Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Welcome Back

As you recall, I'm raising money by selling sponsorships on my bike. Thanks to everyone that's helping sponsor my bike and body. I got donations for various bike parts and even a left nipple. I don't know why I say "a left nipple" since I'm not one of those folks with an extra nipples. Anyway, there are plenty of parts and bike components available for sponsorships. Just go to my fundraising site, make a donation and name the part you want sponsored. As you can see in the picture on my blog, Pope Benedict and I are sending you our heartfelt thanks.

France - The Hard Way
As you recall last time, well if you don't recall last time, go to my blog at http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/ and read about my Bike Story. As I was saying, where we last left my story I was getting ready for the first night in Spain. I was sharing a room with a bottomless roommate that had a Darth Vader breathing apparatus. The pretty much sums it up. Well almost.

Sleeping the first night was brutal. First I'm worried that my Darth Vader roomie might play some mean tricks on me, the weather was so hot it was nearly impossible to sleep. So if he did try playing tricks, I would have been on him like a spider monkey.

So the first day of riding came after a long hot sleepless night. Roy asked if I slept well, I said no. He then asked something about a teabag, I had no idea what he was talking about. I was just glad he didn't try to spoon me in the night. Anyway, we packed our bags and headed down to the parking lot where our journey would begin.

When the idea was first proposed to me to ride a bike across the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, I thought "How hard can it be?" The distance didn't look that far, after all, it was only a few inches on the globe at home. And besides, everything is smaller in Europe. So I figured, what the heck, I could easily ride my bike across France. Look I've been through Death Ride training with Team in Training, I could ride to the moon if I had to. As with many things in life, the reality did not match expectations.

We get down to the lot and I notice that everyone is standing in the shade. Mike is having an animated discussion with Horst, the ride organizer. Horst was smiling and laughing much like when you talk to someone who absolutely no idea what you are talking about but the person doesn't want to offend you. I got close enough to hear what Mike was asking Horst. Mike said "...I'll even buy the ice chest too" As I stepped from the shade into the sun, it became readily apparent why Mike was so insistent on convincing Horst to buy an ice chest and ice. It was 8:30 in the morning and it already felt like late afternoon. All I could think was "oh shoot". At this point I did the only sane and reasonable thing...I offered to double what Mike was offering Horst so he would be extra motivated to buy the ice.

Horst wasn't buying it either figuratively or literally. Besides he said, "There's no place to buy ice." I thought this was crazy. I asked him matter-of-factly, "What they don't have the recipe here?" Horst gave me a look much like you would make when you discover you have gum in your hair.

Plenty of heat. Lack of sleep. No ice. No problem. We finally set off on our ride. Now at this point your probably wondering if I'm going to talk about every mountain pass we rode over giving you exhaustive details about the height in meters and the number of French people I saw, I won't. Here's the shortened version about day 1. It was 90 miles of torture. We climbed over three mountain passes. One pass was on the border between Spain and France where the road had been removed by the locals because they didn't want any illegal immigrant Spaniards sneaking into their country. The highlight of the ride was when my friend Andrew and I found a roadside stand that sold cool Coca Cola. Notice I didn't say ice cold or frosty. Cool is their definition of cold. After the morning and afternoon of blistering heat, sweltering humidity, warm drinking water that we had endured, a cool Coke was perfect. Andrew and I sat and drank our cool Cokes and shared that look of "What the hell have we signed up for?"

Thankfully we finished our rides, we were the last ones to come in to the hotel that evening. Everyone else had been there for some time, had enjoyed cool beers and were relaxing from the ride. Everyone was talking about how hot it was. Of course, Roy had some pearls of wisdom to share. He said "You know, this hot weather is particularly harder on heavier guys. I'm really impressed that you made it." Of course, I'm thinking that's just great. Just what I need, I'm totally beat up and now I'm being patronized...by Roy. If I had been riding at the time I would have squirted my water bottle at him or put my frame pump in his spokes. Maybe another day.

So day one is in the books. We survived. We saw some very pretty country side and we were exhausted. Only 6 more days of this. What had I signed myself up for.

Riding across France is no small feat. Surviving cancer is infinitely harder. If you have been stimulated by the Obama economic plan and have a big heart, please consider donating to fight cancer. And hey you get your name on my bike, or my body. So take a moment, dig moderately deep, and go to my fundraising site.

Stay tuned for my next update and find out if riding across France has any redeeming qualities.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Welcome back. Well that's not really accurate since I'm popping up unexpectedly in your mail box. So I guess I'm welcoming myself back. As you know I'm writing about my annual saga to raise money to fight leukemia and lymphoma and how I'm coaching a group of people to ride their first century ride. I figure you'd appreciate the trials and challenges and hey, if you enjoy the tales, you might want to support the cause. http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/ambbr09/sasche

About the Bike Sponsorship
The offer to sponsor parts of my bike and my attire was met with immediate response. I've got sponsors for my drops (they're on my handlebars), my helmet, my bottle cage, and the back of my shorts! Nice going. I will wear the sponsors names proudly. I told the rest of the team and they thought the idea was quite innovative. To get more sponsors, I figured I'd go the full NASCAR route. I'm offering more body parts for sponsorships. I figure I can use the same grease pen stuff they use on triathletes and put the names of sponsors on body parts. So in addition to bike parts, I am adding my calves, quadriceps and biceps (also known as my guns :-D
If you're interested in signing up, visit my site and make at least a $25 donation. If you're interested in other body parts, let me know I am negotiable. All you have to do is go to the sponsorship website at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/ambbr09/sasche

A Bike Story
This is not related to the training, which is going quite well, but I figured I'd tell you a bit about my trip across France last summer. That's right, I along with 4 friends and 5 new friends rode our bikes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic along the crests of the Pyrenees mountain range. I'll include little excerpts in these posts. Anyway if you're considering a tour you may want to plan a little more carefully than I.

So there I was sitting in the airport in Perpignan France. This is a little Mediterranean beach town on the border of Spain and France. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was that it was hot and humid. It felt like Washington DC in August. I met up with my friend Phil and one of the other riders, Roy from Tucson. Our guide, Horst was there to shuttle us to the hotel. We loaded our bike boxes, our luggage and our jet-lagged bodies into the tour group's fine German van and we were on our way to meet the rest of our riders.

Of course the topic of conversation in the van was generally about the weather. Afterall, isn't that what people talk about when they first meet. Horst proceeded to tell us that this 530 mile trek we are about to make is much better in June. It's not nearly as hot and humid. Wait a minute, I just spent a princely sum to ride with Horst's tour group and he's telling me that it would be better if I rode a different time. I started to have some concerns about this trip. He followed up his weather report with a description of the rides, he went on to explain how the Pyrenees are very treacherous, of course with his German accent he pronounced treacherous with a long e sound. So at first I didn't know what he was saying. As we climbed the winding roads that led to our starting point, I realized what he said. Ah jeez.

Roy from Tucson was rattling on about all the great long distance rides he's done around Tucson and Washington state. Apparently he was quite proud of his achievements. Just as I'm thinking, thank God I don't have to listen to these stories all day, Horst says, "By the way, you and Roy will be roomates." I think, "I'm on vacation; maybe it won't be so bad."

We make our way to Port de la Selva Spain. And after meeting the rest of the group, assembling our bikes, having dinner, we get our room assignments. Roomate Roy and I check into our rather small hotel room. The first thing we notice is the single bed. "Oh hell no", is my first thought. After further investigation I realize there are two beds but they're pushed together. I immediately set to separating the beds and made sure there was a safe two feet between the beds. Okay that's not so bad.

Roy then starts to unpack what looks like an oxygen mask and pump. He asks if I mind the sound of his air pump machine. I told him it was okay because I'm deaf in one ear. I can just sleep on my good ear. I was mildly worried about sleeping with the sound of Darth Vader breathing two feet away. I could imagine myself waking up in the middle of the night and being quite disoriented. Finally he says he's ready for bed. He then removes his pants and puts on a t-shirt. Now when I say "removes his pants", I mean he's naked from the waist down. Ah hell.

My immediate thought was, "I wonder if he and his wife are one of those couples where they buy one set of pajamas and one where's the tops and the other wears the bottoms?" But in most couples, the woman wears the tops and the man wears the bottoms. I thought, "they got it all messed up." Which I thought at the time was quite a funny thought. So, naturally, I laughed. Apparently you don't want to laugh when someone in the room is not wearing any pants. Roy asks me, "What's funny?" At this time I immediately think, "Oh no! he thinks I'm laughing at his junk." So I quickly come up with an explanation that Horst made a joke about John McCain and George Bush at dinner. Apparently the Germans were not fond Bush and McCain, but I digress. That's when I remembered Roy is from Arizona, home to Senator McCain. Roy goes, "that's not funny." Now I did not want to get into a conversation with guy not wearing pants, so I said "It's funny when the jokes are told with a German accent." Roy says nothing. Great. Now I'm thinking, "He absolutely thinks I was laughing at his nethers and he's going to do something to me in my sleep or worse, he's going to tell me one of his cycling stories." So on my first night of vacation I am in a tiny hotel room with a half-naked guy with a grudge and a Darth Vader breathing machine. And I'm thinking, "I get 7 days of this and I haven't even done any riding."

In future posts I'll tell you about French beaches, ghost cows, the land where only two people work, near-death experiences, tense moments at customs, and a host of other stories. I'll even share pictures. If you enjoy the tales, then sponsor my cause, I have plenty of spots on my bike and lots of body parts available.

Finally, if you have comments or suggestions, visit my blog.