Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Everyday I'm tusslin'

Cycling has many unforeseen social side-effects. The bicycle enthusiast stands to seriously alienate non-cycling peers with constant ride stories, shop talk, and bicycle jargon. An obsession with body weight, macro-molecule intake, and frequent hypoglycemic grumpiness can dampen dinner dates. Waking up at 5:00 AM and going to bed at 8:00 PM typically do little to ensure the faintest semblance of a social life. However, one positive unintended consequence is making friends and acquaintances with a diverse group of people who share the same energy, dedication, and time constraints. Fortunately for me, the friends I've made here have more energy, better ideas, and slightly less schedule restrictions which enable them to put on fantastically fun and well-organized impromptu bicycle events.
Last week, some friends coordinated a competitive grass-track and cyclocross event (or, tussle) held on a neglected patch of green below the Walnut Street bridge (or, trestle). A decent gathering amassed with all sorts of bicycle riders present. Often times organized events cater to a specific faction of riders, but at this race the only line that was drawn was between those who wanted to ride and those who didn't. While the soggy grass was most apt for a cyclocross bike, nearly all denominations of bicycle were in attendance: fixed-geared road bikes, town bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, commuters, and a glorious tandem.

The races were divided into a set of track-inspired events with a 'cross-race finale. The racer categories were split into varsity and junior varsity; considering I'm a pimple-faced, screechy-voiced freshman in the high school of the cycling world, I opted for JV. The grass track races involved varied combinations of a bell and going in circles, such as: hear the bell, then go faster, hear the bell and that signifies the last lap, and the classic: hear a bell, and then you're out.
I'm rather unfamiliar with traditional track racing games, but I caught on quickly as evidenced by the results.

Strangely, I won most of the track events, and was crowned homecoming queen of the JV.

I graciously accepted my golden crown and square, plastic scepter:

..which I promptly added to my new collection of unattractive prize caps:

A poor breakfast decision on my part (leftover fried seitan and brie sandwich and fries) inhibited me from participating in the cyclocross race, but watching it was immensely entertaining. The race course was set up with barriers, flats, muddy corner-rounding, and a menacing, tightly twisted spiral. The day concluded with a "BSO" race (bike-shaped-objects), which was rife with sass-laden finshes:
Hopefully we can all get together and kill some more grass next year. Maybe I'll be Varsity by then.
Before & After:

(Most photos shamelessly stolen from McGet- Go here for more!!)

Happy Riding.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday (Celebrate)

I don't celebrate Christmas. Firstly, let me clarify- I'm no Scrooge. Scrooge had money. I'm no Grinch either- the Grinch was so obsessed with the holiday that he stole it; while I'd rather not get that close. I treat this day in a similar manner as my dog does- I wake up, eat, sniff around some, and nap frequently. I'm not so into shopping, decorating, giving or getting, and am far fonder of alcoholic spirits than holy ones. That said, methinks Santa worked some magic today and surprised me with a shiny new unseasonable high of 45 degrees combined with some rare sunshine; thus inviting me to spend the afternoon winter-wonderland mountain biking through the Wissahickon.

The Wissahickon park, or simply "the Wiss" (if you're down), is a protected forest in North Philly with miles of dirt roads, hiking/biking/horse trails, and a picturesque creek of questionable contents.

The trails are rocky and have introduced me to a method of bicycle riding that I was previously unaccustomed to : Climbing.

There is also a carved out BMX bowl/jumping area, or simply "the jumps". As it is winter and everything currently is a graded shade of beige, it is difficult to make out the various hilly lines. Topographically speaking, this area starts from really high and goes to really low, with lots of mounds to "get air" over.

Also, if you find yourself needing to dig a clandestine pit and bury something illicit, the BMX area supplies you with shovels and rakes to do so.

And lastly, a trip to the Wiss need not be a totally sacrilegious affair. The park has preserved this old and creepy prayer hole for such activities as devout worship, animal sacrifice, seances, and other means of appeasing gods and the like.

Happy Riding.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Race Rapport

Much like eradicating world hunger or running for the presidency, deciding to open up to the world and declare a serious dedication to amateur recreational cycling is an inspirational event. It inspires fellow cyclists, friends, family, acquaintances, on-lookers, passers-by, and any and all other witnesses to your attempts at athleticism to ask inappropriately pressure-filled and probing questions about intentions. Inexplicably, one can't just spend tens of hours per week and tens of hundreds of dollars per year on a personal hobby without first explaining clearly defined goals. Yet the explanations given rarely ever suffice, as non-cycling laypeople often have zero interest in everyday enjoyment or prosaic practicality (because if they had an interest, they would start riding bicycles). Instead these spectator-tots only wish know about the political, sexy and controversial side of bicycle riding: racing.

The problem is that racing has never interested me, because I lack a competitive spirit, drive, and physical ability. However just last weekend I gave in to the lure of the racing spectacle, and sacrificed my commitment to purely recreational pursuits in order to compete in the 2008 Bilenky Urban Junkyard Cross race. I follow quite a few cycling blogs, so I know that it is now that I should give what is known in the cycling world as the race report. However I typically find these reports boring and difficult to follow, so first I'll post pictures of my intimidatingly aggressive and powerful riding:



And now for the full report:
The high that day was in the low 30s, and the ground was muddy and slushy from an ice storm the night prior. The course was narrow, windy and delightfully muddy, and contained one set of barriers, one set of ramps, one underpass, one stretch of pavement, and multiple risks for tetanus infection. The mud puddles were mercilessly deep and twinkled with psychedelic oil swirls. I got a good start and proceeded to ride my usual medium to fast-ish pace, and to my surprise even passed a few people. This took the sting out of the group of riders who ended up lapping me... twice. I did manage to accomplish both of my two goals of not falling and not getting last place, and thus I considered it a rather successful first race. In fact it was so successful that I won 2nd female, and was awarded what I surmise to be some kind of fleece cycling bonnet:

Dan did very well also, and was awarded the Cover Girl shot on Bilenky's website.

Now the question remains of whether or not to compete in a real race. There happens to be a 60-something mile race held in upstate New York: The Tour of the Battenkill that may or may not have piqued my interest. This race has won the hearts and crushed the spirits of many of my friends, as it
traverses through some fabled scenic northern hills. Most enticing to me however is that it seems sadistically grueling and happens to contain a whole bunch of dirt roads- my favorite. Since I'm young and easily swayed by peer pressure, I'm going to leave this up to you, dear readers, via a blog poll I put in the sidebar. The fate of me on April 18th, 2009 lies in your hands. (And don't bother choosing "Doughnut" as I will eat plenty in the next few months anyhow.)

Happy Riding!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Camp Collabo!

If sigmoid-Freud were in observation of my present predilections, he perhaps would mention I am of a panicky, plan-laden persuasion; likely the result (from his totally academic and scientific point of view, mind you) of something like playing with my feces too much, or maybe not enough (it's been awhile since Psych 101). As I'm not one to direct erect and dirty digits, the true cause of my perpetual planning/cramming regiment need not be determined nor even addressed. In fact, often times overworking and under-appreciating life have their benefits, as evidenced by my rather spectacular end-of-semester GPA.

Successfully ending the school year did not diminish my appetite for constant work, misery, and placing myself under unrealistic expectations; as after completing hours of testing I immediately began sewing for the R5 Flea Market. R5 is a group here in Philadelphia that aim to put on independent and often all-ages shows. Semi-annually they host a flea market/craft fest to help raise funds for the upcoming year. I took part in the Spring version in June, and with a little help from friends, cheese fries, and a bottle of Crown Royal, I had a rather fun and financially beneficial time. With the looming possibility of a repeat reaping, post-finals I dutifully locked myself inside to endure a rather epic five-day stitching session. Now along with the finest lock-securing waist-cases ever created, I also fashion woolen winter hats and neck warmers:

Saturday morning I arose early to tend to typical morning minutiae: print last minute price tags, pack my goods, eat a balanced breakfast, satiate my Internet addiction, and have my morning coffee. It was then that I discovered this blisteringly boring, wordy, and ultimately bummer-inducing email directly from the powers that be at R5:

"I cant quite believe it myself but it comes with great disappointment that I have to send out this e-mail. Early this evening the Philadelphia Police Department and The Department Of Licenses and Inspection visited the The Starlight Ballroom to dispute provisions in an agreement arranged with the City Of Philadelphia. The full story is pretty boring and is not very scandalous but it does greatly effect our Flea Market scheduled for tomorrow.

In short - the Starlight can not host any events this weekend till the meet with these officials on Monday morning. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do to facilitate this meeting earlier (we found out about it from the owners after city offices were closed). We attempted to re-locate the venue to multiple nearby halls and locations but with this short notice and an event this big - nothing could be worked out. We have no other choice but to postpone the flea market till after the holidays. At this point it is what makes the most sense rather than try and cram it into an already busy holiday season.

No one is more bummed than us, as we count on this fundraiser to pay our annual insurance policy (which we are a bit screwed for now). Full details regarding the new date and possible new location will be released in the next few days. For those who had table reservations - we are very sorry! We know many of you prepared for weeks to have goods ready to sell just in time for the holiday season. This is our biggest event of the year and takes about seven days to prepare for. We know first hand as to what's at stake and the potential income that you were counting on. Again the Flea Market will have a new date shortly after the new year - all existing reservations will be honored and carried over. If for some reason the date does not work for you - we can fully refund you including all service charges. Once the refund period is over - we will turn over any available tables for those who requested a table after they sold out.

So once again Tomorrow's Flea Market is Postponed. A new date announcement will be made in a few days. We lost more than anyone in this mess...

The Saddest R5 Staff In The Land.
=( "

Apparently this ballroom was found lacking in both boring and un-scandalous obligations, what I can only imagine to be two very serious infractions. As my life thus far has been pretty full of boring, unnecessarily verbose let-downs, I was able to handle this situation like a professional. I simply redirected the leftover anticipation and coffee-induced energy into merging my design empire with a co-conspirator, and by creating a shop website. With Dan's talents of athleticism, aesthetics, and pattern-making coupled with my ability to use the Internet and type fast-ish, we plan on greatly elevating and expanding the current Camp Cupboard catalog. (Check back soon for our latest in-the-works projects, included but not limited to: cycling shorts, bibs, tights, and skin suits. I can't guarantee when they will be up on the site, but I can guarantee that they will be useful, well-designed, not exorbitantly-priced, and likely libido-enhancing.)

Hopefully R5 can find a decent locale for a January market, until then the web shop must suffice.

Happy Riding.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Please Hold

I've been very busy sewing wool hats, wool neck warmers, and standing longingly in alleyways.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camp Concentration!

In the past few months of describing my riding, designing, and social schedules I may have conveyed that I lead a life of extemporaneous, philosophically-driven glory. While this is mostly correct, this week I am begrudgingly engaging in obligatory academic assessments (translation: it's finals week). As I must thoroughly apply my genius to preparatory pursuits, there is little left of me to adequately and entertainingly update this here blog. As consolation I have uploaded some photographs of interest that perhaps If I find the time later I will explain in full detail.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Camp Cupboard as a Contestant!

As an overstressed academic participant, pseudo-athlete, warrior-philosopher, and purveyor of precious pouches, I am nearly always engulfed in solitary and/or self-indulgent activities. However with so many personal interests and dedications, it is rare that I am able to entertain my very first self-indulgent love: drawing. Yet a newly implemented coupling of unfriendly weather with the impending end of fall semester has graciously offered me an artistic oasis: manic, cabin-fever induced artistic visions and ample time to doodle them out.

I may be about as competitive as a road-killed armadillo, but I can draw at least five times better than one. So when my favorite* irregularly printed, independently-produced artistic cycling magazine announced they were having a T-Shirt competition, you can bet the business-end of your nether-regions that I submitted an entry. You can view (or "peep") all of the submissions Here.

I'm not going to tell you which one was mine, but I'll mention that I absolutely did not invoke any glaringly obvious depictions of bicycles or legs, use the word "Embrocation", or really follow any of the other guidelines. I will tell you that my drawing was a contemplation piece, recognizing savage wilderness, lost innocence, and post-constructionist retrospective mal de si├Ęcle. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

*And Only.