Winter storm

The next time some asshole uses a 6-inch snowfall or a night of below-zero temperatures as “proof” that man-made climate change is a hoax, I’ll remind them of nights like tonight.

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More like “hubris217,” amirite?

If I had the time and the physical ability, I’d ride my bike every day. I have neither, though, so I try to make the most of the opportunities I do have.

Wednesday was one such opportunity. Two opportunities, actually: Gotshoo and BGL of BlogCycleRun invited me for a ride among the trees on the Lick Creek Trail at Lake Springfield. But after a less-than-stellar showing at Lewis Memorial Acres — the easiest set of MTB trails in town — with them the previous week, I didn’t think I’d be much good on the more challenging trails at the lake.

So I graciously declined, for the above reason and because, as a brand-new member of the Springfield Bicycle Club, I was looking to take part in one of their group rides. I’d never been on a ride with more than three or four people, so I was looking forward to trying something new. And, in the back of my mind, I wanted to see if I could hang with experienced road riders.

It turns out that I couldn’t. Looking back, I should have heeded the multitude of signs before I even got on the saddle:

  • In switching my knobby MTB tires back to road tires, I ended up puncturing a tube.
  • I’d planned to eat some chips-n-hummus and an apple as ride fuel on the drive from Springfield to Chatham, but in my haste to make it in time, I forgot them.
  • Seconds after I realized I forgot my food, I realized I also forgot my cycle computer, which I had taken off my handlebars while changing tires.
  • And as I pulled into the Wheel Fast parking lot, it became evident that I was the only one A) riding a mountain bike, and 2) with hair on my legs.

Yes, Wednesday was a 1940 NFL championship game kind of disaster, the scope of which, however, was not apparent as the ride jumped off. In fact, things actually began well.

As the group (guessing about 30 riders) headed south out of Chatham onto the country roads, I found myself able to keep up with the pack, albeit at the rear.*

*I imagine it’s less smelly at the front of the pack.

Not only was I able to hang with the road bikers, I had actually begun to creep forward in the pack. My legs felt good, and I was breathing deeper but not hard. As riders ahead of me would yell back about potholes, the pack would split up to avoid them. But not me. Even equipped with road tires, my shock-equipped mountain bike was able to plow through the rough spots in the road that the others had to skirt.

This is where the overconfidence set in.

About 6.5 miles in (map link), we crossed Illinois 4 on Hambuch Road, which then becomes Snell Road and, if memory serves, is one of the brick-paved sections of the former Route 66. Here, I found myself moving ever forward in the pack, able to roll over the bumpy brick with ease.

Here I was, an untrained, overweight recreational cyclist not only keeping up with experienced, dedicated riders but even passing some of them. This is going to be a piece of cake, I thought. Then, we turned north toward Curran.

Into the wind.

And this is where it was effectively over for me, about 7 miles in. Almost immediately, I began falling back in the pack. As we rolled farther north on Curran Road, I was having to go all out just to maintain my position as the caboose. Given the wind, my lack of leg strength and my ill-equipped bike — combined with their ample leg strength and proper bikes — this was unsustainable, and I began falling away from the pack.

Though I was panting severely and had developed the dreaded side stitches, I was at least able to keep them in sight for about 3 miles. But once they made they made the second west-to-north bend toward Curran, about 12 miles in, they had lost me for good.

It was at about this point where I had developed, of all the damned things, a Charley horse in my calf. In all my many, many hundreds of miles of biking, I had never, ever experienced such a thing. And the sonofabitch HURT, too. I was cursing at the top of my lungs in pain. At one point, I even dismounted to try to stretch it out, which didn’t work.

I was so preoccupied with ironing out this Charley horse that I missed the turn back east toward Chatham. By the time the cramp worked itself out, I was coming up to Curran.

This is where the humiliation set in.

My car was in Chatham, but I had overshot my turn by about three miles, which meant I was turning what should have been an 18-mile ride into at least 25. As I was pedaling east toward Springfield, I was completely spent, physically exhausted and mentally embarrassed.

I decided to hit the new Qik-n-EZ on Wabash to grab a Snickers and some Gatorade and mull my options. At this point I was still several miles away from my car but just 1.5 miles or so from home, so I could either:

  • Ride home like a bitch and have The Mrs. drive back to my car, or
  • Sack up and keep riding.

As I inhaled the Snickers and pounded the Gatorade, the embarrassment at my poor showing on my first group bike ride turned into inward anger, so I chose the latter option — both as self-flagellation and so as to not be defeated by my own stupidity.

A day later, though, I can laugh about how pointlessly upset I got. Before, I liked to say that my mountain bike was “a man’s bike.” During the first 6.5 miles yesterday, I was more sure of that than ever. Today, though, I know better.

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‘Cause I’m feelin’ so darn happy

One of the great things about music is that a particular song can remind you of a specific time in your life, sometimes down to the day. One song that does that for me is “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots.

The backstory

Our story begins in July 1993, in between your protagonist’s graduation from high school and his entry into college. Those days consisted of mainly hanging with the homies, driving around and undertaking various slightly illegal activities.

This particular night involved heading out to rural central Illinois in hopes of taking advantage of rumored meteor showers. After waiting for a couple of hours on an enormous rock pile outside of Rochester, Ill., we get bored and impulsively decide we are going to drive to St. Louis.

Understand that this was during the Great Flood of 1993, when much of the middle Mississippi River basin was angry. We roll into St. Louis at about 2 in the morning to check out the scope of the flooding.

And being 18 years old, we can’t possibly grasp the scope of it all. So we (meaning your hero, at least) get our thrills via public urination: I always like to tell the story of the time I urinated into the Mississippi River from Laclede’s Landing. Powerful stream, and all that.

So after emptying our bladders and a period of milling about, we figure it’s time to get back to Springfield. But we weren’t going to leave without souvenirs. So we got the big idea to gaffle actual, authentic sandbags off the wall that was protecting the city of St. Louis from inundation.

We each loaded our ill-gotten booty into the trunk of our friend’s Mazda 626, the back end of which was scraping the surface of Interstate 55 as we drove back home, listening to 105.7 The Point for much of the way. One of the songs we heard was the above-linked video.

We ended up getting back into town around 7 a.m. and then getting grounded basically until we left for college a month later.

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Piece of Flare

Here is a picture of Springfield’s Union Station, taken in approximately 1917:

Kidding. It actually was taken in 1923.

Kidding again. The photo really was taken in 2007 and processed just yesterday with Flare, a newish photo editing app.

As someone who has barely any more than no idea about what makes a nice photograph, apps like Flare help me pretend that I’m a growed-up taker of photos. If you have a Mac and like photography, it’s definitely worth the $9.99 sale price. If you have an iPhone and have futzed with photo apps like Camera+, Best Camera or Instagram, then Flare should be fairly intuitive.

The advantage here is that you can manipulate your iPhoto, uh, photos in much the same way you could the photos on your iPhone using the above apps.

Here’s another photo I processed with Flare. It’s from about a decade ago, of my beloved Imperial Thugsta Miles, the Jamaican Black Prince. *thumps chest* *points to sky*

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Reverend Lovejoy on the Cardinals’ chances

With it confirmed that Adam Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery, we here at Bundle of Stuff asked local pastor the Rev. Timothy Lovejoy what he thought about the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances in 2011:

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Riding the rails

I’ve never been a goal-oriented person; I tend to just stumble through life and taking what comes. But I think I’ve cooked up a goal to which I could orient myself: an all-day bike ride.

But where? There are a few lovely bike paths around Springfield, but they don’t really go anywhere, and I’ve ridden them all many, many times. I’d like to make this trip a new experience.

Thankfully, the good people of Madison County have provided cyclists with dozens of miles of interconnected bike paths that actually go places. My planned route makes use of several of those rail-trails:

  • The ride begins at Pere Marquette State Park on the Sam Vadalabene Great River Road Bike Trail and heads east, through Grafton and its many wineries, past the tiny town of Elsah and into Alton.
  • After passing by the Argosy Alton casino and Riverfront Park, the route then hooks up with the Madison County Transit Confluence Trail. That takes you southeast past the Melvin Price Locks and Dam and then south through the lovely industrial country of the Metro East.
  • You then leave the trail just a few hundred feet north of Interstate 270, passing under to make a couple of sharp turns to catch Chain of Rocks Road, which, amazingly enough, takes you across the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
  • After crossing the Mississippi River, the bridge spits you out just south of the Missouri side of I-270. There, you catch the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, which heads south through St. Louis’ post-industrial wasteland into downtown.

All told, the route is about 50 miles. But my personal best day’s mileage is somewhere in the low 30s, and it’s been more than two months since I’ve been on a bike. So I’m going to have to “train” for this trip. My goal is to be ready to ride 50 miles by July 1.

I invite you all to mock me when I inevitably fall short.

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Faking baseball history

Those of you who follow my tweets know that I’m a huge baseball fan, both of the game itself as well as the study of its numbers. What’s even more pathetic is that I also love to play a simulated version with cards and dice — think of it as Dungeons and Dragons for baseball nerds.

And because the Internet is on computers now, I’m able to play online using one of dozens of baseball’s greatest teams: the 1927 Yankees, the ’65 Dodgers, the 2004 Cardinals, and so on. You can play solitaire against a computer manager or in a tournament against other humans.

Recently, I played a tournament using the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, and my first opponent was the ’67 Cardinals. I decided to make Mike Cuellar my starting pitcher; my opponent countered with Bob Gibson. During the game, the dice were coming up aces for the pitchers.

In the 11-inning game, Gibson threw 10 innings for the Cardinals and was charged with just two runs. But Cuellar was even better: He threw 11 (!) innings and struck out an incredible 17 batters, earning the win after his Orioles won the game in the bottom of the 11th.

In real life, Cuellar threw 297.2 innings in 40 starts during the 1970 season. After my online game, I wondered if Cuellar ever had a similar game in real life. And thanks to the wonder that is Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, I could look it up.

I learned that during the 1970 season, Cuellar had only one game in which he’d pitched more than 10 innings. And in that same season, he’d had only two outings in which he had at least 10 strikeouts.

So with the magic of the tumbling dice, I was able to create a little baseball history. Or historical fiction, to be more accurate. And that’s just part of the fun of playing nerd baseball.

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