Thursday, 29 April 2010

Loreto to Puerto San Carlos

After a Cessna flight to Loreto with a landing in a crosswind that was so tweaked out that it'd make Shawn White proud, we walked across the tarmac past the machine gun wielding army to the waiting van.  We did a brief safety talk and car orientation then hit the throttle with the goal of getting ourselves back to el Pacifico by sunset.  Again I'm reminded how amazing these cars are, copious suspension travel is pure magic.  80mph on roads 2' wider than the car with cactus on both sides, with jumps, whoops, chicanes, broad sweepers that allowed more rear wheel drift than a decade of Dukes of Hazzard reruns, all executed on more kinds of dust and sand than Inuit have types of snow, and of course, pokey cactus that decides to get you every now and then.  Yup, all that and more. 

One client "went astray" of the track "briefly" which led to a lot of "native vegetation" coming into the buggy.  His co-pilot, who took 90% of the cactus infusion, was subsequently stripped to his boxers in the sun while FirstEnergy employees, such as myself, picked nearly invisible needles out of him for a while, whilst caressing him "dearly" as it's the only way you can find the ultra fine needles. At least his tan will be even...  All fun.

What I was continually reminded of was how well these cars respond to terrain and driver inputs.  They're tough as nails, but dainty in their own ways.  It's all about giving them less input rather than more, and gently at that.  They do the work, whether it be water crossing, boulders, silt fields, or whoops.  The faster they're going the better generally, as it allows the suspension to float above the frequency of the washboard, and the momentum to keep the car on track.  At times it's smooth as silk, other times your kidneys and shoulders hurt from being shaken in the 5 point harness.  The old Porsche engines wound up higher, say 95mph.  These have a wider band of power/torque so you can drive faster all day,  but with less of a pure top speed - more like 85mph.  Having said that, 85mph on the parts we were able to reach terminal velocity on is so balls to the wall it's hard to describe - the controlled bouncing along the road, the buzz of the clean air feed to the helmet, the roar of the engine near the rev limiter, and the vibration of the helmet visor under wind pressure were a sweet (and loud) symphony indeed.  Dare I even describe how much fun it is to catch my 30 second man after a dozen caterpillar stops a day?  Dare I say a good day is when no ranchers waved shotguns at us, only those who cheered were visible today.

Life is better with a margarita in hand, funny how that works.  The bucket of beers on ice brought to our table took two chicas to carry it, which is a good sign for a bucket of beers. The dinner was so many items it was fantastic - beef, pork, egg, chicken, crab, lobster, fish, squid - all with beans, cheese, rice, tortillas, heaps of guacamole and SPICES.  Green habanero is my love of the day.

Seriously it's like I've died and gone to heaven.

Calgary vs. Mexico weather

After we departed early yesterday, rumors had it the airport closed.  Sometimes life works out so right.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Wide Open Baja

Speed, sand, sun, and tequila on the horizon... I've never woken up at 4am so easily as to mobilize for this trip, which is entirely the opposite of Austin Powers attempting to do a multipoint turn, although the "yeah baby" thing applies here.  Dive in with this intro... (you can click through and do this one in HD). These machines are so badass it's hard to comprehend.

This is the closest to mountain biking as any 4 wheeled machine I've felt yet... except for 95mph over sand with no windshield is a little hard to replicate pedalling.

The video below is a great overview, but to cut it short, these are purpose built race cars for the Baja 1000. They've got 20" of suspension, and a little Porsche engine and 4 speed transmission that's pure petrol fueled enjoyment (although I think they've not phased in Subaru boxer engines). You drive these as best you can following the WIDE OPEN namesake - ie. you drive the living piss out of these things all day every day at full throttle, then while you're eating dinner and drinking tequila, the team of Mexican mechanics works on them all night long then sleep in the car during the day. I have no clue how they can sleep in these, but they do. They can swap an engine in the desert in about 30-45 minutes depending on conditions if need be.

Here's some HD Car and Driver footage. (this one is available in HD too if you click through).

Good god I'm pumped!

I don't think Roberto Guerrero will be there this year, his skills were awesome to watch when I got to ride with him, such a highlight from prior years. Life must look different when your day job is approaching corners at 300+kph.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Tori: Renault Megane lessons

Tori's parking ability, or lack thereof, has even made news on this side of the Atlantic in our circles. We'll have to work on that in the future... a little car like a Megane should be no problem.

By the way, here's what a Megane is capable of... in the hands of Spanish Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso on the Nurburgring. I would love to go for that ride, the couple times I got to ride with Roberto Guerrero were completely amazing, how the skills of a top notch professional can make a machine just sing.  Driving is neat that way, you can watch up close someone execute their sport... can't do that with too many others.

Legs: Welcome to Wicked Pummel

I've pretty much toasted my legs this weekend - starting with an 80 minute trail run, then following up on Saturday with about 3.5 hours of mountain biking at Moose Mountain... which was fun until that cold front really came through. Lots of snow on Friday night it seemed, above a certain elevation there was a good 2cm even coat on everything, which made the trails more challenging than was generally fun (the muddy roots and rocks were past climbable with the snow, descending was ok). It'll take another hot dry week to get things back to the tacky traction feeling.

Sunday was 4.5 hours of road riding once I woke up, about an hour into it I saw a rider up ahead so I started chasing. Never made much ground until what turned out to be the two of them stopped for a pee break - Mike and Dan of SpeedTheory. I had met Dan prior at TR and ended up drinking a few beers after the race on either his or his partners front lawn down in Fernie. Anyway, they were heading out toward Madden/Dog Pound for some intervals - I tagged along but knew the odds were stacked against me (tired legs already, late night last night, and I had a 'cross bike vs. their road bikes). It was great company and great motivation, but I only held in for two and not quite a half of their intervals, which were 16 minute time trail ascending efforts from just below threshold to just above.

After blowing it was snack time then hobble back to Calgary, of course I ended up solo from pretty much exactly the far point of the ride. Oh well, at least I had a Boost with me ; )

All in the name of trying to maintain some latent fitness for when I actually need it later in the summer for a few events - up to too much other stuff this spring it seems.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

M Coupe bike mobile

The M Coupe is now a 2 person bike mobile, and I'm tickled pink.  Which leads me to some reverse logic... Devin and Craig, of my carpooling to races friends, are always prompt in the mornings.  Jon and Shawn aren't... but I may have to favour the latter two now, as it's a perfect set up to step on it ; )

I think my car has Toyota like problems.  Whenever the inline 6 hears Rammstein blaring through the Blaupunkt speakers, the throttle gets stuck WIDE OPEN. 

Mountain bike, Rammstein and sports car: man life is good!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Trail Running

It's been a while since I've done any real trail running, but got out to do so this evening, legal relationship technicalities aside, from Todd the brother in law/running machine.  About an hour and 20 minutes all in, on a great loop of Tom Snow's new stuff - beauty evening and great terrain.  I think I'll be more sore than the experienced half of the running duo, but having a good time doing it is what counts.   We might just have to be repeat offenders on this type of outing this summer!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Mountain Biking Kickoff

After spending much of the day at the office on Saturday, I got out for an abbreviated version of the ride we had pencilled in, a 'round Bragg ride that featured the gravel powderface trail at the "rear" of the loop. Nothing like riding my rebuilt 14 year old Stumpjumper on gravel to tune out and think, it's brainless to pilot on gravel relative to a 'cross bike, so I can daydream along. Beautiful area back there, good return to the bike after skipping last weekend to party, and probably better to do the loop next weekend anyway after one more week of warm air temperatures and wind - it's passable, but annoying in spots where it's still wet. Here was the point where wetness and snow seemed to start making up the majority of the road, I had just come through a few hundred meters of it too.

After another reasonable chunk of office on Sunday, I head out for some real mountain biking, with a real mountain bike. The Scalpel always feels like home, and Pneuma is like a trail to heaven, I'm not sure how climbing twisty single track could be better. My goal on the way out was to focus on traction, control and skill over just pounding up the hill as hard as I could.

Before I get to the biking, I was recently described as a "speed freak" - which I mostly deny. I don't like the consequences of wiping out at speed. This was in reference to a compliment I received last week (note, there's only a couple categories of compliment I'll even acknowledge or like, and trust me, I'm not the subject of many compliments). Anyway, an individual whom I drove dune buggy's in Mexico 5 years ago was recalling the Baja stories to his friend, in advance of our upcoming trip. He explained how he'd never driven one, started out down the gravel road with little instruction as per the norm, then observed he was doing 75mph and having a blast on terrain that blew his mind. He recalled how we stopped for a snack, rotated diving partners, then "learned that all morning I had no idea what those machines were capable of until I rode with Erik". He never told me that then, but has been carrying it in his mind for the last 5 years... now that is a compliment I like : ) The point of all this being that I still disagree on the speed freak thing. I'm conservative and don't like the pain of wipeouts. What I am addicted to is traction limits and control. Its a fine line, a dynamic line, and just happens to be more necessary to monitor at increased speeds. I'd argue that's what attracts me to the downhill snowsports, bike sports and motorsports trifecta.

Traction at points is offered up in quantities more than you'd ever need, and in some parts is scant, leaving you begging for every bit you can eke out. Traction only has one use when riding - to facilitate acceleration - where acceleration encompasses the positive (climbing), the negative (braking) and change of plane left and right. Dry loamy soil to ice slurpee over top of ice sheet, with random wet roots and rocks (it rained) was the name of the game.

Maximizing traction is relatively easy on two wheels - it's being dynamic on a bike, having a feel for the machine, pedalling smoothly, using corner knobs on your tires, squeezing the brakes rather than slamming them, etc. I'm ok at it. I know guys who blow me away, plus have smaller bodies that therefore demand less traction (ie. everyone I bike with).

Maximizing what you can do at any given point with the traction available is another thing all together. Descending steep choppy rocks mixed with mud-ice-slush actually doesn't need any traction as long as it's a straight line, and Race of Spades has a few of those sections... you just need 2m of traction prior to the corner at the bottom to scrub off the accumulated speed. Traction for corners is only needed enough to keep you on the trail, which can be further minimized by smoothly planning the corner and seeing past it to the exit. With this in mind, and with the qualifier that it was the first mountain biking of the season, I let it rip.

Biking without others where I'm gasping to keep up lets me focus more on the soft skills, which I like just as much as gasping to keep up to others... and today just felt beautiful to be riding a mountain bike. They're masterful machines, and I enjoyed every minute of piloting it around. Yes there were a few dismounts on the uphill, but I'd qualify that 2' high fallen timbers across the trail, and a few muck chute hairpins were likely "impassable" by bike. There were a couple others that I should have made... but all in it was introspective fun trying to polish up the skills. I'm sure if Jon, Craig, Devin and Shawn were there, they'd wait a half hour for me at the top while I wallowed in my crummy attempt at uphill elegance... but at least it felt good to me.
The way down was a riot. Everything I said about traction is BS when referring to wet skinnies with snow on both sides, that's a traction game a mudded up Racing Ralph 2.1" isn't likely to win... but the rest was trying to do my best Jedi rendition of that trail, which totally lends itself to the Jedi blasting through the forest feeling. I'll withhold any reasoning around doing this solo, on an evening, without a cell phone, in the rain, with only shorts and a jersey on, when it was only 12C in the parking lot... but hey, the day I bust my leg out there wasn't tonight. And depending on the day, if I were out with the above mentioned group of buddies, I may luck out and not be last at times.

Today's lesson to drill into my mind: brakes are a tool that reduce speed such that you can navigate corners with the [estimated] available traction on approach. They are NOT weenie comfort devices.

Picture here just above the Race of Spades entry of the showers that got me on the way up, hadn't been out to Moose for a while, so decided to spin up to the top just to check it out before hitting the descent.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

32, Grade F

Today is my birthday, and coincidentally this report card came out of the ether and appeared in front of me. But grade F's aren't all bad, or so I'll try to convince myself.

Fitness - this one isn't too much of an issue, so easy to tick off the list first. Health, Fitness's indirect but correlated counterpart, will be revealed over time. So Far, so good.

Family - Fine there, aside From wherever this "adding to the Family" conversation ends up. I think that's Farther in the Future For now though, which in my view is just Fine.

Finances - yes on having some, yes on ability to continue the Fiscal prudence path, although I'm consciously letting absolute Frugality slip a little. Probably not worth Fretting too much about this subject overall, I suspect I'll Find a Fruitful, rather Free retirement one day, maybe even before Freedom Fifty Five.

FirstEnergy - yes on the career end, Fast, Frantic, Fun, mostly FulFilling. Fatiguing, but Fine on this Front, other than the Flourescent lights too much. It appears that a decade of pouring out all your energy into the right venue can Facilitate the creation of little Fortunes.

Females - ahh, this one is always interesting. Sort of like the famous quote from Fubar: woman is a danger cat. This category is Fantasitic if you've ever met Ms. Fahey. Only Frustrating bit is Fahey's Far-ness, currently in Fontainbleu, in a Funky Fairytale residence enjoying her French Far-ness, which who knows, might be Farther Further Forward in time too. It has been observed our relationship is missing a Few legal Formalities, customary of long term relationships. We aren't Fretting that now, we Focus on that less than others it seems.

Fastness? Well, life is Fast... even aside from the recent new Four wheeled Friend in my driveway. Friends and Family near me probably can attest that in the last decade I haven't been witnessed sitting still for more than a Fraction of time. Bike wise, I have less Fast than ever, but try to sub in with little riding Fortitude and Fondness/Fanatacism for the sport.

I've had a little piece of paper taped to my shelf by my desk for a decade: don't suffer an unFulFilled life. Trying, just nobody wrote any manuals I can see on how to navigate this Fricken stuff.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A day in the life of an analyst

Ahhh, ibanking humor. A large part of the population might just find this stupid. But those who like it, like it a lot - I guess that comes from being up close and personal with the stereotypes.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Montreal Superfun

Montreal is super fun - from driving to jazz bar to dining and night clubbing to having a blocks and blocks of 3am post nightclub food choices we had fun from wakey time to bed time. Bed time even managed to include some sleep after wrestling over french fries in the hotel room and other 11 year old kid antics we revived.

This city has an awesome party culture, or at least we found many more corners of it than we have at home. People are more hipster fashionista, not just the Calgary expensive jeans an t-shirt look. Everyone is social, and at least where we were, didn't seem to find any anglo resentment, even over in Matt's more french neighbourhood. Girls want to dance and party, there's a definite lack of snooty "why are you trying to talk to us" attitude, it's totally different. It's more like "hi, here's my Polish 35 year old babe friend, here's my blonde 21 year old friend from London, and here's my Korean friend, we're just dolled up and out for drinks and dancing, what are you guys up to?" in French accents and you kind of look around for a second at the group of them, then like check around for a hidden camera man from a the beer commercial crew to see if this is for real or what. Warren was popular in his chip 'n dale-ish tux. Speedo got interviewed by some Czech crew reporting on a bistro with ostrich heads mounted everywhere named Bily Kun. Ty, Matt and Josh pulled off some low speed, yet death defying tripling on Matt's 25y/o Schwinn 10 speed. Qua seemed to singlehandedly re-popularize the 70's surfer drink the Harvey Wallbanger to "rehydrate" in between dancefloor sessions. Ahh, good times.

Clubs are set up with super super sound systems (maybe the $18 drinks had some way of funding that) - when we sent each other funny cell phone pics or texts, my eyes were vibrating trying to read it from the bass thump, and you could feel your lungs vibrate when we breathed. It's good when the brick walls and solid beam/solid wood floors pulsate with the crowd's movements too right? I like undulating floors esp. when the staircase manned by big bilingual black bouncers in sweet threads is basically so narrow it's a one way.

We toured our buddies flat here for a bit, here's some random Q&A. The short of it is one of us has always been a little closer to the bohemian lifestyle than corporate lifestyle. Having an 80's Schwinn 10 speed, a third floor loft, and a depanneur 25 yards from home actually makes a hell of a lot of sense relative to 2 car garage, big box strip mall, mortgage in the burbs. Anyway, it also ed to a bunch of huh's and wtf's, for example:

Cool coffee table. Yeah I made that out of an old baby carraige I found (of course that's a perfect place for a publication I've never heard of, a music/art/oddity thing apparently: Girlyhead Magazine - "passion, pirates and ping pong - the romance issue". Uhh, right).

Hey, where'd you get these bowling balls in your kitchen? I light them on fire, they burn a lot.

Hey, where'd you get this hub cap? Off a car in the anglo part of town, I'm making something out of it.

Hey, where'd you get this big piece of wood (ie. Like a 70lb wooden 3/4 cirlce out of some exotic wood)? Just found it when I was walking down the street.

Hey, why do you have this hammer drill? Man last week I was drilling so hard I almost drilled behind my ear.

Hey, why do you have this "Handgun Hunting" book with some pot bellied guy in a 70's suit and aviator glassses hunting Tennessee boars with a .44 Magnum? The poses inside are crazy.

Hey, what's this painting of a naked girl? I bought it at a sale because she looks kind of like me doesn't she.

Hey, what's this owl? He watches my kitchen.

Hey, where did you get this couch? When gay people die of aids in NY, they auction their property. I got it at an aids auction.

Hey this is a cool bead curtain, I like it. Yeah take it if you want, I have lots more.

Cool freestanding tub, do you close the curtain when you shower? No. Doesn't water get everywhere? Yeah but I'm on the top floor.

Hey what are these fuzzy gerbil things with long string tails? My new girlfriend came over and wanted to come inside really fast, but her boots were hard to get off, so I just got a knife and cut the pom pom laces off her boots and she left them here.

I guess it's not totally necessary to have Q&A's line up in linear fashion when non-linear sidesteps will pretty much suffice.

Here's an assortment of superfun pics:

Calgary airport at Palominos.

Look at that sweet WestJet plane (oh yeah, and a bachelor).

Marriott Chateau Champlain lobby bar - the minute we arrived some dolled up Quebecois Ricard's Red promo girls dropped by and gave us free beers.

Karting prep room, with Mr. Bachelor himself being attended to.

The karting aftermath... I love this stuff.

Who likes a classy guy? Everyone - it's tux night.

View from Warren and Erik's room.

Pantalones on.

Umm, hard to explain. In anticipation of fun.

Every lobby needs a man in a tux on a chaise lounge - on the way to a 9pm dinner start.

Who needs sleeves?

Everyone smile for the camera please.

That's the right idea, big big smiles.

Who needs tux jacket sleeves anyway?

Everyone got to cut off one appendage, so to speak.

That's so badass compared to just a plain classy tux.

Whole jacket sleeves starting to go. Side note here, what kind of bartender chick just hands over a big knife? "Hey, do you guys have a steak knife?" "Yeah sure". Perfect to hand out in a thumping club packed full.

Trouble past midnight.

Zoolander rogue?

4 other Zoolander rogues?

No explanation necessary.

It was too hot in the club for long pants.

Hello ladies... yes I moonlight as a chipp 'n dale, how did you know?

Chillin after. Who is this man of mystery?

Damn that's a fine 'stache.

Eating on the street is better than...

Bringing food back to the room.

Yes Qua, the ketchup hit the wall, the sheets, the pillows, and the floor. At least it's only ketchup.

Who needs an outfit for tomorrow with sweet custom artwork done by your friends?

Mmmm... coffee.

Sure is sunny out when you wake up at noon.

Let's go see old Montreal. It's chilly - Matt do you have any extra toques for us?

Well, actually, China town is just behind. Peace to Chinatown.

Supercool artwork. In old Montreal we walked down the tourist gallery street. These deformed sculptures look perfectly normal when peeked at through the looking glass on the bottom right - in this case a perfect F1 car. LeRoyer gallery, 60 rue Saint-Paul Ouest.

Someone getting... Married here today.

Who's motorcycle is this? It's not a motorcycle, it's a chopper... err a bicycle chopper. Hannan Customs.

Maple syrup and crunchy snow on a stick.

diese onze jass club, with the diese onze martinis.

Nice shades, except the missing arm, which is maybe why they were in a recycle bin...

Matt's neighbourhood with a few depanneurs about 15 seconds from home.

Third floor walkup with steep stairs.

Bead curtains were all the rage... like before we were born.

Some motley crew.

I'm not sure if this book ever made any best seller lists of note.

Recharge time before heading out at 10pm. Hey guys, what about dinner? Right, we don't need that.

"Who wants to sex Mutombo?"

Jazz flute.

Bily Kun, tastefully decorated up on the walls just above with a dozen plaque mounted ostrich heads.

Always strike a pose for the camera.

Jump - for my love.

Transportation at some point in time.

Nappy - 5am. Hey you to mopes, get up to your room on the 13th floor and gimme some space. Yeah yeah, take some overpriced minibar stuff for energy if you need to make it all the way to the elevator banks.