Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wagon Queen Family Truckster

Add caption
Remember the Wagon queen Family Truckster? Of course you do.  Chevy Chase drove it in National Lampoon's Vacation.

Also, Christie Brinkley was in that film.  She drove a Ferrari with license plates that spelled "LOVE ME."

Christie Brinkley is also an avid cyclist.

Here, Ms. Brinkley demonstrates safe bicycle attire - by wearing full-finger gloves, she is adding comfort for her palms, and also providing a measure of protection to her fingers in the event of a crash. Still, I question her choice of a "French cut" cycling suit and a black leather saddle on what appears to be a hot, sunny day. 

Where was I?  Oh yeah, Family Truckster.

What makes the WQFT memorable is that Clark Griswold didn't really want it in the first place.  But he needed a car to take his family cross-county from Chicago to "Wally World" in California.  And the Wagon Queen is what the car dealer talked Clark into when the car he really wanted was unavailable.  In the end Clark settled for the Truckster, because he just wanted to bond with his family on the road trip and he needed a car.  As we all know, the trip didn't work out the way he hoped.  Clark's struggle to create happy family memories comically unraveled.  Everyone laughed, except me.  See, I relate to Clark.

This is my family truckster:

It weighs approximately 3.8 metric tons.  And, with a kid on the back who is pedaling halfheartedly,and full bags, the weight increases to an even 4 tons.  Needless to say, it's not exactly a Ferrari.

The little Griswolds
Still, I have put thousands of miles on this bike.  Every year for the last six years or so, I have taken the family truckster down from the ceiling in the garage, at great personal risk of hernia.  (You ever lift 3.8 metric tons over your head?)  And I prepare the beast for a family bike tour.
You picture my happy family cycling idyllically.  A sunny day, an empty road, and smiling children.

You'd be wrong.  My kids grew up on bikes.  So, it's no different than the road trips we all suffered through as kids, riding in the back of the Family Truckster.  My daughter sits on the back of the tandem and screams "stop it!" at my son, who is riding behind and pestering her for his own amusement.  Every 15 minutes or so, someone asks "how much further is it?"  And, somebody forgot to pee before we left the house.  Somebody always forgets to pee before we leave the house. 

But it's cool, since I got them the Pee Pee Bottle.  Even had them customized.

It's nice because they fit right in the bottle cages on the tandem.  Just don't get them confused with your water bottle.  Unless you're into that.  Then whatever.  Plus, it's totally washable, so it's way more eco-friendly than that Gatorade bottle you're currently using for urine collection.

Where were we again?  Oh yes, the family truckster.  The bike tours we go on are usually a week long.  But we have to train for them for a couple months.  Everyone has to be strong enough to comfortably ride 50+ miles per day.  And if there's anything that kids love, it's repetitive athletic training!

Then, once we finally are ready for the tour, we overload our car.

Clark Griswold would be proud.

 And we head for a crowded park, fairground, or schoolyard, we get to sleep in small tents together.

My oldest son flips and flops in his bed like a terrier running in his sleep.  And my middle kid smells like feet.  I'm no peach either.  My son says I snore and have "old man smell."   

Then, we venture throughout the tour locale, wearing helmets at all times, so that nobody confuses us with regular people.  Kind of like how tourists can be identified by the cameras swinging from their necks.  That way, the locals know we're bike dorks and can treat us accordingly. 

"Are you on the bike tour?"  No ma'am, we are just concerned with bridge safety.
So, why do it at all?  Well, because I like riding bikes.  It isn't stretchy-pants go-fast riding, or crash-through-the-woods-and-hit-a-tree riding.  This is something different.  And while you have to be fit, it's not really an athletic endeavor.  No, it is something else. 

It's probably because I'm not very good at doing kid stuff.  And I don't have much that I can do with the kids.  So, this is the way I spend time with them - like Clark Griswold, I force them to accompany me on my kind of adventure. 

 My kids put up with it.  It doesn't even matter if Wally World is closed when we get there, because on bike tours, the journey is the destination.  And riding on vacation is better than driving, despite what you may have heard.

Oh good, because I was getting really tired of car buying for a while there.
Although I'd really like to have a Wagon Queen Family Truckster. 

Your beer pairing:
Seventh Son Humulus Nimbus:

This incredible "Super Pale Ale" was only available on tap.  But Seventh Son recently started canning it!

American Strong Ale and Humulus Nimbus cans
And because they love me, they put it in tall boys!  I love you guys too!

If you haven't checked out Seventh Son, go do it!  Do it bravely, son!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who is Rui Costa?

This is Rui Costa.  He's the guy at the Lisbon airport, sitting in that little glass box, who checked my passport.  But it's not really a picture of Rui Costa.  They wouldn't let me take a picture of him, even though I only really wanted a picture of his namebadge.  See, they're funny about taking pictures of passport officials at airports.  Not funny ha-ha, more like funny lead you away in zip-tie handcuffs to a small room with a locked door.

So, it's not really Rui Costa.  Also, he's not the Rui Costa I'm talking about.

Rui Costa in his national team kit
This is Rui Costa.  Or, more precisely, Rui Manuel Cesar Costa, following the Portuguese tradition of giving everyone way too many damn names.  He's a retired Portuguese footballer (or "soccerer" for those of us in the US), who is now a coach (or "trainer" for you Premier League snobs).  He had an outstanding career as a midfielder for Benefica in Portugal, as well as AC Milan and Florintina in Italy.  He also played for his country in the 2002 World Cup. 

But he's not the Rui Costa I'm talking about.

This is Rui Costa.  Or, more precisely, Rui Alberto Fario da Costa.  He's currently the team leader for the Lampre-Merida cycling team, much to the chagrin of many US Americans, who'd prefer to see Costa's teammate Chris Horner as the team leader.

That's Horner on the right, looking salty.
My favorite part of this photo is that it is timeless.  Euro-sporty style is such a hot mess that this photo could have been taken anytime in the last 50 years.  Also, is it just me, or does Richeze bear a striking resemblance to Robert De Niro?

Chris Horner, you're outside the circle of trust
Anyhow, Rui Costa is the current World Road Champion and is a three-time Tour de Suisse winner.  He has also previously won stages at the Tour.

That's Costa on the left behind the cast of Jersey Shore, I think, wearing the World champion stripes
He is currently 13th on the Tour.  And he appears to be a really nice guy.  According to Klaus of Cycling Inquisition, Costa spends a considerable amount of time on the Tour riding around greeting fans, taking selfies with them, and signing autographs.  So much so, that he awarded Costa the "Golden Peacock award."

Photo by Cycling Inquisition

But this not Rui Costa.  This is my friend Pedro Carvalho.  He might be the most interesting man in the world.

Check out Pedro at Mountain Biking in Lisbon
Anyhow, Pedro explained to me that the Portugese are nuts for Rui Costa.  Costa has caused a renewed interest in road cycling and a boom in road bikes in Portugal.  He is probably also responsible for all those guys I saw squeezed into that awful Lampre kit riding around Portugal.

I don't understand what's going on here.
What I'd look like in Lampre gear
I'm kind of jealous of Portugal having Rui Costa.  Not since Lance has America had a cycling hero that grabbed the nation's attention (even beyond bike nerds).  I kind of miss him for that.  And I'm mad about it too.  But whatever.

Did I mention I saw Lance having a beer at a bike show in Portugal? Pretty sure he was working there.

Hey, a guy's gotta eat.
Pedro took me on a mountain bike tour near Sintra, Portugal.  The scenery is amazing.  I'm jealous about that too. 


Your beer pairing:

Sovina beers.  Basically the only craft beer I came across in Portugal.  It was pretty good.  Give it a shot if you ever find it. 

Go be brave.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

American Cyclists Are Soft

Gonna take you right into the danger zone
I have said it before, cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity.  Still, there is some element of danger.  For mountain bikers, the danger is somewhat contrived and largely can be controlled.  For the most part, we go out on trails that have been built by people like us, for people like us.  We ride them at our own pace, and injuries are mostly the result of our own mistakes.

Sure, wrecks happen.  Usually they are the result of operator error or the rider riding beyond their abilities.  That's what mountain bikers call "learning."  

A cheap lesson
This is not to say that people don't get hurt on mountain bikes.  Like skiing or skateboarding, falls and crashes happen, and often at speed.  In fact, most mountain bikers' shins look like hamburger during riding season.  There are serious injuries too, but these are rare.

Drew gets it done
On paper, road biking seems even safer than mountain biking.  All you really have to do is keep your bike upright on a flat surface, and keep pedaling.  Of course, a true roadie won't enjoy the ride unless it's a little too fast paced or a little too long, so they can get some pain and suffering out of it.  Still, riding on well-paved roads in nice weather seems pretty safe.

Trouble is, crashing on the road usually has more serious consequences than in the woods.  Sure, pavement hurts, but at least you won't get run over in the woods.  In my estimation, this makes roadies braver than mountain bikers.

Of course, despite all the complaining, American roads tend to be pretty wide, fairly straight, and in good repair.  We even have some marking warning drivers of cyclists.  And in central Ohio, you can usually find some low-traffic country roads pretty easily.

 Of course, it's not that easy to be a roadie in other parts of the world. 

I'm in Portugal right now, and the roads are mainly clean and well-maintained, but they look something like this:

The Portugese wouldn't know what do do with roads like ours in central Ohio.  They'd probably get lost just trying to cross the street.  (Just kidding, everyone knows that the Portugese are excellent navigators). 

Vasco de Gama, discoverer of the hilliest route through Westerville
But narrow, busy roads don't keep people from riding bikes. And, while Portugal has a lower per-capita traffic fatality rate than the US, their rate of fatalities in relationship to the number of cars is higher.  (Some of these countries are posting some scary numbers).  Thus proving something or other.  Where were we?

Oh yes, people ride bikes.  In fact, I sat on a hill near my house and watched bike after bike go by on Saturday.

My hill:

As you can see, the road is quite narrow, up a hill, and bordered by a stone wall on one side and a hill on the other.  Cars had no choice but to pass close.

Still, the riders kept coming.  It was a constant stream on Sunday morning - just like on many country roads in central Ohio.

Anyhow, I figure that roadies in places like this are the toughest cyclists of all.  They face the steepest consequences for a failure.  But they're still out there having fun.  I'm jealous that I don't have a road bike available.  Next time.

Your beer pairing:
Super Bock.

Because there are basically two beers available here, and this one is better than the other one.

Ser corajoso!