I travel to Los Angeles a lot for work, and I bike a lot for fun. Last year I would have said, “LA? Leave the bike at home.” After all the city is known almost as well for traffic and sprawl as it is for weird sex parties. That is until I remembered, “oh right, mountains." Note: The locals have an awesome and complete cycling scene with urban, park, crits, everything you could want (lots of info here) but as a resitemp I want to get out, and go up, as fast as possible. Enter The San Gabriels.
Where to Stay: Santa Monica is for 23-year-olds. You’re an adult professional with a bike to ride - you want Glendale/Burbank. If you really have meetings on the West side, it’s not the end of the world and let’s be honest, you probably don’t. On a short day you’re directly in front of Griffith Park, but if you schedule right you’re only a few miles from the big mountains.
What to Ride: Flying with a bike is so 2002. Baggage fees are ridiculous, and there’s nothing that says “efficient use of my time” like sitting in hotel room at 10PM putting a bike together with nothing but a folding wrench. I’ve rented from two shops in LA. Helen’s has a big selection of relatively new (or very new/fancy) rides for rent (Cannodale, Trek, even Pinarello) and is very convenient for to/from the airport. Bicycle Johns in Burbank will rent you something weird and random but probably awesome (I got a Serotta w/ 9spd Ultegra). Either way, it will cost you about half of your baggage fees and you’ll stick to traditional gross ways of ruining hotel towels.
Where to Ride: The main route up & down is Angeles Crest Hwy (2), easily accessible by climbing up and over Chevy Chase rd. (a nice Cat 3 warmup). Once in the national forest, you can climb up to Clear Creek (10ish miles of climbing), Red Box (14ish miles of climbing) which is the turnoff for Mt Wilson (18ish miles of climbing). From Clear Creek / Red Box you have a lot of options, including Upper and Lower Tujunga Canyon and water at both locations.If You’re Feeling Spicy: This was the best/worst idea. 110 miles, 12,000 feet of climbing. Not for the weak-willed or people with anything else to do ever. (approx route here)Ride through the city to the Hwy 39 Climb. Climb it up to the Crystal Lake turnoff where it says Road Closed… then keep going.
I checked the conditions with a local blog first as this section is sometimes (often?) covered in snow, rock, snow and rock, possibly large, angry vertebrates.
It’s worth it though. Once above 5,000 feet you emerge from the desert into green alpine mountains. Still only a few miles from Los Angeles, but it couldn’t look more different (and your legs hurt, like really, really fucking bad). Then take Angeles Crest all the way home. On your way by you can zip up Mt. Wilson and Mt. Disappointment (Really, it’s called that) because what are you going to do… not?
If you get a flat on the final descent like I did, the friendly sound engineers of La Cañada (The Canada, as we Michiganders call it) will give you a lift home (Thanks Wendy n’ Jason). Or they’ll kidnap you and steal your kidneys. One or the other. Maybe don’t do that.
Schedule Properly: As a resitemp you’re on Eastern time (or at least central) so you’ve got five weird hours of insomnia in the morning that you can turn from frustrated tossing and turning into some serious time in the mountains. Plus, those weirdos in LA work 11PM-8PM and odd shit like that so schedule your meetings for after lunch and some dine n’ deal dinners and hit the road at 6AM.
What to Pack: Helmet, Pedals, Kit, Shoes, Sunscreen. The rest will come on your rental bike (including tube/levers/pump). Also, I buy water bottles on-site as they tend to leak and take up a ton of room in your suitcase … like babies. Also, grab your measurements off your bike at home so the shop can dial in your rental ride. Your knees will thank you!
Enjoy the San Gabriel’s and send your rides/pictures. Thanks always to Rudy Project for the eye/head protection that is extra-valuable on Angeles Crest (that deer came very. very close).
Once each year (okay, it’s at least twice annually now) a bunch of dudes who like cycling and beer (smoked fish? Andy?) get together and ride 100 miles each day for a weekend. The origins of the ride are nebulous, though a Chicago—> 3 Floyds ride far before my time is largely credited. For me, it started about five years ago. Andy got married and instead of a bachelor party we did a 70 (ish) mile tour of West Michigan’s finest breweries. There was much butthurt, much barf and much “what the hell have I been doing off the bike.” A couple of years later we rode from Grand Rapids —> Cadillac which was the first century-each-day ride (I skipped day 2, because butthurt). The Cadillac ride also produced the Death by Double Paceline name as I tried to teach everyone how to ride a Rotating Paceline (calling it a double, it had been awhile) nearly killing the lot of us. It’s kind of like watching the last episode of Game of Thrones first, which I also did around that time. Oops. Dragons? In the first Episode? Well crap.
Since then we’ve done Boston —> Newport (RI), Portland (OR) —> Mt Hood. but what we all felt was missing was, obviously, BOATS (note: almost nobody felt this way).
Our Grand Rapids Host, Founding Father of DBDP and guy-who-didn’t-take-the-ferry-back-but-instead-rode-400-more-miles-around-the-lake, Lance stocked the departure house with plenty of West Michigan beer staples and some new stuff we hadn’t tried. I’m always a huge fan of the Belgians, and Brewery Vivant does the trick, but Nick’s home brew was the star of the show.
With much beer had, but more to be have(d?) fixed gears, commuter bikes, extremely out-dated racing bikes (and racers) … and one real racer who knows about space science (really) set out.
Day 1 of the route from Grand Rapids —> Ludington is spectacular. The majority of the way (80ish of the 105 miles) is on lightly traveled but well maintained rail-trail or bike path. A few jogs through towns, but mostly sans-traffic. When you do take to the road, in Hart, MI there’s an amazing Mexican market (and absolutely nothing else, at all) with horchata, helados and horchata helados. We at all of these. The final stretch from Hart to Ludington follows the shore of Lake Michigan and is securely in the top ten best roads I’ve ever ridden. Sparse, if any, traffic, shaded and winding before dropping down a blistering descent (for Michigan) into Ludington.
There’s also smoked fish, and views of Lake Michigan… WHATEVER.
Day 2 began like all day 2s, with a five hour ride on a floating anachronism. The best tagline ever written says it all.
It sure is. Originally a coal-fired rail-car ferry to Mantuok, WI, now it’s a coal-fired bingo parlor to Mantuok, WI. We immediately took over the bow of the ship and stunk everyone else out, and tried to use nautical terms like starboard as much as possible. Someone may have done the “Rose.”
The trip from Mantuok to MKE kept us close to the lake shore which meant, you know, a brutal 20mph headwind for like a million hours. Some of the guys who had been reluctant to ride in a tight draft were suddenly riding echelon like seasoned pros. We rejoiced with the onset of a lightning storm and torrential downpour as it came with a break from the wind (and more pizza).
After getting an escort through the last few miles of MKE (thanks Colleen!) as to not be pancaked in mile 204, we settled down for more homebrew and more pizza. We did not find any fish here smoked or otherwise.
The following morning we started the awkward process of dudes saying goodbye to each other. Don’t worry, we remained tough, but sensitive enough to show we’re comfortable with our emotions. We also had bier-mosas, espressos and super euro breakfast at Benelux because BELGIANS… and it’s the only place I know in Milwaukee.Our final boat was the Lake Express which is kind of like the Badger except, you know, almost practical. The on-board film was slated to be Gravity but when the captain announced five foot waves they immediately changed the billing to Saving Mr. Banks. We countered this move with beer.
I grilled Harvey about the habitability of Venus with my carefully formulated “So, what’s up with Venus?” and we jammed back to grand rapids. Always one of the highlights of my year, this route was the best yet. Even with the wind on day 2, and the late night arrival - throwing the boats in there gave it a truly epic tenor (also, visible from space… probably). I highly recommend if nothing else the Grand Rapids - Ludington leg which would be excellent as an out-and-back as well. There’s some donuts and hot-dogs along the way too.
It’s time to stop talking about health insurance. It seems like simple semantics, but the minute we stop talking about healthcare as insurance (implying risk) and start looking at it as an expense (implying inevitability) we can all start making real progress. Currently, we have two sides fighting bitterly over the wrong problem. This practice is useless and boring.
Insurance is something you pay into a little just in case something really expensive happens that you wouldn’t be able to afford. Insurance hedges against risk. It protects you against bad stuff that probably won’t happen. The amount you pay for insurance has less to do with how expensive that bad thing may be, and everything to do with how likely that bad thing is to happen. Auto insurance is more expensive than homeowner’s because cars smash into each other with relative regularity whereas houses, though more expensive, tend to stay put.
So why do we insure our health? Sure, there are risks involved. There are very expensive, very bad, things that could, but probably won’t, happen. You’re probably not going to break your leg. You’re probably not going to get cancer. You’re probably not going to get a G.I JOE lodged in your butt hole (again). All of which would qualify as unlikely but expensive: perfect candidates for insurance. However, when you add all these probabilities up, and toss in pregnancies, and vaccinations, and checkups, and dentists, and antibiotics, and the entire third of your life that will most likely rely, in some way, on medical science to sustain it … you can, with 100% certainty, predict that you will spend a lot of money on healthcare in your lifetime.
The current number for you, by the way, is about $9,000/year or around 18% of our GDP (that number ranges from about $8,500 - $9,800 depending on whose numbers you use, but the point remains the same).
That’s what it costs. Rest assured, that’s what you’re paying for it now. Whether it’s through the federal government, or private health “insurance,” out of your pocket or a combination of all of it … the bill gets paid. It’s an expense. We know what it costs. We know it’s going to happen. Talking about health insurance places us in a state of denial. “Maybe it won’t happen?” “Perhaps this year no one will get sick.” “What if for the next five years humans stopped spilling chemicals on themselves… or aging.” Nope. It’s rent. It’s the water bill. It’s going to come due every month, and all the roommates pony up because we spent our time and energy arguing about who takes the longest showers instead of getting a low-flow nozzle.
Our Health-Rent, even at its lowest calculation of $8,508/person, is more than double most other industrialized nations The simple solution? Pick a number we want to pay every year. Lock it in. Don’t fucking call it insurance. If we were Sweden, we’d be way healthier in every category measured by the World Health Organization and we’d pay 1/3rd what we do now.
Comcast has a huge new customer service initiative. You’ve probably seen the “2hr Appointment Window” spot (which only serves to remind us that this is an industry where you brag about being 2hrs late).
As tends to happen, our promotional deal had run-out, so I logged onto comcast.com to see if I could get a better deal (you always can). After a quick survey of the products, which were clearly presented in their self-service web store, I found that I could actually upgrade to a better package, and pay less money. Perfect. Sold. Let’s do it.
A few clicks later and I’m ready to check out, but it won’t let me skip the installation scheduler screen (I’m just upgrading, I don’t need new service). As if they knew their self-checkout had a fatal flaw, at that moment Chris popped up and asked me if I needed any help, it went like this:
(It’s long, but there’s a twist)
Chris: Hi, thanks for shopping Comcast my name is Chris . Do you have any questions about our products or services that I can help with?
You: I’m just upgrading my service to the Premiere - (cheaper, with more stuff) - it says I need a new modem, but I don’t think that’s the case?
Chris: If you are not adding new services and are only upgrading there will not be any need for installation.
You: So , should I just select “no I’ll use my own modem” in the order screen? …but then it takes the fee for the modem off, which I need, it’s just the one y’all already have at my house.
Chris: You will continue leasing the modem. Please select the lease modem option.
Chris: I’d be glad to assist you in placing your order online.
You: okay great! I want to upgrade to the Digital Premier/Blast double play.
Chris: Do you mind if I ask a few questions to make sure I provide you with the correct information?
Chris: Thank you for being a Comcast customer! What services do you currently have with us?
You: TV/Internet double play + HBO & Showtime
Chris: How much are you paying with your services?
You: 145 ish after taxes & modem rental
Chris: Thank you for that information. Prices and plans vary by location. However, we can definitely take a look at the available offers in your area. May I have your address with zip code?
You: my address
Chris: Thank you for providing your complete address.
You: note: I’m looking at the offers right now - there’s the Digital Premier/Blast X1 for $139.99/mo with HBO/Showtime/Cinemax/Starz included
Chris: I’d be glad to check if we offer Digital Premier with Blast Internet plan in your area.
Chris: Thank you very much for waiting. Great news! I’m happy to let you know that we offer Digital Premier with Blast Internet plan in your area.
Chris: The plan that you have selected is really fantastic! To make sure it meets all of your entertainment needs, may I ask you a few questions?
You: … I know.. can I have it please.
Chris: I understand. By the way, before we proceed, I know you are considering specific services; however, right now we have Triple Play Bundles that may save you even more money and the convenience of having all services in just one bill! I’d be happy to give you more information on those.
You: I do not want the triple play.
Chris: I do understand. Going back, based on what you have mentioned, Digital Premier with Blast Internet plan is a great choice! The bundle includes our Digital Premier Cable plan with access to 200 channels including the premium channels like HBO, StarZ, Cinemax, Showtime plus our Sports Entertainment package and our Blast High-Speed Internet service (download speeds up to 50 Mbps and 10 Mbps upload speeds).
You: … yes, I’m looking at it here. Can I have it please.
Chris: It costs $139.99 a month for the first 12 months with no agreement. After 12 months, regular rates apply at around $150 a month.
Chris: How does that sound?
You: …That sounds great.
Chris: What other questions can I answer before we proceed with the order?
You: I don’t have any questions. Let us proceed.
Chris: Excellent! Let’s go ahead and begin!
Chris: Let’s add that to your shopping cart! I’ll be happy to stay with you while you complete your order.
Chris: Once you reach the Installation page of the order, since you are only upgrading, there is no need for any installation. Please choose any option just for you to proceed to the next page and any charges that does not apply to you will be removed on the last page of the order.
Chris: When you are finished with this page you will see a yellow ‘Next” button, please click on that to continue.
You: So, you want me to check out exactly like I was 20 minutes ago?
You: Now it’s asking me to start a live chat with you.
Chris: A representative will assist you in completing your order and will answer any questions you may have.
Chris: Once you click on the ‘Start Live Chat’ button, the Order Entry Specialist will confirm your information and assist in completing your order.
Chris: Have you successfully connected with the Order Entry Specialist?
You: Aren’t you an order entry specialist?
Chris: I am only an online sales specialist, they would have the proper tools to assist you in completing the order.
You: Okay, yes, I am connected with Ali
Chris: Congratulations on making the right choice by going with Comcast today! Are there any other questions that I can answer for you before you go ahead and chat with our Order Entry Specialist?
You: He or She is telling me about the digital premiere package
You: That’s my question… why?
Chris: Ali will be able to provide you more information and would best assist you with your order.
Chris: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
You: I doubt it.
So the second person is going to help me with my self-service checkout…
analyst Ali has entered room
Ali: Hello ALBERT, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Ali. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Ali: I see you are interested in adding Comcast services. It’s my pleasure to process your order and answer any questions you may have throughout our conversation.
ALBERT: Okay great!
Ali: I see that you are interested in our Digital Premier with Blast Internet, is this correct?
Ali: That’s a great value! It shouldn’t take very long to process this order for you. I’ll be asking you just a few questions to make sure you get the best deal.
Ali: For the integrity and security of the account, can you verify the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number listed on the account, please?
Ali: Please provide me your account number.
ALBERT: I don’t know. All of my bills are digital, and my screen is covered in Comcast chat windows right now.
Ali: Please log in your account and provide me the account number, this chat won’t disconnect.
ALBERT: I have the order, the one we’re talking about, open in my account.
Ali: I understand that. However, I am required to verify the account before share anything with you due to security reason.
Ali: I will complete the order within few minutes, just need to verify the account.
ALBERT: I have another window open, where would the account number be?
ALBERT: account number
ALBERT: Found it.
Ali: Thank you.
Ali: I am almost done with your order
Ali: I am feeling happy to inform you that installation is not required at all. New TV package will be upgraded within few minutes automatically. You will start getting all channels.
WAIT WHAT?! Did you catch that? “I’m feeling happy” … who, no what, is so adamant about their feelings? Those who cannot. ROBOTS.
ALBERT: So, Chris, the person I was chatting with for 20 minutes prior so that I could check myself out on your webstore, said that I don’t need installation, and you’d remove that charge.
Ali: No worry, there is no installation fee associated with this order.
Ali: There is no installation fee at all.
Ali: I am finalizing your order now. Before we finish up, I’d like to just take a minute to review what we have done for you today.
ALBERT: Great. So the installation appointment, and fee, that were on the order in the webstore have now been removed.
ALBERT: I can’t wait.
Ali: Reviews my pricing and plan
Ali: I have successfully processed your order.
Ali: You will start getting all premium channels within few minutes.
ALBERT: I am definitely glad I had help.
Ali: Thank you so much for your kind appreciation!
Ali: Your satisfaction is my priority. Is there anything else I can assist you with? I am more than glad to help you out further.
ALBERT: [command]/end state <LOVE> [/command] [command]begin state <DESTROY> [/command]
ALBERT: … just checking.
ALBERT: I’m all set.
Ali: Just to let you know, at the end of this chat there will be a short survey. I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to complete it so we can continue to improve the service we provide to you.
Ali: I would be really appreciate for that.
ALBERT: of course.
Ali: Have a great time ahead and take care of yourself.
Ali: Thank you.
There you have it. Comcast has gone beyond outsourcing and straight to robots. They seem to be set to OVERCOMPENSATE though, so anyone with a working knowledge of code, see if you can’t turn them down to ACTUALLYHELPFUL.
The ride so massive in its massivity that few days can hold it, but in the immortal words of Descartes, “whenest thoust gettest thine opporunity, rideth thoust that motherfucker.” Except, you know, in French.
Depart: Ann Arbor 830AM : Sean is concerned about at least three of the six ‘T’s.
Poto Trailhead, 10AM : It’s still chilly, and I still have skin on my nuts. Neither of these things will last. (note: the Rudy helmet fits awesome with and without a hat, which is rare).
Never a poser, but apparently always posing, Jason joins us to be our Poto tour guide. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve ridden Poto, but some things never change - and those things are Jason.
Brighton Rec Area, 2PM : After mistaking him for an old teammate, Brent was
gullible kind enough to join me for the bulk of the Super T. What would have been a lonely death-march became an epic adventure. I learned about how to keep my legs from loading up so much, and he learned how to not smash into stuff.
ILRA Trailhead, 4PM: Two thirds through and 5 NuttFulffs later, I am no longer suitable for photographing as my normally pale complexion becomes abnormally pale in the throws of glycogen deprivation. I can’t actually be seen in the visible light spectrum.
PIZZA CITY USA: 630PM
There are a lot of ways to train. There are a lot of ways to get fast. There are a lot of ways to stay fast. I’ve tried most of them. The reality is that I started cycling all those years ago because it was the one “workout” that didn’t feel like work. For me, staying true to that is important. I’m not going to tell you that riding a Super T is going to be good training. Hell, it might very well ruin your season, but a full Saturday on the bike, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, cranking out 104 dirty miles and finishing it all off with an entire large pizza… That’s fucking pro.
If you want to be fast, ride far. If you want to ride far, come up with a reason to. It doesn’t have to be a good reason. For me, I need an illogical, contrived purpose for my dumb-brain to tell my smart-brain when it asks, “why the hell are we riding into a 22mph headwind?”
"Because we’re going to get donuts, duh."
"Because there’s a town named Napoleon, and one called Waterloo, and if we ride through both we can call it a French Empire ride and that will be neat.”
This is why loops are better than out-&-back. Smart-brain ain’t buyin’ that shit, “we’re just going to be right back here in an hour.” Smart-brain doesn’t like futility.
Having exhausted cute-route-naming-mechanisms and Krispe Kreme kiosks in Southeast Michigan, a new long-route was in order. The concept: ride to Ohio. Eat Taco Bell. Ride home.
I know what you’re thinking, “there’s probably a closer Taco Bell.” Sure, I would even go so far as to say, “many” but smart-brain, while smart, is easily distracted by mushy beans. So, I invited some friends, chose the windiest day ever, and set out… alone, no one came with me.
The route spends a majority of the time on the surface of moon. Through Milan (Mai-lahn), Petersbourgh and Lambertville there’s one tree, a Fire Station (with an airbrushed mascot), and other than the Hummer-limo that sped by as if David Lynch was directing the ride, I didn’t see a car for hours at a time.
Lambertville has this church:
Now, I’m not a religious man, and certainly no bible scholar, but there is absolutely no way this ends well.
I took a picture of this Welcome to Toledo sign because my sense of self-preservation kept me from snapping a shot of the “Welcome to Ohio,” sign which was just a dude on his porch under a giant (really huge) Confederate flag (really).
With a burrito supreme (I panicked!) the Run for the Border was complete.
This is training. Creating a little story, as irrational as it may be, is a great way to turn up the motivation to levels of super-go-fast. Tacos, donuts and puns are especially effective.
Hogpen, Wolfpen, Woody, Neels, Jacks, Unicoi. The Pen du Wolf is definitely in the running for best climb in the US. It creeps up nice ‘n’ steady, well protected, wooded and scenic. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no reason for that road to be there, so traffic is rare. The descent on the short side isn’t bad either.
The locals are friendly as always, and with the sun out all the shops were open. I stopped at Turner’s Corners for fuel and bears.
Traffic was less courteous today as the city-folk were out in numbers, but the people of Northern Georgia were friendly as always.
Hogpen gap has brand new pavement, which is a joy to ride on except that it eliminates any mental justification for “heavy pavement” which I needed… badly.
— I met a nice retired couple who had me check their oil (literally check their oil, not like, “check their oil”) on top of Hogpen. They took my picture. Their oil was fine.—
When I was much stronger and much lighter I would have never attempted Brasstown on less than a 25 (and I think I usually had a 27). Good thing I can manage a track stand.
— They don’t let you all the way up to the tower anymore. Well, they never did, but back in the day no one was watching.—
You want to ride like the Pros? You need NuttFluffs. It’s a simple recipe, and it’s 100% go-fast. There are only four essential ingredients: Bread, Nutella, Marshmallow Fluff & Peanut Butter.
—okay, so you don’t really need the Peanut Butter—
Lay out your bread and spread Nutella on one slice and the PB on the other.
— PROTIP: don’t go all the way to the edge, lest you become goo-face—
Fluff goes in the middle.
—Fluff ALWAYS goes in the middle—
Sammy them up, slice in half (we’re not barbarians) and wrap individually in plastic. I like the non-zip sandwich baggies.
—spent baggies go in your jersey pocket, not on the roadside, because you know, don’t be an asshole—
There you have it: NuttFluffs. They tend to gooify in your pocket and turn into semi-solid lumps of deliciousness with about a billion calories, a little bit of protein and at least 15 grams of shame. Just what you need to push out the next 40k.