Monthly Archives: June 2008

Riding, riding, riding

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I think it was Eddy Merckx who once, asked how young riders could improve and join the pro ranks, answered simply “Ride lots.” For the first time since I returned to cycling (well, what did you take up when you turned 41?), circumstances have conspired to let me ride lots, with a 100-mile week being routine, and I can’t tell you how good it feels. First, it means coming back from my normal 30-milers with gas in the tank, something left in reserves, and that phenomenally annoying last 2k of climb isn’t so very annoying anymore — except for how it eats into my average times. Second, my average time has soared, from a normal 24-25kph to 26-27 kph in my home hills, and on an unhilly day like today, a crazy 28 kph. That’s the kind of speed I only used to get on a flat, untrafficked course. And it means that I was able to climb my ass off up Taborton Road last week and still feel good coming back on a 50-miler. Compared to last summer, when I basically sat out spring base-building and had nothing to give until about October, it just feels great.

Plus, I’m getting to know the backroads and shortcuts like never before, I’m sure to the endless annoyance of my family, who are never treated to the simplicity of traveling between two points in a line when I drive them around anymore — “but wait, there’s a better way!” Still, I get lost, and today when I got detoured off my planned route in Clifton Park (of all places), I got seriously lost and added about 10 unnecessary, but highly pleasurable, kilometers to my ride, and it wasn’t even a concern. (Still, I’ve gotta rethink this not carrying a map thing.)

The girls have started their summer with industrious berry-picking — last summer was lackluster in the raspberry department, as well, but this summer has brought a huge bounty, and next year’s canes are just insane. We thought nothing grew on the north side because it was the north side; turns out it was just the giant maple trees, casting a pall over the land. Kill the maples, save the raspberries. Also, our cherry tree, long thought to be purely decorative, is producing quarts of perfect little sour cherries, and now I’m regretting not having planted a second cherry tree 10 years ago, but who knew it would ever really produce fruit?

A summer with berries, bicycling and homemade iced tea cannot be a bad summer, I sez.

Splenetic?

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Leave it to the Old Gray Lady to ruin my moment of silence for George Carlin by using a word in their headline on his death that I and anyone else who wasn’t absolutely guessing had to look up: “splenetic.” Really, New York Times? “Splenetic?” I don’t believe I’m exaggerating when I say that I have never heard this word before, whether used to describe George Carlin or anyone or anything else. And while, yes, I could guess that it had something to do with the spleen, perhaps the venting thereof, I still did not appreciate having to move off my thoughts of Carlin’s career and importance, which seemed to me absolutely undiminished in most recent years, in order to find that yes, “splenetic” originally referred to a person with a diseased spleen (at a time when I believe the spleen referred to anything betwixt neck and naughty bits) and now should be taken to mean bad-tempered or spiteful. Further, my dictionary feels that “splenetic” is actually an archaic form of “splenic,” which would no doubt make Melvil Dewey happy but shows the level of reach involved here.

Not only is it a bad word, because it takes the reader out of the article and diving into dictionaries, but it’s the wrong word. I ran hot and cold on Carlin — there were some years where it just seemed he wasn’t right for the time, but in our current climate he seemed a sharper observer than ever. But it never struck me that there was anything bad-tempered or spiteful about what he said — if anything he seemed to take joy in pointing out fundamental hypocrisy, the absurdities that we accept every day. Was he angry about them? Sure. But he never devolved to spite. Spite isn’t funny. George Carlin was very, very funny.

Teenage “Awwww shit!” high-five!

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Whatever doping program I’m on, I highly recommend it to other aged cyclists. I’ve just been monstrously strong out on the roads lately. Today I wanted to check the feasibility of riding to a not-too-far-away state park that we haven’t visited in years, but I didn’t want to do the whole distance because it’s threatening thunderstorms and I just didn’t want to be that far away. But I’d never been up the mountain road that leads there, so I thought I’d take it and see how climbable it was. Despite being a long, steep climb, I just tore the damn thing up. It was stupid how good I felt. And of course, 25 minutes of climbing up to the top of the ridge translated to 5 minutes of furious riding back down. (Unlike the pro races, there’s nobody waiting for me at the top with newspapers to stuff in my jersey, so the ride down was a little chilly.)

As I rolled back through West Sand Lake, there was a small pack of teen boys and girls riding their bikes along the sidewalk. Usually a grown man in spandex passing a group of teens gets some random swearing, calls of “fag,” stuff like that. But in this case I was going so stupidly fast on the flats, 28 mph, that as I blew by them all I heard was an exclamation of “Awwww!!! Shit!!!”

Because there’s nothing else to do

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I don’t like to get all linky, and especially don’t like to get all Youtubey, but honestly, this may be the greatest thing ever: a combination of the brilliant (some would say Shat-tastic!) cover of Pulp’s “Common People” with the absolute nadir of animation from the ’70s, and some really creepy overtones. Please to enjoy:

Podium girls aren’t thrill enough?

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It’s been a relatively clean, exciting bicycle racing season so far, and with teams like Astana, Slipstream and High Road having great seasons and seeming to set the bar high for detecting doping among their riders, it almost feels like when someone puts in an amazing performance, you can believe it’s the athlete and his training, and not some bizarre or dangerous cocktail of drugs and blood that led to the result. So all the more disappointing that one of the best racers out there, and the winner of this year’s very exciting Paris-Roubaix, Quick Step sprinter Tom Boonen, has been caught recreationally using cocaine. (Oddly, and probably temporarily, it’s only barred in competition, but still illegal.) Apparently being one of the greatest athletes in the world, probably having your pick of the podium girls, winning races and making millions wasn’t enough. The stupidity of such an action goes so far beyond the athlete now — it affects the team, the brands that supported the team and him (Specialized won’t be running their Boonen ads anymore, I’m sure), and all his future endorsements. Cycling is a small enough pond that you can’t really be making those kinds of splashes.

I know I’m old

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I know I’m old because it is not possible for me to take a 42-mile bike ride (visiting the hamlet of Jonesville for the first time, and getting a little lost, too, which is how you know it’s a good ride) without requiring a serious nap afterward. Sleep of the just, indeed.

O.C. struttin’ it

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I’m the O.C., Original Carpenter, and I eff’d that door up, boyeeee!! I got mad Skilsaws, aaaiiight?

That’s how I get when I finally do something I should have done about four years ago. But at least it got done.

I got your RSS right here, pal!

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Okay, once upon a time, I had an RSS feed going for them as wanted it. I wasn’t using an RSS reader at the time; they were all clunky and cumbersome and didn’t seem to save me any time over just using a browser. Along came Google Reader, and suddenly RSS made a lot of sense to me. But somehow I also broke my own RSS feed, and never figured out how to put it back together. I was in the mood to swear at computer things yesterday, so a few hours of swearing and I finally have it back. You want your RSS feed? Right here, pal. And over there where that button is, too.

BONUS! Subscribe to my feed today, and if I don’t screw this up, you automatically get my latest pictures from Flickr, too!