Whew. Yesterday I rode the Death Ride up in Markleeville, South of Lake Tahoe. It was impossible. It didn’t snow so I can’t say it was worse than the Eastern Sierra Double, and I didn’t get lost in the dark and add 40 miles, so I can’t say it was worse than the Heartbreak Double, but it was brutal. Hotter and much windier than last year, and had a rainstorm on the final climb like last year (although it did not hail). I was toast and barely finished. However I did and I’m proud of myself; I think about 3,000 riders started, and about 1,000 finished all five passes :)
129 miles, 5 passes, 15,000' of climbing
heat and wind on the 8%+ climb up to Monitor Pass
a rainstorm on the 12 mile climb up to Carson Pass
one Death Rider who was pretty happy to finish and sign the ride poster
how many passes did I climb today?
Well now it's over and I can rest and recuperate and brag about it. The best part :)
Way back in the dawn of time when I was an undergraduate at Caltech, I worked in the radio astronomy department on a project called VLBI, very long baseline interferometery. Essentially this project took signals from radio telescopes all over the Earth and combined them, using phase differences between the arrival of radio waves from a given source to determine the physical configuration of the source. One of the key sites used in this project was OVRO, the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, which is located just North of Big Pine, California.
You can see the huge OVRO radio dishes when you're driving on highway 395, in the distances against the hills to the East, and tens or probably hundreds of times I've thought to myself "I should go check them out", as I'm driving to go skiing in Mammoth, or visit Lake Tahoe, or go cycling in Markleeville. And so it was that this morning I stopped, and checked it out.
First, the installation practices security by obscurity; you have to travel through some little backroads to get there, but there are no fences or gates, just one warning sign.
Second, the dishes are HUGE. You can't imagine how big until you're next to them.
Third, it was cool to note that all the dishes are inline, mounted on giant railroad tracks, so that the distance between them can be minutely controlled to capture different wavelengths as if they were part of one telescope.
And finally, there is an amazing majesty to these huge telescopes, calmly viewing the universe as it existed billions of years ago.
It literally brought tears to my eyes, standing there all alone. Kind of a religious experience on a Sunday morning. In the church of OVRO.
Many of these trees are 3,000 years old, and one, named Methusulah, is 4,700 years old. These trees grow very slowly in dry chalky soil above 10,000'.
They are thick and gnarled and amazing and beautiful. I could easily imagine them slowly considering me, like the Ents in Lord of the Rings, carrying on a conversation with each other with a time constant too slow for me to detect.
As you view this picture, imaging being alone in the mountains with the wind whistling through the trees to complete the scene, with an amazing view across the Owens Valley into the Eastern Sierras. It is a special place.
There is a nice "Discovery Trail" you can hike that takes you into the groves so you can meet your elders. Highly recommended...
Sorry I know I'm late with this post, I was otherwise occupied yesterday :) Yesterday's TDF stage from Andorra to Saint Girons featured some high mountains, but they were far enough from the finish that most observers expected a break to succeed rather than GC action. And so it was that Luis Leon Sanchez won out of a four-man break that led the peloton across the hills all day.
There was some infighting among the contenders, with Cadel Evans taking off early and immediately being reeled in, but the mountain action was mostly quiet. Probably the best move was Thor Hushovd's, shown at right, who took off in an early break to grab enough sprint points to take the green jersey away from Mark Cavendish. He should be able to hold it through the mountains until Tuesday.
Elizabeth Kolbert asks Why are we so fat? A book review of The Evolution of Obesity, in which the evolution is discussed as much as the book. My answer to the question is: Unnatural Selection, of course...
Related: as nation gains, size 14 becomes size 10. Now that's what I call moving the goal posts! (Unfortunately the same thing is happening with other metrics which are more important, like college entrance exam test scores...)
So it turns out honest people are not tempted into dishonesty. I just have to wonder, how do we know? Maybe they are tempted, but they're lying about it :) Seriously I don't think honesty is so binary; there is a spectrum where some people are more dishonest than others, but everyone would be willing to lie about something...
How to you turn a Pyranean stage with two huge climbs into a boring race? Just add 70km of downhill/flat to the finish, as the Tour organizers did on today's stage from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes. The Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmelet have both seen some great battles in tours past, but today the peloton rode as if out for a Sunday ride, letting a break succeed and otherwise doing very little. There were some teams that took an interest in closing down the break at the end, but they left it too late and Pierrick Fedrigo was able to stay out and win.
Tomorrow is a rest day (for me from this weekend, as well as for the peloton for the first week), and then next week we have a few flat sprint stages before hitting the alps. Let's hope some racing takes place in those mountains!