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