Monday, December 21, 2009

Palm Canyon Trail Epic

Palm Canyon Trail Epic. Obvious, no?

Rugged country, that desert is.

This past weekend, the boys and I drove to the Palm Springs area to hit a point-to-point trail in the desert mountains. With the exception of my crash, that occurred 20 minutes into our 5-hour ride, it was a spectacular day. I sideways endoed (would you call that a sidedo?) down an embankment. How was I rewarded for my acrobatics? A nice little cactus. Bum, meet cactus. Cactus, meet bum.

All-in-all, beautiful day. The trail was far more technical than I had anticipated, but I was proud of myself for shutting off my brain enough (Brain: What the F#*%! You can't go over those rocks! Me: No cognitive processing today, brain!) to get through all the rock gardens un-scathed.

Enjoy the pics.

P.S. For Christmas, I would like some sharper tweezers.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A beautiful weekend.

This past weekend, Southern California got rain and more rain, and did I mention lots of rain? But, my, did we need it around here. Northern California should offer loud clap clap claps for the 1 less inch of precipitation So. Cal will need to rob from them this year. So, anyhow, despite the rain, I made my way up to SLO for the Winter edition of the Little 500.

To truly share the experience with you, I made a home video for you.
I'm very proud. This is my first effort at movie making!
BTW, stop adjusting your volume. There's no sound. It's my first effort.

What you just saw there was an attempt by our tandem Jazzercise! team to get started in all of the mud. It's difficult sometimes.

So besides the fun time at the Little 5 oh oh, the crew and I threw together a spontaneous meal that consisted of the following:

Squid stuffed with chorizo, queso fresco, and roasted red peppers

Mushroom risotto

Calamari* soaked in lemon juice and red pepper flakes, lightly grilled

Purple and white steamed cauliflower

Marinated mushrooms

Margaritas with freshly squeezed lemons

Goat leg, grilled and stuffed with garlic and rosemary

Pretty fantastic, huh? Now you see why I take so many trips north.

The next day, we burned off that fabulous dinner, and our hangovers, with a beautiful ride through Montana de Oro. The sun came out, rainbows appeared**, and the sparkling ocean was visible from the trail.

It was a beautiful weekend.

* Sometimes it's squid. Somtimes we call it Calamari. It depends on how Italian we're feeling. But the soaked version definitely seemed more Italian.

** Sadly, there were no unicorns frolicking about.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The San Gabes

I've mentioned that the riding here is stellar. The climbs are endlessly long. The descents are a total bomb. What still blows me away is getting back into the San Gabriels, or the Santa Anas, and you completely forget you're 40 minutes away from 11 million people and endless concrete. I've found some guys to ride with who figure out the route, the ride logistics--all that--and who don't mind if I join along. Below are some pics from this weekend's ride where we explored some trails in the San Gabes.

Maybe I just belong there.

I’ve lived down in Orange County now for six months. I’ve tried really hard to like it here, but it’s as though every fiber of my being is resisting. I’m reluctant to make friends and form relationships. For the first time in years, I consistently feel like I'm not figuring it out. I am no longer confident in who I am.

I moved here because I found a job, and my parents were here, and after being in NC, it was a job in California, where I wanted to be anyway, so I took it. And really? It’s not that bad. The riding is pretty awesome. The weather is super bueno. My job’s okay, even though the pay is shitty. I can drive to SLO in 4 hours from here. But yet. Half the time I feel numb—like I’m just getting through each day, and that in itself is sometimes satisfying.

But I ache, as always, for SLO. I've also learned, the very hard way, that it is extremely difficult (visual: picture rug. Pull rug out swiftly beneath feet. Crash hard) to go from being a very independent girl, living across the country, figuring it all out, to living back with family and trying to make decisions that are good for the family. Some days I don't know who I am anymore.

My argument, upon taking this job, was thus: At least I’ll be driving distance from SLO. Surely I’ll meet people here. I’ll like it eventually. I’ll make friends here. If I move back to SLO, I won’t have a good job—here I can continue on this advertising path I’ve been on the last three years. It’s the most practical decision.

But you know what? After 6 months, I’m tired of being practical. Well, let’s be honest—after 3 ½ years, I’m tired of being safe and constantly chasing the responsible decisions. I’ve resisted that town and thrown myself into new places because I wanted to step out, and have a good career, and have new adventures, and all that.

Quite honestly, I’m glad I left SLO. I think I needed more texture in my life. But since I left, I have never found that deep happiness, that pure contentment, of living in a place I absolutely adore. But beyond the town, I miss my friendships there. I have certainly formed other relationships in other places, but I miss those crazy people there whom I would give anything for.

There’s something about the bond you have with people who you've been through the very formative decade of your 20s with. We grew up together, essentially. I moved to SLO an unsure, insecure person. Six years there taught me to fall in love with life. I'm fortunate that many of my friends still live there. In my wanderings and travels these past few years, nothing else has filled that void left by leaving them behind.

But because I’m still half-practical, my plan is to stay here until July—make it a full year. I’ll be able to save up some money (oh—ha ha! Did I mention I live with my parents down here?) and then I’ll find my way back to that town that I’ve had a solid love affair with for the last ten years. I don’t know what I’ll do for a living anymore—that’s where I’m throwing out my conventional side and am finally ready to start listening to my heart. Or maybe my low serotonin levels.

Anyhow, I’d rather be poor and scrape together a living and live where I really want to live, around the people I want to interact with every day*, than live in a place where I can continue on this career of convincing people they should buy more things.

*Not that I don’t want to interact with you every day, M&D—you two should move the Central Coast, too.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A road trip and the grateful holiday.

The T-giving road trip was wildly successful. It included 6 days of awesome mt. riding on new trails in various towns, 1/2 day of skiing (thanks, Paul!), a run with my dear friend Ryan, a lovely (albeit too short) visit with my family, a delicious T-giving meal, grateful Thanksgiving tears for all of our blessings, and a brewery/winery tasting tour through Oregon. Oh, and about 2,500 miles of driving.

Singletrack in Bend: Smith Rock State Park.

Skiing at Mt. Hood

The family meal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What happens after you climb too much.

Today, me and my mt. bike climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed. For three awesome hours. I hit the highest point in the Santa Ana mt. range, and it was stunning.

And now? I'm watching some bad TV show and thinking it would be awesome if I had a servant? or someone to bring me a glass of water, because the kitchen seems VERY far away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Mornings and The Big Road Trip.

This morning, I loved Southern California. I woke up at 5:30 to get in an 1 ½ hour ride before work, and you know what? In mid-November, I can totally do something like that. It wasn’t freezing, and I dug seeing that big sun come up. Knee warmers and a light jacket—that’s all I needed. I rode crossy-cross bike to some good dirt climbs, got my elevation gain in, and rode home.
It was not too cold in November to do that.

After living for three years in a place with very distinct seasons, I’m still a little thrown-off around here. It’s November? Really? Because all the leaves are still hanging on the trees, and though the days are shorter, really, the only difference is that the sun is perched at a different angle in the sky.
I can’t say I miss the seasons. Nope. Not at all.

Next week, I’m embarking on The Big Road Trip. My buddy, Tyler, and I are driving up to Oregon with our mt. bikes and skis. Our plan is ambitious: I’ll drive up to SLO on Tuesday night, get Tyler, and we’ll drive up to Santa Cruz that night. Stay with his folks. We’re going to hit the big dirt loveliness of singletrack that Santa Cruz is renowned for on Wednesday morning. Then, we’re going to hop in the car for 12 or so hours until we reach Eugene. We’ll stay with my sister, find some more singletrack, eat some turkey (or, I’m hoping, Indian food or something tasty like that—I’m totally banking on her being unconventional and treating us to some flavor), then we’ll hit the road again. We’ll either stop in Portland for some riding, or go straight to Mt. Hood for some skiing.* Then, we’ll embark for Bend. We have a mutual friend who lives there, so we’re going to crash with her while we explore the singletrack that Bend has to offer. Following that, we’ll be on the road for a solid, I don’t know? Fourteen hours of driving to SLO? It’s going to be a haul, for sures. But I’m hoping we’ll destroy our legs with all of that singletrack and skiing, so that by the time we get back in the car, we’ll be like, yeah.

*Sidenote to my brother: If you’re reading this, we’re crashing at your place while we’re in Hood. Hope that’s okay.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The 25 hr. Mt. Bike Race Report: TNT: Victorious. We won everything.

Well, we won pretty much everything and TNT totally dominated. The race directors were like, I'm not even sure if your team can return next year because you were just that good.

Ha ha.

We won the 5-person mixed-team category, which was actually a really tight race with one of our other SLO teams, Team Severed Head. When we realized we totally had it and were going to emerge victorious, our final rider, John, donned the gorilla suit and rode the final stretch dressed like this:
But I think the most impressive part of our win was not the whole part about winning 1st place and forever going down in the annals of victory for 25 hour mt. bike racing. Internet, we WON THE RACE FOR TEAM THAT DRANK THE MOST. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. That's why I put it in all caps. See, we had our own competition, our 15-person SLO group. Because we were like--who cares if you win a 25 hour bike race? It doesn't mean anything unless you can do it while drinking. Which led to the next thought: We needed to have our own competition, a race within the race, if you will, to determine which team was able to drink the most. But, because most of my teammates have engineering backgrounds, they were like, that won't quite work. Because then one of the teams could just sit around drinking for 25 hours. So we devised this formula.

I myself am not mathematically inclined, so I had one of the guys explain it to me.

Number of beers x number of laps = winner.

It was a really close race in that competition, too. I realized that those 2 beers I threw down with my breakfast pancakes really counted for something! We won the drinking race by exactly 2 beers. All in all, those sturdy boys on my team put down 73 beers, and I put down 7. That's an approximation, actually, though our team total really was 80. But I'm pretty sure that the boys pulled a lot more of the weight than I did in the drinking competition. But I totally offered moral support and made sure they threw their tabs in our team cup so they could be tallied at the end.

So, for the first lap, which began at noon on Saturday, everyone was all gung ho and proudly donned some sort of costume.

But as the race wore on, we pretty much just walked around in whatever.

Chris and John, two of my teammates, are also DJ extraordinares. These two have an amazing collection of reggaeton, cumbia, and electonica-ish type stuff that we blasted the whole time. It did get a bit annoying, at like 3 a.m. when some of us tried to sleep between laps, but all in all, it added to the collective vibe. There was one point, I think it was around 4 a.m., when Fred (really his name), from my team, hooked his iPod up and blasted really awful pop-rap and Eurotrash dance music. But, because the kid also rode really fast laps, entertained us with handless cartwheels, and has such a superstar liver, we totally let it slide.

The race was held in the Santa Ynez valley, on this huge ranch. That valley, in case you've never been, is truly one of the most stunning places on this earth. However, in the Fall, it's also a place of extreme temperature fluctuations. Because doing a 25 hour mt. bike race is not hard enough. It got up to 90 during the day, and it hit the low 30s at night. But no matter! It's not like we planned on sleeping anyway--not with the Europop blaring, the beer competition in a heated race, or teammates coming in to tell us it was our turn to get our freezing asses on the bike. AND MAKE IT A FAST ONE. So basically, we huddled around the fire all night and secretly hoped our teammates would take their sweet time out there.

The 4 a.m. lap was definitely my slowest. My legs actually felt pretty good, but trying to focus on the narrow swath of light my NightRider was throwing out, coupled with the fact that it was 4 a.m., led to this brief moment of my life where I couldn't balance on singletrack.

My last lap, at 8 a.m., was my favorite. With the sun up, brilliantly showcasing the vineyard-bedecked fields around us, it was like a whole new race. I could balance on singletrack again! I had pancakes and beer waiting for me when I got back! I very quickly forgot about that time period between midnight and 6 a.m. where I was seriously questioning the merits of racing in 30 degree weather, in the dark, with no sleep, and a slight hangover.

There are so many other stories I could share with you, but most of them were "you had to be there" type moments. However, I do believe you'll find some of the pictures entertaining.

We had our very own Laker Girl.

The Whole SLO Crew.

Below: Team Tecates Not Trainers. We won. Oh, yes. We did.

And this was our prize for drinking the most. More to drink.

I wasn't sure if there would be water obstacles along the course. You should always pack water wings.

- Joanna, Team TNT, Tecates not Trainers

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The next event.

One of my best buddies, Chris, sent me this pic today. It was taken at the Little 500, a few months ago. I love this picture. Bishop Peak is in the background, and it's just such a cool picture in its simplicity.
Up next on my radar? This weekend's 24, no, make that 25-hr. mt bike race. I'm heading up to the Santa Ynez valley to meet with my SLO crew for what's sure to be a wild race. Fifteen of my closest SLO friends will be there, divided up into 3 teams. My teammates and I have christened our crew the Tecates Not Trainers team. We won't be sitting on trainers in between laps trying to keep warm. I think you can figure out what we'll be doing in our downtime.
But Internet, the planning that is going into this race is so sophisticated. All of these e-mails about what Yukie, our team mom, should cook; whether we should rent a generator to power our speakers; how much beer will be sufficient; whether we should all don red body paint or just decorate our bikes with Tecate cans, etc.
I'll post after this weekend and let you know how team TNT fared.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What we become.

Lately, I've been looking at patterns in my behavior, in my personality, and I've been drawing all of these parallels to my childhood. It brings up the whole nature vs. nurture debate, among other questions. But I do wonder--how much of our personality is a result of birth order, parenting, and genetics?

I am the youngest: my brother is five years older, and my sister eight. Growing up, I spent a lot of time alone with my imagination. We didn't have a TV, so between the neighborhood kids, cow pond across the street, and my dolls, I had to figure out how to keep myself entertained. Which I was good at. I still have vivid memories of the various stories I would make up and try to live out through play. It was a great way to grow up.

I am 29 now, and I still need my alone, imaginative time. A lot of it, actually. Sometimes I wonder--had I not fallen last in the birth order, would I have a different sense of responsibility for others? Because I often have a hard time with that--feeling responsible for others. I'm very much a do-it-yourself and deal-with-it kind of personality. I've never had to look out for younger siblings or be concerned about anyone other than myself, so I would say that perhaps that facet of my personality has been very much engendered by birth order.

The more years I spend single and childless, the more deeply ingrained I become in my patterns of needing to be alone and wanting to dictate my own schedule and priorities. And I'm comfortable. I love that all I need on the weekend is my bike or running shoes and some trails--nothing more. Maybe a glass or two of wine and a good meal, of course, but I can be content by myself.

My need for my terms is an ingrained personality trait that can wreck havoc on relationships, among other things. I'm social, too, and I definitely have deep cravings for people and activities, but when I'm unsure, or trying to block out the world and adjust, I retreat into my more comfortable me-time and shun any other forms of interaction.

I'm not sure why I feel such a compelling need to analyze all of this publicly right now. I suppose to bring clarity for myself. I see some of my patterns, and I know, that for whatever reason--childhood, genetics, whatever--they're ingrained now. They're in. They've been in and don't want to check out. But I recognize that if I wish to move forward and develop deeper relationships, I need to let go of some of my tendencies that cling, white-knuckled, to my freedom, independence, and responsibility for myself, only.

I guess it's all a balance, right? I see a lot of women who are especially apt at complete self-sacrifice, until they find they have no identity outside of their homes, marriages, or children. So letting go of some independence in order to grasp love, while retaining that inner person, would be the ultimate balance. I suppose.

But it's hard to move forward when you're stuck in who you have become.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kambucha buzzzzzzz

I have become a total and complete, $20/week Kombucha addict. Komb-what? You ask? I learned about Kombucha this summer, my first week after arriving back in California. A friend of me told me about it, and the same week, another friend was talking about it and showing me his home-brewed version. At first I wasn’t convinced. Kombucha is a Chinese-fermented tea that definitely has an acquired taste, but the health benefits are awesome. It took me a few bottles to get accustomed to it, but now, Internet, I’m hooked. Kombucha has a very slight alcohol level—they claim it’s only 0.5% on the bottle, but for some reason it goes straight to my head and gives me that nice, relaxed ahhhhh. It’s my preferred drink at the office.

Kombucha is made from a fermented culture—it’s a bit gross looking, actually, when you see it in action before it’s strained. But it’s filled with probiotics, B Vitamins, and antioxidants. Anecdotally , it cures cancer. I’ve found that the flavored versions mask the very strong culture flavor. My current favs are Mango and Cranberry.

Unfortunately, the stuff isn’t cheap. Another girl at work is a self-proclaimed addict, so every Monday, we head to the closest health food store and stock up for the week. At $3.50 a bottle, it adds up, so I’ve had to start calculating Kambucha into my weekly grocery bill as one of my must-have things. I figure,
A. instead of spending money on vitamins, I can just buy Kombucha, and
B. I don’t have to sneak a flask into the office to get my buzz.*


Monday, September 28, 2009

Miami Re-Cap: The Not-so-Restful Vacation

I’m on the plane back from Cuba South America Miami*, feeling quite sleepy, but unable to rest, thanks to the fact that my knees are smashing the seat in front of me, and some rich espresso from this morning is still somehow working and blocking my brain from shutting off.
I was envisioning more of a restful vacation—the kind where I could linger in bed, sleeping in, followed by going to the beach, swimming in warm water, and pausing to refuel at good restaurants-- perhaps interrupting my sleep with the occasional Cuban coffee. Fueled by the caffeine, I would see some sights in Miami, but return to Katie’s condo for some more, you know, rest.
All of the above occurred, but I find myself still quite un-rested, and, I would say, on the verge of exhaustion. I worked a few 14 hour days, but took comfort in the fact that at least once I got to my Katie’s condo after the work wrapped up, I would be able to sleep off the fatigue.
Night 1: We went out. She took me to Coconut Grove, a self-proclaimed hip neighborhood in Miami. We ate great sushi, and for some weird reason, the numerous sake bombs and mojitos failed to reach my brain, signaling me to stop through the fuzzying of my thinking and robbing of my coordination. Instead, what occurred was … nothing. No buzz, no register. Assuming that the mojitos were probably missing the rum component, I happily sipped on Katie’s wine. This is, of course, a blatant no-no, and a sacred rule that every college freshman (or in my case, high school freshman) learns, and actually retains: Do Not Partake in the Mixing of Different Forms of Alcohol. A particularly bad decision: mixing the sweet syrupy mojitos with rich red wine and, uh, sake bombs. I basically broke every rule.
It became very obvious a few hours later. In-between clinging to the wall in hopes that it would stop my world from spinning, and waking up with tile grout marks embedded in my face cheeks, I understood that certain rules stand and should be respected for a reason. A little fun fact I learned (don’t read this next sentence if you’re eating, particularly if your sustenance originates from the isles of Japan): Sushi nori, you know, the seaweed that houses your rice and raw fish? That stuff doesn’t digest well. Even in my un-brillant and thinking-I-would-never-drink-again-state, the sight of the rectangular nori coming back up was oddly fascinating.
All-in-all, the night ended rather unfortunately, and because I spent the wee-morning hours getting acquainted with the taste of stomach bile, I understandably was not in the best shape the next day. Even though I slept in, I wouldn’t say I felt, “rested.” We decided the beach would surely revive us, so we lugged our umbrellas, towels, and magazines to South Beach.
Last time I went to the beach with Katie, in Charleston, South Carolina, I ended the vacation with a third-degree sunburn in some choice spots on my body. Determined not to repeat the same episode, I slathered half a bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen on every available patch of skin, cozied up under an umbrella, and called it a good beach experience.
After said beach “sunning,” Katie and I took a long, late afternoon lunch, and topped the evening off at a Marlins game. Out of respect for my liver, I refrained from drinking, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sleeping without battling a spinning head.
And now, here I am, on a five-hour flight across the country. I have to go to the office tomorrow, and will repeat that process for the remainder of the week. I’m not sure how that’s all going to go down, especially when I consider the fact that we have clients visiting and a presentation in L.A. It will be a tiring week, and I’m already hitting it on empty.
This whole experience of business travel and seeing the city only reinforces my obvious wimpy disposition when it comes to a night-out lifestyle. It also reinforces why I should never have children**: I positively would not survive those early years of late-night feedings.

*I’m still amazed that you’re not required to present a passport when traveling to Miami.
**Also, isn’t there another rule that states you can’t drink caffeine and/or alcohol while preggers? My point exactly. I’ll refrain from breeding.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Office for the Day.

This is my view today from where I'm working. I'm in Miami, but since my job supervising a morning TV program fashion show is complete, I'm now bunked at my good friend's house "working." Business travel isn't all that bad--I've been putting in long days, straddling both East/West Coast time zones and demands from clients on each coast, but the upside is that I have so much freedom. I can sit by the pool with my laptop, go for a run in the middle of the day (hint--don't try it in this climate), or chill with wine and my computer while I reply to frenzied e-mails from either coast.
This is my first trip to Miami. It worked out really well, actually. My dear friend Katie, whom I worked with in NC, now lives here, so it's a free trip to come stay with her.
Business travel all the time would for sures get old--esp. because I can't just grab my bike and go while on the road, but it's actually a great break from my routine and sitting in at the office all day.
It's very interesting being in a new city--it's almost inspiring that familiar wanderlust itch that has led me to live in multiple locales the past 10 years. I love the process of figuring out a new place and doing something entirely novel. But I'm finally learning that I love California, and even when I gripe about the abundance of people and lack of summer rains, it has an undeniable hold on me.
Miami reminds me very much of Costa Rica and Nicaragua--it's tropical, and the way the buildings are constructed, and the Latin influence--so very similar. I loved CR and Nicaragua. But I know that I couldn't live in a place like Miami, even though it conjures up great memories of my time in Central America. For one, it's flat. No mountains, no thanks. And even though I'm intrigued by all the green and palm trees and dynamic skies, after a few months here I would be all OAK TREES AND BROWN GRASS. OH, AND THROW IN SOME VINEYARDS. So I'll stay put.
But you know? Business travel every so often could be a very good thing. It may help satisfy my curiosity to experience the new.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Monday train wreck.

I don't know what it is about Mondays, but every Monday, without fail, I feel like a train has run me over and left me in the dust to flop. My head hurts, my hand-eye coordination doesn't function, and I have a hard time connecting brain waves to work duties. Typically, by 2 p.m. or so, this starts to wear off, and I feel like my more normal self.

See, I find this puzzling, because I'm a morning person. I love mornings. I thrive in the morning--I'm usually up early, drinking coffee, attacking my day. E calls this cafecito. He's not a morning person, so when I'm springing around the house, buzzing and ready to go, he's like, woman, over to the corner. Calm the freak down. The day is yet young. And I'm like, cafecito! Drink more cafecito!*

But Mondays? It feels more like 10 p.m. for me. I often finding myself holding my eyelids open, looking for some sort of apparatus on my work desk that will prop them open so I can send out e-mails and function in my job. I guess the weekend riding, vino, and not getting to bed at 10 p.m. catch up with me.

Excuse me. I need to go find some more cafecito.

*For all of you non-Spanish speakers out there, "cafecito" is another way to say coffee.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yet another not-so-interesting post.

I took another SLO pilgrimage this past weekend—this time for my buddy Chris’ 5th annual Tequila Party. We didn’t just drink tequila, Internet. We drank $1000 worth of really good tequila. You know what makes a really good margarita? Expensive tequila, fresh lime juice, and Triple Sec. Wow.

We also ate a complete lamb. The neighbors, I’m sure, were none-to-pleased when Chris and Co. rolled up with The Trailer Spit and parked it, with the full carcass, in the driveway and began roasting. But sometimes, that’s how you get it done. If they could have tasted the lamb, they would have totally forgiven us. Delish.

I know, I know. Lately, all I’ve been writing about is SLO and cycling. This has blog has taken the slow sad decline from a true blog--with genuine thoughts and shit! -- to pictures of my friends and our crazy, very grown-up ideas. Oh yeah—and the occasional post where I rip on Lance Armstrong and dissect the Tour. I don’t know—I just haven’t felt super inspired to write—really write. The ideas just aren’t flowing at the moment. I almost wrote a post about how Orange County has way too many people and too much concrete, but that’s a little like pointing out that the ocean here is cold. I chose to move here, after all, so bitching about the lack of open space just doesn’t seem quite fair. But in case anyone’s curious—yes. That’s how I feel. I miss a lot of open space. That’s probably why I’ve been making so many SLO trips. I don’t breathe deeply and feel truly released until I’m driving north and hit Ventura. That’s about the point where the curvaceous hills overpower the amount of concrete-laden things, and the California coastline smacks you in the face with its raw beauty. Having lived in small-ish towns my whole life, I never appreciated un-developed land until now.*

Having said all that, I'm not complaining. I'm stoked to be back in Cal. I really am.

I’m heading to Miami next week for work, so maybe in some of my downtime I’ll write a true blog post and tell you how I think the world should be run. Ha ha. Most likely, some of my wacked-out thoughts will find themselves as tangible text.

*Sorry, dad. No offense against your life’s profession.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Little 5-Hundy

FINALLY. I had my first SLO Little 500 experience. This was the fourth edition of the Little 5 oh oh, and for the first time, I wasn't across the country weeping over missing said event.

Here are the basic rules for the five-hundy:

1. Drop handlebars.
2. 700 c wheels
3. Teams
4. 32 laps around the dirt field
5. If you want to take the shortcut on the lap, you have to chug a beer.
6. Fastest team wins.
Our team came in 7th, out of--I don't know--8 teams? Obviously, we need to work on our skills. BUT, we were the only tandem team. Here is a pic of our ride. Notice the drop handlebars? We were fully legal.

We had eight total on our team. Between the attempted beer chugging and laughing, my stomach was all WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME? It punished me the rest of the night.

Some teams took it to the next level with their costumes:

Only at the Little 500 can you get away with a front shock AND aerobars. Effin' Awesome.

There were a few crashes.

A live band.

Sometimes, to get going, you needed a little help from your friends.

Eric and I passed one person. It was awesome.

Next time? Oh yeah. Our tandem team will BRING IT.

And hopefully? We'll end up here:

Monday, August 10, 2009

'Cross in the Urban Jungle

Despite the traffic, abundant concrete, and that it's NOT SAN LUIS OBISPO, I'm still enjoying riding here. It helps to have a guide, of course, and my guide happens to love dirt. Well, more specifically, he has awesome dirt-dar, meaning, he has found every single speck of singletrack dirt to be found in the Irvine area--and there's a lot, surprisingly. Hence, the latest addition to my bike quiver: The Cross bike. Meet Voodoo:

Crossy-cross bike is being parted together. The frame he scored from a friend who no longer rode her, and he's been able to build her up by taking apart my Orbea and taking pieces from his own collection. We've had to do a few minor purchases, but she's been a score, for shizzles. And guess what, Internet? When I get the new wheels on her, she'll weigh LESS than the Orbea.*

So this past weekend, we went out for our first urban-cross adventure--this is how E prefers to ride, when he's not on his mt. bike. It involves road riding, hopping onto sidewalks, cutting through singletrack, back onto roads, a few trail poaching diversions, more road, and often fireroads. It's super, super fun. Riding with him, I feel like a kid, following my childhood boy buddies around the neighborhood.

We went into this area called El Moro, which is mostly fireroad, but there's some singletrack, too. Riding the cross bike on dirt is a whole new skill, and I'm becoming quite enamored with it: you really have to feel the bike--you can't rely on your suspension to bail you out. I'm sure this new 'cross thing is going to result in a plethora of bruises and scrapes, but that's not super unusual for me. In fact, with all of the mt. biking I've been doing since I moved here, I don't think I've had a multi-day stretch where my knees and elbows haven't been scraped/and or colored with some sort of bluish/purplish bruises.
Ten-year old boys think I'm cool and observant females give me numbers for domestic abuse hotlines.

* That's a whole different post. I'm now totally obsessed with grams, thanks to his f#*&^ bike scale. I was truly horrified when he put my Orbea on there. I simple didn't want to ride her after that. Why bother? She's fat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Passive Aggressive Tour.

What a freakin' ride. Due to the generosity of a certain someone, I was able to watch the Tour this past week, and on Tivo, to top it off, meaning I didn't have to suffer through endless Enzyte commercials.

If you were to sit down and create a fictional Tour, with the perfect cast of characters, brutal stages, and intriguing side stories from the more minor players, I don' t think even the best writer could have come up with the plots and drama that unfolded this year. Really, the only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of Ullrich, duking it out for second with Lance. Oh, wait. Lance got third.

First off, you have the Schleck brothers, who brilliantly played off of each other's moves and positively made the whole peloton scream MOTHER on the climbs.* The fact that they protected each other, worked for each other, and cooperated so brilliantly only added to the magnificent mountain stages. They were, perhaps, the only example in this year's Tour of individuals who were not engaging in The Passive Aggressiveness. Andy Schleck was also the only man in the race who even got close to making Contador wince. On Ventoux, it was almost heartening to see a brief flash of pain hit Contador's cheeks. It was a reminder that:

A. He is mortal.
B. If he's on the Dope, he's still capable of human moments.

So let's get back to The Passive Aggressiveness, because really, TPA, as we'll call it from here on out, was the real story in the '09 Tour.

It started way back in the fall, when Lance announced his comeback to the sport. Contador, understandably, was like, WTF? I'm the leader, bitches! And so it began. Contador blatantly ignored, I'm pretty sure, any attempted coaching by Bruyneel this year, since Bruyneel himself seemed pretty intent on getting Lance on the top podium spot for the eighth time. I have nothing against Bruyneel--I think he's a brilliant directeur sportif, but he clearly has his favorites.

Contador showed his TPA streak early on. In his attempt to put some time on Lance, he attacked on Andorra Arcalis and succeeded by gaining 2 seconds on Armstrong. He repeated such moves, basically any time the grade reached above 6%, for the rest of the Tour.

Contador is still young, and to be as strong as he is--really, the strongest, makes it difficult for him to submit to coaching. He has a bit of The Cannnibal's streak--I'm referring, of course, to Eddy Mercx, who often didn't race tactically. He raced because he wanted to hurt everyone around him, repeatedly and without mercy. The sport has changed a lot since then; it's now all tactics, aided, of course, by the race radios and the precise control they offer the directeur sportifs. But back before all that, racing was first about strength, with tactics second.

I do agree that it was a total TPA move by Contador when he attacked on Le Grand-Bornand, pushing his own teammate, Kloden, out of possible podium potential. It wasn't a teammate move; it was a giant F-you move to Bruyneel, and basically the whole Astana team. They weren't supportive of Contador; he wasn't supportive of them.

And Lance, of course, perhaps the king of TPA in this year's Tour, took advantage of every on-camera moment to show classic, well-constructed TPA. Take notes, my friends. Next time you want to be passive aggressive, Lance is writing the book. In fact--I have an exclusive preview for you! It's only available on this blog. Let's learn from the master himself:

How to be Passive Aggressive
by Lance Armstrong

1. In interviews with the press, smirk and say..."I'm going to hold my tongue on that one..." any time a teammate, i.e., Contador, outclimbs you, and the press asks your opinon on his tactics.

Reason: This my friends, says so much more than just plain voicing your distaste for something. Don't express things clearly! That's communication. Body language and vagueness make a much better Passive Aggressor.

2. When your teammate, i.e., Contador, is receiving too much press because he is, well, fast, take that opportunity to announce you'll be building a new team next year! Again, divert, divert, divert. And if that new sponsor happens to be known mostly for their limited electronic selection, all the better!

3. Secretly rally all of the support staff on the team behind you. This is facilitated if you already have won the Tour seven times and have the directeur sportif in your back pocket. I like to call this The Godfather move. You're the puppeteer, so delicately balancing the strings on which the other players dance, my son. You know what also helps? When you and your entire staff speak English, and your arch nemesis teammate, does not. It makes it entirely too convenient to shun that person at the dinner table and exclude him from conversation.

4. Take advantage of technology! I'm clearly a technological guy, now that I have RadioShack sponsoring me, and just to prove it, I'm now Twittering my passive aggressiveness! This is a great tool, dear students. Twitter is a perfect medium to shoot off little jabs, such as, "Hey pistolero, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.” **

5. When your team decides to have a celebratory dinner for your winning teammate, if you're not the one who won, don't attend! No, this is a perfect opportunity to draw even more attention to the fact that you're starting a new team, and that the little Spanish twit won't be sharing the same jersey with you.

That's all I can share with you for now, Internet ... like I said, exclusive preview. But don't you feel more passive aggressive already? I do.

Oh, there were so many more examples in this year's Tour. I haven't even touched Cadel yet! He's awesome at TPA. And then there's the whole story with the sprinters--Cav and Thor--but actually, they at least openly trashed each other, so that was refreshing. They un-subtly hated each other during the race, but seemed to be quite chummy after. True sportsmen.

Most of all, I'm sad the drama is over. Well, not over--things will get interesting when Lance announces who will be joining his team, when Contador decides where he's going, etc. I am going to miss the actual bike racing part. The drama lives on. The drama is just getting started...

* Just as a side note, it's worth mentioning that I don't think either of the Schleck brothers will be pursuing arm wrestling after their cycling days are exhausted.
** That is an actual Twitter quote, my friends. I felt embarrassed just typing that immature rubbish.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Epic of Hotness.

Holy Maria! A friend took my up to a famous trail in these parts, San Juan, and I'm guessing he was either seeing what I'm made of or trying to kill me. Anyhow, after today's ride, I'm definitely growing fonder of this area.

The climb itself is 12 miles--all singeltrack. Perfect grade, not uber-technical, and amazing views of the Santa Ana mountains.

But here's the kicker: It was in the high 90s-100s during our 4 hour jaunt. Crazy hot for that kind of ride, especially with little shade.

But we survived. It seemed much easier for him. The descent was fantastic, and the beer and quesadilla after topped off the Epic of Hotness.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The things I find on Pandora.

So, in the interest of laziness, I'm choosing not to drag my ENTIRE CD collection into work to transfer onto my iTunes playlist. This time. I've done it twice before, and it's freakin' time consuming. All of those insert CD, rip, eject, repeat sequences take time, people, and I've got for reals work to do now.

This time, I'm going to try to survive on pure Pandora Music. I'm assuming all of you have heard about this--if not, check it out: It just may change your life. And it's free. *

Anyhow, the quick and sweet version is that you enter artists you like, and it creates playlists for you based on that genre of music. Tip: Pick a lot of different artists, then hit the "quickmix," which is essentially shuffle. You'll never get bored of your music selection, particularly if your artist style ranges from Otis Redding to Donavan Frankenreiter, as mine does.

Anyhow, Pandora is also a great way to discover new music. That's actually the whole point of this post. CHECK OUT MARTIN SEXTON. He's awesome. My Pandora selection kept playing this song "Thought I knew ya," and I was hooked.

*It's not salvation, kids. It's Pandora.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I can't not watch.

I held out for two days--not following any Tour coverage. But you know what it felt like? It felt like I had been grounded, forced to stay in my room, with only a meager serving of stale bread once a day. It was pure punishment and torture. And I realized that while watching the Tour on DVD--without knowing the outcome of each stage--could potentially mimic the experience of watching it unfold in July, I simply don't have the tenacity to hold out. So I'm following anything I can get my eyes on via online blogs, videos, and VeloNews coverage, and though it's not the same, at least now I feel like I can experience a little bit of the action.

In other news, my dad bought himself a mt. bike for my birthday present. But you see--it's actually the perfect present. I've always wanted to ride with him again, so now we'll be able to.

He's clever, that man.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tour de France Tragedy

Tragedy? Did Contador test positive? Did he crash? NO. So far, all is well. The good Spaniard managed a very respectable 2nd place in yesterday's time trial, beating out Mr. Livestrong by 8 places. It was a fantastic opening time trial, and my dear Cancellara happily took the yellow jersey--hardly a surprise.

Here, my friends, is the tragedy: I HAVE NO WAY TO WATCH THE TOUR. I'm so upset over this. The place that I'm renting for the summer has cable, but no Versus. Wait? State check? Did I really just move back to California? How can I not get Versus here? I have spent hours searching the Interweb to see if I can buy it from a site online to watch it live, and I've had no luck. I don't care if the commentary is in Russian. I just want to watch the race. Every site I've gone to doesn't allow access if you're not from Russia. Or Sweden, or New Zealand, or any of those blessed countries where they're generous enough to allow TdF coverage online, for free.

SO, after a lot of mulling, I've decided that I'm going to pre-order the Tour boxset, and try to avoid all media outlets for the month of July. I could try to go to a sports bar every night and bribe them into turning on Versus, but then I won't be able to hear Phil and Paul's commentary, and, really, it just sucks to watch the Tour that way. I want the full experience. So, unless someone lets me know, in my comments section, how to watch it online, I'm very sorry to say that I won't be posting my commentary about the race this year on my blog. You probably won't want to hear it all in August, or whenever I get the boxset, but I'm guessing I'll be so excited that I just might share it with you anyway. It will be kind of like stepping back in time. We'll all be more enlightened and feel younger as a result.

I have to go now. I need to pour myself another glass of wine and mourn over losing my July to no Tour. I think God is trying to test my faith, or develop tenacity in me. Here I am, in a new town, with no friends, a new job, and no way to watch the Tour. Call me Job. He and I have a lot in common right now. We've lost everything.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I need friends.

I'm settling into my new job, and it's been quite enjoyable so far. I like the work atmosphere, and they've kept me busy with multiple projects. The problem starts when the work day ends...

This is certainly not the first time I've moved to a new place and have had to start over. I have filled out more change of address forms than I care to admit. But I'm learning that my capacity to start over has diminished; with every move, I feel more attached to the people I left behind, and I'm I realizing it's harder to find the energy to put myself out there again. I'm tired of being new in town. It's no longer the adventure it once was.

I'm planning on going on a group ride tomorrow, which I'm quite looking forward to. Typically, I've created my social circles around those whom I've met riding or running, so it's been a convenient way to meet people. I guess I'm just feeling impatient at the moment. Building friendships takes time, energy, and many shared miles.

Fortunately, The Tour starts this weekend. Le Tour will be my closest companion for the next month, so that's reassuring. But after Contador, hopefully, has safely won, I'll have to scrape myself off, remind my heart it's okay to move on, and make new friends here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wow, I'm employed.

Yes, you read that headline right. As of 15 minutes ago, I now no longer have to say, "Well, actually, I'm UNEMPLOYED, THANKS FOR ASKING," when people ask me what I do for a living. I can now say, "Why yes, I do have a job." Nosy bitches.

I accepted an offer with a Hispanic agency in Orange County, and I'm absolutely thrilled. Marketing jobs are very few and far between right now, so I feel quite grateful. Also, I'm glad I'll be able to put my Spanish to use,* and I positively loved the atmosphere at the agency and the people whom I'll be working under.

*I don't think asking for margaritas these past few years has been "using my Spanish," so this is a legit opportunity to keep it alive.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Le Tour Approacheth

Well, it's getting real close to my favorite time of year. Yes, that hallowed month when I clear my calendar, drink a keg's worth of Hoegaarden, and positively obsess over men with shaved legs and arms as thin as electrical wires. This year's Tour, of course, has the added value of Mr. Armstrong's comeback, which loosely translates to better Versus coverage. Unfortunately, Mr. Livestrong Armstrong also attracts media coverage from respected news outlets such as NPR, which means, if NPR gives away stage results before I've seen the recap, my day is POSITIVELY RUINED. Typically, when such events occur, my anger is such that I'll swerve at squirrels and laugh at old ladies who slip and fall. BECAUSE I'M THAT ANGRY THEY GAVE IT AWAY.

Wow, I'm digressing already. Here's the deal: Contador is quite splendid, and I truly hope he doesn't get caught is not doping, because he's such a dashing young climber with enormous potential to elevate the sport back to respectability. Also, there's clearly tension within the Astana team, and infighting always makes for a fantastic soap opera, adding to the brilliant drama that makes the tour The Tour. Contador is already reportedly trying to switch teams, and almost succeeded, but the Kazakh government came through with the team funding. Meaning, it's Contador vs. Armstrong and Armstrong's bitches. It's promising to be reminiscent of the mid-1980s when Hinault and LeMond decided it was mano-a-mano, forgetting, apparently, they were teammates. They clearly passed this lesson on to Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis, who in 1996, engaged in a similar battle royal. Personally, I hope Contador kicks Armstrong's ass.

Honestly, I don't hate Armstrong. Though it probably seems like I do. I think what he's done for cycling has been fantastic, and I commend him for raising money and bringing attention to the fight against cancer. I do, however, disagree with his taste in women--and--here's what truly irks me: his insistence on referring to himself as "we." Um? Is your ego so large, Lancie, that you believe there are multiple Armstrongs inhabiting the same body? Here's a recent quote from the men man himself(s):

"Ninety minutes of the kind of watts we were putting out were what we needed to remind the body of what we need to do.”

I wonder if I would have more success, in, say, my dating life, if I started to refer to myself in the plural:

"Wow, we really enjoyed ourselves this evening. Would you mind not slobbering so much next time you kiss us?"

Or, I could try it at my next job interview:

"We have a lot of experience dealing with shitty clients. You should definitely hire us."

Despite Lance's ego problems, here's one thing I will say: The dude's got some serious sperm-regeneration capabilities. Have you not heard about this? His girlfriend just gave birth to another Armstrong child. What's puzzling is that Armstrong was deemed sterile after chemo, and his dear first wife resorted to having hormone shots in her ass and in vitro in order to bear him three children. I'm assuming Mr. Armstrong and New Girlfriend weren't using protection. Probable conversation:

Her: Wow. I guess I can get off the Pill, since, you're, um, sterile?
Him: Yeah, baby, it's awesome. I won't have to worry about your pill-induced mood swings.
A few months later...
Her: Um ... Lance, I'm pregnant.

Ten more days, Internet. The Tour starts in ten days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

California Driving

Well, I've been back in California for a few weeks, and like a proper Californian, I've been DRIVING. Which, after my four-day jaunt across the country, is not my favorite activity at the moment. BUT, I've been seeing some cool places and visiting a lot of friends, so I guess all of that car-time is worth it. Here's a short album of my adventures these past few weeks: It includes Yosemite, wine tasting in San Luis Obispo, and the Newport coast. Enjoy. And hire me. I need a job.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Re-living it.

Well, now that I'm back in California, with my car, and bikes, and dog, where do you suppose I've decided to couch surf? If you know anything about me, at all, you will right now immediately be saying "SLO?!" and you are absolutely correct if that is your reply, but unfortunately, I won't be able to offer you a prize of any sort because I'm unemployed. But if you happen to live in the radius of anywhere on the Central Coast, I will happily crash on your couch, too. And if that's not a prize, I don't know what is.

One of my friends is out of town, so I offered to "housesit" even though I don't think his place needed any sitting. BUT INTERNET, IT'S AWESOME. I'm pretty much in heaven. My bike(s) and I have been attacking every road, singletrack trail, and section of dirt with the same ferocity that a starving person would apply to a dripping slab of prime rib. There is nowhere better in the world to ride a bike. And that's a fact. I have such an affinity for the riding here because it's where I fell in love with cycling, and because the mountains and hills are perfect and beautiful and they hold so many dear memories to me. I'm re-living my favorite years every ride I take right now, and even though I happen to be out of work, just ended a relationship, and am facing the possibility of starting over completely, I'm absolutely ecstatic and thrilled with life right now.

I'm gushing. I know.

When I'm not on my bike, I've been catching up with friends here. Our Sunday morning agenda? The Walk of Shame. We'll set up shop on the busiest party street in town. We won't be doing any walks of shame, but rather, heckling those bleary eyed, hungover college students who are stumbling back to their cars wearing what they could find of last night's clothes. It's wildly entertaining. After that, we're going to do a "death march," a euphemistic name for a four-hour mt. ride that involves climbing some large peaks and descending off of small cliffs.

So, anyhow, as you can tell, I have a full agenda.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Notes from the road.

I'm on day three of my four-day drive across the country. As you can see from the pictures, it hasn't been overly remarkable. I've been pacing my drive by only going 9-10 hours a day--I definitely don't fall into the "road warrior" or "long-haul trucker" categories. The truth is, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to sitting for long amounts of time, so I won't be able to share any stories with you about a 20-hour stretch that I put in, fueled entirely by Red Bull and Fritos. The reality is, I stop every few hours, stretch my legs, and munch on hummus and bread that I have stored in my cooler.

So far, this has been my progression:

Day 1: Greensboro to Jackson, TN.

Day 2: Jackson, TN to Clinton, OK.

Day 3: Clinton, OK to Winslow, AZ.

The thought of sitting right now makes me feel slightly nauseated. My ass seriously, seriously hurts. And I haven't had any epiphanies, or road-trip breakthroughs, in case you're wondering. My many hours of solace have been filled with my stereo blasting out a shuffle selection from my iPod. If anything, I'll probably lose a few IQ points when this trip is all said and done.

Mae has been an awesome companion, as you can see in the photos. She sleeps most of the time. Today, for the first time, her road trip resolve cracked, just a bit, when she didn't want to get back in the car at a rest stop. I had to pick her up and stuff her back in.

Leaving NC was very difficult. I walked away from a relationship with a man whom I truly loved. Unfortunately, we both have very strong ideas about where we want to live, and I don't see either of us changing our minds. I don't want to be in the South, and he doesn't want to be on the West Coast, so we had to end a perfectly good fulfilling friendship and relationship. I think we'll both carry around bruised hearts for some time.

I kept thinking that I would write a long post about my time in NC--kind of wrap it all up, you know? But I realized this blog has been my NC journal; I started it right after I moved there, and it contains far too much to cover with a Cliff Notes-type summary. But I will say this: I'm so glad I moved out there. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know a soul there, and I didn't know if I would stay indefinitely or go straight back to California. I think I grew up a lot out there. It was, above all, an adventure.

And now, I'm getting ready to start the next chapter.