Dec 6, 2011
One of my favorite movies is The Right Stuff. I especially like the parts about Chuck Yeager and the other post World War II test pilots that flocked to Edwards Air Force Base to try their hands at flying experimental high-speed aircraft. In real life, the open skies of the California desert drew these fearless men from all over the country. They came in droves, yet it was the fierce, but friendly rivalry between Yeager and Scott Crossfield that stood out in the pages of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book, The Right Stuff. In 1983, the book became a movie, and naturally, Chuck Yeager joined the ranks of Malcolm Smith, Mert Lawwill, and Bob Hannah as my childhood heroes.
In 1947, Yeager became the first man to fly at the speed of sound--supersonic speed – a milestone known to test pilots as the “demon in the sky.” In the years that followed, Yeager, Crossfield, and other test pilots would fly experimental aircraft, in a race to achieve speed and altitude records. Before Crossfield’s jets were even cooled from a record-breaking flight, Yeager would take off to set a new record, and vice versa. The rivalry nearly killed each man on multiple occasions; however many other pilots caught up in the action weren’t as lucky. They lacked “The Right Stuff.” One of the opening scenes in the movie is set at the funeral of an unnamed test pilot who met his destiny while chasing that demon in the sky.
It’s certainly not as historic, spectacular, or epic as the competition between Yeager and Crossfield, but it is space-aged and it does test man and how he pedals his machine. It’s called Strava, and using GPS, it measures the speed that you descend, ascend, and travel roads and trails, compares the data to others that have ridden or ran the same segments, and then makes that information available to the world at Strava.com. The geniuses (and I mean that in all sincerity, not sarcastically) at Strava call it “social fitness.” I call it war.
For example, I’m currently in a heated battle with any man, woman, or child in the greater Inland Empire downloading their workouts to Strava. The moment I get an email notification that someone ascended the Three Hawks trail at the Crafton Hills Conservancy faster than my previous record, I’m throwing a leg over the nearest top-tube to go win back my King of the Mountain (KOM) status. Meanwhile, over at Loma Linda’s Hulda Crooks Park, a skirmish between the people piloting trail bikes, and a couple of singlespeeders, has gotten messy. One after another, they’re taking downhill runs on trails called Jedi and Jackrabbit, and one after another, the runs are getting faster.
These same kinds of KOM confrontations are taking place on roads and trails all over the World. So, thanks to Strava, the iconic rivalry between Yeager and Crossfield is alive in spirit. Strava is revealing the “pudknockers” from those who actually have “The Right Stuff.”
Oct 12, 2011
But we are men of action, so we didn’t let anything prevent us from livin’ it up anyway. Instead of racing, Jeff Stanners, Woody Woodruff, and I ventured to St. George, Utah where we planted temporary roots in a condo courtesy of Stanners’ cousin. From the comfort of our spacious two-bedroom, two-bath, two-story accommodations, we staged three days of mountain biking on southern Utah’s best mesa trails. It was awesome. There were no lemans starts. There were no long lines at the porta-potties. There were no middle of the night wake-up calls to go ride a lap. There were no rules to follow. Just miles and miles of sweet singletrack.
Sep 20, 2011
Two other Pros crossed the finish line before me, but considering I've been spending lots of time trying to get the Redlands Interscholastic Cycling Organization (RICO) off the ground and less time training, I cool with my result. So as many of my peers will be spending next weekend hopping barriers and going anaerobic in hour-long intervals, I'm headed for the high country of the Sierras for Everest Challenge - a two-day stage race with more than 29,000 vertical feet of climbing. A different kind of ouch!
Aug 23, 2011
It’s an awesome movie, but not an awesome situation to be in at work…
My job has me shaken and stirred.
Aug 16, 2011
Jul 27, 2011
I became a writer partially because I’m more comfortable communicating through writing than I am communicating with people verbally. I don’t feel uncomfortable or threatened in small groups, but put me in a room full of people, front and center, and the sweat begins to flow (if the alcohol isn’t). I stutter, I can’t focus, I “um” and “er,” my voice cracks, and I ramble. I despise public speaking, I hate giving presentations, and I pretty much loathe people that talk a lot. If this sounds familiar, these are signs that you might be a writer.
In addition to all the articles, case studies, press releases, and brochures that I compose, I also happen to be the ad writer at work. I team with the graphics department to design compelling, informative, and (ahem) awe-inspiring print ads. The work is a far cry from that done at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, although it has its moments. I don’t get to take power naps, pour mid-day cocktails, and harass the females in the office like Don Draper and company, but I never pass up the opportunity to belittle or criticize my fellow co-workers in front of one another.
Here’s the irony of this writing gig: Earlier this year I was asked to present at my company’s Global Marketing Summit on the topic of “Creating an Advertising Campaign.” It was determined that because I’m the guy that pounds out the ad copy using a keyboard and Microsoft Word, I must be the guy that’s qualified to talk about it, using my voice and a PowerPoint presentation. At first, when I was putting together the PowerPoint, it seemed easy enough. Then it came time to start rehearsing the presentation, and that’s when I remembered why I’m a writer.
There’s no Spelling or Grammar Check when you’re speaking in front of a live audience. There’s no delete or backspace button. It’s in real time and when you trip over your words and draw a blank in the middle of a sentence, it’s a real horrifying, embarrassing, and humbling experience. I’m much more qualified to write about how to create an advertising campaign, but unfortunately for me, that wasn’t the assignment.
So, I went through with it. And, having to present in front of an audience has given me an even greater appreciation for the profession of writing. Now if only everyone else appreciated it too…
Jun 21, 2011
The Freeman household back then was similar to what you saw on TV shows like “The Wonder Years” and “That 70s Show.” Until I was a teenager, my mom didn’t work. She cooked, cleaned, and was there for my sister and me. Meanwhile my dad went to work and supported the household financially, much like Jack Arnold and Red Foreman did for their TV families. And much like Jack and Red, my dad would come home from his job in a less-than-cheerful mood.
Now that I’m a father and I no longer have a job that consists of jet-setting around the nation from motorcycle race to motorcycle race and from photo shoot to photo shoot, I understand why my dad was not Mr. Cheerful, Monday through Friday. He had work stress, a household to support, my sister and me to guide, and a marriage to uphold. All of that and then some, but maybe selfishly, all along what he really wanted to do was ride his motorcycle.
That may explain why my fondest memories of not only childhood, but of my dad are of motorcycle riding and racing. Maybe that’s when my dad was at his best, or at least felt his best. No traffic to deal with, no deadlines to meet, no meetings to sit through, no mortgage to pay. Just him and me, the trail, and our motorcycles. If that’s the case, then maybe one day Ryder’s fondest memories will be of riding mountain bikes with me.
I spent Father’s Day with my dad, mom, and Ryder at the Kenda Cup West Round 7 in Big Bear where I finished fifth in the Pro class. Although my back was killing me from working in the yard the day before and I had a horrible training week due to life’s nagging errands, I couldn’t have been better than I was on Father's Day.
Jun 15, 2011
My never-ending disgust for lazy people, video games, and reality TV has finally overflowed and become a flood of positive energy. It looks like me, Woody, and a few other key figures are going to jump into the SoCal High School Mountain Bike League pool and start a team for the Redlands area. First instinct is to call the team “No More Fat Kids,” but something like “Redlands SoCal MTB” would probably be more appropriate. We’d go with just plain “Team Redlands,” however some other rinky dink organization has already taken the name. They must be the entity that works with the Redlands Department of Tourism, or something. Who the heck knows.
Anyway, the official season for high school mountain biking runs from December to May, so if you’re interested in helping with weekly training rides during those months, drop me a line. Don’t send me an email telling me you want to help, and then drop off the face of the earth when January rolls around because the new season of Survivor or American Idol is in full swing. We’re looking for serious applicants only with a zest for bike life, a disturbing sick hatred for obesity and diabetes, and a strong back.
Aut vincere aut mori
That’s Latin for, “Either to conquer or to die.” In other words, this is going to be fantastic.
Jun 8, 2011
It’s usually a pretty easy decision to make. But on the weekend of June 4-5, there was no warehouse to go turn circles around. There was an actual road race, and a good one at that - the state championships, no less. The tragedy is that on the very same weekend, the second round of the 12-Hours of Temecula was taking place, and the final round of the Kenda Cup West Series was also running up in Santa Ynez. What’s an avid lover of both road and mountain bike racing to do?
Easy! Using an app that my parents gave me, called my brain, I concocted a complex plan to race on a 4-man singlespeed team in Temecula on Saturday, go home, sleep for a few hours, and then drive up to Bakersfield and do the Pro-1-2 road race on Sunday morning. The Santa Ynez race course isn’t much fun anyway, and besides, the report on Weather Underground called for clear skies and 70-degree temps in the Santa Ynez Valley so I knew it would probably rain instead, and of course it did.
The decision to race in Temecula was also an easy one because; A. Back in January, we won the first round of the three-round series; B. 12-hour team races are almost as much fun as flogging a 250cc four-stroke around the wet SoCal desert; and C. My teammates threatened to tarnish my good name by publishing incriminating photos of me on Facebook if I chose to skip the Temecula race. There was only one thing I could do, and that was to go help win round two. So we did, handily. Yawn.
I got home after midnight. And while Woody, Stanners, and Creed were tucked into their beds on Sunday, sleeping the morning away, I was awakened from a four-hour slumber by my wretched alarm clock. By 5:26AM, Tricia, Joey, and I were on the road to Bakersfield for a 9:00AM road race start. By 5:30AM, I was thinking to myself, “What the hell am I doing?”
When I was a younger man, I used to think sleep and rest were over-rated. Now that I’m old, I know sleep and rest is a necessity. It’s easy for excitement and adrenaline to overshadow what you already know to be correct and right. Take Congressman Weiner for example. He let the excitement and adrenaline of sending lewd photos overshadow the fact that he knew it was wrong. And surely by now, Sarah Palin must know that it’s not a good idea to open her mouth, yet the infinite knowledge in her brain gets overpowered by the excitement of seeing flash bulbs, big cameras lenses, and those funny foam balls on the end of a microphone.
So, like Weiner I kept it up. And like Palin, we kept driving. I started the race and I have to admit the campaign was going better than expected until I found myself sitting in the very back of the field going into the feedzone just before the final of three 31-mile laps. What could go wrong when you’re the last guy of 60, or so, speeding through a chaotic feedzone? What could go wrong when you’re a congressman sending photos of your “Weiner” across the internet? What could go wrong when you’re Sarah Palin and you open your mouth? I think a better question is, what could go right?
Jun 3, 2011
Today, Allen Ginsberg would have turned 85 if he was still alive. I have much admiration for Ginsberg, due mostly to the way he lived his life. Never giving up what he believed to be right and never selling out. Died in 1997, I wonder what Ginsberg would be doing if he were still alive. Would he be on Twitter? How would have this old Beat Poet functioned in the digital world? I wonder how it would have suited him.
Web 2.0 has become the double-edged sword for people of genuine talent, real artists, and actual rebels like Ginsberg, Dylan, Patty Smith, and Hemingway. New models of these types are out there somewhere, but will they be able to keep their heads above the stream of information that is over saturating the World Wide Web? Will it not be harder, if not impossible, to find the needle in this dull haystack of phonies, posers, and hacks? Like this blog, everyone has the opportunity to have a voice now. But is everyone’s voice worth your time, or are they just contributing to the bottleneck caused by an over abundance of digital trash?
Fortunately, situations similar to this one have historically resulted in an uprising of sorts (i.e. the Beat Generation, the Punk Revolution). Maybe the next generation of talent will also find a way to swim through the sea of schmucks, catch a wave, and ride it into shore. And then blow our minds like "Howl" did mine.
Jun 1, 2011
Yes, there are some things that I’d like to accomplish in this life, but if I don’t – then, oh well. They just weren’t meant to be. The first half of my life was spent obsessing over competing in the Olympics of off-road motorcycle racing, the International Six Day Enduro (ISDE, Six Days for short). While I never got that opportunity (yet), I got the opportunity to do a lot of other cool and exciting things along the way. It was my obsession for training for the Six Days that got me into this bicycle racing thing - and that has turned out pretty damn good. The Six Days may be an unrealized goal, but I only think about it once every 24 days now instead of 24 hours a day.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to race RAAM. Not solo, but on a small team with people I can rely on and trust. Thinking I might have to start working on sponsorship for that one as it continues to consume my mind. And I’d really like a national championship in bicycle racing to go along with my state championship, but something tells me I’m going to have to drop my USAC pro status to make that one happen, if it’s gonna happen at all. If the three worst things that ever happened to me are that I never qualified for the Six Days, I never raced RAAM, and I never got a national championship jersey, then life ain’t bad. Things change. In ten years, there will probably be a couple of other things I’d really like to do instead.
But, some things stay the same. My parents have been taking my sister and me to National Parks for as long as I can remember. Some of my best memories as a kid, outside of motorcycle racing, are of trips to places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and lesser known parks such as Olympic. As a part time marketer, I know that if you can plant the seed of your products or services into the minds of youth, your chances of growing a lifelong customer are high. The National Parks Service (NPS) may not have the marketing budget of Disneyland or Coke, but it did a damn fine job of being in the background of all those family vacation photos, and not just literally. With the obvious help of my parents, NPS has made a lifelong customer out of me, and I’ll keep visiting as many as I can - some of them multiple times, until I finally kick the bucket.
May 26, 2011
There once was a time, not so long ago, when a mountain bike race in Big Bear was a frequent occurrence. Counting the NORBA Nat’l, we’d race out of Snow Summit about 5 or 6 times a year. The Team Big Bear crew had several courses to serve up back then, but those days are long gone. Last weekend was round 5 of the Kenda Cup West Series, and the first of only two mountain bike races in Big Bear this year.
While it was dreary as jolly old England down the hill, the sky at 6,000 feet was clear, blue, and beautiful. We raced on what has become our normal loop up there, and while some complain that the course consists of too much dirt road and not enough singletrack, I’m just happy to be racing mountain bikes in the actual mountains. Despite going through about 3 weeks of burn-out on the bike, poor sleep, and an even poorer diet, I felt reasonably good in the race, but I think that had more to do with my positive-charged euphoria for being in Big Bear. I still had some moments of complacence during the race (my arch enemy on the mountain bike this year), yet not nearly as detrimental to my results as other recent attempts.
Do you ever get half way into a race and just quit giving a damn? There’s no desire to keep going, no tolerance for suffering, and no interest in anything at that moment. That’s how I’ve felt for much of this year, which is why I changed gears and jumped into some more road races. However, the fresh mountain air in Big Bear seemed therapeutic for me and I’m motivated again. When Sunday’s race was all said and done, I finished 9th in the Pro class. Not the greatest result, but a personal victory considering I’ve recently had more fun cleaning the scum out of the bathroom drains at home than I have racing mountain bikes. Bring on the 12 Hours of Temecula.
Apr 29, 2011
That said, I have to modify the above statement by saying that I do appreciate a good van. A van is much more than a car. You can sleep in a van, you can travel comfortably in a van, and you can keep your stuff locked up in a van. Sure, a van still costs money, requires insurance, maintenance, and lots of gas, but all the pros of a van outweigh the cons. A van to me symbolizes freedom, security, adventure, and a rockin’ good time.
About 5 years ago I made the mistake of trading in my Ford E350 van for a smaller Mazda 5. Back then, gas prices were going up, I was driving a lot more than I am now, and I thought I’d be scaling back my racing at the time, so I figured going with a smaller ride would be better. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While I was content with the Mazda, I regretted not having the full size E350 every time I wanted to take a trip. Then about two years ago when the 2006 year-model Mazda started giving me problems, I really regretted not having the bullet proof E350. I’ve owned two Ford Econoline vans, purchased used, and both were more reliable than the Mazda, which was purchased as new.
Today I took the Mazda into the shop, yet again, because occasionally it won’t shift out of park without rolling the car back and forth. It doesn’t happen all the time - just about every fourth or fifth time I try to go somewhere. The service manager called me with the news that I needed a new transmission shifter assembly and that my power steering houses are cracked and leaking. Grand total for parts and labor… a grand!
I passed on the repairs, paid for the oil change and tire rotation, thought about it, and finally made up my mind - it’s time for another van.
I miss my old van. On this trip it took me to Saguaro National Park in Tucson.
Apr 14, 2011
Mar 23, 2011
Weather reports called for rain on race day, but we were lucky enough to arrive at the Keyesville Campground with only windy conditions. Under the cover of menacing clouds, the Pro field consisted of about 20 riders with notable names such as Adam Craig and Tinker Juarez. I started on the third row directly behind Craig, with thoughts that I’d just follow him through the field to the front of the race. Not so much. As it turns out, he didn’t ride to the front of the race like I thought he would, and it didn’t matter much because I could tell within a few minutes of the gun going off that I didn’t have the legs or the lungs to follow much of anyone. I did want to vomit, but not because I was riding hard: it was because I was so disgusted with myself. Something about cold weather and I don’t mix well. I spent the remaining two-and-a-half hours riding by myself. The only consolation was that the 8-mile course was mostly singletrack, so why not finish all 4 laps even though I was way off the back?
When I finally finished, Ryder and Tricia were getting ready for the Kid’s Race, which Ryder enjoyed much more than I enjoyed my race. Next weekend we’re back to an urban setting (or should I say ghetto setting) at round 2 of the US Pro XCT in Fontana, and I’ll be back on the singlespeed hoping for another podium finish. Don't let the short sleeves and lack of leg warmers fool you. I was freeeeezzzzzing!
Mar 14, 2011
The Sho-Air and Team Big Bear crews have done an awesome job of transforming the Bonelli race course into one that could be of World Cup consideration. It’s near Ontario and LAX airports, there are a host of hotels in the area, parking is a-plenty, and the Elite/Pro race course is tough. There’s nowhere to rest unless you’re lucky enough to tack on to the back of a group in the short road portion of the loop. This year, the Elite race was UCI-sanctioned, so you don’t have to take my word for it to know that they must be doing something right down here in Southern California.
For me, the UCI sanctioning was a mixed bag. I’ve been so busy at work, at home, and training that I haven’t been online for any extended amount of time in weeks; plus I fear spam emails like the bubonic plague so I never list an email address on anything unless I absolutely have to. What I missed out on by living in the stone age was that the UCI required all Elite XC racers to check in by 10am on Saturday morning even though the race didn’t start until 1:15pm. I arrived at 10:30am, heard the bad news, pleaded with the German UCI official, and then promptly struck-out. Lesson learned the hard way. The good news is I stuck around for Super-D and came back the next day for the Singlespeed XC race so all was not lost.
As Sid Taberlay was making short work of the Super-D race, the voices in my head tried their best to convince me that I wasn’t at that much of a disadvantage without a full-suspension bike. A few inches of suspension in the rear would have been ideal, but there were a few other rigid rear-ends that turned in really fast times, so I shouldn’t complain. I’ll be pedaling a Trek HiFi at a Super-D soon enough. I felt a personal victory in that I kept my trusty Superfly hardtail upright, and got a nice 7 minute and 35 second anaerobic workout in the process - a great way to open up the lungs and legs for the singlespeed suffer-fest the next morning.
And a suffer-fest it was. I finished third. The voices told me I could have, at the very least, finished second, but sometimes even the voices loose out to the Nancy Boy in me.
Feb 7, 2011
Can we get Julian Assange extradited to Egypt instead of to Sweden? Technically, he’s a journalist, right? Perfect. They send him to Egypt and once the revolting Egyptians are done beating up on Anderson Cooper, they can turn their attention to Assange. Sounds like a win-win. By the way, I just realized the first three letters of Julian’s last name spells “Ass.”
How many more years do we have to watch the Black Eyed Peas sing “Tonight’s gonna be a good night?” It seems like for years now, every time they appear live on TV, they play I Gotta Feeling. Well, I’ve gotta feeling that song is way played out. Speaking of the Super Bowl, its halftime show, and its commercials, how much longer do we have to endure the likes of Ozzie and Slash? Those two need to hop the first crazy train to Paradise City and never ever return.
Beginning New Year’s Eve, my job went all Mad Men. Yep, that’s right, at the moment I’m the sole ad writer at work. How’s that for a resume builder? I know what you’re thinking; “Don Draper and the rest of the principals at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce don’t drive economical Mazda 5s, wear clothes from the sale rack at Kohl’s, drink discounted wine from Gerrards, and ride last year’s Trek models.” Well, Redlands isn’t exactly Madison Avenue and I’m not exactly trying to sell something as sexy as London Fog trench coats, but I do see a big purchase in my near future. On pay day, I plan to buy a pallet of Zantac to cure the bleeding ulcer I can feel coming on.
I guess this blog really wouldn’t live up to its name and its banner if I didn’t throw in something about the beautiful ugliness of suffering on a bike. Another year, another 150 bucks thrown at USA Cycling to keep my UCI license current. There’s some suffering for you. The last couple of years I’ve consider just purchasing the standard domestic card, but I’m still too proud to give up that coveted International license. I worked hard for it. Who knows, maybe I’ll keep renewing it until social security doesn’t pay me enough to afford assisted senior living and a UCI license too. Or maybe they’ll have to pry it out of my cold dead hand.
I already put the 2011 license to use this year at Boulevard Road Race. The short story is this: With 5K to go there’s one dude up the road by about a minute and I’m in the first chase group of about 10. Just before 2K to go the attacks started and I was only able to respond to the first two. The third attack was too much for me to cover. I cracked, then rode into the finish, but not before getting caught by a few other chasers. Official results say I was 16th, and that number makes me ill because it reminds me of amateur basketball. March Madness is right around the corner and there’s nothing sweet about that.
The real sufferers at Boulevard were Ryder and Tricia. They drove the 2.5 hours down there with me, stood around the feed zone for 3 hours, and then drove another 2.5 hours back home. Their only reward was getting to listen to my iPod set on shuffle for 5 hours of travel. If only everyone could be so lucky.
Jan 19, 2011
It’s easy to place blame on the local government for the lack of bicycle-friendly roads, but let’s face it: the real problem is that drivers have a difficult time sharing the road. Plus, there are too many cars, and the explosion of the American suburb combined with the lack of public transportation has pretty much made our road systems a mess.
I’m guiltily. I drive four miles to work. But that’s the infrastructure the man set up for us, so that’s the infrastructure we all have to make do with. If all I had to do was go back and forth to work, then commuting by bike would be fine. However, most days I’m dropping of this at lunch or picking up that after work, and when that happens to be a kindergartner, a bicycle doesn’t quite cut it. I need my car.
So, we’ve concluded that for most people living in modern America, it’s unrealistic, or at least logistically and geographically difficult to go to work in anything other than their own car. I can accept that. That means the problem is, once again, the way people drive…
Sure, cell phones are a problem and texting while driving is death-defying, but long before the world went mobile, there have been bad drivers. The impatient and angry drivers are the worst, and grouped as one, probably the most common. They’re everywhere you look, and when I’m riding my bike, they make me impatient and angry.
While I’m riding or even driving, nothing drives me more insane than an impatient or angry driver. They make me want to carry a carton of eggs in my passenger seat. When I see one of them nearly cause harm to another driver, or God forbid, a cyclist, I want to tag their car with an egg. I want that egg, splattered on their car, to be a symbol and a reminder that their impatient or angry driving can result in a smashed human being. They can think about that as they’re scraping the egg remains off their precious car.
Why are they always in such a hurry? I know they’re used to living in a world where instant gratification is the norm. But if they can’t instantly get to where they’re going, that doesn’t give them the right to tailgate or blow their obnoxious horn at a cyclist or another driver. If they’re late to work, it's because they’re lazy and they should have gotten up earlier. If they’re late getting their kid to soccer practice, it's because they're a lazy parent and they should have gotten the kid outfitted sooner. The bottom line is this: They’re lazy.
Sometimes when I’m out riding my bike and I see these angry and impatient drivers, I gaze at them and laugh. They have one of two looks on their faces. They’re either pissed off or stressed out. They wear those looks on their sleeve. What I can’t see is that feeling of guilt and envy they have inside, but I know it’s there. They have a guilty conscience for being too lazy to get out and exercise and they’re envious of me and my riding buddies because we’re not too lazy to be exercising. And so they take it out on us with their big rolling deadly weapons.
What they really need is to go for a bike ride. They’ll be less angry, less stressed, less impatient, and they’ll probably even have fun. Unless, of course some idiot runs them down with a car.