Monday, March 12, 2012

We are finally no longer viewed as freeloaders. Sort of.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote about the fraudulent argument put forth (by people like Terence P. Jeffrey) that the federal gas tax covers all of the country's road expenses.

Back then, anyone paying attention knew that was completely false. The problem, of course, is that not many people pay attention.

Four years later, it seems as if there is more and more written about this topic, and the articles are not limited to fringey left-leaning or urban transit oriented publications.

In fact, USA Today* just published an article called "Gas tax falling short in paying for transportation needs," which talks about how "the federal [gas] tax accounts for about 45%-50% of capital spending for transportation." So, in other words, we have a serious case of motorist welfare going on in this country, and income taxpayers are covering the bill for lots of roads.

Which is great news for cyclists, who are often accused of receiving a free ride and enjoying the fruits of the gas tax while not contributing to the roads (or bike paths) on which they ride. Since it is a safe bet to assume that more than 50% of miles traveled in this country are by car, and that more than 50% of road wear and tear is caused by cars (opposed to bikes), we cyclists should probably be the ones outraged over the way drivers are getting a free ride on our tax dime. Right?

Regardless of your views on transportation infrastructure funding, admitting that general taxpayers are subsidizing road infrastructure with billions of dollars is the first step in having an honest conversation about this issue.

*I recognize that no individuals actually subscribe to USA Today, and the only people who read it are those who pick up a free copy from the lobby in the hotel at which they are staying. However, my point remains that the fallacy of the "gas tax pays for all roads" argument is being challenged on a more mainstream level now than it did even in 2008. Which is good news for anyone who cares about having an intelligent discussion about road funding.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Skin I Live In

It is easy to become complacent about going out and supporting local venues that showcase quality art. Sometimes it just seems more appealing to stay in and watch DVD's of Nurse Jackie than to venture out. Sometimes, however, you just have to make a point to represent.

Last night, we did that.

First stop was HeightsArts, to check out the opening of a new photo show that featured pieces from (among others) Greg Donley, a local bike rider and generally good guy. The show was called "Tophography," and was "a group exhibition of recent photography by five area artists whose work offers personal experiences of landscape—near, far, and along the way." The works ranged from aerial photographs taken from an airplane to collections of overlapping photos of local and New England terrains taken on bicycle rides and hikes.

The show was nicely put together, and the recently expanded gallery space is a real treasure of the east side.

Next stop was to the Cleveland Cinematheque to see The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodovar's recent project with Antonio Banderas. After failing to win the pre-movie $5.00 coffee shop gift certificate drawing for the millionth time, we saw a pretty twisted, depraved, and incredibly well done film. The entire (creepy) vibe of the movie, including the soundtrack, seemed to seethe with Kubrick's influence.

Despite being average length (about 2 hours), it was very epic, without feeling "long," if that makes sense. This statement is a very big complement to any movie viewed in the seats at the Cinematheque by anyone who is over 5'6" tall.

It also reminded us how great that place is, and how we should go there more than once a year.

Here is the movie's trailer:

My only regret of the night ws not purchasing one of the $1.00 bumper stickers that read, "Occupy the Cinematheque...616 seats."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Long distance nanny (Stanley) cam

Last weekend, Stanley and I traveled to upstate NY for a guys only trip that included a day-long dog training workshop on Saturday.

On the way, we stopped at Allegany State Park for a hilly hike.

On Sunday, we pretended we were "serious" hikers and did some technical routes in the Mohonk Preserve and at Minnewaska State Park.

The Most Innovative Use of Technology on the Trip prize, however, went to Katie. She suggested that she keep an occasional eye (from home, nearly 500 miles away) on a crated Stanley in the motel room via Skype while I hit up (on both nights) a local place called Hopheads for some locally sourced veggie food and really good beer. This allowed him to relax in a climate controlled room while I went out in the cold night, and was just just a phone call away in the event that Katie noticed that he was making a racket at the motel.

All hail the power of the Internets.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ringing. Endorsement.

Pantera. Mogwai. Earth Crisis. Boy Sets Fire. Unsane. Hatebreed. Metallica. Dinosaur Jr. Helmet. Deftones. Shellac. Spudmonsters. State of Conviction. Tool. Mushroomhead. Soulfly. Quicksand. And on.

And on.

And on.

The list of "loud" bands I have seen play live is virtually endless. And I have probably played 40+ shows in pretty "loud" bands myself.

When things get loud, I throw in some cheapo earplugs. Or toilet paper. It's not usually an issue.

So here I am, at the age where I am easily in the upper age echelon of people who see shows. Except at last week's Swans show, where I was probably the median age. Maybe younger?

And most of these guys playing are, eh, not young, at least for rock and roll. Or whatever you call the noise Swans makes.

Yet they are the first band ever to run me out of the club because of volume.

It was the first time I had seen them, and maybe I should have been better prepared, based on the past:

One of the trademarks of Swans' early period was playing at painfully loud volumes during concerts, to the point where some audience members would vomit or the police would stop the show....Since Swans' reformation, Gira has made a point of maintaining the intensity of their live show, stating that it is at once "soul-uplifting and body-destroying". He has also developed a penchant for turning off the air conditioning before Swans perform, comparing the experience to a Native American sweat lodge.

I left because it was no longer enjoyable. Because I felt sick, and because I want hearing when I'm 80. I am 100% sure that it was incredibly louder than anything I have ever heard.

In other words, I let a bunch of dudes easily old enough to be my dad force me out of club because they were playing too loud.

I have officially lost all cred and will now be only attending Jimmy Buffet cover band concerts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Something new to worry about

Biker's Lung.

If you read the press release from the European Lung Foundation, however, it states that the study only looked at ten people: five bicycle commuters, five pedestrian commuters.

The results make sense though. I'd like to know how much of the higher black carbon levels is due to the proximity of the bicyclists to the cars (opposed to the pedestrians), and how much is due to the bicycle commuters breathing deeper while riding.

And were the black carbon levels exhibited by the bicycle commuters dangerous, or close to dangerous?

I also often wonder about the healthiness of breathing in the road salt mixture when riding on dry days in winter, after a snowfall.

I also often wonder about the healthiness of worrying about stuff like this all of the time.

That may cause more health problems than the deadly black carbon urban cyclist lung.

And that is a shame.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pizza legs

My pre-race meals tend not to be generally accepted by the people who determine the answers to these types of important, world-changing issues.

As such, I will resort to the excuse of pizza legs for a really crappy performance at the Tour of the Valley criterium.

Normally, this type of stuff is kept on the down low, but a certain investigative photojournalist exposed my methods with a rare race appearance on Sunday.

What's not to love about sitting around watching a bike race in the middle of the afternoon on a 90+ degree day.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Observations from the weekend of the Fourth

(1) I have confirmed that Taco Tontos is my favorite place for burritos in the entire universe. If I lived near Kent, I would be morbidly obese. And happy.

(2) The best way to deal with a fireworks display across the street from your house and an Alex dog that is terrified of fireworks is to go somewhere not near a fireworks display. I think he had the most pleasant Fourth of July he has had in a while.

(3) The Medina Twin Sizzler was very fun this year due to the organizers agreeing to allow all "experts" to race together, instead of having us youngsters be caught (again) by the hulking 35+ expert peloton.

Fourth overall, first under 35 expert. Where's my Cat 1 upgrade now, USA Cycling?

(4) After busting out of the Twin Sizzler and being home and napping by the time I would have gotten my boss gold medal from the race, I played with the Reuben, the American Black and Tan Coonhound, to celebrate the day. He is quite the patriot. (Video courtesy of Katie).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Okkervil, Titus, and racing

On Saturday, I drove three hours round trip to race the 72-mile state road race, before turning around to go to Columbus to see Okkervil River and Titus Andronicus at the Newport Music Hall.


Titus Andronicus:

Having never seen Titus Andronicus before, I suspected that they would be best enjoyed in a small, blue-collar club somewhere in Jersey. I think I am right, but they still managed to kill it in the bigger music hall setting.

I had been waiting to see Okkervil River for some time now, and they were as good as I wanted them to be, even though their set list was a lot different that what I was hoping for.

As for the bike race, I spent nearly 50 miles in some form of a breakaway, took ninth, and teammate Aussie took second after a superhuman effort by Brian, who soloed away for the win with 8 miles to go.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Covered Bridge #2

Since I wrote a race report for the team, I thought I would post it here also. Yes, this will be the second consecutive entry that can be considered a "race report" on this blog.

No, I have not been kidnapped by someone who stole my Blogger password and likes to write race reports all the time.

Yes, the "clean set of wheels" part is meant to sound ridiculous and is a reference to a phrase used by a well known bike racing announcer.

Yes, the next post will be about someting other than a "race report."

I hope.

Aussie (Rob), Scott, Derek, Tom K., Brett, and myself lined up for Team Spin at the start of the “A” race at the Team Akron Valley Circuit Race, also known as the “Covered Bridge race,” on Sunday, April 17. Jane G. represented the team in the women’s field.

The A race is seven laps of a five-mile loop, the B’s and women do five laps.

The A race saw about 25 starters, including multiple riders from teams such as RGF/Cleveland Clinic, Team Lake Effect, and Stark Velo, as well as solo riders from Team Panther, Speedgoat, and a few other teams. In the A race, Aussie got away with Joe from Death Row Velo early in the first lap. They built a solid gap, which meant that the remaining Team Spin riders in the field had to cover dangerous looking moves and hope that the two breakaway riders did not get caught.

Near the middle of the race, after a tough half-Iap, I found myself in a group of five riders that managed to extract ourselves from the field. At that point, my job was to simply sit in the break and let the other riders try to bring back Aussie and Joe, who were still up the road.

We caught the breakaway with a little over one lap to go, which meant that we were now a seven-person lead group. I was not feeling very perky at that point, and I confirmed with Aussie that he still felt good.

I tried several attacks on the second half of the last lap, but they were closely followed by the vigilant group. Things were shaping up for a seven-person sprint, which is not my bag. At all. Thankfully, it is Aussie’s.

The group slowed down to a crawl in the last 2k, and I found myself with a small gap inside the last 1k. I took advantage of it and accelerated, knowing that I would either hold it to the line, or, at the very least, cause the other teams to chase me down and set up Aussie for the sprint.

At about 200m, I heard the group approach, and saw Aussie come around me. He held it to the line, and showed the rest of the breakaway riders a clean set of wheels. A win for Team Spin!

Great job to everyone who raced today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tour of the Battenkill 2011

There are apparently lots of Category 2 racers in the New England area who do nothing but ride bikes all winter long.

At least that is what it felt like at around mile 50 of the race on Sunday when the wheels came off the wagon and I began limping to feed zone 2 where I happily pulled the plug and accepted a ride to the finish from the "team car."

It was still a great weekend that involved nice weather and riding bikes...things could be much worse.

It is mind boggling how much planning and legwork must go into organizing a race that includes 35 separate fields, 2,500 racers, a 100K loop that goes through several municipalities, and racers on the course from 8:40 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

I would invite the amateur racers who complain about Battenkill's payout to try to organize something similar themselves and see how much work it entails.

In fact, I can think of several less annoying ways to make a living than organizing bad ass events for unappreciative bike racers.