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August 10, 2007
Dumbest Man in Congress?

A few days ago, before the House voted on the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007, amateur Rush Limbaugh imitator and Republican congressman, Patrick McHenry, representing North Carolina's 10th district, warmed up the room with some anti-bicycling schtick. Click here to watch a video of his performance; it really must be seen to be believed.

Too impatient to watch the video? OK, here's what McHenry said in part:

"A major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle...Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don't like it, ride a bike. If you don't like the price at the pumps, ride a bike."

(See full text here.)

According to the text of the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007, this legislation would give a tax credit to bicycle commuters that would cost approximately $1 million a year for 10 years.

This act, which ended up passing despite McHenry's stand-up routine, also authorizes tax credits for solar energy and fuel cell investment, plug-in hybrid vehicles, cellulosic alcohol production, biodiesel production, and alternative refueling stations. All told, it authorizes $5.746 billion in tax credits over the next 10 years.

In strictly monetary terms, the bicycle commuter benefit represents about .001% of the total credits the Tax Act of 2007 authorizes. And, that, according to Congressman McHenry, makes it a "a major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis."

Who knows? Maybe the Republican answer to the energy crisis involves burning bicycle commuters for fuel, in which case the Democrat solution does look pretty generous to cyclists.

More disturbing than the notion that McHenry doesn't know basic math is the fact that he clearly spent a substantial amount of time rehearsing his routine. And that he actually spent taxpayer money to produce this large poster that he used in his act:

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, McHenry did get $18,500 in campaign contributions from the automotive industry during the 2005-2006 election cycle, and $23,050 from automotive and oil and gas interests in 2004.

And, yes, he is the same guy who tried to get Congress to give a $129,000 hand-out for a Christmas ornament store in his district.

Wait, Christmas, Christianity? Isn't that a 1st century solution to 21st century problems?

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:19 AM
August 09, 2007
I'll Drink to That

In an Absolut world, all the drivers would be smashed on vodka but it wouldn't matter -- because the Bay Bridge would have its own bike lane.

Posted by Greg Beato at 07:16 PM
August 06, 2007
The Ride

I went to bed at 10PM, and after five hours of tossing and turning, I finally felt like I was ready for a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately, it was time to get up. A half hour later I was out the door, in my car, and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge toward a school in San Rafael, official starting place of the Mt. Tam Double.

I arrived at 4:15AM and promptly missed the right-hand turn into a parking lot even though there was a guy in the street waving cars that way. Not a good sign. The ride hadn't even started yet and I was already off-course. A quick U-turn down the block and I was pulling into a dark lot by the side of the school.

My goal for the ride was to finish in 15 hours, or 8PM, as that would get me back while it was still light outside. But I wasn't sure how realistic this goal was. It was only my third double, with a lot more climbing than the first two.

Because I knew the route included some awfully maintained roads -- specifically Joy Rd., which may be the world's most inappropriately named street -- I put a new pair of Continental 4000 25c tires on my bike. Usually, I ride 23c 4000s, and they've been really dependable, very rarely getting flats.

You know where this is headed, right?

I got my first flat descending Panoramic. A split-second of panic as my front tire started wobbling violently, followed by fifteen minutes of frustration after I pulled off to the side of the road to change the tube and watch other riders fly past me.

I got the second flat at the base of the Marshall Wall. "I'm going to take this one really slow," I was saying to a guy I'd started riding with. A minute later, I was fulfilling that promise even more than I'd anticipated. This time, it was the rear tire.

Only 90 or so miles into the ride, and already I was out of spare tubes. Luckily, there was a volunteer at the Valley Ford rest stop who had a small mobile bike shop set up. I told him my tale of woe and he gave me a spare tube.

Then I inhaled a chicken burrito and set off toward the next big climb of the day, Coleman Valley Road. There were pitches on other parts of the route that may have been steeper, but at 125 miles into the ride, after all the climbing we'd already done, it was a killer. One guy ahead of me was weaving so erratically he looked like a boxer who'd been knocked out by a punch but had not yet fallen to the canvas.

I was concerned for him, and annoyed by him. When you're moving at 3.5 MPH, it takes a while to pass someone, and if they're riding that unpredictably, who knows what might happen? People like this force you out of your steady pace. To get past them quickly, you muster any acceleration you can, and then you're gasping even harder than you were a few seconds earlier.

Even in my lowest gear -- 30x27 -- I could barely keep the crank turning. I kept flicking my shifter, hoping that some even lower gear might magically materialize. It never did, but eventually the road flattened out to a manageable grade and I knew I'd make it up.

At one of the last rest stops, I reconnected with the rider I'd been talking with just before I got my second flat, and he asked me how I'd liked the view from the top of Coleman Valley Road. Unfortunately, I'd missed it, because the way I'd devised to keep pedaling at that point involved locking my gaze on the pavement two feet ahead of me and refusing to look at anything else. "Just get there," I'd say to myself. And then a few seconds later, there'd be a new there to get to.

And that sort epitomized the ride for me -- I was so busy enduring it much of the time that I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

Still, there were lots of moments that were great even as I was experiencing them. The initial ascent up Mt. Tam was excellent. It was warm and breezy, almost tropical, and there was a suitably Homeric "rosy-fingered dawn" bathing everything in a primrose glow as we proceeded on our odyssey.

There were fast pacelines up Highway One, some narrow, deserted roads out in the far reaches of West Marin, great riders met along the way, the return trip through the redwoods on Lucas Valley Road at twilight.

Miles 100 - 130 were the hardest. At that point, fatigue is taking its toll, but you still have too far to go to fool yourself into thinking you'll be done any time soon.

Eventually, the route flattened out and I got a second wind. Hills were a challenge still, but I felt strong on the flats and the rollers and was having fun again.

And chatting with other riders always helps. The thing about doubles, it seems, is that everyone gets chattier as the day goes on. In the early parts of the ride, we're all intent on setting personal bests, I guess. Later in the day, we're just looking to survive and already exchanging war stories.

When I finally made it back to the start, it was as dark as it had been when I'd begun the ride. I hit the finish line at 9PM, for a total ride time of 16 hours.

According to my Polar, I burned 10,000 calories. Even with all the Shot Blocks and Cokes and peanut butter bagels, I'm sure I didn't consume that many calories, so I immediately attempted to balance that equation at the post-ride buffet.

The pizza was cold, but it tasted great. I had a Coke and some mashed potatoes too, and then another slice of pizza for the road.

With the pain over, the painful moments began their metamorphization, acquiring positive aspects they didn't really have as I was experiencing them. In a few weeks, I may even be recalling the Coleman Valley climb fondly.

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:57 PM