Riding to work isn’t quite the same as the regular Tuesday/Thursday morning workout on Skyline, and even less like riding to Santa Cruz and back. But this morning, it was kind of like riding in France, as those Sunflowers I’ve noticed the past few days near Jefferson and Farm Hill finally got me to stop and take a photo. Something I’d never do if driving.
I didn’t used to commute to work by bike that much; generally I’d be driving, because it was more convenient for stopping to get food and/or coffee on the way to work, or going to the bank. But it’s not. Not sure why I ever thought that! Nor does it take much longer than in a car, and maybe even less when you consider not having to find a parking space and feed the meter.
Even the ride home, having to climb 400ft up Jefferson, takes just 5 minutes longer by bike than by car. Not that I’d time it or post each ride on Strava, nothing like that! The only downside is needing to take a shower before dinner, but even that’s not too big a deal since I’d otherwise be taking one before going to bed anyway.
Will I ride when it gets dark on the way home? Most likely yes. Will I ride in the rain? Most likely no. Thankfully not something it does very often ’round these parts! The Tuesday/Thursday-morning ride goes on, rain or shine, just for the challenge of doing it. But that has the benefit of a shower at the end, and clean dry clothes. So yes, I’ll wimp out. But for now, it’s time to ride. Everywhere I can.
With the latest revelations scheduled to come out within a few hours, we’ll have confirmation of the rampant doping throughout the pro peloton during the Lance era. Is it OK if that makes me feel it’s a bit disingenuous for Chris Froome to state “This yellow jersey will stand the test of time” without providing some context?
Specifically, that he’s thankful for the improved doping controls that allow a clean rider, like himself, to compete and win the Tour de France and further, that he can’t say, given the environment of earlier times, if he wouldn’t have ended up on such a list himself?
It’s one thing that those who were guilty of participating in doping during cycling’s dark years stay silent. There’s a sense of shame as well as the hope that the focus on Lance Armstrong would distract the public from thinking much of others. But the current generation of “clean” riders… are they actually better people than those who came before? Or seemingly-thankless beneficiaries of a new system that no longer rewards those who cheat?
Chris Froome doesn’t come across as an arrogant person, but I think the current crop of cyclists in general lacks a bit of humility when it comes to understanding the changed circumstances in which they engage their chosen sport. It would have been nice, on the podium at the conclusion of the Tour de France, had Chris Froome acknowledged that, and pointed out that riders didn’t decide to race clean to save the sport, any more than riders of the past cheated to destroy it.
Despite any revisionist attitude towards doping, he who must not be named (Lance) deserves severe penalties because of the way he destroyed lives, specifically Betsy Andreu and Emma, to protect the lie (that he was clean). Financial compensation to his victims, to an extent that it would be ruinous to the gains he received, is in order. But in the context of the sport, he stole his victories fair & square, just like many before and a few after him. His TdF wins should appear with asterisks, as should the majority of those who won during the period from 1992-2008 or so.
Our trip to France was a bit convoluted-
- SFO-Chicago (Flight/United)
- Chicago-Munich (Flight/United)
- Munich-Lyon (Flight/Lufthansa)
- Lyon-Avignon (SNCF train)
- Avignon-hotel (Rental car)
This is nothing new to me; long (seemingly-endless) travel “days” without sleep have become the norm. I don’t look forward to them, but you get past them and somehow the brain-numbing ordeal seems to set your clock to local time a lot faster; I feel 100% adjusted the day after arrival. The experience isn’t enjoyable but it’s a means to an end. And in the end, everything worked out as planned, but I gotta say, the second leg’s plane, an aging 767 that seemed older than UA’s Rhapsody in Blue corporate theme song, was close to disgusting in Coach.
Loose panels over the emergency exit door, worn & torn wall-mounted pouch for United’s magazine and safety materials, and the carpet? I think United salvaged the stuff we threw out last year when we redid our floors! Thin, torn in places, and the only thing holding it together was likely the dirt. Even the overhead bins were an issue; this had the old style that don’t allow you to place your luggage in front-to-back, so space is drastically reduced by people having to place their rollaboards sideways.
There have been a number of recent changes to United’s elite flyer programs, making it seem that they only really care about a small number of customers who buy high-priced last-minute fares for business trips. I sure hope they don’t run out of space up front for them, because anybody sitting in the cheap seats of this particular plane wouldn’t think the airline thought much of them.
In general, I’ve thought that United had been doing a pretty decent job, recovering from their bankruptcy a few years past, and the various problems that came with their merger with Continental. But if they’re still letting a piece of equipment like this one fly the friendly skies, clearly having been in need of substantial renovation for a number of years, you just gotta wonder.
But they did get me to Munich, on time, and without hassle. Something that would have been a challenge for them just a couple years ago.
Lufthansa? Oh my goodness, how much more apologetic, in an amazingly-sincere way, could you get over the fact that you were going to be leaving 4-5 minutes late due to delays getting baggage loaded? And then again at the end of the flight. The pilot’s German accent caused us to think he said 45 minutes, which made sense; who would be apologizing for 4 or 5? Nice clean plane too.
The photos and descriptions of United’s 767 were sent to United via their website form. Read on for the surprising result.
Part 2- United Responds
Thank you for contacting United Airlines. I regret learning about your disappointment with the appearance of the cabin aboard flight 655 11July13. In efforts to provide you with a seamless travel experience, United expects our staff to maintain the aircrafts to ensure the cabins are safe and comfortable.
The comfort of our passengers is a primary focus for us, and I truly regret you were disappointed in our service. Each aircraft adheres to a rigorous maintenance schedule to help ensure our customers enjoy safe and comfortable travel. I will include your comments in our monthly Customer Care report. The report will be reviewed by our Technical Operations Team. I am confident necessary repairs will be made.
Please be assured your comments have been reported to the members of senior management team as well, for internal review. As a goodwill gesture I have added thirtyfive hundred bonus miles. to your MileagePlus account.
We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.
Regards, xxx xxxxxx Corporate Customer Care
Part 3- United is fixing the planes! (response below from a friend who works for United, in aircraft maintenance)
Mike: Did you send UAL the same comments about your France trip you posted a while back? They heard from somebody. Quite a few legacy United 767 aircraft have recently had interior audits done. The worst plane spent about a week at SFO. More than 100 items were replaced, cleaned up, or re-worked. This plane wasn’t supposed to be in for routine major mechanical service until late this year. Keep your comments coming.
Some things don’t change; before seeing the Doctor, you get weighed and have your blood pressure taken. I warned the guy that it was likely to spike a bit; maybe I shouldn’t have, because from his reaction it looked like he though I was going to have a panic attack or something serious! Nope. Just don’t feel comfortable around a Doctor’s office; I associate them with needles and blood being drawn and such. Maybe if instead I thought about all the good that comes from Doctor visits, at least in cycling. How many spectacular climbs were made possible by Doctors setting up pro cyclists with PEDs (performance enhancing drugs)?
But this visit was more mundane; at my visit last year, I’d neglected to have a few moles checked out, and since it seems like they’ve slowly grown and possibly darkened a bit over the years, and since I’ve got a lot of customers who have dealt with skin cancers, I figured they ought to be looked at. Funny thing, that. It was one of those “Nothing to see here, move along” encounters. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but said I could have them removed for cosmetic reasons if I wished (as if), and asked if I still wanted to have their “roving dermatologist” check them out. Well yeah, if I’d talked myself into a visit in the first place, it made sense to make the best of it. She looked them over closely, saw nothing funny, I was given a bunch of information on what those dark areas are and why to not be concerned about them, and that was that. The upshot is that the oddball skin I’ve got that doesn’t seriously burn is also pretty-much sun-safe. Go figure. Oh, except for the tips of my ears. The point was made that I had to make sure I got some sunscreen on the tops of my ears. Um… ok.
After the dermatologist left he asked me about my breathing issues, how the Albuterol inhaler was working. I told him that some of the wheezing was gone, but still had pretty significant breathing issues when climbing. He listened to my lungs and decided that it’s not just exercise-induced asthma I’ve got, but the regular, more-chronic variety as well. Went over a few options, explained the side-effects of once or twice-a-day pills (like Advair?) in a way that made them sound very unattractive (blindness, among other things, being possible) and wrote out a prescription for Qvar. Sadly, Qvar has none of the extra enhancements of Clenbuterol, the stuff Contador got popped for a couple years back, but if it might help my breathing, it’s worth a shot. I’ll let you know!
It wasn’t the same plan I had back in the 70s… college was four years and out. For Becky, I think it came to 7.
It might have been shorter had she done things the way Dad had suggested, going to Canada Jr College for the first two years (like Dad did) before transfering. But Dad was told, in no uncertain terms, that Becky was too good for Jr College, and Dad’s protestations that “goodness” had nothing to do with it were for naught. In the end, Becky sandwiched Canada in-between a rocky beginning at UC Santa Cruz and a magnificent finale, as she found something that really interested her (Anthropology/Archaeology) and applied herself to her studies, probably with more zeal than Dad did, so many years ago.
It’s an odd thing, visiting your old school again, remembering what it was like leaving it for the last time. She didn’t actually have such feelings about leaving; certainly nothing like the emotions expressed when we dropped her off for the first time, tearful good-byes that seemed out of place given that Santa Cruz is only 50 miles away and we’ve got these things called cell-phones instead of the telegraph when I was there. That’s OK; life isn’t always experienced with the same linearity from person to person, but there seem to be central core themes that show up. Which, of course, was the subject of one of my classes way-back-when, Birth of a Poet. A course built around Joeseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces“, the book that George Lucas took to heart when writing Star Wars. Becky just did things in a different order.
And that builds a nice seque back to the graduation ceremonies, which are done a bit differently at UC Santa Cruz. First, each college (of which there are 10 on campus) has its own separate graduation, giving each college an opportunity to personalize things a bit. Stevenson, Beckys college (and Dad’s too, back in the day) has the grads enter to The Imperial March, aka Darth Vader’s theme. It’s really pretty cool, but could have benefitted from some strong sub-woofers and carried through as they actually entered the stage, not just marching down the hill. And yes, I looked around and saw no Imperial Walkers either. That would be been the icing on the cake.
What could my bike possibly do better? I don’t know. It’s close to 4 years old, obviously not the latest & greatest technology, but it still consistently blows me away, how well it rides, how reliable it’s been, how few flats I’ve had over the years. And on mornings like today, it has that “Twist the throttle and just go faster” feeling. OK, I do have to admit that I upgraded the wheels last year to the latest & greatest Bontrager D3 carbons, but other than that, it’s nearly the exact same bike it was when I bought it.
But it’s getting close to upgrade time. When I got my current ride, a Madone 6.9 with Dura Ace Di2 electronic shifting, I had the same feeling then, about how a new bike could possibly ride better than my prior Madone 5.9 SSL. But it sure did! Livelier, better at descending, even seemed more comfortable.
And I’m sure my new bike, likely a 7-Series Trek Madone with either mechanical or electronic DuraAce 11-speed group, is going to blow me away just like the last one.
What brings all this up? Probably the customer who came in, towards the end of the day, with a 1973-vintage Masi, great condition, paint job almost entirely intact. Got me thinking about how awesome my first racing bikes were, back in the day. And then we came down to the reason the bike was in the shop. It needed a few oddball Campy-specific parts that aren’t generally available anymore, and the discussion had to be had regarding keeping things as original as possible, using the dreadfully-awful stock derailleur cables and housings, or drastically improve the shifting using modern cabling. But modernizing it would defeat the point of owning a classic old bike.
And that point is? I’ve got a classic old bike, my 1972 Cinelli that I raced on, back in the day. A poster child for the “steel is real” crowd, and those who feel that nothing invented after lugged frame construction is worth two cents. And what do I call that bike? “The Iron Pig.” Because it’s heavy and feels as responsive as a Prius hauling concrete up a steep grade.
If it was a classic car, the difference in performance would be a source of discussion, maybe humor. But it’s a bike, and I’m the engine, and that makes it a whole different story. There’s no quick tune-up to make my engine faster, and no spare parts either. I’ve got to keep the original factory equipment running as long as possible. The only option I’ve got is to get a faster chassis with great wheels, and thankfully, every three or four years they’ve made enough improvement in them that it makes sense to upgrade. Even though my current ride is so nice.
The alternative? Ignorance is bliss. Be happy with what you’ve got, ‘cuz it’s been so good. That would be fine if everyone around me wasn’t getting faster (it’s certainly not me getting slower!), and if I didn’t know, from trying them, that $$$ will buy me a better, faster ride.
But it’s going to be a tough one for me, because I really can’t see my current Trek Madone serving duty as a “rain” or “utility” bike. It’s too nice. My 2003 Trek 5900? Different story, The differences are so significant that it makes sense to take it out in the elements and, basically, ride it like a rental. I can’t see my 2010 Madone in that role. But, I’ve been wrong before. Every 4 years or so. –Mike–
It had been a while since I’d done a “real” ride (not a commute home) at night. Too long. So when the opportunity came today, when Kevin decided he needed a sort of make-up ride for the one he missed Thursday morning, why not? Beautiful night out there; didn’t need leg warmers or a jacket. Far more bugs than cars. In fact, really few cars the entire way, with the exception of heading home over Jefferson.
Lights? You bet! Niterider Lumina 650 up front for Kevin, older Niterider 600 for me, plus Serfas Thunderbolt flashing white front lights and an assortment of flashing tail lights to keep us obnoxiously-visible.
Most curious thing I noticed was Kevin’s reluctance to ride at normal speed heading down 84 into Woosdide. I’ve found that reasonably-adequate lighting allows me to descend at nearly the same speed I’d be doing in daylight, assuming it’s a road I know, and 84 is a road I know very, very well. Just get in the groove and go. I can almost do it with my eyes closed, I know the corners so well. Nevertheless, I don’t want to discourage any sense of sanity that Kevin may actually have.
Yesterday before work I’m at Peet’s, getting what I needed to get before a busy day at the bike shop, and there’s Karen, whom I’ve known for quite a few years but not seen in a while. She’s a bit younger than me but not much, and wearing her age very well. With her is a friend, name not recalled, but I’d leave out particular anyways in this case. Karen thinks I look good, lost weight, whatever, doesn’t mention that shiny area on the upper back of my head (aka bald spot). She and her friend are into running, and it’s obviously kept them in very very good shape. This isn’t a mutual admiration society, because looking at me, there’s not that much to admire. But her friend, who’s looking a lot more like 38 than anything close to mine, thinks maybe she remembers me, or someone with my last name, from high school (San Carlos). So I ask the obvious question. “What year did you graduate?” And it’s like no, no chance whatsoever of going down that road, that’s not a question she would ever answer.
??? I don’t get it. This is three happily-married people (we’ll make that assumption because it’s the safe thing to do), and nobody’s hitting on anybody (which I wouldn’t encourage but is it so bad to wonder if it could ever happen or that you’re so over-the-hill that you don’t catch your wife’s eye much less anyone else’s?). So why is someone who might be 50-something and looks 38 worried about clues to her age? The mysteries of women & men. It’s not so bothersome that I’ll never understand. It’s that it appears I’m not meant to understand.
Do people see the large Hawk in the tree while driving past in a car? Do they notice it when out walking their dogs? Not likely. I think there’s a special attachment with nature that only cyclists have, because the world goes by at just the right speed on a bike. Sure, you could make a case for walking allowing you to see everything but y’know, everything is more than we were made to handle. A cycling pace is just right, a natural filter that allows your mind to bridge to the world in perfect sync.
This is Why We Ride!