Monday, March 28, 2005

All Quiet On The Western Front

I hated that book. Actually I might have dug it, had it not been required reading in High School, but alas, I hated it. Anyway. Who cares?

Point is, things have been quiet latety.

I've been preparing to re-enter my other life as a college student, and have been a bit preoccupied. Books, registration, scheduling, bla bla bla.

Madness on a different stage is winding up again, and dammit this time I'm prepared. American higher education is a wierd and twisted environment full of characters stranger than fiction and more entertaining than anything broadcast over ABC, NBC, CBS, MTV or CNN combined. You can have your Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, because the people sitting two rows up in American History are twice as dense and three times as interesting, because they've got opinions, they know they're right and they are dead sure that you will agree with them. This is my other favorite crowd, the middle-aged never-has-beens, the young never-will-be's and the rest of us floating somewhere in between, just hoping to make it out alive.

Come to think of it, sounds suspiciously like the crowd in my two wheeled life... DT

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why I Dislike Eastern Bloc Countries

How do these guys keep doing this?

Seriously. How does an unknown 19 year old Russian dude bust out of NOWHERE at the Olympics and lap the field a million times then drop back to 3rd to last at Worlds where some unknown Ukranian dude busts out of NOWHERE to throw down and win. Granted they didn't just step on a bike yesterday, but most of the riders, very few of the media and none of the public knows who these guys are, but they are AWESOME at winning a World Championship or some other amazing achievement then no one ever hears from them again. So bizzare.

All I've seen for the World's points race was the results, no reports or pictures, so it's impossible to tell if this guy benefited from a crash, some wierd race condition, 10 years of daily motorpacing in a secret warehouse in the Russian tundra or slack-ass out of competition testing standards... Hmm.. Either way, Juan Llaneras was the only name on the podium I recognized, and he's on the bottom step. First place was Volodymyr Rybin from the Ukraine and second was Ioannis Tamouridis from GREECE. I mean come on, he's from Greece. The greeks haven't done squat in the track racing world since the Olympics, where they magically got much better, but were still middle of the road at best. Now this guy hauls off and beats the best track racers in the world.

Quote from "Favourites will include 2004 Athens Olympic gold medalist Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Joan Llaneras (Spa), the gold medalist in the event at the 2000 Olympics and silver medalist at the 2004 Athens games, Juan Curuchet (Arg), the bronze medalist at last year's worlds, and American Colby Pearce (Boulder, Colo.), second overall in the 2004/05 world cup standings.
Lesse, any mention of Vlad the Impaler or the Greek guy? Nope. Where are our favorites? Llaneras was the only even close in third, and of 20 riders Curuchet, Pearce and Ignatev were 12th 13th and 18th respectively.

I'll hold off on further speculation and slander untill I get the full story, but for now let's just say it's f#%!ing wierd.

In other news, big props to this guy for sticking it to the man:

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Manuevers and Impending Doom Around The Corner

Ah spring racing. Spring and summer racing are two entirely different creatures to me. Even after a winter of good training, everything before June seems to turn into an ordeal in some way or another. I have serious problems with Peice of Cake. The race. Lemmesplain.

First off, it was damn cold. 3 weeks of the best spring weather this region has ever had collapsed by Saturday and we crawled out of the team van in gale-force winds and 40 degree air. Everyone made a big show of how much clothing they were wearing, whined about the weather and talked about how we were probably going to get dropped. Dark predictions for what would become a dark day..

MAYBE 5 miles in I ran into the first Manuever Of The Day. Actually, it ran into me. So we swing around an easy right hander onto a major highway and I'm on the inside, cruising next to the gutter, nicely hidden from the crosswinds when WHAM some hubbard comes careening in from the other side of the road and slams me into the ditch. As I'm looking at the 5 foot drop I'm about to take into the ditch, I can't help but think "WHAT THE F*%! was THAT?" Really. Not sure how he managed that one unless he wasn't paying attention and didn't see the guy dressed entirely in day-glo orange sitting right were he wanted to be. Anyway. Cut to me as my front wheel digs into the gravel and it's DEEP gravel so I'm about to flip over the bars, but in some freak occurance my rear wheel just stays airborne and I roll on my front wheel only, inches away from the big ugly drop untill I come to a cursing halt. Brian drops back and hammers full throttle back to the group with yours truly in tow. I didn't get a good look at the guy who punted me, too bad because I was really itching to say hi.

Anyway, the winning break goes in the first lap as it always does, and I'm not in it. Here's where things start to get ugly. The little green beer dudes have a guy in the break (coincidentally, someone I complained about extensively last week...) so they're not doing squat. That's cool, I can dig that but then as a small group of us start chasing, a couple of these dorks decide to fly around us and sit up. We go around and they come hauling around into the wind, get in front of us and stop pedalling. This pisses me off. If your dude is in the break, go sit in the back, don't race like a bunch of cat. 4's and "block" me. After a while I got tired of A: being one of 3 people chasing in a 50 rider bunch (come on, you don't all have guys up there...) and B: The beginner guerrilla tactics of these dorks, so I go stew in the very back of the field.

This turns out to be a good decision for once, because right in the middle, just where I would usually hang out, the group detonates in tangled limbs and bike parts all over the road. Maybe 10 people or so end up in this fracas, but fortunately I saw it coming in slow-motion, so I roll around. Later I find that Curryboy pulled the second Manuever Of The Day. One of those "putting a wrapper in the back pocket while wheel overlaps" deals. Tough breaks, Curry In a Hurry loses a bunch of skin and might or might not have broken his hand (won't go get it x-rayed) but seems okay aside from that. The crash also significantly reduced the number of green dudes in the field. Bummer they had to go out that way.

So long story short, the winds continue blowing at about a thousand miles an hour across this flat, square course, so I drop the hammer in the crosswinds with one other guy and we split the field a few times and the group gets broken down from 40 post-crash to about 12. Bonus.

I pay for it later, as I feel impending doom in the form of massive quad cramps coming on 3 laps from the finish line. Damn the man. This continues for the rest of the race, eventually developing into muscle sieze every time out of the saddle. 200m from the line I deeply regret my earlier efforts and 50m from the line, within sight of winning the group sprint both legs go into full catastrophic lock and my feet stop going around. This is the kind of cramp that feels like someone simultaneously slices all the tendons connecting your quads to your knees AND shoves baseball bats in your spokes. Two days later I can still feel it. Damn. DT

Monday, March 14, 2005

Bannana Belt 3: Lemming Parade

I have many weapons in the quest to conquer Bannana Belt, that dreaded first race of the US season. This year I attacked with a potent mixture of two weeks of illness and a lack of enthusiasm. The results were un-fantastic, as expected. If nothing else, these three Sundays of furious pageantry make for amazing entertainment, like hanging out in front of the chimp cage at the zoo, waiting for the inevitable crap-tossing fights and spontaneous masturbation.

Remember that game Lemmings? If you've never played Lemmings, you're missing a huge chunk of videogame history. Lemmings is right up there with Pac-Man on the list of all-time classic games... Anyway. The point of the game was to find a way to get a large group of brainless green midgets out of a tricky situation. Lemmings couldn't be counted on to offer any help or great ideas, because (just like the real thing) all they could do was toddle around and walk off cliffs. It was both supremely frustrating and endlessly entertaining.

Cut to the first lap, 11 miles of rolling lakeside roads. I'm feeling like crap on wheels, but it's a sprint lap, sprinters are getting twitchy, and by habit I roll into a nice position close to the front. Bummer deal is, a group of 3 is just off the front of the field, so without considering consequences(thinking is for sissies) I blast out of the field with a K to go and catch the group. It's way too long to go, but choices are few, so instead of slowing down to sprint off the break, I keep up the rediculous effort and attack them as well. Now I see the green guy... He's small, and really green, I've dragged him all this way and now he's gonna try to pass me. Damn the man, I think, and struggle to the line. 20 meters past the line he rolls up and says something about how I suck because I can't ride straight, so naturally I tell him to get f*#ed. I couldn't catch the rest that he fumed through clenched teeth, I think he was a bit upset that I wasn't respecting his authority as a member of the Seattle racing community... oh well...

SO. Jump forward to the next sprint I find myself tangled in, and we happen to be in an identical position: Me bearing down on three guys at a comfortable speed with a good distance between myself and the finish, with a little green shadow glued to my rear wheel.

I have to wonder, how well is he glued there?

How well is he paying attention?

What if I yank the e-brake right... NOW!

And I did. In mid sprint, in a great position and for no good reason at all, as soon as I recognize my shadow and run the previous questions through my head a few times, I abruptly stop pedalling and hear a satisfying flurry of swearing and insults mixed with that great sound of carbon brake-pad squeal. To my credit I never touched my brakes. Just keeping you on your toes, little lemming.

So I pretty much got the cold shoulder from the rest of the Seattle lemmings after that, which was nice. If only I could get another green guy to shut up... He's on a different team that looks exactly the same, and apparently he's really smart, he's wicked fast, he's not even trying right now and he knows exactly what to do in any situation because he's "been around the block." Yeah that's right folks, here comes another former pro, watch out. Apparently one and a half seasons with the worst pro team on the continent entitles you to a king-like status that most of us could only dream of. This guy doesn't seem to get it. Some pros retire because they feel fulfilled with thier results and they're ready to move on, while others get fired because they AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH. Being a pro once doesn't make you cool and it sure as shit doesn't mean that everyone wants to hear you flap your jaw at us for three hours. Seriously. Those 8 year old pro team socks you still wear? Doesn't mean you're not irritating.

Such is the joy of the season's opener. New uniforms, shiny new bikes, a couple new faces and the same jackasses that just keep showing up... What a way to spend a sunday. More fun than TV and a hundred times more dangerous. DT

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Newsflash, Newsflash, and Thank You Captain Obvious

Things around here at Voodoo Madness have been quiet lately, and questions have been raised.

Will this strange experiment continue?

Was it all worth it?

What does it mean?

Question one is inevitably yes... of course it continues. As long as there is Evil and Madness in the world to document and describe, sure. Why not? Bike racing continues uninhibited despite the change of hemisphere, as does life. As for the other two questions, well, no one's keeping score.

Back in the groove to be sure, not a week has passed in the country and I've gained employement. Damn. I tried and failed for months this fall, on the hunt for anything short of burger-flipping. Failure at every turn. And now, in this unusual spring, I get one reccomendation, one psuedo-interview and it's bike-shop paydirt for yours truly. The downside to this (or the upside, depending on who you are) is that combined with university duties and training, spare time won't be so abundant, which will cut down on the blogging. Bummer, yay, whatever.

BIG NEWS... Apparently scientists at Harvard or Yale or somewhere equally prestigious and haughty have discovered after YEARS of research that "laughter can help ease the stress of everyday life." Seriously. That's what they discovered. Wait. Wait... Wait... So you're saying that... Hang on... Let me wrap my head around this one.... So you're saying that laughter... makes you happy? Wait... no it can't be that stupidly simple can it? Or...

This is what happens when proffessors at expensive schools get piles of grant money and spend it all on psychedelic drugs and cars.

"Oh shit, Sam! Our study is due tommorow! Oh crap I forgot all about it, what are we gonna do?"
"Uuuhhmm... Wait... Wait.. I got it. Tell them we did some clinical, double blind, six-month, triple anaesthetic test that proves that laughing makes you happy or something."
"Yeah, yeah. If we just use enough technical jibber-jabber they won't think we spent all our money on weed and Volvos!"

Oh man, and the Circus of Nincompoops continues. The president is now ticked off at the AARP because they DARED to be kinda upset that Bush is dismantling Social Security. Now that he's got the older demographic's vote for his second term, he's ready to steal thier retirement plans but HEY!! DON'T GET MAD AT ME!! I'll make you PAY!! ugghh..
At least some of us saw this coming.

"yeah we'll turn social security into... umm... something kinda like a savings account... actually kinda like your savings account... cause you'll have to save a lot before I drain social security.... which is tommorow when we go to War with (I mean spread liberty to) Iran ... "

Politics is messy. Politics under the most twisted administration my generation has ever seen is pretty scary stuff. Granted my generation hasn't see that many administrations, but I was born in the Reagan era... DT

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Back In Portland, Chasing The Sun Around

After 24 hours of torture-chamber plane seats, idiot passengers and screaming babies, things are back to normal. Back at home, back riding on familiar roads, drinking familiar coffee. It's been an amazing southern hemisphere summer, and I have a lot of people to thank for that. And that means a bullet list (why not).

  • Although my original housing arrangement at Andy's didn't work out, Andy and Peter were still great for making it available, and Andy was an awesome tourguide, part-time chauffer and general moral-booster for my time in Auckland.
  • It'd be tough to completely thank the Starrs for everything they did. Walker for coming up with a place for me to stay on no notice, then driving me around and being a all-around stand-up good guy, his parents Rick and Nancy for accomodating me in every way they could, Tom for keeping things interesting and Rico for just being Rico.
  • Brei and her family were also great, putting me up in my own room, carting me to races and being generaly cheery. Remember Saul, AMERICA!!! F#*@ YEAH!!! Also, if any of you ever need a team manager, I suggest Brei, she's quite the organizer.
  • Scottie for setting me up with places to stay in Nelson and Invercargill, that part of the trip would've been much tougher (and not as cool) without help.
  • My host families in Nelson and Invercargill were awesome. I'm convinced that hosting multiple bike racers is above and beyond the call of duty, and I wouldn't wish it on my greatest enemies.
  • The fine people at Altezano coffee shop in Auckland, for they kept me alive...
  • All the random people I met and hung out with... you were all very cool.
  • Troy for being angry. Don't stop being angry Troy, don't stop.
  • Jenny for all the emails and conversations (and still being there when I got back).
  • Norrene for her support and patience.
  • Last but certainly not least, my parents who gave me every opportunity I ever needed and made all this possible. They even suggested that I drop all my classes and go be a bum, how cool is that?

I missed people, I'm sure of it. It's going to bite at me for weeks, I just know somewhere out there someone is reading this going "dammit you ungratefull little..."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Checks Are Your New Favorite Band

Tuesday night was to be the final full night in the Big Smoke, Auckland City. Once again plans never came to pass and 4 of us were left gathered on couches looking at each other. Looking at the TV. Looking at the paper. Thinking, hmmmm... What's happening on the first Tuesday that school's back in session?


At 8:56 someone fishes a torn flyer from the bottom of a jacket pocket. The Checks and The Mint Chicks: Kings Arms Tavern, Tuesday night, 9:00. I caught the end of a great set by The Checks at a free outdoor concert a couple weeks ago and happen to have it on good word that the Mint Chicks blow minds with thier live shows, so into a car we pile and off to the show we go.
At top speed we reach the King's Arms across town in incredible time, just as The Checks are taking the stage. Here I feel comfortable. These last few months I've had a great time out with the lads, but the norm around these parts are polished dance clubs filled with Gucci-clad trust funders and annoying blond bimbos. If I wasn't with friends and comfortable with my lack of dance skills, the whole Auckland scene would be depressing. As it is, I tend to feel out of place in a Clash t-shirt and jeans when surrounded by people dripping with money. So when we walk into the tiny, slightly grimy Kings Arms I begin to feel much better. I'm not so out of place in my Portland gear and shaved head. Things are looking up. The amps click on, guitars plug in and the last night in Auckland is underway.

I have this feeling about The Checks. I realized halfway through the first song that it would be criminal... absolutely criminal if these guys don't find some level of success in the States and beyond. Imagine the lovechild of Jet and Franz Ferdinand, then give them the balls of AC/DC, the stagecraft of The Rolling Stones and the boundless energy of The Hives, there you have The Checks. Very well crafted songs, but beyond that, these guys realy Feel It. They get rolling and the whole crowd can Feel It, because that's the kind of energy they put through the amps. The singer dances and freaks all over himself while the guitarists compete in some kind of unjudged dance battle, all the while the lead guitar is absolutely WAILING on 5 strings, broken steel be damned, with some kind of Detroit Rock City face-melting solo that would make Jack Black break down and weep. To make things worse, these guys are my age. Damn. The Checks. Remember that.

The only minus was the shortness of the set, maybe half an hour and they were out. Just enough to get the crowd frothy and amped and out the door they go to make way for the Mint Chicks.

Wasn't sure what to think when 4 guys in matching gold vinyl jackets strolled on stage. I guess I was expecting, well, chicks. To say that they launched into thier set is a blatant understatement. From the word go (there actually wasn't time for the word go, it was just ZANG!! and they're off) I was floored. If you can't get amped and crazy with the Mint Chicks on stage, you're too old or too sad, it's hopeless and you should give up. This is a new kind of spaztic energy, a bizzare hour and a half uncompromising freakout of four guys who really want to knock your socks off and know exactly how to get it done. They're not angry. They're not mean. They just play extremely fast with the amps turned up to 11, and they're not slowing down for anybody. This isn't punk or metal, it's rock for robots who like to drive real fast and break things. It's a minute of maximum effort and then a heart-stopping pause before launching right back to a bazillion miles an hour. I think everyone in the Kings Arms lost it for a while, went completely off the scales with the singer as he thrashed around with us, threatening to never stop and never slow down until one of us keeled over from a heart attack or plain exhastion. When they finally ran out of songs, unplugged and dissapeared, I was a bit lost. No one knew how much time had gone by, it was just a fizzing sea of excited people, dripping sweat and ready for a big glass of water. The Mint Chicks are musical Danger... in matching gold jackets.

Like I said before, I think the Checks will make it. I think they'll get big and a handfull of us will be able to say "yeah I was there, I saw them back in the day." I think they have the musical talent and the showmanship to go big. The Mint Chicks will always have a special place in my heart, and they could certainly make it to the States, but they're too uncompromising. Too off in thier own psychotic world for commercial success. The Checks are musical meat and potatoes, The Mint Chicks are crack and cheez-whiz. Simple as that.

Great night, great show, full of danger and intrigue. A great exclamation point on an already excellent trip. A fitting end. DT

p.s. go here now or else...