Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book recommendation

I recently downloaded Comedian Mastermind: The Best of, 2005-2007 for my Kindle. This book by Elden Nelson is filled with humorous, inspirational and sometimes just plain wierd postings from Elden's Fat Cyclist blog. Right now the book is available for the Kindle at a ridiculously low price of $6.95, and purchasing this book will help fund Elden's goal of writing a book about being a caregiver for someone fighting cancer, so the money is going to a great cause.

I don't know Elden, but I read his blog and it is really good. In addition, he used to work at Microsoft as did I, and we both lived in Seattle at the same time, so perhaps we've crossed paths.  Who knows...

Anyway, do yourself a favor and check out Elden's book. Oh, and his blog ain't half bad either, so check that out as well!

Extra fluff...

In the description of this blog that you see above, I say that I'm going to throw in some "extra fluff" for good measure.  As I don't think I can blog about TdF planning every day from now until next July, and given that there's other things I'd like to discuss that are cycling related, expect that there will be a fair amount of non-Tour posts until the Tour get's closer.

I hope you as the audience don't mind.  And given that to the best of my knowledge, no one besides me has actually read this blog so far, I am the audience.  As such, I heartily approve these new types of posts.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Maybe this baby's gonna happen after all...

The big sticking point right now with this whole trip is getting to France.  I've looked online and tickets to Paris from Phoenix are running about $1200+ each.  I figured that this would be a deal breaker for my wife, the more sensible member of this relationship.  However, she seems to be bought into this trip, and has offered to keep an eye open for cheap tickets to France over the next few months.  I guess this trip might actually happen!

Wow! No wonder I'm slow!

After my last post about the Surly LHT, and given that some of the guys at the LBS were commenting on the heft of my bike the other day, I thought I'd try to figure out just how much it weighed.  Therefore, I used the trusty "hop on the bathroom scale alone then with the bike and subtract" method and determined something truly shocking: my bike weighs somewhere around 31.5 lbs!  No wonder I'm so slow!  I guess when you put all the following together, it starts to add up:
  • 58cm steel frame
  • 38x700c tires
  • Thorn-resistant super heavy tubes (with slime, no less!)
  • Brooks B17 saddle
  • Road Morph G pump
  • Garmin ForeRunner 201 GPS device (recycled from my running days)
  • Planet Bike Superflash and Blaze tail and head lights
  • Bargain-priced moutain bike pedals
  • Bento box with multitool, tire levers and a patch kit
I guess it should not surprise me that I have trouble keeping up with the typical Scottsdale carbon fiber-riding cyclists.  On the other hand, perhaps it's like swinging a bat with a doughnut in the on-deck circle.  After pedalling the LHT around for years, when I finally get on a light(er) bike, maybe I'll really be able to fly.  Here's hoping...

About me...

Just in case you were interested, I'll tell you a bit about myself.  I am a IT consultant who currently lives in the Phoenix area.  I have been cycling for about 4 years.  I started when I lived in Seattle where I regularly commuted to work (about 12 miles each way).  In my current job, I spend quite a bit of time travelling so bike commuting is pretty much out of the question.

My current (and only) ride is a Surly Long Haul Trucker.  This was a great bike for commuting in Seattle where it's rainy and hilly.  The bike is pretty much indestructible, easily fits racks and fenders, and has wide tires to carry a lot of cargo and a relatively heavy rider (I'm 6'1" and weigh 185) in comfort.  The downside with this bike is that it is a) heavy and b) slow.  When it's loaded up with racks, fenders, pump, lock, lights, computer and bottle cages, it has to weigh close to 28 lbs.  In addition, the super upright position the bike puts you in and the 38mm wide tires (with significant tread) don't help with the speed either.  Long story short, a great Seattle commuter bike makes a pretty lousy Phoenix sport bike.  For this reason, I'm in the market for a new ride, but that's a story for another post.

Regarding my family, I am married and have 3 sons, 2 in college and one in high school.  My oldest likes to ride a lot, and a few years ago I got him into watching the TdF with me while he was home on summer break.  He is the one who will be accompanying me on the trip to France.

My wife does not ride now, but has expressed some interest in doing so down the road.  I would love to get her into cycling as it would be a great activity for us to do together.  Instead of me being away from her for 3 or 4 hours on a Saturday, we could be together during that time instead, enjoying an activity together.  I've got my fingers crossed on this one.

So why do I want to go through the expense and hassle of flying to France for the TdF?  Well, I became interested in the Tour about the time I started riding.  I started watching it on Versus and found it absolutely fascinating.  I'll go into more detail in a future post what I love about the TdF, but suffice it to say that I am glued to my television (or laptop when I'm on the road) for hours on end every July, and the idea of actually being a part of that madness is pretty exciting.

The last time I tried something like this...

There was another time I was planning to go to Europe for a major sporting event. That was before the 2006 World Cup in Germany. My goal that time was to see two or three matches and do so on a shoestring. I had scoped out two cities that had games relatively close together (both calendar-wise and map-wise) to minimize the cost.

I put quite a bit of planning into this trip and had an itinerary figured out. I was going to fly into Munich and see a game there, then travel to Cologne for another game about 2 days later, then back to Munich a couple days after that for a third game and then my flight back home. I didn't make any hotel reservations, but I did put my name into the drawing for tickets to the games I'd targeted. Unfortunately, after two rounds of the lottery, I never got picked for tickets.

As I was trying to do the whole thing on a budget, I didn't want to pay scalper prices for tickets, and since I was not going to be able to get tickets through the normal channels (and might not be able to get tickets at all), I scrapped the whole trip. I just couldn't make plane reservations without knowing that I'd be able to attend the matches in the cities that I wanted to be in.

One good thing about the TdF is that there are no tickets: show up on the side of the road and you're good. In many ways, that makes this trip easier to plan than a World Cup trip.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Initial plans

So I saw some advice on the Internet about seeing the Tour de France that I am trying to follow for our trip. Some of the recommendations are:
  1. Try to see a mountain stage as the riders tend to be more spread out and going much slower so you get more viewing time.
  2. Try to find stages where one stage ends in the same town as the next stage starts. This gives you the ability to see the riders twice in two days without moving (although the start is not exactly the most exciting part of the race, but its better than nothing!).
  3. Be at the final stage in Paris to see the circuits of the Champs-Elyssées and the trophy ceremonies. Plus it's freaking Paris for crying out loud.
  4. See a time trial if possible. Again, because the riders are spread out, you get a lot more viewing time for your effort at these stages, although the riders tend to fly by pretty fast.

I'm sure there were other recommendations, but these are the ones I'm acting on. With these bits of advice in mind, we are planning to see the following stages for sure:

  1. Stage 16 finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon - This is the finish of a critical mountain stage in the Pyrenees that begins in Pau. This route features a number of famous passes including the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d'Aubisque.
  2. Stage 17 start in Bagnères-de-Luchon - This is the beginning of the stage that will include the Col de Menté and the Col des Ares and end in Peyragudes. We will get to see the peleton off this morning before we head north toward Paris.
  3. Stage 20 on the Champs-Élysées - This will be the final sprints of the TdF and the crowning of the champion.

I have made arrangements to see these stages already (more on those specifics coming). It might also be interesting to be in Chartres on Saturday to see the finish of the time trial, but this might be trying to cram too much into the time allotted, given that we need to be in Paris the next day. We'll have to see about this one.

What's this blog about, anyway?

So I've been known to make some snap travel decisions that can turn into really fun trips. For instance, back in my (much) younger days, my future wife and I decided around midnight one Friday night to drive from St. Louis to Gatlinburg, TN for the weekend. Last summer I made a spur of the moment decision to take my youngest son (a huge Harry Potter fan) from Phoenix to New York a couple months later to see Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Well, it looks like I'm up to my old tricks again, and am in the process of planning a trip to France to see several stages of the 2012 Tour de France with my oldest son. I have set up this blog to document the planning process as well as (hopefully) the trip itself.

Perhaps someone will get some value out of this blog; perhaps not. One thing that I've noted is that there's not a huge amount of information out there about planning such a trip on your own (as opposed to going with a tour group), so maybe the things I learn and write here will be useful to others. I guess we'll see.

Anyway, stay tuned for updates...