2020 a Year Like No Other

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This photo with Jens Voigt was taken in May 2017 at the Tour of California. The US’ premier bike race has now been suspended indefinitely. This week long event was struggling financially and Corona was the last straw. Sacramento will be poorer for not seeing a race segment. 

Sometimes this Corona season seems like a weird tear in the time space continuum. Then something happens that makes it feel so much more real. Like when the NBA cancelled the season. So when I read this morning’s sports headline, “Tour de France cancelled” I again felt “this shit is real.” Because when the greedy managers of the Tour de France who faithfully put profit before cyclist safety decide to cancel for 2020, the pandemic must be super serious.

And of course it is super serious. Not that we have to lose our sense of humor. There are plenty of people making YouTube videos that provide the lighter side. Britain is ahead on this front. They may not be exemplary on their COVID response but who would not smile at The Sound of a Pandemic?  They need some cheer: the Royal Horticulture Society’s Chelsea Flower Show normally scheduled for mid-May has officially been cancelled (but may be going virtual–watch this space.)

For all of us who live through this, we will immediately remember this COVID experience when we see the *asterisk on lists of event winners in the competitions we love to participate in or watch. Hopefully it will help us appreciate a new normal one day and not take the things we love for granted.

Meanwhile I am traveling in my imagination through fiction and memoir. Or creating my own urban garden oasis while binging on the Britbox Chelsea Flower Show coverage of 2019.  Maybe you will be racing your own Tour de Peloton. Those of us lucky to have a secure home and some income, we can plan adventures for beyond Corona. And open our pocketbooks to give something to those hurting from the economic downturn or who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID now.

Take care of yourself.

 

Cycling Round Sacramento

3Z0B0GuiQ8uWnfkA+GdsPgThis weekend I spent Saturday afternoon enjoying what my hometown has to offer. Sacramento has invested in protected bike lanes and traffic safety. And now the Jump scooters and electric bike programs are fully implemented. I rode my own cruiser round town and couldn’t help but smile at the number of people enjoying the bright red Jump scooters and bikes. Why not? The sun was shining and a light breeze kept the temperature in the 80’s. Trees are leafing out on every avenue, roses around the capitol are heavy in bloom, and the rivers are running full.

I cycled across Midtown to my favorite local spot, Easy on I, for a brunch steak with breakfast potatoes (yum!). Then I traveled across 16th Street into downtown. Families were excitedly headed to the Convention Center for the Lego event. Young girls in white were posing for photos after their first communion, wedding parties set digital memories in front of the Capitol, and a poker tournament was getting underway at Morton’s.

I stopped in the middle of Capitol Mall to check out the Jorge Marin “Wings of the City” statues. One is designed for taking photos to look as if you have just touched down from your own flight over the capitol. The other two are interesting and part of an exhibit sponsored by the City of Sacramento, the Mexican Consulate and the Jorge Martin Foundacion. There are nine monumental pieces of bronze sculpture located around the perimeter of the capitol.

eO%Gd6IhR3mXQnGxy9ExLAMy destination was the River Walk Park in West Sacramento. It is just across the Tower Bridge (on the other side of the river from Old Sacramento state park). The City of West Sacramento has done a great job developing their side of the Sacramento River. I was going to listen to my friend Nailah Pope-Harden speak at the March for Science. It made a great setting, but I wondered if participation was dampened at all by people who aren’t familiar with the River Walk Park. It was my first visit.

I cycled home thinking how wonderful our city is for young people, families, and old farts like me.  Next weekend Sacramento will be hosting the Tour of California bike race. We will welcome bicycling professionals and their fans to our fair city. See you soon.

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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.

A good reason to leave London: Winchester

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As a cycling fan, I knew I made the right choice to include Winchester in my vacation plans when I walked to a late lunch and had to detour around an amateur bike race! I found the The Old Vine pub restaurant and was able to get a seat with a view of the race. The food was delicious–pub food has certainly been given a serious uplift since the 1980s and 90s.

I wasn’t more than a 5 minute walk to the doorstep of the Winchester Cathedral. Just in time for Evensong. Naturally I did not have to pay an entrance fee to attend worship, but I gladly paid 8 pounds the next day when I returned for a proper tour of the Cathedral with UK Sarah and her friend from Winchester, Adrienne.

The Winchester Cathedral is truly impressive. I enjoyed it more for seeing it with a long time parishioner Adrienne.

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The Cathedral Crypt

We spent over an hour going around the Cathedral and enjoyed a great conversation.

We were ready for a coffee and I had read about Chococo chocolate and coffee cafe. Adrienne agreed that it was a terrific idea and we ended our time together drinking coffee and eating desserts. Delicious.

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10 Reasons to Return to Copenhagen

There is just too much to do in Copenhagen and I only had 2 full days. I loved every minute so it is a matter of when, not if, I return to Copenhagen.

Here are the 10 activities I look forward to (and with my grandkids someday):

  1. I really hoped that I could have rented a bike and searched for the Giants in a scavenger hunt. Next time.
  2. The Resistance Museum was closed due to fire damage in 2013 and will reopen at the end of 2018. Next time, or the time after that.
  3. I drooled over the royal horses training in the arena and in the future I will visit the Royal Stables.  IMG_1132
  4. Denmark has made such a big impression for a small country of 5.5 million people on the world of design. In the future I will check out the Design Museum Denmark.
  5. I only lightly sampled the world of desserts and pastries. In the future I will try the Bertel‘s cheesecake.
  6. When my grandson Calvin is old enough, we will go to Tivoli Gardens amusement park for the day. IMG_1295
  7. Several people suggested taking the boat tour through the canals and rivers of Copenhagen. I opted for the bike tour. Next time.
  8. I’m fascinated by the history of Denmark. In the future I will visit the Museum of National History Denmark.
  9. The oldest sweet shop in Copenhagen awaits. Must taste La Glace.
  10. Finally, and it is a two-day trip, I will take my grandson (and any other grandkids) with my new LEGO VIP card to Billund to the Danish LEGOland!

P.S. What I won’t be doing is using these two guide books to plan my future visits. They were both very disappointing and the maps particularly frustrating. TripAdvisor provided my most useful information.

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To be fair, I first read about the Louisiana MOMA in the Analogue Guide.

Tour de France 2017 Starts Tomorrow

This year, as in every year, I briefly thought I would watch the Tour de France casually. I would not become obsessed and thus avoid the highs and lows of cycling in July and the gutted feeling when it is over and forgo getting up at 5:30 a.m. PST.

Then I got this email.

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 9.51.21 AMI bought the NBC Sports Gold pass for cycling during the Tour of California in May. It did not include the Giro but it will include the Tour de France. I watch on my computer, follow VeloNews and the @letour on Twitter and watch every episode of Orica Scott Backstage Pass on YouTube. Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 10.06.51 AM

The favorites are Chris Froome (Sky), RIchie Porte (BMC), or Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for the overall General Classification or yellow jersey. The race begins on July 1 with a time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany. Will my favorite Tony Martin win on home turf? Will Germans Marcel Kittel or Andre Greipel turn themselves out to win a stage at home? Will Mark Cavendish be healthy enough to compete? Will best rider in the world Peter Sagan win the green jersey again? We’ll know when Le Tour finishes in Paris on July 23rd.

If you like listening to podcasts. My cycling favorite is The 3 Domestiques. I listen on the Stitcher app to Matt Keenan, Sam Edmunds and Dan Jones discuss pro-cycling with great interviews.

So set your alarm and don’t miss the drama, the athleticism, and the tradition.

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I bought this fan kit in England and mailed it home in a box of books. It just arrived!

 

Dining Out in Copenhagen: a city of great food

Thanks to Bike Mike, I had two great places to eat dinner and two nights available. The “Paper Island” is a warehouse filled with lots of street food. (A lot like the Portland street food but with a roof and lots of picnic tables.) And the other recommendation was for 108, a bistro started by noma alumni Kristian Baumann. The front desk staff at Absalom Hotel called 108. A table for one was available at 5 or 9 on either open evening. The restaurant also said they only take reservations for half their tables so I could try walking in at another time.

Noma shut in December 2016 so the team could reimagine the restaurant and menu in a new location. Meanwhile, 108 continued to serve up great food at a fraction of the price in a lively atmosphere at Strandgade 108. I am not a foodie, so I was a little nervous. It was the best food adventure I have experienced.

The wait staff worked as a team so I was never left long without something new to try and they all spoke English and were very interested in how I received each dish. They recommended I order three small savory dishes and one sweet. Then I also ordered a glass of bubbly and a cup of coffee with dessert. The couple next to me ordered two savory small plates plus a large plate to share (the monk fish), then after I gave them a bite of one of my dishes, they ordered it too. They also each ordered a different dessert to share. We were all enjoying the atmosphere and the tastes, each more incredible than the last.

I cannot do justice to the various dishes, except to say that I didn’t know that fresh, fresh peas and fresh, fresh caviar with rapeseed blossoms could taste so amazing. And that after eating the shaved truffles on the dumplings of braised pork, I thought I could smell truffle for the next 24 hours. All of this super adventurous eating and drinking for about $75 US.

IMG_1190At the opposite end of the cost curve was the street food, just down the way along the waterfront to a warehouse called “Paper Island” in English. I circled the various vendors twice and decided on the toasted sandwiches at Spoon. I asked the young man making my sandwich where he would recommend for fries. He said the best were at the place across the hall–the only place that fries them in duck fat. They were both delicious. I also bought a local beer at the “bar” in the middle that allows you to stay and dine at the tables while you go back and forth fetching more food. I also got a recommendation for a cheesecake place, Bertels, on the way home. My intention was to walk home and stop along the way, but the rain was lashing and I hailed a cab once I crossed the pedestrian bridge.

Mike’s recommendations were both super. So you may also want to try one of the traditional Danish restaurants known for smorresbord, but only if open-faced pickled herring sandwiches chased with a shot of schnapps (snaps) sounds divine. It sounds like a fast track to a nap to me!

Mike’s other recommendation was to rent a bike and cycle to both Paper Island or 108. This is a very good idea because it is a long way to walk and the taxi ride is about $30 from the central station. Remember rush hour starts early in Copenhagen as most people begin their commute home between 4 and 5 p.m.