Monthly Archives: May 2010

mountain bike Friday/Monday

Didn’t get this out on Friday, like I planned.  But, here it is on Monday.  Mountain bike Friday is back, er well Mountain Bike Monday.

Here are some that I have found this week.

I so want to ride this trail!

Another Danny McCaskil video.

This is crazy.  There is no way…

A-line.  Enough said.

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Flying – Again!

Flying home from the Tour of California right now.  Rockin the inflite Wifi.    I think I will start off this post, with the more interesting photos from the trip.  They are in a gallery, so if you don’t want to look at them, just skip down.  The good stuff is below, but hey – you stopped here at this blog, so get over it.

The Tour of California was good.  The race was super fun.  Ali digs bike racing, so it was fun to take her there.  It has been a long time since I have been to a big bike race.  I got to hang out with Ben Coates for a bunch (@trek_ben on Twitter)  Actually, I am not really sure why you tune in here, but I guess it is kinda cool that you do.  If I was to guess why, it is because you find my life a bit strange and comical.  I know I do.

Lately, I have been finding that one of the funniest things that I do is fly on an airplane.  Thank god eh, I do it enough.

Right now I am sitting in the exit row.  No 1st class for me, no way.  I am enjoying the buff leg room and the killer inflite peanuts and cookies.  Oh ya.  You are jealous.  But, there is only one armrest.  What is up with that?  People with 2 arms require 2 armrests.  Seems elementary.  In fact, if you have only one arm – you shouldn’t be sitting in the exit row anyway.  I mean that door weighs approximately 33 pounds.  Says it right on it.  What is the “approx.” part added for anyway?  Am I going to complain if it weighs 34?  “Nope, sorry people.  We are not getting out through this door, because I have just discovered that this door weighs more than 33lbs”  Give me a break people, if this plane crashes we are all dead, who are they kidding.

But, the real deal in humor is the inflite sky mall.  Let me walk you through the pages.

– On the cover is somebody in a NY Yankees jersey, sitting in an “authentic” Yankee stadium seat.  Boy, doesn’t that look comfortable.  And, for just $1499, you can have these 2 cramped sticky floor hard wooden seats at your house as well.  This just proves how stupid baseball is.  I mean, anyone who would buy those seats is already flawed because they are baseball fans in the first place.  I think that watching paint dry would actually be a better way to spend a Saturday.

– On page 11, are shoes with springs built in that are tagged “gravity defyer”.  wow, who would have thought that someone would finally invent flubber for real.

– On page 13, there are 2 different products that purport to help men grow hair back.  Now you might think that I would be a potential customer for these.  Contrary to what you think, I have a realistic view about this.  The first method is dye that “makes thin hair look thicker, in just 30 seconds”  I think it is actually paint that you would paint on your scalp and it would try to hide the fact that your hair is thinning.  The second is an X5 Hair Laser.  The definition says that low level laser light has been shown as the most effective new treatment for thinning hair.  REad that again people, “most effective new”.  Wow, do you think people actually fall for that?  Get over it people, your hair is thin.  Knock it down.

– On page 16, there is a life size talking R2 D2.  That is pretty cool, I have to admit.

– On page 17, there is an indoor dog restroom.  What?  it is a piece of carpet that looks like grass that you are supposed to let your dog pee on – in the house.  Get this, you can buy this beauty for just $149.  Wow, give me $150 dollars, and just let your dog pee on the carpet – it will smell just the same.  How stupid are you, people?

– On page 20, there is a telekinetic obstacle course.  This contraption you strap on to your head, and think really hard to move a ball through an obstacle course.  The picture of the guy doing it, is either moving the ball or he is really constipated.  I think this is the same one that was in Napoleon Dynamite.

– On page 24, there is an underwater pogo stick.  I’m just sayin.

– On page 27, there is another indoor pet yard thing for your dog to poop or pee in the house.  Do some comparison shopping people, this one looks like the bomb.

– On page 63, there is a solution to the misplaced cell phone.  it is a wrist cell phone carrier.  Your phone is always there and it allows you to flip it open in a flash.  Holds your cell phone right by your hand so that you can get to it quickly when you need it.  How cool and convenient is that?

– On page 82, a life size Anubis Statue “The Grand Ruler”  It is an 8ft tall version of the dog head man Egyptian statue.  I know that I need this.

– Holy Crap!  on page 83 there is a life size statue of Bigfoot!  You know that this is real down in Tennessee.

– On page 88, more mens hair loss treatment.  I am telling you, shop around before you buy people.

– On page 104, there is a shoe with 2 springs in them, not just one like that shoe on one of the earlier pages.  I see how this works, they get you hooked on the first pages and by the time you get to page 100 – you are in a buying frenzy.

– on page 105, there is a grip strength exercise device to help me with my golf swing.  Funny, I never imagined how much golf strength I would need to swing a golf club.  come on, if you have to work on your grip strength to swing a golf club you have bigger problems than worrying about your golf score.

– On page 137, there is a Slanket.  It is just what it sounds like, a blanket with sleeves.  This is clearly a rip off of the Snuggie.  Anyone who buys this should be shot.  There is a Snuggie right over at Walgreens near your house.  If you buy this one, you are just stealing money from the inventor of the Snuggie.  Rip off.

– On page 142, there is a shower head that lights up the water streams.  You can pick your color.  This is in case you cannot stand not seeing the under car lighting on your Honda Civic with the coffee can muffler, while you are in the shower.  Plus, do you really think electricity to the shower head – while you are standing under it is a good idea?

But wait, there is more.

– On page 144, there is a dog vacuum cleaner.  You expect your dog to lay there while you vacuum the hair off of them.  It’s a Pet Styling System people.

– also on page 144, there is a picture of a really embarrassed cat pooping in the human toilet.  Priceless.  Worth the price of getting to page 144.

I am sorry because I have to go, I have to find my credit card and load up one of those R2D2 guys for my garage.

Joe

Riding bikes in Italy!

This week was one of those weeks when I realize how good my job is.

Liz and I went to Italy, with a group from work, and rode our bikes in Italy.  Tuscany, to be exact.  4 days of riding, staying in a great location (www.spaltenna.it), and being taken care of by Trek Travel (www.trektravel.com).

Cold in Sienna!

We arrived in Florence on Wednesday May 12.  It was raining, but who cares right?  I mean we were in Florence and had the day to knock around.  We dumped our bags in our rooms quickly after arrival and jumped the bus to the downtown area.  There we drank espresso, looked at old stuff and ate gelato.  It didn’t suck for an afternoon’s activity.  That evening, we found our way to what Liz and I would say is the best restaurant in the world.  Buca Mario it is called (www.???).  Buca Mario is a restaurant that we found about 5 years ago on a previous Florence visit.  Not sure how we found it that first time, but damn is it good.  BM serves pretty standard Italian fare.  Nothing really extravagant or fancy, but wow just out of this world flavors.  Our traveling partners did not really know what to expect, but after a few hours and all the great stuff that came to the table, I think they all pretty much agreed with our assessment – yep, BM definitely kicks ass.  Wow is all I can say.

Doesn't look like much from the outside, but wow!

We made it back to our rooms late that first night, downed some magic pills to help us sleep and then got up in the morning to a great looking day and a Trek Travel bus waiting to take us to the hills to do some riding.

The castel Spaltenna!

The view out of our window at the castel!

We arrived at Spaltenna in Gaiole in Chianti, and quickly got suited for a first ride.  We did a nice little 35k ride to get bikes sorted and learn others pace etc…  TT provides the bikes, we just had to bring our pedals.  Unless of course, you are the dork that I am.  I broke out my own pedals (understandable), saddle (still understandable, but not as logical as the pedals) and my own stem (super dork).  Yammer, no comments from the peanut gallery.  The ride had a medium level climb, of about 8km, fairly steady grade.  Of course, that equals a super fun descent at some point in the ride also.

Dinner that night was set up for our group of about 25 under a tent.  The food kept coming and coming.  Too much was consumed, and of course I felt like a stuffed pig afterward.  Funny how it all feels good while you are eating it, but like a lump in your gut afterward.

Next day we did a big ride of 105km.  Started off in the morning with an 11km climb just out of town.  I was struggling to climb, but came around and did not feel so bad, it has been a long time since I have gotten to do a climb like that and it shows in my cycling form.  Yow.

Which way should we go?

The next days were more of the same.  Ride your bike for a big chunk of the day, look at cool old stuff or do some sort of Italian culture thing and then eat until you feel like you might explode.  Italy is just such a kick butt place.  I know that it would not be like that if you lived there, I mean you would have to go to work and everything.  But, I think I could get used to the place.

We did make it to Sienna for a rainy day.  We toured around, had some coffee and pizza and generally acted like tourists.  But, along the way we saw a bunch of college kids who had decorated their cars to celebrate their graduation.  The cars were pretty sweetly decorated.

Yep, they are pretty much a bunch of inapropriate pictures.  It was weird

Departure Adventure.

Started off with a bang, or maybe better a lack there of.  Set my alarm for 4:30 the night before, anticipating a 5:15 taxi.  Never heard the alarm.  Yep, slept right through.  Never done that, but I guess there is a first for everything.  I should have known right there, that the day was not going to go well.  Woke up to the phone ringing, but was in such a stupor I did not even pick it up.  In my daze, I looked at the clock and my first reaction was – hmm, I do not recall asking for a wake up call – how sweet.  Of course then I realized that we had puffed the wake up time and the taxi was waiting downstairs.  Yikes!  Liz pulled out all the stops, and we actually made it into the cab at 5:29.

To top off the cab adventure, the cabbie saw the angst we all had in getting to the airport on time, and absolutely raped me of a double fare.  I swear that he charged us for the time he had to wait for us, plus some additional amount.  The taxi fare to the airport turned out to be 42Euro on the screen.  I knew that was high, but did not feel like arguing at the moment.  You will see later down in the story, that I lost that inhibition eventually.

The Italian/European way of the world and how it would be to live there became a little more apparent.  When we arrived at the Florence airport (I think it has about 5 gates and they are prepared for about 5 people to go through security at just about any one time.)  Italians that live in Florence seem to be fine with that.  It any city in North America that gets as much tourist traffic as Florence would have had to build a new shiny efficient glass covered high ceiling Starbuck serving McDonalds catering extravaganza to make sure the tourists keep coming back.  Nope, this is Italy.

I did not have tickets on the 2nd flight, and had only less than an hour on my schedule to make it through the Amsterdam airport connection.  The counter person was not fazed by my plight at all though.  They did the European shrugged shoulder and Italian liaise faire attitude and shooed my on my way.

Once through security, we heard the announcement that the flight was being canceled because of the ???? volcano in Iceland.  What the hey?  That cannot even be a real place with a name like that.  I bet no one outside of geologists in Iceland can even say the name of that volcano.  And doesn’t a volcano existing in a place called Iceland just seem improbable in the first place?  Who knew?

This is where the fun really began.  We called the travel agent in the USA and they booked us on another flight that next day through  Paris (apparently the ash cloud had the good manners to stay far north).  But, the travel agent could not actually issue the ticket, they told us that the agent there would need to do that.  So, we waited in the more than 1.5 hour long line to see the Italian agent.  The agent took a cursory look at our passports, a brief look at the data on the screen, pronounced that she could not help us – handed us our passports, dismissed us and said “Next!”

What the????

In the end, the travel agent just had to buy us new tickets, we hope to get that all sorted out when we get home.

Most stories have a happy ending, or at least a happy middle.  Our happy middle would be that we were able to go once more to Buca Mario.  There, we had the 3rd best meal we have ever had (1st and 2nd also were at the hands of the chef at Buca Mario).  We also got a great photo of our favorite waiter  there.  Check it.

Next day started out with a bizarre scene.  Got  down to the front desk – on time, mind you.  And confirmed that they had a taxi coming at 5:15 for us.  The counter guy, confirmed that.  But, in our miscommunication, he must have thought that I needed a taxi and ordered a 2nd one.  Both taxis showed up on time, and we only needed one.  Chaos, lots of gesturing and raised voices ensued.  If I was not worried about getting to our flight that I suspected was not going to go smoothly – the whole thing would have been comical.

We loaded into taxi #1, taxi driver #2 hops out of his car and blocks our departure.  The guy behind the counter comes out and insists that we ordered 2 taxis.  The counter guy and the taxi driver are insisting that I now owe the 2nd taxi driver 15Euro for the trouble.  I insist that it is not my problem that the counter guy ordered 2 taxis.  Taxi driver #2 again blocks our departure and plans to intimidate me into paying him 15Euro.  At this point I have had enough.  He invites me out of the car to come and talk with him and the guy behind the counter.  I am pretty hot over this asshole and I think I was kinda hoping he would make a scene.  He was also a bald middle aged dude, and I think he figured that I was not backing down.  I ended up back in cab #1 where I urged the cabbie to get me out of there.  Didn’t know if I was going to see cabbie solidarity from cabbie #1 or if he was going to put more value in the fare that we represented, in the end he went with the fare we represented.  Capitalism at work.

Next, we bellied up to the airport check in counter, only to find out that I did not have a ticket.  Liz did, I did not.  Wow – things just keep getting better.  After dealing with the agent as far as we could (this time a very nice lady who tried as hard as she could but could not help us as the ticket did not show at all on her computer) for over an hour, I ended up on the phone with a Delta agent back in the US.  She put in the ticket for me, gave me an e-ticket number and the helpful agent was able to get us seats on the plane and book us through.  Wow.  I guess the lesson learned there is that you always want to have the e-ticket number.

Well, we are on the plane now and it looks like we will get back to the US after all.

Awesomely dorky in Florence!

Dig riding my bike in Italy or southern Europe, but I do not think I could deal with the pace.  Plus, there really isn’t any offroad motorcycle racing in most of Europe – couldn’t deal with that.  I do like the wine though.

Out.

Joe

Another Asian story

In Taiwan this week for work.

Good meetings, and of course I got out for a good bike ride.  Another really nice time in the mountains on the Island of Taiwan.  Found a new climb and kick butt decent.  Didn’t get rained on, and was able to climb really hard and count it as a fitness effort day.

But, that is not what you came here to see.

On Thursday night in Taiwan, I went out to dinner with a bunch of guys that I work with from a factory that builds bikes for us.

So a little bit of background is necessary before you look at the video.  Taiwan guys LOVE to drink.  They really feel it is their duty to drink way too much on a given day.  In fact, they feel they are duty bound to get you to drink with them.  They have contests with drinking and many rituals that go along with the drinking.  Here are some of the things that I have noticed that go along with this.

– Dinner tables are always large and always boisterous.  I think they make them large, because everyone is going to be drunk and yelling no matter what, so they might as well be large to justify the yelling.  Plus, if they are large you can fit even more people around the table and drink even more.  If there are not a ton of people, then the large table works out so that people do not spill beer all over you.

– There is a lot of random toasting that goes on.  So that you almost cannot get a bite of food in because someone is trying to toast you from across the table.  That is usually ok, because the food isn’t normally that great anyway.  Sometimes it is, and you just want to eat…

– Within a company, it is a big deal to be the best drinker at the table.  But, no one would admit to being the best and would always defer to someone else as being the best.  “oh… Bob is a good drinker…me not so much!”

– There is always a server girl who keeps the glasses on the table well filled.  But, no one would actually fill their own glass.  It is a high honor to fill everyone else’s glass, so people are constantly jumping up trying to fill each others glass, then they yell at the server girl to get more.  (yes it is always a server girl, not a server guy – it’s Asia)

– Kampei is Chinese for bottoms up.  Of course the real objective of all of this is to get stupid drunk.  So, just as you are about to accept a toast from someone and take a sip of your drink someone screams out “Kampei” and that is the signal that you are to drain your glass.  Happens a lot.

– Taiwan guys will Kampei with whatever is in front of them.  Whiskey, Beer, Red Wine…  Doesn’t matter. (Yes, that does say red wine!)

Take a look at this guy from our dinner table.  I started filming this halfway through dinner when I realized that this was going to be good.  I know I missed at least 3-4 Kampei efforts before these.

Yes, it was that stupid.

Joe

Race photos from Aztalan and Sugar Maple

Here is a huge gallery of photos from Aztalan and Sugar Maple this past weekend.  I loaded up the lot on Flikr.  Click up the link below and you will get to view them all.

2010 Race Photos

New race – Sugar Maple!

Up early.  Not sleeping well.  Might be an age thing, but also might be food or might be nerves or…  Any way you slice it, I am up and I do not need to be.  I’ve made a couple of PBJ sandwiches, packed waterbottles, bananas and I am ready to go.  I made the biggest pot of oatmeal you have ever seen.  I am eating it now, and starting my blog entry for the week.

We are going racing today.  New spot, close to Madison.  Sugar Maple is what it is called.  I rode there last fall as they we trying to get this place off the ground.  It had an immature, but good outdoor style MX track, but no trails yet to speak of.  Brian Terry and others have been there trying to put down enough trail to hold this Harescrambles race.  Today will be the day that tells that tail.

Brian told me yesterday that he thinks there will be a really good crowd.  He has been getting emails from people all across the midwest saying they were coming.  Could be good.

The Race

So we got there at pretty much 10am on the money, maybe a few minutes before hand.  We were all set up at 10:10 and ready to tour the new course. There was a fantastic MX track with a couple of huge table tops and a couple of nice doubles and 2 really fun step ups.  One section of woods was super technical and difficult.  Lots of embedded rocks and downed trees.  One section of woods was really nice and flowing.  And finally, there was a really fast cornfield section that was wide open 5th gear.

Lots of little log section like these that required doubling across.

Much of the trail in the woods was virgin trail that was just marked on the trees.

I got the start of starts.  1st off the line, first onto the MX track and 1st into the woods.  It was great.  I had a really good 1st 2 laps, but then on the 3rd lap I had trouble on one of the uphills and really struggled.  I stalled the motor and because of where I was sitting had to go back down the hill and try over.  On that lap I went form 1st to 4th.  I then had my work cut out for me.

The course was not that long, about 3.5 miles around.  There was a really good crowd turnout, about 16 people on my line, 12 on the AA, 12 on the A, 20+ on the B, and 20+ on the C line.  That makes for a lot of racers to get by when trying to move through the field.

I rode hard for the whole of the race.  I caught John with about 10 minutes to go in the race and got by.  He got back by me half way through the last lap, then we entered the last woods section with him just in front of me.  But, just as we entered the last flowing woods section, he muscled his way around another rider.  I was forced to do the same on a really sketchy holed out down hill.  Then, at the base of that hill he slid out around the turn and as I was avoiding him, I also fell over.  But, my bike did not stall and his did.  We were like Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villipoto at the end of the St. Louis SX race.  But this time the yellow bike got up first.  I rode away and made good time through the rest of the last woods.  That was my favorite woods section, and I made it stick.  We entered the last of the MX sections, and I railed the last berm and launched all the way over the table top to get into the timing tent 5 seconds ahead of John.  1st place.

There was one creek crossing that became like a GNCC mud section.  The mud got deeper and deeper through the race, and longer and longer.  That was the only mud section of the race, but look at the results.

After the race.

I should tell you now, that we had a guest with us that made the day all that much more fun.  Matt Pickersgill, a friend from the UK was visiting and experiencing his very first Harescrambles race.  “Brilliant”!  I find that English guys say things like “Brilliant” and “Proper” a lot.  Brilliant isn’t just how you would describe a bright light in their version of the english language.  It is how you would describe something that is just really cool.  Proper is not just how you should act at the dinner table, but is a modifier word that would be added to the front of something else.  For example, “You would have to have proper fitness to do this sport” or  “This is proper soft dirt”.  Here is a list of words that I heard from Matt over the weekend, and my attempt at definition.

Brilliant – see above

Proper – see above

Faffing – futzing about, normally it seems to be when someone has to wait for another person whilst they faff around with something.

Chuffed – happy about something

Mate – friend

Knackered – really tired

Get a crack on – get moving, stop dilly dallying

Minging – really smelly and gross

Tar it all with the same brush – stereotype of a group of people being
all the same.

Jogg on – stop messing around and get a move on, not as severe as crack on

Bollox – monkeys nuts (specific spelling with an x on the end)

Bollocks – dammit

Slapper – really loose Doris (women) slap slap slap, a bit of a whore really

Swish swosh – prosperous walk. Walking like you’ve got a lot of money in your pocket, which maybe you do.

giffer – a cap wearing cross between a git and a duffer (specifically spelled with a lower case g)

Giffer – orgy seeking drunk middle age woman

Duffer – a pratt

Pratt – bit of an idiot

Git – a bit of a sod

Sod – (suttly different than git) kind of an idiot

Twat – agressive reference to a bit of a bastard, also female anatomy so be careful with this one

Dog and bone – the phone

Cream crackered – knackered

I don’t Adam and Eve it – I don’t believe it.

of course it goes on and on.  A week with Matt can give you a whole new look at the english language.

Out

Joe