Saturday, May 19, 2012

Up Early

I woke up to a stranger's voice this morning. I'd fallen asleep watching a LIVE stream from NASA's Cape Canaveral where private space launch contractor SpaceX was launching their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.Liftoff was scheduled for 1:55AM PDT, I didn't get close. SpaceX however got as close as they could get to liftoff when the launch was aborted...1 second. The voice that woke me up was from the post-scrub press conference. Somewhere around 0600 I woke up enough to figure the lay of the land.

Launch computers showed an overpressure in one of the Falcon 9's nine rocket motors, and aborted the launch. Next launch window is 12:44AM PDT Tuesday morning. Falcon 9/Dragon Mission Status Center

This weekend is shaping up to be hyper-busy. Too many choices!

Indianapolis 500 Pole DayLIVE on  NBC SportsNet 8AM-11:30AM and 1:30PM-3:30PM and streaming Timing and Scoring at all day.

The battleship USS Iowa leaves Richmond, CA on San Francisco Bay en route to Los Angeles Harbor. Under tow, the mighty dreadnaught is scheduled to pass under the Golden Gate bridge at 3:30PM PDT Sunday afternoon. The Chronicle has a great photo gallery at the link.

Annular eclipse of the Sun. 96% of the Sun will be obscured by the New Moon revealing "The Ring of Fire" for as much as 4 minutes and 30 seconds depending on where in the eclipse path the observer is. Plan your eclipse observations at and be careful! DO NOT look directly at the eclipse! Use eclipse glasses, a welder's shield, or a projection method such as a pinhole projector to see the ring.

On the horns of my dilemma...
I really want to see the USS Iowa on the Bay. The timing of the tow makes it impossible to see Iowa on the open bay while still allowing for travel time to the High Sierra where the eclipse will be at the maximum displaying the full "Ring of Fire"

I'll let you know how it all turns out...

Friday, May 18, 2012


Well, my San Francisco Giants didn't disappoint Thursday. KirkVallus and I rode the BART to AT&T Park and became a part of the team's 102nd consecutive sellout crowd.

As forecast, the wind turned into a northwest flow and the deep marine layer evaporated before game time. I do love afternoon baseball games, and at AT&T Park day games are magnificent! The winds reminded us of Candlestick in that they couldn't find a single direction and stick with it. There were even swirling winds for a while, and the northwesterlies gave balls hit into right-center a lift during the 3rd inning rally by the Cardinals when they wrested the lead away from the Giants who took the lead 2-1 in the 2nd.

The wind freshened as the day wore on, and the flags that rim the upper deck were really flapping in the brisk blow, making a loud, very sharp luffing noise. It's easy to get caught up in nautical thoughts at AT&T. The park is right on San Francisco Bay with an expansive view of Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge with the East Bay Hills as a panoramic backdrop.

As the wind ramped up, so did the Giants regaining the lead a second time in the 6th, and adding two "insurance runs" in the 7th. The final score was 7-5 Giants, and the wind really whipped up the whitecaps on the Bay.

From the upper deck, the view is spectacular. San Francisco Bay is a working harbor, and the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is coming along fine. There's always dredging in Oakland's harbor, and lots of container ships are coming and going into the Port of Oakland.

We walked the mile or so up Third Street back to BART. Let me tell you, that wind was howling through those concrete and glass canyons!

Descending under Market Street to the BART Station, the wind at last became a memory. Our train was there in 12 minutes and we even got seats together during rush hour!

Lots of happy Giants fans on the train were feeling good. So were we.

The Giants play the Oakland A's for three games beginning Friday night. I'll spare you my traditionalist rant on inter-league play.

Next peak event this week would be the annular eclipse on Sunday...and oh yeah...Pole Day at Indianapolis Saturday.

I've got a week to anticipate both the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix....sweet!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bicycle Porn

True Dat...I did not post any pictures of the actual competitors in yesterday's blog, in fact I didn't even see race leader Peter Sagan fly by...Well, actually I did see him wizz by, but I couldn't recognize him at speed if my life depended on it.

Slovakian Sagan won the fourth stage of the AMGEN today, making it a sweep of the first four stages. Sagan is on my Team CorduroyPlanet fantasy team, but none of my other guys have scored any points so I'm tied with seven other teams in 15th place.

I'm cheaping out today, so I can hit the rack early...KirkVallus and I are taking in Thursday's San Francisco Giants game vs the St Louis Cardinals, the 2011 World Champions.

Unknown Rabobank rider in the peloton 50 meters from the KOM
Here's an action photo from Mt Diablo and some photos of that lovely woman's TREK bike with the custom paint. She's rightly proud of her ride!

The lady's beautiful TREK in the company of a beautiful steel LeMond

Very nice paint, understated, well realized

Two beautiful rides leaning on the State Park LEO pickup
Good night everybody! Go Giants!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Up and Up!

Well things look a lot different this year on the AMGEN Tour of California!

No snow, no ice on Donner Pass Road, no cancelled stages, no low hanging marine layer on the Mt Hamilton summit...Nope, none of it!

Friend of CorduroyPlanet, KirkVallus is in town for the race, and we rolled away from the SturgeUrge Compound a little after 10AM Tuesday morning headed for Mt Diablo. The race was climbing Mt Diablo for the first time, and we wanted to be up on the Devil Mountain at the King of the Mountain summit.

The mountain is in fine springtime shape, most of the grassy hills are still green, washed with colorful rafts of wildflowers looking from a distance like masterpieces from the Impressionist movement...think Claude Monet.

I had plenty of time to admire the beauty, VirkVallus was driving. Mt Diablo is a California State Park, and the roads are narrow (not to mention steep and windey) Oh, there were hundreds of bicyclists climbing the road as well!

A half an hour of climbing the mountain, and we stopped at Rock City, and paid the $10 Day Use Fee. Another 15 minutes and we found our little Valhalla 150 ft from the KOM line.

KirkVallus parked the Suburu wagon so the back would be our own private bleacher seats. We sprayed ourselves with sunscreen and took in the passing scene. We were at Junction City. There's a Ranger Station and a campground, and the road to the summit takes off from the junction with the park's main north/south thoroughfare. There were around 50 fans there when we settled in about two and a half hours before the race would pass over the summit.

Mt Diablo's Junction City KOM Summit
The people watching was World Class. A beautiful day marred only by some haze in the air. There must have been a hundred bicycles climbing the mountain for each car that did.

By the time the race was near, there were thousands of fans lining the road.

It was like a bicycle show. There were millions of dollars worth of bikes up there. Lots of high-dollar racing bikes. Composite bikes were the most common...lots of $4000-$6000 swoopy carbon fiber Time Trial bikes, and flat out racing bikes. I only saw one Lightspeed Titanium frame...these used to be the favored "unobtanium" weapon for poseurs and racers alike.

As the crowds built, we spied some beautiful old classic bikes. We saw a good half dozen LeMond bikes from the late 80s-early 90s. Beautifully brazed steel frames from America's first Tour de France Champion, Greg LeMond. I saw LeMond ride through downtown Truckee years ago on his training ride. He blew a shift and cussed as he turned right from West River Street onto HWY 267 heading back to Lake Tahoe.

I started snapping pictures of the more interesting bikes. A grizzled old guy on an old classic lugged steel framed Masi asked if he could park his bike next to the car. I said sure and snapped a photo. The frame was gorgeous, but the wheelset was the most modern carbon fiber rims with radial bladed titanium spokes.

Naturally 95% of the rides were road bikes. Mountain Bikes were the other 5%. We only saw two tandems and one recumbent.

Once the crowd filled in, I was struck by all the people on their handheld devices.

A couple of mountain bikers made a Facetime Video Call to their office to brag at a coworker about where they were and what they were doing as they wagged their gelato pops in front of the iPhone.

I didn't notice just how many people were on their devices until I got home and looked at my photos on my laptop. In some photos everyone was using a device!

I started taking pictures of people taking pictures...without much luck. Most of these people were quick draw experts with their digital cameras and iPhones.

Of course there's an app for the Tour. I asked our nearest neighbor if she had the TourTracker App. She didn't know about the app, but said she was getting tweets, and that the peloton had just gone through the sprint in Livermore.

Perfect. I'd printed the Stage Map and Stage Log before we left, and I looked at the log and it said The race would pass our place at hour and ten minutes away...

About 3 hours after the first photo...10 minutes before the peloton arrived Use the Stop Sign as a reference point
The crowd kept was a huge party...without the sloppy drunks...this was a fitness crowd...and as the race neared, the volume of the crowd grew along with the excitement.

The caravan began to stream by. All the Marshalls, Race Directors, Highway Patrol cars and bikes with lights a-blazing, yipping their sirens, then the crowd roared and the four men in the breakaway blew by. Pro cyclists go crazy fast...UPHILL!

The tweets said the break was almost nine minutes. The crowd kept itself on a slow boil. I listened for the helicopters, but never saw or heard them overhead as the main field approached. Truth be told, I'm sure the choppers cam right over us, but we couldn't hear them over the crowd.

It was an awesome spectacle. Team CorduroyPlanet's Peter Sagan won his third stage in a row. Well done...

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I'm spending some quality time laying about this morning. Oh, I got up extra early to watch LIVE Formula One Qualifying from Barcelona.

Qualifying was very informative today. During Q2, clouds rolled in cooling the track surface. Suddenly times dropped like a rock! Many frontrunner teams were almost caught out.

Going into the fifth race weekend of the F1 season, the biggest story is the 2012 Pirelli tires. This weekend Pirelli has brought two compounds, Soft and Hard, the first time there's been a two step difference between the Prime and Option tires. There's about 1.5 seconds difference between the two.

The Soft tire is becoming infamous for it's performance "dropping off a cliff" in short order, and this weekend in Barcelona is no different. Typically, the Soft tire is best on it's first lap, as long as the driver gets the tire up to temperature quickly without torturing the tire. It's a tightrope walking's easy to overcook the tire and fall off the cliff before an optimum lap time can be recorded.

All this tire  kerfuffle has added extra adrenaline to the pit lane, but it's just delicious for fans. Even more strategy to ponder for fans, even more engineers trying to collect data and quantify it for high quality decision making down on pit short, pure gearhead entertainment!

As I Columbus this post, I'm streaming LIVE video from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Month of May began in earnest with Opening Day and the first day of practice for the Indy 500.

It's a nice day in Indy for running a racecar...overcast, 46% relative humidity, calm winds and temps in the mid-70s. It's all very stately by IndyCar standards, lurid almost...comfy from where I sit...

Day one of practice ends in 12 minutes. Then I've got to figure out my Fantasy picks for the AMGEN Tour of California