Mad Google Earth Skills

I’ve always loved Maps and Geography. If I hadn’t had an interest in Computer Science back in high school, I probably would have gone into cartography (if not into law). My favourite books growing up were my National Geographic Our Fifty States, Our World, and Our Universe books. And every month the actual National Geographic magazine came, I would snatch the map out of it (if there was one) and pour over it like I was planning some big trip. Some were more interesting than others, and those usually were based on political maps of the world.

Way back when I first learned about this software called Keyhole in 2003, around the time of the Iraq invasion, I bought the software and immersed myself in the possibilities of what one could do with it. When they were acquired by Google, I was first disappointed because I had paid for a product which was then crippled and released for free, but eventually all the features were added back on.

I’ve been using Google Earth to plan my trip to France, and look at places and routes to ensure that roads aren’t gravel, or that there’s water along the route, or what’s the state of the town in the middle of the route. I find it funny that for a country the size of Texas, France has so few street-level miles as compared to Texas itself. One whom lives in the USA just expects there to be street-level views of pretty much any street in any city, but in France you might be lucky to just have the main road thru town.

One of the things I delight in doing is to find the actual house in a French Property listing. For example, most if not all of the property listings in France may mention the actual town the house is in. Most will note the closest towns or cities. But when looking through the pictures of the house, I’ve been able to find the exact house that is in the listing.

Today’s exercise was a bit different. One of the local cycletouring companies around Mont Ventoux posted up a “What village were we near” picture.

Now when looking at that picture, you can see Mont Ventoux and the ski slopes of Mont Serein, therefore he’s on the northern side of the mountain. Using Google Earth, the first place that really looks good is from the top of the Col d’Ey, but the angle of the ski slopes is off, and as a hint, he says it’s not the Col d’Ey. Plus looking at the view from Google Earth, that road is lined with trees, and his picture has a field below him, and is not so tree lined.

So moving the sight point to the west, we can tell he’s going to be over closer to plains north of Vaison-la-Romaine, but not completely on the plains because of the slight mountain gap that he’s peering thru.

Eventually I found the exact spot:

on the side of the D347… And it even had a street-level view…

I love maps.

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New Bike Day

When I first set out to lose the weight I had added on over the span of my adult life, I hadn’t counted on being so enthused and hooked to cycling as I’ve become. I also had no appreciation for the hard-men of the spring classics. To me the best riders were the Grand Tour GC contenders; I had no idea the differences between the abilities of each. Now that I’ve ridden for over 5 years, I understand the differences and appreciate and celebrate them.

But way back when, I had set a goal for my first road bike at 30% total body weight loss. That first goal became LuquiBike, which then became Syndi after discovering the cracked frame. I kept the weight off, and put over 10,000 miles on Syndi before I got \/\/illie, my Wilier, and gave Syndi to my wife as a bike. Eventually I picked up Allie, the Allez in the spirit of “Don’t race what you can’t replace.” But the Allez is meant to be the race bike — full aggressive setup, meant to be ridden hard and fast.

But also I had planned on getting a bike more in tune with riding with a surgically-repaired pelvis, and something with road-disk brakes that I could take to France and reliably handle braking in any condition, say on a decent off a 2000m Col in the mist/rain, and that was going to be a new Specialized Roubaix.

I went into Spokes Etc. to test ride the Allez, and I test rode a couple of the new Roubaix experts, which felt really smooth and really comfortable. I was going to put in an order on the Allez and the Roubaix, but then I saw the price point and feature set of the Roubaix Pro – Fact 11r carbon fiber frame, UDI2 hydraulic brakes, CL32 carbon wheelset, it was by far the best bike for the price.

I put in my order, picked up the Allez because it was in stock, but was expecting to wait a month on the Roubaix Pro… Which became 2 months… and then 3, and then I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it in time for my trip to France, let alone this year.

So Jack at Spokes pulled a magic rabbit out of his hat, and I upgraded to the S-Works Roubaix, which comes with the SRAM Hydraulic eTap groupset and the CLX32 wheelset, both of which you can only get right now on this specific bike.

After 3 months of waiting, yesterday was pickup day, and today was the first official Ride.

S-Works Clinchers on the Roval Wheels:

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The Day the Smile Died


This upcoming Sunday is the first Car-Free day on the northern stretch of Skyline drive here in Virginia.  This may not mean much to most people, but it’s a step forward to encouraging more people to ride on a bike.  Not that there would be much difference to my as a rider out there — I’ve ridden the entirety during the peak season.  To be honest about Skyline drive, people are not in a hurry.  They’re attentive and driving slow, and it’s not a big deal with being passed by cars on the ride because of this.  People on Skyline drive are accustomed to driving slow and with care, while those in and outside of cities are in a rush, are not paying attention, and are not in a mindset to care about their fellow humans.

The week leading up to this ride was one I was looking forward to, not that I was going to ride, since all Sunday rides happen after church, and there’s no way I’m driving out to Front Royal and dealing with the 4000+ expected riders, but I was anticipating riding the Saturday before (i.e. Today) and making it a hard ride in preparation for my France trip.

The ride was to be a leg-destroying ride: 108 miles, ~12k feet of climbing.  A simple route really — ride from the Front Royal gate to Big Meadows:

Get some lunch, and then ride back.  Simple enough right?

Early in the week, the weather seemed to favour me; it was going to be cool on Saturday with expected rain on Sunday, however Mother Nature, and Fate, would otherwise conspire against me.

The chance of rain was shifting from Sunday to Saturday night, to Saturday Afternoon, and was looking sketchy when I got up this morning.

Where fate unfortunately stepped in was when I checked my twitter feed and read about the accidental death of pro cyclist Michele Scarponi.

Not that I had any connection to him whatsoever, but he was a smiling face in the peloton, and seemed to be a very likable character in a somewhat charater-less sport.  His last tweet with his boys riding on his back showed his joy for life.

So after reading that this morning, my mind was already not in a good place.  I continued on, even though it was raining here at my home, it might not be in Front Royal.  I packed up the truck, put the bike on the rack, and got on the highway.

I stopped for gas, and then stopped at the Great American Restroom (aka McDonald’s) in Front Royal.  It was spitting in bits as I drove west, but it started to come down harder there in Front Royal.  The radar didn’t look like it was going to get much harder than a light drizzle, so I drove the 2 miles thru town to the entrance of Skyline Drive.

I proceeded to get the bike off the truck, and kitted up, and then called my wife, whom then proceeded to talk me out of doing what I had said to myself was likely to be the stupidest thing I’ve done on a bike.  Not that the climbs up Skyline drive were all that difficult – averages of 6-7%, steepest spots being 10-11%, but it was the descents I was worried about.

As she reminded me I had a daughter to come home to, I was reminded of Scarponi’s last tweet, and I acceded to her logic.  However, instead of just turning around and coming directly home, I drove up Skyline drive, part of me hoping to find that it wasn’t bad up towards the top and I might climb on and get some hills in…except that wasn’t the case.

As I got higher on the mountain, it got progressively worse.  At 1400 feet the clouds rolled in, and from 1400-3400 feet on the east side of the ridge it was pea soup thick.

But… at some point in time I caught up with a cyclist…. Who happened to be wearing my same team kit.  And then a minute further up the road was another two riders, one also in my same team kit!


My teammate Pat: “This is nothing but a shitty ride.  But I have to get 3 hours in today…”

As I drove up to my favourite spot on the first part of the ride, mile marker 21, I realized that I did the right thing in letting myself be talked out of a probably monumental mistake.  It was pouring, and the roads were covered with running water.

A ride like this today requires not just a desire to train and beat oneself into shape, but also the right mental attitude; every descent from there to RT 211 was slippery and water running in the road.  One slight lapse of concentration and judgement would send you into a world of hurt, with no one around to help.  Literally I saw 5 vehicles on my 32 mile drive, and two of them were the parked cars of my team mates.

Doesn’t mean that Skyline Drive isn’t a pretty stretch of road, inclement weather included:

But mentally it would have chewed me up physically and set me back had I ridden.

Rest in Peace Michele.  I never knew you, but I’m glad you were a Pro.  May your friends and family also find peace, I know that will be difficult.

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Week 2: Full On Stupid

We arrive into Faucon-de-Barcelonnette in the evening of the 2nd day of the Pra Loup Thévenet cyclosportive, a harbinger of things to come.

Our visit to the home of the 7 Cols of the Ubaye comes jammed between the aforementioned Thenevet ride, and we leave just before the Etape du Tour.

I was really hoping to do the etape, but it falls on the day of our return to the US. If we had changed our trip to be around the Etape, that next week would become a difficult and stressful logistical labyrinth, since all sorts of chaos is set to occur as the tour comes through the Ubaye and then monopolizes Marseille with a stage finish AND THEN an individual time trial before kicking the city to the curb and jetting to Paris for the finish.

But since this trip wasn’t to watch the tour, but to do really stupid things on bikes and sightseeing in the Vaucluse and Ubaye, it solves both, while avoiding unnecessary obstacles that might make a vacation suck.

Plus, other than not doing the Col d’Izoard (one of my bucket list climbs – Thanks Andy Schleck), I get to do far more interesting riding than what is involved in the Etape.

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The Big Interlude – Gorges du Verdon

Rather than do a point-to-point style of vacation, it was requested I pick a couple places to stay and do routes from where we’re staying. This has a benefit of allowing us to settle into a place for a few days and get to know the area, and pick out places we really want to see.

But there’s the travel between the two sites, and instead of doing it in one day, we’re doing it over two. The idea was to leave Malaucene and drive to Barcelonnette, but then there’s this amazing geographical feature along the way that requires at minimum one day. Mountains are what fills my soul for cycling, but the gorges also are incredible too… And when you have the Gorges du Verdon in your path, you damn well better stop and enjoy them.

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Sightseeing – Provence

I’ve been spending probably too much time just compiling a bunch of information, but I think it’s now time to distill some of this into actually actionable items.

Provence gets lumped by SO MANY TRAVEL BOOKS with the French Riviera and the Cote d’Azur. The major issue is that these books spend the majority of their pages describing Marseille, Nice, Cannes, Monaco, and the Camargue, that Provence is maybe given a third of the print.

Now, I’m really not talking about ALL of Provence that I’m going to see; Provence consists of an area (in my opinion) bordered by the Rhone river and the Monts d’Ardeche in the West, the Durance river in the east, with its northern most reaches being the Drome river, and no futher south than the A8 just south of Aix-en-Provence.

By no means is this information fully encompassing of the grandeur of Provence. We are only in the region for 6 days, and not a year.
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I love Silca. The attention to detail is amazing, and they seem to be as big of a fan of cycling as I am.

So I just got a Seat Roll Premio as they JUST got them back in stock.

Silca Seat Roll Premio Discount Code

I’ve been wanting a 2-Tube capable seat bag that doesn’t have thigh scraping velcro/hook-and-loop attachments — I’ve had to get my wife to patch holes on my team bib shorts due to this.

I’ve got the Scicon Hipo 550 RL 2.1 thinking that I could get two tubes in 550cc… but no, that doesn’t work.

But in ordering the Seat Roll, I got a shareable discount code for $10 off if you want to pick one up for yourselves. Go ahead, go buy some really cool stuff from Silca.

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Velo France Roi de la Montagne

Come with me on a unique experience through Provence, the Gorges du Verdon, and the Ubaye Valley.


View the Map


Day 1: Arrive in France in Marseille (or maybe Lyon) – Drive to Hotel / Short Loop
6km / 200m


Day 2: Tour de Petit Gorges – The Nesque Gorges from Sault.
55km / 1100m Climbing / No Marked Cols


Day 3: Route de Signal de Lure
85km / 1600m / Signale de Lure / Pas de la Graille & Col de Saint Robert


Day 4: Cingles de Ventoux
137km / 4500m / Mont Ventoux x3


Day 5: Tour de Grande Combe
106km / 1800m / Col de Mezien, Col de Fontbelle, Col de l’Hysope, Pas de Bonnet


Day 6: Route des Lavande Sault
101km / 2000m / Col de l’Homme Mort, Col de Maucegene, Col Saint-Jean, Col de Perty, Col d’Aulan


Day 7: Make Up / Rest Day


Day 8: Tour de Gorges Verdon
145km / 3700m / Col d’Ampon, Col de Vaumale, Col d’Illoire, Col de l’Olivier, Col d’Ayens, Pas de l’Abauc


Day 9: Pra Loup
24km / 600m / Pra Loup


Day 10: Route Nord Ubaye
78km / 1800m / Sainte-Anne la Condamine, Col de Vars


Day 11: La plus haute de France
82km / 2300m / Cime de la Bonette, Super Sauze


Day 12: Route Demoiselles
121km / 2400m / Col de Pontis, Col Saint-Jean, Col des Fillys, Col de Charamel


Day 13: Make Up / Rest Day


Day 14: Grand Route d’Allos
127km / 3600m / Col d’Allos, Col des Champs, Col de la Cayolle


Day 15: Make Up / Getaway – Drive to Marseille (or Lyon)


Day 16: Fly Home.


Grand Total of ~1100km / 26000m & A Million Memories.

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Coffeeneuring 2016

After missing last years coffeeneuring due to my crash, so this year my theme was not going to be new and exotic places, as my daughter is now in kindergarten and going places for a week here and there is less viable due to the school’s schedule, but instead something a bit more tame and mundane.

This year my theme was “A week in the life…” All these coffeeneuring rides did take place over the 7 week period, and not all in the same week.

Since I currently telecommute, aka “Work from home,” pretty much every ride is a ride for coffee. As alluded to before, with my daughter now in school full time, I’ve lost my normal lunch date. Couple that with all my coworkers being located in another country, the coffee ride is also a sanity ride — being able to talk with friends and see other people for an hour or so each day contributes to my sanity.

A normal week of coffee starts on Monday at Monday Morning Pancake Club, located at Mike’s Deli @ Lazy Sundae in Falls Church. It’s not gourmet coffee, but for 50 cents a cup and free refills, it’s well worth the trip. Also there are pancakes.


Tuesday finds me at Cafe Kindred, either exhausted from riding with the Bikenetic Hill Ride or after a short ride around town. Kindred serves Vigilante coffee, roasted on the other side of the beltway in Hyattsville, MD. Kindred has by far the best music of any coffee shop ever.


Wednesday is Hump Day Coffee Club, which meets at Best Buns in Shirlington. Best Buns serves Starbucks, and because of their logo, much shenanigans has occurred regarding the evil empire and its Rebel counterparts.
Best Buns is home to the delicious Bacon Cheddar Scone, which they used to only serve on Fridays, but owing to the insistence of several of the Hump Day Coffee Club members, they started serving on Wednesdays, and then eventually every day. My wife has often asked me to bring home a dinner roll sometimes — It’s difficult to put one of those into a back jersey pocket and not crush them due to their freshness.

Thursday is home to two different coffee clubs now — The first one being Vienna Thursday Coffee Club, which meets at Caffe Amouri in Vienna. Caffe Amouri roasts all their coffee on-site.

Because Vienna isn’t a convenient location for commuters that aren’t coming in from the western suburbs of Virginia, a second Thursday club organically grew based out of Whole Foods in Pentagon City. While the Whole Foods is known for its Iced Vanilla Lattes, I prefer the coffee from the Commonwealth Joe next door.


Friday is the home to the original coffee club day. When all this craziness about getting together for coffee started, it was originally hosted at M.E. Swings Cafe across 17th street from the White House, but due to a lengthy renovation of the space by the building owner, FMCC has relocated for the time being to A Baked Joint.


Again, due to the location of the original FMCC, a second Friday Coffee Club evolved, FMCCII located at the Java Shack in Arlington. There was a third that grew out at Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon, but was eventually disbanded due to lack of interest. There have been brave souls that have cycled the FMCC Trifecta — Starting at Green Lizard for a doppio, then stopping at Java Shack for a second, and getting to M.E. Swings in time for a third. This event is indeed a feat as it requires one to get to Green Lizard at open: 7am and getting to M.E. Swings by 9am, which means riding 24 miles and downing coffee in 2 hours. People who have completed this feat have been known to be awarded an FCC hat.


And if that isn’t all — 7 Coffee Clubs throughout the work week, I ride with a race team that meets at a Starbucks before the ride, but the other real fixture is Bikenetic’s Sunday Coffee Ride. A recovery pace ride thru historical parts of Washington DC that serve to educate you about the varied little-known niches and historical tidbits that you don’t find in the tourist books, and also serve as a ride to acquire caffeine. This particular sunday’s ride stopped at Sidamo Coffee and Tea in NOMA.


With all that being said, over the 7 weeks I rode for coffee 24 times. — Such is the life of a work-from-home cyclist, where “Every Ride is a Commute” and “Every Commute is for Coffee”.

Thanks Mary and all the other Coffeeneurs!

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Bucket List Rides

In the weeks after my injury, I’m not sure what facilities I’ll have when I get mobile again. I discovered that Team Movistar’s Pablo Lastras was retiring after an 18 year career — after having crashed at the Vuleta ao Catalunya on Stage 4. At the time of the crash, they thought he had broken his femur, but it turned out that he sustained the same injury I did. His just happened at a much higher velocity. Pablo’s recovery hasn’t been so good — they’re not sure if he’ll require a new hip or even a prosthetic leg.

When I read those things, and I think about my former teammate Patty, and what she’s been able to do, I realize that it’s not the end, it’s just a page being turned.

But in that thinking, paraphrasing Tyler Durden, “What would I have wished I had done, while I could still ride a bicycle?” And of course things like “Ride across the United States” and associated things came to mind. My wife told me that I should write these things down, so here they are.

Long Rides

Specific Places / Climbs / Cities / Sportives / etc.

  • USA
  • Mt Palomar
  • Mt Diablo
  • Mt Mitchell
  • Mt Washington
  • Pike’s Peak
  • Wintergreen
  • Gibraltar Road
  • Mt. Baldy
  • SkyMass
  • Mauna Kea
  • France
  • Mont Ventoux
  • Alpe d’Huez
  • Col de la Madeline
  • Col du Galibier
  • Col d’Izoard
  • Col de la Croix de Fer
  • Le Semnoz
  • Lasets de Montvernier
  • Cormet de Roseland
  • Port de Bales
  • Route des Lacs
  • Col de Tourmalet
  • Col d’Aspin
  • Montee de Verbier
  • Col du Petit St. Bernard
  • Col de la Morte
  • Cime de la Bonette
  • Col d’Allos
  • Col de Mollard
  • Chamonix
  • Italy
  • Passo de Galvia
  • Passo Moritrolo
  • Passo Stelvio
  • Monte Zoncolan
  • Climb into Sienna (Strade Bianchi)
  • Passo Crocedomini
  • Poggio di San Remo
  • Cipressa
  • Via Fontebranda in Sienna
  • Madonna del Ghisallo
  • Lap around Lake Como
  • Rest of Europe
  • Koppenberg<
  • Mur de Huy
  • Sa Colabra
  • Giant’s Causeway Costal Road
  • Grossglockner
  • Oberlap Pass
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