Friday, June 24, 2011

To the Comedian in the Truck

I'm writing today's blog to the guy in the pick-up truck who threw his cup full of tobacco spit juice all over our paceline last night on the Natchez Trace.

Dude! Priceless! That was comedic genius! The way that you managed to get maximum spread from the spew? That, sir, is a blend of artistry and athleticism not often seen from someone with your burly heft. I can only assume that you have been practicing the "spit toss" for years. I would imagine that the timing involved in hitting a group of bicycles moving in the opposite direction at almost 20 mph is tricky, so I hope that you first practiced on a group of pedestrians. Maybe some senior citizens sitting on a bench ... or even better some handicapped children at a bus stop. I'm certain that you and your friends nearly died laughing as you watched kids in wheelchairs cry. I only wish that you could have laughed just a little harder.

With a throwing arm like yours, it's a wonder you never made it to the major leagues. Of course, the system has always been rigged against you. The way that the big-time scouts don't even start looking for talent until you're playing high school ball ... it's a crying shame. Heck, you learned all you needed in seventh grade anyways. Third time was the charm.

Some people in cars are content to merely buzz cyclists, or pull alongside us and honk their horn, or yell "Hey Lance!" or "Bikers suck!" But you, sir, have elevated the art of automotive harassment to a new level -- the initial light contact of a spray of spit and leaf, combined with a lasting residue both visible and olfactory. The joke and its legacy stayed with us for the rest of our ride. You can't imagine just how funny I and my fellow riders found it.

You really can't.

By the way, your brand choice was impeccable. What could possibly be more appropriate than Red Man? The way that it picked up the redolence of your lunch -- fried chicken, fried okra, and Budweiser, right? Plus, the texture and consistency made it all but impossible for us to just wipe the flakes off our faces and arms. Hilarious! You're killing me.

Um, that last is just an expression, of course. Kind of like "you rock!" You aren't really saying that somebody shifts their weight from side to side, like in a rocking chair. So, when I say, "you're killing me," I don't want you to get any ideas. Heaven forbid you get something like an idea.

I mean, that whole "sociopathic tendencies" thing that the guidance counselor in 7th grade went on and on about (second time around ... not that wiener Mr. Cooper the third time through). Well, what did she know? Lots of kids like to play a little rough with their pets. That cat was old, anyhow.

All I wanted to say was, good job. After the passing this week of one of the Comedic Greats, Ryan Dunn, many of us were concerned that humor might lapse again into subtlety and craft, using those stupid "word" things again. Physical humor is an art, and it is at its most pure when we can laugh at the misfortune of others, particularly when it puts them in some form of peril. What if your "spittle missile" had caused a crash that brought us all to the pavement in a mangle of torn flesh and broken bones? Can you imagine how funny that would have been?

You can't? Well, don't strain yourself.

Anyway, I hope that some night you will come by the school parking lot in Fieldstone Farms and entertain us further with your unique brand of comedy. I, for one, would love to buy you a beer ... and maybe a fresh tin of Red Man.

Your fan,

Friday, June 17, 2011

Give a Max a Day, and He'll Take a Week

Who would be so stupid as to drive a car over 400 miles, round trip, to ride a bicycle 13 miles? Who would give up what will be a very full day, just to be on a bike for just over half an hour?

Well, of course, there's only one fool who would do that. Max Watzz.

MW: You called?

RB: No, I was just explaining how you've about trashed my week and now you're going to ruin Saturday for me.

MW: I beg to differ, RandoBoob. I will make your weekend glorious, since you will have a front row seat in my beautiful subconscious when I win everything at this weekend's Smith & Nephew Grand Prix in Memphis, TN.

RB: Sure, but to do this we have to drive 200 miles to Memphis on Saturday morning, race four times around a 2.3-mile circuit, hang around for a couple of hours, and then do a four-mile time trial before we begin driving another 200 miles back home. And the courses probably won't even be pretty!

MW: I think you must be injured, since I hear a Waaambulance.

RB: What?

MW: Never mind -- my humor is obviously too refined for your plebian tastes.

RB: Refined?! Waambulance is refined?! You sound like a Frenchman extolling the work of Jerry Lewis ...

MW: The man was a genius!

RB: Whatever. Anyway, because of your stupid race I'm not going to get to ride much this weekend. Plus, to keep your legs "fresh," I've barely been on a bike all week. I had to miss the Tuesday and Thursday night club rides.

MW: I am like a Ferrari -- only probably faster and better tuned ... and maybe more expensive. Either way, I should not be driven to and from work, or forced to carry groceries or Little Leaguers. I should only be used on pristine roads, where my speed and glory can be truly put to the test. A test which, I barely need mention, I will always pass with flying colors.

RB: You're like a Ferrari in that you don't work much. You're more like a Hummer in that you're full of gas ... which you also pass with flying colors.

MW: I've told you before that Recoverite is best when mixed with milk. It's not my fault that I'm lactose-intolerant.

RB: Whatever.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Riding with The Man

This past Saturday, my bike club -- the Harpeth Bike Club -- hosted their 16th annual Harpeth River Ride.

Earlier this week, I called this a "t-shirt ride." Now, this isn't necessarily a derogatory term -- it just means that this isn't a race, so that there are no awards. Instead, you do the ride and you get a t-shirt. Since most of these rides also feed you lunch, you could call it a lunch ride, but then what would people call their Thursday noon 20-mile mini-race around the office complex with their co-workers?

But my point is that the Harpeth River Ride has now progressed beyond being a t-shirt ride. It is now, officially, an Event.

First off, we had famous people there.

Yep, that's right. That is Kevin Bullock captaining Mark Montgomery on a tandem. Mark is blind, and he finished his first century just three weeks ago with Kevin. They did another metric at the River Ride.

I think the guy next to them is famous, too. Lance Something or other. Kevin had to help him reset his bike computer.

Lance brought Bjorn Selander and Ben King with him, and they all did the century. They even stopped at a couple of rest stops and ate cookies and other goodies, just like real people.

RandoGirl and I did get to ride with Lance for the first few miles, sort of. We were in an elite bunch of about 50 bikes, with other tandems being stoked by riders from the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes and the United States Association of Blind Athletes, as well as a bunch of Wounded Warrior cyclists from Fort Campbell and some Nissan executives. Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville, and Mayor Ken Moore of Franklin also rode.

Behind us all were a half-dozen police and state troopers, followed by 1,500 people who paid to ride and were champing at the bit to zoom up and ride with Lance. Since, as I said, Lance and his Radio Shack teammates actually stopped at some of the rest stops, many of them actually did get to meet him. From what I heard, he was very nice and willing to sign stuff.

I mentioned that some Nissan executives were in the pack. Nissan is the main sponsor of this ride, and they do a LOT. They loan us much of their headquarters for the weekend. They got Lance for us. They brought in folks with timing chips, so people could know how fast they rode. They brought in extra t-shirts with Tour of California stuff, and had cool cars for folks to look at while they hung around. Like I said: A LOT.

My friend Bill Glass and I went out early Friday morning and checked the routes, touched up markings, and swept some gravel and debris off a few roads. We got back to Nissan headquarters just before lunch and everybody is running around setting up and it is HUGE. Bigger than any other ride that I have ever seen, including the starts and finishes of the Tour de Georgia.

While I'm there, I check my e-mail, and I see that I've got two messages from folks at work asking if I can get them or their friends into the ride. You see, we capped the ride at 1,500, and we hit that mark Wednesday, and these folks had thought that they could just walk up. You usually can just walk up and register for a t-shirt ride.

But this was an Event. You can't just walk up and register for an Event.

I'd like to tell you what it was like riding with Lance, but I have no idea. We let the TNABA and USABA and Wounded Warriors riders hang out with him up front, and RandoGirl and I rode the tandem further back, keeping an eye on stuff.

Mostly, we rode next to Governor Haslam. He was on a nice new Lynskey that he bought from The Greatest Bike Shop in The Universe, Gran Fondo. And he rode it well. He seemed really comfortable on it, and had no trouble with the pace.

I had assumed that he was there for political reasons -- for Nissan or because he knew that there would be lots of media -- but, as we rode, I got the feeling that he was more there because he wanted to meet Lance Armstrong, but also wanted to ride his bike. We talked about riding in middle Tennessee, and where the good roads are. It's tough for him to get out, but he does every chance that he can. He was telling me about some of the great climbs back home in Knoxville, and we swapped a few stories about routes out that way.

About seven miles in, we pulled off the route and started back towards Nissan. Kevin and Mark came with us, since they were just going to do our 18-mile VIP loop and then go out on the 44-mile route. It was a nice ride, at a good pace, with everybody working just hard enough that we earned some fitness, but not so hard that we couldn't talk.

Back at Nissan, Kevin and Mark headed back out. The governor sent his state trooper escort off, and then asked if we could go out for another 10 miles, since he had about another hour open. There was no media, and Nissan wouldn't care one way or the other. The governor was just another guy that wanted to ride his bike.

We went back out and did a couple of stiff climbs, including McEwen Road by McKay's Mill. Then he had to leave, but he thanked us while his driver loaded up his bike. We even talked about loaning him a tandem to ride with his wife.

It was kind of cool riding near Lance Armstrong for a few miles. But what really made me happy was to ride with the governor of the state that I live in, and have him want to go back out and ride more just for the fun of it. This is my kind of guy -- a person who is going to do something for cyclists just because he gets it. It probably doesn't matter much to him -- which is even more cool -- but he won my vote and RandoGirl's come the next election.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thinking Inside the Box

So, last week I was telling you about how Lance Armstrong is coming to the Harpeth River Ride, this being the big annual "t-shirt ride" hosted by the Harpeth Bike Club (HBC).

(In case you're curious, Lance wears a Medium t-shirt. So does Bjorn Selander. Ben King gets a Small.)

I was telling you about it because this ride has been taking up a lot of my time lately. And the sad thing is that I'm probably only going to get to do the first seven miles of it. This is because RandoGirl and I have been assigned to escort Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, and Brentwood Mayor Paul Webb. They've got other appointments that day, not to mention the fact that we need to have State Trooper escorts, so they can't do the full century. Instead, they and a couple of other members of my club will peel off the route just before the century hits open roads and every Fred in a five-state radius tries to prove that he can hang with Lance.

Okay, I'm not bummed about missing that exhibition.

I would like to have ridden the century, however. I helped design it, and it's got some really pretty roads. It would be interesting to see how the pros handle Pulltight Hill, but it would be even more fun to watch them enjoy Choctaw, Flat Creek, or Swamp Road. I like to show off smooth roads with pretty views.

We did ride the other three routes this past weekend, however. RandoGirl and I did the metric route on our tandem, along with Jeff Bauer and Fredia Barry on Jeff's tandem. We did it very fast, since we wanted to finish before the day got hot. That part was fun.

The part that wasn't fun, however, was when we started trying to follow the road hickeys we had put down the previous weekend. That's when we found that they weren't ... well, they weren't very easy to find.

I mean, you could see them if you knew where they were supposed to be and if you looked really hard, but the colors kind of blended in with the road. I had expected that the green and blue markings might be hard to see, but even the yellow and red arrows had somehow faded ... baked off by a week of temperatures in the 90s.

A lot of HBC members were with us, and they noticed the same problems. RandoGirl and I went back out Sunday morning to ride the 21- and 44-mile routes, just to make sure. It confirmed our worst fears -- our day and a half of road-marking was not enough.

Fortunately, the HBC is a great bike club. That afternoon, the great minds of the club had figured out a solution, and the great souls of the club had stepped up to volunteer to implement the solution.

Basically, the fix was to just go back out on the route and spray-paint a white box around each set of arrows. We also added a few more white paint notes regarding route splits, potholes, and upcoming rest areas, just to make sure that riders kept one eye out for white paint on the roads.

RandoGirl and I went out Sunday afternoon and touched up the 21-mile route this way, with the result being that the markings were then very visible. Once this was confirmed by a couple more people, a dozen other club members went out on the routes Monday and finished up.

Problem identified. Problem averted. Thanks to a "remarkable" group of people.

(Sorry. RandoGirl came up with that pun.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy*

I consider it my duty to post at least one blog entry every week. Not that I think you, loyal reader, are breathlessly anticipating my meandering missives -- I don't have Max Watzz's ego. Rather, it's a purgative act for me ... kind of like pulling threads of thoughts out of my brain and stirring them into Dumbledore's pensieve.

Wow. Two literary references before you even reach the second paragraph. It's gettin' deep here.

Anyway, I typically use this blog to describe an interesting ride that I've recently finished. The reason that I haven't written much so far this week, however, is not because I haven't been riding. I've been out most days this week enjoying the sultry mid-90-degree supersaturated atmosphere sitting atop the southeastern United States. But most of these rides have been the usual stuff: Commuting and group rides on standard routes. Also, I've been doing these rides at a different pace, too -- more Max Watzz than RandoBoy -- and there's not much to say about that.

This blog is no place for threshold heart rate and normalized power.

I didn't ride this past Sunday as I had to go mark the Harpeth River Ride with RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and my friends Johnny Crow and Karla McVey. It was a messy, hot, arduous, messy chore (yeah, I know that I said "messy" twice -- it was really messy), but we were able to get almost all of four different routes marked in a single day, with only the last 20 miles of the century route left for me to finish Thursday morning.

What made us so fast was also what made it so messy. As I've mentioned here before, I have marked many routes, most lately using a standard that I got from a fellow Harpeth Bike Club member, Keith Walker. Basically, the standard is to always put down three sets of arrows -- the first set being 50 yards from the turn if it is at a stop sign or traffic light, or 100 yards if there is no stop (and thus no other reason that the riders would need to slow down). For the 100-yard kind of turn, you put down double arrows, to make sure that you catch the riders attention. The next of the three sets of arrows is halfway to the turn -- thus either 25 yards or 50 yards from the turn -- and the last set you put down at the turn itself. Then, five to 10 yards past the turn, on the road onto which the rider should now be travelling if he or she is on the route, you put down another arrow.

Here's how it works for the rider. I'm zipping along on the route. I see the first set of arrows and slow down a bit. Then I see the second set, and from there I should be able to see the turn. I signal my turn, and shift right or left in the lane if I can to make it cleanly. At the turn, I see the the third set, and then I roll over one more arrow and therefore know that I am going the right way.

(Of course, this scenario gets blown out of the water when you get some fast guys up at the front and they aren't paying attention. They ignore the markings and miss the turn, and the idiots that have been hanging on for dear life behind them go along. Lemmings to the cliff.)

Anyway. I used this standard last year when I marked the Hope on Wheels routes, and I did not hear about anybody getting lost. Of course, it took me two days -- one of them with help from RandoGirl -- to mark these routes.

So, this year, I made up big arrow-shaped stamps with carpet on them. I also bought big, rubber paint buckets (with rubber lids so we could close them up), and put a gallon of good, oil-based Rustoleum paint in each. The arrow stamps fit right down into the bucket, so you could get load up the carpet "head" with paint. You then pull the stamp out of the bucket and just plop it onto the pavement. Voila -- arrow shaped marking. Move on to the next spot and repeat.

It was quicker than using a stencil, plus cheaper and more ecologically sound than using spray paint. But it was messy. It took an hour to clean the paint off of RandoGirl's car, and another hour to clean it off of me. The clothes went straight into the trash.

The payoff for this, of course, will be next Saturday, June 11, when 1,500 riders come to do the Harpeth River Ride. If all of those riders follows the road markings, and thus stays on their respective routes, I will be ecstatic. Giddy. I may even do the dance of painting joy ... half polka, half clogging, one-third Russian saber dance. Post-dance physical therapy usually requires 4-6 weeks.

Which brings me to the other thing that's been keeping me busy: Lance Armstrong. Yeah, of course I mean that Lance Armstrong.

You see, Lance is coming to the River Ride. I've known that it was a strong possibility for about a month now, but he finally announced it this week. I guess it's kind of a blinding glimpse of the obvious here, but that is HUGE for us.

And this is the other reason that I wanted perfect road markings. Last year, some of Lance's fellow team members from Team Radio Shack did the Harpeth River Ride, and they missed a turn. My friend, Cindy Wall, had to chase them down in a car, and then motor-pace them back onto the route. It was, to say the least, embarrassing.

If Lance misses one of my road markings, it had better be because Jan Ullrich is sitting on top of it and Lance can't see it.

* Yes, I'm a Bokononist