Monday, September 29, 2008

Why fight a fight that you know you are going to lose

Continuing our discussion of proper cycling etiquette, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in contact with an automobile.

Actually, that's a bit of a misstatement. If you're out riding your bike and you come in contact with a car, the proper course of action for you to take would be to fall off of your bike, lay on the ground, and bleed profusely. Feel free to sprinkle in as much cursing as you feel the situation calls for. What I should have said was, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in close contact to people driving cars.

There is one thing that we as cyclist need to realize and accept if we are ever going to truly "share the road" with automobiles. This is that this isn't a fair fight. There are a lot more of them than there is of us. In case you haven't noticed, a large portion of them don't want us out there. It also saddens me to report that this is one of those cases were "might makes right". In one corner, we have Fred the cyclist and his bicycle, weighing a combined total of about 230 lbs. It should be noted at this time that his bicycle offers Fred almost no protection at all. In the other corner, we have Joe car driver, with his 2,000 lbs car wrapped comfortably around him. Joe's car protects him from almost any obstacle that he might encounter out on the road, including Fred and his bicycle. Who do you think is going to win this fight? The smart money is on Joe and his big shiny car. In any confrontation out on the road, Joe and his car are going to kick Fred's skinny butt every time. The first rule of cyclist vs automobile etiquette is this: Avoid confrontation at any cost. There is almost nothing to be gained by confronting a car driver. You might encounter an idiot in a truck out on the road, but if you antagonize him, well now you've got a p*ssed off idiot in a truck to deal with. I know this doesn't sound terribly brave, but soooooo what. In this fight, believe it when I say that a large percentage of the car drivers out there are going to be rooting for the cowardly automobile driver, and rooting against the brave cyclist on his bike. And the argument that "I'm just standing up for my legal rights" doesn't hold a lot of water for me. When you have that 2,000 lbs car parked on your chest, if it makes you feel better that you were legally right, well I'm glad for you. To tell the truth, it wouldn't make me feel that much better. Right or wrong, dead is dead.

As far as the rules of the road in relating to car drivers, they all fall under our previously discussed "be nice" philosophy. You might not know it, but Texas law states that cyclist riding on a two lane road, meaning only one lane of traffic in each direction, are required to single up and move to the right to allow the automobile traffic to pass. I say you might not know it based on the number of you I see riding down the middle of the road with cars stacked up behind you. Notice the use of the word "required" in that law. And to state the obvious, cyclist are required to stop at all stop signs and stop lights. And to state the ridiculously obvious, cyclist are required to wait at the light until it turns green. I actually had a conversation, (ok, a screaming argument), with another cyclist who firmly believed that all he was legally required to do was to stop at the red light. His claim was that once he stopped, he could go ahead and go when he felt it was safe. For the record, no. You have to wait until the light turns green before you go.

When thinking about how I should ride out on the road, I try and let this phrase be my guide, "Legally, safely, and courteously". I know that sounds like the title of some sort of after school special promoting safe sex to teenagers, but that's how we should try and behave out there. Ride legally, ride safely, and ride courteously.

Next post, we tread into dangerous waters, and attempt to discuss how car drivers should act towards us out there. It's either going to be very insightful, or just pathetically naive. Stay tuned to see which.

Peace out........Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This hurts me more than it does you

My wife will be the first to tell you that I am not the strict disciplinarian of our household. In our little domestic scene that we have going on here in McKinney, I am definitely the "good cop". Trish is almost always the one metering out most of the punishment that Michael has undoubtedly earned. I'm typically the one defending the boy. I mean, what do they expect? If you don't want kids hitting each other with hockey sticks, then don't hand out hockey sticks to a gym full of thirty 3rd grade boys. That just seems like common sense to me. What did they think was going to happen? So, while this pains me, you have left me no choice.

Over this past year of cycling, it has become apparent that a significant portion of you out there, have either never been taught proper cycling etiquette, you were taught but have since forgotten, or have chosen to ignore your teachings. While I am certainly not without sin, I'm going to go ahead and throw that first stone.

In this posting, we are going to speak specifically about your cycling etiquette towards other cyclist. In later postings, we'll talk about cyclist etiquette towards automobiles, and in the interest of equal time, we'll then speak to automobile etiquette towards cyclist.

I have certain Buddhist beliefs that I try and adhere to. One of the things that I like about Buddhism, is it's simplicity. If you want to boil Buddhism down to a single, simple rule, it would be "be nice". That's it, just "be nice". The same can be said about how to behave towards other bicyclist when your out riding. Just "be nice". I am of the belief that most of the worlds problems can be solved if people would follow my incredibly simple edict to "be nice".

Now, for those of you who require a little more detail in your instructions than that, then allow me to expand on my "be nice' mantra.

Rule #1 - Communicate with the cyclist around you. If you've ever been out on a bike ride, and you've become confused when someone rides by and announces "On your left", let me explain what they're doing. And apparently, the vast majority of you out there are unfamiliar with this phrase, given the responses that I have witnessed on the road when I have made this announcement. Those responses range from shock, to bewilderment, to out an out anger. The purpose of this announcement is to simply let you know that "I am approaching on your left and will be passing you momentarily. Please try and avoid doing anything sudden or stupid for the next few minutes". If someone makes this announcement in your general area, no action is required on your part other than to not do anything sudden or stupid. Another thing, for all of you fake TdF racers that I see out there, making the "On your left" announcement, does not require the slower cyclist in front of you to ride into the ditch and abandon their bikes, thereby clearing the road for you. And you can just save the condescending shaking of your head as you ride by for someone who gives a rat's behind. That type of behavior doesn't fall under my "be nice" guidelines. Another thing in the "communication" vein, when riding in a pace line or group, please call out and/or point out the oncoming road hazards to the cyclist behind you. You see, since they are behind you, they cannot see the hazards until it is much too late to do anything about it. And while no one appreciates the humor in hearing the "UNGH" sound that the cyclist behind you makes when he squarely hits the pot hole that you failed to call out, it's really just not a nice thing to do. Funny, but not nice.

Rule #2, Don't pass on the right. I can't tell you how many times I've had the cr*p scared out of me out on the road by someone who passes me on the right. I'm minding my own business, riding along on what I think is the right hand side of the road, when someone comes flying by me on the right, on the 4 inches of the pavement between me and the ditch. And they always seem to be riding in stealth mode. They silently slip up beside you on the right, not saying a word, so close that you can smell the last energy bar he ate on his breath. If for no other reason than to preserve my shattered nerves, please pass on the left. If you just have to be one of those guys who has to pass on the right, at least wear a bell or something so we can hear you coming.

Rule #3, Move to the right. Whenever possible, please ride to the right hand side of the road. For some reason, some of you out there seem to take great pleasure in riding as close as you possibly can to the yellow stripe. Let me let you in on a little secret. That puts you as close as you can get to the very dangerous oncoming traffic. For me, I try and keep as far away from the dangerous oncoming traffic as I possibly can. That's just that pesky survival instinct of mine kicking in again. Riding to the right also allows the faster riders to pass on the left. (Please see rule #2 for a detailed explanation as to why this is so important).

Rule #4, When riding in a paceline, be sure and take your pulls. There is absolutely nothing as aggravating as someone enjoying the pull of the paceline, who never seems to work their way up to the front, and put in a little effort of their own. I am reminded of a group ride I was participating in one summer. I was riding with Bikin Mike Keel and a group of somewhat inexperienced cyclist he was training for their first Hotter-n-Hell. This particular day, I was riding with Mike and one of the new cyclist. We were cruising along through the country side, me up front, Mike behind me, and the new cyclist sitting in enjoying the pull. I guess she had decided that she had ridden with us long enough, because she jumped out of the line and rode off on her own. No goodbye, no thanks for the pull, no anything. A couple of miles down the road, Mike and I rode up to her as she's waiting on the side of the road. We thought she might have had some sort of mechanical problem. But no, she was just waiting for us to catch up with her so we could pull her in the rest of the ride. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say, we both explained to her in great detail what was wrong with what she had just done. The only time this rule can be violated, is when you are riding with a group of friends, and you have agreed ahead of time on how much work is expected of each of you. Even then, they're still going to resent you, and more than likely, talk about you behind your back.

For this last rule, I must caution those of you with an easily upset stomach, you might want to skip this one.

Rule #5, All snot rockets must be announced well in advance. For those of you not familiar with the term "snot rocket", allow me to explain. If you're like me, whenever you ride on a cold day, for some reason, your nose will start running. For me, the constant sniffing and sniffing, can become quite annoying. In order to clear your sinus's, without having to stop and blow you nose, you will need to master a maneuver referred to as launching a snot rocket. You should first turn your head to one side or the other. Then, taking you thumb, press one nostril closed. Finally, blow out through the other nostril as hard as you can, whereby you launch the "snot rocket". You then turn your head to the other side and repeat, thereby clearing the other nostril. The danger in this maneuver is to those who might be riding behind you. They are in the direct line of fire of the recently launched snot rocket. For the benefit of those riding behind you, you should announce the upcoming launch well in advance. This will give your fellow riders time to move themselves and their loved ones to higher ground. Anyone who has not been taking their pulls are fair game.

In the upcoming days, as promised, we'll discuss the proper way to behave towards the automobiles out on the road. And likewise, what kind of manners that automobile drivers should extend towards cyclist.

This was certainly a very high level overview of the proper etiquette that you should follow when out riding on the road. I hope it has been helpful. Now, don't make me do this again.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Motivation - an elusive quarry

I love riding my bike. No, I mean I really love riding my bike. I still don't think you understand. I really, really love riding my bike. Here's how much I love riding my bike. I think I have mentioned before that I have bad knees. One of the reason's I started riding a bike was because my knees were so bad. There was just no way that they would stand up to the pounding of running, or even walking. But, even as low impact on the knees as cycling is, I had to have two knee surgeries a couple of years ago. Before that, I rode for three years with knees that hurt so bad, after every ride I had to ice them and I was taking Advil by the handful. Just so you know, a "handful" is slightly higher than the recommended dosage. I eventually got a prescription from my doctor for some anti-inflammatories, which I still have to take to this day. For a while after the knee surgeries, my knees felt fine, but over the last year or so, they have started getting worse, and I can tell that I will eventually have to have them worked on again. Now a smart person might want to go ahead and give up the activity that was causing him so much pain. Having never been confused with a smart person, I can assure you that I will not be giving up cycling. In a crash a few years ago, I actually cracked my tail bone. For those of you who've ever had a broken tail bone, I don't have to tell you how much it hurts. For those of you who have missed out on that fun, you'd have to go through it to understand. Suffice to say, and for the record, it hurts. I missed a grand total on 1 spin class because of it. I had to sit on an inflatable donut at work for the next month, but I made five spin classes a week. That's how much I love riding my bike.

Which makes it so puzzling why it seems that lately, I've had a really hard time getting myself motivated to go out and ride. It's been everything I can do lately to make myself get dressed and go ride. Once I'm out there, I love it. Once I'm out there, I can't remember why I didn't want to go ride. But for the life of me, I have to force myself to go. The weather's been beautiful lately. Temperatures in the mid 80's. Light winds. This is the time of year that I should be just jumping on my bike every evening and hitting the road.

And not riding my bike, especially in the evening, is a real problem for me. For some reason, if I don't go out and ride when I get home, all I do is sit at home and eat. One minute I'll be watching TV, and the next thing I know, I'm in the pantry grazing for something to eat. We might have to move because apparently, this house makes me hungry.

So what's my problem. I actually think I know what's going on. It's my wife's fault. A few months ago, she decided that we needed to buy new living room furniture. I won't bore you with the details of the furniture shopping safaris that we went on, but just let it be known, there's some sort of magical force in a furniture store that literally sucks the will to live out of me. Ever wonder why a lot of furniture stores offer free coffee? It's so husbands don't drop dead all over the store.

In addition to the leather sofa and love seat that we bought, Trish thought it would be a good idea to buy a leather recliner. I know she thought she was being nice, and kind, and considerate, and thinking of me. Truth be told, this was the worst thing she could have done. That chair might just be the ruin of my cycling. Let me explain.

When I get home from work in the evening, I will typically go on a 20 mile bike ride. I try and do this just about every weekday. As much as I enjoy having beer bottles thrown at my head from passing cars, I'll usually wait until the afternoon traffic has cleared out a little before I head out on my ride. This means that I will often have an hour or so to kill before I leave. And what do I normally do with that hour. I sit in my big leather "man chair", as I have dubbed it, and relax. And when I say relax, I mean some serious, professional type relaxing. Not the rank amateur type of relaxing that you do. Oh no, no. I've raised relaxing to an art form. I take almost as much pride on my ability to relax, as I do as my skills in offering sarcasm. So once I get nestled down in that chair, nothing short of a fire is going to get me to abandon it without a fight. And frankly, it would probably have to be a pretty big fire.

So for you wives out there, while your hearts may be in the right place, don't think your doing your husbands any favors by buying them that recliner that they've always wanted. It's a trap. A devious, soothing, nap-inducing trap. You have been warned.

Peace out.........Nearly Famous Fred

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

For better or worse, Lance is returning

I've purposefully held off on posting anything about Lance Armstrong's possible return to pro cycling because, frankly, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. As much as I would love to see Lance race the TdF again, there is also a part of me who would really hate to see him go back and possibly fail.

One thing needs to be said right from the start. I have a huge, non-sexual man-crush on Lance. There, I've said it. I am secure enough in my own manhood that I can just come right out and say it. He is, without a doubt, my cycling hero. My copy of "It's Not About the Bike" is so worn and tattered, it's about to fall apart. It's highlighted and underlined the same way that many old family bibles are. Hanging in my garage is a quote from the book. It is the first paragraph of the last chapter:
Pain is temporary. It may last a moment, or a day, or a week, or a year. But it will eventually subside and something else will take it's place. If I quit however, it last forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with. Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on is the real reward. Better than any yellow jersey or trophy.

I swear, if Trish hadn't almost divorced me after I got my first tattoo, I'd have that quote tattooed across my chest.

So why would Lance want to make a come back now. I've seen several theories regarding this. Ranging from the plausible, to the ridicules. One of the more plausible, offered by none other than The Fat Cyclist, was that Lance is not going to come back and ride for Astana, but is going to form his own LiveStrong Team, and hire away Johann Bruyneel to manage it. That especially make sense given the quotes from Alberto Cantador today, hinting that he would quit the Astana team if they rehired Armstrong. The most redicules theory would be the one speculating that Lance will buy the TdF itself. Can anyone actually envision the French selling the TdF to anyone, much less an American?

My own personal theory regarding Lance's possible return is quite simple. It would have to be simple if it was my theory. I believe that Lance is just bored stupid. He's sat around for 3 years, played a lot of golf, road in a few mountain bike races, and worked tirelessly for the LAF. He's dated every single blond in Hollywood, and hung out with Matthew McConaughey. Spending any significant time with McConaughey should be reason enough to drive anyone to escape to Europe. At least when he's on his bike, he can get away from Matthew. He's also sat around and watched the 3 TdF's that have been contested since he's been gone. He had to be thinking that he could have beaten these guys riding a recumbent, with one foot in a cast.

We already know how Alberto feels about Lance returning. How would this effect the rest of the cycling world? Levi has to be thinking that he's cursed. Next thing he knows, Eddie Merckx will want to come out of retirement and join the team. And the good folks at Versus have to be saying, "Wow, this selling your soul to the devil stuff really works!".

And that's the real point anyway. Weather Lance comes back and wins, or if he comes back and falls flat on his face, either way, it certainly won't be boring. Even the Lance haters out there will be glued to their TV's, just like the rest of us.

Later........Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ride Prep Part III - one final peek into my dementia

Unlike The Fat Cyclist, I didn't get invited to speak at the Interbike Show in Las Vegas. I can only assume that this was some sort of Postal Service error. But since I have nothing else to do, I though I'd go ahead and wrap up our little series on what it's like for the obsessive compulsive cyclist to get ready and ride in your typical Saturday bike ride.

When we last spoke, we had gone through the process of washing the car, prepping the bike, actually packing, loading the car, and stoking up on way to much caffeine the morning of the ride. Now we actually get to depart for the bike ride. One of my more prized possessions is my new GPS unit that I got for my car. It's really quite amazing when you think about it. That all you have to do is enter an address, and this little box, along with a few dozen satellites, can tell where you are, where you want to go, and give you turn-by-turn directions on how to get there. As I understand it, the GPS system that we use today, was actually developed by the U.S. military. So you can imagine the millions, possibly billions of dollars that went into it's development and testing. Given all that, in addition to my GPS unit, I still print out Google maps to take with me. Ever since I saw "Independence Day", I've never really trusted any sort of satellite based technology. You never know when an alien life form is going to invade the earth, wipe out all of our satellites, and there I'd be lost on my way to Greenville Texas for a bike ride. But with my trusty Google maps, aliens be damned, I'd find my way to the ride.

Among the numerous things that you should know, but will probably never understand, about the Type A, obsessive compulsive cyclist, is that we absolutely hate to be rushed. Rushing leads to being hurried, and being hurried leads to things being left behind, or the ultimate sin, things getting lost. One year, I came back from the Hotter-n-Hell in Wichita Falls, and I had somehow lost a pair of gloves. I was positively clinically depressed for a month. These weren't even my favorite pair of gloves. But they were lost, and I had lost them.

It is this desire to avoid being rushed, that leads me to arrive quite early for your typical bike ride. Take this past Saturday's ride for example. The ride itself was scheduled to start at 9:00am. It's about a 45 minute drive from my house to Greenville. I got up at 6:00am and showered. I believe that we've already recognized and discussed the illogicality of showering before a bike ride, so deal with it. As the truck was already loaded, I was able to depart for Greenville at exactly 6:30am. Not needing to stop for gas, and I know this because I topped off the tank the day before, (please see the pre-ride checklist, Section III - Non-Bicycle Related Activities, Sub-Section C - Automobile Related Prep), I arrived in Greenville at 7:15am. That would be exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes before the ride was scheduled to start. Now all I had to do was get myself and the bike ready to ride.

Given that all of my clothes were neatly packed, it took me about 20 minutes to get myself dressed and ready to ride. Getting the bike ready, which is basically making sure the tires are up to pressure, took about 5 minutes. That left me about an hour and twenty minutes before the ride. So I had a couple more cups of coffee. This led to the inevitable search for a port-a-potty. Now, I don't know what your feelings are towards port-a-potties, but my past experiences have been less than pleasant. Typically, if I feel the need to use one of these devices, I will put it off for as long as possible, and that's only if I have something to do that can't be accomplished behind a tree or bush. I think we're all on the same page here, so I won't explain that any further. So this means that by the time I actually use the port-a-potty, it's later in the afternoon and the facility has been well "broken in" by other riders. Given that in Texas in the summer, by the late afternoon, the temperature is usually quite hot, and given what has been going on in this facility, I think you can understand the usual "unpleasant" experience. But I have to say, getting to "christen" one of these things first thing in the morning, is a different experience all together. It's usually quite cool. And, as no one has been there prior to you, understand. So it was actually quite nice in there. If I'd had a newspaper, I might have missed the start of the ride.

As far as the Cotton Patch Classic bike ride goes, I enjoyed myself. For those of you not from Texas, I don't know if your familiar with a type of road surface called "chip-n-seal". I hope that this abomination hasn't made it to the rest of the country yet. If it has, you have my condolences. I'll cover my feelings toward chip-n-seal in the near future, but this weekends ride had it's fair share of it. As I have been involved with the production of several bike rides in the past, I generally try not to complain. But I do have to mention one thing. To all of you bike ride directors out there, let me just say that one port-a-potty per rest stop is not enough. Funny how it always comes back to port-a-potties. Luckily for me, I didn't need to do anything that required anything more than a tree.

I hope that this little peek into my head has been helpful. The next time you see someone just sitting on the back of his truck ready to ride, an hour and a half before a ride is supposed to start, now you might understand why he's there. And the next time you enjoy the use of a port-a-potty first thing in the morning, and you hear singing coming from the port-a-potty next door, just try and remember what it was like the last time you used one late in the afternoon. You might just find yourself humming along.

(That's a whole lot more than I ever thought I would have to say on the subject of port-a-potties).

Peace out.................Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fred's Ride Prep, Part II - We actually pack

Tonight, we continue our saga of what the "Type A" cyclist goes through in preparing for an out of town bike ride. My hope is that others may learn from me. Oh sure, actually letting all of you get a peak into my little world of dementia might be a little embarrassing, but if I help just one person, then it was all worthwhile. Also, I desperately want to find out if I'm the only one who goes through this. (oh dear God, please don't let me be the only one. please).

When last we left our hero, we had gotten the truck washed. I don't have to tell you how essential that is to a successful bike ride. We also got the bike re-lubed, and washed and greased if necessary. Now "if necessary" is a fairly relative term. Typically, for the Type A cyclist, (that would be me), "if necessary" can roughly be translated to "always, always, always". It doesn't matter if I washed it for the ride last weekend, it's more than likely going to get washed for the ride this weekend too.

Now we can begin the stress inducing task of packing. First thing that has to be located is my ever trustworthy packing list. What I pack for the out of town bike ride, depends on several factors. Will this ride require an overnight stay? If so, them I will also have to pack a change of clothes and bathroom items. Please see page two of the packing list. What time of year is it? Is it cold? Is so, what type of cold weather gear will be required? Please see the section of the packing list subtitled "cold weather cycling". All of these variables are accounted for on the packing list. Did I mention that this packing list is not something that was thrown together in 15 minutes. No, no. This packing list was an ever evolving project, complete with checkpoints, milestones, edits, revisions, and versions. Actually, I believe that the current version of the packing list is v8.17.06.

As I proceed down the checklist, the items are not just thrown into a bag for the out of town trip. That's exactly how things get lost and overlooked. As items are located, they are placed on the bed in full view. Then, and only then, can they be officially checked off of the checklist. Once all of the items required for this particular trip are located, checked off of the list, and counter-checked and co-signed by a higher ranking officer (my wife), copies of said checklist are then made and filed with the appropriate offices. Now we can actually begin putting things in the bag.

Just to repeat, I am fully aware of how silly all of this must appear, and how, to the non-type A cyclist, this must all seem quite mad. Oh, how I envy you. To be able to just grab the stuff that you figure you'll probably need, throw it all in a bag that morning, and leave for the ride. That has to be great.

Once everything has been placed in a bag, (in reverse order, so that the things that I will need first are on top), then I can start to pack all of my gear in the back of my SUV. Typically, this will include my tool box, my floor pump, my bag with my cycling clothes and gear, maps to the ride location, GPS, radar detector, money to bribe the boarder guards, my passport, and provisions enough to get Hannibal and his army across the Alps. Here again, these things will go in in a specific order, so that those things I will need first, will be on top. Yes, I know this is madness. But there is a method to the madness. And when you get right down to it, at least to me, the Type A cyclist, that's all that really matters.

The next morning, day of the ride, I will get up and shower. Yes, I will shower to go out and ride my bike. Yes, I know that that's pretty much crazy. And yes, I don't care. Next, I will fix a thermos of coffee to drink on the drive to the ride, because, and I know that at least some of you have to agree with me on this one, you simply cannot ride a bike without having amply fueled up on caffeine. It just can't be done any other way. In addition to my obsessive compulsive tendencies towards bike ride preparation, I am also afflicted with a hopeless case of caffeine addiction. But that one, I happen to like and enjoy. Oh yea, at this point, I load my bike onto my bike rack.

Okay, we're packed, loaded, and buzzing on caffeine. We are now ready to depart for the bike ride. Tomorrow, we cover arriving at the bike ride site, getting ready to actually ride, and riding the bike. As I actually have a bike ride to go to tomorrow, The Cotton Patch Classic in Greenville TX, I'll also report back on how that went.

Later and peace out.........Fred

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My cross to bear.....or is it?

If you were to ask my wife, (but please don't), she would tell you without hesitation that I am one of the most organized, neat, tidy, Type A, anal retentive, bordering on obsessive compulsive, people that you are ever likely to meet. I just cannot help myself. I absolutely know that those socks that are put away in the drawer will be just fine, even if the toes on some of the socks point towards the back of the drawer, and the toes on the rest of the socks point towards the front of the drawer. I know this. But even if I somehow manage to put the socks in the drawer going every which-a-way, close the drawer, and walk away, I won't make it 10 feet before I have to turn around and go back and put the socks with the toes all facing the same way. I know. That's just nuts. But it's just the way I'm wired.

I work for Southwest Airlines as a Computer Programmer, in their headquarters building at Love Field here in Dallas. People literally come from all over the building just to look at my cube because it's so neat, clean, and organized. People just assume that I don't do very much at work simply because when they come by my desk, it's always neat and tidy. I could be knee deep in chaos, with the world tumbling down around my ears, but by God, that desk is not going to be a mess.

This "affliction" of mine, does not manifest itself more at any time, than when it comes to my cycling. Specifically, when I'm getting ready for a bike ride. And even more specifically, when I'm getting ready for a bike ride that will require me to drive out of town. Let me give you a run down of what I go through in getting prepared for an out of town ride. Just so you know, I'm going to break this down into two or three post. There's just too much information to cover in just one posting.

Fred's Ride Preparation: Part I.

About two or three days before the ride, I will wash my cycling clothes. I have to start this process at least a couple of days ahead of time, because I will want to wear a specific jersey, with a specific bib, and a certain pair of socks, and a specific pair of gloves, with one certain head wrap. Those magnificent coordination's that I show up at the rides in aren't going to put themselves together. And since I don't dry my jerseys and bids in the clothes dryer, that means they have to be hung up and dry overnight. I'm sure that they would be just fine if I dried them in the machine, but somehow I got it into my head that they will shrink, or fade, or explode, or something, and be ruined if I dried them in the machine, so they get hung up.

If I may go off on a tangent here, I just looked in my closet, and I have a collection of about 25 jerseys now. Funny thing is, I can only remember actually buying about 7 or 8 of those jerseys. The other's just seem to show up on their own. Is this phenomenon localized to my closet, or are others familiar with it? What would all of those jersey's have to gain by congregating in my closet? What is their ultimate goal? But I digress.

So the day before the out of town ride, I will usually get my truck washed. Drive to a ride in a dirty truck?!? That's just crazy talk. If it's getting close to time to get my tires rotated and/or my oil changed, then I'll go ahead and get this done too. That afternoon when I get home from work, I will at least lube my bike chain and wipe down my bike. If it's been a few weeks since it's been washed and greased, then I'll go ahead and wash, degrease, and re-lube. I won't go into the details of that process, as it's about an hour and a half before I go to bed, and I simply don't have the time.

Now that the truck and the bike are both's time to pack. This is not a frivolous undertaking. It requires planning, strategy, cunning, guile, checks and balances, and the most important thing of all, a packing checklist. Go ahead, laugh if you must, but I have never shown up at a ride without everything I needed for that day's ride.

Okay, that's not entirely true. You don't know how hard it is for me to admit this, but there has been two occasions when I showed up without everything I needed. One was at spin class. I have to admit that I showed up without my cycling shoes. You can take some perverse pleasure if you like in the fact that my wife still laughs about that one. The other incident happened this past August at the Hotter-n-Hell 100 in Wichita Falls, TX. I was in the parking lot getting ready with a couple of friends. When I went to put on my gloves, I suddenly realized that I had two left hand gloves. That simply meant that back in my hotel room, there were two right hand gloves just sitting there. But that wasn't the packing list's fault. I had packed the gloves, I simply grabbed the wrong two when I left for the ride that morning. So you know what happened as soon as I got back home; the packing list was updated so that it read "1 glove left ___, 1 glove right___". Now the list is perfect. Let us never speak of these two events again.

Alright, that's enough for tonight. Besides, it's Thursday night, there's a ride this Saturday, and I've got clothes in the laundry.

Tomorrow, in part 2, we actually start to pack. Then in the 3rd installment of our series, we actually leave for the bike ride.

Peace out......Nearly Famous Fred

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pardon me as I climb up on my soapbox

Being the quite, reserved, somewhat shy Texan that I am, I'm going to crawl out of my shell just a little bit, and express myself for a moment. After attending way too many bicycle rides to count over the years, and observing how a large portion of you ride your bikes, I just have one question to ask.

What the hell is wrong with you people?

To the guy and his wife who passed me, (on the right I might add), on their tandem, and only waited until the guy up front was past me to start moving to the left into me, I ask, what the hell is wrong with you? While no one can sympathize more than I, that you might want to forget that your wife is behind you on the tandem, it's still a tandem. Even if there was no one behind you, you still have to wait until the entire bike has passed me before moving to the left. And yes, it is typically considered rude and unsafe to pass someone on the right.

To the group of seven guys riding the Collin Classic two years ago, who decided that it would be a good idea to ride shoulder-to-shoulder, not only all the way across your own lane, but spilling across the yellow line, I ask, what the hell is wrong with you guys? These knuckleheads actually forced a oncoming car off the road, refusing get back in their own lane. Forget trying to get these guys to single up and move to the right. How bout we just try and get these guys back into their own lane. Not that I don't think that it would be cool to play chicken with an oncoming 2,000 lbs automobile, but my damn survival instinct just keeps kicking in and prevents me from doing just this sort of stupid activities.

Saving the best for last, to the guy who stopped in the middle of the road, directly in front of me, for absolutely no freakin' reason, I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with you? Each year, we ride in a Jan 1st ride called the "Happy New Rear" ride. By Texas standards it's usually quite cold. Six years ago, myself and two of my cycling buddies were riding in the Happy New Rear. We were riding side by side. Before you say anything, there was no automobile traffic behind us, so we were perfectly legal in not riding single file. So there. There was another group of three, riding side by side, about 15 feet in front of us. I had looked down for a split second to grab my water bottle. When I looked up, one of the three in front of us had stopped for some reason. Now, maybe I'm just being difficult. But typically, when I stop, I will move to the far right side of the road and stop there. This guy, for some unknown reason, decided that it would be a good idea to just stop in the middle of the road. Quite frankly, it was actually fairly impressive. I've never seen anyone stop a bike and dismount that fast, before or since. So I look up and I have just about enough time to shout "Hey!". I swerved at the last minute and caught him on my right side as he stood there in the middle of the road. That spun me around and off of my bike, landing squarely on my tailbone. One of the friends I was riding with that day said I looked like Tigger, from the Winnie the Pooh stories, bouncing down the middle of the road on my behind. As dumb a thing as stopping in the middle of the road was for this guy to do, he more than made up for it by doing one of the smartest things he ever did shortly thereafter. He got the hell out of there. By the time I was able to compose myself, he and his friends were long gone. That was six years ago, and to this day I still look for this guy at bike rides. Somewhere out there is a butt in need of kicking.

These seemingly normal people, and I'm giving a lot of credit there, are behaving in what can only be described as stupid behaviour.
Now what makes people behave in the ways that I have described above? I mean, how smart do you have to be?

I have a theory.

I believe, and I have no medical data or formal medical training to back this up. Oh, I've dabbled a little with some informal medical training, but no sort of "structured" education or lecture. But I believe that there are a certain percentage of the people in this country, who are born with a birth defect. Apparently, in this small percentage of people, one of the main arteries that supplies blood to the brain, runs directly through their behind. Couple this birth defect, with riding a bicycle, and you have a group of people, that as soon as their rear ends hit a bicycle saddle, they automatically lose about 75 to 100 I.Q. points. This is the only hypothesis that I can come up with that explains some of the behaviour that I have seen out there.

So the next time you see someone riding in at what can best be described as an "erratic" fashion, do not be angry with them. These people are to be pitied. Through no fault of their own, they are dealing with a handicap that the rest of us just can't understand. They suffer from what I have dubbed as A.R.B.F.D., or Ass Restricted Blood Flow Disease. I for one, think there should be some sort of labor day telethon to help these people.

I have considered the possibility that these people do not actually suffer from any sort of illness. That they ride they way they do simply because they're stupid. If that's the case, then that is what I would describe as a self correcting problem. Eventually, if they continue to ride the way they do, they will eventually do something stupid, at the wrong time, and the problem will have corrected itself. Not that I wish any sort of accident on anyone else, but you reap what you sow. If you ride like an idiot, then sooner or later, bad stuff is bound to happen.

Wouldn't it be a better world if everyone rode just like me? Just imagine.

Peace out........Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, September 12, 2008

In the beginning

As promised, today I will actually be talking about bicycling. I figured this was kind of important, as I had advertised this as a cycling blog. I started cycling in July of 2000. When asked why I started cycling, I generally tell people that it was because Trish and had bought a new house. After enjoying the puzzled look on their faces for a few minutes, I explain.

In the spring of 2000, Trish and I were living in our first home, a 1300 sq ft house in Frisco, TX. We were also enjoying our 1 year old son Michael. I say we were enjoying him, because we had finally moved past that point in raising a child, where you can actually begin to enjoy them. I know, I know. You're thinking, "What a terrible thing to say. Children are a joy. Blah, blah, blah." Well lets really be honest here. For the first year or so of raising a child, they are, to be honest, basically houseplants that you have to bathe and change. In that first year, you feed it, water it, and like a house plant, if you set it down, it's pretty much going to be were you left it when you come back for it. But around the time they celebrate their first birthday, they actually start to have a personality, they are somewhat mobile, which makes them entertaining if nothing else, and given that they have developed a primitive vocabulary, you can actually talk to them in some limited fashion.

During that spring, we had come to the conclusion that with the addition of Michael, we were now out of room in our small Frisco home, and we needed a bigger house. Towards that end, we purchased a 2900 sq ft home in nearby McKinney. We moved in on April 1st, April Fools Day. I should have seen that for the omen that it was. One of the things my son liked to do in our new home, was to crawl/walk up the stairs. It didn't take long for me to make the depressing discovery that I couldn't walk up the one flight of stairs, without gasping for breath and seeing a bunch of my ancestors gathered around, urging me to "walk into the light".

You see, there was a time when I was less than the well developed specimen of the male of the species that you see before you today. There was a time when I was what most people would call fat. At that time, I was 6'3", and conservatively, about 260 pounds. It would not be an understatement to say that I was a big boy. Given that my son was only 1 at the time, and I very much wanted to live long enough to see him turn 2, I knew that I had to do something. Running and jogging were not an option. Thanks to years of basketball in high school and college, my knees were absolutely shot. I couldn't run across my living room without my knees staging open revolt. I gave brief thought to swimming. However, with no offense intended to you triathletes out there, hereto after referred to as "crazy people", the idea of swimming lap after lap after lap in a pool sounds almost as exciting as staring at a wall for a couple of hours.

It was also about this time that Lance Armstrong was in the middle of winning his 3rd consecutive Tour De France. I thought that this was something that I could do. It looked to be fairly low impact on the knees. And how hard could it be. I mean, look at these guys riding their bikes around France. There's not a one of them that looks like he ways more than 140 pounds. A stiff wind comes up and they'd all blow away. Yea, I could definitely do this.

So I set out to buy my first bike. Trish was, not expectantly, resistant to the idea. And not without justifiable cause. It should be mentioned, that up until this point, I had had a documented history of getting all excited about something, buying all sorts of expensive equipment for that activity, then finding out that it is somewhat hard to do, and quickly losing interest. The closet full of chess sets, chess books, and chess software stands as example of this. As does the pile of learn to speak German software and Cd's. The list goes on. So my proposal that I needed to go out and buy a lot of very expensive cycling equipment, was not met with the enthusiastic response that I had envisioned. I wasn't too worried though. My capacity to whine, cry and beg, greatly out distances her will power to tell me no. Actually, that's pretty much how our son was conceived. After a relatively short 3 weeks of whining, she relented. (To me buying a bike, not to conceiving a child.) I purchased my first bike. I'll cover that experience in depth in a later post.

Having based my "how hard could it be" assessment of long distance cycling on watching a bunch of skinny Europeans and one skinny Texan on TV, I eagerly anticipated my first ride. While most of that first ride is an oxygen dept induced fog, I do remember riding about 3 1/2 miles, and being deeply convinced that I was going to die. Actually, it was nice to visit with those ancestors again. But to no ones greater surprise than my own, the next day I went out and rode again. And then I rode again, and again, and again. And then about a month later, around the end of August, I had my first crash. If you're like me, you morbidly enjoy the details of a good bicycle crash. And I'd like nothing more than to share with you the details of mine. The problem is, to this day 8 years later, I don't remember. One moment I'm riding my bike down the road, and literally the next moment, I'm waking up in the emergency room. The moments between those two are fuzzy, but we've been able to piece some of what happened together. Apparently, based on the forensic evidence, that being the 14" puddle of blood that we found in the road the next day, I smacked my head on the pavement. Thank goodness I was wearing a helmet. I hope I didn't confuse anyone with the medical term of "smacked". Once in the emergency room, it was determined that I had a severe concussion, and dislocated shoulder, basically one giant scab down the entire left side of my body, and a gash above my left eye requiring 11 stitches to close.

Let me dispel a myth right now. Chicks do not "dig" scars. As a matter of fact, they appear to be quite repulsed by them. What they do seem to "dig", is the ability to competently ride a bicycle without killing yourself. I say that because whenever I tell them the story of my first bike crash, instead of sympathy and the desire to gently hold my head to their bosom, I usually get giggling and laughter. I'll never understand women.

The doctor also told me to stay off of my bike for 3 months. I think he did this because if I killed myself on my bike before my medical insurance paid him, then he might not ever get paid. But once again, to every one's surprise including me, once I got the OK from the doctor to resume riding, I hopped right back on the bike. Even though I was riding only about 5 miles a day at that time, I had one simple rule. Every day that I rode, I would ride just a little farther than the day before. Even if it was just one tenth of a mile farther than the previous day, and many day that's all it was, I would ride a little farther.

The rest is history. Within 1 year of that first crash, I rode my first century. Within two years of purchasing that first bike, I went from 260 pounds, to 190 pounds, and in the 6 years since then, I've kept it off. Given that I am a notoriously lazy person, if I can do it, anyone can.

That's it for tonight. Ride safe this weekend.

Peace out.........Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What to expect from this blog

I think I made it abundantly clear in my initial post to this blog, but just in case the point was missed by some of you, I will never be confused with a great writer. If we're being completely truthful, (and I think we can be), I will never be confused for a mediocre writer. No, that's still not entirely true. Basically, I'm pretty much semi-literate. If it weren't for spell-checker, you'd have a better chance of understanding this if I wrote it in Chinese. And dear God, don't even get me started on grammar and punctuation. For example, you might have noticed that I tend to use a lot of commas. This is just the eighth sentence in this posting, and I've already used 10 commas. I don't know why this is. I'm very much aware that I use too many commas. And yet I can't help myself. These are the just the kind of things you are going to have to learn to tolerate, (11), if you hope to get any sort of enjoyment from these post.

But even with these readily admitted to shortcomings and disabilities as a writer, I have chosen to start a blog. So, what can my readers expect. I can summarize that in one simple word; sarcasm. Sarcasm, beautiful sarcasm. It is my concerted opinion that sarcasm is a much underrated and much under-appreciated skill. It is not widely known, but I happen to be a 7th level, Master Practitioner, of the Ancient Art of Sarcasm. Like a finely crafted sword, when used properly, the expertly crafted sarcastic phrase can be deadly. It can bring a spirited debate to a quick, sudden, and decisive end. With a single sarcastic phrase, you can not only express your views on a point of contention, but you can also express a thinly disguised opinion that the person you are debating is a moron for not agreeing with you.

And while I may be practiced in the sarcastic arts, I am but a mere impostor when it comes to the true master of the science of sarcasm. That would be the one, the only, my true leader, The Fat Cyclist. For those of you who have not yet discovered the fine work of one Eldon Nelson, aka, The Fat Cyclist, aka, Fatty, as he likes to be called by his friends, (wow, that's 6 commas within about 4 inches of text), I strongly recommend you add his blog to your list. Win Susan Win! I only recently discovered his writings a couple of months ago, and as soon as I started reading his post, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. He yields sarcasm like Luke Skywalker yields a light saber. If you do read his post, you will undoubtedly notice some similarities between his writing style and mine. That would be the rather liberal use of sarcasm. I take this as a compliment. Fatty will probably see this as grounds for some sort of legal action against me. I'm hoping that by freely admitting my admiration for his work here, I am protecting myself from any potential legal cause of action. But we'll see.

Much like the readers of The Fat Cyclist, my readers can expect commentary on a wide assortment of cycling related topics. (Notice how I naively assume that I will have readers.) I'll be commenting on pro cycling, amateur cycling, cycling products, the cycling culture in general, and a lot of comments on my own personal cycling experiences. I probably will be doing a lot of complaining about how other people ride. But in a hopefully entertaining, sarcastic sort of way. Getting back to the commentary on cycling products. Here is where Fatty and I will differ. While Fatty doesn't openly invite people to send him cycling related products to comment on, I am now giving an open invitation to anyone who makes or sells anything that might be cycling related, to go ahead and send me one. Shoot, send me a box of them. I promise to use the product and to take up my valuable post space giving my honest opinion of what I think about it. I can't promise I'll like it. But I can promise to mention it in my postings, thereby exposing your product to what will probably be 10's of readers.

In tomorrow's post, I promise to actually talk about cycling. Just in case you were wondering, I used a total of 52 commas in this post.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This is probably a really bad idea...

I am not a writer. I wanted to get that out of the way, right from the start. If you read much further, that will become painfully obvious, but I wanted to admit to it before everyone figures it out for themselves. Kind of like passing gas in a crowded meeting. Shouting, "That was me!", before anyone else has a chance to say anything, somehow makes it less embarrassing. So, if by some miracle, someone from outside of my immediate circle of family and friends reads this, and they feel the need to post a comment saying what a lousy writer I am, I can say that I told you right from the beginning that I couldn't write. It has been my experience, that preemptive self deprecation is always a good strategy.

This blog will mainly be about bicycling. Or rather, my views, opinions, and general musings about cycling, cyclist, and the cycling culture. It should be said right now that I am a very opinionated person. This characteristic has served me well at times, and not so well at others. Not surprisingly, this has gotten me into my share of trouble in the past. Not just my share, but probably a good portion of your share as well. It's not so much the opinions that I express that tend to get me in trouble, but rather the time and place that I choose to express said opinions, as well as the volume and the enthusiasm with which I tend to express them. That's one of the things that I hope this blog does. Is to give me a place, other than inappropriate meeting and gatherings, to express these often derided opinions.

Another thing that you should know about me is that I am a Texan. Born and bred. Now I know that it is a widely held belief around the rest of the country that Texan are by nature, very shy and quiet. I know that most of you believe that you typically have a hard time getting a Texan to express themselves, and that typically, Texans are the quietest people in the room. Well, that's not entirely true. I have actually met a Texan or two who have absolutely no problem at all speaking right up and letting their feelings be know. Weird, huh? For myself, I happen to fall into that minority of Texans who seem to be quite expressive. I don't know that I'm that loud, but I do believe what I believe, and if you ask me for it, you'll certainly get my unfiltered opinion. But I'd like to think that I'm extremely tolerant of differing opinions. I realize that everyone is entitled to believe what they want, and all I ask in return is that everybody else please extend that same courtesy to me. Please keep that in mind when you read my post. Especially keep that in mind if you feel the urge to post a comment.

A little more about me. My full name is Fred Richard Miller Jr. I live in McKinney, TX, with my wife Tricia, and my 9 year old son Michael. Trish and I have been married for 19 years. Nineteen years ago, I had two of my "est" moments within about 30 seconds of each other. That would be those kind of moments that can be described as the dumb"est" thing I ever did. Or the wild"est" thing I ever did. You know, the "est" moments. In this case, the first "est" moment was the smart"est" thing I ever did. Somehow, I worked up the courage to asked the former Ms. Tricia Hill to marry me. The second "est" moment that happened that night was the lucki"est" thing that every happened to me. For some reason, she said yes. I swear, as God is my witness, if I live to be 1000, I will never understand what possessed her to say that. Just a quick aside here. For those guys who are considering marrying above themselves, let me caution you against it. If you marry a woman who is way to good for you, be prepared to spend the rest of your life living with the constant fear that she will eventually snap out of whatever fog she has been walking around in, and realize how much better she could have done than you. This is the fear that I live with every day of my life. I've been able to relax a little since Michael was born. I figure that she's just a little less likely to pack up and leave now that we have our son, but the nagging fear of abandonment never really goes away. Always try and marry down.

Okay, I think that's enough for a first post. I'm not sure though, because, as you might have figured out by now, I have no earthly idea what I'm doing. I'll try an post most days, but if I don't have anything to say on a particular day, I won't say anything. And I probably won't post much on weekends. Hopefully, I'll be out riding my bike.

Next post....."What you can expect from this blog". Or, "Let's go ahead and lower those expectations".

I can tell your just giddy with anticipation.

Peace out........Nearly Famous Fred