08 June, 2010

Deep In the Heart O' (North) Tejas

My li'brah Neil arrived at the airport so we head off to Whole Foods for some typical, Mequi barbecuing fare: Watermelon, Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), corn, Belgian ale, Shiner Smokehouse beer, Salmon steak, and Prime cut beef (for everybody else, Team M are vegetarians/pescatarians and sheeyat).
Purchased mesquite/charcoal-esque briskets for the grill and got her up to ramming speed and grilled it up like Idi Amin at a daycare. Portobello mushroom burgers were Neil's idea and not only was it gastronomically righteous for a lazy, hot, bright, insouciant Sunday early evening sipping beers while involuntarily basking in ungodly heat but they also contain excellent mycochemicals and antioxidants to boot. I believe most everybody got a some sort of food/beer souvenir on their shirt/blouse while eating.

Woke up early and fired off a 38 miler, big chainring spin-ride before the kids woke up. Did the tour of Hayseeds: Murphy, Sachse, Parker, Wylie and Princeton in no certain order. Damn the hillbillies that live out here. Back in the day, riding on the frontage road and/or the farm to market (F.M.) was safe but now it's like riding your bike on a NASCAR track filled with dualies and I'm not talking fully suspended mountain bikes either. Once I started losing my nerve as well as my homeostatic thermal regulation, I pulled a you-ee to head back home in the already sweltering humidity. Said, "howdy" to an early morning jogger and she nearly peed her pants. Guess I should've announced myself better but after her initial jolt she replied, "morning" too. Trying to be a good cycling representative whilst flying the Natural Grocer's colors.


Woke up early to do another early morning, easy spin and the cassette body was howling! I was hoping the (ratchet and) pawl mechanism wasn't the cause of the noise making. Initially, I thought it was the frame pump rattling but alas it was the cassette body. Went to my old cycling sponsor in Plano and their mechanic hooked me up for free. The verdict? A loose cassette. Several hours later it was time to stage for the Tuesday Night Dallas Crit Series. 62 people showed up for my event. To warm up, I cycled to the course which was three miles from my Mom and Dad's. The local, summertime south winds were in full effect (gusts up to 25 mph) here in North Texas and I started making mental notes to myself on where to be in the (race) peloton to be sheltered from the head and sidewinds during certain sections of the rectangular course. As our category warms up I experiment with half-wheeling positions either behind them left or right.

I always get a bit anxious when my field stages before the gun goes off. I don't make small talk with racers I don't know and I see my li'brah on the sidelines watching and the spectators starting to line up and I need to mentally shut it down and I stare at my top tube and cycling computer with blinders on.
We're off! and I know it's going to be a long day when I think we're more than halfway done but only fifteen minutes have gone by when I look at my computer. Damn. If I could hang with the pain of the protracted accelerations and fighting for shelter from the head and sidewinds in sauna-like conditions, the attrition would manage the number of competitors. Sure enough, the pace eased a bit after we lost half the pack and I was able to recover for the remainder of the event (and now we were eyeballing each other to see who would have best legs for the final push). Before the numbers dwindled, we were diving four deep into corners going 35 miles an hour with a tailwind assist. Crazy! Like all Cat III racing nobody ever wants to start a second echelon so again I had to queue up top dozen so I could feel the effects of the pack while the last half of our peloton was riding gutters. One lap I mentally slipped and it found me on the tail end of the pack/beginning of gutter row. I was riding the curb so hard that the tall weeds were slapping my shins. I was on the curb part of the concrete where the rain gutters where instead of on the concrete part of the roadway. Now that's being guttered. Again another mental note, insert your a$$ top dozen next time. With four laps remaining a group of 4 got off and nobody chased. At that point I was conserving my energy for the final push. With one remaining we hit the after burners and I lined up seventh in the group when we hit the finish line. Awesome. It pays off to drink two liters of water along with a quality warmup. I felt satisfied with my efforts and my lack of training. I felt like quitting several times during the event along with the building up of anxiety when my thermostat couldn't regulate itself fast enough for my liking due to this nutty, N. Texas weather. Would've felt foolish though had I quit because my little brah was watching and I would've felt more disappointed than he.

In the evening, my brah, Momma, and my daughters went and saw Iron Man 2, Imax version. We all stayed up past 1:30 partying like rock stars but isn't that what vacation's supposed to be for? Yeah, dat's right. Jeez Louise those IMAX theatres are super loud (what?)!

Went and hung out with Plano Schwinn teammate and homeboy of several years in lower Greenville to watch Colin do a solo acoustic gig. It was a nice night listening to Colin play while we drank a pitcher of Shiner Bock, a fermented remnant of my former Austin undergraduate life. We did some catching up/gossiping of our peers and the trajectories life has taken them. Beforehand, my awesome folks bought my chilluns some summer clothes and shoes when we went shopping as a pod. I love my parents. Incidentally, North Texas is home to a whole lot of world class shopping. I tried to rendezvous with some other friends too at Colin's gig but it proved to be fruitless. It was excellent hanging out with Brian and witnessing how successful and seemingly happy he is at this point in his life as a professional and family guy. On the way back he showed me a really cool residential area of Dallas on Historical, Swiss Avenue where the neighborhood was truly a class act. Big trees, representative architectures of varying styles, with a wide tree lined median dividing the streets. Very cool. Very elegant.

Did the PBA ride with the temps at 97°F and 76% humidity. I remember last year I was dying in the heat, barely finishing-let alone surviving-with the lead group. This time I hung with the lead group and dished out a serving of $hit-on-your-neighbor on the thinned out pack on the way back to the finish. Great ride in the sweltering heat. All these neighborhoods that sprung up while I was living in Colorado made this ride a protracted, stop sign/stop light interval session. You get a rhythm going, a rotating paceline, some attacks off the front and a splitting of riders only for the flotsam to catch up to y'all when the light turns red. Oh well, intervals are good for the body. The heat just takes me to redline quicker so I need to make sure I can recover-even at racepace-by forcing myself into a group so I can take advantage of the draft and to force myself to decrease my heart rate by concentrating on my breathing and cadence so mentally I can go again should an attack come or to launch one myself on a particularly long, uninterrupted (by stop lights/signs) stretch of road.


We all road tripped to Austin to get some Longhorn threads and to start my girls early on the way of the U of T. It was a great trip because being in the car that long you converse with everybody. I mean when was the last time you spent six quality hours in one room/cabin with family? That's how we roll: literally and figuratively I guess. In the evening I hung out with my boy Jimmy (and Colin's band's friends) to listen to Colin's electric band. Colin and his fine band busted out their version of "Voodoo Chile" and it was amazing. Colin showed 'em not only can he sing but when needed he'll bust out his axe (a Fender Telecaster) on you! Obzeets-where they played-is an odd combination of restaurant, bar, and furniture dealer that packs it in on a Friday night. Again: cervezas, old and new friends, and rock-n-roll make for a quality Friday night.


After our slightly morose goodbyes--I mean we spent quality time with Grandma and Grandpa, my daughters were mostly well behaved, and really it was kicka$$ hanging out with them--we head on back to Colorado. One of the things I find myself doing as I drive back from such a great trip is I have to mentally decompress/debrief by going through a mental rewind of the events of the vacation. This helps me put things into perspective as I mentally insert the appropriately shaped geometric blocks into their cut-out shapes on the tablet. So I guess I need to set the mental mood and this is accomplished by the road tripping music. This and the impending severe thunderstorms surrounding us made for good audio-visual mental decompression.
The music playing on the way back was: M. Ward's Transistor Radio; Ben Fold's University A Capella!; Miles Davis' (a Rudy van Gelder edition) Volume 1; and Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. What broke the mood momentarily was stopping for a pee break in south Wichita Falls. What an armpit for the N. Texas area (my impression at least)! There was a sign on a decrepit looking house-as we were searching for a gas station-that read (and I'm paraphrasing here), "this is no longer a crack house." No joke. Scary but slightly humorous in a bizarre sort-of-way. We stay in Amarillo at America's Best Value Inn and once we get inside our room we think they should change their name to (Hillbilly) America's Best Facsimile of a Ghetto. Damn, I guess that's the trade-off between price and quality.

We're back. It's 40°F, foggy, and raining. It's so cold in fact, that I start a fire for dinner time. Two weather extremes serving as bookends to one excellent vacation. The WinterPark mountain bike series kicks off with a hillclimb next week...

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