Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

WOMAD Festival, Reading

Went to WOMAD with Kathryn (World of Music, Arts and Dance festival). Pretty cool to be surrounded by lots of chilled out people all weekend, excellent music from around the world (the pick of which went out live on the World Service on Saturday). Great place to eat all kinds of vegetarian food too! And no problem finding Chai tea.

Lura wowed just about everyone, including the BBC World Service host who seemed smitten and had surprised her, and the producers it seemed, by asking her to perform a bit more!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Birthday Meal

Went to restaurant with my Dad, Doug and Alex and Kathryn. Dad had got me a trophy to commemerate my Death Ride success and Doug proudly presented me with a nasal and ear hair trimming device (sadly useful at my age). I'm particularly pleased by the latter gift because the flood gates are truely torn off now when it comes to birthday presents!

I was also pleased to get some photos of people as I'd asked for, to decorate my house in Nevada. Doug of course only provided extremely cool photos of himself, though I have other sources from past times, when fashions once considered extremely cool have somewhat aged! How I await the postman for that little package to arrive.

PS Dad didn't get the comment about the hair trimmer so I am to assume that this must not be from that genetic side of things. I had until then assumed that everyone reached the point of super normal hair growth from nose and ears at the age of thirty something (though I naturally realised it is probably only me who notices this in the aircraft 'restroom' 30 minutes before landing at the airport and being reunited with my girlfriend!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Delfte Wildlife

Bald as a Coot? Never seen the like of these chicks before, just hanging out in a dutch canal.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Delft, The Netherlands (wedding)

We stayed in Delft because it is a beautiful place and nice and near to The Hague where the wedding party was. Very nice to get a bit of rain too, just like in the UK!

Wedding party great fun. We turned up in our cowboy gear from 1800s but our mounts were bicycles (it was a LAS VEGAS wedding party - and good fun).

I think Kathryn looked a bit like Dr Quinn Medicine Woman.

The party was held in an impressive looking dutch house too.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

my birthday - 37

Had my birthday in The Netherlands this year. Odd how being in Europe feels like being home, even in The Netherlands. It felt nice to be well understood by locals again!

Had a nice day cycling around and ending up in a nice restaurant on the beach quite far from Delft but we got back ok and loved the cycling because the cycle paths are so nice. The restaurant was very quite due to the bad weather of the weekend but the evening was quite sunny all the same. Last night we ate at a French restaurant eating rather nice fish, with extremely good service. The waiter gave us lots of tips on where to get bikes from and where to go on them, so that's pretty much what we did on my birthday!

Pretty nicely designed bike racks too (sorry - I'm a bit of a bicycling bore!)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Arrived back in UK for quick visit

Arrived back to the UK after a nice flight. Actually an amazing flight from Reno to LA - right over Minden, work, my house, etc. Had great views of Lake Tahoe and got some idea of the huge wilderness between us and the west coast. You could hike for weeks out there and not see a human I'm sure. Beautiful flight, if rather bumpy as the small plane try to escape the mountains around here.

Flight from LA was good too, and I even slept. And it landed ahead of schedule. Everything going to plan until right at the last minute the pilot mentioned we had landed at terminal 3 - my ticket said terminal 4 (thanks ebookers!). So, another 30 minutes before I met Kathryn. I soon found out why the train connecting the terminals was so delayed, more bombs in London. Well, we found out on the way back through the london traffic (which is bloody scarey after driving in the US). As we got to Sheppard's Bush there was a bus conductor conducting the traffic, and many buses pulled over at the side of the road. Turns out one of the bombs was right there at Sheppard's Bush but luckily only the detonator went off this time.

So, welcome home!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Birthday presents from my Nevada mates

Dave and Scott got me Arry Potter's latest adventure for my birthday read. I'm quite looking forward to settling down to that one. HP is fantastic! Thanks Dave and Scott (and JK)

Buying a Laptop - an unexpected hassle

I think I still have a lot to learn about living here. I imagined that these days buying a laptop was pretty much an easy commodity kind of purchase. Not so. It seems computer sales stores have adopted the worst tricks of the used car sales business.

Having seen a really cheap laptop ($500) in Best Buy at the weekend, I returned to buy it. After some deliberation I decided to make the purchase. "I'm sorry we sold the last of those 30 minutes ago". So I looked at the next model up. Similar story. Decided on something much more expensive, and whilst they were off trying to find it I gathered up all the other stuff I needed. Only to discover they didn't have that one in stock either.

Made a desperate call to Dave J who recommended:
- an Apple (of course) but that would not run Dragon 8
- Frys computing (no store near here)
- and finally mentioned he used to go into CompUSA

So I followed Dave's lead and went there. Before going to the store I checked products and availability on the web. They had some really decent higher spec machine for cheap-ish, one Lance Armstrong sponsored model was especially nice. Arrived. "we have sold all 14 of those today and have none left". A good proportion of their other display models were not in stock either. After reverting to some major whining I got the guy to agree to sell me the display model of a Turion 64bit machine for $850 (after rebates - which means you need to send off the receipt, jump through hoops of fire and wait 10 weeks and then, maybe, you will get a cheque - your discount on the purchase). So, yes, CompUSA were reasonable but still seemed rather shark like, with many models on display not in stock and some rather incompetent smooth sales talk to disguise the fact, or apologise for it whilsy directing your credit card elsewhere.

I wish I had learned from this experience but I really have not. Well, perhaps what I learned was to buy online next time, probably from Frys.

Now, on with my rebate admin...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Skunks and other animals

Turns out this is an area inhabited by Skunks. Fortunately I've not come across these yet but I'm told you really don't want to let your dog near one!

They say there are mountain lions (Cougars) and Wildcats here. Often at night I hear the Coyotes too.

Quite a bit of wildlife here, I'll have to find a way to explore and see some!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Brown Recluse?

On seeing the spider photo Scott asked me if it was a Brown Recluse and then asked me whether I'd killed the spider. "Brown Recluse" didn't sound very nice at all and after looking it up on the web it definately didn't sound so good, the Brown Recluse is a very nasty piece of work. I now understand why I am afraid of spiders - not without good reason!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure my spider's nest was not the aforementioned Brown Recluse though I had a bit of a concern for a while.

Area 51

It seems I have now watched enough X-Files to realise that I actually live quite close to the famous Area 51, it's about 330 miles from here along the "Extraterestrial Highway (Highway 375)

Perhaps worth a trip out one dark night!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Shelob's Lair?

Noticed an odd little spider today, carrying what looked like a ball of fluff. On closer inspection, the fluff seems like a jumble of eggs. So, we had a little kitchen photo-shoot. What do you think? (you can click on her to see her better). Wonder where she went?!

Not quite as alarming as the white tails we had in the house in NZ.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Unsuccessful shopping trip

Can't quite get used to car oriented shopping. I'm used to cycling into the town centre at home, parking up and then walking to all the shops. It's not quite like that here, you need a car for everything and you need to plan where to go, you can't so much just wander around the shops, you have to find them first!

Anyhow, didn't have much luck in Reno yesterday. Wal-mart don't sell what I wanted in their stores, though it is available on-line but my credit card doesn't work online because of my UK address. What a faff!

Browsed around a few more shops but didn't find the cowboy gear we need for the Dutch wedding party we're going to.

Renaming me - Carlos

The combination of my accent and name seem to make it impossible for people to pick it up. I have therefore decided to now be called Carlos. This should make it much easier at Starbucks when they want a name to write on the cup (before putting the incorrect beverage in there - whoever heard of cold tea?!)

- Carlos

Friday, July 15, 2005

Twilight Zone

It dawned on me today that working with Scott and Dave in the daytime is like living in the twilight zone. With that, and my X-files visual stimulous in the evenings, it's all a bit science fiction around here!

(just kidding !)

Highly functional workplace

This place I'm working is great, just te facilities alone are really impressive and make it much easier to exist here, and make you much more effective at work in my view.

We have:
- gymn - towels and soap provided;
- adventure club - equipment for hire (free) from kayaks to bikes to an enormous camp frying pan which could feed 30 people with one go;
- adventure club trips out; rafting, hiking, biking;
- various classes, like yoga, aerobics, etc
- restaurant - cook breakfasts in the morning if you want; several dishes of the day for lunch, plus a salad bar (my usual haunt) and a great sandwich bar (open until 4). You can even bring your family to lunch too. And it is ultra cheap;
- free starbucks coffee on tap all day;
- free fizzy drinks on tap all day (most are high sugary, even the one labelled "100% Vitamin C", which is really at least 98% sugar I think;
- medical centre on site, like a local Doctor Surgery, and again, your family can use it too.

Basically, it is a nice place to work. I'm sure running that stuff is expensive but I bet it pays for itself in reducing work absence, stress and all kinds of things.


Oddballs like me also appreciate the eco-design of the place, like the waterless urinals (though I do wonder how they work), and the alleged water re-use to surround crops.

Restaurant girls - I haven't sorted out the money yet

The girl at the checkout of the works restaurant thinks I'm everso simple. She noticed the buldging wallet full of coins as I neglected to give her the right money for my lunch. So, now the routine is that I get all the coins out and she shows me which ones I need to pay for my lunch.

The problem is a size and value one. The 5c coin is bigger than the 10c coin - how confusing!

I should mention that the staff in the works restaurant are fantastic, some are even English! And that the food is really great and really cheap. For less than I pay for a bread roll from the vending machine at work, I get a fresh made sandwich and starbucks coffee to go with it!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pickles with that?

The girls in the restaurant routinely impress me with their worldy knowledge of the English. After making my fresh sandwich, to order, they ask if I would like a pickle to go with it. This is some kind of Gerkin or something. Everytime, when I politely decline, they smile knowingly and tell me that English people don't like pickles!

Of course there is very little food I don't like, but there is a time and a place for pickles surely. Pickles are not an accompanyment to a fantastic scooby snack of a fresh made sandwich, they are more to be enjoyed swimming in vingear alongside fish and chips.

Oh maybe with olives and humous sitting on the health! :-)

Admin De Jour

Tried to fill out my expenses with the mobility company. Eventually found the username they issued, got the password in and it told me to change it immediately to another 6-9 character affair with numbers in the middle of it, thus guaranteeing that I will 1, write it down somewhere; and 2, forget what it is and where I wrote it!

When I gave it a new password the system refused to let me in. So calls to technical support ("all of our operators are busy" - hardly surprising with that password system). So I emailed tech support instead.

Still not got my expenses claim done!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Admin De Jour

Attempting to get number plates for car. Temp plate will run out when car is parked at the airport next week. What a pain!

Los Expedientes X (The X Files)

Well I have no TV reception nor cable and nobody to chat with over food, so I had to do something about that to avoid sitting in front of a computer and eating (get food in keyboard and bad back doing that).

So I got a DVD player ($30 !), which is excellent. I then signed up for infinite movies at Blockbuster but can only have 2 at a time, for a cost of $24.

Entonces, tengo Los Expedientes X con cenar! I have the X Files, with Spanish Subtitles to watch with my dinner (in my big creeking wooden house, in a very dark street). So far have got through episodes 1-8 of Series 1 and I have to admitt that I quite look forward to something to watch with my dinner. And it's quite nice at the end of each episode that the TV doesn't just stay on as I see what else is on the Telly. It really is an X-files dedicated machine! And they are served up in handy portions.

Just off to get episode 9-16 !

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Admin De Jour - expenses and insurance claim

Total faff trying to do expenses and fill out an insurance claim for lost mouse (customs seemed to be entranced by flashing light and confiscated it). PILES OF PAPERWORK.

Some of the expenses I can't even claim for - like recent Staples trip. Bugger.

Early Morning Swim with the Minden Manatees 5.30am-7.00am

Finally made contact with the local masters swimming club in Minden. They are the Manatees and number from about 4 to about 10. This morning there were 5 of us but with a couple of others who seemed part of the club too.

Very friendly bunch and very welcoming of a new face. I couldn't keep up with the programme but I haven't trained in the pool for a few weeks and am still a little knackered from the Death Ride.

Good bunch though, so will be getting up at 4:45am 3 times a week now. This will no doubt aid my transition to UK time!

Pool is great. It's a heated outdoor pool with an unobstructed view of the mountains. Grand!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Death Ride - Made it!

This was clearly the hardest day's cycling I've ever done. Though mental preparation and determination were all in order, the lack of training surely took its toll. Scott wrote "5 or Die" on our planner at work, expressing our resolve to do all 5 passes.

The day started at 3.30am with a drive to the start line. A few wrong turns meant I got there a little later than planned but soon enough found the weirdest heavy traffic you could imagine - it's odd seeing hundreds of cars in a line at 4am on usually deserted mountain roads.

Parked up, got bike out, added number and lights, ate 2 bananas (on top of the cereal I'd already had) and set off up the hill to the start line. This isn't really a race, more of an audax style event, which is a long distance event but is not a timed race. So, although the official start time was 5.30am, people really started when they liked, subject to the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs?) deeming their lights suitable. So, I managed to get away about 5.05am (already light enough to see by), a bit over half an hour later than planned (I would later regret that delay!).

5.05am - We set off from the start line towards Monitor Pass to do the "Front side of Monitor" - in this event you went up one side of the mountain, down to the bottom, turned right around and went back up again ("the Back side of monitor") . Psychologically I found that quite hard since I generally like to travel by bike, which for me means going from A to B! However, I was pretty determined so didn't let it bother me too much.

The road up Monitor is pretty open so you can see where you are heading but the whole thing was much more gradual than you might expect looking at the race profiling. Quite a nice ride really but I pretty soon noticed I was going to have trouble with my saddle that day and began regretting that I didn't bring my old one from the UK. Early on during the climb an guy from work, Dennis (in his 50s), powered past me on the climb like a machine - another one of those awesomely fit people.

6.30am - Getting near the top of Monitor we began to get some great views. And some nice passer by on a flash tri bike offered to take my picture (as he could see i was snapping going along). I wish he hadn't - I seem to have done my lack of cool extreme justice that morning, I really must get some new glasses, I can see why Gary gave them away (they are impossible to lose too), must add that to birthday present list. Actually the gear may be surprising but it was pretty cold during the morning, and especially on the descents - I kept the blue top on nearly all day. And from the photo I can already see the start of my knee problems - seat too low (disastrous - a common cause of cycling knee problems!).

After the plod up Monitor and some amazing early morning views, came the descent, which, despite knowing that I'd be cycling back up this way within 30 minutes, was indeed exhilarating. Mostly I was doing over 40mph, with a top speed over 48.9, with people beside me doing approximately the same speeds, leading to some interesting overtaking (sadly, throughout the day several people came off doing that kind of thing). Interestingly, there were very few bikes coming back up by this point so I was near the start of the field! This perhaps put me in the wrong frame of mind, thinking I was ahead of the game.

8.45 Finally made it up the back side of monitor to the pass, already quite tired. People had warned me that the back side of monitor catches the sun first thing, and indeed it was hot coming up there even at 8:15 when I checked my watch, amazed it was hot so early. Fortunately though, we were blessed with a cloudy day, which did a splendid job of keeping the heat reasonable all day (below 80) - very unusual for the Death Ride I'm told.

Took another rest stop to eat and drink at the top, perhaps lingered a bit too long but was mindful of the race instructions to "eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty", they actually said you should drink so that you are "sloshing" before you start the event! Eating is never a problem for me, so this part of the event was quite easy, though I got a bit tired of the food by the end of the day - very sweet.

Heading to the bottom of Monitor (the descent took about 15 minutes) I found Big Daddy down there as part of the support crew and gave him some of my stuff, lights, leggings and suchlike - at the last minute I decided to hang on to my pertex windproof top and was later glad that I did.

9.15am Began the trudge up the tough pass - Ebberts. Pretty steep. Someone warned me of the false summits, which make you think you are there when you are not, and there were a couple of these but no big deal. A tough climb though and by now was having to stop every so often to give my backside a rest from the seat. Another tack was to stand on the pedals on the steep sections, which was blessed respite from that damned saddle (I was cursing Specialized when I thought about it - my old Body Geometry saddle from them went straight on my old bike and I immediately did 1,000 miles on it without problems. This new design was appalling. It's a personal thing though I guess).

Lots of locals stationed themselves at points along the route to bang pans and make encouraging noises. Of the most wild were a bunch of girls stationed outside their house (?) on the way up Ebberts, dressed in what can only be described as Halloween costumes and wishing us well for "Ye Old Death Ride". I wish I'd taken a photo but they we're a little scary.

Ebberts Pass was a bit higher and I was quite cheered to see patches of snow by the side of the road still, highlighting how high we were and giving me a hint that we must be near the top. I was tempted to stop and play in the snow but there was serious business afoot so I instead took a photo (and gave my behind a rest).

Noon At the top of Ebberts I needed a rest, so took some time out for more food and water. I had planned to rest at the bottom but was too knackered from the climb. Photo shows something of the mayhem of bikes passing through the rest stop, people hanging about everywhere and of course confirmation of the height, which seemed important on the day.

As I was resting I noticed a couple of things which began to nag at me. A cut-off time for the checkpoint of 1.30 (it was now 12ish), which was a little sooner than I expected. I also noticed quite a few riders had by now got 4 stickers on their race number, meaning the had finished 4 passes, ie. they had also done the backside of Ebberts. I was clearly beginning to fall behind. I soon scooted down to the bottom of Ebberts ready to climb again. At the bottom I got my sticker and did an immediate U-turn and headed back up, no more resting for a while.

A bum numbingly hard but shorter climb up Ebberts again, over the pass and, "oh just another 10 miles to the lunch stop". Ten miles, downhill at 40mph+ is not any kind of hardship. Mind you, a couple of riders on the way down very nearly took me out from failing to be aware of bikes plummeting downhill at 40mph+. One guy just casually crossed the road in front of me, oblivious to the fact that I was indeed plummeting. And another guy, even more outrageous, lost the plot somewhat coming up the hill and wiggled right across the road, so much so that I had to go past him on the left (people drive on the right around here), somewhat shook up I continued my descent (plummeting). It's pretty crazy to be unaware of the physics involved in bikes coming down hill at that speed, I certainly would not like to run into anyone like that. Sadly there were several accidents like that during the day, I hope those people are ok.

2pm - The lunch spot was heaving with big queues for food. Proper sandwiches, made to your specification and loads of coleslaw, fruit and suchlike. I'd planned a 45 minute rest there and was pleased to see so many riders still around who seemed quite like minded. Then i began re-reading the race notes and map and realized that the checkpoint ahead, Woodfords, some 14 miles away, closed at 16:00 and involved some climbing. And the one after, Pickets Junction, was another 5 miles on from that, straight up, climbing 1,500ft, and that closed at 17:15. It slowly dawned on me that my fellow riders, lounging around and having lunch were not actually going to do the 5th pass at all. As the realization dawned I got my act together, filled up my water and Cytromax bottles and got on with it. Several people had the same idea and it soon seemed we were the last group to be heading for the Carson Pass.

15:50 Arrived in Woodfords after a surprisingly tough ride against the clock. Didn't go to the rest stop but continued on and up. The next five miles were at 7.5% climb, not too hard under normal circumstances but I was very tired by now. On the way I got to meet a few people in a similar state to me, and we took turns at being last on the course as we went. We'd decided that they were unlikely to turn us back at Pickets if we didn't make the cut off time but I pushed on regardless, though it was extremely hard and by now my left knee had started to play up, almost making me forget my backside.

17.05 Arrived at Picket's and as we did we were warned that the California Highway Patrol were shutting the route in 5 minutes. Got some water, a bit of food, some pain killers for the knee (and I secretly hoped for some relief for my backside too), went to the toilet. Dashed out, leapt on the bike and just made it past the CHP before they shut the event down. The last thing we heard was a bit depressing, after the long hard haul to Pickets, "only 9.2 miles to the top". Riding 9 miles up hill is not fun, though I was very relieved that some of these were at a very shallow gradient. On one such gradient I noticed my knees were quite bunched up and i was pretty despondent to realised my seat post had slipped down. Wondering how long it had been like that as I had been plodding on trance-like, was a little depressing. A low seat height means inefficiency and stress on the joints especially the knees. At this point I diagnosed the cause of my, not unfamiliar, knee problem (several of us had similar problems doing the UK coast-to-coast offroad, which I think was partly due to cleat boots and partly overdoing it).

Despite the pain from knee and backside, it was impossible to ignore the beauty of the mountains we were amongst, using the excuse for a photo (backside) break. Looking at the mountains I was also mindful of the enormity of the task ahead, 9 more miles up to the snow line again.

I'd chatted with one of the other guys struggling to the top, during a backside break, and he told me the top few miles were steep and that you could see the pass from a way away and that although it looked near, it would take 45 minutes. He was quite right!

Things got hard about 3 miles from the top. The pain from the knee had erased the pain from the backside and pedalling with the left leg was very painful. From about 2 miles to the top I was ready to quit. As I stopped, stretched and rested the knee, things felt fine and walking was pain free. Back on the bike was excruciating painful, much worse after I'd stopped. I decided to unclip my left foot from the pedal and rest it there and push the last 2 miles on my right leg, which was totally pain free. But any kind of pedalling movement on the left knee was extremely painful. I looked for an easy way to immobalize my left leg, perhaps rest it on something, but that seemed quite dangerous as I was very tired and the roads were now open to traffic. Much of the traffic consisted of tired cyclists heading home in their cars, honking horns in support. It somewhat baffles me why people do that, the last thing I want as I struggle uphill is a huge truck honking at me with occupants shouting from the windows!

I thought about walking the last 2 miles but it seemed so much like cheating that I couldn't face it. Loads of people coming down shouted "almost there" but that "almost" seemed to last forever. Crying out at every rotation of the pedal I realized I'd overdone it today and needed to have trained more for something like this, however determined my mind can be. I wondered how on earth I would get back. Down the Carson Pass would be fine but it was another 6 miles, mostly uphill (500ft) to the finish, and I needed to be there by 20.30pm to be in before the course closed. I started goal-setting like Joe Simpson talked about in 'Touching the Void'. 70 pedal rotations were about 0.1 of a mile, though as I got slower this increased. Over the last 2 miles I was doing 3mph, so it didn't take Einstein to figure out that I was still a long way from the top.

Finally the guy who was last overtook me and though I'd said I didn't mind being last (it wasn't a race), part of my motivation had been to not be at the back holding up the people trying to close the event.

19.30 Finally rounded the bend and saw some parked cars outside a hut thinking, 'that must be it'. It wasn't but over the smallest of rises (still painful) and a gentle descent I found the last rest stop and got my 5th sticker and coveted 5 pass pin. The rest stop was all but packed up but I was issued with the promised ice cream, and one of the volunteers sorted me out more pain killers. A bit of food and some water and we were encouraged to be on our way, so the stragglers set off (I just had time to snap a quick photo from the top - you can't avoid the beauty of a place like this). We were only about a minute apart but I didn't see them all the way down. I hurtled down Carson Pass at over 40mph mostly. I shot past Picket's but regretted my rudeness to the volunteers, one of whom had dashed across the road to hold out some water for me, and I missed the shouts of the Motorcycle support rider too. Eventually got to Woodfords and shot past that one too, again volunteers shouting something at me (I think I should have gone through that checkpoint instead of around it). I did have time to notice one of my companions was sitting relaxed at Woodfords, seemly having finished, though there were 6 miles to go. So I was on my own for the last 6 miles.

The 6 miles were not as painful as I expected but I was against the clock and could see I was unlikely to make the last 6 miles in time to be off the course by 20.30. So I had to push on. At this point the motorcycle support rider began to get a bit more conspicuous, at once following me in the cycle lane, then pulling ahead and waiting up. Eventually I pulled over for a chat with him. He was quite concerned about it getting dark and was keen to get me off the track. Another support car pulled up too and the bearded guy who had dashed across the road at Pickets was driving. He was great, after saying I looked "punked" and asking me whether I'd been eating, he urged me to finish and shoved a pile of Pringles in my hand (salt is quite important on events like this). Marshals who know what to do to make you finish, and understand the need to finish are fantastic, and he was one of them. I eventually got to my car, which was a bit before the finish line and called it a day (I explained to the support guys that this was where I'd started from that morning, so I'd done the distance). They were happy for me to finish and get off the course and both shook my hand. The bearded guy remembered me from when I registered (not so many Brits around) so it was kind of nice for him to congratulate me on finishing!

Pretty keen to get a 'finishers' cycle top I drove to the event HQ. The store closed at 20.30 and I was a little late getting there but I managed to procure one after a bit of haggling (they aren't really available until the results are all checked) and after showing my 5 stickers. I think vanity must have partially motivated my speed near the end, I was keen to get a shirt! Though if wearing it implies that this is the sort of thing I do for fun, I think I'll hide it somewhere.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the day, was the enthusiasm, professionalism and staying power of the volunteers and there were many of them, none grumpy. They stood around all day doing hard jobs, serving big crowds of sweaty cyclists, in the heat. Among them were the very best of those who know how to read tired faces, know when enough is enough, know when you've got a bit more in you yet, empathize with how important it is to finish and can do some small but important things to get you there - like giving you a handful of pringles a big smile and telling you that you look "punked" (whatever that means), even driving behind you to the finish. ALL, very much appreciated.

I was last to finish but that really doesn't make any difference - I rode 129 miles and 16,000ft in a day for the first time ever. The knee is ok already (until I pedal) but I have a BSA!

Some Statistics (from dubious bike computer)
Total Duration (with breaks): 15 hours 20 minutes (5:05-20:25)
Total Pedalling Time: 12 hours 24 minutes
Average Speed: 10.6 mph
Maximum Speed: 48.9 mph
Total Distance: 132.4 miles
Diet: Cereal, Bananas, Fig Rolls, Crisps, Sandwiches, Cliff Bars, Melon, Cytromax drink (5 Litres?), Water (5 Litres?); Sandwich, Fruit, Biscuits, Pain Killers

Saturday, July 09, 2005

View from the porch

This is the view from my front porch, taken at night. The foothills are about 7 miles away.

Getting ready for the Death Ride

How king of cool, Doug, would be impressed with my preparations for the Death Ride, mainly comprising of dressing up in my new team top, sporting my dew rag (which is very good) and not really training very much. I'm about as prepared as I look in the photo (though not as uncool as I was on the day).

Friday, July 08, 2005

Elation and Outrage

It's funny being on the wrong time zone but nice to know that my American colleagues here have been well clued up on the news, having considerable empathy and understanding about what's going on back home. Another just walked past and asked about my "buds back home".

Yesterday I had an email from my old friend, Liz, telling me that "London Won" and I knew what she meant. How fantastic for London to win the Olympic bid, how fantastic an effort on behalf of the team and how great for London to go on with its needed regeneration. How great to see a bit of national pride in something, instead of our typical national ambivalence or worse. Just look at the whole Millenium Dome thing, ruined by Press prejudices. With an open mind I fail to see how anyone could not have be impressed by the Dome, or for example, could fail to notice how oddly collaborative it feels to be thrust into a game of mega table football with another 30 people on each team on each side of the table. There were a few low points, like 'The Body' and the legacy was ill thought though, though how different that would have been with a positive Press behind it. You have only to look at The Eden Project to see success from solid positive Press and another inspirational idea.

But this Olympics thing is great, something fantastic for us all to look forward to and aspire to. Paris is said to have more 50m swimming pools than the whole of England, so it is a great opportunity to force our investment in sport. I spent my whole young life quite hating sport, or being pretty disinterested in the whole thing. Growing up I am amazed at how it can bring people together in important ways, and how my brain feels clearer from participating in some sport myself sometimes.

Then this morning I learned that some misdirected mindless group bombed London. A long anticipated attack. One bomb outside a statue of Ghandi I understand, how ironic that we cannot learn successful ways to change the world from people like that, than mindless hate-inspiring extremists. It's hard being away today. It's hard to understand the point of an attack like this, I see no objective but generating hate.

Today I liked reading some of the things Red Ken had to say - it's nice to have a politician who says what he thinks, gets things done, and does not just 'make a statement', shame that he is too often in trouble for this. This is a terrible tradegy, particularly for friends and families of those killed and injured. But I have the strongest feeling that Brits are much much bigger than something like this and it will not inspire misdirected hatreds in return. Having spent lots of time in London recently, the richness of our multi-cultural society, especially there, is great to see and seems universally appreciated. I hope Muslims and all others who make up our British society, will continue to be universally valued as part of the richness we have. I hope they, nor others, become viewed with suspicians only genuinely attributable to a scant handful of misguided extremists who don't even understand their own 'mission' and have 'hatred' as their only goal.

I see the Olympic bid celebrations have been cancelled, which seems appropriate. But I hope the attitude of not bowing to terrorists prevails, and does not change what we have. Ultimately, lets us get back to celebrating "Coe's greatest victory".

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Big Wind

As I was driving to Staples tonight to get myself a wall planner, I was waiting at a junction and the car felt like someone was rocking it violently from side to side as I waited. Turns out the wind had got up - big wind here! Let's hope for none of that for the ride on saturday!

End of an odd eco-saga at work

As part of my personal crusade to try and get my employer to buy responsible paper supplies that are either recycled or FSC rate, I seem to have become a bit of an environmental consultant. Someone phoned me from France asking me where to buy responsible wood pallets. Somewhat taken aback by the request quite a way outside my normal job (though central to my hobbies outside work), I did manage to give them some advice and potential suppliers (for example from the UK FSC Product Finder).

They told me today that they specified FSC wood on the contracts and today closed those deals with 5 suppliers who will supply FSC pallets and even re-use some.

Wow! Sometimes you just need to bend the ear of the right person and magic happens. I'm very impressed. I spend years fighting and fighting to get people to understand that some printer paper comes from illegal logging and is easily traceable to illegal indonesian logging. And then one day someone just phones out of the blue and asks about pallets, I dig out a few suppliers and background material and whoosh - these guys have changed th way we are doing business.

I wish I could find a way to capture that magic and re-apply it! This seems little to do with corporate behaviour, more just finding someone in control who is willing to listen to environmental concerns and do something about it.

Admin De Jour

A little light on admin today but the Fleet car folks sent me some more paperwork for the car to aid me in my quest to get it formerly identified!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bears in the Hills

Heard a great story last night. Nick, from work, drove home yesterday and when he arrived there was a big black bear standing in front of his garage. He honked the horn and flahed the lights but the bear wouldn't go. Then another bear came out of the garage, a cub but the big bear wouldn't go. It wasn't until the other 2 cubs came out of the garage that they all took off!


At the top of Kingsbury Grade, where I cycled on Saturday, is where these bears were! Fantastic - must try to see if I can do a wildlife walk or something.

deathride - elevation details

For those that are interested, next weekend's 'fun' is 129 miles riding this profile (around 16,000ft of height gain). You will see some of the peaks look symmetrical - that's because you go up one mountain, down the other side, turn around and go back and do the other side of it. Quite a tough mind game that one. After lunch you have a choice of finishing with 4 passes or doing another 40-50 miles taking in the last pass. My brain is set on finishing the event but in that heat I don't know that I'll manage that - in distance alone it is further than I have every cycled in a day!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Admin De Jour

Eventually found a post box! (though got told off for parking in the wrong place)

Went to get my car titled or VINed or something but didnt have the appropriate paperwork. So back to the fleet car service to see what they have to say about that then. Another wasted hour messing around with that.

Took my bicycle in for a service too, a bit odd to be without it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Training ride for Deathride - did 75 miles & 2 passes (Kingsbury - 2,500ft gain; Luther - 1,200ft gain)

With some trepidation I set out a little later than my planned 5.30am start. I got away just after 6.15 I think. Beautiful time of the morning to be out, nice and cool with great views of the mountains to the west as the sun hits them. The previous night I had finished the last preparations of my bike, adding an odometer, second water cage and my trusty bar-bag.

I get a great view of Job's Peak and Job's sister from the front of my house, these are about 10,500ft. My mission for today was a circuit up Kingsbury Grade to the nearest northern pass around Job's peak (starting from the house at 4,500ft), and then down to Lake Tahoe for breakfast at Red Hut before heading South around the lake and behind Job's peak before heading up to Luther pass at 7,400ft and back. Really a complete circuit around this mountain.

Approaching the grade along long straight roads beside farms ("ranches") a few birds started to accompany me - I could see them in the road's long shadows of the early morning flying just over my head. Cute at first and then disconcerting - were they about to start peaking at my head, or perhaps after something to eat and so sure I would fail even this early in the morning?! Pretty cool to see them swooping alongside me and then in the shadows over my head though.

This next picture shows the road up the pass, which is called Kingsbury Grade. A somewhat daunting prospect on the approach but it was a fantastic ride, not too steep, nice and wide and pretty quiet.An early reminder of why cycling is so great!

Looking down on the plain towards Minden and Gardnerville.

Making some progress up to the pass. Quite easy so far but the grade is quite easy and the heat of the sun hasn't really stoked up yet.

Made it! The pass is just about where the Heavenly Ski Resort is. Didn't get here without a few significant problems with my chain near the top. By now my hands were covered in oil but I found a bike shop just opening on the other side of the pass and they fixed it all up for $5 - just a bit of adjustment of the gears (though it seemed worse, chainset doesn't look great).

An easy downhill to South Lake Tahoe (after first eating a stack of pancakes with eggs and syrup at Red Hut - finding a good answer to "how do you want your eggs?" would be wise, I have no idea what "medium over easy" means.) Anyhow South Lake Tahoe is a built up holiday place with Casinos, noise and traffic, even gridlocked traffic. Unpleasant, though the beach was nearby - you can see why this place is popular for watersports.

I spied what I thought was a loose dog jumping over fences around some back streets in South Lake Taho (the bike track goes down some grim backstreets). I soon realised it was probably a Coyote and as it hit the road ahead I had visions of being chased sheep dog style by a Coyote but it pretty soon disappeared. A few milliseconds later I realised I should be ultra careful it wasn't being followed by some gun toting local on a mission (Coyote's apparently eat dogs around here and so are not too popular). Mind you, I'm not so sure about what people tell me about wildlife around here any more, someone said, "ah, no snakes around here, nothing for them to eat" - well this place is teeming with wildlife, such as ground squirrels, which I'm sure would make a tasty snake snack. I actually saw a snake skin on the way up Kingsbury grade so I'm being more careful where I step now. Anyhow, these birds startled me just after the Coyote had. Is this a bluebird? Certainly was very blue!

I dithered for several hours in South Lake Tahoe, many of them looking for a bike shop "at the Y by Raley's". Gridlocked traffic with 2 lanes in each direction didn't help finding the place but in the end, the shop had what I wanted, a Specialized Body Geometry Saddle which although a bit harder than the one I used on Land's End to John O'Groats, at least prevented certain bits from turning numb, which are really not supposed to get numb! When I came out of Raley's with my Gallon of water (really) and meager snacks, there was a guy with dreads looking at my bike. Turned out to be Jay a British guy who moved to Tahoe for the skiing 20 years ago. Nice block who is a pretty keen cyclist and a climbing guide. He gave me a really neat route up to Luther Pass, which I was very appreciative of. The picture shows a waterfall at the side of the road. I had just enough time to pull out my camera and click once before I was covered in mosquitoes, so I hurriedly moved back into the scorching heat of the day to get away from them (mosquitoes seem to like the direct sunlight about as much as I do and though I share their love of the shade, sharing that space with them was uncomfortable respite from the sun.

Ultimately made Luther pass but at 7,740 it wasn't that hard from the Lake (6, 500ft). By now it was extremely hot and my water had all but run out with some miles ahead and few signs of life ahead for 20 miles. I called Kathryn from here only to realise I couldn't really speak very well. The dryness causes some awful solid mucus build up in my nose and throat, this time preventing me speaking properly or without pain (a description I'm sure Montaigne would approve of!). A future tip for the solitary Nevada cyclist would be to practice using the voice before attempting a phone call.

By now, hot but I needed to be out in the heat to get used to it, so not too bad. Mostly downhill from here but not without a few visual spectacles to keep me going (actually they kept me stopping, very regularly, to take photos!).

Some interesting flowers at 7,000ft.


Found a little outpost on an old Pony Express trail (now a highway) - you know you're in the wild west when the local shop noticeboard features a "lost mule last seen heading for the trail head"!

An finally a real sign of the old Pony Express - perhaps put there for tourists.

On balance an excellent day and an excellent reminder of how fantastic to travel by bicycle. The last 10 miles in the scorching afternoon heat was quite hard going, even on the flat. How I will do 16,000ft of climbing and 129 miles next Saturday is somewhat beyond me but I'll have a go and will blitz it early to avoid the afternoon heat - at least that's the plan.

Was pretty surprised to find my helmet and bandana completely dry when I got off the bike - but I showered nonetheless! And then slept. Joined Blockbuster. Watched Troy and then slept a lot more!

Hello Tahoe!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Admin De Jour

Insurance form to be filled in, with about 4 exra bits of information, so I can claim for my $35 mouse which was lost by the moving company (expected admin costs of claim $300+).

Rent money fiasco. Still not sure whether I get paid the rent or whether the landlord gets it direct but my back details, bank address, etc had to be sought out and sent to various bodies.

Temporary car plates arrived, so I can drive it again.

Lots of debate going on about how my time will be cross charged - I mainly have my hands over my ears as I chant LA LA LA at high volume. I'm sure someone will tell me when it is sorted out.

It goes on, never bored with this much admin to do.

External ISO Auditor recognises User Experience Design excellence

ISO auditors checked out our Cambridge office yesterday and the guy apparently said that he was particularly impressed with User Experience Design using the Cooper process, claiming it way above any best practice he had ever seen.

That has to be the best email I've had in a while.

Awesome effort on the part of the teams there and fantastic recognition of our Cooper Goal-Directed Design process. Splendid!

Edd loves sugar - check out this BBC analysis

Edd has reaffirmed his devotion to sugar in a recent email. Edd, you need to check out this analysis from the BBC on the predicted effects of eating junk food. I trust this is forewarning enough, though of course eventually your sugary diet will make your teeth fall out too!

Multi-coloured fruit loops for food!

Strange New Raddish Habit

I seem to have fallen into a strange new habit of eating organic raddishes when I get home from work. A strange enough habit to write about on my blog and share with the world I'd say!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Gear Shopping - Big Daddy's Bike Shop

Went to see Big Daddy (Keith) today to get some bits for my bike ready for the Deathride training this weekend. Scott said to mention his name, which did indeed seem to qualify me for the predicted surcharge!

- new seat, Bontrager;
- 2 inner tubes;
- 2 bottle cages;
- 1 water bottle (Big Daddy Branded - and doesn't fit the cages!);
- headband/bandana (WHITE);
- bike computer (has temperature on it - I'm sure I shouldn't know)
- cytomax energy powder (I thought they were saying Cider Max, so was a bit disappointed) for drink bottle (should come with a toothbrush)
- e-fuel - gel to mix with drink;

Big Daddy reckoned my bike needed a service but am not too sure. Will find out at the weekend. Got a couple of potential rides, one of 60 miles and one of 75 miles, both with quite big climbs.

Nice to be back on a bike!

Admin De Jour - car, cross charging and money

Fleet service have now managed to issue a temporary plate so my car should be on the road again tomorrow, allowing me to get some kind of querky paperwork or other for which I have to pay $1.

Cross charging faff going on amongst finance people - all a bit over my head but they do their best.

Trying to figure out how to get some money into $. Laurie at Bank of America kindly reminded me that if I want to get a credit card I might need to put some money in my account! So nice! Nationwide Credit Card looks like it may be the way to do it, costs 1.5% of the transaction (plus interest from the day of withdrawal) and yesterdays rate was 1.81 (though $ to £ is the worst today than it has been for months!).

Identified by black t-shirt

Someone introduced themselves to me at work today as they saw me leaving the building on my bike in a black t-shirt (they heard my accent too - someone else was telling me about the shirt). Black is not the best colour to wear outside in the desert! Need new wardrobe, apparatently Marshall's or somewhere is the place to shop.