Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blackness

I did it again. I swore I wouldn't let it happen, and I did.
A warm summer night and an invitation to meet up with friends in Lake Orion (10 miles away) was what started it. They were there for the Lake Orion Horseshoe Club's Guinness Book of Records attempt for the longest horseshoe marathon. (Don't ever again tell me that cyclists are crazy.) I pulled my 'cross bike off the hook, threw my lights on it, filled my water bottles, and hopped on the rail-trail. I was off in search of adventure.
First of all, I was so proud of myself for remembering to fill my water bottles. Believe it or not, after 40 years of riding, I still sometimes forget that part. I usually discover this about 3 miles from my house and vow to never let it happen again...until the next ride.
Night riding is a really cool experience. If you've never done it, I highly recommend it. And on warm summer nights, it's even better. With a full moon, you don't really need your own light. Tonight, however, there was no moon. But who cares! I have my super duper light mounted to my handlebars! Let the good times roll!
I'm surprised at how many other people there are on the trail after dark. I was continually covering up my light with my hand so as not to blind them. It's a pretty bright light; it'll knock out your night vision in a hurry. So as soon as I spot someone way up ahead, I try to squelch the light because I know how annoying it is to be caught in the beam of an aircraft landing light.
I made it to Lake Orion. Hung out. Watched some horseshoe pitching. And then decided it was time to ride home.
When I get 1k down the trail, the light dies. Instantly. Black. Because it's a digital light, it doesn't fade slowly like an incandescent light would. No, it just goes off without warning.
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said "with a full moon, you don't really need your own light." Well, with no moon at all...
Now, I could have turned around and gone back to the horseshoe pits and asked for a ride. I could have called my friend to come and get me. I could have called a cab (I jest. Lake Orion has no cab service. I only wrote that for my New York friends who probably would have said, "Yo, why didn't you just call a cab?") But I didn't. I got myself into this mess...
The only source of light was the faint yellow glow in the distant sky from the lights of Rochester at the other end of the trail. But with no clouds to bounce off of, they were of no use to me. It was pitch black. I had 9.5 miles of wilderness to navigate in total darkness.
OK, let me explain that wilderness, in this case, means nothing more than deer, skunks, field mice, and an occasional muskrat. Still, I wouldn't want to hit any of them except for maybe the mice.
I waited for several minutes to let my eyes adjust to the darkness, but they never reached an acceptable level.
You know where this is going, don't you?
Yep, I did what any modern day survivalist would do; I pulled out my iPhone and opened the flashlight app. That little glow that was designed to help you find your glasses in the kitchen at night guided me all the way down the trail. It worked pretty well, actually. It pointed out the two deer. It illuminated the posts that prevent cars from driving the trail. It also marked my position for the oncoming riders without lights.
That's right: oncoming riders without lights. As much as I was cursing my own forgetfulness/stupidity all the way down the trail, there were people out there at 11:30pm who were intentionally riding the trail without lights on a moonless night. Who knew that such a recreational option existed?
And they might be onto something. I can see it now (sure, now that it's daylight): a new form of bike racing: a nighttime time trial down the trail. Two categories: lights and no lights.
It'll be epic.
Riders ready?
Go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Future Stars

It wasn't THAT long ago (OK, it was 11 very fast years) that the residents living near Bloomer Park placed signs in their yard protesting the planned velodrome. They had NO idea what a velodrome was, but they were bound and determined to save the park from devastation and to preserve the natural beauty of the area of the park that was once an overflow parking lot now overgrown with scrub brush. This 200-acre park is indeed a beautiful piece of land nestled in the suburban jungle of Detroit's north side, but it also serves more than 70-thousand residents. Providing recreation for them sometimes requires hacking down some scrub brush. I think they cleared an acre.
The IVBP has been in existence for 9 years now, and it's quite a popular place. The locals have accepted it into their community. And it's providing a place for kids to do something other than lacrosse and soccer.
The payoff is in these pictures. (You can click on these pictures to make them bigger. You might want to just so you can see the facial expressions.) The velodrome has gotten a lot of use by old people (20 years old and up), but only recently has it caught fire with the young riders. Nothing against 40-year-old racers, but the good stuff is here in these images.





A few observations:
- The kids are INTO it. There's an intensity about the races that is so much fun to watch.
- Kids love gear. Not gears as in bike gears. But gear as in stuff, accoutrement, equipment. This sport is the perfect match.
- The parents are hindered from becoming the dreaded "meddlesome sports parents" because they haven't a clue as to what the sport is all about. When they go to baseball or soccer games, they have enough of a working knowledge to be dangerous. But at the velodrome, they're kind of lost. You can see that they WANT to be involved, but they really aren't sure HOW to help. It's really pretty funny. And i hope we don't lose that moat that buffers the kids from the parents. Just let 'em race. They'll figure things out.
- The crew at the velodrome does a great job with the kids. If they didn't, you'd see blank pictures, I'm certain.
- The kids crash spectacularly just like the older riders. And they get up and keep riding.
So be advised that the sport of track racing is alive and well and living in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Stop by. Say hi.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Disaffected lout.

You know how you sometimes come up with all the funny things you SHOULD HAVE said in response to something? OK, then follow along...
I received the following email from a name that I kinda recognize as someone who I know, but I NEVER receive email from him. It's obviously a virus sending out emails to his mailing list. But I thought I'd treat it as a real email as a writing exercise.
Here's the email:
Hello,

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to London,England for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were all stolen from us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hrs from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills..I am so confused right now and thank God i wasn't injured because I complied immediately.

I await your response

Thanks
Dj

Now here are my responses:

#1 - focusing on the hotel rather than the predicament, and demonstrating that I didn't read the entire email:
Dj,
Glad you had fun! Which hotel did you stay in? I prefer the Royal Norfolk near Hyde Park.

Best,
Jamie

#2 - deflecting attention away from his plea for money and on to his annoying grammar:
Dude,
What is with your grammar? Did you forget how to use a comma and a coordinating conjunction? Don't rely on Microsoft to catch those mistakes!

Always looking out for ya,
Jamie

#3 - Playing along. Sort of.:
Dj,
OK, I've withdrawn every cent from my account and am ready to send it to you. Please give me a PO Box to send it to. But first, let me tell you about Amway.

Jamie

#4 - highlighting the cruelty of bad timing:
Dj,
That's crazy! I was just in London walking around Trafalgar with a satchel full of cash and several airline vouchers. Geez, your luck is in the toilet this week. Call me when you get home. Or, the way YOUR luck is running, maybe I should say "IF you get home".

Home,
James

#5 - Not wanting to be taken advantage of:
Hey, let's not forget that you still owe me $20. Don't try to weasel out of that just because of this little setback.

#6 - A shared London moment:
Hey Dj!
Mind the gap!

Best,
Jamie

#7 - Empathy and nothing more:
Dj,
That happened to a friend of mine in Monte Carlo. True story. National Cycling League President Peter O'Neill had sneaked out of town without paying the $22,000 tab. Jeff "the Rocket" Rutter and his wife got stuck in the lobby of Loews Hotel surrounded by unsympathetic gendarmes and an angry hotel manager who was insisting that Rocket pay the tab since he was the last one from the NCL party to check out.
OK, so he didn't get robbed in a nearby park; he got screwed by the NCL. And I never heard how that resolved itself, but I can certainly appreciate your predicament.
My advice. Steal something. Like a lamp or an ashtray. Come home with some memento from this ordeal.

#8 - More bad timing:
AUTO-RESPONSE
I will be out of the office until Tuesday, August 17. Contact the Mayor's staff at Mayor'sOffice@rochesterhills.org or at 248.656.4600.

I won't send any response, but it's always fun to think of all the funny ways you COULD respond should you ever wish to.
If you have a good response, leave a message...... BEEP!