Monday, April 27, 2015

Redbud Ride, 2015

Last year, I did 93% of the Kentucky Century Challenge: three centuries complete, and 72 miles of a fourth.  I did not qualify for the free jersey.  I treated myself to the at-cost jersey.  But, of course, there are problems with that jersey.  Chief among them is that it has three stars instead of four, and it has the "300 Miles" emblazoned on it, instead of the "400 Miles" that I covet.  Now I'm a year older, have slightly more minor orthopedic issues here and there ... but I've learned.  Grayer, but wiser -- or so I claim.  So, this year, I'm going after it again.  And I want the REAL free jersey.  The clean one.  The one with all  the stars.  So, here we go.  Saturday, April 25, my 2015 Century Challenge campaign kicked off, in what has become, in many ways, my favorite cycling venue: London, Kentucky.  I've ridden the Redbud there twice now, and the Thriller Ride, a 65-mile "metric century" (100 km) once.  That whole town seems to really support cycling in a big way, and it's fun to be there.

I lodged at the London Baymont Inn.  As usual, I didn't sleep alone, although I made my roommate lean against the mini-fridge all night.
The weather forecast was unpleasant, calling for chilly temperatures and plenty-o-rain, with severe thunderstorms possible.  The forecast was mostly correct, with some unexpected mercy tossed in toward day's end.  I started at 8 am in a light drizzle.

Pre-ride, at the Farmers' Market in downtown London.  Mechanical SAG support was kindly provided by Mike's Hike & Bike of London.  That's Mike himself, in the orange shirt and professional tool apron.
In what is becoming a Redbud Ride tradition for me, I screwed up my bike computer.  This year, I did it at the very start.  A young man walked up to me just as I was preparing to start and identified himself as a reporter for the London Sentinel-Echo and asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed.  He had a little digital audio recorder and everything, although he was, sadly, lacking the snap-brim hat with a PRESS card tucked into the band.  Seeing my chance to become the biggest cycle celebrity since Lance "Pass the PEDs" Armstrong, I eagerly obliged.  After we chatted a bit, I did indeed start off.  But with my head full of media-star dreams, I sort of forgot to push START on my bike Garmin.  I didn't think about it until I got to the railroad crossing near the edge of town, when I glanced down and saw the blank screen.  So I was already missing about three miles in my official Century Challenge chain-of-evidence that I'd need to show when checking in at the end.  That's what I get for my unseemly ambition.

The rest stops at the Redbud Ride all have fun themes.  I tell you, these people really get into it, and they seem to have a good time.  The first stop was at the Crossroads volunteer firehouse, where they had a Western theme going.

One of the volunteers saw me preparing to grab a cellphone photo, and offered to have a colleague photograph us together.  Hint: she's the pretty one on the left.  The other one, regrettably, is me.

If we wanted to know what the weather was like, it was easy to find out by reading the update board:

Rain, rain, go away!

Or, we could just see what awaited us on departure.

Hey, the sign was correct!  Steady rain!

At the second stop, in the town of Livingston, was probably the best theme: the Blues Brothers.  Many Jakes and Elwoods were present.  Quite a few of them were ladies.  Rain or no rain, they were singing, dancing, and having a good time.

We even had the Reverend ... oh, I can't remember his name from the movie.  Or maybe she was one of his choir.  The weather wasn't dampening her spirits, anyway.
As I was visiting with the Blues Brothers, I discovered that my phone, which was fully charged at the start, only had about 25% of its charge left.  I had it tucked away under my jacket, out of the rain, and I suppose I may have butt-dialed something that uses GPS -- a real battery-eater.  Anyway, the phone photography gets a little scarce after this, as I powered the thing down completely.  I figured that if I found myself crashed out on a steep downhill, writhing in agony on a riprap slope with two broken legs, I'd just as soon be able to use my phone to call nine-one-one.

The third stop was at the Letterbox Baptist Church, where they again had a Western theme (I'm guessing they don't coordinate mutually).  A big banner over the food area suggested that we "Cowboy Up for Christ," and it cited Matthew 18:5.  Didn't have my Bible with me, but I thought that must have been pretty freely paraphrased ... I don't recall any scriptural uses of that "cowboy up" figure of speech.  When I got home, I checked, and found that the subject verse says, "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me."  Hmmmmm.  I'm left mystified about what that has to do with cowboying up.  Still, they were nice people, and seemed to be having a good time with things.  It's all good.

Approaching the fourth stop, 77 miles in, I looked down at the pavement and saw something that terrified me: my shadow!  Uh-oh, six more weeks of rain!  A quick check of the sky revealed that the cloud cover was breaking up, and the Yellow Face ("it burns us, Precioussss!") had appeared.  I was emboldened to repower my phone at the stop to document this apparition.

A tiny bit of Jackson County, Kentucky.  That is some pretty country around there.  And a little sunshine was most welcome.

The predicted return of the rain did not happen -- much less any thunderstorms.  In due course, I followed enough route markers to arrive back at the Farmers' Market in London.  There, I explained my Garmin at the Century Challenge check-in table, to a nice lady who waved off my story and marked me down as complete.

Yes ... next time, I'll probably forget to start it once again.
I took a little relaxation time before loading up my bike.  Entertainment was being provided by a band called "Kites."  Actually, I think it might have been more like "kites."  They seemed quite proficient.

The bass player has a nice voice.  Not hard to look at, either.

I was reminded of an important fact before leaving:

In case you're ever on "Jeopardy," and the answer that Alex gives is "The Cycling Capital of Kentucky," the question is, "What is London / Laurel County?"
I bet I'll be back.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dueling Bumper Stickers on Just One Car

So, I'm on the road Friday and I'm passed in traffic by a young woman driving a smallish car.  On the back, driver's side, is a sticker saying "War Is Not the Answer."  True dat,  think I.  On the passenger side: "I'm Ready for Hillary."

Wow.  Just wow.  Make up your mind, young lady.  If there's anyone who's any more convinced than Mrs. Clinton that war is  the answer, almost no matter the question, I can't think who it would be.  Not that it matters, of course; any opponent she has, primary or general election, who has a ghost of a chance of getting within shouting distance of the US presidency, will also be an eager servant of the corporate welfare / warfare state.  Heads, they win; tails, we lose.

Gee, maybe the War Party will decide to stage another Bush vs. Clinton show, with just a pair of different first names.  You know, for old times' sake.  Craptastic.  Can't wait.

Friday, April 24, 2015

There's Lives, and Then There's Lives

The current Murderer-in-Chief is waxing pensive.  He's deeply troubled by the moral ambiguities involved in drone murder.  He's furrowing the brow and contemplating the many paradoxes inherent in his role as Caster of Thunderbolts From Mount Washington:

He looked down at his text, but seemed to drift away from it. He had planned to say something about the drone strike that killed two hostages by mistake, about how the tragedy would be reviewed.
Then President Obama paused and recalled that someone had just asked him how he absorbed such awful news. “We all bleed when we lose an American life,” he said. “We all grieve when any innocent life is taken. We don’t take this work lightly.”
A day after announcing the deaths of the hostages, an American and an Italian, Mr. Obama found himself on Friday at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in McLean, Va., and he was in a ruminative mood. “These aren’t abstractions, and we’re not cavalier about what we do, and we understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us,” he told the intelligence professionals.
“And our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people,” he said. But, he added, “We have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals and our laws and our constitutions and our commitment to democracy.”
Rarely has a president wrestled with the grim trade-offs of war as publicly and as agonizingly as Mr. Obama has over the last six years. He wanted to get away from the messy ground wars that his predecessor waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and institute a seemingly cleaner, more exacting form of war, one waged only when there was “near certainty” that civilians would not be hurt.
But the strike that killed Warren Weinstein, a 73-year-old American aid worker, and the Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, 37, in January underscored that there is no such thing as near certainty in war, even one waged with precision instruments like the drones swarming the skies of places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The only near certainty of war is that innocents die and that presidents have to live with the consequences.
  It's curious, how the Great Nobel Laureate picks his spots for being all contemplative and disturbed and sensitive and whatnot.  Was El Presidente racked with doubts every time another wedding party or funeral or picnic among the wogs of the Near East got blown up?  Maybe, but, if so, we weren't told about it.  So what's different now?

Oh, yes.  The dead this time are an American, and an Italian.  Take away the American, and you have to wonder: would a dead Italian, by himself, have haunted the dreams of our oh-so-compassionate prexy?  I don't know, but speculation is fascinating, no?  Still, one thing's for sure: another few dozen dead Moooslims don't even show up on O'Bomber's radar screen.  I may as well admit that, miserable cynic that I am, I doubt that our current First Sociopath genuinely gives a rip about even the American victim.  Do you suppose that, as a child, Little Barack enjoyed torturing kittens?  That's the classic pattern, isn't it?