Tour de Cure promo video

In the first video on this page, you will see me at 4:28 showing off name tages from a previous TDC – I know how to get attention!

Toue de Cure 2011

20th anniversary tour de Cure Logo

Tour de Cure logo

It’s time to ride for Diabetes! Despite the busy schedule with new job, growing family, and tax deadlines looming… I’ve decided to help out the WheelyCool team this year, led by Cap’n Mike Picard, and help them achieve their fundraising goal of $24,000 – it’s ambitious. But I think it can be done if we get enthusiastic and recruit lots of riders. So I’m doing my part to spread the word and raise some money to fight Diabetes!

Remember When

The other day, I was driving in my car, listening to my radio, when a song sung by Alan Jackson was played. It was entitled “Remember When” and Jackson used that phrase to hasten back to when he was married and how life had changed so much for he and his wife since then. For me, it made me harken to time when life was pretty easy….at least for me. I was simply a kid going to school, breezing through my homework and looking for ways to get out of the house. My first bike helped me achieve that.

At that time, Schwinn came out with a revoluntionary bike called the Stingray. Man, it was to die for and I would have given all of my marbles and toy soldiers to have one. You could do wheelies with it, it had ape hanger type handlebars and it didn’t have coaster brakes. It was the cat’s meow. Plus, it came in really cool colors. It was what every boy my age wanted. Unfortunately for my twin brother and me, my parents thought that bike was too radical. As much as we begged, pleaded and cajoled, it was not going to happen. In fact, bicycles did not enter our lives until we were in 8th grade…13 years old. We may have been the last in our grammer school class to get a bike, but once they arrived that 8th grade Christmas, my brother and I made up for lost time.

I couldn’t tell you what else I received that Christmas in 1965, but I’ll never forget my glee when my parents told us to go downstairs into the garage to receive our present….the big present. As a kid, we always had presents…but one big present that was suppossed to be the granddaddy of them all. usual…that present always came last, building to an excitement crescendo second to none for a grammer school kid. And what a crescendo it was: there sitting in the middle of the garage were not one, but two shiny new Schwinn 3 speed bikes. It had to be a big deal because my dad left the red 1964 Chevy Malibu station wagon with 3 on the three and rear seat that faced backwards (remember when?) parked in front of our house that night. To this day, that may have been the only time my father’s car was left outside over night. We couldn’t wait to get on them and take them for a test ride all over the neighborhood.

What we discovered almost immediately is that those wheels could take us places our feet couldn’t. More importantly, we didn’t need a ride from my dad any longer and could manuver in our graphical territory without the use of a bus pass. Life was good…very good. Of course, no sooner did we have the bikes in our hands then we wanted to modify them as much as our technical abilities and paper route earnings would let us. I remember disassembling the 3 speed shifter on the handlebar because Iwanted to put 3 speed shifter, like that on the floorboard of a car, on the top tube of my bike. And darn if I didn’t do it, much to the chagrin of my father. I thought the old man was going to kill me, but deep down inside, I think he was proud of the fact that I managed to do it myself and get it to work. At least that is what I thought then and so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

Once summer rolled around, we had graduated from grammer school. We were ready to roll into high school that fall and feeling our oats, we decided to explore the city on our bikes. Of course, my parents were not going to be privy to this plan. We would feign staying in bed until we heard the garage door close, dress as quickly as we could, dismiss all thoughts of eating breakfast and head out on our daily adventure. Time was of the essence because we knew that my parents would be home at 5:30 and we needed them to see our smiling faces when they got home from work. (I’ll make this pitch now…having both parents work did not ruin the family institution as some would make you think today. We knew we had to be home to have dinner with the family…not because we had such a huge sense of family, but rather because my father had a huge sense of leather belt).

We decided that we wanted to ride to the other side of the city, but didn’t know how to get there. So we grabbed one of my father’s maps and formulated a route. We knew we would have to do some climbing, but with 3 speeds, there were no hills in San Francisco that were a match for us!! So off we went….over Silver Avenue, past Alemany Blvd and finally, our first real hill: O’Shaughnessy Blvd. From the base of Alemany Blvd, it would lead you to the top of Market Street, where given your choice, you go one of three ways and see totally different parts of the city. But no matter which way you turned, the view from the top of O’Shaughnessy was always the same: breathtaking. Even as a young boy, I was always awed by the view and even more so, that I was able to climb that hill on my three speed. From there, it was downhill through 7th Avenue until we crossed Lincoln Avenue and made our way into Golden Gate Park. We no longer had views of houses and buildings, but rather, we rode beside lush green fields and trees that seemed larger than life to us. Sometimes we would stop and watch the radio controlled boats that skimmed across one of the many ponds in the park, but mostly, we needed to get to our destination so we could then return home.

From 7th Avenue, we needed to ride to the Great Highway to get to our destination. Once inside the confines of the Park, traffic was light enough for us to really let those bikes fly and fly we did. Traffic back in the mid 60’s was nothing like it is today, so we pretty much had free reign on the road, especially during a working day. It didn’t take us long to get to the beach once we smelled the salt in the air. We couldn’t wait to see the tips of the blades of the windmills that were once used to pump water into the park, because we knew then that we were moments away from our destination. Breaking past the green, lush vegetation laid the longest stretch of beach my brother and I had ever seen. We couldn’t even see the end of it, no matter how hard we strained our eyes. To us, it was heaven, even if we couldn’t (and wouldn’t) enter the cold water. That didn’t stop us from taking off our shoes to feel the sand between our toes. Looking back, it really wasn’t much, but to us then, it was if we had died and gone to sandy heaven.

For us back then, life really was a beach. No worries, just getting up in the morning and loving life. Those were the days. Remember when?

The H Word

Oh hell. You probably thought this is what this post is about, don’t you? C’mon…fess up. You did. I know you did and you know you did. Don’t feel bad. I’m sure my past postings would automatically make you think I wanted to say hell when I mentioned the H word. But truth be known, that isn’t the case with this post.

You see, one of my good friends recently told me I was becoming a bit cranky in my advanced age. If you think I’m going to disagree with him on this post, you’ve come to the wrong post, my friend. I am cranky and more importantly, I admit it. I’m old…I’ve lived a little…and certain things in society are beginning to bug the living bejezus out of me. But that isn’t why I created this post. I created to discuss those H words.

I ride my bike through a small section of the city when I use it to commute to work. Normally, this section, which sits under a freeway overpass, is full of older men and women who are Homeless and use this section as their encampment. Just as the sun rises every day, they rise with it, repack all of their belongings and begin their migration into the heart of the city. And as the sun sets every night, like swallows to Capistrano, they return. The area, day in and day out, smells of feces and urine and I can’t wait to get my bike through that two block section of my commute. The nomads, however, gather and huddle, as if to plan which section of the city will provide them with more opportunities that day. Faces become familiar. Shopping carts, filled with their worldly possessions, line the walkway.

Today, I drove my car past that encampment because the weather has been so miserable, I dare not ride my bike; but for them, they aren’t allowed the pleasure of hot air blowing from an automobile heater or the taste of warm food fresh from an oven. Unlike you and I, they are not given the opportunity for a bowl of hot soup to contrast such a dreary and drab day. No…simple things for us; pleasures for them. And today, as I past that encampment, I saw many of them standing across the street, straining for perhaps a final look at one of theirs, as the San Francisco Coroner unit was about to remove a body to its van. I pass this spot almost every day on my way to work. Maybe I knew that face. Maybe once I said hello. Maybe once I should have stopped and offered a bit of cash so that this person could have enjoyed a warm meal. Maybe…. Homeless

A few weeks ago, I went on a fairly long ride, roughly 60 miles. I hit my target destination at about the midway point in the ride and as usual, had not eaten properly before the ride. I simply got out of bed, changed and hit the road. I had a bagel when I stopped, but on the way home, at about 45 miles, I needed to stop to refill my tank. I was so hungry, my stomach ached and to try to forget the hunger, I let my mind wander. And wander it did. I thought of people starving throughout the world, of children who had pains in their stomach worse than mine, knowing that they would have them again the next day, while I could stop and take care of mine. I stopped, ate quickly and took off for home. And while the hunger pangs were gone, my thoughts weren’t. As I neared home, I stopped at my local hangout, Starbucks and settled outside with my cup of coffee. A street person came up to me and asked for a quarter because he was hungry and needed something to eat. Guess you could say right time; right words. I dug into my pocket and gave him everything I had, which totaled seven dollars and some change, apologizing that I couldn’t give him more. He looked at me as though I had just landed from the moon, but soon gave me a huge smile, a loud thank you and headed across the street to the grocery store. Giving something to homeless people is not unusual for me; I do it all the time, but for some reason, this seemed special. There is a very old lady who, each night, stands on the corner of Larkin and Geary, leaning on a 4-legged walker, hunched over and holding a cup out to the passing cars. Whenever I pass through that corner on my way home, I make sure to be in the lane closest to her so that if she is there, I can give her some cash. She gives me a toothless smile as she ambles over and never fails to say thank you. I worry when I don’t see her and wonder how many meals she eats each day. Hunger

I was born and raised in San Francisco and have gone through numerous rollers in my lifetime. The most famous for me was the Loma Prieta quake in 1989. I was in the stands at Candlestick Park, awaiting the start of the World Series game when it struck. The memories of that day will never leave me. And while we can think of the immense tragedy of that day, we simply cannot imagine the tragedy currently subsiding in Haiti. There is no way we can even begin to fathom what those poor people are going through right now. I’ve given to the relief effort and I know you have also. Their pain is huge; their loss even larger. Haiti

There you have it, my three H words: Homeless, Hunger and Haiti. And truth be told, all three equate to another H word: Hell. I guess if we never have to walk a day in their shoes, we will never know what any of those H words truly is like. What I do know is that as I get older I want less of the material things I needed when I was younger, but more of comfort my friends and family provide for me. Because when it really is said and done, family and friends are truly all that matter, even to cranky old fools like me. And, unlike the poor soul today at the homeless encampment, I won’t die without my friends and family surrounding me.

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Pedestrian Poopheads

I’ll start this in full disclosure: I’m not sure if poopheads is a word or not and I’m assuming it’s not because my Word program has it underlined in a very nice shade of red. Now, I’m not sure who actually installed all of the words on the Word program, but it’s very clear to me that they simply missed placing poopheads (little red line again) in the vocabulary section of the program. Maybe it’s because their life is fine. All of their stars and moons are aligned. Their dog wags its tail and fetches the paper, along with the sandals, when they arrive home. Maybe they own a jzillion shares of Microsoft stock. Maybe they had a great burrito at lunch right before they installed all of those words into the program. Who knows? But this I do know: when I ride my bike, all of those pedestrians who attempt to cross in front of me are poopheads (lrla…see above) or better yet, become poopheads (lrla) as soon as their feet leave the sidewalk and hit the street.

When I was a wee lad growing up on the mean, cold streets of San Francisco, I was told many, many times to make sure I looked both ways before I decided to play frogger and venture across the street. Like it was yesterday, my mom would say “look left, then right, then left again.” Now folks, you know why you look left first and then again? Because it doesn’t matter where you are when you cross a street, if you are going to get hit first, it will be from a car coming from your left (unless, of course, you are in England…and then, you need to speak to an English mother). And..if you then look right and step out, a car may miraculously occur from the left and you will get hit if you do not look left again.

Pretty simple, eh? So simple, it has stayed with me throughout my 57 years on this planet, but I may not make 58 years if pedestrians continue to blindly step off the curb. Pretty much every morning, after my early morning bike ride, I like to stop at my favorite Starbucks and grab a quick cup of Joe. I sit outside, rain or shine, cold or hot and just watch both the foot and car traffic in front of me. I am simply amazed at two events that happen every day: 1.) not all cars stop at the stop signs on the corner and 2.) not all pedestrians notice that not all cars stop at the stop signs on the corner. Which, I might add, make for some pretty interesting driver/pedestrian interaction; certainly interaction enough to give the pedestrian more of a jolt than the caffeine that is in the cup they are holding in their hands. Pedestrians simply make the mistake of thinking that everything and everyone are going to stop for them, regardless if they are in the intersection or crossing the street midblock. And, if you don’t believe me, one day, when you are sitting outside on a busy street having coffee or a donut or smoking a cigar, just watch what goes on in front of you and I guarantee you would rather meet Osama Bin Laden in a cave than cross the street without looking. And for the record, Osama drives a cab in San Francisco. Why the Feds don’t know this, I’ll never figure out.

I bring all this up because on my daily commute to work on my two wheeled steed, I pretty much have a near accident with a pedestrian every day. Not because I’ve run a red light (and again, under full disclosure, I have done that every now and then) or because I’ve run a stop sign (another full d: yep, have done that) or because I was exceeding the speed limit (those of you who ride with me know I don’t ride fast enough to break any limit….speed or otherwise…ok, maybe the weight limit for my frame, but that’s another story best saved for when I’m on a sugar high), but because some poophead (lrla) decided he/she wanted to step out into the street from behind a parked car while chatting on their cell phone with Uncle Ned from Arkansas (you can deduce what you like from the Arkansas comment…it probably will be right) or gazing into the sky to see if any additional liberals are parachuting into San Francisco at that moment. Of course, if it weren’t for my exceptional bike handling skills as well as my outstanding eye/hand coordination, at least two pedestrians would be dead each day. At least…..

Just like automobiles, pedestrians come in all shapes, sizes and colors. And just like cars, some are faster than others. Unfortunately for me, I never seem to encounter the gazelles, who could quickly elude the bike (and me) as we bear down on them, ready to leave road kill in our wake. Nope….I always get the pedestrians who every year attempt to become finalists for the Darwin Awards, better known as The Stupidest People in America. They wait for me…every day….along every inch of pavement I courageously cover…until they find the exact right time to step in front of me as I attempt to break the land speed record. I don’t live near a forest, but I’ll bet you I’ve seen more “deer in the headlight” looks than Elmer Fudd.

I’m going to close this out now because I need to get to the printers and get some new business cards. I’ll disburse them at the scene of every near accident for every poophead (lrla) to read:

Among the

Fresno Follies

Last night on my bike ride through Fresno, a red light forced me to stop at an intersection where a highway exit ramp dropped cars onto the road I was riding. It was roughly 6:30 pm and commuters where coming off the freeway onto the main thoroughfare in hopes of arriving home quickly. It was still hot and my throat begged me for some cool water from my water bottle. In 93degree heat, water won’t stay cold for long when exposed to the suns rays and my water bottle was no exception. Still, I chugged for an eternity as I waited for the light to change in my favor.

I heard a loud ruckus coming from my right and while I usually don’t want to be distracted while riding, I took a quick look to find an individual not only staring at me, but yelling at me as well. He was probably mid 30’s, Japanese descent and wearing a floppy fisherman’s hat, a flannel shirt and huge oval glasses. He reminded me of a Japanese version of Bill Murray in Caddyshack. His arms were flailing as if he were trying to catch flies barehanded, still all the time screaming something at me that I just could not understand. What I did notice was that he had a bottle of water in one hand and while for some reason I found that odd, I decided that once the light turned green, I was good and gone. The light changed and off I went, giving one rearward glance to make sure he wasn’t going to chase me. It was then that I knew what he was trying to say to me, because next to him, hidden in the bushes that decorated the freeway exit ramp, was a blue cooler. He was selling cold water!! I turned around and headed back to him, pulled out a few dollar bills and asked for a bottle. He gave me a smile, said something I still didn’t understand (my Japanese is limited to sushi, tempura and an occasional ebi…and oh yeah..saki) and handed me a bottle out of his semi filled cooler. I was standing face to face with Bill Murray, only I’m not sure he knew that. Once I loaded that cold water into my hot water bottle, I didn’t want to leave. Why? Well, I wanted to wait until that damn gopher popped his head up next to the cooler. It somewhat screwed up my night as I couldn’t get Kenny Loggins singing “I’m Alright” out of my head the entire evening. Ever try going to sleep with dancing gophers floating over you?

Since I live in San Francisco, I never have to worry about getting a sunburn. Why? Because the sun never comes out from behind the fog in San Francisco during the summer time. Tony Bennett is well known for his wonderful rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” As a matter of fact, that song is played after every San Francisco Giants home win. But you know, the truth is this: he didn’t leave his heart in San Francisco, he lost his heart in San Francisco. I really believe he took his heart out one day to get it cleaned, left it on a park bench and never found it again because the fog was too thick to locate it. I mention this because even though I live in a fog-shrouded city, I love the heat. And yet, I’m simply not used to what intense heat can do to city streets.

Riding in Fresno, I have come to realize that the surface of the street actually softens during the high heat of the day. To those of you who live in areas where sunshine is sparse and a high of 63 degrees is hot, then you may not be able to fathom what I’m going to type. The road actually gets soft and if you stand in it long enough, you will sink…and probably get a hot foot for your efforts. If you don’t think this phenomenon actually occurs, go to Youtube and type in this name: Joseba Boleki. To you non-followers of the Tour de France, this name will only bring visions of strange, smelly cheeses. Boleki, however, was a wonderful cyclist who landed on the podium of the Tour for two years before his horrific accident, which was caused by high temperatures and a melting tar roadway. The accident has been memorialized not because of the accident that rendered Boleki a rider that could never return to his previous level of performance, but rather because a trailing Lance Armstrong had to use all of his cyclocross skills to avert running into Boleki. It’s a classic bit of Tour video. In Fresno, what I have found during my rides is that high temperatures = soft roadways; soft roadways + heavy vehicles = ruts in the road. And if you aren’t paying attention while riding your bike on those streets, the term rut-roh brings new meaning. Quickly. Now let me further that by saying that Fresno has to be the California capital for large trucks. Not double rigs or moving van types of trucks, but big trucks used by the common folk to get to work each day. Huge trucks. I’m pretty sure that all of the retired monster trucks (and drivers) live in Fresno. If I ever got sucked under one while riding my bike, I wouldn’t be found for weeks. Probably not a bad place to hide if you were attempting to escape from the local gendarmes.

I’ve also noticed that usually I’m the only bike rider out in the streets of Fresno. Once in a while, you might see a 6’3” guy with baggy pants and skull and cross bones tattoos riding a very small BMX, but roadie types are on the endangered list here. Maybe the locals know something I don’t: that cars and heat can kill you when exerting yourself in their presence with some type of foolish exercise. I’ll keep you posted on that, but if you don’t hear from me again…well, you can figure it out. The other reason might be the dearth of bike shops in the area. There certainly aren’t many. I rode past one today that was shuttered up. Using my trusty camera phone, I managed to take a few pictures of the front of it ( My God….is the world coming to an end, because if you can’t sell Nishikis and Raleighs in Fresno, where can you sell them? Hopefully this won’t bring about the demise of both bike companies and they will be able to find other sprawling metropolises such as Fresno to create new dealerships. But then again, maybe not.

Finally, if anyone wants to road trip with me to Fresno to help me remove the Big Wheel bike sign and permanently mount it on the top of my Honda Element, let me know. I believe a sequel to The Hangover is in the works!

The Cycling Clydesdale

The Cycling Clydesdale

The City That Thinks It Knows How

I was born and raised in San Francisco. I still live there. Not many San Franciscans these days can make that claim. Many have departed for the Peninsula or have taken their belongings over the Golden Gate Bridge for the confines of beautiful Marin County. Still, others have left the City via our other not so famous bridge and have settled in the East Bay. Me? I left for a bit, but now free of marriage obligations, chose to come back to the City that knows how. Or perhaps better stated, tries to know how. Because as much as San Francisco touts itself as the City that can do all, it really can’t. Now, don’t tell the touter’s that, because then they will be out of a touting job. After all, it’s their job to make us believe that San Francisco is the end all to do all. That may be true for people who rent their homes and apartments in San Francisco (landlords don’t stand a chance!), but it certainly isn’t true for individuals who sling their legs over a top tube and pedal the streets of San Francisco each day.

As usual with any changes that are recommended for the good citizens of my fair city, the act may begin innocently enough, but give it enough time and it will assuredly arrive on the steps of the local courthouse. A proposal to add bike lanes to some of San Francisco busiest thoroughfares and heavily commuted streets has been languishing in the court system for years. Why? Because one individual…one, mind you…brought suit against the City because he believed that adding bicycle lanes would do damage to the environment of San Francisco. So here we sit, waiting for the case to appear before a judge. I’m still trying to determine how adding bike lanes can environmentally hurt a city, but then again, I’m simply a tax paying citizen, not a highly appointed official who gets paid to figure these things out, as well as tout.

For years, Boston was voted one of the worst cycling cities in the country. I guess we can thank our lucky stars Paul Revere rode a horse that night, huh? Last year, it was actually voted as one of the “5 cities for the future” based on the fact that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had taken up cycling and had hired Nicole Freedman, an ex Olympic cyclist and urban planner, to lead the Boston Bike initiative. Nice start, eh? Can you imagine San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom planting a bicycle helmet on his highly gelled head? Neither can I, but obviously Menino is serious about biking in Boston. In the past year, while San Francisco has taken its cycling lanes to court, Boston has taken its cycling lanes to the streets and added 20 miles of bike infrastructure. They have also added 250 bike racks and printed over 40,000 bike maps. Boston Bike Friday is held once a month, where ride leaders lead groups of commuters to City Hall to receive a free bike safety check and a snack before heading to work. In San Francisco, we get to see the politicians once a year stand on the steps of City Hall extolling the virtues of Bike to Work day, all the while wondering if those of us who do ride to work are going to survive another day on the streets of San Francisco.

I rode tonight on the streets of Fresno, the center of the agricultural world in California’s central valley and the home of the Fresno Grizzlies, the San Francisco Giants AAA affiliate. That really has nothing to do with this article, but I just happen to be a huge Giants fan. Now, imagine this: you go out for a 17 mile ride around the city in the middle of commute time and not one…not one…car attempts to cut you off, honks their horn at you, has someone from the passenger seat scream at you or throw their garbage at you. Not one. How about this: the drivers actually pull out to the left a bit to ensure they pass you safely, actually let you pass straight through before they turn right, say hi to you from the passenger side as they pass and you can even receive humorous comments from individuals walking on the sidewalk (You sure are working that bike hard, honey). What is truly interesting, is that this route actually is ridden on very busy, 6 lane roads. The difference, however, between Fresno and San Francisco is that Fresno has enough room on the right side shoulder to allow a cyclist to ride and not impede traffic, so no one has to get upset because I’m not blocking a lane as I ride my bike. Try riding 17 miles in San Francisco and see how bicycle friendly the local drivers are.

I’m lucky in that I get to travel a bit, although most people would say that Fresno and Visalia is not considered traveling. And in those travels, I get to bring my bike. It’s a great release for what ails me after a long day of meetings and in Fresno, during the summer, you can always ride simply with a jersey late into the night. It’s nice. It’s refreshing. It’s different. It’s what bike riding should be like in San Francisco.

The Cycling Clydesdale

The Cycling Clydesdale

Yeah. I know. Funny name for a blog and I agree. Truth is, The Fat Cyclist would fit me better, but that name is already taken ( No argument here. He started his blog first and so to the fat guy go the spoils….or something like that, although a Clydesdale is used as the basis for his website and clothing design. I guess I could title this blog “When Pigs Fly,” but I’m a bike rider, not a pig in space and so The Cycling Clydesdale sticks…like mud on a pig.

I came to the name of this blog rather innocently. I was breathing heavily up a 2% grade next to my house the other day and my mind started to wander. Actually, it really didn’t wander, but rather, it went straight to my lounge chair, where I pictured myself seated with a slice of pepperoni pizza in one hand and a cold Bud in the other. And because this is how my mind works, I immediately thought of myself pulling the Budweiser Beer Wagon into the Budweiser garage, where I was rewarded by being allowed to shower under buckets and buckets of wonderfully cold beer.

Reality jolted me out of my daydreams when the grade jumped to 3% and the sound of my panting woke a slumbering infant in a stroller whose mother had just passed me as she was walking up the hill. No longer able to take pleasure in my daydreams, my mind harkened back to a time when I first heard the word Clydesdale associated with cycling.

I was out for a ride one Saturday afternoon and came upon a series of crit races that were being held in my city. Of course, not knowing they were crit races caused me to ask to no one in particular “Wow…what’s going on here?” A middle-aged couple was straddling their bikes a few feet from me and looking at the expanse of titanium under both of their crotches, I realized that they might have just a few more dollars than me. Actually, a lot more dollars than me. The alpha male, while continuing to gaze at the riders at the distance, stated, “It’s a criterium. You know what that is, don’t you?” “Of course, I do” I thought, but before I could answer, his impeccably dressed cycling trophy cast her eyes at me, gave me the total up and down glare and stated in her best Thurston Howell III voice “ They have a Clydesdale division, in case you want to try it.” Now of course, I was elated because here was someone I didn’t even know who just by looking at me thought I could race, but time didn’t allow it as I needed to get home to watch the current rerun of Family Guy. I thanked them both for not only their information, but also their insight (me, a racer!) and slowly trudged home.

When I arrived home, my excitement got the best of me, so I decided to spend some time on the internet instead of the TV. Googling Clydesdale and cycling, it took me a while until I found what was I looking for: an upcoming race with a Clydesdale division. My joy was short lived when I discovered that Mrs. Howell mistook me for Peter, the loveable husband on Family Guy. I mean, no one would ever mistake me for Twiggy, but a Clydesdale? I immediately put down my post ride jelly donut and swore that I would lose enough weight to place me in a division under Clydesdale…maybe not Stallion, but certainly not Clydesdale.

And so for the next few weeks I did everything I could to lose weight. I dieted; I drank enough water to drain a small reservoir; I peed enough to fill a small reservoir; I rode longer and sometimes harder, but mostly longer. After all of that…nothing. You would think that just all of that walking to the bathroom would result in some weight lose, but nope. I replaced the battery in the bathroom scale…twice. The same number still stared at me every morning when I gingerly stepped on it. Reality finally sank in. I knew that no matter what I wanted to do, I couldn’t alter fate. A Clydesdale born is a Clydesdale through life. Sure, I have pictures of Lance and Eddy in my workshop, just as I’m sure the Budweiser Clydesdales have pictures of Secretariat and Seabiscuit plastered all over their rec room in the Budweiser barn. But those pictures of Lance and Eddy aren’t going to make me a racehorse anymore than the pictures of Secretariat and Seabiscuit will change the Clydesdales. We are what we are. But…here is the key difference: in the world of horses, those Clydesdales are beloved. What man in America doesn’t see one and immediately think of Budweiser beer? Next to the Chihuahua and Taco Bell, no other animal identifies better with its sponsor. Heck, those Clydesdales even play football. But in cycling? Hah…you might as well be a one legged, three foot troll riding a tricycle.

The good news is that I’ve been told that I’m a great guy to draft behind, because just like a fullback blasting a hole in the defensive line for his halfback, I create lots of free air space. Lots. I mean lots. You could probably put the entire Tour de France peloton behind me and they would be shielded from the wind. And not to brag, but today my ego received a tremendous boost: I actually passed someone going up a hill. Ok…sure…he was walking and he almost took me down with a wild swipe of his white cane, but still, it was my own personal victory. Baby steps…baby steps.

BIke to Work Day

Our HR department at Monogram Biosciences is one of the best I have worked with. They offered free breakfast to anyone who rode their bikes in to work on Bike to Work Day, and I do love breakfast… So I planned my route, and did my first ever trans-bay bike commute.

<a href=”″>Fremont to Monogram</a><br/><a href=””>Find more Bike Rides in Across The Bay, California</a>

It was pretty tough in some sections, where I had to ride along roads with little to no shoulder, and cross a freeway overpass, but I made it in one piece, and got my breakfast!

2009 Tour de Cure

Getting back in the saddle(s)

After taking last year off from the Tour de Cure, Alicia and I were looking forward to doing it again this year. There’s something about planning for this that always gets me excited. The training, fundraising, team building and comraderie, logistics, exercise, and the feeling of doing something for more than just one reason… it just makes sense. With sixteen month-old Milo now old enough to wear a helmet and ride along in a bike trailer , I thought I could pull him along for the ride. So, we signed ourselves up and planned to both ride our bikes some reasonable distance with a bike trailer… maybe 10-25 miles.

As we got closer to the tour event, it became more and more evident that we weren’t getting enough riding time, training ourselves and also Milo to sit in a trailer! He’d much rather run around than sit still for an hour (or even 2 minutes!). But we were committed to show up for the ride, so we decided to leave him with his grandparents for the weekend, and combine our strength by riding the tandem Double-Take once again, as we did in 2007. Our logic was that both of us only needed to be marginally prepared to be able to ride 50 miles using our tandem effort.

So, I began with “blowing the dust off” of our eighteen-wheel-equivalent of a bike, which was buried somewhat in the garage, behind of all things, other bikes (yes I have a fetish for all things spoked). Once I got it clear and in the open, I stood back and tried to recollect what kinds of adjustments or modifications, if any, we wanted two years ago, which was the last time we had it on the road. I knew that Alicia had wanted a little better seat angle, with more support in the lumbar area. I also remember my shoulder and neck being pretty sore after our 50 mile ride, which I usually don’t have an issue with on my regular road bike. Spy photos show that while my stem choice was cool looking, it was not ideal for a long ride by an amateur. So I swapped out the stem for a more upright position, and also added some lumbar padding in the recumbent seat for Alicia. A little air in the tires, and I was good to go!

The only other thing to do was figure out how to bring the extra-long bike to Napa. Having sold my Forester, i now had to set up the Impreza to carry our bike, which has a much shorter roof rail system than the Forester. Facing the tandem backwards on the Yakima racks was the only way it would fit:

After dropping Milo off with his grandparents for the weekend, we set off for Napa. He loved walking up and running down their steep sloping driveway

The morning of the ride, we woke up to rain showers, and the forecast was that it wouldn’t clear up until the afternoon. So, we wrapped ourselves in as m uch rain gear as we could, knowing full well that bikes and rain don’t mix… but we were committed, rain or shine.

At check-in, it was obvious that the turnout was low, either due to the weather, or the slow economy. There just wasn’t the usual buzz of activity and chaos as I remember. Maybe because everything was hidden under tents to keep dry, but I’d usually never find a spot to lean against a tree like this.

At the start, we met up with Mike, Patricia, Ross, Jane, and Peter – and hit the road! The rain was falling, but only in a Seattle-like drizzle, so it wasn’t too bad. The toughest part was following too close behind another rider, would give you a spray in the face as water gets kicked up from their rear tire.

This was pretty much the story for the first half of the ride, just trying to keep water out of the face, and wondering if I had enough energy to do the entire 50 miles. The rain DID stop after the first 30 minutes of our ride, but the ground was still very wet, so we were still getting wet from the road spray, from each other, and also the passing cars. We had our first mishap while pulling in to the first rest stop. I mis-judged the slope of the driveway we were pulling into and the bike stopped sooner than I had expected. Although I was able to un-clip from my pedals nd put my feet down, it wasn’t enough time for me to straighten the bike and plant my feet, to keep the bike from leaning over. So…. poor Alicia got flopped over on her side, without any warning. Fortunately, her gymnastics and yoga skills allowed her to keep from totally hitting the ground, by doing some splits and contortions. I deserved whatever complaints she muttered at me as this happened, because i was kind of in a daze – it had been so long since I had ridden the bike, with all it’s complexities of handling, shifting, and braking, I had just capzised my crew. Thankfully, there were no injuries to speak of.

The second mishap occurred shortly after we left the first rest stop. in the form of a flat front tire. With the help of the team, it was not a long pit stop, and we got back going quickly.

The other oddity that surfaced once we got going again, was a loud, regular, squeaking sound coming from the bike. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from, which was very annoying to me (and I’m sure everyone following us). Normally, if I hear a sound coming from my bike, I can still ride while trying to decipher the cause. but with this tandem, I had no ability to decipher anything other than the road in front of me. Steering this bike requires 110% total concentration. It is all due to the fact that our two ranks are of different gear ratios and phase. Our ability to pedal independently makes the bike twist sideways in a strange non-cyclic pattern. Normally, when a regular bike twists under pedaling load, it is predictable to the rider as power is input. But combined with an additional pedal input from behind, I have no feedback from each of Alicia’s pedal strokes. The result is the bike seems to voluntarily sway to the left three times for every sway to the right 2 times, but never the same pattern. Sometimes, i try to anticipate the pattern and steer against the sway, in an effort to keep the bike in a straight line. This often backfires, as the bike might not sway, so my correction causes the bike to steer. The optimal technique so far is to just let the bike sway back and forth at will, and allow some movement. but on average, we will move forward. Every now and then, a strong correction and turn of the handlebars is needed, but never predicted. It’s an insane philosophy, especially when the road gets narrow, and the bike is meandering all which way, but thus far, it’s the only way to ride this bike. So it requires a lot of my attention, and I had to ignore the squeak.

Because of the wetness, we didn’t bring out the camera until the second rest stop at Sterling Vinyrads, when the roads were finally dry enough to enjoy the ride, and snap a few shots.

One of the great features of this bike is the ability for the stoker to carry a camera and get a rare glimpse of our team from the road.

Here’s Jane and Ross, enjoying the dry road.

Peter “Gunn”, making it look easy:

Mike, Peter, and Patricia : our mini Peloton.

We started an impromptu paceline with a random rider (behind Peter)

Here are some movies that Alicia took.

There’s always a headwind somewhere in Napa valley, and we found it around mile 42. It was an east-west wind, and we hit it head on. It was tough, but short enough to have forgotten about soon afterwards, especially because we hit the last leg of the ride, a 4 mile stretch with a superb tailwind. I think we were in our top gear headed home, and it felt great. I was totally pooped, so it was a total free ride home.

We pulled it in to the cheers of cowbells and teammates, Paul, Stephanie, and Jon,
who had already finished the 25 mile route (and sipping sodas? where’s the Cytomax!).

Here’s Paul, Mike, Stephanie, Patricia, John, and Christal at the finish.

It was a great ending to a ride that always reminds me of how valuable it is to have friends to ride with, share stories, and push each other to do more than we would have on our own.

I raised over $2,200 in my campaign, thanks to my sponsors, and more importantly, the Wheely Cool Velo Club raised a team total of over $9,400 – that’s no small change! We really appreciate the support of our sponsors, and glad for the opportunity to ride in the fight against Diabetes.