Monday, July 28, 2008

Seattle Critical Mass Clusterfuck

Apparently everything went to hell during Seattle's Critical Mass ride on Friday. A car got corked, mean words were exchanged, car was damaged, bikes run over, people hurt.

“I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened."

I've ridden CM a few times in the past and it definitely instilled a LOT of confidence in my ability to ride through the streets of Chicago... but I've grown up. On the Advocacy front, there's little if any positive impact from the event, other than the participants' having a hell of a fun time and bikes being involved. I'm all for a good time, but when the group grows to several thousand riders to create a polluting traffic jam, it only serves to anger drivers... and they take it out on any cyclist they see... which could be your friend, loved one...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chicago Criterium Race Report

Between being off the bike for three weeks and this being my first proper 4's race, I knew that my result in the Chicago Criterium wouldn't be pretty, but since it was the inaugural event and the start/finish was only 6 miles from home... you just gotta race it!

This course, wow. Holy awesome. A little something for everyone - small climbs, a technical backstretch, and WIDE sprinting lanes. These are the elements that criterium dreams are made of. I'm not sure if Chicago stumbled across this throu dumb luck or if they had experts design it, but this is what a crit is suppose to be... the fact that it's almost half a mile away from the closest Burger King sits well with most riders, too. It was clear that Chicago was on display for the IOC, with banners and inflatables touting the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics bid. In all, for the first year of the event, things seemed to be set up and staged well from a race execution perspective.

After hearing about some of the carnage in the earlier races, I decided that I didn't want to crash a third time this season so I figured I'd sit in the middle and see how things looked from there. Bad move. I should have known it was going to be a hammerfest when Dave Fowlkes announced that we were racing 30min + 2 rather than the scheduled 35+1. A minor difference, true... but throwing a wrench into things by cutting the time always seems to move a race a bit uptempo. From the get go, this was F A S T. I've ridden with a lot of these 4's when we were all 5's and/or in 4/5 combined fields... but never on a course this wide open. 25mph on the short ends, 35mph on the front and back stretch, including the Congress Parkway semicircle. I floated from the middle of the pack to the back quarter, where the accordion effect was terrible. Several times I'd try to move up, but the 119 riders in the field managed to fill the spacious course and made moving up quite the chore. I managed to hang with the group for about 20-22 minutes until I popped off the back when everyone accelerated with a prime sprint. I did get lapped with one to go, but managed to get out of the pack's way in choosing the "wrong" line through the course so they could safely pass. I'm pretty sure I was DFL, but at least I wasn't pulled.

In all, the race was smooth and safe, with only one crash that I didn't witness as I was off the back - apparently someone went down on the Michigan/Balbo corner, causing many riders to slow themselves out of contention.

I look forward to this race next year - hopefully I'll be in better shape. I was dissapointed in my result, but I still had a blast.

You did good on dis one, Da Mare.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Slipstream's Motionbased Site

I use motionbased to track my outdoor workouts... very cool that Slipstream has uploaded this year's Tour stages.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alaska: Kenai Fjords Tour (July 20)

The morning after... still a little blurry but all appendages still intact for both of us, so it was a successful night of drinking. I'd booked our cruise as we were waiting for the wedding shuttle to pick us up, so we didn't have much on the agenda for the morning.

Soo's breakfast was stellar once again - pancakes with a berry compote toppping - perfect little alcohol sponges that did the trick. Knowing that we were going on a boat ride, Tracy and I were able to successfully eat enough to get rid of the hangover but not so much that we'd get seasick if things got rough out there.

After breakfast, we headed back to the room - I blogged one of the previous entries while Tracy was getting ready, then we made our way to Seward's small boat harbor to catch the boat. Seward's harbor was drastically different than Homer's, to say the least. It's less fishing-centric and definitely has been made very tourist-friendly (there's a Subway, ha) to accomodate the numerous cruise and tour passengers that come through the area. It's unlikely that many of them make it to the proper downtown area, it definitely has a lot to offer. We picked up our boarding passes and made our way across the pier to the awaiting Kenai Star.

We had two options - a 3-4 hour bay cruise or an 8 hour glacier cruise. Since we'd hiked to Exit Glacier a few days prior, we'd thought about doing the shorter trip but we're certainly glad that we went on the longer dinner cruise. We got our seating assignment and decided that we'd go out on the deck instead of sitting inside right away... everyone else did this as well. Luckily as the cruise went on, more and more people declined to brave the wind coming off the cold Pacific waters and decided to sit indoors in the warm cabin - more space for us.

Over the course of our 8 hour cruise, we saw humpback whales, orcas, several tpes of seals, sea otters, lots of puffins and other sea birds, a big freakin glacier, and some dall's porpoise... and after dinner (Prime Rib and Red Salmon) Tracy spilled coffee all over her pants.

No seasickness on this boat ride, whee! We spent some time near a glacier, and it got MUCH colder, apparently the water temperature drops to ~34 degrees in close proximity. There were enough large pieces of glacier floating in the water that the captain had to steer around them in a zig-zag pattern in order to get us close.

The above video gives you some idea... It was pretty creepy to hear the ice screeching against the hull. The "thunk" noises you hear are "berglets" (little icebergs) that the boat is running into. Visions of "Titanic" flashed through my mind... but it was well worth it.

Once we headed away from the glacier, the crew made an announcement: they had fished a piece of glacier ice out of the water and had chopped it up for drinks... glacier margaritas were on special for $4. What a great way to sell a bunch of drinks!

After we returned to Seward, we walked back to Soo's and got ready to go out - the Seward Ale House awaited us; those still in town had agreed to meet up for one last time since most of us were heading in different directions on Monday.

It's hard to beat a dog-friendly bar that serves draft beer in mason jars and has free hot dogs. We took advantage.

In all this was a great end to a wonderful trip - we had a blast, A and B got hitched, and we brought home some fish. It's a little disheartening not to see mountains whenever you look for the horizon, but I suppose the Chicago Skyline's not half bad either.

See all the pictures from the trip:


I'll get my final post up about the Alaska trip soon... it's been a whirlwind of flights and I'll be in one place for the next few days.

If you need something to stare at... alpe d'huez is today.

See all the pictures from the trip:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Alaska: Seward & Wedding (July 18-19)

After our fishing expedition the day before, we were glad to be traveling on dry land for the next few days. We packed up in Homer and made our way around the Peninsula to Seward where our friends were awaiting us. Aleta's the first friend I made in Chicago and I certainly credit her with founding many of the relationships I still have today. (awwwww.) When she and Ben called last summer I was flattered - they definitely wanted me to be able to make the date and were considering my schedule in setting the wedding date. The drive from Homer to Seward definitely showed the variety of climates that can be found in Alaska, from coastal plains south of Kenai to Alpine meadows and forests north of Kenai. Tracy and I leisurely made our way across the ~130 miles between towns, stopping to check out small streams in the hope that we'd see salmon running, but we didn't come across any.

Tracy and I arrived into town a bit early and checked into our Bed and Breakfast. When we arrived, the lady of the house was outside to greet us. I had stayed in a B&B once prior, but it was nothing quite like this - I must say that this is the nicest accomodation we experienced ANYWHERE in Alaska, and it was also the most reasonably priced. If you're heading to Seward, I highly recommend Soo's.

Shortly after checking in, we met up with another of the wedding guests who was staying at our B&B and decided we'd carpool up to the the BBQ hosted by the bride's parents. We connected with a few others who hadn't rented cars and gave them a lift to dinner as well. At the BBQ It was great to be able to see many people in advance of the wedding - it gave everyone a chance to stuff their faces with absurd amounts of fresh red salmon (less than 24 hours dead, yumm) while catching up and having a few drinks. While catching up, I introduced Tracy to those she hadn't already met and we started talking about plans for the next morning - some had decided they wanted to hike up to Exit Glacier on the north side of town - we had decided that was something we wanted to do while in town, so we made plans to meet up the next morning for the hike, being sure to leave enough time to get ready prior to the ceremony.

The next morning at Soo's we were treated to a better breakfast than we could have imagined. Soo had laid out quite a spread, and this was the case every day. She always had "berry crunch", a blackberry/raspberry bread pudding that we ended up taking a "to-go" container of on our last morning.

After rendezvous with Nate, Les and Courtney, we headed out of town towards the road entrance to Kenai Fjords National park. After turning off of Seward highway and heading up the road about 4 miles, we came across this sight:

We knew this was going to be awesome right away.

Dork that I am, I strapped my Forerunner onto my wrist for the duration of the hike. The track and associated data can be viewed here: Our 5.5 mile hike afforded us beautiful views, some great exercise on an absolutely gorgeous, azure day that couldn't have been better.

I got to lick a glacier! Halfway up to the Ice Field

The 5 of us
(Les, Courtney, Nate, Tracy, and Me)

In all, it was a beautiful morning to go for a hike and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On the way back to town, we had to drop Courtney off into the bride's domain as she was no longer ours - bridesmaid duties were calling.

After lunch and a nap, we made our way to the Shuttle stop and went out to the Seward Windsong Lodge where the ceremony was to be held.

Ben was appropriately gussied up in a suit, and Aleta appeared in a dress (first time most people had seen her in a dress), the ceremony was traditional yet telling of the couple's personality... though I think Ben would have gotten some Bjork in there if Aleta wouldn't have killed him for it.

At the reception, Tracy had Halibut and I had Caribou. What else could have been appropriate for an Alaskan wedding? After eating, A&B cut the wedding pie (blackberry mmmmm) and it was served to all with a scoop of ice cream on top - delicious!

There was "dancing".

After pie was served, the crowd started to turn on one another... scotch was bought, shots were bought, embarrasing shots were bought for the groom to consume in front of his grandmother, shots were licked off of the groom... standard wedding fare, of course.

The rest is a blur. Soo's breakfast the next morning was pancakes - delicious little alcohol sponges.
See all the pictures from the trip:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Alaska: Kenai and Homer (July 15-17)

After arriving in Anchorage and melee fighting for our luggage, we secured a cab to the Airport in order to pick up our rental car... at the Hertz counter we were offered either a Taurus or a Minivan. Decisions, decisions! We opted for the Taurus, and to our surprise got a brand new one... brand new as in 7 miles on the odometer. Shiny new wheels beneath us, we made our way to The Car Whisperer's mother's house, where she so graciously offered to put us up for another night. We stopped for groceries along the way, and I managed to buy some of the most expensive apples in history... $4.49/lb. Yikes, $2/apple.

The next morning we set out for Kenai, an apparently beautimus day ahead of us. At the innermost point of the turnagain arm we stopped at a wildlife center that was much more like a zoo than we had expected... there's something unsettling about going all the way to Alaska in order to see moose, bear, etc behind bars. We snapped a few pictures but then quickly made our way up into the mountains towards Kenai.

The drive from Girdwood to Kenai was by far the most gorgeous countryside we've ever seen - the turquoise blue water of Kenai Lake and River are spectacular, add in the mountains and lush greenery and it's truly a gorgeous place.

We made our way into Kenai and were 3 miles on the other side of the town before we realized that we had driven through town - not much there at all. We swung back through and checked out our hotel... to our dismay it was in between a Home Depot and a Carls Jr. Since we weren't planning on fishing in Kenai and the town didn't have much else to offer, we decided to spend two nights in Homer and got back on the road.

Somewhere between Kenai and Homer, Tracy needed a restroom break... and we came across this place:

Why this sign indicated this was a reasonable place to stop, I'll never know.

We saddled up to the bar and ordered a few beers, then Tracy went to the restroom... while she was in the restroom there was a good bit of jeering and some snide comments about our attire (I don't think either of us own Carhartts, the apparent attire de rigeur). I drank my beer as quickly as possible and hinted to Tracy that she might do the same. Shortly after we made our way outta there.

Upon arriving in Homer, we decided we'd made the right decision to stay there for two nights. We drove out onto the spit and recognized that there was quite a bit to do there, and that we definitely wanted to go fishing. At The Car Whisperer's suggestion we stopped into the Salty Dawg, an infamous establishment out on the spit.
Words cannot describe the Dawg(maybe "low clearance"?, but you've just gotta go there if you're ever in Homer.
Bring a $1 bill to leave behind.

We checked into our hotel and wanted to go for a run, but the rain deterred us - we went out in search of food. We went into a liquor store for some wine, and the guy behind the counter suggested we head over to Duggan's since we were in the mood for burgers and beer. Since we're not used to smoky bars anymore it was a little off-putting at first, but it certainly didn't deter us. A guitar/singer duo were performing in the back room, so we made our way across the uneven floors and found a table in the back.

(On the topic of uneven flooring... what the hell? Why does it seem like buildings here are so slipshod? Is it a lack of care, skilled contractors, or building code?)

The next morning we slept in and decided we definitely wanted to fish that afternoon. I made a few calls and found a half-day halibut trip that had space on it. We knew it was going to be a bit of a rough ride, but had NO IDEA what we were actually embarking upon. We had a 1:45 trip out to the fishing grounds, which was no small feat in 4 foot seas... the tide was on its way out, but we were sailing into the wind, which combined for quite a rough ride. There were about 20 people on the boat including the three crew, and 12-15 of us ended up getting seasick. A few people started puking over the sides while on our way out, but after we dropped anchor the chunks really started to fly... it was quite a challenge to stabilize your body AND stomach with decks pitching and cookies being tossed. Neither Tracy nor myself had ever been seasick in the past, but these conditions proved too much for us and we fell victim to the conditions.

Despite feeling awful, Tracy managed to get the first fish of the trip! She landed a 20lb halibut - a freaky looking yet tasty seabeast that yielded 9lb of fillets. I managed to get a bunch of bites and had my bait (delicious herring) swiped numerous times, but only landed a rockfish. Once the tide had completed its shift, the seas got noticeably rougher and the Captain let us know that we needed to head back in - we pulled in our lines and headed back in. By the time the boat made it back in we were both feeling MUCH better, so we headed to our hotel, went for a run and called it a night.

See all the pictures from the trip:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mopeds and Bike Lanes

I saw this post from Lawyer Jim at Chicago Bike Law and was inspired... He's spot on - with gas prices escalating there are an increasing number of people riding scooters and mopeds in the bike lanes, and the drivers seem to be under the impression that it's their right to do so... I encountered a scooter in the bike lane when Southbound on Damen at Montrose, the exchange went something like this:

Me: "dude, you can't have that thing in the bike lane"
Dude: "what?" (we were at 17-20mph)
Me: "get that shit out of the bike lane, no motorized vehicles allowed"
Dude: "it's 49cc!"
Me: " doesn't matter, its got a motor. get outta the bike lane or I'm calling your plate in"

At that point, he did merge into the regular traffic lane and I kept on southbound... when I looked back a block later he was in the bike lane. I think he might have realized that my threat of calling in his plates was thinly veiled as he hadn't even registered the thing... it's likely he thinks that his 49cc scooter is exempt from all sorts of laws - perhaps due to an overzealous scooter salesman, who knows.

(to clarify, the only exemption provided by a 49cc you don't need a motorcycle endorsement on your license in order to operate it.)

Chicago Municipal Code:

9-40-060 Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited [as of March 2008]

The driver of a vehicle shall not drive, unless entering or exiting a legal parking space, or stand, or park the vehicle upon any on street path or lane designated by official signs or markings for the use of bicycles, or otherwise drive or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such path or lane. The driver of a vehicle shall not stand or park the vehicle upon any lane designated by pavement markings for the shared use of motor vehicles and bicycles, or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such lane. In addition to the fine provided in Section 9-4-025 of this Code, any vehicle parked in violation of this section shall be subject to an immediate tow and removal to a city vehicle pound or authorized garage.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alaska: Denali National Park (July 14)

When we checked in to our hotel, we received our tickets for the “Tundra Wilderness Tour” we had signed up for… the tickets indicated a 5:40am departure. Yeesh!

Knowing it would get cold long before dark, we changed and decided to
go for a run into Denali National Park before dinner. We started by running through “town” for the first .5mi or so, then turned and made our way into the park. After briefly looking at a park map, we settled on running the Horseshoe Lake path. At the top of the trail, we noticed a sign that indicated the trail would drop 200 feet over the next 60 meters. I’m not sure why they felt the need to mix measurement systems, but we kept on. As the trail started to descend, a tree root excised its revenge on humanity by reaching out and tripping Tracy. After bodysurfing about 10’, I helped her up and we surveyed the damage: she had the wind knocked out of her and a few bumps and scrapes but she was overall OK. We agreed to continue the rest of the way down to Horseshoe lake, where we hiked around a bit, encountering a few beaver in addition to a Cow Moose and her Calf. As we were sweaty and quickly getting cold, we made our way back to the hotel. Exhausted, we walked into town and surveyed our options, settling for Subway sandwiches as the only quick and easy option available.

We ate breakfast at the hotel and jumped onto our Tour shuttle around 5:30am. Our 8 hour tour would take us ~50 miles up the park road, a route only accessible by special permit (an effort to minimize the human impact on the park). Despite being a rainy, overcast day, we passed some gorgeous scenery that wasn’t slighted by the weather. We encountered Moose, Fox, Bear, Caribou, and Sheep along the trip. hey, bear.

There was also a rumored sighting of a TracyCaribou and an ErikMoose, but all we have are these blurry pictures... no hard evidence. :)

Upon returning from the cold, wet bus ride we warmed up in the hotel room and took a 3 hour nap. For dinner, it was off to the “World Famous” Salmon Bake.

After the Bake, we decided to see what the town had to offer. We perused the local shops and also explored the Denali Princess resort, which offered many amenities that our hotel certainly didn’t – it’s a very nice resort and seems specifically designed to keep many of it’s Cruise Passenger guests AT the resort instead of out at the local businesses. We found a bar and decided to do our own bar crawl of the town. After hitting both (ha!) bars, we bought a screw-top bottle of Pinot Grigio, wrapped it in a paper bag, and drank it as we walked back to our hotel… where we promptly passed the f out.

See all the pictures from the trip:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Alaska: Anchorage to Denali (July 11-13)

After a rather uneventful set of flights (Chicago, San Francisco, Anchorage) we finally made it! We checked into the Anchorage Days Inn around 1:30am and had a less than stellar experience... loud drunks clamoring about all night, toilets flushing, motorcycles noisily blasting through town... and our room faced the inside of the courtyard.

The next morning we set out in search of food and decided to walk down 5th street towards the taller buildings in town - surely we'd find something. Along the way, Tracy was quite impressed with the flowers everywhere… planters, hanging baskets – all in full bloom and quite colorful.

We stumbled across Midnight Sun cafe, a small locally owned place that served sausage and egg breakfast croissants. Our barista directed us to Anchorage’s weekend market where we were able to check out local arts, crafts, and some quite expensive produce. (Green Beans for $7.99/lb?!) At the market, we called The Car Whisperer’s parents who had graciously offered to show us around town and put us up for the evening – we coordinated to spend the remainder of the day with them.

After rendezvous with TCW’s parents, we explored the Port of Anchorage, the Ulu Knife Factory (Where we picked up a sweet Caribou bone knife) and headed north towards the Musk Ox Farm. Apparently these animals were native to Alaska at one point, but were hunted to the point of extinction. Thanks to some forward thinking conservationists, a herd was imported from Newfoundland and these animals are now present once again.

baby musk oxen at the oomingmak musk ox farm

The farm we visited harvests qiviut from the musk oxen and supplies this wool to a collective of native Alaskan women so they can knit the yarn into scarves, blankets, and other cold weather apparel. The material is incredibly soft, sustainably harvested without harm to the animal, and insulates 6x better than sheep wool by weight.

Next, we went up to Hatcher Pass and Independence Mine where we were able to learn about some of Alaska’s history during the gold rush of the early 20th century.

After exploring Independence Mine, we enjoyed a pot of fondue and some product of the 21st century’s “gold mine”, a California Chardonnay. After descending from Hatcher Pass, we went out to dinner with TCW’s parents and called it a night. The next morning we were up early so we could catch our 8am train up to Denali.

The Alaska Railroad is rich in history and there’s quite a bit written about it – I won’t attempt to recreate it here. Our train ride up to Denali was great, and I highly recommend that anyone going up to the park take the train. You won’t need a car when you get there as there are shuttles that run back and forth from the hotels to various restaurants and shops in “town”. In the eight hours you spend on the train, the staff will inform you as you pass historical sites, wildlife, and points of interest. There’s a lot of gorgeous countryside to see and taking the train is a wonderful, stress-free way to experience Alaska.

See all the pictures from the trip:

Friday, July 11, 2008


Tracy and I are off to Alaska today... we're ORD>SFO>ANC even though there's and ORD>ANC nonstop. Such is an itinerary booked with miles.

Pictures and tales are forthcoming.

See all the pictures from the trip:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Found: iPod. Slightly Flattened and generally F'd.

Found an iPod mini on the road today... all busted up but still kinda works.

This person has awful taste in music, even if this was only used for workouts. Lots of Nelly Furtado.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today's Parts Casaulty

Rode "the commute" with The Car Whisperer this morning, taking his preferred route. Just north of Devon/Milwaukee he takes the North Branch Trail/Bikepath. As we started out, he mentioned that there was an oily patch on a turn that was a little slippery. Not able to remember which turn it was, he mentioned that he had lost traction on it several times and had almost gone down. I thought we were in the clear after making the rather sharp left prior to the Caldwell Ave bridge approach... I was wrong. Just after coming down from the bridge there's another sharp left. Brian's about 30' in front of me and cautiously takes the corner... my wheels slip out from under me and I immediately recognized that I was going down.

A few choice profanities later, I get up and realize that the bike's ok aside from a few new scratches... my hip's not so fortunate. I've got a 4" diameter ground beef strawberry just below my hipbone, and I tore some serious holes in my bib shorts.

As we're heading West on Lake Ave in Glenview, I start to hear some rattling... maybe the crash knocked something loose. Thinking it's a bottle cage, we continue on. When we got to the office, I got off the bike and found that I had popped a spoke in my rear wheel. I've had problems with this wheelset in the past, and had just gotten it back from Alex. Since it wasn't wildly out of true, I solicited some ibuprofen from the kind ladies at the health center, and then continued on to the Old School route and back to the city. At the Winnetka 7-11 I stopped to refill my bottles and checked the wheel again. Another spoke. Both nipples are rattling around inside the wheel. Whee.

I open my rear brake and hobble home through the remainder of the North Shore and Evanston... must have been quite a side, bloody and dirty with a wobbly rear wheel. Not bad for 9:30am on a Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This needs to stop happening.

Anti-Dooring Campaign

Ok, so check this out. People are dying because drivers aren't paying attention when opening doors. Not cool in the least.

When you're getting in/out of your car, YOU have a legal duty to do so in a manner that does not interfere with other users of the road. Period. That dump truck is a hell of a lot easier to see than a kid on a bike, but they'll both rip the door off the car.

Be smart. Look before you open.

Riders - we need to be smart about this too. Drivers have other stuff on their mind, and it's unlikely that all drivers will suddenly have an epiphany about checking for cyclists. Stay out of the "Door Zone" and keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs that a door might open... movement inside the vehicle or brake lights suddenly switching off.

hipsternascar has a post up with all the details, but the idea is to get ~$600 raised so a bunch of these stickers can be printed up and spread around Chicago.

If you've got some extra cash laying around, you might just save someone's life.