Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oh yeah! Well, your butt's ugly...

Before we head out to Alaska, I wanted to share one more cycling story, even though it may jeopardize this web log's status as a non training log blog. I was doing the ride yesterday that I like to call the Seven Lakes of Seattle, in which I ride around Lake Washington and Samammish Lake. I was heading west on 34th street towards Stone Way in Fremont, when -- you guessed it -- all of a sudden someone in a passing car yelled at me through an open window. Now, this has happened to me dozens of times over the years. Some people think it's hilarious to yell or throw things at cyclists. My reaction varies from doing nothing to calmly flipping someone off to cursing like a tattooed housewife. In this case, because I had been pulled out of a reverie while listening to a "This American Life" podcast, I shouted FUCK YOU!

So what's special about this incident? Well, let me tell you. The light turned red at the busy intersection of 34th and Stone. Over the years, I've fantasized about this happening, especially when people throw things at me or buzz me for no reason. In my fantasy, I get off my bike, pull the unsuspecting hilljack out of the open window, and punch him out. As I rolled up to this car, I wondered what to do. I was mad but not furious. In most cases like this, I calm myself down quickly -- too quickly -- and responsibly avoid confrontation, which can easily be interpreted as cowardice. That was in the back of my mind. Still, I knew I had to do something. So I pulled up to the car and looked inside. The women driving the car was a big ugly mess wearing a muumuu, and I didn't know whether she was the kid's mother or girlfriend or whore. The kid in the passenger seat looked like he was between the age of 17 and 30. I measured him up quickly. He was smaller than me, and right or wrong, I'm not afraid of anyone who's smaller than me.

"Hey, what's your prob-" I started to say, apparently deciding on the lecture route.

"FUCK YOU FUCKING FUCKFACE!," the kid shouted.

The mother/wife/whore apparently feared for her son/husband/John, and decided to take a sudden right turn at the red light. I told the kid using my angry voice that he was a fucking coward, but that wasn't good enough. Now was my chance to finally do something. So here's what I did. As the car pulled forward, I spat into the open back window. I don't know quite what to think of this. On one hand, it's childish and disgusting and maybe a little bit cowardly, but there's a different part of me that thinks this was exactly the right thing to do, and that even someone like Jesus would have spat in that situation. Gandhi probably would have just popped the kid outright since he was the quiet type. When the kid saw me spit, he twisted around furiously, shouted various fuck words, and acted like he wanted to get out of the car. The woman sped off.

In this description, I'm making it sound like I was calm, introspective, and maybe even bemused, but that's not the case. I was in a snit. Twitterpated. As I was trying to simmer down, I looked around and noticed I had an audience. There were about a dozen joggers and cyclists waiting for the light to turn green. They were all staring at me. Also staring at me were the passengers in one of those Duck Tour boats that float and drive around Seattle. The tour guide was saying something about the incident, but I couldn't tell what he was saying because Ira Glass was still talking in my ear buds. A few people in the tour boat were clapping for whatever reason. Maybe their applause was related to me or maybe it wasn't, but they were definitely staring at me. After what seemed like about ten minutes of waiting, the light finally, mercifully, turned green.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Of the many ways in which I'm training for Leadville, going on an Alaska cruise the week before the race ranks right up there with loosely limiting myself to one dessert a day and riding my ebike to work. Don't be fooled by my unconventional training methods. I've been thinking about Leadville a lot. Sometimes, I'll study a map of the Leadville course while stuffing down a jelly donut. It may seem odd, but I take comfort in the fact that my contradictory behavior falls within the range of normal human experience. What's really odd is that I'm nearly overlooking a pleasure cruise to Alaska while anticipating my day in Colorado when I'm going to feel pain. A lot of pain.

But, as the great philosopher Stephen R. Covey said, let's put first things first. My parents want to celebrate their 50th anniversary by going on a cruise to Alaska with all their progeny - 5 children and 9 grandchildren. Here's what I'm looking forward to:

Family - My parents and siblings all live in Southern California, so I get to see most of my family only a few times a year. Our family is odd in that we all get along with each other and like each other. I don't know of a single serious dispute any of us have had with each other as adults. My older brother did some awful things to me when we were kids, but now that we're all grown up, we get along.

Food - I have never been on a cruise before, but I hear that you can walk around any time of day or night, plop yourself down in a restaurant, and order food. There are even a few nicer restaurants that serve fancy food. Then again, how fancy can cruise food be?

Celebrating the Diversity of the Inuit Culture - I'm hoping to see totem poles and a lumberjack competition.

Nature - I'm not sure a cruise is the best way to celebrate nature. It's kind of like appreciating the Mona Lisa by looking at a postcard. Still, I hear there are gorgeous mountains and glaciers and whales and bald eagles and that kind of thing. Maybe we can get out on a couple of treks.

Relaxing - I hope we can drop the boys off at Kid's Korner and read and eat and drink and get in some quality hanging out time.

Whitepass Mountain - One excursion lets you ride a train from sea level up to the top of a mountain at 4,000 feet and then ride bikes down the mountain. So I'm going to skip the train part and ride a rental bike up to the top of the mountain and, hopefully, back down. It's kind of like training.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Leadville: What's at Stake?

I promised earlier that this wouldn't turn into a training blog, but dammit, the Leadville 100 is less than three weeks away and I'm so excited I could tinkle. One of my favorite things about Leadville is the setup. Prizes are awarded for various categories and age groups, and most middling riders like me have no chance of winning any of them against hundreds of other riders. But here's what I like -- the belt buckles. Everyone who finishes in under 9 hours wins a gold belt buckle. Everyone who finishes in under 12 hours wins a silver belt buckle and a sweatshirt. Everyone who finishes in under 13 hours gets their time recorded. Anyone over 13 hours gets yanked off the course. Who cares if the sweatshirt will go in my "Clothes That I Never Wear" drawer? I still want it. And I want the silver belt buckle so that it can go in a random box in the garage -- unless I do the same thing with the belt buckle that I've been doing with the One Day STP patch, which is to place it in an annoying place until Wendy complains, and then move it to a different annoying place. Right now it's hanging from the lamp on her night stand.

A bunch of my riding buddies are doing the race. Here's what each person is riding for:

Elden - The Fat Cyclist has tried 11 times to break 9 hours, and the closest he's come to winning the coveted gold buckle is 9:13. This year, he hired a personal trainer, and despite the fact that his wife's cancer metastasized, he's whipped himself into the best shape of his life. Susan is a driving force behind his training, and Elden wants to break 9 hours for her. If it takes him longer than 9 hours to complete the race, I have it on good authority that Susan will divorce him. Elden is riding for his marriage.

Prediction: 9 hours, 2 minutes, but Susan will forgive him.

Dug - Dour Dug will try to complete Leadville on a single-speed bike for the first time, which reminds me of a conversation Dug and I had with some guy the day after the race in 1999, when we were looking at the times posted on a big board:

Dude: Brass balls. [Sniff]

Dug: Excuse me?

Dude: It takes brass balls to finish Leadville on a single-speed. And I finished 87th overall. On a single-speed. [Sniff]

Dug and I: [Silence]

Dude: Brass balls. [Sniff]

I think it would be a great accomplishment for Dug to just finish the race in under 12 hours on a single-speed, but he thinks he can finish in under 10 hours. That's crazy talk. I'd be surprised if Dug beats me at Leadville this year, and I won't finish under 11 hours.

Prediction: DNF

Kenny - Kenny will also be riding a single-speed, but he's in a whole different level than Dug. Kenny actually has a good chance of winning the Men's Single Speed category. Despite his most recent accident, he'll most likely break 9 hours. On a single speed. [Sniff]

Prediction: 8:52; Third in Men's Single Speed

Brad - Brad and Kenny race single-speeds together, so in theory they should finish in around the same time. Brad beat Kenny in a race earlier this year, but Kenny's a little better at long distances, and Brad's coming off a mysterious knee injury, not to mention a long trip to Costa Rica. Still, I'm taking Brad in an upset.

Prediction: 8:52; Second in Men's Single Speed

Floyd - I really think Floyd has a good chance of beating Dave Wiens, who's won the race the last several years. Floyd looked a little chunky to me when we last rode together, but he's still young and strong. If Floyd can manage to keep his testosterone levels high, I think he's got a fighting chance.

Prediction: 7:22; Second overall

Chucky - Racer's kid brother finished 4th overall a couple years ago. I don't think he's in top form right so, so I think a Top 10 finish is the best he can do.

Prediction: 7:55; Tenth overall

Lance - Lance isn't really one of my biking buddies. In fact, I've never even met him, if you can believe that. But I have rooted for him and against him in the Tour de France, so I feel like I know him. There is a rumor that he will ride Leadville this year.

Prediction: DNS

Ricky - Rick probably won't race this year because he has 4 boys between the ages of 8 and 4 (no twins) and a really important job. If he does race, he and I should finish around the same time, with me finishing ahead of him by a minute or two. That's how I see it playing out.

Prediction: DNS

Rick S. - Rick is in good form and has an outside chance of breaking 9 hours.

Prediction: 9:11

Rocky - I don't know which I'd rather see -- Elden break 9 hours or Rocky finishing the ride. He's tried several times, and he's never made it. One year, he became so dehydrated that he had to be removed from the course and taken away in an ambulance. Another year, he crashed and broke his handlebars after riding 88 miles. Maybe this year.

Prediction: 11:35; 2 bags of IV saline

Me - I was just hoping to break 12 hours this year, but I've gotten into decent racing shape. I slow but steady, like plowhorse.

Prediction: 11:45; 482nd overall

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Atheists' Worst Nightmare

Atheists have been in the news recently. Richard Dawkins called the God of the Old Testament "a psychotic delinquent," and Sam Harris foresees global catastrophe unless faith is renounced. Guys like these say religious belief is so harmful it must be defeated and replaced by science and reason. Now some fellow atheists are upset because they think these guys are going too far, essentially calling them dogmatic fundamentalists. But it's all moot. It turns out the atheists are wrong:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Red v Blue

I got a big kick out of reading the comments to this article, which discusses the drunk driver who veered into the shoulder on Highway 30, slammed into a cyclist during the STP, and then fled the scene. The convicted felon was apprehended eight miles from the accident, and the cyclist is in fair condition. I've heard Wendy complain about the fact that I not only read right-wing blogs, but I interact with them. She thinks it's weird. It probably is. I don't know why I have a desire to read poorly educated people who think George W. Bush is an awesome president, but I do. I want to hear their reasons. And I want to find a common ground. Anyway, for whatever reason, this article about the drunk driver crashing into a cyclist triggered a number of locals in that area to blast the STP and cyclists. Here are some of my favorite responses:

The man should not have ran after the incident but.....Living on the route these riders take, I can attest to the fact that a majority of the particpants are disrespectful and arrogant. They block the lanes of travel that drivers of motorized vehicles pay taxes on for the privledge of driving on them. As far as I am concerned these riders should be required to license their bikes and purchase tags for them on a yearly basis. After all, they are traveling from one major city to another in a different state on public roads. Think of the revenue aspect and get it done.

Making cyclists pay a tax to license their bikes is a common request from commenters. Because, you know, only car drivers pay taxes, and cyclists don't drive cars and therefore don't pay taxes, so they're deadbeats riding on roads that other people have paid for. And making them pay taxes will put a stop to their disrespect and arrogance. Especially if they have to register their bicycle in every county. Get it done. Here's another one:

Though it's terrible this guy was a coward and left the scene, I cannot stand this event. The last two years it has fallen on Warped tour and it has made the short ride to the amphitheater nearly 2 hours longer than it is supposed to be. The bicyclists don't give a crap about the people in vehicles. I've seen them ride 10 wide all the way out to the center of the highway and when you creep around them they yell at you. It's stupid. For some reason law flies out the window with events like this. Complete lack of respect for the rules of the road.

First, I like the rhetorical approach. To make your case stronger, exaggerate. It took 2 hours to get to the amphitheater? Are you sure it didn't take you only an hour and forty-five minutes to make your trek? I also appreciate the lack of any sense of irony. The article is about a hit-and-run drunk driver, yet they're complaining that cyclists don't follow the rules of the road. (It's true that a lot of cyclists do break laws and aren't as courteous as they should be, but I don't want to get into that. I'm enjoying myself, so let's keep going.)

What about all the people who planned to attend days in the park and had to be delayed for 60 minutes or more just to cross the bridge. How about the people who have to work and must spend 5 times the amount of time on the road. These people do not care if they disrupt your life, remember they disrupt your life because they do not care about you.........

Aw, you caught me. The first few dozens of comments are similiar in nature, except for the occasional person who doesn't like this event either, but doesn't want everyone to get carried away. And they reminded the bitter folk that the cyclist was riding legally in the shoulder of the road when a drunk driver broke a number of laws by smashing into him and fleeing the scene. But some would have none of that:

Possibly the guy left because a crowd of riders bent on vigilanty justice was very intiminating. Sorry people but there is usually two sides to every story.

I appreciate this person's open mind, but his math are off. There is usually four or five sides to every story. At this point, cyclists became aware of the nasty complaints, so they rushed in with brilliant comments of their own.

Typical Cowlitz county posters; look at how fat people are in this county, maybe if some of you got out of your big SUV's and pickup trucks that you drive around empty and got on a bike your health and attitudes would be better. Read your driver's ed rules of the road, bicyclists are entitled to use public roads just like you. Furthermore they are taxpayers: they own cars, houses, have incomes, etc. I'm not making excuses for those that litter or are rude however.

Nice. If you don't ride a bike, you drive an SUV and you're fat. Way to come to the rescue. Unfortunately, this person forgot to mention that cyclists are saving the environment from the destruction caused by the evil country folk.

Hey you bunch of ignorant boneheads who do you think does the most damage to, and causes the most wear and tear to the roads you love so much-- Your giant gas guzzling trucks and suv's OR a bicycle? Maybe taxes should be assessed by the size and weight of the automobile-- as well as the driver.

It was around this point that the quality of the arguments began to deteriorate:

This is an open letter to all of you car drivers that buzzed us bike riders during the STP. To all of the motorists that yelled at, harrassed, threw things at, and came dangerously close to those of us participating in this event. You think you're tough hiding in your big two ton metal box? You better hope that I don't catch up to you at the next stop sign or signal. You think I'm kidding? Just try me!!!

I wasn't sure if I'd see someone bravely step out and anonymously respond to the anonymous threat, but what do you know?

I welcome you trying something at the next stop light..its why I take care of threats....

In case you didn't know, CCW is gun-nut speak for Carrying a Concealed Weapon. It's getting out of hand. Someone needs to step in and set everyone straight. Maybe, just maybe, there's a Voice of Reason:

I've seen cars AND cyclists in the wrong. It's a small minority of each side giving them each a bad name. But, this is not a driver vs cyclist issue. It's a basic lack of tolerance and understanding for others. This lack of tolerance is growing in our country and this is a prime example. Everyone is too worried about their own rights being violated and you don't care about anyone else. This is why our country is so screwed up. Everyone, on both sides, should develop some tolerance and patience for others. If you aren't willing to do that, then YOU are what's wrong with this country. Don't condemn others, this accomplishes nothing. Take some action for the good of our community and country! It's up to each one of us!

And once we get that squared away, we can take actions for the good of the world, and everything will be wondrous. As the great Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?"

Monday, July 16, 2007

STP 2007

I woke up at 4:10 on Saturday morning to ride an indeterminate distance between Seattle and Portland. The tentative plan was to have Wendy meet me at the halfway point, appropriately called Centralia, and then she'd pick me up and we'd go visit Stan and Grey, who have kitty cats and chickens that the boys keep going on about. I staggered to the car, ate my breakfast while driving to the Adobe parking lot, and rode my bike a couple miles to the UW stadium. I started the ride about 5:00 a.m. Here's what I had with me:

  • An extra bike tube

  • Money and a credit card

  • Energy bars and some Clif Shot Bloks (the "Clif" folks are poor spelers)

  • A handkerchief for wiping off sweat

  • Two water bottles

That's it, and it was way more than I needed. There were four big food stations where we could load up on bananas and bagels and PBJs and all that, there were a bunch of mini-stops in between with water, and people stood all along the way selling lemonade and cookies. Each food stop had a first-aid station and a mechanics stand. In short, it was a well-organized event with lots of friendly sponsors and volunteers. It was such a cool event that I regretted having to abandon the ride right in the middle. And I got to thinking . . .

About 9,000 cyclists left between 5:00 and 7:30, so it wasn't difficult to settle in behind experienced cyclists who knew what they were doing. During the first hour, I saw one guy riding a unicycle and another guy riding a long skateboard. By the time the sun rose over the southern part of Lake Washington, the really fast cyclists had gone ahead and the casual cyclists were behind me, so I settled into a nice rhythm with riders of my general ilk. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that I wanted to do the whole ride, so I went a little faster than I should have been going. A little more than 5 hours later, when I got to Centralia, I called Wendy and told her I was halfway there.

She had just barely left, which meant my half-baked plan was working. It doesn't make sense for me to sit around and wait while I'm feeling fine, so why not keep going? We agreed that I would keep riding until the next big food stop at mile 145. I was excited about that plan until mile 110.

I bonked.

It seems like such a simple thing to say, so common, but the anguish that accompanies a bonk is really something else. When you bonk hard, you have an irrational feeling that you'll never recover, and that it's not only the end of the ride, but probably the end of your cycling career. Because you just can't do it any more. You're broken. Cyclists that I'd just recently passed in a pre-bonk state zipped around me as if I were riding a Huffy on training wheels. I tried to call Wendy on the cell phone to tell her I couldn't make it to mile 145, but we had connection problems, one of those "I can't hear you anymore so I'm hanging up" conversations.

By the time I finally got in touch with Wendy, I had worked through my bonk enough to feel good about riding the rest of the way to the food stop. It helped that the section was by far the most beautiful stretch of scenery during the whole ride -- rolling hills, quaint towns, red barns -- so it was easy to forget about cramps and nausea and slowness. Oh, and the temperatures were in the mid 90s.

I didn't want to give up. After all, people were cheering us all along the way. When people are clapping for anonymous riders, they aren't saying, "Good luck -- I hope you make it to mile 145!" No, they're urging us to Portland. So here's the conversation I had with Wendy at the park where Luke and Max were playing with sweat-drenched hair:

"Sweatheart, I'm feeling pretty good, and unless you have a serious problem with it, I'd like to keep going."

"No, that's fine, but are you sure you can make it?"

"Pretty sure. I'm eating and drinking well, and it's only 60 more miles."

"You know it's our anniversary today, and you haven't even mentioned it."

[Brief pause] "Happy anniversary! Just so you know, I am hereby dedicating this ride to you."

So I filled up my water bottles, grabbed some food, and headed out feeling both guilty and giddy.

I had recovered from my bonk, so I was able to draft behind a group of riders who were going about 22 mph. We crossed the Columbia River and headed along Highway 30 towards Portland. One of the odd things about that stretch of road was seeing all the other cyclists who were going to finish around the same time. Most of the people were guys who looked roughly like me, but then there were the others. There was an older guy riding really slow on a heavy beach cruiser bike. Did he leave on Thursday? There was an older woman who looked like she just milked her cows that morning, hopped on her mountain bike, and rode to Portland in her sun dress. The tan, flabby skin on her arms sagged around her bulging triceps. There were a couple of guys on recumbent bikes. And my absolute favorite was a group of three serious cyclists in brown jerseys who flashed by me a few times going about 28 mph, and then I'd see them pulled over by the side of the road with one of their bikes up-side down. Then they'd zoom by me again, and then I'd see them on the side of the road fixing a flat. I'll bet we passed each other six times.

I saw one of the riders in the group in front of me pump his fist as he rounded a bend. A few seconds later, I saw the same sign he did: "Portland 13." Towards the end of every long ride, I always compare the miles I have left with one of my rides. At 60 miles, it's like riding around Lake Washington. At 22 miles, it's the Bloomington-Nashville ride. At 13 miles, well, that's like riding home from work, only without the hills.

A short time later, around 6:30 p.m., I rode through across a bridge and wound my way through downtown Portland. Just as I was thinking I wouldn't want to ride any further, a park opened up, and hundreds of people cheered as complete strangers rode across the finish line. The park was full of loud music, kiosks, water fountains to cool off kids, and a cordoned off beer garden where tired cyclists could knock back a few.

Great event, cool ride, good times. Now, if I can just find an anniversary gift, all will be right with the world.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Riding with Floyd

So I stopped by REI yesterday to pick up my packet for the STP. (By the way, I'm just going to ride the first 110 miles and then have Wendy pick me up, so don't expect some epic tale on Monday about how I rode the 204 miles into a headwind, my neck aching, my knee throbbing, my nose bleeding...) When I got back on my bike to head to work, I noticed another rider who looked exactly like Floyd Landis, complete with the witch's nose and lantern jaw, only he seemed a little puffier than the guy who won the Tour de France last year. I almost said something to him, but what? "Duh, are you Floyd Landis?" Nah. I have a strict policy of not talking to any celebrity. Besides, why would Floyd Landis be in Seattle? Well, he was in Seattle. And you know what that means? That's right. Floyd Landis is one of my riding buddies.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why the iPod is the Greatest Gadget Ever

You know a company is doing the right thing when no less than eight people have asked me if I'm getting an iPhone. Short answer: No. Medium answer: No, not unless they rip out the "phone" part. Longer answer: No, because I've never liked talking on the phone, and cell phones make the experience just that much worse. "What? No, you go... I said... OK, you go first. Look, I really need to run, because it looks... What? Are you still there? Hello! I think I lost you. That means I'm talking to myself right now. Bye!" The only reason people are so fired up about the iPhone is because of the wild success of the iPod.

Here's what I love about my iPod:


This summer I've listened to David Copperfield, a WWII thriller by Scott Turow, a collection of great French and Russian short stories, and I'm part of the way through The Brothers Karamazov, which used to be my favorite novel before David Copperfield -- all while riding my bike. Books and cycling are my peanut butter and chocolate, and iPod is my Reese's.

Bonus use: When my mind is churning at night, I play 1776 by David McCullough, which distracts me, mesmerizes me, and puts me asleep. I've listened to the first few chapters more than a dozen times, and all I remember is that some of the soldiers in George Washington's outfit don't have shoes.


Playlists and downloads are my pride and joy et cetera.


My dentist made fun of me for watching a movie on my iPod. "What is that, a 2-inch screen? And I thought a 13-inch television was too small!" I told the dental dimwit that if you hold the 13-inch television a few inches from your face, it's huge. Then I let him watch a few seconds of The Godfather, Part II. "Hey, that doesn't look half bad!" Then all of a sudden he's making plans to buy his kids iPods for their trip to Hawaii. I didn't even tell him about the accessories you can buy to play your iPod on a larger screen. Television shows are especially good to watch. May I recommend The Wire?


This is a my newest delight. I love the New Yorker podcast in which they have an author read a New Yorker short story and chat about it afterwards. Minette also turned me on to This American Life. In the most recent version, they highlighted a program called Radio Lab, which I'd never heard of. In this particular Radio Lab segment, they speculate on where morality is derived. The hosts describe an experiment in which a person listens to two scenarios. In the first scenario, five men are standing with their backs to an oncoming train; the person can save the five people by pulling a lever, which switches the train to a different track that has only one person on it (no, Mormons, it's not the lever switcher's only son). The second scenario is identical, only the person has to physically push a person off a ledge to save the five people. An overwhelming majority of people say Yes to the first scenario and No to the second. Then the scientists took pictures of the people's brains at the moment of decision, and learned that the two scenarios cause different parts of the brain to become active. Then they discuss the physical evidence that moral decisions are made by deciding between warring factions in the brain. It's interesting and entertaining. Check it out.

Got any suggestions for good podcasts?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Glad We Got That Straightened Out

"Pope Benedict XVI approved a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true path to salvation."

In all honesty, I don't believe that this is true. In fact, I think that Pope Benedict XVI is talking out of his ass. But I'm not 100% certain. There is a part of me (~0.0006%) that thinks Pope Benedict may be right about that. If I die, that teeny tiny part of me would see Saint Peter at the pearly gates and blurt out, "I thought so!" Oh, how my mind would whirr! What would I say to Peter? Should I act meek? Yes! I should definitely act meek. I figure once I get into Heaven, I can get a little snippy about the Crusades and the pre-paid indulgences and the creepy figurines, not to mention the ridiculous stories in the Old Testament, but the last thing I want to do is argue with the great Saint Peter. I mean, if the Catholic Church ends up being true and I see Pearly Gates atop white fluffy clouds after dying, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine the fiery flames of eternal malediction. If all goes well, I'll do a lot of time in Purgatory, repenting for riding my bike on Sunday and saving money in mutual funds, and then I'll go to Heaven. Here's my story: I was taken in by the Mormon church, and in leaving what I thought to be false, I threw the baby out with the bathwater. I couldn't replace my concept of God with anything tangible, but now I realize that I should have been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. My bad. That's what I'll say. And I'll grovel. Oh please, oh please, oh please. I'm so sorry, so very, very sorry. Please, please, please forgive me. It's all so clear!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's the Stupidest Thing I've Ever Done?

So I was heading home from downtown this weekend, driving the speed limit in the right lane going up 35th Avenue, when I noticed a brown flash in the rear view mirror. The car behind me seemed to come from out of nowhere. He sped up close to me and then pulled into the left lane at the last second. As he did so, he fishtailed, lost control, and accelerated across the street, over the curb, and into a retaining wall. Boom! At least one of his tires popped, his grill was smashed, and his air bag deployed. Then the guy put the car in reverse and started driving in the other direction.

I can't get this accident out of my head. Why? Why did he zoom up to me and swerve at the last second? The left lane was wide open. Was he intentionally trying to be reckless? Was he angry? Drunk? Programming his iPhone? And why did he accelerate after losing control? Was he trying to swing the rear end around like in the movies? Was the gas pedal stuck?

Here's the closest thing I could find to the incident on YouTube. You may want to mute your computer so you don't have to listen to the irritating narrator:

I'm fascinated by wildly impulsive acts, no doubt because I am rarely impulsive. I'm also fascinated by people who do those wildly stupid acts, like the Jackass guys or the Bush administration. So what's the dumbest thing I've ever done in a car? Let's see . . . I've driven drunk in a hotel parking lot with a buddy on the roof of the car, and I hit the brakes so that he rolled down onto the hood. That's just good clean American fun. What else? . . . I drove 115 mph in a station wagon with 7 other teenagers in the car. But I wasn't drunk or reckless, unless you consider driving 115 mph reckless. But I wasn't taking turns at high speed or weaving through traffic. That's about it for cars.

But what's the single stupidest act I've ever committed?

The first time I went scuba diving was in Laguna Beach at night with choppy water and low visibility. That's stupid, but I'm kind of proud of doing it, so it doesn't count. I'm looking for something embarrassingly stupid, like crashing into a retaining wall for no reason. Here's a better one -- after reading C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, I was inspired to have unprotected sex with my ex-girlfriend . . . Oh, speaking of religion, here's an even better one. While serving a mission, I once prayed aloud for something bad to happen to a Peruvian family that backed out of being baptized, causing my companion to laugh out loud and interrupt my prayer . . . Ding! Ding! I think we have a winner.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Wendy and I have been trying to figure out when we should head down to visit our friends in Portland, and we settled on this upcoming weekend, July 14-15. I told her that the only drawback is that I need to get in a long ride every weekend until Leadville. Her solution: I should ride part of the way to Portland, and she'll pick me up on the way. Excellent of an idea! To find the best route to take, I looked up the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride, which happens to take place on -- get this -- July 14-15. So I started looking into the 204-mile ride, and the more I looked into it, the more I wanted to sign up. I can't believe I've never even considered doing it before.

The bad news is the race is sold out. The good news is the race organizers have done the unthinkable -- they've allowed registered riders to transfer their tickets if they can't do the ride. See? I told you it was a cool and well-organized event. I've lost my entry fee to a few events, including an Ironman Triathlon, because I've gotten injured before the race, and the response has always been the same: "We don't allow refunds." Yes, and there's always been a lottery. Some registered riders can't do a race for whatever reason, and some would-be competitors can't register for the race because it's sold out, yet apparently, the STP folks are the only people who've figured out how to make everyone happy. They just charge $10 for the transfer form, and everyone wins. It's what those of us in the cycling industry like to call a "win-win situation" and those of us in the math industry call a "non-zero-sum game." The only problem is that all the proceeds go to charity, and that seems just a little too touchy feely for a sporting event.

I found a registered rider who injured his shoulder, which is great news, so I'm going to buy his ticket. Now I have to decide how far I'm going to ride. Should I just do 100-120 miles and then have Wendy pick me up on her way to Portland, as we originally planned? Or should I ride the whole 204 miles in one day? I figure it will take me about 14 to 16 hours to ride a double century, and I probably won't be in a poker playing mood afterwards. Then again, there a special patch or something that people get for riding the STP in one day, so it would be pretty cool to be able to put that patch in one of the boxes in the garage that has my Leadville belt buckles and pinewood derby trophy. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Leadville Training Update, Part II

I am excited to announce, dearest fans and casualest readers, that I now consider myself trained well enough to ride the Leadville 100 in under 12 hours. I refuse to end the previous sentence with an exclamation mark because I haven't actually completed the race yet. I just think I'm ready. Big difference! Here are the things I'm doing to get ready for the August 11 race:

Riding to and from work

I continue to ride my bike to work, only with a twist or two. I usually work in the office four days a week. On two of those days, I ride in casually, and then I do "bursts" on the way home. Burst riding is just what it sounds like. After I warm up, I'll pick an open stretch, shift into the highest gear, and sprint as hard as I can for about 45 seconds. Then I'll back off. When I get closer to home, I'll ride hard up several hills, backing off only when I get dizzy. On the other two days, I'll take a longer route in one of the directions so that I get in a 2-hour ride with a long climb -- at least by Seattle standards -- at the end.

Long weekend rides

Wendy and I take turns watching the boys on the weekend. On Saturday, she goes out and shops, sees a movie, gets a massage or hairdo -- that kind of thing. On Sunday, I go on a 4-5 hour bike ride and spend the rest of the day complaining about being tired. Earlier this year, riding just 30 miles would cause me to complain about tiredness for a couple of days. The first time I did a 70-mile ride this year, I spent four days complaining. A couple of weeks ago, the same 70-mile ride only wiped me out only for the rest of the day. By the way, I'm really looking forward to this Fall, when I can sit on a couch on "my" day and watch football. That's a lot more rewarding than cycling. Or just about anything else.


The training has been going reasonably well, but dieting has been my downfall. When I started training in March, I weighed 190 pounds. Now I weigh 178. That's not bad, but I was hoping to be closer to 170. Leadville has several large climbs, so the extra weight makes it just that much harder.

You want to know what my biggest problem is? Honesty. That's right. And kindness. Whenever Wendy asks me if I want a cupcake she bought for me at the cupcake store (yes, West Seattle has a cupcake store), I say "Yes" because it's the honest thing to say. I do want a cupcake. I do, I do, I do! To say no would be to lie, and it would be unkind to reject the cupcake after Wendy's kind thought. If my character weren't so noble, I'd probably weigh 158.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

It's a Pretty, Great State

It's been nine years since I moved away from Utah. In both Indiana and Seattle, I've considered my living arrangement temporary to some degree, because part of me thinks it's only a matter of time before I move back home to Utah. Each time I go back to visit, usually for a biking trip, I reevaluate it as a place to live.

So here are my most recent impressions of Utah:

The Salt Lake streets are wide and friendly.

There are bike lanes everywhere. In fact, Salt Lake is a much friendlier cycling city than Seattle. With the tree-lined streets, the renovation of the previously shoddy warehouse district, and the pleasant downtown shops, Salt Lake is becoming more and more charming. Too bad they don't have the coffee lingo down.

The lawns are greener in Utah than in Seattle.

I don't want to sound like a self-righteous granola dude, but I'll say it anyway. Utahns waste water. I suppose it wouldn't be strange if you live there all the time, but seeing all that green grass in the 100-degree desert climate is odd to me after having been away. In Seattle, lots of people cover their entire front and side lawns with bushes and flowers not because it saves water, but because they think it looks good. And it does. The Seattle folks who do have grass usually let it die during the summer. In Utah, people plant grass in their front yards, back yards, side yards, and the tops of their mailboxes. I suppose it's fine because they can always add more reservoirs.

Provo is a ghost town on Sundays.

I feel like a rebel while strolling around Provo in shorts and sandals with no intention of going to church. It's nice to see a town preserve its local color, at least to some degree. Sure, there are McDonalds and Del Tacos and Wal-Marts everywhere, but it's oddly pleasant to see stores like Seagull Books and Clean Flicks. I just wish I could figure out a way to buy more candy in Provo.

The purple mountains.

A bunch of us rode trails near Richfield and Fish Lake that we'd never been on before. I miss the openness of that country. I miss having the mountains so close. I miss the red rocks and juniper bushes and desert flowers. I miss the remote clouds that make you understand what "big sky" means.

Interesting factoid: When I told my father that I'd been mountain biking in Fish Lake, he told me that my great grandfather, John Bringhurst, was the first person to ever swim across that lake. I'm telling you, Utah is in my blood.

The longer I'm away, the weirder the Mormon stuff seems.

In the airport, I saw a group of blond-haired, blue-eyed happy happy happy people holding up a huge "WELCOME HOME BROGAN!!!" sign outside the security area. If I saw that scene in a movie, I'd think they were type casting. In the past, seeing those missionary signs triggered a bittersweet sense of nostalgia, and I would wonder whether Brogan's girlfriend waited the two years for him to complete his mission, and now they'd get married and go to BYU together and have a big happy family and live in a large house with a huge grassy lawn, and I used to wonder what might have been. This time, that airport scene gave me the willies.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bitter Coffee

I may or may not have been involved in an odd conversation. I can't decide. I think what happened is that an inexperienced customer -- me -- ordered coffee from an inexperienced barista in Salt Lake, but neither of us knew enough about coffee language to allow for a smooth transaction.

Before I get to the conversation, let me say this. I rarely drink coffee, because A) I don't like the taste of it even though I live in Seattle and B) I'm one of those people who thinks it's ridiculous to pay $4.00 for a drink that doesn't have Vitamin C, alcohol, or heroin.

Before Robert took me to the airport, we went to a coffee shop. In the coffee shop, I saw all the typical types of coffee listed that I see in almost every American coffee shop. It's all based on the same Italian system -- latte, cappuccino, espresso, mocha. Before I had a chance to look more closely, the barista asked me what I wanted.

"I'll have a single tall mocha," I said.

"I don't understand what that means," said the young barista. "We only have small, medium, and large."

"Oh, sorry. Large."

"One shot or two?"


She made eye contact -- a sidelong glance no less -- with a young Salt Lake hipster at the bar. That made me feel old and goofy. It's not like I ordered a double tall soy half decaf dulce de leche latte no whip hazelnut sprinkle. Then again, I did impose Starbucks lingo, and Starbucks lingo is kind of stupid. Tall? I've never had a clear idea what that means, so I just say it because it seems better than "short," and it makes me sound a little bit like I know what I'm doing, except for the mocha part. Real coffee drinkers don't seem to order mochas. It turns out I should have said "Medium mocha one shot" in this coffee shop to avoid any confusion. But here's the kicker.

She gave me an ice mocha.

That seemed like a ridiculous thing for someone to do. I said nothing about ice at any point. Then again, niether did Robert, and he was happy with his ice Americano. And it turns out that everyone else in the store was drinking ice coffee of some sort or other. I seemed to be the only person in the store drinking hot coffee. Granted, it was 98 degrees outside, but I never said anything about ice.

So who was at fault for the breakdown?

Bonus anecdote: In downtown Seattle, Wendy was standing in line at a Seattle's Best kiosk. The woman in front of her said, "Before I leave Seattle, I just have to have a Starbucks coffee. Do you sell the Starbucks?" Without hesitating, the barister said, "Yes, ma'am, one Starbucks, coming up!" And he made her a cup of coffee.