Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tour de Cure 2015 – Ride Report

This is it!

For the fourth year in a row, I decided to ride and fundraise in the Tour de Cure of Northern VA. You may recall that last year, after riding the century ride the prior two years, I set off on another century and had to bag it due to being gassed far too early. You can read that in the June 2014 archived posts to the left.

This year? I signed up for the century again when I registered for the ride last summer. I had every intention of doing the 100 miles. But a very long winter coupled with an awful lot of business travel had effectively killed my training plan so that, by ride day, I had less than 500 base miles in for the year.

Being older and wiser (just ask me!) I realized it was much smarter to ride the metric century this year. My plan was to change what I’d signed up for when I picked up my ride packet the night before.

Immense Thanks!

Before I tell you about the ride, I want to take a moment and thank all of you that took the time to donate to this cause in my name. My goal was to raise $2000 for diabetes research. Donations as of today have reached $2123! Your generosity is amazing and I’m genuinely humbled by it.

Thanks to your generosity, I’ve raised over $8,000 in the past 4 years! Again, thank you!!!!

Pre-ride festivities

Since this ride takes place in Reston, about 120 miles north of where I live in Richmond, I drive up the day before and spend the night. I’ve found a delightful Residence Inn about 2 miles from the course start at the Reston Towne Center Square and, since I’m a member of Marriott Rewards club, I earn enough points with my business travel to get a free room for the night.

I left Richmond shortly after lunch on Saturday and headed north. I made my way up I-95 with lots of other cars. So many in fact that, multiple times, the speed of all of us dropped down to zero making it the longest parking lot on the East Coast. The first back up occurred in Fredricksburg, at about the half way point in the drive.
Why would you live here?
When you’re 60 miles away from your final destination and traffic is at a standstill, for no apparent reason, you just have to turn up the music and sing along to keep from losing your mind. As usual, Jimmy Buffett helped to keep me sane.

Once I got to Woodbridge, about 25 miles from DC, the traffic stopped dead for about 5 minutes. I picked up the phone and called MB to let her know that, under no circumstances, would we ever move to Northern VA or the DC area. She laughed and told me to call her when I finally did arrive.

As soon as I made it to the Capital Beltway, I 495, the traffic opened up and I was driving at highway speeds. Someday, I’m going to learn what causes traffic jams like this. If someone could solve that, I think they’d make a jillion dollars from the invention. Perhaps it will become a by-product of driverless cars. (Are people really worried about having a computer operate their car? I mean, have you seen how people drive???? I would feel far safer. And I could play air guitar the whole way.)
Not a recent picture

I finally reached the hotel about 3:45 and checked in, taking my bag and bike up to the room. I did a quick google search to understand what was around the area for breakfast in the morning, decided that I didn’t need to buy stuff and bring it back to the room as there were plenty of options at 6:30 on Sunday, and then headed out to check into ride headquarters.

Check In

I drove over to the Towne Center and parked a block or so from the check in site, at The Bike Lane
bike shop ( It’s a really beautiful shop and I stayed out of it so as not to give myself a reason to find something I couldn’t do without.

The check-in was under a canopy out on the sidewalk, staffed with only one person. She was doing her best to handle the people in line which, when I walked up, had 4 people in it. As I waited, I looked around at the people waiting and those walking around the area; the people watching around this area is terrific.

After about 10 minutes, I made it to the front of the line and handed her my signed waiver. I told the woman that I wanted to change my ride distance to the metric instead of the full century. She made a note and handed me a ride number (497) and I grabbed some pins and a cue sheet for the ride. She also handed me a TdC water bottle, earned from my Champion’s status of more than $1000 raised. I walked back to the car, tossed the items on the front seat and locked it up. I was hungry.

I wandered back up the street toward the area where most of the restaurants are located. It was only about 5:00 in the afternoon but there were plenty of people enjoying the beautiful weather, sitting out on patios, having a beer.
I pulled into a burger joint – one of those fresh/fast places. (Ever since Five Guys started spreading out across the country, these things have jumped up all over the place. I have yet to have one that is even as good as Five Guys. But they keep trying.)

I had a rather pedestrian cheese burger and some fries and a bottle of water and then went in search of a place to get a beer. I also wanted to watch the Belmont Stakes to see if we would finally have a Triple Crown Winner.

World of Beer

I walked back down the street, drawn to a neon bar front sign that read World of Beer. My mouth watered in anticipation of a craft brew.
I have found me a home.....

I first encountered World of Beer in Jacksonville last year when I met a friend for a drink one evening while traveling. It’s a pretty successful chain that I would describe as a sports bar, specializing in (or masquerading as) a specialty beer bar. The food is pretty high quality, although mostly bar fare, and the beer selection is excellent with several hundred different beers from all over the world.

I told the hostess that I’d just grab a seat at the bar and wandered over to find a stool that was right in front of one of the large flat screens above the bar. I was almost immediately approached by a pretty blonde twenty-something who said hello with a big smile and asked me, “What can I get you?”

I asked for a beer list and she pushed an iPad over to me that was loaded with their beer app. This thing is really cool! It allows you to search by all kinds of different methods; draft versus bottle, hops type, beer type, brands, country of origin. I told her to give me a few minutes to browse and then come back.

I found a porter from a local brewer (sorry beer geeks, I don’t remember what it was. I’m a failure.) and ordered it when she came over. It was delicious! I settled into my seat and continued to scroll through the beer app, checking out the selection. I was also keeping an eye on the TVs, which were now showing the pre-race festivities for the Belmont. I ordered a small munchie from the menu and listened to the telecast and watched a UVA baseball game on the adjacent TV.

After about fifteen minutes, a guy sat down next to me. I pushed the iPad over to him and he started a conversation as he looked for a beer. He was an IPA fan and asked what I was drinking and did I have any suggestions. I told him there was a reason I was drinking porter but that I was a fan of Devil’s Backbone 8 Point IPA if he hadn’t tried that.

Once the bartender took his order (it took a while and I asked him if he was wearing his invisibility cloak) we continued to chat about breweries in the DC/Baltimore area and then the Richmond/Central VA area.

Post time finally came and as they were loading the horses into the starting gate, I asked him if he remembered the last Triple Crown Winner, Affirmed. He told me he didn’t, but then he’d only been three years old at the time. I smiled and then backhanded him off the barstool. (In my mind.) I was 21 the last time it happened and suddenly felt much older that I had a moment before.
That's a pretty horse!

The horses broke from the gate and it was clear to me that American Pharoah was the class of the field. He never looked like he was doing anything but loping around the track and yet he led almost from the start.

As the field came down the stretch, I told my new acquaintance to remember this moment because it could be the last one he sees. Horse racing has been slowly dying over the past decade and, if it continues, we may not have it in another ten years. The bar erupted in screams and applause as American Pharoah crossed the line with 6 lengths to spare.

I finished my beer, paid my tab, and headed back to the room to get some rest for tomorrow.

Ride Day

I actually got a decent night’s sleep for a change. My alarm woke me at 6:30 and I jumped into the shower to loosen everything up. I dressed in my McKesson kit, packed up my stuff and carried my bag and my bike down to load up the car.
I drove to the McDonalds across the street from the hotel for breakfast. (This location featured prominently in my first Tour de Cure ride as the place with the worst service in the history of The Golden Arches. Since then, new management has turned it around and it’s had a facelift so it’s very pleasant to visit.)

I had a hearty breakfast along with some OJ and a large coffee; just enough caffeine to get me going but not enough to have me stopping to pee every 15 minutes. I took the last of the coffee and headed over to the starting point for the ride.

I pulled into the parking lot, found a space and started to get ready by offloading the bike, changing shoes, filing my pockets with some snacks just in case the SAG stations were out. While I was doing this, a guy about my age was prepping himself and his wife was watching with a worried look. He caught my eye and asked if I would take their picture. We had a conversation and the upshot of it was it was his first big ride (66 miles), he had never ridden more than 25 miles, and his wife was horribly worried about him going out there. I assured her that he would be just fine, the route was very easy and comfortable, and there were lots of people to help and watch over him. I gave her my cue sheet so she could see where the aid stations were; she planned to drive to each one and check on him. I congratulated him on his fundraising efforts and his desire to make this ride. I also let him know I was riding the same distance and if he needed any help and saw me, I’d be glad to assist; just like every rider out there!

My preparations complete, I saddled up and pedaled around the block and then made my way over to the starting area. There were several hundred people milling around, waiting to go out for the metric century. It was very festive with music playing, an announcer working the crowd, volunteers handing out food and drink. I shot a selfie and posted to Facebook that I was about to start. (Do other 58 year

Gratuitous Selfie
olds do this? I find the selfie to be incredibly narcissistic. The only reason I did this was to keep the friends who donated up to date. But I think I look like a doofus in these things. Is it just me?)

Just before 7:30, a young man came to the stage. I had positioned myself over near the starting area to get out in front of the large crowd and avoid the mass start crashes that occasionally happen at these things. The announcer introduced a teenage trumpet player who would play the National Anthem.

I pulled off my helmet and held if over my heart. This kid played one of the best renditions of the song I’ve ever heard! He played with a clear, true, rich tone, and that perfect tempo that the song deserves. I choked up a little bit, frankly. When he finished, there was a huge round of applause and screams of joy.

I pulled my helmet back on, and swung a leg over the saddle as the announcer invited people to head out. I was off!

Sucking Wheel

Over the past year, I’ve learned the value of riding with others especially on rides that are longer than a couple of hours. I ride alone about 75% of the time and most of my rides are around two hours in length. I find solo rides that are longer than that really put a hurting on me. I’m sure it’s just because I don’t do it very often but it has made me a little gun shy on these bigger rides. And this one was looking to be a solo unless I could find some folks to join as I did in the Cap2Cap the prior month.

I headed down the W&OD trail which would make up the largest portion of this ride of 66 miles. There were some people out walking their dogs, there were other cyclists not participating in this ride, and after a few minutes I began to see TdC riders coming up behind me. I was riding at my normal pace speed of around 16-17 mph.

Many of the groups passing me was rolling along at a speed above 20 mph. I can’t sustain that for more than about 20 miles, even in a group, and wasn’t about to tempt fate. I kept grinding along.

About 5 miles had passed when two guys in matching kits passed me, just slightly above my speed. “There’s my ride!” I thought. I swung in behind the 2nd rider and increased speed to match theirs.

I eventually learned their names, Mike and Dean, and that the company they worked for, Leidos,
I like to thank my sponsors!

was the title sponsor of the Metric Century ride. More importantly, they recognized my jersey because another division of McKesson apparently does a lot of business with them.

At the first aid station, we stopped and introduced ourselves and I thanked them for letting me join them. Mike appeared to be the leader (I got the impression that he was a high level executive with the company) and had been riding point for the 10 miles or so that we’d ridden. I told him I’d be glad to take pulls and he said he’d let me know if he wanted to rest.

Lucky for me, that time really didn’t come. At one point, the ride turned off the trail and onto city streets for about a 12 mile loop through some neighborhoods. I took the lead for about 6 miles during that loop but for the remainder of our time together, I was sitting 2nd or 3rd wheel and using far less energy, as a result. It felt like I was stealing.

Shortly after returning to the trail, we were passed by a guy who looked like an NFL safety; tall, big upper body, enormous thighs and calves. He went past us with about 5 mph to spare and looked like the Flash on a bike, or something. I mentioned to Mike that I was coming back with that body in my next life; he laughed and said that he had been thinking the exact same thing.

It turned out that the poor guy went out too fast. We passed him about 5 miles further along and he was sitting on a bench trying to get his legs to stop cramping. He passed on our offer to help him, said he just needed to wait it out. We rolled on.

We arrived in Purcellville at about the 40 mile mark and I was feeling really good. (No wonder!) The three of us dismounted, hit the portajohn, refilled bottles and had a couple of snacks. I was glad to see that Dean and Mike both subscribed to the same program as I do; no stops longer than 5 minutes or the legs begin to seize up. As a result, we were climbing back on our bikes and heading back the way we’d come pretty quickly.

Turning for Home

Mike immediately started out at a slightly faster pace than before and I hung right with him. Unfortunately, Dean was starting to wilt and fell off the pace. I began to slow down in the hope he’d catch up but he wasn’t making any time up and continued to drop back. I caught back up to Mike and told him that Dean was starting to run out of gas. “He’ll be fine,” was the answer. We kept rolling.

At several points, the trail would cross a road or an intersection and we would come to a halt and have to wait for traffic to clear. If the wait was long enough, Dean would catch up to us – this happened twice – and then would drop off again, almost as soon as we re-started.  He also caught as at the second to last aid station. He was laboring but he never complained.

At the last aid station, we stopped to refill and refuel. Dean appeared about 5 minutes later, looking pretty bad. He didn’t say anything but I could tell that he was going to have to suffer to make it the last 12 miles. Mike looked at me and said, “I’ll take care of him from here. Don’t feel like you need to hang with us any further. It’s been great riding with you!” and stuck out his hand.

I thanked him, shook both their hands, and headed back onto the trail.

Almost immediately, I realized that there was a headwind of about 8 or 10 miles an hour. Lovely. This last 45 minutes was going to be uncomfortable. Or worse.

One Last Pull

I was about 4 miles down the road from that last stop when four riders in matching kits from Lockheed Martin passed me in a tight pace line, doing about 17 mph. I
High tech aerospace company!
figured I had nothing to lose, I could either suffer alone or suffer at a faster speed, so I accelerated and grabbed the wheel of the last guy in line.

While I recovered, I looked the group over. None of them had a gut, they all appeared to have good bike handling skills, and the guy in front of me had calves that looked like someone who rides 10,000 miles a year. I was clearly out of my league if they ramped up the pace but I decided to see if I could hang around for a while.

This last pitch turned out to be really fun for me. By amping myself up to about 70% of my limit, I was able to hang on to the wheel in front of me. Our speed remained above 17 for the entire time and whenever the wind dropped off, that would ramp up to about 20.

With a mile to go, the trail crosses a very busy road in Herndon and it’s controlled by a traffic light. The group came to a stop and I took a moment to thank everyone for pulling me along. They hadn’t even realized I was back there until I said something! I think I have a future as a stealth peloton member….provided the peloton is made up of a bunch of old guys like me, I suppose.

The light changed and we rode across the street. I let them pull away from me and took the last mile at a slower pace, enjoying the view riding into Reston. The last half kilometer was uphill and I spun up it, turned off the path and crossed the street, and pulled back into Reston Town Square to lots of screaming, music, and applause. The folks that are milling around during this event really make you feel welcome as you return!


I parked my bike in the corral, doffed my helmet and gloves, and walked into the Champions Tent for lunch. Never does a Subway sandwich taste as good as it does after this long of a ride!

I waited around until the group of 5 that made up the rest of Team McKesson (they were riding the 30 miler) pulled into the finish area, giving them high fives for their efforts and for the fundraising that they had accomplished. Everyone was smiling.

Taking the long Parking Lot Home

Back at the car, I loaded up the bike, changed shoes and put on a clean t shirt so I wouldn’t feel so nasty on the drive home. I made sure to have plenty of water for the drive, catching up on whatever I’d lost during the ride, and grabbed a Snickers bar for energy. It had been a good day but I now I’d have to brave that brutal I-95 traffic to make it back home. I was mentally psyching myself up to make the drive.

Amazingly, the traffic was the opposite of the ride up the afternoon before! I never slowed to less than 45 mph (truly, that’s a record) and was home in just over 2 hours.  The shower felt delicious!


Fundraising – I couldn’t have done it without all of the good people that donated on behalf of me! I’m convinced that your generosity, donating over $2100 dollars, will help to find a cure to Diabetes. (It also enabled me to be in the top 25 fundraisers for this event. Thanks!) For the 4 years that I’ve done this ride, you’ve helped me to bring in over $8,000!

The Ride – If this ride were in Richmond, or any place that is 2 hours away but not in DC, I would absolutely guarantee my participation until I’m too old to turn the cranks. The traffic and hassle of getting there and back really has me scratching my head about doing this. The actual rides are terrific and the vibe around them, the great volunteers, the friendly crowds, and the support are top notch. But that damn traffic! If I’m going to continue this, I have to figure out another way to get there. Or get some Valium or something.

Recovery – this ride was incredibly easy for me, driven by the wheel sucking I did all day. It is truly amazing how much energy is saved when hiding from the wind. As a result, my legs felt fine when I got home despite sitting in the car for 2 hours. And they felt fine the next day; I took an easy spin recovery ride the next evening and was just fine.

The moral of the story is, learn to ride with someone whenever possible! (And suck wheel without shame!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cap2Cap – Ride report

I finally got a chance to get in a decent ride this past weekend! 

The Capital to Capital Multi-use trail (Cap2Cap for short) has been a project dreamed up by Richmond cyclists about 10 years ago. Running from downtown iRichmond VA to Yorktown VA,  It’s going to become a reality later this year, just in time for the UCI World Cycling Championships. Every year for the last 10, there has been a fundraising ride held to sponsor the trail’s construction. My Bride and I have ridden it for the past 2 years, together, and weren’t planning to ride it this year as we had another event scheduled on top of it. That event was delayed and it left me the chance to go ride it, again. MB didn’t come with me as she had a friend’s memorial service to manage. (I had her permission to go, so don’t start on me.)

We interrupt this ride report to bring you the following Tour de Cure update:

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m riding in the Northern VA Tour de Cure on June 7th. I’m still working towards my goal to raise $2,000 for this year’s event; doing so would mean that all your help over the past 4 years has allowed me to raise $7800! If you haven’t contributed yet, time is getting short! I have less than 4 weeks and I’m woefully shy of my goal currently sitting at only $877! (Not only that, the entire ride is way short of their goal, too. We really need your help!)

Please, take a few minutes and click the link below. Even a donation of $5 would help. Actually, if everyone who reads this blog gave $5, I’d have hit the goal already. I’d be much obliged!

Back to the Cap2Cap

I signed up to ride the Sands Andersen (sponsor plug) 50 mile event, a loop that began at the trailhead in Rockett’s Landing and followed mostly lightly driven roads on the east side of the city of Richmond. The course appeared to be the same one from the prior year and I was very glad to see that as I remembered it being nearly flat and the roads all well-marked and in good shape.

When I got to Rockett’s Landing, I was amazed at how much construction had
Nice urbanish look, no?
taken place in the area. It’s now a community with row houses and apartments, very nicely appointed buildings with views of the James River. (I’m guessing the prices are nicely appointed, as well.)

Because of all the growth, parking was at a premium. I ended up on a street about a half mile from the starting area. After off-loading my bike, I filled my pockets with some snacks, loaded in my water bottles, turned on my Garmin and rolled slowly over to the starting area with about 10 minutes to spare.

Big Turnouts make for Sketchy Starts

I slowly crept through the crowd until I was about 1/3 of the way back from the starting group. My experience in these mass starts, with a bunch of people who aren’t all that devoted to riding, is to look for safe harbor. Invariably, someone goes down in a heap and takes a few others with them due to shaky bike handling skills; I didn’t want to wind up that guy, sprawled across the pavement trying to get out of my pedals while people try desperately not to run me down. (Don’t ask me how I know what this looks like.) And with what appeared to be a crowd of around 800 riders, the likelihood was very strong for an incident.

I stopped near the curb and almost immediately, three women rolled up and stopped next to me, chatting happily together. Two of them had on jerseys from Luna, the energy bar people. Both had really nice road bikes and looked very fit.
Not my actual riding buddies but I could be wrong.

After eavesdropping for a few minutes, I gathered they were part of the LunaChicks cycling team, a group sponsored by the energy bar. (This group is a MTB team, as the one woman later told me; if MTB does that much for one’s road cycling skills, I may have to see about getting a MTB.) At some point, the three were trying to take a selfie showing the start of the ride. I volunteered to get them all in the shot and took it for them. I also took a couple of my own, just to prove I was there.
Why do people take these?

And we’re off!

The PA system blared with some guy with a very excited voice counting us down to the start and we slowly rolled out. I say slowly because I didn’t get above walking speed for about 2 blocks. Once we got out to a larger street, things started to thin out and we could pedal up to a reasonable speed. My intention was to make my 15 mph over the course and finish in 3:45 or so with a couple of stops to refill bottles and pee. (This isn’t a race, it’s a ride, so stopping for a quick snack, drink, whatever is the right way to do it. Especially when you haven’t ridden that many miles for the year.)

About five miles up the road, the LunaChicks came slowly past me, riding a nice tight paceline except now there were four of them. I eased in behind the last one in line and held my line right behind her. They were riding about 17 mph and appeared to be just cruising along with little strain. After a few minutes, I apologized for crashing their group but I felt like I had the right to do so since I’d been the one that took their picture at the start. They laughed and invited me to stay. I told them I’d be glad to let them take the wind for the old guy but would also be glad to do my share of the work.

Their names turned out to be Sue, Stephanie (sisters), Renee, and Sarah. They were all younger than me (and in far better shape) and were just very pleasant people to be riding with.

There’s something about a paceline that is fine, fine, fine!

If you’ve ever watched cycling on TV (and I realize that’s pretty unlikely; the Tour de France is about the only one you’ll see unless you’re a crazed cycling fan and subscribe to some obtuse channel that shows this sport) you’ve probably heard an announcer say, at some point,

“By riding close together, the riders are able to share energy. The person riding in the slip stream can save as much as 30% of their energy to maintain the same speed.”

I know the first time I heard that statistic I thought it had to be BS; there couldn’t
This is how it's done!
possibly be that much of an advantage. Then, I rode in my first paceline. Holy Cow! The difference is truly amazing. I remember being surprised that it was ONLY 30% as it seemed I didn’t have to pedal very much at all. I don’t know why more of us amateurs / MAMILs* / OMILs* don’t learn to do it more often. (see footnotes below)

In any case, we rode a tight paceline for nearly the rest of the ride. We stopped at the first and third “feed zones” for a quick stretch and bottle refill. We occasionally splintered on descents and on one climb, but we would always regroup and start up, again.

Sue seemed to be the ringleader of the group. She led the line at least half the time and her pace was steady as a clock. If someone would drop off, she’d be the one to fall back and pace them back up. When Renee dropped a chain during the one difficult climb on the ride, Sue went back to make sure she was okay and got back with us.

(I really felt badly about that. I had been right behind Renee when her chain slipped off and she pulled over to put it back on. I don’t recall if I offered to help or just kept going because my tongue was hanging out just trying to make it up the hill. Chivalry from me died on that hill, I’m ashamed to say. Sorry ladies! I’ve just gotten too old to pretend that I’m not, anymore. Just the same, I should have stopped.)

Stephanie seemed equally determined to be at the front and she would pedal past Sue and take the lead for the other half of the time. She also had a strong pace for me to follow.

Renee was a friend of a friend of the sisters and they were watching out for her; the friend that she was supposed to be riding with had suffered an injury the week before and couldn’t ride. I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into but she wasn’t going to be denied a good ride with the LunaChicks! She pounded out a strong pace, too.

Sarah, like me, was an unexpected addition to the paceline apparently having just joined it not long before they passed me. She is in training for a Half-Ironman Triathlon (that’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a half-marathon, people) with only 30 days to prepare for it. As a result, she was very focused on a solid pace, too. At the same time, she has a laugh that is hearty and frequent so, she doesn’t appear to have that killer instinct on a bike; not until she’s pedaling away from you, going up a hill.

It was a great day!

The weather turned out to be perfect with a high at 80 degrees, no wind to speak of, and cloud cover for about half the ride.

The course was very well marked, the roads were in fairly good shape considering the winter we had, and the feed zones were staffed by very friendly volunteers.

When we rolled back into Rockett’s Landing, we had averaged a little over 15 mph including stops. (I had our moving speed just over 16.5; considering we crept along for the first half mile, that was a pretty good pace.)

We dropped our bikes at the bike valet, and went to collect our lunch and beer, included in the ride. I was thrilled to see Hardywood
beers being served and celebrated with a Bourbon Cru. The BBQ from Mosaic was passable; frankly the potato salad was the best part but hunger is the best seasoning so I wasn’t complaining.

After cooling off, chatting about the ride, and taking after ride pictures – we headed off on our separate ways. I’m not sure I’ll ever ride with them again, but Sue, Stephanie, Renee, and Sarah – Count me in for a paceline any time!

I felt like I could have ridden another 20 miles easy, having had the wind taken off my face for most of the day.

The next morning, however, my legs told things differently…..

*MAMIL – Middle aged man in Lycra

*OMIL – Old man in Lycra

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

People I’d like to have a beer with….

A pause for the cause……

Before I start, I want to let you know about my annual fund raising event for Diabetes. Once again, I’m riding in the Tour de Cure of Northern VA. This annual event is held in cities across the country throughout the year and, in addition to being a lot of fun, raises millions of dollars for research to find a cure for Diabetes, a disease that touches nearly all of us in one way or another. 
100 Miles? What could go wrong?

I’m planning to ride the Century ride again this year. I was unable to complete it last year and ended up turning it into a metric century. I’m hoping that this year will be better although my lack of riding is making me wonder…..

Last year, thanks to you, we were able to raise over $2000 towards the eradication of this disease that affects so many lives and the team that I captained, raised over $9300!

Please consider making a donation. It’s easy to do with a credit or debit card and only takes about a minute of your time. I’m shooting for the $2000 mark again this year and I need your help! Click this link to make a donation.  

Now back to our irregularly unscheduled missive.

I’m sitting in seat 35C of an AirBus 319 jet between Chicago and Portland OR. It’s the last row in the plane and I have an aisle seat, which is generally my preference. This time, however, I’m treated to a game that I like to call Human Tetris. The bathrooms are immediately behind me and there have been a number of folks trying to use them. To their defense, it’s a 4 hour flight and they’ve been pounding the free sodas and coffee.  As they make their way to the john, they have to perform this interesting dance to give up and gain space before finally getting in or making their way back to their seat. For me, it’s been a parade of crotches and hineys pressing into my face and right shoulder as they jockey to get into or out of the john. I feel like I’m setting a new Major League record for taking balls to the shoulder. (Thanks Clyde!)

A beer with friends…

Last weekend I was out for a ride with my buddy, Brad. We’ve both been struggling to get miles on the bike this year due to weather and, well, life. I’m working hard to prepare for the above mentioned ride but it’s going to be a slog to the finish for me.
Anyway, we were grinding up one of the climbs around Ashland – The Center of the Universe – when Brad said something like, “Man, a beer is going to taste good after this.” I gasped out agreement and went back to focusing on turning circles while not vomiting.

As the ride continued, my mind started wandering and mulling the notion of who I’d like to converse with, over a frosty beverage.  I’ve compiled a short list.

First up – Mike Rowe

If you’ve never seen this guy on TV, you really should. He was the host of a show called Dirty Jobs, on Discovery Channel for quite some time. He is still the voice of the Deadliest Catch on the same channel, for 10 years now. Currently, you can catch him on CNN as the host of his new show, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, Thursday nights at 9:00; when it’s not pre-empted by breaking news. He cut his teeth early in his TV career on the Home Shopping Network and had quite a following for his wit and sarcasm as he announced the most useless gadgets on the planet in the middle of the night. He’s got one of those great voices, deep and resonant, with gravitas when required. He also is very self-effacing on his shows and his Facebook page where he has over 1 million followers as he’s very erudite in his writing. I’m always happy when he posts something because it’s bound to make me laugh, think, smile, nod my head or all of the above.
Looking for people who work!

Even if you haven’t seen any of these shows, you’ve probably heard his voice as he does a lot of voice over work including Ford, Wal-Mart, and Caterpillar Equipment.

You should also watch his TedTalk. He speaks about the lack of value in hard work in this country and how many young people earn a college degree, which only seems to get them into debt without a decent job. His foundation, is all about getting people who want to work hard, perhaps in a trade or a skilled job that requires training rather than a sheepskin in preparation. He awards scholarships for this training, too, putting his money where his mouth is. These jobs will typically pay upper 5 to low 6 figures; you read that correctly – around $100K per year is out there for those willing to work for it! Mike claims there are over half a million of these jobs out there that go unfilled because they can’t find someone who will take the training, learn the job, and then work hard enough to do it. Damn shame.

He’s first on the list because he just seems like an average guy who made the right moves over his career (although he gives the impression that it was blind, shithouse luck) and is now doing well, paying it back to those who need it and enjoying the hell out of his career and his life. I feel like I’d learn something from him, we’d laugh a good bit, and make an intelligent connection though conversation. Those are rare these days, at least they are to me. 

Mike, if we ever meet up, I’m buying whatever you’re drinking!

Next up – Elden Nelson

Known as the Fat Cyclist ( Fatty, as he’s known to his readers, appears to be one of the kindest people on the planet. He’s been writing his blog about all forms of cycling for almost a decade and it is hysterical, poignant, competitive, uplifting, and contagious for doing good things. Reading it is what got me into cycling as a fundraising activity and also made me far more aware of how little things that I can do, can have a big impact. He and his wife, The Hammer, spend a lot of time competing in various outdoor races, biking, running, triathlons and the like. She appears to be near world class in her age group for amateurs and he is a pretty stout competitor, too.
My friends call me Fatty!

I believe he began his blog as a way to document the loss of his first wife Susan to cancer. (I’ve never gone back to read the archives as I just can’t bear the thought of how difficult it must have been. Maybe someday.)  After she passed, he began using it to talk about cycling and as a fundraising tool for the fight against that terrible disease. He now runs fundraising activities several times a year that involve getting the big bike vendors (Trek, Specialized, Shimano, etc) to donate gear which he raffles off to those who donate. (You can actually win a $15000 bike! How cool is that?) He also gets a cycling clothing manufacturer to create Fat Cyclist kits on a limited basis for purchase, the proceeds of which go to charity as well. (I love my Team Fatty jersey!)

His most common groups include American Cancer Society and World Bike Relief – I’ve donated to both but WBR really gets my juices flowing! Giving bikes away to poor people in the African continent completely changes their lives for the better.

He has taken some of his blog posts and turned them into books that he self-published and the proceeds of those went to charity, too. I bought both of them because they’re hilarious! Comedian Mastermind and The Great Fatsby are just awesome! Fatty is currently working on completing Susan’s book that she hadn’t quite finished when she passed.

He’s on my list because I’d like to see if he’s really as nice, and funny, as he seems in his writing. He’s turned me on to a number of cycling techniques, gear, fundraising skills, and made me laugh more times than I can remember.

He lives in Utah and I’m not even sure if he drinks beer but I’m sure the conversation would be enough even if he doesn’t!

Finally – David Feherty

I want to point out that he doesn’t drink beer, or any other alcoholic beverage, as he is in recovery. That said, I would really like to have a conversation with him and buy him a designer water or Red Bull (I think that’s his poison - I'd have to have something else as I just can't stomach that stuff). If you’re not a golfer, you’ve probably not heard of him.
Don't agree with me? Why are you still watching?

He was a successful professional golfer on the European PGA Tour, winning multiple times, playing on the Ryder Cup Team, and playing the US tour for a while. Originally from Northern Ireland, he’s now an American citizen.

He joined the CBS announcing team about a decade ago and is one of the most entertaining and insightful announcers out there. Where he’s really shined over the past 3 years, however, has been as the host of an interview show called Feherty.

His interviews have ranged from pro golf legends (Nicklaus, Watson, Norman, Trevino, Venturi, Floyd) current players (Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter) to business leaders (Jack Welch, Donald Trump) to politicians (Bill Clinton) to entertainers and sports heroes (Bill Russell, Charles Barkley, Don Cheadle). What’s amazing about all of these is that the range of subjects discussed far outruns golf and David has become a damn fine interviewer. His questions run from the hilarious to the deadly serious.

He does a great deal of work with the Wounded Warriors project and his stories about them have been terrific to follow, as well.

Why do I want to meet him? He’s a decent, very real guy. I have a story that will explain.

About 12 years ago, I saw him on TV telling a story about Payne Stewart, talking about what a real person he was and how much he missed him. (Payne died in a plane crash at the age of 42 cutting short a fabulous career.) As a result of how moved I was by the story, I sent an email to him through the PGA tour (it was forwarded) and he actually took the time to send me a very personal reply. When I thanked him and offered to buy him dinner if we were ever in the same location, he wrote again andf suggested I had low enough expectations of people that even he could jump over them. My kind of guy! 

The offer still stands David!

Wrap up

When we got to the end of our ride, Brad and I were both pretty drained but felt good because of that. He invited me in for a drink before I left but I was pressed for time and had to take a rain check.

But that just means he’s really first on my list! Thanks for the ride, Brad!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dr. King would probably still be dreaming…..

It would be Dr. Martin Luther King’s 86th birthday today and I find myself thinking about what he said, and accomplished throughout his life. I started by reading a post I made 3 years ago, linked below. At the time, I was on a bit of a rant about how my state legislated against homosexuals. The good news is that, since then, the Old Dominion has moved into a new place and same sex marriage in VA is alive and well. Of course, it happened because the Supreme Court allowed it as opposed to it happening by choice but, hey, a win is a win. If you want to catch my last post on Dr. King, check it out here.

Religious biases

Today, I’d like to riff on the religion-isms that are currently springing up, and up, and up. To begin, the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting the establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion, along with several other things like speech, press, assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances; it’s a kick ass amendment!

This means that US citizens are allowed to make their own decisions about who or what they worship without fear of the government telling them otherwise. It was one of our country’s founding tenets. So, when I see people talking about “returning our country to the religious place on which it was founded” (because we’ve “lost our way”) I just start shaking my head. It wasn’t founded on that, in fact it was founded on each of us deciding for ourselves. What you really mean is you’d like to take away my right to have my personal religion and accept yours because it’ll make us all act better, or at least the same. Right? Sorry, no dice.

Since we’ve accorded that right to all of our citizens, it would follow that we’re going to treat everyone else on the planet in the same way, at least where the government is involved. Everyone with me, so far? Good.

That means that, as US Citizens, we have to be okay with others having a different religious belief than our own. And here is where things begin to go sideways.

Those Muslims are savages!

I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say something along these lines, up to and including that we should just bomb all these Muslim countries since they all want to be martyrs, anyway! (Seriously, I’ve heard that said more than once.)

If you’ve studied the Quran, you know that its message is peace and love, not unlike the Christian Bible. Are there verses in there about death and jihad? Sure. Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. Are there verses in the Bible about death and killing those who don’t believe the same? Yep. (Have you studied the Crusades?) Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. In others words, they state things in much the same way as each other. But why? I’m not a religious scholar so I’m going to give you my totally uneducated take on this.

It appears to me that both of these works, the Quran and the Bible, were written at a time when their respective religions were in the formative stages – a very long time ago. In order to get people to join your ranks, strong motivation was needed so they used the best thing they had at the time. Strong language, with strong motivational tools (threats of death, stoning, disfigurement or smoting come to mind) was the methodology a couple millennia ago. But if you pull these individual verses out, both scriptures look suspiciously similar and downright mean spirited.

I was raised in a Christian church and the closest thing I could get to mean spirited teaching was if I didn’t repent, I’d be damned to fire and brimstone throughout eternity. But if repentance was in my heart, all would be love and light and heaven.

But what about those terrorists?

I think they are the extreme right wing side of the Muslim faith, led by some unscrupulous men who are using religion to drive their power and behavior. Are there a lot of them? Apparently, there are enough to make a pretty good sized war. Can they be stopped? I sure hope so; evil should always be stopped and this group is pure evil. Can peace be achieved? Eventually, I think it can. But it’s going to take some work or everyone’s part. I know a fair number of Muslims. Not one of them has threatened me or my family or my country. Do you know why? They aren’t terrorists! They’re human beings who happen to believe in something differently from me.

By the way, extremists exist in every religion. Would you like to be judged as a Christian by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church? I’m going with, no.

That brings me to something that really ticked me off last week.

Rev. Franklin Graham

Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week, there were people saying that “Muslims were misunderstood, generally good people” and needed some acceptance around the world. That same week, Duke Unversity announced that they were going to allow a weekly “call to Muslim prayer” on their campus.

Rev. Graham lost his shit on that one.

On his Facebook page he wrote, “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”

Wait, what?

First, I must have missed it but when did Christianity become excluded from the public square? Last I checked, it’s still the most common religion with 33% of the world population, although that’s lumping them all together; that’s something they don’t much care for.

Second, Sharia law is followed in a handful of countries and while they do have some pretty strict laws and penalties, I’m pretty sure rape, butchering, and beheading are off the table. (I’m not saying that doesn’t go on, I’m saying it’s not done by the followers of Islam as a matter of course. It’s the extreme faction.)

Third, Duke was promoting and inviting worship for their Muslim students of which they reportedly have around 800. (I’m told they were the first university in the country to have an Imam on staff. That’s a Muslim minister, bubba.) They were inviting people to come, not demanding that they join and promising eternal damnation if they didn’t.

Fourth, Reverend Graham I’m ashamed of your intolerance. In your world, evidently, Baptists are the only members of God’s people allowed to practice their religion. Not only that, but you seem driven to get everyone on that bus because 2 days ago you told Muslims, “that in Jesus Christ’s name they can be forgiven” on the Sean Hannity show. (You know, if they said the same to you about Allah, you’d be outraged.) I suspect that if you asked Jesus, “WWJD?” on this one, he’d be shaking his head, sadly.

If you aren’t part of the solution…..

It’s this kind of intolerant rhetoric, ringing from the mouth of nearly every person with a microphone these days, that helps to proliferate the struggle for peace. In other words, if you’re not adding a solution that everyone can abide by, then you’re part of the problem. Right now, we have far too many problems and not nearly enough solutions. So, stop it! Now. Just stop the fist waving, chest thumping, finger pointing, belief damning and just let everyone be. Take a breath. Understand that we're all just protoplasm on the planet, trying to live. Give each other a hand.

And Dr. King, what would he say?

I don’t know what he’d say today. I only know what he said when he told us about his dream.

…when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics…

Although he didn’t say it then, I suspect that today he’d include Muslims, and atheists, and every other religion because he preached tolerance. He decided to “stick with love because hate is too great a burden.”

So should we all.

Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream Speech – entire text

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3

 Thanks, Dr. King.