9.25.2007

Departures and diversions

One subject that I don't write much about here is my job. There are many reasons for this, which I will not go in to, but suffice it to say, I work as a technical recruiter, based in Vermont, but recruiting nationally for a very well known consulting firm.

Many of the candidates I speak to are from the Indian subcontinent, some have become US citizens, some have Green Cards, some (most?) are on the H1B visa... and some of the latter, are literally right off the plane and looking for their first US project. It gives one a unique perspective on being an American and how to define 'citizen'.

So I leave for three weeks in Nepal tomorrow and it's great that things are finally coming together and I look forward to departure -- I will be happy, to stop planning, and start doing, the trek. But on the way back I am trying to divert to Hyderabad in India for a two day trip to visit one of my employer's business associates with an office there.

This is very exciting because I will be on my own in a really huge and quite foreign country -- while in Nepal I will be with a group. I speak to many people from India and I think it will be very interesting to get to spend even a brief amount of time there and see what it is like for myself and to travel on my own.

Last post for a while -- I still have lots to do before I leave!

9.21.2007

Where I'm trying to get to: Annapurna

I usually try and avoid using other people's content here but I did find a short clip some guy put together of a recent Annapurna Trek:


The Annapurna Trek In 5 Minutes

When am on this trip I will not be using the camera nearly as obsessively as this person: Batteries and image storage will be tightly rationed. This will be a change for me because most of the time using a digital camera one can be quite profligate taking images -- take 10 photos, hope 1 or 2 turn out OK -- on the trek I will be more cautious and conservative. Using a camera all the time can also detract from the experience of 'being there'.

Less then a week to go! It seems odd to be leaving Vermont at perhaps the nicest time of year, this was the scene in Waterbury Center on the way to work yesterday morning, fog rising in the valley. It has been quite warm so far and no frost, so the foliage is only just starting to change. While I was taking this, in a field off of a dirt road, a tour bus full of tourists rumbled by. I wonder what their guide was saying to them over the PA: "Due to impending global climate change Vermont's legendary fall foliage has been delayed this year, in a few weeks the greenery you see now will be a spectacular display of reds and yellows...." or something like that.

9.20.2007

Shimmer

Too busy to post much (being online just subtracts from other things, anyway "Americans giving up friends, sex for web life" reads the headline): Less then a week to go before I leave for Nepal. In addition to my personal preparations, I have been trying to do a month's work at the office in the couple of weeks before I go...Things are hectic. I understand that Internet cafes are common in Kathmandu so there is a chance I will get to update my various photo hosting sites (blogger, flickr, photoblog) while abroad.

9.17.2007

Tunbridge World's Fair

We drove over to the Tunbridge "Word's" Fair yesterday -- the name is a misnomer, the event is a small agricultural fair in a very small and still quite unspoiled Vermont village. The day was something of a trip back in time for me because from 1988 - 1992 I lived and worked the Randolph area after graduating from college and I had been to this fair once before -- about 15 years ago.

Driving from Waterbury, I exited I-89 in Williamstown and drove past the first apartment I ever rented on my own... it was $175/month, ridiculously inexpensive even then (and I got what I paid for -- the apartment was a tiny studio carved out of the space intended to be the office of the property manager): The building hadn't changed at all, externally at least. It was a pretty nostalgic day for me because this period was when I was really starting to get into cycling competitively and I can remember riding on many of the hilly back roads in this area -- it is truly a beautiful and uncongested part of the state so I was fortunate to have had this experience.


The usual healthy choices of fair food.

Body English in the tractor pull.

The multitudes gather at the hall of the giant pumpkins and other oversized squashes. The largest pumpkin was 501 lbs I think.

The crowd at the pig races -- a late arrival, this was as close as I could get to the action.

Celebrity sighting, Vermont-style: Eva with Rusty Dewees (aka "The Logger").

I'm very busy with work (which is what I should be doing at this moment) and getting ready for the trip to Nepal so I may not be posting much for the next.... 5 weeks or so. While in Nepal I intend to try and keep a journal on paper (hard to imagine) that may eventually show up here in some form or format. I'll see, I need to get safely over there and back first.

9.14.2007

Waterbury beat: Jack's dead (RIP), but Sal Paradise lives on

"Keep your overhead low" -- quote attributed to Jack Kerouac


I was poking around a church sale in Waterbury earlier this spring and surprisingly found an old copy of a collection of some rather ephemeral but published poems by Allen Ginsberg.

The poems are decidedly uneven but the Beats liked to talk about themselves, constantly, and I have read enough about their lives and times, that I easily recognized the references to specific names and places sprinkled throughout the collection.


Flipping though the worn little paperback made me think of Kerouac and On the Road, last week marked the 50th anniversary of the novel's publication. The anniversary sparked the usual retrospectives and critical reassessments, the same sort of thing happened at the 50th anniversary of the publication of Howl. That obscure journal of the counterculture, the New York Times, discussed the book and its ongoing influence on its "PaperCuts" blog.

It was interesting to read the NYT's original review of On the Road, characterized as the "the most famous review in the history of the paper", and the various posts stirred up an energetic debate (opinion being very divided) about Kerouac, his writing, and their ongoing relevance today. Unlike many online discussions I actually enjoyed reading the opinions, the novel is definitely a touchstone of late adolescent experience, but how readers respond as adults varies widely.

This post has been gestating for a long time (I think I started it over a month ago) and like many things that show up here, is very trivial. I have been busy with the stage race and preparing for my rapidly approaching trip to Nepal, but perhaps Kerouac (someone who ceaselessly searched for experience) would appreciate my predicament. But On the Road does lurk at the back of my consciousness, especially in post-9/11 America, where I feel less free, more fearful, and more constrained every day, not to mention like I'm drowning in a sea of cheap plastic electronic crap made in China. "Keep your overhead low": Words to live by, even now.

9.09.2007

GMSR video highlights

I have posted some more vidcaps here.

One last post about the 2007 Green Mountain Stage Race. I had video of Friday, Sunday and Monday which I attempted to edit into something coherent and interesting and have posted on youtube, the compression means that it is very murky and low res, but it is the best I can do. I am a rank amateur at this and I do not have very sophisticated tools...but I have participated in, spectated at, and helped promote plenty of races in my day so I do have some ideas about what is compelling and what is not.



Most of the time this blog dwells upon the trivial and grossly unimportant (like "it snowed last night" or "I managed to raise some peppers this summer") and consequently it gets very little traffic. All this coverage of the stage race, however, produced a quite noticeable surge in visits to the site caused by hundreds of bike racers from all over North America (the GMSR attracts a large Canadian contingent every year) trolling the Internet for images of fleeting glory. Maybe I should just put this project on hiatus until next Labor Day.

9.08.2007

GMSR Criterium postscript (velo retro part deux)

George Hincapie, sporting some road rash, at the finish of the Stowe Road Race, 1992.

Longtime Burlington Criterium director (now director emeritus or something like that -- along with Ben Haydock) Spencer Knapp posted this email to the GMBC email list this past week, I have added some notes (in red) of my own, along with a few scans of some photographs taken by my dad in 1992 at the Stowe Road Race.

"...In 1983, the first Burlington Criterium, then called the Waterfront Criterium, was held in late May on its original course with a start/finish line in Battery Park. [I caught a glimpse of this event -- it must have been 1986 or 87, and it was the first bike race I had ever seen.] The course had been used for an Olympic Trials race once in 1976 and was ridiculously challenging, heading out North Avenue, around the hairpin turn at what is now Burlington College, down the hill onto Lake Street, which was still largely undeveloped, left on College, and then left up Battery back to the Park. With more than 300 feet of climbing every lap, it was hardly a traditional criterium. Bernie Saunders, then in his first term as Burlington's mayor, was the official starter for the race. It attracted a strong group of roughly 400 regional riders with a prize list of mostly merchandise from local bike shops. The Peugeot national women's team was the main attraction, taking the first five places in the women's race. We had no more than 50 spectators the first year, and many of those were homeless residents of Battery Park. In an effort to draw parents and kids, we included a 50 meter tricycle race for age 6 and under riders -- and got about four. The race stayed on the waterfront for five years and then moved to its current location in 1988, where it has flourished and grown ever since. For many years, the Crit was paired with the Stowe Bicycle race, then one of the premier one-day races in the Northeast, for what we called "Vermont Race Weekend." [After the Stowe Road Race died, for many years the criterium was paired with a road race around Lake Placid, NY, I rode both the Lake Placid event, and the Stowe race, several times.]

Among many highlights of the pre-GMSR Crits was the attendance of the US and Canadian national teams in 1992, just before the Barcelona Olympics. On Friday evening before Saturday's Crit and Sunday's Stowe Race, we ran a time trial on the Beltline in North Burlington, causing the largest downtown traffic jam in Burlington's history [I remember this traffic situation]. The Race Director that year, whoever he was, was not very popular with commuters. In the 92 Crit, Derek Bourchard-Hall, a recent Princeton grad, the collegiate national champ, and a newly arrived Shelburne resident, beat George Hincapie, a 19-year old national team member from Queens, NY, in a dramatic shoulder-to-shoulder sprint up Main Street, which I will never forget. The next day Hincapie soloed to win the Stowe Race after two laps over Smuggler's Notch and and a final climb up the hill to Trapp Family Lodge [Actually, this is a description of the 1993 race finish, I remember that day for being viciously cold and wet]. Lance Armstrong, a new and completely unknown addition to the US national team that year, had been scheduled to appear but missed his flight from Texas. We had no idea then what we were missing. I remember Chris Carmichael telling reporters in a press conference before Friday's time trial that he thought Armstrong might become the next Greg Lemond. Little did we know."

Team Shaklee rider finishing the Stowe Road Race, 1992.

The men's Pro/Elite field at the base of Smugglers Notch, Stowe Road Race, 1992 -- for these guys, the race consisted of two 45 mile loops, and two climbs through the Notch.

My first race ever: An embarrassing picture -- climbing alone to the finish, riding unattached & wearing a funky ensemble of Garneau cow print shorts, day-glow Italian jersey (a legacy of 80's?), Performance brand sunglasses, and on a bike with a seven speed cassette and downshifters. My memory of this race is that I hit the base of West Hill in Stowe with a group, went hard, dropped a lot of people, promptly blew up, everyone I had dropped, passed me right back, and I rode to the finish alone....Those were the days. I was a slow learner; I don't think I figured out how to race a bike effectively in a mass start event until about 1998 or so -- six years later.

9.03.2007

GMSR Day 4: Criterium (damn I'm tired)

I am by nature quiet, introspective and rather introverted, and far from the life of a party: Sometimes I don't play well with others. So it is exhausting for me to be in a role like I had today at the final stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race: To talk basically non-stop to hundreds of people (often having multiple conversations at the same time), without much of a break, from 8:30 am until 6 pm. Add in day-long exposure to the sun and I am basically fried tonight. But the race was a success (it always seems a bit touch and go on the days leading up to the event, but somehow it all comes together) and several racers commented about the high quality of the event and how well things were run, which was gratifying -- though my role in the grand scheme of things was quite minor.

Anyway I didn't have too much time to play with the camera and the day was marked by very challenging conditions anyhow (bright light and deep shadows) so I don't have many decent photos:

Women's sprint leader on Church Street.

video
Final lap of the criterium.

Final Mens Pro/elite overall podium.

9.02.2007

GMSR day 3: Men's Pro/Elite finish

Today I managed to hit the 'record' button so here are the sights and sounds of the finish of today's Men's Pro/Elite race. I heard that a lead group with a significant gap (7 minutes) was sent off course and into backroad Vermont oblivion -- but here is the finish as called, I'm sure there will be protests tonight.

video

GMSR Day 3: Blue skies and suffering

Just some quick images from today's stage finish atop Appalachian Gap. A great day to be out with clear blue skies, little wind, and pleasantly cool temperatures. The harsh light made it difficult to take good photos & I have many images with blown out highlights from the bright sun.

GMBC Masters racer.

Local masters rider Phil Beliveau had a great race today.

I never looked this fresh on top of this climb (Women's P123 winner).

The women's race leader chases.

Determination at the top.

W3/4 stage winner.

There are more images posted here: