Thursday, December 13, 2007

I know what I did last summer

And now you will too. I actually spent the vast majority of my summer on the bike. I logged over 3200 miles since May of this year. I did a number of things many non-cyclists will think silly and even I wonder why I did a few of them. I think fun is the main reason behind a lot of what I did. A sense of accomplishing something personal is another reason. I love being able to set a goal for myself on a ride and then getting the gratification of hitting that goal when I'm done a few hours later. It's something of an immediate gratification. So, with that being said, here are a few of the interesting things I did this summer on my bike.

1) I failed at my first attempt to do a century ride. Why would I start of my list with a failure? This just goes to show you that some things aren't meant to be easily attained no matter how well you think you're prepared. Some friends put on a ride called the 10 trail tour. It was meant to touch parts of most of the paved trails in the greater metro area. The day started out rainy and cool, but dried off by the time we started. As the ride was open to anyone who wanted to show up, we attracted a few very new riders. Alas, the new riders, the weather, and a general relaxed attitude towards the ride came together in a perfect storm to dash my hopes of hitting that magical 100 mile mark for a single ride (aka a century ride). We ended up around 70 miles total and I succumbed to the realization that my bike fit was pretty far off as well. All told, we still had fun on the ride and I knew I'd be better prepared for my next try.

Here are a few of us hearty soulds ready for a nice sloppy day.

2) I rode through rain and thunderstorms. I know most people don't think much about getting out in the rain when you're driving somewhere, but you definitely think twice about being out in it when you're not surrounded by the comfortable confines of your car or house. There were several accidental rain rides and a few purposeful jaunts in the rain. I managed to learn I hate going down hills in the rain for fear of my front tire losing control and seeing my crumpled body skidding like a jelly donut with the red filling spewing out across the pavement. Other than that, as long as it isn't too cold, the rain really isn't that bad. I've ridden with and without rain gear. The rain gear really makes a difference if it's cold, but in the summer, it's actually an interesting change of pace to ride with the rain covering you. I also learned that lightning and thunder are excellent motivators for increasing your average speed!

3) I rode 2 days of Ragbrai. I rode with my friends from Team Cow. They have an old school bus converted to a RV/Camper fittingly painted like a Holstein cow complete with the requisite horns on the front. They're easy to spot as you'll most likely never encounter another couple riding a custom carbon fiber tandem painted like a cow. They graciously invited me along on their annual pilgrimage across the state. I only had enough time to ride for 2 days, but I had a blast while I was there. Something about riding with 10,000 plus other cyclists down back highways through rural Iowa is just a hoot. I rode about 75 miles each day and on the second day was lucky enough to speak personally with Lance Armstrong! He mentioned something about "on your left" as he rocketed past me with a few other riders pumping along in a pace line. I tried vainly to catch their draft, but by the time I accelerated to match their speed, they were too far away and I'd never have been able to maintain that pace for long as it were.

4) I did a century ride, double metric century, and rode on a racetrack all in the same day. I took part in the first of what I hope to be annual Track and Back bike rides. The entry fee was a bit on the steep side, but they did have a good lunch (for the first handful of riders), a good dinner, and the proceeds all went to a good cause. The start was a blast as it was my first experience with using the police to blockade the roads through to the edge of town. Against the advice of my friends riding their tandem on this ride, I actually rode to the start of this ride from my house. It was a short but hilly few miles to the start and I figured I'd still have enough pep after the ride to get back home..... The morning was a beautiful crisp August morning without too much heat or humidity to start off. As we rode I stayed with the front pack and as we approached the first turn I suddenly found myself all alone off the front. What was this? Did I suddenly find magical powers in my legs that beamed me ahead of the other riders? No, it was a simple missed turn by the lead rider that sent the pack splitting in two directions. I just happened to be the first person that actually knew the route. My joy was shortly crushed as the racers in the group whizzed past on the first of many climbs that day.

The course consisted of good ole Iowa Rollers. For those that haven't ridden in Iowa, an Iowa roller is just big enough that you get a good run down one hill, but not enough to get you more than about halfway up the next. I locked in with a group running a good pace and drafted them through the hills. Once we hit a flat I broke off with a few other riders running strong and enjoyed a healthy pace out to our halfway point.

As I mentioned earlier, we got to ride an an actual race track. It was a lot of fun riding around the oval at the Iowa Speedway and consequently I snagged a few good pictures taken by the event photographer.

We were to complete 7 or 8 laps in order to get the full 100 miles for the day, but since I'd ridden to the start I only road 3 laps and took off. As I alluded to earlier, there was a snafu with lunch. The first 10-15 people to arrive were welcomed by Subway sandwiches, pop, and snacks. However, the food ran out shortly with no replacements in site. We later learned that an error was made in the delivery of the food and lunch showed up sometime a while after I had all ready hit the road back home.

I felt good on the start of my return trip. Shortly, that feeling would be replaced by struggle. The day had heated up and a strong headwind was now bearing down. As I fought to keep my speed up while going DOWN hill, I wondered why the weather was being so cruel. Miraculously, about the time I was begging for it to end, a pace line pulled through and I caught the tail. Local cat 1 racer Lou W was leading the train and we were all hanging on for dear life (or at least I was). We rolled into the next town and thankfully a sag van arrived with fresh water and snacks again. A stopped for a short breather and took off again while most of the other riders were still hanging out.

The rest of the ride was pretty lonesome as I passed occasional single riders, rode through a brief but windy rainstorm, and found out the last sag stop for water was running late. As I rolled up the last big hill before heading into town, Lou again passed me. This singular moment stands out as the best part of the ride. I'm struggling up this hill and the speed at which he passed along with his comment of, "You're doing good" struck me as monumentally funny. The only retort I came up with as he blazed away was something along the lines of, "that's just not right!" I'm sure it's not nearly as funny to the rest of you, but the scene in my head is downright hysterical.

I finally rolled into the starting point and found myself amongst the first 10-15 finishers and felt pretty good about the whole ordeal. My friends on the tandem were all ready there and I guess my appearance was a bit humorous as they started in with the jabs about having to ride home and how I was contemplating adding another 25 miles on to get my first 200K as well.

I'll admit that I did sink down in the booth completely drained and blanked out for a good while. However, after we were fed and my water was replenished, I decided to go for it.

I bid my friends goodbye and headed off to the bike trail in search of 200K on the odometer. I felt good again at the start, but quickly that led to feeling drained and wondering why the hell I was even out here in lieu of hitting a nice hot shower at home. Sheer will power and stubbornness got me through the remaining miles. I did end up cheating my original plan though and road all my miles on the trail and called for a ride home in lieu of riding home as part of my miles. I couldn't stand the thought of any more hills on my dead legs. It just wasn't going to happen.

That's more than enough for one post. I'll make sure to catch you up on a few more rides and some other happenings from the summer soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two wheeled fun?

Enough all ready with the past and let's get on to something a little more present. At least this news is only 8 months stale. Along about the middle of April I was headed home from another of my seemingly endless trips to my latest jobsite at the Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo. The weather was nothing short of beautiful for that time of year, sunny, mid 60's or 70's, and a bright blue sky. An urge hit me that I hadn't felt for several years. OK, judging by the layer of dust I later found, it may have been even longer than that. In any case, I decided today was the perfect day to break out our bikes and go for a ride with my wife.

I called ahead to tell my wife so she could get ready. I was figuring it would be a nice simple process of getting the bikes down, possibly putting some air in the tires and heading out. Little did I know that a few years (or more) of sitting in the garage can play havoc on all sorts of bike parts, let alone trying to find your helmet and shoes after that period of time. So several hours later we finally hit the trails. I'd like to tell you that first ride was an epiphany of epic proportions and I suddenly found my life in focus with a clear purpose again. I distinctly remember the weather was nice, but other than that it was a lot of work, waiting on the wife, and fiddling with my bike to get the gears to work properly. So began my tenuous agreement to start riding again. I think we made it a whopping 8 miles that day only to find we were sore in places we didn't know existed the next day.

At least I had a smile on my face because, overall, I did enjoy the ride. I actually decided that day to start riding more often. Little did I know the beast that was about to be unleashed. You see, once I get into a hobby, I tend to go the whole 9 yards and usually a little further. After a few more rides and learning that I was not a patient person when it comes to waiting on others (my wife), I did a bit of research and decided we needed a tandem. The theory was perfect: I could work as hard as I wanted, she could work as little as she needed, and we'd both get there at the same time. Perfect! We started scouring the local bike shops only to discover that damn these things were expensive. However, we suddenly found ourselves at one shop that had a barely used Trek T900 that was just traded in on something a little sportier. They were selling it for a song and it all ready had a few extra goodies like a cyclocomputer on it. We took a short ride around the parking lot which incidentally was just long enough to rip the cuff off Miranda's pant leg after running it through the sprocket. Add in a few more imnutes of debate and we decided to buy it.

After a few fits and starts, we eventually got the hang of riding together. We even managed to put over 200 miles on it this year. That's a far cry from what I had in me head when we originally bought it, but it's a solid start and I'm sure a lot better than many other couples do when they buy a tandem. We're still married and still have the tandem too! Here's a shot from mid summer.

So the tandem was just the start of my cycling addiction this year. Early in May I found there were a number of weekly group rides in our area. As luck or possibly fate would have it, I found myself alone with nothing to do on a Wednesday night that had a ride scheduled. I showed up not sure what to expect and was a bit concerned by the amount of spandex, high dollar rides, and mostly athletic people that greeted me. I nervously unloaded my old steed. I should mention here that my old steed is a rigid frame mid 90's mountain bike that has never had any real maintenance done and I bought it from a pawn shop back in 1997 or so. In any case, I pedalled up to the group where I was greeted by a middle aged gal and some others as I asked where the slow group was. I ended up with the medium to slow group and pretty much got my doors blown off the entire ride by groups of middle aged women on cruiser bikes with tennis shoes. Crap, there goes my image.....

My next foray into the world of group rides would actually turn out to be the beginning of the end. Again, I broke out my trusty green steed and turned up for a ride the following week. This was a different group of people and since I was finally starting to get my legs under me, I at least did a passable job of trying to keep up while not vomiting in the bushes. As one rider sprinted off the front about halfway through the ride, I uttered the phrase to a fellow rider, "I wish my bike accelerated like that." As it just so happened, my fellow rider was the ride leader and manager of the bike shop where we started the ride. He kindly offered up a test ride on an actual road bike. Anyone else addicted to cycling knows exactly where this story is headed. One ride and I was hooked. I took him up on two rides the next week and knew it was a matter of time before I would have my own road bike.

I started searching in earnest for a bike that I liked. I tried all the local shops, I scoured Craigslist, and then being the frugal bastard that I am, got a great deal on a used bike through Craigslist. I picked up a full carbon bike that was a couple years old, but had less than 500 miles on it for about half the price it cost new. Being the wise consumer that I am, I figured this would be the most expensive part of my bike habit. There are few things in life as wrong as I was....

I don't know how much I've spent on clothes, shoes, helmets, tires, saddles, Gu, and you name it since that fateful day in May of this year. I've done my research and tried to be careful in what I bought, but somewhere along the way I just went horribly wrong and my spending spiraled out of control. I now know why cyclists aren't car guys, we don't have room for that much crap in one garage!

So now that I've lamented about all the costs of cycling, how about a few of the gains. There's something about cranking out mile after mile on my bike that just makes me feel alive. It may suck riding through rain, heat, wind, and snow, but there's something at the end of each ride that gives me an enjoyment I can't put into words. I probably spent too much time on my bike this summer, but I truly enjoyed it. I made some great new friends along the way. I visited a few areas I'd probably never have seen if I weren't on a bike. I even managed to meet my goal of losing a few pounds that I'd been packing on over the past few years.

For those that haven't been on a bike since you were a kid or possibly ever. Give it a try. It might not be for you, but if it is, you're in for the ride of your life.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More catch up please

Since you all asked so nicely, oh hell, who am I kidding, nobody asked, but I'll tell you anyways. Here's yet another post dedicated to sitting back in the old easy chair regailing you with tails of my past two years. Let's see, thus far I've covered family and cars so that leaves business and biking. Can I get a woohoo? No? How about a, oh hell, let's just start.

I posted a hint back when I first started this blog about going into an adult industry business. We threw around a bunch of different ideas and even went so far as to look at a few rental spaces. As we guessed, most shut us down before we got past the words "adult oriented". Considering our friends in LA had trouble finding a space, we weren't too convinced that we'd ever find anything here. So, scratch that idea and let's look at something else.

We now were considering doing home parties. Hmm, sex toy parties for couples? What's not to love. Well, other than the fact that we pitched it to various friends and most thought it was an ok idea, we'd be jumping right into competing with some various other established home parties that were catering to similar crowds. Albeit, these other companies target strictly women, we weren't so sure about following this line of thinking.

Now we were starting to get a bit daunted by this task. We were just so enamored with the way our friends set up this awesome business and seemed to enjoy all the freedoms and interests we could see ourselves enjoying as well, we knew we had to find our niche. As luck would have it, we were soon to find that niche. During a visit to our friends in LA, they invited us to attend a lingerie trade show in Vegas with them. From there, an idea was hatched. Why couldn't we do for lingerie what they were doing for sex toys: find quality pieces, give them a personal review and stamp of approval, price them reasonably, and most of all have fun with the process.

We were sure we'd have people beating their way to our webstore in no time flat. Heh, those are the dreams that launch and fail countless businesses. We did some homework, put together a loose plan of attack, and jumped in head first. We went to Vegas on our own, bought a number of pieces for review, met manufacturers, and picked out some product. That's the easy part. We didn't figure that learning how to build a webstore would be the equivalent of setting up a colony on the moon. With neither of us having any real experience with website building, e-commerce, or anything much more advanced than using email or posting pictures on an internet forum, it's been a struggle.

We enlisted the help of some friends and I dug in to do our research on e-commerce. After what seemed like an eternity, we pieced together what we felt was a good start to a website and a fair e-commerce store. We modeled it loosely after our friends site with the store being secondary to the main page of reviews. I'm still not sure if this was a good idea or not, but it's up and running. We did a soft launch in January of 2007 in hopes of hitting the Valentines Day rush. Alas, our dreams of orders flowing through the door as soon as we hit the "open store" button were quickly dimmed. We're still plugging away though and working to make our store a success. We think the idea is the right way to go and eventually we're hoping to build a loyal base of customers along with a rock solid reputation built on quality, fast shipment, and excellent customer service.

Our future plans do include hosting some parties locally and a revamp of the store to make it fit better with our overall theme for the rest of the site. We even have a few ideas up our sleeves for some private label products. So, if you're still reading this and want to peruse the site, store, or even purchase something check out The Possibilities Room. I'll even throw in a bonus here. Use the word "blog" in the coupon code area when you check out and it will save you 15%.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Getting busy part II

Well, since I unavoidably swerved off into sex talk last time, I'll try to keep this a little more on the straight and narrow this time. Really, it was time to get busy. Life was cruising along at a comfortable clip, finances were starting to come into a healthy picture, hobbies were established, we were enjoying our freedoms together and separately. So why not throw a wrench in the works and see how it ends up?

Ahh yes, the talk of children.... The subject was broached, I was found to be in a more receptive mood than in the past, and an exchanging of thoughts occured. I can't say I was fully on board with the entire idea of becoming a parent and even more worried about being a good one at that. After many hours of discussion, some good soul searching, and a good many more hours of discussion, we decided it was indeed time to "get busy" starting a family. See, this is the direction I originally intended this post to go!

We set a rough timeline involving the stopping of birth control and the start of taking our chances. Our timeline was to get pregnant sometime near the center section of 2006 and have a baby by the time 2007 rolled around to join us. Well, we're nothing if not punctual. OK, so that's a flat out lie for anyone that knows my wife. She's nothing, if not 15 minutes late! I swear she'll be late to her own funeral. In any case, it figures she'd be on time for this. As September rolls around, we get the note in the mail saying congratulations you're pregnant. Well, maybe it didn't come by mail, but instead involved attempting to pee on a little strip of paper, following by some sort of archane hyroglyphic reading, and a follow up to the clinic. All in all, we were indeed pregnant. Woohoo, now comes the roller coaster.

A little side note here as I've taken some flack on a forum for talking about pregnancy in the terms of "we" or "us". That's my own personal preference since I believe if you're as involved in the pregnancy as I think a person should be, you actually have as much stake as the woman who is carrying the child.

In any case, we were now pregnant and though we thought we'd prepared by reading and researching, we were in for a world of fun over the next 9 months. We really hadn't gotten to the point of figuring out how we wanted to have this baby. Typical doctrine dictates you pick out an OB clinic, wait 9 months, and head to the hospital. This didn't sound like us. We wanted to take an active role in the pregnancy and use this as a learning opportunity as well. Our search for something different led us into the world of midwives.

For those that haven't a clue about what midwives are, what they do, or have heard from a friend of a friend who had a midwife and delivered in a barn in Coonsfoot, Kentucky, you owe it to yourself to learn a little more about them. We had a truly awesome experience and spent hours with our midwife learning about the pregnancy, learning what we could due to stay healthy, and learning more about our own physiology than we ever thought we'd need to know. Granted, it wasn't an easy process for either of us, though I was definitely less affected than Miranda. There was a new diet to follow, a fair amount of recommended reading, and a number of guidelines to follow. I'm sure there are a number of you reading this and thinking, why would you subject yourselves to so much extra work when you're all ready dealing with being pregnant? Trust me, there were a number of times we asked ourselves and the midwife the same thing. The bottom line was to maintain the health of the mother and baby throughout the pregnancy is the single most important thing you can do.

As we would later piece together, our midwife set us on course for a wonderful pregnancy that resulted in a very healthy baby girl being born on Good Friday of 2007. It was, indeed, a Good Friday! Our close friends know pretty much all the details of the birth, but I'll highlight a few things that astound most people. Labor started around 4 AM Friday morning, we went for a walk completely around Gray's Lake during the course of labor, saw our midwife around noon, and went for an accupuncture appointment after that. Around 3 PM the ball really started rolling and we headed from the accupuncturist back to the birthing center and the care of our midwife. Our beautiful girl was born a couple hours later completely without drugs and with the use of a heated whirlpool. Miranda was awesome during the entire process and kept her focus as I tried to keep up with her needs. It was a great experience and best of all, we were home and in bed by 8:30 that night!

Little did we know how much our lives were about to change. How in less than 2 years this beautiful bundle of joy:

To a fun, demanding, wildly adorable little person:

Ahh how sweet life is!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Business Time

Oh ya, somewhere in all of this fun and frivality it was time to get busy. No, really, it was "business time"

Some guys at the local bike shop were listening to this one day when I stopped by. It wouldn't be nearly as funny if it didn't apply to so many people including myself at times. It's amazing we've managed to shorten and put so little effort into one of the things that should really be a focal point of relationships and something to really look forward to. There is an appalling lack of effort put in for so many reasons. I should know, I'm way too guilty of using them myself (when I get the chance). I can't even begin to count the times I've had the conversation in my head about knowing how I should be giving her a long hot massage, covering her body with kisses, or even just looking into her eyes more, only to have it replaced by a desire to get in, get off (both of us thank you very much, I'm not that cruel), and get to bed or busy doing all the other things that seem so damned important in life.

Wow, so this thing has taken on a totally different direction than I was thinking. As long as I'm ranting, I'm may as well keep right on going with the flow. Now something that gets me crazy is hearing about all sorts of ED problems, women in their 30's and older having all sorts of sexual revelations, complaining how their husbands no longer satisfy them, and how I think this all ties together. My theory is that guys tend to go through their mid to late 20's and 30's mostly in long term relationships. As such, we've all heard and I'm guessing at least a number have experienced the beg for sex routine. I think we tend to become so used to being shot down all the time, we accept it, and move on to other activities. I don't think there would be nearly as many middle aged guys doing so many other activities besides being a good partner if we'd just get sex without begging. Now to tie this whole idea together, since we don't get sex and turn our attention elsewhere, the women now feel like we're neglecting their needs since we're no longer begging for it. Then they hit that turning point in their life where they decide it's not time to play games anymore and actually want to have sex with us. Woohoo! Of course, our libido has been run over by the repeated bashings we've taken throughout our early years and now we're being asked to perform like an 18 year old porn star. It ain't gonna happen. Cue the ad for the side by side bath tubs and getting cock blocked by a surprise party. Bingo we have the perfect recipe for needing ED drugs.

So that's my crazy ass theory about why ED drugs, begging for sex, and long term relationships are all conspiring against us. It's a viscious circle I tell you. So recapping- ladies: say no a little less, guys: don't stop asking and pay a little more attention when it does happen. There's my public service announcment for the day. Oh and if you're looking for anything to spice up your love lives, check out the two stores I've listed on the left hand column. Freddy and Eddy are some good friends of ours and The Possibilities Room is owned by us. We actually set up our store after being inspired by our friends at F&E and to act as a compliment to the products they all ready offered.