Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cousin Eddie, Part II

So there I was, checking my email like Clark Griswold would be checking his extension chords, wondering why, -OH MY FREAKING GOD WHY won't the lights come on!?? That was my feeling as I was trying to get the pictures from my sister in law Cheri Ernzen for the Christmas Vacation prank/contest we won over Thanksgiving. Somewhere in the ether the pictures were being blocked, firewalled, not getting to thru to me.

Then finally they got delivered to Connie's email address, who sent to me, still blocked!! I went to the Connie's Mac, used my thumb drive and manually moved them from the Mac to the PC . Now in all their dark and twisted rigor, here they are.
Here is Cousin Eddie in his full glory:
Here's my interpretation: Notice the left handed beer, right handed hose, RV, beer, cigar, hat, short robe, black socks....... BINGO.
Original Cousin Eddie:
Separated by birth? Maybe:
All in all, best $103 I ever spent:
$60 for RV Rental, $20 for driving to Cheri's, $20 for driving home, $20 being a great guy.
$29 for the Hat at Bass Pro Shops. (I'll probably take it back)
$14 for the Hose (Don't know what else to do with this...)
Winning the contest? Priceless.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Art of War v. Christmas Vacation

Ol' Sun Tzu was a clever cat, and his Art of War is the pre-eminent work of military strategy and tactics. Translated by a Jesuit priest in the late 1780's, it has inspired Napoleon, Mao Tse Sung, and the planning of Operation Desert Storm. It works on so many levels--war, business, advertising, etc. Basically; Lay Plans. Wage War. Attack Stragegically. Positioning. Proper use of Energy. Illusions and Reality...and most importantly, the best victory is one that is WON WITHOUT FIGHTING.
Here is the Backstory:
Every year at Thanksgiving we kick off the Christmas Season by watching the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and the actor who should have won the Academy Award for all time, Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie. Generally we watch it with Connie's sister Cheri & husband Rick, her brother Greg & wife Kelly, and sometimes with my brother Brady and his wife Katherine. The in-law parents sometimes watch, sometimes fall asleep, and the little cousins drift in and out. Every year someone says "we should have a Christmas Vacation contest".... One year there was a half hearted attempt by Greg or Rick to dress up as Clark Griswold, but it was so lame nobody noticed, accept maybe me, so I started laying my plans for 2008. It was the perfect storm: we were all going to meet in Des Moines for Thanksgiving, and "Operation Eddie" was put in place.

First of all, Craigslist is great for Step 1 in art of war "laying plans" . So I started looking for old piece of crap Winnebagos for sale around the Des Moines Area. There are lots. I sent emails to the sellers basically saying, "Here's an idea I expect you to turn down, and I don't want to buy your RV, but I'd like to rent it for a day." Then I'd lay out what I wanted to do-- Out of the 10 emails I sent between October and November three said they would do it. I ended up working with George Garwood who had an RV parked at his shop about 15 minutes from where Rick & Cheri lived. A very gregarious guy who was ready and waiting when we showed up.

Second, Google Images is great to find the picture of what you want. All I needed to get was a white robe (had one, just needed to hem it to a short-short length), a bomber hat (quick trip to Bass Pro Shops and picked one up), then needed to get a cigar (had some) and the hardest two parts were the can of Meister Brau (don't make it anymore--Old Milwaukee had to do), then the rubber hose from Orschlein's in Bethany Missouri and the costume was complete.
The plan was coming together. We met up with my RV guy George Garwood at the Pilot Truck stop less than 1 mile from the Ernzen's house. Connie, Ryan and Sarah had been 'confused' by this great idea, but as we got into the RV and I changed into my costume, it started dawning on them that this idea, while idiotic, just may be epic. Slow sly smiles came onto their faces when they realized that they may actually have fun with this hare-brained idea instead of just making fun of me. We got in the RV and drove over to Rick & Cheri's and pulled up, and our 8 year old Cousin/Nephew Grant was outside looking at us slightly confused as I got out of the RV in my bathrobe, hat, cigar, beer and long rubber hose that I was sticking into their sewer.

Right then my brother in law Rick pulls up in his car, does a double take and starts shaking his head. My father in-law Jim Dice comes outside and looks at me both very confused and somewhat consternated. Two neighbors of Rick & Cheri come out and say to Rick, HEY, YOUR "S#(^^#!$ Full" . Finally my mother in law Delores, sister in law Cheri, brother in law Greg & wife Kelly came outside to look, all speechless for a while, then laughing. Greg finally said the magic words:

"You Win".

All in all, best $103 I ever spent:
$60 for RV Rental, $20 for driving to Cheri's, $20 for driving home, $20 being a great guy.
$29 for the Hat at Bass Pro Shops. (I'll probably take it back)
$14 for the Hose (Don't know what else to do with this...)
Winning the contest? Priceless.

That's it. Game over. It's done. New Contest.

(Sun Tsu is looking down with a smile.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cranksgiving 2008

You feel the pressure when you can't decide between "Crunchy" or "Smooth" peanut butter and you know it's costing you time. Welcome to Cranksgiving 2008, an alley-cat bike race/scavenger hunt that fills the pantry of local food kitchens.

Alley Cat? Race? Scavenger hunt? What are you talking about.....?

Here's the deal: about 100+ riders showed up, we were given a manifest of things to purchase and a list of 10 different stores we had to ride to to get the goods. There was no map, no directions, and really only one rule; to win you had to have a receipt showing you purchased at least one item from each store. Items were peanut butter, apple sauce, instant mashed potatoes, corn/green beans, corn bread mix, chicken soup, tuna or chicken and breakfast cereal. All of the foodstuffs were then donated to local food kitchens.
Joining me in the race were co-worker Wade Beck, Dennis Markey--a friend of KOC's that I met once by chance on a Sunday morning bike ride (one that KOC slept in on) , and Kevin O'Connor his-own-self--first ride back after biting it at Octaginta. I rode the Varsity Fixie, I brought my old Trek for Wade to ride since it had a rack/panniers (which I would later regret), KOC and Dennis rode their road bikes--which meant they needed to carry their groceries on their back in a backpack. Easy at the start of the race, heavy as the day wears on.
It was a much different crowd that I am used to riding in. Generally riders fit into red state/blue state categories.

-RSRiders favor carbon bikes, 20 speed w/STI shifters, shaved legs, skinny arms, lycra bib shorts and ride Serrotta's, Specialized or Treks.

-BSRiders favor steel, fixed gears, tattoos, piercings, blue jeans, hemp jerseys, tennis shoes and spoke cards.

It was definately a blue state crowd, and I didn't see any of the road racing teams there. For the record, I rode in blue jeans.....over my bib lycra bib shorts. Everyone was awesome.

As we started, two other guys joined our pack; Nathan who lived off 31st & Oak, riding a nice Cannondale that he got from all the money he saved by quitting smoking cigarettes, and Ken, a guy riding a fixed gear who drove in 6 hours from Oklahoma City to ride in the event. The six of us found all the stores save one in Kansas City Kansas, and bought all of our stuff. I was secretly hoping to have the heaviest load and was loading up on the biggest boxes of cereal, or picking up 2 cans of corn, etc....only to get pipped at the end by Wade. I assumed our loads were about equal until I saw him walk out of the last store with a whole gallon jar of Applesauce. RATS!

After about two and a half hours of riding and 25ish miles, we made it to ACME Bicycles for the check in and after party. Needless to say, we didn't win; the parking lot was pretty full and the food for the food pantry was cornicopia-esquesly overflowing. The previous week, I went to the grocery store and had 27 lbs worth of stuff, I think I had over 30lbs easy by the time you counted all the cans, double peanut butters, applesause, etc.

At the end, our favorite sponsor was there in force, and I must say, I was thankful after a full day of alley-catting. Thank you Acme Bicycle Company. Thank you Boulevard Brewery. Thank you fellow riders. I feel very lucky to be able to participate in a fun event that provides such a great service to those who really need our help....AND earn my first every alley-cat spoke card.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thoughts from a gig

“I’m starting to wonder if this may be a really bad idea…” That was my inner dialogue 15 minutes before I was scheduled to go onstage for a solo acoustic gig at Raglan Road Irish Pub in the KC Power and Light District. I’d played before crowds before, and I wasn’t nervous as much as I was dead-dog tired.

I played a gig from 9-10:45 on Monday night during our User’s Conference so our attendees would have something to do. It was unofficial, and definitely opt-in, we didn’t force anyone to come. For me the conference started at 10am Sunday morning til almost 11pm, then Monday 7am to 8:45pm almost non stop…and here I was walking thru the bar talking to our customers who had come out to hear me play.

I went into the bathroom to change out of my long sleeve shirt to just wearing my black TouchNet Get Fit shirt, and almost did the Roy Scheider “IT’s SHOWTIME!” scene from the movie All the Jazz” .

However once I got on stage and hammered the first “”DA-DA,shicka-schicka-shick DA DA DA strums of “Love the Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbit, I was off to the races. Guitar was full and rich, my vocals were strong thru the monitor at my feet, and I figured it didn’t matter if I was any good or not, it had started and I had to finish it.

In the crowd were almost 200 people from our conference. They came out of curiosity, boredom, duty, and maybe a bit of pity, but I really didn’t care their reason. We were all in this together so I had to lead them home to the promise land. Here we are now, entertain us!

After Rainy Night—went right into Jonathon Anderson’s Sunshine, with the favorite lyrics of any salesperson “How Much Does it Cost—I’ll buy it”. From there went PG13+ by playing “Stay with Me by the Faces/Rod Stewart. Then Ham & Egged it for a while playing Maggie Mae, Night Moves, Amie—classic 70’s AM rock staples to good reviews. Then put on the capo and played Sweet Caroline and then dedicated Brown Eyed Girl to our pals from Brown University, which always get everyone involved.

Then transmorgrified to skinny Elvis, playing Blue Suede Shoes, That’s Allright Mama, gaining weight along the way til I got to Suspicious Minds. After Elvis left the building, went into left field and played Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Friends in Low Places and Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. By this time I had some dancers….which is what every performer hopes for. They were a very good natured happily married couple that I believe would dance to a ringtone if it was played loud enough. I finished the first set with Cover of the Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. There are probably some other songs in there, but I have blanked them out of my memory.

During the break, the first crop of people slunk out, but after a full day of learning plus a heavy meal with a few stout beers, I would have joined them, but I had Set #2 to play. Then a few late stragglers who had maybe been to other pubs came in to join the party.
After making a lap of the place I rejoined the stage to a crowd that was both smaller, but definitely rowdier. Those who stayed REALLY wanted to be there. Heck, I could have put my phone up to the mic and played my own ringtones and they’d applaud.

2nd Set started with Johnny Cash’s Fulsom Prison Blues, which gets the crowd somewhat active. From there went into the white-bread country classic of The Gambler, then turning somewhat outlaw country playing Greatest Country Song Ever Written/You Never Call Me By My Name, then Redneck Mother. When those 2 songs get played, you know who went to college in the 70’s or early 80’s. They sing along with gusto. Muchito gustito. Of course, they haven’t heard those songs for 25+ years so it brings it all back to the first time they heard it played and sung along at a college party or college bar and were able to out for biscuits and gravy after the bars closed and sleep til noon the next day. Mozart is tranquil and is like a fine wine. David Allen Coe whips people into a distemper like a few (too many) tequila shots.

Then I went softer, playing Margaritaville, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and then turned GEN-X and played Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, then Every Rose has it’s Thorn to decent reaction. Throwing in a little Brett Michaels perks people up due to his reality TV show.

Finally got some real crowd participation by playing Summer Lovin and You’re the one that I want from Grease. Heather Fenton bounded up on stage to lead a bunch of Pink Ladies in the girl parts. About 7 other women came up and sang in tune. No other guy/T-Birds came up, Knickie didn’t have Danny’s back that night, but that was what every performer wants—participation.

By this time of the set, I was ready to wrap it up, so I threw in a favorite that people don’t expect, Honky Tonk Women by the Stones. It always goes well. Then for the finale, and you shouldn’t have to ask, is American Pie by Don McLean. That dang song has like 17 verses, and I always get lost, so I improvise and combine verses. Frankly, ain’t nobody really paying attention, except Dean Vermeire who laughed out loud when I had the last slow verse saying “And the lovers loved, and the poets died…..not a word was spoken, the churches were all broken…” American Pie is the best finale song, but turns out was the penultimate song. Mostly people are really glad I’m finished so they can go home, but the remaining crowd was pretty rowdy and I got a log of shouts and yells and ovation to play “Freebird”. It was a joke by some of the people in the crowd, but to quote a Lynnyrd Skynnrd type person, I done-played it. I cut the verses short and finished to another ovation, this time secretly everyone in the bar wanted me to stop.

All in all a great show, but I had sort of an out-of-body experience several times. I would be playing a song and seeing the people in the crowd and my mind would wander to thoughts of I wonder what they ate for dinner, and wow, there are the guys from Notre Dame and I wonder how many song’s I still have to play.

The next day, people commented on how much they enjoyed the show, and in reality, it will improve with age and elapsed time. They won’t remember the gaffes, the misquoted lyrics, the out of tune guitar or the raggedyness of my voice. Like a classic WHO or Stones concert, some of these things are better in memory or even BEST if you didn’t see it in person, just heard about it.

When it was over, I was tired, but it was a good kind of tired.

Johnny Murphini has left the building.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

virtually just shy of Pittsburgh

This year I've been keeping a bike-log on my Treo650, on a program called called Dataviz Sheet to Go. Basically excel for a hand-held. Since this is my blogs, the spreadsheet was the first real practical application I used on a computer back in the visicalc days. Sure I could type & edit on text word processors, but the automatic cypherin, when one number changed all numbers---too cool. Especially when somewhere deep in your brain a faulty anode really likes to track can be a problem. Oh yeah, now I really like crossword puzzles. And I shave my ears. But I digress

As I was saying, I just updated the October ride log when I looked at the total for the year so far:

Total Miles: 2,308
Total Rides: 128
Total Hours: 150.3
Commutes: 32.5* (I had to throw the bike in a pals truck to make it home one time)
Biggest Month: January 2008-295 Miles
Shortest Month: June 2008 with 111 Miles.
Tarmac #'s: 31 rides for 985 Miles
Fixie #'s: 51 rides for 542 Miles
Trek #'s: 17 rides for 311 Miles
I am 617 miles ahead of where I was last year
Other rides include 2 on my MTB, 1 on vacation, various at Spin classes, hotels, etc.

I ride the Tarmac less, but when I ride it, I go much longer
I ride the fixed gear varsity more, but the rides are much shorter.
I'm way ahead of last year, but still could ride a lot more.
I still weigh the's all about what I put in my mouth and peanut butter is my vice. And my dark master.....Saison Brett

I have been keeping track on the map on the wall in my office, starting from Los Angeles and traveling east along Interstate 70, I'm about 370 miles short of New York City. And I'm gonna make it. The goal was 200 miles per month and 2 commutes per month. I'm almost at 60 miles per week average and 3 commutes per month. As a traveling guy, that equates to almost 23% of the days I am available in my office.

This has been a pretty good year riding for me and I hope to put in more winter miles. Am curious to know if anyone else logs miles, and how far are you across the country, or have you already been there and back? Inquiring minds want to know.

And Brady---do as Eddy Mercxx says: ride lots.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cyclocross 102: SingleSpeed Cyclocross

As my pal Dean Vermeire says, “When your only tool is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” My faulty logic was:
-I have a singlespeed bike
-I like riding it
-I’ve raced in one Cyclocross race on a Mountian bike:
THEREFORE I’m ready to race my 29 pound 1976 Schwinn Varsity as a SingleSpeed in the Boulevard Cup Cyclocross race.

That same faulty logic is what got (nee: Caleb) Major Major Major promoted to the Rank of Major in Catch-22.

First; why single speed bike? Let me count the reasons:
1. Simplicity—nothing to go wrong, nothing to break, nothing to shift.
2. Counter-intuitiveness: In cross, you have to run up hills often where gears don’t really help. Single Speed evens out those parts of the course.
3. Ego—sure it’s a part of the ethos: “You think the course was hard? HAH! I did it on a bike with only 1 gear!”
4. Stupidity—See # 3
5. Adventure-See #’s 1-3
6. See #4

Lessons learned:
Gears are good, but not where you think;
-On the sharp up-hills, I didn’t really miss the lowest gears, you just stand up and grunt through them. It helps being in a taller gear because you keep the momentum
-I really missed them on the long gradual up-hills, you really lost time when people could downshift and leave like you are standing still
-In the heavy grass—think of riding over Velcro
-Especially in the flats, where the geared guys could get in a bigger gear and out gun you.

The Bike:
I bought the Varsity in Oct 2007 for $40, turned it into a fixed gear/single speed by purchasing new 700c wheels, chopped and flopped the handlebars, and got ride of all the gears, shifters, derailleurs, detritus. It went from 42 pounds to 29 pounds.

Then I added fenders, rear rack and the best of all accessories, the bell to use as my commuter. Then I purchased from Harris Cyclery (RIP Sheldon Brown, you are missed) a new one piece crank that had 9/16th pedal sockets to put modern pedals on the bike. So far I’ve ridden it 51 times this year, 32 of those for commutes to work.

To turn it into a cyclocross bike, I changed the tires, changed the rear singlespeed sprocket from 16 to 18 teeth, had an old schwinn shop remove the kickstand with a tool that looked like a garlic press, and installed a new 36 tooth front ring to give me the elusive 2:1 ratio. It feels very solid, and yes-heavy.

The Race:
I started at the back of the pack around the guys riding bikes straight off the island of misfit toys (Or more accurately, misfit guys.) Several eyed my rig with incredulity, see # 3, but others eyed it with wisdom, see #4. We got out of the chute pretty fast on a flat, then a hard downhill left turn. My Varsity shone there—the combination of my weight (92Kilos) + it’s weight 29# and I was gliding along while all the skinny guys pumping away hard. I kept with them during the first set of chicanes and s-Turns.

Then we had the first long uphill, probably 200 meters of a false flat that turned into a sharp incline. About 100m into the area I understood the practicum of having no gears, after the theory of it wouldn’t be a big deal. It was a big deal, and it sucked. Only a quarter of the way into the first of 5 laps and the experiment turned into an ordeal. Maybe not epic, certainly not heroic, but now unavoidable. Crap. It was like the old song RPW loved, “I’m a rock and roll man fall in love with a disco girl”

The Issues:
When I would come up to a hill or muddy spot, and needed more uumph, I would stand up to mash the pedals, which put my weight more forward, which caused the rear wheel to have less traction, which led to my tire slipping/spinning out and me loosing momentum.

The Seatpost:
In the middle of the second lap, I was hammering on the pedals when my seatpost bent sharply back, causing my seat to no longer be level, but pointing up towards the sky like a bird dog sniffing the breeze. The picture shows the angle, but after the race I adjusted the seat to be relatively level so I could ride it to the beer tent.)The effect of not having a seat meant I had to crouch/stand the for the rest of the race, which led to traction problems. The few times I did try to sit down, I had to hang on for dear life like I was riding a bucking horse. Sometimes I looked like a bmx kid preparing for an ollie or whatever it is they do between bong hits.

The Reward:
My first ever blog post started with the immortal words of “he said there would be beer”. This proved to be prophetically true. As the picture of the SKC's JB shows the race was called the Boulevard Cup, they poured complimentary and unlimited glasses of Pale Ale, Wheat, and as I came to find out by some cunning, a hidden keg of Boulevard Saison from their SmokeStack Series. It was choice. Great folks from Boulevard.

Prosser and Hendry also raced. Prosser raced the real SingleSpeed Division, Hendry in the Cat 3-4 geared. It was fun to watch Prosser suffer much more than I did on his single speed for many of the same reasons I discussed, with one small difference. While my racing style approaches the edge of pain and engages it in a sissy-slapfight, he dives in with both hands, and knees/headbutts and eye gouges it to the bitter end.

The Results:
I came in 46th out of 52, so I beat 6 guys on geared bikes. See #3. And I lost to 45 guys on geared bikes, See #4.
I also came out with tremendous respect for the guys who really race single speeds competitively. As they say, it ain’t braggin’ if you done it, but the guys that are truly single speed studs don’t brag.

Ultimately that is what is so fun about cyclocross, everyone is out for a good time, races are competitive by being in the right class, the crowds are appreciative, and the after race camaraderie is fantastic.

What’s next:
Maybe, just maybe my next race will be on an honest to God, geared Cyclocross bike. And if I still finish with 85% of the racers beating me, I’ll know Lance Armstrong’s first book title is correct: It’s not about the bike.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Persephone & Hades... Crusin' in the Murphini on the River Styx?

Alas, I know what Ceres felt like when Persephone was taken away from her. Remember the story in greek mythology about the hot chick Persephone (Pronounced "Per-soff-ah-nee" sez Danielle's pal Katie Devan) gets kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld? Her mom Ceres wigs out so everything dies until she comes back in the spring.

Well, that's me (Ceres, that is). This weekend Connie and I took the Murphini2 out of water, the whole family cleaned her up, and prepared her for her winter slumber. I'm taking her to Innerspace Storage (the caves) tomorrow, where she will sit in hibernation until Persephone comes back from the netherworld in the spring. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

But like Mardi Gras before Lent, it is fine form to send something off in style. Tonight we had the last "cruise" of the season, a driveway/street cruise with Connie & I, Kevin and Danielle Shank, and their guest of honor Ms. Katie Devan. Yes, that is us, sitting in the boat, parked the street at 8:32PM on a Sunday night, it's dark outside, 52 degrees, and we're having a BEvERage. It's fun doing the parade wave to every car/minivan that slowly drives by, looking at us sitting in the boat, at night, on the get the picture. Katie seemed most curious of all, and wondered if we'd really do this; so thanks for makin' in happen, kid.

Year 1 on the Murphini was eventful:
-We took 31 cruises
-Ran the engine 63.9 hours
-Had 84 different guests
-Trailered it to Okoboji
-Trailered to Tablerock
-Learned how to wakesurf.

Highlights? There were many:
-Wakebording with Ryan and his Pals
-Okoboji Madness with Becky Eiting carving S turns at 7am on the glassy water
-Delores cradling and cuddling the heating duct like it was here newest grandbaby during our night cruise
-Sarah's 14th Birthday Party with 9 of her friends
-Kevin Shank's only day off all Summer
-Trip to Tablerock with the Rodriguez's
-TouchNet Sales team day on the boat

Another highlight? Sometimes I do and I give and I give and I do things for others because I've got a big ole heart like a grapefruit, and it's hard for me to say no. This is one of those times.
Danielle's daughter Madison is the Senior Co-Captain of the Blue Valley Northwest Cheerleading Squad. Tradition has it that the squad has a promotional photo taken on some unique vehicle for a poster to be distributed to boosters, local business and parents. Somehow the idea came up that a picture on a boat would be nice. Darn the luck in that we just so happen to have a boat that holds 16 people.

The day it died at TableRock, but even that has a great story/ending. The boat was under warranty, turned out it was a loose ground cable, and the President of Tige Boats wrote me a check for the day we had to rent a boat since our was literally dead in the water.

All winter, I'll be thinking of Hades taking his hottie Persephone out for rides on the STYX on my boat. By the way, Persephone actually fell in love with Hades and her mom doesn't know....and I bet she digs the time away from all the hustle and bustle of our world, so she can hang on the Murphini with her forbidden love. I can see them now, dodging the Charons and the lost souls, cranking the toons and having a blast.

I can't wait for Spring.

Cap'n Johnny

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Runnin' down a dream--and some poor kid from Rockhurst ...

I pity the kid, a sophomore at Rockhurst, running in the JV Cross Country race on Saturday Oct 11th in Kearney, MO, home of Jesse James. And just like Jesse James, he was taken down, from behind, unaware until it was too late. The killer/stalker/victor? None other than our own Sarah Kathryn Murphy.

In the JV Race, the girls and the boys run at the same time, and trust me, the boy's don't want to be beat by girls. Sarah did great: not only did she come in 15th place for the girls, she beat a bunch of boys, including 4 from Rockhurst; a Sophomore, two Juniors and a Senior.

This is a picture of the finish area--with about 50 meters to go, Sarah was a few strides behind this kid--probably an nice guy out running because he wants to stay in shape, to be on the team with his friends. He had no idea he was being stalked.

Sarah hit the afterburners and caught him in a few strides, he looked over, panicked, ran faster, which made Sarah run harder inside his left shoulder all the way to the end, where she had to jut to the left to go into the girls chute and he to the boys chute. She clipped him at the end, and was I proud. He was not sure what hit him, or blew past him.

Sports make girls/women strong. Strong in heart, body and mind. Nothing was going to keep Sarah from mowing down people infront of her in the last 50 meters--she's done it in every race. This will be a great metaphor for her life--run her pace, then run even faster, doing something that she wants, and enjoying the result. She is gracious in victory, but ruthless in it's pursuit.

Happy Place?
Believe it or now, Kearney, Missouri is one of my happy places, joining the Plaza, Okoboji, Lidia's and the 4th Street elevator in Dubuque, Iowa. Not only did Sarah have a breakthrough race, Ryan also had his best ever race on this same course his Sophomore year. He was running in a group of 4 other kids all race, then I lost sight of them in the woods, and coming around a corner out the woods he was all alone. He powered up the hill where I was watching like a motorcross rider down-shifting to surge up the hill. Now I've seen Sarah excel at the same place.

Sarah and Ryan will both go places in their lives because I've seen them learn firsthand that they can overcome pain and reach beyond what they thought they could do. It's the lesson that every parent wants for their children to learn on their own. I am one proud papa.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Busted: Ride Recap: Oct 8th 2008

I was wondering why all the cars were stopping on both sides of the road for the police siren that was loudly behind me. Being the dutiful bike rider, I too stopped. The cop went past me and stopped on the road ahead of a car that stopped...the one I thought he was pulling over, so I started again, when the siren went off. Again. Busted. He pointed at ME.

It was really Prosser & Dutcher's fault for turning right at the 4 way stop from southbound Woodland to westbound College without really/truly stopping. It was maybe my fault for jumping in behind them. And it was definately Wade's fault for jumping in behind me, riding on his titanium cyclocross bike with carbon 4 blade spoke wheels. He and his rig is what got us busted.

The officer was pretty direct at first saying that while we had rights to use the road, but we had to follow the SAME rules that cars have to follow. We normally do, this was sort of a "St. Louis rolling stop" or the old "no cop/no stop".

He took our names and birthdates to make sure there were no warrants out for our arrest. Wade tried to confuse him by not really saying if Wade was his first or last name, but we ultimately escaped with a warning. We almost got BT to come up and act as our attorney, but didn't want to keep pay his retainer. Truth be told, the cop was a good guy, and was correct. He let us off with a warning. (Somehow Prosser's rap sheet was wiped clean....). BT, Mark, Austin & Rapp just huddled back about 20 yards giggling at Prosser, Dutcher, Wade and myself. Properly chagrined, we restarted the ride.

Rest of the ride was scattered. After the cop/stop, we broke into a few groups;

Dutcher and I hammered Valley Parkway, then Wade, Mark, BT and Prosser rode together, Austin & Rapp/BamBam were behind--didn't realize Rapp was held back by the cop until all the traffic cleared.

As the other guys were already far ahead, I rode in with Rapp & Austin back way on 95th/Prairie Star then DOWN the 8% grade Woodland. Rapp hit new alltime speed on his bike--38.9mph. I hit 42.7mp. They then took the MillCreek trail back to the cars, I rode north on Woodland to Martindale to meet up with the other guys.

Once I metup with Prosser and Dutcher, we rode south again and went back UP the 8% grade on Woodland, and I won King of the Mountian. "Won" isn't really the right was uncontested. I arrived ahead of them because they didn't try to beat me. So what if Prosser had ridden all weekend in Moab Utah, and Dutcher had led for the last hour of hard riding, and I had ridden 10 miles less, most of it at below lactate threshold....a win is a win, even when it isn't.

Afterwards, KOC met us in the parking lot on his way home from Omaha. His weekend wounds are healing nicely and he was recovered enough to join us at Johnny's for some post ride replenishments.

I learned a few things:
-Two wrongs don't make a right, but turning right on a road can be wrong
-Like in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it's always good to travel with your attorney
-Any King of the Mountian Points are good, even when they are uncontested
-BT has a new POSLQ
-I like the carbohydrate replenishment.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm simply eccentric, not crazy....

I flew Shamu. Again. To be more specific, yesterday I flew one of the two Shamu’s in Southwest Airlines’ fleet, and yes, I have ridden on both, multiple times.

On September 30th, 2008 I flew on Southwest tail number N713SW from Kansas City (MCI) to Chicago (MDW) to Philadelphia (PHL). I have also been a passenger on that plane on March 1st, 1999 from Chicago to Las Vegas, and on November 5th, 2007 from Indianapolis to Kansas City. So I first rode this plane 9 years ago? When Bill Clinton was President? Wow.

The other Shamu is Tail number N715SW, and I’ve flown on it 3 times; December 10th, 1998 from Los Angeles to Kansas City, March 29th, 2002 from Kansas City to San Jose, and on June 12th, 2007 from Kansas City to Chicago.

And yes, I do have a point in here somewhere.

The point is that life as a business traveler ain’t very glamorous, so sometimes flying on a plane painted as a Killer Whale is the best thing that happens on the road.

In 1998, I read somewhere that there are people who have the hobby of “Plane Spotting”. Like bird-watching or roller coaster riding, they want to see or “spot” every plane owned by an airline. Some camp out near maintenance bases, some scour the timetables, some need to get a life.

I thought it would be interesting to record the plane tail number of each Southwest Airline plane I flew on. I had no idea that this quirk in the ole logic circuit would give me something to look forward to on my job of traveling around the country.

So far, I’ve ridden on 285 separate airplanes operated by Southwest Airlines since July 10th, 1998. This does not count all the plane rides I took from 1990 to 1998 for my job.

Of the 285 planes, I have ridden on 102 of them more than one time. Each Shamu’s I’ve ridden three times each. Some, like N744sw, I’ve ridden on 5 times from March of 1999 to January 2006. Lots of 4’s and 3 peats. For example, here is N683WN, I've ridden her twice: August 12th, 2000 to Las Vegas, and on January 25th, 2008 home from Indianapolis. They have 520 planes, so I’m halfway there.

As of today, (writing this on SW403 PHL-MCI 29,000 feet over south central Iowa) I’ve ridden 416 different legs on Southwest Airlines. I define a “leg” as a trip on a single airplane, whether it is from one city to next, or like today when the plane departs from Philadelphia, lands in Chicago, picks up passengers and departs again for Kansas City.

To put that in perspective: let’s assume each “leg” is an hour and a half. So doing some quick math: approx 400 legs x 90 minutes per leg, minutes is 36,000 minutes, or 600 hours in the air. 600 hours divided by 24 hours in a day is 25 days in the air.

Or, let’s assume that the average speed is 500mph, taking into account takeoff’s and landings, headwinds, etc. 500mph x 600hours= 300,000 Miles. The circumference of the earth is approximately 25,000 miles, so I’ve been around the world 12 times. Or to the Moon, and part of the way back....

Finally, Southwest is known for cheap fares. If I assume that every round trip is $400, or $100 each leg. (Example: Kansas City to Philadelphia connects thru Chicago), I’ve paid $400,000 to Southwest over the years. Or last 10 years, $40,000 per year, $3,333 per month, or about $109 per day. As brother Steel-Cut says, “That’s a lot of burritos.”

And that’s only on Southwest….it doesn’t count my flights on Continental, Delta, Northwest (Northworst), Midwest Express, United, American, ComAir, AirTran, JetBlue, Frontier, USAir, AmericaWest, Delta Connection, or TWA, Eastern, ValuJet, ExpressJet, Braniff, Ozark, Midway.

In all the legs I’ve flown on Southwest, I’ve never had a bad experience with any of their employees. That is why I keep coming back.

I’m not “Rainman”, I just needed a hobby to stave off the crushing suckiness of having to hop on another plane. I’m very lucky that I love the outcome of the travel, and now have a little “something-something” to keep my mind occupied as I walk down the jetway for yet another trip.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cyclocross 101

He said there would be beer. All the deliciously cold beer I could responsibly drink. He bragged that Boulevard Beer was a sponsor. They loved bicyclists and would be there imploring us to replenish our carbohydrates with their craft brewed product. Wheat. Pale Ale. Bob's 47. Dry Stout. I signed up for this (dang) cyclocross race. What is cyclocross? Read Justin Bose's verbose post. All I know is I spent money to upgrade my bike, went to the gym (a few times), started running again, rode harder in the weeks before the race all because BPZ (Brian Prosser-Zoolander) promised free beer.

I was thinking about which beer would slake my dry throat as I started up the hill at the beginning of the 3rd lap of my first cyclocross race on Sunday, Sept. 28th, Cat4 Beginner division, riding the wrong bike, kitted out as RacerX. Even though I had drank plenty of water before the race, I was parched, it was sunny and hot, and in the blur of tents/shelters, I wondered why I hadn't seen the beer tent? Because there "done-weren't" no stinkin' beer tents. The city of Lenexa Kansas does not let alcohol into the park. I felt like Charlie Brown after seeing the rocks in my halloween sack and/or Jeff Spiccoli after Mr. Hand tore up his class schedule.

But I digress. The race. Yes, this is about the pain, suffering, vainglory and testosterone that is cyclocross racing. No bones about it, it was fun...and all those adjetives above.

My first problem turned out to be very good fortutious turn of events for me. I had planned to race my 32 year old, 29 pound Schwinn Varsity converted to a Single Speed for the race. My one speed gearing was a bit tall for the course, I knew I could make it around the course, but would be difficult. I rode the course a few times thinking the steep off camber hills would be tricky, I could get up them fresh, but it would be a long day. Luckily while stretching in the parking lot, a guy saw my kickstand on the Varsity and mentioned that they wouldn't let me ride with a kickstand--too dangerous; might impale someone. Luckily, I have brought my old mountian bike and was able to switch pedals and line up with another iconic, old, heavy, lime green mid 1990's Trek 8000 with a very squishy front fork.

It's fair to say there was at least one worst bike in the race; some guy was riding a WalMart Schwinn Moab. Besides that, it was bike-a-copia all around. Very sleek Kona's, Specialized, VanDussel's, Treks, Moot's, Surly's.... Single Speeds. 1x9's, all very sleek and hot. All these bikes looked like the kinds of horses you see in Barrell Races or chasing down 'dogies' through the sagebrush in the prairie. Fast. No bling. Cool. No nonsense. They were stud-bikes, and I was riding the runt of the Clydesdale litter with bum knees, not strong enough to pull a plow, not fast enough to pull the coach to church, and a serious momentum robbing lurch up/down from the front shock every time I hammered on the pedals.

There were 60 Cat 4 Beginners in the race, and about 20 Single Speeders. Cat 4 Beginners are suppose to be like me, old, not really ready for the race, somewhat in shape but not the skinny, sleek, strong, sandbaggers that I saw all around me.

In the group was Prosser /Zoolander-my co-worker pictured on the left

the left who goaded me into this along with other bad/good ideas, and on the right Bill Hendry, codenamed Quadzilla, ex-Marine who could ride his mountian bike into Afghanistan/Pakistan, find Osama Bin-Laden and bring him back slung over his shoulder. Really. Semper fi, dude. Prosser poses, looks back and drops you. Hendry has of Jefferson(Forrest Whittaker) in the football game vs. Lincoln after they wreck his car in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Prosser and Hendry were up front in the starting box, I made sure I was near the back of the pack at the start. They started the singlespeeder's 1 minute behind us. I didn't see them until the race was over, relaxing with Brian's wife Stacie & kids, looking like they'd been finished for a while. Results? Hendry came in 5th, Prosser came in 10th. I came in 41st out of 60.

First lap was interesting, after letting the rabbits go ahead, I was in a group of about 4 guys, all of them my age-ish and my weight, but all with sleek bikes. I found that shifting around corners was good and on the first sharp steep hill I went to a really low gear and almost popped a wheelie going up. On the up sharp right of the 3rd camber/hill, 2 guys crashed and I went around them on the inside. Cool, just passed 2 guys. I won't come in last place.

Then in the chicane area, heard a guy yell INSIDE, and blew past me. The first singlespeeder. He was fast, then about 4 more. I kept the next guy in my sight for most of the first lap until we came to the sharp uphill/dismount, carry over the barriers. I had just done my first dismount during the practice lap, and made a good one, and passed my rival running up the hill. 3 down. I found I could jump back on and get in pedals pretty well.

2/3's way into the lap, we had to go down a steep hill, around a double sand volleyball court, then run diagonally across it. I passed a guy in there, found my bike would cradle up on my shoulder pretty well, much lighter than the Varsity. Then I passed another guy up the steep hill back. First lap and I hadn't died. I was holding my own against the the limp, lame and over-confident.

Rest of the way pretty much the same way, I did feel good in that I passed 4 other guys, then caught 2 of the single speed guys and passed them on the last lap. Note to self, gears are good. It was nice hearing cheers (jeers?) from the crowd...well Stacie & Justin Bose anyway who sort of noticed I was all by myself on the course and chortled something. Stacie has almost made up for giving the bogus report that she saw e wearing a "Journey" concert T-Shirt. Almost, but not quite. (It wasn't a Winger T-Shirt was from the Barefoot Bar...)

Then the bell lap was here, I finished and it was good to be done. Time was 38:49 for the race. I had my watch on and did splits for each lap, and was pleased to find that each lap was faster (by 3-4 seconds) than the prior lap. I told this to Prosser, and he commented that it was obvious that I didn't go out hard enough.

Now, 6 hours later, I feel the good heavy molassas/latcic acid in my legs. I'm moving sort of slowly, and feeling pretty good about the race. Will I do it again? Maybe. Possibly. Probably. The bikes are too cool, the courses are too fun, and next time, really-no kidding--not joshing you this time, there will be beer.