Wednesday, October 31, 2007


we're in santiago now, just back from dinner. central santiago is a little confusing, it's hard to get the pulse, hard to get a handle on it. busy, cramped, small stores & "fast food" restaurants everywhere, but at the same time very reserved and civil, almost to the point of boredom. i can't really say why, maybe it was the shock in coming from patagonia back to a big city, or maybe that it was that our first couple of meals here paled in comparison to what we were eating in the south.

this evening we went out to barrio bellavista for dinner. barrio bellavista is the cultural quarter and was a lot of fun. there were street stalls, booths with local artists, lots of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and boisterous student bars. walking around bellavista, i felt a lot better about spending part of our trip here. we ended up at a restaurant recommended by our taxi driver called "como agua para chocolate" (after the movie? probably, but we've no idea...) where we had a great meal - a big cauldron filled with chicken, smoked pork ribs, sausages and various seafood in a delicious broth, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure.

this is a country that's spoiled for good food, or at least good ingredients: lamb, beef, fish, and seafood are already really good and really fresh. sure, some places waste it, but most respect what they're starting with and do it well. in patagonia we had many good meals - sometimes eating the day's catch from the sound - and only one or two marginal. here in santiago we're not doing quite as well, but now we know where to go, things are looking up.

drinks... the pisco sour is the national cocktail, and has certainly earned it's reputation. i was skeptical about drink made with egg white, but made well they're great. the Shackleton bar at the hotel jose nogueria has had the best so far.

chilean wine has been our dinner drink of choice almost every night, and hasn't disappointed yet. standing out so far are the sauvignion blancs and carmeneres (a chilean relative of the merlot grape).

the beer scene isn't as bad as i expected. cerveza austral (made in punta arenas, patagonia) has some decent beers (the dark ale and calafate are the best) and puerto natales even has a microbrewery cerveza baguales that brews up a couple of good ales. here in santiago, though, asking for a cervesz is more likely to end up gettng you a marginal lager. kunstmann bock it's bad either.

not many decent coffee shops in santiago, but in a ultimate irony, starbucks actually brews a decent cup of coffee here... i hope the corporate overlords don't find out and make them start burning their beans.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

finally, good internet...

actually, there's plenty of internet around, but the connection at the hotel here in puerto natales was very tempermental. we're sitting in a coffee shop in puerto natales right now, waiting for our bus to punta arenas.


we'd planned on taking an early bus and hanging out down there untill it was time to catch our flight to santiago, but that bus was full and we're now on a later bus that wil get us to the airport in punta arenas right on time. there's not a lot open down here at 8:30 in the morning, but after a cold walk we managed to find coffee and wi-fi...


i'm getting more pictures up to flickr and getting them organized into sets so they'll be easier to browse. i've still got 4 1gb memory cards from the last 2 days to download.


this place is amazing, it's so rough and rugged and beautiful all at the same. every time you turn around you see something new or the light and clouds have changed and the same mountain you were looking at before looks completely different.


more later

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Greetings from Patagonia!

Just a quick entry, as the internet connection here in Puerto Natales is a little on the slow side. We flew down to Chile Sunday night/Monday morning. After a day in Punta Arenas, we've now moved north to Puerto Natales, gateway to the Torres del Paine national park.


Yesterday we visited a penguin colony and tommorow we're heading into the park for a trek to the base of the granite towers from which the park gets it's name.


Managed to get a few pictures up on to flickr yesterday. the internet connection is too slow to get the flickr organizr to load, so i don't have them sorted into sets yet so you might have to wade through some random wedding weekend pictures in my photostream as well.


Monday, October 15, 2007


we've got family staying at the house and on the way out the door yesterday they found this visitor in the garden...

praying mantis 3

dug up my good old manual 55/2.8 micro and spent a few minutes making pictures. this isn't the closest one i got, but i think it's my favorite composition.

so, uh, i guess we won?

the athens wrecking crew got bumped to the 'just for fun' class this weekend (more at the end) and so we won the series. a bit anti-climactic, but it's still a win. most of the team will be together at the wedding this weekend, so we'll have to have a little celebratory drink.

most of the rest of this post was written last friday, in preparation for a weekend of watching the results online, but never published. i've edited it a bit, but if anything doesn't make sense given the fact that we now know the results, that's probably why.

how'd we get here?

last winter mike started talking about the race series. i ran the idea by heather and she okayed it, same for matt with katie. in fact at that point we had so many people who wanted to race we thought we might have expert and vet teams doing the whole series. no expert team did more than one race the previous year so we figured that just by showing up to 4 or 5 races we'd be able to lock up the series.

april - vail lake, ca

we got closer and closer to the race date for temecula with just mike, matty, and myself and no one else looked like they could make the trip so mike called former city bikes captain brian kemler, now living in san francisco after a couple of years in mexico, and convinced him to head south and be our fourth.

first time doing a fly-in race was interesting and we didn't have the usual creature comforts that you can take out to you for a car camping trip. arrived in pouring rain and mike was worried about what it would do to the course. his experience from living in san diego a couple of years earlier was that there were a lot of trails that would turn to hub deep mud in the rain. for this course, though, the rain just packed down the dust and made the trail better.

this was my favorite course and as a result my best race. i'd trained hard in the early winter and spring and had a bit of leg up on some folks in spite of just having moved and barely touched a bike in a month. big cimb, then ripping ridge top downhills, smaller climb, more ripping ridgeline downhills, then a couple short climbs and a big ring power downhill to the end. being out in the dessert meant it was hot & sunny during the day and freezing cold at night - this race had the coldest night laps of the year. for some reason i was really scared of crashing on the night laps before i got started. once i was out there i was fine.

we had a good race, turned laps right around an hour. kemler rode a great race for someone who hasn't mountain biked for a couple of years and broke his bike minutes before his first lap. he rode the rest of the race on mike's bike until he crashed on his 2nd night lap and ended up sitting out the rest of the race. other than kemler's crash and a missed transition or two the race was smooth and we ended up 1st expert, 5th overall.

may - conyers, ga

can't say much about this one since i wasn't there. mike went down to the race with jon wheaton, steve viers, and kent baake. we got to meet our competition, the athens wrecking crew/the hub, and then got spanked by them. they beat us by 2 laps and we knew we had a race on our hands. we led the series 475 points to 250
june - big bear, wv

another face of with the wrecking crew. big bear is a fun rocky course, but not my best - lots of short ups & downs, but nothing long enough to really get into a rythm on. athens took first place after the team leading going into the night had some really bad laps. we held on to 4th expert and 5th overall. we did beat the bike lane expert team and the city bikes vet team.

by this point in the season it was pretty clear that my fitness wasn't keeping up with matt & mike. i was now a good 5-10 minutes/lap slower than they were. but even so, at big bear i pulled laps that averaged 20 minutes faster than i did the last time i raced there, two years ago. i took a nice spill on my last lap and instead of going out for one more at the end we held matt just before the finish line with 10 minutes to go. even though it turned out to be an injury that persisted for almost a month, i was haunted by the feeling that i'd taken the easy way out.

the race may be as big as it was in it's heyday at canaan or snowshoe, but it was still pretty unreal to be in the top 5 at this, the lastest incaration of the original 24 hour race.

series standings: we lead 665 to 500 and from this point on we can only replace scores since all that count are your top 3; athens still have an extra race to add.

july - killington, vt

if fifth place at big bear was unreal, at another it was like we were on another planet. killington was probably the most fun trip of all. mike, matt, and kent a lot of fun when you get them together, and this was a pretty relaxed trip. no flying, plenty of time to drive, and a lake house to stop at on the way back.

winning the overall didn't hurt either.

when we arrived in vermont the skies were threatening and it looked like it might be a repeat of last years mudbath. after some rain the night before, and a few sprinkles in the first 2 laps the sky cleared out and the course started drying.

i volunteered for the run, and it turned out to be the longest all year. we rode out way from just outside the top 10 (thanks to my slow run) to first place in our first rotation and then held on all night. the lead got pretty tenuous overnight, but our experience and consistency paid off and we held and then started building our lead as other teams made mistakes, had bad laps, or just started cracking. we finished with a 2 lap win and i tried to make amends for big bear by doing one extra lap at the end.

series: 725 to 500

september - landahl, mo
we hadn't planned to do this one, but someone started talking smack about how we should try to get another win instead of waiting to see how athens did at moab. once athens found out we were going they signed up two and we had our 3rd head-to-head battle on our hands.

this was a hard one. we were all a little run down from traveling and the sm100 a couple of weeks earlier and yet another last minute scramble to find a 4th rider. darren stepped in at almost the last minute after tom hurt himself at the seven springs 24 hour challenge and steve found himself swamped at work. vacation days were running low across the board so this matt & I both flew out after work on friday and back on sunday night.

despite all of that the travel and camping went really smoothly. between us we got everything we needed out to kansas city and only had to pick up some items we couldn't fly with, like camp chairs, food, ice, and camping fuel. we even managed to cook pancakes over my little msr pocket rocket.

the wrecking crew went out hard, straight into first, and we went out consistent. they had a fast but green rider crash out on his first lap putting them a hour back and rider short while we were working our way up to 2nd in expert and 5th overall. they got close to catching us -- the gap was under 2 minutes at one point in the wee hours of the morning but slowly we started to hold and then started putting some time back into them. with 4 hours to go they lost another rider, this time to dehydration and exhaustion and were left with 2 men, but they kept chasing.

i left for my last lap with 15 minutes to go before noon, their rider didn't get in in time for them to get a 22nd lap so we finished in 2nd expert (behind a fast singlespeed team) and 5th overall. keeping the wrecking crew out of 2nd meant they didn't clinch the series, and will have to place 1st or 2nd at moab to win.

the course was fun but really hard to race. constant flowing up and down, never steep. fun technical rock sections everywhere, and nowhere to rest. it was attack, attack, attack for 11 1/2 miles. it's not hard to see how people could push themselves too hard and blow up.

i had a decent race. i had to sit out one rotation overnight, but ended up making up that lost lap with the extra lap i put in on sunday morning. i came back from my second lap with a raging headache and within an hour felt lightheaded and nauseous. sitting out a lap put extra strain on the team, but it was probably the right decision, as i bounced back strong in the morning.

series: dcmtb/city bikes 725; athens wrecking crew 705

october - moab, ut

so it looked like we were going to be watching the results all weekend to see how athens finished. it turns out we spent the weekend trying to figure out what happened. at first we couldn't find them at all. then we noticed they were in the 'just for fun' category.

turns out they had a racer on their team who raced semi-pro and got bumped down (with a lot of other teams) after laird cracked down on riders racing 'down' a category. they finished right behind the 1st place expert team in the overall, so they would have probably finished 2nd in expert.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

wedding beer...

the wedding beer is finally done. 4 batches brewed and bottled with many thanks to heather and my groomsmen. spent the weekend up in philly getting our marriage license and picking out my wedding band. sunday heather had to go to her wedding shower, so i spent the afternoon riding around trying to find my way into wissahickon. i did eventually find my way in and rode some of the trails i rode last year with pat. nice trails. saw a little of the work that IMBA and the new philly mountain bike club have been doing on the trails.