On top of Mt. Eden

We got out on the tandem on Anzac Day and rode up to the top of Mt. Eden. Actually we had to walk up the last part.

It was a gorgeous day, perfect for Prince William’s appearance at the big ceremony later. We rode by the venue, which was heavily guarded, at least by NZ standards, in the wake of the Christchurch attacks. Weird to see the relatively scruffy and usually friendly NZ police with rifles in a ready position. Probably even weirder for the cops.

Let’s take it from the top

After the coffee plantation, we continued driving uphill to the start point of our tour.

The group was just five… me on the left, then Camilla and Thomas from Sweden, Ronald from the Netherlands, and Chuck from my old neighborhood in Vermont. It was a very convivial group… I would happily travel with all these people, and it makes appreciate one value of a group tour… if you have any luck at all you’ll meet some nice people. Chuck and Ronald, for example, were thrilled to speak Dutch to each other.

Anyway, that’s Mt. Batur in the distance, an impressively big volcano. One popular tourist attraction is to get up at 2AM (for some I suppose it’s stay up till 2AM) and ascend Mt. Batur in time for sunrise. Too energetic for us.

We adjusted the seats on our rattletrap mountain bikes, so they were less too short, checked the brakes (1out of 2 ain’t bad) and took off.

True to the brochure, the tour was entirely downhill. I think I pedaled about 10 revolutions in total, coming off stop signs, and on a bike with less friction wouldn’t have had to do even that.

There wasn’t as much explanation as I would have liked, but I guess the land we were on was formed by a big slow volcanic flow, so it made a very long and gentle slope. Really fun to cruise down.

We stopped at a little school and looked around.

The faded Say No To Drugs sign was somehow sad… if ‘man-splaining’ is a problem, this English-language message felt like its global cousin ‘America-splaining.’

Next stop, a Hindu temple we couldn’t go in. Then on to a ‘real’ family compound to see how the country people live. It was uncomfortable for me, being paraded into these people’s home while they basically ignored us and we basically ignored them. The children were cute, but their artificial smiles enlisted to sell us crocheted bags made me squirm.

But it was interesting to peek in the house compound. Several separate buildings, two for sleeping, separate kitchen, separate bathroom. One just for ceremonies and rituals. There is electricity and running water, but not much of either. They don’t have a flush toilet, but they do have cell phones.

Our guide Ago.

Then we veered off the road and into the terraced rice paddies. We wound our way along a concrete wall with the flowing water channels snaking in and out along the contour lines of the hillside. It’s an impressive feat of engineering… from above it must look like a printed circuit board.

From there we cruised through some more villages, traffic increasing steadily as we got closer to town. We finished up with lunch of fried rice and Bintang beer at a little cafe.

I wouldn’t have minded a better bike and maybe a little more of a workout, but it was a really fun tour and we met nice people.

And the agony of defeat

More of me than most of you wanted to see…

I lost traction on my bike Wednesday morning and now am sporting some new red accessories to go with my watch.

It’s been a while since I hit the deck while exercising, and while I don’t precisely remember how much it hurt last time, I think maybe I’m less elastic than in the old days.

The scrapes are not serious, and it’s not like I ended up tangled in barbed wire. But I’m headed to the doctor anyway to talk about physiotherapy… the exact motion of lowering a heavy mug onto the bar hurts quite a lot… and that’s a problem.

Park and Ride

Biking buddy Carl put out a call the other day that he wanted to ride a particular stretch of dirt road on Friday, and who would like to join, and somehow I was the only one to respond.

So, mid-morning he and I set off toward Stratton. At home, it was sunny, breezy, and 50. Up there, it was mostly cloudy, windy, and 42.

We parked at the Grout Pond access lot and rode down, then up, then down and down and down some more, on what is now known as Kelley Stand Road, formerly the Sunderland Turnpike. Although the road is closed in winter, it was actually quite good, any car could have navigated it (until the snow comes), and we saw a surprising amount of traffic.

Nearly all the ride was within Green Mountains National Park. We crossed over the Appalachian trail , and passed by Beebe Pond, which offered a nice view through the now-bare trees.

Carl’s a local, and a well-read kind of guy, so I wasn’t surprised to hear him start telling me that we were just near the spot where Daniel Webster had given a famous speech back in the day.

We coasted on down the road, following Lyman Brook downstream, until we hit Kansas Road at the bottom of the hill. Now we’re actually in Sunderland, home to about a thousand souls, and also to Orvis, whose catalogs are always a pleasure.

But what goes down… we retraced our route much more slowly. Even as the temperature dropped and a few snowflakes swirled, we got warmer and warmer, peeling off a layer partway up.

Just at the end of the ride, Carl spotted The Rock…

Quite a story! The 1840 Presidential Campaign turned out to be a bit of a turning point in American Presidential politics, and I’m sure the story resonates with me all the more given that most of my Facebook friends think that American politics as we know it may have just been killed by the election of Sleazebag-for-life… and I’m not completely convinced they’re wrong.

So, down the rabbit hole. The Whigs in 1836 couldn’t agree on a nominee, and so they simply submitted four candidates. For the 1840 race, they were determined to have only a single candidate. In 1839, they decided on war hero William Henry Harrison to run against incumbent Democrat Martin van Buren. Van Buren was a technocrat and career politician from a middle-class upbringing, and was seen as arrogant and out of touch with the Common People. The Common People, in their turn, were still reeling from the economic reversals they suffered in the Great Panic of 1837. Wait just a damn minute… is this sounding a little too eerily familiar?

But it’s all true, as far as an hour on the Internet can tell me. Van Buren painted Harrison as a boor, a rube, with some dismissive comment about log cabins and hard cider. And suddenly that became the campaign slogan.. Harrison was the scion of an aristocratic, slave-owning family, but he embraced the whole rough-and-tumble thing (having in fact spent some time in the frontier wilderness known as Ohio) Harrison’s Whigs, including the great Daniel Webster, set out around the country holding great rallies. As an aside, in Michael Pollans’ book The Botany of Desire, he hypothesizes that Johnny Appleseed was primarily in the cider business, since you can’t reliably grow good eating apples from seed…

This was the first time anybody had ever actively campaigned for President. Although ‘log cabins and hard cider’ is a slogan now remembered mostly by amateur historians, the other motto from that year lasted much longer: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. We know how the story ends… the wily, and I would say disingenuous, campaigner trounced the well-qualified incumbent by claiming to be a a Man of the People. I’m sure he would have appointed his sons to the Transition Team, and even to important posts in the government, but he died only a month after being elected. Some say he caught his death in the cold delivering America’s longest-ever Inaugural Address. Doubtful to my way of thinking… but who knows?

So, back to Sunderland… you’re as ready to be done with this bike ride as I was at that point… couldn’t really feel my toes any more.. didn’t wear quite enough clothes around the extremities.

July 7-8, 1840. The word went out all over Southern New England that there would be a great rally in Stratton, VT. People immediately began felling spruce trees for a 100-foot log cabin built solely for the occasion. Whiggish supporters invented the Tailgate Party by driving their own log cabins, mounted on wagons behind horse teams, from miles away and parking them in this field on top of a hill. And Daniel Webster came and gave what we can only guess was a hell of a speech. We can only guess, because nobody bothered to really take down the substance of what he said… newspapers in that time and place were mostly political propaganda machines, and so the details didn’t matter: hearing the actual details of what was said wouldn’t really change anybody’s mind anyway. Clinton-Trump debates, anyone?

There’s an ancient Chinese saying that unpredictable change is the only thing that lasts forever, and I mostly believe that. At the same time, I’m a believer in a parallel truth to the effect that there isn’t all that much new under the sun… and at least regarding political campaigns, that truth seems stronger at the moment.

Hungry Lion Bike Tour

With several buddies, I rode in the Hungry Lion Bike Tour yesterday, starting out in Whitingham, just near the Brigham Young memorial, and meandering around the Mohawk Trail area.


Fall is definitely in the air, with some trees turning and temperature at the starting line only about 50. The sky was a beautiful blue, the winds were quiet, and overall it was a great day to be out. We mostly stayed together, but then Elizabeth and I eased ahead of the others, and pushed less and less easily through the final third of the ride. She is headed to Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship in a couple of weeks, so when I gratefully tucked into my post-ride burger, she got back on her bike for another couple of hours.

The early part of the ride was livened up by the passage of dozens and dozens of vintage motorcycles, all participants in some rally of their own. We had some great stretches of silky new pavement, and we even went by Lake Sadawga, home of floating islands.

At the finish, I didn’t win any raffle prizes, but I did get to eat delicious barbecue and drink good beer while listening to World Way, my favorite local reggae band. In fact, they are the only local reggae band I know of, but they’re my favorite.

Big crowd

Last year around this time I went on a ride that was advertised as “about 50 miles” and ended up being closer to 80. Yesterday we had 16 riders, which is a big group for here, maybe the biggest of the year, and the supposed 50-mile ride was exactly 50 miles. 

Long sleeves are coming out already, and the first few leaves are losing their greenness. 

L’Arrivée

We can see the finish line now, literally and figuratively. After the little bike tour, we jumped on the Metro and rode down to the Place de la Concorde to watch the women’s race and then a couple hours later see the men come through for the famous circuit race up and down the Champs Elysées. 

The closest metro stop was closed, so an unexpected walk ensued, but then we got past security and voilà!



Maybe it’s stating the obvious, but you don’t often get to stand around here and take pictures… without a trip to the hospital. Our seats allowed us to see the racers coming and going, and with the application of a little chutzpah we were able to get right down by the finish line. Much much better than advertised. 

The women’s race was sort of like watching a college event.  Although they are all pros, only a handful really make full time a living as cyclists… the sponsors just aren’t ponying up. However, also like a college event, the racers were quite approachable, and many of them watched the men’s race from our same bleachers. Marianne Vos, who’s one of the true legends in women’s road cycling, came in third. 



Vlad and I took a walk for a while before the men came through. 

What a difference a block makes… Our passes let us wander inside the secure area, where many thousands of police lounged in cars and paddy wagons, watching YouTube videos, checking Facebook, and praying to stay bored. 


Here’s part of the way you broadcast the event worldwide. 


The race itself unfolded as expected… Greipel the sprinter won over dashing Peter Sagan. 


Sagan had the coolest bike. It sort of glowed from within. 


Here’s another shot of our seats… Really amazing. 


And then the long walk home. Metro out of the question… Crazy crowded. The Place de l’Etoile is seldom empty like this.


Hitting the room around 10 pm, dinner was out of the question. The dedicated autograph hounds were rewarded, but I didn’t have the patience and so headed upstairs. Here’s Rafal Majka, King of the Mountains, signing a jersey. 


And after I passed him my pen with a speed worthy of an Olympic relay team, Vlad cornered Majka in the elevator for a fine signature for his granddaughter. 


Obviously, staying in the same hotel as half the racers had its perks. 

Like any sporting event, it was tremendously exciting, and then it was over. I’m so glad I had the chance to see it, and see it this way. Worth every penny, or more accurately, every several thousand pennies. 

Thank you, my dear one, from the bottom of my heart. 

Paris bike tour

On Sunday morning, we all got on the metro and headed down to the​ Ile de la Cité​ for a touristy bike trip organized just for us. Gliding around like swans on big cruiser bikes, we had a couple of hours of history and sightseeing thanks to Pierre, the local history guide. 

I saw some sites I had never seen, and learned some facts I didn’t know, and overall it was a pleasant way to spend the morning while we waited for things to kick off in the afternoon…
Wallace fountains


Shakespeare and Company


St. Sulpice, the “Magic Line” featured in the Da Vinci Code


Arènes de Lutece. 

TdF Saturday July 23

Today we are in Paris, but the race is still bring decided in the Alps. We had the morning to ourselves, so after a big hotel breakfast Vlad and I set out for a walk around. We walked up the Avenue de la Grande Armée, past a drool-worthy array of motorcycle shops, until arriving at the Arc. 


We got all the way to the Eiffel Tower, which looked especially majestic in the bright blue sky. An exceptional melon with some nice Spanish ham made for a very pleasant lunch. 


We crossed the Seine and made our way back to the hotel, passing various historic monuments as we went. Here is a World War I Memorial featuring poetry by Allan Seeger, whom I have written about before.


Then we watched most of the stage as a group at the hotel, and met the final additions to our party: a family whom Mummu gave the trip to after they entered a drawing. They have three kids, and the entire family are big sports fans, crazy for cycling and all sorts of other things. It was an exciting stage, with mountains and rain and crashes and a very tense battle for second and third place. However, as I have mentioned before, it just isn’t the same for me without the commentary I’m used to. I have no idea how much Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen bring home each year, but they are worth every penny of it as far as I’m concerned. Even if Phil does seem increasingly fuzzy on some of the facts…

We had dinner at one of the restaurants we wished we had found the night before, featuring a big seafood platter on ice and a whole complicated assortment of artisanal oysters. Delicious!

Characters 


A lot of people dress up in silly costumes before heading out watch the race go by. Not counting the MAMILs of course (middle aged men in Lycra) like me, who might be the silliest of all. 

Some people don’t need to dress up…

And PS, I don’t think I took any of these pictures… We are starting to share photos among the group, so thank you Maribeth and Stuart. 

TdF Friday July 22

On Friday we transferred from Villars to Paris. The first sprinkles fell as we were loading the van, and the rain became torrential as we drove. That was really the only rain we saw… All our rides were under clear skies. 

Villars, as I’ve said before, was beautiful, as was that whole region. Here’s a couple more pics from the Alps. 


The drive to Paris took most of the day, and we were very ready to check in to the Meridien Etoile, a workhorse hotel nicely located near the Porte Maillot. When we got there, the race was almost over, but Vlad convinced one of the bellmen to pull it up on his computer screen, so we got to see the finish. 


Manny and Marybeth had purchased a museum pass that needed picking up, so Vlad and I joined them for the walk. 

It turned out to be further than we anticipated, so eventually we sent Manny on ahead while the rest of us had a drink in front of the Madeleine. 

Sadly, the tourist office was closed, but it’s hardly a bad thing to walk around Paris on a summer afternoon. 

But now it’s 8 pm, and dinner time. Vlad has spent quite a bit of time in Paris, and in general is seldom in doubt about what ought to happen next. He vetoed several restaurants, and so found himself in charge of picking one.  We walked for an hour, but finally mutinied… we ended up having a thoroughly marginal meal at the next place we found. It was too bad, because we were just a few blocks from lots of good eats. 

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