I like Velo News better in the off-season because as road season winds down and we're left with the Fall Classics (WTF?), cyclocross and some epic MTB races, the full time reporters seem to vanish and the august old rag relies more on stringers like my excellent friend Ryan and truly unconventional reporters. The results in a lot of local Flava (a racing age 42 white guy saying "Flava" - WTF?) as regional roadracing and other racing scenes dominate its pages. One piece of exceptional writing that typifies the approach, and why it works, is this piece about U.S. neo-pro Craig Lewis, written by journeyman Michael Barry. Barry talks about what it means to come back from a horrendous injury, the unknowable suffering and gnawing fears, and what it means to really suffer for your team. Barry always writes well and is interesting, but the feature on Lewis is exceptional, both in content and style. You should check it out. While you're at Velo News, check out the Fred Dreier series on La Ruta de Conquistadores, the toughest mountain bike race in the world. I'm aware that I'm given to exaggeration, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, based on what I know about La Ruta. The prelude is here, one here, part two here, part three is here, and there should be more tomorrow.
I hit up the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE) trail work day at Patapsco State Park this morning. It was good seeing some people I've ridden with elsewhere and helping them work on some of the trails I get so much joy from. We benched a rise in the trail on Vineyard where descending MTB'ers were apparently scaring the holy hell out of upward-bound hikers, adding a little off-camber right hand turn into the trail, and if you slide off the turn a little you'll now hit a sapling. If you slide off a lot you'll hit a 36" diameter elm tree. This is supposedly safer. The Family Bike Shop crew was representing with about six people in attendance. The Single Speed Outlaw Factory Team probably sent as many.
I've been mountain biking a lot to keep my mind fresh and to try to build up some volume / general bike fitness. If I have a 2-3 hour base ride scheduled and don't feel up to the road grind, pedaling along in the grit and the wind, I hit Rosaryville for a couple laps, soft-pedaling the hills and keeping it in zone 2. It doesn't have the scientific precision that training with power does, but then it doesn't place the mentally and spiritually demanding yoke on you that the power meter does either. It's working okay; in addition to really improving my handling, I'm picking up a different kind of diesel-like fitness from shoving the single speed up and down hills. Last Sunday's three hour journey, with several trips into and out of the Patapsco Valley, culminating with a final climb up Vineyard (that I cleaned for the first time) convinced me of the progress underway. The 'crossing isn't going to badly either, though the placings aren't stellar, mostly top of the bottom third to mid-pack, with a top half finish or two being the highlights for the year. Still, it's almost December and I'm actually looking forward to roadracing season; I couldn't have said that with a straight face last year. The fixie and the MTB are good training tools, as much for the strengths they teach as for the way they keep you mentally fresh, and growing.
What do you do if you're a dude, on your own, and looking for the kind of girl who is genuinely honest about herself, who will appreciate you for who you are, and will be utterly grateful for your attention? You check out Women Behind Bars, a dating, er, pen pal site for incarcerated women. Caveat emptor applies here though. I notice a few of them are looking for men with "class." Here's two things to know about "class." 1) If you use "class" as a noun, it means you probably don't have any, not in the normal sense of the adjective, meaning "nice" or "well-mannered" or "kind." 2) It's biker slang denoting that you're the kind of guy who will shank any SOB what looks at your woman crossways, you're more than willing to kill undercover cops trying to infiltrate your biker gang, er, I mean motorcycle club, and you're the guy who will step up and volunteer when somebody in your crew needs some crystal meth hauled to Montreal.
I suspect that, unlike all those films about women in prison I've watched, life in the women's hoosegow probably isn't about a bunch of nubile babes looking to hook up with hot prison guard hunks in various combinations of multiple guards/prisoners. That stuff is hot in a sort of embarassed to talk about it even when you're drunk and bragging kind of way. No, I'm thinking the reality of the thing, maybe, that it's probably a tough gig, especially because society expects women to be nice. (Versus men, who, like dogs, if they don't pee on the floor are considered to be sufficiently socialized). It's probably a really Hobbesian existence for most of the women there, or at least it would be for those who know that Hobbes is the guy who described life as solitary, nasty, brutish and short, versus the tiger in the comic strip, who did have a short run of maybe 10 years but it wasn't solitary (what with Calvin always hanging around), brutish or nasty, since Hobbes was the guy inflicting that stuff on others rather than the victim. Anyhow...
Given the reality that women's prison life is Hobbesian, and not Rousseauian, it's entirely possible that you will get a battle hardened 350 pound multiple murderer showing up to meet you when she bluffs her way past the parole board - or the budget crunch dictates it - and she gets out. (I'm assuming the same picture match ratio as all other online dating services, so that little hottie may be neither little, nor hot... Caveat Emptor, friends.) Then again, maybe she is the lovely girl in the picture, a year or two older and wiser, a felony rap in the records, maybe rehabilitated and just trying to get her life together. So the website could be an honest attempt by a lot of incarcerated ladies to meet a guy who will do right by them, instead of abuse them like a lot of the men in their lives have probably done. Yes, it's a tough life for them. No, women in prison really don't need to be kicked while they're down, and I'm just the guy to do it.
So maybe Women Behind Bars isn't the dating site for everybody, but if you're lonely and you have a lot of class, you may want to check it out.
Apropo of nothing... okay apropo of Bill Gros maybe... here's a little George Clinton, Atomic Dog.