Friday, July 31, 2009

Random thoughts on a bike

Somebody asked me the other day what I think about when I am on the bike. I made mental notes during my Thursday night ride, because I was not really sure. Here is a brain dump of the random thoughts for a 31 miles ride that I averaged 20.1 mph.

Wow, big group tonight. Dang, lots of skinny fit dudes. “Yo Justin”. I think we have a tail wind. “Thanks for putting my bike together Jeff” I have not seen that guy before, I think I can drop him. NO I am not going to pull to the hill, need to fade to the back. “Hey Chris, long time no see.” Ok, here comes the hill. Legs feeling good.. Complicated Shadows. I’m not breathing heavy, cool.. “CAR UP”. Move up, Move up. Up the Plume.. Damn they are flying. Not going to be last. Fine Chris, I will let you pull me up the hill. Where’s Justin? Why is Duke kid pulled over.. Oh.. mechanical, Almost to the top. Wow Duke kid is wasting a lot of effort to get buy me, moneys down the road. Ooh.. got three targets in front of.. Ride smooth.. There’s Justin on my wheel. Its Darker than you Know in those Complicated Shadows. Cool there are four of us. “Chris, stay steady”. We can catch those two in front of us. My legs hurt. Why I am pulling? Well you know your time has come and you are sorry for what you’ve done. “The guy is the red is not working, we got them” Who is this dude in the black jersey, never seen him. Close the gap, dude. Fine I’ll go to the front. It'll soon be time to go but it's darker than you know in those Complicated Shadows. Shit. “PASSING PASSING PASSING” Did he have to pass that close. What the? I just finished pulling your butt for 2 miles and now you attack?. Don’t like this guy in the black jersey. Dang we are hammering. All you gangsters and rude clowns Who were shooting up the town. So you attack and then sit in.. Jerk. “We Lost one” cool dropped the guy in the red jersey we caught, black jersey hurting. But it's darker than you know in those Complicated Shadows. Gonna fly down Plume. “CAR LEFT CAR LEFT’. There goes all my dang momentum. Sometimes justice you will find Is just dumb not colour-blind. Got to take the sprint. “FALL OFF JUSTIN” Damn headwind. Lungs and legs ok. Here we go. Hurt hurt hurt. Nice lead out Justin, bye-bye black jersey. Damn Duke kid. He is blowing.. I can do it.. Alright, I got the sprint. “Good ride” But iron and steel will bend and break In those Complicated Shadows

For some reason Elvis Costello’s new song “Complicated Shadows” was stuck in my head the whole ride, his lyrics are italicized above.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Siddiquis

For those not paying attention, I was busy last weekend. On Saturday afternoon Troop 5 held an Eagle Court of Honor for Mamoon Siddiqui. I have known Mamoon since he was four years old poking his head behind his father’s legs at Sid Richardson Scout Ranch in 1997.

Mamoon and his family were visiting his older brother Moeed who was suffering in the heat as a first year scout at Summer Camp that day. I shook their fathers hand and introduced myself to him. Sid Siddiqui asked me that day, “Which one of these boys is yours?” I paused, thought about it and said, “All of them.”

If was a Friday and I had also suffered through my first summer camp since 1984 and my first as an Adult Leader. Little did I know at the time, I was on my way to becoming the Scoutmaster of little Troop 5.

I have been blessed having the Siddiqui family in my life since then. It is a sad day for me no longer have a Siddiqui as a scout in Troop. Now I just have four adult leaders: two committee members and two Assistant Scoutmasters.

Not only have I got to watch two scouts grow up to be fine young men, the Siddiquis have watched me go from a 30 year old pathetic bachelor who had vacation to burn to go to summer camp to 40 something married grandfather who still takes boys to summer camp. We have supported each other as friends during that time.

Congratulations to Mamoon for being an Eagle Scout-well deserved. Thank you to the Siddiquis for being my friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ol Blue

Today my brother-in-law towed away “Ol Blue” to Oklahoma. “Ol Blue” is a 1991 Chevrolet Silverado extended cab pickup truck. She has 210,000 miles on her and they were all quite hard miles. Towards the end of her operating life she burned a quart of oil in about 500 miles.

She was truly a scout truck. Her insides were always covered with mud, dirt and grime from scouts piling in and out of her. Brandon Daly noted tonight at the troop meeting that anything left in her was free game to the next scout that climb in to go camping. He bragged he still had a pair of sunglasses.

She took the troop to Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Colorado and all over Texas. Her 305 engine strained and pulled Troop 5’s trailer. Her driver ran her into poles, trees, bushes and through mud, pot holes and mesquite trees. Her pickup bed was the meeting place for PLCs and Scoutmaster Conferences. That same truck bed carried fire wood to OA Call Out and Ceremony Fires all over Worth Ranch and Sid Richardson Scout Ranch.

She had no place for the driver’s coffee. So the shortest scout in the troop became the “cup holder”. They would ride in the middle and hold the drivers coffee or diet coke. Fazan Chowan, Zack Wisch and JJ Michaels all served as “Cup Holders”. The radio was always playing loud for the scouts to play “Guess that Classic Rock Song.”

“Ol Blue” could find any Whataburger in the state on her own. As Brett cleverly noted today, more Whataburger was eating in this truck than any other vehicle in the United States.

Hopefully the shade tree mechanics in Oklahoma can bring her back to life, but she is done as a scout truck. Farewell "Ol Blue."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Goatneck

The Goatneck is my favorite bike tour of the year. It is in Cleburne, Texas about 40 minutes from beautiful Dalworthington Gardens. The ride is quite hilly, because you climb away from the Brazos River twice and climb all the way back to Cleburne.

The Goatneck has been recognized by Bicycling Magazine as one of the top 100 rides in the country. It is phenomenally supported by the community and every turn is marshaled by a volunteer. The major intersections are even controlled by police officers. If you are lucky to stay in the lead group, you get escorted the whole way. I have never been so lucky.

The ride brings out all the top guns from the DFW area to do the ride in addition to bringing quite a few yahoos. This past Saturday was no exception.

My buddy Big Dave and I arrived in time to register, get a little warm up end and make it to the starting line. I had resigned on the way down that I had not been riding well, that I was not going to chase the lead group and was hoping to average 18mph for the 69 mile route. Big Dave noted I was just laying the foundation of excuses.

The start line of the tour was amazing. It had the stark contrast of a bunch of super fit shaved bike racers to a bunch of Cleburne High School kids on their junior high school bikes. I had much fear of the high schoolers, because they were wooping it up and it was clear they never had ridden in a group ride. After being blessed by a Priest, (the closest I have been to mass this year) and the singing of the national anthem, we were off. Leading the charge was a cycling buddy and his girlfriend on a tandem bike. Either one of them could drop me individually, but together they are an amazing machine.

The only complaint I have about the Goatneck is the first turn. It arrives way to early, maybe a quarter of a mile from the start line. There is a mass of humanity moving in excess of 25 miles an hour about make a crit right hand turn. I had already decided to stay to outside, because the high schoolers were blitzing on the inside line about to have to make a 90 degree turn. I was expecting a massive pile up, but by the grace of God, the shaved legged racers gave the kids the room. That was the last time I saw the high schoolers.

As I watched the tandem from hell lead the ride out of town, with Big Dave not given up the chase. I settled down in a nice group that let them go. One of the neat things of riding as long as I have, I can always find a cycling buddy in the group I’m in. One of the disadvantages of riding as long as I have, is that someone you know is always blowing past you waving. What is confusing about these rides is you end up paying $30 to ride with the people you ride with all the time from bike shop for free, but at least the roads are different.

My group was averaging over 20mph by the time we crossed the Brazos for the second time. I had done a very diligent job of never being in the front and felt much better than expected. However, once you cross this bridge, you are climbing all the way back to Cleburne. The rollers and the climbs shred my group. I will say I was not doing the shredding, but just hanging on for dear life. When it was all said and done, it was just my cycling buddies Justin, Jack and I. They are much skinnier and fitter than I am, so I just stayed on their wheels for the climbs. No, I just stayed on their wheels.

Goatneck Hill is the last long climb of the day. The Hill arrives at about mile 48 and ends at about mile 55. It came at about 10am for us and 104 degrees of heat off the road. I cursed a cycling buddy who could not do the Goatneck because of a 10am massage appointment. They were in a much better place.

The three of us survived the climb and picked up the pace towards Cleburne. At about 10 miles out, I went to the front and towed my two buddies in to the finish. After sitting in all day, I had the freshest legs for the final push.

We ended up averaging 19.3 mph for the ride finishing fifteen minutes behind Big Dave. All in all a good ride.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I don't watch TV

Yesterday I was asked twice if I watched a particular television show. I do not like my answer. There has to be a better answer than “I don’t watch TV”. That answer t is not entirely true; I watch sports. It comes off as arrogant, as if I am some NPR listening, “green” car driving, Starbucks drinking, tree hugging, New York Times reading, road cyclist better than thou kind of guy. This is also not true. I do not listen to NPR that much.

The truth is it is about time. I also do not like the answer “I don’t have time for TV”. That comes across the same way. I allocate my time to work, home, family, scouts and cycling. I am sure there are people in each of those groups who would argue about the order, but that is what I find important. Cycling is a huge time suck when you commit to riding as much as I do. If you are going to commit to balance in the other part of your life, you have to give something up. I have given up television shows.

My obsessive and compulsive personality wants to watch a show from the beginning to the end. The last show I was successful with this was Seinfeld. I have found it easier to be a sports fan. You can turn on any game at any point and in a few short minutes be caught right up to speed. It is great background noise when you are doing things at the house, such as writing in your blog.

I also do not look down on people who watch television shows. I miss out on a lot of good office conversation because I have no idea who is dancing with who, who is still on the island and where the heck the plane crashed on Lost. I have also grown to learn that people grow tired of cycling and scouting stories if they do not participate. Everyone can participate in watching TV, so that is a common bond that I do not have.

For the moment, I think I am going to say, “I’m a sports guy... sorry”, there is a bunch of television networks that are dedicated to that genera. TV watching people will understand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Scouting History

One of my cycling friends asked me a few weeks ago why I am still involved in Scouting. I am not real sure if there is a straightforward answer to that question. I know this; there were plenty of adult leaders along my Scouting trail the made sure I could have a scouting experience. The simplest answer may be; someone did it for me. However, I think there is more to it. I want to delve into it, but first why I even stayed in scouting as a boy.

With my father being in the military, scouting provided one constant as we moved around from place to place during my childhood. The Cub Scout Pack or the Scout Troop was an instant source of friends in a new place.

I started my Boy Scout career in the “Action” Troop 237 in Fort Benning Georgia. As like all little brothers, I followed my older brother into this troop. Members of Troop 5 would find it curious that the leadership positions in this troop had different color neckerchiefs. The highlights of my scouting in Georgia were: 1) two weeks at my first scout camp at the Chattahoochee Scout Reservation. 2) A 50-mile canoe trip down the Chattahoochee River. I was a scrawny 11-year-old scout that probably paddled twice the whole trip. Reggie Hall was a more than patience older boy canoe partner that was stuck with me.

When my father was transferred to Fort Bragg, NC, my brother and I joined Troop 973. Here I camped at Camp Durant for my summer camp, got elected into the Order of the Arrow, and attended the 1981 Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. Many of our campouts were in drop zones at Fort Bragg. The roar of the jets, helicopters, C-130s, tanks etc were always greeted with one of my Scoutmasters’ saying, “That’s the sound of Freedom” This is the Troop I earned my Eagle in.

After my freshman year in High School, my father got orders for Heidelberg Germany. Here my brother and I joined Troop 1. There is much debate which American troop actually was the first Troop after World War II, but my troop had the number. I chose this troop because they had an annual ski trip to Kandersteg Switzerland at the international scout center. I remember John Wilkerson beating me on the butt with his ski as I was trying to learn to use a T-Bar. (ahh, boy leadership) We took the duty train to West Berlin during the height of the cold war. I played spades with Scott Miller as my partner the whole way, while Scott Corliss was hanging out the train taking pictures of East German guards. I was active in the Black Eagle Lodge and traveled all over Europe to do Order of the Arrow scouting. I also worked three summers at Camp Freedom, with Bill Kennedy, Bill Hurley, Sandro Mezel who I have found again. Bill Kennedy gave me the nickname of “Gonzo” that stuck the whole time I worked camp staff.

I wandered away from Scouting when I went off to College. I owe a whole bunch of adults along the way. I think I am paying them forward by getting back involved in scouting in 1997.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Norman Conquest

In 1066 was the Norman Conquest of England, but I want to discuss the bike ride in Norman Oklahoma.

Today I did the Norman Conquest . This is my third out of state tour. I have done the Enchanted Circle Century in New Mexico and the Tour De Vally in Virginia.

Carol is from Moore, OK, so we came up for the weekend, stayed at her sisters in OKC and I got up early this morning to do the ride. Carol spent quality time with her sister and high school friends.

It was the day to do 66 miles in Oklahoma. It was 66 degrees at the start. After the past few weeks of riding in 100 plus degree weather, I was ecstatic.

The route goes east out of Norman, goes across Lake Thunderbird, and it has one rolling hill after another. I know the flyer said it was going to be hilly, but I thought.”Oklahoma?” Well, the flyer was correct and continued to note to the Okie boys I was riding with. “Where is this flat Oklahoma I hear about?” This question was met with much laughter.

I survived in the rolling hills with the lead group for 10.6 miles. I was going to get dropped, but I got hung up in the wrong gear on a turn up a steep climb that sealed the deal. I very nice chase packed formed and I rode with them until mile 40. Unfortunately, a 20 something zero body fat kid with an Oklahoma State Champion jersey rolled into our group. Why the hell did a bunch of 40 something recreational riders think they could chase and stay with this guy is beyond me, but we did and I was spit out the back. I was a tad disheartened until my course merged with the 46 mile course. I had already done that amount and the people I was passing were really suffering. I fine example of schadenfreude on my part. I filled my bottles at the 54 mile rest stop and jumped onto a group as I left. I ending up averaging 18mph for the ride and the temperature was 86 degrees at the finish.

A good day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cruel Ride

Often times I am asked why I ride the bike. I need to delve into that sometime, but today I am sure I could not tell you why I ride. Tonight’s ride was cruel. It is freaking hot in Texas and my cycle computer thermometer read 108 as I was getting ready. It should be duly noted that Carol questioned whether I should be riding tonight because of the heat. I told her I was just going to take it easy.

I lied and karma kicked my butt.

The normal rider participation was down due to the heat. After we came together on Lake Ridge, the pace quickened as we rode into a head wind. My legs were already starting to bother me, I was gasping for air, and my heart rate was headed towards max. I kept thinking, “I told Carol I would go easy” as I looked down at a speed of 25mph. We reach the base of the first climb and I almost get shelled, but I pull back into the group. I am in pain, my head is swimming and it’s freaking hot. I stay with the group until the base of the big climb, Texas Plume. I give every bit of effort I can to stay with them, but they ride away. I can feel my lunch wanting to come up and see what is going on. By the time I reach the top, I notice that I am not sweating and my skin is nothing but goose bumps. Being the wise cyclist that I am, I proceed to chase the group. Luckily for me, there is a tri-athlete that could not climb worth a lick with me. We trade pulls, but to no avail, the group is gone. By this time it is becoming clear that I have no business being on the bike as I quell the gag reflex of my investigative lunch. I abandoned the ride and found the quickest way back to the car. However, I took it easy, not because I was honoring my word with Carol, but because it was all I could do.

Although I probably cut 5 miles off of the ride, I barely beat the lead riders back to the cars.

If asked, I ride because I enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tim Curry

I had the privilege to have worked for Tim Curry from February 25, 2002 until he passed away April 24, 2009. Mr. Curry was sworn into office as the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney on November 27, 1972.

In the latest issue of Texas District and County Attorney Newsletter has a wonderful In Memoriam section dedicated to my former boss, if you want to read it you will get but a glimpse of this true statesmen.

This is what I said.

J. Greg Shugart
Business Manager, Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office
I have been the business administrator for the DA’s office for over seven years. I tell the staff here that I’m the person who keeps their copiers working and their legal pads and paper clips supplied so that they can do their work. But I also worked daily with Tim Curry to keep our $33-million-budget office ticking efficiently. I saw firsthand how Mr. Curry diligently sought to save jobs in our narcotics and check departments as grant funds and check fees dwindled. Many of my administrative tasks required sophisticated negotiations with the Commissioners’ Court and County Administration. Although I often felt clumsy when accomplishing his goals, Mr. Curry always backed me up, just as he supported any of his staff following his directives.

Mr. Curry’s strong work ethic and humble style repeatedly reminded me of Plato’s Greek classic, The Republic. His style emulated the guardians of civic justice that Plato described. Mr. Curry stayed in-formed; he always focused on what was right and just; his loyalty was legendary. And Mr. Curry never sought praise for any of the myriad deeds he accomplished. Those of us who worked for him will strive to follow his example

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today is Carol’s Birthday. Carol has been my lovely wife since May 29, 1999. I am not sure if I have been her “outstanding” husband since then, but it is not for the lack of trying. Carol made the mistake of becoming my friend in 1993 when I was the City Administrator of Dalworthington Gardens. Our first date was going to an Arlington High Football game to watch the game and Tamara be a “shadow” for the Marching Band in 1997. While we were dating she learned that I was not remotely handy with tools as she replaced the alternator on her truck as I watched.

One of my favorite stories about her when we were dating was when she went to my Fraternity’s anniversary party. She more than tolerated my indulgence of my journey to my college days with my college buddies. As we were walking out, with the keys in Carol’s hand, the off duty officer working security ask for Carol’s autograph. I was a tad confused, but when we got in the car, she told me they thought she was Dyan Cannon. I remember thinking, “They think my date is Dyan Cannon... Who is Dyan Cannon?” I have since learned.

She married me nonetheless and we moved into my 1930’s house and she made it a home for Tamara, Brett and I. During these years her grasp of common sense is off the scale, which has been very helpful through our many adventures and trials. She is more than supportive of my scouting and cycling. The Scouts in the troop refer to her as “Ms. Carol”; she has sewn many a uniform. And most of the time does not lose patience with me as we continue to improve out little house. I have actually grown to enjoy working in the yard with her.

More importantly, Carol shares my passion for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. She understands the importance of seeing the scarlet and black clad team in the frenzied confines of “The Jones” Our season ticket holder family around us always upset with me if she does not make the journey.

When Carol is not ensuring the health and welfare of Brett, Brittany, Tamara, David, me and of course Aedan, she is working at Teague Nall and Perkins civil Engineering firm as a Senior Designer. She will be celebrating 20 years of service this year.

My own observation of successful relationships is when the man is aware that he has done better than he deserves. I am such a man.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday Night Cluster

As I delve into my examination of Road Cycling Culture, Thursday Nights Ride at Joe Pool Lake was an excellent case study of cyclists just following the wheel in front of them.

When the daylight allows it, a group of bike racers and strong recreational riders assemble in the parking lot of the Oasis at Joe Pool Lake. We venture into a hammer fest up Lake Ridge Road, climb Texas Plum, do a long loop south of Highway 67, and return to the Oasis. On a good night, I average over 20 miles per hour on the 31-mile course. I am not that strong in this group and usually finish in the chase group; I am far from an alpha cyclist on this ride, but this group views me as an “elder statesman.”

Last night we had a problem because Texas Plum was under construction and the route has to change. Since this is a leaderless ride, the group had to come up with a different route. There was much discussion and I suggested Route A. There was some consensus and then someone suggested Route B. Everybody seemed to agree on Route B and they turned to be as one of the “elder statesman” and said your call. I decreed, “Let’s do Route B” and off we went.

We got on Lake Ridge and headed south. We were fighting a tough head wind and it was hot. I felt I was riding into a blast furnace and my thermometer read 108 degrees off the road. We climbed Lake Ridge at a heck of a pace. We were surging up Lake Ridge and I was spat out of the back on the last pitch to the top. Three of us regrouped and began the chase. We could see others had fallen off and we were going to end up in the chase pack again.

We started to gain on the groups in front of us when the turn appeared that made Route A and Route B different. Somebody attacked the lead group, made the turn to do Route A instead of Route B. I saw some hand waving from the back, but the whole lead group just responded to the attack and changed the route. All the people that were chasing did the same thing.

Not that any of this is bad, but it just shows that the in a group ride, everyone is just going to follow the wheel in front of them. Democracy gives way to the alpha cyclist. I was quite amused at the end of the ride when we all reassembled at the cars for the “after action” reports, a few of my buddies came up to me to apologize for doing the wrong route. I noted I was not in position to give directions when the turn came.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Brett’s birthday is June 2 and it would seem unfair to him to wait until next year to introduce him when he will be turning 24. I am sure he is very concerned.

Brett came into my life when in 1997 when he was 10. It was a scary time for me, I had just started dating his mother and he crossed over into my Scout Troop the following spring. As most of you know, it worked out and he became my stepson in 1999. We have had our challenges but I know I am better for it, hopefully he is as well.

We had the classic Scoutmaster/Son relationship. You have patience for every boy in your troop but one. “You expect me to be better than everyone else!” he once yelled at a campout. I responded, “You figured it out!” Brett is one of my Eagle Scouts and well deserved

Brett is currently working for father at Underwood Drafting &Surveying. He is plugging along on his undergraduate degree with a much better GPA than I had. He recently bought a house in Denison that he shares with his girlfriend Brittney, who is a sweetheart.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bees in our House

Carol and I live in a house built in the 1930’s in Dalworthington Gardens, TX. It is a real neat house, but Carol’s husband is not a handyman that houses such as ours needs. As a rule, she is the lead “fix it” person and I am the helper.

There are problems that I can solve at the house, because I know how to write a check. With the power of hindsight, we had Africanized bees making a home on our house right above what used to be Tamara’s bedroom window. We are guessing they have been building the hive for three years or so. Carol was aware of the problem and had encouraged me to deal with it. They really are not a problem until you tick them off when you are mowing the backyard which led me to finally address the issue.

I hunted down a bee removal company that did not use chemicals, trying to be a green as I could be. (Yes I like the pun) I found the nice folks of Parker County Chimney Sweeps. I learned from then if you clean a lot of chimneys, you end up getting rid of a lot of bees.

I was going to take pictures of the process, but they warned me that if they were Africanized, I would get stung. So the dogs and I hung out inside as they went to work. It took them about two hours in the Texas heat to resolve the bee problem. They placed the honey combs in a plastic bag and said it would be safe to harvest and eat.
Carol and I built a sophisticated harvesting contraption that involved a step ladder, bungee cords, a folding chair, and a plastic jar.

We have not eaten any honey as of yet. If this blog continues, it will be evidence that the honey did not kill us.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Rides

I have been riding the road bike since 1994. The hard core cycling season runs during daylight savings time. During that period, a perfect cycling week is when I get four rides in for at least a total of 160 miles. My fitness level fluctuates from season to season due to life commitments, but Carol will tell you my mood is closely related to how much riding I get in.

Tuesdays I have two choices for group rides. One is at the shop. It is a moderately paced ride that I get 40 miles in because I ride from the house. It is a nice recovery ride. The other is at Joe Pool Lake, I have to pack my bike in my car in the morning. It is a hammerfest up the hills of Cedar Hill. I cannot climb worth a lick and my goal for that ride is not to be the last one to finish. It is around 32 miles. I tend to alternate between these rides to not tire myself out.

Thursdays is another hammerfest out at Joe Pool Lake. This one only has one major hill which I have to bust my butt to get up with the hope to finish with the chase group. This ride is about 31 miles.

On Saturdays, I ride from the shop if I am not doing a local bike tour. (Bike Rally). This is my long ride for the week, at least 70 miles. This group from the shop will ride to Benbrook, Venus, Alvarado, Burleson, Joshua, or Waxahachie, Maypearl and the places in between depending on mood, wind and weather.

The local bike tours are fun and I will blog about them when they happen. The big one of the year is the Hotter N’ Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls in August. My favorite is the Goatneck in Cleburne in July.

The Sunday ride is again from the shop. I blogged about it just this week, but it is an evolving ride that I get 43 miles with this ride.

All this riding ensures that I can eat fried cheese. That is the goal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Riding with Greatness

Since the Tour De France is about to start, there is no better time than to tell my Tour De France Champions story.

It was May of 1999. Lance Armstrong was sponsoring a local bike tour as fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I think it started in 1997, but 1999 was huge because Lance was just back on the bike back from beating Cancer and heading for the Tour De France. My buddy Randy Wallis and I went down to Austin to participate. The bike tour has evolved into the Livestrong Challenge.

On Friday, there was a criterium. Randy and I walked around and watched the pros warm up in their tents. The mad house around Lance pales in comparison to what you will see in July of this year in France, but it was amazing nonetheless. We never got close. I did run up to Frankie Andreu, had a rather awkward fan moment and got his autograph. While we were walking around, we also saw Sean Kelly and Greg Lemond.

The crits were awesome. The level of talent at each level was amazing. We befriended a Dad from El Paso whose son was racing. I do not remember his name, but I named the his son El Paso at the time. El Paso was a really strong Hispanic kid and finished in the top 10 of his class. A member of my cycling club was doing the Masters race, looked over, saw the national championship jersey at the start, and he figured the race was already over.

The pro crit went as expected Lance broke away with two spares with about 20 minitues to go. Frankie and the rest of U.S. Postal team blocked. Frankie eventually rode a way from the chase group on a nice solo to finish fourth. Lance took his first victory on the way back to the Tour.

Saturday morning of the Ride for the Roses was a mad house. Everyone was crowding to the front to ride with Lance. I am not sure how, but Randy found a way to fish us to the front. We watched Christine Armstrong (Mrs. Armstrong at the time) sing the National Anthem, with the Tobi Miller from The Wallflowers playing the guitar.

The start was a cluster. Everyone trying to ride with Lance and Lemond. I got pretty close, but their was a wreck from someone crashing into a traffic control device. It was the rolling hills of Austin and the pace was killing me. (I was in pretty darn good shape then) I rode up to Frankie but was breathing to hard to even say a word. Plus he was chatting with Lemond like they were sitting on the couch. Randy was still up there and I gave it up. I could not handle the Austin hills.

I pulled into the twenty-mile rest stop to fill my water bottles and found Randy and another cycling buddy Sammy. I said, “Let’s go” and Randy turned to me and said,
“I’m waiting on Big Mig” and pointed to a Spaniard. I look over and there is five time Tour De France Champion Miguel Indurain, hanging out next to El Paso. Mig said something to El Paso in Spanish and they saddled up. Randy, Sammy and I jumped into the group

It became clear the Mig did not want to leave El Paso, because he was the only one who could speak Spanish. I informed El Paso that he could not drop us, so that we could stay with Mig. We kept a good pace and even rotated. One time Randy was coming off the front and said, “Don’t crash, Miguel Indurain is on your wheel”. I also remembered being behind Indurain and watching his lungs expand three times more than I could ever dream about.

Midway through the ride I came upon former Olympian and Team Motorola Manager Jim Ochowicz; Jim rode in the ‘72 and ‘76 Olympics. As I rode next to him I asked how he was doing. He responded, with difficulty, “I…am…dying…! I haven’t ridden this far in months”. That was a big boost for me as I found someone who was hurting more than me.

We caught Sean Kelly and he joined the group. It was fun hearing an Irishman yelling in Spanish at Mig about the pace. As we reached Austin at the end of the ride, I had to inform Sean that in Texas we do not lean on pickup trucks at stoplights, they have guns. He did not seem to think I was serious, but did stop the practice.

We finished the ride strong and I shook Mig’s and Kelly’s hand and thanked them for the ride. I remember loading up my little red Rodeo with my bike with Sammy was ranting that all the training we had done in our life was worth this ride.

I still agree.