Thursday, June 30, 2005

Espresso Love

I was getting a little concerned. Pedaling the bike up the hill, my toes started to tingle. That tingling sensation was increasing and spreading through my feet and to the bottom half of my calves. Trying to determine what was causing it, the conclusion had to be Espresso Love. That made me contemplate the events leading up the tingling sensation.

Steve and I had done several 500 miles bike rides together. However, this year he was doing one and I another. I sent him an e-mail about getting nervous because of my lack of training. Almost immediately, he replied, “Ralph, your in luck I have some great stuff that will help you. I’ll send it you. I just wish it tasted better.”

Now Steve is one of those guys that when he tells you he’ll send you something you might as well go out to the mailbox and wait because it is on its way. True to form, a couple of days later there was the package from Steve. Opening the package a hand written note fell on the table. It read, “Not enough time to training? No worries with Espresso Love. Don’t OD on this. Just wish it tasted better.”

Espresso Love is a new flavor of GU. GU, in case you don’t know, is an energy gel sold in small packets. You squeeze the contents of the packet in your mouth, take a couple gulps of water, and you have some good energy for 45 minutes or so. It is widely used by bikers and marathoners. Espresso Love is a new flavor I had yet to try but it sounded promising. It contains twice the amount of caffeine as other GU products. I threw the twelve packs Steve sent in my bike bag.

The ride this day was steep, and long. To make matters worse, it was hot with the temperatures in the high 90’s low 100’s. Suddenly, I remembered Espresso Love. Ripping open a packet and squeezing some into my mouth I - well, I gagged. Steve was right about the taste. It tasted remarkably like stuffing your mouth with a handful of burnt coffee grounds. I tried to kill the taste by putting it on a banana. All that did was ruin a perfectly good banana. I washed it down with some water while telling myself it works so get over the taste.

Several miles down the road, I still had the taste in mouth and was encountering a stiff headwind. Bracing myself, I consumed another packet of Espresso Love. A few moments later, I noticed a steep incline so I consumed yet another packet.

I realized what had happened. I had eaten three packets of Espresso Love within an hour. I did what Steve had warned me about – I overdosed on Espresso Love!

I arrived at that day’s destination. Eventually, the tingling sensation wore off but it was well past midnight before I fell asleep.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Cliff Diving

Well, I made it back from the bike ride. It was a great experience. Some of the highlights were:
-- Took a bath in lighter fluid to remove road tar (more on this later).
-- Rode through Palisade and wondered why I was going farther than that. They had grapes; they had wine, and a great little restaurant.
-- Had my first experience with Espresso Love (but that's another story).
-- Got lost for three hour in the backcountry of Colorado during one of our fishing adventures.
-- Ate enough bananas this past week to make any monkey envious.
-- Stood in line. Lines for the bathroom, lines for the showers, lines to eat, etc.
-- The schedule for six days went like this - wake up, pack, ride bike, set up tent, go fishing, find a restaurant, have an adult beverage, shower, go to bed. Get up the next morning and repeat the process.

The first day the ride took us through the Colorado National Monument (pictured above). It is a spectacular 45-mile ride. Riding to the top of the Monument took an hour and twenty-two minutes. Because of the steep grade, getting to the bottom took only fourteen minutes with an average downhill speed of 41 MPH. I almost made it to the bottom faster, much faster, as I narrowly missed going off a cliff.

From the top of the Monument, it is a rapid decent to the bottom. It's a two-lane road with a very narrow shoulder. It is also known for its tight hairpin curves where I didn't want to know how fast I was going. It was one of those turns that just about cut the trip short.

Heading into a hairpin curve, I noticed a car coming up the Monument in the other lane - not a problem. What I didn't notice right away was the tandem bike half way through the hairpin curve in the middle of the lane I was in. It was quite the site - a husband and wife on a tandem bike, in the middle of the road, going about eight miles per hour. I was going 37 MPH. The wife was hanging on for all she was worth; screaming at the top of her lungs, "Slow down your going to kill us!" I started to laugh until I realized someone could easily die and most likely, it was going to be me! I had a lot of choices but only a few seconds to decide. I could hit the car - not a good option. I could hit the bike - not a good option, I could picture the wife leaning over her husband saying, "I said you were going to fast". I could go off the cliff - really, really bad option. It was three hundred feet straight down. Or, I could try to pass the bike on the outside - between their bike and the cliff. While I still wouldn't call it a good option, it was the best one I had. Half way past them, I could feel the sand under my tires start to slide. I also noticed the bike ride was causing the wife to have a religious experience, she yelled "Holy" something or the other when I shot by - I was past them by the time she got all the words out.

A little ways down the hill, I pulled over. My heart was racing and I wanted to slow it down plus I was shaking so bad, I thought I might lose control of the bike. Moments after I pulled over another biker stopped beside me. She said I had the missed going off the cliff by a matter of inches.

Fortunately, the rest of the ride went well. Pedaling back into town I kept thinking about the tandem and telling myself - that is why I ride alone.
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nerves of Steel

A few years back I put together a fund raising bike ride. It was a one day, 60-mile event, to raise money for tree planting. Looking back it was a lot of fun. Notice I said looking back, at the time it drove me crazy. The route was easy but you needed detailed instructions for the riders. Then you need permits and police escorts. Safety of the riders was always the highest issue. On the surface things looked calm. But underneath I was nervous about everything. Family and friends readily knew this and one good friend gave me the nickname, ‘Nerves of Steel’.

Well, those nerves of steels are resurfacing again. Tomorrow I leave on a 500 mile, 7 day bike ride. I am nowhere ready – physically, emotionally, mentally, or even equipment wise. I still have to pack.

With any luck, I will be back in a week with some great stories about the ride. Notice I said with any luck – keep me in your thoughts.

See you in a week.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I attend a lot of workshops and conferences. Usually within the first twenty minutes, I can tell if I am going to enjoy it or not. The reason is icebreakers. I hate icebreakers. The popular one right now is, ‘Write down something no one or very few people know about you’? Well, duh, there might be a reason no one knows. I mean think about it.

The thing I have been writing down lately is – Got ejected from a girls 8th grade basketball game. Yeah, it’s true but I am still not sure it was my fault. Okay, it was my fault.

My father in law, my wife, and I went to one of my daughters basketball games. My son and his girlfriend met us there. We had been to lots of basketball games but you need to understand I don’t know the rules. I don’t know basketball rules or “spectator” rules. The game was close and the referee’s were lousy. They had their favorite team and it was not my daughter’s. When it is her team, those are called good refs. Anyway, the score was going back and forth and one of the ref’s made a bad call. A really bad call – at least, that is what I concluded by the roar from the stands. I jumped to my feet and blurted out, “That’s a bunch of crap!” Now, in situations like this timing is everything. Had I done it with the rest of the crowd it would have been okay. But, I blurted out those words when things were starting to get back to normal. The stands went quiet and I was the only one left standing. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what was said and who said it.

The ref and I glared at each other. He was mad. He made a bad call (I’m guessing here) and he knew it. Rather than just admitting it, he decided to take it out on me. He started walking towards me so I started walking towards him; remember I don’t know basketball etiquette either. Suddenly he just blurted out, “Do you want to watch the rest of the game?”

About this time, my basic basketball survival instincts must have kicked in. Without thinking, I ripped my glasses off, extended the hand holding them offering them to him and replied, “Do you?” You could have heard a pin drop.

Without any advance warning, he ejected me from the game.

From the stands came a cry, “What a minute – he’s right. That was a bad call.” I thought support was building and soon the ref would realize he was wrong. But, the only support I got was from my son. He got ejected too.

So there we were setting outside waiting for the game to get over. On one hand, I wanted it over soon because it was chilly outside. On the other hand, that game could have gone on for days because, unlike my son, I had to get into the car with my wife, my daughter, and my father in-law. They were pretty quiet all the way home – come to think of it for the next several days as well.

So, as an icebreaker I write,’ Ejected from a girls 8th grade basketball game’. They never pick me. They always pick a guy about six feet two inches with an athletic type body. But now comes the fun part. When they read those questions and want the person who wrote them to stand up – I never do. I just set there, looking around the room like everyone else, waiting for that jerk to stand up.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Fund Raising

I set on the board of several non-profit groups. It seems like I always end up on the fund raising committee, usually chairing it. Many people have a hard time asking for money, I don’t. Years ago, I developed a mentality and motto that has worked well over the years. It’s challenging and it’s fun with a little frustration thrown in good measure.

I recently became a key partner in a new fund raising effort - there are only two of us, my six-year-old neighbor and myself. My little neighbor plant a pumpkin seed in a Dixie cup and it started to grow. He needed to plant it outside but there was no room in his yard. So, I did the neighborly thing and offered him a section of my garden. Soon we were out there planting and talking about what we were going to do with all those pumpkins. My little neighbor came up with a great idea. “We’ll sell them to the neighbors,” he said, “the big ones we’ll sell for a dollar, the medium ones for fifty cents and we’ll give the small ones away.”

That brought up the question what will we do with all that money. Without missing a beat he replied, “We’ll spend it.” We had a plan.

Two days later the pumpkin died. Not wanting this to be an unsuccessful fundraiser – I replanted it. Not, with ordinary pumpkin seeds but with ones called ‘Big Max’ and at twice the recommended seed rate, just to be sure something would grow. According to the package, these seeds will produce pumpkins between fifty and one hundred pounds.

I am now having second thoughts. Who in their right mind would want a 100-pound pumpkin? How will I get them out of the garden and up the hill? Should we raise the price of our pumpkins? I don’t know the answer to the first two questions, but my neighbor and I agreed on a dollar so a dollar it is.

If you need a hundred pound pumpkin for a dollar please let me know. A slight handling and delivery fee may be added.