Monday, December 30, 2013

For the love of . . . take my advice. Please.

I normally try to write this blog on the day of a ride, but a couple of circumstances conspired against it: 1) I woke at 1:30 am on Sunday morning and never went back to sleep (not as a result of any crisis, but as the now expected, not infrequent, manifestation of my whacky sleep schedule and chronic primary insomnia); 2) there was football, 10 and a half hours of it, that needed watching. I was too exhausted to compose any intelligible account of yesterday's ride without sleep. In fact, I only made it through about eight hours of football before it was lights out.

Saturday's Giro was rained out, which would customarily result in heavy attendance on Sunday morning, but the weather (foggy, misty, 48°, with NW winds at 14), and perhaps the season, kept all but 21 cyclists otherwise occupied. Before the start I was concerned about riding east in a following wind with guys who hadn't had their standard weekend dose of miles, but the pace on Hayne wasn't too bad.

Somewhere near Paris Road, Brian B. (not MD) started complaining about what struck me as highly unusual (both physically and metaphysically) if not downright incredible: he said his bike was moving sideways. While I in no wise question his concern, several people were unsettled by his decision to stop in the middle of the turn onto Paris Road to investigate the unnatural phenomenon. In any event, the unsolved mystery did briefly reduce the pace of the southbound leg of the ride.

I have a recurring nightmare wherein, like Burgess' Alex (1), I am strapped in a chair with my eyelids propped open and forced to watch a looped video of some fool cyclist being road-killed like an opossum while trying to cross the high-speed access ramp from I-10 to I-510. This week's game of chicken was played with one of those pickup trucks on steroids pulling a large flatbed trailer at about 70 mph. Don't people realize there is a better than even chance the driver has been up all night or is in the middle of a text message or has just dropped into his lap a hunk of burning cannabis out of the poorly-rolled doobie he's about done with? I wish, for my sake if not their own, people would quit the craziness.

Watching Ray, uh . . . I'm not sure. Could be praying or thanking his lucky stars he made it across the ramp on 510.
The service road felt like one long sprint, as usual, and, as we negotiated the traffic onto Chef Hwy, it was apparent a couple of people had disappeared. Then something remarkable occurred, something so noteworthy even HL said it would demand mention in this space: HL rode up near the front and asked the group to wait as two people were off the back! I'm not certain if it was an expression of true Christmas spirit on HL's part, or if his good-tidings-to-all gesture would have happened if one of the separated riders hadn't been Sherri. I do know his lingering holiday warmth was not shared by all as Kenny B. was heard to respond to his request with, "She knows the way."

 The ride out to the turnaround was winter-paced with a half-hearted acceleration and sprint at Venetian Isles. The weather improved all morning -- the road was drying, skies were clearing. Inbound, the pace remained mellow until we passed the Vietnamese shops and things began to wind up for the sprint. Because I had felt comfortable coming in, I got into the rotation. Big mistake. I was on V.J.'s wheel and, as he pulled over, I quickly realized that my theretofore comfort was because the group had been fighting a rather brisk headwind which I hadn't experienced from the cozy regions near the back of the bunch. V. J. must have thought I was just trying to ride next to him, but I was murdering myself to accelerate beyond his wheel and get off. When I finally did, I was on the front for about five seconds, which felt like an hour. Then V. J. came around me at a good clip trailing the single line of riders into the crossing headwind which meant that the tail end was all the way over at the centerline of the highway, seemingly about a mile from where I was struggling for oxygen. As we approached the Chevron station, I was only few feet off the back but, at the limit of effort, being off the back into a headwind by a few feet is like being off a mile.

I decided to see if, by leisurely proceeding to Bullard before turning north, I could get my heartrate down to something sustainable. I was eventually successful in that endeavor and additionally enjoyed the unexpected perquisite of finding myself arriving at Hayne about the same time as two very fit women on TT bikes, who I followed, trance-like, until rejoining the group as it came barreling past in several pieces between the bridges.

On Lakeshore Drive, Racer X (aka the Bashful Artist) and Rob K. independently commented on my new shoes, which I found somewhat surprising since my riding a few weeks earlier with one silver and one black shoe as a result of an inadvertent wardrobe malfunction was not commented upon at all, by anyone. Also on Lakeshore I was subjected to a second application of the Ludovico Technique (2) when a younger rider, with whom I am almost entirely unacquainted, churlishly began, and continued at some considerable length, describing for me and anyone else within earshot the details and frequency of certain bedroom antics in which he engages with his spouse. If there is anything my advancing years have taught me, it is that, aside from being distastefully boorish, such behavior, like playing chicken with huge, speeding, trailer-towing pickups, is ultimately hazardous to your health.

Trying to distract myself from what was being told, I started thinking about a news item(3) of the last century which so unsettled me at the time it moved me to write, almost precisely twenty years ago, a small poem. I share it here in the hope that my advice against  publicly discussing the habits of the marital bedroom (and for that matter, playing chicken with trucks) might be heeded:

by David J. L'Hoste

I'm not sure I can cope with the news
Of the man and his wife and the knife,
Of the rape and the tale that ensues,
Of the couple's disrupted home life.

After drinking a few he came looking for love,
And his wife's ardent NO he ignored so says she.
After having his way, he climbed down from above,
And he slept with no dreams of catastrophe.

Into kitchen she strode and returned with a blade.
With a flick to his flesh into hands came his glans,
And while driving away she flung gobbet in glade,
Where it stayed till she phoned in her plans.

In the weeds it was found and then dunked into ice.
Then to doctors it went to be sewed to the bump
That was left on the man who had paid a dear price
For the pleasure he got in exchange for a stump.

I first heard of this tale via fax,
Which was sent by my wife, who's topnotch.
Ever since, it's been hard to relax,
While I sleep with my hand on my crotch.

= = 

 Alex is the villainous anti-hero in The Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

2. "The Ludovico Technique is a fictional aversion therapy from the novel A Clockwork Orange administered by Dr. Brodsky with the approval of the UK Minister of the Interior. It involved forcing a patient to watch, through the use of specula to hold the eyes open, violent images for long periods of time, while under the effect of a nausea-inducing drug. The aim of the therapy is to make the patient experience severe nausea when experiencing or even thinking about violence, thus creating an aversion to violent behaviour." Source (wikipedia).

3. The case of John Bobbitt and Lorena Bobbitt, wherein, on the evening of  June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt amputated her husband's penis and threw it into a field as she drove away from their home. She was later acquitted of any crime. Soucre (wikipedia). Source (NY Times).

[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything contained herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last Ride?

My last check of the weather before the ride showed a mild-for-December 57° with 7 mph SE winds. I was probably a little over-dressed with leg warmers and a long-sleeve base layer, a fact Rich was more than happy to point out shortly after I met him on Lowerline. Most of the chatter of late has been speculation about when the levee as we have known it will be no more. It is imminent. Climbing up the levee I could see new fencing had been installed to prevent levee access once the impending construction begins.
Brian, Max, Seattle Mike, the top of Vega's helmet, Ray, Rich, CA Rick, Woody, and Daniel

  There were 10 of us at the start, with the notable absence of Randy. We picked up HL, Lenny, and Keith N. at the playground. The first four or five miles of the ride were very steady with a seasonally appropriate pace. It was very pleasant. Then, having had more than enough of all the pleasantness, up the left side came HL for a twenty-second surge, which immediately altered the previously mellow moods of Daniel and Woody. I was still in the rotation but rapidly becoming uncomfortable as the pace rose. Next time through, when I was third or fourth person from the front, I was about fully cooked and having an increasingly difficult time maintaining contact with the wheel I was on, as Woody or Daniel, I can't remember which, amped it up still more. I moved left and waved the rider behind me through. About two riders passed, then HL, who gave me a double stink eye. It was stink eye, turn away, turn back, another stink eye.

I guess HL thought I was disrupting the paceline by voluntarily avoiding the front. What HL didn't know was that I got out with no intention of disrupting the line but only to prevent the interruption which surely would have followed my spewing a belly full of blueberries and Heritage flakes all over the eight or nine riders behind me. He couldn't have known I had enjoyed last evening a double ration of grog at the holiday gathering of the Nu Wave Masters Swimming Club and was feeling a wee bit bilious. What I didn't know was that eight or nine riders were not behind me, only three, then nothing but empty levee. Brian, CA Rick, Keith, Vega: gone, gone, gone, gone.

So now I feel like the man overboard watching the ship slowing pulling away with no hope of seeing it again. Then I see the guy I would later learn to be Mike from Seattle, who's on an ancient, fluorescent-pink Klein with downtube shifters, also get surprised by the empty space where the rest of the line should have been, and he's off the back, too. So I settle in on his wheel and figure it's him and me for the long haul, but he's got other ideas and stands up on this old aluminum frame and starts pedaling like hell. Well, he pulls me up to the group, almost killing me and I'm sure himself in the process.

Amazingly, the group hadn't slowed but was actually going faster and as soon as we were on again things started to unravel. A couple of people started losing contact, then Max is next to me, talking to me, but I'm not really listening, I'm trying to breathe. Finally I understand he's asking me where Vega went, but I just stare at him trying to breathe. Max curses and sits up. Now I'm thinking if Max is going back for Vega, he better hurry because Vega is probably putting his bike in his truck by now.

So it's Seattle Mike and me once more. But only 50 meters up the road is Lenny, who we join and the three of us start to work a little bit. I say a little bit because Seattle Mike pulled for a while then I went around him and got on the front, then, all of a sudden, Seattle Mike and Lenny are both out of their saddles sprinting away from me. So I say, "Really?" But nobody's there to hear me.

Brian and Seattle Mike
 Pretty soon Brain came by, and I got on his wheel. He pulled me up to Seattle Mike and Lenny. Lenny turned at the Little Dip. Just on the other side of the Luling bridge, the three of us came upon Woody changing a flat.

Could that be the stink eye?

Apparently Vega didn't get the bike in the truck because he and Max rode up after a short while. To be fair, Vega probably deserves a pass since lately he has been suffering a physical infirmity 1 of a delicate nature which I have much difficulty thinking about much less describing here. With Woody's flat fixed, we stood around jawboning until the rest of the group, which had been half a mile west waiting for HL to change a flat, appeared.

Just as the whole group started back east, Randy, who I had figured for an early PT session, pulled up. Coming back was largely uneventful. Once we got started Woody took about a five-mile pull into a quartering headwind at a rock-steady 24 mph. Around Williams Blvd. I picked up a huge shard of metal in my rear tire and had to change the flat, a task I accomplished rather expeditiously in spite of Rich's standing around making snarky comments, pickpocketing my iPhone, snapping images of me, and constantly apprising me of elapsed satellite time.

Removing 20-penny nail from rear tire
Sadly, as we were getting off the levee there were workers standing at the bottom of the two asphalt ramps holding large rolls of wire mesh, preparing to close the levee for many months. This was probably our last Tuesday/Thursday ride from the pump towers for a long time to come.

= =

[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything contained herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Check the List, I've Been Good

Turning at the Big Dip (click images for larger view)
My immutable rule, faithfully applied to weather conditions to determine whether I venture onto the levee, is what I call the Law of 45/15. If the temperature is below 45° or the wind is greater than 15 mph, I stay within the comfy confines of my abode. Big Rich, because he's tougher, or at least he wants me to think he is, professes to live by a 20 mph wind limit. As for temperature, he subscribes to the Konrad Doctrine, which can be paraphrased thusly: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes." I'm not convinced either Rich or Rob unwaveringly abides by this tenet.

When I awoke this morning I could hear the wind outside. I opened the door to my driveway and checked the stiff bush which is surrounded on three sides by house and only moves during hurricanes and other unusual wind events and it was swaying violently. I did not want to ride. Hoping to find  justification for jumping back into bed, I checked the weather online. I didn't like what I saw on the most relevant site (observations at MSY) so I checked Lakefront (KNEW). This is what I found:

While MSY was 46/14, taken as a whole, observations were ambiguous at best in light of the Lakefront readings, and, being a lawyer, I believed I could present a colorable argument for returning to the warm contentment of my bed. So I sent Big Rich (considerately including California Rick1) this email at 5:16:
 -------- Original Message --------
Subject:     Riding?
Date:     Thu, 12 Dec 2013 05:16:47 -0600
From:     David J. L'Hoste <>
To:     Richard B. Ehret <>, Rick Aubry <>

Lakefront says winds are 20.
MSY has 14 but that will be 20 coming home through Kenner.

In his typically laconic fashion, Rich responded at 5:22 as follows:
I was slightly angry with myself because I truly didn't want to face the cold and wind, but I had shown my hand, so to speak, and failed to garner any support from Rich for what I wanted -- validation of my wimpy desire to go back to sleep.

It was about 5:35 when, clad only in boxers and my fleece-lined L.L. Bean slippers, I dragged my bike, which had been untouched for a week, into the utility room to put air in the tires. It was about 5:38 (16 minutes before I needed to leave for the ride) when I pulled the pumphead off the rear wheel and with it came the broken stem core. Great. Now I had less than 25 minutes to change a flat, brush my teeth, fill a water bottle, dig out and put on a full compliment of cold weather gear and ride three miles to Oak and River Road.

Well, now I'm a little conflicted because although I've made the distasteful decision to brave the weather conditions, this unavoidable mechanical failure, totally beyond my control, may well allow me to avoid prevent me from making the ride. What to do? My resolution of these sorts of dilemmas usually involves fussing out loud, audibly expressing consternation at my predicament. So as I'm banging around in the utility room, pissing and moaning about not having time to change the flat and make the ride and how I am not going to change this damn flat just to go suffer on the levee, my loving wife, who was in the adjacent kitchen preparing herself a cup of coffee and had listened to about enough, said, "You are obviously upset because you want to ride so just change the flat and go." To which I replied, "I'll never be able to change the flat in time to make the ride." To which she retorted (and I swear this is verbatim), "Then quit whining, throw the bike in the car, take it over to Rich, and get him to change the flat."

What? So I tell my wife, "You don't understand. First, Rich would look at me like I was nuts if I did that. Second, it's quarter to 6 and Rich is deep into his pre-ride routine, which I assure you does not include changing my flat. And third, you don't think I can change this flat and make the ride? Is that what you are saying? Because I'll do it. I swear I'll do it."

All of which my wife viewed as a continuation of my earlier whining, and left the room. So I killed myself speed-changing the flat, not eating, speed-dressing, and racing toward Oak and River Road.

I caught Rich at the base of the levee.

Waiting at the start in the biting, icy wind, Rich and I were joined by Randy and Triceps Dave. Rich started bitching about his being too big to get a draft from Randy, Dave and me. Or more accurately, bitching about Randy, Dave and me not being big enough to provide him with a draft. Right after we rolled we were joined by Woody.

The ride out wasn't too bad as the wind moved a little and was more NNE than due N. This, of course, made the ride in miserable. Randy is still injured and could only take abbreviated pulls for part of the ride, and when Woody was on the front I felt like I was on the front because he would up the pace that much. It was almost like pulling twice in  a four-man rotation. We saw few people on the levee. Mignon was inbound as we were going out. Donald was heading out as we were coming in. And we passed a rider who Rich said was Racer X (the Bashful Artist), although he was covered head-to-toe, including his face, in black, and I couldn't tell who it was. Someone said he looked like a Ninja.

I was looking forward to Rich's ride profile, thinking the longer, faster pulls by Woody might be discernible, but Rich didn't clear his data from yesterday and his computer treated today's ride like a leg of yesterday's. Maybe Santa will bring me a Garmin for Christmas. If Santa checks his list, he'll see I've been exceptionally good. I rode today.

= = =
1. I included California Rick on this morning's email to Big Rich because Rick rode on Tuesday morning, when MSY was reporting gusts to 29 mph and 41°:
In a later email he lamented that "it was f**king cold and windy" and he asked if he was late to the start and perhaps had been left because nobody was on the levee. Rich, being ever supportive and in his inimitable, succinct style responded simply: HAHAHA.

[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything contained herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Along the Pump Towers

All along the Pump Towers (click for larger image)

There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour's getting late.

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came
And went barefoot servants too
Outside in the cold distance
A wild cat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey.
(From All Along the Watchtower by B. Dylan, as performed by J. Hendrix.)

First Up (click for larger view)

Not unusual for early December in the subtropics, it was 72° this morning with a dewpoint of 71° -- making for a misty, foggy and very humid ride. I pocketed my useless eyeglasses before we started. The group was remarkably small for a warm morning with no rain expected: Jaden (in orange), Brian, HL, Randy, Ray, Rich, and me. NOBC's three representatives from the River Parishes joined us on the other side of the Big Dip.

HL rode like HL, making noises about people (me) sitting in or short cutting the line. Big Rich began short cutting the line with impunity. I felt persecuted, but very comfy on Rich's wheel.

Randy must have been pressed for time or still suffering from his recent crash because he turned at the Little Dip. Going through the Big Dip Jaden rode off the front and HL and Brian accelerated to catch him. I may get dropped there on every future ride, but I refuse to race through the west end of the Big Dip. I still have nightmares about the sound Mark D.'s body made as it slammed down onto the asphalt going through that reverse-banked curve, fortunately only breaking his clavicle. I can't remember if HL was there that morning, but I know Brian and Jaden were not. If only I could play for them the little video of the incident that plays over and over in my mind. Give Google a few more years.  

Ray was left there on the climb out of the Big Dip with the rest of us, and he soon sat up and lodged some vague, nonspecific Vegaesque complaint about mud in his brake or some similar equally incomprehensible equipment malfunction.

Foggy Start
Coming back toward town the pace wasn't too bad even as the crosswind (dead south) began to stiffen a little. The River Parish guys turned, Ray got off at Williams Blvd., and somewhere in there we picked up the huge guy, who makes Big Rich look like Little Rich, and one of his compatriots.

At one point, Brian was on the front, then Huge Guy and his friend, then Rich, then me. HL and Jaden were on the back. Brian rides off the front, and I just know HL and Jaden are going to come around any second and chase, which, of course, they do. I expect Rich to go, but he doesn't. I hesitate for an instant and think about going around Rich. Immediately I wonder whether going around Rich will be a smart thing or a foolish thing. Next I think about a Gahan Wilson cartoon1 about making the same stupid mistakes over and over. By this time, there is no decision to make. Then Huge Guy and his friend go off in pursuit and still Rich does nothing. About half a mile up the road Rich and I pass Huge Guy and friend huffing and puffing and pretty much softing it. So Rich and I rode in from west of the country club together.


[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything contained herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]