Geeky Bob

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Be sure to check out my technical blog at www.microsoftbob.com.

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The Ups and Downs of Illnesses

I've had a cold for a few days now, and as of last night I lost my voice. (My wife, Kathleen, thinks this is an improvement in our relationship.)

Fun fact: when my voice disappears, so does my ability to cough loudly, so I sound like a dog's squeaky toy whenever I have to cough. (It's amazing Kathleen isn't laughing harder at my expense.)

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Feb 21 2019, 09:22 by Bob | Comments (0)
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When Essential Tremors Take Over

It has been a little over a year since I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, and though my symptoms have been dramatically reduced by faithfully taking my daily medications, I still have my good days and bad days. In order to help prevent additional symptoms from occurring, I have tried to change the way that I live my life by doing what I can to reduce the stress in my life, and for the first time in my life I try make sure that I get plenty of sleep. (I have been the consummate "Night Person" for most of my life, so having a "normal" amount of sleep is a foreign concept to me.)

That being said, I have recently noticed an interesting development in my Essential Tremor symptoms: my tremors have seemed to take over in several unexpected ways. Here is what I mean by that: Essential Tremors are "action related" tremors. meaning that tremors develop when I am trying to complete a task, and I have mentioned in previous blogs that tremors have been especially annoying when I am trying to eat or play a musical instrument.

The way that my usual tremors have been manifesting themselves is that I begin an action, and some sort of action continues after my brain has told my body to stop moving. This often happens when I am typing on a computer, or using a mouse, or playing guitar, or turning pages in a book, or some other common action that requires fine motor skills. So the basic flow of events is for a conscious action to take place, followed by an unconscious action in the form of tremors.

But with that in mind, there have been several unanticipated situations where tremors have recently emerged, and here are just a few examples: cold chills, yawning, and reactions to loud noises. Believe it or not, several times over the past few months those trivial actions have been enough for tremors to kick in.

Have you ever had a cold chill? Of course you have; your body shakes for a moment and then the cold chill is over. But for me, I often continue to shake or cringe painfully for a few additional moments. For all intents and purposes, my tremors have amplified my cold chills, so on cold days I find myself getting headaches from the number of shaking episodes that I encounter, and my muscles are sore by the end of the day as I try to flex my muscles to combat the unnecessary reactions. Yawning has had a similar effect; sometimes my hands will shake while I yawn, and recently my hands have continued to shake after I have ceased yawning.

Although I have to say, suffering from tremors when reacting to loud noises has completely caught me off guard. I was listening to a public speaker earlier today, and the sound guy had the speaker's volume up a little too high. As a result, I would cringe a little whenever the speaker was unnecessarily emphatic while making a point. However, my tremors would take over after I cringed, and I would react like I had just suffered a cold chill; my muscles would painfully contract involuntarily, which started to give me a headache.

All of this is to say, these new developments in my Essential Tremor symptoms were completely unexpected. I had presumed that I would continue to have problems when eating, typing, or playing guitar. But cold chills? Yawning? Loud noises? Seriously???

What a pain in the neck. (Literally.)


PS - I made hundreds of typing mistakes while writing this blog. Unfortunately, this appears to have been one of my bad days for tremors.

Sad smile

Posted: Jan 13 2019, 23:10 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

The following study of 1,256,407 children conclusively shows that there is no link between vaccinations and autism:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X14006367

There is no other way to put this mildly:

  • ...if you choose to ignore the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that supports vaccines...
    - or -
  • ...if you choose to listen to some ignorant celebrity's rant against vaccines...
    - or -
  • ...if you choose to believe some dim-witted anti-vaxxer's blog...
    - or -
  • ...if you think that you somehow have more information than the thousands of disparate scientists and researchers from around the globe who have repeatedly shown that there is no link between vaccinations and autism...

...then you are an idiot.

Posted: Jun 14 2018, 11:24 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Anti-Vaxxers are Still Idiots

Earlier today, an addlebrained anti-vaxxer posted a link to this bogus article on a social media website: FDA Announced That Vaccines Are Causing Autism. That article was, of course, immediately debunked by other people through a myriad of fact-check articles, such as Debunking False Vaccine Claim, Is Autism Now Disclosed as a DTaP Vaccine Side Effect?, etc. But even if that claim had been true for that single vaccine, that would still not apply to the hundreds of other vaccines for which there is incontrovertible proof that they do not cause autism.

The link between vaccines and autism has long been debunked, and people need to stop repeating this very harmful lie. Here is the scoop straight from the FDA: "Scientific evidence does not support a link between vaccination and autism or other developmental disorders." (See the CDC article Vaccines for Children - A Guide for Parents and Caregivers for more information.)

That being said, another gullible village idiot felt that it was necessary to ignore both scientific research and reasonable discussion and repost the following alarmist image as an attempted response:

31292696_1778890132133307_1979325692562636800_n

The numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that those affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are less than 15 per 1,000, and any increase between current the numbers and the 1960s is attributed to heightened awareness of the disease, better diagnostic procedures, and the classifications of new ailments within ASD like Asperger Syndrome. (See the CDC pages like Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research, etc.) What is more, research conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown that autism begins in the womb, and is thereby unaffected by childhood vaccinations. (See Autism Spectrum Disorder: Progress Toward Earlier Diagnosis, Autism Risk Unrelated to Total Vaccine Exposure in Early Childhood, etc.)

That being said, the so-called link between autism and vaccines was based on a single research paper that was later unequivocally proved as a fraud, formally retracted from publication, and the doctor who published the paper lost his medical accreditation due to multiple conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, and manufacturing the data in his report. (Basically, this one doctor published a fraudulent study in order to make money. See MMR Doctor 'Planned to Make Millions,' Journal Claims, Antivaccine hero Andrew Wakefield: Scientific fraud?, and hundreds of other articles published about this scandal.)

In the wake of this controversy, the FDA, the CDC and the NIH have spent millions of USA taxpayer dollars on research that has categorically proven that there is no link between vaccines and autism. (See Vaccine Safety: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism, Vaccine Safety & Availability: Thimerosal and Vaccines, and dozens of other pages on both the FDA, CDC, and NIH websites.)

However, this hoax refuses to die because people who are unaware of the actual research keep reposting bogus images and articles like those shown above, and dangerous diseases which we had almost eradicated from the planet are making a comeback. In the USA, this is especially prevalent due to the lack of daily suffering that is seen in underdeveloped countries; this false sense of security was paradoxically caused by the success of our vaccination programs. (See Vaccine Safety Questions and Answers.) As a result, more children in the USA are growing up with a greater risk of contracting an unnecessary disease than they are of autism.


NOTE: Another reliable and respected source of information is the Mayo Clinic, which states the following in its Autism Spectrum Disorder article:

No link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder

One of the greatest controversies in autism spectrum disorder centers on whether a link exists between the disorder and childhood vaccines. Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted due to poor design and questionable research methods.

Avoiding childhood vaccinations can place your child and others in danger of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles or mumps.

In other words - if you are a parent, do not fall victim to the misguided anti-vaxxer paranoia that is infesting social media and other fake news outlets with disinformation; do the world a favor and vaccinate your children. Attempts to demonize our successful and scientifically-verified vaccination programs is ridiculously naïve, and future generations will look back on our present-day anti-vaxxer hysteria with the same level of contempt and disgust that we have for the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s.

Posted: Apr 26 2018, 10:31 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Good Days and Bad Days

It’s been a few months since I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, I have good days and I have bad days. I also mentioned that – thanks to modern medicine – my good days usually outnumber the bad days. But that being said, today was a bad day, and at the risk of regaling you with “Too Much Information,” I thought that I would take a moment to explain what that’s like.

Throughout the day, dozens of seemingly-trivial tasks were made difficult by miniscule tremors that caught me completely off guard. In each occasion, either my fingers would tremble, or my entire hand would tremble. To anyone nearby it might seem as if nothing was happening, but each instance was terribly frustrating for me.

Here is one example from earlier this evening: my wife and I were standing in our kitchen, and I held up a jar of salsa to dip a chip into it. But when I turned the jar on its side so that it was parallel to the ground, my hand started to tremble so badly that I could barely hold the jar. I certainly couldn’t be trusted to try dipping a chip into the jar, so I quickly set it down. I attempted the activity again – with the same result. I looked at my wife and chuckled helplessly, but I usually only get tremors in one hand, so I thought that I would just change hands to work around the problem. However, I soon discovered that my other hand yielded the same outcome – my hands were simply shaking too badly to be reliable.

I was briefly annoyed at my own inability to accomplish this ridiculously-simple task, when I thought of a workaround: I could hold the jar on the kitchen counter and simply lean it on its side. This worked brilliantly, and it reveals a lifestyle behavior that I am having to employ more and more commonly these days: I use something else for stability.

Quite often I find myself running into situations where my hands are shaking, and even though I mentioned earlier that my physical dilemmas are probably imperceptible to those around me, I cannot help but feel embarrassed by my circumstances – either by my hands shaking or by my inability to do something simple. However, I increasingly find myself working around the problem by leaning my hands against something else for stability; occasionally I will quickly push my hands down onto a table when I find that cannot hold a fork or spoon steady while eating, and other times I will pull my arms to my chest so that I can complete a task with a relative degree of stability. These situations are very frustrating to experience, but I am doing my best to cope with them and find workarounds when possible.

Another annoyance that I have discovered is how these micro-tremors in my hands seem to sap my strength. The tremors are not actually making my hands weaker, but it seems that way because my fingers shake as I try to use them, and as a result I cannot accomplish my intended activity. (If you’ve ever had your hands shake because your blood sugar was crashing, it feels a lot like that.)

Here’s a case in point from earlier today: I received a DVD from Netflix in the mail, and when I picked it up, a quick set of micro-tremors in my fingers made me lose my grip on the envelope and it went sailing through the air. This happened a couple more times, and when I finally managed to force my way through my symptoms and I had a firm grip on the package, the tremors made it impossible to slide my fingers through the seal on the envelope and open it. (That’s when I decided that it was time to go find a set of scissors…)

So this is what my life is like on bad days: I find myself plagued with what seems like a never-ending stream of tiny tremors that are making average, day-to-day activities far more difficult than before. But I am attempting to keep my spirits high as I soldier through my occasional predicaments, and whenever possible I am trying to find workarounds for my setbacks.

(One final note: you wouldn’t believe the number of typos that tremors caused while writing this blog.)

Posted: Jan 18 2018, 14:55 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Learning to Cope with Essential Tremor

Today I couldn't open a plastic package containing a cheese stick. It was such a silly little task, and yet I couldn't manage to do it. My fingers kept going to the correct places, but then they'd shake uncontrollably and I couldn't pull open the packaging.

At first I started to grow frustrated, but then - much to my own amazement - I found myself spontaneously laughing about the situation. As I thought about my petty predicament, I realized that there are three ways that I could react to my ever-changing, day-to-day reality:

  • Cry about the situation
  • Scream about the situation
  • Laugh about the situation

If I allowed the frustration to take over and rule my life, I could easily see myself devolving into a blubbering pile of self-pity. Or if I demanded that God needed to answer why he was making me suffer, I could just as easily see myself filling with rage every time my hands don't do what they're told.

However, in this instance I simply realized that it was just a silly little task, and there was no reason to let stronger and useless emotions prevail. While there was nothing that I could do about my hands, I could try to figure a way to work around my physical difficulties. And if that didn't work, I could easily walk into the next room and ask my wife for help.

In the not-too-distant future, I will undoubtedly find myself having to ask for help a lot more than I would ever want to do. Like everyone, I have my pride, and asking for help just seems so... weak. But I cannot escape the fact that I will need help, and I will have to learn to set my personal pride aside and ask for assistance. Even if I'm simply trying to open a stupid cheese stick package.

Posted: Jan 08 2018, 15:20 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Why is a Disease Called Essential Tremor?

Today I found out that I have a disease called "Essential Tremor," and what I want to know is: who the heck names a disease with "Essential" as part of the title? There is nothing about this disease that seems essential. A much better name would be something like "extremely-annoying shaky limb disease." Nevertheless, I have a deeply-disturbing feeling that nothing will ever the same.

Actually, I've known for months that something was wrong, but I didn't have a definitive answer as to what that was until now, so my wife and I chose to keep quiet about it. Knowing for certain helps, though; not just because I have a name to assign to the symptoms that I have been experiencing, but also to know that I don't have something far worse like Parkinson's Disease, which is fatal. (Note: The Essential Tremor page on the Mayo Clinic website has a great breakdown of the symptom differences between these two diseases.)

I first started experiencing symptoms well over a year ago when I noticed that one of my legs would start to shake. Sometimes my right leg would shake while driving - just enough to be annoying, although occasionally enough for me to ask my wife to drive. At other times one of my legs would shake while standing, and occasionally one of my feet would shake while supporting my balance as I was seated on a stool in our breakfast nook or when performing at church. However, over time my fingers started to shake, too. Sometimes my finger muscles would fire on their own and pull inward into my palm; on one such occasion the thumb on my right hand would pull inward every 30 seconds for almost a week. I soon discovered that if I shook my hands, they would continue to shake on their own, and tasks like pouring liquid from a bottle might result in uncontrolled shaking. In a few episodes, I would be performing a repetitive action such as typing on a computer keyboard or tapping my foot, but when I would mentally signal whichever limb to stop moving, the action continued on its own, and all I could do was watch in amazement as my extremities seemed to have a life of their own. As anyone can imagine, between typing on a computer for a living and playing various musical instruments as a hobby, I am typically extremely aware of exactly what my fingers are doing, and you cannot imagine how terrifying it was to watch my fingers simply quit responding correctly while playing classical guitar or some other delicate task. Needless to say, as my symptoms increased in both frequency and severity, my emotions quickly moved from amusement to confusion to concern and then alarm, and my wife progressed through many of those emotions as well as she witnessed my rapid decline during the first half of this year.

I started a diary of my symptoms earlier this year, and I had hundreds of episodes documented by August when I was finally able to see a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders. That being said, my neurologist quickly dispelled any fears of Parkinson's Disease and he prescribed medication for Essential Tremor, to which I have been responding rather well. There are some side effects, though, and a common effect is drowsiness. This led to a brief work-related experiment recently, where I was off my medications for a week or two due to long hours and a heavy work schedule; I couldn't afford the luxury of being tired, so I simply stopped taking my medication. As expected, my symptoms quickly returned. However, when I restarted the medication my symptoms abated, so I feel pretty confident about my current course of treatment. That being said, stress exacerbates my condition, so I've had to have a talk with my boss about changing what I do; we'll see how that goes in the months ahead. (Microsoft isn't known for being a stress-free environment.)

So what does all this mean? For now, it means that when I behave myself and I stay on my medication, I am usually symptom-free. I have good days, and I have bad days - but thankfully the good days far outweigh the bad, and even when I have a bad day, it's nowhere near as bad as when I wasn't on medication. Occasionally I'll be playing something intricate on the guitar and it simply falls apart; sadly, I'm learning to live with that as a part of my new reality. However, I try to be an optimist, so I told my wife that I have an unexpected benefit from all of this: whenever I play something incorrectly on the guitar now, I can blame it on a tremor, and no one will ever know if I'm telling the truth or if I just suck at the guitar. ;-)

Posted: Nov 10 2017, 08:49 by Bob | Comments (0)
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More Thoughts About Vaccines

Two years ago I wrote a post which was titled Anti-Vaxxers are Idiots, in which I explained in great detail how important it is for people to be vaccinated and to vaccinate their children. So it came as something of a depressing surprise for me to witness another needless debate fueled by ceaseless drivel from uninformed conspiracy theorists who still cling to the long-disproved belief that vaccines cause autism and other maladies. I am simply amazed at the level of denial from most of these people; it's like they belong to the "Flat Earth Society." Nevertheless, these fools are most-likely alive and healthy and able to voice their misguided opinions only because previous generations were vaccinated sufficiently enough to halt the spread of diseases which would otherwise have killed the parents or grandparents of these naïve nitwits.

Despite any protestations to the contrary, vaccines stop diseases. Period. If you deny that fact, then there is no other way for me to put this - you're just an idiot. I wish that I could put that nicer way, but that's just the way things are.

However, because someone was positing the theory that vaccines are ineffective since occasionally some people still get sick, I thought that I should point out another point of truth: sometimes a vaccine doesn't just lessen the chances of contracting a disease, sometimes it lessens the severity of the disease.

Here is a true story: during my time in the Army, all of the soldiers were forced to have flu vaccinations every year. This decision was passed down from the Pentagon because diseases run rampant throughout the military, which is due to the deplorable conditions in which we had to live in order to do our jobs. (See the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic for an example.) In any event, there were several years when I was vaccinated and I still got the flu, although I was over it after a day or two. So when I left the military, I decided to stop having my annual flu shot.

However, two years later I contracted the flu during another domestic outbreak. The illness wreaked havoc on my system for several weeks, and my life was spared only because medicine has continued to evolve over the past few decades since the last devastating pandemic. But make no mistake - 20 or 30 years ago I probably would have died from that strain of the flu.

I have learned my lesson, and now I make sure that I get my flu shot every year. Sometimes I still get sick, but never as sick as that year when I skipped my flu shot.

Posted: Jan 12 2017, 16:36 by bob | Comments (0)
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An Open Letter to LIVESTRONG

I have recently been unable to read any articles on the www.livestrong.com website, and as a result I sent their customer support staff the following letter:

Despite having been on your mailing list for years and thoroughly enjoying your articles, I am no longer able to use your website because of your poor website design and engineering decisions. Look, I get it - LIVESTRONG needs to make money, and to do so you charge for advertising. And I realize that in order to increase your advertising revenue, most of your "articles" are now "click-bait slideshows" which require your readers to click through multiple pages in order to read a single article.

The problem is, your website designers have built an extremely-fragile house of cards, so more often than not I can only get one or two pages into a "slideshow" before your website ceases to work; e.g. pages hang, display timeout errors, etc. Because I actually WANT to read your content, I will try other browsers and other computers, but the results are the always the same; after a couple of pages I get nothing else.

In some cases I think this is because your website is trying to popup a modal dialog to ask me to sign up for your newsletter, which I already receive, so this is annoying for multiple reasons; I hate being asked to sign up for something to which I am already subscribed, and I hate your website crashing while asking me to do something which I have already done.

As a result, I'll probably stop trying to read your content. Oh sure, I'm just one guy so it's no big deal to you, but here's food for thought: I'm willing to bet that other website users are facing these same frustrations, so you're really losing ALL OUR BUSINESS and not just my business. So please, for my sake and yours, FIX YOUR @#$% WEBSITE.


07/16/2016 - Update: LiveStrong appears to have fixed their problems. Yay! I can read articles again!

Posted: Jun 20 2016, 05:51 by bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for Cool Breeze 2015

Today I completed the Cool Breeze Century in Ventura, CA, which was organized by the Channel Islands Bicycle Club (CIBC). This century ride was billed by the CIBC as: "102 miles with about 4000 feet of climb - moderately challenging, [and] excellent for 1st time centurions." This was my fourth century ride within the past nine months, and despite its advertised status as an excellent ride for "first-time century riders," I think it was one of the more-difficult long distance rides that I have done.

I participated in this century ride with my good friend Kevin, who lives in the Los Angeles area. Kevin told me a few weeks ago that he had signed up for this ride, and at the last minute I invited myself along. Since I live in Arizona, however, this meant that I had to endure a ten-hour drive through the desert to LA on the day before the ride. Nevertheless I met up with Kevin in Ventura on the night before the ride, and we put together our plans for the next day.

We both got up early as planned, and I drove the two of us to the starting point near the Ventura Unified School District offices, where we arrived around 6:15am. (We were one of the last cars to get a great spot in the main parking lot.) We quickly pulled into a parking space, and then Kevin and I put together the last of our things for the day's ride. After a few minutes of deciding what to bring and what to leave, we headed off toward the starting line around 6:30am. In keeping with the spirit of this ride as a "non-race event," there was very little fanfare at the starting line - we simply rode past a set of banners with dozens of other cyclists and we were off.

Prepping the last of our gear for the day.
Last-minute selfie before heading out.
Approaching the starting line.

I should point out before I go any further that I immediately appreciated how well-marked the route was throughout the day; there were route signs everywhere for the duration of the ride. (This was a great improvement over some other rides where you periodically wondered if you had accidentally left the route.) All of the route signs were emblazoned with color-coded arrows which matched the cue sheet that cyclists were given when they registered, so as long as cyclists followed the correctly-colored arrows throughout the day, they were going the right way. One discrepancy that Kevin and I noticed was that the cue sheet which we had been given only listed 97 miles for the length, which was five miles shorter than the 102 miles which was advertised for the ride. I told Kevin not to worry - I had my Garmin GPS with me, and we could use it to verify the ride length when the time came.

One of the many color-coded route signs
which were scattered throughout the route.

For the first 2.5 miles our route ran south along highway 33 in Ventura, but soon after that we were riding west along the beach trail by the ocean, which was great; this section of the course was what I thought a ride through California should be.

Panorama of the ocean as we rode along the beach.
(Note Rincon Island in the background.)

We were nine miles into the ride and cruising nicely along the beach when I suddenly heard a "Klank! Klank! Klank!" from immediately behind me. My initial thought was that something had fallen off my bicycle, but then I realized that the sound was coming from my rear wheel. I pulled to a stop, and after a quick examination I determined that my bike had broken a spoke. I have no idea how it happened; I didn't ride over anything like a branch which could get tangled up in my spokes - apparently it just snapped. It took me a few minutes of wrangling to bend the broken spoke into a position which would allow me to extricate it from my wheel, but I eventually managed to wrench it out and we quickly got back on the road. (Although I could hear the spoke nipple rattling around inside my rim for the rest of the ride.)

Kevin and I passing a photographer at 7:30am.
(Note that this single photo represents the only
time that we saw photographer during the ride.)

We were a little over an hour and 15 miles into the ride when we reached our first stop of the day, which was at Rincon Beach Park. After a quick ten-minute break to refill our water bottles, Kevin and I got back on the road.

Kevin posing behind my bike.
Displaying my usual "hang ten" pose.

Our route took us north and inland as we left Rincon Beach Park, which kept us away from the water for the next eight miles or so. Over the next mile or so we faced our first climbs of the day, which were relatively short and nothing too difficult to worry about. After a few climbs and descents, we were mostly riding downhill as we rode to the west for the next few miles.

That being said, before the ride I studied the profile on the Ride with GPS website, which the ride organizers were kind enough to share online. With that in mind, I knew that we were rapidly approaching the most-difficult climbs for the day. Apparently I was not the only cyclist to have studied the course in advance, because shortly after we passed the 25-mile mark we faced the first serious climb and several cyclists loudly remarked, "Oh - this is the hill."

Route Map and Elevation Profile for the Century Ride.

I'll be honest - this climb was moderately difficult, and thankfully it only lasted for a couple of miles or so. At one point or other, both Kevin's and my bicycles threw their chains when shifting from the large chain ring to the small chain ring, which was exceedingly frustrating. Thankfully each of us was wearing black shorts for the ride, because black shorts always afford a great place to wipe off all the bicycle grease from your hands once you have reseated your chain. (See #14 and #8 and  in The Rules.) I should mention that one of the times when Kevin's bike threw its chain during a climb, Kevin did a masterful job of avoiding having to fall down with the bike. Many other people (including me) probably wouldn't have been able to prevent the fall, and several nearby riders remarked, "Nice save!"

After we had reached the summit for this set of climbs, we were treated to three miles or so of downhill riding, which was a great change of pace. Unfortunately, I knew that these few moments of physical respite would be brief; having studied the ride profile, I knew that the next part of the course was going to be the most-difficult segment of the ride.

One we had descended back to sea level and rode west along the ocean for a half-mile or so, we turned inland again and began a one-mile climb to the north and our second stop of the day at the 31-mile point around 9:00am in Manning Park. This stop is actually situated during the difficult part of the ride, so it's well-located for cyclists because it gives them a moment to rest up before tackling the really challenging climbs ahead.

Scores of cyclists in Manning Park.
Resting my bike near the park fence.
Refueling and bicycle maintenance stations.

While Kevin and I were taking a break, we both refilled our water bottles, and I quickly ate a half a banana (for the potassium), a half-sandwich (for the carbs and protein), and a cookie (for the sugar). After a little over a half hour, we were sufficiently rested and refueled, so we climbed back on our bicycles and rode off to the north and into the toughest part of the course.

For the next two miles we faced steep climbs which ascended several hundred feet into the hills above Santa Barbara, where we slogged our way through neighborhoods filled with luxurious mansions overlooking the city. I will freely admit, the climbs were often steep, and they seemed to keep going on forever. We turned west as we continued to climb, and for the next eight miles it seemed that whenever we thought that we were finally beginning our descent we would round a corner and discover another climb was waiting for us.

This future site of somebody's mansion
will have an awesome view.
Posing for a useless photo.
Dozens of narrow, hairpin turns during the climbs.

I wear a heart rate monitor while I ride which is paired with my Garmin GPS, and occasionally it beeps at me when my heart rate is too high; e.g. over 170bpm. Usually I ignore it, because it's generally just a momentary spike in my pulse during a difficult moment or two, so eventually the beeping will go away on its own. But during this part of the ride it began beeping at me, and it wouldn't stop. After a few minutes I decided that it was best not to ignore it, so I told Kevin that I needed to pull over for a couple of minutes. As we pulled to the side of the road, my GPS showed that my hear rate was a little over 170bpm, but after five minutes' rest it came back down to 140bpm and we got back on the road. One other thing, I found it a little difficult to breathe during a few of the climbs, which I attributed to a lack of proper time to acclimate before starting this ride. (I had only arrived the day before, and I'm used to riding at an altitude that is 3,000 feet higher. When I rode in the Seattle to Portland ride a few weeks ago, I had a week to acclimate and enough time to get in a training ride.)

There is an old adage which states, "All Good Things Must Come to an End," and thankfully the same can be said about bad things. With that in mind, somewhere before we hit the 40-mile mark we had finally made it through the truly-difficult sections of the ride and we began our descent into Goleta. We encountered small climbs here and there over the next ten miles or so, but nothing as difficult as the major climbs which we had just completed. As we passed the 50-mile point of the ride, both Kevin and I had to suffer through some lower leg cramps, but nothing unbearable.

We pulled into our next stop at Stow Grove Park around 11:30am, which represented the mid-way point for the ride at 51-miles. Kevin and I refilled our water bottles, then we headed over to the dining area to grab some lunch. Once again I had a half-sandwich (for carbs and protein), a half a banana (for potassium), and few cookies (for sugar).

Resting my bike against a railing.
Picking up lunch.
Simple fare for simple minds.
Cookies and fruit!!!
More cookies!!!

During lunch Kevin and I were seated across a table from three ladies, and I made several jokes with everyone about classic songs that I had been rewriting in my head during the day's ride:

  • Sung to the tune of "Safety Dance":
    "We can pass if you want to,
    We can leave your friends behind.
    'Cause your friends can't climb, and if they can't climb -
    Well they're no friends of mine."
  • Sung to the tune of "Hotel California":
    "Welcome to the Cool Breeze California,
    Such a tiring race, such a grueling pace.
    You'll question your mind at the Cool Breeze California:
    I'm no competitor; why'd I register?"
  • Sung to the tune of "Margaritaville":
    "Climbing the hills again in California,
    Wondering why I'm still here at all.
    Some people say that there's a friend I can blame,
    But I know - it's my own dang fault."

My re-written version of "Margaritaville" drew an especially large chuckle from everyone, because I followed that up by mentioning how the pain of endurance riding passes over time, and then next thing you know you're inviting people along with you for your next excursion by saying things like, "Hey - you should sign up for this century ride with me; it's going to be lots of fun." At which point two of the ladies quickly turned and pointed at the other member of their party, who responded, "Yup - I'm the guilty one in our group."

After a 50-minute break Kevin and I headed back to our bicycles. As we prepped our gear for the next half of the ride, I met a cyclist who was wearing a jersey from the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) randonneuring ride, which is a 1200-kilometer (≈745-mile) endurance ride in France. (Which - by way of coincidence - was starting this same weekend.) The two of us chatted for a couple of minutes, and he admitted that he had ridden the PBP four times, but he was now too old to survive riding 250 miles a day for three days (with only four hours of sleep per day). I admitted that I was probably never young enough to have survived the ride.

As we left Stow Grove Park, our route had us backtrack to the east for three miles or so before zig-zagging for the next few miles in a mostly-southern direction through Hope Ranch towards the ocean.

The view of the ocean from the southern end of Hope Ranch.

For the next three or four miles we rode eastward and parallel to the beach, although much of that riding was through residential areas so we only saw the water occasionally. (That being said, a lot of the mansions which we were riding past were pretty amazing; it must be nice to be that rich, but couldn't that opulent wealth be better spent? [Deep sigh.])

As we rode into downtown Santa Barbara, we turned toward the ocean again, and we cycled along the water past a series of beaches, parks, and marinas. As we passed the entrance to Santa Barbara Harbor, Kevin suddenly had a flat. The two of us worked on the flat, and we managed to get it sorted out in a few minutes. (I was obviously taking photos at the time, but I actually helped Kevin fix his flat. Seriously. I really did. I promise.)

Santa Barbara Harbor was pretty nice.
Fixing a flat. No fun.
The beach near Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf.

After we got back on the road, we passed the ladies with whom we had met during lunch earlier in the day. As we pulled up to a stoplight, I mentioned that we had stopped to fix a flat, and I asked why they hadn't stopped to help us out; to which one of them replied humorously that it was every man and woman for themselves. As we approached another stoplight a short time later, some @#$% motorist unnecessarily blocked the bicycle lane even though the light was green, thereby causing all of us cyclists to quickly pull to a stop in order to avoid an accident. One of the ladies issued an appropriate expletive at the clueless driver, and I remarked that I completely agreed with her assessment of the situation. She replied by asking if I had a song in mind which expressed that sentiment, and I said that I could put anything to music - even that.

We rode east along the water for another three miles before turning inland to the north. After another two miles of riding and a short climb we arrived back at Manning Park around 2:30pm. This park had been our second stop of the day, and I thought that it was pretty ingenious that the ride's organizers had managed to arrange the ride in order as to recycle some of the stops. (Great logistics.) We refilled our water bottles and ate a few snacks, and then Kevin took advantage of the bicycle repair facilities to make sure that his tube repair was sufficient for continuing the ride. (The guy was able to discover a couple of places where the bead for Kevin's tire had not been seated completely, and he was able to fix that.)

Back at Manning Park.
Pausing to refuel for the next segment of the ride.
Kevin having his bike checked out.
(That's just good sense.)

We got back on the road after the bike technician had signed off on Kevin's bike, where we continued to ride east and parallel to the beach for several miles. We started our final climb somewhere around the 80-mile mark, but to be honest it wasn't much of a climb. That being said, my bicycle decided to throw it's @#$% chain again, so we had to stop for me to fix it again.

The accumulated filth on my fingers.
(And this was after wiping them off on my shorts.)

Nevertheless, my chain was an easy fix, and we were quickly back on the road. After a couple of miles we ran into a brief moment of confusion with a small gaggle of cyclists about whether our route really meant to take us onto the highway, which it did. Once we had ridden a few hundred meters, we had arrived back at Rincon Beach Park around 3:50pm, which was our final stop for the day at mile 82. (You may recall that Rincon Beach Park had been our first stop of the day, so once again the ride's organizers had managed to recycle one of the stops.)

The view from Rincon Beach Park.
Good to know.

The main claim to fame for riders who make it to the final stop at Rincon Beach Park is - popsicles. I had heard about this feature before we started the ride, and I must admit - an ice-cold popsicle tastes pretty good after a long day of cycling.

Popsicle Power!
Posing with our popsicles.

After a 25-minute stop to rest and recharge, Kevin and I climbed back on our bicycles for the last segment of the ride. The next 12 miles had us riding along the beach again, which was great. At some point about ten miles from the end of the ride I changed cycling techniques so that I was only pulling up on the pedals. I do this occasionally in order to allow some of the muscles in my lower legs a brief respite from my normal riding, but on this occasion my change in technique was met with a sudden and sharp cramp in my inner right thigh. This was painful enough for me to loudly and angrily remark, "Oh crap!", and I drifted off to the right side of the bike lane as I desperately tried to stretch out the affected muscles while still riding. Kevin overhead my exclamation and asked if everything was okay, and I responded that I would be fine in a moment or two. I eventually managed to work my way through the pain, but still... that really hurt.

Shortly after we hit the 94-mile point we turned northward into Ventura as we retraced the 2.5-mile route which had started the day's ride. As we approached the Ventura Unified School District offices where the finish line was located, a cycling couple quickly pulled off the bike path several hundred meters from the end of the route. As Kevin and I rode past I remarked, "You can't quit now!" However, after Kevin and I had ridden few hundred meters further, my Garmin GPS showed that we were going to reach the finish line after having ridden only 97 miles, so I told Kevin that we needed to pull to the side.

I mentioned that if we crossed the finish line, we weren't going to make 100 miles; however, we both wanted to officially claim this as a "Century Ride," which means that we needed to add three miles to the length. I proposed that we create a quick loop through Ventura and Kevin agreed, so we bypassed the finish line and headed off into areas of Ventura which weren't on the scheduled route. After a little over a mile we merged back onto the official course, and as we headed toward the finish line I remarked that we were still going to be short by a little less than half a mile, so we bypassed the finish line and rode off in a different direction. As we approached the point where I wanted us to turn around, we bumped into the cycling couple which we had seen earlier, and I remarked to them, "Oh - now I get it; you two wanted your official century ride, too!" They both laughed and said that yes - that's why they had bypassed the finish line, too.

As Kevin and I rode back toward the finish line, I could see that we were just going to make it, and as we pulled to a stop past the finish line my GPS showed that we had just crossed the century mark.

One hundred miles!

Once we had crossed the finish line, we rode over to my car, where we loaded all of our combined gear into the back and locked up our bikes on the bike carrier.

Post-ride selfie before heading home.

After we had all of our things stowed in the car, Kevin and I dropped by the registration area to take advantage of the dinner which was provided, then the two of us hopped in the car and drove back to Kevin's house for the night.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 6:35am
    • Distance: 100 miles
    • Duration: 7:09:34
    • Calories Burned: 3,892 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 4,724 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.0 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.3 mph
    • Average Cadence: 80.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 73.6 F
    • Minimum: 55.4 F
    • Maximum: 104.0 F
      (This is according to my GPS, but I find that hard to believe.)
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 148 bpm
    • Maximum: 181 bpm

Epilogue and Miscellaneous Parting Thoughts

As I had done for my Seattle to Portland ride notes, I had jotted several things down which didn't necessarily apply to any part of the ride, so I thought that I would add a special section to this blog in order to share them.

  • Based on advertising, I thought this ride was going to be peaceful cruise along the water with the cool breeze at our backs, but it was seldom like that. I realized from looking at the ride profile that the climbs were going to take us inland for several miles so I expected that, but what was unexpected (and somewhat disappointing) was that we sometimes rode parallel to the ocean for several miles without actually being able to see the water.
  • We rode through Santa Barbara for quite a while, yet I never saw Gus or Shawn. But then again, I guess that they live in San Francisco now. (Inside joke.)
  • It was rather warm during parts of the ride; as a result, several of the locals and some others complained, but the temperature was not bad for me.
  • We completed this ride at a considerably slower pace than my normal rides, and somewhat slower than my previous century rides. But Kevin and I had agreed to take this ride at a comfortable pace; I specifically did not want to feel like I was racing a clock (which I normally do), and as a result the ride was more enjoyable [sic] than normal.
  • Despite the advertised length of 102 miles with 4,000 feet of climb, the Ride with GPS website lists the length of this ride at 97 miles with a little over 5,000 feet of climb. That being said, my GPS agreed that the length of the ride was 97 miles, although my GPS said that the final altitude gain was closer to 4,700 feet. In either case, I think the CIBC guys were pretty far off.
  • The fact that almost all of the difficult climbs were relegated to one segment of the course was a mixed blessing; it was nice to ride for dozens of miles over long, flat stretches of road, but the hours of actual climbing were exceptionally arduous since the bulk of the elevation gains were all in one small segment.
  • As I mentioned in the notes, my bike threw its chain a few times during this ride. However, I managed to catch it quickly each time, so I avoided wiping out. After some experimentation, I determined that the problem seems to be when I am shifting chain rings at a high RPM; when I consciously slowed my cadence I was able to avoid throwing my chain. (But still - my bicycle should not be throwing the chain like that.)
  • I had overlooked one unfortunate side effect of driving ten hours on the day before the ride: I had predominately used my right arm while driving cross country, and it was hurting by the time that I arrived in Ventura. Even though I took some Advil and tried to relax my arm during the night before the ride, I could still feel my right arm hurting during the ride as a direct result of the previous day's drive.
  • I purchased a new saddle a couple of weeks before this ride, and I had not completely broken it in; so my derriere was understandably a little sore by the end of the ride. It was fine by the next day as I drove home, but still - I can honestly say that this ride was literally a pain in the... butt.
Posted: Aug 15 2015, 16:53 by bob | Comments (0)
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