Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

While recently searching for something to add to date night for the wifey's birthday, I came across a show at Seattle's Paramount Theater. I know Erin's musical tastes pretty well and Empire of the Sun definitely have the dance beat formula she likes. At first glance I was thinking, "you've got to be joking, right?" They look like something from a B-rated Avatar on Broadway show. Lots of gold and other shiny bits, headdresses, makeup... Uber cheese sauce.

But then I gave them a listen. I couldn't help but like it. Part Prince, part MGMT, part Michael Jackson, and something I don't even know. So off we went last night to see them live.

I'll be damned, it was actually really good.

Live, they spare no expense in props and lighting and even have four dancers throughout the set who frequently change costumes.

I've been finding more information on Luke Steele and he was in a band called The Sleepy Jackson, which may be even better and definitely not so over-the-top. And I thought the only good music from Australia was AC/DC, INXS, and Midnight Oil...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mekong Hella - The Band is Back Together

Jon Bailey is a unique individual with many talents. I had the privilege of becoming good friends with him while living in Durango, Colo., and we've remained as such for many years. We spent a lot of time riding bikes, creating art, and playing music in the "Blue House." He's one of those guys who can look at something that is broken and instantly come up with a plan and find the means to fix it, hence why he's a great bike mechanic who's putting together old donated bikes at Durango Cyclery under the moniker Recyclery. He also has an insane amount of talent as an artist.

On the bike, JB will go faster and ride more miles than most anyone, all while throwing in a trick or two in the most demanding technical sections. One of the first adventures I went on after we met was a little thing called the "Freedom Tour." A group of five of us including modern day legends Steve Fassbinder, Bob Gregorio, and Thad Ferrell, set off toward the open expanse of southeast Utah on roads less traveled. I had just recently met all of them and Bob suggested I join in a few days prior.

On the first day of that tour I came to the realization that I was way out of my league. They could ride all day long, sunup to sundown, without even thinking about it - and we climbed some pretty intense roads including the Moki Dugway and the Burr Trail Switchbacks. One night around a poached campsite outside of Natural Bridges everyone suddenly realized that I was riding a double chainring road bike setup on my Gunnar Crosshairs and had a good laugh at my expense (they were all riding mountain bike gearing, i.e. triple chainrings and smaller gears). For that I earned a little respect and it was on that trip that I learned what self-sustained touring was all about and I've been sufficiently hooked ever since. 

Yesterday I got a call from Jon telling me he had a three-hour layover in Seattle so we made a plan to hook up for dinner and beers. He was heading home after another epic trip with a few unsuspecting individuals. It was great to catch up and realize that no matter how much time lapses between visits, we are bros for life. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Derailleurless in Seattle

So the wife has been in China for two weeks exploring and sightseeing, which makes me a bachelor! Sounds awesome, right? Time to let loose and do all those manly things. I had all of these plans to do so much while she was gone. Things like visiting friends, maybe make some new ones, playing and recording music, going out to eat on the cheap ... you get the idea. Instead, I have been laying low at the house and catching up on sleep, eating easy to prep food and watching TV; I'm now up to date on Sons of Anarchy and I've finished Weeds. Damn if I ain't a ton of fun. A baller. 

I did do one thing I'm quite fond of, though. That one thing is converting my Gunnar Crosshairs into a singlespeed cyclocross machine. After ten years of ownership and having countless different setups that include the Gunnar being a road bike, a touring bike (with a triple chainring), a geared 'cross bike and faithful fendered commuter, she's now a bonafide simple steed. 

Perty, idn't she? (note the "hands holding a malamute" in the corner)

As most cyclists making the switch know, the "magic gear" is an extreme rarity and a bike with vertical dropouts will undoubtedly require the use of a chain tensioner. Not so for this project. I found the perfect 38-18 setup that adequately keeps a tight chain line and I couldn't be happier. I raced it last Sunday at the famed Silver Lake course, north of Seattle. It was a hoot and made me realize how perfect singlespeeds are for racing 'cross. No mis-shifts, no mishaps and no overthinking. Just riding as fast and efficient as possible.

And you know what? I'm not missing anything, except for my wife. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Name is Mud

This past weekend's cyclocross race at Lake Sammamish State Park was everything you'd expect from a CX event in the Pacific Northwest. It had rained all weekend and the course featured lots of mud, wet grass, turns, a stretch of sand, heckling from spectators, and more. It was miserable. Worst results I've ever posted in any race. If I really cared I'd probably be pissed and hire a trainer who could help me utilize my VO2 max, but whatever. I do what I can with what I've got and rarely "train" for racing. I normally show up late, put on my fancy pants and ride to the start line at the last second. Someone yells "go" and everyone starts moving forward, some much fast than others; most faster than me. 

Photo by Tassie Orem Kowal

It's funny, this 'cross racing thing. I like to think that I excel in longer efforts when time is measured in hours instead of the allotted 45 minutes that CX races give. Every year I think I'll train hard and post some sweet results and end up with only minimal progression. I usually end up in the middle of the pack, on a good day. Not so this past weekend. I fell apart before I even started and once I "Pete Rosed" it on my belly in some slimy mud after trying to avoid a tree I really fell apart. I cussed like a drunken sailor who just realized he lost his wallet for the remainder and so I sat upright, contemplating throwing in the towel. But that's not me. I don't quit unless there's serious injury involved so I kept going, with the goal of overtaking a fellow teammate who is at about the same level as I am, although he's got two kids and I don't. Deciding to put my head down and give it a go, I chased him for three laps and within the last 1/4 of the final lap, I had him within my sights. I was 30 yards behind and gaining rapidly before I hit the deck again around a subtle but slick corner. Shit. 

It wasn't fun. In fact, I don't remember at any point thinking, "this is great!" No. It sucked. The entire time. And so I'll do it again.