Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No sir, Yaser

A bit foggy this morning and 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Good ride to work. Puts me in a fightin' mood.

Has anyone ever met a university student body president that didn't fit the stereotype portrayed in every National Lampoon movie ever made? Yaser Alamoodi at Arizona State University made an effort last month to get ASU to use the code of conduct as a way to prohibit students from posing for Playboy. He said, "It's a disservice to the students and an insult to all the effort we put in." Thanks to this self-righteous twerp, they can no longer pose nude with a university logo in the picture.

Now I know that many of us aren't Playboy readers. Hell, I don't think I've bought a copy since college myself. This isn't about the magazine, it's about freedom. It's about some do-gooder trying to impose his narrow-minded views on the rest of the student body at a major university—an institution that is supposed to be about learning, civility, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, tolerance and yes, youthful fun.

Holy crap, Yaser, have a beer, will ya? Take off your sweater, stop decorating the homecoming float for five minutes and talk to a girl. Hell, talk to a guy, if that's what you're into, but get laid and learn to relax, for cryin' out loud. You're in college! A fun one! I know, because I graduated from ASU! The women are exceptionally attractive. And they happen to be adults, which means they're free to strip for the magazine, become nuns, tell you to go to hell or anything else that's still legal (and those options are fading fast these days).

A girl I used to regularly see in the library posed for a "Girls of the Pac-1o" feature when I was there, and nobody was harmed. My degree wasn't diminished. I didn't feel that my work was disrespected or that my fellow students and I had "a stigma attached" to our names. Hell, she represented the university better than the student athletes who got busted for their various crimes. Bluto and Otter need to load Yaser into his brother's car, take him on a road trip, get him drunk, trash the wheels and leave him on the wrong side of the border in Nogales.

OK, I'm takin' a deep breath now. The venting therapy session has concluded.

Back in my ASU days, I learned of a strange way to keep my legs warm when I drove up to the mountains for some downhill skiing: I wore pantyhose and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Well, I was ashamed for a while, but then I found out that Navy SEALS wore them in Vietnam as a way ward off leeches. When I heard that, I puffed up my chest and took pride in having something in common with the SEALS. We badasses stick together, you know. Why do I now torture my fellow cyclists with this disturbing mental image? Because one of our fellow riders espouses fishnet stockings for safety while riding. I'm not going to try it, but I hope it catches on . . . especially among bike-riding coeds who pose for Playboy next to a university logo.

Speaking of sexy legwear, the hellish and furry little beast that chomped my leg this fall left a gaping hole in a brand-new pair of tights. If anyone has tried Iron Mend or a similar product for repairing Lycra, please let me know if it works. Seems like a tall order, to patch such a stretchy fabric. Maybe I'll just have to ride with hole until it gets too big and I have to trash the tights.

As long as we're discussing twerps, I'd like to say that I gave Bush two brains on Tuesday, and he still sounded like an idiot. Give it a try and see if you have better results. Your score may be higher, but I bet his IQ won't be.

If you're reading this blog I don't have to tell you to hang up first, then drive. Most of us have nearly been taken out by careless drivers. No more fines and revoking of licenses. Let's start throwing the bastards in prison when they kill cyclists, pedestrians, or anyone else.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New gear

I got in touch with the folks at Banjo Brothers several weeks ago to suggest that they get their stuff in some Alaska bike shops. We're fairly well-supplied up here, but short on options for gear like messenger bags. A few e-mails later, they sent me a bag to test. It arrived on Saturday when the temperature was 8 degrees and I needed to stock up on milk and wine. Coincidence? Mmm, probably not.

I rode to the store and hauled everything home with room to spare. It's a big-ass bag. Should be fun to use, and make errands much easier. I took it out again Sunday pick up a couple of things and shoot various photos that'll be helping fill the blog over the next week or two.

I don't believe in skimping on important gear, especially winter equipment. But that doesn't mean I won't go cheap when cheap works. I've wanted a pair of poagies, or handlebar covers, for several years but couldn't bring myself to spend $100 or more for a pair from the bike shop. Acting on a tip from a fellow winter rider here in Anchorage, I recently went to snowmobile shop and picked up a pair from Polaris for $32. I saved 68 bucks and my hands are warm as hell. Sweet deal. I've even switched to a lighter pair of gloves because my hands were sweating inside the poagies.

After years of struggling with my already-frost-damaged toes, I also went cheap and simple on footwear this winter: I pulled off my beloved Egg Beaters for the season and replaced them with Zu Zu's platform pedals from Sun/Ringle. My Sidi shoes stay by the indoor trainer and, outside, I wear my 9-year-old Sorel pac boots.

I'm running my Nokian tires on Sun Rhyno Lite rims (with XT hubs) that I bought used from a friend. They're downhill rims, which means they're a bit wider than x-c wheels and help maintain a decent footprint for the 2.1" tire.

My winter bike is a 1992 Trek 7000 that I rebuilt after buying the frame from neighbor for $35. I'll be happy go back to my high-tech, full-suspension mountain bike next season, but right now I'm loving the simple, frugal approach.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Homesick for high desert

I occasionally stumble across this photo online and it always brings back memories. I once lived for several years in the Northern New Mexico village of Nambe, and would often ride my bike over the hilly, two-lane highway to Chimayo. I'd drop down the steep descent into the village, round a couple of turns and roll down the street visible on the right, then turn onto the little road where the lowrider car is parked. In fact, I used to see that car often. Never saw that particular bike, though there were many similar ones ridden by the local kids who pedaled only until they could a license and a bouncing sedan.

I'd sit under cottonwood trees outside El Santuario de Chimayo to drink water and eat a Power Bar. The tourists, with cameras around their necks and sandals on their feet, would file in and out of the old church as I listened to water flowing through the ancient acequia at the edge of the compound. I'd look up at the mountains nearby and try to savor the sights, smells and sounds of the place. I love Northern New Mexico and still miss it. But Chimayo has a dark, violent history and that little spot in the church courtyard was mine only for a few moments at a time—and only during the day.

I have a friend who has lived her entire life in the area. She can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, because she has the right name and the right shade of skin. I trust her and always knew it was genuine concern that prompted her warnings: Be gone before the tourists leave and the sun goes down. I always heeded the advice.

But someday I'd still love to get back there to pedal over that great old highway beneath the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and blast down that hill into Chimayo like a rocket. Damn, that was fun.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Takin' my new toy for a ride

I've been trying to work my way through 820 pages of John Irving's latest novel, Until I Find You, and my wife came home from the Black Friday shopping madness after buying me a new iPod Nano that I'm now busy filling up. (Apple products are so sweet, I almost wish they made bicycles.) Looks like it's a good day for a link dump. I can finally clear my bookmarks of some of this stuff I've been saving for my elite cadre of loyal readers.

Ever wished you could get around the damned machine that takes your calls when you phone a business? Stupid question. Of course you have. Thanks to Paul English, now you can. Check out his story, then go get his cheat sheet. It's a beautiful thing.

Just when we thought there couldn't possibly be another color breaking out in the silicone-bracelet world, a new one comes along that might be worth having. If you're a trend whore, be proud and say it loud.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a couple of months knows I'm not a big fan of loose dogs, especially when they decide to take chunks out of mountain bikers' legs. Now there's a great solution. Take Cujo for a ride.

I've also been known to brag about the advantages of living in Alaska. Best reason of the week: When critters swim up our rivers, they die and then float back down. They don't set anchor in Mr. Happy.

Several inches of new snow and a two-hour ride on the trainer Friday afternoon. It might be time for a bike ride before insanity sets in. Too late . . . I watched my son's Donnie Darko DVD during the trainer ride. Insanity is already taking its toll.

Hopefully, some of this new powder will get packed down or plowed out of the way in the next day or two so that I can get out for a soul-reviving ride before that big bunny starts talkin' to me.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another shitty day in paradise

Ridin' home. (Self portrait)

"Snow riding is a little crazy and, thus, good for the spirit. Your tires produce a musical crunch and artistic tread patterns. Anyone who says that mountain bikers are always occupied with speed and precision doesn't have a clue."
—Tim Blumenthal

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded, maybe you should drive . . ."
—Hunter S. Thompson,
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"

I'm home sick today and riding the crest of a nice buzz. A couple of years ago I cracked a tooth or some such thing and my dentist phoned in a prescription to get me through the weekend. Somewhere along the line a big, beautiful mistake was made and when I picked up my package from the pharmacy at what I like to call The Big Blue Hell (a.k.a. Wal-Mart), I was given a bottle containing 50 Vicodin.

This is somewhat like winning two tickets to Disneyland when you've never been on a roller coaster, but you're about to find out that you really like roller coasters.

My RN wife was aghast that anyone would actually fill a prescription for 50 Vicodin, and proceeded to tell me how addictive the stuff can be. So I rarely allow myself a dip into the stash because I don't want to end up in Detox Mansion raking leaves with Liza. But at the moment, I have a touch of some bug that has drained me of energy yet isn't allowing me to sleep well. Little Pill of Happiness, come to Daddy.

All in all, it's a very nice way to be ill. Exhaustion and loss of concentration without all the other physical nastiness usually associated with an invasion of body snatchers. A perfect day to send my wife off to work and the kids off to school so I can watch the snow fall, surf the Web and read a novel.

Maybe I'll add a few new blogs to my links section, such as cfsmtb in low earth orbit. I also put up a few new ones last week, so check 'em out if you haven't clicked through the links for a while. I'll try to resist the temptation to link to Fixed Gear Enthusiass again—there's a fellow blogger down in Homer who's still recovering from that one.

Here's a very encouraging bike story I meant to link to several days ago. I got lazy and forgot, then found it again this morning on George's blog.

My coherence might be slipping. I'm surprised I made it this far. I'll close with a joke to carry us into Thanksgiving:

So this dyslexic guy walks into a bra . . .

Monday, November 21, 2005

A desperate cry for help

We've all seen those articles about Internet porn junkies. Ya start lookin' at durty pictures of purty girls and next thing ya know, you're walkin' around the mall in a trench coat. Or you're goin' to hell. Or your Visa card is maxed out with charges from your favorite midget/bondage site. Or you're the mayor. Or you're lookin' up pictures of Betty Boop on a bicycle. Or you move to Vietnam and the shit hits the fan.

There are all those so-called experts studying what happens to you if you're a "normal" pervert who sees more laptops than lap dances, but none of them give a hoot about the rest of us—the poor twisted souls who spend our late nights looking at naked bikes, reading blogs and checking out alloy nipples.

Ours is a world full of confusion and trauma. Eager with anticipation, we gently stroke our keypads, awaiting the wondrous pleasures to come, but one careless click of the mouse on the wrong hyperlink and ecstasy becomes agony. One minute we're panting and sweating over something beautiful, and the next we're writhing on the floor scratching our eyes out because we've stumbled across vile creatures we wish we'd never seen.

If we're lucky, we manage to spend some time away from our computers and actually engage in carnal relations using the lessons we've learned from our true love. Such knowledge may prove most valuable if we're lucky enough to pair up with another cyclist. Otherwise, communication gaps occur: A lover tells you to pick up some lube on the way home, so you eagerly do so. Then a chill settles over the house and you spend up spending the night in the garage working on your bikes. Alone. How were you to know that a bottle of lube was supposed to be a bottle of luuuuube? Such misunderstandings are why cyclists who marry should always have a solid pre-nup. Otherwise, they should at least negotiate a post-nuptial agreement.

Whatever it takes.

Just get it in writing.


A long time ago, I allowed peers to lead me down the wrong path. Despite my parents’ warnings, I did something dumb. I endangered myself and others for no good reason.

I played high school football.

I have friends and neighbors who steer their kids into team sports because they say it builds character and teaches them about life and teamwork. Yeah, maybe. But team sports also have a nefarious side.

Ever read the book or seen the movie Friday Night Lights? Football was a little bit like that in my hometown in the Midwest. We just lacked the big stadium, nice equipment, talent and scholarship potential. It was small-town football with bush-league coaches who were shitty teachers by day so that they could be self-delusional coaches by night. None had yet faced the fact that being a middle-aged man coaching high school football in a two-bit town that no college recruiters bothered to visit was not the path to a promising career. The only real lasting thing I got from those bastards was a limp that still plagues me at age 42 when my ankle locks up. If there were any “life lessons” to be learned, we players had to find them on our own.

One night, we were practicing goal-line stands and blocking field-goal attempts. Blocking a kick is a somewhat crazy act: When the ball is snapped, you try to go over or through the offensive line as fast as possible to put your body in front of the ball within a split-second of it leaving the kicker’s foot. Any later, and it’ll be too far over your head and unstoppable. It’s something that’s best done in the heat of a real game, when adrenalin overrules brain function and you don’t bother to consider the ramifications of being hit in the head, throat or testicles by a hard, pointed object traveling at maximum velocity off the leg of a 17-year-old athlete.

On a cold weekday afternoon during a meaningless practice run by coaches too unsophisticated to protect their players from pointless scrimmage injuries, you have plenty of time to think about how much it’s gonna fucking hurt. The temptation to drag ass and save your body for game night is strong.

The head coach grew angry at a couple of guys he thought were intentionally moving slow off the snap, trying to avoid the ball. “Get in there!” he yelled. “Smother the ball! Let it hit ya! It’s not gonna hurt.” I was close enough to hear him mutter the next part under his breath as he turned around: “For more than two or three days.”

Other than how to fall properly, that’s the only lesson I learned from football that I can apply to mountain biking—or life, for that matter. Pain is temporary. Sometimes it’s worth enduring for the joy of the payoff. The roar of the crowd on an autumn night when your head snaps back and the ball bounces off your facemask back to the damp grass. The winter of remembering sweet singletrack and stealing glances at the scars left on your legs from a summer of great rides.

I’ve been thinking about that for the past few days after learning that a lifelong friend just had his marriage—his life—unexpectedly fall apart. I called his sister and got the phone number for the new place he rented. I haven't reached him yet, or figured out what to say. Part of me wants to tell him that things will be OK. This won’t hurt.

After two or three years.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why not?

“The advantages? Exercise, no parking problems, gas prices, it’s fun. An automobile is expensive. You have to find a place to park and it’s not fun. So why not ride a bicycle? I recommend it.”
—Supreme Court Justice Breyer, on the virtues of riding a bike.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Simple is good

As if I needed it, this week I was reminded why I love the simplicity of bicycles.

I finally stopped procrastinating and updated the firmware on our wireless router. I know it's basically a simple process to download and install it, but doing so wipes out all kinds of settings that are a pain in the ass to restore. Everything was fine after 30 or 40 minutes of tinkering, but it was stressful tinkering. Shit was happening (or not happening) that I couldn't see. I don't like that.

I also had a guy come out to service our boiler. Always good to have it checked early in the winter to avoid a weekend service call in January. I had been told that if I watched him bleed air from the lines that carry hot water through our house to radiate heat, I could easily do it myself in the future. Watching him flip levers and throw switches was like watching a pilot pre-flight a 747. So much for the do-it-yourself idea.

Installing a headset, derailleur or a bottom bracket is something I understand. It makes me feel mechanical and competent after a week behind a desk. Besides, I generally don't trust anyone to repair and adjust my bikes. I like blazing down a mountain trail without worrying whether some teenager adjusted my brakes as part of his after-school job. I also like knowing that if some part goes tits up 15 miles from the trailhead, I can usually amputate it or repair it enough to get home with little or no walking.

The keys to happiness for me and my bikes are good tools, a good repair manual and a couple of good beers to carry me through a wrench session.

Yeah, simple is good. Like childhood. It isn't like it used to be. My dad had a rule: Never start a fight; but if someone else starts with you, make sure you finish it. One summer night a kid on the playground punched me in the gut and knocked the wind out of me, then left. After I recovered, I went home. Dad knew something was wrong, found out what it was, and sent me back to salvage my latent manhood. I rode my bike to the kid's house and explained to his mother at the door what had happened and that I couldn't go home until I physically assaulted her only son.

She brought him to the front porch, confirmed what happened, and then held his arms while I popped him in the gut. Then I climbed back on my little Schwinn and pedaled away. In a very manly way, of course.

Ahh, those were definitely simpler times. You can't do that kind of crap anymore. It upsets people. The only person who was upset over my incident was the kid whose mother helped me beat him up. Some therapist is probably still milking that one.

At least he never stole her camcorder and had to deal with his mother's kinky home video falling into the wrong hands. There are some things you just shouldn't tape if you A) are a parent B) no longer inhabit the body of a 21-year-old and/or C) bald where you should be hairy and hairy where you should be bald.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Moose are among the critters that make life in Alaska interesting. Having them all around us is one of the cool things about living here, but they also demand respect. We teach our kids how to handle them at the bus stop and on the playground. We find them in our yards. We routinely stop on trails and wait for them to move out of the way. We religiously avoid riding between cows and calves, which can make momma really pissed off.

But I sometimes see them too late and realize at the last possible second that I’m riding within a couple of feet of a 1,000- to 1,500-pound ungulate that kills by stomping. And I've just startled it. I've seen them so late and so close that I reflexively dipped a shoulder to avoid contact. I’ve locked up my rear wheel and skidded to avoid slamming into the damned things at night. Fortunately, Anchorage moose are pretty accustomed to town life and they usually take these encounters somewhat in stride.

It's now dark when I leave the office at 5 p.m., and that makes it easy to miss those big, brown beasts in the brush. So I was feeling pretty good about catching sight of a yearling about 15 feet off the trail last night as I left the woods and crossed Campbell Creek to ride up a short hill toward Dimond Boulevard. She was grazing and I was moving at a brisk pace, so I just put my head down and cruised up the hill without paying much attention. At the top, two boys of about 12 years old were standing by the trail.

“Were you scared?” they asked.

“Of what?”

“That moose by the trail.”

When I said the moose was no big deal, they told me they were worried about passing through the area and pointed to a nearby moose they thought might be the mother. I thought they were being prudent, but I felt they’d be fine and I offered to escort them down the hill to make sure they were OK.

They were very nice kids. One boy expressed concern about me putting myself in danger. I assured him I’d be fine. They moved into the brush well off the trail and started downhill as I pedaled back onto the trail. I thought to myself, “Wow. These guys have really been taught to be cautious."

I rolled about 20 feet and suddenly noticed a big moose browsing in some brush just off my left shoulder. He was looking a little edgy about my second intrusion. That’s when I realized what was going on: There were three moose in one small area. The kids hadn’t seen the one by the creek, and I hadn’t seen the one that had them worried, even though I rode right past it on my way up the hill.

I turned toward the boys, rode across a snow-covered patch of weeds and told them what was going on. They high-tailed it back up the hill and announced they’d just walk around the block, thanks.

I didn’t argue.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Just a few laughs

There’s been a lot in the news lately about torture. I even wrote a blog post about it last week and then deleted the whole thing when I realized, “Hey, this is a bike blog!” But if you’re following the issue, check out what John McCain wrote for Newsweek. He says everything I wanted to, but with eloquence and authority. He spent five years being kicked around as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. The worst torture I ever endured was a couple of nasty hangovers.

OK, so maybe it was three.

Enough of that serious stuff. Let’s get on to the funny crap. We’ll use Political Science as a segue. And that reminds me; if you don’t know Randy Newman’s music, do yourself a favor and get familiar with it. Just don't call him "the guy who did that song in 'Toy Story.'"

Last week in my office someone referred to Iko Iko as “that song by the Dixie Chicks." If I had any hair left, I would have pulled it out. That song was written about 1950 and was being played by greats like Dr. John and Jerry Garcia before the Dixie Chicks were born.

I’ve linked to Overheard in New York before but what the hell, let’s do it again. It has become one of my favorite sites to read each day. It not only cracks me up, it makes me even happier about living in Alaska. Maybe it's because the bums' lips are frozen shut, but we just don’t overhear this kind of stuff:

Hobo: You got some nice skin.
Girl: Thanks.
Hobo: So you must masturbate yourself like all the time then, huh?

Which reminds me: That woman sitting next to you during your morning commute who really seemed to be enjoying the tunes in her iPod? It might not have been the music that got her groove on. Maybe you should read that link at home. Where you can crank up the music.

Here’s a tale of dedication and true friendship, and a little moral lesson for the day.

My work here is done. Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Surf's up, dude

Winters are long. Sometimes a little harmless defacement of public property in the name of humor is good for the soul when days are dark and temperatures are cold.

I didn't do it.

But I like it.

Alaska has a new mountain biker riding through her first winter in the far north. Judging by the posts on her blog, I think she's gonna be just fine. Anybody who shows up and starts doing long rides in the winter is probably mentally strong enough to avoid downing a case of Jack Daniels and shooting holes in her front door come February.

Instead, she can down a shot for warmth and then go on a full-moon ride on the glistening snow.

I spent quite a few years working in newsrooms, so I understand deadline pressure and the fact that sometimes you need to fill caption space with bogus copy until the real information arrives. Smart people use garble like "Xy Xy Xy," because you might forget to change it before publication. Fools use "Girls basketball team celebrates coming out as lesbians." The copy editor who pulled this stunt wins my nomination for Dumbass of the Week.

I love innovative bicycle design, but I just don't get Pedersen bikes. They claim their frames are strong and "ergonomically correct." OK, but they look strange. And riding in a position like you're standing ramrod straight? I call that air braking. If my body ever deteriorates to the point I can't ride a conventional bike (and with the way things are going, it will), I think I'll just to straight to a recumbent. I might ride with a bag over my head for a few months, but at least I'll be riding.

If you have kids and you have ever bought them an expensive toy only to watch them ignore it while they play with the empty box, you'll appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the cardboard box's admission into the hall of fame for toys.

Imagination. It's a very cool thing.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tour de flats

Saturday afternoon ride on the Cook Inlet coastal plain.
(Click for larger image)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Suddenly, I'm hungry for a Ding Dong

Thanks to my reflective IllumiNite helmet cover,
extraterrestrials can no longer scan my brain
and steal my thoughts.
Self portrait. Friday morning commute.

Friday was Veterans Day, of course. A good day for remembering guys like my father, who spent his part of WWII in the South Pacific. It was also a good day to be a mailman, a teacher or a bank teller. I, however, was one of the unfortunate stiffs who was welcome to show up at work. Actually, “welcome” might be too strong a word. It's more like they just haven’t gotten around to changing the locks. Yet.

So I got to ride to work on an inch of new, dry snow. Sweet. It was like riding on a sheet of velvet. If all goes well, I’ll slip out on Saturday for a little trail ride. It’s great weather for cruising on the smooth, flowing trails that aren’t likely to launch my sorry ass into the trees while I ride my rigid winter bike with platform pedals. On the other hand, maybe I need some time clipped in on the trainer to make sure I don't forget how to spin.

Still enjoying some extra visits from Big Jonny's link, but the spike has tapered off. It appears that a fair number of people who found their way to this blog decided to keep coming back, because the numbers are still higher than before. Hey, maybe this could become a pay site! I could charge $20 per month and ...

Oh, wait. I don’t post porn. Damn it. I guess I’ll have to keep thinking this stupid shit up for free. Come to think of it, I don’t even think up that much. Maybe that’s why I provide so many links.

Here’s a cool handlebar that looks good for a commuter bike. I know an Anchorage rider who uses one and loves it. Considering the cost, it better be damn good.

Ever been stung by a bee while on a ride? One of those little buggers got my daughter on the throat last year after getting stuck under her chin strap. If you've ever been zapped, you might enjoy seeing a bunch of them sufferin’ an ass whuppin. Or maybe you'll enjoy it just because you’re a sicko with a hornet fetish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

By the way, if you do get off on the hornet thing, it counts as porn and you owe me 20 bucks.

Anybody who thinks pro bike racing is all about Nike contracts and rock-star girlfriends should read about this guy. Paying your dues. Suffering. Scraping by just to hope you’ll make a European team and live with a one-in-four chance of logging hospital time each year. That’s what it’s like for most guys. On the bright side, if you make it you’ll get all the free EPO you can handle. Who says hard work doesn’t pay?

I heard yesterday that the FAA is preparing to restrict Anchorage air space because the Moron in Chief will be passing through town on Monday. Must be heading to Asia to embarrass us in front of a new crowd. Air Force One sometimes stops hear to fill up, have the oil checked, buy a package of Ding Dongs and use our bathroom.

I wonder if there will be enough sunlight for the bastard to see me as I moon his jet while it’s on final approach to Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I'm bad, I'm nationwide

All day yesterday, trucks dumped dirt in an empty lot across the street from my office. All day, other trucks pulled in and were loaded with the same dirt. Looks like somebody's padding a fat contract somewhere. Probably a government job. They couldn’t possibly haul the dirt directly from point A to point B. That would be too efficient.

Some government drone must have believed it when the fat guy with the pinky ring told him no, no, kid, this job will require twice as many trucks and twice as many union-wage drivers. Or maybe it was the bribe that sealed the deal. A few construction company execs will probably be buying vacation homes with this year’s bonus.

Big thanks to the Drunk Cyclist (NSFW) for an unsolicited link on his Tuesday night post. A shitload of cyclists from all over North America and quite a few other parts of the world have been checking out this humble little blog ever since. We be gettin' so many hits it’s like we wuz gettin’ props on MTV or sump’n. Who’s the man? Big Jonny, that’s who.

Links? Did somebody mention links? Let’s see what I can dredge up today.

Today’s photo is from the gallery at a mountain bike site in the UK. Haven’t checked it out thoroughly yet, but I managed to take a quick look around and plan to go back for more. Don’t know where the photo was taken, but who cares? Bikes and snow. It’s a beautiful thing. Not as beautiful as bikes and firm, dry dirt, but we’ll take what we can get.

If you’re a cross-country skier in Anchorage well, what can I say? It sucks to be you. This is what you get for wasting your summer poling around town on roller skis when you should have been mountain biking. The lack of snow might make you miserable, but this fast, icy stuff is perfect for riding on studs to train for this year’s Susitna 100. Go right ahead. Come race day, I’ll stay home and keep my toes warm with red wine and a crackling fire, thanks.

If you’re going to be riding out across the frozen wastes, you might want to check out the “bike toasties” from Apocalypse Design in Fairbanks. I could use a pair of those suckers for the morning commute on those single-digit days.

Late-breaking news: Bike-riding circus bear pedals back to his natural habitat.

Please remember that the terrorist threat level is “Elevated,” which means those TSA chimps at the airport will still want to frisk your 2-year-old and inspect your shoes while your Glock slips through undetected in your backpack. If you don’t have a pistol, arm yourself with office supplies. Never forget: Your office receptionist might hate freedom. You must be ready to take her down.

It’s for the good of America.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rush hour

Taku Lake, Anchorage. Tuesday, 5:20 p.m., 12 degrees.

Is it a blog, or crime scene?

Damn. I'm not sure where this post started, where it ended up or what happened along the way. One minute I was telling a nice little story about bikes, and the next I was going off on everyone from Terrell Owens to Dick Cheney. For sheer humanitarian reasons, I blazed through it with a rapid-fire delete key and left only the highlights. I'll just dive right in. Maybe you'll manage to find some bike stuff amid all this debris.

This is a painful way to finish a mountain bike race. It's the kind of thing I would do, except I rarely race and, when I do, I cross the finish line too slowly to do much damage.

Here's an area I rarely delve into—entertainment. Nicolas Cage is upset because he wasn't chosen as the next James Bond. Says it was because he's an American. That's a relief. I was afraid they were punishing him for being a shitty actor.

The owner of this bike gets my nomination for moron of the week. The photo is from the blog Ride It Like You Stole It.

Speaking of morons. In yesterday's post I indicated a desire to make an obscene gesture at the Moron in Chief. That was very unthoughtful of me and I'm sorry. I think what he really needs is this. Or maybe this.

This just in: College hockey players engage in underage drinking. Thank god we have Fox News affiliates to unearth this kind of shocking information.

By the way, the World Health Organization is no longer saying that a flu pandemic is likely. You can let go of your fear and uncertainty. Because now it's inevitable. I'll meet you on the roof. Do you want to jump first, or should I?

And in our final news story of the day, researchers have found that chicks like nice cars and what you drive affects your love life. Somebody's getting paid for this? Bloody hell, people! My first car was a 1967 Dodge Dart. Trust me, I can tell you what kind of car won't get you laid!

Now that those painful memories have been dredged up, I'm off to cry in my beer. As one of my old bosses used to say, thanks for showin' up.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I folded like a cheap tent. I wondered out loud last night whether I should ride to work and make our daughter walk to school on a really cold morning, even though it's only a couple of blocks. "She's got longjohns," my wife replied. So I laid out all my layers and then climbed out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to ride in the sub-zero cold. Then my wife said, "It's supposed to hit 10 below. I'm not sure it's fair to make her walk."

So I climbed back into bed for 45 minutes. Didn't even bother to climb on the trainer. I suck.

I bet a couple of my fellow commuters will be out there. All summer long, I met two young guys riding the opposite direction just about every morning and afternoon. It was always in the same stretch of South Anchorage—a fairly quiet, upscale subdivision that all three of us ride through on a wide and curving, divided street with decent bike lanes. They were young and on mountain bikes, and always waved from across the road when we saw each other. I assumed they were college guys with summer jobs and no car, and that they'd disappear come fall.

They're still there, though now we're all headlights, mask-covered faces and black gloves waving in the early morning darkness and evening twilight. Friday morning we actually crossed a street at the same time, where the bike path briefly forced us all to the same side of the road. We said hello as we passed, and kept moving to get out of traffic. I have no idea who they are, where they ride from, or where they're going. Still, it's kind of cool we're a small part of each other's daily routine.

The news stories coming out of the Bush/Cheney sewage pit continue to depress me. I don't even want to fall into the habit of ranting about it here. But there is one thing I'd like to give the those shitheads.

OK, deep breaths. Gotta go to my "happy place" for a minute.

I feel better now. Here are a few odd links to occupy your time:

I have no idea if this is for real, but if this is a legitimate business and it has customers, people are more screwed up than I thought. And that's a big freakin' statement.

I've had this site bookmarked for weeks with the intention of looking through it more thoroughly. I still haven't made time to fully check it out, but it looks like it could be useful. It calls itself "A resource for mountain bikers." That sounds promising.

If you've never clicked on my "Drunk Cyclist" link, you're missing out on a twisted little site from the town of Flagstaff, home of one of my all-time favorite burger joints—Bun Huggers. Big Jonny seems to be in a funky mood of late, but he always has something to say about cycling and/or politics and/or bike-related debauchery, and he always provides a bunch of time-sucking links to explore. Just don't visit his site from work, because your company's Web-use spies won't be fond of the porn links that help pay his bills. Oops. Should I have mentioned that at the beginning of this paragraph? Sorry about that.

Jonny's the guy who helped bring Livewrong to the world. I've been wearin' my black wrist band for months now.

If you think riding near an SUV is bad, check this out. They call it the bye bye syndrome. That's about as sad as it gets.

That's it for me. Welcome to Monday. Let the pain begin.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oh, shit.

Tonight... Clear. Lows 5 below to 5 above. Light winds becoming north 15 mph after midnight. Northwest wind 20 to 35 mph along Turnagain Arm and higher elevations. Wind chills 10 below to 20 below zero along Turnagain Arm.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Gratuitous linkage

One of the cool things about living in Alaska is that I see wildlife regularly. Moose visit my yard, I can see a beluga whale or a brown bear during an after-dinner bike ride (hence the pepper spray in my bottle cage). On Monday, a bald eagle landed on a telephone pole right outside my third-floor office window and sat there for about 40 minutes. I'm gonna miss those birds after they get torched.

As go his pockets, so goes his brain.

I've been checking out another blogger's site recently. I don't know what she's talking about half the time, but I keep going back anyway. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a middle-aged babe on a bike.

I don't care how much you want to get in shape. If you go jogging past a government building wearing one of these things, your ass might get shot off. Handy exercise tip: Try not to look like a suicide bomber.

Here's one more reason bikes are better for everyone than cars. Even hybrids.

My sister-in-law calls them "cart people." It's not hard to figure out why some of them can't walk through Wal-Mart.

And just in case you were harboring hope that Utah isn't one of the strangest places in the nation, there's a judge there with three wives and he thinks it's nobody's business. His lawyer says it's not affecting his performance, therefore it's a private matter. Ooh, that's a good point; it's not like he's in charge of upholding laws or anything.

But to be fair, Utah also has Moab. The beer might suck, but the mountain biking kicks ass. Descending Porcupine Rim is about as much fun as you'll ever have on two wheels, unless those Liberator ramp people start making kinky bikes.

And on that pleasant thought, it's time to wrap this thing up. Thanks for stopping by. I recently started gathering statistics on how many people visit Bicycles and Icicles, and I appreciate the elite little crowd that checks out this blog. This week I've had repeat visits from Reston and Fairfax, Va.; Seattle; D.C.; New York; and London. I even one-time visits from people in Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands.

I could fit you all in my living room and afford to serve you drinks, but it's pretty cool whenever somebody bothers to make a second or third visit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The daily cruise

Mudflat Love. Photo by Bearbait

Three straight days of bike commuting this week, thanks to a favorable schedule. I usually can't ride this regularly when my kids are in school and needing rides to various places, etc. My Tacoma hasn't backed out of the garage since last Saturday. I'm on a roll. Screw you, Big Oil.

My luck runs out Thursday, though. I have to report for grand jury duty. Be afraid, be very, very afraid: They're letting people like me participate in the judicial system. Or maybe not. They could boot me out on the first day. It's just state grand jury ... if they'd let me be on a federal grand jury and vote to indict that bastard Karl Rove, I'd pay them.

Speaking of bad boys in D.C., that hound dog Clinton has been out of office all these years and still can't keep his hands off the chicks in the White House. At least his taste is improving. Slightly.

I don't mean to rag on the old guy. I voted for him twice and would have voted for him a third time if I could have. Sure, he got a hummer on the job, but who cares? That was his and Hillary's business, not ours. Besides, he had time for a little hanky panky amid all that peace and prosperity that burdened us during his terms in office. Given a choice between news stories about skanky interns and news stories about unjustified war, I prefer the sluts, thank you very much.

As long as we're discussing the legal system, if I were on his jury I'd vote this guy guilty as hell, but I'd hope he got a couple of days knocked off his sentence for having a sense of humor. Then again, I've never had a positive experience on a bike when riding near a redneck and his truck, so fuck him.

Just to keep this string of posts with bike photos rolling, I'm treating my faithful readers (note my optimistic use of the plural) to another shot from Bearbait, one of our local Pugsley maniacs. The shot above is from his recent post on the Alaska forum. It was taken over the weekend during a ride across the Anchorage mudflats now that they're frozen and passable by bike. In the summer, just walking out on the mudflats is enough to prompt the fire department to send rescuers to haul your butt in. The mud is similar to quicksand and the flats flood with icy cold sea water when the tide rises. Death trap in summer; Pugsley playground in winter.

On the subject of winter riding, I'm loving my studded Nokians. I bought them last winter after some nasty falls with my shitty Schwalbe studs, and I've never felt so confident on ice . I have learned the hard way that cheap studs and homemade studs both suck. The Nokians cost about $100 per tire, but they grip ice like nothing else I've seen. Spending a C-note on a bike tire can seem a little insanse until you compare it to the cost of a trip to the emergency room. You just can't skimp on the gear that counts.

Speaking of new gear, my fellow blogger and bike-riding donut baker has been testing out some new stuff from Banjo Brothers that looks cool. I hadn't heard of them until recently but I'm hoping they'll manage to get their messenger bags in Alaska bike shops. I've been thinking about buying a bag and it would be nice to have an alternative to Timbuktu. I like their bags, but I also like having options.

Straying from bikes for a moment, I've been meaning to put up a link to a strange but brilliant band from the UK, and now that I'm typing a post with their music blasting through my iBook and headphones, it seems like a good time. I discovered Alabama 3 a couple of months ago by listening to shared iTunes playlists on the network at my office. A young woman I know across the hall has a couple of their "country acid-house music" CDs on her computer. I know almost nothing about them, other than the fact they look like some scary freaks in their "mug shots" and their "Exile On Cold Harbor Lane" album is one of the freshest things I've heard in a long time. A little country, a little techno, a little gospel, a shitload of fun.

Surrender yourself to the all-powerful, almighty, all-wise Rev. D. Wayne Love.

That's it. I'm done. Let's go back to church.

Think about it

16 million: Population of the Netherlands
16 million: Number of bicycles owned in the Netherlands
30: Percentage of all road trips taken by bike in the Netherlands
1: Percentage of all road trips taken by bike in the United States
10: Percentage of Dutch population considered obese
31: Percentage of U.S. population considered obese
6.3: Annual highway deaths per 100,000 population in the Netherlands
15: Annual highway deaths per 100,000 population in the U.S.
1/20th: Urban space taken up by one bicycle compared to one car
1/2,500th: Cost of an urban bike bath compared to an urban freeway
Free: Cost to park a bike at the Delft train station near Amsterdam

As I arrived at my office building this morning in a 14-degree fog, a friendly guy from the second floor was taking his usual break outside. "I don't know who's crazier," he said. "You for riding your bike this morning or me for standing out here freezing my ass off to smoke a cigarette."

I pointed at him and said, "You win."

Source of statistics: "Dutch cyclists laugh at gas hikes" by Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times, printed 10/29/05 in the Anchorage Daily News