We did it - over 100 miles for Haiti!

the crew

Last week I asked some of my friends and family to help me support the work of Haiti Reborn. I was going to ride 100 miles in two days on my bike to earn their support. It was a leap of faith in more than one way. But it's been rewarded. I survived and had a pretty serious experience of what can be done with individual belief and the support of a caring community. I want to thank you all.

It was tough!!!!!!! I'm still recovering, but here's the short version.

the map

I did over 100 miles. We started on the W&OD from DC to Purcellvile, MD. Paved, and up and down (mostly up). It was pretty damn hard to keep going. Andy had a tough fall, and lunch somehow didn't happen till 3:30 pm.

My muscles were definitely getting hammered by the climbs. I didn't finish the first day, and was picked up by the truck several miles short of the farm where we spent the night but I had done 51 miles before my legs gave out. The next day I saw what I skipped and I wouldn't have made it.

We had a wonderful night on a vegetable farm with some of the warmest folks and most spartan conditions of my adult life. I'll tell you about it later, promise.

Chicken hill tents

After a cold night in a tent, I was able to continue the next morning, not really sure why it worked out that way (seriously). After some hills and a cool ferry ride at White's ferry, we got on the the flat but rocky C&O canal towpath. Flat is good, rocky sucks, but at least lunch was on time. Did I mention it was flat? All told we pushed through at least 55 miles back, and it wasn't until the last hill coming from Rock Creek Park up into Mt. Pleasant that I started walking my bike. I'm pretty proud that I made it at all and I definitely need to give a shout out to those who helped me on the trail and those that motivated me with their good vibes and donations!

When we got back to DC, we rode up to La Casa in Mt. Pleasant. There was a nice potluck with folks from all over and were fussed over a bit. Nicole cooked and also took some great photos. I changed into my least sweaty gear. Fun was had by all.

Special thanks to the people in the support vehicles who sacrificed their weekend riding around and waiting for us!

Some other points:

* The bike finished with several fewer parts than when I started.
* October 13th was the first frost in Northern VA.
* Mustard greens are pretty freaking awesome.
* The MD side of Great Falls is underrated.
* There will be video....so stay tuned.
* My friends and family are very generous folks.

Andy, Tom and I

You can complete your pledges here if you haven't done so already.

sweet chariot

before the ride pt.1

Two weeks ago I had been searching for a bike for weeks. I own a mountain bike, a hand-me-down from Nicole, but I wasn't going to commit suicide by trying to ride one 100 miles. If you don't think you'd feel a difference, you've never ridden a road bike. So I went back and forth nearly every day between buying the used road bikes that show up on craigslist and fixing up the 1970 vintage French road bike that Carol had pulled off Alan's shop wall (where it had hung since 1980?) and lovingly wiped dust-free.

First stop was City Bikes in Adams Morgan with the classic. What did I need to ride this thing 100 miles 10 days from now? The shaved headed tech took one look at it and said that "this isn't the bike you want to be sinking money into." He noted the aging components and several badly chosen past repairs that would stop him from even doing a tune up.

Hm.. tough to tell Carol that I wasn't going to use Alan's bike after all that work, but I supposed I wanted a bike anyway and this was the excuse to buy one. So I started answering craigslist postings and squinting at tiny terrible photos. I ended up at the Lucky Frog.

When I saw the doublewide crouching in the edge of the dark parking lot I worried I might be going to meet a fence. But my encounter was to be with another sort of creature that shuns the light of day.

The Lucky Frog is a role-playing game cards store slowly becoming a bike shop. Under the buzzing fluorescents, between walls of D&D boxed sets and dusty display cases of Magic The Gathering (tm) cards is growing a motley collection of mountain bikes and the few road bikes that I had come to see. Dan the jovial owner and I took turns getting in the way of the dragon t-shirted regulars that were wandering in and out to kibitz a lustily contested game in the corner. The guys seemed vaguely puzzled with our interest in the bikes, which no doubt were an encroaching threat on their gaming space. Was Dan, smiling and clad in a yellow soccer jersey, a recent turncoat in the ancient and vicious struggle of indoor vs outdoor pastimes? Who got to him? Was it a child, a doctor, a bathroom scale?

Dan fiddled with the seat, adjusted this and that, and I took the object of my affections in dozens of loops around the deserted lot. Finally, reluctantly, I admitted it was too small of a frame for me and we ran out of time. Dan said he would try to fix up that other bike he'd just gotten in for me and I should come back tomorrow.

When I called back the next day, already on the way out in my car, Dan told me that a stripped bolt on the fall-back bike was a custom part that would take a week to order. I couldn't wait that long to train, so the deal was off. I was back to square one.

Presidential Prefs, end of August 2007

What's actually good for the country is not Democrats winning, it's about the right policies being put into place and the right kind of democracy being created.

So, here's my take on the upcoming election, ordered by how desirable I find each outcome (best first). The number that follows each is the likelihood I see of it coming to pass.

1. Edwards or Gore win primary and go on to win general election, inaugurating a new progressive era of real policy change that starts NOW! - 20% likely

2. Hillary Clinton wins primary and loses general election, removing biggest obstacle (the DLC, Clinton legacy) to the reinvention of Democratic party as a real party of the people. Change starts now, but accelerates in 2012. - 35% likely

3. Obama wins primary and goes on to win general election as a unifier above all else, lacks courage to really make any changes to anything while president. Change postponed 4-8 years. - 10% likely

4. Edwards or Gore win primary and lose general election, creating doubt about the viability of people powered candidates. Change set back 6-10 years. - 5% likely

5. Hillary Clinton wins primary and wins general election, spends years hammering the Democratic party back into the corporate mold while fighting the battles of the 90s over again with reinvigorated GOP. Change stalls for 12-16 years - 30% likely

Mother, Father and son-daughter

Nadine has seen the ultrasounds and has read the results of all the tests the doctors do to give children an early niche in our statistical system. Stephan has read the baby books, weighed names and those family that think about it suspect he's found a favorite. But the child's great grandmother is knitting a yellow and green jumper. You see, the parents won't let on whether it's a boy or a girl.

We somehow forgot Stephan's birthday in the midst of these weeks when we're thinking so often of them. Nicole and I realized almost a week late, and we're fumbling around feeling terrible--sending flowers and stammering that we got too caught up to track more than one big day at a time. We should have done better. Germans take special days seriously, and something's wrong if a minute past 12 midnight on your birthday eve doesn't find a relative or two hitting busy signals as they call seconds late with best wishes. I'm exaggerating, but not much.

Floridians have opposite instincts--my family has been known to schedule birthday parties on proximate or even distant weekends from the calendar day, and I am pretty sure that one year I gave my sister a gift certificate IOU that she never redeemed. It's not that we don't care, its that we have an ingrained and cultivated aversion to expecting a fuss to be made over us. We all love each other, respect each other, would do anything for each other, but somehow feel that pulling together a celebration would inconvenience someone somehow. Perhaps it's living in Central America that made us guard against being disappointed by not expecting such excess. And maybe we're growing out of it. My Dad threw a surprise party for my Mom last year and she turned around and pulled together my sister's friends from all around (we flew in from DC) for a night together in her honor this February. Not on the EXACT birthday, of course, but it is a start.


Oh, the cleverness. The Bush administration is playing off Shia against Sunni in the Middle East, pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Saddam's execution was the masterstroke--in death he once more plays the part Washington groomed him for since the 80s--and now hatred is welling up ever faster midst the oilfields.

There's only one problem with this picture. Where's the likely battlefield where these foes will meet? You'd think that if the strategy was to pit our enemies against each other and let them fight it out, we'd be stepping back to a safe distance. Yet, as Cheney pulls the strings, playing both sides against the middle, does he not see that in this case our troops in Iraq are the middle?

Unemployment in America

It's often said that it's hard to get a break when you get out of prison, no matter how determined you are to stay on the straight and narrow. The memorable scene in Heat where the ex-con has to kick back a portion of his minimum wage salary to stay on the payroll of his greedy manager illustrates the sword hanging over the head of any felon who wants to prove they are trying to rejoin productive society.

Fortunately, people at the top are listening and taking action to bring dignified work back to those caught transgressing against our social contract. The Bush administration has lead by example, operating a six year long effort to dredge up dozens of convicted and indicted members of the Reagan government and put them in charge of programs affecting the lives of millions of Americans. Take Poindexter, who went from destroying Iran-Contra evidence under Reagan to gathering our most private information under Bush's "Total Information Awareness" program. Or Robert Gates, wheeled out of the CIA 15 years ago for lying to congress, now brought back to restore honesty and integrity to the Pentagon. Also notable is John Negroponte's ascension to national security advisor after an infamous run circumventing US law in the mid 80s as ambassador to Honduras. It's heartwarmingly puzzling to think about how the ethically compromised ambassador to a small nation like Honduras could ever be tapped to become national security advisor. All I can say is that George Bush sure does believe in giving a man a second chance.

A cynic might question whether these plum new jobs for old crooks are a suitable path back to wholesome respectability. It really takes a mind as subtle as that of George W. Bush to see that to really reform a man, to free him of his past, you must put him in exactly the type of temptation that he succumbed to last time. If he succeeds and is not caught doing the same sort of things again (within statute of limitations) you can say that he has truly been rehabilitated. If you don't give him a chance to walk alone and un-surveilled past the unguarded cookie jar of our democracy, you'll never be able to blindly trust him again. On the contrary, it's only by surrounding him with smiling, familiar faces in a consequence-free environment like the Bush administration that we can keep such men from falling back in with a bad crowd.