Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tour of California Stage 4 goes through MY BACKYARD!

And when I say "BACKYARD", I obviously mean that FIGURATIVELY, not LITERALLY ...as my backyard would be pretty congested with 160 something racers, oodles of team cars, officials, photo-motos, etc.... (and there'd likely be some serious cyclist/dog interactions and eventually lawsuits), but you know what I mean... they were racing on MY ROADS (and yes, I do actually own them all, I only let cars use them cuz I'm a nice guy)! I don't think there was even a portion of the race today that I haven't ridden..well, MAYBE the finishing straight in Avila I guess...can't recall if I've ever been on that bit.And yes, they passed right thru Santa Maria again, just like they did TEN YEARS AGO in the inaugural race (won by a certain someone who still kind'a owes me some money). That year my brother Greg drove up and we caught the peleton in Guadalupe at the Sprint Point, then we tried but BARELY missed them at the Clark Ave/Bradley Ave intersection (about 2 miles from my house), and then we drove down to Santa Barbara and caught them coming down off of Rt 154 onto State Street right at the 90 degree corner. It was all SUPER EXCITING to me as it was the first Pro cycling event I'd ever witnessed first-hand.

This year the stage-start was in Pismo Beach and went south on Hwy 1, once-again right thru Guadalupe for a Sprint Point, then continued south on Hwy 1 and again turned East on Clark Ave, out to Dominion, Foxen Canyon, turned North on Tepesquet Canyon  (that is most DEFINITELY my HOME TURF) for a KOM at the top, then down Tep and West on Rt 166 to Thompson, Los Berros, up thru Arroyo Grande and eventually on to Corbett Canyon (these are ALL roads I ride all the time with my Main Street Cycles club), to finally finish in Avila Beach.

My basic plan for the day was to catch the peleton as many times as possible while still making it to the finish. To accomplish this, I carefully laid out a SUPER detailed and STRATEGIC plan. My detailed plan was to get to the start at Pismo, and then wing it all day and see where I can catch them. I had kind'a sort'a planned on making it up to the top of Tepesquet for the KOM, thinking I'd come in from the north side and then follow the race back to the 101, and while they work their way around I'd zoom to Avila for the finish.

So...how well did my incredibly sophisticated and planned to the minutest detail evil plan work you ask? Well, let me tell you. Kind'a sort'a. I nailed the start, and had a GREAT view as the racers gathered and finally began, right at the stroke of 11:30am.

Here they are, all lined up moments before the start. That's Cav in the Sprinters green jersey, front row, left of center, and looking to his left (talking to the rider in white/black and red, tho I don't know who that is, other than he's a Trek rider).

And here they go...a few riders start in FRONT of the rope line, I guess they didn't feel like making it all the way to the back of the bus. I didn't know they did that, as this is the first start I've seen in person.

 Got Cav again (got lucky with this shot, as I basically just had my camera taking shots as fast as it could).

These were my best shots of the start in Pismo Beach...pretty cool actually. And a perfect day for racing...I'd say the daytime high was in the mid 60's and sunny. Not too shabby at all!

I then zoomed back to my car (probably less than a half mile away and right off the freeway), loaded the bike and took off. On a whim I passed the 166 east exit as I THOUGHT I had a shot at getting to the sprint point in Guadalupe. However, I forgot how far Guadalupe is from the freeway (and how many red lights there are, AND how many SLOW drivers there are). I missed the peleton by about 2 minutes. So I then got back to my car and fought my way BACK to the 101. As I was close to jumping on the freeway I was passing a McDonalds...and thought to myself "self, we're HUNGRY and it will be a while before we get a chance at food again"...so I zipped inside and got a quarter pounder combo. I have to say I haven't ate at a McDonalds in ages...it was OK, but nothing to write home about.

I then made a beeline for the north side of Tepesquet Rd where it intersects with rt 166. Got there and parked the car right about 1pm, which was right about the FASTEST projected time they could be coming onto Tepesquet Canyon on the south-side (about 15miles away). I had no way to know where they were, so I unloaded my bike and took off for the top (about 5 miles). The first 2 miles are sort of flat, with the final 3 being the 1000' climb. I was about a mile from the top when the Highway Patrol moto's started coming by, telling me to get off the road. RATS. So I stopped, and got ready. I walked my bike a bit further up the road, looking for a vantage point of the riders coming down. I couldn't see any action, so walked a bit further. More moto's were coming down every few minutes, so I figured they must be close (no helicopter in sight yet tho). I waited and waited...yep. About FIFTEEN MINUTES before they came down. I could have WALKED that final mile to the top, let-alone ride it. Darn those CHP guys...I'm on a bike...I can be off the road in moments. OH well.

I did have a pretty awesome vantage point where I finally stopped tho...just far enough away from a turn to get a great view and plenty of time for some pictures. I also was shooting video at the same time with my little Sony Action-Cam that I got for videos of biking and such.

Here's the breakaway coming around the turn, moving pretty quick!

And as they were passing me...got lucky again with this one as they were really moving!

And not too awfully far behind, the peleton. That's Cav again leading the main group in the chase...it was just a Cavendish-day for me somehow..like my camera got a laser-lock on him or something.

After they had all passed, and all the moto's and vehicles had passed (of which there were a LOT) I jumped on my bike and raced to my car. Loaded the bike up again, and jumped in the line of cars and trucks. Rt 166 had been blocked for the race, and there was a pretty good queue but at least we were moving. The CHP seems pretty adept at the rolling road-blocks giving minimal interference to traffic. As we finally were nearing Santa Maria again, I could see the Helo and could tell the peleton wasn't really that far away...they were still on the east of the freeway, heading for Los Berros Rd. I jumped on the 101 and was making really good time heading north towards Avila Beach.

As I was nearing the Los Berros overpass I could see the Helo on my right and there they were...the entire field on Thompson Rd, getting very close to the overpass. I was now barely ahead of them! However, the CHP had the Los Berros exit blocked (RATS), but I could have actually jumped off onto the on-ramp and parked (as there was no cars entering the freeway as there WERE no cars...the road was blocked for the race). However, there were CHP EVERYWHERE...and they'd probably frown on me if I did that sort of move...so I bypassed the chance to take pics of the peleton as they crossed under the freeway and continued my way towards Avila.

As I got to Avila Beach the CHP already had the Avila Drive exit blocked...so I got off on the next exit: San Luis Bay Drive....and made my way BACK to Avila Drive, and parked about 200 yards from the blocked exit (does that make sense? Block the exit but let me drive right up to it from the OTHER SIDE?) No biggee...I had a great escape route...the on-ramp was right there close to my car. Got out the bike for the last time and started riding...and almost right away there was the 4k marker on the side of the road. Quickly the 3k, then 2k, and then the Kenda Tires 1k to-go Arch over the road. I came around another corner smack-dab into mayhem and madness...the finishing straight-away. There were OODLES and OODLES of people, barricades, all the usual stuff. I made my way up to about 50 yards from the finish line and found a good spot to stash my bike and backpack (I had shoes with me, so I didn't have to stand/walk around in cycling shoes).

Here's my view of the finish line...not too shabby at all!

And here's looking the other way: down the finishing straight-away. An uphill finish...it's steeper than it looks!

I had timed all this pretty good for such a loosey-goosey plan...we had loudspeakers everywhere, and the announcers were calling the race. Soon enough they were at the 4k mark (already on Avila Drive)...and moving VERY QUICKLY as you would expect! Sagan was now in charge of the screaming peleton(per the announcer), and the crowd started to go wild! When the front of the group came around the final turn onto the straight-away, the noise of the crowd was DEAFENING! The announcers were SCREAMING and I could barely hear them (that's loud-speakers in the last picture about 10 feet from me on the right side..and when I say "loud-speakers", I'm not kidding. Anybody even CLOSE to them likely can't hear much tonight I'm pretty sure).

Here's my only decent shot of the finish-madness. The front end is clear of the corner and accelerating HARD towards the line. They were moving quite fast, and my next (and final shot) of the front was looking too far to right (hey...I'm holding my camera up over the people in front of me pushing the button over and over having NO Idea what shots I'm getting), AND... while I'm doing that, I'm also holding my video camera in my left hand). I didn't get any shots to my left of the actual finish, as I kept taking shots of the main field coming by. But I do have video of the finish (I think, as I swung that around while still taking pictures to the left), and I'll include some links to my video's when I finally get it all processed and uploaded (most-likely to YouTube). Video files are HUGE and take awhile to load onto my computer (I film in 1080p).

All I really know about the finish (that I could make out through the pandemonium of the crowd and announcers) was that Sagan had won. I stuck around a bit for the podium, but I was off to the side and couldn't really see much, so I took off back for my car. As I was loading my bike getting ready to head home, I saw a BUNCH of the racers heading back on their bikes towards the Pismo Beach area...along with lots and lots of team cars. The Team Busses were all still back at Avila near the finish, and I have no idea what their plan was. I jumped into the stream of cars and we jumped on the 101 headed south. I was somehow right behind two Trek Factory team cars loaded with bikes and wheels (I could see the poor mechanic in the back seat of the 2nd car, surrounded by wheels...it looked like he barely had enough room to BREATH back there!) I hadn't realized that the Trek team was sponsored by VW...they were driving TDI Golf 4-door mini-wagons (the TDI's are the diesels, like both Jeannie and I drive)! VERY COOL CARS! I stuck behind them like glue, and boy where they in a hurry...I guess they are heading to the next stop ahead of the riders so the mechanics can get busy prepping the bikes for tomorrow.

And that was my day. All in all a pretty fun way to spend it I must say. Saw the start AND finish of the same stage for the first time, and saw them two other times besides that. Not too shabby at all. Sadly, it's back to work tomorrow for me...but I have to admit today was a GREAT way to spend a sick-day (cough cough...er, I mean, I felt HORRIBLE ALL DAY...yeah, that's what I meant to say!)

Now I'll have to go to Velo News to read about the stage and see what I missed.

Cheers!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our life with Syd! (Part I)

Two weeks have now passed since our beloved Sydney passed away, and I can speak for both Jeannie and I when I say that a day doesn't go by that we don't think about her and wish she was still with us. But like most important decisions in life, we can't undo the decision we made to finally have her put down...but we do have to live with it, and we both know in our hearts it was 'time' (if not past-time). We still miss her terribly every single day I can assure you. But this post isn't going to be a sad one (well, maybe a little at the very end), I intend for it to be a happy "in honor of" post. She deserves that. And most likely, this post means MUCH more to Jeannie and I than to anybody else...so I understand if nobody but the two of us actually read it all (it will be QUITE long, most likely I'll have to break it into two or three parts). But no matter....without further adieu, I give you "our life with Syd", Part I.

Sydney came to us way back in May 2006. We already had TWO fur-babies (PG and Sweet Pea), and Jeannie for some reason had been going to the Humane Society during her lunch and browsing thru the available dogs and found Sydney. I was reluctant (to say the least) at adding ANOTHER baby to our household. PG and SP got along fabulously, and I didn't want to do anything to change that dynamic. Syd was an unknown. But she finally managed to drag me down to the shelter, and there sat Syd...her tail all bandaged up because whenever ANYBODY came near her "cell", her tail would go off like a propeller, hoping against hope that THESE people would be the ones to rescue her. She was in that shelter for SIX MONTHS waiting for a home. She was a chubby girl, apparently having almost no exercise whatsoever living in a cage for six months does that. But Jeannie won, and we brought her home. I had to almost immediately alter my doggie-doors that I had made, as Syd's shoulders were much wider than either PG's or Sweet Pea's and she could barely wedge herself thru.

Her immediate reaction was to hide...the ladies down at the shelter warned us of this, as she had been "institutionalized" due to living at the shelter for so long. She was unsure of her new surroundings and was looking for a safe place. It didn't help that PG didn't treat her well, as she was the boss and didn't want to share our love with anybody else.  So Syd started hiding in the garage at first, and then fairly quickly in the living room on the couch. But it didn't take long before she came out of her prison-cell-shell and we started to see her happy-personality. She quickly found she liked being part of our "pack", and PG was more than happy to have another subject in her kingdom (only Syd wasn't much on being lorded over it turns out).

These first few are some of the first pictures we have of her...this one she's sitting on Jeannies lap 
and loving it...she craved our attention  from the start.

 Here she shows her snuggling colors, as she LOVED to be wedged between either one of us and most anything else. Jeannie and Syd spent MANY a napping hour on this couch.

Here I am with ALL our babies. PG is of course giving 'a look', but Syd is just happy to be here.

Syd was born to snuggle, which we learned quite early on. Here is a 'typical' morning scene 
AFTER I got out of bed. I actually was in there somewhere.

Halloween 2006. I'd been dressing up PG and Sweet Pea for a year or two by now, but this was Syd's first 'dress up' day in our family. She loved the attention, and was quite proud in her "french frys' outfit!

This shot is during the Trick-Or-treats. Both Syd and PG loved to be AT the door, hoping for some attention and, gasp...petting... by some of the kids who weren't afraid of her.

For Thanksgiving every year we fly to Virginia to spend it with Jeannie's twin brother. We typically leave the babies at the house and have a doggie-sitter come by once a day to feed them. I have doggie-doors installed into the garage and out into the back yard from the garage...so they only need food and water to get by. The first time we left them alone was this trip, and Syd had been in the family about 6 months. We had already been been gone for a few days, and on Thanksgiving evening we got a call from our doggie-sitter that there had been a 'squabble' (likely over WHO was the Alpha-dog). It was PG and Syd. She told us PG was missing part of an ear, and there was blood all over but she seemed fine (shaking some). We figured Syd was the new Sherrif in town, as she was a Pit-bull/Basset hound mix (we think).

Here's what we saw when we came home from our Thanksgiving vacation.

You can see the chunk of ear that is missing. However....Syd was NOT in charge as we suspected. She (Syd) had a hunk missing on the top of her head, and another hunk missing on the inside of a front leg. PG (a whippet/terrier mix) apparently is one tough little girl. We believe you'd have to kill her to take away her "alpha" status.

Next comes Syd's first Christmas in our family. I make our Christmas card every year, and I always like a picture of the babies for the cover. This is one of the shots (I also like dressing them up some). Notice how happy Syd is, and how haughty PG is (and the daggers that Sweet Pea is giving me as I take the pic).

 Also every holiday season the babies wear their "reindeer" collars with jingle-bells. We love the sound of jingling as the babies run around he house...it really makes the Holiday Season fun! 
We call them "the Jingle dogs".

Here are the 'Jingle dogs' resting with Jeannie on the couch.

 One of the things we liked doing as a family was 'beach day'. On the base where I work (Vandenberg Air Force Base) we have 42 miles of beach that most people can't get to. One of the beaches at the most northern point is my favorite, and usually we are the ONLY ones there. The babies LOVE beach-day!

Here we are in my old car (still with my Hawaiian seat-covers) heading to the beach. The babies are all jammed in the middle vying for our attention. Did I mention how they LOVE beach day?

We'd go to the beach off and on, whenever we had a decent day and the time to kill. As the beach we go to  is usually deserted we let them run free. FAR away at the end of the beach it turns out there was a sea-lion laying on the beach snoozing. Syd was the first to spot it and charged right for it. The lion quickly exited into the water, and Syd didn't hesitate and went right in after, totally unafraid of the ocean and waves. I on the other hand was QUITE afraid (for her) being out in the ocean, as there are rip-tides and pretty good size waves crashing on the beach. I jumped in right after Syd and grabbed her before she got very far out (her legs are pretty short and I have no idea how good of a swimmer she was).

Here are the HAPPY babies posing, Syd still soaked from her swim with the sea-lion.

This is one of my favorite shots of Jeannie and Sydney...you can see how loving she was. Gosh we miss her!

How quickly another Halloween rolls around. This was my 2007costumes (as always, made with a hot-melt glue-gun and a stapler and some foam). I like to call this picture "Fast Food".
(note: the diff between this years outfits and last years was PG's costume: the soda. The hot-dog costume from last year was a 'store-bought' outfit, and this year all three are in my home-made outfits). I'd call this shot a "Happy Meal" (in ref to McDonald's Happy Meals) except Sweet Pea is anything but happy in her hamburger outfit.

Jeannie took this shot of me 'napping' with the babies. They LOVED naps!




And suddenly it's Christmas-time again. Here is our 2007 Christmas Card cover photo.

Here Jeannie sneaks in a shot of me with the Jingle-Babies. In case you can't tell, 
I just LOVE having them all over me! Talk about feeling LOVED!
 

And suddenly we're into 2008! Time sure flies when you're having fun!

Here are the babies (and Jeannie) snoozing..everybody in their usual spots...Syd with her butt touching Jeannie (facing where I'd be), which was her favorite position.

And here are the babies in the front yard. This shot shows how large Syd's ears truly were....you can't really tell that from most of the pictures. They really were quite large....sometimes the wind would catch them and they would just float up like sails.
 Here we have PG daintily eating her dinner, Sweet Pea is way done and gone, and Syd is also done and now is playing the "I'm not touching you" game...where she stands as close as possible, pretending NOT to be interested in PG's dinner. PG growls very low, and then eats even SLOWER lording over Syd that SHE still has dinner and Syd doesn't. Syd was smart enough to know NOT to try to move in on PG's food. This game was a nightly occurrence.

Here we are out on a hike. In this shot you can see how thin Syd's fur was on the sides...as you can clearly see her pink skin and black splotches. Syd had been having trouble walking for so long now that I can barely remember her running around...it seems forever ago.

Here we have Halloween 2008. The babies are dressed up as The Three Musketeers. The hats were especially tricky to make (finding a source for the large feathers for the hats was also interesting). Their outfits are modeled after the Charlie Sheen 3 Musketeer movie outfits. We entered them in the local Humane Society Halloween costume contest, and they lost to a dog wearing a blonde wig with sunglasses...he was dressed up as "Dog the Bounty Hunter". I think they got gypped (as did MANY people in the crowd who came up to us after and told us so).

Here's the 'after' shot of the contest. They got to walk around the park and see (and be seen) by the judges and all the people. They seem quite happy, don't they! The only problem: Syd's front legs are so short I had a very hard time with the outfit...when she would walk the front of her Tunic would drag and kept getting stepped on, pulling her entire outfit down...she was quite hilarious! But they actually had a pretty good time. (note: 2 years ago I had also entered them in the same contest in their Fast Food outfits... and we WON!)

I think I'll end Part I of my tribute to Sydney's life here, as we are now pretty much thru her first 3 years in our family. I just peeked back, and I have included TWENTY TWO pictures thus far (with PLENTY MORE to go!)

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!