Another year has passed since my last ride in the El Tour de Tucson. This year is the 34th anniversary of this annual fund-raising event, and once again I signed up to ride the full distance - which was 106 miles this year. This year was thankfully warmer than previous years, but holy cow - the wind was terrible. But I'll get to that in a minute.
The night before the ride I packed up my bicycle gear, and I made sure that I wouldn't repeat last year's mistake and forget my helmet. As I was putting my things together, I discovered that my bicycle had a flat tire. It was no fun changing it, of course, but it was so much better to have fortuitously discovered that problem the night before rather than the morning of. After that issue was resolved I set my alarm for 4:30am climbed into bed around 10:30pm. However, for some reason I could not fall asleep, so I probably did not drift off until sometime around 2:30am, which meant that I was hauling my exhausted self out of bed after only two hours of sleep. (Would someone please remind me why I do this every year?)
Anyway, I was on the road by 5:00am, and after a brief stop at a McDonald's for some carb loading via an Egg McMuffin, I headed off to Armory Park in downtown Tucson where the ride was scheduled to begin. I had studied the map before the ride, and I noticed that the route had changed for this year. First of all, the long, uphill ride on La Cañada Drive was gone, but it appeared to be replaced by an even longer uphill ride on Oracle Road. In addition to that change, the end of the ride had been changed from the 20+ miles riding Tangerine Road and the Frontage Road along I-10 to Avra Valley Road and Silverbell Road. This was all new territory for me, so needless to say - I did not know what the the day would have in store for me when I would arrive at those sections of the route.
Sometime shortly after 5:30am I arrived at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC), which is where I always park my car for the day, and after a few minutes putting the last of my things together, I hopped on my bicycle and rode over to Armory Park to get in line for the ride. I arrived around 10 or 15 minutes before 6:00am, and there were perhaps a couple hundred riders in line before me. (That number includes the "Platinum Riders," who must have had a ride time of less than five hours during a previous year.)
|Arriving near the start line. |
|The group of cyclists in front of me. |
(The banner in the distance is the actual starting line.)
As I waited for the ride to begin, I talked with the cyclists around me, and I met a guy whose wife had inadvertently cheated on one of the shorter distances during the previous year's ride. It seems that she didn't want to deal with the large crowd at the start line, so she began her ride 1 hour earlier than the rest of the riders. This meant that she wouldn't have an official time for the ride, but she didn't care. However, she was the first woman to cross the finish line for her distance, so they erroneously listed her as the winner. This isn't an actual race, so it's not that big of a deal, but nevertheless she registered for this year's ride under a different name. ;-)
|A quick panorama of the crowd of cyclists around 6:30am. |
As I mentioned earlier, the temperature was a little warmer than in past years; it was somewhere in the low 50s while I was waiting. But I had learned from some more-experienced El Tour participants during my 2014 and 2015 rides to wear something disposable like pajama pants while waiting in line, and any clothes which are abandoned near the start line are donated to charity once the riders have left. With that in mind, I had bought a large set of black pajama pants to wear over my legs as I waited, and I had made sure to leave the tags on to show that they were new. As the start time drew near, I removed those, folded them nicely with the tags showing, and placed them on the side of the road. (Other cyclists simply threw jackets and pants over the barriers which lined the street.)
As has happened in previous years, in the last few minutes before the ride begins, all of the cyclists don the last of their equipment, and then all the riders bunch up toward the start line, thereby filling up all the gaps in the crowd.
|Cyclists pushing toward the start line in the last few minutes. |
Shortly before 7:00am we all sang the National Anthem, and after a few perfunctory words from local politicians, they sounded the horn which announced the start, and we were off. I will admit, it always fills me with a small amount of nervousness before arriving at the starting line when I think about heading out as a lone cyclist within a sea of thousands; I am always afraid that I will fall over and get hit, or someone else will fall over and I'll crash into them, but every year it is an orderly affair as the cyclists cautiously start out in unison. (It seems that everyone else is also concerned about avoiding an accident.)
|106-mile riders starting out for the day. |
30 minutes after the ride had started I found myself at the Santa Cruz River crossing, where all of the cyclists are required to dismount and hand-carry their bicycles across the dry river bed. Once again, a Mariachi Band was playing music for everyone as we arrived on the other side of the river.
Once across the river, I climbed back on my bicycle and headed off. However, this is where I need to mention the wind which I had alluded to in my opening paragraph; the first 35 miles of this ride is predominantly uphill as we rode south, and we had a great deal of wind blowing to the north, which meant that the first several hours were uphill into the wind. There were brief downhills and a few respites from the wind here and there, but for the most part the beginning of my day was spent tucking my head down and riding into the wind. One of the biggest sources of relief for everyone was around the 25-mile point when we turned north onto Kolb Road and had the wind behind us for a change. It was only for 2½ miles, but still - I heard dozens of other cyclists verbally reacting to the difference, and throughout the rest of the day I heard cyclists complaining about how awful that wind had been.
Of course, one of my personal demoralizers is when I hit the 30-mile mark; that is when the route passes Pima Community College, which is the start of the 75-mile route. I always think to myself, "If I had done that ride, I would be starting from here, rather than having just ridden 30 miles."
As we turned off Kolb Road onto Irvington Road, we entered my section of town, where I train all the time. In fact, I had ridden the northbound climb on Houghton Road and Escalante Road a couple of times that week, so I was quite used to that terrain and the climbs did not bother me. Shortly after reaching the end of Escalante Road, the route turned north onto Freeman Road, where we were all treated to several miles of fast-paced, downhill riding. (With no winds!)
At the bottom of Freeman Road the course followed the familiar route of Speedway to Houghton to Snyder, which took about 30 minutes to negotiate, and then it was time for the second river crossing. By this time I had been riding for over 3½ hours with no breaks, and I was running low on water, so I stopped to refill my water bottles, eat a few snacks, and remove the last of my cold weather gear.
After a brief 20-minute rest stop, I was back on the road. My next obstacle was the steep climb up East Snyder Road near North Rockcliff Road. I have mentioned this hill in my other blogs about riding in the El Tour de Tucson, so I won't go into detail here, except to reiterate what I have said in the past - thankfully this climb is only a few hundred meters in length.
Once I had put the Snyder Road climb behind me, I had a short ride to Cowbell Crossing, where my wife, Kathleen, was cheering on passing cyclists around the 52-mile mark with a group of her coworkers and our dog, Boudicca. Kathleen had been watching my progress via my Garmin Live Track, although what she was seeing was a few seconds behind my actual location, so she barely had time to run to the side of the road with Boudicca and wave as I rode by. (I had thought about stopping, but their group was set up on the opposite side of the road so I chose not to stop. In hindsight, I probably should have at least stopped to say "Hi" to everyone.)
The route meandered west along Sunrise and Skyline Drives, then we climbed north on Oracle Road, which was a departure from previous years of climbing north on La Cañada Drive. This extended the length of the climb by a couple of miles, so I'm still not quite sure if I approve of the changed route.
Around the 60-mile point I ran into an interesting predicament; my Garmin Cycling GPS announced that it's battery was almost depleted and it was going to shut down. I had fully charged it the night before, and I had used my Garmin GPS on several 100-mile rides with no problems in the past, but this year I had more devices connected than in previous years. For example, my GPS was linked to my cell phone for Live Tracking (which was constantly updating my location for family members to watch), and my GPS was paired with a Garmin Varia Radar which helps me know when vehicles are approaching from behind. Fortunately I had planned ahead; my cell phone was already attached to a spare battery and was still fully charged, and I had brought a spare USB battery pack in case of emergency. With that in mind, I quickly pulled off to the side of the road, and then I attached a USB cable from the battery pack to my GPS. Once I had all of that connected, my GPS showed that it was charging and I hopped back on the road. (Note: By the end of my ride, the GPS was fully-charged once again and the battery pack was still half-charged.)
I was running low on water as I reached the 75-mile mark, so I pulled off the road with dozens of other cyclists. I quickly refilled my water bottles, and I also availed myself of the Girl Scout cookies which the volunteers had provided. (No Thin Mints, of course, because those would have melted in the heat.)
After a 15-minute break I was back on the road and heading west on Moore Road. Thankfully the worst of the climbs were behind me, and the next 10 to 15 miles were predominantly downhill, which was a welcome change after the miles of climbing earlier in the day.
As I rode by a family which was cheering on the riders, their boys were all holding out their hands for high fives; most riders passed them by without obliging, but I held out my hand and swatted them all - thankfully without losing my balance in the process.
As I have seen on other long rides, I encountered a variety of interesting bicycles throughout the day's ride; most cyclists were on road bikes, of course, but there were a lot of mountain bikes, several single-speeds, a bunch of tandems, a smattering of recumbent bikes, and a couple of complete novelties - someone was riding a an ElliptiGO for the full 106 miles, and another guy was riding a unicycle. (I have no idea what distance the unicyclist was riding, but it was before we had merged with the cyclists riding for 28 miles, so the unicyclist was riding at least 37 miles.)
The route headed down Avra Valley Road and then onto Silverbell Road, which I mentioned earlier was different than riding down the Frontage Road in previous years. There were a few things about this new route which were a welcome change; namely that the ride was nowhere near as boring as 20 miles of riding along a frontage road next to an Interstate. The biggest drawback was, however, that riding south meant facing into the wind - again.
Nevertheless, after an hour's ride south on Silverbell Road, the route turned east on Speedway, then shortly after that the route briefly turned onto Mission Road and then 22nd Street, thereby retracing the final miles of the route from previous years. After that we turned onto 6th Avenue for the final stretch to the finish.
|Turning onto 6th Avenue for the final mile. |
|Approaching the finish line. |
I crossed the finish line around 8½ hours after I had started, although my actual riding time was just shy of 8 hours. (The remaining half-hour was spent on my two stops and the several intersections where I had to wait for the street lights to change.) It should go without mentioning that I was exceedingly happy to be done with the ride, and after picking up my silver medal for my time category, I found a quiet place to stash my bicycle for a few minutes and I bought a slice of pizza with a bottle of Gatorade to celebrate my successful completion of another "Century Ride."
Looking over the miles that I rode, my ride began with 25 miles of riding uphill into the wind, and it ended with 20 miles of riding uphill into the wind; so just shy of 50% of the ride was spent riding uphill while enduring a steady wind in my face. That was subpar, to say the least, but there wasn't anything that could be done about it. I would estimate that the wind added at least an hour to my ride time, although it would probably be more accurate to say that it added 1½ hours to my ride time.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 6:58am
- Distance: 106 miles (105.6 miles on my GPS)
- Duration: 8 hours, 36 minutes (7 hours, 52 minutes on my GPS)
- Calories Burned: 3,074 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 4,259 feet
- Average Speed: 13.4 mph
- Peak Speed: 32.7 mph
- Average Cadence: 73.0 rpm
- Average: 72.1 F
- Minimum: 48.2 F
- Maximum: 86.0 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 147 bpm
- Maximum: 183 bpm
It dawned on me earlier today that this year - 2016 - marks 30 years since I first joined the military. In early 1986 I reported to Phoenix, AZ, for induction into the US Army, where I raised my hand and I repeated the following oath:
"I, Robert McMurray, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Little did I know the adventure upon which I was embarking, and what a profound difference the next eight years would have on my life.
During my tenure in the Army, I was sent to a a lot of places where I did a lot of interesting things; there are a bunch of stories which I can talk about, and there are some circumstances which I will never be able to discuss. I had some amazing experiences, along with a handful of terrifying incidents, and there are a few decisions that I made about which I will continue to question whether I did the right thing for the rest of my life.
I spent months away from my wife and children in faraway places - quite often in deplorable conditions - and all for a paycheck which was less than I would have earned if I had stayed home and got a job flipping burgers for a living.
On the other hand, I was anorexic when I joined the Army, and in that respect the military may have saved my life. I weighed less than 114 pounds when I reported for Basic Training, and yet I still thought that I was hideously overweight. By way of contrast, I weighed 135 pounds when I graduated Basic Training eight weeks later, and I had learned how to be thankful for eating three meals a day.
Most of my time in the military consisted of serving at three different duty stations: the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, for a year; the 511th Military Intelligence Company in Fulda, Germany, for 3½ years, and the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade in Fort Huachuca, AZ, for 3 years. (My remaining six months of service was spent in Basic Training and a variety of other undisclosed locations.)
Despite the passing of several decades, I am still friends with several of the people with whom I served, and I have done my best to regale my comrades-in-arms in other blogs on this website with some of the stories which I had taken the time to write down during our service together. We were privileged to be first-hand witnesses to some amazing times in history; from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union.
That being said, moving on to each duty station was always a strange experience. Like everyone else before me, I was always the "newbie" when I arrived; I was surrounded by people who had been stationed there longer, all of whom had months or years of shared experiences, and they all knew how everything worked. By the end of my first year, I was no longer the new guy, and I would find myself teaching the newly-arriving recruits all the same important details which I had learned during my initial months. By the end of each tenure, I was an "old timer," despite the fact that I was only 25 years old when I left Fulda, and only 28 years old when I left Fort Huachuca.
I would love to say that I endured all of my military experiences with a positive attitude, but that would be far too dishonest. Those who knew me "way back when" can certainly attest to the fact that my attitudes about the Army often fluctuated, and usually in a negative direction. (That general attitude is reflected in several of my stories on this website.) Eventually I realized that I was not like some of my brothers-in-arms who could survive 20 years in uniform in order to earn their retirement, so I chose to exit the military after two four-year tours of service.
By the end of my time in the Army, I had graduated with honors from every school which I had attended, earned a college degree, received a bunch of awards and decorations, and served exactly 3,700 days. Nevertheless, it was time for me to go.
I have never regretted my time in the service, although I must admit that I have no desire to repeat most of my experiences. (Rappelling from a helicopter might be fun, though.) Just the same, I am incredibly thankful for the guys with whom I served; it was an honor and a privilege to work with them.
For people who are either unhappy or ecstatic about this year's election, consider the following statistics:
The figures collected by United States Elections Project show that of the 231,556,622 people who are eligible to vote in our nation, only 131,741,500 actually participated, meaning that an estimated 99,815,122 people did not vote.(1) In other words, 43% of the population refused to contribute to this year's presidential race.
Think about that for a moment. That's almost 100 million people who could have made a difference.
With that in mind, let's look at some additional statistics from the election:
As of this writing, the New York Times' election website lists 60,071,781 popular election votes for HRC versus 59,791,135 votes for DJT, which is a difference of only 280,646 votes.(2) This means that even a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of votes which were not cast could have easily made the the difference between winning or losing for either candidate.
Just 0.003% more of the population would have given DJT a popular majority, although it would have taken much less than that for HRC to have swung a few of the Midwest states in her favor. For example, DJT won the state of Pennsylvania by only 68,236 votes, and he won the state of Florida by only 119,770 votes.(2) If those two states had gone to HRC, the election results would have been dramatically different; HRC would have had 277 electoral college votes on election day versus 241 for DJT. In other words, less than 200,000 votes could have elected HRC.
We all really need to let that concept sink in, regardless of whether you are satisfied or distraught by the results of this year's election.
What all this means for you personally is - you really need to mobilize your fellow party members to get out and vote for the next election. The participation of your fellow citizens will either swing the election in your candidate's favor, or it will widen the gap so that your candidate has a clear and uncontested victory.
- United States Elections Project (http://www.electproject.org/2016g)
- New York Times (http://nyti.ms/2fAyEAv)
Many years ago, I used to think that abolishing the electoral college was a good idea. To be honest, I felt that way for the majority of my life. But that was until I studied more about the history and purpose of the electoral college, and then I slowly came to realize that even though situations like 2016's election debacle are a distinct possibility, our existing electoral system actually makes a lot of sense.
The following videos came out over a year ago, and they explain not only why the electoral college is essential when trying to prevent a candidate from only focusing on specific states with high populations, but also why the abolition of the electoral college would have drastic outcomes.
Do You Understand the Electoral College?
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College
To summarize these two videos - doing away with the electoral college sounds like a good idea when you're upset at the results of an election, but it's really not.
That being said, the word which best describes most Americans after this year's election is "angry." And I get it. You're probably angry. I'm angry. Millions of people are angry. This year's election sucked.
But that being said, impassioned and uninformed responses are not the best way to bring about the changes which our electoral process so desperately needs. If people really want to make a difference, they need to encourage the Democratic Party to abolish their ridiculous system of "Super Delegates," which is what helped HRC to unfairly steal the DNC's nomination from Bernie Sanders, who most-likely could have defeated the Drumpf.
You know you've been cycling in 100+ temperatures too long when you head out for a ride in 80-degree weather and you think to yourself, "Wow, it's kinda chilly; I wonder if I need leg warmers?"
I often find it mind-boggling the number of people who seem to think that updating their Facebook profile picture is an effective means of offering support for a worthy cause.
Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times when updating your profile image might "raise awareness" for a lesser-known issue of some sort (like saving sharks from extinction), or to show a sense of solidarity in a time of crisis (like the thousands of updated profile pictures in the wake of the terrorist bombings in France). But for the most part, updating your profile image is a meaningless act.
Here is a perfect example: some people will update their profile image with a pink ribbon in order to "raise awareness" for cancer. But what has this actually accomplished? Perhaps a few people might see the profile picture, but everyone on the planet already knows about cancer. What would be considerably more effective would be to actually do something about cancer. How about volunteering at a hospice? How about organizing a fundraiser for your local hospital? Or at the very least, how about personally donating to the American Cancer Society?
If there is an issue which you are truly passionate about, then you need to do something about it. March in a protest. Write your congressman or congresswoman. Speak out at a town hall. Work with others going door-to-door to promote your position. Organize. Plan. Act. Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s would have gone nowhere if people simply sat at home and updated their Facebook statuses.
No, updating your Facebook profile does not make you an activist; it makes you a lazy non-contributor.
An acquaintance of mine recently posted the following image to Facebook, which has rapidly become the central repository for all sorts of stupidity:
Just for perspective, I have traveled to other countries where its citizens cannot build a house - ever.
Or drive - ever.
Or go fishing - ever.
Or do pretty much anything they want - ever.
These unfortunate souls often have to work 7 days a week for less money per month than our minimum wage workers make in two hours. But most-importantly, these citizens cannot speak their mind about how messed up their country is - ever.
Unlike the dude who created that meme.
The schmuck who created that image has no idea just how many personal freedoms he actually has; so now he takes his over-privileged life for granted and believes that a few inconveniences in a free society are some sort of bondage.
What an ungrateful idiot.
UPDATE: See 7 Harsh Realities Of Life Millennials Need To Understand for more information; especially point #4.
First and Foremost: SPOILER ALERT!!! There will be MAJOR SEASON 7 SPOLIERS about AMC's The Walking Dead (TWD) in this blog; so if you have not seen the Season 6 ending episode and the Season 7 opening episode, then I highly suggest that you stop reading now. Seriously. STOP. READING. NOW.
Okay, now that this blog should be limited to just the people WHO HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE SEASON 7 OPENING EPISODE, I shall continue.
I like a good television series. And I like zombies. So the fact that I would like a good television series about zombies seems like a no-brainer. (No pun intended for the zombie genre. Well, maybe just a little.)
Anyway, there have been very few times when I have become completely disillusioned with a television series at the height of its popularity, but that has just happened with the opening episode of TWD's seventh season. Although to be honest, my dislike for the series started at the end of the previous season. But I have kept my silence over the past several months because I wanted to see how this new season would start out; and now that I have watched the opening episode, I'm done with the series.
To put it mildly, I wasn't just disappointed with the final episode of TWD Season 6, I was irate. I was angry. Infuriated. Enraged. Incensed. Those of you who have followed TWD since its inception know why, and for those that don't - for the final episode of Season 6, some Hollywood idiot decided that it would be funny to kill off a major character. That's not a big deal for TWD, which has always made it clear that it will kill off a major character with no mercy. But this series-killing poop-for-brains decided to end the show with a cliffhanger about who died - so TWD's message it fans was, "We just killed someone important, and it's probably a character that you love, but we're going to make you wait six months to know who it was. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah."
But it was worse than that, because the pace of the show had slowed to a long, monotonous crawl toward that final scene, which was probably because some mentally-deficient Hollywood executive thought that it would create dramatic tension. But it didn't. What it created was apathy. This particular episode was easily a 60-minute show which had been dragged out to 90 minutes just to sell more advertising space, so by the final scene I really didn't care anymore. We fans knew someone was going to die; TWD is very bad about telegraphing that. Almost every episode where someone important has died on TWD has been incredibly predictable; that was also true for the Season 7 opener, but I'll come back to that later. (By the way, the TV series Lost was much the same way; it was blatantly obvious when someone important was going to die. TWD's creators should learn from Lost's mistakes, not repeat them.)
Getting back to the main point, when the death scene finally happened, it was done through the eyes of the victim, where the person being killed watches as the newly-introduced evil-bad-dude-Negan beats him to death with a baseball bat. I believe this cinematic approach to a character's death was also supposed to create additional tension; but once again, it failed to do so. It merely added to the annoyance. And hearing the evil-bad-dude-Negan continue to bash in the skull of the unidentified victim as people screamed in the background while the scene faded to black simply sealed the fate of this television show instead of sealing the fate for evil-bad-dude-Negan's intended target.
When that episode had ended, I was furious. I was exasperated. I was offended. However, within a few days it was a small consolation to learn that I was not the only fan who thought this was one of the worst season finales in the history of television; fans and critics alike exploded with thousands of angry reviews, blogs, tweets, etc. Here are just a few:
As you can see, there was no shortage of loathing for the way that season finale was envisioned and how it played out on screen. Things were so bad that one of the show's creators, Robert Kirkman, apologized to fans:
That was a half-hearted apology at best, but it reveals something very important about the people who are guiding TWD - they really do not understand their fanbase.
Let me put it this way, killing a major character in a television series is a big deal. When you're in charge of the creative vision for a series, you can kill off a major character when necessary, and you can make it a painful experience for your fans, but you have to respect your fans when you do it. The Season 6 finally could have ended with evil-bad-dude-Negan choosing his intended victim, then perhaps changing the camera view to the victim's eyes to see the bat extended at that victim's face (as in the original finale), and then cutting to black. That would have had the same cliffhanger effect, and a lot of fans would still have been unhappy about having to wait to see who gets killed. But the way the show actually ended - killing the character anonymously - was way over the top; it was extremely unfair to its fans. This was abundantly evident during the few weeks after the Season 6 finale had aired; my wife and I heard dozens of people exclaiming that they were done with the series, and we met dozens more fans who - like me - were ready to quit the show, but thought that they would at least wait to see the Season 7 opening episode to decide whether to stop watching. But now that I have seen that episode, I am done with TWD.
AND NOW I WILL REALLY DELVE INTO SEASON 7 SPOILERS.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Over the ensuing months, there was a fair amount of online debate over who evil-bad-dude-Negan was going to kill. Although for me, there was no debate; I knew that it was going to be Glenn or Abraham. Everyone else was easily ruled out:
- Some people were redshirts, (e.g. Aaron, and possibly Rosita or Eugene), so the audience wouldn't care enough if any of them died, and certainly not enough to warrant a cliffhanger death, so their deaths would simply have been a let down.
- It couldn't any of the women (e.g. Michonne, Maggie, or Sasha) simply because that just wouldn't be right; any of them could die in a different situation, and that might still happen, but not (SPOILERS!!!) execution style. (e.g. It was heartbreaking yet acceptable when Beth's, Lori's, and Andrea's characters died.)
- It is similar for Carl; an execution style death would be wrong. (Although killing an unarmed teenager would have amazing shock effect; but no - it's still wrong.)
- It simply wasn't going to be Rick or Daryl; like it or not, they are the show's predominate characters, and TWD's creators would have to be even stupider than they already are to attempt killing one of them. And besides, you can't kill Rick or Daryl... just because you can't.
That left Abraham or Glenn, and things weren't going in Glenn's favor since his death at the hand's of evil-bad-dude-Negan happened in this exact scene in the graphic novel upon which the television series is based.
But here's where the show's creators - once again - seriously screwed their fans. In an effort to keep their fans' unhappiness in check, the show's creators had promised in several interviews that they would reveal everything in the starting moments of the Season 7 opener; but they didn't. They didn't reveal that (SPOILERS!!!) Abraham had died until more than 21 minutes of the show had gone by. (That's if you count time for commercials, which I do since I watched the show live.)
Although at the beginning of the show viewers did see the aftermath of Abraham's death - because his brain and skull fragments were copiously littering the ground around the surviving protagonists. So not only did the episode not reveal who had died as promised, but the show's creators masked Abraham's demise in the most-gross fashion as possible.
Now, let me be honest here - if you are watching a show about zombies, you should expect there to be a lot of gore. There could be gore from half-rotting zombies walking around, or gore from zombies eating humans, or gore from humans killing zombies, or gore from humans killing humans. To reiterate, if you're watching a show about zombies, it's just going to be gross. And I will admit, over the past 35 years I have watched a lot of movies and shows about zombies... LOTS. AND. LOTS. OF. ZOMBIE. SHOWS. In addition, there was a time in my life when I wanted to be one of the the guys doing the makeup for zombies in these movies, and I have done my fair share of creating zombies for haunted houses in the past.
Having said that, when the show finally got around to replaying Abraham's execution in a flashback sequence, TWD's special effects department left out no amount of abhorrent minutia from viewers when the time came to show Abraham's death - you watched Abraham get hit with a baseball bat again, and again, and again, and again, again, again, again... for a total of 18 times over three minutes of spare-no-detail carnage, until Abraham's brains and skull were a gigantic mess of bloodied pulp lying on the ground next to Rick and the rest of the group.
THIS. WAS. TOTALLY. UNNECESSARY.
Seriously, there are a lot of other ways that this death scene could have been handled. However, as it was shown, this scene might have garnered an NC-17 rating if it had been played in movie theaters. As I said earlier, in a show about zombies, I expect a lot of gore, and this series has provided plenty of it. But this was too much. Way too much.
And then, surprise, surprise, the show's creator's decided to throw their viewers a curveball a few minutes later by (SPOILERS!!!) killing Glenn IN ALMOST THE EXACT SAME DEATH SEQUENCE. Once again, TWD's special effects department spared nothing from their viewers as evil-bad-dude-Negan hit Glenn with a baseball bat again, and again, and again, and again, again, again, again... for a total of 17 times over two minutes of let's-see-how-gross-we-can-make-this drama. In the end, viewers were treated with one scene of Glenn pitifully gurgling to Maggie with a half-bashed-in skull, and another scene of Glenn's skull and brains scattered randomly around the ground as his headless and near-lifeless body continued to spasm involuntarily while evil-bad-dude-Negan walked away with bloodied fragments of Glenn's scalp hanging precipitously from his baseball bat.
THIS. WAS. ALSO. TOTALLY. UNNECESSARY.
The amount of carnage displayed in these two deaths was so far beyond what was needed to solidify evil-bad-dude-Negan's character as the worst villain in TWD's television series that it borders on cinematic negligence. (Seriously, Hollywood would probably be better if fans were able to sue a show's creators when they've totally lost their vision. Are there any Castle fans reading this? If so, you know exactly what I mean.)
Let me explain something that TWD's intellectually-deficient creative staff does not seem to understand: well-loved characters in a television series are like family or friends to their fans; we invest a lot of time in these characters, we're happy to see them every week, and we hope that they will return each season. While it is painful to see a favorite character leave a series, we understand that these things happen; some actors are swayed by more-lucrative contracts, creative differences cause some people to leave a series, other actors like George Clooney and Charlie Sheen get too full of themselves and need to go, etc.
However, to gratuitously murder two beloved characters in such a prolonged, heinous and disgusting manner is inexcusable. Killing Abraham because you needed to kill a major character is sad but understandable given the apocalyptic setting of the series, and killing Glenn simply because most fans wouldn't see it coming was taking an understandable risk for the shock value, but it could have been done better. MUCH, MUCH BETTER. Neither Abraham's nor Glenn's deaths needed to show several minutes of cranial evisceration; Abraham could have died as the result of several blows to the head without the unnecessary level of detail, and I personally think that it would have been more effective if evil-bad-dude-Negan had simply spun around quickly and shot Glenn without forcing the audience to suffer through yet another long monologue from evil-bad-dude-Negan about why he is such an evil, bad dude. This would have resulted in a more-shocking and totally unexpected immediate death for Glenn, and I think no one would have seen it coming. However, in the episode that was aired, TWD once again telegraphed that Glenn was going to die long before evil-bad-dude-Negan had even swung the bat. How disappointing.
I know that the show's creators really needed to introduce evil-bad-dude-Negan since he is so critical to the graphic novel series and fans have been waiting for him to appear, but I should point out something else as a fan of TWD which is very important: I'm bored with the series. TWD is hideously formulaic; it used to be about killing zombies, now it's just about bringing in a new villain every season or two. JUST. LIKE. EVERY. OTHER. DRAMA. SERIES.
How about introducing something new? Like a new strain of zombie? Or someone who's learned how to control zombies? Or a discovery that there's a major collection of survivors somewhere trying to band together and eradicate all the zombies? Or how about people who are actually the "good guys" and they don't like Rick and company because they've actually been pretty awful characters for quite some time? Or maybe someone who's working on a cure? Or... anything other than yet another evil-bad-dude-villian. (Although a really evil-bad-female-villian would be great; sort of an anti-Michonne.)
However, the people in charge of TWD's production seem to lack the psychological fortitude that is required to take the show in a new direction, so it seems like Season 7 is just going to be more of the same; an evil-bad-dude-villian gets the upper hand, but eventually our heroes overcome all obstacles and they move on to the next evil-bad-dude-villian.
So as far as the Season 7 opener is concerned, I think the people who created it should be ashamed; and quite frankly, I think that this is the beginning of the end for TWD. I know that I - for one - have already removed TWD from my DVR schedule, and I highly recommend that others do the same. It was a good run while it lasted, but for all intents and purposes, it looks like The Walking Dead is over; I guess it's time to get used to it. While the series continues, I will periodically check the episode synopses on Wikipedia in order to see what happens to the characters about whom I am still interested; because I still care about these characters, but not enough to actually watch the show.
You know, for all those hundreds of times that my kids would tell me "The Internet is Down," today the Internet actually goes down and none of my kids lived at home to complain about it. I'm not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing...
FYI - For news about the Internet outage, see the following URLs:
I grew up in Arizona, and I can attest to the fact that there is no shortage of creeping, crawling, and slithering things which simply cannot wait to kill you. So when I saw the following video, I posted the following synopsis on Facebook:
"You know, there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity; and for the record, this guy was nowhere near that line - he's just way, way off into the stupid zone."
In the video, this guy says he does "Crazy Things."
Um, no... I have to disagree. He may be crazy, but what he does it just plain stupid. There's simply no other word for it.
One day, I bet this dude earns a Darwin Award.