"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

30.5.08

Harvey Korman: He never did get his fruit cup

RIP Harvey...1927 - 2008.



"I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists."

-----------------------

"Where's my fruit cup?!"

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"Don't get saucy with me, Bernaise."
"de Monet! Mo - nay! Say it with me, Mo - nay!"
"Wait for the shake!"

28.5.08

Music Education Night - Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis

For Katy, and all music lovers.

One of the more prolific and successful composers of the 20th Century, Paul Hindemith actively composed for nearly 50 years, and wrote several symphonies, operas, ballets, numerous concerto and even a sonata for every instrument of the orchestra. I performed his Sonata for Tuba and Piano for my junior recital at the University of North Texas in 1997.

Hindemith was a master of all forms and tonalities, from atonal and 12-tone, to the lush and mysterious harmonies of 20th Century music.

His most well-known work, and a favorite for many - including myself, is his 1943 orchestral piece, Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Weber. It is famous for its bombastic and inspiring 4th movement march, and therefore the previous three movements are largely ignored. But, as the title of the piece suggests, that last movement is the end result of a fantastic and artful transformation, so it should be listened to as a whole to experience the artist's full intentions.

The example for this piece that I have supplied is the definitive recording by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt. Produced in 1988, it was made at the height of San Fran's reign as top-tier orchestra and features, in my opinion, one of the finest brass sections ever recorded. In fact, I studied with tubist Floyd Cooley at the DePaul in 1997-98.

Use the hi-fi for this one. The subtleties of Hindemith's harmonies and melodic genius are brought to life by some of the most talented musicians alive today.

Form-wise, Symphonic Metamorphosis is a pretty straightforward symphony. It starts with a relaxed allegro, or walking tempo, and presents the themes to the listener right away. These themes are from the music Carl Maria von Weber wrote for a play in 1801-02, and Hindemith makes a bold statement with them immediately. The listener is captivated by the lively interplay between the strings, brass, and winds while thick, lush chords abound. While the rhythm of the piece is robotic - typical for Hindemith - wide dynamics and clever orchestration (listen to the melody move effortlessly between the winds and brass, for example), as well as the prowess of the musicians, make this first movement absolutely alive with vigor and authority.

It then moves on to the scherzo, which is a very lively tempo, which in many other symphonies can be a waltz and is usually found in the 3rd movement. The opening melody is a restatement of the initial theme of the first movement Allegro. It is then passed to nearly every instrument in the orchestra, and builds from a tiny, little seed to a raucous crescendo, like a Bolero. Then suddenly, the piece explodes in a massive fireball and out of it emerges this funky, almost ragtime twist on the theme, that too, builds to several peaks before giving way to the original theme again, which then fades out to the horizon with the percussion, ending on a simple, breathless major chord.

Next is the andantino, which literally means "little slow" and it's here the 3/4 tempo of the waltz is heard. A new transformation of the theme is heard, whittled down to three notes, and is passed along again on several instruments. The harmonies are huge and bold, and have inspired countess filmscores, undoubtedly. This movement is very short, and exits to a flute solo fluttering the theme, light and inconsequentially, taking us directly into the final movement...

...the Marsch, a rousing, inspirational movement with two distinct dynamic and thematic peaks. The final transformed opening melody gives way to an at-first ominous countermelody, which switches to the major literally midstream in the trombone soli, then builds up to the perhaps the loudest quarter-rest in all of music history. Exploding in a supernova of self-serving yet satisfying bombast, the coda sweeps us out on the backs of the soaring French horns to the inevitable brass-gasmic conclusion.

A performance such as this one would no doubt bring the entire audience immediately to their feet.

Hump Day

Wait...so, you're telling me...wait...[holding head in hands, unable to grasp concept]...douchebags and tools actually consume more energy drink on average?

I thought those marketing campaigns were aimed college professors and rocket scientists.

No. Way.

(courtesy of fattym)


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Filmstrip time!


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Speaking of douchebags...if you see one of these people, probably barbecuing while driving his H2 and towing a tire fire, please punch them in the face.

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Have you registered to volunteer at the Sherman Park Criterium yet? If you are a regular reader of this site and live in the area, you really have no excuse. This race is all about benefiting the sport of cycling, so please do your part.

25.5.08

Ophidiophilia

The Number, of course

I love snakes.

A Snake, at least. My experience last season ignited a such fetish for that cobbled, pain-inflicting, beast slithering up the hill in Burlington, Iowa, that I had been dreaming about returning ever since. Those eight laps laps of pure, lung-searing, agonizing pleasure would be extended to 12 this time around.

Jeff, Peter, Katy, Kedzie and I got an early start Friday afternoon, yet we still managed to sit in traffic for 90 minutes trying to escape the city before opening up on the open road to the Mississippi River and our destination. We arrived before sundown, and getting a look the object of our affection and checking into the hotel, we were walking the streets of this scruffy Midwest railtown, looking for a bite to eat.

Brian, Peter, and Jeff

After a taste of the local flavor at Napoli Pizza, just north of the last turn to the start finish line, we headed to bed for some fitful sleep, at least in our room, as Kedzie, the Wonder Mascot, was having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the travel schedule of the amateur racing circuit.


Photo by Katy Casserly

The next morning, after breakfast we headed back downtown. First up we watched a decent sized 50/60+ Master's race go 8 laps, after a 6-man pile up split the field from the beginning.

Warning - Approach With Caution

Next the 40+ Master's did 12 laps, and a heavy 2 man battle between teams Atlas and Renaissance developed before the latter escaped for a solo victory.

Before our race, we watched a great solo effort by William Pankonin in the 5s, another 8 lap race. He was the third up the Snake after a great first effort and stayed strong for a well deserved 12th place.

William in the 5s

I was suddenly nervous while standing at the line next to Peter and behind Jeff Holland and also former XXXer Nick Gierman of Vitamin Water - Trek. But as soon as the whistle blew there was no time to be scared...I was too busy trying to get up front.

It was a bottle neck at the mouth of the Snake, and I heard some shouts as I held up just a bit and found a good place to head up at speed. The crowd was thick and raucous on the grass in the switchbacks, and Katy's shouts of encouragement gave me the power I need to come out strong strong at the top. I was in good shape until that first time down the wide, sweeping 3-corner S-curve back to downtown. Early in my warmups I'd kept skipping wheel and I hadn't known what I was doing wrong. So I was a bit tentative going down the first 3 times, and the leaders slowly crept away. The second time around, Peter had flown past me on the pre-hill before the Snake, and for the rest of the race, the only time I would see him would be on the switchbacks above as I was just entering the cobbles.

Peter on his heels

I finally found my line however, after discovering the little dimple in the middle of turn 2 on the descent that was kicking my tire out. Gradually I picked my way back in the middle of the front 15. After trading pulls with with Nate Iden from Spider Monkey for a couple of laps, he fell back with around 7 to go, and soon, a group of 4 riders, including Nick Gierman, was within reach.

I rode with them for a couple of laps, pacing with them up the snake and sucking wheel through downtown. With 3 to go, I was right behind them, and after we made the right turn up the prehill to the Snake, halfway up, I made my move. I jumped hard, but not hard enough, or so I thought, and spun as fast as I could past them and up on to the cobbles.


(photo by iowapix)


Photo by William Pankonin

Coming up to the top I saw a disheartening sight, Jeff Holland on the on grass, with a flat tire, and a look of sweaty and exhausted resignation on his face. It wasn't until I was back on the pavement and shifting to the big ring before I thought to look back and see what, if any, kind of gap I put between myself and my chasers. It was enough to motivate me to take my most daring line down the descent yet.

I could see the next group of riders of far ahead, and then just one other rider as they disappeared around the turns. Two more laps to hold anyone off. From the announcer's call, I could tell I was flirting with a top ten finish.

The crowd was really going now, with all the Cuttin' Crew guys egging me on, and Katy's shouts down below at the finish definitely helped me make my last 3 laps stronger than my first 3. I topped the Snake for the second to last time, and looked back to see Nick right on my heels. It was agony to spin the big ring but I had to get up to speed to lose my pursuers, and the bait of the last lap must've been beyond enticing.


Photo by Heet Myser

But as I passed the start-finish with one to go, I looked back and they were fading. By time I topped the Snake for the last time to Jeff's huge words of encouragement, the gap was bigger. And as I worked by way around downtown, and picked off on last lapped rider, or perhaps he was just form the leader groups and just finished, they were nowhere to be seen. I counted the riders ahead of me as I crossed the line alone, and realized that a top ten was mine.

Last year's trip to Burlington was a shocking introduction the extent of the pain and exertion one needs to endure to finish a race like this. But, this year, even with the four extra laps, the evidence the benefit of my early season training was plain to see. Last year, I had no idea who I was, let alone what lap it was. This past Saturday I was much faster, rode smarter, and did what I needed to come back home with some payout in my wallet.

If you haven't had a chance to race in Burlington, a trip out there is in order. Even though they bite, you might just find a love for snakes.

Post race meal

22.5.08

Appreciation

To my Darling Dame of the Velo Urbane:

So much of the time it is, "me, me, me."

This I now realize.

All we say for hours on end is, "bike, bike, bike."

And ignore you, and demoralize.

Italian and French men you've never known,

At your expense, we canonize.

And worst of all we never give thanks.

For that, I apologize.

And now it's time to recognize.


That we take all that pain through course of the race

So we can come home to the smile on your face.

We're gone all those weekends, to not see you at all

To make us seem stronger and 20 feet tall

We're guys afterall, just playing King of Hill

Because in the end, we all want the girl.

But to have you there, is beyond any measure.

To hear your cheers, turns agony to pleasure.

I will never again pass over your due,

Even on the ride out, the front seat is for you.

The Hidden Side of Chicago's Bike Routes: The Balbo Monument

Sure, he talked tough. But he made people feel good about themselves, and he made the trains run on time, right?

Fascism was pretty fashionable at one time, before all that war got in the way. And with such a sizable and influential Italian population at the time, Chicago was grateful for the recognition.

"CW...what the hell are you talking about?" I imagine some of you are asking.


Most people barely notice the nondescript white pillar that stands along the bike path as it snakes past the eastern side of Soldier Field through Burnham Park , let alone stop to actually read the inscription on its base:

QUESTA COLONNA
DI VENTI SECOLI ANTICA
ERETTA SUL LIDO DI OSTIA
PORTO DI ROMA IMPERIALE
A VIGILARE LE FORTUNE E LE VITTORIE
DELLE TIREMI ROMANE
L'ITALIA FASCISTA SUSPICE BENITO MUSSOLINI
DONA A CHICAGO
ESALTAZIONE SIMBOLO RICORDO
DELLA SQUADRA ATLANTICA GUIDATA DA BALBO
CHE CON ROMANO ARDIMENTO TRASVOLO L'OCEANO
NELL' ANNO XI
DEL LITTORIO


And also inscribed is the translation:

THIS COLUMN
TWENTY CENTURIES OLD
ERECTED ON THE SHORES OF OSTIA
PORT OF IMPERIAL ROME
TO SAFEGUARD THE FORTUNES AND VICTORIES
OF THE ROMAN TRIREMES
FASCIST ITALY BY COMMAND OF BENITO MUSSOLINI
PRESENTS TO CHICAGO
EXALTATION SYMBOL MEMORIAL
OF THE ATLANTIC SQUADRON LED BY BALBO
THAT WITH ROMAN DARING FLEW ACROSS THE OCEAN
IN THE ELEVENTH YEAR
OF THE FASCIST ERA

That's right. The dictator of fascist Italy gave this innocuous little obelisk as a gift to the City of Chicago...when? Let's see here..."the 11th year of the fascist era..." Fascism is considered to have become "official" when Italy crossed over that line in 1922, so that would date this little present to 1933.

Ah, the world's fair was in Chicago in 1933! "The Century of Progress."

Indeed.

Italo Balbo, Mussolini's Air Marshal, arrived to enthusiastic crowds in Chicago that summer in 1933, July 15th, and the column, dedicated to his visit and to Chicago, was unveiled the next year in front of the Italian pavilion at the Fair.

This little historical gem has been hidden from Chicago's eyes for the better part of the time since it's installation. It's roots have probably kept most of the spotlight away in the first place. As well, Chicago's bike path has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the last ten years only, and that particular stretch of path has seen much new construction - even now, as I write this - on the path itself, and during the rebuilding of Soldier Field.

It is interesting to note that the major sponsors of the "Century of Progress" that year were the American automobile companies, specifically General Motors and Ford. Both of which were open supporters of fascism, and Hitler in particular, even through the start of the war.

It has even been alleged that these companies and their leaders, among others, conspired to overthrow the government of the United States during these years. Whatever the conjecture, the historical record of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee does attest to the fact that two-time Medal of Honor winner Smedley Darlington Butler went to Congress with an incredible story that has led to much conspiracy-theorizing ever since.

For whatever reason, the Balbo Monument was never removed - to our benefit, in my opinion. And it has endured, although largely unnoticed, along the lakefront through the tumultuous times of Chicago's history.

Please give it a second look the next time you pass.

Thursday Love

No hate today. Why?

Because this guy is back on the bike, after a long, unplanned off-season. Give it up.



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Food poisoning sucks. And it's officially over. I just had my first real you-know-what in 4 days. Trying to ride yesterday was tough as I've been low on glycogen from not eating. A quick 90 minute ride with Stocky yesterday had me bonking.



Give it up for Antibonk.

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Coming this Saturday, in Burlington, IA: 12 laps in the pain cave.



Give it up for the return to Snake Alley.

21.5.08

20.5.08

Tour de West Lafayette - Stages 2 and 3

Well, things never do end up exactly as you thought they did, remembered from the depths of the race, do they?

We arrived at the start of Sunday's two stage event around 7:30 that morning, after a dinner with the 8 of us - Jeff and Debi, Jon and Lara, Katy and I, and Bob - at Olive Garden the night before. The results of the criterium yesterday were posted, and I was lamely in 11th place. I thought for sure I'd gotten those other two at the line, but it was not to be. Other the other hand, I was in 5th place for both the sprint points and the KOM points, so that could come into play later, as well as give a payout if I could get up into the top three. The French Purdue student who'd gotten off the front had a lead of 15 seconds, then there were 11 of us all behind him. From there, the next closest group was at least 3 minutes behind.

The staging area was a state park of some kind, on the site of one Fort Ouiatenon, a French Trading post in the 18th century that played a bit of a role in the French and Indian war, and then it fell into the hands of the English, and eventually the Native Americans, before being destroyed by U.S. troops in the 1791. The park was very spacious, with a recreation of the trading post and other buildings up near the road, several picnic areas and wide open lawns.

We gathered up the road just after nine and watched the 3/4s roll out with the Sherrif's car in chase, and then just a few minutes later, we were rolling ourselves.

Immediately, three Beverly Veepak guys were trying to dictate a fast pace into a strong headwind, in spite of having the 3/4s and their chase vehicle in site the entire first 4 miles. I simply sat on their wheels alternately, pulling through only once, and they would oblige by pulling some more If they wanted to stay in the wind, that was fine by me.

The course was a lollipop of sorts, except we didn't go back out on the stem to finish. Once onto the loop and past the start/finish line (although the race was live from the moment we rolled out) it was 4 laps on the loop.

The hill was a bugger. A bit shorter than Hillsboro, about as steep as Spring Prairie, it was an ess curve and you couldn't see the top until the very, very end. And once at the top, you were hit square in the face with that stiff wind once again. Interesting this discouraged any attacks on the hill, but invited encouraged them shortly after - for quick recoverers, or on the flat approach up to it.

Two significant attacks got on in the race. The first, just as I mention happened just after the flat left turn past the hill, approaching the start finish. Probably just going for sprint points, his jump was very strong and got a decent gap that stayed open while we were in the head wind and then into the curving downhill stretch before the turn where we originally turned off. Jeff and I reeled him with two long hard pulls, catching him about a half mile before the hill.

With two to go, a Pista Elite rider snuck off the front before the hill, unbeknownst to me, at least. Jeff, Jon, and I sat at the front of the pack up the hill measuring our pace, and I began to think about grabbing one more KOM point. Just as I jumped we came to the end of the ess curve and I saw him, already grabbing the points. Conviction is not a strong point of mine, and I sort of half-assed it the rest of the way, expecting the 2nd place to be mine, only be pipped by another rider. He smirked at me as I cursed myself.

Back on the flat after the hill, the Pista rider was maybe 50 yards off from us, and his gap was not as strong as the previous attacker's. We let him dangle out there and watched thrash over his frame in the headwind, tiring himself out. Closing in on the left turn to the decent, we chased, and then swallowed him halfway down.

The last lap was fast and fun. Coming down the hill Jeff, Jon, and I had a nascent train formed, ready to steam ahead of the sprint. But the hill completely broke it up. I really needed to do well in this race, and it was a familiar site going up the last time: several riders passing me. It was all I could do not to let the insurmountable gap open up, especially with the headwind at the top. As we crested, you could see everyone try to recover as fast as they could, and then ramp up the speed. I closed my gap, grabbed Jon's wheel, and we closed in on the leaders.

The line jumbled as everyone looked for an opening and a wheel at the same time, and suddenly, Jon, myself, and Jeff found ourselves behind a wall of riders about 6 wide, and just as we were spinning up, the race was over. We finished 6th, 7th, and 10th, respectively, but it could've been the complete reverse, it was that close. For all our teamwork up to that point in the race, if we could've just held out train...

4-5s RR Sprint

Back we went to the staging area. We had at least 2 hours until the time trial. Riders would go off at 30 second intervals in reverse order of the GC, and we had to wait until they calculated the standings from the finish of the road race. We lounged in the sun, ate the Jimmy John's sandwiches they provided us for lunch, and explored the grounds.

We finally saw a crowd growing at the registration table, and figured the results were up. Imagine my surprise when I saw that I was 7th in the GC. Jon was in 8th, and Jeff was in 9th. My sprint and KOM points had really made the difference in my case. Jeff, Suddenly, I started my warm up, I was feeling some of the first real pressure I've felt as a racer.

The penultimate stage, the individual time trial, was a 5.7 mile, point-to-point course, from the start of the road race to the start/finish line. It was almost entirely into the head wind, and up the same hill. The three of us went off together in order, with the three final riders just behind us, the French Purdue student was the final rider. They first grouped us by time, then by number since we were all at the same time in the standings. I was Jon's 30 second man, and since I've never come as close to a minute from him in the team FCTT, I had plenty of motivation right behind me.

Since it was so short, it was on from the beginning. I was around 87% effort immediately, and caught my 30 second man, a little guy with peach fuzz on his legs from Wild Card Cycling (Champaign-Urbana) with in a couple of minutes. The wind was tough. I was averaging 22-23 on the flats. A slight downhill got me up close to 27 but that was brief. Once out of the wind I was able to increase the pace a bit, and as the miles ticked off and the hill approached, my effort passed 90%.

I followed Jon's advice, and spun up the bottom of the hill. Halfway up there was a group of kids cheering us on, and it was enough to get my out of the saddle and hammer and thrash my way to the top. A supreme mental effort just to get back in my big ring immediately in that wind was required but soon I was up to speed, and in the distance I could see the start finish.

Shift. "Clunk. Whirrrr." Shift. "Clunk. Whirrrr." Shift. Empty the tank on afterburner.

I crossed the line just over 30mph to big cheers from Katy, Debi, and Lara, and held back the vomit.

I spun down the road about a half mile, and turned around to see Jon doing the same, and Jeff just passing him. We rode back to the start finish and rehashed the final ride. Jon had passed the Wild Card kid as well, but both Jeff and Jon had been passed by a rider behind them, in a blue Endure It kit, on a big time TT set up.

Once back, and the TT results up, waiting for the final calculations, it became obvious that the rider who clipped Jon and Jeff was going to be the winner. He was in our group that was only 15 seconds behind, and he'd put at least a minute into our time. Plus the French rider who was in first had finished behind us. Jeff had crushed the TT, finishing 3rd, in 15:48. I managed a 7th place finish at 16:03, and Jon was right behind with 16:05. Everyone else who finished ahead of us in the TT was out of the top group that was behind the leader, but without knowing how the KOM and Sprint points would figure in, we guessed that at best, we could be looking at a 2nd place in the GC for either Jeff or me, and we'd all be in the top 10 for sure.

Jeff's 3rd place TT

After standing around for what seemed like an hour (I was holding my jersey, and didn't want to be too optimistic) the crowd gathered again and we went over to see what awaited us.

The unattached Samuel Langley, who passed Jeff and Jon, had won. I can't recall who was 2nd, but the French rider had accumulated enough points while off the front in yesterday's criterium to retain his top 3 finish. Jeff got the 4th place, I was 5th, and Jon was 6th. We were all in the money for the event!

And better yet, XXX was the exemplification of team work. Several riders came up and congratulated us as a group. If there'd been a team classification for the 4/5s as there was for the 3/4s, we'd have won, hands down.

Payout!

What a feeling! I've had previously exactly one top ten finish in my nascent racing career and to get 5th place for the omnium in this event was way beyond my expectations. Yet, although I had regretfully skipped Monsters of the Midway to come here, in search of upgrade points, I had succeeded. The 7th place in the road race netted me 3 points! And with our gracious partners there to offer an incredible amount of material and moral support, it was definitely a breakthrough weekend and one for the books!



Too bad my trip would end on a lame note. We were delighted to have found the Triple XXX Family Restaurant on our way into town on Saturday, and we stopped there for a pre-crit lunch. We ate light, telling ourselves we'd make a return stop for one of their "famous burgers." On our way out of town that afternoon, we returned, and I had the Dwayne Purvis: a double cheeseburger with peanut butter. What the hell, I thought, "when in Rome"...

Triple XXX Restaurant!

Long story short, good thing the Romans also invented indoor plumbing.

I am on my second day home sick. I've eaten, in the last 36 hours, exactly three bowls of cheerios. This in itself was enough to make Katy worried, knowing my appetite. Feeling much better, now that it's "passing" but I am going to be a bit pickier on the road in the future.

17.5.08

Tour de West Lafayette - Stage 1

West Lafayette.

Quick drive. Windy roads. Peed twice. Ate some donuts.

Arrived at the course pretty early, got a pre-ride in jeans in.

Lots of cars on the course.

Cars cars cars.

Just parked. Kind of obvious they weren't going anywhere.

A woman asked us what was going on. Her house was right on the course.

"Can I back out?"

"When?"

"In 20 minutes..."

"Didn't you get a flyer?"

She had but not much else in the way of what was happening. Seems she got it the night before. Nor were the police towing any cars.

Course was halved.

The hill stayed in. So did the time limit. Course / 2 + hill x same time = fucking HARD.

57 riders started. 12 finished.

The only flat section was the 100 meter start/finish stretch, and that started after a tight fast corner after a fast hill.

I was 3 wheel first lap, then rode at the front for the next 3 getting some points. With the hills and trees, there wasn't much wind expect for the flat part, so it wasn't really pulling. But after a while I did need to sit in and recover for a while, but never more than 10 wheels back.

But the constant climbing took a massive toll. With 5 to go I remember looking back and thinking, "that's ALL?"

Yep.

Last lap, the move happened on the back, just below the stinger that decided the race. The order at that point was pretty much how it finished. And I missed it. I only moved back maybe 2 wheels but it was enough to keep me out of the upgrade points. The hill down to the turn was fast and the line was always single file. Early on as I was on the front for bit, I nearly ended my race there, thinking for a couple of awful seconds I was going to have to bail it in the grass.

So I was just a bit skittish enough to stay in line and try to get back it back by licking a few plates clean. Which I did. The results weren't posted by time we left, but I believe I am sitting 9th in the GC.

Tomorrow is the 22 mile road race, with an even bigger hill. So we know who to watch for and although the pack shouldn't shell off as much as it did today, the 3 of us who finished today are in good position going into the decisive 5.7 mile time trial.

15.5.08

The Hidden Side of Chicago's Bike Routes: The House of Bing

When I first started riding in Chicago, the "everyday" rides were less than ten miles...from where I lived in Andersonville to maybe Diversey and back. The longer rides would take me a day just to plan. 30 miles was an event. I'd even make a couple sandwiches. It would take me at least 90 minutes to reach Promontory Point. I'd take my lunch and book and spend half the day getting there and then staying there, relaxing on the green lawn and reading or napping.

My first ride to Kenosha turned out to be a journey of Columbian proportions. I set out one Saturday morning, Memorial Day Weekend, in 2004, with one Clif Bar and no rain gear. I almost called them from the Great Lakes station, but 6 hours later, soaked and shivering, I pulled into my Aunt and Uncle's house and promptly fell asleep for 4 more hours.

Things have changed quite bit. Now a full ride on the path round trip from Irving to the Cultural Center at 75th takes about 2 hours, including 4 miles each way to get there. Last week I did a team ride of 90 miles in under 5 hours.

In other words, less than 4 years ago, a bike trip to the south side could literally occupy half of my weekend. Tonight, I rode there in under an hour, to have dinner, on a weeknight.

Which leads me to say, that as we grow as riders, so should we grow as people. For so many of us, the destination is the bike. It's only the route. We ride past the same scenery day after day, chatting with our friends and teammates, barely giving what's on the periphery a second thought. Funky restaurants, Frank Lloyd Wrights, world class temples, archaic icons.

I think it's time to take a closer look. Less than 200 years old, Chicago is a city with a far richer history than most people realize, and a diverse underbelly that would give any social scientist pause. It deserves more.

This new series, The Hidden Side of Chicago's Bike Routes, was born out of that impulse to go deeper than just the ride.

So it is only fitting that I begin with the twinkle that started it all, a wondering question about the nondescript, beer-sign lit windows of House of Bing. That strange little Chinese restaurant at the very end of the lake front path, across the street from the South Shore Golf Course and the Cultural Center, where so many Chicago-area cyclists stop to turn around on their perfunctory training rides.

House of Bing

I got home from work around 6:15 and barely had time to take the dog out and change into my riding gear. I rode west from Logan Square to Elston and took my usual route downtown via Courtland to Clybourn to Wells, and over to the path via Illinois. Once there and in the stiff tailwind, I was at the end of the path in less than 30 minutes.

Mark and I met out front at 7:30. The waitress actually let us bring the bikes inside. And even though I'd brought jeans and a shirt for both of us we sat down down within the somewhat Spartan surroundings in full kit.

Mark Bing

It was very quiet, with some locals sitting at the bar, having a drink and watching the news, waiting for the basketball game to start. It actually reminded me of the suburbans, or maybe downstate, or even from home in Alaska. Last refurbished at least 30 years ago, with tight, brick red, berber carpeting and generic restaurant supply chairs and tables, the mostly bare white walls said "southside," all the way. Far removed from the aesthetic demands of any hipsters or yuppies.

The bar

What's a Chinese dinner without a tropical drink?!

Cocktail

The food was actually pretty good, and the service was very personable and prompt. The veggie egg rolls were not too fresh, a bit mushy, yet still tasty. Better were the entrees we had, kung pao beef and tofu. A bit heavy on the gravy, they had a deep spiciness and were made with plentiful, crisp, fresh veggies, and served in generous quantities.

Kung Pao Tofu

Our waiter, Jason:

Jason

The entire bill, including the drink, was under $30.

So there it is, the first bit of Chicago by bike, exposed to the light, out from under the rock.

And there is much, much more that our everyday bike routes have to show us. It was our spirit that first got us out there, so let the bike show the potential of your spirit. One of the qualities I've always prided myself on is never being afraid to try new things. To never judge a book, or in this case, a restaurant, by it cover. Or even lack of one. A quality, I've found, that it takes to be a cyclist in the first place and stay one over a lifetime.

We'll stay on the path for now, working our way north, but look out for places, buildings, and historical oddities throughout Chicago you'd never even noticed as you rode past on what you thought was your everyday route.

Next week: A Friendly bit of Fascism.

Thursday Hate

Firstly, this shit has GOT TO STOP. The moment this guy checked his concern for public welfare was the moment he stopped becoming a public servant and instead was a public menace. Simply replace the word "cyclist" with "black" or "Hispanic" and it will be completely obvious how intolerable this behavior is.

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Advertising. As. News.

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Mechanicals.


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WWBD...(What Would Burnham Do?)

14.5.08

Hump Day

TCW Exlusive: Inside Heavenly:





Just make sure Larry pulls the espresso for you. That was his cousin. Don't let her do it.

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Bike the Drive is less than two weeks away! Sign up now!

Regrettably this will be the first time since 2004 I have missed this event. Last year, I raced Snake Alley, then headed straight back to Chicago, and was up at 5am to ride down in the rain. This year however, I'll be staying in Iowa an extra day to race The Melon City Criterium, as well. However, don't let my regretable absence stop you from participating!

I was also unable to do my usual volunteer work with CBF this year, but in an effort to get some motivation going, here is the promotional video I produced for last year's event:



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Upcoming:
Stay tuned for an extra special race report this weekend from West Lafayette, Indiana - my first stage race! I'll be headed out with 3 other XXX-ers on Saturday morning to compete in a 35 minutes criterium that afternoon, and then the next day is the 20 mile road race followed by a 5 mile individual time trial. Should be quite painful, to say the least.

Also, next week I will be debuting a new series here on The Car Whisperer, "The Hidden Side of Chicago's Bike Routes."

First up? Three words: "House of Bing."

13.5.08

Twofer Tuesday

The Boy's crooning is floating over
That twangy 80s deep, rumbling lilt and
Came stirring that months buried buzz
As my hands got darker and grittier.

Did you see her? Those eyes said a lot.
Out of the cavernous echos of shouts for help
I felt the heat as if burned by a brand
And wanted nothing else but more and more pain.

So I looked at the scar, and brushed at it
Tenderly, letting my fingers linger over the
Rough bumps and ridges, as of a mountain range
That's been laid bare by time and wind.

A burst of energy from millennia of drift
To reawaken the raw, nervous, jagged edges
And relight a fire deep within, rising up
To surround it and ingnite the glow.

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You know why people love me? Because of my rapid-fire non-sequitors:

I am a Cat 4 bicycle racer. So why do I keep getting "Cat 5 Tattoos"?? I am seriously the laughing stock of the team. After every single ride, my calves are covered with new grease stains, and no one fails to point it out.

Is my form that bad? Too much grease on my chain, or too dirty? I know I have big legs, but come on!"



I think I know what the problem is. Not coincidentally, I still RACE like a Cat 5.

So the solution is a Catch-22, loosely speaking: I need to race better and smarter, and when I finally do start getting results, maybe I will stop getting them. Or maybe I need to figure out how to stop getting them, and I will start racing smarter and getting results.

UPDATE:

Thanks, Jeff...I think you nailed it...not only is pro always looking your best in kit and wearing your sunglasses on the outside of your helmet straps...it's also clipping out the left leg first when stopping and in when starting . Even if you are left handed and prefer the other.

Mystery solved. Salt tossed. Cat swung. On to results.

12.5.08

Dumb Crash Survey

What was your dumbest crash, ever? Regardless of bike, location, race/commute/circus-bear-trike whatever...


The scene: Friday night, Logan Square. I'd gotten my race bike back earlier that evening from Mission Bay after some much needed maintanence. I'd put on my new cleats and was headed out for a quick recovery ride, and to check and see if they'd been able to take care of all the noises that were coming out of my headset, plus anything else I was completely paranoid about.

It's about 10pm. I head north on Kedzie for several blocks, jumping several times and torquing the shit out of the handlebars and don't hear any noise. I turn around and then head west on Wrightwood, past the apartment in the other direction. Kick a few times, nice easy spin, getting loose for Saturday's long ride. I turn around at Pulaski.

Heading back, almost at Sawyer, I sight my line up to the sidewalk and metal gate out front. Planning on a little self-showy flair on a quick dismount. I make my cocky approach like Sorriano on a shallow fly ball...

...and miss the ramp, and hit the curb straight on.

I crash right on the sidewalk in front of my fucking apartment on an AR ride.

Rash on top my of SLO crash scars, swollen elbow and hip, and a flat front tire.

And to pile it on...as I'm lying there, swearing on the pavement (at least I wasn't in kit) a creaking, squeaking commuter comes slowly rolling by, straight out of a John Hughes movie. Doesn't even give me a second look.

Post your stories in the comments.

...and the self-entitlement continues...

Seems last week a man named Jay Weinberg climbed up on the roof of a gas station in Valporasio and began singing a protest song, "Price Gouge'n." A growing crowd of supporters and sympathizers gathered below to watch the show that culminated with Weinberg getting removed from the roof by firetruck ladder and being hauled off to jail.

I guess I'd have to say politely that I wouldn't have been one of those sympathizers, as I most likely would've just ridden past on my bicycle, laughing at the entire scene. I of course ask for correction if somebody can, but I am willing to bet there isn't a lyric in that song about any alternative modes of transportation, except possibly to mock them.

As I discussed with a friend on the way home from a 90-mile ride this past Saturday, as long they keep buying it, they're gonna keep paying for it. That's the reason we'll $6 a gallon before next summer, maybe sooner, and Exxon-Mobile's profits are coming in at over $1000 a minute.

I of course celebrate all this, because $6 a gallon for gas is exactly what this country needs to wake up from this nightmare of car-culture and infrastructure and finally see that peak oil is here, and the solution to sustainability is right next to them, or pedalling past them, in the bike lane - as they wait for 6 stoplight cycles to finally get through the intersection.

And click-clacking through the train-crossing.

And walking to work in and through sound, thoughtful, visionary urban planning.

Of course, 80% of the population will just kill each other when they can no longer listen to their Toby Keith mp3s while sitting in gridlock on the way to work in Oak Lawn from South Barrington...and if you can just stay the fuck out of the way of that one, life could be pretty sweet on the other side.

Until then, hang on, this one's gonna be a mother.

9.5.08

Happy Mother's Day

I wrote these just now, and they're in print, and intransit, enclosed in a couple of beautiful little cards, to Alaska and North Carolina...

A Mother's Day Sonnet:
For when you gave myself to me that day
You worked through pain and tears to show them why
A little boy to add to the bouquet
Is what the world needs up among the sky.
And ev’n through the bad grades and behavior
And all the sass and lip I gave to you
Your hugs and smiles and cookies were my savior,
The quiet nights in summer sunlight, too.
I know not how to pay back what you’ve giv’n
For I could live a lifetime, quite simply,
To try and fulfill that joyful burden
And pass on all the love that you gave me.
Our lives are short, painfully fleeting
But a Mother’s love is forever moving.


A Stepmother's Mother's Day Sonnet:
It couldn’t have been too easy to be a Mom
To those two kids who just showed up that night
Instructions? A handbook? Tried to stay calm
Would be a summ’r to remember, all right.
The fighting over covers and bed space,
The smelly shoe hunts from Duffy’s toe-jam,
From the nights at the yellow-brick-road place,
And real Cherry Cokes, the ocean where we swam.
You were the other side of my penny
The other way of seeing the ink blot
It was a summer as trying as any
But we needed you and the life that you brought
Because from Day One you were our Mother
And wouldn’t have been with anyone other.

Haiku Friday!

Damn...sorry honey
Stuck outside like Jack Tripper
Now I'm plot fodder

Janet or Chrissie
Would never have let me in
Turned the TV off.

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Why are you so mean?
Who peed on your Cheerios?
Mad's not good on you.

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Artwork from the sea
Placed like small flower petals
For more than my eyes.

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Hey, it's four-twenty
See you in the parking lot
Remember the skull?!?

8.5.08

Thursday Hate

Non-handicapped people who use the handicapped stall.

That's my changing room, asshole!


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Shit. I know shit's bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution.



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Goodbye, and good riddance.

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Our cat killed one of my plants yesterday. I hate you.

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Man, I sure do miss hanging out with low brass players some days. If any body can scan this for me, I sure appreciate it. I lost my copy years ago.

(Yes, that's Yo Yo Ma and the CSO trombone section...Charlie Vernon on the right is rumored to have penned this, The Low Brass Players Credo.)


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"Every Kiss Begins With Kaaaaaay!" Every Fucking Daaaaay!

Jesus. I though those ads only ran during from Thanksgiving to Christmas. What's next?! A July 4th Patriotism Pendant? An Arbor Day Tree Tiara?

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Some real hate: I knew these things happened in threes. I guess I'll have to add another Alderman to my email list this week.

Goddammit. Oh well, I guess I won't have to worry about these guys not getting charged. When they're finally caught.

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7.5.08

Hump Day

Regarding the accident that killed cyclist Amanda Annis last week, please contact your state representative and let them know of your support for the Vulnerable Users Bill now before the State House (Thanks CBR).

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Anybody know just what percentage of pro-tour riders have "asthma", anyways?

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With all those breathing problems, you'd think pro-cycling wouldn't be all that interesting to watch...well, one local amateur team has a solution for you! XXX Racing, of which the author of this site is a humble member, is putting on a bicycle race in Chicago's beautiful Sherman Park!

XXX Racing's Sherman Park Criterium will be on Saturday, June 14. Free and open admission to spectators, and open registration to anyone who'd like to participate. You don't even need a team! Just a license, and only a one-day license at that! If you've never raced your bike before, but have smiled as you dreamed of tugging tight your jersey and posting up as you crossed the line, this is race for you to get your feet wet. The park's sloping easy turns make it the ideal locale for a first race.

For you veterans, please pre-register! Also note the earlier date, instead of the usual end-of-the-season event. The higher categories should definitely be more competitive.

Click here to register for the 2008 Sherman Park Criterium!



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Somebody call Chief Wiggem.

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Hipsters: even the Christian Science Monitor is now reporting on your "style." You are officially CONFORMISTS. Just like the rest of us. You know, I don't mind the bike. I have two myself. But I actually race one at the velodrome, and the other is a training tool. But I hate this "back-to-basics" mentality, as if braving the insane urban streets brakeless and helmetless is some measure of your mettle. As if a deraileur system is such a clusterfuck and that hard to maintain.

Fixie Hipsters are the new Amish. This fad cannot die soon enough.

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"Get Hitched - Or Get Plowed"? Why didn't the producers of The Bachelor just save everybody the time and go straight to this? Precedent, I guess.

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Klaus wants his grandmother's bicycle back (It's a couple years old, but something reminded me of it this morning, and I thought it was hilarious).

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Wait...I think this was a CHiPs episode.

6.5.08

Punishment

There's a lot of discussion going on a few other sites about the death of Amanda Annis at Armitage and Kedzie on Wednesday afternoon. I received a comment from a woman who knows the man who was cited in the accident, and asked that I treat him as an individual. Her plea has tempered my anger quite a bit, and I realize I should be wary of inciting "scapegoatism." And that of course, while I am angry that Cordell Curtis has yet to be charged with any crime at all, he certainly doesn't deserve to go to prison for the rest of his life.

But then she asked that he be left alone, and let us focus our anger from this terrible accident on making the streets and societal norms safer for cyclists and others.

What the hell have we been doing all this time?!? Bike lanes, public awareness campaigns, community outreach? Fundraisers, constant lobbying, Bike to Work Week? Ghost bikes, silent rides, benefit shows?

Yet, there are still dead cyclists. And inattentive motorists simply walking away from the havoc they caused with a black mark on their driving records. Yes, I realize they have to live with what they've done, and that they are sorry. But Amanda Annis isn't to get any consolation out it because she's dead.

So we are merely asking that the plethora of laws in place designed to protect people like Amanda Annis be enforced, and that Curtis at least receives a justifiable charge for his actions, instead of merely being cited for "traffic offenses." Otherwise, all the work we've been doing I listed above is nothing more than masturbation.

There are people who are trying very hard to reduce the encroachment of car-culture and infrastructure on our quality of life. And this incident has made us very angry. We're going to see to it that Curtis, and anyone in the future, just as we have in the past, as we continue to press against Thomas Lynch and in the case of Thomas McBride, is charged with the crime they've committed, and that cyclists are no longer blamed for their own deaths and injuries, just for "being there."

Cars. Are. Lethal. When taken for granted by careless people, they kill people just as a gun would. It is time punishment fits the crime of taking someone's life through the misuse of an automobile, just as it would with the misuse of a gun.

And lastly, as has been stated already, driving is a priviledge, not a right. If Curtis couldn't afford insurance, he shouldn't have been driving. It's a drain on society that just passes on one person's debt to others, and it's indefensible.

It's now a fully-realized tragedy that drivers who can't afford insurance are so blinded by car-culture that they believe there is no other choice than to drive without it. There are many options for people who choose not to have insurance.

Bicycles are one of them.

5.5.08

Monday's Muse

Zipper.

Or is it Zipster?

I like Zipper.

Zip Zip Zip.

Do my thing, do your thing.

Our thing.

Good thing.

Unzip.

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Sheridan


Sheridan

Hard to believe we met almost 7 years ago.

Has it been that long?

That was quite the blind date.

Too much to handle, you scared me off.

There was, and still is, more to you than anyone realizes.

I was still too unsure of myself

But still, curiosity got the better of me, seeing all of your other friends.

All having such a good time.

I got to know you better. Having fun wasn’t as hard.

Especially on the sunny, summer evenings with nothing better to do.

Besides going to a bar. The same bar. Again and again.

But my place was with you.

With better friends and stronger love.

I know every curve, bump, and bruise.

And you’ve given me the chance to explore

An entirely new life that was hidden until now.

You and I.

Thanks.

Heavenly

Logan Square is now that much awesomer now that this place is open, at the corner of Sawyer and Milwaukee, just up the street from the CTA station.



Coffee, espresso, and gelato. What more does a neighborhood need? Besides myself, I mean...

I stopped in yesterday, Heavenly's, first unofficial day open and had my first taste. A double, pistaccio and triple chocolate, with a large coffee to go. The freezer was a bit too cold, so the gelato was too firm and it was no Florence, but it was fresh and sweet and molto benne and the perfect topper for a sunny, beautiful, end to a relaxing, yet productive weekend.

The Italian Coffee Bar of Evanston will always be my goto for that perfect recovery meal of a soy mocha and canoli, but returning home, this place will be a regular post-ride spot for a bit of relaxation and people watching, of which Milwaukee Avenue has in abundance.

The best part of Heavenly is Larry, the owner. Not only is he a friendly, always-smiling, small-business owner making the neighborhood a better place to live, he is a dual citizen and has just qualified for the Mexican Olympic wrestling team! His store opening was delayed because he got a last minute call to meet the President in Mexico City!

So stop by and say hello and welcome, and try some of that gelato.

2.5.08

Additional Hate - Biker Down

This is in all seriousness.

Wednesday, a young woman was killed while riding her bicycle in Logan Square, the second fatality in the neighborhood in a week. Amanda Annis was headed west on Armitage when she was struck by a car traveling north on Kedzie.

This is what makes me sick. If you read the link I posted, you will see that Curtis, the driver, was cited for both reckless driving, possibly running a red light, and driving without insurance - yet, amazingly, will as of now not face any criminal charges.

Pardon while I try to stand up again.

How is this possible? Those acts listed are crimes, are they not? So how can you be cited for breaking those laws, yet not be held criminally liable, even when someone is dead as a result of your criminal actions?

I am lost and beside myself.

"There was a helmet recovered at the scene, but police couldn't say whether she was wearing it."

That's how hard she was struck my Mr. Cordell Curtis, who couldn't be bothered with the law.


So, I plan on calling my Alderman, and you should to, if you feel even a fraction of the rage that I am experiencing now.

Billy Ocasio
3236 W Division
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 276-4269
bocasio@cityofchicago.org

In addition to expressing my dismay at the lack of seriousness applied to this specific situation in which yet another cyclist has been killed by an inattentive driver, I will also be addressing the seemingly appalling driving behavior of motorists in the area.

For example, I travel north (by car) on Humboldt Blvd (Sacramento) with my band mates after rehearsal at Superior St. Studios, and well after the light turns green at North Avenue - I'm talking 2 or 3 full seconds - often a car will come barreling through. It's gotten to the point the drivers waiting at the intersection wait for the inevitable red-light run before proceeding through.

Yet is there ever a police car at that intersection? No. A traffic camera? No.

Cars continue to speed down these roads such as Western, Kedzie, and Grand as though they were highways, and God damn any cyclist, right of way or not, who happens to be in their way. And the response behavior by the city, which effectively blames the victim for just being there as evidenced in this case, only encourages them.

We as a group constantly bitch and complain about traffic, or take the high road and express our hope for a better place less dependent on cars. Yet as individuals, we (royally, I don't own a car) are heavy on the gas pedal, honk at cyclists, pedestrians, and slower commercial vehicles. Even as they, through their actions, reduce demand at the pump, parking, and actually use the roadways for the betterment of our economy - generally making the world a better place to be.

As well, a friend of mine notes, drivers need to be better educated about cyclists' rights to the road, and they also need to be held accountable when they commit crimes such as this, or even more minor ones, like intentionally driving in bike lanes. These laws are never enforced, and it causes one to wonder why the laws exist in the first place.

Please don't let this institutional indifference stand. Call or write Alderman Ocasio. Make sure this murderer gets what is coming to him.

1.5.08

Thursday Hate

I normally keep the cycling talk to race reports and social-commentary only, but at the risk of inviting hate and trolls, I'm crossing the streams this week.

"On your left! On your right!" As Jeff says, this translates to, "Cat 5 Coming Through!"

If you're already there and I'm getting too close, that's one thing, but a hand on my ass is a far better signal. But if you're just trying to move up and shouting it as though you are trying to get to the toilet at midnight during Summerfest after Ted Nugent has just performed and your body is definitely rejecting those cheese-fries?? PLEASE SHUT UP. Also, be more creative, for God's sake. It's a race, and if you can't fit, don't get mad 'cause I'm not moving over for you. I've got one concern and that's the wheel(s) in FRONT of me, not behind.

Which leads me to guys who yell and scream constantly to "look behind you!" Yes, if you're about to jump and start a new line, give a look back and make sure you aren't going to crash the 13 people drafting behind you. But, ultimately you are responsible for the wheel in front of you, so have an out if you are in the middle and wheels are overlapped. Safety is important, yes, especially right of the yellow line, but speaking strictly pack-safety? It's a race, and people are in base-mode. Priority 1 is to accomplish your goal, whatever that it is. It's a risk to even start and they make you sign that waiver for a reason.

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Drivers who do the "annoyed lane-change" or the "annoyed acceleration." Especially around cyclists, delivery trucks, and the like. Vehicles that don't go very fast yet have just as much a right to the road as these people do. A revving engine in a 3,000lb death-machine is such a great outlet for the personal expression of your weak-minded willingness to risk the lives around you to reach the redlight 15 seconds earlier.

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My cat's ass.

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Being Jack Tripper (hang in there...just 'til Sunday).