Friday, January 25, 2008

Got a Girl in the War

Bev called late last night. The Battalion’s flight has been delayed almost a month. This is because even after two years of deployment the chain of command still cannot pull its very large head out of its enormous ass; the task at hand to organize and schedule a flight out of Afghanistan home to Arizona.

The chain of command, Gentle Readers of This Blog, could not even organize a BBQ for family day at the Unit for a Sunday afternoon here in Tucson. The Cadre of officers remains indifferent to the men they are responsible for, and the 1st Sgt of the Battalion—on his return to the US of A, will go back to doing what he does best: being a drunk.

My Girl in the War is one of the sharpest people I know—her only fault is that she re-joined the Nat’l Guard with an ideal it would be as squared-away as her first Unit was back in Vermillion, South Dakota. The unit she joined, right before 911, she soon discovered, was populated by a sorry lot of worthless-fucks.

When the war started, and rumor of the Unit being deployed—the gun-ho Roger Ram-jet NCO-types found a way to get out of quickly. All the soldiers in the Unit who remained (they were ordered by the Commander not to try to get out) were actually happy these losers slinked into the shadows. Bev thought them cowards anyway.

I am not disrespecting the Rank and File, of which my wife is a member. She was in fact ordered by the Commander to be sure and be on that deployment roster—he told her the young, unmarried guys working in his command center were useless, and they would be left State Side.

I believe I should end this rant soon. But I will leave you, Gentle and Faithful Reader of This Blog, with one last account of my thoughts on the subject. You see, one Saturday I was out riding by myself, and on the road as well, was a fellow cyclist. We greeted each other and soon were in friendly conversation. To my amazement, this new found friend was one of the helicopter mechanics at the airbase, and knew my wife’s Unit quite well.

At 50 years old, he was ready to retire from the Nat’l Guard, but was now being told he could not—but somehow he was able to have the chance and really wanted to move on with retirement.

He told me in confidence that the mission of the unit was deeply flawed; a combination of political and military back-stabbing at HQ PHX. Besides this intrigue, the Unit, whilst in Afghanistan, would be fighting fanatics armed with sticks and rocks against our guys armed with photon torpedoes.

Imagine yourself working at the corner store. The locals come in to buy gas, maybe some chips. The neighborhood kids pour in after school to get candy bars and ice cream. One day some guy comes in and buys a six pack of beer. You know—nothing out of the ordinary.

What you don’t know is that Army Intel has pegged this guy as a member of the Taliban, and this very afternoon a squadron of Apache Gunships are choppin’ the blue and about to pay a visit.

Before you can even exhale your last breath—your store and half the block—and everyone and everything walking, sleeping, eating, playing, shitting, dreaming—are vaporized.

The morning of 911 I saw neighborhood kids come out to line up for the school bus—looking up at the sky with fear in their eyes for planes that would fall and kill them.

I see that same look in the eyes of Iraqi and Afghani kids on the TV sometimes.

Jesus Christ…

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ride of the Blue Pheonix

A cold day cycling in South Mountain Park--Pheonix.

Instead of riding from Scottsdale (a.k.a. Muledale) where Steve Star of the Blog has a shack, we drive about 30 miles or more to our breakfast place.

Gentle Reader of This Blog, after many e-mails, and even a phone call to mon vieux, I convinced him that we should alter plans. First--I've bronchitis for two long weeks from my trip home to Tulsa. Second--we won't be getting up at 4 a.m. to start our ride at 5 a.m. to get to our breakfast place by 6 a.m. to get to South Mountain Park by 7 a.m. -- I say we get up at 6, drive in, then eat and be on the way to South Mtn by 7 - 7:30. By this time it should be sunny and warm! Let's see--okay, Third--28 degrees! No way! I'm not ready to freeze my ass off. Four--We ride South Mtn and then drive home. Normally we'd have to march our way back to Muledale--through Tempe, Phx, and Scottsdale--traffic and waiting at every stop-light. No, let's just get back home and have dinner at Said Shack!

Out on Riggs Rd, we see a group coming along. We jump on the paceline, after asking if it's okay. They're on their way to South Mtn as well. We ride at 21 mph thru the Gila Bend Resevation without stopping for a beat! Eventually, a few people get dropped and the we slow down and eventually stop to re-group. Steve and I keep going as the paceline takes a rest.

We are traveling through some old ranch land Southwest of Pheonix.

Still a working Ranch.

Still a bit chilly. There's lots of sun, but it is the winter sun.

The TV Towers on top of South Mtn. As I'm still recovering from bronchitis, we're not going to climb all four vistas today.

We're in the park and our fist layer has been stowed. We still need our leg warmers late morning.

One of these days I'm going to be goin' for that shot--and I'll either drop the camera or hug terra firma. Out on this first vista, the San Juan, cars are not allowed. The pavement is glassy-smooth and you gain speed quickly.

Steve Star of the Blog rides strong.

The City of Pheonix in the background from San Juan Vista.

Steve is on the cell phone to Kim back in Scottsdale--dinner plans are being coordinated, Gentle Readers of This Blog! Kim says to come home with an appetite!

To get back to the Mystery Van for the drive, we have to navigate Baseline Rd. For a few miles, the sidewalk is the safest way and quickest way to travel.

We take a shortcut through a private exclusive sub-division--by squeezing past the opulant iron gate entrance.

Got to take the Bridge of No Return over Interstate 10.

Over the bridge and into Guadalupe which has the feel of a small Mexican town.

Guadalupe is quite a change from the rich white people gated community. Guadalupe is friendly and everyone waves hello as we pass by.

Now in Tempe, we are close to Arizona State University.

Let's get a quick bite--but not so much we spoil our dinner.

A quick trip through the big park in Tempe.

I think this is Baseline and University where the Mystery Van is parked.

From here we would have the 30 mile ride back to Scottsdale. Of course in the wee-hours of the morning we fly thru the city as there's not even a mouse stirring. In the afternoon however, traffic is moving and we dart, duck, and sprint as we make our way home.

That's Camelback Mtn in the background.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter Count -- Afghanistan

Bev is on her way home from Afghanistan.
Her deployment has been almost two years.

She is indifferent about cycling and thinks it too dangerous anyway.

Flying over the Afghan-Pakistan border is much more fun!

I’ve joked that we’ll get Bev out on the tandem—
I’ll mount a machine gun on John’s head so she will feel at home.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day Ride

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope you got out to ride--if not--check out our NYD's Ride to Oracle, Arizona. By the way, one goal I had this year was to ride the old Raleigh Marathon for New Year's Day.

Susan took care of Callie while I was out of town.

We met up with John, Kathy, and Shock on Tangerine near Dog Mtn. John and Kathy are on the tandum

Shock is in the House!

Kathy and John.

Looking East to Mt. Lemmon. We're on Moore Rd.

RBA of Arizona Randonneurs

We've met up with Joan and Larry at Rancho Vistoso. Now we're getting ready to head North up Oracle to the town of Oracle, Arizona, Gentle Readers of This Blog.

Gerry Goode is a no-show this year. Should we go by his place up in Saddlebrook? And hand him a "Jackass Pass" ? Too cold for him and stayed in bed.

Catalina, Arizona at a stop light. We are climbing about 1500 feet and its getting a bit chilly.

Wind is picking up.

Larry and Joan on their tandum.

Snow on Mt. Lemmon.

Larry and Joan make things look easy, as always.

The last 10 miles up have been windy and cold!

Eagle Wing meets us at the entrance of Biosphere 2--just about three miles left until the restaurant.

When we pull out, I stay right on the wheel of John and Kathy's tandum--Shock right on my wheel, Susan, Eric, Joan and Larry--for the final assult on Oracle. Headwind is making us work hard. We all vote to take the short-cut and get out of the wind.


Shock and Awe!

Happy New Year! And Happy Birthday to Kathy--like me, and John--she's 39 years young!

As soon as we sit at our table--Dave Glasgow appears! Dave is doing well and getting back on the bike. Today he drove up to meet us and wish everyone well. Rehab for the broken leg has made him stronger. His doctors say he will be 100% in about six months--just as strong as before being struck by the Taxi this summer.

Looks like Joan needs to drink that coffee! And wake up!

Susan and Dave.

New cycling winter jacket bought for me by mum back in Tulsa. I know I'll use it often during the brevets this year! And, mes amis, check out the bike--it was great to ride and I had a good vibe pedaling along. I did have a bit of a problem with the tension shifters which Larry quickly diagnosed and fixed with a screwdriver. He tightened them up with a few turns right before the climb up to Oracle--thank goodness!

The position on the bike is a bit different than I'm used to riding. My arse is a bit tender as it seemed I was more in an upright position than stretched out on my LeMond.

Taking pictures on a 69 cm frame was like sky cam. When in the group, I could see well over everone's head, and Susan and Shock enjoyed quite a fine draft as we laboured up Hwy 77, which is Oracle Rd, to the restaurant...

the ride home after lunch...

After staying at the restaurant way too long—we finally got back in the saddle for the ride back. This would great because we’d have the tailwind and the descent. Just as we took off down the road, Susan’s chain came off. I stopped to help her out, but she put it back on in a matter of moments. Still—stopping for just a moment—the rest of the group had soared ahead. That wouldn’t be a problem as we would re-group.

Sailing down the road at a good speed, I thought I heard Susan shout, “Bruce!” I stopped and turned around to see her off the bike again. I thought it might be the chain once more—but after a few minutes it was obviously some other problem. I crossed busy Hwy 77 and climbed back up the other way to her. By then I could see her changing a tube. But the tire had been split and she had to patch the tear. Then once we got the tube and tire going, it became clear that the new un-used tube was defective! We had to change the tire again.

By this time, with the wind and descent, the gang was five or six miles ahead. When we reached Rancho Vistoso, we had to make a stop to peel off a layer of clothing as it had gotten warm now. So a cell phone call informed John and the group that we’d see them some other time, which meant Susan and I wouldn’t have to play catch-up. It was race the sun back to Dog Mtn from here on out.

We took turns drafting back home and soon found ourselves flying to Dog Mtn and Tangerine traffic light—with a quick right, a right, and one more quick right—we were home at 5pm; 64 miles later!

Happy New Year to All! Bruce