"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer
William worked his tail off at the front the entire race to try and set up Mike and me for the end. Seegs rode my wheel into Turn 7 and came out of Turn 8 just in front of me before blasting into warp drive on a 40+ mph sprint for our first win of the day. The train of riders who went wide to the left were all caught with their bib shorts around their ankles as Mike motored from the corner to the line through 250 meters of open air.
Seven hours of waiting and moving around with the shade later – 9:15 first race, 5:30 second race – we lined up again with nine XXXers in the field and put together what one race organizer said was a team effort the likes of which he would never have thought possible in a Category 4 race.
It was fast at the gun and stayed that way for the entire 46 minutes. Liam followed the first flyer from the line and soon a break of about nine was off, including William, as well. When that was caught, William went off again, and won a prime. Next, Seegs jumped and strung things out for a lap or to. Not to be outdone, as he was absorbed and more than one of us was second-guessing taking a jump, new Cat 4 Chris Kostner went on his own two lap flyer.
At just under five to go he came back, and then it happened: Liam jumped hard, got a huge gap, and stayed off, crossing the line before we’d even come through Turn 8 on the final lap. After all the chasing, it was not easy to block, but seven other teammates will get the job done at that point. Again, just before Turn 7 I watched with amazement Seegs acceleration away from the pack – he put a 30 meter gap on us and came in with his second podium of the day.
We all met for beer at the bar at Turn 1/5 after on the cool down lap. We really couldn’t savor that fine American macro-brew craftsmanship as Seegs and Liam were being immediately called to the announcers stand. It had been a long day for everybody.
It was a bittersweet day for me. It was great day to be XXX, positively. But I had been psyching myself up for a podium all week, and when it came time to race, my legs had nothing. I felt I couldn’t contribute, especially in the second race. I was drowning at the front – desperately trying to stay third wheel and block for us but fading back each time I worked my way up, my fingernails scraping furrows into wood, sliding downward back to the water.
It was hard to watch all the joy and celebration knowing that I had raced weakly, both physically and mentally, but was easier once I just let myself be happy for them.
It’s been a long, productive month, but I was hoping to end it on a higher note, personally. I suppose four straight weekends plus a Wednesday of racing have taken a lot out of me but I can’t make excuses - we’ve all been racing hard. When each moment of truth came yesterday, I didn’t respond to step up my game – giving in to self-doubt. I know I felt like shit, but so did everybody else. And when do you ever feel perfect during a race?
I wanted to gold-plate my upgrade with a podium yesterday and it just didn’t happen. Don’t see how I can really submit it at this time. I have the requirements, but I didn’t race above my category yesterday. I don’t deserve it.
Motivation is at a serious low right now – equal parts Monday, retrospect, self-loathing, and fatigue. Thank God it’s finally my rest week – I don’t want to even look at my race bike right now. I’m completely off the hoops today, Wednesday, and Friday and just commuting into work the other two weekdays. Friday, Maggie and I head to Milwaukee for some of our first, real summer fun. Summer fun that I would have loved to have shared yesterday – instead of hiding from the sun for hour after hour and jabbering to myself inside my head to go faster – with a morning at the farmer’s market and taking Jack to the dog beach.
So I’ll make up for it this week. It’s straight to Summerfest after stepping off the Amtrak on Friday morning. It will be more crowded than I prefer, but at least early on we’ll still be able to walk between the beer tents, and take a whirl on the Skyride. By time it gets asses-to-elbows crowded at sunset, we’ll be firmly ensconced at our picnic table to take in The Roots performance.
Saturday will be a leisurely spin through Milwaukee on my cousin Rick’s city bikes: Alterra coffee to the Art Museum to the Lakefront Brewery before returning to his place in the evening with vittles for grilling, and suds for swilling.
I can imagine it now. My bare feet are up on the railing, silhouetted in front of the deepening orange sunset. I have a beer in my hand; the label slowly disintegrating against the glass bottle from the condensation in the warm evening air. The soft strains of U2 float out of the speakers in the kitchen, The Edge’s jangly guitar swirling around us, mixed in with the sweet smell of charred barbeque sauce and roasted corn-on-the-cob. Maggie’s ever-present hiccup will make me smile, I’ll squeeze her hand, and all this stress will come out in a long, contented sigh.
You bitched and bitched about the cold weather and rain. You thought summer would never get here. Please shut up now.
People who own dogs that are too big to control. And too lazy to train them.
It appears to have 512MB of memory.
Leave your guesses as to what's on it in the comments section of this entry. Then next Wednesday I'll power it up and reveal the contents.
Closest guess wins the prize. You must come to the Turin Ride on Wednesday, July 8th to redeem your prize in the parking lot of J.J. Pepper's.
Jerks say: You’re weird. Skeptics say: How are you going to handle the heat this summer (it gets up to 110 in Santa Clarita)? The Unimaginative say: I could never give up my car, I have kids/dog/insert special problem here.I've ranted over and over again in this space that our car-culture and subsequent accouterments are only temporary. The means to power this wasteful, slothful, and selfish way of life will soon come to an end. We even may live to see it.
But it heartens me to see, read, and hear about more riders taking to the streets every day. People who are no longer making excuses to tie themselves down in life and to their car. People who discover how much better their lives can be once they realize that there are less limits on a car-free lifestyle, and those limits are only as constraining as they allow them to be.
A breakthrough for me arrived today in my dog Jack's complete acceptance of the dog trailer I'm buying for him. Available from Pet Ego, a higher-end pet store owned by my friend and teammate Emanuele, now I can take him to the beach, to local races - such as the Chicago Crit, and cyclocross - without relying on a friend's car, or renting one.
The trailer is very affordable, extremely well made, and now gives Jack and I the freedom to go so many more places and to enjoy life together - car free.
Tomorrow will be his first day at the Montrose dog beach!
Pledge Week on NPR. Donate now, so I can have my begging-free morning news back.
Just in time for summer, the Chicago Police produced a bicycle training video.
No bike lane? Take it with you.
Watched the first half of "The Hangover" last night. Don't ask, but what I would have given to be present at the initial writing session for the morning-after-hotel-room scene.
The Fox River Grove Cycling Challenge is Illinois' answer to Iowa's Snake Alley. Lap after lap of abject suffering, detonating entire fields into shards of sweaty, grunting, broken, lapped, and pulled riders.
After my pathetic performance in Iowa, I had no illusions about doing much beyond trying not to get lapped. Yet, I had a lead in the Master's 30+ 4/5 Illinois Cup standings, and feeling in a masochistic mood, I preregistered for both that race and the Elite 4 races, to give myself hard training ride and make the hour drive out worth my while.
The climb certainly lives up to its reputation. Its begins just after the start line with a 14% pitch, then two switchbacks, followed by two more stairsteps, before topping out underneath the towering ski jump ramp. Then there are four left turns on a fast descent on which to recover, and do it all over again. For 20 minutes in the first race, 30 in the 4s race, broken up by a 15 minute break for the big wheel races.
At the line, USCF's Dave Fowkes announced a short leash on uncompetitive riders to keep the descent fast and safe, then blew the whistle and we were off.
Up until three laps to go the lead group stayed together with about 15 of us running up a gauntlet of screaming teammates and locals, urging us to "GOGOGOGOGO!" Some would run Alp d'Huez style along side, exhorting us to please turn our pedals faster and to go get that $%$*%#$er's wheel.
After seeing three to go and coming around the 2nd switchback, Luke hoarsely yelled, "Attack at the top! Attack at the top!" I'll meander midpack all day long when left to my own devices, but when you give me an order, I hop to it. Two shifts and out of my saddle, I passed out of mere tunnel vision and into Dr. Dave Bowman hallucination-worm hole territory.
And a gap.
I tried my best to recover and keep my speed up, but alone in the wind was no place to be with 15 other guys behind me. I was absorbed right at the bottom after seeing two to go, and right there was the decisive move. I hit the top in a group of 5, and looking at a gap between us and the group ahead. One to go they dropped me, and I rolled in for 11th with Lucas right behind me.
I grabbed a cookie and half a banana, reloaded the water while the big wheel race erupted into chaos, kids crashing into the grass left and right, and then made my way back to the line, this time in the rear of a field of 66.
The race was over before it began. I lacked any pop to make up much ground, and spent the next 30 minutes in 20th-ish limbo. The only excitement was overcooking the last turn on the first lap and taking a detour into a lawn. There was a gap behind me, so it didn't make much of a difference, and I was back soon with the group I was with for some hard hill repeat training.
I didn't get pulled, or lapped at least, and ended the day cramping in the back seat of Emanuele's Dodge and enjoying a large dipped cone from the Dairy Queen down the road.
In the dark depths of the pain cave with seemingly no way out, you might question why the hell you would ever do something like this. Your non-cycling friends watching you certainly do. Yet the sense of accomplishment after is just as sweet as the post-race ice cream dripping down your hand.
The races started on time, and my field, at least, was sold out and filled up to the 75 rider max.
I knew there would be a lot of inexperienced riders out there, but also a full compliment of teammates - at least ten, an army, you might say - to help me get to the front and stay there. I could tell this would be a very important tactic in the race after seeing Turn 4 of the 8 corner course: it pinched narrowly after a wide, muddy pothole - that would obviously send riders into two lines - and would not be able to handle anything more than two wide. The rubber band effect would be worst coming into the long backstretch immediately after.
I almost didn't make it even that far - nearly going down twice at each of the opening corners. Swerving, braking riders in front and on both sides made protecting my wheel seem like playing three games of Wack-a-Mole at once. Safely through Turn 4 finally I was able to jump up to the front, found a spot at 3rd wheel, and pretty much stayed there.
XXX attacks went off seemingly every lap. Diddy Kong took a flyer, then Michael Young. He stayed off for a couple, then slowly started coming back. With 10 minutes to go, he was just about to be absorbed, and as we blocked, I jumped, hoping it wasn't too early, but didn't want the front of the field to be too recovered from previous chasing.
It worked and I got a decent gap, taking that next lap alone.
Coming through the start line I got company, an ABD rider who jumped past pretty hard at the sound of the prime bell. Gapped. He won $20.
Repeat the two of us for the next lap. I get a gap. Win $15. Unattached rider bridging up.
We're together, XXX Army blocking. We trade some pulls, but admittedly, I am not doing my share of the work. It is bike to work week, after all. Already having 40 miles under your legs, then finding your self in a break with two other gorillas is less than ideal.
(photo by Kevin W. Heeley)
On the backstretch before seeing two to go, Mark Watkins yells at us to get going: the pack is just 6 seconds behind. ABD wags, I pull to the line.
I get the better of myself and pull off hoping to get a wheel, but lack the pop to hop on ABD and Unattached's wheels when they jump. Dropped. In no-mans-land to fend off the hungry, quicky-approaching pack.
Completely redlined I pedal as quickly as I can and begin to close. Turn 8 I am almost there when they jump to sprint. Out of saddle to the line, with what feels like a bag of cinder blocks on my back, I throw just before I can get pipped out of the top three by MS Racing behind me. It was that close.
On the cooldown lap, I introduced myself to my breakmates, but the ABD rider surprisingly knew my name. "Adam," he told me, was Mr. Outside. He recognized me from Winfield Twilight and that race's report, and when he saw me go, he said he knew that was the move. And it was: Unattached (Illinois jersey) took the win and a Chipotle burrito prime, and Mr. Outside, Adam, was 2nd.
I look forward to racing with both those guys again. Hopefully soon in the 1/2/3s field.
Great course, if a little funky. Some turns were so wide as to be as dangerous as the very narrow Turn 4. New riders need guidance, and giving them full reign to turn as wide as they want is bound to cause much braking, swerving, and general consternation. But this is to be expected of a field with so many riders, and I want to extend my congrats to everyone who made this their first race. Scotty! You did it!
A great night all around, and congratulations to the promoters, as well! Well done. For us on the podium, there was no cash - except for the $15 prime - only a gift certificate, but that's OK. Pepsi Max podium girls!
I'll be there racing at 7:15. Looks a like a good field is forecast there if the weather holds out.
The more things change, the more they stay the same...
It made getting up at 3:30 in the morning, riding shotgun to the southside with 4 gallons of coffee, 4 dozen donuts, and three dogs in and around my lap by 5am, and then racing in the pouring rain, unable to see, breath, and catch a draft at the same time all incredibly, magically, improbably worth it.
I'll let the pics speak for themselves. Mostly.
Sourcing out the barriers = BEST IDEA EVER:
You know you want one:
Just look at the VERY short registration line:
Yet we had some big fields (thanks for preregistering!):
(photo credit: Chicago Personal Photographers)
Nothing, however, was worth putting up with the smell of whatever it was The Beagle rolled in - even Henry is keeping his distance:
Here's to your first race!
Peter Strittmatter wins the Category 3 race - beating out a 19 year old wearing a State Championship jersey he won as a Junior in 2008. (We'll have to work on enforcing protocol, apparently):
If you raced, and flatted, and got a wheel from these guys? I suggest you get your ass over to either their Irving or Fulton locations with a bit of gratitude - best expressed in fermented, cold, Belgian form:
The Men's 1/2/3 race - the main event:
Which I had the extreme pleasure of emceeing - I tried my best to get your name right, and if I knew you and you were anywhere near the front, you definitely heard your name! I want to do this again next year, but I plan to be racing this specific event (I just registered for the 3s and the M1/2/3 races at this year's Chicago Crit!):
And...we're done. See you next year - thanks again for coming out. All of you really helped make this race a success:
Interns. Eager, earnest interns that laugh and scream in the elevator like it’s a carnival ride.
Assholes 20 wheels back and boxed in who bump you trying to squeeze around after you’ve led out University Hill.
My fingers still smell like BBQ.
(seriously – if anyone has any information regarding the guy who went down on the pothole last night, please let me know…)
First, Active Trans. It starts and ends here. Go here for updates on the Commuter Stations, Friday's Rally, and the Commuter Challenge.
Check out this grocery shopper!
You want to be a bicycle seat. This one, at least.
The Redeye says commuting by bike costs nothing? Hmmm. I guess I can use that $20 a month I get from the Bicycle Commuters Act for Grandma's "medicine." I wonder if that's how Lance got so fast?!
Do you just need to ride? Then you just need to read this.
The Soldier Field Cycling Series kicks off Wednesday June 17th. Easy upgrade points even closer than Calumet Park!
Looking for a bike shop?
The Chicago Cycling Examiner rings in as well...
And last, but not least, kick it all off in Sherman Park, this Saturday, June 13th at XXX Racing - AthletiCo's 10th Annual Sherman Park Criterium! It's an ideal first race for those looking to get their feet wet, and locals have been coming to this race - snagging upgrade points, great primes, and awesome tan lines - for...well...10 years!
Help us celebrate a great 10 years of racing! Register today!
Jared and I drove back out to Winfield the next morning to race yet another challenging course. ABR’s championship course is straightforward rectangle, with a much shorter, therefore steeper hill ending at turn 3. Turn 4 was at high speed into a downhill sprint to the line over very rough road.
With Jared and me were Seegs, Parker, and Liam. Early, we’d marked a couple riders – a guy in a Guinness kit that Mike knew from dirtbaggin’, and the IS Corp rider who’d won our 4s race at both Quad Cities and last night at the Twilight race.
Liam said he was feeling much better, and took a couple of early fliers but there was a headwind on the hill so he came back both times. He did manage to stay off for about three laps, and the rest of us had our hands full chasing down threats. Seegs worked hard on another move, and we all stayed on that IS Corp kid like super glue.
(Liam off the front)
2 laps to go, Parker kills it up the hill, keeping it strung out all the way up and then over, then coming through turn 4 so fast he had bail out on the side walk. Coming up on the bell, Liam hits the front, barks at me, and lights the second stage of the rocket. I am on his wheel but get pinched off like a turd by a Proctor guy and maybe an unattached rider. More on him later. They were both wearing blue, that’s all I remember.
Strung out to the base with Liam still in front, the crowd grows at the first stair step. I kick it up on the outside to get around the swarm coming up inside, led by you-know-who, IS Corp. It works, pinching all those guys off. But somehow I get passed by one or two other, and now I’m 6th wheel coming down to turn 4. I curse to myself.
On the final stretch, I suck on another unattached’s wheel – this one in yellow. He dies quickly, and I come around and bridge the gap to 4 other riders…two more peel off like fighter planes from formation…I’m gaining, gaining, gaining, and finally throw hard for what I swear to God is 3rd. There’s no line – just cones, and the winner had a bike length – the unattached rider in blue.
I tell myself to immediately check the results because that placing could be dicey. I ask the official whose number he had for third, not even thinking they had scored me higher. He responds with a number that isn’t mine, and I immediately start protesting, asking to look at the film.
Standing with that official reviewing the tape, I see the first rider come by, followed by three of us. It is so close you could nearly draw a straight line through side by side hubs, but it is definitive.
“See! I’m ahead of that guy.”
“Yeah, you are. For second.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t want to protest that, then.”
(Podium FAIL...winner raises BOTH hands...we raise one hand. Seriously. Raise your hand.)
I had a couple of hours to change my number for the 3s race with Kirby and Matt, but I may as well have not raced it at all, save for the training. I was out of it mentally. It was much faster, and the riders around you also vying to control the front are so much more aggressive.
A couple of points for comparison:
Mid-race in the 4s we hit the top of the hill, with maybe six wheels in front of me. They all sit up and look at each other. I yelled a few choice words, came around and drilled it to the turn. In the 3s, it was gap city – either by me or two wheels in front at that turn every time up.
Conversely, back in the 4s, after Liam was brought back in from his flyer, I counter-attacked just as the announcer threw out a prime. I looked back and the entire field was absolutely glued to me. But in the 3s, I came to the front before turn 1 just to take the turn more safely for once – and didn’t realize I had a sizeable gap until another rider came around me and I looked back. That turned into a three rider breakaway that didn’t include me. As I got absorbed at the top of the hill, I tried to make up for my rookie blunder and chased it down.
Other than that I was nothing more than pack fodder. I was gapped at turn 4 almost every lap. All on his own, Kirby got the front with three to go and absolutely killed it for Moran – almost DFLing himself, and Moran managed 13th in a tough and aggressive field. The headwind on the hill kept things together and it was crazy at the top. I was actually right there at the end – I climbed really well, but the swarm was there, and I just said to myself, not today. I finished 24th just off the back of the sprint after another gap opened on the last turn.
But at last I am there. I’ve had two podiums and four top-10s in my last four races. I’ve been there all along physically, but the learning curve for me has been quite the hump. Quad Cities was truly the event horizon, however. Mike Sequin showed me how to get it done, and that was all I needed.
It’s now time to get my head screwed on straight for the upgrade to the 3s I now have in sight.
We stuck around to watch the finale of the P/1/2 race for all the marbles, and the jersey. A break of four got off midway through, which turned to three, and increased it's lead to a seemingly insurmountable minute plus. Yet with two laps to, the pack racing for 4th and 5th place cut into the lead at an amazing rate. As the break rounded the corner for the last time, the gap was less than 15 seconds, and ABD's Josh Carter won the sprint over Mike Sheer, and a Panther rider, Chris Uberti, I believe.
(Josh Carter wins the P/1/2 Twilight Criterium)
I have never done the Winfield Twilight or ABR National Championship Criteriums before this year, always opting to head north to Wisconsin for the Spring Prairie Road Race. It is the State Championship event, and the fields are so large, they actually split them into local and non-Wisconsin groups. However, this year the non-Wisconsin group was not slated to start until 5:05 pm, and the idea of not getting home until after 11 was very discouraging.
As well, XXX Racing – AthletiCo’s increased partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance has motivated me to race closer to home this year, in the spirit of promoting a more car-free culture. Winfield is much closer and both races were within a mile of the Metra station – Sunday’s championships were in fact only a block away.
Finally, I’ve heard so much about these courses from friends who have raced them. They’ve absolutely raved about them, and I’ve even read that Saturday’s Twilight Criterium is one of the top crits in the country.
We did indeed take the Metra out on Saturday, walking the mile from the Winfield station to course at Oakwood Park, just a mile north. A huge and lush green expanse, the start/finish line was on the park’s east side. The course then took a soft left and went uphill into the neighborhood, topping out after maybe 200 yards with a small stairstep in the middle to a prime line, followed by a 90 degree left turn.
From here, the next three turns would see the probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a criterium: a screaming descent, promising to be a single-file line, going right, then two lefts back to the line. I was nervous right up until the whistle that the threatened rain would finally arrive, turning these turns treacherously slick, slowing us down, and causing utter chaos.
And then we were off. No time to worry about anything except getting up front.
And upfront we stayed, fast and dry. As I’ve said before my descending has improved light-years over last year, and Liam’s confident wheel was like the driver’s seat of a Ferrari. No brakes, we swept wide and cut hard through the apex of the turns, keeping it single-file to the bottom every time. The squealing of brakes on carbon rims followed us through every turn except one on lap. Liam and I were in the middle of that mess only once – from then on we decided taking a little wind through the start line was the far better choice.
You definitely had enough momentum to keep your recovery before hill started again. I imagine the speed of the turns there did as much to shell guys off the back as the actual hill: getting gapped on the descent made you expend precious energy to close that you needed going back up.
(the Irish Resistance)
And so it went until just one lap to go, with the exception of Liam’s one early flyer. Knackered legs from Friday’s omnium win, plus a headwind on the hill brought him back before the top. At the bell there was a moderate jump, which became the huge jump I anticipated at the middle of the hill. I just a bit late in reacting, and my timing and panic cost me good form, acceleration, and about 3 wheels.
Approaching the first turn of the descent I hear behind and the left, “outside!” There was maybe six inches between and the curb. I saw a helmet in my peripheral vision, and replied, “don’t you $%*@ing DARE!” and cut right into the heart of the descent.
Speed picking up…wheel to wheel through the next turn…false flat descent to the last turn before the line. I’m setting up my turn and plotting my sprint for the win, when Mr. Outside, an ABD rider, goes inside on me and takes away my line. Dammit. I should’ve been going faster, not to mention taken a more aggressive and shallower turn. Right there my podium was gone.
I had to alter my line, slowed, and suddenly was gapped trying to catch 5th place. I put my head down to close, and threw at the line but was just a couple inches too late. I was pissed about the last turn but it was my own damn fault for not being aggressive enough and protecting my line. It was that exact move I had used at Quad Cities to position myself at turn 7 of that race, two weeks ago – so how could I really complain? That’s racing.
(Luke and SMITTY in the 2/3s)
We stayed to watch a blistering 2/3s race featuring Luke and Kirby, won by ABD’s phenom Ryan Freund, and then the main event of the Pro/1/2 field. It was blazing fast with several serious breaks getting off, but still coming down to a pack sprint at the end.
Women with beards.
Kashi. Or it's aftermath.
Parents who feed toddlers Doritos. With soda. At 9am.
SHUT THE FUCK UP CAN'T YOU SEE I HAVE EARBUDS IN?!?
Hipsters on the bike path.
Runners on the bike path.
Volleyball players on the bike path.
Your kids on the bike path.
Those four person bike cars on the bike path.
EVERYONE ON THE BIKE PATH.
No delivery after 9pm.
Assholes who take random pictures with a shitty camera ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
Chicago Cycling Examiner promotes the Sherman Park Criterium all this week! Register, dudes.
Ordered some new shoes on eBay on Monday. Got them today. The return address on the box was 50something North Ashland. Ha. They fit perfectly...I felt like I had 50 extra watts tonight on the Gem.
Speaking of which, they didn't even make me buy any beer tonight!
Chicago Cycling Examiner offers a profile of the races today.
I certainly enjoyed yesterday - nay, the entire weekend - but one can enjoy such epically beautiful weather with just a 12-pack of Old Style, a Weber grill, and 10 great friends only so much. I did miss the bike yesterday. And a harder ride on Saturday, as well.
But I am a good grasshopper. And racing five times in one weekend does take it's toll. So does day drinking.
So I lie here looking at the weather, hoping it will stay south of here tomorrow so I can ride north to work and then back to the city for a sprint practice with the XXX Big Dawgs. I want to be hard, and to be a good grasshopper.
But that's an awful lot of green on the radar. It stretches all the way west to California. Clouding the days and hopes of rides of all those who made my stay out there in March so wonderful. It's an awful lot of green to deal with to find out everyone else has stayed home and I am doing the workout alone.
But if left with no alternative, I will just ask myself, "would would Jens do?" And if it were hailing and lightening, Jens would HTFU and ride to work.
There's always Metra.
And there's always the chance that weather.com is wrong. Because, now I ask you, what the fuck have they done to their website? Would someone tell me what I am missing, and why I can't figure out how to get the radar screen in motion anymore?
I guess if not, it's wunderground.com for me now. I've been looking for just this type of excuse to switch my bookmark, anyways. The big guys get complacent, lose sight of the customer, and let some key features go by the wayside.
Like GM. Bankrupt. General Motors. What were they - the 12th biggest economy on the planet? Now less than a dollar a share, and not many people are betting on them being able to successfully reorganize. I've always said, "fuck them." They've never cared for what the customer wanted, because for so long the customer didn't know what they wanted. GM could tell customers what it was they wanted. And that was - through planned obsolescence and shitty workmanship in favor of the marketing department - a new car every other year.
Well, now that they and all our country's other industrial producers have shipped all their jobs overseas, no one can afford to buy the giant, gas-guzzling SUV's they only can seem to make. And suddenly the public has woken up - or been woken up, by their terrible credit scores (the author's included) - and knows what it wants.
And it's not what GM is making. They've ignored the market forces staring them in the face for so long, the only way they can retool their manufacturing base to make the cars the public has been increasingly asking for the last five years is to take over $50 billion from the government - and counting - and still make no promises.
So they deserve to go down. Right? But why is it really that they are getting so much assistance from the government then?
This country could very well be seriously fucked in the ass, at this pivotal moment in history. In times of great crisis when we've needed to suddenly drop everything and make serious firepower and the vehicles to deliver it - GM (and Chrysler) were there. They may not be, just there are serious conflicts brewing over oil, water, and food...while Iran is trying to get the bomb, and North Korea and a Pakistan that is losing control to Taliban already have it.
But let's get over the negative side of the collapse of the United States' industrial power and look at this from a global perspective. This is a sign that the world -at least our world - is driving less. Or using less fuel. The movement to mass-transit is growing, slowly but steadily. Ridership is up, on light rail and buses, as well as Amtrak. More and more opinion makers are calling for a larger national priority on rail, even high speed rail.
I find it atrocious that a country such as ours that was built on the back of long distance rail has gotten so far away from it's grand ethos, yet heartening that we still have not forgotten our egalitarian roots. I believe that national high speed rail could be our generation's Manhattan Project. That when fuel costs and lack of credit, material resources, and manufacturing capital have finally curbed our sense of entitlement to travel in such individual luxury, we - as a globe - and not just a nation, eventually, will construct a more economically and environmentally viable mode of getting around.
And the bikes. I know it's not just me who's noticed it, but we are everywhere over the last five years. When I moved to Chicago in 1997 I could never have imagined the number of people I would see regularly commuting to work, play, and life on two wheels with the wind in their face. Of all kinds - machines and people. Moms, suits, culture-warriors, nihilist hipsters on all-pink fixies, immigrants on beat-to-shit Walmart bikes. New bike racing teams being started every season.
Everyone is riding.
Saturday night I went to meet a friend at Do Division Fest in Wicker Park and was astounded at the number of bikes locked in every direction, in every conceivable way. As I am apt to do these days, I love comparing Wicker Park of today to the Lincoln Park I moved to from Texas back in 1997. And back then, there would have been maybe four bicycles parked up against the soon-to-be-closed Lounge Axe (bow your heads) as douchebags in cargo shorts, polo shirts, and visors scratched their heavily gelled hair with one hand while holding a cigarette and a beer in the other.
While Wicker Park - and Do Division Fest - today resemble the Lincoln Park of then in every way, the bikes are different. As much as I bitch about wanna-be hipsters riding brakeless fixies, or worse yet - brakeless free-wheels that LOOK like fixies - doing slow circles at a red light because they can't trackstand yet, at least they are riding, and not driving.
I hope it is the start of something, however small. Because we need a lot more.
This was the entrance/exit to Do Division Fest as I walked in to meet my friend:
That's maybe eight square feet, packed with fresh trash headed to the land fill. The fest stretched from curb to curb between Damen and Leavitt. As the cargo-shorts clad douches and summerdress-wearing trixies were swept out by the cops they left infinitely more of these mountains of useless, wasteful, trash. And will continue to do so throughout the summer festival season. In Chicago. Milwaukee. St. Louis. Minneapolis...
We're trying to rebuild society from the top down. Trying to repair a rotten structure over a cracked foundation. Fixing GM. Trying retrofit a high speed rail system over 50 years of neglected and misused rail right of way. The behavior like this - wasteful, pointless spending and frittering away precious resources will continue until the most uncaring and and unthinking of us has the incentive not to do so.
Those habits die hard. So hard in fact, that new habits may need to be started by those who've known no other way.
Maybe all of this has to come down, crashing suddenly and without warning, for it to happen.