Friday, May 30, 2008
Click HERE to see the video. Sorry -- I tried to embed it, but for some reason Google video just showed a blank screen. Weird.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I met up with 4 other riders, and we lit out for Progreso. About 5 miles in, I smelled rain. At the next red light, I quickly squirrelled my camera into my sandwich bag / personal belongings pouch, so I didn't get any other photos. Somewhere around Donna, it started raining. It rained just enough to get me and the bike coated with a sheen of oil and mud, very similar to what happened to me on the same ride last September. If you've never experienced this, it's simultaneously exhilarating, disgusting, and dangerous. You've especially got to watch out for liquefied road kill. You don't want any of that badness splashed on your face.
On the way back, the sun came out, pure Valley style. We hit the BK, but I continued home for an additional 10 miles. Ended the day with around 75 miles (Polar CS200 ran out of batteries...), and feeling great. Special thanks to Major Dave and Santiago for pulling almost the entire Progreso section, and additional thanks to Santiago for riding halfway home with me and giving me good advice on directions.
Now it's time to soak the chain and detail the bike.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
And she's right. Not only do people want to hear about more than just cycling, my family is the most important element of my life in the RGV, and life in general. I'm not going to totally change the blog, but I will start writing about family life. For those that want to read stories about the grandkids, you'll have 'em. For those that want to read about cycling and maquila stuff, you'll continue to have it, but occasionally you'll see how my family dovetails into the situation.
As we 'pointy headed management' types say, it's a "win-win situation".
I won't bore you with a long post detailing everything about the family. Instead, I'm going to introduce you to our first born -- Betsy. To keep it simple, here's 10 facts about Betsy:
- She's 5, almost 6.
- She's the tallest kid in her kindergarten class.
- Betsy loves horses.
- Like most teammembers, I hate to drive SAG on Sunday. When I took my turn (yeah only once so far), Betsy went with me. She has asked me several times when we can do it again. I make a lot of excuses...
- Betsy was a thumbsucker. She was promised a pet when she decided to quit. She chose Eric, her cat.
- Betsy loves to draw and write books. She binds her books with dental floss.
- She loves to ride on her trailer bike, which attaches to the seatpost of my 'hybrid' bike (converted mountain bike).
- Here real name is not Elizabeth.
- Betsy was born in Austin, and considers it home, although that's starting to fade.
- Betsy thinks that when I ride with the Team McAllen group, then it's a race. And if it's an organized charity ride, that's like the Tour de France. This makes me feel like I'm George Hincapie or Levi Leipheimer.
Notice how I peppered in a few cycling items?! Makes everybody happy! And so you get to know Betsy a little better, here's a collage of the greatest, smartest, fastest, kindest, loveliest child that I know. Then again, she's tied with my 2nd daughter, Lola. But I'll save her for another post.
Here are a few comments about the ride:
The peloton (it wasn't a race, but what should I call it?) started splitting at about Mile 10. We were moving at 22-24 MPH, and some of the faster guys broke. Almost instantly an echelon formed from the white line on the right, with the echelon staggered to the left and the last rider IN ONCOMING TRAFFIC. There were probably 25 riders in the line. At that point, I said "no thank you". It was an inefficient formation, with little organized rotation, and it was DANGEROUS. This was a charity ride, not a road race. I know a couple of the guys that were in the echelon, talked to one of them after the ride, and he too said it was totally stupid what some of the riders were doing. I'll NEVER understand the hubris, machismo, or whatever it is that makes these guys pull stunts like this.
HOW NOT TO USE REST STOPS
The group I dropped back with kept the leaders within sight even as we approach the 30 mile turn. But at Mile 29.5 or so, the front group passed us going the other direction. They had already made the turn. I was thinking "how could they have possibly stopped and refueled?" So when we reached Mile 30, we figured it out: there was no rest stop. And none in sight. I was out of water, and needing food too. One of the SAGs stopped, but the driver didn't know if there was supposed to be a support stop. She gave us some water bottles (touched by an angel!), but there wasn't enough. I downed 4 oz or so from one of the bottles, and we kept going. By the time we reached the previous stop, I had been out of water for about 20 miles. In 90 degree heat, that's not good. We found out later that there was a rest stop just past what most of our odometers marked as 30 miles. Geez.
POST RIDE EATS
After the ride, I was beat. I haven't felt that bad after a ride in...well...probably never. I was overheated, thirsty, and exhausted. The 60 miles felt worse than any 85 miler or century that I've done. It was a combination of the weather (97F when I reached my truck), the poorly timed stops and lack of fuel and water, and the South Texas winds. I made a beeline for the coolers. I downed 8 oz of sports drink, and another 8 oz of water. I grabbed another water, then made beeline #2 for the post ride meal: PIZZA! The lady serving asked me if I wanted cheese or pepperoni, and I politely asked for one of each. I hit the table, and scarfed the cheese slice. Delicious greasy thick crust pizza....then my stomach said wait. But I didn't listen. I ate a bite of pepperoni. As soon as that slid down to my gut, I realized that I wouldn't be eating one more bite of pizza. I was very close to totally rejecting the food, if you catch my drift. No more pizza for me after rides.
I don't mean to be negative. There are great rides, and there are good rides. This one was just on the low end of good, but I was happy to be there and support the team and the cause.
Almost forgot -- here's a few photos!
Team President Gets Us Started
Saturday, May 17, 2008
To that end, I know many of you found this blog because I previously posted about the little ol' 2008 Shiner GASP. And I know that you're looking for photos, since most of my traffic since the ride has been due to the Shiner GASP posting, or from folks that found my site while reading my comments at Fatty's blog. Well guess what! Kreutz Photography has uploaded their photos from the Shiner GASP ride, and they're available for purchase HERE (not here on my website, dummy, but HERE).
And for those of you that want to see photos of me, search for Bib # 578. Or, you can just go straight to the page.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I continued and approached Hidalgo Boulevard, which is a major thoroughfare that runs east-west from the city center. One Humvee was behind me, the other was in the next lane over, behind another vehicle. As I stopped to enter the Boulevard, I thought the Humvee behind me was going to hit my truck. Instead, it whipped into the right lane, diagonally blocking the path of a black Chevy Suburban. The 2nd Humvee was behind the Suburban. As the soldiers jumped out of their Humvees, the light turned green and I high-tailed it out of there.
I picked up the phone and called the QA Manager at the plant, and told him to avoid the intersection on his way home. Then I forgot about it. Until this morning, when I picked up some co-workers and visiting customers in a vehicle rented by my co-workers: a black GMC Yukon XL. Yes. It's basically the same vehicle as a Chevy Suburban. Which draws attention from the military. And is perhaps a preferred vehicle of the cartels. Hmmmm. Sphincter tightens.
Monday, May 12, 2008
When I leave Mission, Texas to drive to either Austin or Houston, I pass through the checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas. On a good day, I'll wait 5 minutes at the checkpoint. On a bad day, like a holiday or during rush hour, you can wait 30 minutes or more. I've never been asked for anything more than to answer 'yes' to the citizenship question. Yet it bugs me to be stopped within our borders. Apparently it bugs other people too. And they're practicing civil disobedience at the checkpoints, and documenting the experience:
Many of you might say "why do you care if you don't have anything to hide"? And others might say "they're stopping the illegals, terrorists, and drug runners". And I would say that I'm not comfortable sacrificing my liberty, even in such a simple way, to stop these crimes. It's not because I don't believe they're crimes. It's because stopping these crimes is not worth the sacrifice of even this small amount of personal liberty. It's the same reason why we shouldn't let our homes be searched without warrants. It's the same reason why you can't be indefinitely detained without being charged. It's one of the reasons that people fight to retain the right to bear arms. Because the more we freely give up, the more is taken.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Even when pursuing semi-tame animals at a petting zoo, chasing deer requires an intensity and dedication that most do not possess. As best I can tell, a deer is able to lightly scamper away while the human chaser exerts at a level that quickly leads to involuntary upchuck or to a severe side stitch or both. But I imagine some of the less strict parents and their misbehaving children need this warning, both for their safety and the safety of the scampering deer.
Parents, you are indeed welcome to provide leadership to your children. And to avoid confusion and maximize absorption, provide said leadership with reduced speed. We wouldn't want to overwhelm the children. And if you want to walk and lead the pony that your child is riding, you're welcome to do that too. But that's something totally different, and unrelated to leadership of children.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Down here in the South Texas, we have a special variety of the brick. It's called the Mexican Brick, and it looks like this:
Heh. That's a stack of bricks that is still sitting in my driveway, left over from the porch repair project. Pretty funny eh? You're right; not really funny at all. I'll think twice before I try a stunt like this again.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Lately, when I ride in Granjeno I think about the border wall. Property owners in Granjeno will be affected, but recent news is better: the wall will be built on the levees, instead of running straight through people's yards and homes. I do not approve of illegal immigration, but I think the wall will be a colossal waste of money. And as with all government projects, it has been compromised by special interests. But it will probably be built, and people that are mostly unaffected by immigration will falsely feel safer, and that their culture has somehow been protected against the influx of Mexican culture.
Granjeno was settled in 1767, and the current cemetery was started in 1872. Both Mexicans and Americans are buried there, including veterans of the Civil War. Somehow I don't think they would agree that the solution to illegal immigration is to isolate the residents on both sides of the border.
And in total contrast with the wall, the Anzalduas Bridge is rapidly being constructed. Business interests are driving this one, as they are hungry for the money that wealthy Mexicans spend in the Rio Grande Valley as well as to facilitate faster crossing for freight and personnel of the maquiladoras. The US side starts in Granjeno. I drive by the Mexican construction zone daily, but I only see the US side when I cycle. They are making great progress, which is great news for me as it will potentially change my 45 min commute to a 20 minute commute. And in case the operator of this crane get confused, he need only to look at the back of his rig to figure out which side of the bridge he should be constructing.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
I prepped the bike and gear on Thursday night, and loaded up and drove to Austin on Friday. My brother and sister-in-law had been very kind and offered to host me for the weekend at their house-hotel. Additionally, they were buying my treadmill, which primarily served as a wet laundry rack and kiddie playground at my house, but they assure me they will use for exercise. So thanks to the Shiner GASP, we were all going to benefit!
Upon arrival in Austin, I tried to drive under their carport, not realizing that the treadmill was standing too tall. The good news is that no damage was done to their carport or the treadmill. The bad news is that all of the force was transmitted through the tie-downs to the bed of my truck, which now looks like this:
Shiner GASP attacts both a large quantity (>600 riders) as well as a wide range of cyclists: recumbents, roadies, triathletes (nice sleeveless jersey, buddy!), beer drinkers, mountain bikers, and even fixed gear riders. So in an effort to get a little separation from the slower crowd, me and my cycling partners (Anthony, Dan, Jeff, and Andy) decided to skip the first rest stop. We weren't the only ones, as the 2nd rest stop was crazy crowded. Here's Dan and I acting like we own the place:
Along the way, I got some practice taking snapshots while spinning at 90 RPM and ~20 MPH. I would snap away in all directions, including over the shoulder. This one of Dan and Anthony turned out pretty good, but most of the others had a lot of tilt:
The ride is 85 miles of rolling hills, with little to cause the typical cyclist any trouble. But on our eastbound jogs, we had a 15-20 MPH headwind. It wasn't fun, but since I've been living in Mission for 2 years, I know that "the wind is your friend". So we did our best in the wind, then hammered like crazy when we had a tailwind or a downhill. Here's a shot of the rolling farm and ranch land, taken just after we turned south and were greeted by a lovely tailwind. If you look closely you can see some cows. As if you care...
Right after we finished a long eastbound section of the ride along FM 713, we hit our 3rd rest stop. We watered up quickly, then hit the road again. The route turns off the farm-to-market roads, and follows Jeddo Road from the intersection of FM 713 and FM 1296 all the way to Cistern, TX. The map is here. Since Jeddo Road doesn't have an "FM" or "RR" designation, it doesn't have quite the level of maintenance that most cyclists would expect. Rather, we encountered a road surface that I can best decribe as near-cobblestones. I remembered this from the last ride, but I had forgotten how bad it was. It's basically a chipseal road, but insted of using the typical gravel with an asphalt coating on top, this road has exposed river rock style gravel without any coating. It's been hammered fairly flat over the years, but it was an unusually rough surface, and not well maintained. Here's a shot of the road, plus a bonus shot of Anthony's backside.
I've seen driveways wider than this road. Fortunately, it's not heavily traveled. We traveled onward towards Cistern, where we would meet US 95. We skipped the rest stop at the beautiful Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Cistern, although we received lots of encouragement and good wishes from the folks manning the stop.
Anthony decided to ride with one pedal. That's right, I said it. One pedal. Well, more like 1.25 pedals. He still had his left, and figured he could at least push on the right spindle. So we left the Flatonia stop, and rode past Flatonia Railroad Tower #3 and a caboose (I don't know the guy in the CSC kit):
The last 20 miles was beautful riding. My average speed for the ride had dropped to 18.3 prior to this section, but by the time I reached Shiner it was up to 19.4 MPH. We were really hammering for the last 20 miles, but I didn't set a lap so I don't have the stats. For the ride, I averaged 19.4 MPH over 85 miles, with ride time of 4 hr 23 min. I was pretty happy with the stats, considering that we had a pretty strong headwind for about 50% of the ride.
And at the end of the ride, they had showers, fajitas, and cold beer. It was an amazingly fun ride. Good company, good support, and great weather. I can't wait until next year. And here's one last shot of what greeted us at the end of the ride...