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June 2, 2006

Spelling and Biking (And Walking and Riding)

Wow. So much to say...where to start? I guess I should start by saying that this isn’t my official National Spelling Bee recap post – I need at least the weekend to sort things out in my head and get them down on paper (on Microsoft Word, really...but the phrase “get them down on my computer” just sounds funny). But needless to say I was captivated. Here are a couple of thoughts off the top of my head:

1) Who would have thought that the NSB would develop a subplot as an international showdown? The final standoff felt like watching a gold medal match at the Olympics. The whole Canada angle of this Bee has me spinning…let’s just say I’ll explore this further next week.

2) My preliminary verdict on ABC is that they overproduced the competition. They tried a lot of new wrinkles, most of which weren’t very successful. This is a universal truth that I never comprehend: whenever somebody new takes over something (a new boss, new restaurant ownership, a new coach, etc), they always feel the need to change things just because they have the ability to do so. If something is already successful, most of the changes ineviatbly come off worse than the way things were before. Last night’s telecast was a good example of this. But thankfully they didn’t go completely overboard with it.

3) If the legions of home-schoolers were hoping to dispel the perception of home-school kids as quirky intellectuals with enormously overstuffed bookshelves in their house, who enjoy reading dictionaries and encyclopedias when they aren’t playing video games, well…last night’s telecast may have been a minor setback.

I’m stopping there for now. Trust me, there’s more to come next week. In the meantime, I was going to write more about the Dipsea today, but then I went on this bike ride yesterday, and I think it’s a more compelling story.

I was scheduled to work about 12 hours yesterday, so I figured I’d take a quick spin on my bike for about an hour at midday.

I made a beeline out of Salinas through the campos for about 25 minutes. Salinas is a fairly small town, and if you head directly through the fields, you come upon vast open stretches where development stops and very few cars travel and where the natural landscape provides overwhelming solitude.

It was in just such an area that my bike chain broke.

It didn’t just come derailed or unsnapped – it tore apart in about three places. The simple chain tool I had with me wasn’t adequate to fix it. It was beyond repair.

For dramatic effect, this might be a good time to mention that I don’t own a cell phone.

Essentially I was stranded, many miles from civilization. Every time I get on a bike, this is my single greatest fear. And now it was happening for real.

I kick-push-coasted on my bike for about two miles to an intersection of two county roads, then walked for another half mile pushing my bike with one hand, holding my chain in the other, holding my arm out to hitch a ride.

Eventually a girl with a bike rack offered to give me a ride, but she wasn’t going to Salinas. She took me as far as a gas station in the nearby town of Seaside, where I used the payphone to call a cab.

Two hours, one humiliating cab ride (Do all cabbies feel the need to blather endlessly, regardless of whether the person in the back is responding? Do they learn this in cabbie school? This was unquestionably the most uncomfortable part of my day), and 40 dollars later, I was back at work. Once I add the cost of buying a new chain and repair tool, it will turn out to be a very expensive bike ride.

I love cycling. I really do. But yesterday was a perfect example of why running will always be my full-time pursuit. I know situations like this aren’t a common occurrence, but just the thought that the possibility exists with every ride is enough to stress me out at times.

I mean, would anything like this ever happen if I was running? The only similar thing I can imagine is if I were deep in the forest somewhere and happened to break a leg bone, eventually signaling a search and rescue group to bail me out. But even then, I’ll bet the search and rescue guys wouldn’t drive me nearly as crazy as 20 minutes with that cab driver did.

Anyway, I made it back and finished work and despite the expense, things pretty much turned out fine. I’ll probably even get a new chain for my bike and try another ride soon.

But I might need to reconsider my cell phone situation.


backofpack 6/2/06, 1:53 PM  

First, I had my second cup of tea long ago. Where were you? You abandoned me in my hour of need. I entertained myself by emailing back and forth with Rob instead - distracting him from his paper - do you see the repercussions here? Do you feel GUILT?

Second, homeschoolers as quirky intellectuals. Hmmmmm. I like the intellectuals part. Anyone who knows my oldest son will probably give you quirky. Overstuffed bookshelves? We use the library - just to avoid that (oh, maybe it was to avoid spending money). And, no video games in our house. Nope. Turns the brain to mush. Even if we're quirky, you gotta love us!

Third, get a cell phone! I carry mine on my runs - which I hate doing, but after my four mile trek back to the Y barely able to breathe, seems like a good idea.

Okay, I've harassed you enough. I was only teasing, it's really not your fault that Rob's paper might be late...

Karen in Calgary 6/2/06, 2:34 PM  

I have a pay-as-you-go cell. I put $10 a month in it and don't give out the number. Usually I use it when I'm running late and want to reassure Hubby that I'm not dead yet. It's really wierd stopping out in the middle of nowhere on my primitive bike and just calling home: "Honey, can you start dinner? I'm still out here and I'm going to be awhile..."

There's a reason why I run in well populated areas, and only run on remote trails when I have company...

TWO Canadians in the top 20! Finola Hackett and Jaclyn Chang made the front page of the Calgary Herald today. Neat to see GOOD news on the front page (and it didn't even involve hockey).

Weltschmerz. What a word on which to lose!

jeff 6/2/06, 3:27 PM  

german origins for the WIN!

weltschmerz, heiligenschein and ursprache!

dangit donald, i've been hitting bloglines all day, just hoping that you'd have your bee recap posted. this is worse than waiting for a race report!

Mike 6/2/06, 10:20 PM  

Donald get a phone!!! Sounds like a major ordeal there- glad it turned out ok. Love reading about my old stomping grounds. I actually went to MPC for a year and lived in Pacific Grove...surfed alot at Asilomar and Carmel back in the day...love that area.

jeanne 6/3/06, 10:30 AM  

I have a pay as you go cell phone, too, but i never take it on runs. what a nightmare that ride was, but the cab ride sounds especially PAINFUL!

You might enjoy this interview with the word selector for the bee:

(It's in the publication I work for. Shameless plug.)

angie's pink fuzzy 6/3/06, 1:09 PM  

quirky homeschoolers with overflowing bookshelves who read encyclopdias and dictionaries for fun...uh, there's more of them out there? you just described my childhood.

Robb 6/4/06, 2:07 AM  

I could help but smile at your misfortune Donald. That's wild.

Maybe Apple/Nike can create a shoe phone?

olga 6/4/06, 4:30 PM  

I'll just go with Michelle (backofpack) so i don't have to repeat it all:)

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