Saturday, August 22, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me...

I've always considered myself to be a pretty level headed and logical kind of guy. Per my Buddhist tendencies and Lutheran background and upbringing, I don't tend to react to situations in any sort of extreme manner. I don't get terribly excited about the good things, and I don't get too upset about the bad things. I figure that things tend to even out over time.

Along those same lines, I don't get surprised by too many things either. You don't tend to get knocked off of your feet by a wave, if you're content to bob along with the tide.

(Wow, that's actually pretty deep. Feel free to quote me on that.)

But the other day, I was surprised by a couple of things. Allow me to give you a not so brief synopsis of what happened.

Last Saturday, my wife and I were on our way to pick up our son Michael, as he was participating in a chess tournament over in Plano.

(We are currently training him to be a nerd. It appears to be going well.)

As we're driving along, I noticed up ahead, something swerving all over the right hand lane of the two lane road we were driving on. We got closer, and I realized it was a cyclist. As we come up behind him, we all arrived at a red light. I'm guessing that most of you know what's coming next. That's right, the guy runs the red light.

I should have figured the guy was going to run the red light, as he was wearing a tank top skin suit. A dead give away that the guy was a triathlete. No offense to any triathletes who happen to be reading this, or are having someone read it to them, (I'm kidding.), but it is my opinion, and only my opinion, that triathletes tend to ride their bicycles in a more haphazard, slightly illegal fashion that other cyclist. I'm not saying all triathletes ride this way, or even most triathletes. I'm just saying that they tend to be slightly ahead of the curve on illegal riding habits. For more of my opinions on triathletes, please click here.

So, the guy runs the red light. I suppress my desire to immediately run the guy down.

(Again, I'm kidding, sort of.)

After Trish and I wait for the light to turn green, I move to the left lane and roll my passenger's window down. As I pull up along side of him, I shout out the window, "You really should stop at those red lights!". To his credit, showing that he's not a complete idiot, he doesn't respond in any fashion, at least not yet, which is the correct response in this situation. Having said my piece, we go on down the road, where we catch the red light at the next intersection. Since we're making a left turn at this intersection, we're in the left turn lane. I glance in my mirror and I notice that the guy on the bike has now moved from the right lane, to the left lane, which is right next to the left turn lane. I continue to watch him, and he has now moved to the left side of that left lane, so that he is now going to pass right next to my car. Again, I imagine that most of you can guess what's going to happen next. For those of you who guessed that he flipped me off as he went by, you would once again be correct.

The finger flip is actually the retort of last resort. If you've completely run out of arguments and you have no logical responses to an adversaries arguments, and you finally admit to yourself that you were indeed wrong, but you refuse to admit it to your opponent, the the finger flip is what you resort too. It is the 'dirty bomb' of verbal confrontation.

He then proceeds to pedal up to the front of the line of cars waiting for the red light, were he cuts in front of the left lane of traffic and the cars in left turn lane, making an illegal u-turn, and once again, running another red light. So he is now traveling back down the 4 lane divided road towards me. I won't bore you with the detail, but needless to say, as he went by, we exchanged more pleasantries and obscure hand gestures.

So what, might you ask, surprised me about this encounter?

The first thing that surprised me about this, and it's something that continues to surprise me every time I see it, is the moronic way some people ride their bicycles. I don't know about you, but when I ride my bike on the road, I try and give the automobiles a healthy amount of respect. Not that most of them have earned that respect, but by the shear size of them, compared to the size of me and my bike, and the amount of damage they could potentially do to me and my bike, they should be given that respect. If for no other reason that simple self preservation.

The second thing that surprised me about this encounter, arose from a very intelligent question that Trish asked. It wasn't surprising that Trish asked an intelligent question. You can believe me when I say that if an intelligent question is going to be asked at our house, it is more than likely going to come from Trish. Next would be our 10 year old son Michael, then our cat Boo. Currently, I rate slightly ahead of our dog Pepper, but she's only 8 months old. I expect that she'll pass me in the rankings sometime this winter.

No, what was surprising was that I didn't immediately have a good answer for her. Now in all fairness to me, (I usually try and be as fair as possible to me), the fact that I was screaming out the window at this guy was probably distracting me from forming an intelligent response to Trish.

So, as I rolled my passenger window down and was getting ready to shout at the guy, Trish asked, "Why do you need to say something to this guy? What do you care how he rides his bike?"

That's actually a pretty good question. Why would I need to say something to this guy? What do I care if this guy goes out and rides like an idiot?

How this guy rides actually falls under my famous and much talked about theory of the "Self-Correcting Problem".

The problem here is that this guy, and others like him, ride in an unsafe, illegal, and moronic fashion.

The correction to this problem is that eventually, if this guys continues to ride like this, he's going to do something unsafe and moronic at the wrong time, and he'll wind up getting squashed under a large vehicle.

And the problem will have corrected itself.

So if the odds are that eventually this problem will correct itself, why do I feel the need to address it with him. Until this guy gets himself squashed under a big vehicle, he not only makes himself look bad, but he makes all cyclist look bad. When motorist see this guy run a red light, they don't think "Look at that cyclist run that red light! That cyclist is riding illegally." No, what they actually think is that "All cyclist ride illegally." Motorist don't make the distinction between the actions of a single rider, and the actions of all riders. When riders like my new red light running friend ride illegally, they make us all look bad. I have enough problems keeping myself out of trouble, without getting lumped in with this guy. This guy riding like he does, makes it more difficult for all of us to go out and ride our bikes without getting beer bottles thrown at our heads. We should all be upset about how this guy rides. We should all want to say something to him.

When the city of Anna, Texas, just north of McKinney, banned bicyclist from FM 455, that didn't just ban the cyclist who had been riding in a large, fake, Tour de France peleton, and causing all of the problems. They banned all cyclist from that road. That's the danger to the rest of us law abiding riders, that cyclist like my new friend pose. While this guy, and the others like him, may be in the minority of cyclist, they are the ones that get the vast majority of the attention of motorist. Who are motorist more likely to remember? This guy running the red light on his bicycle, or me stopping at the red light on my bike, and waiting for it to turn green. They'll have forgotten about me 10 seconds after that light turns green. But they'll remember this guy every time they see a cyclist on the road.

That's why I needed to say something to this guy.

On a more personal note, if you happen to be in the McKinney, TX area either riding your bike, or just driving your car, and you happen to find yourself on McKinney Ranch Parkway, between Alma Rd and Custer Rd, keep a look out for my new friend. He would be the guy on his bike, in a tank top skin suit, swerving all over the road, and not stopping at the stop signs or the red lights. If you happen to see him, be sure to roll your window down and express your opinion on how he's riding. Also, be sure to tell him the Nearly Famous Fred said hi.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

P.S....Next week we have Nearly Famous Fred first. I'll be reporting remotely from Wichita Falls, TX. What, you might ask, in the name of God, could possibly make me spend a weekend in Wichita Falls, TX. Just about the only thing that could do that, is a bike ride. And not just any bike ride, but The Hotter-N-Hell 100 bike ride. Nothing says "Good Times!" like riding your bicycle through the lovely Wichita Falls scrub brush country side, in the 105 degree heat, for 100 mikes. Or in my case, 100 kilometers. Now that's living. I'll even be taking a day of vacation from work next Friday, so I can spend even more time in Wichita Falls. These are the kind of decisions that will eventually force Trish to put me in some sort of sub-standard nursing home.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

OK, let's try this again

Over the last few months, I've made a startling discovery about myself. There's the very real possibility that I may be lazier than even I had thought. I might be lazier than I thought was humanly possible. The reason I gave myself, (whenever I asked myself), for stopping posting to this blog was that "I'm just way too busy to write a blog. I've just got too much going on to take the time to write every day."

But as I started examining my day to day activities, I made the aforementioned startingly discovery. While I certainly had a lot that needed to get done, I very rarely actually did any of those things. If I had actually done, or even attempted to do, any of the many things that I needed to do, then yes, I would have been very busy.

As those of you who have spent, i.e...wasted, any of your time reading this blog in the past can attest to, I am a self-confessed very lazy person. I haven't seen any official ratings, but I very well could be the laziest person. I'm certainly in the top 10.

I recently heard someone actually say the following:

"I just can't sit still and do nothing. That would just drive me crazy!"

As this person said these words, I became very confused. I recognized the words as being English, and I knew what each individual word meant. But as they were constructed into sentences, they just didn't make any sense to me. I've spent the greater part of my life striving towards "sit still and doing nothing". Call it a dream if you will. The fact that I have so much that needs to get done, yet I spend an amazingly large percentage of my time avoiding actually doing anything, only serves to amplify my laziness.

You see, there are two schools of thought on laziness. First, there is the person who doesn't really have anything to do, and doesn't invest any time in actually looking for something to do. Let's call this person the Entry Level Lazy Person. It's a good place to start, but it takes no real self discipline to achieve. Basically, you have nothing to do, and you spend most of your time not doing it. Pretty easy.

Existing on a whole other level, is the Advanced Lazy Person. This is the category that I surprisingly find myself in. This is the person, that while they have a lot that needs to be done, they have the self discipline to force themselves not to do it. They have the drive to remain sitting in their big leather man-chair and do nothing, all the while, any number of task remain to be completed. They have the internal fortitude to ignore the guilt of letting deadlines pass, and still continue to watch TV. It's pretty damned heroic if you think about it.

I tell you this because I've been getting the itch to start posting to this blog again. As a card carrying Advanced Lazy Person, I find this extremely annoying. I've been perfectly content over the last several months, to sit around and do nothing, (aside from riding my bike every chance I get), and now I've got this nagging urge to get up and go do something. Personally, I view this as some sort of failure on my part. I've resisted the urge to actually accomplish something for so long, and now I just have to get up and get something done. It's like the last few months of doing nothing have been wasted.

So here's the deal. Since I'm still clinging to the idea that I'm just too busy to post to this blog everyday, (self delusion can really be a very handy thing), I'm going to make this a weekly column. I will post to this blog once a week, probably on Saturday evenings. If I happened to stumble across something that I just have to write about before the weekend, then I'll post a Nearly Famous Fred Special Edition. Even I, being as lazy as I am, should be able to come up with something, (hopefully something entertaining, but I make no guarantees), just once a week. We'll see how that goes.

OK, I've been typing for almost 15 consecutive minutes now. I should probably go take a nap.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I do not like surprises

Sorry for my recent disappearing act from this blog. It seems that between work, spring break with my family, and yes, getting the course ready for Tour Dallas, I haven't had a lot of time for blogging. And this may come as a bit of a surprise, but given that it is nearly impossible to make a mortgage payment by writing a free blog, I do have to give work priority. If anyone has an idea of how I can make a living writing this blog, I'm all ears.

But things have settled down just enough that I'm able to resume my blogging responsibilities.

A quick review. The last time we spoke 3 weeks ago, we were discussing the ongoing preparations of the route for Tour Dallas. A lot has happened since then. We had a big meeting with the Dallas Police Department, along with people from Dallas City Hall where the ride will be starting. Maybe it's just me, but it always makes me nervous to go down to police headquarters. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fairly law abiding citizen, but I'm always afraid that something I did 20 years ago, that I have since completely forgotten about, will come back to bite me.

We've used the same basic route for Tour Dallas for the last 4 or 5 years, so you would think that getting things ready would be a pretty simple matter by now. You'd think that, wouldn't you. Well, you'd be wrong. It seems that every year, there are a few thinks that come up that cause me, Nearly Famous Fred - Route Coordinator, headaches. This year would be no exception.

This past Sunday I, along with my friend, cycling buddy, and all around good egg, Cliff DeWitt, went out and rode the Tour Dallas route. Along with Cliff and myself, we also road with a new friend of Cliff's named Brian. We try and do this pre-event ride every year, just to make sure that there are no surprises on the route that we weren't previously aware of. Well guess what, we encountered a couple of surprises.

Headache Causing Surprise # 1 - While riding the route, we discovered a previously undisclosed spot of construction on the route. While this was a very small bit of construction, it had to be dealt with. Apparently, as they are want to do sometimes, the City of Dallas had to dig a hole in one of the roads we are using for the ride. The hole is now covered with a very large piece of steel plate, but the transition over this steel plate is very rough. After confirming with the city that this hole and steel plate are still going to be in place next Saturday, we made arrangements to have the plate coned off.

To any Tour Dallas riders who might be reading this blog: I did not dig this hole in the road. I did not place the large piece of steel plate on top of the hole. I did not make the transition over the steel plate so rough. It is not my fault that it is there, and there is exactly nothing that I can do about it, but to cone off the hole and the steel plate. If you stay out of the coned off area, you will be just fine. You have been warned.

Headache Causing Surprise # 2 - Last year, part of the route was under construction, so we had to alter the course to avoid this section. This year, the construction is complete, so we went back to the original route. Now again, you'd think that a brand new section of road would be the last part of the course that you'd have to be concerned about regarding the condition of the road surface. Well once again, you'd be wrong. When we came to this section of the course on our Sunday pre-ride, imagine our surprise when we encountered several one inch wide seams between the sections of poured concrete. Just wide enough for a bicycle tire to slip into and cause all sorts of mayhem and destruction as 4000 riders go by. This was a little more serious than the hole and steel plate that we encountered earlier in the ride. Phone calls were placed, names were called, insults were traded. After looking at the section of road with the Dallas Police, it was determined that if we coned off the right hand lane of this part of the course, we could avoid these evil road seams.

Again, to any Tour Dallas riders: I had literally nothing to do with the construction of this section of road. I did not make the seams so wide. If you stay out of the coned off sections, you just might live long enough to finish the ride.

Headache Causing Surprise # 3 - As we approached downtown Dallas, we round a corner and what do we see. The road that we are currently riding on, the same road that the cyclist are supposed to ride on in six days, is completely shut down and blocked with barricades and cones. There are cranes in the road, (the construction equipment type of crane, not the bird type), along with all other sorts of heavy machinery. I immediately suspect that this could be a problem if this is still here next Saturday, considering that 4000 cyclist are supposed to ride their bikes down this road. I'm smart that way. I didn't get to be a Route Coordinator based on my smile and my charming personality.

After we complete our ride, in a panic I notify Bikin Mike of this situation, and how, I my opinion, it would be unsafe for our 4000 riders to ride through this construction zone, what with the constant threat of large pieces of construction material being dropped on the riders from great heights. Mike agrees that this could be a problem. And so more phone calls are placed, more names are called, and more insults are traded. It turns out that this is a temporary construction site and it should all be gone by next Saturday. Piece and tranquility reined over the land once again.

These are the types of problems that present themselves every year. There is always something to be dealt with, even on a route that hasn't changed in 5 years.

So, we've got our course finalized. I've prepared all of the signs. I've prioritized all of the corners on the route, so that the most important corners are the first to get a route volunteer. We basically have only two things to do; paint the arrows on the pavement, and train the volunteers. In tomorrow's post, we review our day painting arrows. It was a good day, no one died.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, March 9, 2009

I see "people". They're everywhere.

Before we continue on with our educational series on what goes into getting a course ready for a bike ride, I thought I'd a take a minute and answer a question that was posted by one of my readers.

After reading my last post regarding the Eternal Struggle of all Route Coordinators, that is, not getting enough volunteers from the Volunteer Coordinator to do everything that I would like to do on the route, Joe Biker writes:

Just curious.....
couldn't you recruit some help and bring them in on your own for your department without having to go through a volunteer coordinator?

An excellent question. But there are a couple of basic flaws in Joe's thinking here. First of all, he assumes that I have the motivation and/or the people skills to go out and recruit people of my own. That would be an incorrect assumption. Most people who know me will tell you that I am an extremely lazy person. To think that I could get motivated enough to go out and recruit route volunteers on my own, would not only be incorrect, but also fool hearty.

And to be honest with you, (and I hope we can be honest with each other), even if I did go out to recruit my own volunteers, I certainly don't have the people skills to talk anyone into doing anything. Why do you think I became a Software Developer? Well, I'll tell you why. So I wouldn't have to deal with "people". Little did I know that I would wind up spending a great deal of my time sitting in meetings with "people", listening to them try and tell me what they want the software to do. Now, that might have turned out to be a bad choice on my part, but you see the basis of my decision.

I am basically becoming a recluse and a hermit. And whats more, I like it. Generally, I try and avoid "people" at all cost. It's nothing personal against any one person in particular, but just people in general. Present company excluded.

Think about the job of a Route Coordinator. Of all of the jobs involved in putting on a bike ride, Route Coordinator is probably the one that involves the least amount of contact with "people". The vast majority of my time is spent with maps, and getting signs ready, and for the most part, not dealing with "people". True, on the day of the ride, I actually have to meet with the "people" and give them their instructions for the day. But then, I send them out on the route, and I don't have to see them again for 5 or 6 hours. Once I do see them again, I just collect my sign and send them home. Of the dozens of hours I spend each year getting the course ready for Tour Dallas, I might spend a grand total of about 7 hours in direct contact with "people".

To think that I would actually go and seek "people" out, is a very misguided assumption.

So Joe, to answer your question, while it might be a viable alternative for others to go out and find their own volunteers, for me, it's just easier to whine, complain, threaten, and beg for volunteers from the Volunteer Coordinator.
Never let it be said that I didn't take the path of least resistance. And quite frankly, the Route Volunteer would probably prefer that I have as little actual contact with the volunteers as possible.

By the way, if you'd like to have your question answered by me, Nearly Famous Fred, please don't hesitate to leave a comment. I can't promise that you'll like the answer that you get, or that the answer will make any sense to anyone but me, but I will answer.

Next post, we get back to discussing our preparations for Tour Dallas. We look at the delicate relationship between the bike ride producers and the local law enforcement.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Tour Coordinator's eternal struggle

While Route Coordinator may be the "glamour" position of your typical bike ride, a bike ride is nothing without it's volunteers. And if there's one undeniable truth when it comes to bike ride volunteers, it's that there's never enough to go around.

Tour Dallas presents special problems when it comes to the route and the route volunteers.

Placing the route signs around the course, even one day ahead of time, would be a complete waste of time. Those signs tend to wander off by the next day. Also, the city of Dallas sign ordinance makes it illegal. So not wanting to upset the local law enforcement, we actually to not "place" any signs on the route. Any signs that we use for Tour Dallas are held by a route volunteer.

We do paint arrows on the pavement for Tour Dallas, but even that is problematic. It seems that there are some residence who live in the White Rock Lake area, that don't appreciate the subtle beauty of a properly painted route arrow on their local streets. These same residence are apparently not shy about calling their Dallas City Council representatives about said arrows. They either call their representative, or given that many of those same representatives are their neighbors around the lake, they just walk over and talk to them about the arrows. One thing has lead to the other, and suffice it to say, we do not paint any arrows around the lake. Given that we cannot place signs on the route, (see the previous paragraph), this means that every turn around the lake has to have a volunteer at it. (I'm getting a headache just writing about this.)

There are 75 turns that the riders must successfully negotiate, to get around the Tour Dallas course. That means that there are 75 corners were I would like to have a Route Volunteer. The words "like to have" are the important words in that sentence. I know going in that there is no way I am going to get 75 route volunteers.
If memory serves correctly, I think the most route volunteers that I have ever had to send out on the route is about 30. This brings me to the most important skill that a Route Coordinator can posses. That would be the ability to lie, cheat, steal, and/or intimidate the Volunteer Coordinator into giving you as many Route Volunteers as can be squeezed out of her.

The Volunteer Coordinator is the person responsible for recruiting the volunteers, and assigning them to the particular parts of the ride. Some of the volunteers will work the break points. Some will work at the start/finish area. Still others will work at rider registration. But the extra-special volunteers will be given the glory of working on the route. Those who are deemed worthy, will be sent to me, to be assigned a place of honor out on the route, assisting our valiant riders around the course. The difficulties arise between the Volunteer Coordinator and the Route Coordinator, over just how many volunteers should be deemed worthy.

My argument, which so far has been somewhat ineffective, is that it doesn't make a lot of sense to have volunteers working the finish area, if all of the riders get lost out on the route and don't make it to the finish. Same argument goes for the break points. What good are break point volunteers, if everybody is wandering aimlessly around downtown Dallas on their bicycles, and no one makes it to the break points.

I'm 6'3" tall, 195 lbs. The Volunteer Coordinator for Tour Dallas might be 5'6". Can someone please explain to me what kind of topsy-turvey world we live in, when I can't intimidate her into giving me all the route volunteers I want? It's just not fair.

It may surprise you to know, that a certain percentage of the route volunteers that we use for Tour Dallas are Community Service volunteers. Those would be people, who have been assigned by the courts to serve a particular number of hours doing community service work. Truth is, those are some of the most dependable, hardworking volunteers that we have. The only problem with these particular volunteers, is that we are forbidden to ask them what they did to get assigned to community service. I myself, have a real problem with this. It takes every ounce of self control I can muster, to keep from blurting out, "So what did you do?". I doubt we have any spies, or gangsters, or anything else cool like that working among us. But that doesn't keep me from wondering.

Aside from the community service volunteers, the majority of our volunteers are just people who enjoy serving, and enjoy being out and around other people. Being somewhat of a recluse in training myself, I really don't understand this point of view. I may admire it, I just don't understand it.

So the next bike ride you go to, try and take notice of those brave Route Volunteers standing by the side of the road. For they are the cream of the bike ride volunteer crop. While theirs may be a glorious task, it is not overflowing with rewards. The quick "thanks" that you shout as you ride by, may be the only reward they get that day.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Route Map, the most valuable thing 80% of you will never look at

Tonight, we continue to look at what goes into producing a bike rally. In particular, we look at the lonely, much under appreciated, but extremely important job of the Route Coordinator. Specifically for this post, we focus on the route map.

(A quick aside here. If my posting tonight seems a little distracted, it's because my son is working on his homework on the house computer. This forces me to work off of my laptop in the living room. Unfortunately for me, my wife is watching American Idol in the living room, and no matter how much I beg and plead, she won't turn it off. If I'm forced to endure much more of this show, I'll probably grow breast.)

Back to our discussion of the route map. As I type the words "route map", I can sense a lot of you out there scratching your head, with no idea what I'm talking about. The route map is one of those pieces of paper that you get in your ride goody bag, that you never read, and simply throw away, after you've removed the power bar and the tube patch kit that you'll never use. While I certainly agree that 90% of the stuff you get in the average goody bag can be immediately thrown away, the route map is one that you might want to consider holding on to.

If you are one of that 20% minority who have actually looked at a route map before, you're probably used to looking at something like the following. This is the Rider Route Map for last year's Collin Classic:

Very pretty, isn't it. All of the different routes clearly marked, with no clutter to confuse the riders. Now her is my Route Coordinator map of that same ride:

Notice all of the little dots and icons and arrows that appear on my map. Everyone of those dots represents a route volunteer, or a police officer, or a sign, or a break point. Actually, as Route Coordinator Maps go, this one is actually fairly simple. Here's the Route Coordinator map for the very urban Tour Dallas ride:

Impressive, isn't it? The reason I wanted all of you to see my version of the maps, wasn't to impress you, although I can tell you're extremely impressed, but to show you what goes in to getting a course ready for a bike ride. Every icon on that map has to be planned for. Preparations have to be made. Volunteers have to be recruited and trained on what they will need to do. Signs have to be printed and paid for. Police officers have to be assigned a location on the route, and yes, paid for. Time and a half overtime by the way, to be exact. (Tour Dallas will have 188 police officers on the route this year. Everyone of them earning time and a half to help keep the riders safe. You're welcome.)

So the next time you show up at a local bike ride and pickup your goody bag, instead of just throwing the route map away, go ahead and slip it into your jersey pocket. If for no other reason, just to remind you of what went into getting the course ready for you. Oh, it might also keep you from getting lost.

Next post: Route Volunteers, worth their weight in gold.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, March 2, 2009

We start down a long, dark road

As promised, today I would like to introduce all of you to the wonderful world of bike ride production. Hopefully, by the end of our little magical journey, you'll have a better appreciation as to what goes on in the weeks, and yes, even the months leading up to that morning when you show up at your local Saturday morning bike rally, pay your $25 to $40 dollars, collect your goody bag, and go for a ride.

As I have mentioned before, I work with Bikin' Mike Keel, (in Texas, we don't pronounce or spell trailing g's on words), here in the greater Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex, where he produces several bike rally's in the area. My official title, (actually, as an unpaid volunteer, I'm not sure how official it is), is Route Coordinator. Once again, I capitalize Route and Coordinator to add importance. Impressive, isn't it?

So what exactly does a Route Coordinator do? Excellent question. My duties as Route Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

* Getting the course ready for the ride. This means that I am the guy, who goes out in the days before the ride, and paints the arrows on the pavement that direct the riders around the course. If there's anything I've learned from the years I've been painting arrows on our rural Texas roads, is that if there's a way for a rider to get lost, they'll get lost.

* I'm also the guy who places the the route signs, or "signage" as we call it in the business, out on the route. This means that I have to be familiar with every twist and turn on the route, and make sure that we have a sign to go at every corner. The timing of the actual placing of the route signs out on the course gets a little tricky. It seems that if you place the signs out on the course too early, they tend to get bored and wander off. Some teenager here in the McKinney area, has a very nice collection of Collin Classic signs in his bedroom. So typically, we don't place the route signs out on the course until the day before the ride.

* One of the more stressful duties that I have is the coordination of the route volunteers that go out on the course and stand at the corners, making sure that you don't get lost. Why would this be stressful, you ask? Another excellent question. Quite simply, there are never enough volunteers to meet the needs of the Route Coordinator. There are never enough volunteers to cover all of the corners that I would like to have a volunteer at. Never. Never ever. There just isn't, ever. Also adding to the stress, is the one universal truth when it comes to bike rally volunteers; "If someone is not required to be somewhere, they tend not to be there." We always have a certain percentage of people, who no matter how many times they say there going to be there, don't show up. Not that I'm unsympathetic. Things come up sometimes. A child gets sick. Work calls and you have to go into the office. There's a really kick @ss rerun of Speed Racer on. All of these are what I would consider to be valid reason's for not making it to the ride.

So with these duties in mind, let me get you up to speed on my preparations for Tour Dallas. With the ride being on April 4th this year, we're about a month out from ride day. I received the route signs from Bikin Mike this past Saturday, so I now have 4, very large boxes of signs, occupying valuable space in my garage.

Just yesterday, we finalized the route for this year. But, aha, you might ask, "Fred, given that this is the 5th or 6th year of the Tour Dallas, wouldn't this year's route be the same as last year's route?" Once again, another great question. Well this year, we are moving the start of the ride from the American Airlines Center, (AAC), to Dallas City Hall Plaza. Wanting to leave our business relationship with the AAC on good terms, I won't go into too much detail on why we're moving the start, but suffice it to say, the good folks operating the AAC don't seem to be a terribly motivated group of people.

(The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not reflect the views or opinions of Bikin' Mike Keel, or anyone else involved with the production of Tour Dallas).

This, along with the fact that there is always road construction in Dallas, require subtle changes to the route each year. I have to document all of these subtle course changes, make sure that I have signs to accommodate the change, and when necessary, make sure I have a route sign to go on any new corners.

In my next post, we will discuss the much under appreciated skill of route map making. You'll learn how to spend hour after hour working on a map, that 90% of the people you give it to will never look at.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Giddy with anticipation

Now that we're through the Tour of California, a quiver of anticipation is beginning to grow in me. I've been in the spin studio for 4 month's now, and as nice a place as it is, I pretty much have all the posters memorized. I really need to get outside and ride my bike.

Aside from the fact that I'm starting to go stir crazy from spinning in place for 4 months, I know it's getting close to the beginning of the outdoor season, because preparations for Tour Dallas are beginning to ramp up. For those of you who aren't from the D/FW area, and aren't familiar with Tour Dallas, allow me to elaborate.

For the last 5 years, (at least I think it's been five years, maybe six), Bikin Mike has produced the Tour Dallas, an "Urban Cycling Adventure" as he likes to call it. I'm sure there are many New York City cyclist who would laugh at this being called an "urban" bike ride, but for around here, it's an urban ride. The ride starts at the Dallas City Hall Plaza, makes it's way through downtown Dallas, out around White Rock Lake, and back to City Hall. If you're interested, you can get the details at the Tour Dallas website.

There are several striking differences between Tour Dallas and your typical bike ride. First, the longest route is only 30 miles. For a lot of us, 30 miles is a warm up ride. (Notice how I subtly include myself in that group.) So this is not a ride where you're going to give you're endurance a real test. To make up for the shortness of the ride, many of the more hardcore cyclist try to make up for it with speed. Which brings me to my next difference.

This is not a ride where you're going to be able to attempt a personal best time for 30 miles, for a couple of reasons. Given that we're on urban Dallas streets, there are lots of twist and turns. Definitely not the kind of course where you're going to be able to go flat out for miles at a time. The other reason this ride doesn't lend itself to individual time trials, is the police presence. As route coordinator, I usually ride in the lead police car, leading the riders out on the route. The officer that I have ridden with the last several years, usually keeps his speed to about 17 or 18 mph, and he's not shy at all about getting on his P/A, and making sure the riders stay behind his car.

On a personal note, let me just say this; riding in the front seat of a police car is a much more enjoyable experience than riding in the back seat. The front seat hardly smells like urine and vomit at all. It's also a lot more fun in a police car when the handcuffs aren't cutting off your circulation, and the pepper spray isn't causing your eyes to burn. But that's a story for another post.

Next. How do I politely say this? The road surfaces within the Dallas city limits aren't quite up to the same high standard that you're probably used to riding on. OK, truth be told, the roads suck. Now I'm sure that they don't suck any more than the roads in any other major city, but the fact remains, compared to the roads that we're used to riding through the countryside on, they do suck. After last year's ride, a cyclist came up to me, obviously upset, to complain about the roads. This makes perfect sense, since as the route coordinator, all of the potholes on Dallas city streets are my fault. He actually said that we should mark every pothole on the route with paint. Once I stopped laughing in his face, I explained to him that there isn't enough paint in Dallas County to mark every pothole on the route. Then, letting the smart @ss in me get the best of me, I asked him if his Mommy goes out and marks the potholes for him when he goes out on training ride. He didn't see the humor in that, but I though it was pretty funny.

So, given all of the issues and problems that I've so carefully documented here, (Mike, you can thank me later), why would I, the hard core hammer-head cyclist, want to ride in Tour Dallas. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure that you would. And I think that's probably OK with Bikin Mike.

For you see, Tour Dallas was not designed for the hard core hammer- head cyclist like yourself. This ride was designed for the casual cyclist. The family of cyclist. This is a ride designed to get those people who are new to cycling to come out and ride. Every year, I have cyclist come up to me after the ride, and tell me how they were always too intimidated to come out and ride in a rally. But that they had an absolutely fantastic time at Tour Dallas. Those are the exact type of cyclist that this ride was designed to attract.

So am I saying that you, the hard core hammer-head cyclist is not wanted or welcome at Tour Dallas. No, of course your welcome! Provided that you can behave yourself. Provided that you can accept the ride for what it is. Or better yet, what it is not. It is not a race. For all of the reasons that I outlined above, be prepared to ride at a nice casual pace. You are not going to be able to fly around this course at 25 mph. You are also not going to find the nice, glassy smooth asphalt that you'll find out in the countryside. You're going to have to pay attention to the road. Your also going to have to pay attention to the other cyclist. Last year, we had over 3,000 cyclist on the ride. You won't be able to just put you're head down and pedal. As disappointing as it might be, you're going to actually have to pay attention to the others around you. You might even have to be considerate of the other riders and motorist. It's a bummer I know, but deal with it.

If you, the hard core hammer-head cyclist can ride under these unforgiving conditions, then please, by all means, come out and join us on April 4th, in downtown Dallas. If you can't, no offense, but it would probably be just as well if you stayed away.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

P.S...I have mentioned before that I am the Route Coordinator for Tour Dallas, (Route Coordinator is capitalised to add importance). Over the next few weeks, I'm going to take all of you through the process of getting a route ready for a bike ride. Hopefully, when you attend your next bike rally, you'll have a new appreciation for what goes into producing a bike ride. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get off my back. It's not my fault you got lost. NFF.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An exercise in a forgone conclusion

I must admit that despite my previous statements that most of the cycling you see on TV is somewhat boring, the last few stages of this year's Tour of California were a little more exciting than I thought they would be. But just a little more. Wrapping up my series, what follows are my observations and musings of Stages 6, 7, and 8 of the ToC. Brace yourself.

Stage 6, The Race of Truth
* Both Tyler Hamilton and Fast Freddie Rodriguez have mechanical issues with their bikes during the time trail. Rock Racing immediately issues their "Our TT bikes suck, not like those kick @ss TT bikes that Astana rides" Special Edition team kits. Now available for the low, low cost of your first born child, or your immortal soul.

* Speaking of technical issues, did there seem to be a lot of technical problems with the Tour itself? It seemed that the team directors were constantly gripping about the inaccurate info on race radio. And this might have slipped by a lot of you, but they seemed to have problems getting pictures of the actual racing if it even thought about raining. My favorite moment came during the time trial when they posted a split time for Michael Rodgers, a full 2 minutes before he reached the split.

* If you're an opposing cyclist, and you're whole strategy depends on making up time on Levi in a time trial, you might as well pack up and head home. It ain't gonna happen.

Stage 7
* While it's nice to see another mountain, with a 9 mile descent and 5 finishing circuits in town before the finish, it would appear that we're in store for another bunch sprint. Would it just kill them to finish on a mountain top just once? Heaven help us if they held a mountain stage that might actually impact the overall GC ranking.

* Is there anybody who knows even just a little about pro cycling, who doesn't think that George Hincapie is a really nice guy. Love his cycling clothing line too. Team Bikin' jerseys are Hincapie. Plus, he married a hot podium girl. So he's got that going for him.....which is nice. (That would be a line from the funniest movie of all time, Caddyshack.)

* There seems to be a greater variety of knuckleheads dressed up in costumes on the side of the road at the Tour of California, than you traditionally see in a European stage race. Once again, USA #1. No offense to my European readers. (Don't laugh, I actually do have European readers.)

* It would seem that George Hincapie was awarded the Most Courageous Rider jersey by the media, after yesterday's time trail. How exactly does one determine a "Most Courageous" rider after a time trail? Did the media have some sort of inside info that George was the only one really trying yesterday? Did he have to fight off some road bandits during the stage?

* Versus just did a story about Team Type 1, the team made up of diabetic riders. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the team's founders, and riders, Phil Southerland, at a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation bike ride in Whitefish Montana a couple of years ago. He's a very impressive young man. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I strongly recommend you do. I'm not diabetic, but despite my longstanding policy against buying and wearing pro jerseys, I might just have to suspend that rule and buy a Team Type 1 jersey.

* Well, just to show how much I know about pro cycling, apparently hell froze over today, because the breakaway survived to the end. (Just so you know, I could have erased that first observation from my Stage 7 comments before I published this post, and no one would have been the wiser. I should get some points for publishing my own dumb assertions.)

Stage 8
* I wonder if Phil and Paul find Craig as annoying as the rest of us do. They just have to.

* Apparently, I'm losing my mind. I could have sworn I just heard Craig Hummer say that he rode the climb up Palomar Mtn a month ago. I'm afraid I'm going to have to call B*ll Sh*t on that. Assuming that Craig Hummer could complete that climb, there's still snow on the ground now. How much snow must there have been on that mountain a month ago?

* Bob Roll interviews Lance again. Lance seems very relaxed these days. I would seem that cutting Cheryl Crow loose has lifted the weight of the world off of his shoulders.

* Just saw a couple of streakers on the side of the road. This, among so many other things, reconfirms the widely held belief that California is truly the land of fruits and nuts.

* Oscar "Baby Face" Selvilla was on a solo breakaway today. He might have survived if race officials hadn't made him stop, to see if he had a note from his mother excusing him from school today.

* I particularly enjoy watching fat guys, who normally couldn't run across my living room without having a heart attack, attempt to run along side the riders. These guys are cardiac incidents looking for a place to happen.

* Another certified nut sighting on the side of the road. This guy was wearing a pair of black bikini briefs, a black mask, a red cape, and a heart rate monitor. Why was he wearing a heart rate monitor??? I'm guessing that he's trying to pace himself for a long day of looking like an idiot. Don't want to expend all of your energy making an idiot of yourself in the morning, and not have any energy left to make an idiot of yourself that afternoon.

* Rock Racing finished 7th out of 16 teams in the Overall Team classification. They immediately issued their "We suck less than over half the teams in the Tour of California" Special Edition team kit. Price to you, one pound of uncut diamonds.

One final thought
Coming into this year's ToC, I didn't think much of Levi Leipheimer. Yes, I know he had won the two previous ToC's, but to me, he did it in a very boring, unglamorous manner. It seemed that he was content to just get whatever time he could out of the other GC contenders in the prologue and the time trial, then just hold on to their wheels during the regular stages. I don't ever remember seeing him go on the attack.

But after this year's Tour, I have a new found respect for Levi. Not only did he gain his time in the TT's as usual, but he actually went on the attack in stage 2. He actually rode off the front, and dared anyone to go with him. None of the GC contenders could. That's the mark of a true champion. Not only winning, but taking it to your opponents.

Given that Team Astana is probably going to ride for Lance during the Giro, and there probably going to ride for Alberto in the TdF, I for one, would love to see the entire team get behind Levi for the Vuelta. I'd love to see Levi on the top step of the podium at the end of a Grand Tour. Call me a bandwagon jumper if you must, but I'm officially a Levi fan now.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, February 20, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Continuing my series of post with my observations from the Tour of California, today we look at Stages 4 & 5. These two stages represent the best, and worst, in watching cycling on TV. We finally get to some real mountains, and we have to sit through a flat, boring stage.

Stage 4
* Holy Cow! It stopped raining!

* What is the stuff lining the sides of the roads that Phil and Paul keep referring to? Snow? Being from Texas, I'm somewhat unfamiliar with it.

* Phil just referred to the Rabobank team as "The Men of Orange". Oooooh, scary. That's a nickname sure to strike fear in the hearts of the other teams.

* Looking at the team kits, I have to say that when I first saw the new Team Highroad colors, I wasn't too impressed with them. But the longer I see them on the road, the more I like them. I think the fake 6-pack abs are a bit over the top, but other than that, there one of the best kits on the tour. Team BMC has to have the most boring kit ever. Black and white, with black and white lettering. They must have spent all of 10 minutes designing those.

* There's just something extremely odd about a bald cyclist. See Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner as examples. It's very disturbing to look through the vents on their helmets, and see a bald head staring back at you. I could be looking into the future, given my own follicle challenges. But when it happens to me, it will no longer be weird. It'll be hip, and if I say so myself, a tad dashing.

* Floyd Landis gave another interview. Surprisingly, he was downright pleasant. Almost made me feel sorry for him. I don't know if he doped or not. All things being equal, he probably did. But think about this, what if he didn't do it? Given that he spent every cent he had trying to clear his name, and all of the endorsements that he didn't get, how can you begin to measure what he has lost.

* Lance's TT bike has been recovered by police. On a completely unrelated topic, the time trial bike that I had for sale is now off the market. They can't prove anything.

* Major crash today. Apparently, having forgotten how to ride on dry pavement, Floyd Landis, Kim Kirchen, and Oscar Friere got tangled up. Their team directors have all filed official protest, saying that their teams may not be able to continue if these sunny and dry conditions continue.

* Is there anything cooler than dressing up in a cheap, idiotic costume, and running along the side of the road when the cyclist come by. I think not.

* That comedian that Versus has running around, Rasika Mathur, just sucks the lifeforce out of me. Every time she's on the TV, it takes 3 months off my life. She needs to go away, soon.

* Does anyone else find that "Flo" woman from the Progressive Insurance commercial, strangely hot. Me neither, I was just checking.

Stage 5
* Why is it that the cameras, without fail, never seem to miss the riders taking a "nature break" on the side of the road. It's always funny when they suddenly realize what they were broadcasting, and they quickly cut away to another shot.

* With today being a boring flat stage, I think Paul nodded of at one point. Craig Hummer asked him to explain, for the 10th time in 5 stages, what the cyclist in a paceline were doing. Paul's response was "They're just doing a bit of Bid & Bit.....", and just sort of trailed off. He either actually nodded off, or that explanation actually makes sense in Europe. In America, it seems to be utter gibberish.

* Bob Roll gets his head shaved on TV today! Excellent. We can all give The Fat Cyclist credit for this one. If you've been following his coverage of the ToC, and if you haven't, I strongly recommend that you do, you are no doubt aware that Fatty got Bob to agree to get his head shaved if they could raise $5,000.00 in donations to LiveStrong before the end of the Tour. Not only did they get it done before the end of the Tour, they got it done in 24 hours.

* To commemorate Bob shaving his head, Rock Racing has issued their "Bob Roll Rocks" Special Edition team kit. Cost to you, the Gross National Product of an average size Central American country.

* With about 40 miles to go in the stage, Phil just asked "Whats going on in the breakaway?" Given the excitement level of today's stage, "not a d*mn thing" would be the correct answer.

* Zzzzzzzzzz.....


*Zzzzzzzzzzz....Huh? What? Sorry about that, I nodded of there for a few minutes, (really, I did). Well, lets see what I missed. Interesting, with 30 miles to go, a group of 6 is off the front by about 4 minutes. Gee, I wonder if they'll make it?

* Bob Roll seems to be getting better at doing these interviews. He should have shaved his head days ago.

* Mark Cavendish is a sprinting God! In the future, I would recommend that he crosses the finish line before he starts celebrating.

Tomorrow, the Solvang time trail, and the race of truth. Should be fun.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Horror continues...

More inane observations from watching the Tour of California.

Stage 2
* What a shock, it's still raining.

* The peloton just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Rock Racing has issued their "Golden Gate Bridge Rocks" Special Edition kit. Yours for the low low cost of $85,000.00.

* Not only can you attract women with Enzyte, but apparently you can impress a bunch of old men at your local barber shop.

* OUCH is a really bad name for a cycling team. They might as well call in Broken Collar Bone Cycling.

* Someone may want to let the Cervelo Test Team know that there's a bicycle race going on here. Does "Test Team" mean that this is the team their trying out, to see if they want to sponsor a real team.

* I thought that only women hyphenated their last name. Ben Jacques-Maines??? I can only guess that he wanted to keep his maiden name.

* It just seems strange to see baby-faced Oscar Sevilla wearing the Rock Racing skull. Kind of like seeing the Johnas Brothers wearing Hell's Angel's jackets. I hear Oscar might have to start shaving any day now.

* Why do the motorcycle camera men, only seem to clean their lens when their camera is actually on.

* Lance has refused to take a musset bag in the feeding zones. Fearing a second attack, similar to the one he suffered in his last Tour de France, he has instead order delivery from Pizza Hut.

* Is it just me, or do a lot of these riders seem to be foreigners. Aren't there any Americans who want to race their bikes?

* As far as I'm concerned, there is no greater feat of coordination and dexterity, than watching a pro cyclist put on a cycling vest, or "cape" as Phil and Paul call them, while pedaling down the road. Most of us would either crash or strangle ourselves if we tried to do that.

* Levi attacks off the front of the peloton, and takes the overall race lead. Undeterred by the fact that he rides for Astana, Rock Racing issues their "Levi Rocks" Special Edition kit. Cost is 1 lbs of flesh, or all the equity that you have in your home, whichever is worth more.

* Towards the end of the stage, the sun actually comes out and shines on the race. The local fans, unfamiliar with this phenomenon, and fearing that it is a sign of the Apocalypse, immediately abandon their positions on the route and flee to their local churches. A state of emergency has been declared in California.

Stage 3
* Annnd, still raining.

* I never thought I'd say this, but Craig Hummer makes me miss Al Trautwig.

* While I'm sure that they cost several hundred dollars, Mark Cavendish's cycling glasses are the dorkiest things I've every seen. I work in the IT department at Southwest Airlines, surrounded by computer nerds wearing those exact same frames.

* It appears that a group of cyclist have come up with a new strategy for stage racing. This cutting edge strategy involves attacking right from the start of the stage, riding out front for the better part of 100 miles, and then getting caught within sight of the finish line. Team director's are scrambling to come up with a way to combat this never before seem style of racing.

* Levi crashes! While it first appeared that this was a failed attempt by Lance to kill Levi, after watching the reply, it now appears that Levi tried to kill himself. I theorize that Levi sucummed to the pressure of wearing the yellow jersey.

* I notice that Lance is still wearing his helmet visor. Given the weather, a scuba mask might be more helpful.

* Bob Roll should really consider thinking about the questions that he is going to ask during an interview ahead of time, instead of his present strategy of just coming up with something on the fly.

* Maybe it's my Junior High sense of humor, but I start giggling every time Phil says that the riders up front are "breaking the wind" for the riders behind them. (snicker, snicker).

* Tom Boonen has very odd looking ears. It appears that he was trying to turn them inside-out, and they got stuck.

* Paul Sherwin had the neatest way of describing Levi's crash, a crash that Levi just jumped up from and got back on his bike. He described it as "a crash without too much gravity". Very cool.

* This Enzyte really appears to be amazing stuff. Aside from the "male enhancement" benefits that it promises, if you take this stuff, apparently you'll also be able to:
Drive a race car.
Hit a golf ball 400 yards.
Compel women you barely know at the office Christmas party, to sit on your lap for an uncomfortably long time.

* Fransico Mancebo leads the KOM competition. Rock Racing issues their "Fransico Rocks" Special Edition kit. Yours free with the purchase of 1 pair of Rock Republic jeans, or trade for 1 solid gold bar, whichever is more.

* Cervelo Test Team must have been reading this blog. They finally made their way up to the front of the peleton. Just in time. They almost missed the entire race.

I'm off to watch stage 4. Finally, real mountains!

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, the horror

Hallelujah, there's finally cycling to watch on TV. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't love the 19 hours a day of bull riding coverage that Versus seems to carry, it's just that a change would be nice every once in a while. So today, I'd like to throw out a few observations that I made whilst watching coverage of the Tour of California.

* A few more commercials would really be nice.

* I'm really glad that I tuned in early to catch the 2 full hours of "coverage". If you watched the preview show last weekend, you pretty much saw the first hour of the "live coverage".

* After an hour and fifteen minutes of "coverage", we actually get to see some cycling.

* My excitement over getting to watch actual cycling, is quickly tempered by the fact that it's a time trial. When I posted a few weeks ago that there was nothing more boring than watching a flat stage of a pro cycling race, I might have been mistaken. I had forgotten how mind numbingly boring an individual time trial can be to watch.

* I'm guessing that while Lance was spending the last couple of years training and riding is bike, Floyd Landis was busy spending every penny he had every earned trying to appeal his suspension and not riding his bike. Ivan Basso must have just spent the last couple of years eating pasta. While Lance came in at 10th, Basso and Landis came in 66th & 90th respectively.

* The more I watch Levi Leipheimer race, the more I like him. Did anyone else notice him in the start house? He was so geek'd up for the prologue, his eyes were about the size of silver dollars, and his arms were literally trembling.

* If you didn't stick around to watch the awards presentation, it seemed to be complete chaos up there on the podium. Govanator Schwarzenegger seemed to be just wandering around aimlessly, with no one telling him were to go or what to do. Finally, a podium girl grabbed him by the arm, and told him were to stand. Then, when the prologue winner Fabian Cancellara came out, he first went right up on the podium. The same podium girl, who had just finished manhandling the Governor, told him to get the hell down from there and stand in front of the podium. They then had some guy come out to put the yellow jersey on Cancellara, and he acted like his mother has been dressing him for the last 50 years. He seemed completely befuddled by how a zipper is supposed to work. Cancellara wound up putting the jersey on himself. I think Arnold was ready to declare the podium a state disaster area, and apply for federal funds.

Stage 1
* Apparently, Fabian Cancellara was so put off by having to put on his own yellow jersey the day before, that he decided to take his toys and go home.

* Can someone please explain to me how California got the reputation for having great weather. Apparently, it's 78 degrees and blue skies every day of the year, except for the week that they decide to have the ToC. The only thing missing was a plague of locust. And another thing. We can get pictures of Jupiter, millions of miles away in space, but we can't get pictures from California if it's raining. Ain't technology great.

* As much as I enjoy watching Bob Roll in the studio, he's absolutely a train wreck out with a microphone doing actual interviews. It's almost as if English wasn't his mother tongue. But as painful as Roll has been, he's still easier to listen too than trying to listen to Frankie Andreu ramble on with his coverage on the Tour of California live website. I though my ears were going to start bleeding today.

* I noticed during the interview that they did with Lance that he was wearing a visor on his helmet. Even the great Lance Armstrong can't pull this look off without looking like he just got off of the "short bus". Just say no to visors.

* That reminds me. I recently came into possession of some very nice Trek bicycles, complete with the Astana paint scheme, that I'm looking to sell. One is actually a tricked out time trial bike. Any interested parties should post a comment on this blog.

* Is it just me, or do those Enzyte commercials make anyone else uncomfortable. Apparently, by taking these "natural male enhancements", you'll be able to attract women by the truck load. But, based on the women they have in the commercials, no one that you'd actually want to sleep with.

* Landis speaks!!! Floyd Landis actually gave an interview. Unfortunately, he looked as uncomfortable answering the questions, as Bob Roll looked asking them.

* Just like last night, after watching an hour of commercials, we finally get live pictures of today's race. After watching Mancebo ride off the front by himself for 45 seconds, of course, we have to break for some more commercials.

* HD TV is the greatest invention of our time. I never noticed how many sun spots Phil Liggett has on his head.

* I almost want to tune into the bull riding that Versus has coming on after the stage is over, just to see if they pack in as many commercial there as they do into cycling. Almost.

* Fransesco Mancebo wins the stage. I think we can all look forward to a new kit from Rock Racing to commemorate the occasion. I'll need to check and see if I have $2500.00 laying around for a new jersey and bib.

As I write this, stage 2 is being recorded via the miracle of Tivo. You can look forward to more inane remarks like these in post to come.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When all else fails, lower the standard.....Part 2

As promised, today I'd like to have all of you take a little test on cycling and the rules of the road. As I stated in my previous post, I kind of felt like I had been a little rough on cyclist, just assuming that they were choosing to ride illegally. It could be that they just don't know that they are breaking the law. (Yea, right.) So the test below is not only designed to see how much cyclist do or do not know about the law and riding on the open roads, but it is designed to educate as well. Not only does this blog hopefully entertain, but it also provides a public service. (I just keep giving and giving.)

The following test is based on the laws here in Texas, but for the most part, they should apply to were ever you live as well.

Legal Disclaimer
I am not a lawyer. The following should not be taken as legal advise. If you get stopped by a police officer while out on your bike, I can almost guarantee that the excuse of "Nearly Famous Fred said it was OK", is going to be extremely legally ineffective. Frankly, I'd appreciate it if you kept my name out of it all together. I would strongly encourage you to follow this link, and read the laws as they are written.

Here we go.

1) How close must a bicyclist ride to the curb?
a) As close as humanly possible.
b) As close as the motorist tell them to. Normally that would mean riding in the ditch.
c) as close as is practical.

The correct answer is c), as close as is practical. Now "as practical" leaves a lot up for interpretation. Typically, if you ride in right tire path that has been worn into the pavement by the cars, you're probably OK.

2) True or False? Bicyclist are required to ride single file.
That would be false. You can ride two abreast. On any road. At any time. To a point. Before you get all excited, keep reading.

3) When is it legal to ride more than two abreast?
a) when I feel like it
b) when it's convenient for me to do so

c) always
d) never
e) none of the above
f) all of the above
g) some of the above
h) most of the above
i) almost most of the above
j) entirely nearly none of the above, either

The correct answer is: d) never. On an open road, it is never legal to ride more than 2 abreast. Ever. While it may be a lot of fun to go out and ride in a fake Tour de France peloton, and Lord knows that nobody appreciates more than I do how much it impresses the girls, understand that when you do so, you are breaking the law.

4) You are on a single lane road, (meaning only one lane in each direction), in a double pace line with a few of your cycling friends, when several cars come up behind you. What do you do?
a) pretend you don't see them
b) absolutely nothing. Sucks being a motorist today, doesn't it?
c) Start throwing your water bottles at them
d) single up, move to the right, and allow the cars to pass

If you answered anything but d), you should probably find another hobby. The law requires that you single up, move to the right, and allow the motorist to pass. Requires would be the critical word in that sentence.

5) You are on a multi lane road, (meaning more than one lane in each direction), in a double pace line with a few of your cycling friends, when several cars come up behind you. What do you do?
a) pretend you don't see them
b) absolutely nothing. Sucks being a motorist today, doesn't it?
c) Start throwing your water bottles at them
d) single up, move to the right, and allow the cars to pass

In this case, a), b), or d), would legally be correct. If you are on a multi lane road, the law says that bicycles are entitled to a lane, meaning that you do not have to single up and allow cars to pass. The law simply states that cyclist may "not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway". I cannot see any circumstance where c) would ever be a good idea, much less legal.

6) When can you legally run a stop sign?
a) when you're absolutely sure that you can get away with it
b) last night's Mexican food has staged an open revolt in your lower intestinal track and you're five miles from the nearest convenience store. (I have personal experienced with this one. Actually, it was Korean food, but you get the idea)

c) always
d) never

Once again, the correct answer is: d) never. Yes, I know that it is a complete bummer to actually have to come to a stop when there is obviously no traffic coming. But guess what, unless you come to a complete stop, you are breaking the law.

So, how did you do? If you got 6 out of 6, then you probably are not one of the cyclist I was talking about in Wednesday's post. If you got 6 out of 6, and you are one of the cyclist that I was talking about on Wednesday, then shame on you. You're going to screw it up for all of us if you don't change your ways.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

If anyone needs me tomorrow, here's my agenda for the day. All times are CST:

6:30am - Out of bed and off to spin class
8:00am - Bikin' Mike's spin studio for spin class
9:30am - 2nd spin class at Bikin' Mike's
11:00am - home and shower
11:30am to 4:00pm - a bunch of boring stuff that you're really not interested in
4:00pm to 6:00pm - Firmly planted in The Big Leather Man Chair, watching Tour of California coverage on Versus. Yea!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When all else fails, lower the standard.....Part 1

Regarding how bicyclist ride on the road, I think I have made my stance very clear. I am one of the minority of cyclist who feel that, by the way they ride, most cyclist bring a majority of their problems on themselves. They talk about how dangerous motorist are out on the road, and how motorist just don't want cyclist out on the same roads that they drive on. Well, I've seen how a lot of these cyclist ride out on the road, and quite frankly, I don't want them riding on the same roads I ride on either.

So, coming from the state of mind that certain cyclist are making us all look bad, and are, in fact, either stupid, crazy, or both, I was quite disturbed by a recent column that I read by Bob Mionske. For those of you who aren't familiar with Bob's work, Bob wrote a bicycling and the law column for He is in fact, a lawyer and a cyclist. He recently gave up that column to pursue other interest.

A quick aside here. As we are speaking of the law and lawyers, I'd like to take a moment to pass along my two favorite lawyer jokes.

Joke #1 - What do you do if you're trapped in a room with Adolph Hitler, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and a lawyer, you have a gun, but only two bullets? Answer, you shoot the lawyer twice.

Joke #2 - Did you hear that medical researchers are going to stop performing experiments on rats, and instead are going to start using lawyers? Turns out, there are just some things that a rat won't do.

Anyway, the article, (click here to read the article), said that a law has been proposed in Oregon that would allow cyclist to treat stop signs as yield signs. Basically, cyclist in Oregon would no longer be required to stop at stops signs, unless they needed to do so to yield the right of way to an approaching vehicle.

Apparently, there's already a law on the books in Idaho that allows for this. The Idaho law even goes one step further. In addition to the "red as yield" provision of the law that has been proposed in Oregon, Idaho also allows
for “red as stop,” meaning that cyclists may treat red lights as stop signs. A cyclist in Idaho only has to stop for the red light, then they can go. They do not have to wait for the light to turn green.

I'm about to give my unabashed opinion of this law. To make it easier for my readers to tell when I am up on my soap box, or when I am just complaining, look for the following symbol:

Whenever you see this symbol, you can rest assured that I'm no longer just complaining, I'm now preaching. Can't help it, it's the Texan in me coming out.

I see some basic problems with these laws. Both in Oregon and Idaho.

First an foremost, it gives cyclist a different set of rules to follow than the motorist on the road are required to follow. Do the lawmakers in Oregon really think that this is going to make the motorist there feel any better about cyclist? When the motorist see the cyclist blowing through stop signs, it will only lead to resentment. I thought the whole idea was to share the road. One road, one set of rules.

Secondly, the lawmakers seem to be of the mind that if this law is passed, all of these cyclist who have been riding illegally, will all of a sudden become law abiding citizens. Does anyone actually believes that? The law in Oregon currently says that cyclist, like all motorist, have to stop at stops signs. A certain percentage of cyclist ignore that law, and blow through the stop signs. So if this law is passed, I guess the thinking is that these cyclist, who were perfectly OK with breaking the law before, will now start obeying the law. I think we all know that if these cyclist are no longer required to stop at the sign, they'll fly though it without even touching their brakes.

Laws like these are the equivalent of legislative "give up". Cyclist seem hell bent on riding illegally. It would seem that lawmakers, instead of making cyclist obey the law, have decided that it's just easier to make the illegal behavior of cyclist, legal.

I can't see where lowering the standard of acceptable behavior is ever a good idea.

In reading back over this post, I realized that I might have been a little harsh on cyclist. I just assumed that the cyclist I'm talking about here are arrogant, and just don't want to obey the law. When in fact, they might just be stupid, unaware that they are even breaking the law. In part 2 of this post, I'm going to issue a little test. I want to see just how much you know about the law and cycling, and how much you know about your responsibilities on the road. So hit those books.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, February 9, 2009

You're all just jealous

In the "new super power" post that I wrote last week, I mentioned that one of the super powers that I would like to have, would be to be a fashion trend setter. To be that person who sets the standard for what others want to wear, is something that I think would be extremely cool. Those who know me may find this unusual, in that I am a person who has never been particularly interested in being on the fashion leading edge.

That lack of interest is reflected daily in what I wear to work. Working for Southwest Airlines as I do, we have an extreeemely casual dress code, even in our headquarters building were I work. During the warm months of the year, I wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to work every day. During the cool months, I wear a t-shirt, blue jeans, and Skeechers to work everyday. Aside from picking a t-shirt to wear on a given day, I typically don't invest hours putting together an outfit in the morning.

So, it's not that I want to wear anything different than what I do now, I just think everyone else should admire what I'm already wearing, and want to dress just like me. However,
recent events have led me to believe that this goal, while admirable, may be just out of my reach.

During this time of the year, on Saturday mornings, I can be found getting up early and going to a 8:00am spin class at Bikin Mike's Spin Studio. As a spin class is not the sort of event that I feel a great need to get all dressed up for, I usually roll out of bed, put on a pair of cycling bib shorts and a t-shirt. As what little hair I have remaining is completely out of control
this time of the morning, a hat is usually selected as well. In the past, my Skeechers or flip-flops are usually the last to go on. At 6:30am on a Saturday morning, I don't care what I look like. As I roll into spin class, that attitude shows.

Regarding footwear, I recently purchased my first pair of Crocs. For those who don't know what Crocs are, first of all crawl out from under whatever rock you've been hiding under. Crocs are basically a molded, soft plastic, slipper. They are extremely comfortable, and these days, extremely popular. As I were to find out, they're extremely popular everywhere but Bikin' Mike's Spin Studio.

For the past two Saturdays, I have been the subject of teasing and ridicule in the spin studio that would have brought a lesser man to tears, simply for wearing my very comfortable, and very fashionable Crocs. Below is a picture of my new red Crocs:

I included the tape measure in the photograph to give you a sense of the scale of these shoes. That's exactly twelve inches of measuring tape in the picture. At 6'3", 190 lbs, I am a big guy. Consequently, I wear a size 12 shoe. Not being completely blind to fashion coordination, I chose red to go with the black and red jerseys worn by Team Bikin.

Below is just a small sampling of the comments I heard at this past Saturday's spin class:

"When did the Circus get to town?"

"Wear did you park your little car, and were are the 14 friends that rode with you?"

"How often do you have to replace the batteries in those?"

"Was Trish with you when you bought those?"

Even Bikin Mike chimed in with his comment, "This is a serious spin class. No clowning around!"

I probably would have had to put up with a little less cr@p, if I had just worn swim fins to class.

To be completely honest, the entire outfit that I wore two Saturday's ago, probably didn't do anything to lessen the huge amount of ridicule that I was forced to endure.


When she saw this outfit, my own wife offered up the comment, "What insane asylum did you wander off from?"

Now keep in mind, I'm not going to a wedding dressed like this. Personally, I think this is just a magnificent coordination. You of course have the striking red of the Crocs, set off by the contrast of the burnt orange University of Texas Longhorn sleep pants. You then throw in the blue and gray polyester hoodie. Completing the outfit, is the red knit cap, complete with the striking logo of the greatest soccer team in the history of the world, FC Bayern Munchen. This outfit just screams, "I like what I like, but I really don't know what I'm doing."

So, to those in spin class who felt the need to make fun of this outfit, and my snazzy new Crocs, I say cast not the first stone. This summer, we're all going to be riding outdoors again. Some of those same people are going to be looking for a wheel to draft off of. At 6'3", 190 lbs, I cut a nice hole through the wind. You're all going to sound extremely silly swearing an oath of admiration and loyalty to my red Crocs.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred.