"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Thursday Hate - Happy 40th

Why don't Chicago police have a sense of humor about anything except beating protesters? As I rode over to the Reenact '68 gathering - a gathering in which the bike cops moping over on the Balbo sidewalk nearly outnumbered the wanna-be hippies over on the lawn just to the west - I passed those police, and with wink asked, "The whole world is watching?"

Blank stares. Up against the wall, Motherfucker.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Chicago. There were maybe 40 people in Grant Park tonight for this reenactment, arranged in a half-moon around a drum set, a PA, and a microphone. Several veterans of the protest spoke before the restless audience on the grass. It was a sad, poignant, and telling remembrance that spoke of it's lack of relevance to today's society.

Today is also the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream Speech.

It was only fitting then, and certainly no coincidence, that I have just seconds ago finished watching America's first black nominee of a major party deliver his acceptance speech at the convention.

Yet it is also fitting that the coverage of the convention on MSNBC seems to have devolved in ESPNesque pandering usually reserved for College GameDay. And as Matthews and Olbermann recap it they've basically thrown all objective analysis out the window and have turned into cheerleaders for the convention, telling all the limousine liberals exactly what to think.

Finally, it is fitting that all of the dissenters voicing their own opinions in Denver were kept far away, locked in pen, away from the media's testifying eyes.

Don't get me wrong, I ain't voting McCain. But I expect my journalists to be objective, especially in the face of the never-ending charge of liberal bias. And it is speaking and dealing with the truth openly that defeats that charge.

Still, that never-ending charge is a lethal force, powerful and ensconced in the corn fields and in boardrooms everywhere, stoic and afraid of change, and relentless in protecting their interests. And until Obama is actually elected, I'll keep my hope subdued, because the fat, old, white guy with no sense of humor and looking to crack a protester's skull, ALWAYS wins. Always has.

But still...


At The Line

It was one more for the road in Oak Brook on Saturday. Summer, as it is to bike racing, at least, is nearly over.

It seems like it was just weeks ago that I came back from California, full of piss and vinegar and braggadocio…and naïveté. That we finally had a warm enough day to shed the winter shell, leave the booties at home, and sprint into Glencoe without being wary of ice patches.

Getting dropped from the sprint in Hillsboro was of no consequence – it was still only March. Cracking at the top of the hill in Whitnall Park on the last lap didn’t matter. I was still recovering from Ashville. A 5th overall in West Lafayette and a top ten the next week at Snake Alley tantalized and lured me on. Crashing myself out of Bensonville in Superweek actually encouraged me – I’d finally learned how to end a race on my own terms. Surely, the next six weeks had glory and points in store.

And then, as Phil Liggett likes to say, “I lost my bottle.”

Until yesterday, those next 6 weeks passed by ignominiously, as I watched each race weekend approach as would a deer lost in the blinding glare of headlights. Talking myself up to the line, only to talk myself down when it came to time to bumping elbows and sticking on wheels in a crowd at 30mph, all for a $50 check.

And while I looked back through all that, California seemed like eons ago.

So I sat out Downers. It would’ve done me no good, with where my head was at, right then. And instead of preparing for the race I rebuilt my psyche. A Monday night path ride with a teammate I’d rode all last fall with, while I was laid off. It was pure magic, an elixir. The training plan out the window for just one day, and south we rode, huge efforts alternated with jokes, pushing one another to physical exhaustion and laughter at the same time. That morning I woke up not wanting to look at my bike. That night I fell asleep in love with it.

That Saturday’s team ride was the first day I’d gone long since before Proctor. Not many were there, but some of the fast boys did show up. Throwing down with 3s and 2s on sprint points seemingly every 10 miles, just for the fun of it, made me see that I did belong. And while I still have a lot to learn, I certainly don’t need to put the kind of pressure on myself as I were doing this for a living.

And that was what I brought to the line on Saturday morning at the Tour of Oak Brook, the Road Race Championship of Illinois.

The hour plus wait for registration negated what remaining pressure I’d brought on myself that morning – all I worried about as I heard them calling us to stage was pinning my numbers on straight. Even then, our group was still starting over an hour late.

What ever else I had to worry about was killed off by seeing Katy drive by in the Zipcar with my parents. It didn’t even dawn on me that they were nearly 45 minutes late themselves until I yelled, “Hello!” from the 50 meters line – behind the Elite 4s – and was answered with a middle finger left behind by squealing tires like an empty bag of fast food. I just stared, jaw hanging open, at the car turning into the grass field. Somebody uttered, “Oh no, she didn’t…” while Newt handed me a shot block as if it were a piece of consoling candy. Bob gently rubbed my shoulder and said, “focus, man…just focus.”

They weren’t my directions. I was the victim, here. Rolling.

8 laps on a 3.2 mile course, and we started at quite an easy pace for a road race that was essentially a long crit. It was a triangle with two 90 degree turns and then of course a sharp, obtuse angle at turn three right before a home stretch just under a mile…with a monster tail wind. I started to the middle of the back through turn 3 and then, and on every lap it was a crazed scrambled to be the first again through turn one.

Newt was the XXX anchor at the front, never back more than five wheels at any time. A swarm would predictably come before and after each turn, and compounded by the fact that the last climb was right before turn three. Not much else to say, it was pretty much just eight laps of that. Greg and Kyle went off on hard flyers to try and get something, anything going, but nobody was chasing, and neither stayed off for long.

I just sat in, keyed off of Newt, and waited until the end – trying to stay up front, ahead of the cursing and yelling.

With one to go I held fast to the top five, but at the back on Spring Road, a few riders jumped the yellow line, inviting indignant shouts, and then a hard charging pack up the second climb pushed me out of the top twenty. I stayed calm, riding safe and smart, knowing I still had around a mile and a long ramp-up awaiting me.

We came out of turn three and I watched the front riders already jockeying around for position as the accordion effect brought us back together. My indecision nearly kept me behind them as I could see the wall forming before I realized there was huge gap remaining on the right hand side of the two lane home stretch. Nobody at the front wanted to leave a wheel, even three or four deep. Anybody who was in the thick it seemed to miss the opening to the right.

I then woke up with a start and began screaming at Nathan, in front and to the right, to move his ass…he wasn’t exactly going too slow, but with the entire pack now stretching the width of the road and about 300 meters to go, things were about to get awfully tight. It was all he needed to hear. Before I could grab his wheel for a leadout though, I had to loudly alert the rightward sliding Flatlandia rider to my presence, and then stood up to shift and give it my last…and realized I was out of gears.

I spun out to the line, hitting 40mph while never getting out of the saddle, and getting pipped at the last moment by a 40+ rider from Tower, the host team.

It took some sorting out, combining the camera, the time chips, and good old fashioned “detective work”, but about 20 minutes later, I was standing on the podium for the second time this year with a 3rd place finish in the Master’s 3- + Cat 4/5 (say that 3 times, fast) – 6th overall.

I felt happy and, yes, lucky. It was not a Hollywood ending to 2008 by any stretch of imagination. I had certainly not been in the best position in most races out of turn 3, but today it was actually as ideal as it could get. Being keyed up at the front, and reticent to go off with 20 twitchy riders right behind you would of course blind any racer to the particular situation. It was only the riders coming up from the back that could steadily ramp up their speed with conviction and determination who had the advantage yesterday. And sure enough, other than the overall winner who did attack from the last turn, at least 7 of the top ten did indeed come up from the back right.

Luck and patience – and just maybe a bit of tactics – finally came up in my favor.

It’s hard and sad to realize it’s all done, nearly finished. How could the season have gone by so fast? And how, as I relive it tonight in such vivid detail, could its beginnings seem so long ago?

Whichever. Sunday, as I sped into shade, chasing dust clouds on the single track, the sense of time was lost altogether. Perhaps the seasons will blend together more and more as I experience more, race more, into the illusion of greater length. Or maybe not. Maybe as I get older and the chances for victory get more fleeting, the seasons will seem shorter still.

But as long as I have her at my side, to joke and cheer, even through getting lost with shoddy directions and baking in the hot sun for me to wait on a $30 check, it will seem just right.


Tour of Oak Brook

More later, in a real race report...but I'm just too wiped and in need of a chilled evening to write much more, so I guess a picture really does say a thousand words.

Huge ups to my teammates, it was super fun racing with all of them yesterday.



We sat in the sand and watched the morning rise
As rockets flared through frost and golden glare.
With grit in my toes and fire in my eyes
I felt the rumble come and said a prayer.
A mighty wish that I should be aboard,
To feel the sunlight glint across my face
To hear the stars and planets strike a chord
And know that I had finally found my place.
I know that even universes play,
Amongst themselves with light and space and time
Throwing novae in a cosmic soiree,
An epic playground to wish one could climb.
And so I settle into rest and sigh,
I release a breath and watch the fire die.


3 Feet - and Print It.

Have you ever been riding, and violated somehow by a driver, and then wished mightily - and vainly - for a police officer in the vicinity to witness the whole thing, just once?!? instead of having to settle for just a middle finger, and maybe a few curse words?

I got the next best thing just this afternoon - instead of an officer, I got the police station. The Glenview Police station.

I was already in a pretty bad mood, having wasted a 1/2 hour after having shut down my computer and waiting for a coworker - who I was going to ride home with - finish up with a meeting with his boss. It was supposed to be a 5 minute pop-in, but after 30 minutes, I just got up and left. The rest of my department had long cleared out and I wasn't relishing a 20 mile ride home in Friday rush hour traffic alone. Cursing under my breath as I unlocked my bike, I told myself the first person who honked at me on my ride home was going to regret it.

I must be a prophet.

Lake is four lanes and marked at 45 mph, but it is not bumper to bumper by any stretch, and most traffic is more than accommodating on my twice weekly commute on it from Shermer to Milwaukee Ave and vice versa. However, there is the occasional jack ass who passes too close, and once, even worse.

And so with almost fable-like timing, about 300 yards west of where the south bound turn lane opens up on the approach to Shermer, a consistent and annoyed honking approached behind me, and then a silver sedan passed me about 50 with maybe 6 inches to spare.

I let him know what I felt about his lack of respect for my right to be in the road and let fly an obscene hand gesture and a few choice words. Soon after I was merging right in the Shermer turn lane, and then saw the driver ahead slow down, merge right, and then stop as I approached. I tried to go right and he blocked me!

So I went left, and he blocked me again! I continued along side him, letting him push me left into the eastbound lane. I checked behind for traffic, being careful as the light ahead was green.

All of this happened right in front of the goddamned Glenview Police station.

I began screaming, "let's take it up with the Police, huh?!" and sure enough he got into the left hand turn lane and then into the parking lot of the station we went.

Strange lobby. I expected a sergeant to be sitting behind an imposing desk that I could walk up to with this babbling, elderly Asian man behind me, but instead it looked like I was walking into an empty modern school building. I impatiently walked between locked doors and closed reception windows, as this man screamed behind me, "I ride bike too! I ride bike! You crazee!! I want co-ahht!!"

The police in the back must've freaked when they saw what was going on via the security camera because it wasn't long before 3 of them came running into the lobby. A female officer took me aside and I told her what happened, through the driver's constant interruptions, until she got him taken outside. Her eyes practically lit up as I explained to her my volunteer work and association with the CBF, and thus my knowledge of my rights to the road. She was in fact on the transportation safety task force and said she had extensive experience with the CBF as well.

Based on this guy's obvious cluelessness - and his constant babbling, about everything from how he rides a bike too to what was I doing on a road in rush hour to whether it was a county road and who clears the snow - they were going to ticket him right away for the 3 feet violation. In fact, as he wouldn't shut up for any of the officers, one of them finally told him that based on my statement and his attitude toward me, he was lucky he wasn't being arrested on much heavier charges of reckless driving and endangerment.

All the Glenview officers were extremely professional in taking control of - and in applying the law - to the situation. My court date to testify - required as no officer witnessed the incident - is September 10th at 1:30 in the Skokie Courthouse, at Harms and Old Orchard.

I should be fuckin' deputized.

Keeping up with the fight for your right...


Thursday Hate - Olympic Edition

Phirstly...Phuck Phelps. I want my girlfriend back, Michael.


Next, echoing what Matt has said, some of these subjective scoring sports are leaving me scratching my head...of course politics comes into it. Did you see the Ukrainians in the synchronized diving last night? Their attempt wasn't that bad, eliciting scores generally in the range of 7 to 8...but the Russians, of course, gave them a 4.5? "Ukraine? Ukraine is weak!!!"

At the same time, bad officiating doesn't deserve this kind of behavior (way to make your country proud).


What is this generation's answer to the hairy-lipped, broad-shouldered Iron Curtain athletes of the Cold War?

Did you know the average weight of a Chinese female gymnast is 77 lbs? One of them still has her baby teeth and just 6 months ago the Chinese media itself referred to her as a 13 year old? Good luck trying to find the article now.

At least our gymnasts have breasts.

These female gymnasts creep me out to begin with. Freakishly tiny, with bone-deficiencies from a lack of sunlight, and no childhood or life to speak of. And that's the Americans, who are lucky to get into this sport at age 8 or so, and have an overbearing set of parents who live vicariously through them.

Imagine instead an overbearing government who wants to live vicariously through them coming to take your kid at age 3 to be trained for the Olympics.

And don't get me started on all the fucking barrettes.


And seriously, I'm not exactly rooting against Michael Phelps, but Jesus, is this guy even human? I have a hard enough time even starting a goddamn Cat 4 race because of nerves, and this comes to Beijing knowing he needs to win every single event he swims in to break Mark Spitz's record, and he's doing it? I kinda want him to get Silver just once...just once, to see his reaction. And how the hell did they not extend an invitation to Mark Spitz himself to come witness this history in the making? Nope. He has to come on his own dime. I'd be pissed too.


No thanks. I'll stick with the real thing:


Wednesday Nite Retro

Shrieking Violet
@ Phyllis' Musical Inn
1800 W. Division St.
9pm, Wednesday August 13

There once was a time when Division Street west of LaSalle was not the place your average Chicago yuppie went for a weeknight out. If you wanted to bar hop in Wicker Park between Damen and Ashland you basically had about 3 options: run...and I mean RUN...between the Rainbo, the Innertown Pub, and Phyllis' Musical Inn.

Nowadays, these places are still open and considered the height of the hipster pantheon, along with Goldstar, but instead of running between them, you can now traipse lazily along between your choice of sports bars, cocktail lounges, wine bars, sushi joints, organic pizza, coffee shops, and faux-hipster dives.

But the originals remain at the heart of Wicker's lure, and nowhere is divier, scuzzier, or spits a heartier loogie in the face of your wanna-be hipster than Phyllis' Musical Lounge.

The sounds sucks. The beer is warm. The owner a degenerate, alcoholic psychotic.

But at least it's for real. It has a history that the other music venues in Wicker Dream of. It is a direct lineage to the old Polish Broadway.

And I'll be playing there Wednesday night with Shrieking Violet, a heavy-rock/blues trio of myself on bass, Tami Peden on drums, and Jan King on guitar. We are totally unironic. Have absolutely no shtick. Just in your face, loud rock and roll. Perfect for Phylis'.

I can't say much for my own musical abilities, but I've been playing with these ladies for coming up on 2 1/2 years now, and it is without a doubt the most real, true musical experience I've been a part of. Tami and Jan have been playing together for over 20 years, in such projects as Faster Pussycat, Medicine Ball, and Cane Corso. They met in L.A., where Jan had been working since her days as a fresh-faced, soon-to-be-defiled, young 17 year old with a band called The Orchids.

Not only does Jan play on the Les Paul that Billy Duffy recorded Electric with, you might also recognize her as the unlucky waitress from the late-80's vampire cult-classic, Near Dark, who gets her throat slit after serving a round of drinks to the marauding band of blood suckers in a small town tavern.

So take a break for a night from DJ Mashups, trash-disco, dance parties, and dirty hipster indie, and sit back, breathe in some stale spilled beer and admit you're not too cool for a little old time 80's biker-chick blues rock.


Shaving with a Dull Blade

This run-up to this weekend's races trembled on the tip of needle...the dial could've gone either way.

Rain threatened in the parking lot of Prairie Crossing in Grayslake on Saturday, but other than the slight chill in the air, and the unique course, nothing about the race was really any different than any other event this year.

Shaped like a big C, there were only 2 ninety degree turns, with 3 wide, sweeping pedal-thoughs. A recipe for a fast race - tempered by a fast head wind on the back and the home stretches.

It was mostly a sit-in, either at the back or fighting for 3rd wheel. I'd planned on jumping on a hard attack just after a prime-lap, which was announced with 5 to go, but I'd moved so far to the back while conserving it took me another half lap to work my way back to the front - but it was perfect because my I got my need positioning when we were back in the headwind. A rider was off, and I left to try and join him.

Just like at Olympia Fields, the group strung out a bit, I could see riders trying to join me as I passed the rider who was coming back from his flyer before. I kept hammering to increase the gap and help any riders joining me keep their's. But when I looked back, the group was together again and I had a sizable gap.

For whatever reason - maybe the vomit rising in my throat - I thought I had one lap less to go than we did. When I came past the line it read "3" to my dismay. The wind was hard and my will was not. I sat up briefly, but when I looked back, the gap had grown and obviously my two teammates were blocking, and maybe more.

I do briefly remember hearing something about a prime lap but was so focused on just trying to stay off it didn't really register. I looked again after the line with 2 to go and the gap was still there, but I was really dying in the wind now. When I looked again, there they were, coming up on about 1.5 to go. I sat in and tried to recover, planning to try to work my way up after turn one - the bottom sweeping turn of the "C".

But by then everyone else had the same plan, and the front was driving the pace and it was going to have to be done in the wind. But I had no real strength left to get it done there, and no real desire to mix it up on the narrow turns. The jump came and I was maybe 15 or 20 back and that was the race. Not that it took anything away from yet another podium for Newt.

The only consolation came with my $25 gift certificate to Wild Fire. Probably good for a nice martini and some calmari. Jeff Holland won one too. I think we'll have a double date.

Today I felt I would fare much better. Everyone had been raving about the course. The nervousness of the nights-before was gone and I enjoyed a quiet evening alone with Katy. I was up early and out with my pre-packed bag to meet Newt in NorthCenter and we rode up to Glencoe along the usual team route. A truly beautiful morning with a stiff headwind keeping our speed low and conversation high. We ran into Brian, Jeff, and William each coming back from morning training rides.

But it was not to be. The beautiful setting and several teammates in the field did nothing for my psyche. I hammered to get to the front and took the first lap around. There were five of up there for the first three laps, when Newt just rode off the front to find himself with a slight gap. One, then another rider came around Chris and I, and I didn't chase until the surge came on the home stretch. This was about 3 laps into the race, and from then on out it was downhill.

I just fell further and further back, thinking only of making it through turn 2 without crashing. It had a stellar dip and a manhole cover in it, and when it was 2 or more wide, I just lost my nerve. I wasn't gassed at all, I did feel strong. However, I having no fun whatsoever at this point, and about 5 or 6 laps into the race, I just raised my hand, faded to the right, and got the hell out of there.

I can't call myself a burnout. I've only been racing for 2 years, and I can't even be competitive in the 4s. Do I even have an edge yet to lose?

I guess so. What else would you call it? Not three months ago it seemed I was finally coming into some real form and it was only a matter of time. A 5th place in the Tour of West Lafayette, and a Top 10 in Snake Alley had me feeling strong and confident. Spring Prairie cracked me pretty hard, but that was just a realization of my capabilities and preparation.

I guess it started with Proctor. It was so demoralizing to race that well only to be taken out by a last lap, last turn crash. Olympia Fields, and the Bensonville race, up to that final lap, however seemed to be pointing my way to the light. I'd been watching teammates and friends blossom to a level they'd worked for, leaving the usual pack fodder behind to wallow and rationalize. Was it finally happening for me?

I sat, scraped and bleeding on the grass in Bensonville, and then watched my Superweek and my season drift down to a skittish level where I really can't justify going into any corner to battle for my position. I love to ride bikes fast and I did love to race, but now I'd rather come out of my weekend road-rash free, and certainly not with any broken bones...or worse a broken bike. At least insurance pays for the bones.

I walked away from today's race with no qualms, yet of course with a sense of loss and pangs of jealousy tempering my happiness and conviction as teammates podiumed on both days. But at this point I just can't see myself there and therefore had no right to be. And if that's the case, I of course belong nowhere near the 3s, and I am caught in terribly demotivating loop.

So if I was unable to get the blade sharpened in these low-key preludes to Downer's Grove, how can I expect to be competitive there? And worse, who will want to race next to me?

I need better bike handling skills. Period. Or maybe another sport. Bike racing might not be my thing...right now, not crashing is the only thing on my mind in a criterium. I'd love to take another stab at the track, and to gear my next season around it to at least upgrade to Thursday night racing, but I don't have the kind of time or patience to be racing and training two nights a week and racing on the weekends. I want to spend that kind of time with my lady and writing. And cyclocross is the same story. Sort of. This sport is fucking expensive and cross also means twice as many trips to the goddamned shop.

So I obviously have some commitment issues, as well, it seems. And as such, I think next weekend we just need to get out of town, at least for a day, and have some fun. The season, criteriums, anyways, is probably over. The road race state championship could have redeeming facets, and the 4 man Team Time trial is far more about fitness, which is one thing I still seem to have left.


For the lack of posts lately - I've had a bit of writer's block.

A constipation of my brain that was brought on by a lapse in judgment and the belated knowledge that really anybody can read what is written on this site. However, I am unable to make creative outlet private. I love sharing what I write immediately with the world: it's quickest way to the real me. Many times there is no filter between what triggers and fires my fingers over the keyboard and when I hit the post button. Why wait for some publisher to read and review and edit what I give you? Isn't the enjoyment and true fulfillment of the reader found in finding a raw piece of my brain? And now it is the guarded pose I must now take in order to claim my security in life that makes this outlet so much more important.

And will not cinch down the output one iota to satisfy the need of any soulless incorporation to keep things "appropriate."

"Appropriate" will kill you just like an intestinal blockage.

So up next, a bit of Ex-lax for the soul.



Did anybody else think that fucking torch lighter was a dead man?


Highway Fumes

This morning's Bike Blog at biketraffic.org had me choking on my oatmeal.

We are at a watershed event in modern history. Since our society began using cars as the primary mode of transportation there has never been as big a drop drop in driving as we are currently experiencing now. If the nadir in driving miles during the Arab oil embargo in the 1970's was a plateau, this current drop is more like a cliff. As in billions of miles less.

Higher gas prices are changing Americans driving habits. Finally our selfish behavior is hitting us in the pocketbook, and we are reacting. However, as gas purchases are down, so are the highway taxes that come along with them.

And what is the Department of Transportation's response to this drop in funding?

By diverting money from mass transit.

That's right. Finally, everyday Americans are beginning to see mass transit as the answer to getting us beyond oil. At least partly. I notice myself that my twice a week metra commute to work is now twice as crowded as it was even in April. And the Bush administration, which was practically appointed by the petroleum industry, will take the hard-won money we fight for almost daily, it seems, and use it to prop up a way of life that even the most dunderheaded, stubborn right-wingers can see is eventually on the way out.

I am not some pie-in-the-sky, wet-behind-the-ears, pantywaist that Hannity and Limbaugh seem to think exist everywhere beyond their diatribes. I know we need highways. The interstate system was originally conceived as an escape-route for our metro areas and of course, interstate commerce depends on them.

Yet in both cases, this tool is rendered useless by traffic congestion; the system is clogged by Americans who seem to think they have the right to a daily commute to work or play in air-conditioned comfort on leather seats that burns away 400 years of sunshine every mile.

Taking money from Mass Transit to keep the highways operable for emergencies and commerce is nothing less than shooting ourselves in the foot. We need mass transit to keep people off the highways. With substandard mass transit options, the system will not be able to keep up with demand, and growth will be stunted. We'll simply spiral downward faster and faster until it all just breaks down into a pile of rubble, potholes, broken down trains crowded with sweaty misery, gridlocked highways, and a population on the verge of revolt.

Hardly a vision for the future, but right in line with the vision of the Bush Administration.

Please write the Department of Transportation and let them know what you think of their plan to divert money from Mass Transit to fund highways. And start to demand that our elected officials distance themselves from the petroleum industry.