Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nancy Jean Fish a.k.a. Pansy Palmetto

Well, after my last entry I decided to rename it and just call it Nancy Jean Fish a.k.a., Pansy Palmetto. Why? Because this is my Blog and I can do whatever the hell I want with it. Besides, who wants to read something with a title like “Fuck Forever” anyway? I guess I felt a little guilty because the last one, and it will stay part of this one, was just a little too… say…close to home, or selfish as I look back on it. I mean I really didn’t even mention why, or who I attributed the entry. So, with this meager attempt, I’ll try and put a few words down so that “Fuck Forever” makes some sense.

Her name was Nancy Jean Fish, or Pansy Palmetto for those so fortunate to call her their friend. Why Pansy Palmetto? Hell, I didn’t even know why until her memorial service. Pansy Palmetto was her Porn name. WTF? Porn Name? Yeah, that one hit me as well, and you wouldn’t even begin to understand why unless you met this full-of-beans icon. Pansy, as I understand it, was the name of her first dog, and Palmetto street was the name of the first street she lived on. Hence, her Porn name. Me, mine would have been Manfred something or another because I can’t remember the first street I lived on. So, Manfred Blank…catchy uh? Sure wouldn't win me any movie parts, now would it (Oh, no pun intended! Hahaha!) Anyway, now you get the idea.

Nancy was the epitome of life as it should be lived, period. There aren’t really any other words to describe her; although, I’ll try to make a worthy attempt here in a few short words. She pushed through every moment with a grace that was full of abandonment. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stood in her way! If you were lucky enough to be standing at the station when her train came whizzin’ by, you were snatched up, loaded, and strapped in before you could utter a word. You were along for the ride baby, and she didn’t care if you liked it or not. I actually think she was like that her entire life by the tall tales and colorful comments from friends and family at her memorial service. My cycling friend Curt once said this about her, “Ya know, there aren’t too many people who are like they appear to be on the internet, but Nancy is exactly like she appears to be on the internet.” As I reflected back on Curt’s comment, I realized more and more that he was spot on. All you have to do is read her blog and you will get a picture-perfect look into the persona of Pansy Palmetto.

I could go on and on about how she affected my life and what I think she left behind, but I’m not gonna do that here. My meager words wouldn’t do justice to Nancy’s own narration of herself…and, if she ever found out that I had even tried, she would have beaten me like the red-headed step child that she always thought I was anyway. I’ll just leave you with her blog, and I will guarantee that once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop. Without question, everyone that I directed to her blog, came back and said, “Who the hell is that woman, she’s hilarious!”

I tried this several times once before but my fingers remained motionless…the cursor flashed in a white sea of emptiness…I walked away. I guess now that the words have been said, the slideshows played, and sympathies passed along, I could finally put a few things down on this blog that would help me move on.

I had a co-worker tell me once, “Mozam, love them while they are here, ‘cause once they are gone, it is forever.” Well, I guess that is true in one sense of the word, but I rationalized his statement, thinking that you can always have their memory, right? I guess it is the finality of it all that fucks with your head more than anything. To be honest, I hate these kind of things because it just plain hurts. A bit selfish I know, but it just hurts.

I’ve had to say goodbye to a few friends who one day were here, and in the next moment, splattered their entire existence across a landscape while preparing to defend the foreign policies of this great land. The finality of watching their family receive the flag that once draped over their casket, kicked me right up side the head, and it hurt. It’s the final thought that remains: the flag will be placed in a case, along with medals of service, on a mantle of honor – a final resting place – that stuns you.

Walking past the pictures, smiling and occasionally laughing at the captured moments in time, I stood there admiring the turquoise boots, helmet, and jacket. Somehow, I suddenly realized that I would probably never see these again…so I moved on and smiled. So…it is true: once they are gone, it is forever. But, and there is always a but! I’ll take the memories and FUCK forever…I choose to put off the finality of the moment until the end.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Let's Change "DNF" to "Yeah-But"


DNF. Those are three letters that make most ultra-cyclists cringe, well they make me cringe anyway. Did Not Finish: always bothers me to be sure, although I’m not exactly sure why. DNF is that thought that hides in the back of the mind and creeps to the forefront as the miles pass. “God, I feel like shit, I sure hope I can finish this thing…” I was thinking that we should ban the acronym from our cycling thought patterns and substitute, “Yeah-But” instead. Why? DNF is too much like death, it permeates the mind with the thought of a finale with no meaning. Kind of like the end of a person’s life where no one remembers the person’s journey.

My view of ultra-cycling has always been to finish the ride, and luckily, I have finished everyone of my attempts except one…well two, if you count the one I did not pay for. I say, “finish the ride” because most of us mere mortals participate in these things for the adventure and not the competition per se. There are a few who have either the natural ability or unlimited time to train for competition; I have neither, so I opt for the adventure and a little inward self-competition.

Before exploring “Yeah-But”, let’s take a deeper look at DNF for a second. Here’s my take on why DNF is so daunting and hard to deal with. I remember way back as a kid I went to see the movie “Patton.” I remember his speech to the troops before going into battle, and I remember one portion of that speech in particular. The character, General George Patton said, “…Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser…” He went on and on about the “fastest runner”, “highest jumper”, etc, etc…, that and host of other shit I can’t remember. But, that particular part of his speech always stuck in my brain for some odd reason. So, I guess it is that “American” ethic thing that drives us to not DNF.

Perhaps part of the DNF aversion can be attributed to the way we were raised. “You better finish that meal, there are starving children in Africa that would love that food, ya know!” Or perhaps, “you have to finish your homework before you can go out and play.” Then there was one of my favorites, “Don’t start something you can’t finish!” What the fuck was that supposed to mean anyway? If I didn’t finish peeing in the toilet, did that make me a failure of some sort, or a loser who Americans won’t tolerate? Well, having said all of that, I think you get my point. Most people don’t want the stigma of DNF on them: a badge of “L” for loser, or “F” for failure as it were.

Oh, one other thing about DNF and then we’ll move on to Yeah-But. Ever notice how people react when you tell them that you “lost”, or notice their reaction when you tell them you DNF’d? It is one of those somewhat false-empathetic responses, their eyes shift slightly away from looking at you and they say something like: “oh, you’ll do a lot better next time…maybe you need to train harder”, or, “that’s too bad man, what happened to you out there?” Followed shortly thereafter, by a complete change in subject. Again, this is only my observation. I’m sure someone will get their panties in a wad and say something like, “hey not everybody is like that.” Well, sure…no shit Sherlock. So, ok, let’s move onto Yeah-But.

I really like “Yeah-But” much better than “DNF”, or Did Not Finish. Why? Say it to yourself, “yeah-but.” What goes through your mind? Aaaah, there is more to the story right? There is a tale to be told. The thought, “tell me more” comes to the forefront right? The “yeah” part acknowledges the finality of “DNF”, but the “but” part says: there is a story here that needs to be told. Peoples’ attention is focused on the explanation, and the vivid storyboard formed by the words that describe the adventure, vice the finality of the moment.

“Yeah-but” also stymies the quick branding of one as a, “loser or failure.” Think about it for a second. If you want to hear more about the adventure, you are much less likely to jump to an immediate opinion. Something like this, “yeah it really sucked out there and I didn’t finish, but I had the best ride of my life…my legs were strong for the first 100 miles, my nutrition was spot on; and you should have seen how beautiful it was out there, it was like riding through Western Europe in the spring…flowers blooming…the air was fresh and clean…sun warming my face…totally awesome dude, you shoulda been there!” So whatya say?, let’s change “DNF” to “Yeah-But.”

A few Yeah-Buts:

Death Valley Double Attempt, 2003

Little Miss Sunshine's Fixed Gear 508 Attempt

Nightmare to Remember

One of my personal favs:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

San Diego "Almost" Century

Aaaah San Diego. What a place. Sunshine, tons of beach, and lots of places to cycle. We, Miz Bobbie and I, decided to join the cycling fun down here by participating in the San Diego Century. I had already heard about this ride, but didn’t know too many details before plunking down the entry fees. The website did a pretty good job of letting me know what to expect, but I must say, I was a little surprised at the level of difficulty we experienced.

First off, great organization! We waddled our way through the registration process without a hitch, collected our packets and were on our way within a few minutes. The only snag was the endless waiver paperwork required. It appears that California lawyers are certainly secure in their employment because not only did we have to fill out waiver paperwork for the event organizers, we were required to fill out waiver paperwork for the county of San Diego and surrounding areas. Geez, does anybody do anything without lawyers anymore? I know, that was a dumb question.

We had a great “warm up” ride on Friday before the event cruising through Oceanside and Carlsbad beach venues and neighborhoods. Exploring by bicycle has to be the greatest way to see things. You can stop when you want, go where want, and take as long as you want. And…you can go places that most cars can’t go…what a treat! The weather here was just awesome as well. Partly cloudy skies, light winds, and temps in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. So, we were hoping for the same on event day.

I’m the early riser in the family while Miz Bobbie prefers to take the long route when waking up in the morning. I figured if we get up by 0530, we could hop in the car and be ready to roll by 0700, our planned departure time. As expected the weather was cloudy and cool with a slight sea breeze; standard for this area and time of the year. We actually get ready and roll out uneventfully by 0710. I say uneventfully because this event like most others I’ve attended let’s people roll out during a time window. Frankly, I kind of miss the mass starts because of all the excitement that seems to be generated from the synergy of everyone massing together at once. I guess it’s the lawyers again, who knows.


The first part of the ride covers a lot of east San Diego back country giving way to tree covered rolling roads that are lightly travelled, well at least at this time of morning. Some smartass and two of his buddies roll up beside us and say, “hey, when is the rain supposed to start?” Shit-eatin’ grin accompanies the rhetorical question. Well, Miz Bobbie, being who she is says, “Rain? What rain?” Smartass and his two buddies just roll ahead with shit-eaten’ grins on their faces. Me, my thought was: “assholes.” I assuage Miz Bobbie’s rain fears by assuring her that there is no rain in the forecast. She says, “well if it rains, I’m done…get me cab!”

I won’t bore you with a detailed description of every food product served at the rest stops but they did have: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Gatorade, trail-mix, an assortment of energy bars, pretzels, bananas, and water! Let’s not forget about the water. Oh and one interesting common theme at each rest stop: they were all in church parking lots — Church of God, Church of the Nativity, Crosspointe Baptist Church, and Church of the Nativity again. For awhile, I was expecting the Pope, or at least some Bishop clad in a red robe to come over and flip holy water on us from a stick or something. I didn’t know if the volunteers were all church members, so I made sure I didn’t ask someone to: “hey, cut me a piece of that fuckin’ banana will ya?”


If you divide this ride into quarters, I’d have to say that the first quarter and last quarter are more suburban to rural riding; whereas, the middle two quarters are mostly suburban with a little urban thrown in. What that translates into is a whole lot of stoplights, and I mean a whole lot. I must have unclipped a thousand times on this ride. I didn’t keep track of how long we waited for each light to change, but I can say this, it was a butt load. I found all this rather annoying, but overall the scenery, and just being California in general, made up for it.

I’m not big on route markings because some route organizers mark the pavement with spray paint and over the years, this stuff just doesn’t seem to go away. In fact, I’ve found myself on several occasions following route markings from previous year’s rides, or some other ride using a similar route. So, normally I only use the route slip for navigation to avoid this kind of problem. On this ride, the ride organizers were a bit clever in their marking. They used these triangle stanchions with large yellow arrows pointing to the correct turn direction. So, I thought, “hey, I’ll just put this route slip in my pocket ‘cause I don’t really need it with all these cool direction arrows.” Mistake number one: You see, there was no arrow pointing to the 67 mile turn off, so we ended up on the 100 mile route for about 15 miles before realizing it. As we climbed hill after hill heading east, I finally realized something was up. So, I sprinted ahead to the guy in front of us and asked, “hey man are you on the 100 mile route, or 67 mile route?” He said, “I’m on the 100 miler and the turnaround is just up ahead.” Me: “shit!” Him: “well, you might as well commit to the 100 miler ‘cause you are just about at the turnaround.” Mistake number two: telling Miz Bobbie we were on the wrong route. Ooops. She was not happy as her lower back was giving her fits all morning. Fortunately for us, however, it was all downhill back to the 67 mile turn off.

Rolling out the last 20 miles or so, Miz Bobbie is pretty well spent and in a lot of lower back pain, so her fun meter was pegged, and she was not having a particularly good time. To make things worse, the wind started picking up and was in our face. She kept dropping off my wheel so I slowed down to let her catch up. As she did so, I turned around and shouted, “Can you stay on my wheel?” Well, she interprets my loud voice as yelling and only hears: “…stay on my wheel.” Mistake number three. All mayhem ensues and she starts a female tirade that would rival any major onslaught throughout history. “Stop yelling at me! Just get out of here! Leave me alone…I’ll ride my own pace…and find my own way back!!” Me, I’m totally confused. I try to calm her down and convince her that I wasn’t yelling and all I was doing was asking her a question. Silence… All you can hear now is the wind.


We finally hit the beach and the venue is just awesome. I guess Miz Bobbie is enjoying things now because she’s talking to me again. We make the turn into Cardiff by the Sea and see a huge hill in front of us. Oh shit. Miz Bobbie says to me, “what fucking moron put a hill like that at the end of a ride like this?” Well, we see one of those huge turn arrows up ahead and luckily it is only halfway up the hill, so life wasn’t quite as bad we thought. It is a mile to go, we have a tailwind and flat it’s as a board, so I put Miz Bobbie on point and follow her wheel all the way in. She’s happy and I finally do something right today.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Dante's View - Redefining Epic

The word “Epic” is probably a bit overused to describe the experience of completing a challenging bike ride. But, having said that, I think I’ll go ahead and use the word to describe our century-plus ride to Dante’s View in Death Valley recently because it fits.

I tried once before to finish this ride, and as I look back on it now with a critical eye, I probably wouldn’t have finished it anyway even if I had kept going, as I had left everything “out there” prior the epic portion, the last 13 miles. So not wanting to “DNF” this time around, I set out to conquer this monster once and for all. Actually, the first 100 miles doesn’t require a herculean effort, it’s the last 13 that jumps up and hops on your back like a 500 pound gorilla.

We always seem to start these events early in the morning when it is cold outside. This day was no exception. However, the difference this time was that we started in 40 degree weather and not 20 degree weather, as we have done on previous occasions. Sheer genius on our parts!

The fast guys left us “seasoned” veterans behind on the first climb, much to my delight personally, as I was not looking forward to a slug-fest this early on. I did that on my first attempt and that’s probably the reason I never made it all the way up to the summit at Dante’s View. So, up we went to the top of our first challenge for the day: Mt. Potosi, a ten mile grind that basically got steeper with every mile.

The art of climbing is kind of, “The search for the Holy Grail”, in my mind. There is no making it look easy, or “dancing on the pedals” as some describe it. Climbing mountains is just plain hard work and your search for the perfect “technique” changes every time. There are some things you can always count on, however. Your breathing starts to become rapid, you can feel your heart beating faster and harder; you start to sweat no matter how cool it gets on the way up; and if you are lucky like me, you can feel the sweat working its way down the crack of your ass! That nice rhythmic song playing so joyfully in your head turns into four-letter words repeating with every pedal stroke. The key, I have found, boils down to one thing: focus. Just focus and get into a pedaling rhythm and stay there, to get there. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Road Angel Jen and Driver Shortbus

Our gracious ride hosts, Jen and Paul (a.k.a. Shortbus, or Salty) met us at the top with a surprising, and most welcome assortment of refreshments. It’s great to have cycling friends who don’t mind giving up their whole day to support everyone else. Thanks guys! You where true “road angels!” Exchanging pleasantries and downing a few refreshments, we pressed ahead to our next destination: Pahrump, Nevada. NDOT was even nice enough to have paved our way with a brand spankin-new shoulder along Hwy 160—those gambling taxes payoff now and again! This stretch was an exhilarating downhill pleasure and I think the slowest speed I saw for the next 10-15 miles was 28 mph!--definitely payback for all the expended effort getting up and over Potosí.

The Road to Pahrump

Pahrump, Nevada…let’s see…the most awesome town in America if you are into brothels, gambling, and dirt, lots and lots of dirt! That’s really all I can say about it. If it weren’t the only way to Death Valley from Vegas, I probably wouldn’t have gone there. You just gotta see it, to believe it!

Kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Leaving Pahrump and heading west is like riding to the coast of California (without the lush, green countryside), then riding straight out to sea, except there is no water, only this barren flatland that is, or once was, a vast sea bed--a rather eerie experience, indeed. Luckily, on this day, very little wind accompanied us to Pahrump and beyond. I say lucky because when the wind blows out here, there is nothing to stop it, slow it down, or divert its path. When Mr. Wind finds his fancy to accompany you on your ride, he can be your best friend or your most hated enemy, and my experience has been that he is your most hated enemy 8 out of 10 times, especially if you choose a southwesterly path.


Our penultimate rest stop of the day occurred at Death Valley Junction, famously known as it houses the world-renown Armargosa Springs Opera House and Hotel. Check it out, it has a pretty interesting history. Jen and Shortbus were waiting off the side of the road with another incredible assortment of refreshments. Of which, we eagerly took part. At this point, it is a 1% - 2% climb for about 10 miles, or so, to the beginning of the “epic” part.

Seasoned Veteran: Dr. Dog

We were teased by a bomber downhill run to the left turn that takes you up to Dante’s View. Remember what I said about Mr. Wind? Well, he decided to join us at this point. And like I said, he decided to take us on as a dead-in-the-face headwind. How nice. Making the left turn and starting the climb we were greeted by the standard, “Dante’s View 13 miles” sign and about a half-mile later we were greeted with another sign: “Last one-quarter mile 15%.” Nice again! Us seasoned veterans vowed to stay together for the climb but as fate would have it, we separated a bit and fell into our own rhythm. About 5 miles of the last 13 is anywhere from 3% - 6%, not bad. What made it difficult on this day was Mr. Wind. He was just plain annoying! There’s just something really annoying about hearing the wind whip through you helmet for 2 solid hours.

Halfway up the grade changes to 8% - 10%, and in some spots reaches 12% as the road meanders and cuts its way through the mountain. This is the epic part. Epic because we were already 105+ miles into the ride and we were being all we could be at 6-7 mph going uphill into a headwind. I had experienced this part before from the window of a SAG vehicle, but I had no idea how hard this climb would be from the seat of a bicycle. Out of gears and short on energy, I stomped as best I could in my 36 x 27. I kept thinking: “You should have gone with the 34 x 27, you dumb shit!”

The Sign Didn't Lie!

The epic of the epic came when I climbed up out of the road cut-out and made the turn towards the summit. As I approached the first of many turns, I heard a cowbell and people shouting something at the top. It was all I could do to hear them above the sound of my panting and the whipping noise of the wind. Looking to my right and seeing nothing but rocks and dirt, I raised my head up, looked at the tiny dots that were people peering down at me, and said to myself, “oh shit!” Yep, it’s a fucking wall and it’s a steep one! Rounding the first turn, I said to myself in a half-assed attempt at thinking positive, “Well, at least I have a tailwind now. Bully!”

The really steep bits of these meandering climbs are always in the turns, so I decided to attack those while standing and then try to recover on the straight stretches. That worked pretty well until I got to the last quarter mile. My ass never touched the saddle for the rest of the climb. The cowbell got louder and louder so I knew I was getting close. The last turn into the parking lot of the summit was absolute heaven and there was an angel walking towards me with a beer! That was the best beer I’ve ever had.

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Fast Guys on the left, seasoned Veterans on the right