Monday, November 10, 2014

Bizarro Patterson Pass

November 8, 2014, Bizarro Patterson Pass**, w/ Dr. Dave, Christine, Jack and London Matt, 89.2 miles, 3,440' elevation (wait--Christine has 3,900' and Dr. Dave 3,800' on the same course.)
Riding routes that form art on the map is becoming popular.  With a few more turns our Bizarro Patterson Pass could have done Picasso proud.

Bizarro Patterson Pass as in, 1) the wind was gusting from the EAST which is incredibly rare, and we all expected to set Strava times on the climb where usually you're faced with a block wind from the West, 2) a truck smashed a car and killed the driver on the Altamont run in so the road was closed (what's this with major car accidents, last time I was here a car flipped on the nearby freeway), 3) I was riding my S&S coupling bike and it decided to either drop the chain or constantly ghost shift.
Christine leading the charge around Livermore.

Altamont Road closed--the truck was laying on its side a few minutes before we reached the spot of the accident.

Our club ride was out to Morgan Territory up and down the south side--and I think that Christine and Dave were surprised that I didn't start lobbying for a Patterson Pass add on early in the week.  But my enthusiasm was tempered by my good bike being overhauled and my two other choices have shifting problems.  When the ride started Matt was fully enthused to see Patterson Pass, and as it gets dark early there wasn't enough time to go up Morgan and then Patterson Pass.  Our  group announced that we were skipping Morgan Territory.  Funny, then everyone else decided to skip it also though no one else went to Patterson Pass with us.  (Triple Crown Kris has vowed never to do Patterson Pass again so she declared that she was tapering to do the worst downhill in the Bay area-the allegedly paved the Geysers--the next day.)

For once the windmills were not turning, so Dave didn't do his usual job of issuing ominous warnings.  Who knew that the windmills are only set for the usual westerly wind, and gusts from the east go undetected.
Our motley crew onto of Patterson Pass from the easy way

With the Altamont Speedway closed we just planned to putt around--which was a bummer, but Dave and Christine came up with the great idea to do Patterson Pass backwards--figuring that by the time we do the reverse Altamont the carnage would be cleaned up.
The gang waits to mail a letter or for me to arrive, at the Altamont Summit Garage/ Post Office.

Luckily we had a great group, and super fast Dave, Christine and Matt were nice enough to keep waiting for me.   My bike was consistently slipping gears but luckily held in the x27.   The weather was great--it was full sun and could have been a late spring day--hard to believe it was going to get dark at 5pm.  Shows how Strava is so convoluted, with the wind gusting from the East the Collier/ Highland return, which is usually difficult when we're dead tired was incredible.  Between the tailwind and Matt burning off the pastries by pulling our group along, we all came close to personal bests--even if I couldn't use my hardest two gears in order to avoid chain abortion.
Matt fueling up before he pulls us along Collier/ Highland under unusually favorable  conditions that usually are only found on the Altamont Speedway.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Giants Win It All As I Get Fat In October

Every two years (at least since 2010) I stop cycling in October, and put on 5lbs as all spare time is spent watching the SF Giants sweep through the playoffs and win the World Series.  This year was strange--the Giants had the best team in baseball the first two months, the worst team the next two months, and scrambled enough to keep their head about water the next two months.  Then in October, the playoff month, they took off, mostly with opportunism and the heroic efforts of starter Madison Bumgarner and their stellar bullpen. The best thing is that they were supposed to win nuttin--one major sabemetric site preseason said the Giants has the worst bullpen in baseball.

Maybe they were talking about the Toyko Giants.

I had an early interest in Bill James and some new statistics for baseball but sometimes sabermetricians has gone overboard.  You can't quantify everything and treat baseball like the math problem we all tried to avoid in high school.

Sabermetricians  had a bad year.  First the Giants supposedly have a crap bullpen, though Bruce Bochy is the best manager ever (more on this later) and his biggest strength is setting up a bullpen.  By the end of the season and in the playoffs their bullpen was lights out.   Then the guiding light of sabermetic management, Billy Beane, makes the disastrous Yoenis Cespedes  for Jon Lester trade, which was "a guarantee" that the best record A's would roll through the playoffs.   This trade became the major reason for the A's falling apart and not being able to score after the trade was made--and they almost didn't make the playoffs in an epic collapse.   As Bill Veeck said "Never underestimate the psychological importance of the one big hitter in the lineup." (41)

Before Game 5 of the World Series the spaceship carrying superhuman Madison Bumgarner arrives in McCovey Cove.

Back to Bruce Bochy may be the best manager ever.  Tall claim?  Well, I love Leo and Earl but you can't consider any manager before 1976 when players made relative peanuts and it was the manager's way or the highway.  Now the manager has to motivate a group of millionaires.  So compare Botchy to the three modern managers who just made the Hall of Fame.  Tony LaRussa, the anal retentive no detail is to small manager supposedly had no clue he was managing team steroids.  And how many World Series did his team lose as heavy favorites?  Bobby Cox may be the best manager running a starting pitching staff but his teams usually fizzled in the playoffs.  Joe Torre had the most media scrutiny being in New York, but he also had the strongest and most expensive roster.  Besides Bochy being at the top of the game managing a game and setting up a bullpen,  he creates confidence.  What Bill Veeck said about his pennant winning underdog White Soxs could be said about the Bochy Giants.

 "Everybody kept saying how lucky we were and, up to a point, we were.  The point where luck ceases to be the prime factor was the point where our own confidence--which was far greater than our skill--took over."   (246)

The Giants now being a "Dynasty" is now needlessly debated?   Who the hell cares.  The Giants won 3 WORLD SERIES in 5 YEARS.  By comparison the Dodgers and A's last won a World Series over 9000 days ago, and I can't count that high to total it up for the Cubs and Indians.  Greatest team ever?, not by a long shot, but the Big Red Machine didn't win 3 World Series in 5 years.  The Giants have a team with 3 people with a good chance to make the Hall of Fame (Manager Bochy-90%, Posey and Bumgarner-40% asearly in their career) and many league all stars (led by Pence and Panda.)  Add in loads of homegrown solid players (their whole infield during the 2014 World Series) and a stable front office.   What an incredible run--a dynasty.

Bill Veeck quotes are from his book 'The Hustlers Handbook."  Veeck integrated the American League, and owned two of the three teams (and had developed the third) that were the only teams to beat the Yankees for the pennant in the late 1940 through the 1950's.  A pariah among owners as he actually had the radical idea that they needed to promote and cater to the fans.

Cyclingwise I took two rides I probably shouldn't  have.   One day I boycotted out club ride to Berkeley and instead went to my favorite--Patterson Pass.  I actually didn't intend to do Patterson Pass--just the great Altamont Speedway out and back.  But a car overturned and fully blocked a nearby highway so the usually desolate Altamont Speedway was full of cars using it as a bypass in the opposite direction.  When I reached Patterson Pass I figured it wouldn't be prudent to return on the crowded Altamont and I may as well go over the usually desolate Patterson Pass.  "Usually desolate"--heard that before.  Patterson Pass was also being used as a highway bypass and its narrow road was full of cars.   Great.
OK, if it rains this winter I wouldn't bitch--a ride on the Sacramento Bike trail to Folsom Lake
shows a huge drybed.

On the Patterson Pass Highway.

Above resulted from the highway being ground to a stop below.

Another day I had the bright idea to do Welsh Creek Road--the toughest climb in the Bay Area.   Nevermind I'm not training for anything, gained a few pounds and have been pretty inactive, and it was a very warm day.  We were doing nearby Calaveras from a close start so I figured what the hell.

After navigating the first 19% pitch and then doing wheelies on the next 21% pitch, I was out of water and out of any power.  Discretion being the better part of valor it was time to turn around on the next 21% section and wait till next year to try again


Mrs. Pumpkin is out of the cycling loop big time--so we haven't doing our riding on Sunday morning with me on a fixie.  She like nature hikes which I'm not crazy about, but I like urban hikes so we started a string of them.  Usually the route involves a final destination of a Thai Restaurant or an Ale House.  One was down the Coast from Half Moon Bay, another up Twin Peaks in San Francisco.    But the best walks have been 5 miles walk UP the residential loopy streets in Berkeley from the flatlands to the skyline overlook.  The loops are long but there are a series (100+) of paths, walkways and staircases that are stuck between houses and dead ends that provide a shortcut between blocks.  A website, the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association provides maps and route sheets for suggested walks.   Hike 2 gave us 1600 feet of climbing.  Who needs a stairmaster.

Berkeley is inhabited by interesting folks.  (above) this lady was trudging up ahead of us singing loudly the whole way (below) Mrs. Pumpkin and I usually disagree greatly on the weather (its 70 and I'm freezing while she's warm) but on this hot day we had to laugh at the woman in the sun dress with the man in the down vest

Hikers need to be visible.

Intertwined with the Giants season I spent this summer reading about a dozen books about baseball.   Not the usual, "I was great, his teammates were great" sports biographies of my youth.  As the great historian HW Brands once said (bad phraphrase to follow) 'there are two types of biographies, the TMZ type that just talks about the person and the other type that puts the person in historical context as part of their times.'   The new baseball books firmly put the players in as part of their times.  

For example, we knew that Mickey Mantle had a problem with alcohol, but crawling out on the ledge of his hotel (232) or his serious car accident while intoxicated were kept hush hush (309.)   More importantly the book develops the theme that while baseball was still king, in the 1950's Mays & Mantle were demigods, in the 1960's with social changes and other sports moving into the baseball monopoly, Mays & Mantle were suddenly passed by.  (Micky and Willie, Allen Barra)

It's ironic that I started out with a biography on Pete Rose that detailed how he'd go overboard on almost anything,no one was greater spending time with fans, as long as he got paid--totally driven by money.   He also ignored Reds management in 1963 when he was called upstairs and told to stop spending so much time with black guys (55)   In 1983, by sabermetric standards, he wasn't an offensive leader on the team but his Phillies teammates point to Rose as the person who carried them and set every example . (138)  Complicated guy, but the book concludes that Rose shouldn't be in the HOF because of his violating the gambling prohibition in baseball.   (Pete Rose, Kostya Kennedy.)  I finished three books either on or written by innovative and iconoclast owner Bill Veeck who told of new information pertaining to the 1919 White Soxs betting scandal.  What was interesting to me was that the great HOF's Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker basically were caught betting on baseball the year before but because they were such stand bearers of the sport their hands were slapped on the wrist and all was forgiven.  Who knew?, shouldn't this change the way we look at Pete Rose for the HOF.

We don't even have a good grasp of very modern history.  From 'Ballpark'-Peter Richmond, I learned that all the credit given to HOK architects for developing the all so popular throwback stadium is unfounded--their original proposals for Camden Yards were for a suburban ballpark (like new Comisky/ Cellular Field) being built--it was only because the Orioles constant insistence that something else was developed.

Big project--converting my 10 year old bike from 9 to 11 speed.    There really isn't any new bike that grabs me and I love my current bike.   Trouble is I can't mash the hills uphill anymore--my cardiac blows up if I stand on the pedals like I used to.   The two fastest long distance climbers in our Club (old person category), the two Daves, both converted their bikes to 11 speed so they'd have the option of spinning at x32.   (Shit, they both wear eyeglass mirrors--maybe that's it.)   I need to spin more and hope to do more badass climbing rides, so I'm in.

Two problems, wheels have to be converted and some hubs can't be.  I have a bunch of good wheels with different hubs and there is a pecking order of what wheels I'll get done.  The second issue is Dura Ace or Ultegra--the Dura Ace kit is 1k more, and when I had a full Ultegra bike I was happy enough, but I have to live with my choice for the next decade.   In any event I'm planning to use trickle down economics--my present 9 speed Dura Ace kit will go on my 2nd favorite bike, its present 9 speed Ultegra kit will replace the 10 speed 105 shit on my break away bike.  
OK now wintertime, time to get back to the TR biographies....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trip To New York City

(September 2014)   Brother-In-Law getting married so planned a quick trip to New York City.  Except for a funeral, I hadn't been in New York City in 16 years.  New York City--crowded, dirty, bankrupt, disgusting, in your face, I always rejoiced when I came back to California.

When I lived in New York City, 36 years ago, it was hard to imagine a worse place to live.  Read The Bronx is Burning (no--not the movie which is 80% about baseball, read the book which is 80% about bankrupt politics, finances, social policy.)  New York City was the ruined city of the past--Los Angeles, with people zipping around in cars with plenty of parking was the blueprint of the future.

This is almost funny when it takes a half hour JUST to get to a freeway from West Hollywood--and once on Hwy 101 (or 405) its usually a parking lot..and it takes a half hour to get in and out of the Dodger Stadium lot.   Who needs mass transit based cities?

We added a few days to both ends of the wedding to kick around, and when trip was planned baby daughter moving to New York City was just a scheme.   With Jessie living in NYC I wish we would have added a few more days.   While NYC is still CROWDED & EXPENSIVE what a HUGE SUPRISE, as we found New York City

CLEAN & SAFE but still in your face
NYC is such a happening place and loads of things going on.  Picking up the NY Times headlines focus on the big demonstration on climate change,  problems with local jails, and the sabre rattling around the world.
Of course this is all trivial and boring, so we turn to the NY Post for the REAL news.  Every day we were bombarded by front page stories about some cretin Strava cyclist mowing down a woman in Central Park on his $4,000 bike.
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The bike costing $4,000 is repeated often by the NY Post in every article about the tragedy.  Same NY Post--they'd only like it better if a woman sticking out in her bikini was in every photo.   Wonder if the NY Post constantly wrote about the cost of the tow truck that killed Dr. Carl Nacht.
Dr. Carl Nacht makeshift memorial on the west side bikepath--cyclist killed by a tow truck.  Don't know if NY Post reported how much tow truck cost over and over.

So the in your face--lets rabble up the population tabloids are the same as always.
In any event we walked our asses off and had a great time.  Traffic was insane--on some blocks a couple of cops AT EACH INTERSECTION were trying to little avail to keep traffic moving.  Well traffic did move--cars zoom in and make right turns 2" from crossing pedestrians.   Prices are crazy HIGH, with the cost of some food items almost double what I'm used to.    But where are the piles of garbage on the street?, strung out people laying out on any horizontal surface?, people on the street corner running a 3 card monte game, or trying to sell you something that fell off the truck?
I'm not imagining the change.   Talking about his Comsky Park, bordering one of the worst Chicago neighborhoods, innovative baseball owner Bill Veeck wrote in his 1962 autobiography:
"(Comsky's) neighborhoods reputation was about the same as Central Park in New York.  You did not walk your dog at night unless you wanted both yourself and the dog mugged."
Moving to the modern day, Bike Snob NYC/ Eben Weiss wrote in his blog last week:
"This is not the Central Park of 20 years ago.  It is full of people pretty much all the time."  
So walk we did--though always into lower Manhattan.  Watching out for traffic, enjoying the scores of unique stores on each block (though we rarely went in), laughing at tourists taking photos with their big I Pads or I Phones on a monopod for a selfie.    I'll have to come back for a Central Park tour.
Day 1-Walk down the west side to Battery Park. Day 2-Loop the east side for waffles then headed to THE STADIUM.  Day 3 & 4-Mercifully have wedding activities so limited walking, but walked the above ground HiLine and has to walk across crosstown to wedding when bus moved 1 block in 20 minutes.  Day 5-Walk down the east side thru the Bowery across Brooklyn Bridge for pizza.
Day 1-Walk down the west side to Battery Park.  Mostly along the water with a quick loop in and around the new Freedom Tower.  Touched 6th Avenue stuffed with people and quickly looped back to West Village and the waterfront which was clean and calm.
With my oldest, Rachie, on the ferry to Manhattan.   I was worried that when the Friday night Yankee game let out and we took my youngest, Jessie, home, we wouldn't be able to get back to New Jersey.  No worries--unlike SF BART the ferry's run after midnight and buses from the Port Authority run all night.

Bike path, gourmet eateries, golf driving range and park replace dilapidated piers on the west side

Mayor Bloomberg was a bike advocate--now that he's retired a little ad humor.

Passes many urban loaned bikes--the program seems to be going well, we saw many people on them.

Nice looking Freedom Tower which is taking the place of the World Trade Center, nondescript buildings that most NYers didn't like except for their claim to fame for height.

Fixie with new subway fare cards--wish they still had subway tokens.

Irish Memorial Oasis on the west side.

Volleyball in Manhattan.

We're a tired family and sacking out on artwork along the West Side waterway.

Freedom Tower and place you can actually eat cheaply.

$5 for a soft serve ice cream cone (vanilla)--ok, truck was next to Statue of Liberty Ferries so maybe that is why they charged tourist prices

Donnie and me in front of a Keith Harring statue.

Alexander Hamilton buried near Wall Street in Trinity Cemetery--very close to SHOE OUTLET.
 Day 2-Loop the east side for waffles then headed to THE STADIUM.  NYC is still baseball crazy--perhaps the only city besides St. Louis where baseball is still "bigger" than football. Wanted to go to both the new home of the Mets and Yankees, but could only make it to the new Yankees Stadium.  Ironically Donna grew up 6 blocks away--I had pestered her before the trip to visit her old neighborhood but she didn't want to as she remembered how dangerous it was 40 years ago.   Our kids also urged her to visit, and our walk through her old neighborhood may have been the highlight of the trip.
Bryant Park is in back of 42nd Street main library and used to be (maybe still is?) across form CUNY Graduate Center.  In the 1970's more drugs were sold out of here than Walgreens with people laying all over.  Today--caf├ęs and a square dancing festival.

Empire State Building

San Francisco exile bar in Manhattan--Jessie and I were going to catch the Giants night game here until we realized that the west coast game would first start at 10:00pm

Breakfast surprise--highly rated Liege Waffles in lower Manhattan!
Basic meal at NYC 2nd Ave Deli 50% higher than same meal at deli outside Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  Both places excellent

With Rachie and Donnie outside Yankee Stadium.  

Looking towards park where old Yankee Stadium was.  In the far background by the tall housing projects used to be the greatest, most misshaped, ballfield ever, the Polo Grounds.

Outside Donnie's old school where they painted portraits of all their famous graduates.  Donna is the girl in pink jumper.

We're next to Donnie's old school with her old apartment building in the background.

Under the EL outside Yankee Stadium.

Donnie and I inside the spacious walkway in Yankee Stadium.  Nice and light and wide and airy.  Stadium seating is too expansive but extra room is appreciated in concession area.

Expressing my feeling about the Yankees.

Yankee Stadium view from the LAST row.
George Steinbrenner convicted felon owner who made a mockery of running an orderly franchise when he bought the team.  Giving the devil his due his genius was spending free agent money on one GREAT player instead of three mediocre players.  In monument park which honors all great Yankee Players the biggest plaque is the in the center honoring Steinbrenner.   Then there is a full sized statue of him at one of the entrances (damn, I missed it.)   If that is not enough, on one side of the scoreboard is a black banner honoring the retired numbers of all the Yankee greats.  On the other side, same size banner, honoring one man--King George (shhh--he once wanted to move the Yankees to New Jersey.)

Da Bronx is right outside the ballpark.   A message later on the scoreboard indicates that liquor service is cut off after the 7th inning--EXCEPT FOR THE RICH FANS SITTING IN THE PREMIUM SEATS.  Unlike other stadiums, you can't get near the premium field seats without a ticket.


Al is worried that there will be a riot with Gary (a Mets fan) and me rooting against the Yankees.  Luckily Gary was blasting John Kruk and not Yankee sycophant John Sterling.

 Last time I was at Yankee Stadium, in 1977, a near riot broke out with the Red Soxs beating the Yankees.  Roger Angell wrote in one of his books about that game...with the Yankee rooters in the upper deck "losing interest in the game and showering everyone near and below them with oceans of beer, to throwing pennies and darts and fruit and other fighting one another, and wagering violent near riots with the equally violent Stadium special police." (Late Innings, 1982, p.51)  Like the rest of NYC--things have changed at THE STADIUM.
Day 3 & 4-Mercifully have wedding activities so limited walking, but walked the above ground HighLine and has to walk across crosstown to wedding when bus moved 1 block in 20 minutes.
An unused elevated train track was rehabilitated and made into a 1 1/2 mile above ground walkway/ park--the HighLine.  What a great idea.

Jessie on the HighLine walkway--high above the city streets.

Empire State Building from the HighLine.

Part of the HighLine still has the old train tracks.

On certain sections of the HighLine have no clue you are in a city.

I'm over some street artwork that reaches the HighLine level.

No more walking--after the HighLine we went on a boat ride.  Unfortunately very crowded when we got on and rest of our group went below while Jessie and I went to the top deck (more on this later.)  Here is multi tiers GOLF DRIVING RANGE where balls are hit into the Hudson River.

Freedom Tower and lower Manhattan from the boat.

Approaching Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge.  I like Gothic architecture and Brooklyn Bridge is great to photograph/ look at.  Much nicer than new wimpy tower on San Francisco unispan Bay Bridge.

Jessie and I go for the selfie.

Empire State Building.

The taking selfie skill on all the bike rides this year came in handy.

With my feet rubbed raw from all the warning Jessie and I sat on some crate on the deck.   Tour guide, a whiny wanna be Robert DiNiro, announced that we and all other people that followed us on the crate had to get down.  Fair enough.  But he continued to moan for another 2 minutes how he would have to take us all to the hospital, yada, yada, yada.  Before leaving the boat the tour guide begged for tips--F U.  NY WATERWAY--NEXT TIME DON'T OVERLOAD THE BOAT!!.   (My oldest daugther, Rachie, was below deck and when she heard tour guide carrying on she told the group "dad must be the one who caused all the trouble.")

Not another selfie--OK--this one has the Statue of Liberty.

Freedom Tower again.
On Sunday, the Wedding Day, we were going to stay in New Jersey until evening.   Ironically this part of New Jersey, right next to NYC,  still has BLUE LAWS with everything except restaurants and gas stations closed on Sunday.   Though feet ailing couldn't hang out in apartment all day so started out for a late morning walk.  About a mile away found a neighborhoods pizzeria that made GREAT cheese pie--by the slice.  Coming from a state with crap pizza smothered with 10 topping making it more crappy--this was a treat.   Thin crisp crust, cheese that doesn't fall off the slice, a little olive oil laying on the pizza.  
Later we took the ferry to NYC for the wedding and got on the crosstown bus--which moved 1 block in 20 minutes.  We got off the bus and hoofed it across town--Donna had to do this in heels.

Frank's Pizza in Edgewater-very good.

Jessie and I at my brother in laws wedding.

With Rachie and Jessie

Where did I go wrong--Jessie still drinks crap beer.
Day 5-Walk down the east side thru the Bowery across Brooklyn Bridge for pizza.  Down 3rd Avenue with every intersection in midtown having a police presence.   Eventually on the Bowery with every furniture and kitchen store imaginable.
Sculpture at the edge of the garment center.

Yet another crowed intersection at 11am with two cops trying to move the mess.

One of a string of cycling art near the Manhattan bridge entrance.  Wonder why I picked this one to photograph.

Outside the NY Supreme Court (which is not THE SUPREME court of the state) Donna finds a cheep place for food.

With Donnie and Rachie on the Brooklyn Bridge.

With Jessie and Rachie on the Brooklyn Bridge.

With Donnie on the Brooklyn Bridge.  How did we get rid of the mass of people on the usually crowded walkway (the left side is a two way bike lane)

Manhattan Bridge and Empire State Building from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Raised pedestrian/ bike lane over the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.

Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn. 

Pizza bike next door from where we ate--the owner of the pizzeria is related somehow to the one we ate at.

Brooklyn Bridge redux
The gang by the Brooklyn Bridge

More Brooklyn Bridge.

Grimaldi's Pizza under the Brooklyn Bridge, in an old bank building.  Line to get in--NO SLICES--NO CREDIT CARDS.  Pizza was great with Donnie and Rachie liking the white pizza with no tomato sauce and extra garlic and Jessie and I voting for the regular cheese pie.

Last look at the Brooklyn Bridge and the crowd going over it early afternoon on a weekday.

Leaving Manhattan.  Hope I get back there before 16 years pass again.