Monday, December 30, 2013

Some photos from the trip

Because I've been a bit busy on the trip, I haven't had much of a chance to post on the blog, here are a couple photos, which are worth a thousand words.
Navajo Arch.  

Luxury accommodations in Arches National Park, Moab Utah.  Coffee tastes the best at 6,000 feet

The Dude, doing what the Dude does.

17 degrees outside... Good thing I brought my own St. Bernard.

Another day, another night in a national park.  Zion, UT

Always good to have a vigilant watchdog on the road.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The big drive

The first full official day of the road trip was the one I was most worried about.  I was planning on crossing both Iowa and Nebraska.  About 12 hours of driving...solo.  Well, not really solo, I did have "The Dude" with me.  Who I will defend as a critical part of this road trip for several reasons that I will get into later.

As a fall back position, I didn't book a hotel at my destination.  I planned a couple of alternatives.  Pet friendly hotels, campgrounds along the way, truck stops and finally parking on the side of the road.  Thankfully there were a couple of diversions along the way that I hadn't planned for.

The first of which, a few hours into Iowa is the I-80 Truck stop.  The self proclaimed "World's Largest truck stop".   I could not dispute it, and in fact I fully endorse it as THE place to visit when traveling through Iowa.

I don't have an estimate of the actual size of the I-80 Truck stop, but it is huge.  The photo to the left is only about a third of the place.  It contains a wendy's, a Caribu coffee, a buffett that rivals anythig I have seen in Vegas or Atlantic city, a truck accessory shop, a larger DVD selection than netflix and a gift / apparel shop that will leave you slack jawed at the selection of unique merchandize that needs to be experienced to be believed.

 Most impressive was the selection of "Lone Wolf" Tshirts.  As cyclists, we are all familiar with the NYC Bike snob's meme of the importance of te Lone wolf.  If you are not familiar, these are tshirts, usually of an Acid washed* variety, with a image of an animal on the front that has been lovingly rendered with a nod to native american mythology and an air of classyness that can only be rivaled by a custom work by an accomplished airbrush artist.  From the photo, you can see that there is a solid 70 feet of display area dedicated to this uniquely american art form.  As you can imagine, the variety is unparralled! and the quality?  well, just take a gander of this next photo:   As you can see, the artist has taken the interpretation of this genre to the next level.  I dare not even touch this piece as i feared that it might burn my skin if I was deemed "Unworthy".   It perfectly encapsulates the free spirit of the wild that female cyclocross phenom and fellow Velvet Elvis: Amy "The Wolf" Meldrum, lives every moment of her life.  I wanted to purchase it for her, but unfortunately it was only available in men's sizes north of 3XL.  (Not the 'Ladies cut bare midriff w/ fringe as I was hoping)   I will add that there was at least another half dozen free standing displays of "Lone Wolf" shirts that were not included in the photo.

In addition the I-80 has a Truck accessory shop that contained no less than three full size semi trucks... One with a trailer.  (The trailer is painted with a mural that is evry bit as important to the logistics industry as the Diego Rivera mural in the Detroit Institute of arts is to the industrial revolution.  
Again, the variety of 'roo bars, cow catchers, accessories lights, mud flaps, custom wheels and chrome everything led me to believe that I had stumbled upon the valhalla of transportation personalization. 

I pondered getting the element fitted with some 5" chrome exhaust tips. (you know, for improved performance) but thought that the increased noise from open headers would draw the wrong type of attention from local law enforcement.  

What about gifts?  Surely the man on the move has difficulty finding that unique gifts for their loved ones.  Again, the World's largest truck stop did not disappoint.

Besides a complete selection of everything Hummel ever created, the git shop has an expansive selection of anything deemed collectable with an emphasis on the absolutely tasteless.  Need a broadswoard?  Need a spiked mace?  Need a Klingon Bat Leth of authentic proportions? (had to google that one)  no problem.  They have them in stock (and presumably available on lay-a-way) 

Satisfied that I have seen everything that needed to be seen, I hit the road, with a renewed sense of adventure, and a suvineer magnet, memorializing the 50th anniversary that I will proudly display on my fridge next to the wedding "Save the date" postcards from friends and my famous Crepe recipe.

I did a curory lap around the parking lot, just to see if I could see any "Lot Lizzards" (aka: truck stop prostitutes) .  They proved elusive, especially considering that it was about 8am.

Further down the road, I discovered another Iowas Institution dedicated to the transportation industry,  Specifically the "Kum & Go"  chain of gas stations.  (I'm not making this up) 
After refueling at a couple of these establishements, I am convinced that the owner purposely named the business with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.  It was the variety of logo T-shirts, hats, cups, etc.. that convinced me.  For the record, I couldn't resist and picked up a t-shirt for under $10 (buying me an additional day before I have to do laundry).

I found Iowa to be very pleasant.  the drivers are courteous and respect the left lane. (unlike the asshats that have infected the Southfield Freeway) The roads are pristine and the tiered farms located on the west of the state were quite picturesque. 

In Nebraska, I had planned a stop at a truly sacred place.  Just as Catholics will visit the Vatican when visiting Rome, or Muslims making a pilgrimage to Mecca.  It seemed only appropriate that as an american who came of age in the 80's that I visit a location of equal or greater spiritual magnatude.

The University of Nebraska, Memorial Football Stadium.

Lincoln Nebraska was exactly at the halfway point of the day's planned travels.  So Lebowski took an hour or so to walk the campus, visit the gift shop to pick up some Merch from their national powerhouse volleyball program (for a very special girl in California) and seek out the inevetable shrine to College football deity: Tom Osborne.

 The UofN campus is littered with bad art... embarrassingly bad art from the Miami Vice era of bad 80's art.  I submit to you the example to the left.  Unlike the "Lone Wolf" art of Iowa truck stop t-shirts, the bad art of the UofN campus lacks soul (which I guess encapsulates the cocaine fueled lack of creativity of the 1980s... especially the music... more on that in a separate post) 

I could go into a full critique of the scrap metal sculptural pile of feces, but Lebowski and I were on a spiritual mission.  

We were not disappointed, there is a spot adjacent to the football stadium, memorializing the greatness of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.   The plaque is surrounded by pillars, as you would expect if in a temple dedicated to an deity as significant as Zeus or Odin.  I am sure that during that during the construction, gas lines were pre-run for the inevetable eternal flame that will be installed when Coach Osborne decides to leave this world for the great gridiron in the sky.  
Lebowski proudly posed for a photo, before attending to a group of affectionate fans of coeds outside the UofN bookstore.  

Back on the road, we stumbled upon an unusual museum that spans both directions of the highway.  This confused me as it stuck out of the ladscape like a monolith.

More significant, was the obscured view of a cold front that was pushing aside the front that caused Ice storms and havoc in my home state.  Blue skies were ahead.  We had avoided the bad weather unscathed.

At exactly mile 1000, we were greeted by a breathtaking sunset.  This brought a tears to my eyes as it provided further validation for the journey.

Eventually, we made it to our goal.  Eastern Colorado.  We booked a lovely room at the Days Inn, located downwind of a Paper processing plant.  The hotel was tired at best.  Once we arrived, Lebowski hopped into bed next to me, following his breed instincts as a St. Bernard to comfort and warm weary travelers as they passed the treacherous Swiss alps in the 1600's.  He sighed a heavy sigh, and snuggled up closer, making me feel as cozy as I've ever felt not sleeping in my own bed.

Tomorrow, I'll write about venturing into the Rockies, navigating 7% slopes in a snowstorm and our first day of recreation in the beautiful town of Breckenridge.  We'll leave in the morning for southern Utah, Moab and our first night of camping.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

1200 miles In

 Lebowski and I embarked on our trip.  Over the last two days we covered over 1200 miles through Michigan, Indiana,  Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.  We are currently just outside of Denver.  Tomorrow we'll travel to Breckenridge, where Lebowski will spend the afternoon at Doggy Daycare, and I will spend the day skiing.

We started our journey by traveling through to western Illinois, stopping in the "Hometown" of Ronald Regan. ... Only to be trumped by the "Birthplace" of Ronald Regan, 15 miles down the road... To be honest, I was expecting to see a landmark in some field signifying the location where the Gipper got to second base.

Lebowski was nice enough to stay up with me though nearly the entire drive, sitting on the back seat, head looking out the passenger window.  Three hours into the drive, he discovered that he had enough room to sprawl out and relax in the back of the element.  No small trick considering he had to share the back with an XL Moonlander (to preserve the slippery aerodynamic of the Honda Element)

As I got out of the Car after 5+ hours of driving, I promptly fell on my ass, as a result of the black ice.  Lebowski fared a bit better, as quadrupeds have a bit better stability on the slippery stuff.   ("Illinois Black Ice" is a perfect NHL Expansion team name) Once we got inside, I took a hard look at the weather, and decided that it would be important to get an early start, to avoide the pending Ice storm to the south west.

The hotel, a Days Inn, was certainly dated.  The staff, was friendly and made no issues that Lebowski clearly exceeded the 'pet policy' by a solid 90lbs.

The guests, that was another matter. I met a few people exiting from the 'Lounge'... blind drunk, from the conversation shouted to the bartender, this appeared to be a regular occurrence.    The following morning, while walking Lebowski, I met a man who was in town for training at the hardware distribution center.  He polished off two cigarettes during our short conversation.  He was a few years older than I, but looked a few decades older.

Leaving Western Illinois before dawn, I was stuck in with the impression that this was a place that either prompted you to leave to seek the your potential of Hollywood or Washington, or stay...  I realize that it's not fair to judge an entire region based on a few encounters.  

We hit the road west, venturing into Iowa.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?” ” ~ Kerouac, On the Road

In 24 hours I am going to throw my dog and bike into my car and embark on a three week journey across the country... (and possibly back). I'll have my daughter with me for a third of the but mostly it will be me & "The Dude".

I'll be crossing Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and drive up the coast of California.  Camping in national parks, Skiing in the rockies, riding in the dessert.  I'll visit the sacred spots where speed records are set and surfing legends lost their lives.  I'll celebrate the birth of the savior in the city of sin, and welcome the new year under the skies of the high sierras.  

I have used copies of "On the road" and "Fear & loathing in Las Vegas" to keep me company.  A folding shovel and tire chains to keep me moving. A flask of bacon-infused bourbon as a peace offering to the natives when I decide to stop.

My Coworkers think I am crazy, My friends wish they could ride shotgun.  My dog has no idea what's ahead and neither do I... that's half the charm.

I'll be writing every day, taking photos and posting it up here. I promise not to filter anything, if you promise to come along for the ride.  


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brian is an idea man.

Earlier this month I got an interesting email from Brian Hancock the course design & guerrilla marketing genius behind the Ithaca GP:

In all seriousness...

I’m totally not joking about this - ever thought about pushing DICX into the national stage with hosting the single speed world cyclocross championships?

The atmosphere, course, event, and tequila are a perfect fit.

Think about it...


Ever get hit with an idea so good that it practically unlocks a part of your brain that you have never used before? This letter made me feel like Vin Diesel operating a manual transmission: "What? I can upshift six or seven more times?  I've only been using the first five gears!" (RIP Paul Walker, you are a good guy and I enjoyed your movies)

For those of you that are not familiar with the the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship or SSCXWC. It is the Gold standard of non-sanctioned races and to give credit where credit is due, parent to the Detroit Invitational Cyclocross.

Let me paint the picture.

It was several years ago, and upon learning that my position was to be outsourced, I sought employment on the east coast.  Prior to moving from the great lake state, I began to divest some of the larger possessions because they wouldn't fit into the high rise apartment where I would be living.  One of those items was my 20 gallon air compressor.

Daniel at cycle to fitness, was having issues with his, so we began to negotiate a price.  Now the relationship between Daniel and I has evolved to the point where we rarely transact business by exchanging cash.  I recall serious barter negotiations where he wanted to swap a really nice waffle maker that was a wedding present for my accord coupe with 230K miles. I forget the exact details, but it involved some cash and a single order at cost for the air compressor.  I used to order to buy some Paul hubs, velocity hoops and a bunch of other goodies that allowed me to build up a really sweet Salsa La Rosa, that had lost it's derailleur hanger, but thanks to the skill of a UAW welder on the team, had a new life with track dropouts as a single speed CX bike.  I built up the bike and rode mostly for commuting through the mean streets of Wilmington Delaware.

Fast forward to cyclocross season.  I entered my first race, the Rockburn Cross, about forty minutes south in Maryland.  I think I registered for the C race... I don't think they had a Single speed class.  It was a perfect day for cross.  Wet, Rainy, cool.  the other competitors were noticably excited about the race.

Like most of us, my first CX experience was miserable.  My conditioning was nonexistent & my gear ratio was an obscene 50x18.  Not only did I finish DFL and got lapped by the leaders... I got lapped by the leaders of the women's class.


When I crossed the finish line, I was met by everyone else in the field that was just as happy as I was that the race was finished.  I instantly fell in love with cross.  I met several people from the proteus shop in College Park, MD.  One of the ladies (who lapped me) asked me the following question:
"Hey, we are going to a really cool race up in a junkyard in Philly, want to come?"

Two things influenced my decision.  1) about a month before, I ventured to a club in baltimore to see Mix Master Mike.  It was both the most terrifying and awesome experience of my life.  My comfort zone had been nicely expanded.  2) I have never really ever been able to refuse a request by a woman with the trailing "a" of a mid atlantic accent.

So off we go to Philly, To Bilenky's Junkyard Cyclocross. Which was and is the most irrational, boundryless cyclocross race ever raced. we went through a decapitated school bus, around engine blocks, over the shadiest climb over you had ever seen.  Guys were dressed like Evel Knievel, team kits or in nothing at all. By the end of the day, I was sore, cold, covered in god-knows-what kind of automotive fluids, but beside myself with joy.  This on-two punch of cyclocross races was like meeting the woman of your dreams, then having her ask you if you want to go back to her place to get stoned and have sex. Yeah, THAT good.

Fueled with this new found fix for Cyclocross.  I consumed everything I could on the interwebs about the subject.  I eventually found out about the Cross crusade & SSCXWC.

Any race that first prize includes a golden bikini brief (with the world Championship colors) and a tattoo, is ok in my book.  I followed the race for several years before they announced that the race would be moved to San Francisco the following year.  My daughter lives in NorCal.  I visit her every month, I couldn't wait to withness the race, in person.  It didn't disapoint!  Though not as irrational as the Junkyard CX, SSCXWC pushes the limit with cesspool obstacles, using 3' dia. redwoods in place of barriers and world class talent.

last weekend, Philly was good enough to combine these two events into a fantastic weekend, that I regret missing.

They have just announced that the 2014 SSCXWC will be held in Louisville, KY.  Anyone who attended the real world championships last year will tell you that they have a wonderful park down there.  I will certainly be in attendance!

Which brings us to Brian's letter above.

I am inspired.  I want to bring the SSCXWC to the Motor city!

Possibly to Dorais park, but having attended both of these races live, I wonder if the park can match up to the scale of this race and the significance of Detroit.  The race location should be Iconic.  Maybe we could have the qualifier at Dorais and have the SSCXWC at Belle Isle?  Perhaps on the riverfront under the Ren Cen?  On the roof of Cobo?  Hell, lets run it up around and through the train station, Around the DIA & Cultural center.  At this point, no idea is out of bounds.

I need the help of the cycling community to make this happen.  If you know of someone who knows someone, let me know.  if you have a lead for a truly epic location, let me know by emailing me at

I'm not saying we deserve it, because at this point, we don't.  But we have a lot of creative and talented people in this community, and I think we can make anything happen.

The CX Czar

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

At this time I owe everyone a couple posts:

1) I owe you the full timing file & race analysis.
2) I will address an official protest, and clarify the various interpretations of the "shortcut rule"

but at the moment, I have something more pressing that I am working on.  Look for it in the next 24 hours.

Jeff Wood.

The CX Czar

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

First lap of the Detroit Invitational captured on film.

Also submitted by Brian Harville is a link to a youtube video that captures the first lap of the Detroit Invitational from the riders perspective.  Good footage of some of the custom skin suits in the ladies field.  Watch it along with the podcast to get a good idea of what goes on at the most diabolical Cyclocross race.

Detroit Invitational Cyclocross 2013

Detroit Invitational Featured in the Bike Shop Show Podcast.

Scott Dedenbach puts on an excellent podcast about cycling and he was nice enough to interview several of the racers of the Detroit Invitational.  He really captures the essence of the race, reveals several of our secrets and has a nice observation about the sanctioned and unsanctioned races can coexist.  If you've never been to the race

Bike Shop Show, Episode 89

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nice video of the race

Thanks Scott Dedenbach for the great video.


Congratulations to Ladies Winner: Gabriella Sterne and 3-peat Men's winner: Jesse Gould!  As part of the ladies championship, next year, the port-o-johns will carry Gabriella's name.    As men's champion, a donation in Jesse's name will be placed in the Kwame Kilpatrick 2041 re-election fund.  

I always like to take the day following the race, shut down and soak it all in.  Take a look at what worked, what didn't and lay the groundwork for next year.  Race day is by far, the happiest day of the year for me.  Without getting too mushy, it is extremely rewarding to have a hundred of people thank you for putting on the race.  Fact is, it's not that difficult, thanks to all the help that I get from my friends.

Special thanks to Mike Belanger!  Mike is sadistic soul who designs the course.  He has carte blanche to do whatever he likes, because 99% of the time it is awesome  (death spiral on the side of hill: Mike's Idea... Run-down after the velodrome: Mike's Idea...  See where I am going with this) Mike puts as much time & effort into the race as I do, and deserves as much
Think of him as my Rasputin (wait, don't... that's a horrible analogy)

Special thanks to Jeff Plotzke.  Aka: Beaker.  Jeff is my registration & timing guy.  He developed the Frankensteinian timing system that works remarkably well.  While the rest of us were whooping it up during the main race, Jeff had his nose in a laptop monitor, ensuring that the results were accurate and timely. We will post the full results on this blog in the next couple of days.  Jeff has a lot on his plate at the moment, so please be patient.

Special thanks to all the Greyhounds and Elvii that took time from their weekend & holiday to help mow, remove trash, set up the track, deal cards, sling tequila and tear down.  There are too many of you to list, but as I mentioned to you last week: If you ever need anything: help you move, hide a body, marry your sister.  Just say the word!

And thank you for everyone who came and raced, made noise or sat silently and just smiled.

Personally, I think this was our greatest race to date. here are some of my thoughts on next year.

First & Foremost, next year we will "incentivize" homemade & custom Skinsuits.  There were a few gems out there, especially in the ladies class(Queen of Hearts & the Cheetah) . Kudo's to Santa and the bikini skinsuit which cannot be unseen (as worn by Tom Carpenter).  Break out the needle & thread, because next year there will be prizes for "stylepoints".

Some of the veterans may have noticed that the Shortcut was not as big of an advantage as in previous years.  This was by design, as we reserve the right to keep you guessing.

Note to self: Move the "Emily Batty Kissing Booth" to a more prominent spot... invite Liz Hatch.

On a related note: On a couple occasions in my lifetime, I have been able to slowly crawl my way out of the bottomless pit that is "The Friend Zone".  It was a long and arduous process, but on each occasion, I was able to transform a one sided, emasculating exercise in frustration into a volatile, drama filled, codependent relationship.  My best friend refers to this process as "Wearing them down".  I intend to use this same skill set to make the "Emily Batty Kissing Booth" a reality. (if she'll only respond to my tweets)

There have been some rumors regarding improprieties in the Shortcut lane.  Now, I'm in no position to judge any man or woman, but I believe I made it clear that cheating is something that I will not tolerate in my race.  Look for me to address these accusations in full investigation to be documented in a separate blog post.  I will address the age old question of cheating or more specifically: Spitting vs. swallowing.

Thank you all again for making this a great day.  I can't believe that next year will be the 5th year... We'll have to make it a blow out!

P.S. several of you mentioned that you enjoy my writing.  I will be venturing across the country over Christmas break, with my trusty St. Bernard mix, Lebowski.  We'll be passing through Breck, Moab, Zion, Big Sur, Bonneville and many other places.   Car camping in my Element for the majority of the trip.  I'll be documenting the whole thing on this blog.  And on my twitter account: @cxczar.