Saturday, June 28, 2014

saturday, june 28, 2014: western suburbs, chicago, illinois

Saturday, June 28, 2014: western suburbs, Chicago, Illinois 

One of my secret pleasures is jumping in on an out-of-town group ride.  Meaning that I'm from out-of-town, and I'm jumping in on someone else's group ride.  Yay for the internet.  (How did anyone find anything in the pre-internet age?)

Two years ago, on a similar trip through Chicago, I rolled down the street a few blocks from Valerie's brother's family's house and joined the 6:00 am Saturday Lake & Harlem ride.  That was a fun ride.  Nice group of guys (maybe 15).  Reasonably brisk pace.  Maybe a 50-mile loop.  A much more gentlemanly pace and feel than the more famous (and maybe more fun, but in a very different way) Judson ride in the north.

Today, I was't quite so lucky.  A much-later-than-ideal departure meant we pulled into town just after 4:00 am.  I was up at 5:15 and rolled out 25 minutes later.  But today there was only one other dude waiting at Lake and Harlem.  We rode for 45 minutes and came back to the meeting place for the 7:00 am ride.  Ten or twelve guys.  All a super good sort.  But the pace was a little too casual and, well, it's a _different_ sort of ride when I, at 40, am likely the youngest one there.

Lake Street / East St. Charles Road is not really an awe-inspiring bicycle route.  Sort of run-down commerical/industrial.  A sprawling freeway overpass dominates the landscape.  Though I'm in love these old suburbs.  Because they're old.  And because they have life.  And history.

The modern suburb is full of curvy subdivisions built around uninspiring cul-de-sacs and populated with ticky-tacky houses.  But these old Chicago suburbs, with their distinct street-parking-only town centers and block housing with row upon row of brick bungalows...these suburbs have character.  Neighborhoods that have a distinct flavor and feel.  And you feel like every block is a book with a thousand stories of love, tragedy, triumph, hope, fear...  In other words (or in another word), life.  These are Mystic River neighborhoods (even though I know that's Boston and this is...not Boston).  As I roll along, block after block, house after house, door after door, I'm a little overwhelmed with the infinite complexity of the human experience cast in the shadow of the soft Saturday morning sun.

The route back (we rode in a clockwise direction) offered fresher, greener, more monied scenery.  Again, how cool are these suburbs with their distinct town centers.  Local shops.  Not big-box stuff, but real stores, probably with real storekeepers.  The butcher the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.  (Though, really, more like the deli, the coffee shop, and the hair salon...but, you know, still awesome.)

And how about Western Springs and Riverside with their super cool water towers:

Western Springs water tower, now a museum.
Riverside, Illinois.

Who wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood where you could walk a few blocks to a cool little restaurant and eat on the sidewalk in the shadow of one of these?

Of course Riverside isn't just a pretty water tower.  The Wikipedia entry for the town calls it a "architectural museum."  Check it out yourself.  I mean, come on.  I want to go back and do laps.

Riverside, with its curved streets in a sea of right angles, stands out starkly.  (Notice there are curves, but no cul-de-sacs.)  The neighborhood was apparently planned by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the architect of the slightly more famous Central Park.
Ride stats:

Miles: 56.5
Time: 3:08
Elevation: 1,014'

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 trans-sylvania epic, stage 7

In Down the River, Ed Abbey publishes perhaps the most entertaining book review I've ever read.  And he didn't write it.  His friend Dave did.

The book reviewed was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Dave, according to Ed, is an expert.  On motorcycles (if not exactly zen).  Abbey says Dave is easy to spot, "he's the large red-bearded gentleman at the pool table, a tattoo of a rattlesnake on his left arm, wearing purple shades, a sleeveless shirt, a Levis vest with a dragon embroidered on the back, original blue jeans dark with grease, and black engineer's boots."

Let me interrupt here for a minute to comment on that description.  There's a picture of my dad (I wish I had a copy with me, because I'd obviously share it) after he got out of the Army.  Drafted during the Korean War, my dad did his time in Germany, and brought home with him the sweetest 50s-era BMW motorcycle you ever did see.  Well, in this picture my dad is standing next to his bike, army pants tucked into army boots, old-school leather motorcycle jacket, clean-cut flat top, horn-rimmed glasses, and an ironed button-up.  He stands a perfect caricature of what, in the 50s, wasn't a caricature at all.  In that picture he's as legit, as genuine, as non-poser as a dude can be...but that no one else in the decades that follow could imitate without posing through and through.  (It's also the only picture I've seen of my straight-laced, politically conservative, engineer father where he could be described, without irony or sarcasm, as a badass.)

So when I think of Abbey's description of Dave, I remember this was written in the late 1970s, and that this costume of Dave's, in that era, was legit, genuine, and utterly non-poser.  It's only with passing decades that a rattlesnake tattoo and a Levis vest becomes cliche and a little ridiculous.

Anyway, here's Dave.  And he's reviewing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  The entire book review (it's only two pages) is worth posting, but I'm not going to make it that easy.  If you want to read it, you'll have to find it yourself.  But here's a few snippets:

"This here book Zen and the Art of *bleep*ing Motorcycle Maintenance or I call it ZAMM for short has some interesting things to read about motorcycle maintenance but the trouble is the author don't give us much technical information about his own machine, just some little hints here and there, so I guess he was riding a Honda "Dream" of before 1970, probably the 250 cc. model, but no motorcycle I ever heard of and I been fooling around with bikes since 1950 needs all that *bleep*ing obsessive, man, obsessive *bleep*ing around with the rear chain and adjusting and oiling that this hear Pirsig gives his rear chain.  That was a sick bike."

He clearly isn't using the word "sick" like the enduro riders were during TSE.  Or Anthony Clark.

"...he gives us tips on setting up your own home mechanic's workshop but forgets to tell you the most important of all which naturally is a ing big shade tree in your backyard and a good trained hungry *bleep*ing Doberman attack dog to rip the head off any *bleep**bleep*ing mother *bleep*er lays a hand on your tools."

"All in all I'd say though this ZAMM has some useful stuff for you if you are a biker, man, that it is scattered out through too many pages and there's a lot of fuzzy philosophizing and too much half-assed mystical *bleep*ing ancient history, man, keeps getting in the way of the book as a *bleep*ing whole."

Good stuff.  One of the best book reviews I've ever read.

But, what does all this have to do with stage seven of the Trans-sylvania Mountain Bike Epic?  It's this:  Sometimes you've gotta just forget about all the *bleep* and just go out and *bleep*ing race your *bleep*ing mountain bike.  And good things can happen.

Incomplete podium pictures really drive me crazy.  Third place, where are you?!

After Friday's race, maybe because I finally had a good day, maybe because it was the end of the week, maybe because I was feeling a little passive aggressive against the hired hand that was keeping Jermiah Bishop and Tim Waite's bikes showroom clean between outings, maybe because who knows why, I wasn't all that motivated to do a comprehensive wash of my bike.  I barely remembered to put a little lube on the chain just before race time on Saturday.  I may have forgot to check the air pressure in my rear tire.  I didn't think too much about hydration and fuel, just stuck a couple of Cliffies in my pocket and loaded my Camelbak with CarboRocket.  I don't remember which kind.  I don't remember the ratio.  I didn't pour over the map of the stage.  I didn't think about what I would take on at the check point.

I don't know, maybe I'm trying to oversell the point.  Maybe it's a point I wouldn't have made had I not read the book review and been thinking about it.  But on Saturday I just tried to keep things simple.  Made sure the wheels spun freely.  Made sure the chain was moist.  Made sure I had something to drink.  And just went for a bike ride.  Well, not quite a ride, but you get the idea.

And of course it felt good to close out the week with a win.  How could it not?  It was a shorter stage.  Twenty-six miles.  But still plenty of singletrack.  On my way back in I caught and passed a Redline rider.  Clearly a pro (but I don't know his name), he had had it with the bumpy stuff and told me all about it.  He was from the midwest, and all too happy to return after this week on East Coast Rocks.  And when the trail smoothed out he ripped passed me and I didn't see him again, but it felt pretty good there for a while to be chomping through the crud, the stuff I've always said I don't do well, better than dudes that, really, in every other way, can out ride me.

Route and elevation profile of Saturday's stage seven.  Most of that section ridden twice was bumpy, twisty East Coast Rocks.  And I rode it pretty well.

And the win was not without its drama.  The second place finisher, Javier Lopez, well...  I didn't overtake him until eight miles or so from the finish.  Passed him on the last dirt road climb, rode as hard as I could to put maximum distance on him before entering the singletrack, and had him breathing down my neck all the way to the finish.  So I'm proud of that, holding someone off through six or seven miles of a wide variety of technical singletrack.  And, of course, I like winning.

So in some sense I learned how to ride my mountain bike this week, during Singletrack Summer Camp.  And I'm a little proud of that too.  Maybe there will be a little more mountain bike racing in my future.



--You can read a little write-up about the day's race on DirtRag.  My bit is buried way down at the bottom (where it should be) under "Other Categories."

--The time gaps on stage seven were not big, but I made up enough ground to move into eighth overall on GC for the week, not that it matters much.  I did the math...and had I finished with the winner's time on Wednesday (the dirt road stage where I believed I had the best chance of winning) and the third place finisher's time on Thursday (a stage that I'm confident I would have done well on had I not suffered the broken derailleur) I still would have only finished third on GC.  I say "only," but, really, I would have been super stoked and super humbled by that result.  My point is just that some really much better riders put a whole lot of time on me on Monday and that it would have been very difficult to overcome those differences no matter how I rode the rest of the week.

--I remain super impressed with the strength of the 50+ field.  Even if everything had gone right for me all week, I think the top two in the 50+ would have still beat me on GC.  Those guys are some super tough riders.

--The week in numbers, based on my Garmin:  223.2 miles; 22 hours, 12 minutes (that includes time fixing mechanicals and a little bit of garbage time); 28,954 feet of elevation gain.

--Will I do it again?  I'll say this, I had a great week.  Better than I thought it would be.  And by the end I was riding better than I thought I'd be (but still so much room for improvement).  But camping and cooking on my own got a little old.  Having Alan up there for two days was great.  If I do it again, I need a couple of buddies to hang out with.  They don't even need to be racing, necessarily, just need some dudes to chill with.  My brother talked about it...  If I could get him to come race the week with me that'd be a lot of fun.

Very cool finishing awards.
--Drove home Saturday night, unpacked myself, but not my stuff, then was off to Waynesboro to pick up a gaggle of teenagers from a birthday party.  I was happy to do it.  Really.  But the contrast between bike-racer life and normal-daddy life sort of smacks hard.

--Sunday evening I started feeling a little woozy, and then spent Sunday night / Monday morning violently emptying the contents of my stomach into a large plastic receptacle.  Rather awe-struck at how much came up, actually.  (I should have taken a picture of that!)  Fought a bit of a fever all Monday, but Tuesday felt good enough to mow the lawn, if a little doggedly.  Comparing notes with others at TSE it seems that nearly everyone got sick Saturday night into Sunday.  At first we blamed the shrimp at Saturday's post-race meal.  But it seems some that ate nothing still got sick, and a few were sick on Thursday or Friday.  So an impressively contagious stomach virus, I suppose.  Impressive in how very nearly comprehensive it's impact was.  Fortunately, no one at the Goat Farm has been infected.  So far.

--Because my last post was about cancer, and because other events keep it on the mind, I have to end on a bit of a somber note.  (It'd be ok to stop reading here.  Really.  Race report over.)  On Monday, Reuben Anders Wilde Goates (age 5 and a half), had his regular check-up MRI.  And it looks clean.  Approaching five years since miracle surgery and being cancer-free.  Which is especially good news today, it seems to me, because 10 years ago, on June 4, Valerie's dad died.  Cancer.  That personal, corporal betrayal.  Cancer sucks.

We served up root beer floats to the team after Reuben's t-ball game.

--We discovered Reuben's cancer the evening we celebrated the one year anniversary of Marian Grace Goates' (age 12) successful bone marrow transplant.  (We told Val's dad she was pregnant with Marian on the day he told us he had cancer.)  Marian didn't have cancer, rather some rare disease that no one has heard of and doesn't conjure the same immediate emotional response (though in every way it should, and then some) of those that do.  Plus, it's the same sort of docs and nurses that play with cancer everyday that saved her life, so it seems linked.  Anyway, our lives felt brutally cursed in those days.  (A fault in our stars indeed.)  It was a dark time.  But Marian is healthy.  Reuben is healthy.  And Audrey has always been healthy.  So the curse has lifted, it would seem.  And this is how normal people live...  All healthy families are alike; each unhealthy family is unhappy in its own way.  (Tolstoy won't mind; he's dead.)

--I can't remember exactly how old I was...ten, maybe?...when my dad told me he had cancer.  It could have killed him.  It might have a few years earlier.  But after one operation, and another a handful of years later, he made it, and lived to 80.  But I still remember that conversation.  When he told me he was going to the hospital and he might not come back.  It was weird to me, but it takes a parent to realize how devastating that conversation must have been for him.  And he had to have it five times.  (I've four older siblings.)

--There's a movie out now, The Fault in Our Stars, and of course (spoiler alert) it's about cancer.  Kids (teenagers) with *bleep*ing cancer.  The book was great (I hated how the parents were written, but it was still great), but I don't ever want to touch it again. I hated reading it.  I swore a lot.  I'd get that dry, tight feeling at the back of my throat that I get when I'm very, very angry (which I'm not very often).  And I swore a lot more.  I don't think there's any chance I could ever see the movie.  *bleep*ing cancer.  The normal of the lives of the families in that story...  I don't ever want to know that normal again.  And for those of you that do know that normal, who live it, well...I don't know what to say.  I'm all anger.  I'm all rage.  And I'm completely devastated for you.  Because I'm all empathy.  Cancer sucks.