1996: Albuquerque, Mono & The Gipsy Kings

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1996 was my make or break year in cycling.   I decided focus on the “Fresca Cup” which was a national race series for riders without pro contracts.  My strategy was to race as many of these races as I could, place well in them, and finish somewhere in the top 10 overall.  It was an ambitious goal and one that I thought would help me to secure a pro contract.

Mono popped open the thermos and poured out the last little bit of espresso for us to share.  We were listening to the Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever for our own cabin fever, slowly working our way through our combined collection of tapes and CD’s, waiting for the road to open again and for our drive to New Mexico to resume.

We had already been in the car for hours, driving out of the snowy northeast just days after the biggest blizzard in a hundred years.  And now we were stuck on the turnpike somewhere in Pennsylvania until a combine harvester could clear the ten foot high snow drifts from the highway.

Then we were rolling again and my old VW – 95,000 miles with a broken speedometer, packed full of our bikes and gear – accelerated back up to 3,000 rpm, roughly highway cruising speed.  At least the tachometer worked.  We made the Ohio border by dusk.

In Columbus, we ate chicken fried steak for breakfast at a Bob Evans and drove west on I-70, headlong into another snowstorm.  We drifted and slipped on the VW’s balding tires.  Mono was still learning to drive stick, admittedly nervous as we passed the dozens of cars that had spun out or careened off the side of the road.

“Just keep going straight and keep us out of the ditches,” I told him.

“I’ll try,” he muttered.

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Silver Fox Trot 2013

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In the morning, weighed down by our heavy packs, my son and I skied down the twisting path through the woods from Andy’s cabin to the car. The sky was a dull gray, promising snow. We climbed into the car and made the short drive to the Strafford Nordic Center.

At the Nordic Center, the wind was up and blowing across the fields. I was tired. More than four hours to go until my race. We picked up bibs for the Bill Koch race. We took the kids on course tours. We waxed their skis. I borrowed a pair of poles because I had forgotten my son’s skate poles at home. I watched my son race. He was tired from chopping wood the day before and struggled on the final hill, but finished respectably. He should have been happy with his race. But he was not.

I waited until the last possible minute to prepare for my race. It had started to snow by then. I drank a tepid cup of coffee from the concession. I sat in my car with the heat and seat warmers running full force against the chill that the wind had blown into my bones. Then I went to warm up.

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