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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cool Old Citroen

A customer drove this fantastic vehicle to the shop the other day. About as neato as it gets.

I have to say, though, French guys must be small, because it doesn't look like anyone bigger than a jockey could drive this thing.


I was afraid it'd rain out the Mission Farms ride, but it didn't rain when the weather man said it would. It did rain on my bike, mounted on my car, overnight when it wasn't supposed to rain at all. And on my way to work this morning, I saw the most complete double rainbow I've ever seen in my life. I had to pull in at the Gas & Sip to snap pics of it, but then my little pocket camera doesn't exactly take a wide angle, so I used the video feature to try and capture it.

And the August Total Is...

MapMyRide Beta doesn't seem to have the 'embed' button I use, but here's a link to the Mission Farms ride I did with Roj and Michael and I don't know whoall else. Caroline, Debbie, I met some new riders.

Roj was on-hand with his new Brooks saddle. A leather saddle designed over a century ago on a 1978 Mongoose with aero-discs and multiple gears. Freakshow, man, that has to be the only one ever.

Rolls out at the same time as the Brewery Ride, but from Los Cabos in Mission Farms. 17 miles with some climbing but nothing brutal. Except the headwinds on the first leg, those were pretty rough this evening, though it kept the heat from being unmanageable.

Me and Roj missed the first light and after riding pretty hard to keep up with a couple of other guys who'd fallen back (but who weren't all that slow), we found to our surprise we'd come up with the main group. These guys were chatting and casually rolling along, where I was huffing and turning colors, but at least I was keeping pace. Sorta, except when it started going uphill again.

Where I really screwed myself was stopping to switch from sunglasses to just regular eyeglasses. I did so at a spot where I thought I'd be able to sprint and catch up, and then I promptly lost sight of the group. I missed a turn, or rather I assumed I'd missed one (it turns out the turn I was supposed to make was still to come), and I ended up on Mission Road coming from 123rd and just catching sight of the peloton as it crested the hill to descend to 119th. I tried, but there wasn't any chance, and then I didn't even catch the light. Dropped my chain as soon as the light turned green and lost more time.

Still, finished with a respectable, for me, 13.5 mph average, 17.4 miles. Really impressive no-drop ride, because it was well-organized enough the riders who really wanted to fly could, the middle-paced riders and those like me who aspire to middle-pace had plenty of company, and there was a contingent that just flat wasn't in a hurry that finished a few minutes behind me with the designated sweepers.

Caroline, the ride leader, handed out turn lists to everyone beforehand so, for instance, when I got separated and was unsure which way to go, if I'd bothered to stop and look at the sheet of paper, it was spelled out for me. She really goes out of her way to make sure people new to riding in groups are as welcome and able to participate as the animals. Able, anyway, so long as 17 miles wouldn't kill them (when I started riding in groups, I'd never have been able to finish this route).

So anyway, the total mileage for August...435.6 miles. Sponsor me for Bike MS? I'll do the hard part, putting in the miles, all you have to do is donate to an entirely worthy cause. And to those of you who have already contributed, THANK YOU. It's been a brutal year to fund-raise.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Racking Up the Miles

I didn't ride in the official Tour de Shawnee. Even if I'd had the dough to throw at the entrance fee, which I didn't, it wouldn't have fit my schedule.

But riding from my Dad's today, I toyed with the route. I was reminded when I got on 55th and saw the orange arrow-circles painted on the road. I would have gone down one of my favorite hills, west of Rosehill and 55th, but the arrow told me to turn left at Rosehill and I obeyed. I continued to follow the route until Renner Road, when I realized that I'd be heading north with a pretty brisk tailwind.

That would mean returning, some way, with a brisk headwind, right?

Plus, I remembered the insanity when I rode this route last year, not sure if it's identical, but there was a stretch where the arrows led you to riding the breakdown lane of Shawnee Mission Parkway between Woodland and Midland, a stretch which might as well be an Interstate for all the business bicycle traffic has on its shoulder.

So I went south, taking the headwind on the way out to get a tailwind coming back, and life was good. It was hot, but not like it was until a couple weeks ago. The breeze actually cooled you some, and my bike computer's temperature never went above 102ºF, mostly stayed in the mid 90s.

By the way, sponsor me please. I'm fairly desperate, it's less than a month until Bike MS and I still don't have the minimum fundraising to participate in the ride. I'll do the really hard part, riding 100 miles on September 25, 80 on September 26. All you need to do is open your wallets up and help out a great cause.

I still wonder if I'm ready for the big event, though I've got more miles in the saddle than I did before last year's (almost 1500 miles in 2010; I only had around 600 prior to last year's). In fact, I have over 400 miles in August alone and the month isn't quite over yet. I don't own a scale, but people have commented that I appear to have lost weight and I can wear a couple of 2X Aloha shirts that have been in my closet most of the past few years. I got skinny enough to wear them, sort of, last summer around this time, but they were still a tad snug. They still don't flow as roomily as I'd like, but progress is progress.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peaks & Valleys

My day, for all intents and purposes, started around 3:00 a.m., after I'd stayed up later than I should have anyway.

Mo was up around three, blaring 'When You Wish Upon a Star' on YouTube. Why, oh why, can't my 13 year old at least crank Black Sabbath the way I would have at this age?

It wouldn't make a difference, really, and Mo does love her some Green Day, Ozzy and Evanescence, so it would have been a long night anyway. Fortunately, Em slept soundly through Mo's escapades and me running her back to bed over and over. Good thing, because if Mo can wreck a good night's sleep, her sister can compound it by complaining that if I was just a better Dad...

I can make Mo stay in bed, sort of. But I can't force her to sleep, trust me I've tried. So she'd lay in there and I'd hear her shout, 'Letter L!' and giggle. 'Go to sleep!' followed by another giggle. 'Be quiet!' more giggling.

She says these things loudly, but not with the intonation of someone actually saying them. She says 'Letter L' like it's the punchline of a really juicy joke, and the other things come out sing-songy like she knows what the likely reaction to her open eyes and wired behavior will be, but she can't help it.

Then, when it was finally time to be up, I got her in the hall shower and went to take a shower of my own, and I heard a thunk, but I was too busy trying to get cleaned up quick to process it, at which point Em told me, 'Mo is having a seizure in the shower!'

And what a seizure it was. She was laying in the tub, the water still spraying, part of her body still soaped up and lathery, twitching and gagging and not breathing as far as I could tell.

Every time I thought it was about over, it wasn't, and I called for Em to bring my keychain (I have a fob of Ativan for such occasions), and was about to give it to her when she came around for real.

Plan A was I'd take Em to school and bring Mo back home to sleep it off, but she surprised me by getting dressed. In a determined way, she wanted underwear, she wanted a bra, etc. She wanted to go to school.

As soon as she was dressed, she flopped over and slept until me and her sister were ready to go, but then when I dropped Em at the high school and gave Mo the choice of school or go home and nap, she chose school.

So this was a suck-ass morning, but apparently Mo wanted to fix it by pretending it hadn't been.

As I was driving to work, I realized I hadn't brought my intended lunch, and I had about two dollars in coins on me and in my car. I planned to ride the Moose tonight, but between the sleep deprivation and trying to figure out lunch even with dollar-menu items for two bucks, I wasn't so sure.

I got to work and found my boss was buying lunch at Lew's for everyone. Wow, didn't see that coming, but I've got a pretty awesome boss. Three or four of them, really, but most of the time it's not really Office Spacey.

Lew's is a bar and grill, but I have to give them credit, they are a cut above when it comes to bar and grill food. The chicks all ordered the Buffalo Chicken Salad and the Y Chromosome team all ordered the Pork Tenderlew (with chips, except for one rebel who had to complicate the order with fries).

Brunch is breakfast combined with lunch, but this was more of a Linner. Everyone (the guys I mean) seemed to eat about half their Pork Tenderlew and save the rest for later. I didn't have breakfast, just some fruit and nuts when I got to work, and I was famished. I ate everything that wasn't nailed down and if I could pry it loose, it wasn't really nailed down.

I was still full from Linner when I left work to do the Moose with Roj. I didn't feel like riding, really, but I'm in a routine and I didn't want to be a pussy about losing sleep.

I had forgotten my fingerless Pearl Izumi gloves (laundry), had to decide between going bare fisted or wearing my full-finger winter riding gloves. The winter gloves are not Pearl Izumi, some cheap knockoff with nowhere near as good a padding, but maybe better than nothing.

We normally leave ahead of the group because we're slow. But getting there late (after another valley I won't go into), I was, 'Do we leave just five minutes early, or do we see how long we can stick with the herd before they drop us?'

We left with the herd, and right there at Tomahawk and Mission, I dropped my fucking chain. I hate that like some people hate obscenity. The full finger gloves kept my fingers grease-free as I yanked the chain out of the frame, but damn.

I got cleared and raced to close the gap. Rode like hell for a couple miles before finding Roj and a few casuals, people who were taking the 'leisurely' approach.

I rode those first few miles like hell, and while I didn't think I could keep that pace up the whole way, I did my best. Got my cardio in, big time.

And in a peak to end the day, I finished with a 13.6 mph average, the whole 19+ mile route, by far a personal best for a ride this long and this hilly. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a pygmy, but I was a tall pygmy tonight.

The gravy was Beethoven. I'm not a fanatic for classical music, but I love any good music. And as luck would have it, right when I got in the car to go home, KCUR was announcing the KC Symphony playing Beethoven's Fifth. And it was a solid performance perfected by the fact that it lasted exactly until I was in my driveway. You can't force timing like that.

So there you go, a day that starts with sleep deprivation and washing the suds off your postictal daughter can still end in victory and great music if you play your cards right and get a little bit lucky.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Daisy Riseth

It's been far, far too long since Daisy has been out for a ride. We rode her quite a bit when she was new.

Then it got hot, crazy hot. And on the few occasions I tried to get the girls interested, they weren't having it.

So this evening, at a mild 78ºF, me and Mo took Daisy around the block after I rescued her from the cocoon of tarps I've sheltered her rustable and rottable parts in since, well, since it was last in the seventies of an evening.

I love this contraption. It's prone to chain drops and generally a flawed design, but it makes up for all that with charm. And aerobic workout, we only went around the block and down the street and back, but I worked up a pretty good sweat doing it.

Next year is my turn to have the girls for the Fair weekend, gonna have to enter us with Daisy in the parade...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I learned today that the kid driving the car under the tarp in the photo below is the son of the guy who played Daddy Warbucks in the community theater production of Annie this summer.

The kid was all of 16, by all accounts a good kid, captain of the soccer team, junior year, apparently on his way back to school for Back To School Night in a hurry when he blew a stop sign and t-boned the pickup that's twisted and turned turtle.

A back to school night I did with my ex-wife, going from class to class and proving Em's claims that it's impossible to get from one to another in five minutes wrong. Adorned by the high school jazz band which is short a guitarist if they really want to make me nostalgic.

The two in the other vehicle are described only as being in 'critical condition.' An old friend of mine who's a firefighter was one of the responders, and was described to me as shaken up by what he saw (I haven't talked to him myself).

I can't imagine what the Hurd family is going through, I get nauseous just thinking about it. I'm not a fan of teenagers driving in the first place, when I think back to my own teenage driving years and how easily I could have been the one dead at the scene.

But I took Driver's Ed, it was a precondition to my own dangerous teenage driving exploits, and it was as easy as signing up for an elective at school.

They don't have Driver's Ed at Gardner-Edgerton, or anywhere else from what I hear. I think that should change. They're still playing football, right? If you have budget cuts to make, keep Driver's Ed and cut the athletics. The athletics aren't unimportant, but nobody ever died from not going out for football.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero: It's the American Way

I'm always a little squeamish when the media picks up a story like the one about, to hear the first reports, a mosque in the Freedom Tower we'll supposedly build someday at Ground Zero.

Like coverage of the so-called Tea Party, the coverage focuses on knee-jerk reactions lots of people can identify with which immediately segue to Ugly American moments which conveniently allow the garden variety lefties who comprise a silent majority in The Media to paint a nugget of inconvenient common sense as a portrait of bigotry or jingoism.

Full disclosure, my own bigotry, I'm not a fan of Islam. When I think of that religion, the first things I picture are that maniac running Iran (and worse, that asshole with The Bomb, women who aren't allowed to show their faces in public, and suicide bombers.

Then again, to counter my own knee-jerk reaction that a mosque in Manhattan isn't a matter of rights, but the notion that Islam has nothing positive to offer the world, I think of Rory Stewart's The Places In Between.

Rory walked across Afghanistan in 2002, relying on a few bucks in his pocket and the hospitality of people who not only didn't know him, but many didn't know what Coca Cola is. The Taliban and their victims alike took him in without fail, despite his obvious value as a kidnap for ransom, all based on Islamic Law. I wouldn't try to cross Kansas afoot with so few resources.

When I was in NYC a few years ago, I walked from a brewpub in Greenwich Village to Ground Zero and back to the Village Vanguard because I didn't understand the bus schedule.

And on this trip, I passed the 'House of Sufism,' a Muslim house of worship in the Village.

At some point in my adventures, I drank espresso at a coffee shop cleverly named 'Drink Me.' And as I prepared to leave, I asked the barista how to get about three blocks away, and was told, 'I wouldn't know, I don't get out that way very often.'

So 'two blocks' sounds like 'really near' to us midwesterners, but in reality there are New Yorkers who spend their whole lives without going two blocks in a particular direction. And they definitely wouldn't notice an Islamic center even if it was painted blue with gold glyphs that probably describe magic carpet rides.

Lighten up, folks, Islam might be wrong (or, worse, it might be right), but we're a country that respects freedom of religion, even unpopular ones. And lest Christianity by judged by snake handling cults and the Ku Klux Klan, maybe we should go easy on the ragheads.

See what I did? I called them ragheads, let the PC police commence to flog me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time Trial

Okay, this wasn't really a time trial, but it was 4:08 when I left my Dad's house to get a short ride in before taking the honyocks back home, firing up the grill, grilling KC Strip steaks, eating dinner and all this is supposed to happen before their Mom comes to get them at 7:00...

So I aimed for an hour's ride. I'd love to do two or three, especially with Bike MS coming up so soon (sponsor me!), but time was not on my side.

Looking at before I left, I knew the winds were out of the East/Northeast, supposedly at 7 mph.

The direction was right, but those headwinds sure felt stiff as I powered down Merriam Lane. I wanted to see how far I could get and be back in an hour, so I mainly watched the clock and at 4:36, I turned around and came back. I reasoned that the headwind/tailwind difference would buy me a little time, but then the overall grade (while far from hilly) is uphill on the return because Merriam Lane basically follows Turkey Creek valley down to the river.

As it happens, tailwinds trump hills when the 'hill' is maybe a 1% overall grade. 28 minutes out, 19 minutes back, the whole 11.1 miles done in 47 minutes. I wouldn't have turned around quite so soon if I'd realized how strong that tailwind effect would be.

Saw Nan & Chris on their awesome Cannondale tandem coming back. Actually I passed them right before I turned around at House of Rocks and thought, I know at least a couple of the riders in that pack.

They're the ones I rode to the River Market with last November, who gave me the idea to chart the Northeast Passage to that destination from my house this summer. And looking at those two blog posts, I did both rides in the same Hawaiian shirt.

Anyway, got back to Dad's, scooped up my offspring and got home to light the grill and cook some strip steaks a perfect medium rare, five minutes on side one, three on side two with a hot fire and the steaks room temperature when they hit the grate. Bloody but hot, with golden potatoes and steamed peas on the side.

Glad I got a ride in, though, not only to burn off some of those calories, but because Em's back to school night is tomorrow so there won't be any Trek Recovery Ride in my week, and I think it's supposed to rain Tuesday. It may be Thursday before I'm back in the saddle.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holiday Hill Ride

This was Plan A:

Holiday Drive is a hill ride if this metro area has one. Climbing from 71st or so to 65th, the sweat running into my eyes and into my glasses, I stopped at the top to wipe down. As I resumed, I saw some riders coming up the other way and gave them the thumbs-up, 'Good job, it's all downhill from here!'

They called out 'Back atcha!'

A hill ride from my Mom's house, but it was late when I got there, and later when I got underway, and when I got to Gibbs and 47th in KCK, I looked at the clock (7:33) and remembered the sunset on was 8:03, and I thought, maybe, on my best day, I could almost do the rest of this route in half an hour, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So I went up 47th/Antioch, took a slight detour through Mom's neighborhood to maximize my time and hill climbing, and got back before 8:00. And eight is the new nine, the days are that short.

Crimes and Punishments

We were going to go to Kaleidoscope and garage saling today, Mo's choices. Then she made another kind of choice, the Bad Choice variety, cut up some of my home grown tomatoes ripening on the counter and threw the lot of them in the trash can.

It wasn't a total loss, I was able to rescue and wash quite a bit of unharmed fruit, but Daddy doesn't have a sense of humor when it comes to the harvest. Bad enough to waste food, but food that came at that much expense, sweat, blood, bug bites, more sweat...

So when Mo was in 'time out' for this felony, I asked her if she really thought a girl who would waste Daddy's tomatoes that he worked so hard for deserved to go to Kaleidoscope and garage sales, she said, 'Yes.'

To which, I said, in probably not quite an 'indoor' voice, you've got another thing coming.

As I was tucking her in tonight, she said, 'Go to Kaleidoscope, Wonderscope.' We haven't gone to Wonderscope in forever, the girls really outgrew it, but I got what she was thinking.

Leave Daddy's tomatoes alone when they're on the counter if you want that kind of thing to happen, I said.

And from underneath her covers and stuffed animals, she said, 'Yes.'

We'll see how long the lesson holds.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I bought fresh eggs from a farm I had ridden by on my bike, noticed their sign.

Fresh, cage-free eggs, as a matter of fact, for about half what the store sells such things and fresher besides.

I also picked up some no-water-added 'steak' cut bacon. Took me back to my misspent youth when I'd go to Chubby's after beating the night. I asked the guy who ran the joint, one early morning, how come their bacon didn't cook away to nothing like most.

'Most bacon you find is 22, this is 9. When I looked at him blankly, he said, 'Slices per pound.'

When I opened this package of 'crazy thick' Burger's Smokehouse bacon, I realized instantly, I was seeing nine slices, one pound of bacon, almost two ounces per slice.

I know as a culinary adventure, I didn't invent the B.E.L.T. But with whole wheat toast, a thick slab of Kellogg's Breakfast tomato, some 'nine' bacon and a farm fresh egg fried crispy at the edges/runny yolk in a bit of that bacon's fat, I may well have perfected it.

Sure hope that KB plant produces another fruit or two, it'd suck to have to wait until next year for a dinner as fantastic as this.

Riding the Storm Out

Went out in the garden this evening just ahead of the storm to harvest what little there is to harvest, and to reinforce things. Last thunderstorm that blew through really rearranged some of my tomatoes.

At the time, I was so discouraged by signs of late blight and other disease, I didn't see any reason to re-tie the plants. But with the break in the heat, I've noticed some new flowers and new fruit setting, even a new Kellogg's Breakfast fruit, and I thought for sure when I picked the one that made this evening's dinner, it was the end of the road for that vine.

My Paul Robeson and Limony vines are nine feet tall if they're an inch. Amazing, these indeterminate varieties. My neighbors quizzed me about why my stakes were so tall when I used eight-foot 2x2s. I should have just told them I couldn't find any twelve-footers.

So I spent an hour or more untangling vines from each other where they'd blown into each other and then grown together; trussing them up against their stakes. The way it's blowing out there as I write, for all I know every damned one of them may be blown over on its stake, but I did what I could.

It got very dark and very cool as I was attempting to harvest a few Thai peppers (the birds seem to have discovered that plant, the peppers grow pointed up out of the foliage; but I can't begrudge the birds much, they've taken it easy on my maters for the most part, and I've harvested about as much capsicum as I'm liable to use in the coming year from just my Kung Pao plant alone, and there's a half dozen habaneros I've spotted on that little plant).

So cue the REO Speedwagon as I beat a hasty retreat from the first fat drops to fall out of a sky gone black at 7:30.

Oh, Yeah...

Back to school night at Mo's school, I spotted this on the wall of the Language Arts room. I knew that, probably back in eighth grade, and had forgotten it I guess.

If quizzed, I would have answered 'alliteration' not 'assonance.'

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

About to Feel Saucy, I Think

I have six one-gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer, cored out and ready for making tomato sauce. I hear once you defrost a frozen tomato, the skin slides right off, and I'm not worried about the seeds, really.

Not sure what this will translate to in terms of cooked down and canned sauce/pureed/crushed tomatoes. I think I'm going to segregate the Limmony from the others because I think I have enough of them to make at least a quart of sauce, and I've never had a golden tomato sauce to play with. Could make a pretty awesome pizza sauce, I'll bet.

The rest I may cook down quite a bit, because some varieties like Mortgage Lifter are in the freezer in part because they're too bland for a slice-and-eat tomato in my opinion. Next year, that slot is probably going to be taken by a second Kellog's Breakfast, a variety that is so tasty I don't think any of them ended up in the freezer. One last KB is ripening on the counter and I'll probably make a final batch of BLTs with it.

But Mortgage Lifter cooked down and concentrated, could be pretty good stuff, I'll bet. And if it still lacks zip, I'll make Diablo sauce with some of my Thai and Kung Pao chillis and who will ever know the tomatoes lacked umph?

Another reason to grow more tomatoes: my Thai and Kung Pao plants have produced enough blazing hot pods, drying happily on my counter, to make approximately three metric tons of Diablo sauce hot enough for a Man vs. Food challenge.

Next year's garden will probably also include three or four Paul Robeson plants. There might be one or two PRs in the freezer, but basically that one is so delicious I've been able to keep up with it all summer: they get ripe, they get eaten, raw with a sprinkling of salt or tossed in a salad. Wouldn't mind having enough of them to make a sauce out of nothing but Paul Robesons, I bet that sauce would be Rush in Rio meets the Super Bowl.

Good thing about the sauce bags, too, some of the tomatoes I'm getting are only half edible. The fugly ones can be carved up to harvest the stuff I can recognize as tomato and the rest can go on the compost pile.

I grilled some chicken breast this evening, and got the notion to grill a couple of my jalapeños and some pear tomatoes. Which reminded me why I never make kabobs. I thought of cubing one of the breasts to make some, figuring to skewer some Beam's Yellow Pear, a couple of runtish Gigant Pelinas and maybe an Isis Candy or a smallish Paul Robeson with some California Wonder bell pepper quarters and onion and whatnot.

But I don't have any kabob skewers. One bite into a piping hot, fresh off the grill, pear tomato reminded me why. From the age of, I think, ten, when I first encountered kabobs, I've wondered, who in the hell wants to eat a hot tomato?

It's not the same as a tomato sauce, it's not like a fresh tomato. I think I'd rather eat a tomato icy cold from the fridge than hot off the grill. And that's saying something, because tomatoes belong in the fridge about like I belong in an Ultimate Cage Fight.

The jalapeños weren't bad grilled, in fact I could have easily eaten a half dozen of them, especially combined with a bite of chicken and a bit of raw bell pepper or a slice of raw Carbon tomato.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Faster Than a Speeding Lobster

Got my car out of the shop and got home with enough daylight to ride, but I wasn't sure if it would rain or not.

I'm also uncertain my pepper spray has enough dog treat left in it after I used it on Doc the hell-hound on Saturday.

Doc has to be the world's only aggressive bloodhound, and he was out when me and the girls got to my Mom's. At one point he went around the end of his house and the girls made a break for it, and I grabbed my pepper spray and stood my ground. Sure enough, Doc charged me, and I let loose a stream. Doc has his faults but stupidity isn't one of them.

He stopped just short of the stream, licked his chops some, and sat down. He didn't back up, but he didn't advance on me after that. Then the relative who's been doing some work on Doc's owner's house came and took him inside. He was apologetic about the whole thing, laughed when I said I'd used the pepper spray. 'I don't blame you,' he said. 'He's fuckin' Cujo.'

So without my farm dog repellent, I really didn't want to get outside the city limits, even if I was sure it wouldn't rain.

The weather was glorious, really. Overcast and 75ºF, perfect for pinning the ears back and hauling ass. Which I did, though I realized when I got to a turnaround about five miles into the ride that a strong tailwind had been giving me a real boost. I was averaging almost 17 mph on that first leg, but was lucky to keep 13 or 14 going back the other way.

Even if I could remember all the loopy turns I took through the subdivisions, I can't map it on MapMyRide because half the streets I tore through are too new to show up on their map.

But a personal record for a ride with stop signs, lights, and traffic. The only time I've been faster was at the airport, where I managed a 16.0 mph average for 22 miles. Here in Gardner, also on a relatively flat course, I managed 15.4 mph for 18.6 miles.

Gandy Dancing

When we pulled into Moon Marble, there were crews working on the railroad tracks that run behind the shop.

I called to one of the workers and asked if they still called what they were doing 'gandy dancing.' He nodded his head.

I learned the term from Utah Philips' 'It's Good Though' story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Recovery @ Warp 9

The Trek Recovery Ride is normally a slowpoke affair. There are fast riders who show up for it, but the whole idea is that it's a no-drop, very social ride and theoretically we're supposed to be recovering from the weekend's longer, faster rides.

I rode on Saturday and Sunday but those two rides combined for only 35 miles, and I'm happy to say I'm in good enough condition that this is insufficient to make me sore. That certainly wasn't the case this time last year.

So I had fresh legs, and there were some pretty serious riders who showed up. The slowest member of the group would have to be a tie between me and Scabface. Scabface is my nickname for Curtis' daughter, who is fourteen and only along for the ride because her Dad and Dad's girlfriend are riding it.

Thing is, Scabface is faster than me when she wants to be. Several times I've been huffing and puffing up a hill and she blithely pedals past me, and I can tell it's not even costing her to humiliate the old man in the Aloha shirt.

But Scabface's youth is also her biggest liability. She doesn't really want to work hard or sweat, which is where my nickname came from: she wants to be Scarface, be sleek and fast and effortlessly lead the pack, but she doesn't want to be Scabface first. When I fall behind, it's mainly ability; when she falls back it's generally just because she doesn't care when she gets back.

But some way tonight I must have said just the right insensitive thing to her and she turned it up a notch. Coming up 55th, I was absolutely maxed out and just barely keeping up with Scabface.

She asked me a couple times if I was having fun yet, and I allowed that I was. And I was. I felt like a million bucks, the cooler temperatures enabling me to stand on it and sprint to make up lost time.

Looking at my cycling log, the average speed for the past few Trek Recover rides: 11.9 mph on 8/9; 11.8 mph on 8/2; 12.0 mph on 7/26; 12.6 mph on 7/19; 11.4 mph on 7/12... You get the idea, it's an 11-12 mile an hour affair as a rule though back on 4/12 it dipped to 10.1 mph.

This evening's ride? 13.8 mph average. That's a personal best for me on this route (or anything like it—I've topped that on my Gardner routes where there are wide expanses of country road with no stops and few hills or at the airport, but in Shawnee and Merriam, I rarely break the 13 mark, all those stops and all that traffic).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Moon Marble (I Know, Again)

It seems like we'd get bored visiting Moon Marble as often as we do. But we still love watching Bruce make marbles, still love checking out the incredible assortment of toys, novelties and art. This picture of Mo watching Bruce work pretty much sums up why I keep bringing her back there.

Just a Quickie

I called my Dad to ask if he could facilitate a ride. I've got the girls overnight this evening, so that put the kibosh on doing one after their mother picked them up, my original plan.

It was so nice, the weather has finally broken from that oppressive heat wave, I really wanted to ride. But Dad helped someone move yesterday and wasn't feeling to jazzed about it.

How long a ride are we talking about? He wanted to know. I said two hours though the weather was making me think three or more.

How about one hour?

Well, that's about as long as I'd get if I was setting out after the girls went back to their mother, being it gets dark by 8:30-ish these days. Take what you can get, right?

It was great. After so many rides in the oppressive heat, it almost feels like cheating to only sweat profusely. Dad lives right off the final leg of the Trek Recovery Ride's usual path and I basically took what I think of as the idea Trek route. It's actually cobbled together from two routes we've taken, I don't think the group has ever quite done this exact route, though they've done all its pieces.

If they ever tell me to lead, this is where we'd ride.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Everybody Makes Mistakes

So I'm flying down Johnson Drive toward Merriam Lane, which isn't unusual, but I timed the light at Antioch, which has never happened that I recall. I almost hit the brakes because the light was green when I first noticed it, and I didn't think I'd make it, but it was still green where I judged the point of now return to be and I was going fast enough to clear it even if it went yellow right then. Which it didn't.

Then I hit the next light, still green, same thing. And the next one. At which point I should have realized I'd exhausted any possible luck: it was a green light hat-trick on a busy four-lane road through lots of retail development, and that just doesn't happen.

The light by the highway ramps for I-35, though, was green too and I cranked toward it hoping.

I saw a car pull out, making a right turn on red from the ramp, and that's cool, it alerted me that others might have that idea. So I was looking hard around the corner for cars coming, which was a good thing in a way. I saw the Humvee that pulled out fast when I thought I was about to make the intersection on green. He was not making a right on red, he was turning left, and as I grabbed a big old handful of brakes, I shouted, 'Dude!' Then I saw the light I was trying to make was red, I'd been too focused on the potential traffic to notice the signal.

What a stupid mistake, I'm glad I had enough brake to stop before I ran into the side of a moving car. I don't generally push lights, there's not enough speed to do so on a bicycle. I was on a streak that couldn't last, and I should have paid closer attention to the signal. Fortunately, I pay more attention to what cars are really doing than to what they have the right of way to do, or thinking that I had a green light would have probably landed me in the ER or worse.

The main thing I was dealing with outside of that, today, was the heat. I had a different route planned, which involved going wast on 55th to Pflumn and going north to Holiday Drive and heading back east on that. This was the original flight plan:

But my Camelbak was feeling mighty light by the time I got to Pflumn, and that's only like seven miles into it. And there aren't many retail establishments of any kind going that the way I intended, so I wasn't sure where I'd be able to refill and/or get out of the heat for a minute. So I went south and refilled my Camelbak at the BP at Shawnee Mission Parkway & Pflumn, a box I spent many nights in when it was an Amoco and I was a 19-year-old chain smoker.

So this was the route I actually rode:

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, refilled the Camelbak and got out of the heat again at a 7-11 on Antioch, and when I was almost back to Mom's, I was cruising up Lowell to 55th Terrace, and at that intersection, the traffic on 55th Terr. has yield signs, whereas Traffic turning either way on the T from Lowell has the right of way. And right as I'm getting ready to lean into the turn, I see an SUV coming up to the Yield sign and then blowing through it, no pause at all.

Second time today, I shouted, 'Dude!' though in this instance I was right. Well, sorta right. I was correct that I had the right of way, and this big ol' SUV with music blaring came near clipping me, but it was no dude.

As the car passed before me, I saw a hand up, and I thought I saw a cell phone in the hand. Music was coming pretty loud out of the open windows of the vehicle, and I was pretty sure that the chick behind the wheel hadn't heard or seen me. And that she was texting while driving that murder weapon around.

I followed, not really mad, just wanting to say, 'Did you see me? I had the right of way and had committed to the turn before I realized you weren't even slowing down for that Yield. I have two daughters waiting for me at my Mom's house and they'd like to see me come back alive.'

It was mostly downhill to where she was going, and there wasn't much chance she was passing through the neighborhood as it's basically an oubliette, only a couple ways in or out.

When I caught up to her, she was out of her vehicle and going into her apartment building and she surprised me by saying, 'I know, I shouldn't have blown through there. I'm really sorry, I didn't realize you were there until I heard you shout.'

At which point I remembered my own lapse a few miles earlier. Then she added, 'That's why I held up my hand, I was saying I'm sorry.'

She said she wasn't texting, and I think I believe her. I think my mind may have filled in the notion of a cell phone.

This does shake my theory that while motorists don't see cyclists, nobody ever missed a big guy in a Hawaiian shirt, because this chick clearly did exactly that.

I think if I hadn't been paying attention to what she was really doing instead of what I thought she was supposed to do, we'd have probably gotten to know each other better than we want to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tomatosaurus Rex Waning

I have five one-gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer. Most of my plants are petering out on production, there are a few Opalkas, Mortgage Lifters and Carbons I'm waiting on before I do my big canning session.

Plan is to thaw the maters and pull the skins off (they're already cored out), then make batches of sauce and diced tomatoes to can in quart mason jars. Gonna do a batch of all Limmony sauce because I have a bunch of that variety and I think an all yellow tomato sauce might be novel. Maybe make yellow ketchup or Goan chutney...

I also have a bumper crop of Kung Pao peppers drying and I'm starting to get some Thai peppers, too. Those dry well, but I see I finally have some fruit forming on my habanero, and those are so insanely hot, I'm not sure how many of them I can honestly use, so if anyone wants some home grown peppers hotter than military grade pepper spray, just say the word.
Disease is spreading in the tomatoes despite my efforts, and a couple plants (Tom's Yellow Wonder and Black Krim) are innocent of fruit or blossom and dying fast.

There's one Kellogg's Breakfast that's still green on the vine and other than that, that plant appears to have shot its wad as well.

Paul Robeson, though, not only still has flowers, he's still setting fruit. Little pale green orbs forming eight feet or more off the ground (it must not be so hot at that altitude).

Finally got a few bell peppers off my California Wonder. I didn't think they were anywhere near ready, I was picturing green bells like I buy at the store, and these guys would fit inside one of those. But when I noticed one of them turning a bit ride, I knew it had to be ripe.

Come to think of it, my jalapeños have been dainty in size, too. Not the smallest I've ever seen, but not the big honkers I sometimes buy. I wonder how much of that is the variety of jalapeño and how much of it is I need to learn the tricks of growing large peppers.

Be curious, too, to see if the little guys I started from cuttings are about to take off and grow, giving me a second little tide of tomatoes in late September/early October.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Feeling the Heat

The heat, yeah, it sucks. When I put my bike back on my car tonight, I got in and KCUR told me it as 100ºF in midtown. I wasn't there, I was maybe eight miles away, and maybe the temperature was two degrees cooler or so.

Here's how hot it was: when I got to Kathy's house, the rest of the group was waiting for me. The rest of the group was Kathy.

Thinking impure thoughts about Angelina Jolie had seemingly cured my leg, so I was ready to ride. Kathy offered me the choice, north or south, two routes that differ by eight miles. I asked why not both? She wasn't up for both, and we did the shorter of the two (north) me figuring I'd do the south after.

But when push came to shove, while I still felt fine, I said to myself, "Self, you're coming off an injury. You thought you were fine on Monday and you weren't. You will probably go so far south on this second leg you'll finish in the dark again, and what if you jack yourself up to where you can't ride this weekend?"

That's what I fear most: an injury or illness that takes me out of the saddle right before Bike MS so I can't do what I need to do.

Right near the end, when we were waiting turn off Somerset and Roe, we found ourselves waiting at the light by the main peloton of the Blue Moose ride. I told them we'd been waiting for them to finally catch up. Saw Lawnchair Larry a little earlier, more like 75th & Lamar. I think next week I'm going to ride from the Moose and do the whole route (I've always cut across Roeland Park instead of going down Puckett), now that I know I can hack the climbs in KCK.

So I called it a day barely shy of 15 miles.

Hope some folks sponsor me for Bike MS...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Winner Winner Pork Chop Dinner

And Aunt Ruby's German Green, another tomato I might plant at least twice next time...

I have to be careful, though, because while I can envision a garden with six or eight Paul Robeson plants, and I can envision a garden that grows more than umpteen varieties of tomato with a smattering of peppers and basil, I have a very finite budget and an even finiter yard.

But these green-when-ripe (they do get some pinkish stripes when they're ready) tomatoes are second only to Kellogg's Breakfast for flavor in terms of what I've grown this year. And KB is definitely getting two slots next year. When it comes to BLT/slice-and-eat tomato, that is a mushroom cloud laying motherfucker, the Guns of the Navarone, superfly TNT in a golden tomato that can get so big my daughter thought it was a pumpkin.

So anyway, I got to grill my first homegrown zucchini from the Extension Office along with some pork chops and an Aunt Ruby's German Green was the perfect rounding out for this. Though, given the whole green when ripe thing, shouldn't it be Aunt Emeralda?

It Will Be Mine, Oh Yes, It Will Be...

I've always had a soft spot for motorcycles, but especially British motorcycles.

I'm not much for Japanese sport bikes, maybe because the last time I rode I laid down a friend's Ninja and did damage I couldn't afford to pay for. Kinda damaged the friendship. That was 20 years ago, and the reason I haven't been on a motorcycle since, I decided right then and there that next time it'd be my bike and nobody to hate me except myself if I fucked it up.

A motorcycle isn't the kind of hobby you can wade into gently, especially if you lack the mechanical gifts to buy one for $17 and figure out a way to rig paperclips together to make it run in your spare time.

I'd love a Harley, don't get me wrong. They're great motorcycles, and having toured a Harley plant I'm convinced those red-eyed fanatics would cut off their own fingers before they passed on a defective part, but Harleys are freakin' expensive.

A Triumph that is at least as cool looking, will kill you just as quickly, and lists for a third the price, that's more like it.

So around the corner from my work, there's this new motorcycle/scooter dealer and I thought I saw me some Triumphs there, but on closer inspection, it's another British brand, Royal Enfield.

And as with Triumph, the price is right. More than I can afford, to be sure, but thanks to being built in India (outsourced since 1954, and no money wasted trying to update the styling), these pups sell for seven grand new. That's only a down payment on a new Harley.

The engines are modern, all electronically fuel injected and whatnot, but the styling is classic, it's 1954 and England still has a remnant of empire left.

Thing is, I can't afford one of these toys new, but my hope is I can pick up a gently used one in a few years when my economic situation isn't as laughable and someone else maybe realizes he needs to get out from under that motorcycle loan at umpteen percent and be done with it.

Salt On My Wound

Last time I had a bit of an injury from riding, when my iliotibial band was acting up after I set a personal speed record at the airport, 'active recovery' seemed to really work. I did an easy Trek recovery ride, followed by a Brewery Ride I took it easy on. Dr. Jill worked her voodoo on my leg in the Brewery after, I iced it down when I got home and I was right as rain the next day.

So when my left leg was feeling gimpy after Sunday's 102.2 miler, I figured no reason to skip the Trek ride. The problem was, I think, an inflamed hamstring tendon, inflamed by the cramps I got in my left hamstring at around mile 60 on Sunday.

Once I got warmed up on the Trek ride, it felt great. I didn't have any reserves, and the muscles were sore, but I didn't feel particularly injured. I planned to do the Brewery Ride and maybe even add on a leg to it on Tuesday evening.

Then I got up on Tuesday morning and as soon as I sat up I knew I'd made a Mistake. It was tender when I extended my leg. It was tender when I went from sitting to standing or the other way around. And despite my efforts to eat a hole in my stomach with ibuprofen all day, it only got worse.

I called Dr. Jill for advice after finding contradictory and varied advice on the internet, and she encouraged me to take the day off. And I know first hand that she knows her way around the human body too well for me to easily dismiss her advice. (I didn't mean it that way, get your minds out of the gutter, people!)

So fighting my Y Chromosome which wanted to at least make an effort to ride, see how it felt once the muscles were warm, I ignored the taunting of my inner cave man (who was telling me to quit being a pussy and ride) and went to see Salt for five bucks, went home and iced the heck out of my leg.

As gimpy as I was yesterday, I was astonished to awaken this morning and realize, as surely as I knew the Trek ride was a mistake, that I had done the right thing watching Angelina Jolie kill more people than an Ebola outbreak. I saw someone wrote up Salt as if this was a departure for her, but really, it's not that different from Wanted. And that wasn't really her first femme fatale role, either, was it?

Thing about Jolie, all her features are so extremely beautiful they threaten to cross the line into ugly. Those lips, they're huge, and I want to kiss them. But another micro-gram of collagen injected into them and the effect would be...Mick Jagger. Ditto those enormous eyes and high cheekbones. That girl has a bit of Roswell in her blood, I'm pretty sure.

But Angelina has gotten me to plunk down my hard earned money for more than one only pretty-good film and I never seem to feel cheated. Liv Tyler has the same effect on me. Amanda Peet probably would, too, if they'd put her in a leading role. I bet Amanda would look great with a gun or trying to escape some mysterious evil.

And, after all, I had handed my Y chromosome one defeat already by not riding, so I had to let it pick Salt over The Other Guys.

Anyway, between the rest, the ice, the Advil and imagining scenarios that would make Brad Pitt want to go all Fight Club on me seems to have healed my left leg. I should be able to ride at least the 20 Lockton is doing tomorrow evening. I don't care if it s 101ºF, I'm invincible. Or maybe just loony.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

It's been a goal of mine for awhile to do a Century, 100 miles on my bike. I chickened out on the century loop at last year's Bike MS for fear that I wouldn't be able to finish Day Two if I took that extra twenty miles.

Then I didn't finish Day Two anyway, threw it in after 55 miles of headwinds, saddle-soreness (I was riding on a brand new, much harder saddle), etc. All I felt at the time was relief and air-conditioning, and I had fun flirt-arguing with the death-by-sexy ultra-liberal lawyer who SAGged not long after I did.

Later that same day, I signed up for 2010 and knew I had to do the Day One century no matter what. And what better way to prepare for a 100 mile ride followed by an 80 mile ride than to at least log that three-digit entry in the cycling log.

My life being what it is (busy, and I'm not complaining), I don't often have whole days to devote to hobbies. Again, no complaints: last year I had a day of unpaid leave every week to do whatever I wanted and it sucked hard enough to suck the stupid out of professional wrestling.

Making a batch of beer requires a full day, pretty much, and about a hundred dollars by the time you buy propane, ingredients, etc. It's money well spent, and a day well spent come to that, but whole days and disposable Franklins aren't common in my world. I spent a couple of whole days putting in the Tomatosaurus Rex, though I mainly did that in hour-or-two bursts when I could fit it in the way I do everything else.

Riding a hundred miles, well, I'm about as fast as a line at the DMV. That's an all day task for me, since I usually average around 12 miles per hour. Sometimes 11, sometimes 14, once at the airport 16 (though I hurt myself doing it). And you figure, there's gotta be breaks in that routine, right? So if you figure eight or nine hours in the saddle, you'll need ten to eleven hours total, right?

So I've been looking forward to this for awhile, and my original plan was to take a couple Benadryl at 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening so I could go to sleep super early, sleep a lot, and be on the road at first light, 6:30 a.m. at the latest.

And George and Lenny are going to live off the fat of the land. The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster got sick and I ended up at the Fair with the girls until 11:00 on Saturday evening, and originally, I thought I was going to reschedule the century attempt for next weekend. But then, I thought, no guarantees it doesn't rain next weekend, right?

And the ex seemed to think it was something she ate at the family fest in Olathe, and I know from first-hand experience that food-born illnesses tend to be intense but brief, so maybe...

So I texted the ex and she said, sure, bring them over in the morning so I did. When I finally woke up. I got the girls up, despite their resistance, got them dressed and delivered to their Mom, and returned home where preparations seemed to take longer than possible. I really felt like just going back to bed, like I could fall asleep right there, and I said, No, damnit, you're riding a century today, and you're going to like it!

So I sallied forth at ten in the morning, with the temperature already a few degrees above Sweaty Clown Hug and pedaled for DeSoto.

The passage to DeSoto is a relatively new discovery for me, and it's a pleasant enough ride provided you have pepper spray to deter farm dogs and don't mind getting chased by a Chihuahua so cute nobody could mace him. That little booger is fast, too, he kept a good 20 mph clip going for probably 20 yards in the ditch by me screaming his head off to stay out of his yard.

The descent into DeSoto is glorious, about a mile of downhill on brand-spanking-new pavement. Which you pay for as you head east on 83rd Street. I might have avoided this road if I'd had my plan-A opportunity to pre-drive the route before taking that 7:00 p.m. Benadryl on Saturday night, but I didn't so I learned that the climb by Shawnee Jim's has grown steeper in the decades since I drove out there to buy cigarettes.*

83rd eventually becomes 87th, I think, around the time I made my first pit stop for two bananas, a slice of greasy gas station pizza, and a not-diet Coke. This was breakfast on the road, and I filled my Camelbak (which had been full of half-strength Gatorade when I left home) with Powerade from the fountain at the Shell.

From there I continued on past Powder Creek, where I heard the report of small arms fire. I'm constantly trying to reinvent the triathlon in my head because I know some triathletes and I want to join them but I'm allergic to running (bad feet and come to think of it ankles and knees), and not a real strong swimmer.

So I want to do a triathlon I can enjoy, say Cycling, Skeet, Cross Country Skydiving. And we could ride to Powder Creek before we try jumping to our deaths...

Cycling, Paintball and Bowling could work for me, too.

I stopped to check out a folk art mailbox I've ridden past once before, and the rest of the stuff in this guy's yard. A guy rode up on a Honda scooter, into the driveway and started pointing out the other oddities of the yard.

I took it he lived there, so I wandered around shooting pics as he explained about tomatoes on the honor system and I asked (too distracted to realize he was explaining to me that he was there to buy a single tomato off the porch) if Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations had ever paid him a visit.

He said he didn't know, and at that point I wondered what was up. He seemed like the kind of kook that show turns its lens on, but you don't know if you've been on their show? I asked if he knew what I was talking about and he said, yes, that show on nineteen.

We continued to talk at each other without comprehension until a woman emerged from the home we were in front of and inquired what the hell was going on. Okay, that's not what she asked, she asked if she could help.

He was there to buy a tomato, I was taking a picture of her mailbox, and we got to talking without communicating. Sorry, we'll bugger off now.

I stopped at my Dad's house for another refill, water this time, and ate a couple tamales and some veggies before continuing on. He pointed out that if I planned by route right, I could cut it short if I came to my senses. I don't know who he thought he was talking to, but at the time I thought I'd planned such a route, imagining that south Leawood leg turning into a back road, blue highway trip through South JoCo to my house.

Not sure who I thought I was kidding, either.

I continued on down Merriam Lane to Roe Lane and up into Roeland Park. Refilled the Camelbak with Rooster Booster Lite (no calories, but I'd been consuming calories the whole way) and picked up a pint of NesQuik's banana milk. The milk was logical, sugars, calcium, water, etc., but for the next thirty minutes as I tried not to puke, I knew it was a mistake.

Down Lamar, the heat got intense. No wind, my cycling computer's thermometer read 108ºF to 111ºF, ten plus degrees hotter than the official temperature, which I think was the heat radiating off the asphalt in a zero-wind environment.

I stopped at a Subway to cool off and hopefully buy a shot of pickle juice. It was a kosher Subway, but not really a cycling friendly one. A charming Jewish guy was kibitzing with a charming Jewish counter girl when another asked me what I wanted. Pickle juice, I said, I'll pay for a drink or whatever if you'll fill it with pickle brine.

She explained that they drain their pickles, so no can do. I accepted this and stood under a ceiling fan directing air conditioning that felt like a walk-in cooler, went to the bathroom, stood under the fan some more to steel myself to go back out when the same chick asked me if I wanted something.

Just to get cool. And pickle juice, I thought a Subway would be a slam dunk for that. Yeah, well, we drain our pickles. So you said. Which I took to mean, you can't just stand here in that Hawaiian shirt, not buying anything that's on the menu, smelling like that and not even be Jewish.

Yes, I felt a tinge of discrimination in her words and tone, and I found it kind of amusing. I'm not accustomed to being the brunt of such human instincts, being Caucasian/Goy in the American Mid-West, so despite the brutal heat I thought it was kind of cute.

Contrast this with the not so veiled discrimination I felt at the Price Chopper at 133rd and Mission Road, as I looked for more Gatorade to put in my Camelbak and basked in the air conditioning. I bought a PayDay as a snack, figuring the salt would do me good, and don't peanuts have protein or something?

The products of south Johnson County wealth eugenics gave me looks that said, 'That shirt, really?' and 'You can't come in here smelling like that.'

These hyper-privileged women did this without the benefit of any claim to their own oppression or even a sign that might have told me only plastic surgery addicted trophy wives are allowed. The 'kosher' Subway at least could claim I knew going in as a sweaty Gentile was asking for it. Yes, it's south Leawood, but no, there are no gates where guards check the papers of penniless cyclists who are just trying to achieve a long-held goal today without actually dying in the process.

Then around the golf course that many of the aforementioned women's husbands excape from them on, I got cramps in my left hamstring. I was only about 60 miles in, and leaning against a tree when a cyclist came up asking if I needed help.

Pickle juice, if you've got it, which of course she didn't. But she was in her own neighborhood and didn't make me feel unwelcome.

She was very thoughtful, offered me everything she had in her cycling bag, and we had fun talking about the heat, her recently finished RAGBRAI where she didn't notice my friend Roj, the freak who did it on a Mongoose BMX, her torn meniscus (why she was riding a flat loop that didn't veer far from her home), expensive bicycles and I don't know what all.

She told me to try Dean and DeLuca for pickle juice, and I thought, 'Where the hell is that?'

Before finding a Mickie-D's at 95th and Mission road, where I bought a small, nasty cheeseburger, a small, salty order of fries and was comped a coffee cup full of pickle brine when they couldn't figure out how to charge me for it.

You won't find many times where I'll say good things about McDonald's and bad things about Subway, but here it is: the golden arches doesn't drain their pickles, and even if they did I bet they'd open the next jar to keep me from getting cramps right there in their store.

I felt like I was home free with that boost of food and electrolytes, so I sallied north to Merriam Lane again to begin the final assault.

And as I approached South Park Elementary (now a church) where I went to K-6, I felt woozy and lightheaded. Short of breath. My toes were cramping, so I stopped at the hamburger stand (which was closed) and took my shoe off to mess with my foot. I felt so hot I wondered if I should go put a couple dollars in the car wash across the street to hose myself down.

To give you some idea: when I looked down at my Pear Izumi shorts, my favorite riding shorts (best padding), I thought I was seeing signs they were finally threadbare. It turned out to be salt that had dried from my sweating through them.

I refilled my Camelbak, I think, seven times. Roughly three gallons of liquids.

The official temperature never reached triple digits, but with the lack of wind and the heat radiating off the pavement, my cycling computer registered 108ºF to 111ºF most of the afternoon. It took its toll on me.

I also thought about how my Mom lives about two miles from there. My Dad, too. My brother, come to think of it. And the chick who suckered me into cycling in the first place. and a few other people I know, and I thought of calling them until I found someone who would feel sorry for me sitting there at Antioch and Merriam Lane with my ass kicked after only 75 miles.

And then I thought, there's a gas station if I make it to Johnson Drive, a better place to wait if I call for help than a closed hamburger stand.

So I went on, painfully, reluctantly, and when I got to the gas station I went straight in the bathroom and soaked my head. I washed everything practical to wash at the sink.

I then bought a fountain drink without worrying about filling the Camelbak. I started talking to the guy who I think owns the joint, an Indian from Punjab (red dot, not feather) who I think was a professional cyclist when he was young and still in India. Or a cycling maniac, there were accent issues, I can't be sure, but riding 2,000 miles over the mountains sounds like more job than hobby to me.

After about a half hour, I felt a ton better, and most of the way home was frontage roads, which are pretty easy, so I figured I should try and finish.

It got dark fast. Real fast.

Somewhere around 119th, I realized I was going to end up riding where there are no street lights in full darkness with my crappy little Wal-Mart lights.

I thought, maybe call my bro. I'm not quite in the neighborhood anymore, but he rides, he might take mercy on me.

I stopped and unslung my Camelbak, which has a zipper pouch that I put my cell phone in except....

You got it, I let my cell at home, totally spaced it.

Remember when there were pay phones? They went the way of the Linotype, and it was a dark hour when I realized that my only 'out' was to try to ride somewhere where I could beg someone to borrow the cell to start calling people. Most of the people I'd call, too, I don't know their numbers. Their numbers are saved in my cell, which, as I say, was at home where I wanted to be about three hours before then.

So I ground it out. On Ridgeview, I was conflicted: I love riding on fresh pavement; but riding on pavement that's been shaved to cobble in preparation for new pavement, I can happily ride the rest of my life without ever getting on that shit again.

I made a wrong turn in Olathe and ended up going by the Adequate Mall instead of all the way to Parker; going down Lone Elm I didn't turn on 159th because by the quarry the road gets rough and I thought 167th was paved all teh way through.

Not to self: don't 'think' a road is paved when you're desperate to get home and it's fucking dark. If you haven't ridden it or driven it, the road doesn't even exist.

167th turns to gravel a bit past the factories you can see from Lone Elm. I could have back-tracked but that would mean even longer before home. Riding gravel roads through farms (never knowing if there's a farm dog with an attitude lurking in the gloom) with no street lights and a wimpy little birthday candle of a headlight, I thought, If the Foolkiller doesn't get you tonight, he ain't coming.

I bit off more than I could chew, it's true. Too many hills early on, too hot, too late a day to start a ride like this. But when I couldn't chew it or spit it out I had to suck it up and swallow it whole.

Shawnee Jim's was a cigarette store that didn't charge any excise taxes, or any federal ones anyway, when I was young and foolish and smoking like a chimney. I bought many cartons of non-filtered cigarettes from that Indian before he went to Leavenworth for selling heap big smokes to white man. The sign says they sell smokes for $24 a carton, which doesn't sound like a bargain to me since I quite smoking when I could get Bronson non-filters at QuikTrip for under ten bucks, but I assume that's about the price that will land another Indian in the pokey these days.