11 December, 2009

10 December, 2009

For Sammy, my #1 Facebook fan. It's BeBop Parking Lot, Xmas edition.

08 December, 2009

Oy. What a long layoff. A month-and-a-half?!? My apologies.

There's been a lot of catching-up to do after the monumental "Road Trip 2009." But I've also been trying to figure out what I want to say about this year's LIVESTRONG.

(feel the "UGH": me after 90 miles of Texas hill country. Notice the stoop and grimace--but cool jersey!)

The FIRST thing to say is a big "Thank You!" to everyone who donated to the LIVESTRONG cause. With your support, we beat our goal (by a frog's whisker!), and raised over $5,000 dollars! That is a huge, huge thing at a time when economic worries abound. So thank you, sincerely and with maximum humility: you guys really came through.

As you can see in my pic, I wore the special TEAM LIVESTRONG '09 Jersey on the ride. We (you, friends and donors, and me, rider) were awarded that jersey for passing the $5,000 mark. Not a lot of people had been able to do that this year. This jersey is not available for purchase--you have to earn it. So I was very proud to ride in these colors. (If only I could have looked a little happier at the finish....) Also notice the little yellow placard I attached to the bike. It was a little tribute to Paul. I haven't found any close up photos of it yet, so bear with me on that. But it was cool.
(the "before" picture: all bushy-tailed and caffeinated in the pre-dawn parking lot)

Also, due to our outstanding fundraising performance, our entire team (Team Sunscreen Jr.) was invited to the LIVESTRONG dinner Saturday night. We looked awesome.

Doug Ulman, the LIVESTRONG President is a young guy and a cancer survivor. He was MC for the night. He brought Lance onstage for an extended interview where all of the questions came from audience members. Austin is Armstrong's hometown, and also where the LIVESTRONG Ride idea began. This was the 13th year they'd done the event, so the atmosphere was very collegial, with lots of return participants. It's also the time for the LIVESTRONG corporate supporters to show up and hob-nob. There was not as much of that special, first-time electricity at the dinner as there was at the Portland event, and this was kind of disappointing to me. However, we did sit with a wonderful couple who were ON FIRE for the cause. Dianne and Elisha were terrific dinner companions. This woman started a Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in San Antonio! How's that for committed? She has a terrific blog that is worth checking out, even if only to see more pictures of Blair, Dana and I. Yay Dianne!

(We're laughing because I was about to take my own picture, and I was telling Dana to back up, and at the edge of the balcony the cement floor ends and there's a little step down to the steel footing that holds the railing--and when she stepped onto this and felt that drop, she thought {quite understandably} she was going over the edge--yikes! Funny moment, captured here by event photog.)

The Ride:
"--And they're off!!"

#1 I really missed my Team Sunscreen team mates. And I really, really missed Paul. Truth be told, I've been feeling down since the finish of the ride. There was so much to do leading up to the ride--trying to raise funds for the cause, working out the logistics of the two-week road trip, updating the blog and Facebook, etc., plus my freelance work--that I didn't have too much time to wallow in the melancholy of heading out to this event without Paul and his family beforehand.

But doing the ride alone gave me plenty of time to think of Paul's death, and in a more general sense, how quickly our lives go by. While on the trip we received word that our dear friend George Porter, aged 94, had passed away (and from cancer). 94? And Paul not even 40. We visited George a month before the LIVESTORNG ride (he's in Rhode Island, of all places), and before we left, he asked us to put on a CD of football "fight songs" from his alma mater, Dartmouth. He said college still seemed just like yesterday...that life goes by so quickly.

A melancholy line of thought to pursue for 90 miles. Paul's death is still sinking in for many of us, I'm sure. But the physical ordeal of the ride itself (more on that next) worked as a sort of medieval, ritual-cleansing that did help me gain a little perspective. "Wisdom through ordeal," as we say in Chino.

#2 The ride was tough! The weather was fine, cold in the morning (to this California lad, at least), and never got Texas hot; we had cloud cover most of the day and the temp stayed in the 60's up to maybe 70. The only problem was the wind. It was blowing a bit, knocking a few of the route signs over, but either I've improved as a cyclist, or it wasn't as bad as it looked, because I was able to pedal through it without crumbling, (which had always been my m.o. with headwinds--until this ride).

And the route itself was kind of tricky. LOTS of small hills. Which is misery. And some steep ones. And we were often riding on narrow country roads (one-and-a-half lane) with lots of blind-ish turns and massive, Texas-style cow crossings. Sadly, there were some NASTY accidents on these. Nothing too serious, but lots of riders down in the first 20-25 miles. There were just a lot of us bunched together, going all different speeds. Multiple ambulances had to cruise through the course to reach the stricken. Certainly got your attention. I was lucky and avoided 1) a guy who lost control of his bike trying to stop because of another crash and 2) a dude whose chain broke (!) right next to me on a climb. First race I've done without a crash of my own, I think!

# 3 And the mass of riders! There were almost 4,000 that did the ride. We started almost a half hour late, and it took me a good 10 minutes just to get to the line. Then we were off (the great pix of me at the start courtesy of Blair). And then we were stopped. We started in a high school parking lot, and from there so many riders were trying to filter out onto the highway that we were again reduced to walking speed for a mile or so. Literally walking speed. All this added up to a significant handicap of nearly an hour. Significant why? Because anyone wanting to complete the 90 mile course had to reach the 37 mile marker by 11 AM or get bounced to the 65 mile course. This was an indignity I could not accept. I had my donors to think of. So I put the hammer down best I could, and reached the mile marker (and much-needed rest stop) just as the traffic cop announced, "WE ARE CLOSING THE 90 MILE COURSE RIGHT NOW. IF YOU WANT TO DO THE 90 MILER, YOU MUST MOUNT YOUR BIKE IMMEDIATELY AND GO!"

Ugh. OK, OK.

#4 This was our last rest stop at mile 85. Mile 85?! My man parts had been frozen-bullfrog numb since mile 60-something. I needed an anti-numbness zone.

Or so I thought.

Because after I finished and had a little time to walk around, the numbness started to go away. And feeling returned. Not a pleasant feeling. It was so painful that once Blair had loaded me in the car and begun to drive us back to the hotel, I began writhing in agony. Well, squirming. On the radio they were playing Pink Floyd, and for the first time ever I didn't mind. The song: "Comfortably Numb."

If only.

Great visual: when you left that final, mile 85 rest stop, you were met almost immediately by a really steep (but short) hill--and right at the crest was a florid splat of trail mix/m&m barf that would have made Jackson Pollock proud. LIVESTRONG!

One small mercy: the whole ride I was watching my odometer the way a schoolkid in detention watches the minute hand on the wall clock. All along the route were mile markers (MILE 10, MILE 20, etc., you get the picture) and my little bike-mounted odo and I were keeping perfectly in synch with them until around mile 65. Suddenly we were off--the boards had sprung ahead in their count by more than a mile. Wha...? The difference persisted 'til the end. My odo's a little cheap and has been known to register some funky stuff, so maybe I dropped a mile-plus somewhere on the road. But I pedaled that last 10 miles or so terrified that the mile markers were now lying, and this seeming advantage would come back to haunt me with and extra mile or two to be tacked on at the end.

I couldn't take that!

But no, everything continued apace and I didn't hear anyone else complain about the course mileage, so maybe I got away with one. By the end, I was more than ready to stop, whether I'd gone 90 or not. Once I hit that finish line, I was done, in every sense of the word.

#5 My ideal scenario had me spending five hours, thirty minutes of riding time to do the 90 miles (this is not fast for those who don't know--it's just fast for me)(this excludes the rest stops, of which I only took one long one, but still). As I crossed the line I was caught up in the moment, responding to the (very appreciated, very cheery) cheers from the LIVESTRONG staff, and a moment later when I looked down, my timer had 5:30:38. Right on.

#6 Is there an eerie resemblance between these two guys, or what?
It's esp'ly noticeable in the easy athletic confidence both riders exude. Two pros, indeed. Y'know, from where I'm sitting, the one on the left might even look a little more..."muscular"? Let's leave it at that--I don't want to lose my 2010 LIVESTRONG entry.

And speaking of 2010 entries: The schedule is out! Check it HERE. The road is calling, and the mighty Team Sunscreen must meet the challenge. The most likely event (I'm guessing) will be San Jose, which happens July 10-11 (click on the words for more info).

There's also a LIVESTRONG in Blair's favorite American city, Seattle. Hmmm, that sounds irresitible...

So saddle up and c'mon! I guarantee you'll have a fantastic experience. LIVESTRONG 2009 was tough, esp'ly the emotional part. But I feel very lucky to participate, and very, very thankful for all your support and friendship in this endeavor. I'd like to think we did Paul proud.

"2010, HERE WE COME!!"

24 October, 2009

5K Madness! Can you spot our heroines? That's the Texas capitol in the background (or is it that we are in the capitol, but the building is the capital?). Good morning Austin!

And what a beautiful morning it was. Dana and Blair braved the brisk and breezy race conditions with nothing more than a quick stretch. But see how expert they look!

I drew up a couple of race dedication cards for Blair. I esp'lly like the Paul. I swear they were straight when I pinned them on.

The ladies did a fantastic time--right around 30 minutes. And they talked the whole way. Said it was the most fun they'd had in a race. I stayed at the start/finish and cheered. The LIVESTRONG folks always reserve a special finishing lane over the last 100 meters for the cancer survivors who run the race. As they come through everyone cheers with extra enthusiasm. The whole experience is very moving, but also exhilarating.
Thank you again to all our great donors! You guys should all try to come to one of these one day--it is fantastic. And this is just the appetizer for the main course, which is tomorrow's ride.

I am carb loading as I type, (as I have been for the last two weeks--deep-fried coconut shrimp flautas are healthy, right?).

Happy girls!
We're here! We've made it to Austin. The trip has been great (so far), with time spent visiting friends (including attending one wedding) in Dallas; Columbus, GA; Atlanta; Birmingham, AL; Mobile; New Orleans; and now, Austin. The girls are just about to head out for their 5K. Internet access has been scarce on this trip, and time to seek it out has been even scarcer; for that I apologize. But now we've got free hotel WiFi.

More soon!

17 October, 2009

Rock n' roll parking lots have become a major problem in Southern California. Who the hell had the idea to blast Bad Company from outdoor speakers into an empty suburban parking lot at 9 AM?

But now I've found a parking lot music I can support: BeBop Parking Lot. It's true--our little Woodbury Center Centre pumps out some of the greatest jazz ever recorded. Fer instance, they played the original Charlie Parker version of "KC Blues," with the teen-agey Miles Davis on trumpet (including his proto-Miles solo).


I sat outside to sip my latte and when this came on I couldn't help but start tapping my toes, then swaying back and forth and finally, with eyes closed, swing my head from side to side.

It was a scene not unlike this famous one from the Flintstones ("The Golden Smog").


Then I remembered the lady sitting at the next table--I opened my eyes to see her feeding a bottle to her infant and trying to ignore me. I wanted to shout, "Isn't this song great?! I LOVE the BeBop Parking Lot!"

But I didn't.

16 October, 2009

Here's my pal Paul. I've been meaning to write a little about him. He is the reason I am doing this ride, after all, and the reason I am hustling so hard to raise money for LIVESTRONG (and you've all been fabulous with your support--thank you!).

Paul and I met in high school--it was in Mr. Ugalde's class, U.S. Gov't, junior year. Seems like such a late date writing it here, but the school year had just begun, and I was still a serious outsider at Don Lugo High School, having just moved to Chino the previous year. Paul and I sat far apart in the classroom, and for the first couple weeks hadn't spoken. I'd noticed that he moved around campus as part of a large group of friends who dressed with a surprising degree of similarity (does "clique" sound too uncharitable? or maybe jealous?). They wore an interesting amalgam of early Beatles-syle pegged pants with new wave-y, shallow pompadours--and always the ubiquitous 60's era thrift-store, short-sleeved, mock-turtle neck sweater. They were a clean-looking pack of hipsters--Inland Empire hipsters.

None of these other friends were in A.P. U.S. Gov't with us, though.

Our teacher, Mr. Ugalde, thought he saw some similarity in the two of us--NOT fashion or hipster-wise, but we were both sort of anti-orthodox, free-thinking types (by Chino standards). Maybe he wanted to nurture that (god bless him). So his bright idea was to pair us up on an early school project, to help us become "friends." Mr. U. told the class we'd be working in pairs, "So choose a partner--and Robert(me) and Paul, why don't you two work together?"

That was awkward. I'm sure you can imagine how two strong-willed teens would react to being forced into an arranged friendship (and humiliatingly singled out in front of the class) by an authority figure (aka "The MAN"), even if it was a good idea.

Our assignment was to imagine ourselves setting sail for some deserted (but not desert) island with the intention to start a "new society." "Draw up a list," Mr. Ugalde instructed us, "of five things you will bring to this island that you think will be essential for creating a new utopia."

We were told to go ahead and get with our "partner" right then and write up this short list. Paul and I found a spot where we could sit down, but we weren't happy. And while I handled our being forced to work together with sullen resentment, he treated the whole thing with distracted impatience. The dialog went something like this:

ME: (shuffling over, slouching into seat) Hey man. We gotta do this list thing I guess....

PAUL: (not looking at me, feigning fascination in watching the rest of the class huddle with their partners of choice) Huh? Oh yeah, yeah. (brief glance my way, impatient) Look, the first thing to put on this list is a Honda generator. That's number one.

ME: (annoyance giving way to mystification) Huh?

PAUL: A generator, man. (seeing me more mystified, getting more impatient and more impassioned) We are going to need power and we have got to have that generator. How are you gonna make anything without power?

ME: --uh--

PAUL: So we'll need gas, too--(dictating to me now, pointing at my blank page and pen at-the-ready) we need like some 55 gallon drums of gas. (me not writing, him looking at me for emphasis, starting to gesture at the page) For the generator!

ME: Yeah, OK...(I start moving the pen, writing, but just our names and the assignment--I'm not gonna put down his stupid generator idea) But don't you think we need something more like books with ideas about how to form a society--like Locke and the Federalist Papers or--

PAUL: WHAT?! We need power so we can build things. We need a generator. (His expression tells me that I should realize this to be self-evident, or--what am I, a moron?) You can put whatever else you want. But we have to have a generator--and gas. (This is all he has to say--it finishes his role in our collaboration, and he's already going back to doing whatever empty activities we teenagers occupied ourselves with before the invention of texting)

I start to make a case for a more philosophical approach, but he's uninterested. I'm uninterested. I don't even try to explain the mirage of a solution a generator offers. I went back to my desk and while the rest of the students spent the next thirty-forty minutes of class writing up their papers, happily gabbing together (predictably, almost everyone else insisted that, #1, we must bring the Bible), we just sat separately and frittered away the time. I wrote up something and since each team only had to turn in one paper, I was the author of "ours."

"A generator," I thought to myself. "What a moron."

That's how we met.

13 October, 2009

We're just about to hit the road--two weeks (at least) of tarmac travelin' ahead. We'll be in Dallas, Fort Bening, Atlanta, Birmingham, Mobile, New Orleans, and Austin, TX. Our car is loaded with everything from a road bike to a bridesmaid's dress--and even my tux.

And still I'm plagued by the worry, "What did I forget...?"

I'll posting as much as possible on the road. It should be exciting!

Here's our new team image: Team Sunscreen, Junior! Blair's Best Friend Dana is joining us in Austin to run the 5K, so it IS a real team effort!

More later....

12 October, 2009

Pamela Smith, I salute you! For your support of my LIVESTRONG Challenge ride, I grant thee...a caricature.

You are my favorite strong woman!

OK, the likeness is not spot-on--but I was mainly seeking to glorify your irrepressible nature.

And your unbridled enthusiasm.


11 October, 2009

Donors to thank:

Mike D. and Ed Schofield! Thanks fellas!

This is a recreation of an actual pair of caricatures on Mikey's car. My materials were a slightly dirty rear window and my finger. And it was still on the car a month later when I stopped by the old Papaya office fer lunch! I was honored.

Mike, is it still there? If it is, draw a little "LIVESTRONG DONORS" logo on there, wouldja?

Thnks mch-0, brothers!
Donors to thank:
Jeff and Mary Claire of Clan Ranjo!

10 October, 2009

I have a hard time balancing my life.

But my donors STOMP!

Here's one for the famous Carlo "CARLS" Sansonetti and his lovely wife, Cheryl. I love you guys! Thanks for the support! And thank gawd I had this drawing started from way back (it's supposed to be for your house-warming!).

Met a freelance deadline and recommitted to daily blog updates.

Donate HERE! Two weeks to go and we're still $2,000 shy of our goal. But like I said, we are STOMPING forward!

06 October, 2009

DONOR: G.I. Joe, Kit Davis (my brother).

Thanks, Joe!

The LIVESTRONG Challenge is just a little more than 2 weeks away--and I'm gonna be on the road for much of that, so it's time for our last big fund-raising push!

So hey, DONATE NOW and I will draw a free caricature of you!!

p.s. I can't promise you'll like it...just that it will be funny.

05 October, 2009

Time to thank some donors...

Thank you Barb and Steve!

(Steve, my sometime mountain bike riding partner!)

03 October, 2009

Boy am I bummed I haven't been posting more. The blog is always the first to suffer when the freelance gets intense. Good to have the work, but like every project with NDA's (non-disclosure agreements, 'natch), I am not allowed to share any of my work publicly. Which stinks. So I've been drawing a lot, and none of it can go up here. A drag, 'cuz I'd love to share it with you.

Today I had my first good crash on the bike. I was on the mountain bike and lost it on a steep rock slope. Fell off backwards and went sliding down the side of the mountain. Tried it again and crashed a second time! I was just a little scuffed, nothing serious. In fact, a good crash always puts me in a good mood. I laughed all the way back to the car (happened on my very last obstacle of the day). Good times!

This guy (spotted at local Starbucks), looked a dead-ringer for Uncle Walt--but with ink. A troubling combo...

27 September, 2009

Yesterday I rode with Mike D.--it was the first time ever in our long friendship. I met him at his local stomping ground (literally, because Mike runs here all the time), Aliso-Wood Canyon Regional Park. It's amazing to have such an extensive network of challenging trails right in the heart of a city--miles and miles of trails both difficult and easy, with lots of nature's beauty surrounding you--cool!

The mountain bike experience is different than the road bike ("ten-speed") experience in some interesting ways. On the road bike, it's all about speed and distance. Improvements in your performance creep up on you; you manage to ride for three hours instead of your usual two; you cover 50 miles instead of 35, you manage a 19 mph average speed instead of 18, etc. These are important markers and tangible in their way and feel good. But on the mountain bike, even small improvements feel like big achievements--why? It's the terrain--and the technique.

Example: I have now ridden Aliso-Wood three times in the last two weeks. I've taken the same 10 mile loop each visit, and it contains one major climb. It's nothing a good mountain-biker would sweat, but for me it was tough! I had to stop many times on my first visit, and even walk the bike up a few stretches. This failure to get up the hill clean is not all about fitness, (though I need improvement there, too). A lot of it is technique. On a road bike you're never off the pavement so you never have to really worry about balance, or choosing the most passable line through an uphill hairpin on a slippery trail of sand and rock--but it's real different in the dirt! So the first time up this hill I was wobbling on the bike and bouncing against the rocks and losing traction because I'm not positioning myself correctly on the bike. Next time up, I'm a little less ragged, and therefore able to carry my forward progress further with less energy expenditure, and also I know the trail a little better now, so it just feeds on itself and each ride gets easier and at the same time better (read, "less life-threatening").

Another tricky thing to get used to technique-wise is the small front chain-ring on a mountain bike--we call it "the granny gear." For the steep hills you need a low-resistance way to crank the pedals over, because your forward (and upward) momentum evaporates if your pedal-speed slows. Either you have monster, Lance-Armstrong leg power to crank the big gear uphill, or you whimper and fall over. So your thoughtful MTB manufacturers added a chain-ring the diameter of a tea-cup's rim to your typical MTB--it looks impossibly small next to the already dainty saucer-sized small cog and the salad-plate "big ring" of yr typical road bike. But it tri-partite goodness opens a new level of power and versatility to the MTB'er.

If you're just riding on the flat-o-the-land and downshift to the granny gear (also known as "the weenie wheel"), you find your legs spinning like a lumberjack dancing on a log in a lake. Your first thought is, "What could you possibly use this for?"--your very next thought is, "Well, I'LL SURE NEVER NEED IT!"

Amazingly, on yr first true dirt uphill, you can't find that gear fast enough.

But the problem (in addition to fitness) is the technique it takes to not (1) bounce out of the pedals when you are spinning up such rough terrain with both (2) so little resistance from the pedals themselves, and (3) so much downward pressure from the grade, trying as you do this to keep from losing any fwd momentum, knowing otherwise you'll (4) come to a stop.

We try to avoid (4). At all costs.

Which results in some funny pictures! Like trying to force the bike forward even when you misdirect your front wheel and hit the berm along the trail-side--and this little ramp redirects your furious forward-and-upward effort so that upward takes-over, and you are suddenly trying to reign-in a bike that's reared-up, and is going over backwards (ouch!). Etc., etc.

But by the second visit, (yesterday, with Mike D.), I was much better on the hill, and my near-crashes were fewer and my (gasping, panting, chest-clutching) stops less-frequent.

And then today I made it up the complete hill without a stop or mis-step (just one steadying foot applied to the ground as I snail-paced up).

My fitness level hasn't improved all that much over one week (if at all!), but because of the easily measured challenge (a single half-mile uphill trail), suddenly I've got a very tangible sense of accomplishment. God bless the little goals.

So that's cool about mountain bikes!

CREDIT to "Cousin Steve," who rode with me today and last week--you're picture is up next!

25 September, 2009

Just home from a day in LA traffic (almost 3 hours to get home--no surprise). Second day spent that way, hence the light posting (no excuses!).

One day I will have to tell you the story about sculpting a headstone for my Grandfather Davis. The sculpting wasn't really the problem--it was (and continues to be) the unpredictable agents of the burial industry. A story for later, after the headstone is cast (in bronze) and set in place.

For now, here's a shot of the clay, (from about two weeks ago, in a state of not-quite-finished).

I have to add a GINORMOUS "THANK YOU!" to all my recent contributors--thank you for honoring Paul's memory, and his fight! LIVESTRONG, baby! I have something special planned for you donors....

22 September, 2009

I am on this Chris Carmichael training program, "The Time-Crunched Cyclist." It's all based on interval training--seems like good stuff. But to really do the intervals properly, you need to calculate your average heart rate during two 8 minute, all-out efforts (as all-out as can be sustained over an 8 minute stretch with a 10 minute break between).

So I had to do this.

Today was the day.

What's that old adage about pacing yourself, "the-tortise-and-the-hare," the race does not always go to the swift, etc.? I completely flamed. Blew up before minute four on my first run. Blew up so bad I couldn't get it back together for a reasonable second run. Didn't help that last night Blair and I had enjoyed the richest meal either of us had eaten since we'd returned from France. Not as good second time around.

Today: just bad.

To lift my spirit, here is a favorite drawing of mine from way-back. For our dear Tara's birthday. At least I'm thinner now!
p.s. the heart rate I'm going to go with is 170. Such a let down!

21 September, 2009

Just back from a great anniversary (number 7) dinner at The Napa Rose in Disneyland. Fan-tab. Staff was great--we sat at the bar looking into the kitchen, which was great and got us lots o' freebies. The super-nice pastry chef, a young lady named Kristine, gave us each a lavish desert when we'd only asked for one scoop of ice cream. It was heavenly!

I don't like that previous drawing, (all except the tree), so here's something better: my anniversary card for Blair. Happy seventh, baby!
A note on fitness: I've been riding for a little over a month now. And I don't mean just in training for the LIVESTRONG Challenge ride--I mean at all. I hadn't been on my bike in almost 2 years.

Having a deadline like a big event always helps you focus and improve your effort, but in this case I've been really surprised by how large a health benefit I've enjoyed in such a short time.

Before I started riding I'd been hobbled by a bad knee injury that just wasn't healing. I used to run (when I worked out at all), but the blown knee has made running impossible. Combine bad eating, no exercise and a bad attitude (felt hopeless with a bum knee), and soon I was woefully out-o-shape.

Then I started riding.

What a difference!

I have to give credit here to the much-maligned City of Irvine, and the greater O.C.: there are a LOT of great bike trails here, and especially out in the east end, where all the roads have decent bike lanes. Having a great area to ride has made all the difference in the world. I hated riding in LA, and as a result stopped riding--but here it's a pleasure. And the O.C. enjoys an even greater minutes-from-the-mountains-or-beach ratio than LA--it's very cool to do some great mountain biking at altitude and then roll down to the coast.

And I haven't gotten any tickets yet.

So in about six weeks I've dropped more than 10 lbs, and with the combined increase in fitness, it feels more like 20. Having turned 40 this year, I wondered if I'd ever get back to decent fitness. A steady program of biking has really opened my eyes--I honestly didn't expect this great a benefit!

It does help if you can stay on the bike.

Deep sand--it gets me every time!

p.s. It's our seventh wedding anniversary today--love you, baby!

20 September, 2009

It just feels totally wrong now to post a simple face without a story. There are those who would argue every face tells a story--or maybe, every face properly observed and recorded tells a story. But where's the bike stuff, the humor, the drama in that?

Where are the fund-raising pleas?

They're here.

And even though this lady is crying, I am feeling less blue thanks to our latest donors, Debbie Fix and Heather Volkoff! Your donations are wonderful and most appreciated. Debbie is Paul's sister and one of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet. I call her the conscience of Team Sunscreen--not that the members of Team Sunscreen lacked for conscience--! And Heather is an amie from my grade-school days who had never even met Paul, but was moved by his story (and my badgering).

Thank you ladies!

19 September, 2009

Horses...on the trail!

Drawn (two weeks ago now?) on a mountain bike ride. That's right--I packed my pad and a brush pen in a zip-lock bag, and packed that in one of the convenient pouches that come sewn into the rear panel of any cycling shirt.

The dissolved sections of the image are honest sweat drips--they were generated by the noxious climb to Four Corners at Whiting Ranch. Lots of riders on the trail, then we ran into a trio of horses at the top of the climb. That was cool!

p.s. my horse drawing needs work...hey, I was tired!

18 September, 2009

This is sad me.

Sad because the donations have slowed. And I've been writing and drawing and riding so hard. C'mon now, people.

Help cheer me up--and help fight the modern scourge that is cancer!

Every little itsy-bitsy helps. Bigsy-wigsy helps even more, but I leave that to your discretion. As the Dali Lama once said, the point is to give.

You'll feel better after you do--honest!

17 September, 2009

On Monday's ride I passed a sight I've seen a couple of times--a bicycle inner tube draped over some kind of public sign. It annoyed me--guys doing things like that give the rest of us law-abiding riders a bad name. And I hate litter. Seriously. I am the guy who carries the wrapper from my dinner mint around in my pocket if there isn't a trash can outside the restaurant. I'm sure you share the sentiment. So this was an ugly, annoying sight. Really, what were they thinking?

Then the little indignities of a committed long ride began to pile up.

First, I dropped my GU. What is it? It's a little packet of electrolyte/carb/"energy" gel that you can eat drink imbibe while under way. It seems ridiculous and like a fake product marketed to phony athletes, but in truth it works and so I brought some along. While taking my third draft on the thing, I dropped it. I was hauling at this point, on a trafficky street, clipped into the pedals...you get the picture. I didn't turn around and pick it up.

I littered.

Karma kung-fu chopped me a dozen miles down the road: on the rotten stretch of road between the nuclear plant at San Onofre (with its immortal surfer appellation, "The Twin Titties"), and the state beach/camp ground a few miles south, I suffered a blow-out.

--which is always a drag.

For those non-riders reading this, when biking, one always carries an extra inner tube in case of flat--you just roll it up and stow it in a little pouch you can strap beneath your seat (like a traveling glove-box under yr rump). Very handy. My case also carries my driver's license (for the cop when you get ticketed for endangering those poor defenseless 6,000 lb. S.U.V.'s), a credit card and Starbucks discount card, my iPhone (verrry handy), and a patch kit. And one of the coolest biking inventions, a CO2 canister.

This little thing, which is not much bigger than a roll of quarters, holds enough compressed CO2 to inflate a 27" bicycle tire to the recommended 120 or so pounds of pressure. Yes, that's how much air pressure these tires take--compare that with the asthmatic 35 lbs or so required by a car. (Which means when your tire blows on a road bike, you can really hear it--and feel it. It blasted my back wheel off of the ground when it burst under me--exciting!). But the coolest thing about the CO2 can happens when you fire it off to inflate the tire--once released, the gas cools rapidly--and deeply. In the 6 seconds or so it takes to blow through a can and fill a tire (they are one-use only, so don't blow it!), the can and nozzle and valve stem all freeze. It's really cool and strange, esp'lly when you are standing roadside under a blazing sun and suddenly there's ice on your wheel--and your fingers.

In the blow-out my actual tire was damaged, so I had to patch that.Then I put in the new tube and triggered the CO2 can and off I went.

Only, once I got home, I couldn't find the blown tube in my under-seat kit. I must have forgotten it in the rush to get the bike going again...then I remembered where I left it....
p.s. and I'd hung it there so I wouldn't forget!

16 September, 2009

I got a flat on Monday's ride, the second time my tires have been smote (smote?) while out on one of my "long" rides. I'll tell you more about my flat on Monday's wonderful 70 (or so) miler a little later, but I was reminded of my last flat, which happened a couple of weeks ago while my grandmother was staying with us. I was shooting for a forty-five miler or so, but lost the tire at 37 and although I changed the tube, I wasn't able to get my CO2 canister to work (it was my fault, I'd forgotten how to use the thing in the year-and-a-half since I'd stopped riding). So I found a Starbucks in the unknown neighborhood where I was stranded, (like the once-mighty 7/11 network of yore, there's always one nearby when you need it), called Blair, told her where I was, and settled down with a smoothie in one hand and a coffee in the other to wait.

And then I was witness to a most tragic scene--or rather, as the kids of today are wont to say, "a most epic FAIL."

At a table in front of me sat a pair of college age girls, laughing, gossiping, entertaining each other. Usually at a Starbucks you find the middle-aged and the post-college grads outnumbering those between 18-22 by a large margin, but this place seemed to be much younger in demographic than typical (turns out we were near a high school and a community college). So young kids were working the register, young girls and a fair number of similar vintage dudes were in and out of the place, occupying most of the tables, setting the vibe. I was the old man in the bike shorts (always creepy in a public space), huddled in the corner.At some point, I'd wanted to use the restroom, but it remained occupied the two times I'd tried the door. So I sat and waited, sipped my coffee, slurped my smoothie.

Then out came this guy.

He was a nice looking guy--in fact, he struck me right away as a good match for the girls at the table in front of me. My drawing makes him look a little too old and a little to pudgy/scraggly--he was none of that, and he had a nice collared shirt on over the tee-shirt--this is a hasty, hasty sketch from instant memory. You could tell he was just beginning to fill out, look less like a kid. In his self-conscious walk he was still getting used to living in an adult-sized body--but he was at pains to seem approachable, and attractive, if in a studious way. It seemed like he was just beginning to try to figure out this girl thing, and that in his reckoning going to Starbucks with his nice Apple laptop to hang out and get friendly with the staff and maybe meet somebody was a big part of his strategy. It wasn't a bad strategy. And he was not without his appeal. Seriously, I wanted the guy to succeed. I would have been overjoyed if one of the cute girls in front of me had wound up taking a shine to him. And really, I thought they should. It wasn't a stretch. They'd make a completely convincing couple. This is the way we hope the world works, right? Everyone finding a happy match....


From behind the bar one of the staff greeted him in a familiar way. Our man was making his way to the little island for milk and sugar and coffee-prep, which was just beside the table in front of me with the vivacious girls. And as he turned to add whole milk to his latte, I could see that dangling from beneath the hem of his shirt, like the unnatural white tail of a circus pony, was the white paper tail of a sanitary toilet seat cover. And not just a little piece--stuck in his waist-band and falling nearly to the floor, unwinding its maximum possible length due to a lateral tear that allowed its innate donut shape to uncoil, he was about to become a spectacle.

At this point, no one else had seen it. But in an instant they would. The horrible implications of this moment flashed before me and I was torn--if anyone saw this, how could he ever return here? I realized I should walk quickly over to him and just snatch the thing away before anyone saw. Thank Je-heesus it looked "clean". It was clearly the only humane thing to do--perhaps the future of this poor sap was at stake. But could I just grab it?? "C'mon, you dope," I kept mouthing silently,"Notice it! Idiot! Can't you feel it slappin'your bare calf?! Save yourself, man, before it's too late!"

I began to rise out of my chair. He was not close to me, so I'd have to cover a stretch of ground before I could reach him--then what? Tell him? How would that be any better? I sat back down. Where was my humanity? The girls beside him were still laughing at their own jokes, still oblivious--but he was conscious of them, and--in a painful irony!--he was lingering, trying to invite their attention with that psychic appeal the lonely and/or attention-starved use. "You fool!" I wanted to scream--"Back to the bathroom and sort yourself out!"

But it was too late. Another Starbucks worker walked past him and they had a brief exchange and then the worker noticed his predicament even as the fool--THE FOOL--turned back to the coffee-prep island once more and continued to linger, his tissue-thin shame flapping in plain sight. I saw the worker begin to recognize the full dimension of the imminent FAIL, and he seemed to sway for an instant, stunned, trying to decide what the hell he could do. Was it even sanitary to intervene? Was it a health code violation NOT TO? He kept moving. I was wrong--the full dimension was just beginning to creep up on him as he staggered away to stand behind the counter--behind the counter with its protection and its moral certainties--to leave the open field of friendship and acquaintance and return to the security of the "employee" ("Sorry 'bout that, dude--I only work here.").

The following scene haunts me still: he turns, he slowly saunters past the girls--his fierce mental imprecations finally take hold and they grant him their graze--sick irony! cruel, cruel fate!--quickly their gaze goes down to the pale wavering wraith trailing him...? attached to him...?


Their apprehension of his FAIL--the stun on their faces, still innocent-ish for that last little second before collapsing into the inevitable and all-the-more-horrible-for-it cruelty that such a scene begets. Then the other girls, at the other tables, witnessing same and reacting similarly; and the collective wave of horror and hot ridicule rising in our cheeks and now sweeping the entire place--it was palpable!

And amazingly, he remained oblivious. This because it all happened in his wake. Oblivious as he walked out the front door, all of us riveted, watching as he turned to pull out a chair at an empty table--now the outside patrons noticing the two feet of ghostly shimmer dangling from his haunches; and the wave of shock and shame expanded. And he remained oblivious as he sat down, a movement I couldn't watch, a movement I was sure would provide tactile proof to his senses that something was terribly wrong. I half expected him to flare the tail behind him like some concert pianist sitting down to perform! I couldn't look. I didn't want to see the horrible moment of realization.

But no realization. He opened his laptop and logged onto his free two hours of Starbucks WiFi, the tail--amazingly--neatly folded beneath him. And we were all left to wonder, some in our trauma, others in their glee, when would the moment come? When would he realize he could never come back to this Starbucks again? All those carefully groomed friendships, all that gone....I was sick for the rest of the day. It seemed like enough to crush a soul.

That was the last time I got a flat.

15 September, 2009

Zonked from yesterday's ride--the odometer said 68.7, but let's just round it up and call it 70, shall we? Took 4 hours and 11 minutes of riding time. Need to be a little faster. But I made it. And my biscuits are burning.

Out the door right now but here's a filler (his biscuits are burning, too):

14 September, 2009

I am in shock--I am feeling the cold creep of fear. I just downloaded the course map and elevation for the 90 mile LIVESTRONG ride in Austin--the one in 'bout six weeks?

Well, see for yourself.

Almost 3,000 feet of climbing! I'd given this a look when signing up, and it didn't look SO horrible--I mean it goes up, it goes down, but there's no mountains, right? I didn't read the fine print.

I thought Texas was flat!!

I find this daunting. But not impossible. In the spirit of this revelation, I am heading out on a 60+ miler that will take me from our front door in Irvine to someplace in Encinitas by noon today.

Yes, on my bike, you wiseacres.

13 September, 2009

Rough morning on the trail. Blair and I set out for the 4-plus mile loop at Casper Wilderness Park--her running, me riding. This sounds like a bad mix, runner vs. rider, but it's been fun the two times we've done it--I get ahead and then ride back to check on her, then re-ride the trail forward--and she's never that far behind me!

Why do I check on her? There are many signs in this park warning of MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK. Yes, a lady was slain by a wild mountain lion here years ago, and apparently the lions still roam freely. Less than a mile in on our run today we were treated to a sign of their evil ways: a blanket of white feathers scattered over a crest in the road. Blair said she saw lots of tracks, too. "Lion tracks?" I asked. "Yes--big, cat-like tracks. Mountain lions."

We remained wary.

But today's drawing illustrates an unhappy moment that happened where Bell Canyon ends and we veer onto a suddenly steep and scrabble-surfaced hillside trail. I knew from the first few minutes out this morning that I was going to have a subpar day--my legs were still sore from physical therapy and I don't know what, because I haven't ridden much this week. But once we hit this hill, I blew up. Couldn't make it up the scrabbliest opening stretch, even after taking a second run at it. Walked the bike up to a little flat stretch where I could remount and assault the next leg. Blair was waiting for me. We took off together and you can see what happened in the pic. She killed me!

Sometimes the bike just seems like a liability.

Should I mention that this stretch of the trail is called "Cougar Ridge"? I don't mean anything by that!

But I came home to great news--we're up over $1,000!! Thanks Ed & Erin, you guys huffed us over the top of that first big hurdle. I am grateful.

Go ahead and join in the fun!!

12 September, 2009

On our way home from coffee this morning, Blair let me coax her into the neighborhood bike shop--"for just a few minutes," I promised. The place is packed with a majestic line-up of Specialized bikes, particularly their mountain bike offerings. We wandered around a bit and I began to wobble under the strain of "new bike fever."She got me out of there before any damage was done.

Yes, I do have a practically brand new mountain bike--so what's my beef? It's one of the lowest models Cannondale sells and I like it, but already some components need replacing. And my bike shop (not Rock n Road Cyclery next door with their seductive sea of new Specialized, but Sand Canyon Cyclery down the road, with it's concentration of Cannondales) has been good at offering to upgrade the parts that are strained by my riding (a lethal combination of over-ambition and ham-fistedness). But my bike is also heavy, and when I struggle to conquer some hill (which I do on all of 'em), I like to fantasize about riding a bike that's about 15 lbs lighter.

And man, do I struggle on those hills....

The donations have been pouring in--thank you! We are tantalizingly close to hitting $1,000! Total stands at $987 and .68 cents (Mike Dietz!).

Just fer that, here's that Mike/Ed/Marty drawing--or the closest I can come right now (it's a daguerreotype of a a work on dry-erase board).

More drawings later today--check back often!

11 September, 2009

Last night I sent out my letter asking/imploring/badgering friends to donate to The LIVESTRONG Challenge in memory of my pal Paul Fix. And the response has been great! It is really a good feeling to be supported by so many. If you've donated, thank you! And if you haven't yet, it's easy!

And as if on cue, who should show up in L.A. yesterday but none other than Mr. LIVESTRONG, Lance hisself. A few hundred people met him in Griffith Park and went for a ride--check it out in the L.A. Times this AM.

My knee's a little sore so I'm just going on a little ride to lunch--lunch with the estimable Mike D., Ed Schofield, and J.Q.--all the top-notchiest of top-notch animators. I'll put up a Mike/Ed/Marty drawing after lunch! Fer now, here's this...