Sunday, January 29, 2012

Concert at Ram's Head

I had a spiritual experience Friday night when I went to see one of my musical idols at Ram's Head Tavern, a local live performance venue.  Since moving to Annapolis I have taken advantage of opportunities to see my musical heroes when the pass through, and Rams Head has been a good place to do so. I've got pretty eclectic tastes in music - my iPod and CD collection contain almost everything that you might find in the polygon whose corners are George Gershwin, Amy Winehouse, Rick James, and Buck Owens.  Last night I got to see Jimmy Webb  in concert.  I didn't know who he was until a couple years ago, but the songs he wrote - By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, All I Know, Highwayman, The Worst That Could Happen, MacArthur Park - have been favorites for decades, resonate in my soul, and are all over my iPod.

He played for over 2 hours.  Actually, I think he played for about half that time and talked the other half of the time.  He's not a great singe but a great piano player, just like his idol Burt Bacharach, but just being in the same room was well worth the $25 ticket price.  Disappointingly, just like the time I saw Donovan live, he spent way too much time dropping names of past associates or telling of all the awards he had won (to his credit, most by the time he was 22), and was heckled for it at one point.  He also seemed to begrudge singer-songwriters, blaming them for sweeping him and other songwriters out of the way as the 60's went on.  He spoke disparagingly of the British Invasion, and of Bob Dylan (why did Bob get away with lyrics such as "You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat, who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat", when Jimmy got savaged for "Someone left the cake out in the rain"), and somewhat disparagingly of the Byrds and The Mamas and the Papas.

Jimmy - you are already a legend in my book, and in those others who knew enough about you to show up.  You don't need to try to raise your stature.  Spend less time time talking,  and more time playing - maybe you could have gotten to "Worst That Could Happen" and "All I Know".  At least you signed autographs after the show - a rarity among performers these days. And thanks for leading off with Highwayman, which contains one of my favorite lines from any song: "...Or I may simply be a single drop of rain..."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Could have been worse.....

...could have been raining (from "Young Frankenstein").  On this ride it only could have been worse if the forecast for wind came true, because it was so cold that rain was impossible (it snowed instead).  My secret fear in the world of randonneuring is spending a day in the cold rain, because that is my personal "worst case" weather condition. The wind forecast was 20 MPH, with gusts to 40 MPH.  Despite waking to the howling wind, and seeing it blow leaves across the road on the drive from home, it was absent when we got to Emmitsburg MD for the start.  And the only times it kicked up during the day it was a tailwind - a gift from the gods!  Once the sun came up I even removed my balaclava briefly and went down to fingerless gloves.  On the almost 2000 foot climb on Big Flat I thought about stopping and stripping off layers.  But starting with the fast descent and for the rest of the day I was deep-down cold.  The worst was whenever we emerged from indoors - instant shivers until we were on our bikes and peddling hard again.  As a group we would group-up just inside the door, them all run out together and get to our bikes.  Unfortunately, and inevitably, there was always someone who wasn't ready to go and we stood there in the cold waiting.  Weird - at all other times I didn't feel all that cold, but I couldn't think straight most of the day and I could feel the cold warping my perception of reality.

This was the first ride since we formed our fleche team, and 4 of 5 members of the team were present among the 17 riders.  I hung out with the other three guys all day to get a feel of how we would do riding together.  Seems like a great group to spend 24 straight hours rolling down the road with.  Unfortunately, one of the guys was suffering from bronchitis and had to abandon at a restaurant 60 mile into this 127 mile ride.

The surprise of the day was finding a Naval Academy classmate of mine in the small Italian restaurant we ate lunch in.  He lives outside Carlisle PA and flies for Delta.  I'm envious that he lives in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside that we spent most of the day in.

Overall I was happy that I successfully applied lessons learned from the last ride.  My small helmet-mounted white LED made night navigation a snap, since I could now read my cue sheet and bike computer in the dark.  Wearing a backpack was a huge convenience in that it was a great organizer and allowed me to swap out glasses and gloves as conditions changed.  The minimalist wallet I had also was a great organizer.

Funny, if you draw the routes for this, the Last Train From Clarksville perm, and the Civil War Century, it would look like a Venn diagram with this little spot between Liberty Resort and Gettysburg in the center

Weather:  Starting/ending temp: 31F.  High: low 40s
Equipment: Plastic cue sheet sleeves blew out of the clip twice, need something more grippy.  Very hard to read cue sheet in the dark with sunglasses on (no duh, but not obvious - need reading lenses).  Reflective vest might need to be replaced by a Jack Browne belt because there is little reflective on it.  Also, the flashing light-stick for my backpack is not reflective.  Still ought to put reflective tape on my rims, and still need to find a place on my bike for my hand pump once summer gets here and I ditch the backpack.
Food/drink:  Need to pre-tear powerbar wrappers, and eat/drink more frequently.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


During the winter I'm short of time on the weekends because my bike riding and snowboarding conflict.  This year it's an easy win for bike riding because there has been no snow and little snow making weather, However, with my boy getting antsy to try his new snowboarding equipment (me as well), and a looming trip to Breckenridge in a couple weeks,it was time to find some snow somewhere and start "tuning up" for the season.

We took a trip with my good buddy Kent to his cousin's place in Oakland MD, near Deep Creek Lake and Wisp Resort. Our hosts Mike and Donna were over-the-top welcoming and accommodating, and their place is the nicest  second home/vacation home I've ever seen - nicer than anyplace I've ever rented for $$$$$. I'm not worthy!  Anyway, I took my boy and Kent's 2 boys to Wisp on two days.

Wisp was barely open, only two trails (a green and a black). Unfortunately, there were enough snow-deprived folks like us in the area that the place was packed to the gills!  We headed to the green trail to shake off 10 months of rust, and it was instant mayhem.  The trail was packed with skiers and boarders, many like us wobbly and unpracticed, many flying down at high speed, in tight quarters.  Within a few runs I had redeemed myself for the poor little kid I had collided with in Breckenridge last winter by (1) helping tend to some old guy who probably had a concussion after going down hard without a helmet on (2) successfully avoiding some little kid who did an ill-timed cut in front of me (replay of the Breckenridge incident) and apologizing successfully to his private instructor (3) getting taken down from behind by some teenage kids.  Although the terrain on the black slope (Squirrel Cage) was more treacherous, it seemed to be less of a hazard than the melee on the green slope (Wisp Trail).  So the next day, after resting, I took on the black slope somewhat successfully.  I never made it without falling at least twice, mostly because it revealed to me my weakness in toe-side turns on steep slopes, but I did fulfill my goal for this season of getting up the gumption to do a black trail.

Clothing notes:

For 25F: Balaclava, jacket with flannel shirt and t shirt, no pants underlayer, Gore mittens.

For 35F: Helmet vents out, only t shirt under jacket.