Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tour of Georgia

What a day! According to the radar, it was supposed to storm the whole time. I went anyway, because the threat of storms was still better than the last trip up for a race finish at Brasstown when it was snowing. Brrrrrr...



This year the Tour of Georgia had a mountain top finish at the Brasstown Bald, which is the highest point in Georgia. The climb basically goes from Jack's gap, which isn't really to much of a climb, to the entry road to Brasstown, and that road immediately looks like it is going straight up. And, NO, the picture doesn't do it justice. I saw some people off their bikes and walking by the second turn in the shot below. It's that steep, and this is the "flat" part...


Once your legs adjust to climbing with some heavy effort to go 6 miles an hour, it kicks up and you slow to about 5. But wait, that's not all, you only thought you had reached the steepest part. It kicks again to a 20% grade and with the bike creaking you just shove your pedals down over and over just to maintain enough speed to stay upright. I am not exaggerating...just to stay upright on the bike and not walk. I have ridden this climb several times, and I keep thinking that it will get better. Alas, the climb manages to stay the same and I just get older and heavier...and lazier...and many other things that keep me from being a better cyclist.

In the end, I did make it, and I didn't walk, and I didn't get passed by old people with walkers or anything...

At the parking lot I met up with Herman, my partner in crime for the day, who in retrospect wisely took the Jittery Joe's tour bus up to the top. The bus had chicks, fun people, food, beer...all the things that my bike was sadly lacking.





We set up camp to watch the race as it progressed through all the climbs that we ride all summer, and it was both amazing and disheartening. There was a massive screen that allowed us to keep up with the race, and as they made their way we noticed that these pro riders were averaging 20+ miles an hour which is a lot faster than we ride those roads... A WHOLE LOT FASTER. I won't go into details on our average speeds to protect the innocent (and my ego). The hills did beat up on the riders and the field was pretty scattered along the climbs

As the riders made their way up Brasstown, the lead group split up and in the end, there were 5 then 4, and then 3 guys together. As they passed through the 1k mark, the lead group of 4 flew by in the only flat section they would see before the last kick that would deliver one of them to the winners podium. On the Jumbotron (yes it is a word) I got to watch them climb. I don't think I heard their bikes creaking and they didn't seem to have issues staying upright either.

Dude, that's just not fair. My legs still hurt from that climb among others in the 40 miles I rode that day.

The race leader, from Team Slipstream was with one of my favorite riders, Levi Liepheimer, but a very strong climber from Team HighRoad (a lame story goes with that team, but that can be another post) attacked and rode away for the win. It was a great climb and a great race to watch especially since I got to see top teams on the roads I know so well.

See the face on the Rock Racing guy? On that climb, I am sure I made that face too. It's the face of OOOOOooooooooooooowwww! My Leeeeggggsss!


David Zabriski - I still like the Wild West Mustache he has going. Think about it, here is a professional rider that has worn the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France. He shaves his legs arms and...well, hopefully that's it... Weight and aerodynamics is everything to these guys, but he has a 6 pound squirrel hanging on to his lip.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ionic Mountain Bike Advertising

I went on a ride, which has been rare recently with the pollen/sickness, work, and family events. All right guys, don't roll your eyes to hard, they might stick that way... It was rare relative to my normal amount of riding.


I was up at Oak Mountain, and I took a fun detour off the trail and rode into a creek for some cool pictures. I don't know if they are actually cool, and my only partner in crime on this ride was my Ionic bike, so it became the subject. Unlike my kids it doesn't wiggle and run off when you try to take it's picture. There were several waterfalls around, and I found my cool pictures idea may only have merit as there might be some money in it from Ionic's advertising department? I wonder if I should send the shots saying all sorts of glowing things about the bike to them. Would they send me some swag? I believe this practice is called "blegging" blogging and begging combined...heh heh




Nathan and Kimberly came up as well and we made the loop around the trails on Sunday before heading off to the AMA Superbike races. I would say that the bikes were so fast at these races that I got no pictures at all, but the truth is that we all forgot our cameras in the rush to get to the track. Bummer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The morning commute - bike 200/cars 0

I have been riding the bike to work a couple of times a week now, and today was far and away the most fun.



I noticed as soon as I got out of the neighborhood that traffic was heavy. That usually means that it will come to a standstill at some point. It promptly did so, and I had the best ride as I rattled down the shoulder of the road sometimes in the dirt and sometimes on a nice wide shoulder. There was only one instance where a car tried to even the score. I was in my rights riding on the shoulder of the road and a car crept over the line practically into the grass causing me to slow my progress. There are only a few reasons for this action.



1. This moron is woefully incompetent at controlling their car at less than a mile an hour. Which leads me to think that they should probably not have a license or shouldn't be out in public unsupervised.



2. This dumb hayseed was on a cell phone and was completely oblivious of the task at hand. Driving a 2000 pound car. This is an endangerment to all on the road, and if people can't discern the importance of operating a car vs taking a call, they shouldn't have a license either. There are safe times to talk on the phone, but if you can't make a good decision as to when that is, hang up or stop the car.



3. This is the worst type of driver. Someone who would wantonly endanger others on the road because someone else chose a method of transportation that was faster than they did that day.



You choose.



Sadly, I am leaning towards 3 in this particular case. Its sad that some people are so petty and potentially violent that they would use a 2000 lb vehicle as a weapon against some skinny guy on a bike trying to get to the office on time. The fun thing is that I got there on time. Do you think the driver did?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kids With Cameras!

On one of the car rides home from one of our many trips, the kids somehow ended up with a camera. It was Mom's Fault! This generally produces some fun pictures of whatever the kids like to point cameras at.

Like all kids, playing with a camera is a pretty rare event, so the certainly make the best of their picture time. The last time I gave Bryce a camera on the way home from some trip, he too no less than 60 pictures...mostly of his shoes...

Here he has improved his photography...somewhat. I especially like the medical textbook style shot of his sinuses.



Then Ansley got a turn and got a great self portrait of herself, and then decided that a good shot of the inside of her mouth would be attractive? Eeeewww...




Double Eeeeewww...


Finally, A picture of happy of Aiden once everyone arrived back home. On a side note, Aiden is good and sick sitting in my lap as I type this. That's a sure fire way to tell if he is sick. If he isn't trying to bang on the keyboard or eat some of the electronics here in the office, we have a sick kid. Bummer. I feel bad for him, but there isn't much anyone can do for him.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ansley's Birthday

It was the biggest birthday party we have hosted at the house. So far, but with a family like ours, there’s still time. Ansley, the little angle turned 4. She actually turns 4 on tax day, so “My little angel” should be more aptly described “My Big Deduction”… I woke to the smell of baking, and had a prompt breakfast of coffee and the leftovers of the most amazing birthday cake I have seen so far. It was so big we had to set all the pieces together outside…


Well, not quite that big, but I wanted to attempt to put some blue sky and fluffy clouds behind it instead of the chaotic scene of toppled pink icing cans, messy counters and cooking utensils everywhere. Ah..much more serene thanks to photo shop… Brenna worked all day with some well intentioned, but generally ineffective assistance from Bryce, Ansley, Aiden, and Myself. Aiden did point out, and subsequently munch on, the bits of cake that fell to the floor during construction though! Ansley had requested that this party be a “Princess Party”, all things centered around that. Hence the amazing creativity displayed by Brenna on the castle. Here Ansley poses with our youngest knight in training. I believe she was actually holding his head in place for the shot rather than just hugging him.


When the kids all arrived, the seeming chaos of preparation became a mere quiet morning when compared to all the kids running around. Brenna and I had our King and Queen costumes on, and had the kids running through the back yard picking up hidden piles of gold coins.


Then came the dragon. Yep, what Princess party would be complete without a Dragon Piñata? Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the dragon before he was completely clobbered by one of the knights in attendance.


Kid News 4’s coverage of the dragon Shortly after the slaying…



Ah, the kids converging on the candy is quite reminiscent of animals in the scenes from the old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom that probably traumatized lots of kids back in the 70’s.



Ansley was worried that she wouldn’t get enough candy once the frenzy started and she was a bit distressed by the idea. Her distress was noted by the hoards and happily the other knights and princesses donated some to the birthday girl. She actually ended up with the largest collection of spoils by the end. She seems pleased…perhaps she planned that?


Happy Birthday! The cake castle was dismantled and served. Brenna said later that she didn’t even get a piece of her creation. That’s a shame, it was really tasty…heh heh.

Ok, for those of you that don't tinker with computers much, the below is a video. Click in the middle of the picture and then hit the arrow button to make it play. If you are in the office and worry about people hearing a horribly off key rendition of "Happy Birthday" then turn your speakers down...


video

Then the Princess Ball began. I thought these shots of bouncing and dancing little kids were best in the blurred look rather than the harsh stop action of the flash. It gives a little sense of how wiggly they were while listening to Barbie Girl among other tunes that the Ansley picked out earlier in the day.


After the dancing and sugar rush began to subside, the party dispersed and the remaining adults and a few kids sat around the fire pit and roasted marshmallows to cap off a good party.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Baseball Games & Kids

Aiden's first Baseball game! We went to the Birmingham Barons game here in town when Nana & Papa visited last weekend. It was a great day and was wonderful fun, but there was definitely some comedic potential to having that many kids enjoying America's Pastime. Aiden had his head on a swivel the whole time with all the people and activities going on around him.

Ok, for you baseball fans out there, this post is for you. For those of you that have kids already, and have attempted this sort of entertainment, you probably will just grin. For those of you without kids, this will have some wonderfully informative tidbits of information for you. You may use this invaluable knowledge at absolutely no cost to you! Once you read this, you can annoy your buddies that do have kids by giving them advice on how to handle these situations, and that in itself is funny. No no..keep the money that you want to give me for this knowledge...I am a giver, that's just the guy I am. You, non parents, soon to be armed with advanced knowledge on how to handle children at long and slow (but never boring mind you) baseball games, can show that you are so prepared for being parents that actual parents will let you take their kids to the games instead! Now if this were to actually happen, I would be torn to come to the game anyway, and sit at a distance and watch you, the non parent, deal with the little people with short attention spans. My other thought would be to go do something cool that I don't get to do anymore because of said little people.

1st inning: You will miss it, so don't even try to get to the seats. The first pitch will be thrown before you even reach the ballpark because you are struggling with car seat latches, kids that are off in their own world, and finding the ten thousand things that should be in the back of the collapsible stroller.

2nd inning: You will have found the seats, sort of, but now you need to go for the first of many "concession stand runs". I recommend very sugary drinks, hot dogs, and chicken fingers.
Price tag? 100$.

3rd inning: Clean up ketchup off your daughters shirt and the surrounding seats. Go ahead and sacrifice your shirt for this. The 5 inch tall stack of napkins will have been used to clean up the whole soda that was spilled seconds earlier.

4th inning: Watch 3 pitches and if you are lucky it will be your team will be up to bat and you might see a hit...maybe. Head to the concession stand. Peanuts, more soda.
Price tag 40$.



Hey a hit!

5th inning: You will get to watch this one since the peanuts will occupy the kiddo's for a bit. It is crucial to have difficult food. i.e. difficult to eat in one long sucking sound. It will last longer.
6th inning: Start dropping the bribery bombs now. You should wisely keep the big guns in reserve. Ice cream or slushies if they sit through the 7th inning stretch so you can watch yet another inning. They won't actually sit, but they may stay close enough that you don't have to get up and run after them or take the walk of shame to the PA box for another lost kid announcement.
7th inning: Ah, now your plan is working. After the stretch, take them with as much fanfare you can muster, to the ice cream or slushy stand for their reward for "Being so good and watching the game!" Hint:" More napkins...lots and lots of napkins...an entire Sequoia worth of napkins...
Price tag: $20


You will spend the 8th and 9th laughing at the mess as they eat their cold and sugary goodies instead of watching the game yourself. No no no! You keep your hands to yourself! Don't touch me with those sticky fingers!

Ack...what do they put in that stuff?

NOTE: Just to clarify. Not all of this happened at this game, but is a silly compilation of many sporting events I have gone to with kids (Not all my own either). Even so, it may be a more accurate portrayal of events than I want to admit. Let me state for the record that the kids really were great at the aforementioned game, and we had a great time, so don't think it was as much of a disaster as the above commentary might lead you to believe...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mountain Biking with Dad

This past weekend was filled with fun kid oriented events, and that is how it should be, but there was about 30 minutes there where I got some one on one time out in the world with my Dad. In this day and age of being a day's drive for my parents to make it here or vice versa, we don't have much time to play, and spend most of the time with the kiddos. (who, in reality, all grandparents are really coming to see...)

Dad has been routinely bringing his new mountain bike on his trips to Bama, and we have really only ridden it out on the roads with the older of the kids. That in itself is a blast, but there was something missing...something elemental. Something that all mountain bikes need to feel fulfilled in their lives of being left dusty in a garage as we do other things. That thing that is needed you ask? It's Dirt...Lots of Dirt...creeks to cross, and trees (to avoid preferably..) We hopped on and spun over to the local High School to make use of the cross country trails which incorporate some easy gravel paths and some sections of pine needle covered single track.

See, even a University President grins like an 8 year old when on a bike out in the dirt! It's a beautiful thing.

After crossing creeks and rolling through some pretty steep Alabama hills, I yelled back "Duck!" No not Duck as in quack quack - DUCK! Dad rode very well through some not all that easy terrain.



The final climb...Ouch, who lit campfires on the tops of my legs??

Needless to say, since I don't see Dad all that much, these few minutes of riding with him were priceless.

Thanks Dad.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TOGA PARTY! TO-GA! TO-GA! TO-GA!

In the mornings I usually will get the boys up and head downstairs for breakfast. To be honest, they get me up through either the volume of laughing squealing, or thumping, or I will have Bryce tapping me on the forehead saying, "Daddy, can I watch Power Rangers???".

I was getting Bryce out the door to the school bus on one of these mornings, and I had left Aiden to his own devices in the kitchen. After a few minutes I came back in and found this...


Busted!!! What were you thinking Aiden? As a hint to all you new parents, and as a giggle to all you old pros, don't leave a baby alone with access to toilet paper rolls. They think its really cool, and this happens pretty much every time.

Secondly, He showed me what he was thinking! TOGA PARTY!!!! He doesn't quite have the John Belushi-guitar smashing-Animal House look down...YET. There's time though...

Or perhaps Toe-ga Party? I can see what he was thinking, "Hey, look at what I found here! Toes! Cool!" Entertainment is so simple at that age... Wait, entertainment is simple at my age too!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Orleans - Last post

Ok, ok, I know! I took too many pictures of this city. I promise, I will get back to writing about the family, and cycling.


On the final morning that I had time to meander around, I walked out to the river again. A dense mist rolled in from the river, and for the second morning, the city gave off a new image other than the bright morning sun and the late night party scene. It was a very fluid cloud that visibly tumbled and twisted as I watched as it drifted across the river. Slowly, it engulfed the scene around me. At first the taller buildings were half visible above the layer of fog and slowly they became completely shrouded, and that was when I took a couple of these photos.


I just thought that this shot was cool with the lone tree with leaves on it sitting in the mist, and the mist did a neat job of taking the colors and detail out of the background structures.

The Natchez, an historic steamboat was docked at the riverfront, and from time to time a woman would come out on deck and play a shrill, and slightly out of tune, series of songs you would imagine were the background tracks of some Mark Twain story. No it wasn't quite that foggy, the image is in black and white. Below is a shot in color of the ship. This was when the cloud was at its thickest. It was a little strange to be alone in a small visual space and then have a busload of tourists materialize in front of me like some noisy hurricane-slurping-map-rattling-beast... Like I have room to talk.


I am officially out of decent looking New Orleans pictures, so you won't have to endure any more of these posts. I am back to taking pictures of kids, and cycling stuff! Hmmm...I think I just heard a collective...cheer. I don't know, I could be wrong...

As a side note, I was surprised that we didn't see more evidence of the destruction of Katrina in our ventures, but apparently the people who built the French Quarter had some foresight. It's one of the highest elevated areas around The Big Easy, and that means that it survived with minimal damage.

A family post preview for this weekend: What do you get when you combine kids and a digital camera?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Orleans - Friday Morning & Friday Night

During Friday's wanderings, I ended up at Jackson Square just behind the Saint Louis Cathedral on Orleans street. Some of the pictures came out so well that I decided to post about the area. These shots were taken about 8 a.m, and it was great to be outside in shorts at that hour... Nevermind that it was a Friday, and I wasn't at work. (i.e. I could have been out in a parka fighting off 50mph winds with furry animals falling from dark stormclouds, and I would have been good with it.)



Jackson Square at night.



Our late night last stop for Bignets and Chicory coffee; Cafe Du Monde. Yes, it's touristy. No, the service isn't all that great. Yes, the food is good and the tables are rarely cleaned, and I love it anyway.


The St. Louis Cathedral at night. In general the Church can be imposing sometimes, but when you get this image at 3 am after drinking for a while, my first fleeting thought was Christ with arms upraised asking "Why?" My next thought was I need to get to Mass! I guess the Priest there kind of planned that image!