The First Tour De What?

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How does someone write a book about a sporting event that finished one hundred and fourteen years ago, and make it exciting? Peter Cossins has done just that. His book, The First Tour De France is a history, and chronicle of the very first Tour held in 1903. He made the bike riders come alive for me. Although I hate to read any book with too many strange-sounding names in it. I managed to finish and still like it. There were far too many hard to pronounce, therefore hard to read, French names, but what does one expect in a story that takes place in France about a French bicycle race, French men, French towns, French everything except the language in which the work is written.

Being that I am a retired long distance bicycle rider I thoroughly enjoyed this history. The Tour was the idea of a French (of course) publisher trying to increase his circulation. He did indeed. How many inventions such as the Tour De France have stirred men into action as much as this one? How many bike riders have been born into the sport? I could go one endlessly praising the merits of this idea. One more that I will mention is that the Tour became a wonderful travelogue for France. Watching the race on TV gives one a birds-eye view of a country with some very pretty countryside.

From the bike rider’s viewpoint this history makes each of my own travel by bike experiences seem petty. I would never had mounted a bike with a single gear without a freewheel on any of my trips. Yet, these brave men rode very heavy steel frame bikes with a single gear, many without brakes. Without brakes, can you imagine that? Also, it is hard for me to imagine riding a single speed two-wheeler up a mountain. The absolute strength and stamina of these riders was phenomenal.

The entire tour was composed of six stages of approximately two hundred and sixty miles long.  Among the strangest of bike riding facts revealed was riding in the night. Most stages started in the evening around 5 or 6 p.m. giving it maximum crowd exposure, and scheduled to end in a big town at an hour when more people would be able to witness the finish. The roads were paved only in big towns, most miles were on rutted dirt lanes. The leading riders averaged sixteen miles per hour. At my best riding a lightweight bicycle with twenty-eight gears including a granny I was able to average eleven mph, and only for 75 to 100 miles per day on well paved roads during daylight with plenty of water and food. Of course I was not racing, I was touring.

I recommend this book to all of my cycling and non-cycling friends.

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OMG! Hell Froze Over

For way too many years I told people that hell would freeze over before the Chicago Cubs will win a World Series. So, hell must be really cold right now. How long before the ice melts and everyone in hell gets back to the normal hotter than ever climate?

The Cubs also broke the Curse of the Billy Goat placed on them in the nineteen forties  by the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern when he was asked to remove his goat from Wrigley Field.

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It Is In the Air

FOOTBALL IS COMING SOON

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1. “Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble the football” – John Heisman

2. “I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.” – Bear Bryant / Alabama

3. “It isn’t necessary to see a good tackle, you can hear it!” – Knute Rockne / Notre Dame

4. “At Georgia Southern, we don’t cheat. That costs money, and we don’t have any.” – Erik Russell / Georgia Southern

5. “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.” – Lou Holtz / Arkansas – Notre Dame

6. “When you win, nothing hurts.” – Joe Namath / Alabama

7. “A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.” – Frank Leahy / Notre Dame

8. “There’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.” – Woody Hayes / Ohio State

9. “I don’t expect to win enough games to be put on NCAA probation. I just want to win enough to warrant an investigation.” – Bob Devaney / Nebraska

10. “In Alabama , an atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in Bear Bryant.”

– Wally Butts / Georgia

11. “I never graduated from Iowa. But I was only there for two terms – Truman’s and Eisenhower’s.” – Alex Karras / Iowa

12. “My advice to defensive players is to take the shortest route to the ball, and arrive in a bad humor.” – Bowden Wyatt / Tennessee

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13. “I could have been a Rhodes Scholar except for my grades.” – Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State

14. “Always remember Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David.” – Shug Jordan / Auburn

15. “I asked Darrell Royal, the coach of the Texas Longhorns, why he didn’t recruit me .” He said,”Well, Walt, we took a look at you, and you weren’t any good.” – Walt Garrison / Oklahoma State

16. “Son, you’ve got a good engine, but your hands aren’t on the steering wheel.” – Bobby Bowden / Florida State

17. “Football is NOT a contact sport, it is a collision sport. Dancing IS a contact sport.” – Duffy Daugherty / Michigan State

18. After USC lost 51-0 to Notre Dame, his post-game message to his team was, “All those who need showers, take them.” – John McKay / USC

19. “If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.” – Murray Warmath / Minnesota

20. “The only qualifications for a lineman are to be big and dumb. To be a back, you only have to be dumb.” – Knute Rockne / Notre Dame

21. “We live one day at a time and scratch where it itches.” – Darrell Royal / Texas

22. “We didn’t tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking.” – John McKay / USC

23. “I’ve found that prayers work best when you have big players.” – Knute Rockne / Notre Dame

24. Ohio State ‘s Urban Meyer on one of his players:”He doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”

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25. Why do Tennessee fans wear orange? So they can dress that way for the game on Saturday, go hunting on Sunday, and pick up trash on Monday.

26. What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs? Drool.

27. How many Michigan State freshmen football players does it take to change a light bulb? None. That’s a sophomore course.

28. How did the Auburn football player die from drinking milk? The cow fell on him.

29. Two Texas A&M football players were walking in the woods. One of them said, “Look, a dead bird.”The other looked up in the sky and said,”Where?”

30. What do you say to a Florida State University football player dressed in a three-piece suit? “Will the defendant please rise.”

31. If three Rutgers football players are in the same car, who is driving? The police officer.

32. How can you tell if a Clemson football player has a girlfriend? There’s tobacco juice on both sides of the pickup truck.

33. What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room? A full set of teeth.

34. University of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh is only going to dress half of his players for the game this week; the other half will have to dress themselves.

35. How is the Kansas football team like an opossum? They play dead at home and get killed on the road.

36. Why did the Tennessee linebacker steal a police car? He saw “911” on the side and thought it was a Porsche.

37. How do you get a former Illinois football player off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Whopper of a Fish Story

When I close my tiny backyard pond I dread pulling the pump in near freezing water. The cold is so intense my hand hurts with a burning sensation for an hour. This video of a Lake Superior ice fisherman extending his arm into the ice hole to extract a fish mad me shiver. Obviously, his adrenaline rush was so intense he didn’t notice his arm burning up to the shoulder. The fish he caught is certainly a trophy, and he did the right thing.

Last Email of the Day

This evening I began to shut down my Mac and head to the TV when I decided to look at my Emails one more time. I found one from my good friend Jim. He and I went to high school together and roomed for a year in college too. Jim suggested I watch a video he sent. I clicked on the link and it took me to a Pickleball Website. Inside that site was the video which I later found on YouTube.

There are many amazing people in the USA and this vid highlights one of them; his name is Mike Ehredt an Endurance Athlete, Postal Worker, Veteran, and genuine great human being. My words will never do him justice to the project he undertook called Project America Run (Click link to see map). In 2010 he ran a mile for each vet who died (4424) in the Iraq war, then in 2012, Mike ran a marathon everyday for 81 days. At each mile he placed a flag in honor of a vet who died in Afghanistan (2140 US service men and women).

If you like feel good stories, watch the video, and click the links to learn about this amazing ordinary person like you and me.

 

 

Do You Think Life Is Hard?

Very often it seems that I get a little down and start feeling sorry for myself and complain about how hard my life is. Then, someone sends me an angel. Today, the angel is my old friend and colleague Rich. The video below is proof positive of the human spirit and the power of positive thinking. If this story doesn’t bring a tear to your eye nothing will.

Badge of Honor

I have to admit that the word treacherous in the hazardous driving report psyched me out. So much so, that Peg and I spent 24 hours sitting in a hotel room waiting for the snow to melt. Our window view of Vail, Colorado made up for some of the time. I spent most of the day writing and answering e-mails. The Vail Pass was open on this day, but the day before the State Patrol shagged us off the I-70 because too many accidents had plugged it up. I also spent too much time studying weather reports and driving conditions.

We enjoyed an Egg McMuffin breakfast at the McDonald’s across the parking lot from our hotel. Later in the day we planned to move it up an inch by dining in the hotel restaurant. Since Vail is empty in April, none of the shops were open for us to do the typical touristy walk through the quaint shopping district. This led us back to our room to read, write, and relax.

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Later we learned that April is out of season and the dining room closes for supper. I inquired and learned of another restaurant immediately next door. We ventured forth. This place was equally deserted and upon entering I had to shout for someone to come from out of the walls. The staff, a man wearing shorts, sweat shirt and a baseball cap with an apron, and a waitress wearing a hooded sweatshirt appeared out of nowhere. The business definitely relied on a big crowd for its heat. Since we were the only ones there to enjoy the cold we left our winter coats on throughout the meal. The Bear Fish is by its decor a Sports Bar. They decorated the walls with skis standing on end. As an extra touch, antlers from a moose adorn one of the side walls. I got the idea that when Bear Fish is in season, and there are people, they are skiers. Genius deduction right? The menu specialized in smoked meats and sea food, mostly sandwiches. I ate a pulled pork sandwich with crispy sweet potato fries washed down with a Cabernet. Peg munched on a green salad finished off with a hamburger, and lemonade. We left totally sated and to our surprise several other people had ventured in and were eating in the main dining area. All of them kept their winter coats on.

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The following morning, we awoke to two inches of new snow covering everything, including the Death Star. We could barely make out the white car covered in white, and  parked on a totally white parking lot. We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It is a quaint place with good food. The crowd in the room led us to believe we were not the only ones at the hotel as we wanted to believe. Many people did what we did, i.e. sit out a day of the bad weather.

By the time we loaded the Death Star with our overnight stuff and gassed up it was ten-thirty. I nervously drove through the town of Vail which is a canyon of ski chalets, lodges, resorts, condos, and tall buildings running up the side of the mountain, and merged the I-70. Vail is 8500 feet high, and the roads were dry. As we drove east the road began to ascend the Vail Pass and snow flurries began to swirl around us as we drove at fifty mph up the hill. I read that the pass is 10,500 feet high, so we had a climb ahead. We passed some parked snow plows, and I thought that is comforting to know that they do plow the roads. Further along we saw semi-trucks pulled off to the side with drivers attaching chains to their driving wheels.

We reached the level of two slushy lanes with somewhat cleaner tire tracks in each. I switched the GPS to show elevation, and surprisingly we were nearly at ten thousand feet. My white knuckles hurt from clenching the wheel so tight, and the right hand fingers kept pulling the washer lever to spritz the windshield clear. By now our speed was more like thirty mph, and some brave SUV’s passed spraying our windows with slush. I turned on the emergency blinkers to show that I was a slow-moving vehicle, but there weren’t too many cars passing me. We reached the tunnel, and I thought this is it, we reached the peak. Wrong again. The damn tunnel climbed and we kept on climbing to over eleven thousand feet. “We are two miles high,” I told Peg.

The snow kept blowing, the road narrowed to one passable lane and the windows kept getting dirty by passing cars. I finally passed a truck going fifteen mph, and he sprayed me with a stream of slush that moved us sideways. Just at that moment my cell phone rang. What the? “Sorry phone, but I am not answering you now,” I said out loud. My phone rings once a month and it happens now. I didn’t even look at it to see who called. No way was I taking my eyes or hands off this wheel for anything.

We finally crossed the Vail Pass and descended to nine thousand feet when we reached the Loveland Pass which is higher than the Vail. We went through the same white knuckle experience except this pass is higher than the Vail topping out at 11,990 feet. The descent couldn’t come quick enough for me. It finally did and we dropped down to eight thousand feet where the roads were dry and traffic resumed to sixty-five miles per hour. It was like nothing had happened at this lower level, but a raging blizzard was happening just a few feet above us.

A couple of hundred miles east of Denver I stopped for gas and couldn’t believe my eyes. The sides of my car were black with slushy road dirt. My beautiful Blizzard White Death Star had earned its badge-of-honor crossing two mountains in a raging spring snow storm.

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