Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ape Shit

So I was riding my bike over to Pioneer Square yesterday when I rolled up to the intersection of Rainier and Dearborn; I look across the street and spot these two idiots beating the crap out of each other.  They’re high school age, sixteen or seventeen.  I’m there at the red light and my immediate reaction is “oh crap I’ll have to step in.”  But I’m conflicted.  On the one hand why should I risk near certain injury trying to interfere with two morons who are intent on breaking each other’s noses, but on the other hand I can’t just ride by and do nothing as some dickwad stomps another dickwad’s head into the pavement.

So I start figuring a plan – the dummy without a shirt looks like he’s getting the upper hand, I guess I’ll have to go after him.  I figure first I try the yelling thing and if that don’t work I’ll have to bearhug the dingbat, throw him down and sit on his head.  But then I’m thinking what about the friend of my enemy is my enemy and they both go after my ass.  That could be a problem.   The shirtless guy definitely didn’t have a gun, and I figured the guy getting his butt kicked didn’t have a gun either, or else he would have pulled it, but what about a knife.  Do street fighters carry knives anymore?  Did they ever?  Hell I don’t know.  The light turns green and I’m about to go in when I hear the siren of a motorcycle cop – what a relief.

The cop pulls up and says over his speaker “okay boys break it up.”  The two guys ignore him, and keep at it.  It took the cop a good minute to even get off his bike.

Watching a real fist fight between two crazy motherfuckers who grew up fighting and aren’t a bit timid about getting rowdy certainly is educational.  They were full on one hundred percent committed.  Even when the cop got in the middle, the dude who was getting his ass knocked around was back on his feet and trying to get back at it.  Never once have I seen a real fist fight depicted in a movie.  A real fight is a hair grabbing, shirt tearing air swinging free for all, it ain’t no John Wayne bare-knuckle match or some karate dog stuff, it’s just about going total ape shit.

I’m a big believer in evolution: I believe that the most successful human beings – those who passed on their genes - possessed the healthiest tastes and traits.  I think that one of those traits is the need to go ape shit every once in awhile.  You don’t have to get into a fist fight to go ape shit, I think simply putting yourself into an uncomfortable, stressful physical situation accomplishes the same thing.  Despite cars, escalators, elevators and Lay-z-boys we humans are fundamentally physical beings.  If you occasionally don’t get outside and push yourself to your physical and mental limits you aren’t living a healthy life.  We need that stuff.  Well at least I need that stuff.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chasing a Buckle

Is it worth it?

It’s crazy how an idea creeps into my head and once in I can’t seem to get it out.  On Saturday I met a friend who, this summer, is riding the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in Leadville Colorado.  Now, all of a sudden, I want to race Leadville.  If you finish the 100 mile, high altitude course in under twelve hours you are awarded a rodeo-style belt buckle.  I want me one of those buckles.

Leadville is an odd choice for me considering my newfound attitude of being a racer rather than a participant.  In a Cat 4 road race or criterium I am out there actively racing, going head to head, but at Leadville I’d be back to my old ways of simply being in the “race” to “finish.”  The Leadville 100 does set a fairly high water mark of demanding that you finish in a respectable time to get the buckle, so I guess that helps.

Not too many years ago a body could just send in their registration form, pay the entry fee and race the Leadville 100 (you may notice that I’m not going to use the corporate sponsored so-called official name of the race), but now you have to either qualify or win a lottery.  I’ll have to enroll in law school to actually figure out all the legalize regarding entry to the race, but suffice it to say that if you don’t win the lottery or place first in a qualifying race it’s pretty dang complicated.  Looking at Leadville would put me back into this whole trying to qualify chasing your tail crap that I experienced via Ironman – the more things change the more they stay the same.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stott 30

So here I am out looking for a full suspension mountain bike.  It never ends does it.

Yesterday I joined three teammates: Matt, Peter and Monica, at the Stottlemeyer 30 mile mountain bike race.  Holy crap 30 miles on a mountain bike is a bitch.  Here in the moist, heavily wooded Western Washington region the trails are tough man.  Hairpin switchbacks, tight trees and the roots, the freaking roots.  It’s just bam bam bam the entire time.

I have to say that I didn’t find the race all the physically exhausting; physiologically I was ready, but what I wasn’t ready for was the cramps and the mental fatigue.  Cramps seem endemic to endurance mountain biking events, perhaps because it’s because of the quick changes in cadence or perhaps it’s because you have to continually alter the amount of power you apply to the pedals: you can go from powering over a root, to spinning up a hill to standing over the seat on a descent all in less than a minute.  It tears your legs up.  The entire second lap was a fight against thigh and calf cramps.  I just couldn't push that hard withouot risking a sieze up.

About two miles into the second 15 mile lap I went over the handlebars and rang my bell right good.  I rode in a fog for about thirty minutes and I really had to concentrate on keeping my focus lest I go over the front again.  On long road rides, you can zone out for awhile and just let the miles go by, but on this mountain biking thing you have to be continually sharp, always on edge.  It really taxes your brain.

Stottlemeyer also offered a 60 mile, four lap, option.  Talk about a mind fuck.  That would just beat your mind and your body to smithereens.  I met a friend of mine, Tom, at the Edmonds ferry terminal; he and a couple of buddies were doing the 60.  They had won the lottery for the Leadville 100 and were using this as a training day.  I wonder how the terrain of Leadville would compare to Western Washington.  The Colorado altitude would certainly screw you, but it looks to me like most of Leadville is devoid of trees and thus you won’t have the brutal switchbacks and roots.  I’d like to get out there and ride some of that course just to see how the other half lives.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You Gotta Believe

Jumped back on the bike last night after nearly a week off to race the Seward Park Crit Series.  I’ve been rolling up for the 5:30 race, which is directed at beginners, because it fits so well with my schedule and because I think I can compete quite well with the 5:30 guys.  In other words I think that I can actually place, if not win, a race or two.  I ended up with a sixth or seventh place finish last night, but it was a rough ride.

I suppose as my experience level has increased I’ve become less and less tolerant of insane, inattentive and downright dangerous riding.  Of the thirty or so guys and gals who lined up at 5:30 there were three who I trusted.

Standing up and throwing your bike backwards on a short hill in a tight pack, riding with your hands on the top bars during a crit or wondering all over the road while taking pulls on a water bottle during a 30 minute race that’s all nuts.  I guess I’m becoming a bit of a snob, but I guess a bit of snobbery is justified when your health is contingent upon the skills and awareness of those around you.  From now on it’s the 6:00 race for me.

On the other hand, I actually raced yesterday to win.  I doubt that anyone has ever won a bike race by accident (unless there was a huge accident).  If you are going to win, you have to go out with the goal of winning.  You have to roll up to the starting line, look around and say to yourself, “I’m as good as or better than anyone here.”  If you want results you have to believe in yourself.

Tomorrow I head across Puget Sound to race the Stottlemeyer 30 mile mountain bike event.  This will be my first endurance event since the 2008 Ironman.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Our final day in Manhattan was a rainy one.  NYC is dreary in the rain and boy did it rain.  I had to stop into a luggage store near Times Square to buy an umbrella.  The jacket that I am currently designing would have come in handy.

Subway at 23rd
I spent the late morning and early afternoon in the Garment District.  One thing about me is that I hate to look ignorant; I naturally tend to act like I know what is going on even when I don’t.  I decided to try a new tack at Mood Fabrics: instead of pretending to be an old hat I threw up my arms at a salesman and admitted that I’m out of my element and in need of some help.  The guy’s name was Noel and he walked me through everything that I needed to do.  I ended up with the edging and ribbon that I needed and also took home some good swatches.

Bummer about the rain in New York is that every coffee shop is filled to the brim with like-minded people seeking shelter from the storm.  After attempting to squeeze into a couple of Starbucks (Starbucks, by the way, has completely conquered New York) I ended up walking through Macy’s trying to dry off.  After seeing the cool boutiques in Soho Macy’s was a bit boring: racks of the same old stuff.

I went into a number of trim shops but found nothing that I couldn’t just order online, so I jumped on the subway at 34th and headed downtown to get a coffee at Eataly.  The subway system is kind of like a rabbit hole: you go in looking at one type of landscape and come out in an entirely foreign one.  Every time I emerged from the subway stairs I had to take a five or ten seconds to orient myself.  When I came up at 23rd, near Eataly, I popped out into a deluge, I mean a regular Typhoon, and it took me a bit longer than usual to figure out which way to go.  Unfortunately several hundred other New Yorkers and tourists had the same idea and Eataly was jam packed with dripping customers.  I did manage to get a coffee, which I drank standing up.

I met Melony back at the Ace hotel.  The lobby of the Ace is a happening spot to be sure.  It has free internet and serves food, so it seems like all the hip guys and gals stop by there to download.  The dimly lit space is perpetually awash in a fluorescent glow.  Mel and I finally found space on a couch and we whiled away an hour eating a sandwich and looking at our Windows phones.  Our plane left JFK at 7:00 and we grabbed a cab at about 3:45.  Nearly two hours later, after a scenic trip through Queens and some lessons in aggressive driving techniques, we walked into JFK.  The plane was delayed because the pilot had also been stuck in traffic.

Oh before I forget, just as we were driving into JFK I spotted the nose cone of the space shuttle Enterprise peering out of her temporary hanger.  As an aerospace engineer this was the icing on the cake of a great trip.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


This dapper guy rolled up with a parrot on his shoulder
Forgot to mention that yesterday we strolled up Madison Ave checking out the high end shopping.  Went into Barneys; wow that was sobering.  They had a pair of $60 pants in there that some designer had “distressed” and was selling for $600.  I don’t quite understand the concept of “distressing,” which could also be called “wearing out.”  Why pay extra for worn out clothes.  Pants should be distressed by the owner, how else will they reflect the owner’s personality.

We cut across Central Park at 72nd and popped out in the West side at the Strawberry Fields Memorial, which honors John Lennon who was shot 32 years ago just across the street at the Dakota Hotel.  We went to the Dakota but there was no plaque or any other sign of what happened there in 1980.  Maybe the owners don’t want to be known as the place where John Lennon was killed.

Last night we returned to Eataly for a light dinner.  I love that place.

Today I’m off for the Garment District looking for zippers and fabric.

Monday, May 14, 2012


East Village Still Life
We had a big day yesterday exploring Soho and TriBeCa.  I learned that Soho stands for “south of Houston St (not pronounced like Sam Houston but like how-ston).  We explored a lot of cool boutique shops and had some tacos at a little Mexican place.  After Soho we walked past NYU and over to Greenwich Village.  Mel’s co-worker had recommended a restaurant called The Spice Market.  Man did we walk and walk.  I right when I called it quits I saw that the place was just across the street.  Thank God for that as I was about ready to blow a gasket.  I don’t know how those NYU students get anything done with all the action going on around there.

Another cool bike
Today we went out and had coffee at Eatily.  The name sounds a bit goofy but man it is out of this world.  I’ve been to a place a like it – I think it was in London – and it is simply an Italian gourmet food fest.  It’s down by the Flatiron Building.  After that we took the subway south to the East Village.  Mel had a line on a place called the Caracas Arepa Bar.  Arepas, I have learned are a Venezuelan sandwich with meat and veggis tucked into a corn meal flat bread.  In addition to a each getting an Arepa we got some guacamole served with plantain chips and a second plantain dish served with white cheese and a cinnamon dipping sauce.  I also tried a Michelada which is a beer based cocktail with soy sauce, Tabasco, Worchester sauce and lemon.  Pretty crazy but it tasted okay.

After finishing our late lunch we walked back over to Soho where I bought a hat that I had my eye on yesterday.  We then walked back to the East Village to check out a cool bike shop called Chari and Co.  Now we are off for dinner.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

NYC Part 2

Great bike lanes in Manhattan
Just back for the first annual Mike McGuffin 10K around Central Park.  Excepting for two miles of stumbling behind my friend Stephanie following a bike ride I haven’t run since June of 2010, so it was a bit of a struggle to get going.  Once I got loosened up I got moving along okay.  It is another beautiful day here in Manhattan: sunny low eighties.  The Park was crowded with runners, walkers and bikers of all shapes and sizes; a good way to start your day.
Yesterday we went to see Porgy and Bess on Broadway, somehow we ended up with third row seating.  We were so close that we could tell if an actor had double-knotted their shoes.  It was a good show.  Don’t know how those actors turn it on every night, and twice on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

So many people here.  Also so many cops.  Melony was observing that the NYC Police are like lifeguards at a beach: they just kind of hang around looking over the crowd making sure things are moving along okay.  I can also see that the NYC Police aren’t too big on PT.  Interestingly enough I’ve seen nearly zero homeless or otherwise lost people.  Wonder why that is.

Yesterday we ate at Bobby Flay’s restaurant Costa Mesa, went to Porgy and Bess, walked through Hell’s Kitchen, went to the Central Library, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden (Rangers were playing) and then up to 57th near Central Park for Pizza at Angelos.  As we were exiting the Theater District I bumped into Woodie Harrelson.  He was wearing a black suit and blue tennis shoes.

Wish I had my bike.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The only way to travel in Manhattan is via bicycle.  The island is flat as a pool table - at least as viewed with Seattle eyes - and is completely jugged up with gridlock traffic.  I was mentioning to my wife that I was itching to get on a bike and she said "are you nuts!  These drivers are crazy!" 

I liked this dude's Cinelli fixie
"Oh to the contrary" I replied, this place is so locked up that a car can't even get over 15 mph, this is so much safer than riding out on the 60 mph roads back home where a 16 year-old will take you out with one text message.  My friend Jeff experienced just such a "love tap" from a newly minted driver last week.

Manhattan is fun and full of excitement but I'm feeling a bit claustrophobic.  People and concrete on all sides.  It's hard to tell whether the sky is blue or gray.  We went to a show on Broadway last night - One Man Two Guvnors - it was a wonderful production, but coming out into Times Square at 11:00 we waded into a sea of humanity.  Kids, babies, old dames in wheelchairs, you name it we saw it.  Overwhelming for a couple of Mercer Island hicks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Soul: some got it, some don’t.  How do you get it?  Can you get it?  Chrissie Hynde’s got it, Lady Gaga – not so much.  Bob Dylan’s always had it, Justin Bieber never will.  Companies can have soul; Pigoretti bicycles, they got soul, but Trek, whatever soul they once had is long gone.

Close up of a Pigoretti
Trek makes some of the finest bicycles on the planet, but they don’t turn my head the way that a heavier, less performance orientated Pigoretti does.  What does the Pigoretti have that the Trek doesn’t.  I think it can be summed up in one word: aesthetic.  Dario Pigoretti knows that the bicycle is more than a mere machine, that it is an extension of the rider; this knowledge enables him to make highly functional yet beautiful machines.  The engineers at Trek, on the other hand, distill out any and all beauty.  The result is a cold, sterile, highly functional, yet soulless machine.

I want my Greenlite products to be both functional and beautiful, but still that isn’t enough.  I want my products to have soul.  I know the guys who make my products, they work with a lot of skill and a lot of heart.  Are my products as good as what comes out of an Asian factory?  Yes.  Are they better?  No.  Those technically perfect garments that fill shipping containers are crisp, clean and unblemished, but they have no soul.  No heart was put into them.  When I design something I use equally my heart and my head.  I think this makes all the difference.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Be More Masai

In her book Out of Africa Karen von Blixen-Fenecke notes that the Masai weren’t taken as slaves or imprisoned because in captivity these tough nomadic warriors simply withered and died.  Those Masai were some tough buggers, they lived on blood and milk and were lean mean fight’n machines.  All things considered living under the yoke would have probably been physically easier, but the Masai would in no way compromise, they wouldn’t trade freedom for comfort.
Comfort seems to be the goal of our modern society, and with that comfort comes a modern sort of slavery.  Very few Americans live the life of financial independence: we owe bankers, we owe oil companies, we owe the auto shop, we owe the gas and electric companies; so long as you owe you ain’t free.  I owe, I know I owe – same as near everybody, but getting out on that bike gives me a chance to thumb my nose at the bankers and oil company execs, the jerks who make their own rules and laugh at how they got all us suckers buy the short hairs.  Yes I’m out in the rain.  Yes I’m out in the cold.  Yes I’m out in the wind, but I say bring it on.

Being out in the elements, huffing and puffing, sweating reminds me that I’m alive and free – sort of.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

There's Always Tomorrow

The nice thing about bike racing is that there is always another race.  My previous sporting endeavor – long course triathlon – focused on one or possibly two big races a year, what were called your “A” races.  Sure you did some “B” and “C” races but the big daddy, the big Kahuna was “A” race; that was the one that mattered.  Problem with putting all of your eggs in one basket is what if your basket gets a hole in it.  To put it less metaphorically, what if you get sick on race day, what if you’re injured, what if unseasonably hot, unseasonably cold, unseasonable windy – your race is shot.  So much for that year.
I raced my bike twice last week – a crit and a mountain bike race – this week I’ll race a crit and a road race.  If on Thursday (Seward Park Criterium Series) and feel sick, tired, sore, or if I go out too hard and blow up or otherwise get dropped, who cares, there’s another race, another chance at redemption at Saturday’s Vance Creek Road Race.

The fact that there is always another race opens you up to experimentation, it permits you to take risks.  Who cares if I blow up, hell at least I tried and in a couple of days I’ll have the chance to put my tire on the start line and try again.