Monthly Archives: August 2004

Oh my burnin’ thighs

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I’ve been wanting for some time to venture further out Blue Factory Road on my bike and see what all happened out there as you head toward Cropseyville and Grafton, but hadn’t gotten past Ives Corners before turning back. Yesterday was a gorgeous day (in fact, yesterday was THE gorgeous day), so we packed up for the beach and headed out to Grafton Lakes so the girls could play in the lake. And because my wife is very tolerant of such nonsense, I brought my bike and planned to ride back on my own (leaving her with two exhausted, sunned-out children). On the way out, I decided to detour out Blue Factory Road so I could see what I’d be getting into. And once I saw what the climb out of Cropseyville would be like, I started thinking an alternate route was in order. ( I didn’t know then, but know now, that there’s a webpage with a number of Rensselaer County climbs that would have told me exactly what I was getting into.) So while at the beach, we scoured the map for other roads, and I settled on going out to South Road, connecting to Madonna Lake Road, and then hopefully cutting off the worst of the climbs on Blue Factory Road. Brilliant.

And today, I’m still paying for that brilliance. The first 13k of a 47k ride were all uphill, and what little parts were downhill I had to take at very low speed because the roads were covered with loose gravel. At one point, the grade kicks up to 16.9%. I got off and walked a chunk because I was afraid of flipping the bike backward (no joke). But it was still better than Blue Factory, which has an average grade of 6.7% for more than 2 miles, and kicks up to 20% in one spot. (Still, the person who put the page together says it only compares to a category 3 climb in the Tour de France, one of the easier climbs.)

Also had to stop twice to reapply sunscreen (my knees were burning, baby). I think the reason they call it Madonna Lake is that there’s a house on it with a big statue of the Madonna facing the lake (no kidding). I had to stop one relatively speedy ascent because deer appeared on the side of the road and couldn’t make up their minds what they were going to do. I saw a peacock and a peahen in the road in Best, and a pack of hippies headed toward Barbersville Falls. I have never been so happy to see Poestenkill in my life, because from there on out I knew it was an easy ride.

Of course, I should have had my head busted just for the extremely unpatriotic act of riding my bike, but that’s another story.

Not exactly too much information,

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Ever get a piece of information that is so very very odd that you really just don’t know how to fit into your world view, and even though it has no direct bearing on your life or work its very oddness just keeps it floating to the top of your head? I was listening to an old Fresh Air interview with Peter Fonda the other night, which was hugely refreshing because Terry Gross (the interviewer) had bothered to find out that there a Peter Fonda before “Easy Rider,” and was talking mostly about Fonda’s appearances in “The Wild Angels” and “The Trip.” Wild Angels is a fantastically over-the-top slice of ’60s moviemaking (by Roger Corman, of course) that includes one of my favorite movie lines ever: “We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride! We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man!”

That, of course, was not the weirdness. The weirdness was when he described a time when Marlon Brando asked him to give him a lift to pick up Brando’s bike, which he had left at Wally Cox’s place.

Marlon Brando. Wally Cox. Marlon left his motorcycle at the home of Wally Mr.-Peepers-Voice of Underdog-Stuck-on-Hollywood-Squares Cox.

Googling Marlon Brando and Wally Cox only makes it weirder. They were roommates. There were rumors.

I need to have a lie-down.

The Olympics?

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As usual, I am completely unable to get into the Summer Olympics, and it’s not just because NBC’s coverage is its standard quadrennial suckfest of human interest stories, travelogues of Greece, Bob Costas and Al Trautwig. (Someone wrote to Velonews that Trautwig’s coverage of gymnastics made his work on the Tour de France seem much better in comparison.) NBC, despite having greatly increased the coverage, doesn’t believe we’re interested in the sports, and that the only athletes we could possibly care about must have a star-spangled patch somewhere on their spandex. We were watching some track elimination event last night, and their total focus was on an American guy who came in fourth — since only the top two advanced, this was the same as not finishing. What did NBC tell me about the guy who won? The guy who must be one of the fastest athletes in the world? They mentioned his name in passing. That’s it.

They have never trusted their audience to care about the sports. It’s about cute teenage girls, hardship stories and all the other crap they fill the airtime with. In the meantime, if you wanted to watch the actual sports events? Well, you’d better get real busy with your VCR and a programming guide. Though this year they DID apparently broadcast the kayaking and canoeing events — which they didn’t at Sydney.

I’m also all about the little mini-movement out there in commentaryland to get rid of judged events. If you can’t measure it or count up clear points, then let’s stop kidding around about it. Yes, I know that would include diving, which I enjoy watching, but it’s a small price to pay to get rid of the gymnastics and, in the winter, all the goddamn ice dancing. I want to make this clear: we must stop the ice dancing. Hey — my ability to type 90 words per minute took years of training, too. Doesn’t make it a sport. Though if it were a sport, it’d be something you could measure.

Whatever happened to that experiment where they just broadcast the sporting event, put the scores on the screen, and shut the hell up?

Oh, christ, my allergies have turned me into Lewis Black! Sorry, folks. Time for more Benadryl.

End o’ Summer Blues

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It may not be the coldest August ever, and it may not be the wettest, but you couldn’t prove it by me. The days have been crawling around in the 70s, one or two peaks around 81 degrees. Nights have been in the 50s. This would not have been the summer that saved our community pool (had it not closed after last summer, when a sopping wet June and early July chased away prospective members). Holding out hope for a beautiful fall, but it seems like the three seasons are a wash and all we can really hope for is a nice cold, snowy winter to make up for it (I’m a skier, so shoot me).

Miserable night. After going to sleep at 9 or so all during vacation and getting decent sleep despite lying on the ground, I’m now unable to assemble a sleep pattern in my own bed. Last night I went up early (with the intention of biking this morning), and slept fitfully for an hour or so before being awakened by the unholy trinity — itchy skin, twitchy legs, and a nasty mosquito (again with the mosquitoes!) that kept trying to get into my ear canal. Three or four tries at that and I was wide awake. (Which is a shame, because I’ve got a new fall biking jersey I would have been able to try this morning . . . it’s currently 55 degrees.)

Why does my daughter have to go to middle school? All this drama and anxiety — which “house” she’s in, whether it’s the right house, whether her friends (and the right friends) are in it . . . all so important, and there’s nothing we can do about any of it. Very frustrating. Also frustrating to be at the point where we can no longer provide her all the support she needs in her life (and soon, of course, she won’t care what we think about anything at all). Who came up with this stupid idea to have kids grow up, anyway?

Scenes from a camping trip

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  • Drove up to Port Kent and took the ferry across to Burlington. A little faster than driving the back roads of Vermont, and I was instantly glad I did, because nothing says you’re on vacation like driving on to a boat.
  • The acorns were trying to kill us. And they were doing a damned good job.
  • The mosquitoes were like nothing I’ve encountered in years. Vicious, multitudinous, quick.
  • The days were generally nice, and the nights were cool and pleasant. But we couldn’t sit outside for five minutes in the evening without getting eaten alive, so we slept from about 9 to 7.
  • Bike tours would roll into the campground late in the afternoon, completely dominate the showers for several hours, and then leave early in the morning.
  • The leftover Phish fans did not hog the showers. We wished they would. What is with the f’ing patchouli? (My hippie period lasted for about ten minutes.)
  • Wakened one night by a girl on the next site, insisting to her boyfriend, “Omigod there is an animal in the tent!” They had put a screen house over their tent, so she didn’t mean it was in the actual tent, but in the screen house. “It was white and fluffy and big like a dog!” So, it was either a possum or, possibly, a dog. Much excitement.
  • Speaking of which, and to paraphrase the late Sam Kinison — if you don’t trust the tent, why are you sleeping in the tent? Dozens of different contrivances, most involving some arrangement of tarp, to cover the tent and protect it from rain. It’s called a rain fly, people! And even if you don’t have one, keep your stuff from touching the walls and you’ll stay dry. Geez, this ain’t rocket science.
  • Much French was spoken in the campground. I couldn’t understand a word.
  • We did much biking, a little bit of beaching, and never got the canoe out. The weather was iffy, but we really only got caught out once, when we were kinda trapped down at the beach house for 40 minutes waiting for a massive storm to clear enough that we would only be soaked (rather than drowned) trying to walk to the tent.
  • Never got the girls their promised fire and s’mores, though we did go to Lake Champlain Chocolate twice for the most decadent ice cream on the planet. It makes Ben & Jerry’s seem like Sealtest. Instant chocolate coma.
  • The incident of the exploding stove was not repeated.
  • We hardly drove. It was paradise. When I needed to go to the grocery store, I took the bike path to the Hannaford. Which had two bike racks. So did the Rite-Aid. I’ve got some letter-writing to do, ’cause when I bike to the Rite-Aid here, I have to chain up to the garbage can.

Still cleaning up

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Okay, it’s not quite as bad as what the folks down south are dealing with post-hurricane, but have you seen how much cleaning is necessary after a week of camping? The tent’s soaking, all our clothes stink, the bikes are covered in sand, and at 9:30 last night I realized the canoe was still on top of the truck and would need to be taken down (can’t get it into the parking garage at work). Me, very tired, wrestling the canoe into a very disorderly garage, having to watch my step every step of the way, banging it into a hanging bicycle . . . . I coulda sold tickets.

Where’ve I been?

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This week was utterly insane. I am exhausted. I can’t really get into what it’s all about, but I think future generations will thank us. (They’d damn well better, the ingrates!) A major project without about 17 moving parts, 3 legal theories, a court-imposed deadline and an annoying squeak nobody could find. Consumed the entire week. And now, in the face of this storm moving up the coast, I’m heading off on vacation (burglars take note). Looks like it’s just going to keep tracking further east, so the tail should be even milder than they’re predicting. The whole week looks pretty iffy for our objective of biking, canoeing, and beaching, but whaddaya gonna do? Gotta get out there and hope it works out. If we get too wet, we come home. Doubt I’ll be able (or will want) to post while away, but I promise to come back with renewed pith and scathing stories of tourists in baggy shorts and sandals.

Theatre

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I’m going to write a play in the style of the Theatre of the Absurd, something vaguely Pinteresque, and I’m going to title it, “The Hardship Claimed by the Paint Manufacturers is Illusory.” (I actually read that in a work document today. For them as care, that would be something like “Les difficultés réclamées par les fabricants de peinture sont illusoires” if Godard were to film it.)

Turkeys, but not the kind you eat

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God, remember the ’70s? When calling someone “turkey” was a common epithet? How bizarre.


Nice bike rides this weekend. Did you know that there are still some places, and apparently Poestenkill is one, where the highway department’s idea of “repaving” involves laying down a boatload of hot tar and then throwing gravel down on top. Let cool, scrape off the loose gravel and move on down the road (there’s about a 90% reuse rate, there). Hadn’t seen this since I lived in Scotia, but there it was, on what was until now my favorite ride of the summer. Acres and acres of loose gravel, and I could even deal with that, but it’s on a wicked hill, and the descent would just be deadly. So I went as far as reason would allow and turned back. What brought us to the title was that I thought, “I’d like to offer a big turkey dinner to every single person who slowed down as they passed me on this road, so as not to spray me with gravel.” Number of turkeys I need: zero. In fact, an even half of the drivers sped the f up, just to kick up even more gravel at me. Turkeys.

Conditions were favorable, if a bit cold yesterday. It’s August, and the high got up around 65. Pull the sleeves up, pull the sleeves down – one of those rides. But hardly any cars, and with a good tailwind on a long clear downhill, I got up to a record speed of 74 km/h. Let’s see, in old money (as Phil Liggett says), that’s . . . carry the 1, um . . . well, better not say, my spouse might not approve. Oh, okay: 46 mph. I was bookin’, baby! New headset means I don’t have to worry the front end is going to come apart. Today, a windier ride off in the other direction, a few kilometers less available in my legs, but a nice ride nonetheless.

Otherwise, today was spent getting last weekend off the tent and the shelter. Clay everywhere, baby. Used up all the last of the Tekwash, but I got it all mostly clean. The footprint (ground cloth) will never be the same, but that’s what it’s for.