Tour de Lunacy

Favorite moment in today’s stage: Lance’s dash for the win, natch.

Close second: Kloeden, one of the Germans on the T-Mobile squad, giving a firm shove to a guy running alongside him waving a German flag.

Third: Paul Sherwin’s comment on another one of the roadside lunatics, a guy in a chicken suit who ran in front of the lead group for about 100 meters: “It’s a pity that some of these people are so crazy.” Sherwen also observed during a replay of the finish that Lance had been “determinated” to win.

Tour de Dad

One unexpected development in this year’s tour, unremarked by the Outdoor Life Network’s Tour team, is my dad’s discovery of and enthusiasm for the race. OK, it’s mainly remarkable because he was born the same year Belgium’s Leon Scieur won the race; or, to put it more plainly, the year Warren Harding took office as president (of the U.S., not the Tour). Lots of Tours and even five-time winners have come and gone since then.

Dad’s preference is to watch the stages on OLN’s evening recap. We watched Armstrong’s ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez Tuesday evening together long distance, on the phone.

Murder in Berkeley


Well, not murder exactly; or not a murder, to be exact. Kate and I were walking near home and saw crows gathering near the local middle school. Intentions were unclear. Were they about to go Hitchcock on us? Apparently not. I went home and got my camera. When I got back about half an hour later, only a few stragglers remained, including this one, who was sort of gurgling as if it really wanted to sing.

Le Tour Today

Lance Armstrong won another mountain stage, and everyone’s crowning him the winner of this year’s Tour. One thing I wonder about is, given the continuing allegations that he’s been “doping,” is what the French and other European fans think about him. (No, I don’t believe the accusations, just as I don’t truly believe the suggestions that Barry Bonds has been using steroids; but sometimes you wonder if maintaining that belief is more than a little like clapping your hands to revive Tinkerbell in “Peter Pan.”)

Anyway, as Lance was approaching the summit on the l’Alpe d’Huez climb, there was a great aerial shot from a TV helicopter. I was checking out all the slogans the cycling fans had splashed on the road to encourage their heroes. The overwhelming majority of the thousands of messages cheered for favorites like Jan Ullrich, Richard Virenque, Ivan Basso, and yes, even Lance Armstrong.

But in one short stretch, Armstrong rode across messages that said “Lance EPO” (a reference to a blood-doping substance), “Lance Sucks,” and “F*** Lance.” Wow — seems kind of hostile. On the other side, though, there was this battle cry: “Rip Their Balls Off, Lance.””

Tour de Dibble

I should know better, but the sports jerks still get to me when they start talking every summer about how the Tour — you know, the Tour — isn’t really an event. Driving through Baltimore on our way to the airport to come home, I heard Rob Dibble and another troglodyte start in on Lance Armstrong and the Tour. Dibble said that cycling isn’t really a sport because “the bike does a lot of the work” and Lance can “coast on it and sit on it.” So when we got to the airport, I wrote the following and sent it off:

Dear Rob Dibble and ESPN Radio:

Every year at Tour de France time, sports boneheads cut loose about what a joke bicycle racing is. And every year people like me, who actually know something about sports that don’t involve throwing, hitting or kicking balls or pucks or people, try to show you what boneheads you really are. So here we go again, but maybe with a difference.

First, your comments dismissing cycling as a sport show such amazing ignorance that it’s hard to tell where to begin. But let’s try the statement that during bike racing, the bike is doing a lot of the work and that the physical exertion is nothing like that encountered during running. Rob that’s about the same as saying that your shoes are doing a lot of the work when you throw a fastball; and in baseball, spiked shoes help you get the leverage you need to throw. It’s true that bicycles have a marvelously efficient way of converting muscular energy into motion. But at the professional level, that translates into extraordinary results. If you take a look at the speeds attained and energy spent (in terms of watts or calories or any other way you want to measure it), bike racers are putting out the same or more effort as long-distance runners; in sprints, which may come after hours of tough riding, the energy output is very similar to that of sprinters in track and field. What the bicycle does is make it possible for a trained athlete to go farther faster and longer than someone on foot or on cross-country skis, for instance. So, to go back to the baseball shoes for a moment: There’s no way wearing the same model shoes you wore would make it possible for Lance Armstrong to throw a 95 mph heater. And there’s no way that putting you on Lance’s bike would make you anything more than a sad, sweaty, out-of-breath retiree.

Rob, I’m sure you doubt all this. But I think I could prove my point to you and your audience. I think a fair test would be to pit you, an elite one-time professional athlete who utterly dismisses the idea that bike racing is challenging, against a retired pro cyclist. Someone like Greg Lemond, who’s been out of the game for awhile. But you know, that might be stacking the odds against you. What I’d really like to do is get you on a bike myself and do a little race. Maybe 20 miles or so. A route with some climbs and some descents. I’m 50. A run-of-the-mill cyclist. I’d love to have you show me how easy the sport is.

And one last thing, Rob: You got mad on the air because some Cubs pitcher might have exercised some poor judgment and was said to have committed a “Dibble-ism..” You wanted to know what a Dibble-ism is. Well, throwing a ball into the stands, as you once did in Cincinnati, hitting a hometown fan, is one example. Disrespecting fellow athletes because you don’t understand their sport is another.

Hope to see you on the road.

Still East

We’re in my brother’s neighborhood in Brooklyn — Brooklyn, New York (a sign on the expressway coming in from Queens says “Brooklyn, Believe the Hype”).

Spent yesterday and last night with friends in Hastings-on-Hudson, just north of New York City (not sure if that “on Hudson” is a modern invention or not). A beautiful stretch of country, with the Palisades on the New Jersey shore and a series of old rich-guy estates stretching from the upper Bronx far up the eastern side of the river. We visited one: Wave Hill, maintained by the New York City park’s department. Then went up the road a way to Tarrytown, where Washington Irving concocted his “Sleepy Hollow” tale. We went to a church and graveyard that figure in the story and saw the Irving family plot (crowded).

Tomorrow, back south, eventually to Washington and our flight back west and a lot of work waiting for us in California.

Road notes: July 9


Breakfast with McCrohons in Washington

Drive up to New Jersey by way of the Lewes-Cape May Ferry

Needed to reserve ferry spot and arrive an hour ahead of departure for “security reasons.”

Got to terminal about 55 minutes before our scheduled departure at 4:15 p.m. But they put us on the 3:30 p.m. ferry. What security? They did check my ID when we drove up to the gate, but that’s it..

Clear on the ferry. Lewes beaches stretching west along shore of Delaware Bay.

from D.C. Crowded.

As we approached Cape May, passengers spotted about 20 dolphins off port side (one said she saw a whale, too). Occasionally one leaped from the water. But mostly we saw them arching and diving.

Cape May: Wild place? Was always taken by image of Cape May warbler, which I have only seen in a book.

New Jersey’s Ocean Route, the scenic way up the shore: Nonstop strip of beachtown development. Prettier once you turn away from shore, north of Wildwood, and cross wide stretch of marshes toward the Garden State parkway. All the Jersey bashing aisde, the freeway in that north-south stretch is much more “scenic” than the shore.

Yankees-Devil Rays on the radio. Rays up 2-0. Charlie somebody, whose voice I recognize from ESPN, is doing the play-by-play. In 3rd or 4th inning, introduces “the Yankees injury report. Brought to you by the Cochrane team. If you get hurt, call Johnny Cochrane and his team of laywers.” Or something to that effect. Thereafter follows the injury report, which is an extended discussion on the intestinal parasites that had been infesting Jason Giambi and Kevin Brown. Johnny Cochrane. Intestinal arasites. Awesome.

Ended the day at Exit 105 off the Garden State Parkway, Tinton Falls. No falls visible, though.

X Prize news

Wrote a story yesterday for Wired News on how aerospace guy Burt Rutan says his team is all ready to go for the X Prize with SpaceShipOne. It was a little nugget of breaking news, since for the most part the last word anybody had was that Rutan was working to figure out exactly what caused control problems during the June 21st flight during which pilot (now astronaut) Mike Melvill flew SS1 to 100 kilometers.

It’s cool to see that the story was blogged by MSNBC’s Alan Boyle and others.

Golfing to Mongolia

Great New York Times piece today on a guy who is golfing his way across Mongolia (“The total fairway distance is 2,322,000 yards. Par is 11,880 strokes”).

The golfer, Andre Tolme, is recording his round on a Web site, From a Q and A on the site:

Is Golf Mongolia a work of art?

The definition of art is subjective but I have coined the term “adventure expressionism” which I believe describes my expedition quite well. Golfing across Mongolia is indeed an absurd idea but the concept resonates with people’s imaginations. Golf is known as an elitist sport and Mongolia is a poor country that, until 2003, did not have one golf course. It’s this juxtaposition that is itself an artistic concept.

Declaration Day

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected it with another and to assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”

Kate and I and a neighbor, Jill Martinucci, read (or maybe performed is a better word) a slightly abridged version of the Declaration to the assembled multitudes at our street’s annual Fourth of July picnic today. The main event at the gathering is a watermelon-seed-spitting contest (a new neighborhood record, 43 feet-plus, was set today), so I was afraid reading this, even with our little interjections, would be seen as a little preachy. But several people came up to us later to day they hadn’t read the Declaration in a while and it was good to hear the words again.