Monday, December 15, 2014

Mute everything that does not matter. Amplify the rest.

I ride at night because that's when everything stops.  The rat race.  Sales Quotas.  Questions about taxes.  All of that stuff freezes after dark for a little while, along with the trails, and in a way so does time itself.  Out there in the night, through the remarkable, enormous silence that the world is capable of only at night, and with a clear view of the milky way, there is very little present tense.  There's memory, sure, and the future too, but it's all muted, spread out below you in the distance in reasonable perspective.

The break from it all is vital.

Three things I'm going to do in 2015:

#1:  Before I do anything else, delete every app on my phone that isn't actually making me happier.

#2:  Spend more time riding in Greene County at night.  Up high, night or day, looking back this way.  Reality is better understood after hours it turns out, and it helps to be far away.

#3:  After listening to their hard work for 12 years, finally go see The Hold Steady at a live show.  You only have so many chances.

But also, it is never too late.

Up, up, up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What not to do when you hit a deer with your car

I want to tell you about a recent traumatic customer experience I had, and some mistakes I made along the way, and what I think it all means.  It's a pretty long story, so dig in, and be with me on this little ride I've been on for the last 6 weeks or so.

It all started on October 25th, when I hit a deer with my car.

Wait a minute, back up a step, it started before that.  I guess this has been developing my whole life, in fact.  But, to be brief with the backstory, let me just say this: I'm a bowhunter, I butcher my own deer, and I'm really not very squeamish about the whole life-death-rebirth process of wild animals.  Also, I work in telecommunications, so I'm familiar and comfortable with some of the worst customer service you can imagine - in fact, I find it a novelty.  You see it all the time these days: take a number and get in line, wait until you're called, and we'll find a way to turn your individual situation into value for our shareholders.  I like to watch the thing unfold.  Six weeks ago, I would have told you that I was the sort of person who could handle hitting a deer and navigating the repair process without completely blowing his top.

So anyway, I hit a deer in my 2004 Subaru going about 55 miles/hour on Markwood road, less than a mile from my house on October 25th at about 10:30 AM.  That's not really such a unique occurrence out this way.  People hit deer all the time.  In fact, on any given weekend here in Albemarle county in the fall, between 5 and 10 vehicles strike deer and the owner reports the occurrence to the police.  The amount of undocumented deer hit?  Unknown.  Probably double the amount reported if you consult a police officer on the subject.  Enough to fill a few pickup trucks.

So yeah, whack, I hit the deer.  Going fast too.  Never even touched the brakes.  This incident is sort of unique, though, because I was bowhunting immediately before getting in the car to drive, and I had, in fact, harvested a buck with my bow about 45 minutes before hitting this one with my car.  So that was different.  I've killed a lot of deer.  I've even killed two deer in the same morning a few times.  But I've never had a side-by-side comparison where I actually shot a deer so closely followed by hitting one with my car.  The first thing, shooting one, is an endeavor - especially with a bow.  You have to work at it.  You spend a lot of time practicing, shooting a bow, setting up a tree stand, sitting in that tree stand, pondering the philosophical implications of Being and Nothingness, seeing deer but being unable to shoot, falling asleep, and generally trying to be the sort of voracious predator that you devolved from generations ago.  The absurdity of the whole thing isn't lost on me, and if you're an anti-hunter, fine, that's not what this is about anyway.  But finally you get one.    It's a goddamn miracle, sure, but it's still something you actively do.    Hitting one with your car, on the other hand, is something that happens to you, and having so closely compared that to the other thing, I can assure you car-killing a deer is pretty fucking traumatic.

Later, in an attempt to cope with the trauma of the whole thing, I turned to the visual arts and made a play dough sculpture to re-enact the drama.  Therapy:

Do you play golf?  Doesn't matter.  I assume you've at least seen it on TV or whatever.  What you might not understand, though, is that the face of a gap wedge - when you swing it correctly - has approximately a 50 degree angle (called loft) when you strike the ball, so at that moment of impact the ball actually goes UP more than it goes forward.  So, too, does a deer when hit with a Subaru at 55 miles/hour - the angle of the bumper is basically the same - and the scene unfolds with great drama and horror as the deer immediately launches upward, completely imploding front of the car, lifeless body of the deer floating backwards down the road like some computer-generated sci-fi special effect out of The Matrix, except that it's all real, and about 50-100 feet later the poor thing slams to the ground, stone dead, and you finally get the car to a stop, breathless.

The next thought you have is basically this: What the fuck do I do with all of these things?  These things being: fucked up car, smashed pieces of fucked up car that are strewn about willy-nilly all over the road, dead deer, insurance card, cell phone you can't seem to hold steadily enough to dial, tickets to the UVA game, skinning knife, keys, sunglasses, etc etc.  The whole thing comes at you pretty fast.  Chances are pretty good you lose something.  Again, I'm not the least bit squeamish about this stuff under most circumstances, but this is all uncharted ground for me and I'm, to say the least, unclear.

So I drag the poor deer out of the road by its ears, leave it in the ditch, and limp the car up to chestnut grove church to try to get my shit together.

I then do the following things in this order:
1)  Call local state farm office, who is closed because it's the weekend.
2)  Call the 800 number for national state farm support, wait on hold for 45 minutes
3)  Call my wife, inform her we are not going to the football game
4)  Call the 800 number again, wait on hold a while longer, hang up.
5)  Go online, look up state farm policies, read that I'm supposed to call the police to make a report
6)  Try to look up the number for county police, can't find it, say fuck it and call 911.
7)  911 says they'll send an officer
8) Hang out for about 1 hour with my thumb in my mouth
9)  Get a call from an officer who wants to know if I'm hurt or the car is totaled.  No and no.  He tells me to man up and fuck off.  Gives me his name and number in case I need it later, but he ain't coming.
10) Limp the car in to forest lakes auto, park it, have my wife pick me up, try to get a grip.

So, flash forward a couple of days, I think it's Monday now, and Forest Lakes auto isn't an auto body shop it turns out.  They're my usual guys, and I like 'em for oil changes and whatever, but this is unusual damage to be sure.  So I get State Farm on the phone finally and they fill me in with some good info about the process and the little journey that I'm about to undertake.  It basically works like this:

1)  You have to limp your poor car into the auto body collision repair shop, or have it towed there.  This is up to you.
2) You pick your own body shop from the list of approved providers on state farm's website.  I'm choosing not to link you to that website because you'll probably make the wrong goddamn choice, as I did, and where will you be then?  6 weeks later, and fucked, that's where you'll be.  To be clear, this is where the train really started to jump the tracks for me.  Choosing the right shop is everything, and our teammate, John Reynolds, happens to own and run one.  My biggest mistake was not taking my car to him.  I chose the "close place" instead.
3)  You pick your own rental car company, assuming you have rental car coverage which I do.  $900 in rental car coverage.  That's an enormous amount of money to blow on a rental car, which is just as fun as it sounds.  State Farm has a bro-deal with Hertz, some great rates for those of us traumatized by the local deer population minus one, and I start to get into the flow of things browsing SUV's for only $45/day and whatever.  No reason to think it will take 20 days to fix my car.  I rent a Dodge Journey, because I like the name, and as a metaphor for this whole mess, I find Journey to be very strong.  Plus, if you can't have fun in a rental car you might as well be dead already.
4)  State Farm works directly with the approved auto repair shop to evaluate the car, see if it's totaled, decide what to fix, then they allow the auto shop to fix it.  Meanwhile, you get to drive a rental car all over the county and try to hit your next deer before you have to return it, which is attainable.
5)  The collision repair shop that you probably should not have chosen even though they're the one closest to your house slowly creates 3, 4, as many as 5 estimates of what your car will cost to repair, steadily increasing in value right up to the actual value of the car.  State Farm approves all of these without blinking an eye.  Eventually, the $5900 in damage done to the car is approved, even though the blue book value for the car is only $3000 if it were in good condition, which it is clearly not, but sweet jesus, let's just move the process forward.  Fix it, everyone says.  Fine.
6)  You keep driving the rental car, sort of forget that the car you actually own is being butchered at the auto repair shop you chose.
7)  Eventually, 3 weeks or so after you dropped off your car for repair, the rental car company calls you, reminds you that your rental coverage via state farm is only $900, and that expired yesterday.
8)  You call the collision repair shop, who admits to losing "your file", but they are back on track to have the car back to you by next week.  Groovy. But what about the rental car in the meantime?
9)  You call state farm, explain the situation about the lost file and the lengthy repair period, and they call state farm corporate, who eventually agrees to extend the coverage of the rental car until your real car is repaired and ready.
10a)  You call the collision repair shop at the 4 week mark, but the car is still not ready.  Things are busy.  That's understandable.
10b) You call again at the 5 week mark.  Car still not ready.  Had to order some extra parts that you can't pronounce and neither can they.  And it's busy.  That's understandable.
10c)  You call at the 6 week mark, a full 42 days after the incident.  The rental car actually needs a goddamn oil change you've had it for so long.  But your car still isn't ready.  It's in line for paint, though, so it'll be ready Friday.
10d)  You call Friday, but it's still not ready, and they sound slightly less than very drunk, which is encouraging.  Look, take a walk out back here, there are like 50 cars that have hit deer sitting out there waiting for repair.  You're a goddamn number.  But I like you.  I'll have it done Monday. 
10e) You don't call Monday, and neither do they.  It's not ready and you both know it.  no sense having the same bullshit conversation over the phone again that you've been having for the last month.  It's 70 degrees, so you go ride your bike, imagine life without a car at all, and ponder how great that could actually be.
10f)  Tuesday, you go by the collision repair shop in person, just to see if they actually still have your car.  It's totally possible that they scrapped it, or lost it, or sold it, and they're just leading you on via phone until they can figure out what to do about this mess.  But you get there, and sure enough, it's almost ready.  almost.  As in, the headlights are still missing,  and there's no grill.  but real, real close.  Get a call while sitting in the parking lot while looking at your old car and they say it'll be ready at 5, which is odd because they could have just opened the window and screamed that at you.
11)  Around 2 pm, Hertz calls.  Your rental car has been reported missing/stolen, is unpaid, and they'd like to know if you have any information on its whereabouts since the time it disappeared.  Keep in mind it's parked in your driveway.  You re-assure them there must be some mistake, that state farm extended the coverage, and that the last 2 weeks were most certainly paid.  The car is here in your driveway.  They know that, they finally confirm, which creeps you out a little.  I mean, of course the thing has a gps, right?  But still, were they just testing you?  You then wait on hold for 45 minutes for a manager, and to pass the time you walk out into the yard and stare up at the sky and envision the Great Hertz Satellite shooting a patriot missile at your house from outer space.  Eventually the line goes dead.
13) Call Hertz back and get a busy signal.  Slam phone into laptop repeatedly.  Considering what's happened, you throw the deadbolt on the front door and arm yourself to the very teeth.
14)  Call State farm local office, explain situation, and they call state farm corporate to try to sort this out.
15) State farm corporate calls back, says your personal car is repaired and ready, go pick it up and return rental car immediately.  Collision repair shop is, she hopes, picking up the tab for the 2 weeks of extra time on the rental car, and she's trying to get a deal done there to sort that out.
16)  Pick up repaired car.  Except it's not repaired - the fog light is still missing.  One tire is flat.  Barely starts.  Check engine light is on.  It's making helicopter noises under the hood, smells like glue and fish, and the airbag warranty issue that they were supposed to handle while in the shop hasn't been addressed.  You'll have to take the car to the dealership to have that done, because they don't do that at the collision repair shop.  And the guy at the front desk gives you this apologetic look when you pay your deductible that basically says, "look, I know it's not done, but I really tried.  Please, just drive this thing away."  Awesome.

At this point, as I limp the car away which I limped there 6 weeks ago, it occurs to me that it might actually be in worse shape right now than when I dropped it off.  And I'm reminded, the day I did that, what Shawn told me, "Why don't you just take it up to John Reynolds in Orange?  They're state farm approved, they've got a body shop, and he'll get you set up with a loaner car until they're finished."  I didn't do that.  Because I'm an idiot, and I'm a terrible teammate.  I said to myself, "that's 30 miles away, who has time for that?"  

Who has time for that?  The irony of that statement, 6 weeks later, oozes like what I presume the dead fish is doing that the repair shop I did choose hid in the back of my car which is producing this goddamn awful dead fish smell.   I wish I could create a machine that would kick me in the ass automatically on a daily basis so I wouldn't have to do it myself every day in the future for as long as I own this car.

If you've made it this far, chances are pretty good you've hit a deer, and you're a local rider, and you're wondering what to do.  Or you're my mom, and you feel obliged the read my shit because you birthed me, in which case hi mom, and I'm sorry.

Do yourself a favor, get in touch with John Reynolds, let him take care of it like it's meant to be done.  He's our team sponsor for fuck's sake.  Really good guy.  Hell of a bike rider.  Likes a mass sprint. And I'm told he does a great job, so don't let the 30 miles fool you - you will save yourself a month.

Contact info:
112 Woodmark Street
Orange, VA 22960
Phone: 540-672-3700 ext. 8
Toll Free: 800-444-3702
24 Hour Towing: 866-491-3582

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Dirt on The Dirt at La Ruta

So, in an effort to better understand just what the hell Qwadsworth has been up to since winning the NUE series, I got in touch with him for an interview to find out why a person would fly to Central America for the weekend and not bring back a bunch of Coke. The following interview is all true (except for the parts I made up.)  

BRC:  What's that smell?  You're sitting on the shitter aren't you?

Qwadsworth:  Of course, this is where I do all of my best interviews.  

BRC:  Me too. 

Qwadsworth:  Cool.

BRC:  So, tell me about La Ruta.  And let's start with the basics.  Where, exactly, the fuck is Costa Rica?  I only just realized this morning that it's not an island off the coast of Florida. 

Qwadsworth:How in the Hell am I supposed to know. I'm a land mammal so when you put me on a plane, whisk me away, feed me terrible food, and demand I leave in a semi-linear fashion out the same door I just came in I get pretty confused. When I look on a map it looks really far away though.

BRC:How did this whole thing come together?  I mean logistics.  You win the NUE title, then what?  Does someone just give you a big sack of money and say "you will go to the dagobah system"?  Do they book your plane tickets?  Do you have the option to just take the money and run?

Qwadsworth:Well, the NUE hardly wins you a big sack of money. I did pretty well in the Hammer Gel department though. Aid Stations arent like a "give a penny take a penny" box at the supermarket and I got mouths to feed! In sincerety Roman and Erika who command the LaRuta Empire (in addition to LaRuta they put on 5 other events in Cr throughout the year) were incredibly accomodating. A week or so before Foold Gold Erika emailed to confirm with the leaders and likely winners if they did win that they would be attending, nearly everybody said "duh." They did book out flights, no option to take the money and run, but I wouldnt have anyways. I have all the Hammer Gels I need.

BRC:What are the event managers like?  Ticos?  How much English is being spoken at the start/finish/aid stations?

Qwadsworth:ncredible. They were incredible. They make that event happen in a country where almost nothing happens on time or in a fashion to which most gringos are accustomed. The locals treat it like the Tour de France, they are incredible. They are unbelievably supportive of every racer and meet even the tiniest modicum of enthusiasm with explosive excitement. So you can image how they responded to stoked-up me!! Not a lot of Ingles, but stoke knows no language barrier man. #PuraVida! 

BRC:  OK, this is your first and only warning.  But I don't allow hashtags in my conversations.  One more outburst like that, and I'll pinch this off, wipe, and move on.  

Qwadsworth:  Understood.  Agreed.  

BRC: Back to La Ruta.  It's now a UCI race, right?  Were you drug tested? Did you see any drug testing occur?  If I were to go and be, say, mid-pack in the fatbike category, what are the chances I'd be drug tested?  Are they more likely to test me if I look high?

Qwadsworth:While it was a UCI event this year, im pretty sure they gave up. They didnt even have Blue polo shirts, how official could they be?!

BRC:How much walking did you have to do?  For the good of all mankind, what does a 6,000 foot climb on a singlespeed do to your feet? 

Qwadsworth: Tons. Welcome to the Jungle baby. But it had nothing to do with being on a singlespeed!

BRC:How close did you come to actually being eaten by a reptile?

Qwadsworth:Probably closer than I thought. I seriously did see and hear a lot of things that wanted me for food. They gotta eat too, and these thighs...lets get real..they Dont make Ticos with thighs like this so let me answer your question with a question. If you lived in the land of Tofu and Wheatgerm and Strawberry Shortcake tramped by in her most delicious little outfit would you try and eat her? 

BRC:Who the fuck are these people that won?  Todd Wells appears to have gotten his clock cleaned by dudes I've never even heard of.  Why is that?

Qwadsworth:Theyre the Nairo Quintana of dirt my amigo! These dudes train all kinds of crazy old school too. I got to spend some good time with the front guys and theyre pretty on their game. They dont compete up here or internationally as often for the same reasons we dont compete down there more often. Additionally LaRuta is a sort of different bag of worms. The saying goes "follow the locals." There is definitely a learning curve and a language curve and thats tough to hack. Also I have a sneaking suspicion LaRuta was a good way to get himself and his family down to CR for some vacation time.  

BRC: For years, it's been said that the Tico's win La Ruta by cheating.  How would local cheating actually happen?  Shortcutting?  Drugs?  Rides in trucks?

Qwadsworth:Im glad you asked. I dont know all the answers mind you so I cant say 100% for sure but I will answer from my experience. The course is super busy with "team cars," buddys on ATVs and motos, and folks who have set up feed zones waaaay outside the 200m of an aid station rule. This said, they arent stingy either. When I was gathering beta for LaRuta I got a strong "Us vs. Them" vibe from a lot of folks. I could see how this attitude would make these illegal feeds frustrating. But I also will say the Ticos were super friendly with me! And a lot of the "illegal" feeds were neutrally given, at least to everybody I talked to. Who knows exactly how it went where Tod Wells was sitting but thats how I saw it. 
As far as how would it happen it depends a lot but the course is fully open, folks werent offering me rides but I also didnt ask! The course is fully open and can be tricky to follow. I spent more than a little time going slower than I would normally sort of being diligent to look for arrows. So it would be pretty easy to grab a ride or otherwise blow the course if you knew your way. Some of the locations are pretty damn isolated though! I mean youre riding the road you are because there is no other option. So If cheating happens; and Im sure it has, then its gotta be pretty large scale. I wouldnt consider the feeds cheating though, I found I finished nearly every day well under the budgeted nutrition I brought because folks were handing up cokes, bags of water and fruit, candies, honey packets, all sort of jive calories.

BRC:Volcanic eruptions: tell me about it.  Did you get food poisoning? 

Qwadsworth:Not this volcano buddy! Regular as the swiss rail here! The cool thing about the water in CR is that for the most part its better than other Central American countries. Its cleaner, the Ticos have their game together. Some folks do get some distress but if youre smart about it its not a problem. Clean your bottle tip off before you put it in your mouth if you just rode through cow shit.Be smart. The Turrialba Volcano did blow its top though! We had to emergency reroute Stage 2 for it. but it added in some singletrack so its all good to me! And with 9k of climbing in less than 30 miles its not like they threw us a softball!

BRC:What were the trails like?  Flow trails?  Jungle animal tracks?  What's the dirt like?  Color. Composition.  Smell.  Taste?

Qwadsworth:Costa Rica doesnt have much in the way of singletrack. The riding is pretty stout back country stuff so why would you go through the trouble to build a goat path when theres a killer dh goat path in uncle Federicos agave farm?!! We did utilize pretty much the only single track in the country on Day 2 and it was too muddy to get a great feel for it. Seemed pretty solid. Dirt, well...sometimes its not dirt at all. chew on that for a while.

BRC: Is Costa Rica a ride destination?  As in, is the riding there that is worth the trip?  Or is the only reason I'd ever go to race La Ruta?

Qwadsworth:Hard to tell man, LaRuta is definitely a destination event. Its Absolutely the adventure of a lifetime. And its the adventure of a lifetime in a context and scenery that doesn't disappoint. Do I know everything thats Do I think theres more, yeah, Theres gotta be. And I know the people of Costa Rica are pretty eat up with cycling. 

BRC:  So, you've kicked a lot of ass this year, mine included.  What can I do to feel better about myself when I'm around you?

Qwadsworth:  Good question.  I recommend you switch your Strava settings to Kilometers instead of miles.  That way when you compare yourself to me, it'll look more even.  

BRC:  What's next for you?  You go into the winter and just sit on the couch for a few weeks or what?

Qwadsworth:  Well, no.  A lot of guys take time off, but obviously I have to get back on the bike right away in order to peak in February for The Pantani.  Everything after that is just sort of whatevs.  

BRC:  What's the likelihood Brian Lewis doesn't feed you your own meaty thighs at the Pantani this year?  

Qwadsworth:  50%.  

BRC:  I like those odds.  Gonna be a fight, I imagine?

Qwadsworth:  Hopefully we're together coming back up Markwood and I can just buy the win.  Kids like that will usually take the money and let me solo in on my own.  

BRC: Solid plan.  Very Italian.  Thanks for playing.  

Qwadsworth: #PuraVIDA!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Whiskey, Wool Socks, What up up up.

Most days in life don't really stand out.  Most rides tend to blend together in the long review mirror that is memory.  But it's your individual responsibility, I've come to believe, to shake out the monotony every now and again, whatever the consequence.  Even if that consequence is a rum hangover, 2 flats, and a 3/4 pound dangly thigh hematoma.

The good Doctor Dirty Nelly will see you now.
I guess that's why I night ride.

Also, I'll say this: not so long ago this ride was a brownie crit - which was short track racing and brownies.  Now, and remarkably quickly, it has morphed into a hard liquor swilling night ride.  I say you can't fight progress, so don't.  Go with it.

Up, up, up.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Civilization ends at the waterline.

"It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top. "--Hunter S. Thompson

Monday, November 3, 2014

LL Bean meets BikeMag

90% of the substance that I have for you this week is this picture:

And that's 90% more than I had for you last week.  In short, you're welcome.

The remaining, largely irrelevant 10%: Geoff Keenan and Pat Norton lost their title to PanzaBoonen/B-slow in the Paranormal men's duo on Saturday night, but not without a fight. Best racing, closest Paranormal finish I've seen in recent memory.  And it only rained sideways for about 10 minutes.

Lastly, it's dark at 5:30 now.  So, we gon' night ride.
Flow Lakes, Wednesday night at 8:30 PM.

Up, up, up.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kev29er's Paranormal Weather update as of Friday, 9 AM says to prepare for the suck. says rally, rally, rally.
97% chance it'll be awesome.

100% chance of at least a few hot laps.  

Up, up, up.