Sorry, but I had some homework to put off. But still, it's that time of year again when I go to races and then write some stuff about them. Nobody's been sending me any email either, so maybe this will generate some traffic. Here I go, then.
This year I got my tickets early, not having enjoyed the full-fare from Southwest last year for the zero-day advance purchase. I flew Continental, and they took a chunk out of my bike case. Which of course I didn't notice until I was well out of Intercontinental in the rental car lot, trying to figure out how to get my bike case into a Nissan Sentra (my "upgraded" four-door rental unit category XB). Of course I had been promised some sort of hatchback when making my reservation, but nobody actually in Houston had one. But being an engineer, I was unthwarted by the miniscule size of the folding-back-seat pass-through, and simply took off the top of the case, put the bottom with projecting bike parts onto the back seat, slid the top in front of it on the seat, and was off to the south.
It was pretty early, about 1pm, so I stopped into Pro Cycle and talked with Dan for a bit. The shop looks about the same as it always has. He did have an older Merckx, like the one Kurt used to have but about a 52. I somehow restrained myself from getting my Eddy out of the car and showing it to him. It's just a bike, right?
Next I went over to the track, and reconstituted my bike. I also noticed that it was kind of cold for Houston, like in the 50's. What did I bring in the way of cycling clothing? Two short-sleeve jerseys and shorts, of course. I put on both jerseys and shivered my way around the quite-deserted track for a few laps. Wow, what a lot of fun. Maybe some people are hanging out at Jones the day before the big event, like in the good old days? Maybe the trees and buildings will provide some shelter from the icy wind? Time to go to Jones.
Hmm. Nobody there. At all. It's about three, and I'm thinking of throwing my bike in the car and beating feet for my aunt's house before the Friday rush starts in earnest. Then as I arrive at the track I spot Jonathan Cheng, the Jones alumni bike captain. So I ride around and around with him, catching up on the Jones gossip. Later some various undergraduate people show up and ride around - what, were they in class or something? - including the Jones team. JIBA. Ride around some more. The track seems to be in pretty bumpy shape, a bit of gravel and more than a few puddles. Puddles? Rain? Better not rain tomorrow... It's now five, I'm cold and hungry, so I head for Aunt Donna's house after another engineering feat: fitting the bike with only wheels detatched into the car *with* the now-empty bike box. Ok, so I eventually had to take out the seatpost again to fit the frame into the trunk.
I arrived at the house to find I had been preceded by my mother, down from Plano to watch her second Beer-Bike. Then I let Aunt Donna and Mom take me to dinner, a nice little Mongolian BBQ place on Richmond. It's just so hard to not eat all you can eat at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, you know? I was sure the swelling in my stomach would subside by the morning.
Saturday. It's still really cold. I put my bike in the car and head for Jones. I get there. It's still really cold. I pick up my appropriately-colored wristband, my t-shirt, and sign my waiver. Waiver? Why when I was at Rice... Damn lawyers. I stand around watching the trash cans full of water balloons being wrestled onto the trucks. 12,000 water balloons this year, I'm told. Now, as it's almost time for the parade, the trucks start driving across the lawn to the road between the Jones lot and the commuter lot. The wet soggy, lawn. The trucks loaded with 12,000 water balloons. Look, two of the three trucks are now stuck in the mud. Who'd have figured? Eventually one truck is freed, and the other sunk up to the rear axle. Take off the water balloons, what, are you crazy? It's still really cold.
On to the parade, with our two remaining trucks and a substitute Dodge Ram. Oh, the hilarity of the parade, the barrages of water balloons. Is it the temperature (still, yes, really cold) or am I getting old and crusty? Hmm.
At last the parade makes it to the track, having been delayed not only by the Jones Mud Incident but by two trucks from other colleges colliding. Thus the announcement upon our arrival that the alumni race would begin in approximately ten minutes. So I rode around for a few minutes, got a pretty good practice throw and catch, and headed in to ask our illustrious captain (not me for once!) where he wanted me. I explained that I had only been riding my mountain bike to work, two days a week six miles each way, for about a month, so I didn't feel that I would be particularly fast. And two weeks before I had broken my chain while out of the saddle on the last hill on the way home, so I was still sporting a nice oozing bandaged kneecap. So he let me ride last.
It didn't look I was needed on the chug table, so I headed off to putt around the infield. Saw Gary Raven spectating. There was some bozo on a Motorola-colored Caloi with what looked like the whole Motorola team cold-weather outfit. He did say, "Oh, that's the bike, though" about my Eddy so I guess I really shouldn't call him a bozo. The race started. We began fairly well, but the three-women rule which as in years past forced the recruitment of innocent would-be spectators did its damage. By the time I was up we were solid and alone in fourth, and there we would stay. I got a nice push - for once I think Jones had a football player in the pit crew. It was still really cold. I took it kind of easy the first lap, then attempted to speed up on the last one. Somehow I crossed the line in my 12, not really having intended to use that particular gear. But it was over, and I was briefly not all that cold. Caloi-bozo said he rode three times, what a stud. I heard someone else say he was, like, sponsored.
After a cooldown lap I went over to Mom and Aunt Donna, who happened to be standing near Stephen Jump (spectating all). Then I got a beer and watched the women's race with Steve after Mom left. Official alumni results: Will Rice, Brown, Hanszen, Jones, Baker, Lovett, Weiss, GSA, Sid (DQ for lack of riders). Official women's results: Brown, Sid, Will Rice, Jones, Hanszen, Weiss, Lovett, GSA, Baker. Then we watched the men's race. Official men's results: Will Rice, Brown, Jones, Lovett, GSA, Weiss, Baker, Hanszen, Sid (DQ). Look at the official results yourself at http://www.rice.edu/projects/thresher/issues/84/970321/Features/Story04.html- I was waiting to see all the results myself since I wasn't paying all that much attention. It gets more difficult to maintain detailed interest in the undergraduate thing the further in time I get from the good old days. Yeah, that's why it's taken me 2 1/2 weeks to get around to writing this.
Back to Jones for the traditional cookout, which this year was in the form of a pile of Subway sandwiches supplemented by the masters' brownies and ice cream. More hanging out and feeling very old, since there are now no longer any undergraduates that I know directly (other than from coming back for Beer-Bike). Will this be the last year Henry goes to revisit his past Beer-Bike glory? Just maybe I'll give it one more go, because true to their word the more-organized-than-usual Jones BB organizers had times for the alumni race, and according to them I was 1'19.96", not too far off the reported alum record of 1:18. Now I cursed the Weiss bozo who cut in front of me as he was coming out of the pits - I stopped pedaling for a couple of seconds at least before going around him. Oh well.
Eventually I got cold again, even wearing two shirts and two pairs of shorts, so I went back to my aunt's house. Again I was taken to dinner, this time a small cantina featuring no waiting. Unlike the more popular places we tried first. Still, after all this chasing around after dinner I was late to the Jones Alumni Official Post-race Party that Jonathan had set up at a pub in the Village. When I finally arrived an hour late, I found no one who looked like they belonged to Jones, so I got to just drive right back out to Dairy Ashford again. Woo-hoo.
Then I went to bed, got up, drove to Intergalactic early enough to get in line and make my flight but not early enough to go complain about my bike box and stand in line twice, flew back to Salt Lake, and drove home. A mostly successful trip, I would say. It didn't cost me as much as last year (no lost bike either) or especially the year before that.