Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 by the Numbers

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Hi guys. Enough of that Verizon BS.  Man, 2015 flew huh?  It is hard to believe it is already nearly a new year.  I’m not sure what the deal is, but as I get older, time seems to accelerate.  The perception is a little unnerving.  My grandmother lived to 99 years old and I think a day must have passed like the blink of an eye.

2015 was a pretty good year for me.  I can’t really complain much about any year I’ve lived.  I enjoy things too much to let life get in the way of happiness.  I have to admit, Bromont not being around for the last half has been a little hard to handle sometimes, but the good memories outweighs the sadness most of the time.  Plus, my friend Glenda Taylor, who was killed on her bike at Kansas State Time Trial Championships.  She has and is continued being missed by all of her friends and family.  Life is unfair in that regard.

For some reason, I seemed to really like riding my bike more this year.  I didn’t take nearly as many rest days, or maybe I made it a point to ride more when I was travelling.  Whatever the reason, I rode 341 days this year, missing 24.  4 of those are from painting a house.   So I missed about 2 days a month.

Not counting today, I had 14,621 miles for the year.  If you divide that by the days I rode, it is about 43 a day.  For some reason that seems like too many, but numbers don’t lie.  I haven’t kept track of how many races I did last year, but I’ll try to count them now.  Pause. I think I did about 30, which has to be close to an all-time low.  I spent a month in Colorado just training for Leadville, only doing 1 criterium the whole month, so that cut into the total.  Plus, I really didn’t do any stage races, other than Quad Cities and Labor Day in St. Louis, which were 4 races each time.  I need to race more, which should be a New Year’s Resolution.

Here, close to 1.8 million people came for the year.  That seems like a lot too.  If you divide that by the day, it is a little less than 5000 day.  I’m not sure, and I’m not going back to count, but I posted just about everyday.  I know I missed a few, but I’ve been pretty conscientious about trying to put something out.

You know, this blog thing has really changed the way I interact with people.    I’d have to say that is the biggest thing I’ve noticed, personally.  I think I’ve become more of a sympathetic person.  At least I am more open to other people’s views than I used to.  Plus, talking to strangers isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be either.

Cycling is a very small thing.  Bike racing, even smaller.  But many of the people involved in it are very, very passionate.  I am for sure.  I have so much to thank cycling for my whole life.  It regimented my life, from a very early age, made me understand the choices you have to make in life to be able to attain your dreams.  And it let me see other people’s dreams, thus expanding mine.

Bike racing isn’t about how many races you win, it is about the lifestyle, the ride.  And, personally, I can’t imagine a better lifestyle.  It is a very unique sport that allows athletes of varying abilities to train together to everyone’s benefit.  I never  take it for granted.

Plus, the travel.  I think it is our responsibility, as humans, to understand how others live.  And you can’t do that unless you see it first hand.  I’ve been fortunate  enough to travel all over. And I’ll tell you once more here, if you’re reading this, you won the lottery.  Don’t take that for granted.  Live your life accordingly.

Okay, there is a cyclocross race in 3 hours in Kansas City, Cross of the Old Year.   I’m straddling the fence on going. RIght now I’m leaning towards not.   I have a bunch of stuff to do and have been feeling a little under the weather.

I guess I deviated from the numbers theme.  Oh well, that is how my mind works.  Hope everyone has a super New Year’s Eve and an even better 2016.  Strive for the unattainable, you might surprise yourself.

I saw this photograph of Snake Alley on Facebook. It is by Alex Carey. The guy has a super eye. Probably my favorite place to race bikes.

I saw this photograph of Snake Alley on Facebook. It is by Alex Carey. The guy has a super eye. Probably my favorite place to race bikes.

Verizon BullS#%*t

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I hate spending the last day of the year ranting, but this pisses me off.  Maybe I’ll post it tonight, then do another post tomorrow.  I can’t go close out the year with a downer post.

I had a ton of stuff to do today.  But I decided to address a problem I noticed about a month ago on my cell phone bill.  I switched from AT@T to Verizon back in February.  Pretty much exclusively because Verizon works up in Cable and I hang out there a fair amount of time.  It has such good coverage, I can be riding my MTB way back in the woods and my phone still works.

Anyway, I was messing with my phone last month and there was an offer to get something like 18 gigs of data for the same as 12/15 or something, so I was looking at my bill and I noticed that I had been getting charged $11 x 2 for phone insurance, $4.99 a month for something called Family Base and another $4.99 a month for VZ Navigator.   So, I went back to look at my previous bills and those charges had been there since I got the phones.  So, I cancelled the services, got the extra 3 gig’s of data, and assumed my bill was going to drop something like $32 a month.  Plus, I figured I had to go to Verizon to see about getting refunded the money I was erroneously billed.

I have been travelling, of course, and then Christmas, then I heard something that  said that Dec. 31st was the last day to get a Verizon credit for some text messaging scam they got caught up on by the government, so thought I should get on my problem.

So, I drove down to the Verizon store in Topeka and waited a while.  I told the girl my issue and she said she saw it all the time, but I needed to call Verizon customer service “to resolve” the problem.  She told me she would remove the Family Base off my plan and I told her I already had.  She told me it was still there and removed it.

So, an hour wasted.  I drove home and called customer service.  I got ahold of nice guy and explained my situation.  He told me that the Family Base and VZ Navigator were their mistakes and would credit my account the $2.99 a month I was charged for 10 months.  I told him it was $4.99 and he seemed surprised.  Then he said he could refund me for 3 months of the insurance, which is another $66.  I told him to go ahead and do that, credit the approx. $100 overcharge for the two services and the $66 for insurance.   Then please transfer me to a supervisor that could give me the other 7 months of insurance payments I’d made back.  I was on the phone with him for over 30 minutes, then got Courtney.

Courtney was the supervisor, #232754, and he wanted me to explain why I thought I should be refunded the money.  I told him that I never approved of the services and that I had never used the services, didn’t even know what they were, and that I wanted the money back.  He told me that I was responsible for the problem since the charges had been on my bills since I signed up with Verizon.

I explained to him that I travelled a ton and that my bills were on autopay and that I only checked the full charge on my phone, which doesn’t break down the charges line by line.  And that the first few months of the Verizon bill changed month by month, so I didn’t even know what the “normal” monthly charge was going to be.

He said that I was responsible and that he couldn’t verify that I wasn’t the one that added the services.  He said anyone could have.  I asked him if my next door neighbor could have added them and he said no.  He said that I could have added them at any time.  I asked him if he would look up when the charges started and he said the first day I switched to Verizon.  I asked him if I had access to the Verizon computers at that time to add these services.  He said no, but he doesn’t have any way to verify whether I authorized the services or not.  I told him I had the service contract and he said that they woudn’t be on there.  I told him I did not authorize the services,  I hadn’t used the services, didn’t know I was being billed for the services and asked him for a refund.  That their representative had added the services without my authorization.

Courtney told me since I had cancelled the services myself, over a month ago, he would be willing, “as a courtesy” to give me two months credit for all the services.  I told him that the first representative had said he would refund the 10 months of both the Navigator and the Family deal, plus give me 3 months credit for both insurances.  He told me that he wouldn’t have authorized that and the first guy didn’t shouldn’t have either.  I told him I thought he was plain mistaken, because the only reason I was being transferred to him was to get the other 7 months of insurance, which is 7 x $22 = $154, back.  He said he was not going to  do that and that if I excepted the 2 months, he would sign on my account that it was a verbal confirmation that this issue was over and that I wouldn’t call back and address it.

I declined his offer.

What the guy didn’t get was he wasn’t giving back his money, he was giving me back my money that had I had been overcharged for.  And his argument, that since I let Verizon overcharge me for 10 months, somehow that made me negligent and partially responsible for the problem.   He told me “Your consent is when you pay your bill”.  I told him that is inaccurate.   I feel I have no responsibility other than stopping the services when I see the errors and then notify them of the problem.  After that, overbilling me is their mistake and I’ll not going to “eat”$154 because of their billing errors.   And the kicker is that both the customer service guys, Courtney and guy 1 both said they would refund some of the money, but not all of it.  Because I wasn’t timely in my request?  What’s that all about.

And honestly, I don’t think it was a billing error.  I believe the Verizon representative in Arvada Colorado, added these “services”, without my permission.  I think it was a corporate cramming technique.   It was fraudulent billing and they do it all the time.   Trudi was there at the time and she heard me tell the guy that I didn’t want any additional charges or services other than phone, text and data.

I just looked it up and Verizon has 102 million customers.  Just take one of the monthly charges. Say $4.99 a month.  If they add this to each customer’s bill, then it is over 500 million dollars, a month, $5,000,000 a month!   That is $6,000,000,000 a year.  I have been overbilled over $300. Multiple that by the 102 million and you get a really huge number.  

This whole thing doesn’t even address the “free”extra data.  Same charge, 3 extra gigabytes. But, this is misleading too.  When they “gave” me the 3 extra gigs, they upped the monthly charges on my 3 phones by $5 a month, so $15 was added to by bill.

The Verizon store rep, the first customer service guy and also Courtney, all said they can see how this could be misleading.  The first two, not Courtney, said that is was wrong.  Courtney told me I should have called customer service if I didn’t understand how the change was going to affect my bill.  I told him I understood the offer completely.  Three extra gigs of data for the same price I was paying.  Not $15 added to somewhere else on my bill, to hide the fact that I somehow changed plans.  It is a shell game, or more like bait and switch plan.

I’m not exactly sure what to do now.  I’m thinking of calling the manager of the Arvada Colorado Verizon store and tell him my problem and ask for him to resolve it.  I have already spent close to 3 hours on it, plus writing this, so I’m pretty much sick of it, but it is the principle.  Someone needs to bring another class action suit against Verizon for this fraudulent billing.  These cell phone companies are constantly doing it and always make a profit, even if they get their hands slapped every once in a while by the government.   It is just too common and we shouldn’t except it as the norm.

Verizon-store

Trail Riding in the Snow

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Yesterday I called Bill and we decided to go over to the Governor’s Mansion and ride MTB on trails.  The problem was getting there.  The roads were pretty sloppy from salt and sun.  Bill had ridden there the day before and he said after he got to the trails, they were pretty good.

I was running late and just decided to take the main roads the 5 miles to the trails.  My butt was getting pretty much soaked from road spray.  Plus, whereever there was ice, I was sketched out some.

Bill had been there 5 minutes and was getting cold.  It was my fault.  You can’t be late meeting up with someone when it is below 30 out.  That is a major rule breaker.  We started riding on the trails and I was following Bill and riding horribly.

The trails are on the side of a hill, with the Kansas River at the base.  So, there is a lot of climbing and descending.  I was all over the place.  Ever since I broke my hip last year, I can’t say that I ever feel that comfortable riding on ice.  And there was a lot of ice under the snow.  Places that had melted the day before and then hardened up were really slick.

Bill led the first lap and I kept dabbing, mainly climbing.  But I got better.  That is one of the coolest things about the sport, you can always get better.  I’m not sure where my ability level is on ice now, but it is a lot better than it was yesterday.  And if you have no experience riding in those conditions, let me tell you, it is amazing how fast you can ride on singletrack with ice and snow.  But, you need to follow someone experienced to realize your potential.

So, we rode two laps and by the end of the 2nd, I was going way faster and felt way more comfortable, which allows you to even go faster.  I didn’t hit any trees, but did fall once.  I flipped over my bars going through a dip and landed face first into a brittle bush.  It was a flesh wound.

The roads cleared a bunch on the way back.  It is amazing what a little sun will do.  We thought we would road ride today, but it snowed just a tad again last night.  Just enough to make the roads messy again.  Plus, it is going to be hovering just below freezing, so it is the perfect storm for slop.  I might skip riding trails.  I might have pushed my luck yesterday, only a week before cross nationals.  Looks like it might be an indoor day.  Boo.

Trudi showed up, but didn't want to ride trails on the ice.

Trudi showed up, but didn’t want to ride trails on the ice.

The cats have all gotten chubby and are laying around all day instead of being outside hunting.

The cats have all gotten chubby and are laying around all day instead of being outside hunting.

Cross Nationals Technical Guide – Ouch

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I just happened upon the USAC Cyclocross Nationals Technical Guide yesterday.  Here is a link to it.  I can say that I am not that thrilled.  I like the fact that the race is being held on the Biltmore Estates.  I’ve had good experiences there over my lifetime.  But, the way the technical guide makes it appear, it might turn into a mess.  Here’s my favorite section –

IMG_4058 copy

I know that everyone involved in the sport understands how equipment heavy the sport of cyclocross is.  The underlined sentence is very worrisome.  Limited parking and shuttling bikes and equipment to the venue is really just about the worst possible scenario for cyclocross.  A high priority at cross races needs to be easy access to the venue by all riders and support. There is nothing like a bunch of adrenaline jacked bike racers getting directed away from the course when they are trying to get to their race.

cross copy

The guide can’t say how much the wristbands are, even though it is just 2 weeks from the event when it was revised.  I called the number and couldn’t get ahold of a person to ask.  Whatever the number, it is too much.  This sport isn’t about milking the competitors out of every penny they can.  This is a National Championship and that is all.Entrance fees to competitors or for your family/support to enter is total BS.

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And finally, the prize list.  I don’t remember there ever being a prize list, but I could be wrong. So, is this a good thing?   Not really.  Giving this amount of money out is an insult to the Elite riders.  So, if you get 5th, you get your entry back?  So, there are really only 4 places, because 5th is a push.  I won more than this for winning a Master’s cross race in Oklahoma this year.  I’m thinking I won $1000 for the first MTB Nationals back in 1983.  I’ll leave it at that.

I’m hoping the best for the race.  I’m sure the promoters know their responsibilities and a up to speed with most of the issues.  But when there are these disclaimers in the technical guide, it worries me. I think that the USAC should have maybe checked out the venue more if the limited parking and shuttling warnings turn out to be true.   This could turn the event into a cluster.

Just received the following email tonight  —

Parking and biking at The Biltmore Estate 

With Biltmore Estate being very large, please allow at least 45 minutes to get through the gate, into parking lots and shuttle to the event. Upon arrival, you will pass through the first Lodge Gate, then up to the second admissions gate to show your access wristband.

Vehicles with equipment to drop off near the course, will be directed to the Antler Hill Village (AHV) drop off location. You will then be directed to shuttle lots and receive shuttle service to get back to the race venue. The shuttle lots are not within walking distance. There is limited first come first serve parking at the race venue in AHV lot. Once AHV is full, vehicles will be directed to shuttles lots and transported to the course. Drop off and pick up locations will have the shuttle times, please take note of shuttle end times each day. Shuttles will not be equipped to carry bikes or other large items.

Hotel parking lots are reserved for hotel guests only.

Parking along the shoulder of roads or other non-parking areas are subject to towing and fines.

If you have a trailer/RV or other large vehicle you will be directed to a trailer overflow lot. Please note there is no overnight RV parking permitted. Trucks, trailers, vendors and expo attendees with pre-authorized AHV parking passes, will be director to AHV for designated parking.

If you wish to ride your bike to the race venue, the Biltmore is allowing bicycles on the roads specifically for our event. Road rules will apply to all bicycle traffic. There are three options for you to bike to the race venue. The Farm Trail is a weather dependent biking trail and we will send updates if this trail closes during the event to direct you to the other biking options. There will be bike valet at AHV near the expo. Please be aware there is no biking on any trails marked, private, do not enter, wrong direction, equestrian or hiking trails. Please take caution in heavy pedestrian traffic areas.

Please plan to take your time upon arrival and enjoy the beauty that Biltmore has to offer.

If you have questions please contact the Biltmore at 866-851-4661 Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Best Regards,

Riding for Quarters / Bar Mitts

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Yesterday I was on the fence about whether to go riding outside or inside.  It was in the 20’s and the wind was howling from the North.  I went out into the garage and decided to brave it.

I had ordered Trudi some Bar Mitts for Christmas, but they didn’t come her size, they came large, so I decided to try them.  Bar Mitts were showing at the expo at Jinglecross and since they were supporting cross, I figured to give them a try.  Vincent had told me about them and he had said that you can ride down to near freezing with nearly bare hands.   I called him for advise of glove thickness.

Anyway, they are super easy to install and off I went.  The one thing about them, well there are two things.  The major thing is that you have to watch yourself in crosswinds.  These guys have a significant aspect exposed to the wind.  Like you have little sails on your bars.  So when the wind is blowing at 25 mph it really isn’t a good idea to remove a hand from the bars.  And never remove both hands.  That would crash you.  Bar Mitt themselves warn about this.

The 2nd thing is that you have to be aware that you have your hands in little pouches.  This isn’t such a big deal.  You just have to pull your hands back to get them out.  It gets second nature pretty quickly.

Anyway, they are great for cold riding.  I have so much stuff on my bike nowadays it looks so dorky.  And, I have to say, nothing looks much dorkier than these neoprene covers on my levers.  But they work.  Really well.  I ended up riding nearly 3 hours, which would have been impossible without them.  I should probably get some for my MTB.  Maybe I’ll call them and see if I can work out a deal?

Anyway, I started East, with crosswind.  It was way too hard to ride against.  Pretty early on I decided I’d ride to Lawrence on pavement, get a cup of coffee and head home.  Seemed reasonable.

Right outside Topeka, on the shoulder I saw a couple quarters.  I stopped to pick them up and it was a quarter bonanza.  I’m not sure how they all got out in such a confined area, but there were 25 quarters laying on the road.  This was the 2nd time I’ve found a bunch of change out riding.  The first time it was much more appreciated.  I wrote about that here.   Anyway, it kind of made the day.  I’m not sure why it is, but finding a free $6 seems like a bigger deal than working for it and getting a check.  It just seems better, maybe because it is unexpected.

When I was stopped, I called Brian to see if he wanted to meet up.  He is selling his car and said he had to show it.  He said we could meet up today to ride.  That ain’t happening.   So, I was solo.

I ended up riding 55 miles, which twice the 1 mile for every degree winter rule. (I explain “the rule” a little more in this post.)  It was 27, so all I needed to do was 27 miles.  But, I doubled it up, which was nice.

It finally snowed last night.  Pretty much the first snowfall of the year.  But, it didn’t snow as much as predicted.  It hardly snowed a couple inches, but they are predicting more later this morning.  I haven’t been out, but it was icing at midnight, so if the concrete is covered with ice, I’m probably not riding outside today.  If it isn’t, then I’m going to brave it, even though the wind is supposed to be blowing close to 40 later.  I sort of like riding on the road in big winds, it makes it interesting.

Okay, I have some bike work to do too.  I got some new Di2 levers that accept the sprinter shifter plugs, so I’m changing the shifters on my cross bikes.  That is a hassle since I have to chance the brake cables at the same time.  I guess I should get to work.

Quarters on the road.

Quarters on the road.

Final booty.

Final booty.

Bar Mitts. They allow you to ride down to just about any temperature I'd guess.

Bar Mitts. They allow you to ride down to just about any temperature I’d guess.

 

Doping isn’t only in Cycling

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Since it is football Sunday – The documentary below is what the “whole world” is up in arms about today.  You see, Payton Manning’s name was mentioned in using HGH (growth hormone) and everyone goes apeshit. Plus, Clay Matthews and lots of other professional football/baseball players are named.  But, never-the-less,  it is interesting seeing how big a business it is and how many different people are involved in this lucrative endeavor.   The sanctions are obviously not effective in deterring the usage. 

If you want to just stick with doping in cycling, Luca Paolini has admitted cocaine usage because he was addicted to sleeping pills.  The beat goes on.