Monday, August 20, 2007

Inconceivable II !

It's not supposed to happen THIS way either!

People aren't supposed to take up cycling after years of a sedentary lifestyle, and then climb a Colorado fourteener after only three months of active bicycling -- especially grandmothers!

And yet my friend SuperNana did it!

For the record, she is Howard's virtual twin sister, born only five hours after Howard -- in the same time zone even. Shown above, she is raising her precious granddaughters, Cricket and Peanut, is married to a man who calls himself Popeye, and they all now ride bicycles together. A true American success story if you ask this cycling junkie!

You can even read her new blog here. She was inspired by reading the blog by Howard's best girl to start one of her own. And it rocks. You've set a pretty high standard so far, SuperNana. Let's see how long you can keep it up!

But back to the story of a grandmother climbing a Colorado fourteener on a bike.

SuperNana has been actively training as a budding cycling superstar under the watchful supervision of Coach Deadhead, who helped transform his wife, BikePrincess, into the cycling royalty she is today. SuperNana had done most of the same rides the rest of us old pros have done these past few months, even though many of those rides have been Category I and HC classification. Along the way, she discovered she occasionally suffers from exercise-induced asthma. Long arduous climbs on a bicycle will do that to a person.

A couple weeks ago, another member of Club Hypoxia, Sunshine, announced that she wanted to climb Mt. Evans, elevation 14,270' -- a goal of hers since the year began. And this is remarkable because Sunshine has struggled with a debilitating fear of heights. The paved road to the su
mmit of Mt. Evans has no shoulder nor guardrails, and some of the pavement edges are missing, as they plunge off into oblivion. So, yeah, she screwed up her courage, announced her intentions to take on the beast, and wanted to know who would ride with her. Howard immediately said he would. Deadhead and BikePrincess said they were in. BMcLaughlin, a cycling maniac if ever there was one, joined up too.

And then the least likely person in Club Hypoxia to volunteer to suffer miserably up a mountain such as Mt. Evans... volunteered. SuperNana was in? Yes she was!

So up we all went last Saturday, Aug. 18. We rode together for the first couple of miles until Howard and Deadhead announced that they would do "hill repeats" of Mt. Evans, and off they went. Hill repeats? I'll explain later. As the ride went on, the other four began to separate out as well.

Except for BMcLaughlin and SuperNana. SuperNana told BMc that he could go on, but he said he would rather ride with her. BMc talked to SuperNana as they rode. And as the air got thinner and the need for every precious oxygen molecule increased, they both noticed she wasn't talking too much. Still, she asked him to keep on talking. Which he did. Around every switchback, up every incline, SuperNana kept pushing those pedals and BMc kept on talking.

Until they were near the top.
That's when they saw their four fellow Club Hypoxians riding down to greet them and ride the final miles to the summit with them. That's what Deadhead and Howard meant by hill repeats of Mt. Evans, by the way. They rode back down to meet and ride back up with each team member until everyone was on top of the world.

And as SuperNana reached the top of the world, an inconceivably impossible achievement that had stressed her out so badly that she couldn't sleep the night before, Howard was videotaping her achievement and told her, "we made it!" At that point, SuperNana couldn't hold it in anymore -- the fears, the doubts, and all the stress and worries she had suffered stoically and silently, it all began to pour out.

Howard immediately turned off his videocamera, but then later, SuperNana gave him permission to post this amazing 13-second video of one person's realization that she just achieved something she would have once thought impossible...

SuperNana, you are an inspiration to all of us, not just because you are a super Nana to your granddaughters, and not because you are a remarkable and talented bicyclist, but because you are a super person, and we're glad you're our friend!

Left to right: Howard, Sunshine, BMcLaughlin, Deadhead, BikePrincess, SuperNana

And now for the question: If she's this good after only three months, how good can she be?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


It just doesn't happen this way!

People who take up cycling suffer miserably and gloriously for months as they work their mileage and endurance up bit by bit until the day finally arrives -- usually after six months or more of regular bicycling exercise -- that they ride a distance of 50 miles or more without dying an unnatural death.

And yet, our 16-year-old son, Gogan, who has ridden a bike maaaaybe a half-dozen times this year for a grand total of maaaaybe 15 miles, joined us on rented bikes last week as we rode from Eugene to Salem via a very picturesque and wrong-turn-laden route.

80 miles! -- on a bike with three broken spokes, resulting in a wobbly rear wheel, resulting in friction as the tire rubbed brakes and frame. The kid didn't even complain! I'm the one who noticed the broken spokes!

Okay, he confessed to disliking the 10-mph headwind we faced all day and the 6% grades we climbed as we approached Salem. But he learned very quickly how to draft behind his tall parents, and he's strong and thin and suffered with stoic grace and determination up the steepness.

Someone who's never ridden a bike more than about a dozen miles is just not supposed to be able to jump aboard a crappy bike and ride 80 miles.

And yet Gogan did.

That's my boy!

So now is he going to join his parents on occasional future bike rides?

NO CHANCE!, says he.

Anyway, here's a video of Gogan demonstrating Class II drafting skills in the face of interminable headwinds...

P.S. In another day or two, Why Howard Laughed will be visited by our 10,000th guest. Make yourself at home. Hope you didn't find your way here by Googling something stupid.

Update: Not totally sure, but I think the 10,000th visitor to Why Howard Laughed was none other than my very own dad! Way to go, old-man-who-can-still-beat-me-at-tennis-on-a-good-day!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Oh, the People You'll Meet!

Yes, we met 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis at the 2nd Annual Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle on Saturday, August 4th. No doubt he's training for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race on August 11th.

Here's a picture of six members of Club Hypoxia with Floyd Landis. From L to R: Deadhead, Timmy, BikePrincess, SombraGato, Floyd, Howard, and BalticTiger.

The Story: We were at an aid station after climbing Tennessee Pass (elev. 10,424'), the second pass of the day. SombraGato saw someone shaking someone else's hand, recognized Floyd Landis, couldn't believe his eyes, then he told BikePrincess. BikePrincess ran to me, commanded, "follow me, and bring your camera!" I complied because I respect royalty. BikePrincess then shook his hand before I realized what was happening. Bad Howard! Informing BikePrincess that I didn't get the photo, I said she would just have to shake his hand again. Instead, she asked for a photo with our entire club. Floyd was very gracious, approachable, and friendly, and he said yes. Jambing my camera into the hands of a complete stranger, commanding her to "take our picture", we all crammed in around Floyd and smiled.

We were wearing our Club Hypoxia jerseys. Floyd asked about them. I told him we were a group of cyclists located up and down the Colorado front range who ride together a couple times a month in the high country.

Perhaps we should send him a jersey?

BalticTiger asked him if he was enjoying his ride. He said he was, except that it was a bit cold. He was right about that since we were around 10,000 feet altitude at the time!

Afterwards, Howard snapped another pic of Floyd as he was leaving...

The rest of the day we were floating... until we had to climb Vail Pass, at which time gravity returned.

Yes, bicycling in Colorado is the best!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Favorite RAGBRAI Moments

Here's a list of Howard's favorite parts of RAGBRAI:

1. Meeting and spending the night with Wjacobyansky's family in Humboldt at the end of Day 2's century ride. Man, could that guy go mano-a-mano with Pansy! Thank you, W and S, for your hospitality, great ham balls, antique shower facilities, and antique bed (only 6' long, so we both slept diagonally).

2. The homemade ice cream in Albert City on Day 2's century loop. Best food all week!

3. The old ladies in Albert City who offered to pick up and move a 40-pound bronze park bench into the shade for Howard and BalticTiger. They really would have done it too if not for quick thinking and lifting by Howard!

4. Drafting for three or four miles at 27+ mph behind Beertruck and his recumbent. Howard had to ride as low as he could go, but it worked great. The looks from other riders -- particularly other recumbents -- was priceless! One even caught up with us to take a picture as he'd never seen that before.

5. Dueling DecafBeanBoy on the flats and hills at high rates of speed, and finding a great new friend instead. Plans are being made for an October visit to Mesa where BeanBoy and Howard hope to ride 120 miles south to Tucson, ride up and down Mt. Lemmon, and then ride back to Mesa. Not in one day, of course.

6. Trying to tune out Pansy's constant blather, failing, then discovering that she's rilly rilly funny after all! Whoda thunk it? Geez, but that woman can talk! [Note to Self: Never trash-talk PansyPalmetto when she's dressed in gangsta garb. She'll cut me.]

7. Eating rhubarb pie every day except for Saturday, when all pie seemed to become scarce.

8. Eating pork chops made by a soon-to-be-retired expert. The world will be less wondrous without his chops. And Pansy gave him a mighty smooch. Video proof should be on the way soon.

9. Eating the world's greatest Belgian waffles made by the world's most competent waffle chef -- one guy cooking waffles for thousands? He did it.

10. Watching a boy unsuccessfully try to give away water for 20 minutes before buying two Gatorades from him, paying him with a $20 bill, receiving correct change, then hearing him brag to his dad as we rode away that he just made a $20 sale!

11. Watching DecafBeanBoy hand out DumDums from his bike's wicker basket to kids along the road and to folks repairing flat tires on Day 4. One guy was brazen to just ask for one straight up, but BeanBoy required that he do some MarioBrothers rolls. Which the guy gladly did. He got to choose his own flavor.

12. A perfect Day 6 from Independence to Dyersville riding hard with BalticTiger, Beertruck, and BeanBoy, then riding an air conditioned shuttle, visiting the Field of Dreams, eating the most amazing spaghetti dinner along with peach pie and rhubarb/strawberry pie, then watching the Army Brass Quintet play great music in one of only 52 basilicas in the U.S. (in Dyersville, of all places!)

13. Watching as BalticTiger goes in our tent, unaware that the back vent is still wide open, and pulls down her biking shorts to change as three guys on the back side of the tent just stand there and gawk. Howard moved quickly into the tent and zipped up the vent, but not before... well, you know. At least the three guys were old.

14. Getting to meet Wjacobyansky & family, beertruck, bikepoky, DecafBeanBoy, Jenni, Gartrade & wife, maschwab, PansyPalmetto, russtaitai, Velosaurus Rex, wallybrau, woodog, batchrb, and John from Cincinnati (can't remember his BikeJournal name). Also, BalticTiger met gingerclip, but didn't know who gingerclip was at the time!

15. Receiving a ride from Sunshine on Sunday from Omaha to Spencer to retrieve our car parked there. Sunshine drove an extra six hours on Sunday so we could come to RAGBRAI a day late, and we are eternally grateful to her! What a sweetheart. Thank you, Sunshine! Riding RAGBRAI with you was a treat and we'll never forget it!

Greatest disappointments? No naked beer slides. Howard was ready to go.

Oh yeah, and when Pansy unexpectedly woke him up at 5:30 a.m. at the hotel on Sunday to give him lipstick. He can get that any time, Panz...

Also: Here are my best girl's favorite moments of RAGBRAI....

RAGBRAI Pictorial Highlights

Pansy demonstrating proper fit of high heels. Needs no explanation other than Wjacobyansky ALWAYS has this expression on his face...

DecafBeanBoy in a tuck. When you're 6'-5", aerodynamics are a myth...

Sunshine amidst the carnage...

As famous as I am and all I get is one lousy street in Podunk, IA...

We were about to decorate BeanBoy with beads and stick a fork in him...

Some dude talking...

BalticTiger looking cute in the morning in Independence. What a skill!

Jenni & Sunshine...

Team Sunshine paceline...

A new avatar is born...

Jenni about to drop Howard HARD...

The ceremonial tire dip into the Mississippi. L to R: BalticTiger, Sunshine, Jenni, DecafBeanBoy, Howard, Rob, Wallybrau...

It was a great pleasure riding with you all!