Friday, February 27, 2009

And the Grouchy Goes To......

I like movies.

Unfortunately the narcoleptic snoozefesters that make up the usual Oscars are not really my thing zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......Huh, ah, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, movies. So, since the Oscars zzzzzzzzzzzzz (c'mon Brian chug a Red Bull or something) don't cut it I have been forced to come up with my own awards. I've decided to name my awards after the Oscars true namesake.

Mr. Grouch never gets the credit he deserves - in my unhumble opinion - and so I proudly introduce the Grouchies.

You may notice, the Grouchies have a little different format, category wise.

For Best Line to Zing Your Friend With the Grouchy goes to........

Dumb and Dumber - "You'll have to excuse my friend, he's a little slow."

The Grouchy for Holy Crap I Think That Girl Is Really Possessed By The Devil goes to.....

Creepyass Emily Rose

Okay, so you may need to scrub your brain of that image so we'll move on to one of my favorite categories.

In the Holy Crap She's Hot and I'm Old category the Grouchy goes to....

Megan Fox, Transformers. Beep, boop, bop, Err, Eee, Awww (c'mon man, the Transformer transforming sound isn't easy to write out, but I did the best I could)

And finally (for this installment anyway) the Grouchy for Bar Fights Made Fun goes to......

Hooper (and Terry Bradshaw's toof)

This is a notable achievement because I've been in a couple of these and I don't remember them as being all that fun - with the possible exception of my night that will be forever known as Karate Karaoke at the OK Boji Corral (or was it Grill?) - but that's a story for another time.

We're all outta time folks - a special thanks to all our winners (especially Megan Fox). We'll see you next time, until then - Stay Grouchy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Ok, so I took an extra couple days to report last week's (now a week and a half) progress. I think I'm going to stick with Wednesdays now.

I'm happy to report losing 3 pounds this "week". That was good and a little suprising given the fact that my old friends, the Cheeseburgers, showed up for a visit. They were good house guests this time around and didn't stay long.

Highlights of this week's exercise included a frigid ride on Saturday at the center. We did all of Denman's, massive fields of ice and all, and a couple laps of Hillside (12 miles). The studded tires are awesome. None of the Center would have been ridable without them.

Later this week I start a new weightlifting routine. I've been doing the fat loss routines in the heralded "New Rules of Lifting" book. The philosophy is high intensity, muscle confusion workouts. I've done the first two routines - each a month long and they were pretty killer.

Now on to three...This one trades out supersets (2 exercises paired) for giant sets (4 exercises without rest). It goes (10-12 reps each exercise) deadlift, explosive pushup, bulgarian split squat, two-point dumbbell row - repeat circuit 4 times with rest of 60 whole seconds after a complete giant set. Wait, you're not done! Another giant set (20 reps) box deadlift, dumbbell bench press, walking lunge with side bend, cable seated row - repeat 2 times with 60 glorious seconds of rest in between. Wait! you're not done! do 2 sets (10 reps) of hanging leg raises. Okay, you're done you can cry now.

Oh, and that's just Workout A. You are supposed to alternate Workouts A and B, lifting 3-4 times a week. I'll describe the evil of B next week, I haven't the strength to face it now. I've been trying for 3 but sometimes only getting 2 in.

I read somewhere once that you should fear your workout, if you don't it isn't hard enough. This workout is like friggin' Poltergeist wrapped in The Shining topped off with The Ring.

Oh yes, I fear it.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Some nights I don’t sleep.
This is shaping up to be -
one of those nights.

The world shuts down around me.
I whirl on,
an empty dryer running in an all night laundromat.

This is not a Haiku.
I’m not a poet.

The phrasing is supposed to convey, display, imbue -
my fragmented, sleepless mind.

It’s a stream of consciousness probably appearing -
more pretentious than sincere,
sanded, buffed and varnished over raw.

Whatever, I just want to sleep.

Minutes and moments march into hours.
Every effort to drift off is more ineffectual than the last.

It builds on itself,
a house of cards cemented together with epoxy.

Ok, sleep in five, four, three, two, one…


Can’t sleep, why?
Not sure, this time.
Dread of the impending Monday morning mundane?

The cat howls at the door.
A simple meow does not suffice when you want out so bad.

I open the door, salvation is hers.
A sound, the wind, a dark shadow -
something makes her recoil.

Salvation is lost.

This is nothing new,
she’ll be back shortly,
screeching again for what she thinks she wants.
The sameness of this moment to the last eluding her.

Maybe we’re not so different,
Her and I.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Above and Beyonce

Oh Beyonce, you're so classy, sassy and curvy.

(all the single ladies, all the single ladies)

Damn it gurl, I'm trying to blog here. Even though you have a beautiful voice and mesmerizing moves...

(Whoa, Oh, Oh, Ut-Oh, OhOh)

Come on now, let me finish. Your music, while catchy, is not really my thing. I mean, a couple of songs are ok but...

(If ya like it then you shoulda put a ring on it, If ya like it then you shoulda put a ring on it)

Ok, just stop! See, this is what I'm talking about. I hear this damn song and it gets firmly lodged in my cortex. A grown man, such as myself, has no business going around humming or quietly singing your tune and - if you must know - I did put a ring on it, so git off my case.

(To the left, to left, everything you own in a box to the left)

Hey! that's not even the same song! What is this power you have to rewire my neuropathways into a perpetual loop?!

(all the single ladies, all the single ladies)

Devil Women! Siren of ancient times! Begone from my head!

(Whoa, Oh, Oh, Ut-Oh, OhOh)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mean Green Comes to Town

After much research, debate, re-debate and second guessing of the re-re-debating I think I have landed on adding this little devil to my stable.

Introducing, Voodoo Canzo, my first 29er.

I say I think I've landed here because I'm still debating on whether to go for a small (16) frame or a medium (18). When measuring myself for this handydandy online fit calculator I discovered - I've shrunk (GASP!) I swear I used to be 6'4 (okay, 5'10) now I'm a paltry 5'9. What-the-hell? Before you know it I won't be able to ride a rollercoaster or nuthin' fun.

Anyway back to the Green Lantern (I see a custom sticker set in its future).

Its pretty much the cheapest way into a capable full suspension 29er. I know, FS in flat, tame Iowa is overkill but what can I say? I like the squish and I like bringing a grenade launcher to a spitwad fight. Plus I'd like to have the pillah (pillow, only better) soft platform for some road trips to rockier and ruffier destinations.

One of the other advantages (as far as I'm concerned) is they come primarily as a unbuilt frame, so this means more time incessantly noodling over this and that component while constructing a fully custom ride. Sweet. Look out Bike OCD here I come...Ah, who am I foolin'? I am already there. Oh Bike OCD, you had me at "hello".

For those of you tuning in for a Gauntlet update, I'm only down a pound this week. I fear my progress will be slow in the coming week because I have a number of other time commitments that could interfere with my exercise regimen. I'll just have to figure it out somehow (I could be working out right now for example). Geesh, get off my case...I'll do it after I finish my cheeseburger(s).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For Whom The T-Shirt Tolls

Similiar to Hemingway's Robert Jordan and Pablo, who battle it out over blowing up a bridge in "For Whom the Bell Tolls", Jackie and I are engaged in power struggle over my old t-shirts.

Despite the fact they take up little space - folding up flat and getting tucked away in closets or seamlessly mixed into our usual mounds of laundry - my "vintage" t-shirts have a way of getting themselves marked for irradication. Every time "spring cleaning" or some other wild hair strikes these poor, tattered cotton friends find themselves squarely in the crosshairs.

Like this one - a super fly Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt I got sometime in the 90's while following SP from Des Moines to Minneapolis to Omaha in 4 days. Chief among the complaints here are the rather prodigious holes. I say its "vented".

Or this one - that says INTRAMURAL CHAMPION. This gem was EARNED (after umpteen tries) from an impressive display of team broomball DOMINATION. Jackie says it's fugly. She's right, it is but no way it falls victim to the Fascist. No way, I tell ya.

I recently sacrificed one; it was a very well-vented softball team shirt. We were sponsored by a local Ostrich farm so it had a great picture of the great bird on the front. Do you know how hard it is to come by Ostrich-themed apparel? Do you?! That was no small sacrifice, but it had to die so that others may live. I fear it will not appease for long.

If you've read the book you know, it doesn't end well. I hope my t-shirts have a better fate than that of Robert Jordan and the bridge.....

I've gotta go. I keep the t-shirts moving these days. It's not safe to stay in one place too long. If anyone knows of a safe house for old tees on the lam, let me know. You'll have to respond in code however; I fear our lines of communication are too easily breached.

Monday, February 9, 2009

El Gordo Gauntlet, Week 1

Since the volcano story has been told, and I'm fresh out of other epic tales, its time for a recurring series on the on-going battle to shrink my girthitude.

In case you're just joining us late - fellow mountain biker Nick recently challenged me to a friendly weight loss "competition". We're going to blog our progress (or lack thereof) as motivation to keep the sweat flowing and the cheeseburgers at bay.

My progress this week has been emblematic of my weight loss odsessy to date: Up and down, up and down.

I've been mad pretty much all day because when I got on the scale this morning the number was not what I expected to see - especailly after riding 45 hilly miles yesterday. Not what I expected at all. I was down somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 pounds, but this morning that progress was all-but gone. I know, I know retaining water after being dehydrated from vigorous exercise and all that blah-diddy-blah. I was still pissed. I even gave the scale at the wellness center a good shake - it didn't work. I drank a lot of water too - and peed a lot. That did work, kinda.

Enough stalling, I'm down 4 pounds - 1.9%. Not good enough to keep from getting voted off the Biggest Loser, but I'll take it.

As for highlights of this week's exercise - I rode part of the Booneville gravel loop on Friday, 23 miles and the G14 route to Winterset. Both were fun and good workouts.

Several of these along the road to Winterset, nice. They mean it too I had several cars slow to 15 miles an hour to very gently pass me. Wow.

One of the famous covered bridges of Madison County.

Big hill in the distance (one of several)

When I rolled up on this scene I thought I was about to take a picture that would be the next Pink Floyd album cover - when (not if) they get back together.

One cow in particular was looking for a cover shot.

It didn't turn out as good as I hoped, but the contrast between the black cows, brown fields and blue sky was pretty cool.
Booneville gravel.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Brian Vs. Volcano, Part IV

And so it comes down to this, the final bit. The story began with an untimely storm, botched plans and a chance meeting with a colorful guide. It ends with this - (hope its not too anti-climatic).

When we finally emerged from the mess of Mamane we found ourselves on upper Waipoli Road, the asphalt seemed out of place high on the green shoulders of the volcano. Aa’Ron said we would have to transverse a ways before descending again. Riding the tank-of-a-bike, even with a gentle grade, at 6000-7000 feet was a challenge for this rider, but the views were spectacular.

These pictures were "lifted" from here. During this part of the ride Aa’Ron got a call from one of his buds. They discussed catching some waves later but ultimately decided the water was “too sharky” from all the storms. I explained to him that where I come from we don’t put a "y" on the end of “shark” to form an adjective, we just don’t do that. I asked if he ever had a close call and he said, “a few times, when spearfishing.”

I was all-like “Yeah, its like this one time when I caught a Bullhead; when I went to take the hook out of his mouth he got me in the finger with one of his spines. Yeah, it hurt pretty bad so I said @#$ it and jetted to Indo.”

Lower Wapoli was great; serpentine blacktop slithering its way down the volcano’s approaches. We hairpined our way around several turns until dirt cut-throughs started to appear. These paths would leave the road above and dive down the steep bank to the road below. Many of them were severely rutted from the afore mentioned torrents. Aa’Ron took full advantage of them sailing off the road, Mountain Dew Extreme style, and smoothly emerging back on the pavement below.

This is not Aa'Ron (sadly I have no pictures of him), but it did look a little like this:

His XGames were building my confidence; gradually I tried a few of the mini downhill runs. After a couple I hit one that was suddenly deeply rutted. I navigated it successfully and got a nice jolt of adrenaline as my reward. A couple runs later the path sank sharply right at the road. “I’m dead” I thought as my front tire hit the unseen rut. I thought for sure I was going over the handlebars, face first unto the pavement. Instead the long, doublecrown suspension fork just soaked up the whole ditch and I popped out on the road just like I knew what I was doing. It probably looked ok, but I felt like I had just pulled off something closer to this:

The road gradually uncoiled and began meandering through hills of deep nearly-neon green prairie grass.

Here we passed some people paragliding - running and launching themselves off the hill to float down strapped under what is essentially a paper airplane. Some people are nuts (irony intentional).

Aa’Ron stopped at this spot that overlooked an open stretch of field. The whole trip down he had goggles strapped around his helmet, but had them flipped around facing behind him (as if he were watching me). At this point he spun the goggles around secured them around his eyes and said, “Right Dude, this field is a blast super fast. You’ll probably get a lot of splatter so don’t follow me too close. Oh, and watch out for big chunks of lava hidden in the tall grass – Ok? Let’s GO!”

SWOOSH, Frisbee again.

I thought, “I’m almost all the way down this mutha and I now I going to die.” I frisbeed off after him. Immediately muddy water started to splatter my face, the grass was coated in a dirty dew. We gained speed quickly, surfing the grassy waves. I was concentrating intently, but I didn’t see any lava chunks. Suddenly a two foot high craggy mass of red passed on the left. Next I came straight up on a smaller, flatter patch of red death. I did what Bodie said and let the bike do the work. It was like riding an overstuffed pillah (that's a "pillow" only better), smooth, soft, nice.

We regrouped back on the road. Aa’Ron looked at me and said “You’re not too slow for being an XC guy.” That might be the best compliment I’ve ever gotten on the bike. He said, “Straight up Bro, this is the last bit. There’s free range cows that roam this part of the road and the fields, so watch out for them.” Cows, on a volcano in Hawaii……why not? Sure enough, we rolled through a couple more fields and there were the ole’ Bessies all over the place.

Aa’Ron rolled straight through them like he was negotiating a holiday shopping crowd at the mall. I think he communes with nature or something. A cow mooed, Aa’Ron did a kickout trick.

We arrived at the park where the Ladies were meeting me. I think Jackie has never been so happy to see me alive. Aa’Ron said, “You didn’t really even need me I guess.” Oh stop – you, with the compliments, just stop. Wait, could you say that again, when my wife is closer and can hear you?

We piled into our rental cars, my adventure si fini. I was feeling an odd concoction of satisfaction, pride, physical and mental fatigue, but some disappointment (because Mamane was toast). Mostly I was appreciative that I had the opportunity to do something pretty unique, especially for a Midwestern mountain biker. I was especially grateful that the Ladies had patience (if not understanding) with my quest. I was a lucky dog, and I had finally earned that shirt.

I was going to leave you with a helmet cam vid from webernet legend Pete Fagerlin, but it wouldn't load. Instead you will have to go here and watch it from his site. Its the second picture on the page with the 67mb by it. I also embedded this youtube vid which isn't as good quality as Pete's, but you get the basic idea.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brian Versus the Volcano, Part III

And now - Part III (to have the proper context you really should read Parts I and II first - don't go skipping ahead)

When we left off Aa'Ron, or "Bodie" as I have taken to calling him for this tale, had led a clandestine mission to get us to the Skyline trailhead....

When we got a little ways down Skyline we stopped to regroup and Aa’Ron gave me the 411. “Alright Dude, this bike is righteous, just point it where you want to go and let it do the work, ride the wave Bro. Watch out for little boulders and be careful, it will probably be pretty rutted out……Oh, and don’t forget to keep your speed up through the switchbacks or your tire will sink in the loose rock and you’ll go down. Alright Bro? Cool, let’s GO!”. And SWOOSH he was off like an expertly thrown Frisbee.

I thought I better stay somewhat close to him so I could benefit from his lines, so that’s what I did. We rocketed down that crushed lava road. It was rutted, just like he said. A couple of times his bike kicked up a little chunk of lava that tinked off my loaner full-face helmet. I was sorta scarred to death, sorta exhilarated and all concentrated.

This is Skyline but the rider is not me, I had to "borrow" several pictures off the web due to a camera snafu I'll get to in a minute.

Early in the descent I smacked my foot on a big rock; “that hurt” and “watch the boulders” I thought to myself. We had navigated 5 or 6 switchbacks when a particularly steep and tight one appeared. I did exactly what he said not to do and slowed way down in the corner. The bike did exactly what he said it would do and the front tire plowed into loose rock and I went down. I hit pretty hard but was able to roll off my shoulder for a crash score that was high in technical merit and artistic interpretation. I had some knee/shin pads on under some running pants, but one side had slid down and I (of course) took a good part of the fall on that knee. When Aa’Ron rolled up I told him I was all-good, we rested a minute or two and sailed off again.

Again, not me.

One of many swtichbacks, taken looking back from afar.

A little bit down the road Aa'Ron spotted a lookout spot high above us. He was bummed at having missed the turn to ride up there because “the descent is a blast”. I can only assume he meant the craggy jagged rock path directly above me. "Damn" I said, when in truth I was glad we missed the turn off. We hiked up to the spot to take a picture. It was then I realized that in all the covert operations at the summit I left my camera in my heavy coat. I had to settle for a couple of lame cell phone pictures.

Me, in the only photographic evidence of the adventure. Terrible picture, but sweet "hang loose" hand signal. I'm so original.

On down the mountain we sailed until coming to the Mamane trailhead. Finally, some XC style singletrack I can sink my teeth into. I thought this was where the real fun was going to start.


Winds and rain had devastated the trail. Only a few hundred feet into it the trail suddenly dropped into narrow ruts, three foot deep. The bikes sunk into them up to the seat. Since these were 40 pound rigs it was easier to pull your feet up and “surf” the bike down these channels than to try and heft them outta there. It was wild. I would have rather been actually riding, but I can’t say this wasn’t still pretty fun.

This is what Mamane looks like relatively healthy. It had quite the storm hangover the day I was there.

About a quarter mile in the downed trees came; one giant redwood after another (yes, redwoods in Hawaii), sometimes stacked in every direction like God dropped his box of matchsticks right on Mamane. We conjured up a substantial hike-a-bike effort, scaling these bark and pineneedle monoliths with 40 lbs of I-wanna-go-fast bike in tow. It was exhausting but strangely satisfying.

Along the way we came upon a lava tube, which is essentially a little cave. Aa’Ron said I could go down into it if I wanted, but he was gonna pass. “Huna” he said. “Ancient spirits of Hawaiians man, they used to bury people in these places.” I passed on the cave exploration, no need to irritate ancient Hawaiian spirits in my current situation.

Next time: the fourth and final installment of B v.Volcano.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The El Gordo Gauntlet

We interrupt this broadcast of Brian Versus the Volcano for a special announcement.

I've been challenged. My friend Nick emails me one day out of the blue to say,"Hey, you're more of a lazy, fat toad than I am and I can prove it."

I kid.

He actually recounted a couple of conversations we've had about all these skinnyfit guys we bike with and how much easier it would be to keep up if we dropped some poundage.

Nick suggested that we blog our weight loss goals and exercise over the next several months in the hopes that going public will be the bit of motivation that puts us over the top.

When I accepted the challenge I figured I'd let Nick take the lead on how detailed we get. He went full monte, posting up the poundage number and everything. Great. I've spent the last decade perfecting the art of shirt tucking and elastic pant wearing just so I could try and hide my number (didn't work anyway), here it is.


My end goal is probably 175. An intermediate goal is to be under 200 by my Womble trip 3-26. I want to be done by the end of May. That's may be a big stretch, but that is what its all about.

I've actually been back on the bandwagon since November, so I have a running start on the challenge, having dropped somewhere around 5-8 pounds since the holidays. I typically lose VERY slowly because I apparently have the metabolism of a tortise.

I am weightlifting 3 times a week, playing basketball 1-2 per week and do a mix of running, hiking, biking, heavybag (boxing) and some yoga. I'll do some more detail on my exercise in future posts. I will be updating this every Monday. This week I did very well, until I got to the weekend (oops).

For those of you (Jill and Denise) patiently waiting for Bri v. Volcano Part III, we will be returning to our regularly scheduled programming by mid-week. Hang in there.