Sunday, December 6, 2009

Worth at Least 284 Words

With winter setting in and the temperature dropping, I've had less time to ride the bike. But at the same time it's still a little warm for any substantial snow fall. It sucks that we're in this transitional time where the conditions aren't conducive to riding my bike or snowboarding. Tomorrow I head down to Garmisch for three days where I'll hopefully get to snowboard for the first time this year (actually, first time in two years. Unfortunately I'll only have one day to ride). Even if the conditions aren't that great it should be an ample warm-up to the season. I'm planning a trip to Austria for the weekend of 18-21 December and then New Year's in Davos, Switzerland where I plan to ride for an entire week (all dependant on how much effort I put into après ski).

Penny and I spent last weekend in Italy. On Saturday we traveled to Venice and spent the afternoon walking around and sight-seeing. I haven't conducted any formal research, but I'm almost certain the only reason people still live in Venice is to provide workers for the tourist shops/restaurants/churches. Despite the fact that any small Italian village is more authentically "Italian" than Venice, we had a nice time navigating through the small alleys and watching the town slowly sink.

This past weekend Penny's parents came out to visit. An almost obligatory weekend adventure during December in Bavaria is a trip to the Nürnberg Christmas Market. At all Christmas markets there are numerous booths selling various wares from tree ornaments to handmade candles to knit hats. Out-numbering the vendor booths by about two to one are food vendors selling sausage, snacks, and glühwein, which is a spiced, mulled wine that is served warm. A lot of people really like it, though I believe that is only because drinking it is the "in" thing to do around the holiday season. For those that haven't tried it (and those that have and lie to themselves that it tastes good) it tastes like boiled gym socks (with an undertone of apricot and oak and a strong, lingering finish). Oh yeah, there are a crap load of people as well. So in the end you go there full of Christmas cheer, and you leave angry because you've been bumped into all day and you have no money left (with only an extra inch on your waste and the taste of gym socks in your mouth to show for it).

I've put up some pictures, scroll over them for captions.

Iceland: barren and beautiful.
This little guy is a riot - and not a quiet one I learned the other day. I saw this in Reykjavik and immediately thought that the producer of this product is sitting on a gold mine if he could market it for all children.

Little punk needs some wrap.

The leaning tower of Venice.

This is the famous Nürnberg (Nuremberg) Christmas Market.
Enjoy the show. Nine more working days until I'm not in charge anymore. I can't wait to be responsible for only myself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are We Not Men?

I dared to go back.

I rode up by the Klinikum again today, the same area I rode when I first got my bike back from the shop. No tree-smashed bikes to contend with this time, just my lack of hydration, endurance, and skill. Oh yeah, and the mud. I could count the number of times I went down a hill sideways due to the amount of mud on one of those two-pronged forks made for the grill. Despite the over abundance of mud, it was a fun, challenging ride that got me out of the apartment on a day that was overcast, but ended in a very spectacular sunset.

Last weekend was the first weekend since September where I was able to get out and ride both days. I took my road bike off the trainer and hit the actual rode for a change. My initial excitement and joy at riding un-tethered would come back to haunt me. I felt so good because I had the wind in my face and every pedal stroke moved my bike forward, I immediately jumped to the big chain ring. After a couple miles of hammering it, I hit a wall that I never really recovered from. In the end I covered a mere 30 miles in two days of riding - less than what I would cover in one ride when the weather was nicer and work wasn't so time consuming.

I know after this weekend I'll want to ride every day. Penny and I are traveling to Italy to purchase a new bike. Penny isn't, she is just going to see more of Italy (neither of us have been to Florence so we'll probably spend a couple days there).

Enjoy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Don't Know, I Don't Know What the Blog is About

Christmas - the only reason Rothenberg ob der Tauber - "above the Tauber River" (from here forward referred to simply as odT) exists. Seriously. For those of you in the know, the original Käthe Wohlfahrt store resides in odT. For those of you not in the know, check out this in-depth Wikipedia page. The reason I bring that up is Penny and I visited there last Friday. It was a nice little day trip. The following day we went south (odT is southwest of Bamberg) to Ingolstadt, the town I spent a month in through a school program during the summer of 2002. Again, a nice day trip though it was much colder on Saturday than Friday. I remember eating some goulasch soup at a restaurant called The Post Wagen during my time there. To this day I claim it is the best goulasch soup I've ever had. I'm not sure if it is because it was the first time I had real goulasch soup or not, but trying it again was one of my reasons for wanting to visit Ingolstadt. Unfortunately The Post Wagen is only open for dinner during the weekends and with an hour and a half drive awaiting us on the return trip to Bamberg we didn't want to stay that long. Oh well, maybe I'll be lucky enough to swing through one time this winter on my way back from snowboarding.

Remember when athletes first signed $10 million dollar-a-year contracts? Now it is pretty common to see salaries in the teens or twenty-million dollar range for baseball, basketball, and even football players. Heck, even golf now has the FedEx Cup which awards $10 million to the winner. Anyway, it appears as though Alberto Contador, this year's Tour de France winner (also winner of the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta Espana, and the 2007 TdF) has a contract offer from Astana for roughly 8 million Euros - or about $2,928,474 billion US dollars with the current exchange rate! Ok, maybe it's more like $12 million, but still, who would have thought that a cyclist would have a contract that big? Crazy. (Just on a side note that I placed in parenthesis to highlight the fact that it is a side note, here [scroll about halfway down and read the section called Keep 'Em in College] is an interesting article about college athletes and money.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Life's Little Mysteries

The Tora 302 worked just fine. There might have been a deadly omen when we first ventured into the woods on our bikes, but we completely ignored it and everything worked in the end. (The omen was a bike that was smashed under a fallen tree. Don't ask why the bike was in the middle of the woods or how the tree fell on it, just believe it.)

It struck me today that weddings place disproportionate amounts of responsibility of men and women. It is tacitly expected that the bride-to-be will do all the planning, with little input from the groom. Yet we give the young boy chosen to be the ring bearer the (at least for name's sake) responsibility to carry and care for the wedding bands while the flower girl just throws old petals on the ground. Are we wrong in putting this idea in little girls' heads that their wedding day will be as easy, carefree, and blissful as throwing pretty flowers on the ground? Eh, don't answer that, it doesn't really matter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chock Full O'Bikes

Wow. Gilbert is on a tear. While not quit as ridiculous as Contador winning four Grand Tours in a row, winning four Fall Classics (Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte, and Giro di Lombardia) is downright unthinkable. Pretty amazing accomplishment since these races focus on different cycling strengths. Gilbert became only the fourth rider to win the Autumn Double, which consists of winning Paris-Tours (a flat race that favors sprinters - like Belgian Tom Boonen who Gilbert beat this year at Paris-Tours) and the Giro di Lombardia (a hilly race that favors climbers like Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sánchez, who finished second this year). Very impressive.

On a more local and personal note, I finally got my mountain bike (a Stevens S9 Elite) back from the shop. They replaced the Manitou Skareb fork with a Rock Shox Tora 302. The Manitou has a seal in it that ruptured four times - and I don't ride that hard. The Rock Shox Tora 302 isn't top of the line by any means, but I ride mostly cross-country when I do ride my mountain bike, so I'm not too concerned with getting the best money can buy. I plan to ride today for the first time, so we'll see how she holds up.

I think I've decided on my next road bike. I know in an earlier post I said I was leaning towards a Colnago, but I've shifted and am now leaning towards a new Bianchi 928.

Absolutely beautiful.  This should be in the Louvre.
The reason is that the 928 is the top of the line frame from Bianchi and I can upgrade the components, wheel set, cockpit, etc. as I feel.

Stay classy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Say What!?

Here is a quick run-down of news I heard/saw/read about this past week:

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize - ridiculous. He may eventually earn it, but it is way too early. The nominations had to be in by 1 February 2009, which means he was nominated either prior to, or in the first 11 days of, taking office. I've heard the arguments that he was chosen the winner as a consolation prize after Chicago didn’t get the Olympics or that the "committee" was trying to sway his decision on sending more troops (which is always used inappropriately - even here - since every definition of troop relates to more than one person or thing) to Afghanistan. Whatever, neither of those arguments change the fact that he was nominated for being elected president – and on speculation.

Tom Boonen was beaten in a sprint by his countryman Philippe Gilbert at Paris-Tours: Big Tom is getting old I guess. He just doesn't seem to have the legs that carried him to a world championship a few years ago or the Belgian National Championship this year. No matter, he'll always be a star in that country. Seriously, the guy gets in trouble for using a controlled substance - not testosterone or EPO or any other doping drug, but cocaine - and the people still love him. Me too.

Red Sox and Pats lost: Shut up.

I went to Iceland: It was a good trip, though short, expensive, and cold. It averaged about three degrees Celsius each day, but the wind was torture (probably not as bad as water boarding, but it did rain one night, so I guess that counts). Reykjavik is a small city with a small town feel. The "downtown" area was one road that had a tiny loop at the end that encompassed one Reykjavik city block - and it was one way. Seriously, it was like a sleepy coastal town (which, granted, it is) mixed with a sleepy ski town. But the food was great.

I'm cute!  And tasty!

MMMMMM, whale steak!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

How beautiful a sport is cycling? Seriously. I know there are a lot of drug problems in it (probably the same level as in any professional endurance sport, it's just that no other professional endurance sport has an event as large as the Tour de France each year to highlight its problems). But I'm talking about the pure beauty of a rider and his bike. Just amazing.

We got into the Paulaner tent this past weekend at Oktoberfest. Pretty cool tent, as I'm sure they all are, but not as exciting as either of the two previous tents I've been to - Augustiner and Hofbräu. Of course maybe I didn't have as much fun because of what transpired the day earlier. I'll break down the entire weekend for your reading enjoyment:

I went to the train station to purchase tickets for three people (Penny, Will, and me) to and from Munich, leaving Thursday night and returning Sunday afternoon. I also picked up tickets to and from Prague leaving from Munich on Saturday and returning on Sunday for Will and me, as Penny planned to spend the day in Munich with friends. The plan was to train down on Thursday, fest it up on Friday, hit Prague on Saturday, and return home on Sunday. As an old soccer coach used to say, "good thought, poor execution". Yeah, so on the way to Munich Thursday night I realize that I forgot my passport in my apartment. Fast forward to Friday at Oktoberfest; all I'm thinking about is how I now have to take a train back to Bamberg Friday evening and hope to get back to Munich by 8:30 am on Saturday. I get another ticket (and by now the cost is rising) that was scheduled to have me in Bamberg by quarter past eight on Friday night and back in Munich by 6:15 the next morning. Great - I can even catch a few hours of sleep in my own bed. So what happens next? I miss my connection in Nürnberg (I was sleeping) and end up in Würzburg. Now I have to spend even more money on a ticket from Würzburg to Bamberg. That finally gets me to my apartment about 11:15 pm and my return trip to Munich departs at 12:07 am. Could I have made it? Yeah, but it would have sucked because I would have been on a train right back to Würzburg, then another connection in Regensberg; not something I wanted to do. So I suck it up, buy fuel, and drive down to Munich, about a two hour drive (only because I can cruise at 100 mph due to the lack of traffic that late). So that pretty much voided our return tickets from Munich, a cost I was willing to absorb to get back to Munich as soon as possible.

In the end Prague was nice and the weather cooperated, but 29 hours of travel in a three-day period wasn't too much fun.


Weak attempt at Oktoberfest.  What a small amount of puke.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Action Packed Action

Heading down to Oktoberfest tomorrow. Second time this year. Third time in the last five years I've lived in Germany - not a great percentage.

Next weekend I'm traveling to Iceland. That should be quite interesting as it will be my first time there. Penny and I have a cave tour lined up for one of the days were up there. Hopefully it doesn't turn out like that movie The Descent. And by that I mean crappy. In all fairness I haven't seen that movie, so to label it crappy would be rushing to a completely uninformed review. Though I bet that movie is crappy, really crappy.

October is looking pretty jam packed on the weekends, what with Oktoberfest this weekend, Iceland the following, and a possible trip to Vienna during the last weekend. So what else is a man to do but plan a trip to Italy for the third weekend of the month. Penny will be back in the States, so that allows me to head to Italy and purchase a road bike. I currently own a Bianchi 928, but I've been in negotiations with a bike dealer near Vincenza who can give me a good deal on a new Colnago (or Bianchi, but I think I'm going to get a Colnago). I'm pretty excited about the possibility of getting a new bike. I like the one I own fine, but a new, sexy bike would be the cat's meow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Looking through my old blog, I noticed there were some pretty keen insights that I must have randomly typed since they are way above my level of understanding. Despite this lack of comprehension on my part, I do believe they are true. With that, here is a look back at some of my (in my opinion) greatest observations (no particular order):

1. Everyone has a solution to accomplish other's jobs, but only reasons they can't do their own.
2. No matter how bad your golf round is, there always someone doing worse. Of course, there is also someone doing better, and that is probably the person you are playing against.
3. You can fit in, but you can't fit out.
4. Some days things just don't go your way, sometimes those days last two weeks.

Yeah, so that's really about it. I guess in all those observations I made some weren't as good as others. Deal with it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Warm Up

Checking in, or more correctly rechecking in (if that's possible). A quick shout out to my last blog that went stale: cloud of unispired dreams.

I have no direction or destination currently, but we'll work on that. For now heed this advice (I should have, that swine flu beat me up pretty good):

Try a nice Rioja, or perhaps a Temperanillo.