Dennis on the Road

Sunday, July 31, 2005

family time

The highlight of the summer has certainly been the time spent with family. I savored every moment that I got to spend with my 4-year-old niece Abigail (most of which was in or near the water.) What a great kid! The new pictures I posted tell the story better than words can.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

new team website!

My teammate, Christian, has been putting together a great new team website. It is still in early stages, and I might be a bit premature to unvail it now, but for a preview, click here. My profile page is here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

hmmm... would you stay with this man?

One of the joys of travel is being welcomed into other people’s spaces. Although fitting into someone else’s schedule and moiré is a bit awkward with even the most gracious host, having the door opened to one’s home also opens a figurative door to all that home represents: shelter, respite, comfort, centeredness, family.

I’m currently staying at my dad’s new place. As I write this, I’m on the deck, looking through the pine trees, past the cattails dancing in the wind, to the ripples turning the lake into an impressionist painting. I’m savoring this chance to enrich my relationship with my dad.

Many others have given me a home away from home on this trip. The Nevada dessert was my first host. The land there is nearly as vast as the infinite blanket of stars. My next host was my dear friend L’Tanya and the entire extended family at Eagle Rock School. She made a marinade so delicious I can still conjure up the memory in taste buds.

Two days after leaving Eagle Rock, I rolled into Milwaukee. For the third time, I was welcomed in by Douglass (pictured above). Five years ago, the first time I stayed with him, he was a stranger, now I consider him amongst my closest friends. Douglass is a great guy. Easy going, fun to be around, and driven to achieve whatever goals he takes on. He is a fireman with three college degrees. He bought a house and is gutting it to the skeleton and rebuilding it nearly single-handedly. And he is a hell of a lot of fun!

I caught up with my friend Andy for a night while swinging through Chicago. There is never a dull momment with this guy. He kept me well fed when he worked at Zingerman's back when we were at U of M. Since then we've rarely been on the same continent, but when paths have crossed, whether for a speedy bike ride through urban Chicago or his drunken translation of Serge Gainsburg lyrics atop a chair in my Oakland kitchen, we have had a great time.

Each time I come back to Grand Rapids, my home base is my brother Tom’s house. This trip I had less than a day with him and his wife Janel before driving them off to the airport for a trip to Peru. The quantity of time was short, but the quality was great.

As I look ahead to my trip South in September, I know I’ll continue to be welcomed into homes. I can’t wait to reunite with my “family” in Caracas. I met Rafael and his family through the Hospitality Club, an on-line program that connects hosts and travelers. With the first greeting at the beginning of my short vacation to Venezuela this winter, friendships were built. The warmth of that family and the fun times we experienced are the primary influence of my decision to return for a greater immersion. I have already contacted and heard back from a few Hospitality Club members in Trinidad & Tobago.

Being on the other end of hosting is also a joy. Through Servas and Hospitality Club, plus friends and family, I’ve welcomed over 100 people into my home over the years. (Living in the Bay Area insures that one will often get visitors.)

Thinking about Douglass, L’Tanya, and the Leon family, I realize that there is a common feeling of kinship that I have with all of them. I call Douglass and Rafael “brother” and L’Tanya “sister” words I rarely use when speaking of folks that are not related. They have opened not only their homes, but also their hearts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

meeting Noah

It is great to be home... especially seeing family. I only had a day with my brother Tom and his wife Janel before I dropped them off at the airport to take off to Peru. Another highlight was meeting the newest addition to the family, Noah, my sister Susan's second baby... pictured here with his sister, Abigail.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Superweek's Second Second

Whew. When I woke up this morning my legs reminded me that I have raced nine consecutive days. Yesterday was the last day of the Masters 30+ series at Superweek. The competition was tough. There were many former pros and national champions in our field. Riders came from over a dozen states.

With three days remaining I was third overall and feeling the toll of all the racing, but I got a second wind for the final two days. Both Saturday in Waukesha, Wisconsin and Sunday in Bensenville, Illinois, I made the winning breakaways. The sprint that was on fire earlier in the week had extinguished. (I think this has as much to do with the borrowed bike I was still on for the second half of the series as it does my legs.) But I still managed to pull off a 3rd and 4th place finish respectively, which brought me up to second overall for the series (which is the same result I had two years ago when I last did this series). In the final race, the person who was in third was only seven points behind me. I marked him closely. We both made the final breakaway of eight. With a lap and a half to go, he attacked and I hopped on his wheel. With me there he slowed down and I prepared for the counter attack that came from his teammate, Robbie Ventura, who was most recently on US Postal. I made the acceleration, but did not have the speed to come around the three riders in front of me in the final straight away.

My friend Andy (from GRJC and U of M days) came and watched the race and hosted me in Chicago last night. Andy and I don’t get to see each other often, but when we do, we always have a good time. There is something very special about friendships that stay strong and real despite considerable time and distance.

I’m driving up to Grand Rapids this morning to see my brother for a day. He and his wife fly out tomorrow to Peru.

Friday, July 15, 2005

this is tiring... but I love it!

Ahhhhhhh. There is not much more that I can do right now but sit on this couch with legs up. Seven consecutive days of racing has taken its toll and turned me to a zombie. Does this sound like complaining? It shouldn’t. This is bliss. My life is reduced to waking up; making breakfast; driving 5 – 30 minutes to the race; pre-race prep and short warm up ride; FAST, FAST, FAST pedaling/attack/recover/finding the right line and wheel in the final laps/and sprint with everything left; a short cool down ride; chill with other riders and collect the winnings; home to Doug’s house to watch the day’s stage of the Tour de France on TV; shower; dinner. Simplicity.

I’ve been racing well, with consistently good, but not outstanding results. I’ve had some bike troubles, but great support. After a broken spoke in the first race and flats in two subsequent races, a small but crucial part of my rear shifter broke. The neutral support guys didn’t have the part, but they lent me a bike. I called every possible shop in Milwaukee that might have the part: No luck. Fortunately Montano Velo, my phenomenal shop sponsor in Oakland had it and overnighted it. But when we went to rebuild the shifter this morning, it turns out that the part that was shipped was a slightly different model. The hole for the spring was a millimeter off, but enough to make it unworkable. The last chance for getting this fixed here is to have Camangnolo send it overnight, which is going to cost me a pretty penny (especially with Saturday delivery) but at least I’ll have my own bike back. Meanwhile, I’ve raced three races on a borrowed bike and have finished in the money in all of them. I’m currently in 3rd overall. 1st and 2nd are out of reach with only two more races left.

Other than racing, all is well except for the extremely annoying deafening roar of stunt fighter jets rushing over Milwaukee, arrogantly thumbing there nose at us about the unjust war(s) they represent. I’m sure that for the annual cost of flying just one of those jets a school could be staffed and run. Where are our priorities?

Monday, July 11, 2005

superweek begins!

Me pulling the breakaway with the field behind: Menasha, WI: July 9, 2005

It is great to be back at the Superweek bicycle race series in Wisconsin. I’m staying at my friend Douglas’ place just off of Brady Street, a popular strip of cafes, restaurants, and bars. Great for people watching while recovering from the day’s race. Douglas’ kindness and the familiar fun of the racing makes Milwaukee feel like a second home.

My first three races have gone well. I feel strong and have been riding aggressively. Each day I’ve been in several breakaways, but unfortunately not the winning ones. My sprint is faster than it has ever been, though. I finished 2nd in the field sprint in both Saturday and Sunday’s criteriums and 1st in today’s road race. (It was an exciting photo finish. I threw my bike forward at the line and won by only a tire’s width, which I witnessed on the race video afterwards.)

For the first nine days of Superweek I’m racing the 30+ masters series. Following that I’ll take a few days off and spend time with family in Grand Rapids. I’ll return for the final three Pro races. After yesterday’s race I was 4th overall. That slipped a bit today, but I hope to get it back up in the coming days. You can check the current standings here.

Other news: I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Highly recommended. Let me know if you've read it and what you think.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

learning quest

I’m leaving Eagle Rock School this morning, renewed and inspired. The intentionality of this community, the way in which youth and adults challenge each other to grow, and a holistic approach to learning has prompted me to set high goals for my personal growth during this unique stage of my life.

My goals are to use this time as a learning quest: to open my mind beyond its current borders; to read a broad variety of literature, history, and political/cultural perspective; to make time with friends, family, and strangers meaningful ~ to listen, share, learn, and teach. I want to improve my Spanish dramatically. And I want to continue to set, record, and reflect upon goals for my personal growth. Writing them here is a way for me to hold myself accountable to them (and for you to hold me accountable as well.)

By the way: I'm having difficulty up-loading photos to this blog, but I have posted pictures from the first days of this trip here.

Monday, July 04, 2005

a visit to eagle rock and a ride above 12,000'

It is wonderful to be back at Eagle Rock School. For those of you who don’t know this place, you can get some flavor by visiting their website. As I write this post I’m sitting on a handmade bench, looking out over an undeveloped mountain valley. The wind sings through the pines and makes the daisies dance. The mostly blue skies are accented by pillowy whi clouds. Pardon the cliché, but this is heaven.

Today I did one of my favorite rides, over the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. At over 12,000’, it is the highest through-road in North America. Cycling above the tree line, with an endless view of snow covered mountains, was bliss. And the decent is the longest and most favorite that I have experienced.

Each trip to Eagle Rock feels like a homecoming. I have recommended four students who have attended here (including Adam who is still here) and I have become close with many of the staff members. The sense of community and the spirit of this place inspires me and has been one of the most influential factors in my work as an educator. Thanks and kudos to my Eagle Rock family for sharing your home and your hearts.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

is anyone reading this?

let me know if you're reading this by taking a second to post a comment.

quick check in from the road ~ CA/NV/UT

It is mid-morning on Day Two of the Eastward drive. Yesterday (Saturday ~ 7/2) I got a 5:30 AM launch and was on the start line for Leesville Road Race in Williams, CA by 8 AM. It was my first time doing that race... and I loved it! The course started flat but within about 15 miles we left the level plane of the Central Valley and began climbing, in the 90 degree + heat, into the Coastal Range. Immediately, the road narrowed to one lane and consisted of more patches and potholes than original blacktop. There were several long stretches of gravel. The ascent was over 1000 feet from bottom-to-top, increasing in steepness the higher we climbed. By the summit the field had shattered. I made it over the top in 7th but was able to group up with others and catch all but two guys who remained off the front until the finish. After dropping one rider and loosing one to a flat, I arrived at the line with one other person. I won the drag race and took 3rd in the Masters 35+. I feel as though my form is coming back and I’m feeling good about Superweek…. Less than a week away!

After the race, shower, and a watermelon feed, I headed East on Hwy 20, stopping in Nevada City for a late lunch. The drive through the mountains and across Nevada was beautiful. I stopped driving around 11PM, headed down a side gravel road and set up my tent. I slept beneath millions of stars and awoke to a glorious sunrise and crisp high desert air. 15 miles of driving brought me to the Utah boarder. I’ve crossed the salt plane, skirted Salt Lake City, and am stopping for a coffee and a blog up-date in Park City.