Friday, December 28, 2007

Group Ride: Miami Style


Who needs a trade show when you can go on a group ride in Miami the day after Christmas? Never have I seen so many amazing bikes on a single group ride. Pinarello and BMC seemed to be the flavour of choice among this crowd. There was more bling on that ride than in a master’s cat 5 race in the mid-Atlantic …if you know what I mean ….and I think you do.


In addition to the rolling trade show, the group ride came complete with its own neutral support and pace moped. I managed to snap a photo of the pace “car”, but was unable to capture the wheel moped on film. I'm not altogether sure why so much support was needed for a ride that ultimately amounts to riding up and down the the Rickenbacker Causeway. I could just station my grandmother at one end in a lawn chair with a host of wheels and call it good. But this is Miami, and everything seems to be taken up a notch down here.
So, if you missed Interbike this year, don’t stress, just join the folks on the Wednesday morning group riding leaving from Don Pan in South Miami at 6:30am. Don't bother with extra tubes but do be sure to bring your blinky lights!

Miami Christmas

Now that it is only my father’s side of the family residing in Miami, the holidays are much less stressful. No longer will I have to tromp all over the city in a desperate effort to appease the demands of both sides of the family.

The holiday festivities began with Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) at Rosa’s house where we enjoyed a beautiful meal prepared in the traditional Cuban style complete with roasted pork, black beans and rice, and (my favorite) cassava . Ana, Betty and I were relegated to the kid’s table and enjoyed an evening of catching up on the details of our lives. We also discussed recent predictions from the Magic Eight Ball concerning our parent’s engagement. Will this be the year?!!! Following dinner I joined my father at church where he sang at the evening Christmas service. How regal he looks in that robe!


On Christmas day Ana, Betty and I held our breath with every gift their mother opened wondering if the next might be an engagement ring. (I don’t think my dad actually reads my blog, so I feel comfortable speaking freely) And so, Christmas came and went without a proposal, but “all signs point to yes” for New Years!
I started Christmas day off with a beautiful morning ride out to Key Biscayne where my father and I met up at my grandmother’s place. It is now too difficult to transport her to the “main land” which means that our Christmas with her was boiled down to a quiet morning of exchanging gifts and limited communication. On the way back Dad and I experimented with a little car vs. bike race. Dad won by 25 minutes. If traffic had been a little heavier I totally would have beat him!


Upon our return home we all set to work making Christmas dinner. Dad was showered with praises for his gravy and stellar turkey carving skills. Rosa buzzed around the kitchen keeping everything on track. I think Abuela Rosa indulged in a little more coquito. Ana, Betty, and I were upgraded to the adult table. Tio Carlos spent most of the evening shuttling family throughout the city. And Benji and Eddie made loud boisterous conversation that added to the festive nature of the evening.


So, the gringos and the Cubans spent yet another happy holiday together. Our families seem to blend together as smoothly as my father’s award winning gravy that poured in copious amounts from its festive Christmas boat.



Holiday Rides

My holiday riding regime consisted of a Christmas Eve ride, a Christmas morning ride, and a day after Christmas group ride. The Christmas Eve ride was not particularly note worthy save for the ingenious dog transport wagon I happened upon on my way home:










Oh, and my detour to Bill Baggs State Park:












My Christmas morning ride was disguised as “environmentally friendly transport to Grandma’s house” out on Key Biscayne. I also met a family of cycling fanatics along the way. What a fabulous way to spend Christmas morning!











Oh, and it turns out Sean Taylor lived in my dad’s neighborhood (a morbid photo really):













As for the day after Christmas ride …it gets its own heading. (see above)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lutherans

In the past few years my father has become rather active in the church choir. This sounds quite wholesome; however, bear in mind that these are Lutherans we are talking about. The choir director of this motley crew is more or less the rock star of the Lutheran choral scene in Miami. During one of his many choir parties he insisted that my father accept one of his most prized paintings as a gift. A generous gesture indeed! This was not just any painting! No, this was a rather large portrait of a nude woman with all the class of a 1970’s gentlemen’s club on the outskirts of town.

Upon the arrival of this elaborate gift there was great deliberation as to where to hang it. After convincing my father that Rosa surely was joking when she suggested that he hang it in the living room next to the portrait of my great, great grandmother, he finally decided upon the guest room as its proper home. By coincidence, the guest room also happens to be where I reside when visiting my father.

I have come to know her as “Sasha.” She smiles down on me in my slumber and guards my dream life from evil. I wish there was a deep take home message in this story, but I’m really not sure that there is one. Try as I might, there is no part of Sasha that I can translate into any semblance of a female role model. Sasha is just a friendly reminder of those crazy Lutherans, their lively choir parties, and curious taste in art.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Graduation Day!!!

Congratulations to Eric Roman as he graduates with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Penn State! Who knew moving to State College would lead to this?! I think I can speak for the D.C. cycling community when I say that we are all very proud of you!

Congratulations Eric!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the Hill

Capitol Christmas Tree (product of Vermont)


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Harvey and Ruth

Happy Anniversary!!!! Harvey and Ruth (my grandparents) have now been married for 68 years!!! They originally met at a dance in Auburn, Indiana in the 1930s. This was the age of the Big Bands and dancing was a key factor in selecting a life mate. My grandmother was still in high school and my grandfather was going into his second year at Indiana University. For Ruth, it was not exactly love at first sight as he was not the most impressive of dancers. However, Harvey was indeed smitten. It was not until my grandmother began her own studies in psychology at IU that they started dating. They were married by the end of her sophomore year and together they moved to Philadelphia where my grandfather attended pharmacy school. Upon his graduation they headed down to Miami where my grandfather took on the family business. (photo taken on Lake Wissahickon in Philadelphia)

In the age of disposable marriages, I am in complete awe of the life they have shared. Of all the essential components that come together to make a lasting marriage, I believe humor has been the centerpiece for Harvey and Ruth. Never have they forgotten how to laugh, how to find the humor in the darkest of times, and how to let this humor melt away any residue of resentment that might dwell in their hearts.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HARVEY AND RUTH!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kelley Acres

Last Saturday some of my teammates and I headed north to the hills of Maryland where we met at the home of Chris Kelley for one of her famous group rides. The ride was the perfect combination of crisp winter weather, clear blue skies, friendly chatter, good climbs, Civil War battlefields, and a store stop at Sheetz (the most amazing gas station ever.) Upon our return we were all treated to a warm bowl of beef stew courtesy of Mr. Kelley and his industrial stove. Many thanks to Chris and her husband! Can’t wait for next time!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cooperate!

There are clearly some unresolved issues in our office that were not addressed during Conflict Resolution Day.




Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Oops, I forgot to post this last Friday. In the spirit of resource conservation, fiscal prudence, and consumer cleansing, National Buy Nothing Day occurs once a year on the Friday following Thanksgiving; a brilliant response to a day heretofore dedicated to celebrating extreme American materialism. Buy Nothing Day (BND) is the brain child of Canadian artist Ted Dave and was first celebrated in 1992. Since then Adbusters has been responsible for launching it as an annual event. Mark your calenders for next year!!!

American Gluttony

On the surface this photo may look like yet another one of Bush’s zany holiday antics; however, a closer appraisal will reveal that it is indeed a secret message from the government. It seems that they are trying to warn us of the dangers of American Gluttony wherein the turkey, symbolizing America’s insatiable appetite for power and money, is ultimately the source of our demise as it attempts to take Bush’s manhood. The writing is on the wall. Who will stop this train of American Gluttony from barreling through the walls of humanity?!!!!
(photo courtesy of politicalhumor.about.com)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans can often go awry…and so the story goes. I recently returned from The Netherlands where I was visiting my good friend Hieke. The last time we parted was about a year and a half ago in JFK airport. It’s always so exciting to see an old friend after an extended period of time. Once the rush of emotion had settled it was almost as though we picked up where we left our last conversation and never skipped a beat. Many of our original plans for this visit did not come to pass, but such is life. The palm tree can sustain hurricane force winds because it bends with the wind…and so too do Hieke and I when it comes to traveling.

To give a detailed account of our travels would take more time than I’m willing to invest in my humble blog….and more information than my devoted readers are willing to read. So, I will try to give you the Reader’s Digest version:

Upon my arrival in Amsterdam we took a train to her parent’s house outside the Friesen town of Leeuwarden. It was here that I finally got to meet her entire family (parents, 4 sisters and their boyfriends):













I entertained myself in Amsterdam on Monday while Hieke was at work:
















We did a bit of sight seeing in Gouda and the Haag while on our way back up to Leeuwarden:




























Hieke
’s mother took us on a tour of Friesland….











































We went to tour Castle de Haar…I forgot my camera….the tour sucked…Hieke complained and they gave us a free book.
















Another day bee-bopping around Amsterdam while Hieke was at work…






















The antithesis of the mini van....











A house warming party with Hieke’s closest friends…and a lot of Heineken, salami, and pickles.











Stopped of in Antwerp on our way to Gavere for a UCI CX race…












Cyclocross - Superprestige #3 Gavere, Belgium!!!!!!!
(unfortunately my camera wasn’t working so well and my photos aren’t so great)

































Ode to a Belgian Cross Race

Entry tickets sold for 10 Euros.
Shuttle buses to transport the masses.
Entire families clad in warm clothes and muck boots.
Old ladies in fur coats proudly waving the flag of Flanders.
Red nosed old men vicariously living out the days of their youth.
Struggling through the crowds for a chance to join in the heckling.
Gaunt amateurs dreaming of their day to shine.
Drunken singing down the streets of Gavere.
Belgian cross racing at its finest.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Off to Amsterdam!!!

You may be wondering why I have been spelling things with a touch of euro flair lately (such as flavour, colour, labour) It is all part of the preparation for my upcoming trip to The Netherlands where I am to visit my good friend Hieke (other preparations include investing in some stylish dress up shoes and waxing my eye brows.)

Hieke and I became friends while living together in South Africa a few years ago. She was there doing HIV/AIDS research and I was doing my master's research in agroforestry (sustainable ag. stuff). True to her nation’s philanthropic legacy (which followed that nasty stint of raping and pillaging) she spent her weekends volunteering in a local AIDS orphanage, while I was the typical competitive, gas guzzling American and spent my weekends traveling to mountain bike races. My racing life and research life created an interesting juxtaposition as I was welcomed into two very different demographics, the white Afrikaners and the native South Africans. (patriotic condom photo courtesy of Hieke)

…where was I? Oh yes, so I’m off to see Hieke! Our schedule is loosely structured, but includes the following items:

- Watch the Charles Taylor Case (Liberian President) at the Hague
- Explore Amsterdam
- Short trip to Paris

Expect a full report upon my return on November 19!

Hieke being the philanthropic Dutch Woman:











Me being the competitive American:










Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Labour of Luv


After several months of research and planning my new mountain bike is a reality!!!! I took great time and care to consider all my options before hopping back into the mountain bike market. I am a lover of the aluminum hard tail and unfortunately this is no longer the focal point of most bike manufacturers. Today the big money is in things like full suspension, carbon, titanium, and tricked-out single speeds. To which I respond:

Full Suspension: too busy
Carbon: too fragile
Titanium: too expensive
Tricked-out Single Speeds: too Roman

Call me a Plain Jane, but I have a true appreciation for the simplicity of the aluminum hard tail. In my search for the perfect frame with an appealing color scheme my attention was drawn to the Kona Kula Supreme…which happens to be composed of scandium (located between calcium and titanium on the periodic table). It also happens to be incredibly light…which could prove to be a problem when I go bashing through my beloved rock gardens…I’ll be interested to see how it holds up. Once I made my frame selection it was time to make an inventory of those parts from my old bike that were salvageable. The list was as follows:

Old Parts to Harvest:


Fork
Bars
Stem
Grips
Shifters
Brakes
Seat Post
Saddle
Peddles
Tires
Skewers

I then comprised a list of new parts to order. With Eric’s help I was able to find those parts that were both economically sensible as well as light and durable.

New Parts to Order:

Front Derailleur: Shimano XT
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT (the new shadow kind)
Crank Set: Truvative – team GXP
Cassette: Shimano XT
Chain: SRAM
Front Hub: WTB
Rear Hub: WTB
Rims: Velocity (Electric Blue)
Spokes: Whale Bone (just to see if you’re paying attention)
Cables and Housing

Eric Roman was kind enough to build up the wheels as well as combine this anthology of parts into what I have come to know as my NEW BIKE!!!! It was truly a labour (notice the euro spelling) of love. It is the perfect combination of style, sensibility, and durability (let’s hope!) I can’t wait to ride it! Stay tuned for updates on how thin scandium tubes holds up to east coast rock gardens!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Solar Decathlon: Off the grid

The Solar Decathlon, a collegiate competition in green design, is soon to come to a close as the final judging is schedule to take place today at 2pm. Located on the National Mall, you will find a neighborhood of solar paneled homes completely self sufficient in their energy production. It is a sort of Amish space age. Each home was designed and constructed by university students and they are judged according to 10 criteria (hence decathlon) which include architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, and getting around.

Over the past two years students from a variety of educational disciplines have poured countless hours into this competition. During my lunch with the Stoltzfus clan (see story below) we were joined by two ladies from the Penn State crew, Autumn and Nelsa. They were particularly impressed with the camaraderie among the teams and the admiration for each school’s creativity and design. From them I also learned that the competition guidelines suggest the cost of the home not exceed $350,000; however many universities have gone well beyond the recommended ceiling. This is a rather large price tag for a dwelling no larger than 800 square feet. I believe the economics of green living will prove to be the largest hurdle to sustainability. Hopefully this technology will become more affordable with time and increased demand. (UC Boulder's submission pictured above)

Nevertheless, it is an inspiration to see what a can be done with solar power. The green design revolution has made tremendous progress in recent years, inching ever closer to main stream society. Perhaps these homes will become the norm in the not too distant future?!

The Solar Decathlon will be open for observation until this coming Saturday. Try to make it out there if you can!!!

JuJo Farms Comes to Washington

My friends from JuJu farms (Judy, Jonas, and Megan) made the journey from Perry County to D.C. today in order to observe the green ingenuity of the Solar Decathlon displayed on the front lawn of our nation’s capitol. While they were here I had the pleasure of lunching with them at Ella’s Wood-fired Pizza. According to various websites Ella’s is one of the top pizzerias in the country….and we were not disappointed. It is most definitely a fine pizza establishment.

A classic case of the country mouse and the city mouse; it was quite a change of pace for me to be showing them around the city…rather than them showing me around their farm. I think Jonas was particularly impressed with the loud raucous group of protestors marching outside an office building. If it weren’t for the goats and cows waiting back at home to be milked I’m sure Jonas would have also procured a pickle bucket and joined in the fun.

While it was a short visit it was so good to see them all. It was nice to show them the urban jungle where I work and live. I look forward to my next visit to their farm. Its wood chopping season and I have some frustrations to work out.

Conflict Resolution Day!!!

Happy Conflict Resolution Day! It is again that hallowed time of year when we all dig out our deep-seated resentments and resolve those conflicts that eat away at the fabric of our lives. In honor of this very special day our office will be hosting a Sumo Wresting party where rivals are finally given an opportunity to lay their frustrations on the line as the Japanese once did during their Shinto rituals (see photo below). Check out this website to find the Conflict Resolution Day Celebration nearest you: http://www.acrnet.org/crday//crday/
It should be a good day!!!
(staghen.lastminute.com)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Parallels

I hate to brag and I try to be humble, but I am extremely proud of my parallel parking skills. In fact, I think I am the most skilled parallel parker I know. It's an important skill. It takes keen eye-hand coordination as well as a certain amount of style and grace. Perhaps I place too much importance on such a simple skill, but I truly believe that one's ability to parallel park is indicative of their depth of character. Ok...maybe that's a little too far. Let me just say that if I were on a first date with someone who demonstrated a deficiency in this area...it would be a major turn off. My ideal mate is someone who can parallel park with charisma and flare, someone who changes their own oil, someone who buys only generic brands from the grocery store. This is the stuff of character! Below I have provided an example of some of the work I do. Notice the precision in this particular piece...

back.... and front








Helpful Guidelines:
(courtesy of Honda) Major style points are lost due to the following common mistakes:

1) hitting the curb
2) excessive inching forward and backward
3) extreme apprehension of hitting the car behind