Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The original energy bar

When I was a kid during the Apollo space program (just typing those words makes me feel old), companies that made toys and candy could sell damned near anything as long as they used a marketing strategy that linked the product to astronauts or rockets.

One of the products I’ve never forgotten was Space Food Sticks, the “nutritional energy food” that was—according to the package—developed for the guys we were shooting into orbit.

Who knows? Maybe NASA actually fed them this junk, but I doubt it.

Anyway, every year or two I’m reminded of Space Food Sticks when I catch a whiff of something that smells like them and triggers something deep in the memory chip of my brain.

This happened a week or two ago when I was carrying some kind of plastic to the trash—it smelled just like Space Food Sticks, which probably doesn't say much about how those things actually tasted. All I remember is some sort of chocolate flavor.

Just for the hell of it, I Googled “Space Food Sticks” and found a photo of a package of those suckers. I was stunned and amazed, for right there on the box was a space-age kid catching air on his bike!

I ate Space Food Sticks. I ride bikes.

Memories, marketing and shitty food come full circle!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bikes and beer

I don't seem to be getting any faster these days, but the Frigid Bits crowd sure does. These events are starting to look like horse races. Carlos yells "Go!" and, BAM, the pack takes off like it's bein' chased by a bunch of homosexual hillbillies with shotguns.

Chubby old slow dudes (well, OK, maybe I shouldn't be using the plural since I'm really just talking about me) get spit out the back so fast we barely get a look at the leaders' blinking tail lights until they lap us.

At least we all eat about the same speed, and Saturday was tailgate party night. We had a fire barrel, beer, chili, brats, beer, burgers, elk steak, beer, cookies, and reindeer sausage.

Did I mention beer?

What could look better than a bunch of mountain bikes parked in the snow next to a circle of people drinking beer around a fire?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One-way ticket to Margaritaville

I was checking in on the Wheel Revolution blog when I read that Griffin just got herself a B3 bike-powered blender. Bloody hell, people, why didn't somebody tell me these things are available?

B3 stands for Byerley Bicycle Blender. It's made by one of those save-the-world, reduce-our-impact companies that's marketing it as a great way to make fruit smoothies.

I'm all for that stuff about protecting the environment, but smoothies? Are you freaking kiddin' me? Have you ever seen a bunch of bike riders standing in a circle, laughing hysterically and having the time of their lives while sipping smoothies?

Damn right you haven't.

This thing is a bike-riding margarita lover's dream. I want to put one of these suckers on a mountain bike and load up my BOB trailer with all the ingredients and a cooler full of ice.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, baby!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I’m a lucky guy. One reason is that I have some nice bikes I can ride to work.

Another reason is that I live so close to my office in South Anchorage that, if I can’t ride, I have to drive only a couple of miles. Hell, I live so close to work that I pedal well out of my way just to stretch the round-trip commute to 13 miles.

Several of my co-workers live in places like Eagle River and the Mad-Zoo Valley. And they suffer for it. Every time it snows three inches, or some cell-phone using, makeup-applying, McMuffin-eating moron flips an SUV into the ditch, the Glenn Highway becomes a hardened artery with a rubber-necking obstruction.

People arrive at work talking about commutes of 90 minutes or longer. And this is routine. Some days, there’s not even an accident; traffic just clogs up because of some mysterious dynamic in the fire-breathing organism that is born when thousands of cars attempt to move in the same direction on the same road at the same time.

It’s the same in offices all across Anchorage. Countless people stand at coffee pots every morning, telling co-workers things like, “I left Chugiak at 7:15! At 8:00, I was still in Eagle River!” Yet the Victims of the Glenn still flood into Anchorage every morning and pour out every afternoon.

I can’t claim full credit for living two miles from work. Like I said, I’m lucky: My office relocated a few years ago and the change cut miles off my cross-town commute. But I can claim credit for moving to Anchorage and immediately recognizing I wanted nothing to do with driving the Glenn every day. A major reason my wife and I chose to buy a house in town is that she wanted a short drive to work, and I wanted to be able to ride a bike to work.

Life’s short. Why spend it in traffic?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Back to the lake

Everybody always talks about the hazards of riding an indoor trainer: boredom, and ... well, I guess everybody just talks about the boredom. They never warn you about the dangers of having a teenager with a collection of DVDs you can dip into for workout sessions. Kids watch some weird shit these days. Trust me on this.

Speaking of weird shit, it's time for news of another Frigid Bits race. This Saturday, race time 7 p.m. and it's a combination trail ride and lake criterium. Racers will leave Goose Lake and ride the Tour of Anchorage Trail to View Point, then turn left on Moose Meadow to Rover's Run before turning back north to return to the lake for six laps on the crit course.

Racers can use more than one bike, and wheel swaps are allowed. Just knowing that Carlos is making wheel swaps on option tells us what, class?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, that's right, Ferris. It has the potential to be a shit sandwich if trail conditions are soft. But there's gonna be a tailgate party afterward. Beer, cooked animals and bullshit by the ton. What else could you want on a Saturday night?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Non-critical Mass

It was time for a slow and unfocused ride
with no destination.
That's often the best kind.
So five of us met
at Westchester Lagoon and rode south
until a stubborn moose forced us
to change our plan. Well, he would have ...
if we'd had a plan.So we turned around and rode downtown.
We rode past Adam's office
and found him working late, so we flashed our lights
through his window until we got his attention
and he came out to say hello.We rode out to the city boat launch near Ship Creek.
Then we rode up Ship Creek.
With no paddle.But only a short distance, because we didn't want
to get caught up Ship Creek ... well, you know. We shot the shit. We ate Maura's mint-and-chocolate cookies.Life is good. Cookies are good. Bike rides are good.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cold. Or maybe not.

My sister-in-law e-mailed me some photos from Phoenix the other day: The fountain that pours water into her swimming pool had a little ice on it because the temperature had dropped to 24 degrees. She said she was wearing multiple layers of pants and shirts in the house.

She was probably exaggerating a little about the layers but, knowing her, not much.

So, naturally, I took this picture of myself after riding to work at 7 degrees and fired it back at her.

I often read about winter cyclists and participants of other outdoor sports conditioning themselves to the cold. Thickening their blood, all that stuff.

I’ve always been suspicious of the idea that we can truly condition our bodies to cold. I mean, what physiological changes could we provoke that would make water-based tissue more comfortable in freezing temperatures? I think it has more to do with gaining experience at layering and preparing for the weather.

And making a mental adjustment, of course.

I used to live about a mile from my sister-in-law. I can remember 30 degrees feeling like an arctic blast. I remember thinking it was dramatic when the dog’s water bowl froze over. Not froze, just froze over. As in a layer of ice one-eighth of an inch thick. Leave a dog’s bowl in my back yard today, and tomorrow morning you’ll have an ice cube.

The more time I spend riding in winter, the better 18 degrees feels. It’s perfect for keeping trails firm, yet warm enough to stay comfortable on the bike.

I think it's just a matter of getting out there and learning to live with it. Refusing to accept that winter means reading bike magazines on the couch for six months. Recognizing that winter passes more quickly when you learn to have a little fun with it.

Thanks for stopping by. Now log off and go for a ride.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Warning: Low fuel

Now that much of the recent snow has been plowed, I finally resumed riding to work yesterday. I had potato soup for lunch, if you’re curious.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it, potato soup apparently sucks as fuel. By the time I got home at the end of the day, I was creeping slowly along the trail, trying to avoid the big, ugly bonk that was threatening to crash down and temporarily ruin my life.

I'm the King of Bonk. I could bonk riding across the street. Come to think of it, I probably have. There should be a town named Bonk, and at its center should be a bronze statue of me hunched over the handlebar of a bike, with a facial expression that looks like I just finished giving birth to something with antlers.

When the bottom drops out, I fall faster than Saddam's half-brother. And we all know what happened when he got to end of his rope: rrrrrrip, splat, thud.

Well, OK, two thuds. Whatever. It wasn't pretty.

I once bonked at the halfway point of a 28-mile, out-and-back trail ride in New Mexico. I was alone, with no food, and the only way back to my car was 14 miles of up-and-down desert terrain. Every inch felt like a death march. I wanted to scream, sob and call out for my mommy, but I was afraid it would tip off the buzzards and they'd commence ta circlin' like they do in old cowboy movies.

My younger brother has the same problem. If he forgets to eat regularly during a long ride and his gas tank drains, it happens quickly and he just enters survival mode. He says the tendency to bonk hard seems to be a family trait. One of our sisters does it, too.

Maybe I should sue Mom. I'm bald, slow and hungry. Where the hell are all the good genes? Oh, wait. I remember: They went to the other sons. The good-looking ones. With hair.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Raubgee goes over the hill



Designer of the not-quite-world-famous
Team Megasorass logo.

Bike-racin' funhog.

Reigning champion of the
Frigid Bits costumed division.

And now ... 30-year-old.

Happy Birthday, Rob.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Around the bend*

I was doing the newspaper's crossword puzzle today when I needed two more letters to complete G _ _ P E, a five-letter word for "Get excited."

Being, well, me, I was pretty sure the word had to be "GROPE," but the R and O didn't work for the other words in which they'd need to fit, so I had to keep trying until I figured out the solution to the clue was "GO APE."

Some people might be feel a little weird about trying to put "grope" in a crossword puzzle. I'm not one of those people. If we're discussing excitement, I'm happy that I think of groping before I think of apes.

All this sort of reminds me of that old joke about the guy who finds himself seated next to the Pope on an airline flight. The Pope is struggling with a crossword puzzle, so he says to the guy, "Pardon me, do you happen to know a four-letter word sometimes used to refer to a woman, and is spelled '_ U N T'?"

The guy nervously thinks for a minute and then replies, "Uh, how about 'AUNT?'"

"Shit!" says the Pope. "Got an eraser?"

* There is a slight possibility that I need to get off the trainer and go for a ride outside very soon.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Total, total, total providence!

Don't let the albino shape-shifting
lizard bitches get you down.

Watch this totally hilarious, bike-related scene
from A Scanner Darkly instead.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bang bang, pedal pedal

I think my routes to work are finally rideable again, but how would I know? I have two nights in a row of trail-related meetings, and riding to them isn’t practical this week so I’m a prisoner of my car. Then again, the temperature this morning was -14, so I wasn’t really complaining about the blast of warm air shooting from my 4-Runner’s dashboard.

After gorging on food for three months, I always make January the start of my annual cycle of shedding some weight and building at least a little bit of fitness. (Not that anyone who rides with me six months from now will be able to tell.) So I’m cranking out hours on the indoor trainer, a great way to catch up on cheesy action/disaster movies.

I’ve never been a movie snob. Yeah, I like something that makes me think, but only when I have an evening to sit down and really watch the flick … er, excuse me, the film.

When I'm on the trainer, I just want to watch a lot of shit get wiped out by natural disasters or blown up by people who carry fancy guns and drive backward while shooting bad guys through their windshields.

Because, let’s be honest, we all pedal a little faster during chase scenes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Random winter photo

Storm clouds over the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Portrait of a really, really tall guy

My friend Adam didn't seem to think it was a healthy sign a few days ago when I started posting pictures of naked guys wearing snorkels.* Adam is one of those glass-is-half-full people. He believes we should embrace the three feet or so of snow that has fallen on Anchorage over the past couple of weeks, and that we should get outside and enjoy activities other than bicycling.

He's right, of course. But I still get a tad grumpy when I have to drive to work because my bike route is a quagmire of deep, chewed-up snow. I'm not just sitting around in the dark shootin' holes in my front door, though. I've been doing quite a bit of snowshoeing this winter, and with all this deep powder I can tell myself that I'll be stronger on the bike this summer because of all time I'm spending breaking new trail. Snowshoes or no snowshoes, when you're sinking to your upper thighs and still making forward progress, you're gettin' a workout.

This afternoon I trekked out to one of my favorite local areas, the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. I followed some moose trails through tangled alder for a while, then took a straight shot toward the shore of Turnagain Arm and the barren coastal plain where frequent wind sweeps through and keeps the snow from getting too deep. The sun was at its usual low position for a January afternoon, and I took this picture of my waving shadow about 2:30.

If this cold weather continues and the winds can thin the snow on the plain, there will be some great riding out there near the ice plates.

For now, I'll just have to enjoy the snow and (occasional) sunshine.

*I can't wait to see the Google search hits I get from having those words on the ol' blog.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Keepin' it real

I was taking a break from running my snowblower (again) when I came across this cartoon on Martino's site about the same time my younger brother and I were having an e-mail exchange about this great essay in The New York Times.

My brother is a physician who feel that too many people today are being overmedicated, and too often told they have this or that "syndrome" instead of being told to change their lifestyles and take more responsibility for their own health.

Before returning to private practice, he used to teach at a medical school where he forbade his residents and students from using the term "metabolic syndrome," which he considers to be a bullshit diagnosis.

He made them call it "fat, with side effects."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Enough snow!

I'd like a large sunny day with a side order
of firm trail. Hold the mud, please.

Oh, and a large Coke.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Vive le Frigid Bits!

I was stuck on the indoor trainer all weekend.
Had my bike prepped and ready to go
for Saturday's race, but left it home
after four inches of snow fell at my house
in the last three hours or so before race time.Turns out, the course got only an inch of snow
after Carlos cleared it earlier in the day,
so conditions were way better than I thought.I missed out on racing, but I took some photos
and shot the shit with other folks during the race,
which had some heated competition
and a fair number of gnarly wipeouts.
And the post-race tailgate party was a classic.
Bikes. Falling snow. Beer. Burgers. Brats. Cool people.
Where else can you party in the snow at night
when it's 10 degrees?

Long live the Frigid Bits.