ornament 31 October 2012 ornament

3 State 3 Mountain Challenge 2012, Part 1

Given the recent Lance Armstrong and pro cycling doping scandals, I thought it might be worthy to show what the cycling world looks like more often than not — that is, undoped, unpaid, underprepared, and wickedly fun.  What follows is a report (in three parts) from an ride I undertook earlier this year.

One hundred miles in a day

In the opening to the band Alabama’s song “Mountain Music,” an old man wearily groans, “See that mountain over there? One of these days I’m gonna climb that mountain…”  We’re not told why the old man wants to climb the mountain. Perhaps it’s the clichéd “because it’s there” or perhaps he simply needs to get out of the valley. Whatever the reason it is that we scale such heights, there was plenty of mountain climbing available in Chattanooga’s 25th Anniversary 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge on 5 May 2012 — and for me, some left over.

The century bicycle ride wasn’t the first 100- mile trek I had done (I rode the excellent Storming of Thunder Ridge in central Virginia in 2011), but this course certainly put me in my place.  More about that later — for now, let’s start at the beginning.

Départ

With around 1500 riders in the race (I think, judging from the finish results), the starting line was pretty crowded. Keep in mind, this is only the third organized ride I’ve ever done, but it was by far the largest group.  The start outside Finley Stadium was well-orchestrated, however, and traffic was managed to keep us all riding smoothly to the first climbs just outside downtown Chattanooga.

Thankfully, most other riders were more experienced than me with pack riding, so it was relatively safe. I did, however, have to make an emergency stop to retrieve a water bottle when I veered onto an outside-lane rumble strip on a descent that sent my much-needed 2nd bottle into the ditch.

Elevation Profile of 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge 2012 from MapMyRide

Aetna Mountain

As you can see from the course profile, it wasn’t long before the roads began going up. The first “real mountain” was a short, gradual climb up the side of Aetna Mountain. I mean no disrespect here, but the only way I could be sure that we were on the mountain was by looking at my odometer — it was that easy a climb. It did have a fun and fast descent where I picked up my maximum speed for the day (42mph) on the long and straight ride down to the water.

Shortly thereafter, we reached Ladd’s Mountain — a smaller but similar climb to Aetna that doesn’t figure into the “3 Mountain” count. Ladd’s seemed to take as much effort as Aetna, and was easily manageable. Upon the descent of Ladd’s Mountain, I reached the first food station at 23 miles, with dark clouds looming overhead. I had learned from my previous century that the first rest station one is not one at which to make a pit stop. The lines were long, so after a quick top-off of my bottles, I was quickly back on the bike, but I was too late — large, heavy drops of water began to fall from the sky.

Continued in part 2…

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ornament 8 October 2012 ornament

Knuckleball! is a hit you shouldn’t miss

As a kid, I remember playing catch with my Dad when he would throw peculiar pitch that didn’t spin like the others — it sort of floated in the air without spinning and seemed like it would never get to my glove. It was, of course, a knuckleball — a pitch that goes against everything that high-heat baseball pitching stands for.

Knuckleball!, a new documentary released last month in select theaters and on Video On-Demand, follows this unorthodox pitch through the lens of two of its purveyors: Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox — who made a career of the knuckleball, and former Tennessee Volunteer R.A. Dickey, who has blossomed onto the scene with the Mets in the last couple of years following a long difficult road as a conventional pitcher.

The film follows the pitch and its pitchers as a metaphor for life: You can’t control it, and once it leaves your hand, it has a mind of its own.

Watch it.

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ornament 5 October 2012 ornament

Christ, conspiracy, and code

A big thanks to The Gospel Coalition for running my thoughts on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code as part of their “Reading for Worldviews” series:

Conspiracy theorists may operate under the guise of seeking truth, but in reality they’re driven by cynicism. Any new revelation casts further doubt, and truth becomes separated from the seeker by a cloud of suspicion. Hence the Jesus of The Da Vinci Code is unknowable, shrouded in codes.

Read the rest here.

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ornament 4 October 2012 ornament

Voter ID and Voter Ego

Do photo-less voter registration cards make it easy to vote often?

Last week, I got my Virginia voter registration card in the mail. My wife’s card also arrived on the same day. So did the card above, which is neither mine nor my wife’s. The address is correct, but the name (blurred intentionally in the photo) belongs to a previous owner of my house.

A previous owner who has obviously not yet moved his registration since he lived here six or seven years ago.

This isn’t merely a credit card application — something the previous owner still receives a lot of at my house — but a voter registration card.

On the card’s information page, it says, “This card serves as an official form of identification (ID) that you can use at the polling place on Election Day.”

Just this week, a Pennsylvania judge suspended a state law until after the election that would require voters to produce a photo ID in order to vote.

My situation shows why such a measure might be a good idea. Were I someone without scruples (I indeed have a few, after all), I could theoretically go in the morning with the above voter registration card (vote early), and cast my ballot Chicago-style as the previous owner of my house. Then, just to give it some space, I could return I the evening and vote as myself (vote often).

There’s little beyond my own moral sense (and fear of God) that could stop this from successfully happening. Mind you, I’m not going to vote twice, I’m simply pointing out how easy it is for fraud to occur without a photo ID.

I still haven’t heard a sensible argument along the “disenfranchisement” lines against photo IDs for voters. If you have, please enlighten me.

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