Monday, April 28, 2008


It started Friday with the World Rhythm Festival at Seattle where Bake's school had a fieldtrip. Lots of drumming which was cool, Bake took a couple dance classes, and at one point, a giant chess game broke out. Which leads us to ... Saturday, and the Washington State Elementary Chess Championships held at some church in Redmond. (That's Jen during a warm-up game with Bake.) Some 1,400 players were there, grades K though 6. It was intense, exciting, and exhausting. Bake hung with his buddie Tristan with whom Bake plays on the Roosevelt Elementary Chess Club. (Cedartree Montessori doesn't have a team but Roosevelt was nice enough to invite Bake to join theres.)
It was Bake's first trip to state, but he did really well, winning three games out of five. For that he scored a trophy, thus we agreed to give him something to eat as well as a ride home. (Sly, winking-type emoticon thing goes here.)
Our hotel room, by the way, had two (counte 'em, two) huge flat-screen TVs. A tad excessive, I must say.Chess was Saturday. Sunday I went down for the Vance Creek (Masters C/D) Road Race in Elma, held in the shadows of that daunting Three-Mile Island-looking thing. Which is apparently mothballed, as I kept hearing it referred. The race had 100 riders and I was one of about seven or eight Fanatiks. It was going to be a learning experience--what's my role here?--so I was eager for that.
John Kodin and Chad Clarke were deemed the strongest and we'd try to protect them, was the plan I'd heard. I'd watch what the other Fanatiks did and try to do the same. The field was huuuge, like 100 riders, and about a mile into it we started a fast, 42-plus mph descent. With lots of gravel on the side of the road and twitchy riders here and there (myself included) it made for an exciting (that is, somewhat frightening) start.

I dun my best to stay near the front, heard the sickening sounds of a crash or two behind me and tried not to suffer too much up what was a pretty big hill. Second time through (it was a three-lap course), I was feeling like I wasn't really contributing at all. (Several of the other Fanatiks were at the very front, pulling through and taking flyers--Tim Reinholtz, Tom Fryer, etc.--but I couldn't quite get there.) As we approached the hill the second time, I wondered if it would be at all helpful for me to just attack off the front, as it were, even if it was somewhat phony baloney. I mean, wouldn't someone from another team go after me and then other Fanatiks could get on his wheel? And wouldn't that be a good thing?

So that's what I did. Pretended I was Fabian C. and went for it. It's funny you feel like you're the king of the world for maybe 30, 45 seconds, riding away--Look Ma, I'm in the lead!--and then you turn around and there's a long line behind you, and you know that in a minute or two (I had no concept of time) you're gassed. And that on this Vance Creek course, you've got a big hill coming right up. But, after I was caught and passed, a couple teammates said "Good job, Mike" and one guy on another team said, "Wo, I thought you were gone," which made me feel good. (I'll take what I can get.)

I was pretty beat starting the third lap and had trouble getting back up toward the front for a long time. Nearing the end, just after a turn, there was a mad scramble to counter the inevitable accordian effect. Just ahead on the straightaway that followed, there was again that sickening smack, someone went airborne and then a vast growing rat's nest of bikes radiating out on all sides. A huge pileup. I was kind of pushed into the gravel on the side of the road and watched as some dude ended up about 20 feet down in a ditch. And of course all the other riders who missed the crash stopped to make sure everyone was OK.

No, that's not true at all. Everyone who didn't go down took off like hell and it was a mad dash to catch up with those who'd been riding ahead of the crash and were now far in the distance. Tom Fryer was like a man possessed, a veritable freight train. I latched onto his wheel and we regained contact with the main group.

Nearing that last hill, I saw that Kodin and Clarke were still near the front and did the same thing I did on the previous lap. Kinda took a flyer for a bit, knowing I had no chance of maintaining it and that I would pay for it by probably finishing near the back of the pack. And that's what happened.

I haven't seen results but I heard Kodin might've been about 12th with Fryer just a few places behind him. Great job. My computer said 39 miles in like 1:40; average speed of 23.5 mph which, to me, just sounds fast.

Afterwards, there were many complaints about the race. Mainly about the downhill start--100 riders going 42 mph at the start of a race; many of whom, including myself, are Cat 5s--and that with such a large field, the races should've been broken up between Cs and Ds. I'm still a new enough racer that I don't have a lot to compare it to, but I will say there sure seemed to be a lot of crashes.

Lastly, here's how to ollie:
First you go like this. (See above.) Then you go like that. (See below.)
Lastly, you end up in the air like this:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Huuuuge thrill. I'd written an essay about my father and read it last night during a live taping of the Chuckanut Radio Hour ( at Bellingham's Leopold ballroom. Packed house too, like 300 people. Headed up by Chuck and Dee Robinson of Village Books fame (, the show is kind of a local rendering of "A Prairie Home Companion" complete with live music, comedy skits, readings, etc.

Doug Fine, author of "Farewell My Suburu" (, a humorous tome about living green on his ranch in New Mexico, was the featured author/interviewee. Other performers being the venerable Robert Muzzy, the hilarious Alan Rhodes, the dextrous guitarist Walt Burkett and a bunch of others. It was really, really cool being onstage with so many talented local folks.

The show airs Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. on KRME, 102.3 FM. It's show 15, I believe, and I'm on just after the intermission, about halfway. But listen to the whole thing; the show's great! There's also a way to listen to it via the magic of the Superduper International Worldwide Innerwebber thingee but I've not figured it out. Here's that:
Big weekend coming up. Bake's school has a field trip on Friday down to the World Rhythm Festival ( at Seattle Center. Saturday, it's the Washington State Elementary Chess Championships ( in Redmond, and Sunday I'm hoping to do the Vance Creek Master C's race down in WayDownSouthSomewhere, Washington.

Below, apropos of almost nothing, is another video of one of my New Jersey rides from about 10 days ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The Bake boy and I traveled east to the Garden State for a week to visit family, in particular me ailing pa who does not do well right now. But, as fellow Jersey-ite Tony Soprano would say, What'ya'gonna do?

Perhaps to distract myself from the serious nature of our visit, I borrowed a bike from Chris Kunkel, with whom I graduated Hoval some twenty-nine years ago. He's a Cat 3 racer who recently scored an Orbea Orca. (Lucky Bastard.) He leant me his steel Independant Fabrication ride, which was great fun. That's me above posing rather uncomfortably in front of the Musconetcong River. Despite what you may have heard about New Jersey, there are some really beautiful parts as hopefully these photos show. We stayed at my lovely sister Kath's house (that's how she makes us adress her, Lovely Sister Kath) in Port Murray, a bustling hub of about 6 in Warren County. It's New Jersey's Skylands, as they call it, and while maybe that's a bit hyperbolic it is hilly and mucho pretty.
The hills be not big nor is they long but they're relentless if, like me, you look for narrow, off-the-beaten-path roads. Of which there are hundreds. Many with interesting names like Foul Rift Road. (Near Belivdere on the Delaware River). Above is Guinea Hollow Road, near Cokesbury and Califon. These are tiny towns settled in the late 1600s, early 1700s and the roads I rode were probably traveled by Hessians and Revolutionary War types back in the day.
Chris's bike didn't have an odometer but I had my altimeter and as I said (did I?) I looked for hills. I climbed some 11,000 feet in the three rides I took which probably totalled 120 miles. So that's about the same as RAMROD. (Which I found out the day before I left that I got into--Woohoo!) Unlike RAMROD (, these are short and steep, not at all long and sustained. I'd be cruising along the Musconetcong at an elevation of 400, then take a right up some winding road and in not much more than a mile, I'd be at 1,000. So it was alot of that--steep ups, steep downs. (Perfect training for Western's North Shore race, which was cancelled last month because of snow.) The photo just above is Turkey Top Road near Beattystown. Did I mention that Chris's rear casette was a 12-23?

Lots of these roads are on the Hillier Than Thou Ride, a killer, hilly painfest put on each September by the Central Jersey Bicycle Club ( One of these years I plan on coming back and riding it though I think it's usually the same day as the Mount Baker Hill Climb ( On our last full day, Baker and I got in an awesome hike to the top of Point Mountain, which overlooks much of the Musconetcong Valley. It required a little bit of rock scrambling but boy, was it fun. To cap it off, later that night I found a deer tick on my back. Fingers be crossed that I don't succumb to the dread Lyme Disease. And of course let's redirect our hailing from Stijn Devolder to Tom Boonen who, last Sunday, took his second Paris-Roubaix! Can't wait to watch it on Sunday on Versus (

Monday, April 07, 2008


It all started when our friend Deb, who's a kind-of Feng Shui-Declutter Nazi, convinced Jen that she just had to have claw foot tub. Upon purchase, the tub sat in our living room for months. ...

Then a contractor dude was called in. The demo, as those dang remodel shows on HGTV call it, was next. ...
Then painting and a new floor. Here, an overeager Jen thinks the new tub has already been installed but alas, she's mistaken. ...
Floormaster John Clark was brought in to fix a misplaced hole that was cut in the marmoleum. ...
Vwala! (Voila!) Almost. ...
Here, I try to make a call on the fancy-pants plumbing fixture. ... Bake enjoys a bath in the new claw foot tub apparatus thing. Oh joy! Personally, I'm afraid to go near the thing. But maybe that's just me.
And of course, let us all hail Stijn Devolder who won yesterday's Tour of Flanders. Incredible race and great jersey too.
Speaking of cycling, Floormaster Clark, Scott Young and I have gotten out on some great rides recently. Saturday, we rode the Donut then north to Semiahmoo. Tom Fryer and Steve Vanderstay joined us. Great fun. About 60 miles in all.
Bake and I are off to New Jersey for a week to visit me da. An old high school buddy has a bike I can use so I hope to get some riding in. Should be good; Jersey's got some great rolling hills!