Sunday is HBO

Season premiere of Sex in the City Sunday, and a new season of The Sopranos Sept. 15. The former is a way to lure women to your place, and the latter is the perfect lead-in to guys Sunday Poker night, $5-$10 Texas Hold'em.

17 miles, 3000 feet to Paradise

"I become a happier man each time I suffer."
Lance Armstrong said that when discussing why he cycles. Sounds like just another pithy sports quote, but anyone who cycles consistently for a few years knows exactly what he means. I would clarify Lance's quote by saying that a cyclist is only happy when he's worked hard enough that he can suffer even more than normal.
It's not just the early season, out-of-shape-after-a-winter-of-sitting-on-your-ass, suffering that cyclists enjoy. It's after you've trained a whole season and are in good enough shape so that you can increase your exertion and raise the ceiling on your suffering...that's joy.
Yesterday I drove out to Rainier with my bike stuffed in my back seat (it actually does fit, with tires removed, even with my top up). It's a fairly long drive, and I listened to grave, dramatic movie soundtracks the whole way to psyche myself up for the climb to Paradise, which sits at about 5,200 to 5,300 feet above sea level. Most of the way out there, the skies were gray, heavy with gloom, but somewhere on highway 7 I saw a solitary patch of blue sky. Soon, bright sun was shining down everywhere as if it had been awaiting me at the park.
Pulled into a campground just inside Nisqually, unloaded my bike, put the tires back on, pumped them up, and set off for Paradise. My altimeter read 2,310. I had no idea how long the climb was, and I didn't really care. I was excited at the prospect of a true, long, torturous climb after spending all season riding the tiny hills in Seattle. This was a Tour-worthy climb, noble suffering.
Also, the last time I rode to Paradise was in RAMROD last year, and that time I had ridden a flat tire in to the rest stop just above this campground and had suffered the whole way up to the top. It seemed like everyone passed me on that climb, and memories of that painful ascent had become a mental block. I had to conquer my demons, just as Lance had to overcome a mental hurdle on the Col de Joux Plane, where he bonked in 2000, in this year's Dauphine Libere.
No need to recount the whole ride. What is there to say about mountain climbs on a road bike? You strain in a low gear almost the whole way up, plodding along at around 9 to 10mph, dripping sweat, for about two hours, sliding around on your saddle all the time to try and work different leg muscles. Great fun, believe me, even though I know you don't. Beautiful views off the cliffs at the side of the road.
I didn't exactly fly up to Paradise, but man it's satisfying to reach the top. I sat on a picnic bench and stretched out. A young Muslim girl of about three or four years old stared at me in my strange biking outfit as if I was some alien. Looked at my bike computer and my watch. I'd climbed 3000 feet over 17 miles of paved road.
The drive home was great. Put the top down, cranked the heat up on high, cranked some less dramatic, happy pop music up even higher, and sang at the top of my lungs with the sun warming my neck and the wind mussing up my hair. Zipping in and out of traffic at 100mph, my bike in back, that's heaven. If I'd taken a random exit by mistake and headed off East into the open roads, I wouldn't have given a damn where I was going. Would have kept driving until I ran out of gas, then pulled my bike out and started riding.

VR Seattle

Sang and I hosted a going away BBQ for Jenny and Adam today. If the two of them should miss Seattle, they can always see some of it on the web at VR Seattle.
Here's the tunnel I go through just about every time I go for a bike ride, the I-90 tunnel which opens up on Sam Smith park. I've gone through it countless times, so I know the slight downward slope and the cool breeze to expect when heading through the tunnel East, with fresh legs, clicking up to the big chainring, the sound of my chain jumping up and clicking into place reverberating through the tunnel with a satisfying mechanical echo.
Here's a view of the I-90 bridge which I cross once I'm through the tunnel. I hate the bridge. It's about a mile and a half of windy, noisy, dusty, bumpy pain. When riders pass you on the bridge you can't hear them approaching. I hate being passed on the bridge. Coming west on the bridge is more enjoyable. The first two thirds are downhill and you can easily hold speeds in the low twenties. Then it ends with a nice gradual ascent which gets your heart rate going. That's the spot to overtake other riders if you have any pop left in your legs.

Dancing up the mountains

I think the reason I continue to bike, even though it's often long, dull, and a pain in the ass, is that I want to be able to dance up the mountains. Riders who spin their pedals lightly and just float up the mountains, overcoming gravity and their own body weight, ride through adversity in such a pure and simple way. It's a grace I seek in my own life, to be challenged, to put down the hammer, and dispel all obstacles with exertion and joy. Everything feels like a burden now, and only energy, positive thinking, and discipline can carry me through it all.

The Ring

AICN linked to the first trailer for the American remake of the Japanese film, The Ring. Wouldn't you know it? The trailer is Japanese.
A really, really fun horror flick, but the trailer seems to confirm that it won't seek to be original in any way. Just borrow everything possible from the Japanese film, including the video footage, the sound effects in the trailer, and insert Naomi Watts. Vanilla Sky, La Femme Nikita, when was the last time an American remake bettered the foreign source material?

34 seconds back

Lance lost more time to Galdeano today and is now 8th, 34 seconds back. Lance's wheel got tangled with a teammates' tire in a crash near the finish line.
Nothing he can't make up later, but it adds some drama to this year's Tour.