Tag Archives: michael hamilton

Day 5: almost chamois time at Nats!

Dear MIT Cycling,

This is the last day before the rubber hits the fan and MIT begins their well-conceived Domination of Road Nats 2009.  The kids have been out riding, gone on tactical previews of the road course (they won’t let me release any details, given that all our competition is, of course, reading this blog looking for secret insights*).  There was the standard food shopping, dinner, Tim still talking about food, cookies from Ma Loomis, Tim planning his post-race meal, and last-minute bike prep.  It sounds like we’re going to have to take a hacksaw to Chewie’s rig or else go Gattaca on Michael’s arms to make him super-UCI legal.

*Secret insight number 1 for competitors who have continued reading despite the warning: Martha is going to go fast, starting at Team Point H1.  You’ll be able to see it from the streaming video while you’re sitting back in your hotel room crying because her initial blistering speed melted your tires and you had to go home early.  (If you noted that I mixed tenses, it’s because I’m tired, too.  Mario and I have learned that taking care of princesses can be tiring.  I mean that in a mostly-nice sense.)

The race hotel, where we’re staying, has exploded in its bikiness.  There’s people with truing stands visible through the open doors, other fixing brake pads in the hallways, bikes up and down the elevators all day long, and so much spandex that you’d think it was 1987 again.  The hotel even supplied cleaning rags to every room as a free gift.  There’s two small conventions at the hotel in addition to the Nats crowd, and it’s been entertaining to watch the other hotel guests try to navigate around piles of wheels in the hallways.

*Secret insight number 2: local beers have the appropriate level of oxygen to match the environment in which they were brewed, and thus have no negative effect on your pedal wrenching.  Fat Tire is made in Fort Collins, thus making it the most appropriate and only acceptable beer to be seen handing out at the feed zone tomorrow.  I’d take that feed if I were me… manning the feed zone.

Tomorrow: racing, hot feed zone action, Coach Nicole’s new haircut, and John Rhoden’s argument that lemon lime is the second greatest mis-nomer of Western civilization.

Monkeys and cogs,


Day 4: mid-day report, the chamois less travelled

The first set of road bikes venture out of the van into sunlight after a long New England winter.Dear MIT Cycling,

Today is our last day of driving: Fort Collins is tantalizingly close, so close you can smell it.  It smells like Mountain Fresh fabric softener mixed with a subtle tint of cow patty.  Before heading out, Michael and I took some time to catch up on work, visited the CU campus and their local coffee shop, I scoped the campus sunbathers while The Married Man commented on the unique roof tiles used on all the buildings, and we looked back longingly at the mountains one last time.

The drive up to FC was, thankfully, also as uneventful as every other mile on this trip.  No crashes, no fires, no explosions, no song and dance numbers, not even an election slogan to report.  The best I can do is note that we’ve decided that the van’s steering, which is categorized as “active”, teaches you to do some funny little upper-body safety dance, which at least keeps you marginally awake-er during the drive.  (I’ll show it to you when we get back.)  Actually, it’s more like an anti-safety dance.  (You can dance if you want to.)

Note to DAPER: we’re still being safe.  That’s what we call sarcasm in the business.

Right now, the early flight of kids are out riding around, enjoying the scenery, while I’ve got a nice view of the parking lot and undeveloped ditch behind the hotel from the fifth floor.  I can also see the roof of the hotel ballroom.  For you mechanical engineers out there, know that you’re missing out on some giant air circulators that could be classified as incredible, but only if things like painted metal boxes get your mojo flowing and give you goosebumps on the inside of your frontal cortex.

Note to the ladies: large painted metal boxes do not get my mojo flowing, so please don’t plan on surprising me with one for my birthday, Laura Ralston.

Tomorrow: road course previews, packet pick-ups, chain lube, and last minute details before crushination begins.

Monkeys and cogs,


Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 3: Lincoln to Boulder (by Nick)

Dear MIT Cycling,

Today, Michael and I saw the extremes. It was like camping: it was “intense”. (Yeah, a bad pun if you sound it out.) Nebraska proved to be much flatter than all of Iowa, and slightly less interesting unless
you happen to be from the state and are entertained by large pieces of farm equipment in distant fields. The short is that it was flat straight, and a nice 70-27-3 split between I-80, I-76, and “everything else”. That last category includes playing Ferris Bueller with the van’s odometer. Movie buffs, you’ll be glad to know that the movie is accurate, up until the point where Cameron’s dad’s car careened into the valley behind his house. We had no valley and had to settle for a corn field.

Side note: corn is literally knee-high to a grasshopper right now. You should wait until July for it to be knee-high to me.

The stretch between Nebraska and Denver was one of the more dull areas, like watching Book TV with the sound turned off. There were sand hills, cows, crummy road surfaces, grasslands, and traffic more patchy than Eric’s beard. As endurance athletes, we endured, and eventually rolled into glorious Boulder somewhere around sunset.

Our gracious host for the night, the astrophysicist Amy B, in addition to explaining galaxy clusters, would like us to beat Baylor, kick Stanford’s ass, and “try not to bleed on our roads too much.” I believe that last comment was directed at Michael, mostly. Dinner at The Sink, what I thought was a reasonable Boulder landmark (Robert Redford worked there, and the ceiling is literally covered with graffiti), one too many Fat Tires for me, and The Onion in street side news paper stands rounded out the evening.

Tomorrow is more Boulder, getting work done, and venturing North to Fort Collins.

Monkeys and cogs,


Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 2: Pittsburgh to Lincoln (by Nick)

Dear MIT Cycling Team,

I’m trying desperately to remember what we did today… right, drove.  All the way from Pittsburgh to Lincoln, traveling through six giant Midwest states.  Michael’s GPS failed miserably in its entertainment value: instructions were “Follow this interstate to I-80; Keep right onto I-80, Keep left onto I-80, Stay on I-80, Keep left onto I-80, sleep”.  (A note for the other ECCC teams driving out: if you get lost, you’re doing something seriously wrong.)

Side note: Ohio has just as many messed-up names as Massachusetts.  For example, Cayahoga Valley gets converted into Kiohga.  See, while Ohio-ans also don’t care about excess syllables, they chose to drop the ones in the middle so that you can’t tell there’s letters missing.  At least Mass is honest about retaining useless freebie letters.

The flat plains and farmlands stretching from Ohio through until tomorrow makes everything blur together.  We’re already confusing which day is which, and can’t remember what exactly we did this morning.  I also can’t remember who’s foot that is touching mine.  Given that there’s only two of us, and Michael is staying on his side of the car (now), I’m pretty sure it’s mine.  It may have fallen asleep somewhere around Des Moines.
Travel tip: look for pizza joints near state colleges.  Today we learned about Bob’s Your Uncle outside Iowa State: cajun chicken, roma tomatos, feta cheese, and approximately 100% cute waitresses.  Yes, please.
For the people whose bikes are in the back, just know that Chewie’s is the only one that we sold off for gas money.  Did you know that a single time trial bike can net enough to fill a 30 gallon tank?  It’s another reason to keep your rig shiny, it increases the resale value in Gary, Indiana.  (Hint.)
We also found The World’s Largest Truck Stop (TM) (sic) in Iowa.  It had its own food court, theater, clothier (they’ll customize anything you bring ’em, including tie-dyes), and dentist (not kidding).  The number of belt buckles for sale alone was pushing near the limit of what I’ve seen.  Imagine if we’d melted down all of Chewie’s bikes and made them into belt buckles, that’d only be 12% of what TWLTS offered.
Tomorrow is a shorter trip to one of my favorite cities in America, Boulder CO.  Be looking for stories of Runzas, Pearl Street and University Cycles, The Sink, CU astrophysicists, and true honest-to-not-Eastern-Ave mountains.  I’m getting tingly already in my other foot.

Monkeys and cogs,


Brotherhood of the Traveling Chamois, Day 1: Penn State to Pittsburgh (by Michael)

Dear MIT Cycling,

This was the beginning of what promises to be an epic journey to the end of the road and back again.  We won the overall conference championships edging out both Army and UVM in the final weeks.  After some beautiful podium shots with the team, we packed up the Nats van with help from teammates.  We ended up being the last to leave the Penn State crit course, but Nick and I decided to go ahead and leave even later by taking the first of many side detours to attend a tasting of ice cream at the Penn State Creamery.  I had a shake, and Nick had a cup, and we chatted with Joe Kopena and Caitlin Thompson about why USA Cycling sucks and how they need to improve.

Eventually we got on the road to Pittsburgh toward Nick’s sister Andrea’s place.  Most of the journey was through the mountains of Western Pennsylvania coal country, which provided some pristine views of several large coal power plants and billboards (as well as green mountains and rolling countrysides).  I noted to Nick that one natural-draft cooling towers (show a pic of one here) could cool up to about 1GW of coal generation, so the plant that had three in the distance was likely a massive 2-3GW net plant.  Ok, done with the electricity nerd aside.

One interesting sight on the way was this small red business off to the right labeled with big white letters spelling “CLIMAX”.  Of course this piqued our interest, both being 20-something males.  As we came closer, I noticed a smaller sign saying “DRIVE THRU PEEP SHOW”. Wow.  I was simultaneously disgusted and amazed at the existence of such an establishment, when the appropriateness of the name finally hit me.  ‘Nuff Said.  Hilarious.

We got dinner at a great Pittsburgh-original Mexican place called Mad Mex, where Nick and I chowed down on a trio of salsas: habenero-pineapple, avocado-tomatillo, and spicy cheese.  The wittiness of the menu can be summarized by their listing of one particular fake side item: “Item: A Little Honey on the Side | Price: Half of Everything”. After a big meal of fish tacos and beer for me and enchiladas for Nick, we rode on to Pittsburgh.

We arrived at Nick’s sister Andrea Loomis’ house and we had a grand ole time hanging out with her and her boyfriend Dan.  We spoke of Swine Flu, phallic (non) musculature,  instruction manual translation, and teaching science to school children.  After a solid three hours worth of driving, we were worn out and sweaty, so we took showers and went to bed ready for an epic day of driving to follow the next day.

Yours Truly,
Michael Hamilton