Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Ride Notes for El Tour de Tucson 2015

A year has passed since my last adventure riding in the El Tour de Tucson, so it was time for this year's ride. 2015 marked the 33rd anniversary of this annual event, and once again I signed up to ride the full 104 miles. If I was going to subtitle this years ride, I would call it "The Ride Which Almost Wasn't," but I'll explain what I mean by that a little later.

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This year there were a couple of big differences from my ride last year, the biggest of which was that I rode with my friend Kevin, with whom I had recently ridden the 100-mile Cool Breeze Century. Kevin and I had been discussing the ride over the past few weeks, and I have been riding with a different philosophy - ride to have fun.

This may sound strange, but for the longest time I had been hating my rides. Seriously - I hated all of them. Of course, that is an untenable situation for someone who wants to be a recreational cyclist, so I had to figure out what was wrong with the way that I was riding. After some self-examination, I determined that my problem was simply that I was always racing the clock on each ride, and I was always trying to outdo my previous time. So a couple of months ago I decided to stop racing the clock, and I discovered that I was enjoying [sic] my rides a little more.

With that in mind, Kevin and I agreed to ride at a comfortable pace, and to stop for more of the Support and Gear (SAG) stops along the way. That being said, the El Tour de Tucson is an extremely well-supported ride with SAG stops every 5 or 6 miles, so we had plenty of opportunities to rest and refuel.

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One of the bright spots about this year's weather was that it promised to be warmer than last year, which was literally freezing before the race started.

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The 104-mile race starts at 7:00am, but seeing as how neither Kevin nor I wanted to race the clock, we agreed to meet at the starting point at 6:15am. (That was a whole lot better than last year when I got in line around 5:00am.) I woke up early, double-checked my pre-race cycling checklist, packed the last of my gear into the car, and headed across town to meet Kevin. As I drove across town I could see that the weather seemed to be pretty close to predictions, which meant that I wasn't going to freeze this year. (That was great news.)

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I made it across town in short order, and I pulled into the parking lot at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) shortly after 6:00am. TCC is near the starting line and has ample parking for lots of participants, so several cyclists were getting their gear ready as I parked and started to prep my gear for the day. I had loaded all of my equipment onto my bicycle, and as I was putting on the last of my cycling clothing I made a horrific discovery: I was missing my cycling helmet. (This is why I referred to this day's race as "The Ride Which Almost Wasn't.")

Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, but in this specific instance it was imperative; the race mandates that all riders wear a helmet in order to participate. I mulled over my options, and I did a quick estimate to determine how long it would take me to drive home, pick up my helmet, and drive back. I might have been able to get home and back by the 7:00am start time, but as I was deliberating what to do, Kevin called me. I explained the situation, and after he had a good laugh at my expense, Kevin said that he could wait for me to get back before starting. I mentioned that the timing chips on our race placards do not start until we physically cross the start line, so starting a few minutes late might not be that big of a deal.

However, as the two of us talked, I saw that Kathleen was trying to call me, so I put Kevin on hold and answered Kathleen's incoming call. She found my helmet lying on the counter, and she was asking if she should bring it to me. Thankfully Kathleen already needed to be on that side of Tucson around 7:00am, so the two of us set up a place to meet somewhere near the start line. Once Kathleen and I hung up, I switched back to my call with Kevin, and I explained the arrangements to him. Kevin said that he would wait for me near the start line for me, then I locked up my car and pedaled over to Kevin's location.

After Kevin and I met, the two of us rode over to the place where Kathleen and I had agreed to meet, and she arrived around 6:40am. She quickly handed off my helmet, (see the following photo), then Kathleen headed off to her appointment while Kevin and I got in line for the race. (Note: I'm wearing a lot of cold weather gear in the following photo, but as the day grew warmer I slowly removed all of my cold weather gear.)

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It was already 6:45am by the time that Kevin and I got in line, so we were understandably pretty far in the back. But still, neither Kevin nor I wanted to race, so our place in line meant little to either of us.

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An unintended bonus from my earlier debacle meant that Kevin and I didn't have long to wait when we got back in line. (Which was a good thing since the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees.) After everyone had sung the National Anthem and a few kind words were spoken by the event dignitaries, the ride officially began at 7:00am. It took several minutes for the back of the line to start moving, but once we began to roll everything progressed in an orderly fashion, and we were on our way.

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Here's a time-lapse video from the Arizona Daily Star of the race start; Kevin and I are in there somewhere... (We're on the far side of the street at 1:13, but good luck finding us!)

A little over a half-hour into the ride we hit our first adventure of the day - crossing the Santa Cruz River, which was thankfully dry this year. Nevertheless, it's always amusing to see hundreds of cyclists hand-carrying their bicycles across the dry riverbed. Although one of the best parts of this experience it is always the Mariachi band on the far side of the river.

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Kevin and I rode through southeast Tucson along with the thousands of other cyclists who were participating in the 104-mile course, and yet we were able to ride close enough together to carry on a conversation as pedaled our way through the first several miles of the race. We met a lot of interesting people along the way, too. One of my favorites was a nice guy from the FBI who was riding his first century ride; we met up with him on the Houghton Road climb and East Escalante Road, (which are the last parts of a difficult climb to the highest point of elevation and we dropped him).

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Thankfully I train on the east side of town all the time, so I ride Houghton Road and East Escalante Road several times a year. Another great part about hitting the highest point of the ride is that we get to ride downhill for several miles on Freeman Road.

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About 3½ hours into our trek we reached the half-way point of the ride, which is also the second river crossing. We also took this as an opportunity for a short break, so we rested up, refilled our water bottles, and ate a few snacks. After that, we were back on our bicycles.

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The next obstacle on our ride was the steepest climb of the day - East Snyder Road near North Rockcliff Road. Although it's the steepest part of the course, it is also thankfully one of the shortest climbs - perhaps only 200 meters or so. (But still, every year dozens of riders have to walk their bicycles up the hill. Neither Kevin nor me, though. Hehe.)

There's not much to say about the next couple hours of riding; we took advantage of a few rest stops, one of which was serving Eegee's frozen drinks. (Those were totally worth stopping for.) Once again - I hated the ride up La Cañada Drive, though.

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When we were around 10 miles or so from the end, Kevin asked me how close we were to my time from last year, to which I replied, "Last year I had already finished the ride an hour and a half ago." (That seemed somewhat demoralizing for Kevin.) Nevertheless after 8¼ hours we rode across the finish line, and my second El Tour de Tucson was over.

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Kevin and I riding towards the finish line.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 7:02am
    • Distance: 104 miles (103.5 miles on my GPS)
    • Duration: 8 hours, 17 minutes (6 hours, 58 minutes on my GPS)
    • Calories Burned: 3,502 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 3,209 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.8 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 78.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 65.6 F
    • Minimum: 35.6 F
    • Maximum: 95.0 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 143 bpm
    • Maximum: 175 bpm

When I arrived home, I posted the following synopsis to Facebook: "How I spent my Saturday - riding 104 miles around the city of Tucson with 9,000 other people from around the world. This year I abandoned my usual habit of riding for time and I tried to simply have fun with it. Sure, it took me a lot longer than last year, but this year I didn't want to sell my bike when I was done... "

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UPDATE: A few months after the ride, one of our local television stations put together the following video. There's a bit too much advertising from several of the corporate sponsors, but apart from that it gives a good overview of the event.

Posted: Nov 21 2015, 21:22 by bob | Comments (0)
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Discussions versus Arguments

When I was younger I learned the following axiom from Robert Quillen: "Discussion is an Exchange of Knowledge; an Argument is an Exchange of Ignorance."

Copyright Universal Press Syndicate
© Copyright Universal Press Syndicate

I beg to differ; these past few days have shown definitively that Facebook is the exchange of ignorance. Pick an issue - any issue - then sit back and watch both sides of the debate slug it out. Neither point of view ever convinces the other to change their mind, and in the end there is nothing to show for their efforts but legions of hours wasted on senseless squabbles.

Posted: Nov 17 2015, 21:49 by bob | Comments (0)
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1970s Nostalgia

Wow... um... yeah. Words fail me... Surprised smile

Star Wars - All 1977 Kenner Toy Commercials

Posted: Nov 14 2015, 21:59 by bob | Comments (0)
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Cool Towns Around The World

I'm not sure what it is, but there's something cool about the street names in this tiny town outside of Eindhoven in the Netherlands... I can't quite put my finger on it...

http://binged.it/1Y7igVp

Posted: Nov 12 2015, 12:30 by bob | Comments (0)
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Work/Life Balance

Some people I know should read this... not that I'm naming any names, of course. Winking smile

for_dummies_work_life_balance

Posted: Nov 03 2015, 15:45 by bob | Comments (0)
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Political Changes

Here's your election thought of the day from the good folks at www.despair.com...

Change

Posted: Nov 03 2015, 15:24 by bob | Comments (0)
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The Italian Job VIII

My friend and fellow cycling enthusiast Keith shared the following security camera footage from the good folks at Woodinville Bicycle which captures the hilarious antics of a would-be thief attempting to steal a bicycle... I think we have a future Darwin Award recipient in the making.

http://youtu.be/pWdXl0DK3Ao

Posted: Nov 02 2015, 10:58 by bob | Comments (0)
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Gideon's Press

Every once in a while you need to kick back and listen to a little prog rock from Austin, TX...

Gideon's Press - Rain Down

Posted: Oct 30 2015, 13:27 by bob | Comments (0)
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A Few of My Favorite Guitar Solos

This should waste an hour or so of your time - here are ten of my favorite guitar solos...

eric-johnson david-gilmour
Eric Johnson
"Cliffs of Dover"
David Gilmour
"Comfortably Numb"
eddie-van-halen neil-zaza
Eddie Van Halen
"Eruption"
Neil Zaza
"I'm Alright"
joe-satriani alex-lifeson
Joe Satriani
"Satch Boogie"
Alex Lifeson (Rush)
"La Villa Strangiato"
stevie-ray-vaughan paul-gilbert
Stevie Ray Vaughn
"Voodoo Chile"
Paul Gilbert
"Scarified"
steve-morse yngwie-malmsteen
Steve Morse
"Tumeni Notes"
Yngwie Malmsteen
"Evil Eye"

Note: Few people know about Neil Zaza, which is too bad - as his live video shows, he's seriously underrated as a guitarist. By the way, although all of these solos are good, "Tumeni Notes" is downright impossible to play. (For me, anyway.)

Honorable Mentions

I should call out some Honorable Mentions; I think that Stevie Ray Vaughn's cover of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" is is arguably better than Jimi's original version, but I still like the original. Also, it was a toss-up between Paul Gilbert's "Hurry Up" and "Scarified" in the original list.

jimi-hendrix randy-rhoads
Jimi Hendrix
"Voodoo Chile"
Randy Rhoads (Ozzy)
"Crazy Train"
rik-emmett paul-gilbert-2
Rik Emmett (Triumph)
"Fight the Good Fight"
Paul Gilbert
"Hurry Up"

Of course, I could go on and on about other guitar solos by other guitar players, and there are several guitarists who were somewhat inadvertently skipped in my list. (e.g. Gary Hoey, Vernon Reid, etc.) But that being said, the original list comprises some of my all-time favorite solos.

Posted: Oct 15 2015, 01:17 by bob | Comments (0)
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Stop the Domino Effect of Overreacting

Like many people last week, I was appalled when I read about the treatment of 14-year-old high school student Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested for bringing what several people thought was a "hoax bomb" to school, despite his repeated assertions that it was simply a clock which he had invented. When I was Ahmed's age, I loved tinkering with electronics, and I brought my own creations to school several times, so I was understandably incensed when I read about Ahmed's plight.


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However, there is a big difference between what Ahmed claims to have done and what he actually did. Ahmed did not - in fact - build a clock from scratch. As multiple websites and YouTube videos have shown, all Ahmed did was remove an existing clock from its plastic case and mount the unmodified electronics inside a pencil box. As someone who actually built things from scratch when I was Ahmed's age, this was insulting to me, because it means that Ahmed is a fraud. While his motives are unclear, the fact is undeniable that Ahmed actually did bring a hoax to school; but he didn't bring a hoax bomb, he brought a hoax invention.

As I looked at photos of the clock which Ahmed was supposed to have built, I couldn't see where he had done anything to merit "inventiveness." The jumble of wires appeared largely intact to me; the only thing which seemed out of place was the 9V battery connector, so I wondered if Ahmed had soldered a battery connector to the main board after the transformer in order to allow the clock to work when it wasn't plugged into the wall. If so, that would have been a cool idea. But my theory proved untrue when it was later revealed that the 9V connector was the built-in battery backup for the clock memory in the event of a power failure. So once again, Ahmed appears to have done nothing to warrant all of his new-found fame and accolades. (By the way, what is truly embarrassing about this situation is that Make Magazine, which is one of my favorites, completely failed to notice that Ahmed did not actually build his own clock. That's a really big fail, guys. You should have known better.)

I realize that everyone who pursues a career in electronics has to start somewhere, and the disassembly of an existing electronic product is the perfect place for Ahmed (or anyone else) to start. When I was a teenager, I was an avid electric guitar player, so I started out with electronics by taking apart existing guitar effects to see how they worked. When I didn't understand something, I went to the library to check out books about electronic theory, and I dutifully studied the subjects which were foreign to me. Eventually I moved on to repairing other people's broken guitar effects, and finally I moved on to building guitar effects from scratch. (Craig Anderton was my hero.) So when I brought a creation to school, it was something which I had actually created. But even more than that, when I was a little older than Ahmed I actually created a digital clock from scratch by wiring together all of the parts by hand. That is a far cry from what Ahmed did; Ahmed took someone else's work, slapped his name on it, and asked to be recognized as its creator. What Ahmed has done constitutes fraud. Period.

Nevertheless, even though Ahmed is a phony as an inventor, at least in this situation, he probably did not deserve to have been arrested for bringing his hoax invention to school. I will admit that the jumble of wires and the large LED screen certainly resembles a bomb which you might see on a low-budget television show, so I should at least acknowledge the good intentions of the safety-minded school officials who thought the situation was worth investigating. (Note: Can you imagine the uproar if a student had actually brought a bomb to school and the school officials did nothing about it?)

However, once the facts of the matter were made clear and everyone knew that Ahmed had not actually brought a bomb to school, the academic and police officials overreacted, and Ahmed was humiliated as he was handcuffed and paraded before his peers as he was led away by the police.

But the overreactions didn't stop there, because everyone in the community - myself included - quickly overreacted to show our support for Ahmed. Many people were angry at the close-mindedness of the investigating officials; we all wanted to take this young David's side as he took on the Goliath of insensitivity. "@IStandWithAhmed" and "#IStandWithAhmed" became instant Twitter sensations. Mark Zuckerberg invited Ahmed to drop by Facebook for a meeting. Microsoft sent Ahmed a treasure trove of goodies to encourage his inventiveness. The Google Science Fair invited Ahmed to drop by and bring his clock. And President Obama asked Ahmed to bring his clock to the White House.

I have come to realize that these overreactions are equally as wrong as the original overreactions by the school officials; perhaps even more so - because Ahmed is being heavily rewarded for being a charlatan. Everyone needs to step back and think about this for a second: if Ahmed brought his clock to Facebook or the Microsoft Garage or the Google Science Fair, he would be a laughingstock, because his "invention" is a fake. When Ahmed is done being praised by the press and exalted by social media for being the underdog in this story, sooner or later he will have to stand in a room surrounded by people his age (or older) who are actually creating cool things from scratch. When that happens, Ahmed desperately needs have something better to show than an off-the-shelf digital clock that he stuffed into a pencil box, because real teenage inventors will immediately identify him as an imposter.

So I have changed my opinion in this matter from being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the authorities to being upset over Ahmed's treatment by the community, because we are rewarding his dishonesty. If Ahmed had copied the answers for an exam from one of his classmates, everyone would immediately recognize him as a cheater. Yet that is essentially what Ahmed is doing with his clock; he is taking someone else's creation and claiming to have created it, and therefore he is being deliberately deceitful. And through our collective overreactions our country is sending a terrible message to the youth of Ahmed's generation: "If you lie to America, not only will you get away with it, but you'll win big prizes and get an invitation to meet the President."

Posted: Sep 21 2015, 13:45 by bob | Comments (1)
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