Thursday, February 26, 2009

FHR pirates somehow dodge calamity. Yarr...

By any estimate, it should have been a disaster.
1) Get together several hundred associates of "Seattle's drinking club with a biking problem"

2) Hold a 33-mile road race, equal parts cramp-inducing climbs and blurred-vision downhills

3) Add a mandatory whiskey pit stop, beer, chili, and bike prizes

4) Race on the same day, and on the same course as Washington's 2nd largest cycling event
So yeah, it could have been a terrible mess. But the 4th annual Fucking Hills Race went off without a casuality, save for a few burned retinas after an impromptu mass-mooning from the deck of the Bainbridge ferry. More on that in a second. Let's back up.

Mid-January, rumblings of the race were beginning to surface on the .83 forum. I've ridden with the club a few times (and have the scars to prove it). The rides are always a good time. On the other hand, I'm getting to be an old man. Maybe the spandex and neon vest crew would be more my speed.

Internal conflict. Ride legit, or pirate?

Then I saw the "official" FHR t-shirt and (damn you, paypal) snatched it on impulse. With goods from Sonadei in the mail, and determined to hold fast to my don't-wear-the-shirt-if-you-ain't-paid-the-dues ethic, the decision was made.

Time to start training my liver.

Fast-forward to Sunday, February 22. The race meet-up was under the 99 viaduct, a mere block away from the "other club". I rolled in, already tired from the 10-mile pedal from Hahn Estates in North Seattle. Sir Derrick Ito, race organizer and .83 OG, registered riders and delivered pirate patches. I witnessed several riders from the "other club" being tempted to the dark side with promises of free beer and better chili. They took the bait. Suckers.

Rainier tall-boy swilled from a bike-glove coozie at 9am. Yarrr.

On the ferry, an unexpected announcement: "First we'll be letting cars off the boat, then cyclists participating in Chilly Hilly, followed by the pirates." Damn. Big enough for a PA shout-out. Next year we might need insurance. Or something. Whatever.

Right off the bat, the race was haaaard. Hills and pitches, bitches. And it stayed hard for about 15 miles. After that, things took on a new light. I dunno, maybe it was the whiskey pit stop. Liquid gold, served in a cut-off PBR can by a dirty bike hobo.

Pure class.

Woooo! Where is this energy coming from? I'm fast. Is it hot in here? I'm stopping by that tree up there and taking off a layer. Maybe two. Maybe I'll just ride in my underwear. Wheeee. Pedals? What pedals? I, uhhhh...

Fact: 1 shot of whiskey propels a 155 lb. cyclist approximately 3 miles.

The rest of the race is a blur of strained pedal strokes, sweat, and suffering. Sweet Jeebus on a merry-go-round, I really need to ride more. Not familiar with Bainbridge Island, I kept hoping the downtown finish was over the next hill. No. Around that corner? Nope. Right after this flat section? Ha! Another hill? Call the sag wagon.

I rolled onto the docks a broken man. But even a broken man springs to life when two huge pots of chili are steaming on the camp stove and a wheelbarrow full of America's finest is on ice. There were probably 30 people milling around... ok, maybe I didn't do so bad. There are some fast cats that ride with this group. Plus, I know a few of these bastards cheated.

Thing is, nobody cares. In fact, cheating is expected.

Plus, enough prizes (see right) were piled up for everyone to get at least one. Top finishers got first dibs, the rest of us sad sacks were drawn out of a hat. I had my eye on a knitted Pabst ski beanie with a big ol' yarn ball on top. Missed out on that, but pulled a sweet Park Tool bottle opener.

One dude took home a new bike. It was like Christmas... except with a bunch of sweaty people I didn't know.

On the return trip, one final dastardly deed was done. "Pull up your pants or get off the boat," the ferry Captain announced on PA. Seems our pirates lobbed a successful group moon toward a scrappy sailing vessel piloted by fellow .83'ers bound for home.

My wife will be relieved to know I caught an earlier boat, and wasn't among the pantless. Yes, the author's esteemed standing in the community is preserved. For now, at least.

Great event, cool people, almost enough beer. Next year there will be no internal conflict. FHR gets mad bacon.

Coverage of the "other club" riding on the course that day

Monday, February 23, 2009

Have a seat...

If basketball players were actively persecuted for grass, we'd have a lot of John Stocktons running the hardwood (which is not a bad thing, I'm just sayin'). Sure, policies have tightened up in the NBA, but there's no denying the persistent, smoky haze in our arenas.

Name your sport, it's the same game.

If officials in the early days of the Tour de France had banned and tested for whiskey, opiates, and amphetamine... well, suffice it to say the history books of cycling would read differently.

As time marches on, so does the chemistry of performance enhancement. Drug policies and drug testing will always be a step behind.

Lance Armstrong has never tested positive for a banned substance. Should I repeat that for emphasis? I'm not saying he's never juiced, only that he should be judged by the rules and procedures in place at a given time.

This is not an endorsement of doping. It's a vote for fairness. We are all interested in being fair, right? Since his comeback, Lance has been subjected to inordinate scrutiny, and not even one eyebrow can raise at the results.

He's never tested positive.

Which makes the above sequence, brought to you in glorious, web 1.0, 256-color, animated gif format that much more satisfying (click it to see larger stills).

Tour of California. One pudgy, self-righteous "Liveclean" devil heckles Lance. Said devil receives a clear message, delivered via forearm. Have a seat. And please, man... let it go. While you (okay, only some of you) expend great energy villifying an American cycling legend for unproven grievances...

time does march on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vegas, baby...

Lisa and I have been together for seven years. We've done some amazing things in that time, adventures big and small. But, as we realized with some amazement a couple months ago, we have never taken a grown-up trip together... alone. No kids. No family. No friends. No dogs.

So, economic downturn, economic realities, economic fears... economic anything be damned. We're on the first plane out of Seattle tomorrow, bound for the city of lights.

And we will not behave like responsible, hard-working parents of three.

I know, I know... Vegas is the epitomy of cheez. Trust that we have laid plans to maximize its cheeziness. We will call Excalibur home. We will dress up like a lord and a lady (as long as you can do that in t-shirts and jeans) for the Tournament of Kings Dinner, where we will eat with our bare hands.

And buffet. We will destroy the motherfather buffet.

There are other things we'll do. But you don't get to know about those. Because what happens in... awe hell, you know the rest.

To my bestest cousin Sara - thanks for watching one of our lil' turkeys. We love you! Feed her energy drinks and ramen... all should be well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tour of California...

It's ON, suckas. Spread the word... TOC is the new Giro.

Get pumped... this is gonna be a great season. I'm so jealous of California homies like lockedcog who can get great snaps like this from their front doorstep. Go Levi, Big George, Lance, and DZ Nutz! And, ok... go Floyd!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's not always about the miles...

There's a certain aspirational component to athletic pursuits. It's the addiction of achievement... "Hey, Mike, you biked 500 miles last month! Awesome!" Ok fine, but look at that guy. He cycled from Europe to Nepal, summited Everest, and then biked home. I wanna do that.

"Everyday adventurers", those of us with big dreams (but also kids, dogs, and a stack of bills in the desk drawer) gotta remind ourselves sometimes... it's not always about the miles.

Sometimes it's about overcoming small adversities together. Three years ago, my son and I did a 3-day bike/camp adventure on the Iron Horse Trail. We battled flat tires and mosquitoes, our trailer broke, and he cursed me the entire time. But later - almost two years later - we were driving and could see the trail from our car. He looked out the window, pointed up to the mountainside and said, "Remember our bike ride? We should do that again." You're right, Josh, we should. How's June looking for you?

It's definitely about memories like this. A warm summer evening, my daughter's first pedals without training wheels. Payton's a tough kid. But at this moment, she asked me not to let go until she was ready. Someday I'll have to let go of her again, and I will be the one who's not ready. We never want our kids to fall down... but they'll always remember times like this and know that Dad is waiting with a band-aid. Or, as I've been encouraging Payton lately, to "throw some dirt on it and get back on."

It's not always about two hours on the trainer, hill repeats, or 200-mile rides. Sometimes three miles is plenty. Like this sunny afternoon my girls and I biked down to the library, had a quick picnic on the lawn, and turned right back around for home. Beautiful.

A tough day on the bike is character-building. We all know that. Just don't forget to make time for the easy days. Your character (and your kids) will thank you.

Happy Valentine's Day to the real loves of my life... Lisa, Josh, Mackenzie, Payton, and (might as well throw the dogs in here) Charlie and Polly.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guns, broads, and a Chuck Norris bar fight...

I've been told I need to man this blog up a little. The feedback didn't come from you, my loyal tens of readers. No, it was delivered (rather unceremoniously) by the robots at GenderAnalyzer.

Apparently, this blog is just 72% man.

Now I'm no math wiz, but that leaves an almost 10% probability that I am either female or "unknown". Unacceptable. This post is an attempt to increase my virtual testosterone. Go ahead, call me a doper. Everyone is doing it. How else am I supposed to stay competitive?

Al Pacino, beer and donuts, hey does that thing got a hemi, whiskey, whiskey, steak. Hunting, fishing, boobs, gun rack, bacon. John Wayne, boobs, Lynyrd Skynyrd, camping, suck it.

And... *publish*

Still 72%. That's about as manly as I can get without busting out the f-bombs. And my mom asked me to stop doing that.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A community loss...

Yesterday Kevin Black, 39 year-old Seattle cyclist and father of two little girls, was killed in a collision with a van while biking to work.

The closeness of our bike community, coupled with the high speed of news these days, saw blogs and forums and twitter pages light up... first with disbelief, then condolences, and finally with sad, inevitable diatribes from the knuckle-draggers.

Looking for easy answers... "Was he wearing a helmet?" Establishing fault... "This is why bikes don't belong on the road." And why in the name of Christ-and-Bacon does somebody always bring up licensing? As if taxing cyclists will spring forth a utopian infrastructure where cars and bikes never again cross paths.

Hey, we do cross paths. Get used to it. And yet, for every yesterday, there are a hundred days that pass without incident. Maybe even with smiles and a little shared courtesy.

But these tough days shake cyclists to the core.

I didn't know Kevin or Bryce or Susanne. But because of them I consider my own mortality every time I ride. Every time. I imagine it's like this for a lot of cyclists. We never forget these days, those intersections, the helicopter news images of crumpled bikes, the heartbreaking notes left at makeshift memorials.

These days are burned into our collective memory.

Update: Kevin Black's ghost bike is up

Images copped from bike hugger and My Ballard

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why do you ride?

Let me help you with that answer.

You don't ride to save money, stay in shape, or reduce your carbon footprint. You don't ride because you like "fresh air" or "nature". And you sure as hell don't get dressed up in tights to ride around in circles with a bunch of other pansies on the weekend.

You understand that a bicycle is nothing if not a fashion accessory. You're a McGregor man.

You ride for the girls.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's the environmental impact of this post?

Humans tend to focus on 8-foot gorillas, sometimes ignoring or downplaying smaller threats. It's probably a holdover from our caveman days (if you believe all that Evolution mumbo-jumbo).

When it comes to Earth's inevitable environmental collapse (sorry to be so blunt), the 8-foot gorilla is global warming, our own personal link to which is the much-discussed "carbon footprint".

So, do you walk this Earth with slippers, or do you stomp spotted owls and baby seals with steel-toed size 12's? When thinking about your carbon footprint (assuming you've at least considered it), what comes to mind? Your gas consumption? How hot you keep your house in the winter? How many internet searches you do every day?

Wait a minute... what was that last one?

Our every action consumes energy. And while the individual carbon cost of a Google search, blog post, or porn download (yeah, I'm talking to you) may be miniscule... there is a cost. And as Yakota Fritz over at Cycleicious posits, the barrier to these actions is now so low that we're able to perform them on an increasingly vast scale.

What do you think... can the good that comes from billions of networked minds overcome the toll we're exacting on the earth? Or is this just so much entertainment while we wait for the end of days?