more. I know I will.

The day Andy took over the led on the Gavia Pass.

Ryder with the spoils.

At Least Something went Right

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The van is back in drivable condition. At least that is good. It took awhile, but not as long as I’d thought. I have the Ford Shop manuals for the van, but don’t carry them around. I don’t really use shop manuals for auto repair other than specifications and such, usually anyway.

I took me a long time to get the radiator itself. And it is jammed in there. I think the way that the manual would recommend would be to remove the fan shrouding and fan itself. I didn’t do it that way. I removed the intercooler for the turbocharger and that gave me enough room to pull the radiator up.

The tool selection I had was interesting. Pretty frustrating and thought provoking at the same time. I was using a lot of box ended wrenches when I would have normally been using sockets. I had to be pretty inventive sometimes, which was fun. In the end, it worked out good.

Just did a lap of White Rock Lake. The masses are out on Memorial Day. Even though it is pretty hot, maybe not for Dallas standards. I’m not going to make it downtown to the race today. I made it to 3 out of 4 of the races, so that seems like enough bike race watching.

I’m kind of getting antsy for the next ultra sound on my leg, so am probably not going to hang around Texas too long. Probably head back tomorrow after Trudi flies in from Greenville.

I just borrowed a bag of tools that my friend Rod Lake had thrown together. It was just enough to get by with.

I was using a small stool to get a little height so I didn't destroy my legs.

This was the damage. If I was home, I probably could have taken this and got it welded. Actually, my friend Joe Irwin is a HVAC guru and could have done it in his sleep.

One thing I hate about automobile repair is the number it does on your hands. It seems like messing with diesel cars is worse for some reason.

Keeping Busy

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I’m doing an okay job of keeping busy this weekend until getting another ultra sound next week. I’m not riding very much. Just an hour or two a day, super easy.

Friday was a treat going down to the SPCA (Animal Shelter) with Sue and her friend, Jan. Jan is animal loving, billionaire who funded the building. The state of the art facility is named after her. The nicest shelter I’ve ever been to, by far. I usually don’t like animal shelters much, for obvious reasons, this place was wonderful. If all shelters were like it, I’d think we, as a society, would do a much better job of placing our animals in homes. I am an animal guy, so it was a very good experience. Pictures below.

There are races everyday here. I’ve managed to make it over to the first two. McKinney on Friday night was an all Elbowz Team show. I never saw the final results, but they were definitely 1-2-3, plus maybe 4-5. They nearly did the same thing down in Georgetown last weekend. I beat the local riders hate it.

I have to install a new radiator in my van. It took me a while to find the problem. I nearly couldn’t believe that there could be a hole that big in the radiator. It was spraying water. I would a bet it was a hose. The hole is in the back of the radiator, near the top. I spent a hour on the phone trying to track one down before the holiday. These vans are a pain in the ass to work on. It is going to take me a good while to get it in. The radiator cost $250 dollars. I called a couple places and since it is a holiday, they couldn’t get to it until Wednesday. And it was going to cost well over $1000 dollars. Up to $1600. That is way too much labor for something like this. I say that now. We’ll see how I feel about that in a couple days.

Okay, here are some pictures of the SPCA.

Jan carrying her bag of doggie treats to the SPCA named in her honor.

Sue and Jan.

I thought this saying was great. I agree completely.

The cat area was awesome. I bet they don't even want to be adopted.

The surgical area was state of art.

This is Tank. He was my favorite.

Jan is obviously into dogs. This is beside her door at her house. A gazillion dollar piece of art used to hold the leashes and such.

This radiator wants to be inside the engine compartment.

Bromont’s Bag

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Bromont pretty much goes everywhere I go nowadays. It’s good for both of us. He might be the best traveling dog every. The dog can sleep 12 hours without ever getting out of the van if needed. He is super comfortable in his moving dog house, so there isn’t the least stress there.

Bromont has a bag with all his stuff in it. I should keep the same sort bag packed for myself, but never do. His bag has all the essentials. It has his dog bowl, food and treats. Plus it has all his other stuff, the Garmin GPS, halter, leash and such. Bromont’s bag pretty much stays in the van all the time now. Of course it has to be restocked every once in a while, but in general, it is ready to go 24/7.

His bag is a Descente bag from the 7-11 days. It must be close to 25 years old. It is a little frayed and tattered, but still works. It’s one of those things that isn’t really worth much in dollar terms, but is priceless in history and also in its current function. If someone broke into my van, I’d rather have them steal my bike than his old beat up bag. That is kind of weird to think about, but it’s definitely true.

Bromont's bag always ready to travel.

When It Rains it….

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pours. Literally. I’m down in Texas. I took Trudi to the airport and headed south yesterday morning. I figured it was best to remove myself from a situation where I was going to be sittin’ and moppin’. Plus I had some stuff to do down here.

Anyway, everything was going pretty well until I pulled off the interstate. Approaching the first light, my brakes were making a crazy squealing noise and there was a weird smell. But, it didn’t smell like brake fluid, but antifreeze.

Long story short, I made it, but barely. And there was coolant pouring out of the front of the van. By, pouring I mean really pouring. The engine compartment in the van is super compact, so it is nearly impossible to see anything. And the engine was too hot to get my arm in there and feel what was going on. I’m thinking, hoping it was just a hose that split or came off. I can’t imagine another reason that so much water would come out so quickly without a car “trauma”.

I don’t have any car tools, but my friend Rod Lake here does. So, I’m going to get on the car project sometime soon.

Car repairs haven’t been going that well with my shoulder. I changed the differential oil last week and it is so amazing how much you need to use your left arm to get leverage on your right arm.

I’ve gathered a ton of information about the DVT in my leg. Thanks for all the emails and the information. The internet is so cool in that respect. I’m still riding now. Easy and short. That is my plan until I find something that says the contrary.

Okay, going to do a lap of White Rock Lake before it gets hot. The Bike the Bricks race is in McKinney tonight. I’m going to be a spectator. I’m not in the mood to race anyway, so I don’t think it is going to be any mental strain.

You can't see it very well here, but there is a waterfall coming out of the front of the van.

The van turned over 300,000 miles last week. It's a diesel, so it should chug along for a while longer.

Changing the differential oil was much harder with only one arm, as I'm sure this radiator thing is going to be.