Fernie Rolls Out the Welcome Mat

One of the complaints I had heard about past TransRockies races was that the finish was relatively anti-climactic due to the remoteness of the location (Panorama Ski Resort) compared to the festive atmosphere surrounding the start of the race in Fernie. Well, it seems that complaint will not be heard this year as the race is set to finish in Fernie. And it seems the town is set to make sure the finish is one to remember.

The following press release arrived in my inbox today, along with a map of the town showing the various points of interest.

Fernie, BC – The world-renown TransRockies Challenge mountain bike race announced a new first this year, with a finish in Fernie, BC. Local organizers of the Blackstone Fernie TransRockies are gearing up for what promises to be the biggest event of the summer.

Fernie will host more than 3000 participants, volunteers, organizers and visitors as part of the celebrations at the finish line. The race, which draws riders from around the globe, begins in Panorama one week earlier and takes participants through the Kootenay Rockies in a grueling 600 km challenge. Over 500 riders are expected to finish the race in Fernie, and they will be welcomed this year with an array of celebration activities.

Blackstone Fernie TransRockies is celebrating the finish with a new event, the Blackstone Bike Rally, for kids’ aged 4 – 8. This mini-rally will take kids through a fun and educational experience around Fernie’s downtown. Beginning at the Guides Hut, with stops at Carosella, the Fernie Fire Station, and Overwaitea, the rally ends at the Arts Station. Throughout, kids will have the opportunity for fun events like face painting and bike decorating, and enjoy nutritional snacks. Pre-registration is free will be held at the Guides Hut in downtown Fernie.

Fernie locals will no doubt cheer a little louder for their official hometown teams this year. Several legendary local riders have banded together to take up the challenge – the highest number of Fernie teams ever entered into the TransRockies. The Blackstone Fernie Goats are Ron Clark and Pat Gilmar; The Blackstone Fernie Grizzlies are Arthur Sombrowski and Brendan Morgan; and the Blackstone Fernie Wolverines are Todd Loewen and Sean Staplin.

Also new this year is the Official Fernie Champagne and Beer Tent. The first tent of its kind in TransRockies history, it will be a special place for participants to celebrate their finish with a bottle of bubbly and their own designated table. In addition, spectators are invited to partake in a cool beverage alongside the finishers. It will be held adjacent to the finish line at CP Station Square.

Best Deal Ever for XBLA

It's another two-release week on XBLA and the one I'm most excited about is Spyglass Board Games. For $5, you get Xbox versions of Checkers, Chess, Mancala, and Reversi (aka Othello). Each game can be played against the computer or online against other human players.

What a terrific addition to the XBLA lineup -- who can ignore a chance to get in some quick classic gaming online with friends new and old? And 4 games for five bucks. Great deal! Best of all, this is not likely to attract the Halo-crowd so playing online might actually be enjoyable for those who don't like to be cursed at, called racial epithets, or told are gay every 4.3 seconds.

The Five People You Meet In Hell

This is a public service announcement. It was brought to my attention during the 9:40 showing of THE SIMPSONS MOVIE at the Regal Theatre in Issaquah Saturday night, that large portions of the audience aren't "getting" one of the funnier bits in the movie.

Continue reading, this is a spoiler-free post.

There is a brief scene involving a group of ladies of Springfield sitting down to another meeting of their book club. The new book is introduced -- it's "Tuesdays With Morrie" and they all groan and complain because they've already read it numerous times. Finally, Reverend Lovejoy's wife says something to the extent of (not a direct quote) "We read that book one more time and you'll be the five people I see in hell!"

And there wasn't a peep out of the audience. Kristin firmly believes I was the only one in the crowd who got the joke. I actually laughed pretty hard and thought it was one of the more clever jokes in the film. It was too bad nobody else got it though.

The joke is this: "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" are both written by Mitch Albom. Considering how well-stocked these books are in all of the Starbucks shops, I would have thought this was common knowledge. Anyway, there you go. Now you're equipped to laugh alone in the theatre when the book club scene comes up. No need to thank me.

What is Singletrack?

I volunteered to write a quick one-page article defining "singletrack" on Friday for the BBTC. I'm not sure what form this will take after it goes through any necessary revisions and makes it's way onto the incredible trail guide wiki (designed almost exclusively by RG reader and commenter Maarten, I'm proud to say), but I thought I'd post it on here as well. It's not my best work, but I only had about 20 minutes to spare in writing it.

Mountain bike technology has come a long way over the years. The early mountain bikes consisted of little more than knobby tires installed on traditional road bike frames. These bikes were – and still are in the form of cyclocross bikes – excellent for gravel paths and dirt roads, much like Washington state’s Snoqualmie Valley and Ironhorse trails. Riders enjoyed taking their bikes off road and traveling the countryside, but wanted more. They wanted to get on steeper, more wild terrain where their ability to pedal and maintain balance could carry them away from the crowds and into the backcountry.

The desire to ride more rugged terrain led to a revolution within the bicycle industry that yielded dozens of mountain-specific technologies including changes in frame geometry and the inventions of suspension and disc brakes to name but a few. Today’s mountain bikes are sophisticated pieces of equipment designed from the ground up to be ridden on rough, technical trail. With practice, riders can effectively pilot their mountain bikes over narrow, natural surface trails that oftentimes feature small obstacles such as rocks, fallen trees, streams, or tree roots. This is singletrack.

We call this type of trail singletrack because it forces cyclists to ride in a single file line, thereby minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment. Singletrack is typically no more than 12-18 inches in width and resembles a narrow ribbon of exposed tread snaking through the wilderness. Good singletrack will challenge one’s skills and endurance while simultaneously affording the rider the opportunity to commune with nature. Once they’ve mastered the basics, mountain bikers almost always prefer to ride singletrack over other forms of trail, for many of the same reasons that hikers prefer hiking trails over paved walking paths.

In the world of mountain biking, there is no resource more valuable than wilderness singletrack. The allure of a scenic, challenging ride in the backcountry is what many riders invest their time and money in this sport for – epic backcountry rides are the carrot on the stick that help people get through the workweek. Unfortunately, quality singletrack is under constant threat from development and land use restrictions. As a result, those looking to enjoy the true singletrack experience are being forced to pile into vehicles and drive further and further distances to access the trails they crave. In the Seattle area, this often means driving several hours east to the Wenatchee area, or as far north as British Columbia. It’s imperative that mountain bikers support organizations such as BBTC and work with their community leaders in order to reverse this trend and bring quality singletrack closer to home.

Those seeking more information about the mountain biker’s need for more singletrack are directed to the article “
The Importance of Singletrack”.

Peace of Mind

Just got off the phone with Sanderson Travel Insurance in Canada. It was highly recommended that TransRockies competitors get additional travel/medical insurance coverage for the week of the race just in case we need to be air-lifted to Calgary for an emergency. It seems that at least a couple people have to get the life-flight out of there each year and the bill just for the rescue and helicopter ride alone to Calgary can cost upwards of $15,000. My health insurance company says they would cover any emergency, but I would have to pay up front and then get reimbursed. Umm... that wouldn't really be possible.

So I did what the other racers are doing and called the company the race organizers recommended. For $44 CDN, I got up to $150,000 coverage which includes helicopter evacuation, medical, and search and rescue. For $44, how could anyone pass up that sort of peace of mind?

I never purchased additional travel insurance before but after giving it some thought, I'm kind of kicking myself for going down to Costa Rica last year, alone, for a week of backpacking without any extra coverage. I'll be sure to find a company like Sanderson here in the US for all of my future trips -- after all, like Brett and I joked about yesterday, we'll probably blow $44 on coffee and snacks just driving back and forth to TransRockies. Might as well get the coverage.

If you're doing the race or making any other backcountry travel plans to Canada, I'd say give these guys a call. They do it real quick over the phone and email you the policy right away. I obviously can't vouche for their reliability in terms of getting them to cough up the money when you have to make a claim, but I doubt the TransRockies organizers would recommend them if they weren't legit.

Job Requirements

To non-gamers, my job is an enigma. I tell them I write strategy guides for videogames and the common reply is "Oh, like cheat sheets?" To which I often say, "Yes, 200 page cheat sheets" or I'll say it's really just easier to think of me as a travel guide writer, but for fictional places. After all, that is ultimately what I do.

The conversation continues and 9 times out of 10, the person I'm talking with is positively shocked to learn that I actually play through the games and find the secrets and devise the winning strategy myself. I don't blame them, after all despite having written roughly 60 official guidebooks my own father still occasionally wonders why the developers don't just put the books out themselves (the answer is they're too busy finishing the game). Anyway, as much as I absolutely hate myself for doing this, I have a link to a series of articles on Destructoid (man do I feel dirty now) called "Know Your Gamer". Unlike the rest of the rubbish that passes for commentary on that site, this series of articles is actually very well written, entertaining, and quite true. The articles examine all of the different gamer stereotypes and while people may want to cry foul at the blatant labeling and ridicule, the articles done speak the truth.

Back to my job. A lot of people want to know how to break into the industry and I always give them the same ol' tip about going to a strategy guide publisher's website and look for the link to submit a writing sample. But, before you do that, I think you really need to read Chapter 7: The Collecting Gamer at Destructoid and see if that sounds like you. If you find the Collecting Gamer stereotype to be dull or perhaps stricken with a case of OCD, then this job is not for you. On the other hand, if it sounds like they're describing your gameplay tendencies then consider putting a sample together and sending it in to either BradyGames or Prima or DoubleJump (Note: please don't ask for referrals, I've repaid my karmic debt years ago in this area).

He never leaves a crate unbroken, a chest unopened, a body unsearched, or an box free from a head-butting. He is as thorough and as attentive as gamers come, and in his own way, as professional as the technical gamer. Truly, the collecting gamer is an inspiration to us all in the area of properly completing a game and getting our oney's
worth out of every title we purchase. Now if only there were a few more achievements left...

All is not lost if the Collecting Gamer sounded foreign to you. There is also a place in the strategy guide world for those who fit the bill in Chapter 6: The One Game Gamer. I know of several game or genre-specific writers who work on just one book every year or so, but they are clearly the masters of that domain. This seems to be especially common in the fighting games genre and, to a lesser extent, with simulation games.

Anyway, you'll find a link to the index of all the different classes of gamer at the bottom of the articles and I definitely recommend browsing the others, as they're pretty funny. Especially the chapter on Japanophiles. But, seriously, read the Collecting Gamer if you ever wanted to know what my "days spent playing games" were really like. Well, with the exception that I don't just find everything, but map it and document it in 250-page manuscripts.

That's My Boy!

Just got off the phone with Brett. He did RAMROD today (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day) and although it was a different course this year because of the storm damage, he did the 145 miles on his road bike (with over 10,000 feet of vert) in just a hair over 8hrs and was one of the first 20 people done, despite sleeping in and starting well after most of the other people.

He's an animal. If I can regain the form I had back in May and keep pace with him up in BC next month, then I would say there is a good possibility of some ass kickage at TransRockies.


I've been wanting to write about the Michael Vick indictment for a few days, but I wanted to let it sink in a little longer and see what the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons would do regarding the start of training camp. By now you've heard that the Falcons' starting quarterback and former Madden coverboy, Michael Vick, has been arraigned in a Federal Court for a host of crimes involving dog fighting. We've known for months that property Vick owned in Virginia was being used for breeding pit bulls for dog fighting and that numerous dogs were found dead on the property. Vick originally plead ignorance and blamed it on the tenants, saying he had no idea what was going on at this house, which we were led to believe was an investment property.

And the uproar began to fade, albeit to a loud murmur. Then the bombshell was dropped -- the Feds were indicting Vick and several other men for conducting illegal activities across state lines, and for dog fighting, gambling, and animal cruelty. The details of the report are quite horrific, and you can read about them in the official document here.

When the news broke I did what I imagine the 2.5 million other NFL season ticket holders did and that was run to my refrigerator to check the upcoming schedule to see if Atlanta was coming to town. They're not; the Seahawks visit the ATL in December to close out the regular season. I was relieved by this. I didn't want the media circus coming to town and casting its lengthy shadow across Qwest Field. I love my Seahawk Sundays and just as I was glad two seasons ago to not have a home game against the T.O-less Eagles, I'm glad we're not hosting the Falcons in 2007.

I was also relieved to hear that NFL Commission Roger Goodell took the proactive and level-headed step to ban Vick from Falcons training camp for 4 weeks, with pay. He also temporarily prohibited further punishment by the Falcons. There's a rush to non-judgment right now in the media, given the ill-fated knee-jerk reaction everyone had to the Duke Lacrosse situation. It's definitely within the realm of possibility that Vick escapes conviction in this, but the Feds have a conviction rate >90%. This isn't some podunk attorney general looking to bolster his campaign, as was the case with the Duke scandal. This is the FBI. These are the guys who bring down mob bosses and lifetime criminals. Vick and his lawyers will be agile, but the Feds only bring the blitz if they know they're getting the sack. And if you factor in what is sure to be a number of plea-bargains made by other guys lining up to testify against Vick (and possibly other athletes or celebs) for a reduced sentence, I see no way he gets out of this.

But what happens in 4 weeks when Vick's temporary ban is up? Goodell hired an investigator to look into the indictment more closely and I imagine -- and hope -- that he determines that Vick must be prohibited from being anywhere near the Falcons or any other NFL team until the case is tried and a verdict is in. And I say this not because I'm 100% sure Vick is guilty, but rather because I love football. I don't know if Vick is guilty or not. None of us do. But, the acts that he and the others are accused of -- electrocution, drowning, and repeatedly slamming a dog to the ground until it died -- are so entirely heinous that there is no way it cannot be the lead story week in and week out all season long. And as a football fan and as a dog lover, I cannot accept that. It doesn't matter to me whether he did it or not, the fact that he is linked to this -- and awaiting trial -- is enough for Goodell to ban Vick under a good of the game policy. We're going to hear enough about this over the next 12 to 18 months as it is, we don't need to see the case tried in public every Sunday as Vick and the Falcons go on a 10-city tour.

One of the reporters on ESPN last week commented that we, the public, would probably be less upset if it turned out Vick beat a stripper to death, instead of a dog. That may be so. But, I'd like to think that the outrcy and protests (for once I'm siding with the PETA people) would be appropriate if it was a person, a dog, a cat, or any other living creature. No body or thing deserves to die like this. What these guys did was torture. To the death. I don't care what species it was or what breed of dog, there is no place on Earth for a person who would pick up another living creature -- especially one reliant on its owner for care -- and repeatedly slam it to the ground until it stopped breathing. Dog fighting alone is bad enough, but the savage murder of these animals for underperforming is insanity. The words cruel and unusual have seldom been more appropriate.

Commissioner Goodell has really proven himself in his short tenure to be a no-nonsense guy who cares deeply about the integrity of the game and protecting its image. It's unfortunate that of the dozens of men involved in this that Vick and the NFL are the only ones being put on public trial, but that's the way it is. Vick wouldn't be a millionaire without the NFL so therefor it's up to Goodell to step in and do what's right for the league and force Vick to take a leave of absence until the trial is over. It might not be good for Vick or for the Falcons, but it will be best for the league and its fans.

A Rough Week for Bikes and Animals

I wasn't alone in my run in with a four-legged creature this week.

Master of the "Extended Thrilla", Ross Wolin, sent me the following story about a ride he did earlier in the week. Names have been changed to protect the unfortunate.

On Monday, when we were coming down the John Wayne/Iron Horse trail, Scott was getting pretty tired and was drafting me to be able to go faster. At some point we encountered a large elk or deer with a huge rack ahead on the trail. It ran.... but just kept running down the trail for miles, didn't break to the left or right. At about 19 mph we were keeping pace with it, staying mostly out of sight behind it (I wanted to go faster, but didn't want to really freak it out.) After a long stretch of this, we came around a turn and the beast was standing sideways in the trail eying me like it was considering charging. I didn't want to see that, so still a ways back I quickly stopped.... and had totally forgotten about the guy drafting me, until I heard "Oh shit", a small crash to the left as he went sailing by me, in the air, without his bike..... a fairly good Superman impression.

I've had deer run alongside me for a 100 yards. I've had a deer block the trail and not let me pass. But I've never had a deer run with me for miles then sprint ahead only to take up a ramming position! That must have been nuts. And, ahem, Scott, should feel no shame for crashing in that situation. A less noble gesture would have been to ride right up Ross' backside... which would have been good for nobody. At least the way things played out, some of us get to laugh about it.

Woman Biker Killed by Black Bear at Panorama

This happened on mountain bike trails near Panorama Resort, in British Columbia. TransRockies, which takes place in just 17 days, will be starting at Panorama Resort. If there was any question about how serious we have to take the wildlife in that part of North America, this should erase all doubts.

PANORAMA, B.C. - A young woman found dead on a biking trail near Panorama mountain village -- who was apparently stalked and killed by a black bear -- had just returned from a trip around the world. A bear was found guarding the body of Robin Kochorek, 31, on Sunday about 12 hours after the Calgary woman was reported missing from a cycling trip.

A Columbia Valley RCMP officer shot and killed the bear. The woman's injuries were consistent with a bear attack, but police aren't sure the bear they shot is the one that killed Ms. Kochorek, who had recently moved to Windermere, B.C., near the Alberta border, where her family lives.

Link to the full story here. (you may need to scroll down to read it).

Crashing on Thrilla

Remember that wrist pain I had? It finally healed over the past few days and I was once again able to do pushups again without pain.

Well, that was fun while it lasted...

I stole away from work last night to pound out a quick lap on the Thrilla course in Woodinville. I was on pace to set a new personal best time for myself, despite a pretty social opening 5 miles with Kevin and Eddy and all was going well until the final 1/2 mile. I was descending "heart-attack hill" (named for the sensation it gives when you ride up it), heading due west into the sun which was still shining bright above the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound. It was blinding.

The hill is pretty wide, about 15 yards or so, but there is only one small strip of dirt trail on the far right that is really rideable on the upper half of the hill. I was moving at a pretty good clip and suddenly noticed a guy and his dog sitting down right on the narrow trail I was descending. They were all but invisible in the harsh glare of the sun. I braked hard and slowed down, but still had to swing wide to avoid them since they were occupying the entire trail. Unfortunately, when I turned to avoid them, I hit a small ditch obscured by tall weeds and slammed down pretty hard on my hip. And wrist.

I just looked at the guy. I couldn't say anything because of course the guy has every right to be there, but man, did he have to sit down right in the middle of the narrow trail? I brushed myself off and grimmaced at the recurring wrist pain, all the while giving the guy my best "are you kidding me?" look. The guy got up and continued up the trail and, sensing he screwed up, apologized that I crashed trying to avoid him. He said something about stepping off the trail next time. Yeah, do you think? I was glad I didn't accidentaly run over the dog or hit the guy (unlike in the Tour de France) but I sure would have liked to have not re-injured my wrist two weeks before the biggest athletic challenge in my life. Thanks, jackass.

Nevertheless, the hunger is back. After a nice socially moderate-paced singletrack ride at Tolt-MacDonald park on Tuesday night, I was excited to go hard last night and felt great doing so. I'm going to hit the road bike pretty hard on Friday, then I have a big half-day singletrack ride planned with my TR partner, Brett, for Sunday. After that, it's taper time baby!

I Direct Your Attention Elsewhere

Very little time to write anything up today so I'm going to have to direct you all to two absolutely hysterical stories... about kids.

I know, I know, it's probably the last thing you'd expect me to link about, but these stories really are funny. They're both over at Bill Harris' blog, Dubious Quality. I think you should read them in order.

1) South Korea and Newton Van Tootin

and a follow-up one of Bill's readers submitted.

2) Superhero Chloe Saves the Day.

I have a couple longish posts I'm working on -- another about kids actually but not nearl as cute as these, and another about the whole Michael Vick thing. I'm going to try and get one of them posted tomorrow.

PS3 Song

Saw a link to this on The Escapist and just have to link to it. Way too funny. Click to play.

Not My Gamerpic of Choice

If the Gamerpic on my profile card to the right is of a woman's face and not the impressionist surfer picture that has been there for the past 8 months, then know that it is not by my choosing. I was linking my online profile with Major Nelson's blog and part of the verification process requires you to change your Gamerpic and gameplay zone to ones they specify. I did this and I have since changed them back on the console but the changes haven't shown up online for some reason.

In other gaming news, let me just say that this is shaping up to be a great year for me with regards to the games I'll be writing for. Bioshock was easily one of the top three best games I've authored a strategy guide for (and I've written over 60) and if the schedule shakes out the way I hope it does, I could end up writing for one or two other "GOTY" contenders later this fall. But, speaking of Game of the Year hullabaloo, let me just say that as of right now Bioshock is the leader in the clubhouse and nothing else is even close. I know it's only July, but it will be hard for anything to beat it.

I'll be running a giveaway for signed copies of my Bioshock strategy guide before I leave for TransRockies. I'm very proud of how this book is coming out so stay tuned!

Back to School Time!

So I'm sitting at my desk, finishing up the text for my Bioshock strategy guide and Kristin asks me if she can borrow an eraser.

An eraser? I think about this for a minute.

"Let me see... I think there's one right here in my drawer next to the typewriter ribbon, white-out, and slide-rule."

She has homework. And apparently I am no help whatsoever.

Gaming With Glee

It seems entirely too often these days that when I sit down to play a game, I ended up getting frustrated, annoyed, or sometimes even downright furious with the game that is supposed to be my source of entertainment. Is this what playing videogames has come to? I needn't wonder anymore because several games I demod this weekend not only put a smile on my face, but even made me gleefully laugh like a schoolkid on a swing. Each of these demos are available for download on XBLA.

The Bigs
This is a comical over-the-top take on Major League Baseball in which the players have incredible superhuman abilities: they can rob a homerun fifteen feet above the fence, throw upwards of 107 mph fastballs, and even sprint faster than Vince Coleman and Ichiro combined. The stadiums look absolutely fantastic and the players are enormous. Some bordering on the freakishly large gigantism-afflicted team Mr. Burns assembled in that infamous Simpsons episode. Heck, some of the players in this game are almost as big as Barry Bonds' real life head. Anyway, the game moves at an extremely fast clip and turbo meters and big play power meters are all in play. Although the one-press pitching mechanism takes some getting used to, the game revels in its simplicity and is quite fun to play. I can't tell you how many times I laughed at the ridiculousness I was seeing -- and how many times I told myself "just one more game". The demo lets you play a 3-inning game between th Tigers and Cardinals and games are over in 10 minutes or less. I never end up playing sports games for more than a couple days when I buy them, so I'm probably not going to get this anyway, but I do find it pretty fun. I'll get it if my online Friends get it.

Stuntman: Ignition
I'm one of the few partial defenders of the original Stuntman game. The game had a tremendous vision -- you drive cars and accurately follow the director's cues to film spectactular stunt scenes in fictitious movies, and then watch back the filmed scene. It was awesome. The only problem was the game was very, very difficult and it took what seemed to be at least 2-3 minutes to reload the level after each failed attempt. Life is simply too short to play the original Stuntman. But this new game? Now this is where it's at. First off, the game is gorgeous, the cars drive solidly, and the ridiculousness of the stunts that you have to perform, again, elicit laughs of enjoyment and a constant smile from the gamer. That said, the game is still extremely difficult and could easily frustrate if you let it. Fortunately, it now only takes a few quick seconds to reload the level and try again. Also, the makers have borrowed the combo system from Project Gotham Racing to elaborate on the scoring and ranking system. This is a definite must-buy for me but, as Kristin correctly surmised, this is a game that you have to take your time with and make sure you are going to concentrate on just one level at a time and not mind starting over and over. It could very easily devolve into a situation involving a hurled controller and a broken HDTV if you let it.

This game has been out at retail for a few weeks now and finally, thanks to the demo, I can see what the fuss is about. This game puts you in the role of the eeee-vil Overlord in charge of commanding a gaggle of pint-sized minions. You direct them to do your eeee-vil bidding, whether it be raiding a pumpkin patch or slaughtering the innocent. The game has a very comical nature about it with some very entertaining writing and, again, the game is very easy on the eyes. For those who have played it, the game plays a bit like Pikmin, only without the Fisher-Price varnish. Anyway, I found Overlord to be just the type of game I like to play and actually turned the demo off after my first one or two raiding missions because I didn't want to spoil anything for when I get the retail copy. Which should be anyday now. A must-get.

NOTE: I also downloaded demos for a number of other games and will hopefully have some quick impressions of those up later this week including Blue Dragon, Project Sylpheed, Ace Combat 6, The Darkness.

TransRockies: Three Weeks to Go!

The preliminary start list is up on the TR site for those interested. I changed our team name from "Terminal Fitness" which I really liked to one that better reflects Brett's and my respective sponsors. So we are listed about 1/3 of the way down the page as team "BradyGames/AutoQuest"

You can see the list of teams entered here.

Also, while the exact route information is apparently a closely guarded secret not to be revealed until we check in the day before the race, we do know that it is roughly the same as last year's course except in the opposite direction. Simon, the super posting TR veteran from Vancouver has posted the following breakdown based on reversing the numbers from last year.

Day 1 – Panorama to Invermere 51.2 kms Paved Roads 7.9 kms, Gravel Roads 18.4 kms, Double/Single-track 24.85 kms 1345 metres climbing 1649 metres descending

Day 2 – Invermere to Nipika 63.8 kms Paved Roads 17.41 kms, Gravel Roads 20.62 kms, Double/Single-track 25.77 kms 1439 metres climbing 1119 metres descending

Day 3 – Nipika to Whiteswan Lake 107.5 kms Paved Roads 0 kms, Gravel Roads 68.5 kms, Double/Single-track 39 kms 1302 metres climbing 1285 metres descending

Day 4 – Whiteswan Lake to Elkford 94.48 kms Paved Roads 1.6 kms, Gravel Roads 49.29 kms, Double/Single-track 43.60 kms 1528 metres climbing 1368 metres descending (Including the rock garden)

Day 5 – Elkford to Blairmore (Crowsnest Pass) 109 kms Paved Roads 7 kms, Gravel Roads 62 kms, Double/Single-track 40 kms 2600 metres climbing 2612 metres descending

Day 6 – Blairmore (Crowsnest Pass) to Sparwood 77 kms Paved Roads 10 kms, Gravel Roads 27 kms, Double/Single-track 40 kms 2000 metres climbing 2140 metres descending

Day 7 – Sparwood to Fernie 61 kms Paved Roads 6 kms, Gravel Roads 15 kms, Double/Single-track 40 kms 1100 metres climbing 1225 metres descending

I did the metric to english conversions and Day 5 is even more intimidating than it seems in metric. It breaks out to 67.6 miles and 8,528 feet of gain. The good news is that those numbers are almost exactly the same as my Day 3 on the Kokopelli Trail so I know what that is going to feel like. It's not going to tickle.

The Canadians Are Coming! The Canadians Are Coming!

My town has an air-raid siren. I never knew this because it's been silent for years, but apparently there's a very loud siren that used to blair every day at high noon here in Snoqualmie. People would hear it from all over town and know that it was time for lunch. It was a town tradition back when this was a milltown and long before the development I live in, Snoqualmie Ridge, propelled this tiny place to its current status as Washington's fastest growing town.

Now there's a movement to repair the siren and restore it to its functional state. It needs a $1200 clock. Or some such thing. I totally understand the desire for the longtime residents of "downtown" Snoqualmie to restore this siren. After all, their town has become pretty unrecognizable to them over the past decade, and this would be one way to restore some of its old-timey tradition. That said, I am totally not looking forward to leaping out of my pants everyday at noon when my internal flight instincts kick in at the sound of the air raid siren. I mean, sure, I'll get used to it eventually, like in three or four years, but what do I do till then? I wonder if the new grocery store carries Depends?

It wailed for an earlier, simpler time for Snoqualmie, an era when this was a die-hard Weyerhaeuser mill town, and steam whistles echoed across the valley. Now it's the state's fastest-growing city as young families head to the urban village of Snoqualmie Ridge.

Noon sirens were used to test a fire department's warning system. The daily sound-off ensured the alert worked for emergencies. But ever since pagers and cellphones, noon sirens have largely disappeared across the country. So newcomers often jumped when it went off. Visitors to the historic train depot in town would ask if it was an air-raid siren.

Here's the link to the Seattle Times article. Feel free to laugh at the comment that this air-raid siren is a "comfort sound".

So True

I used to be an avid message board poster. Now I just sort of occasionally lurk on sites that I can't be bothered creating a username for. The ones I do have usernames with don't interest me anymore. One of the things I saw today that almost makes me want to register a nick for, just so I can use it as my signature is this gem from user "corncobtacular"

Where the hell is this endless supply of pictures of cats? How in the hell does everyone on the internet have a picture of a cat with an amusing caption for every possible circumstance?

I have often wondered that myself.

Which Console For You?

Yahoo Videogames posted a surprisingly thorough and seemingly quite objective article on the state of the three major videogame consoles. It talks about E3, the present situations for each console, the 2007 lineups, and of course the future. Best of all, it's geared towards those people who may be in the market for a console later this year. Here's the link. It's another good example of how the mainstream media has started being a much more reliable source of games coverage than the gaming press. And, if nothing else, they at least write with enough professionalism and maturity to not make you feel embarrassed for having clicked the link.

In other news, I'm super busy with work right now, but I'll be posting about the success XBLA is having winning over the casual gamers in my house and that of friends of mine. It seems that the "family and friends" demographic that experts seem to be conceding to Nintendo's Wii is actually fairly well-represented on a lot of XBLA games.

I So Want This

I'm an occasional reader of Paul Lukas' "Uni-Watch" column on Page 2 of ESPN.com and in his most recent article (link) there is mention of the crazy "themed-jerseys" the Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team wheres. They then auction them off to the fans. They had a Metallica Night, Superhero Night, Jimmy Buffet Night, and others, but the best... by FAR... was Price is Right Jersey Night.

Just take a look at this.... the greatest baseball jersey of all time.

The jersey belongs to a fan named Fran Fried who apparently collects these things. I already checked Ebay and there's not a single one up for auction. If anybody out there has one and wants to unload it, or knows of someone who does, don't hesitate to email me. I'd wear that thing everyday.

So Bad It Isn't Funny

Clive Thompson has a very interesting article over at Wired.com today about the very essence of play keeping bad games from ever being loved like some B-movies do.

What I'm getting at, really, is that play is a curiously all-or-nothing affair. You're either having fun or you're not. I think this is why gamers are so viciously Manichean -- why they make such snap judgments, proclaiming, after playing a game for only a few minutes, whether it "sucks" or "rocks". (And those are the only two possible verdicts.) Gamers aren't just being juvenile. Fun really is a digital bit-flip, either fully on or fully off. And a company cannot lie or PR-massage us into believing a game is good when we know it isn't. Like pornography, we know fun when we see it.

B movies exist because it's possible to stand apart from crappy art, to laugh at it ironically. But it's impossible to play ironically. Play is the most earnest form of culture we've got. In the end, it's yet another reason why games, for all their surface resemblances, have very little in common with movies.

It's a really good read, however brief, and he does drop some game-names in the article. One of which I've recently written the official guidebook for. Gulp. Here's the link.

North New Jersey's Got Em'

Strange names, that is.

You can't argue with Steve Forbert on that. And yes, I say that fully aware that I live in a town called Snoqualmie.

Now, I don't know who Steve Forbert is, but his song "Strange Names (North New Jersey's Got Em')" just came onto my Yahoo Launchcast player and it's pretty catchy and, if you are from the Garden State, it's a must-listen. It's off his new album Strange Names & New Sensations which just released a couple weeks ago. I'm going to have to listen to his other stuff, but the reviews are positive.

Here's the link to it on iTunes if you want to hear a sample or download it for $0.99.

It's the Bomb, Man

Okay, that was about as predictable as a title for this post as one can come up with. I'd be shocked if there weren't other 100 other blogposts out there with the exact same title. But I'm sticking with it since I came up with it first.

See, I told you sometimes I only write on here to make myself laugh.

Anyway, Bomberman Live released on XBLA today at 800 points ($10) and it's worth every penny. I've never before played any of the Bomberman games and I now know what I've been missing: A lot. The game is easy to pick up and play, highly entertaining, and very difficult to master. Yet, at the same time, despite multiple last-place finishes, I'm still really enjoying the game.

Click here for the game trailer.

Bomberman Live pits up to eight players on a grid-based arena where they drop bombs to try and catch one another in the flames. Spread throughout the grid are hard blocks that offer protection from the bombs which explode in "+" shaped patterns. You're constantly on the move dropping bombs trying to catch opponents off-guard, while simultaneously watching out for opponents' bombs. There's also a bevy of power-ups that increase the blast size of the bomb, give you extra speed, or even give you the ability to throw bombs or detonate them remotely. A typical game has a 2:00 time limit, so even though there are times when I accidentally blow myself up in the first twenty seconds, I'm not left on the sidelines watching for too long.

In addition to the standard battles, there's plenty of arenas with trap doors and other nasty surprises, as well as other game modes. My favorite is definitely Zombie in which players are immortal and instead of trying to blow each other up, you focus on painting as much of the arena your color... via bomb explosions, naturally.

This is exactly the type of game that I love to play and yet another reason why I'm always raving about XBLA. I just wish they could have released it at a time when I wasn't so busy with work...

E3 Trailer Blowout - Part Deux

This took longer to get around to than I thought thanks to STP and work, but here it is. Again, this is just my short one-paragraph impressions for each of the games that trailers were released for at E3 last week. I watched each trailer a few times just to make sure I didn't miss anything (I probably still did). My interest level on a scale of 1 to 5 stars is in parentheses.

Bee Movie - I don't play kids games, but I am looking at this one with moderate interest. It seems like it actually just might be a fun game and, well, the movie has Seinfeld and if any of the comedy from the movie spills over into the videogame, then this may be worth playing. I expect it to be an easy, entertaining, pile of fluff. But after playing through Pirates of the Caribbean 3, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. (***)

Orange Box - This was Valve's own compilation video in which it showed footage of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress, and Portal. We all know about these games and have seen trailers for them for a while now, but it does indeed look like they are all coming along nicely, especially the latter two. Sorry, but my interest in the HL2 series has waned. Well, actually, my interest in PC gaming has become nonexistant so hopefully all three of these games make it to the X360. (***)

Fatal Inertia - I played this futuristic racing game at E3 last year for a few seconds, noted that it had zero sense of speed, and walked away. It's back again this year and it seems to me that the speed is still not all there. The game looks almost exactly like a jazzed-up version of Quantum Redshift, which isn't a bad thing, but a game like this has to have speed. Although being able to customize your craft's wings and body may make up for it. Also, the weapons look very cool. I'm hesitant, but I will probably get this. (****)

Mercenaries II - Kristin saw the opening of the trailer and started laughing. I don't blame her. Games like this (or at least trailers like this) are the reason why I'm still embarrassed to be a gamer sometimes. This whole thing stinks of 80's action-hero movie cliches. The fact that I watched this trailer three times in the process of preparing this post ought to win me a freaking pulitzer. Or at least some hazard pay. (*)

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe - This looks like a really neat way to maintain the franchise once the movies dry up. Players will take on the role of Spider-Man, naturally, but through the course of the game you'll actually be able to befriend all of his major rivals and actually use them in fighting crime. Some of the other characters -- Green Goblin for example -- show some pretty nifty attacks, but it's unclear what you'll be fighting for. (**)

Stranglehold - This is generating a lot of buzz and I can sort of see why. It's your chance to play the lead role in a John Woo film starring Chow Yun-Fat. It's got all the crazy maneuvers and over-the-top scenarios present which should definitely generate a few "that was so cool" proclamations. The graphics seem like they need some polish and the games looks heaviy scripted, but it could be a fun popcorn game. Do those exist? (**)

The Last Remnant - Square-Enix is releasing a non-Final Fantasy rpg in North America and Japan simultaneously (they don't ever do that) and the game looks like it might be interesting. Again, if you like the whole teenager-saves-the-world-from-unbefore-seen-evil premise. In this though, the battles look as if they take place on a huge battlefield and while the graphics could always be counted on to be top-notch from this company, they look really, really nice in this clip. I'm not big on RPGs, but this one is on my radar at least. (***)

Too Human - Ahhh, here we are. Few games created more controversy over the past year than this one. Or should I say, few game creators caused more controversy than this game's Dennis Dyack did. Last year, at E3, this much-anticipated game was put on the show floor before it was ready and the press tore it to pieces. Dyack fired back in a podcast interview and the interweb exploded. Flash forward to this year. The trailer is obviously not a playable demo, but I still struggle to find anything good to say about it because IT SHOWS NO GAMEPLAY. What is with these people and their game trailers? Every company does this all the time. We tell them we don't care about story, yet they show us a trailer like this -- several minutes of a couple guys in a bar, followed by a pre-rendered, scripted, cinematic showing one very bad-looking man (in a good way) walk in and perform a bunch of crazy gangsta maneuvers with his guns. Yes, the [pre-rendered] graphics look fantastic, but so what? This trailer tells us nothing about the game or about the gameplay. I cannot buy into the hype until I see something that warrants it. (**)

Fracture - The giant Lucasarts logo was the first indicator that this probably wouldn't be very good. The game is a first-person shooter with the gimmick of being able to terra-form the landscape stapled on. Lots of games have allowed terraforming before (raising and lowering the landscape) but not any first-person shooters that I can think of, so we must credit them for that. The problem I see is that this will likely become an over-relied upon trick that loses its wow factor quickly and will also lose its strategic relevance in the game after the first few levels. Developers always tire out as the game goes on and constantly pack all of their ingenius ideas into the first few levels. Why should this be any different. (*)

Skate - EA is entering the skateboarding genre and, from the looks of this trailer, seems to have a pretty good grasp on the basic animations and style of the sport. That said, this trailer simply shows a couple of concrete park settings and close-ups of skater's feet as they perform various flip tricks and grinds. I'm definitely interested, but I need to see actual gameplay footage and get an idea of what the game structure will be like before I decide to buy it or not. (***)

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground - For those who don't know, I've written the official guidebooks for every game in this series going back to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. The book I write for this game later this summer will be my 7th in the series, as this is the ninth game. Therefore, it would simply be inappropriate of me to say anything critical. I will say this though, if you watch the Skate trailer and then the trailer for Tony Hawk's Proving Ground back-to-back, I think you'll find it very difficult to not be more excited about THPG at this point. Neversoft and Activision did a really, really job with this trailer. It was one of my favorites. ($)


Wanted to just post about a couple movies we watched on DVD recently. And yes, they've all been out for quite some time. Our Netflix queue is rather dated, what can I say?

Hotel Rwanda
This was an excellent film based on a true story about the efforts of a Hutu hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina (played by the outstanding Don Cheadle), who turns his resort into a refugee camp for thousands of Tutsis trying to flee the genocide. The Rwandan slaughter took place less than ten years ago yet the world simply stood by. Other than getting their own citizens to safety, Western countries did nothing to stop the massacres. While a million people were helplessly being slaughtered by militants with machetes, people in Washington D.C. and the United Nations were busy arguing over whether the term "genoncide" was really the right word to describe the situation. You can hear actual audio of Condoleeza Rice debating the terminology of the situation in the movie -- the refugees are listening to her on radio -- and the moment is a powerful reminder of how pathetic we can be at times. As an American, that was a very embarrasing thing to see. This is a Schindler's List for the modern age, yet here, unlike in WWII, we chose to ignore the atrocities completely. Perhaps its because the people who were suffering were very, very poor. Or maybe because they were black. Nevertheless, the story of how this one man helped save so many and the risks he took to do so is pretty remarkable.

Saint Ralph
This was one of those movies that it's plain to see that the movie is not very good, yet you watch it anyway. It's about a young teenager, about 14 in age, who attends Catholic High School, but is always in trouble. He goes through some very awkward coming-of-age moments that we've all seen before in far funnier films. Yet, the difference is that his mother is dying and he overhears someone say that it will take a "miracle" for her to come out of her coma. So he decides that since the Church believes in miracles -- a requirement for sainthood -- that he will do all the things a Saint would have to do (prayer, purity, etc.,) so that maybe he too can perform a miracle and save his mother. The miracle he chose to perform is to win the Boston Marathon. So while the first half of the movie centers around him getting into various embarrasing situations with his penis, the latter half turns into a Chariots of Fire imitation. With a heaping dose of Catholic doctrine piled on top. The movie is not very good, and the boy starring in it is very annoying, yet I watched it to the end anyway. I would recommend it to my mother, but nobody else. She's got a thing for Saints.

Tuesdays With Morrie
You've seen the book for sale in Starbucks. You've heard Oprah talk about it. And, you may even know who Mitch Albom is from watching the Sports Reporters early Sunday mornings on ESPN (or you read him in Detroit). Yet, like us, you never bothered to read the book or watch the movie. We finally did. And it's good. For starters, it's another non-fiction piece that feels more like a memoir from Mitch than a good story. The movie shows Mitch completely married to his job of a sports reporter; always on the road, constantly under deadline, and forever with his cell phone mashed against the side of his face. Until, that is, he hears that his favorite college professor is dying from Lou Gehrig's Disease. The ol' prof, Morrie, is one of those wise old men who are constantly dispensing with stories that, if you listen closely, just might teach you how to live a better life. Morrie is extremely likable and does indeed have more than his share of pearls to share with Mitch. And as Mitch continues to fly from Detroit to Boston every week to spend time with Morrie, you can see him slowly becoming a better, more attentive man. Which is good, because his girlfriend in the movie (the incredibly beautiful Wendy Moniz) is about to leave him if he doesn't. It's a sad movie and in a way reminds me of the wretchedly depressing My Life starring Michael Keaton, but it's definitely worth watching and does have a few genuinely funny moments as well.

Ride Report: Seattle to Portland

Long before I considered moving to the west coast, I had heard of Seattle to Portland (STP). The ride, considered the single biggest cycling event in the US, has a mystique about it. Perhaps it's because of its distance (204 miles) or because of the two cities that bookend the route or because it's the only cycling event that takes riders within eyesight of four different volcanoes. Whatever the reason, I don't know; I just know I always wanted to join the masses and do STP. But like most things, when they're right in your backyard you tend to downplay them. So, as the date approached I have to say that I wasn't really looking forward to it. The course is very flat, its overcrowded, and well, it also requires being on my road bike for 204 miles. Of the 9,000 riders who participate, the vast majority (6,700) do it in two days. I didn't see the point in stretching it out over a whole weekend, so I decided to join the minority and tackle the whole course in one day.

My STP began at 3:45 Saturday morning with my alarm clock going off. Kristin, perhaps sucking up to me for a nice Anniversary present, got up and made me coffee while I showered. Yes, she's clinically insane but I love her anyway. I was out the door by 4:30 and on my way to the starting line at the University of Washington in Seattle. The Interstate was filled with cars with 2, 3, and sometimes 4 bikes on the back of them. All with race numbers. After sitting in a long line of traffic at such an ungodly hour that even Starbucks wasn't open yet, I finally got suited up, dropped off my bag of clothes to be delivered to the finish line in Portland, Oregon, and made my way to the starting line.

They were releasing riders onto the course in large waves; my wave started at 5:50. The first hour was rather slow going due to the mass trepidation we all shared and because, well, it was really freaking early! This was the the most scenic part of the entire course, however. We crossed the Montlake Cut and descended down past the Seattle Arboretum and Japanese Tea Garden over to Lake Washington Blvd and cruised along the pristine lakefront road while watching the sun rise over the water. The view of the sun, the lake, and the Bellevue skyline and distant Cascade Mountains was just one more reminder of why I love living here. People came from 47 states and 4 different countries to ride STP this weekend and I bet every one of them was impressed by the sights. And we get to ride those roads every day if we want. It doesn't any get better than that. But I digress...

Thirty miles into the ride saw the first bit of drama unfold as a guy in a recumbent bike dropped his water bottle and decided to -- without warning -- bang a U-turn to get it in front of 30 cyclists occupying the entire lane. Several of us screeched to a halt and banged up against one another while trying to avoid t-boning the idiot cyclist. I missed colliding with his rear wheel by mere inches. Profanity and threats to body and property filled the air but soon we were all back into our own personal daydreams and cycling along.

Unlike in the other century rides I entered this year, I was not about to pass up an opportunity to draft at STP. 204 miles is too far to go it alone. The early pace lines that formed were rather scary due to the amount of people we were passing and because we hadn't truly separated the fast from the slow yet. As a result, I constantly found myself at the front of the line with a half-dozen people behind me sucking my wheel. I didn't mind; it was safer to be at the front and I would have plenty of time to draft later.

The course got pretty nondescript after the first 40 miles and although we got to enjoy a really nice shaded section on a paved rail-trail, it was over before long and we were back on the shoulders of roads that were too busy for my liking. At 80 miles my feet started to hurt as I was developing a couple of hot spots on my big toe on my left foot and my right Achilles tendon was getting sore. I felt great otherwise despite the heat and unusual humidity.

The course passes through Centralia Community College at mile 100 and I must say that there was enough of a party atmosphere in place to make me almost wish I was spending the night and finishing on Sunday. Before off the bike, I was handed a ceamsicle and a cup of iced coffee. I needed both. I dumped my bike in the shade and found my way over to the 1-day rider's food station. Whole Foods markets had been staffing the primary official aid stations along the course and the quality of the food (especially the organic fruit) was incredible. Everything tastes better when you're working out, but the apricots and chicken wrap sandwiches were incredible. It was also nice having Oddwalla Juice and Vitamin Water handing out plenty of their drinks as well.

The problem with all of the festivities at the 100 mile mark is that it makes it that much harder to get back on the bike and continue on. What made it even worse was that my left toe was starting to really hurt. As I commented to other riders sharing similar thoughts, 104 miles is far too long yet to ride to start having a "let's just get it over with" attitude.

Although I felt good after the big rest in Centralia, it wasn't long before my toe started hurting uncontrollably. At mile 120 I stopped at a mini rest stop (aka fundraising booth) and took off my shoes and socks to have a look. The callous on my big toe was extremely sore, but showed no signs of rupturing and there were no fresh blisters so I spread on a bunch of antiobiotic ointment just in case it tore open, and then I taped a few band-aids over it. Back onto the bike.

By now the foot was really hurting and I was starting to get tired. It was getting really hot -- almost 90 degrees -- and I was getting pretty bored. Aside from the toe pain I felt great, but the pain in the toe was starting to become excruciating. It would go away and then, ten minutes later, it would feel as if someone was putting out a cigarette on my toe. Over and over with every pedal stroke. Burn, burn, burn. I started riding with my left foot unclipped from the pedal and stretched out to the side, but that didn't make it feel much better and only served to slow everyone down around me.

We finally approached the massive bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon at mile 150 and although I enjoyed the climb up the bridge -- I made a point of really attacking every hill on the course -- I was not happy with the descent. I was coasting along at 40 mph down the Oregon side of the bridge and hit a steel plate on the sidewalk we were on really hard. One of my two water bottles became dislodged but I was able to pin it with my leg against the bike. I was really scared to let it fall for fear of what would happen to the people behind me if they hit it at that speed. So I held the water bottle with my left calf while trying to slow the bike down to a speed that I felt comfortable taking a hand off the handlebars, but the bottle eventually fell. Fortunately, there wasn't anybody directly behind me and it seemed to roll someplace out of the way. Up until the middle of the afternoon, I was stopping often enough to only have to refill one water bottle at each rest stop but we were now in the heat of the day and I was clearly starting to get dehydrated. Now more than ever I needed that second water bottle.

I eventually stopped around mile 175 and put the credit card I had in my saddle bag to use at a 7-11 to buy a large V-8 and bottle of Vitamin Water. I didn't know where the next rest stop was and since most of them required cash donations in order to get anything, there was a chance I wouldn't have been able to replace the bottle anyway. Naturally, the next rest stop was just 3 miles further and filled with tons of free food and drink care of Whole Foods. The near-frozen grapes were to die for.

The last 25 miles or so were spent riding on the shoulder of a busy urban road as we made our way into the city limits. By now everybody just wanted to be done. My toe was hurting so badly now that I was literally screaming in agony and nearly in tears. The pain was exactly as it felt when I had to have my thumb cauterized at field camp... without pain killer (I had been bitten by a black widow spider). To add insult to injury, once in the city limits, the park was nowhere to be seen. We had to follow a circuitous path up and over some hills, over a bridge, past the Rose Garden, and then, finally, we were able to hear the applause of the semi-roaring crowd at the finish line. Relief. It was over. It took a little over 11 hours of pure pedal time with an extra 90 minutes or so of time spent at rest-stops and red-lights.

I had people tell me as recently as Friday night that doing STP in one day "will be easy." I found those comments pretty funny considering most of the people I talked with hadn't ever done it themselves, but I think they, like me, were simply judging by the fact that I had ridden 201 miles on my mountain bike at the 24-hour race in May. Common sense would say that if I could ride 200 miles on a mountain bike, I could do it much easier on my road bike. I'm not going to disagree with that, but I will definitely say that doing STP in one day is not easy. It's a different kind of hard. It's a mental challenge in which you're trying to overcome bouts of complete and utter boredom all the while focusing on riding a straight line several inches off the tire in front of you and dodging cars. Your ass hurts from sitting on a hard bike seat for 11 hours and, in my case, you get a hole in your sock that results in pain the likes you hadn't ever experienced. There is also the heat, the lack of shade, and also the constant fear of what the guy next to you might do at any moment. No, doing STP in one day is definitely not easy. I'm very proud that I finished it, but also know that I wouldn't ever do it again. Maybe it's the mountain biker in me, maybe it's because of the wonderfully scenic (and car-free) roads that I get to ride near my house but I honestly see no aspects of the ride that would make me want to ever do it again, other than for the reason I did it this year -- as a well-supported training ride.

I called Kristin from the finish line -- she was at Alki Beach having a drink with friends -- and told her it was over and that I may need to have my toe amputated. She sensed that I was exaggerating (I wasn't so sure I was) but said she'd wait up for me until I got home. She's awesome. I then strolled silently through the finish line festivities over to the hotel where my bag was. It wasn't there, but I was too tired to get upset. We eventually found it in the wrong pile of luggage. Phew! I immediately took my Sidi bike shoes off and slipped into my sandals. Now I'm done. Now I feel like I can start to recover. I dropped my bike off with the moving company in charge of transporting the thousands of bicycles back to Seattle, then hit the shower truck. Shockingly they even had hot water. From there, it was across the street to Quiznos and then onto the bus for the 3.5 hour drive back to Seattle. I finally pulled into the driveway after midnight, nearly 20 hours after I left. At least I caught the first bus back to Seattle...

Portland seemed like a nice place to visit. Next time I think I'll leave the bike at home.

Note: Although I comment that I found the ride to be boring and say that I wouldn't ever do it again, this is primarily a function of the route the course takes. The Cascade Bicycle Club does an absolutely fantastic job organizing this ride and most everything about this massive event is well coordinated with an eye towards making it as convenient as possible for the cyclist. That said, I found the route to use far too many busy streets and to simply lack the scenery that I would expect from a destination-style event such as this. The Pacific Northwest has incredible scenery and I think the thousands of people who flock here to do this event would be better served by taking them off the urban streets and highways and giving them more rural scenery. Lastly, I would say that there needs to be some advance warning for first-time STP'ers to bring cash. Most of the aid stations were run by schools and clubs looking to raise money. I have no problem with that, but since I don't normally carry cash with me when I'm cycling, I was unable to refuel at many of the aid stations other than to refill water bottles. Also, I didn't expect everything at the finish line to be cash-based. To not even have any free food or drink at the finish line of such a huge event was both shocking and disappointing. Maybe my years in triathlon and mountain bike racing spoiled me, but I couldn't believe the lack of finish line food and drink.

Thanks: Special thanks, as always, to my sponsors BradyGames and Re/Max on the Ridge. Their support is going a long way towards making this an unforgettable year in my cycling carer.

Brain Freeze at the Seattle Kwik-E-Mart

Seattle is one of the 12 cities chosen to have a 7-11 be converted into a Kwik-E-Mart as part of the awesomely genius marketing promotion taking place this month across America. Kristin works about 3 blocks from the Seattle 7-11 so today, while in the city to pick up my rider packet for tomorrow's STP, I got to stop in and grab some photos. And a Squishee. And a pink-frosted donut with sprinkles. Mmmm.... sprinkles....

For those in the area, the 7-11 in question is on Denny Way, about a block east of the Pacific Science Center.

The store was packed with people buying who had driven from all corners to take photos and purchase their own Squishees and 6-packs of Buzz Cola. Sorry, no Duff beer. I had never in my life seen a 7-11 this crowded. And this friendly. Everybody is loving the promotion and I've heard of several people who drove upwards of two hours to see one of these stores in person. I'm a pretty jaded person and I can't stand cornball marketing ploys that feed off the hive mentality of mainstream America. But I proudly make an exception for this. Turning a 7-11 into a Kwik-E-Mart was a fantastic idea. It's a perfect match and it was done pretty tastefully too. Did I say, "tastefully"? I meant tasty. Sorry, can't type, eating.

Me and longtime friend, Homer Simpson.

Click here to see the rest of the photos I took.

Another E3 Trailer Blowout Coming Later

I'm in the process of downloading another dozen or so trailers from E3 via the X360 Live Marketplace and once I get a chance to watch them all later today, I'll have another quick rundown of my thoughts on them.

Also, for those looking to get their hands on some demos, there's a lot of available free demos on Live right now. New arrivals include Ace Combat 6, The BIGS, Blue Dragon, and Stuntman: Ignition among others.


Want to know exactly how fun my Thursday night training rides can be? Well, aside from the fact that we end each ride with dinner and beer at the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, there is the occasional "Thrilla'rita" version of the ride as well.

Last night was the second annual Thrilla'Rita. What's Thrilla'Rita, you ask? Well, rather than meet us at the start of the ride, our ride leader Kevin instead tows a trailer on his bike to the top of the hill at the midway point of the ride and waits for us. In said cooler is enough ice, maragarita mix, and tequila to easily quench the thirst of a dozen sweaty mountain bikers looking to imbibe mid-ride. And not only did he have the cooler full of drinks, but he even had a Conch Republic (i.e. Key West, aka Margaritaville) flag waving from his bike! Not to mention a Hawaiian shirt.

Mid-ride margaritas aside, last night was my first good ride in a few weeks. I kept saying I was going to hold back so as to not burn myself out two days before STP, but I ended up finishing the route in 1:36 anyway, which was a new personal best. I think. We lost one very short section of singletrack due to development, but that only cut a minute or so out of the ride.

Giant E3 Trailer Blowout

I like this new E3 very much. I get to stay at home and queu up a number of hi-definition game trailers for free download on my Xbox 360 while I busy myself with work or while watching the Tour de France coverage. Then, rather than wait in line with the smelly camcorder-thrusting masses that conned their way into the LA Convention Center every May, I can sit back and watch the trailers from the comfort of my leather sofa. At my leisure. Ah yes, this new E3 is indeed grand!

(Although I do miss going out drinking with my editors every night after the show... especially since I rarely ever had to open my wallet.)

This post represents what will be the extent of my E3 "coverage". I'm not going to discuss the Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft press conferences because, frankly, that stuff is boring to me. I care about games, not suits and talking points. So, instead of rambling on about price cuts that did and did not happen, I'm going to give you a first-impression of the dozens of game trailers I've downloaded yesterday and today. I've watched them each two or three times and will now share with you my initial reactions in rapid-fire format. You'll see my corresponding interest level in parentheses, shown as 1 to 5 star scale.

Blacksite: Area 51 - Although I'm reluctant to get excited about yet another first-person shooter, I do like what I see here. The trailer is mostly gameplay footage -- a rarity as you'll see -- and the weaponry and alien design seems pretty cool. It seems to have avoided being considered a Halo clone, which is good thing in my book. This could be one to watch. (***)

Beautiful Katamari - It seems to be the same game we've been playing for a couple of years now on the PS2, but I must admit that I am a sucker for stupid games like this. Is there anything better than rolling a giant sticky ball around and watching it gradually grow from being large enough to pick up cookies to huge enough to collect cars and buildings! The addition of online leaderboards, multiplayer, and Achievements makes this a must-buy for me (*****)

Crash of the Titans - Crash Bandicoot is back and for some reason it seems as if Mike Tyson (or an impersonator) is doing the voice-over work for one of the other characters in the game. I'm glad to see another platformer make a comeback, as I do like the Crash Bandicoot series, but despite being one of the longest and most polished trailers in the bunch, there wasn't an ounce of actual gameplay on display here. Everything was scripted and clipped from cutscenes. I don't understand this. Every poll ever taken shows that most gamers, by and large, couldn't give a rat's ass about the story of the games, yet this trailer (and most others) only reveal story and background scenes and no gameplay. (***)

Guitar Hero III - Color me psyched. Not only can you actually get into a guitar battle with Slash from Guns and Roses, but the partially revealed track list is positively smoking. Here's just a sample: "Welcome to the Jungle" - Guns and Roses, "Even Flow" - Pearl Jam, "Cherub Rock" - Smashing Pumpkins, "Sabotage" - Beastie Boys, "Rock and Roll All Night" - KISS, and last but most certainly not least (and a song I've been hoping for since the very first Guitar Hero released) "Cult of Personality" - Living Colour. I never send letters to game developers making song requests, but I did actually send Harmonix an email two years ago requesting "Cult of Personality" for an upcoming sequel. Another must-buy that can't get here soon enough. (*****)

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja - I downloaded this thinking it was a sequel to I-Ninja. My bad. It's actually some anime game involving a kid ninja. It's got a great cel-shading graphical style and I can see the allure if you're a kid into anime, but, umm, moving right along... (*)

Civilization: Revolution - No trailer pissed me off more than this one. The Civilization franchise is long considered the pinnacle of turn-based empire-building strategy games. Sid Meier, the game's creator, is gaming royalty. And he says this is the game he's always wanted to make. However, the trailer is nothing but cinematics showing various scenes from throughout time. There's not only no gameplay footage at all, but there's not even mention of whether or not the game will be turn-based or an action game or a real-time strategy. Nothing. Don't get me wrong, Sid Meier is the E.F. Hutton of gaming and when he says this is the game he's always wanted to make, people do listen. And I'm listening. But I'm also watching and so far I see nothing that tells me anything about this game. (***)

Project Gotham Racing 4 - Umm, let's see. It's the sequel to my favorite gaming franchise and now it includes motorcycles. And you can do stunts on those motorcycles. If they added lawnmowers, I'd still buy this game. Oh, and by the way, easily the best looking game of the bunch. It's no wonder the Sony people have repeatedly "accidentally" used screenshots of PGR3 for Gran Turismo marketing. (*****)

Lost Odyssey - I don't know about this game. It looks really pretty, but I can't tell if it's a hack-and-slash action game, a la Ninety-Nine Nights, or if it has more of a role-playing feel to it. I don't know. It seems like it might fit somewhere alongside the Onimusha series. Which isn't a bad thing, but I really hate trying to describe a game by mentioning other games. Nothing here really grabbed my attention. (**)

Viva Pinata Party Animals - This is genius. The Viva Pinata cartoon show and videogame feature some truly likeable and very funny characters and now they're taking them and basing a party game around them. Granted, this particular party game is certainly not going to be as wholesome as, say, the upcoming 80th iteration of the Mario Party series, but that's a good thing. Yeah, blowing sailboats across a pond by belching at them might be a bit crude and juvenile, but look at it this way: the game can't be worse than Fusion Frenzy 2. (****)

Mass Effect - There must be something that I'm not seeing. This is one of the most anticipated titles of the year and yet, to me, it just looks like a Halo rip-off. And since I really have no interest in the Halo series, I have no interest in Mass Effect. I don't know; it's got Bioware behind it so it can't suck, but there's clearly something to this one that I don't get. (**)

Devil May Cry 4 - Well, it looks like it's staying true to the series. It's a good-looking frenetic action game in which you use guns and swords to build up a huge combo chain as MTV-speak gets thrown on the screen to tell you how good you're doing. The game oozes style, no doubt, but I have no interest in this series. I tried the first two and didn't like them and moved on. Which is what I'll do now. (*)

Bourne Conspiracy - You got to give them credit for actually showing a lot of gameplay footage in this trailer. And, to be sure, what I've seen in the trailer actually looks decent. It might end up being your basic run-of-the-mill action hero game starring yet another badass white boy with a gun and karate skills, but this could be a case where the story is strong enough to make it worth playing regardless of how generic the gameplay may end up being. Color me interested. (***)

Assassin's Creed - This is the same trailer that we've seen online for a few months now and I still love it. Unfortunately the early words coming in from E3 is that the game is actually not living up to the hype. But we don't know that yet. All I have is this trailer and I'm going to continue to say that I highly look forward to taking on the role of this medieval thief and putting all of his crazy free-runing Prince of Persia skills to use. (*****)

Eternal Sonata - It's a Japanese-style RPG which means little kids taking turns thumbing through attack menus and saving the world from an evil the world has never seen. Again. The music-theme may enhance the story and the graphics are certainly beautiful, but you either love these games or hate them. Or maybe you just sort of tolerate them once every couple of years. Maybe this will be the one that holds me over to 2010. (***)

Frontlines: Fuel of War - Here we go, another trailer that showns nothing but pre-rendered footage of evrything but gameplay. It's a war game and it seems you control squads of elite soldiers pushing the frontlines forward one squad maneuver at a time. Might be multiplayer. Might be singleplayer. I have no idea because the trailer does nothing but show me how "cool" the game could be if it were in fact a movie. But it's not, and I'm not interested. (**)

Two Worlds - The trailer lays down the claim that this is the most epic RPG of all time. To me, it looks like a wannabe Elder Scrolls game. Of course, just about every RPG maker wants their game to be an Elder Scrolls game, but there's only one Bethesda and being that I've hardly played their latest game, I doubt I'll be playing Two Worlds either. (**)

Army of Two - This looks pretty badass. No, the trailer doesn't show any gameplay footage as far as I could tell, but I can clearly see why this game is getting so much hype, in spite of it being made by EA. You seem to take on the role of a near-future mercenary and, well, there's lots of guns and war and, well, it just looks pretty freaking awesome from where I sit. (****)

Note: I didn't download the trailers for Halo 3 or for any of the team-based sports games as I already know I have no interest in them.

Xbox Live Arcade Montage - The Xbox Live Arcade Montage consisted of quick snippets of video from a dozen or more games. And I am psyched. I play XBLA games more than retail games lately (finished Band of Bugs last night, as a matter of fact) and what I see here has me very excited about the Wednesdays to come this year. I'm not going to mention every game they showed in this video, but here's my favorites:

  1. Bomberman Live - The game everyone is waiting for and it looks great. Lots of fun multiplayer action to be had for sure. I can't wait. (*****)
  2. Undertow - Never heard of this before. An underwater multiplayer shooter with some pretty snazzy graphics. (***)
  3. Hexic 2 - Hexic, despite coming free with the X360, is one of my favorite puzzle games and the sequel shows a head-to-head multiplayer mode. Awesome. (*****)
  4. War World - Large mechanical robot multiplayer fighting. Seems a little clunky from the quick clip they showed, but fun nonetheless. (**)
  5. Sensible Soccer - Now this has me excited. It seems to be a very fast-paced accessible soccer game for the masses, perhaps like the old soccer games on the SNES. (***)
  6. Every Extend Extra - This is one of my favorite games on the PSP and I will most certainly buy it for XBLA as well. It's a shooter/puzzle game and it's great. (*****)
  7. Wing Commander Arena - This one took a beating when it was first revealed, but I actually think it looks pretty fun. Multiplayer spaceship battles can't be boring. (***)
  8. Spyglass Board Games - Not sure what is included besides chess and checkers (perhaps Othello too) but that's all you need. Casual gaming defined. (*****)
  9. Space Giraffe - I have no idea what you do in this game and, frankly, it looks a bit too much like Tempest for my liking, but I'm interested anyway. At least a little. (**)
  10. Word Puzzle - This game had Kristin excited, which makes me excited. It's a falling-block puzzle game, but you make words ala Boggle. Definitely. (*****)
  11. Poker Smash - Another take on the falling block puzzle game, but with the blocks resembling cards in a deck and you appear to piece together poker hands. Genius. (*****)
  12. Switchball - This could be a lot like Super Monkey Ball or maybe even the PSOne title, Roll Away, but I enjoy games like this and from what the video shows, the level design and graphics look superb. (****)
  13. Geon - This one is hard to describe. You have a cube of sorts that you're guiding on a track and collecting somethings but the track design is very trippy and, while I have no idea what you're really looking to do in this game, it definitely caught my eye. (****)
  14. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - I've been playing this game a few minutes of every day for most of 2007. And I still might get it for XBLA anyway. There aren't many RPGs out there that use a falling-blocks puzzle setup for their battle system. This is a must-get if you haven't played it yet. (*****)

Okay, that concludes my wrap-up of the trailers that are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace and what I think of them so far. There will certainly be more later today and/or tomorrow. Maybe I'll add a follow-up post for those too. In the meantime, don't feel bad that you're not at E3 because, seriously, it's better watching it from home.

Thou Have Angered the Cycling Gods

All I can think is that something, somewhere, didn't like my comment about not caring if my bike had been stolen while camping last weekend. That's the only possible explanation for what I have experienced the past two days.

For starters, there's yesterday. I was riding the gravel hardpack Snoqualmie Valley Trail over to Tolt-MacDonald park for a group singletrack ride. Rather than drive there and just ride 9 or 10 miles with the group, I decided to enjoy the day and ride the 16 miles of rail-trail there and back as well. Well, that was the plan. Lo and behold my seat rail completely broke off while riding the gravel trail, about two miles from the singletrack trailhead. My friend Bob did his best McGyver impersonation, but even zip-tieing a tape-covered rock under the center of the seat failed to offer the support I wanted. It was rideable, but it was clear the other seat rail was going to break and, when it did, I would be looking at a possible self-impalement of the wrongest kind. Also, I could have ridden out of the saddle the remainder of the ride, but I've done that before after breaking a seatpost and it fries your calves something fierce. Not an option with STP this weekend. So, after a couple of miles of singletrack, I headed back down the hill and caught a ride home with some other guys who were bailing early. Thanks Calvin!

That brings us to today. Nevermind the fact that we set all sorts of temperature records today here in the Seattle area -- high 90's for those curious -- but I nevertheless suited up for a 50 mile hilly ride on the roadbike. The hilly descent from Snoqualmie Falls into Fall City has finally been repaved so I can access my old training route without having to ride on chewed up asphalt again. Or so I thought. I started the ride at 2:30 and, barely 1.5 miles from home rode over something hard and flatted. The only other time I flatted with my road bike was at this same exact spot on Snoqualmie Parkway last summer with Erik. I replaced the tube, and filled the tire back up and decided to go back up the hill to my house to get another spare tube just in case. While I was home, I quickly checked the tire pressure with my pump then headed back out the door. The tire blew out not even 1/4 mile later.

I believe in karma. And I believe that when you get two quick strikes on you, there's no reason to press your luck and go for three. I turned the bike around and walked home. I figured I would just switch shoes and hop on my mountain bike and get a nice ride in on the trails in the neighborhood. As the garage door opened I realized that I had no seat for my mountain bike.

So I went over to Singletrack Cycles and got a new seat -- the owner was even nice enough to wrestle with the ridiculous Moots seatpost clamp so I didn't have to -- and four extra sets of brake pads for TransRockies (Jenson was out of stock when I placed my big order the other night). I also grabbed a few extra tubes for the road bike -- I have a feeling I may need them come Saturday.

Just Don't Call Him Special

A double amputee sprinter from South Africa is set to compete against the world's fastest men in attempt to make it to the Olympic qualifying meet. No, not the Special Olympics, the real ones.

LONDON — Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who races on carbon fiber blades attached below his knees, will get a chance to prove himself against some of the best runners in the world.

The 20-year-old South African will run the 400 meters at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Sheffield, England, on Sunday in a field that includes Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner of the United States. Also entered are American Darold Williamson, a former Olympic relay gold medalist; Australian John Steffensen, the Commonwealth Games 400-meter champion; and Angelo Taylor, former 400-meter Olympic hurdles champion.

This is an absolutely amazing story, both in terms of human perseverance and drive and just how far we've come technologically. Oscar has set records in the Paralympics but wasn't satisfied and now wants to be among the best in the world -- and that means competing head-to-head with the best able-bodied athletes there are. And he's got a shot to beat some of them... and possibly make the Olympics.

The guy has run a 46.56 in the 400m sprint. That's insanely quick. Anybody who has ever run track in high school or college knows that breaking 50 seconds in the quarter-mile is a special feat and that if you ever got under 46 seconds you could easily consider yourself a world class elite sprinter. Oscar, despite having no legs below the knees, has reached that level. As an athlete with a sense of my own mortality and back-of-the-mind fear of permanent injury, I love stories like this. I often wonder if something was to happen to me in which I lost a limb or became paralyzed, would I still get up each day and find a way to continue biking or hiking or being active? Would I continue to push to improve myself physically like Oscar (or, more applicably, Brett Wolfe) or would I just sit in the corner and pity myself?

Read more about Oscar in today's Seattle Times here.

Pay Him Whatever He Wants

Reports are circling that the Mariners and Ichiro are close to signing a 5-year contract extension worth $100 million. I'm not sure if it's possible for someone to be overpaid and worth every penny at the same time, but that's how I feel. The Mariners positively, absolutely, have to keep Ichiro in the Seattle. He may not choose to speak much English, he may not be a leader in the clubhouse, and his relations with the press may be non-existent, but he is nonetheless the face of the franchise and the reason fans still flock to Safeco Field from as far away as Tokyo just to see the man play. That, and it doesn't hurt that he is a 6-time All-Star, a perrenial Gold Glove outfielder, a former League MVP, and the owner of the most hits ever in a season in the history of the game. After losing every major star this team has ever had -- Griffey, A-Rod, and Randy Johnson for example -- this franchise, for once, has to see to it that one of their superstars retires in Seattle. And to do that they have to offer him so much money that there is no chance of him turning it down to seek free agency at the end of the season.

Seattle Times article about "imminent" contract extension.

Yes, this contract is starting to approach A-Rod numbers in terms of annual salary. That's true. And no, I don't think a center fielder who hits for average is worth that kind of dough, but the Mariners are a wealthy franchise that has the money to spend. And keeping Ichiro in Seattle not only creates international attention, but it bolsters the morale of the fanbase who frankly would have thrown up in our collective garlic fries if we ever saw Ichiro is Boston or New York. Not only that, this team is poised for greatness. Maybe not this year, but even a slight improvement from the starting pitching rotation will be all it takes to make them a true World Series contender. For example, here's something you might not know: the Mariners have a better record than the entire National League. Unfortunately, they only have the 5th best record in the AL at the moment, which leaves them on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs go. But there's stil 80 or so games to be played and they're only trailing the Angels by 2.5 games and are a mere 1.5 games out from the Wildcard.

Oh, and Ichiro went 3-3 in the All-Star Game tonight and had an inside-the-park homerun!

TR Training: The Final Countdown

This is it. TransRockies is just a month away and I am feeling great after my self-imposed hiatus. It's been 9 days since I last touched a bicycle and while I was glad to not be riding early last week, I was positively jonesing for a ride over the weekend. But I restrained myself and continued to recharge my batteries. I'm really excited about the ride I have planned for later today. I placed a big order on JensonUSA.com last night for enough spare bike parts to all but rebuild my entire drivetrain twice, as well as some extra tires, tubes, and brake pads. I'm ready. Now all I need is to implement my final plan of attack to ramp back up the mileage over the next two to three weeks and then taper before TR.

Here's the plan:

7/9 - 7/15
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 40 miles of gravel road and singletrack on mtn bike.
Wednesday - 50 miles road bike
Thursday - 20 miles fast-paced mountain bike ride.
Friday - Off
Saturday - 204 mile road bike ride "Seattle to Portland"
Sunday - Off

7/16 - 7/22
Monday - 100 mile gravel road ride on mtn bike.
Tuesday - 40 miles of gravel road and singletrack on mtn bike.
Wednesday - 50 miles road bike
Thursday - 20 miles fast-paced mountain bike ride.
Friday - Off
Saturday - 30 miles mtn bike, hills and singletrack.
Sunday - 70 miles road bike.

7/23 - 7/29
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 50 miles of gravel road and singletrack on mtn bike.
Wednesday - 70 miles road bike.
Thursday - 40 miles fast-paced mountain bike ride.
Friday - Off
Saturday - All-day epic mountain bike ride.
Sunday - All-day semi-epic mountain bike ride.

7/30 - 8/5
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 50 miles of gravel road and singletrack on mtn bike.
Wednesday - 50 miles road bike.
Thursday - Off (plans)
Friday - Off (plans)
Saturday - 20 miles, fast-paced hilly singletrack mtn bike.
Sunday - 35 miles, hills and singletrack.

8/6 - 8/12
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 12 miles singletrack
Wednesday - 30 miles road bike
Thursday - Off (packing for TR)
Friday - Drive to Panorama, BC
Saturday - Check-in and race prep.
Sunday - TransRockies Day 1

8/13 - 8/19
Monday - TransRockies Day 2
Tuesday - TransRockies Day 3
Wednesday - TransRockies Day 4
Thursday - TransRockies Day 5
Friday - TransRockies Day 6
Saturday - TransRockies Day 7
Sunday - Drive home from Fernie, BC

And then I sleep.


Kristin was petting Annana on Sunday night when she discovered a small lump on Annana's abdomen. I went over and felt it too and it was definitely not something we had noticed before. A quick check of the "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" informed us that lumps such as this on the abdomen could possibly be a tumor, and not necessarily benign. We took a deep breath, each of us silently thinking to ourselves that we knew this day might come. Annana is 8 years old and in seemingly good health, but detecting this lump suddenly had us second-guessing everything she's done lately. Kristin commented that she thinks Annana was peeing more frequently. I commented that she seems to spend too much time alone. We were worried.

The doctor we usually take our dogs to see wasn't available on Monday and although Kristin was ready to schedule with anyone, I was able to convince her to wait for the doctor we and our dogs know. After all, it's not like an extra day or two would make a big difference and the doctor Kristin originally scheduled an appointment with was one we already had a bad experience with. This could end up being something really serious and it was important that we didn't start off with the wrong doctor.

So I took Annana to the vet this morning (she doesn't mind going, the hard part is getting Kimo to stay put while I try to leave without him) and Dr. Chan came in the room with Annana's chart and asked if this was about the lump she found in Annana's belly in April.

"I don't think so, I never heard anything about a lump found on her in April."
"Yeah, it's on her chart."
She then started feeling Annana's belly and confirmed that yep, this was the one she apparently told us about back in April. It's just a fatty deposit, much like the one on Annana's chest (she's had that one most of her life). And sure enough, she did write it on the chart back in April.

Kristin took the dogs for checkups and shots before our trip to Utah and, apparently in the commotion of getting ready for the trip, Kristin completely forgot about the lump detection. Which is understandable since Dr. Chan assured us it was nothing to worry about.

So, when all was said and done, we had our first semi-scare regarding our dogs' health but it ended up being nothing to worry about. I wasted 5 minutes of the doctor's time, and about an hour of my own, but at least we have peace of mind now. Through it all though, it was nice knowing that we do have health insurance for the dogs for when this isn't a false alarm. Which I hope we never have to use.

Clean bill of health!