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Our End of the Pandemic Double-Dinner-Date; Normal was SWEET!

My wife and I went out to eat Friday night with a good cycling buddy of ours and his wife as a double-date at one of the nicest restaurants in town. We’d planned on doing this since our first shot – for me, as a way of flipping Covid, and the ridiculous restrictions that came with the pestilence, the bird on the way out the door.

My wife and I are fully vaccinated, and now immune to Covid-19, so, rather than our fearful leaders, I’m going to lead by example and act like it. The reason behind their over-the-top silly actions is simple and follows along the “never let a crisis go to waste” line of thinking. The WuFlu is now in “milk as much as you can out of the crisis and don’t let it go without deep claw marks left in it” mode. They’ve ridden that ass to the point it’s beat up, tired, and unwilling to take another step so they pull out the crop and start whipping it on the side of the ass while it just stands there. That’s exactly where the notion “wear a mask outdoors even though science says doing so is preposterous” came from.

Originally, this post was likely to turn into another rant about outrageously ignorant outdoor mask mandates, guidelines and regulations for vaccinated people, when I realized I can do better.

I’m going to celebrate the fact that we are vaccinated against Covid (and the “variants”, as that poor donkey gets its ass whipped again), and better, according to all sane data, can’t spread the virus to others (in the off chance we encounter enough of the virus to even cause an immune reaction in the first place).

Is that a bold statement? Yes, but haven’t you wondered why we, the vaccinated, can only say we can’t spread the virus “according to a growing body of evidence”? Why hasn’t that test been done to conclusively say one way or the other? It’d take about ten minutes. The right questions are out there, they’re just not being asked. Do you see vaccinated people running around worrying about mumps and measles (both caused by viruses, by the way)? Of course you don’t.

And so that’s it, folks. I have to work on letting my anger and frustration go as these clowns fall all over themselves to keep perpetuating the crisis. It’s what politicians do… at least those who see themselves as leading a kinder, gentler, Empire.

I Can’t Take the Lying About COVID Anymore… and I’m About Two Weeks from Burning My Masks

If you were paying attention, Texas lifted all of their COVID restrictions a while back. The next day the lame-stream, drive-by media reported an increase in COVID cases due to the rescinding of restrictions and the lack of a mask mandate which would likely mean the end of Texas as we know it and blamed virtually everything that is bad in the world on the fact that Texas ended its restrictions. The “experts” all said Texas was doomed.

If you hadn’t noticed, you haven’t heard a word since. That’s because the numbers in Texas went down. Florida? Not quite the apocalypse everyone was expecting after spring break, either. The drive-by media and the left are so bad on this, they even (rightly) lost Bill Maher… now, you know it’s bad when the left loses Maher.

First of all, I want to address the big elephant in the room; the efficacy of masks in the first place. First, I’m sure they work – the US skipped “flu season” this year, but while all of Asia was masking up at the beginning of the pandemic, our Dr. Anthony Fauci and a parade of “experts” came out and said that masks weren’t necessary. They, the “experts”, said this because there was a fear we’d run short on masks – a supply that was depleted during the previous pandemic scare (that never amounted to anything). So, masks really were important, but they didn’t want us hoarding them (like toilet paper), so the “experts” lied and said masks shouldn’t be necessary. Lo and behold, a few weeks later and all of a sudden masks are needed and in fact indispensable! In fact, as long as they’re a couple layers of tightly woven cotton, they’re supposedly effective (and we can make our own). Anything said after and other than that is just another lie to cover up the initial lie about not needing them in the first place to protect against hording.

And just like that, these knuckleheaded “experts” created their own segment of the population that was never going to wear a mask because if they weren’t necessary in the beginning, they aren’t now… they’re just a symbol of liberal oppression. Nice f***ing going, “experts”.

Then, and this was almost too funny, left-wing extremist politicians suggested we should start wearing two masks. Our lieutenant governor still parades around like a fool with two masks (though our governor doesn’t). Of course, this prompts the obvious question, “If two masks are better than one, why not really do something bold to stop the spread of COVID in these trying and difficult times and wear six?”

Second, and this one drives me nuts, a person who is fully vaccinated should not have to bother wearing a mask. Period. If you pay attention to the CDC guidelines, they lay this all out, too. The notion a vaccinated person should continue wearing a mask is just another in the vast series of preposterous lies contrary to science and the reason is quite simple; because they just don’t want to allow immunized people to walk around without masks while those who haven’t gotten their shot(s) should still wear a mask (unless you’re Texas). They definitely want the unvaccinated to wear a mask and don’t want them parading around without one so you get “we’re all in this together” rather than the full scientific truth that we’re only wearing masks so those who aren’t vaccinated don’t feel left out.

The question, then, is how long should we play along and actually keep wearing a mask when we’re in an establishment that requires a mask for entry? That’s four weeks from April 15th in the US of A… then two weeks after that for the second shot to take. In other words, June 1st. Let’s not be too tight, though. Let’s give it another two weeks. Call it June 15th. I’m not wearing a mask until we hit some nebulous, flexible number a politician comes up with. I’m not waiting on the knuckleheads out there who refuse to get their shot(s), either. I don’t care if someone else doesn’t want to get vaccinated. As it’s been said, get the vaccine or get the virus. In less than two months I’m done with this silly $#!+. The masks are going into the fire pit (actually, I stopped wearing a mask a couple of weeks ago unless I’m entering an establishment with a sign asking for one to be worn – I don’t need it, of course, but I don’t have to be a dick about it, either).

After all, we’re all in this together and I’m immune (or close enough to it for government work). I’m not a big fan of the kumbaya bullshit either, but the way I see it, it’s my job to be strong and brave for others to show them that we vaccinated folk are all in this together and can get back to living like normal people again! After all, we’re all in this together in these trying and difficult times – let’s be in this together in a manner we can see each other smile again!

Anyway, I was driving home last night, thinking about how I could wrap this post up and I was given a gift over the radio. It was announced that Joe Biden would cede to the CDC’s recommendation on when we could stop wearing masks outdoors. Uh, when did we start wearing masks outdoors?! Let’s go back to the video and ask again why the half the US is so ignorant about the science when it comes to COVID. It’s a top down thing, Bill.

Just Can’t Stand Another Day Off So I Actually Hooked My Bike Up to the Trainer…

It was raining Monday so I had no problem with a day off the bike. The weekend was filled with big, hard miles and I’ve got a new focus for this year that won’t have so much “gotta ride every day” to it so when Tuesday was unseasonably cold well, I didn’t have a problem taking another day off. Snow flurries hit Tuesday night – we had an inch and some change sitting on the ground when I got to the office Wednesday morning. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, yesterday was cold with more wind. That new outlook of mine is only going to go so far. I just couldn’t take another day off, but I had no desire to ride outside…

I decided to swap out rear wheels and put my bike on the trainer.

Two minutes into my session and I realized why I’ve had such good spring roll outs these last two years… that 45 minute session was hard.

I’d run Star Wars Rogue One in the Blueray player and started out in what I thought should have been an easy gear. A minute into it, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround blasting, I was huffing and puffing… and starting to sweat already. I was showing a paltry 16-mph on the Garmin but the speed sensor runs slow (I was closer to 19). After a good warm-up I shifted one gear harder and the progressive resistance on the trainer kicked back. My speed jumped to 18-mph but I was pushing the same watts I do on a Tuesday night at 26-mph. I held that for ten or fifteen minutes, then downshifted for a break. Five minutes later it was back into the hard gear and I held that for another ten before another break. The last five minutes were cranked out hard. I averaged, according to my speed sensor, a whopping 16-mph average for 45 minutes (chuckle).

When I rolled out of bed this morning I felt like I was 82. My calf muscles feel like they’re attached to piano wires. My butt is angry and sitting it out in the corner, moping and I’m generally wondering who hit me with a truck.

And I love it.

The cold leaves today, thankfully. It’ll be a little rough, just hitting 50 in my neighborhood, but tomorrow is supposed to be quite lovely. We’ll get rain Saturday which fits the schedule perfectly because my wife and I are getting our second jab tomorrow. I’m taking the day off, too. I’m going to ride in the morning with the Friday retiree gang (and my wife) and then we’re going to get our shot. Then we’ll have Friday afternoon and all day Saturday to shake the vaccine off before rolling out Sunday to what should be some glorious weather.

It’s going to be a light week on the bike, but I can feel the weight coming off nicely (my jeans, wedding ring and watch all fit just a little looser) and a rest week probably isn’t a bad idea, anyway. Back to normal is only two weeks away for me. Technically, it’s already here, but let’s keep that between us… I wouldn’t want Atilla the Whitmer to get wind I’m not quaking in my boots behind six masks and a face-shield over COVID. She might send her Rottweiler AG after me for showing a lack of piety to the Governmental Apparatus. We wouldn’t want that, now.

What Would It Be Like to Go Cycling with Jesus? And Other Heady Thoughts On Cycling and the Sheer Joy It Brings.

This is what I was thinking about last night as Chuck and I were heading toward my house, maybe five miles to go.  We had a glorious tailwind, it was above 40 degrees and I was about as close to perfectly dressed as I’m going to get.  We were cruising, after all those trainer miles over the winter, and the pace was fairly enjoyable – I would put it in the “barely moderate” category.  I was in Chuck’s draft and I said to him, “I like to think about what it’d be like if Jesus got a chance to ride with us”.

I like to imagine the look on His face on throwing a leg over a Specialized Venge Tarmac (I started writing this post last year before they did away with the Venge) or Trek Madone 9…. the look of trepidation, the uneasy wobble as he tried to clip in the first time (maybe we’d give him some platform pedals for his first go)…

Then, after learning to ride, would naturally come teaching Him how to ride in a group, you know, the particulars; watch the overlap of the wheels, watch up the road, no, bicycles don’t work on water because you can’t get traction on the water.  You know, the basics.  Then, I like to imagine the look of sheer joy on His face as He cruised around with a group of us in a pace-line.  I love to think about what it would be like if Jesus could feel the joy and exhilaration of coming around the final corner on Tuesday night, full out as the pace ramps up from 25 to north of 30-mph.  I’m immensely grateful that I can and feel that regularly.  Then I wonder if maybe Jesus does get to sense of what that’s like through me.

This is my understanding of God in recovery.  The whole “God is my co-pilot” doesn’t make any sense in recovery.  Technically, if we’re doing it right, God is the pilot.  Anyway, “I get it” kind of, but the whole pilot/co-pilot thing is a little foreign to me as I’m not, you know, a pilot.  The thought of how much fun Jesus would have in our pace-line, though, and having the chance to lead Him out (or vice-versa, even better yet), that’s something I can connect with.

I like to think of how big smile on His face would be after we cross the Lennon City Limits sign and we’re all bumping fists and patting each other on the back, thanking each other for the hard work and effort on another fantastic ride, acknowledging each other’s part in the group… I like to think Jesus would see that and say, “You know, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  That’s how it’s done.”

… and just like that, I was on the home-stretch to my driveway.  The first, glorious ride of the new season in the books.  We took the gravel bikes out as the snowmelt was gnarly and messy, but was it fabulous to be out in the fresh air, even if I ate some salty road spray a time or two. I thanked my friend for another fantastic time on the bike as he rode off toward his house.  I felt a little like Kurt Warner as I walked my bike up to the front porch.  I gave a little, “Thank you, Je-sus!” and smiled again as I rolled my bike into the house to tell my wife about the ride.

I haven’t slept as well as I did last night in months.

The Perfect Racy Setup for a Restored Trek 5200; Transforming an Old (But Not Tired) Horse to New Glory

My cycling brother from another mother bought himself a Postal Edition Trek 5200 and fitted it with 11-speed Ultegra components (looks like an 11/28 cassette with a 50/34 chainset). I’ve had my 5200, a few years older (his looks like a 2002), since 2012 so I’ve had a lot of time to tinker with it to make it into exactly the bike I want it. I’m here to tell you, if you want a good, workhorse frame to build into a new, racy steed, the 5200 is an excellent choice. It’s a little on the squishy side at the bottom bracket by today’s standards, but modern components work. You can get everything you need – 11 speed components, wheels, cranksets, headsets… and you don’t have to go expensive, either. I’ve got a budget Shimano crankset with SRAM chainrings and the 105 drivetrain that came off my Specialized Venge when I upgraded that to Ultegra. I think, if memory serves, I’ve got about $1,000 into upgrading all of the components and wheels – and that includes the $200 I plunked down to upgrade my Venge’s drivetrain – for the entire build (not including the paint job, however):

So here’s what you’ll need to know, generally, to build up a 5200, from the frame up. First, you’ve got a 68 mm English threaded bottom bracket (I’ve got an Ultegra BBR60 on mine that has been fantastic). I also have, and highly recommend, a Chris King 1″ threaded headset (for the pre-2000 5200’s). King’s headsets are known to be bomb-proof. You’ll have enough room at the back triangle for 10 or 11 speed components, so go nuts. For the wheels, you’ll want to be careful and keep the rim width to 23-mm max (25 will be a little too wide – I tried 25’s with 26 mm tires and there simply isn’t enough clearance at the chainstays – the tire will rub whilst climbing out of the saddle). For the seatpost, you’ll need a 27.2 mm. I went with a carbon fiber Easton model that I’ve had on there since ’14 or so. The old, original seat posts had slots to adjust the saddle nose up/down. I found my comfort zone to be exactly in between two slots. I needed/wanted something infinitely adjustable. I use a quill adapter so I can use a standard threadless stem. I’ve got a Bontrager Elite Blendr 90 mm x 17 degree (flipped, obviously). I specifically went with the 17 so I’d end up with the stem parallel to the top tube. Finally, to round out the new parts, I’ve got a sweet Bontrager Montrose Pro 138 mm carbon fiber saddle and a Bontrager Elite Aero alloy handlebar that I put on a couple of summers ago.

From the ground up, it’s an impressive build and I thoroughly enjoy riding it. It’s surprisingly light, too. I’m at 18-1/2 pounds as you see it in the photo above, but could go much lighter with Ultegra or Dura Ace components. While it’ll never measure up to modern race bikes, it’ll hold its own in any setting. I’ve heard it said that frame has more US wins on it than any frame in the history of cycling.

How Much Faster Is A Modern Superbike vs. How Cool Is A Modernized Classic? That’s THE Question.

Old school cool or cutting edge, and does it matter? Really? Bet your @$$ it does.

I absolutely love this subject because, for the cycling enthusiast (of a certain age), it tugs at the heartstrings. Many of us want to be able to say the steeds of yore are just as good as today’s carbon fiber blinged out rigs, with their disc brakes and lightweight carbon fiber aero wheels, aero frames, hidden cables (or in some cases, non-existent)…

We want to say the steeds of the past are just as good. But we can’t. Because they’re not. And I know what usually comes next; “but steel”… I know. But steel doesn’t stack up to carbon fiber. Oh, a steel bike is comfortable and a little more compliant, but pound for pound, literally, when you factor in being able to get the thing down the road at speed, give me my Specialized any day of the week and twice on Sunday: once at the Byron City Limits sign, then again at the Durand City Limits sign.

After rebuilding my now 22-year-old 5200 and putting carbon fiber wheels on it, I absolutely love the bike. It’s fairly light (18-1/2 pounds), nimble, and quite enjoyable to ride (especially with the 25-mm tires that barely fit between the chainstays). I kid you not, compared to what the bike was when I brought it home at a whopping 22 pounds, the bike is outstanding as it’s currently fitted out.

But, given reliably good weather, I’ll take my Venge every time.

For speed, the 5200 just can’t keep up with the vastly superior Venge – and I can ride and have ridden both bikes with the same wheelset, so I know for a fact it’s not “the wheels”. Having put a bit more than 30,000 miles on each bike, I know exactly what the difference feels like when putting the power down. The Specialized Venge leaps in comparison. It’s not even a fair fight. Compliance? The Venge wins without breaking a sweat. For virtually every performance category you can come up with, excepting a crosswind, the Specialized will win. Every stinkin’ category…

But there exists a non-performance category where an old steed can make up a lot of ground in a hurry; there’s just something extra cool about a well-kept, modernized classic road bike, especially now that virtually every aero bike on the market looks like every other aero bike on the market. And the best news is, while there is a difference between the modern superbike and the classic in terms of watts required to get the bike down the road, there isn’t enough of a difference it can’t be made up for with a little more “want to” and some shorter turns at the front.

And that’s where my old Trek 5200 shines. It’s not the hottest, flashiest, blingy-est bike around, but there isn’t another like it within a half-dozen surrounding states.

And that flare makes up for a lot of performance shortcomings when stacked against a modern superbike. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face… or maybe that smile is because spring is right around the corner. Likely a bit of both. It was -1 F (-18 C) this morning.

As I’ve Said…

I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s start with everyone who believes the earth needs to be emptied of half its humans… then we’ll pause to see how that worked.

Something tells me that’ll do.

Raises, a Promotion, a Remodeled Kitchen, and the Thinking of New Bikes

My wife had her kitchen remodeled over the last week. I helped as, being a carpenter by trade, even if I’m just a “suit”, I still know how to put some things together. The new floor was installed, mainly, by my wife and a friend I ride with (he’s the local carpenter of all trades, retired, who works for fun and friends). I wired and installed a new hood and stainless steel backsplash and my wife touched up all the paint.

We are very pleased.

My promotion is going well at work but I’ve found it a little difficult to get into the swing of things… as a project manager, I hadn’t dealt with a new blueprint in years. I often know a job 3-D before ever digging into a print. Now I have go back to visualize the job built with my mind’s eye. There’s a trick and learning curve to that. I’m putting my usual above average effort into it, though, so it’s coming around nicely. It’s not quite as enjoyable as what I’d been doing, but the raise is very much worth it.

And that leaves bikes. Pay attention, Brent. I’ve wondered, sometimes aloud, whether I should upgrade my Venge. My weekday riding buddy has a brand spanking new Specialized Tarmac due in next month that is going to be super nice… Ultegra Di2 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes, 50 mm Roval wheels, and a bangin’ paint job. I won’t lie, I’d been salivating. A bit like Pavlov’s dog I am with the smell of new carbon fiber…

I can’t do it, though. After all that Venge and I have been through, after building it from the ground up from just a little entry-level race bike to its current 2-1/2 pound lighter gloriousness… I simply can’t get there in my head to blow another $6,000 for a heavier, likely less aero bike. That’d be… nuts.

On the other hand, with all of my fatty friends posting photos of their outdoor adventures while I’m stuck on the trainer… it’s starting to look fun now that I’ve finally, after near a decade of cycling in cold weather, got a jacket (technically, two, I bought a second) that keeps me warm down into the mud-teens (-10 C)… a no-sus fatty for my wife and I might not be so bad…

I’ll have to ruminate on that for a bit. Let it marinate. Hmmm “Fit Fatty Recovery”… well, it’s got a ring to it – and it’d certainly piss off the intellectual racists… which I love…

What Happened with GameStop Stock Explained in One Sentence…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s been a kerfuffle in the stock market around GameStop stock. Here’s what happened: GameStop stock surged under WuFlu lockdowns. It went from $4 a share all the way up to $40. Hedge fund managers positioned themselves to short the stock, to “ride it” all the way back down, profiting on the decline of the stock. A few important people figured this out and started buying up the company’s stock. Lots of it. In short order, it became a “thing” over the internet and, as more people jumped on that bandwagon using day-trading apps, the price of the stock shot up, topping $400 a share.

I should know. Mine was sold just north of $400. Heh.

In short order, Wall Street, sensing way too much Wall Street blood in the water, shut down trading for GameStop stock on certain day-trading apps. Now, here’s the important part – all you need to know about this whole beautiful mess: normal everyday people figured out how to game the market better than the fat cats on Wall Street, doing the exact same thing, out in the open, the fat cats do behind closed doors all day long on Wall Street. There’s no difference, there were no scruples or morays or laws twisted or broken that hedge fund managers don’t do all day long, every day of the working week when they play board games with the stock market. That won’t stop politicians and the big wigs from trying to convince you otherwise, but it isn’t so. The fun part, and the only important sentence everyone needs to know about this is and why Wall Street freaked out and shut it down is this:

The wrong people made the money.

Normal, average, everyday Americans who normally have to hit the lotto to win, rode the stock from nothing all the way up to the stratosphere and sold their stock, paying off student loans, car loans, even mortgages. It won’t be portrayed that way by most; there are stories coming out about rogue day-traders who are unfairly gaming the system and so forth, but in the end, GameStop was all about the wrong people making money with the help of a few billionaires. And for once, you’ll find out who the real bad guys are here… this is one of those things people on the left and right can finally agree on.

Except Bernie and his mittens. Bernie’s going to be pissed. Elon Musk and a few app makers did more for the little guy in 79 hours than Bernie did in 79 years. If this is the new normal for the Harris-Biden administration, it might not be all bad.

Finding Jeans for the Discerning Cyclist: Urban Pipeline Athletic Taper UltraFlex Jeans – The Most Comfortable Jeans I’ve Every Owned

Anyone who has spent much time on a bicycle or running will eventually find themselves in the pickle of having trouble picking a pair of pants that fit over their spectacularly formed legs whilst still fitting in the waist/hip area. This is something I’ve struggle with for years – though it’s a happy struggle.

I’ve always been partial to less expensive jeans. My last two pair were Wranglers… I split the upper thigh of one pair at work running four flights of stairs – my big legs simply split the material. It was rather embarrassing, though thankfully I had on a long reflective winter jacket for jobsite walking. I ended up at a Kohl’s (the nearest department store I knew to carry a decent selection of jeans).

I happened on the Urban Pipeline rack and saw “UltraFlex” and “Athletic Taper” Three, technically four, beautiful words to a cyclist with big, muscular legs. The Wranglers I mentioned earlier are unbelievably tight in the thighs and I’ve got about an inch and a half extra room in the waist. Let’s just say they feel odd wearing them (my legs have grown an inch since the jeans were purchased). I need a belt to keep them from feeling like they’re going to fall off… but they can’t because my quads hold them up. It used to be, before cycling, I could simply pick a pair of 32/34’s off the rack and head for the register. Anymore, I’ve got to try them on first because of the aforementioned leg issue.

The Urban Pipeline athletic taper jeans are a bit on the pricier side, between $44 and $52 a pair but the “athletic taper” combined with the UltraFlex material is nothing short of miraculous. The jeans are so comfortable, they’re almost as good as my fleece PJ pants. In fact, more than once I didn’t even bother changing after dinner.

Fortunately, Kohl’s has an online store so you can order them and have them shipped straight to your door (this is especially awesome if you need a hard-to-get size… like a 32/34). I can’t recommend them highly enough.

And so, after having received my first big paycheck after my raise, I pulled the trigger on two more pair last night (and a badass Star Wars T-shirt to get me over the free shipping threshold).