Confessions of a Cycling Fan

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This email got me thinking about my relationship to cycling as a fan and rider.

I have followed professional cycling for decades or since Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France. I have spent much of my precious time and resources as an avid fan in Italy, France, England California and Australia. When the UCI ejected Peter Sagan from the Tour de France last July, my fan heart was broken.

I never thought Lance Armstrong was clean because I saw an interview with Greg LeMond talking about getting dropped by riders who the year before were middling racers. Then he knew the drugs were winning. Lance was up among the elite riders who were winning and they were getting caught doping. My assumption was that he was better at not getting caught. So I left some room for being wrong and cheered Columbia High Road and other riders on. Besides he was a bully, that was clear without a urine sample.

Somehow I survived those wretched years when the press broke a new drug scandal every year. I remember once I was traveling in Africa and spent some time with a German couple. He was a sports writer and the German press had just made a big deal about not televising or covering the Tour de France because of the drugs. I couldn’t understand how you could just stop caring. I was still in the throes of attraction to cycling.

Now I understand. Sometimes the corruption of the officials and the lack of fair play doesn’t just knock the wind out of you, it hits you with such a punch you just don’t give a flying fig anymore. I have huge respect for Peter Sagan. His cycling skills are unparalleled today. And his attitude is super fun and eccentric. He brings excitement to the sport. Oh, and he’s won the world championship 3 years in a row. He was on track to win the green jersey again, when his crash with Mark Cavendish drew the ire of race officials. They didn’t just relegate him for that stage (like they did Mark Cavendish when he had a similar crash back in the day), but ejected him from the race. Later the UCI dropped the disqualification, as if that does anything to erase the stupidity of the first decision.

The rest of the season I followed the Australian team and their excellent videos on social media. Orica Bike Exchange’s Backstage Pass was awesome. I stopped using my NBC Gold Pass to watch races. Still I wondered if I’d go back to feeling good as a fan after a break.

Then I received this email about Peter Sagan’s Fondos in California. Nope. I have a precedence. After many years as a USC football fan, I read about the concussions, then I took my family to a home game and the pre-game videos of greatest “hits” made me sick. Haven’t watched a game since. The Olympics, well who hasn’t lost faith in the Olympics? The latest in scandals is the Russians’ systematic doping. But that has been going my whole life. See the documentary Icarus on Netflix for a refresher.

I am sad to announce my heart break was finally irrevocable. I am a former cycling fan.

Celebrating Pi Day at Pie Ranch


Slim pickings at 2 p.m. on Pi(e) Day

It was a lovely coincidence that UK Sarah would be breaking her journey from NZ to UK in California starting on Pi(e) Day 3.14.  We planned to go to Monterey for a few days, so it was easy to plan our journey to go from SFO to Half Moon Bay and then down Highway 1 to Monterey Bay.

In Pescadero, just down the road from Ano Nuevo State Park, is the Pie Ranch where you can buy their milled flour, whole wheat sourdough bread and PIE!

They bake interesting pies and hand-held galettes including walnut pie, buttermilk lemon pie, and our choice: sweet potato galette. It was savory and wonderful. The crust was whole wheat and exceptionally good. I noticed on the way out that they have frozen pies available including chocolate chess pie. I’ve never tried that and now I’m going to be dreaming about it!

Pie Ranch also has educational programs and a tempting produce section. I also bought a t-shirt that says “eat pie.” How could I pass that up?

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Pizza and Books on the Lower East Side

The only other time Mom and I have ventured to the Lower East Side was to go to the Tenement Museum (totally worthwhile). We had just arrived for our weekend and she expressed a desire for New York style pizza so I got on Yelp to look at reviews. One of the best loved was a place in the East Village so I called and at 7 p.m. we didn’t need a reservation.


Pinch me. Am I in Italy or New York City?

Tramonti at 130 Saint Marks PlNew York City, NY 10009-5843 is charming and with all the people speaking Italian (diners, wait staff) we weren’t sure if we were in Italy or Manhattan. We ordered some wine from the region where the chef is from and an amazing Tramonti bruschetta. We could have satisfied ourselves with each our own order of bruschetta. But we came for pizza.

The pizza was not New York style and I was glad because it was delicious and not greasy.

We ended the meal with a bit of gelato and it was a little disappointing. We could have gone down the street to the shop that sells just marshmallows and hot chocolate. Before ordering a Lyft back to our hotel, we fossicked around the street a bit and wandered into a used bookstore that was wonderfully odd.  Ultimately, the day of travel caught up with us and we retired to our comfortable room at The Benjamin hotel in midtown. A great start for an exciting planned weekend.

Not Every Adventure Needs to Be Big


b61eeea5-c8d5-4e6c-80c7-689460b67ea6At least once a week I go on an adventure with my grandson Calvin who is 16 months old. He reminds me of the joy and wonder of noticing the things we adults often overlook. Like the inlaid wood and carving at the Crocker Museum. Or the joy of going to the nursery in springtime.


Looking for Gramma J

Today we went to the Plant Foundry in Oak Park, Sacramento, California.

72d1407c-f0af-4696-9082-14ab161b3a94The challenge is getting plants whilst enjoying it from a wee man’s perspective. So glad my daughter was along to help out this time.


In a recently published book, 1001 Things to Do with Kids in Sacramento by Sabrina Nishijima, there are many ideas for kids of all ages. I have been looking for more ideas so I plonked down my debit card to buy this from Time Tested Books on 21st Street near K. Just remember, sometimes you can keep it simple and have a great adventure, like the time we never made it into the Railroad Museum because the wooden sidewalks and rocky paths were so fascinating.

Personal note: for a variety of reasons I’ve fallen behind on posting my travels. I am going to catch up but my sharing may be out of order to the timeline I traveled, so hang on!

Olympics Sparks Interest in Curling

On podcasts and in conversations with colleagues, everyone is fascinated with curling during this Olympics. I love being able to say, “I tried it.” Quickly I’m peppered with questions about the rules. I try to get by with saying it’s a lot like Bocce.  Here is my post from my Otago Rail Trail adventure in New Zealand. But first watch this 2 minute video from and see how much curling is not like Bocce.

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Curling is the winter olympic sport that inspires both fascination and ridicule. Naseby in Central Otago boasts the only Olympic standard indoor curling rink in the southern hemisphere.

Why you may ask? Because Central Otago was settled by Scottish immigrants in the 1840s and they brought their curling stones and love of the sport with them. Most winters the lakes freeze over sufficient to send out the call and assemble teams for a Bonspiel.

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

If you book a tour with Off the Rails, Nick ensures that you enjoy an evening lesson and curling session. If you are unassociated with a tour you may book your own session.

The rules of the game are similar to bowls, kube, or bocce ball. You can throw the stone with your arm or you can push it with a stick. Your teammates can use the broom to sweep the ice and encourage your stone to reach the target. Your opponents can use the broom to sweep the ice and keep the stone moving past the target. I joined some other visitors for a lot of practice and a lot of fun.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

When a Pencil Becomes a Destination

IMG_3707I love using pencils of all kinds. Pencils graded and numbered for drawing. Did you know that Henry David Thoreau created our numbering system for hardness/softness (i.e. light/dark)?  Mechanical pencils for notes at meetings. The classic No. 2 yellow pencil for nostalgia. Finding a pencil sharpener these days is as hard as finding a phone booth. But they make all these cool small sharpeners that fit in your pocket. The eraser on the end never seems to last as long as the lead. Maybe I make more mistakes than most, but it gives me an excuse to buy separate erasers.

So it may not surprise you that when I was in New York City I twisted my cousin’s arm to go with me to CW Pencil Enterprise in Chinatown. It was also meant to be a lesson in using the subway. She uses an app to find the best routes and honestly it was like watching someone who is really good at using Word or Excel show you a shortcut. It all happened so fast that I didn’t learn much except the subway seems well used and looks antique.

IMG_3709I digress. Pencils! So many in one place. A store dedicated to the humble pencil. It is a delight and seems like an “only in New York City” kind of thing. I could have fondled the pencils all afternoon. Alas, we were also going to a Broadway performance later. So I bought a lot of pencils, stickers, journals and children’s books. Oh and some erasers. The whole experience made me happy!


Do you know what also made me happy? This video that my bff Harriet shared on Facebook. If it doesn’t make you smile then maybe you need to spend some time getting reacquainted with the humble yet mighty pencil.

Perfect Day in Central Park

Some people would say Central Park is not at its best in January. The greatness of Central Park is that it is terrific year round.


When the tree limbs are bare and the sun is working hard to shine, you notice the statues more, and without the quacking ducks and geese you hear the horses hooves on the pavement as they pull the carriage by.

My mom and I just enjoyed a weekend in New York City. She wanted to spend time in Central Park. She is 82 years strong, although her knees give out after a third of a mile. So we walked from our hotel to Rockefeller Plaza to watch the ice skaters, then called Lyft.  Our driver dropped us right at Tavern on the Green where I made a reservation a week ago on Open Table.

We slept in because for the first time in I don’t know how long, neither of us had pets to wake us up. And then I walked around the corner to Essa Bagel to get bagels. So it hadn’t been long since breakfast. Nonetheless at 1:30 p.m. we happily dove into cobb salad (me) and crab cocktail (Mom).


I expected something much more humble because it had “tavern” in the name. Wow. It is really beautiful and the service is great and the food is great. And it only has 2 $$ on Open Table, which in New York City means entrees are in the $20-30 range. It was so worth it. Even my mom, who has been on Weight Watchers her whole life, said we should splurge on the apple crisp a la mode. The ice cream was incredibly rich and delicious.

When we were done we felt like walking. We set off for the lake to see where Stuart Little sailed his boat. It was iced over and quiet except for the high school kids living out their Glee fantasies. We sat on a bench unraveling a ball of yarn and watching people and dogs.


We continued but it was very cold, thankfully without wind, so we sat on a few more benches. I realized that Mom needed to warm up. Previously I had researched a few yarn shops. It made sense to head to the closest one where she could sit and get warm and I could call Lyft.

We made it to Strings at 144 E. 74th Street. It would be a super store if the salespeople were friendly. Instead I had a sullen woman act as though my desire to buy yarn and patterns was the biggest imposition. Plus Mom had to walk up a flight of stairs and then back down. You also have to ring a buzzer to get into the stairs. It’s all kind of Upper East Side snooty. I did buy yarn though because they had some yarn I had never seen before.

We rode back to the hotel and Mom rested so we’d be ready for our musical later in the evening. I was worried that she was disappointed with how little we walked in the Park. She was thrilled. She estimated that we walked miles so I’m glad we didn’t have a fitbit to contradict her. I enjoyed our day and the cold didn’t bother us much with an extra shawl for warmth and her special scarf hat and long underwear.