Blacknell.net

Politics, technology, and society. And the seasonal incursion of pro cycling.

Month: May 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

Reality Check

This last weekend found me in Stokesville, Virginia for the Virginia IMBA Mountain Biking Festival. I'd never had a chance to ride any of the trails out there, and I figured that it would be an excellent way to assess the advisability of me actually competing in the Shenandoah Mountain 100 this year. A number of the group rides would follow the SM100 course, and the plan was to take advantage of those rides to see as much of the course as possible. All the while having a grand time. Well, something like that.

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Arlington/Alexandria Community Bike Ride this Sunday

WABA (and lots of co-sponsors) will be holding the Arlington/Alexandria Community Bike Ride this Sunday, offering a couple of options for recreational cyclists:
FAMILY RIDE: (7-mile loop) Less experienced riders and families will enjoy this ride along popular Community trails like the W&OD, Mt. Vernon and Four Mile Run. Don’t worry, these trails are flat! COMMUNITY RIDE: (23-mile loop) More experienced riders will love this route, with on-street bike lanes in several neighborhoods as well as scenic trails like the W&OD, Custis, Four Mile Run and Mount Vernon- into historic Old Town Alexandria. Rest stops at Bluemont Park, Rosslyn, Crystal City and Alexandria will be stocked with water, refreshments and restrooms and will provide basic mechanical assistance.
I'd been planning to hit Roseryville that morning, but a combination of wanting to put action behind recent words about organized rides and a genuine hope that people discover and get excited about the local trails has me volunteering as a ride marshal this weekend.  Come check it out and say hi.

VA Citizens Have Had Enough!

I spent a bit of time in rural Virginia this past week, and while driving there I noticed all of the effort that goes into mowing the highway medians. It struck me as a colossal waste of time and energy, and perhaps a perfectly sensible place for the perennially poor-mouthing VDOT to make cuts. Surely there are more important things we can do with all of the manpower and money this pointless activity takes. Apparently, I am the only person in Virginia who thinks this way. From the Washington Post:
[S]omething far more insidious is plaguing Fairfax County's suburban stretches: unmowed grass on public roadside land. [ . . . ] And with hundreds of complaints pouring into supervisors' offices, that translates into one unified message: Something must be done! "This is all people are talking about," said [Fairfax County Supervisor] Bulova, who agreed to traipse through waist-high grass in the median of Braddock Road on a recent weekday to demonstrate the problem. "It is so awful. It is unsafe. It is unsightly."
Seriously. This is what gets people upset enough to bother calling their representatives. Maybe we should make median maintenance a National Guard activity. Then folks would care enough about them being in Iraq, and not here, to do something about it.

Ride Report: Atlantic Cycling Blackwater Tour

Prompted by a posting to the Bike Washington listserv, I decided to try Atlantic Cycling's Blackwater Tour this last week, making it my first metric century of the season. I'd never heard of this ride or Atlantic Cycling, but I've an affinity for riding in the very rural Eastern Shore, and I didn't have anything in particular planned for that Sunday morning. It starts at the Visitor's Center of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which reminded me much of the marshes around Savannah (one of my favorite places on the planet). This was an absolutely beautiful area - a flat road inches above the water, and no cars to be seen (or heard). You can tell you've exited the park when you start noticing all of the duck blinds (Seems a bit cruel, no? Offer them a refuge, but only if they can make it through a hail of bullets. This is not a ride I'd be making in the fall.). It then loops down through Dorchester County before heading to an out-and-back segment to Hooper Island. All in all a beautiful route, and on a Sunday morning there were only a few miles (out of 65) where I saw more than a car or two at a time). I'll definitely be heading back there when the schedule calls for some all day road work. The riders were your typical touring assortment - a fair smattering of club riders, a good number of older touring couples, and a few groups of friends who had coalesced around a more experienced rider friend. I decided to make it a tempo training ride myself, and when the wind really picked up, I connected with a couple of other solo strangers and we shared the work of a three-man pace line for the rest of the ride. People were friendly, but not in your way. Just as I like it. Atlantic Cycling, for its troubles in organizing and supporting the ride, wants you to sign up as a club member ($10 per season, getting you a nice grey on red t-shirt) and pay $10 for each ride. Registration was quick, and I received a cue sheet and a wish for good luck. I don't think there is any on-course support beyond the (well-stocked) rest-stops. My only point of complaint was that there weren't any restroom facilities available at the stops. This wasn't an issue for me, but it wasn't good news for a number of riders (esp. women). I'm almost embarrassed to say that I probably ate more than my registration dollars' worth of food at the stop. I'd gotten in late the night before, and was operating on just a few hours of sleep. Apparently my body thought a good way to make up for that was by ingesting way too many peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Depending on my calendar, I'd be quite happy to join another Atlantic Cycling ride this season. The route was clear (both on the cue sheet and as marked), and the company was pleasant. It's not an ideal ride for those who are unsure of their abilities, but I'd recommend it to everyone else.

Something Good

Check this out, if you need a smile. (Been meaning to link this forever.)

CSC Invitational: Saturday, June 2nd

If you enjoy racing at all, come to my neighborhood and check out the CSC Invitational next Saturday, June 2nd. For the uninitiated, the CSC Invitational is a day-long series of amateur and pro bicycle races on a 1km circuit that winds through Clarendon. It's a great way to spend a day, as the course is incredibly spectator friendly (always lots of people, but never impossible to get a roadside spot). Come check it out. More info here. While I hope you'll come early to support your local amateur racers, the men's pro race starts at 12:25pm. For those of you who follow cycling, this is a good chance to see once and future stars - over the years, this race has hosted victories and impressive efforts by the likes of Ivan Dominguez, JJ Haedo, and Bobby Julich. Ivan will be there this year, as will Christian VandeVelde. I stumbled on this event in its second year, when it was still the Clarendon Cup. I've made it most years since then, and have never had anything but a fantastic day there.

Keeping Pressure on the Democrats

"Poll Shows Opposition to Iraq War at All Time High" - that's the headline at NYTimes.com, at the moment.  And yet we have the Democratic leadership caving to the White House on the matter of withdrawal deadlines.  I know that it takes a while to get over being the minority party, but it's about @)(@!@! time the Democrats shake it off and start delivering.  And I don't want to hear a goddamn thing about being afraid that anyone will look like they're not "supporting the troops." No one with two brain cells to rub together can make a cogent argument for the proposition that setting a hard withdrawal date is somehow failing to "support the troops."  Sure, you can say that it's failing to support the President, the fantasies of PNAC, or the bloodlust of the remaining sliver of the population that supports President Bush.  But it is NOT failing to "support the troops" (if you need examples of failing to support the troops, take a look at the Bush budget position on military pay or veterans benefits).  The Democratic leadership needs to start acting as if they understand this reality, and if they don't, they'll get absolutely no sympathy (or contributions or support) from me when they start paying a political price for it.

Ride Report: DC Moonlight Monument Ride

Last Saturday night, I finally took advantage of one of the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club's organized rides. In this case, it was the "Moonlight Memorial Monument Ride", which was scheduled for a rollout from 11th and K St. at 9pm. All PPTC rides are volunteer-led affairs, which generally means that while there's an agreed upon pace and route, it's up to you to make sure you can take care of yourself. Given the ride-filled schedule this approach produces, I think it works pretty well. 15th St.Perhaps the ride was advertised beyond the usual PPTC venues (I know that I was reminded of it by a posting on an MTB-related site), but as the ride started, it quickly became apparent that there were more than a few folks who hadn't either ridden downtown before or ridden at night. And as you might imagine, there was a lot of overlap between those two groups. Now this, of course, is perfectly fine - no way to get experience without doing it for the first time, right? But it does end up requiring some extra care (and work) on the part of the ride leaders. While I did see someone hold up a yellow triangle of cloth and say something about following that at the beginning of the ride, I think that was pretty much the last time I saw him. There may have been other people who had been recruited to shepherd the groups as they drifted apart (in addition to speed differences, there would be inevitable - and multiple - separations by cars and traffic lights), but I never saw them.

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Mourning the Cutty Sark

In case you haven't heard, the Cutty Sark is no more. The New York Times is treating the emotional impact of the loss of the clipper ship as something of a curiosity, which I suppose is understandable for a paper with a readership that likely has little to no connection with the Cutty Sark. But in Britain - and for many of us around the world - the Cutty Sark was something important, tied up in history and shared memories. My own connection with the Cutty Sark comes from a simple photograph. Taken by my father in the mid-60s, it was framed and hung in every house we ever lived in as a family. The towns and furniture changed a dozen or more times, but the picture was a constant. Seeing the Cutty Sark in person on my first trip to Greenwich (20-something years ago, now that I think about it) was as exciting as anything else I'd ever seen. And now it's gone. Cutty Sark Image from Graham Binns.

Call me when . . .

we can raise up and wage a war on radical stupidity.  Looking more and more like that's something America needs.

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