Monday, April 14, 2014

Century Season, Chapter One: Redbud Ride

Gentle readers, it's bicycle season again!  After the brutal winter here in northern Indiana, it hasn't come a moment too soon, either.

This year, I have decided to make a serious attempt on the Kentucky Century Challenge.  (Why not the Indiana Century Challenge, you might ask?  Because there isn't one.) In the cycling world, a "century" is a single-day riding tour of one hundred miles.  Four such rides are part of the Challenge.  Those who successfully complete all four rides get a FREE jersey!  Undoubtedly, the most expensive "free" jersey in the history of the world, but ... I want it.  I've been told that the first of these centuries, the Redbud Ride, is the most difficult, due to some fairly extreme hilliness to the route.  So, to southeast Kentucky I went last Friday, to start my quest for the Holy Grail Jersey.

This was a return for me, since I had ridden the Thriller Ride last fall.  Both rides are produced by the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club; both are substantially run by Mr. Rodney Hendrickson (about whom, more later); and the routes overlap substantially, being composed of the winding, low-traffic back roads of Laurel, Rock Castle, and Jackson Counties.  The Thriller was 64 miles, and it was tough, but not prohibitively so.  So, I approached the Redbud rather lightheartedly, thinking of it as one-and-a-half Thrillers, plus a few odd additional miles.  Besides, I had a new cassette on my rear wheel which offered a 19% lower ratio "granny gear" (32 teeth, replacing 25 on my original cassette).  So, I was confident that I could crank my way slowly up any slope I would encounter.

No law against being wrong, I hope.

I lodged at the Microtel on Route 192.  I got there about 9 pm on Friday.  Somehow, I knew immediately that I was in the right place.

Still, I was askeered to stay by myself in a strange Microtel.  So I brought in a close friend to spend the night with me.  (In the morning, I saw that others had done likewise, as a whole series of bicycles made their way out the doors of the place.)

Saturday provided absolutely perfect weather: about 60° at the 8 am mass start, with an afternoon high of 77°, clear blue skies, and light winds.  The only disappointment was that the Redbud Ride was conspicuously short on (active) redbuds.  Spring has come late to southern Kentucky this year.  The trees mostly still didn't have leaves.  Still, that's some breathtakingly beautiful country.  The roads have an understandable tendency to follow either streams (the low places) or ridgelines (the high ones).

Another rider and I take a simultaneous roadside stop.  I don't know why he stopped; I stopped to take pictures.

Jackson County is separated from Rock Castle County by a stream; here it is spanned by a plank bridge, where we cyclists were instructed to dismount and walk our bikes across.  The reason wasn't immediately obvious to me, as the posted weight limit seems ample and the car you see had just driven (slowly) across.  When I began to cross the bridge, all became clear: the spaces between planks were just wide enough to drop a road bike's wheel into.  Hmmm, that could've been bad.  Note the young women present.  There's no reason for me to boast of having completed the century route, when they did too (this particular group was riding about the same pace I was, and we passed back and forth repeatedly all day).  But then, they are young women; they don't appear to be completing their 60th year.  So, all right, I'll go back to boasting.

Shortly after this, we came to the notorious Tussy Hill.  It was not part of the Thriller Ride route, and I'd been hearing people talk about it all day. Here is where Rodney Hendrickson, the ride coordinator, revealed his comic bent, using spray paint.  He marked out the routes, and approaching Tussy Hill, we encountered the spray-painted exhortation:  GEAR DOWN, BABY, GEAR DOWN!  I did, and proceeded to toil my way up a challenging slope, I'd guess maybe 18%.  And when that slope shallowed out, I remarked to the guy next to me that we had done it.  He directed my attention to the next pavement slogan, which read: LOOK UP.  So, I did, only to discover that this was a two-part hill with a near-level "landing" between parts ... and the next part was a lot steeper.  My next remark was something like, "Oh HELL no!"  But there was nothing to do except soldier on, and I started up that next one.  A little way up it, I had an experience that was new to me: I could tell I was going to be falling, but there wasn't anything I could do about it.  Just past the next spray-painted slogan (GRUNT!  GRUNT!), I hit the point where I could no longer move the bicycle.  To stop a bicycle requires you to put a foot on the ground, and I was clipped in.  Normally, you unclip with the bike coasting.  But I was already at essentially zero speed on a big up-slope, so there was no "coast."  All I could do was try to rip my foot instantly out of the clip, which never works, and so I left a little of my hide, and blood, on that Kentucky pavement.  I then walked the bike the rest of the way up.  My consolation was that the same thing was happening to many other folks right at the same place.  Maybe I should get tested for bloodborne disease, having shared a flesh-grater with a bunch of strangers.  At the top, we were treated to one more painted slogan: AND THE BABY IS BORN!

Everyone takes a break at the top.

Looking back down the hill:

And looking down my leg, I have a minor little strawberry as my Tussy Hill souvenir.

From the hill to the next rest stop was only about 2.5 miles.  During that stretch I noticed that my bike speedometer was showing a speed of zero and not registering miles.  This concerned me, as the Century Challenge check-in procedure requires you to show a speedometer or bike computer with 100 miles on it, or be accompanied by another rider who'll tell them you went the whole way.  I couldn't be sure I would still be with any of that group I'd been pacing at ride's end, where things are usually pretty chaotic anyway.  I got my wheel pickup back into alignment at the stop, but those missing 2.5 miles were "in my head" the rest of the way.

But, the road goes ever on and on ...

... and it is pretty, even when you're feeling about four-fifths dead.

I kept grinding away, following route marks, and eventually found myself back in downtown London, at the Laurel County Farmer's Market where the ride began.  I showed my speedometer at the check-in table, and they didn't even want to hear my whole story about dumping the bike -- I guess I looked like somebody who'd ridden the whole thing, and they just checked me off.

I had left at 8 am, and I returned just a few minutes before 5 pm.  I estimate that I spent something like one hour, total, at the five rest stops.  So my century was nine hours in duration, with about eight hours actually riding; I averaged about 12.5 miles per hour.  Eight hours in the saddle of a road bike is a little bit of an issue in itself; for the last hour or so, I was aware that my "junk" was completely numb -- just one more not-so-useful thing to be in your head, wondering just how good an idea this had really been.

So, it's one down, three to go, commencing with the Horsey Hundred late next month.  I certainly hope the Redbud was "the hard one," as I've been told.  I think that one hundred miles, at least in seriously hilly terrain, is about 30 miles too much to make an enjoyable ride.  The last twenty-five were kind of grim, a grind-it-out exercise, and the last ten were a serious death march on wheels.  My takeaway lesson: I don't think I ate enough along the way (strange as that sounds, coming from me, one of this world's great gluttons).  Next century, I plan to hit the bananas, peanut butter, and orange quarters harder.  Bottom line, though: I'm really, really glad I went.  I may never go back, but doing it once is a very good thing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Protect and Defend the Constitution From ...?"

Laurence Vance, in the Lew Rockwell blog, passes along a remarkable statement from a "bad" veteran.  Yes, bad ... bad, very bad.

But don't pay any attention to this guy.  He must not be a real veteran.  You know, not one of the Holy Troops.  Not one of Our Heroes, uh-uh.  Not a single "ooo-rah!" does he utter.

"Protecting and defending the Constitution ..."  Let's think that one over for a minute.  The US constitution is a deeply flawed document.  It isn't clear to me that its protection-and-defense is actually worth anyone's life.  On the other hand, I will concede that a government -- a mythical government, we're obliged to say, since no such has ever existed here (or anywhere else in the world that I'm aware of) -- a "constitutional" government, I say, would be pretty tolerable for a good while, to the extent that it remained so.  The man in the video above says that he encountered no enemies of the constitution in the far-flung places to which he was dispatched by Our Supervisors.  But someone who is serious about protecting and defending our defunct constitution won't go overseas; he doesn't have to.  There's a smallish area, sort of Maryland / Virginia, right there around the Chesapeake Bay, where the most prominent enemies of things constitutional may be found.  Their numbers are quite limited; I have in mind 435 so-called "representatives," a hundred profoundly stupid "senators," a president and his chief minion, and a supreme court (the constitution's most official rapists).  But that's not where the alleged guardians of your liberties go.  No, those folks go to carefully-selected foreign lands to abuse and slaughter foreign people who are inconvenient to the corporatist regime that rules the US empire.  Then, their skills perfected, they come back here, trade in their military uniforms for police ones (the differences are increasingly hard to see), and occupy the Homeland, cracking down on you and me according to the wishes of Our Supervisors ... and, increasingly, according to the random thug impulses of the uniform-wearers.

Gee ... thanks, vet'runs.  Thanks for your "service."  Please, serve me no more.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Ladies Are Doing Us Proud

Always assuming "us" means the Imperial USA, that is.  Myself, I'm feeling a bit of gratitude for anything that takes the mask off Exceptional America, in case anyone's paying attention.  (Doubtful.)  So, great job, Victoria Nuland of the State Department:
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has described as "totally unacceptable" remarks by a senior US official who said "fuck the EU" while speaking about the crisis in Ukraine.
In a leaked conversation posted on YouTube, the state department official Victoria Nuland revealed the White House's frustrations at Europe's hesitant policy towards pro-democracy protests in Ukraine, which erupted late last year. Nuland was talking to the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
[ ... ]

The White House spokesman Jay Carney would not discuss the content of the conversation recorded in the clip, but he too invoked the Loskutov tweet. "I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia's role," he said.
Blaming the Russians for leaking a conversation that was presumably obtained by covert means poses problems for the US, as documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the US has in the past listened into the communications of its allies, as well as enemies.
 And then there's our UN Ambassadress, Samantha Power (exquisite name, no?), taking the high road with the Russians:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is making it clear that she stands with Russian punk group Pussy Riot even if it means joining the band — jabbing the Russian ambassador to the U.N.
Power met Wednesday with two members of the band, who were jailed in Russia for criticizing President Vladimir Putin and eventually released two months before the end of their two-year sentence. The ambassador and human rights scholar called the women “brave ‘troublemakers’” in a tweet sharing a picture of the group.
When asked about their meeting, the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, asked, “She has not joined the band?” according to Reuters.
“I would expect her to invite them to perform at the National Cathedral in Washington,” Churkin said at a briefing. “Maybe they could arrange a world tour for them, you know. St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, then maybe in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, ending up with a gala concert at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. So if Ambassador Power fell short, I would be disappointed.”
Power responded Wednesday evening that she’d be “honored” to join the group.
I'm rather tempted to make an early monetary donation to Hillary 2016.  The more ridiculous the Empire looks, the sooner its collapse occurs. And for that: the sooner, the better.

Monday, February 03, 2014

A Voice of Sanity

Via the Rockwell blog this morning: Edward Snowden, interviewed by a German source.  Don't hold your breath while waiting to see this on American teevee.  He's also been nominated by a couple of Norwegian legislators for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Unless the one awarded a few years ago to President Drone Murder Commander Obama is rescinded, Snowden ought certainly to reject any such award that might be forthcoming.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Whew! That Was a Close One!

A judge says whatever the NSA is doing is just peachy, constitutionally speaking:

A federal judge in New York has ruled that the National Security Agency's mass collection of phone data is constitutional, rejecting a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley's decision came just 11 days after a district judge in Washington ruled the opposite – that the agency's "almost Orwellian" surveillance program is likely unconstitutional. The ruling raises the likelihood that the issue will be settled by the Supreme Court.
In his 54-page decision, Pauley said there is no evidence that the government has used any of the data collected for purposes other than "investigating and disrupting" terror attacks.
None of this matters at all, in any practical sense.  If a whole army of federal judges -- and I'm sure there are enough of them to constitute at least a modest army -- were to declare the NSA constitutionally impermissible and order its activities to cease and desist, does anyone imagine that they'd go out of business?  Didn't think so.  Probably the only thing that would happen is that all of the judges' extramarital romances, porn-surfing habits, and other such peccadilloes would "leak."  In any case, it would be made abundantly clear that judges actually command no more divisions than does the Pope (thanks, Josef Stalin).

It's worth noticing, though, for purposes of sour amusement.  Ah, our Glorious Constitution!  Amendment 4 suggests that, absent probable cause "supported by oath or affirmation," and warrants "particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized," we're all secure against searches and seizures.  I say it suggests this because it certainly appears to be no more than a suggestion at best, and really, more like a bad joke.  In practice, it might as well say that nothing shall be searched or seized unless someone receiving a government paycheck feels like searching or seizing it, in which case, it's theirs.

And the judges!  One says the NSA crap is "almost Orwellian" and "likely unconstitutional."  Hmmmmm.  Can we conclude that it would become certainly unconstitutional if and only if it becomes fully Orwellian?  Doubleplus ungood, man.  Then there's the other judge.  Since the government is doing things for purposes he likes, obviously what they're doing is constitutional.  "Constitutional" means "having a purpose that a judge approves of."

Finally, don't forget: it doesn't matter what any judge thinks or writes.  The government has the guns.  It's going to do whatever it wants.

Get used to it.

But that's just the problem.  We are used to it.  And getting more used to it by the day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Which I Agree With the NSA Director (About One Thing)

Check it out: one of the coldest and crappiest leftovers from the Dubya Administration seems to think Edward Snowden should be killed.

Pretty routine stuff.  And I'm sure his opinion is enthusiastically endorsed by the warm & cuddly progressives in the current O'Bomber junta, too.  Ho-hum.

One tiny little fragment of truth does appear at the end of this item:
NSA Director Keith Alexander, however, disagrees with Ledgett.
"I think people have to be held accountable for their actions," Alexander told CBS. "Because what we don't want is the next person to do the same thing, race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data knowing they can strike the same deal."
Yes, people should be held accountable for their actions.  Which means that it's actually the John Boltons and the Keith Alexanders of this world that should have dates with a rope and that tall, strong oak.

[via the Lew Rockwell site]