Monday, October 26, 2009

Livestrong Challenge 09 Weekend

Wow where do I or where can I start? To say that Livestrong Challenge 09 was an amazing weekend would be an understatement. I guess what better way to start would be to start with the kickoff of Livestrong weekend; Friday. Leading up to the weekend I was already getting excited anticipating all of the events. I already had the weekend planned out and this started with packet pickup at the Convention Center on Friday. I talked to my friend Brady earlier in the week about meeting up at Mellow Johnny's and then just walking over to the Convention Center to get our packets. Part of the experience of Livestrong Challenge is being surrounded by everyone else that's participating. Upon arriving at the shop I could tell it was going to be hectic, because there was a ton of traffic around the area. I parked away from the shop and rode the new bike in. When I walked in to the shop I thought they may have changed locations for packet pickup, it was that packed! As soon as I walked in I heard a couple of people whisper "man check out that fixed gear!" I nod to Chicken and set the bike along the side of the wall. So many people from all over the U.S. come in just for the Livestrong Challenge aka The Ride for the Roses. While I wait for Brady to arrive I grab a drink and have a seat at the counter and just soak it all in. I got to meet Cody who rode his bike, get this, all the way from California to Austin just for the Challenge! He was extremely nice and we talked about his visit to Austin and we started talking about my bike. He said "you're riding fixed on Sunday? wow! props!" Nothing like that mutual respect from 1 biker to another. Brady arrives and we head out to the convention center. If you don't know Brady Merrill then you should swing by the shop some Sunday and meet him. He's one cool cat and his story of survival is amazing. Little does Brady know that come Sunday I'll be wearing a card on my jersey that says "In Honor of Brady Merrill" I told Chicken and Hannie about this idea and they loved it. They wanted to be there to see his reaction in fact! We make our way over to the Convention Center and just soak in the awesome Austin weather. I think the high for Friday and Saturday called for 70. Brady informs me that his friend and doctor, Dr. Bob Markus would be joining us on Sunday. Sweet! the more the merrier. As Brady would say "Sundays ride is not a race it's a celebration!" I couldn't have said it better myself. Brady and I bond a little more because I learn more about his story and how close we were to losing him and I share my story with him on how I lost both my grandmother and Aunt Wu to cancer and that I would be riding in their memory. As we walk into the packet pickup area we're greeted by some of the many volunteers working. The place is pretty packed for a Friday so we make our way around the numerous vendors. After we get our packets we make our way over to the Livestrong wall and this is where meet Sarah and Brooke from Livestrong; two of the nicest people you could meet. I inform Brooke that I follow them on Twitter and she says "oh you're scratchex!" let me take a picture of the two of you. I told Brady that I needed to pickup a couple of the "In Memory of" and "In Honor of" cards. I told him "dude you have to wear the I am a survivor card!" so he grabs one. We make our plans for meeting up on Sunday then head out. "Sunday we ride and celebrate!"

Saturday morning I'm up bright and early and told my friend and co-worker Jeff Grant that I would meet up with him for the 5k walk/run. I informed him that I would be there taking pictures. I park by the shop and ride the bike over to the start/finish line. Jeff decided that he was going to go ahead and run it. He said "you should run it, just carry your fixie and run with it!" lol He cracks me up. We plan on meeting up after the run and then grabbing breakfast. There are hundreds if not maybe a thousand or so runners/walkers at the start line. There's nothing like seeing a sea of Livestrong yellow, you just have to see it for yourself. Another amazing sight to see are all of the "In Honor, In Memory and I Am a Survivor" cards on peoples shirts. I chat with Jeff before the race and he says "I still can't believe you're riding that 65 tomorrow! You're doing sixty on a fixie!" A couple of people standing by take a look at the bike and one asks me "who signed it?" I respond "Lance!" I make my way by the Capital so I can get some pictures of the race. As soon as I get to my spot and take some test pictures I see the first runner coming up! This guy is moving! Probably running at a 5 minute pace. I snap more pictures and then I look at my watch and realize that Jeff should be finished by now so I make my way back. I see Jeff and he informed me he ran it at around a 7 minute pace! Wow you were hauling! We make our way back to the shop and decide to have breakfast there. The place is twice as packed as Friday!! Seeing all of the out of town people in my local shop was so cool. People were taking pictures left and right and it looked like the red carpet at the Oscars. So cool! Honestly I could have hung out at the shop all day because the weather and atmosphere was so incredible. I did end up going back later that day because I met up with another friend for lunch so we stopped by the shop for some Juan Pelota coffee and it looked like there were even more people at the shop now then there was in the morning! I decided to head home and rest up and get things ready for Sunday. I was a little worried about my back because earlier in the week I had tweaked it some and it had been bothering me all week and was still bothering me on Saturday. No way I was going to use it as an excuse even if it meant riding in pain on Sunday.

Sunday morning I wake up extremely early so I can make sure I don't forget anything. The first thing I notice is that my back isn't bothering me at all. It was the first time in over a week that I was pain free. Thank you Grandma Wu! I'm going to make you proud today! I had a little extra step in my walk just because of this alone. This day is going to rock! I head out to Brady's house where we meet up before heading out to Dripping Springs. I meet Dr. Bob Markus and I can tell already we're going to have a great day of riding. I show Brady and Bob the back of my Jersey which has a card that says "In Honor of Brady Merrill" Bob said "man that's the coolest thing ever!" Brady "Don't get me started I've already been crying". We load up and head out to Dripping Springs. The drive out to the event was so cool. There were hundreds of cars on the road and all of them had bikes on the back of their vehicles. Game on Cancer!! We're coming to kick your butt today! We gear up and make our way to the start line. I have butterflies in my stomach just from the site of the thousands of cars and riders making their way to the start line. Brady looks over and says "dude you're a're doing this on your fixie!" we both just laugh. We make our way up through hundreds of people to get to the 65 mile start. Lance addresses the crowd as well as the CEO of Livestrong Doug Ulman. After the National Anthem Lance's group goes off first followed by the 90 milers and then our group the 65 milers. Brady knows this ride like the back of his hand, it's basically his playground. He tells us what to expect for the first 15 miles including all of the cattle guards, low water crossings etc... It's like having a personal guide! We set off and make our way out and everyone is cheering us on! It's such an amazing feeling to hear and see hundreds of people cheering you on. Here we go!

We arrive at the first rest stop and make a quick pit stop. So for the first 15 miles or so it's pretty packed with riders. We're all having a great time and just enjoying each others company. Like Brady says "It's a celebration not a race" so pace is not even a concern or issue right now. Words can't describe seeing all of the riders on the road. Everyone here has a story, whether they're volunteering, participated in the 5k run/walk, or are riding in honor or memory of someone, it's a sight to see. One of the amazing parts of the day is hearing these stories from people you come across during the ride or at a rest stop. To me that's the best part of the day, getting to meet new people and hearing their story and how cancer has affected their lives. At the next rest stop "Dell's Angels" we fuel up and stretch out the legs. The volunteers here are amazing. Their energy and attitude is infectious. We load up on water, energy gels and chow down on some pb&j sandwiches. Everyone here is chatting it up and I get more comments about the bike as well as "wow you're riding fixed?" a common theme throughout the day. Brady starts saying "if you want to take a picture with the bike it's $5 and if you want to take a picture with Chris and the bike it's $10" ha he's so goofy! We all laugh at this. We head off again and start sharing stories and cracking jokes along the ride. Something else that you see throughout the day are the custom kits and clothes. Some people are wearing socks that say "Cancer Sucks" or bibs that say the same thing. We arrive at the 35 mile rest stop and take another break for fuel and food. A couple of people come up and ask me about the bike and congratulate me for riding fixed. They ask me who signed it and I tell them "Lance!" and they say "wow! cool! do you mind if I take a picture of the bike? Of course not, go right ahead. We all wish each other good luck for the last half of the ride and we head out. Half way home!

Brady gives us the low down for what's to come which is a fast decline followed by a 90 degree right hand turn, then shortly followed by a grueling climb. I prepare myself for the decline and try to force myself to not go faster than 30mph so I can slow down for the turn. Phew! Mission accomplished! We make our way towards the big climb and from what I've been told it's going to be grueling. I'm also looking forward to the Mellow Johnny's rest stop which is shortly after the climb. I knew there would be a bunch of my friends that work at the shop at the rest stop
so I was looking forward to talking to them, but first I have to make it to them which means I need to survive the climb. Just before the climb I noticed that my right leg was cramping a little bit but I wasn't going to let that hold me back. I'm on a mission! We approach the big climb and I can tell already my legs are going to hate me after it. I'm already thinking ahead to that rest stop so I pace myself and start climbing. Every bit of that climb hurt. I got out of the saddle and just started climbing at a slow pace telling myself "you are not going to get off of this bike to walk no matter what!" You could hear everyone around huffing and puffing and I just focused on the road below me. I didn't want to look up and see that I was only half way there. The climb curved and was about a half a mile climb with a 10% incline. Legs are burning and my right leg is cramping again but all I'm saying right now is "Mind over matter, Mind over matter, mind over matter" I see it flatten out some and just sit back in the saddle and pedal harder and faster. I made it! Bob and Brady follow up and I tell them "Man every bit of that hurt!" we all agreed. Finally I see the signs for the Mellow Johnny's rest stop. Yes! I make my way up and I see Erin on the left waving at me so I ride up to her and she greets me with a big hug as does Hannie. My friends are so awesome! The greeting I received made that climb worth it. Hannie asks me about the ride and asks where Brady is at and I said he's around here somewhere. I show Erin and Hannie my "In Honor of Brady Merrill" card and they loved it. I make my way over to my friend Ben and wish him a Happy Birthday and he snaps a picture of me with his cell phone. Everyone here is so friendly making sure that everyone is taken care of. I don't want to leave! I must say that the Mellow Johnny's rest stop was by far 1 of the many highlights of the day for me. They had a ton of coffee, snacks, drinks, tables, chairs, and even beer! We take some pictures together and socialize for a little bit and then we're off again. 20 more miles till the finish line!

One of the best parts of the ride for me was getting to chat with Brady and his doctor and friend, Dr. Bob Markus. Bob is one of those people you instantly click with. He's extremely friendly and like myself has a passion or some might say an obsession with all things bike related. He was cracking us up all day. If you ever get a chance to meet him be sure and ask him about his personal "4 rules of biking" When we started the ride he said one of his rules (maybe rule #2?) was to never get passed by someone on a fixie! we all laughed and he said I was the exception to this rule. Thanks Bob! We approach a father and son riding and the son was hammering it on his Trek. I said to Bob "check out the future Tour de France rider" and we both cheer him on as we ride by. Brady later informs us that they were the father and son that saw Lance in the mountains training for the Tour. Here's the YouTube of them. Amazing! Brady told Bob "you better watch out that 8 year old kid is going to pass you!" we started laughing and this is when we learned rule number 4 from Bob. Rule number 4 according to Bob "If I have eaten a sandwich bigger than you, then there's no way I'm going to let you pass me!" I almost had to stop pedaling I was laughing so hard. Bob says we should find a group and follow them through to the finish line. I said "let's do it!" So we pick up the pace a little bit and just focus on the last 20+ miles. Brady again gives us the low down on the road ahead; which is a little scary how well he knows this ride. We tease him and ask him "which articles of trash will we be seeing on the way" we all laugh at this. Brady just to punish us says "we have a couple of more small climbs before the finish" Bob and I said "oh great just what our legs need after 50+ miles, more climbing!" The 3 of us just laugh and embrace the challenge. As we're riding someone passes me by and tells me "I have much respect for you...much respect!" that got my 4th and 5th wind going and I tell myself to ignore the cramping in my right calf. For me it wasn't about getting attention about the bike or about riding fixed (yes the compliments were nice) but for me it was about accomplishing something grueling for my family and friends. Everyone has their own story and to take part and participate in the Challenge is an accomplishment in and of itself regardless of distance or what you ride. I told Bob and Brady along the ride "if Brady can go through chemo then the least I can do is ride 65 miles on a fixed". Bob tells us about "Team Colleen" a team of riders we had followed for quite some time. He informed us that "Team Colleen" came in from all over the U.S. but mainly from Arizona to ride in memory of their good friend Colleen who just lost her battle with cancer weeks before the challenge. Her husband was there riding with the team in her memory and honor. Colleen may you R.I.P.

We have a couple of more miles till the finish line and this is when we realize the ride is almost over. We couldn't believe it. Where did the time go? Did we really just ride all of those miles? We make the turn approaching the event entrance and this is when Bob tells Brady "take us home brother!" it was so inspiring to hear those words. Brady pulls up to the front and leads us in. As we approach the sign "Time to Celebrate" Brady spots his kids on the right. They spot him and do the coolest thing. They start yelling and ringing this cowbell and run along side him yelling "way to go Dad!! you did it!! way to go!" It was such an amazing moment to see! We roll into the finish line and I watch Brady grab his yellow rose which signifies surviving cancer! Way to go Brady!!! 3 years and counting! We all take time to soak in what we just accomplished and gulp down a bunch of water and energy drinks. We cheer on Team Colleen as they cross the finish line and the yell, scratch that, the roar they received as they crossed the finish line was amazing. We take some group pictures and then head over to the food tent to refuel and relax. We decide to pack it up and head back to our vehicles. Riding out of the event signifies another year accomplished at the Livestrong Challenge and I'm already looking forward to 2010. We take another group shot at the end and Brady tells me "dude your family would be so proud!"

So there you have it another Livestrong Challenge in the books. I can't begin to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged me throughout my training. All of the Twitter and Facebook messages I received before and after the event were incredible. Your comments got me through the day. Padmasree you truly are an amazing human being, I kept your inspirational words with me the entire day. I am so blessed to have an amazing gr
oup of friends. Without your support and donations I know I would not have been able to accomplish this. So Brady as long as you continue to grace us with your presence I will be honored to ride in Honor of you. Grandma and Aunt Wu this day was for you. I will always ride in memory of you. Love and miss you both.

Cancer, for the 2010 Challenge we're putting a team together so you better watch out! Here we come!

Flickr gallery for the run/walk can be found here.
Flickr gallery for the Livestrong Challenge ride can be found here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cisco Habitat for Humanity

Today was one of the days our local Cisco office got to do volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. I was really looking forward to it even though I'm not mechanically inclined by any means whatsoever. I participated in the Capital Area Food Bank drive back in July and had a great time so I knew today would be no different. The weather called for a perfect day in Austin because we just had a "cold" front blow through the night before. I knew the morning was going to be a little on the chilly side so I made sure to dress in layers; which included wearing shorts. We are in Texas after all. Upon arriving to the site I noticed several houses by Habitat for Humanity being built along with another crew getting ready to start. Game on. I see the Cisco sign in front of the site as well as some familiar faces from the Cap Area Food Bank drive. I sign in, put my name tag on and then run back to the car for my jacket and beanie. Everyone appeared to be saying the same thing "wow it got cold". Coffee don't fail me now. From the looks of it I wasn't sure if the sun was going to come out and I started questioning whether or not shorts were the right call. Time will tell. The first 30 minutes consists of signing in and awaiting duties. The trailer arrived and we all stood around while we watched Bethany from Habitat for Humanity try and back the trailer up next to the house. I'm glad that wasn't a duty for us because if that were me, I would still be trying to back that trailer up. Bethany blurted out "if there's a hell this is it!" lol. She did a great job! I could tell I was surrounded by software people when the foreman asked "how many of you have put up drywall before?" Dead silence. Everyone started looking around like they were afraid to raise their hand. Foreman Jesse said "no big deal, it's pretty easy and we can show you how to do it, we just need about 12 people. Oh and you'll be working inside". I guess people were really cold because 12 volunteers were already halfway to the supply shed by the time I looked up. So the rest of us, to warm up, unloaded the trailer full of plywood and materials. It wasn't long before I warmed up some and during this time I got to meet several new Cisco employees. This is one of the cool parts about doing volunteer work with your company. Another cool part is finding out which department, division, and building everyone works in.

After we unloaded the trailer the foreman assigned the duties and split us into groups
. It was here where I got to meet the 2 guys I would spend the rest of my work day with. I got to meet Alex and Schan both who work in the same department and building. Both extremely cool and funny guys. We got to work inside the frame of the house, while one group installed the windows and the other worked on installing the roof. Our job was pretty simple, it just involved a lot measuring, cutting, hammering and a little ingenuity. First thing's first though, we need tools! So we head over to the supply shed for the essentials: hammer, nails, measuring tape, pencil and gloves. By the time we got to the shed it looked like it had been ransacked, however we found what we needed and managed to find 1 decent pair of working gloves. I guess Schan figured one glove was better than none. It wasn't long before we found a rhythm. Alex and Schan would start on the measurements and I would jot them down and take them to the person making the cuts outside. It wasn't long before I felt like a waiter informing my short order cook what I needed. "I need two cuts at 21 and 5/8's, one at 21 and 3/4 and one at 18 and 1/4" It actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about. This was our job for a good majority of the day and we were moving at a good pace once we got our system down. Nailing in all the boards by hand seemed to be a daunting task when we could hear nail guns going off left or right. We decided as a group to find a nail gun! Want to know how to spot 3 software guys on a build site? Just look for one using a nail gun and then all 3 saying "man that thing rocks!" or listen for the group that always says "lock and load!" every time the nail gun gets reloaded or "hand me another clip this ones running low" Yes we're dorks.

We finished off the work day by working on roof decking. When the foreman asked if any of us knew what to do, there was dead silence. Schan and I just looked at each other like "he wasn't talking to us was he?" So again, there was a collective "no". You need a voice network setup? You need the house run with Cat-5 wire? You need a secure wireless network? You want to know Cisco's collaboration story? We're your guys! other wise we're pretty clueless. Not a problem because we have good teachers on site and turns out roof decking wasn't as difficult as we thought it might be. Then again my job was to make some cuts and hand sheets of plywood up top to the rest of the group. Before we knew it 4:00pm arrived and it was time to wrap things up. Just as fast as we unloaded everything from the supply shed, we quickly gathered all the materials and put everything back up. Time sure does go by fast!

Safety is definitely the number one priority and I can gladly say that there wasn't a single injury; minus a couple of splinters, that occurred today. One thing I always notice is that everyone appears to be having a great time and there isn't a single complaint about anything. Everyone looks out for each other and everyone has a smile on their face. You can hear laughter the entire day and the gratitude that was shown to us was extraordinary. The day turn
ed out to be another gorgeous Austin day and the high for the day was around 72. It was perfect weather for building a house! I must say that participating in today's Habitat for Humanity volunteer day was a humbling experience. I look forward to doing more of these and I encourage all of you to give it a shot if you haven't done so already. You will feel better about yourself and you will be doing something good for your community.

Thank you Cisco for putting this together and thank you Habitat for Humanity for letting us participate in such a great cause.

Now I want a tool belt and a nail gun!

Pictures from today can be found here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ACL 2009 recap

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009 was one to remember to say the least. I was looking forward to this for several different reasons. One of them being was that this was the first ACL festival I would be attending. You would think that after living in Austin for half of my life and for as long as ACL has been going on, I would have attended at least one by now. Honestly the only thing that prevented me from going in the past was the weather. Ironic, being that we had 2 days of mud; more on that later. In the past ACL was always held in September and that means HEAT, extreme HEAT to be precise. I'm not a fan of standing around in the heat, I experienced that with the second and third Lollapallooza. So once they announced that ACL would be held in early October I decided to take my chances on the weather and go ahead and get a 3 day wristband. Keep in mind I went ahead and ordered my 3 day pass 6 months in advance not really knowing which bands would be performing but for me that didn't matter. I was determined to have a good time with friends that weekend so I knew there would be a fair amount of music I would enjoy for the 3 days. After the bands were announced I started making a list of which bands I wanted to see and started familiarizing myself with some of the other bands. It's all about preparation and planning for me. As the months went by I started sending out emails asking all my friends if they were going and if they were, on which days? It seemed like a good majority of my friends were all going for some part of ACL. Sweet! So along comes September and after several band cancellations, some of which were on my must see list; (get well soon Adam Yauch) I had my list dialed in, heck I even had my iPhone ACL app primed and ready. I also found out that a couple of my old road dogs from Round Rock were coming into town just for the festival. I was super stoked about this because I hadn't seen them in over 5 years so I was looking forward to hanging out with them and catching up.

The week of ACL I realized from a friend of mine Charlie that if you had the 3 day pass you would have to exchange your ticket for a wristband. Not a problem, I had vacation specifically for ACL and I already had it all planned out. Again it's all about the preparation. So Wednesday I headed downtown after work and parked at the bike shop. I figured it would be easier to ride the bike over to Zilker to get my wristband instead of parking there. I was right, the traffic on Barton Springs was already getting a little hectic with the setup and it took me about 5 minutes to get there and less than that to get my wristband. Thursday my road dogs Vince and David were both arriving from out of town. Vince and his wife were arriving that morning and David that evening. The plan was to meet up sometime Friday morning and then head down to the park. Not only was Friday the first day of ACL but Friday October 2nd happened to be Livestrong Day. So in preparation of Livestrong Day I planned on riding my age (not specifying) and then wearing yellow at ACL in support of 10-2. As I was getting my things prepared for the following day I saw a message from Lance on Twitter stating "for Livestrong Day let's do a bike ride, meet up at Mellow Johnny's at 8:15 am, come one, come all!" Oh snap!!! that changed everything. So Friday morning I headed down to the shop early. I even helped out with some of the preparations that morning. I would say that a couple hundred people showed up at the shop? All waiting the arrival of Lance and for a once in a life time chance to ride with him. So Lance pulls up to the shop just before 8:30, does a quick interview and then says "alright, let's ride!" I was the only person out there on a fixed gear but I didn't care. I busted out the Flip and shot some video of the ride. How cool is this? I'm getting to ride with Lance on Livestrong day and I made it a point to get up close and ride with him.

You couldn't ask for better weather for the ride and for the 1st day of ACL. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. I met up with Vince, Gretchen, David, Vince's dad and Vince's brother at the bike shop. They all wanted to see the shop and I even got to show them the new bike before we left. Upon arrival at Zilker it was already heating up and there were thousands of people already there. Walking into the park was like walking into a lush golf course. It literally was like a concert on a private golf course. The grass was so green and soft, it was amazing. Friday was such an amazing day, here I am starting off the day with a great ride with Lance and now I'm hanging out with some old friends on a perfect day. I even ran into some other friends at the show by accident so we all decided to hang and watch Blitzen Temper. As the day went by we all pretty much hung out together and caught the same shows. Phoenix was amazing and Bassnectar went off. We didn't stay long for Bassnectar because we lost Gretchen, that seemed to be the theme that day "hey where did Gretchen go?" "I don't know she was here just a minute ago!" lol. Turns out she went and got a close spot for Thievery Corporation at the LIVESTRONG stage. Now this was a band I was really looking forward to seeing, being that I have never seen them live before. Vince and I were determined to find her. Trust me maneuvering through thousands of people is not a simple task and Vince is 6'4 and was carrying a bag and a chair. So many people were giving us the dirtiest looks! hahaha love it! I told Vince, "dude we're finding her, let's do this!" So after about 10 minutes of shifting in and out of the crowd we spotted her and man she wasn't joking, she got a close spot! About 50 yards from the stage to be exact! Rock on Gretchen! Props for getting a killer spot. Told you we would find her Vince. Thievery killed it! They were one of the highlights the entire weekend.

After Thievery we all decided to get some food and the line
s were insane. I wolfed down my food like it was my last meal and decided to sprint over to the Xbox 360 stage to catch Them Crooked Vultures. This was a band I absolutely did not want to miss. I mean come on, Dave Grohl back on the drums! Yes please! We decided to meet up at base camp in an hour and then just chill and watch Kings of Leon from there. Them Crooked Vultures absolutely murdered it. They put on an amazing show and I was blown away. I see your Thievery Corporation and I raise you Them Crooked Vultures! I didn't stay for all of King's in fact I only stayed for about 5 songs. Main reason, I didn't want to leave with over 50k people at the same time, good decision.

Saturday called for rain all day and boy did it ever. I met up with a co-worker of mine since he lives downtown and we just caught a cab to the event. That day we walked around and caught several bands and it rained on us the entire time. The rain was light at times and at times it was a heavy downpour. I dressed for the occasion though and even brought my umbrella so I pretty much stayed dry. It wasn't muddy for the most part but with the way the rain was coming down I knew the grass wouldn't hold up and that it would soon be a mud pit. Some of the highlights for Saturday were Mute Math, Papa Mali, Bell X1, and Airborne Toxic Event. The low point of Saturday, no not the rain, was Mos Def! This was one show I didn't want to miss and I was looking forward to it for quite some time. I even skipped a show and waited over an hour for him to perform. I say over an hour because he was about 30 minutes late. One thing ACL had going on the entire weekend, was that each artist started exactly at the time slot they were allotted. Not Mos though, for whatever reason he was late and when he came out he was lackluster to say the least. I have never seen so many disappointed fans in my life. In fact when they showed video of the crowd on the big screen it looked like a crowd full of zombies. I left upset after about 5 songs. 2 thumbs down for Mos. After that I decided to try and get some food and that's when I noticed the mud pits. By the time I got to the food area, I was drenched because I put up my umbrella for the Mos show and I was muddy. I opted out of the food and decided to try and find my friends but one thing that was a major problem that weekend was cell reception. There were several dead spots in the park and texts were delayed by at least 10-15 minutes. So by the time you got a text informing you where your crew was at, they were already at the next show. I decided to head out early because my legs were spent. I caught some of Dave Matthews Band on the way out and that's when I got a cluster of texts "Where you at?" "We're at Ghostland" "hey come back and check out a couple of songs of DMB" Oh well too late.

Sunday, day 3 of ACL, started off with some light rain but that ended quickly. What we showed up t
o wasn't the lush, golf course type of park we saw on Friday. Instead we showed up to a mud pit and the stench was horrendous. Turns out the stench was from the fertilizer "dillo dirt". I knew that's what it was but I wasn't going to let that ruin my day. I had already anticipated getting muddy. Sunday I had some more friends I was meeting up with and met up with my co-worker again. We started off the day by watching Black Joe Lewis who put on a great show. Some of the highlights for Sunday were: B52's, White Lies, Passion Pit, Girl Talk and Pearl Jam. Artic Monkeys was a little dissapointing, they sounded great but their stage presence was lacking. The amount of people that showed up for Girl Talk was insane, it looked like all of Austin was at the Xbox 360 stage for that show.

After catching Girl Talk we decided to catch Peral Jam from a distance. For the most part we listened to Pearl Jam from the hike and bike trail which is behind the LIVESTRONG stage. W
e listned to about 5 songs on the way out and they sounded great.

I must say I had a great time during ACL especially since it was my first ACL. Friday was absolutely amazing on so many different levels. Saturday and Sunday, despite the rain and mud was still fun and I got to see and hang out
with several friends. Some old, some new. What more could you ask for? I enjoyed every minute of it. Oh and I ended up scoring the "Souvenir 3 day pass" for next years ACL festival for $50! SCORE!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


You know that sensation you get when you buy a new pair of shoes, have your first cup of morning coffee, or when you go see your favorite band play in concert for the first time? Well multiply that by 10 and that's the feeling I got when I finally received notice that my new LIVESTRONG themed fixed gear was ready for pick up. For me the funnest part about any new bike build is the collaboration. This was a project that involved the master mind of Mellow Johnny's bike engineer/guru Christian Hartwig. The guy has been in the business for over 20 years and knows a ton about bikes. If you ever need a custom build, need a wheel trued, or just want to talk shop about bikes, then Christian is your guy; oh and it helps that's he a super cool cat. The collaboration/project started a couple of months after we completed a Cinelli Vigorelli build. Christian aka "Chicken" informed me that Cinelli was coming out with a limited run of a new pursuit bike. The new bike was a collaboration with the folks from MASH and when I saw the pictures of the frame I knew we would soon be working on a new project.

The first thing we decided on for the new MASH build, was that we were going to approach this with a weight weenie mentality. Meaning our initial goal was to get the bike to weigh in less than the Vigorelli build (approximately 18lbs). Chicken informed me that it shouldn't be a problem being that there were several areas we could have shaved weight with the Vigorelli. Game on! Let's do this! We had some time for the build because the frame was coming directly from Italy and it wasn't expected to be in the U.S. until late August, early September. We started this in July so I wasn't too worried about it. Something else I had decided to do this year was the LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE aka the Ride for the Roses. Once I made this decision I had the idea of a LIVESTRONG color scheme for the new build. I ran this by Chicken and he thought it was a great idea. Yellow accents on a gray frame, "I'm sure Lance would approve" was what Chicken said.

Now that we had the frame ordered and an idea of what colors we wanted to use, we needed to decide on what parts to do in yellow, without over doing it. First thing we decided on were the rims. I just love the DT Swiss 1.2 Rims and I wanted to stick with these wheels. We decided that we would send off the rims and any other parts we wanted yellow, to be custom powder coated. Chicken contacted DT Swiss and they told him they would send him the decals for the rims! YES! Chicken's master mind thought of the next idea "You know it would be cool if we had your Pista Campy cranks powder coated! it would piss off the purists and the fixie folks would love it" My response "Hell yeah!, let's do it!" we both had a nice chuckle about that. We decided that having the cranks powder coated black while leaving the bolts and chain ring chrome would have a nice pop to it. Once we had these 2 color schemes the rest was pretty easy. We decided to do yellow Cinelli bar tap, have the toe cages powder coated yellow and try and find a yellow seat. The chain was really the only part we couldn't decide on, we had a couple of ideas and finally came to the conclusion that chrome would look the nicest. One thing we wanted to avoid was over doing the yellow. Hannie (a friend of mine that works at Juan Pelota Cafe) had an interesting idea regarding the chain. He wanted to have 1 side of the chain yellow and the other side gray. He was even willing to rebuild the entire chain for this. I think he was more stoked than I was about the build! Again for me this is the fun part; being able to run all of these ideas by bike geeks like myself and getting their perspective is part of the fun.

Another fun part about this project was seeing the parts come in and going to the shop to see them first hand. First were the Deda bullhorn bars followed by the White Industries pedals (both are ridiculously light!). Whenever I would arrive at the shop, someone would tell me "I saw your bikes parts, they're sweet!" Every time I saw a new part come in I would respond with "man I can't wait! this is going to be so cool!" Fast forward a month. Basically all of the parts we ordered, including the parts we shipped off for painting arrived at Mellow Johnny's. Chicken emailed me and said "dude the parts look sweet, wait till you see the cranks!" He later informed me that he showed a co-worker the cranks and they said "are those campy cranks that you got painted?" Chicken "they sure are, pretty sweet huh?" Chicken said the reaction was a mixed reaction of "that's cool but I can't believe you painted campy cranks" MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I found out that the frame would now arrive in September so we still had plenty of time to build the bike and have it ready for the Challenge on 10-25-09. Perfect. When the frame arrived I went down to the shop to have a look at it and it was love at first site. The pictures didn't do it justice and I knew the yellow accents would work well with the frame. Now it was time to start building it. While I was looking at the frame and fork I had asked Chicken where we could put a Mellow Johnny's decal? Maybe on the inside of the fork? Again his artistic approach to builds, he decided that having the decal on the inside of the fork didn't look as appealing as he wanted it to. He had a better idea. How about we put some LIVESTRONG decals on it instead? BRILLIANT! Yes! Chicken contacted Chris Brewer at Livestrong HQ to see about having some LIVESTRONG decals made up for us and he kindly agreed to do this. Another idea Chicken had was to put Livestrong bracelets around each of the hubs. Sort of a throwback to the hub cleaners back in the BMX days. His attention to detail is uncanny. Another idea he had was to put grip tape on top of the toe cages so the paint wouldn't chip off whenever they hit the ground.

Throughout the build process I would be sent pictures of certain aspects of the bike. The first one I got was of the drive train. The black powder coated campy cranks looked even sweeter once they were added to the bike. The pictures were like ransom notes! The Livestrong decals that were added to the bike is probably the coolest part of the bike. When Chicken showed me the "STRONG" sticker added to the end of MASH I was speechless. MASH STRONG.

Fast forward to October and the bike is finally complete. There's a reason why the bike took a while to build and it was well worth the wait. I think there was a collective moment of silence after the bike was brought up from downstairs. Seeing the bike complete was like a dream come true and I was in awe. All the time we spent going over different part configurations and color spec's all came together quite nicely. Hannie said "Have you weighed it yet?" and I said "no I'm still drooling over it". So Hannie said "Let's weigh it!" The bike weighed in at 16.11 lbs! Just over 2 lbs lighter than the Vigorelli. Another mission accomplished! My Livestrong or MASH strong fixie is now complete, well sort of. I figured what better place to take pictures of the new ride than the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Everyone thought it was a great idea so before I left Hannie and Chicken said "you're bringing the bike back right?" I wasn't sure why other than Chicken needing to add the bracelets to the hubs and the computer chip so I said sure I suppose. Hannie said "yeah bring it back we're still working on something" hmm now I'm curious. So Wednesday night I get an email with the subject line "LA loves the MASH!" I did a double take and quickly opened up the email to see a picture of my bike with Lance's signature! They got him to sign my bike!!! No freaking way! those were my EXACT words. I couldn't believe it, he signed the bike. I couldn't believe the picture I was seeing. I noticed I had a post on my FB page stating "Wait till you see what's on your bike now, you're going to be stoked..STOKED!" Later Chicken called me and told me all about it. He told me that Lance was in the shop for a meeting and was downstairs signing some bikes for Tony Hawk. After signing the bikes Chicken said "Hey I have another bike you can sign" so Lance responded with "sure bring it over" Chicken said that Lance loved the bike as soon as he saw it and couldn't put the bike down. He asked where he should sign it? and Chicken said "where ever you want". He said that he was telling the people he had a meeting with about the bike build and even went back downstairs to look at the bike after his meeting. He even asked if I was going to put a brake on it and Chicken replied "nope, in fact he's riding this thing 65 miles for the Challenge". Lance "can he ride?" Chicken "Yeah he can ride, in fact he rode with you during the Livestrong day ride and took out his Flip and filmed the ride on his Vigorelli" Lance "Crazy!" Hearing Chicken tell me all about it was cool and he said the entire experience was surreal. I mean here he his the one that built the bike and he's getting a chance to tell Lance all about the bike and have him sign it for me. So Cool!! Everyone else at the shop that day confirmed the same thing, that he loved my bike and now wanted one for himself! I still can't believe it. Unbelievable.

So there you have it, that's my experience with this MASH STRONG build, one I will never forget and something I will always cherish. I can't thank the ki
nd folks at Mellow Johnny's enough for their part in this build, specifically Christian "Chicken" Hartwig. Thanks brother! I look forward to riding this 65 miles in the LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE and as Hannie would say "now all you have to do is ride it!"

MASH STRONG! oh yeah and Thanks Lance for signing it, you rock! Let me know when you want to go for another ride, I'm game!

Cinelli MASH parts list:
53 cm Cinelli frame and fork
DT Swiss 1.2 rims (custom powder coated)
DT Swiss white spokes
Thompson masterpiece seat post
White Industries pedals
165mm Pista Campy Cranks 49t chain ring
Phil Wood Ti BB
Phil Wood SL hubs
Phil Wood 19t Cog
Deda Nero Bullhorn bars 31.8
Cinelli Graphis Stem 90mm 31.8
Cinelli Yellow bar tape
Mash bar caps (custom painted)
All City toe cages (custom powder coated)
Tokyo Sag toe straps
Selle Italia seat
KMC Z41 chrome chain
Continental Gran Prix 4000 tires