Fall in Vermont

The leaves are gone, the air is crisp, but the grass is still green in low-angle late October sun. Winter has not sent a proper Vermont “hello!!” yet.

The west has its own mountainous charms, but it’s not New England in late fall.

I miss it.

King of Pain, US world cup qualifier


I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the King of Pain

-Sting & the Police

I’ve been involved in sports my whole life; hockey, baseball, cycling, triathlons, ice & inline speedskating, and I can state with certainty there is nothing approaching the pure lactic-acid brutal agony of an ice long track 1500m.

In just under 2 minutes, you can do more damage to your body than a hard 2 hour hilly bicycle race inflicts.

Even the best in the world truly suffer while doing 1500’s.

I was a participant and a spectator for the first day of the US fall world cup qualifier 500m and 1500m races. To be a good 1500m skater involves becoming the “King of Pain”. I’ve always loved that song too, so it fit the video clips Marco Bucci and I shot of the first day of racing.

Click here to start the Quicktime, or the YouTube below.



P.S.
It is worth mentioning, that as much as speedskating might hurt, its still just sports, there are many more awful things.

During the races it was great to see Glenn Koshi from Bont Skates, Glenn lives in the area of California affected by the recent wildfires, and had to evacuate. Thankfully he & his home made it through ok.



P.P.S.
here is another reason to be thankful for small things, I finished this video on the Amtrack that runs from NYC to Vermont. I was riding in the passenger car right behind the engine.

About two hours out of the city, the train jolted with a violent BANG! & started rattling up & down on the tracks like a car on a washboard road. Blue smoke poured up from the tracks & the train screeched to an emergency stop.

Some idiot kids had pushed a shopping cart off an overpass bridge into the path of the train! A shopping cart holding a 55-gallon steel drum full of big rocks!!!

They were trying to derail the train! Myself and the 70 other passengers & crew are lucky they failed! Yeeeow!!

Tomorrow…

This is inline world champ Jessica Smith, flying through the morning sunlight, during an easy race prep workout….

In the background is one of the oval staff, messing with the electronic timing system.

Tomorrow, and for the rest of the weekend, that system will see a lot of use, as the world cup qualifier & America’s cup I begins.

I often talk about “doing your best, & being at peace with it”, and even though that is absolutely true; in the coming races, there will be definite winners & losers. And for those who spend the majority of their waking hours trying to become the best, it’s an awful feeling to be on the losing side.

Although Jessica Smith is a skating rockstar, and should have no problem making the team, there are an unusually large number of skaters this year who are truly in contention for only a few slots.

Last year I missed the team by .1 of a second, and it’s something I will take to my grave as a failure (after great starts, my turns were awful, failure is the right word).

This year, I’m not in realistic contention. In fact I will only be able to race on Friday, then am driving right from the rink to the airport & going to a wedding in NYC.

Although much will be made of those who make the team, the strength of any team is often directly proportional to the depth of the competition required to make it. That implies there will be many who are phenomenal, dedicated, try hard, and don’t make it.

Many skate fans remember Dan Jansen & what he went through. I think an equally interesting story is his brother, whom from what I understand, trained every step that Dan did for 12 years on the national team, and although he was a world cup quality skater, he never made the Olympic games.

So here’s to Mike, and everyone who steps to that start line, and throws down their best, even if it’s not “good” enough.

Video from Masters Worlds

The 16th Masters International speedskating games was one of the most fun events I have ever raced.

Actually, I’ve had a terrific time at ALL of the Masters international races I’ve done. Even while skating through blizzards in Inzell, the camaraderie & competition is wonderful. You can see the IMSSC website here.

There are some fast folks at these races, but the primary reason masters travel to these events, (against all societal conditioning) is the pure love (addiction?) of speedskating.

I shot this video from February 22nd – 25th, 2007, in Calgary. I put the video together while on the plane to Europe, and thought I would post it now, as this years schedule has just been released, (new this year are two North American metric events, an allaround in Calgary, and a sprint in Milwaukee, in addition to the long-running packstyle)

For a high quality quicktime, click here. Or for the youtube, click play.

It’s worth mentioning that the end of the video was shot at the massive post-race awards party, seeing so many Europeans line-dancing was awesome!

If you are younger than 30, you can look forward to this kind of fun. If you are already a master, let these amazing folks inspire you to challenge yourself. Seeing 60+ year olds tear up the ice get me psyched.

I strongly encourage “older & wiser” athletes to try and skate some of these races if you can. I’ve raced the Inzell event twice, as well as Hamar & Davos. It’s just tons of fun & incredible memories from the “world-cup for working folks”.

This year I’ll be in Erfurt & Milwaukee for sure, and will try to be at the Calgary event.

I’m the USA rep to the organization that runs these events, and am working to put together an American metric sprint race at the Pettit Center, January 5th & 6th. Working closely with the Canadian rep, we hope to have the Milwaukee and Calgary eventually recognized as the “North American Masters Metric Championships” as there seems to be increasing interest.

I will have the entry forms done soon, I’m just swamped…

Lifestyle, Wasatch, Finland

Speedskating isn’t a sport. It’s a lifestyle.
-Teri Willingham

After reading this on Teri’s blog, I can’t get it out of my mind. This statement carries with it joy, pain, winning, losing, pros, cons, awesome people & some rather dysfunctional weirdness.

Maybe speedskating is a “normal” sport in other places, but so many people in Utah MOVED here to do it, it’s a very odd, intense, friendly, & frequently bizarre subculture.

There certainly something about speedskating that lends itself to an absorbing focus. Maybe it’s because do it very well demands a complete athlete who tries perfecting the physical, technical, and psychological elements needed to skate fast (no one ever does for more than a fleeting moment, therefore…)

It sucks when your obsession does not go well; but for a moment on Friday morning, I removed the monocle of skating from my brain, & looked east to the sun lighting the sky behind the Wasatch-

Then west to the Oquirrhs.

Finally, the sun bursts forth, & my foul mood changed for the better, I’m ready to skate again with redoubled commitment, and actually am looking forward to this weekend’s 1500m!

After an easy race-prep workout at the rink, a man with a heavy Finnish accent walks up to me, and says: “hey, are you Andrew Love? fantastic website!, thanks so much! There is nothing on the web quite like it.”

This never fails to blow me away, Robert Brandt is a Finnish distance skater in the USA for some intense training before Finland’s fall world cup selection. I hope he makes it, he has skated the world cup before. Finland is having a renaissance of good sprinters, and now there are some strong men like Robert trying to put their mark on the distance races as well.

(Saturday addition)

I forgot to put my memory card back in my camera after downloading these sunrise pictures. CRAP! So all I have is words about this weekends races.

Robert is really enjoying skating on the fast ice here, in fact it was so fast, one of his contacts blew right out of his eye in the backstretch of his 500m.

He almost smacked the outer wall while skating the final turn half-blind, and he STILL set a PB in the 500m by a half-second! He was on a fast pace to crush his 3k PB as well, but the speed caused him to misjudge a turn, and he stepped on a block, wham!

He’s fine, and was very excited about the lap times he was skating. Results from the races can be seen here.

International skaters are beginning to arrive in town from all over. Swiss athlete Roger Schneider battled the altitude & jet lag, and came within 1 second of his own Swiss national 5k record. An excellent 6:30 5k.

When I remarked on his fast race, he grinned and said “next weekend!”

8 time inline world champion Pascal Briand is also in town, and starting to build towards his own world cup goals. I met him when I skated in Norway several years ago, he’s a good guy. Speaking of Norwegians, their national team should be here shortly.

As for American skaters, with fall world cup trials only 1 week away, people are starting to become pretty intense, stressed, the training load has been reduced and its almost time to really throw down. There was some excellent racing today.

My own 500m still is suffering from minimal summer gym time, but I set a 1500m PB by 2 seconds!! Whooo! 1:57.88!!! I never thought I’d see a number like that in front of my name. I’m not shy about hollering after a PB, and I whooped with joy when I saw this number on the scoreboard.

Always celebrate PB’s! always!!

Paul Narhwold also tried the float-for-300m-then-RIP!!! pacing plan, and knocked a second off his own PB as well. Go Paul!!!

To skate a world class time, the elites need to push the “ludicrous speed” button right from the starting gun, and have the fitness/technique to sustain soul-bending velocity the whole way.

But for us mere mortals, there is something to be said for easing one’s way into the lactic-acid bonfires of the 1500.

P.S Don Neslon just emailed me some images of my 1500m today!

here it is 600m in- my back could be rounder, but all in all, not bad..

and here is 1350 meters in, swimming in a boiling vat of lactic acid…..

for those that really care, my splits were 25.51 (300m) 28.33 (400m) 30.33 (400m) and 33.71 (400m). Not fast compared to a world cup skater, but quite fast compared to me.

Speedskaters International –Sweden

My grandfather is a short wave radio enthusiast. As a kid, I remember sitting on the floor of his radio room, as he spoke to people all over the world.

My generation does the same thing, even though our technology is slightly different. It’s still a ton of fun, especially when you connect with good people who share your interests.

A Swedish natural ice skater, Erik Rosengren, emailed me with an equipment question. I happened to be on email at that moment, and we struck up a lively discussion about a number of topics.

Erik directed me to some online photo albums of his work, exellent information about skating in sweden, and YouTube-ery of some incredible natural ice conditions.

It’s absolutely breathtaking!

With his permission, I am republishing a few of his pictures, words, and videos here.

My main interest is longdistance ice-skating on natural ice. The area around Stockholm is ideal for this type of skating,and from november to april, thousands of skaters are out every weekend on lakes and the Baltic Sea.


a bit of Global Warming?



That’s me in the water. Falling through the ice is a bit shocking the first time, but after that it’s nothing major.

For me, it happens once or twice each season. On this occasion I was actually looking into the LCD-display of my camera, trying to change some settings and did not notice that the edge that I was skating on made a sharp turn. If you look closely you can actually see me holding the camera in my right hand. I learn something every time I skate on natural ice.

I’m learning just by looking at these pictures! for example, humans are not the only mammal who can have fun zipping along natural ice! You can see more of Erik’s work here.



Links for information in English about skating on natural ice are:
The Stockholm Ice Skate Sailing and Touring Club
Linköpings Långfärdsskridsko Klubb

Other good pages are
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/getaways/54676_swedenskate17.shtml

http://naturetravels.wordpress.com/2007/02/

http://www.s3.kth.se/~giese/iskunskap/

http://www.valley.net/~ice/viking/index.html

There is a well known competition in Sweden called Vikingarännet, with skaters from Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands and a few other countries.

There is a company based here in Stockholm which specializes in skate tours for Dutch skaters. Here are links to pages with information from these trips
http://www.snabelslash.com/bo/?m=2&date=2006-02-17
http://www.snabelslash.com/bo/?m=2&date=2007-02-23

This is a pretty popular dutch site
http://www.nordicskatingcenter.nl/

I can go on and on forever about this long distance iceskating, but I’ll sum it up by providing some links to movie clips:

and here are some others
http://youtube.com/watch?v=-Xl-d6yjGXE
http://youtube.com/watch?v=_H6Tx4D7380
http://youtube.com/watch?v=36vtWSHkdgQ
http://youtube.com/watch?v=xMOJTSC2P6o


Thanks Erik!! And thanks for the kind mention of this blog on the Stockholm Speedskaters club website

also on the web, this website was mentioned on the facinating potpourri that is the Readers and Writers Blog.

here is what they said:


Zen and the Art of Speedskating, which is strangely appealing, despite a lot of content about, yes, speedskating.

If I must be something in this world, I don’t mind if it is “strangely appealing“.. kind of like natural ice skating in Sweden!

Guys in Red

My friend Kirk Fogdall is back in town, so he showed up at this weekend’s race to watch, connect with friends, and skate a few easy, just-for-fun laps.

I will start this post with an outrageously cute photo. These are his huge feet & 18 inch blades, standing on him are the feet of his two year old, Eliza.

Onward to racing! Up till now, I’ve been the guy in the plain blue skinsuit with the badly fitting hood.

No more, now I am the man in red, (same ugly sunglasses though)… DSB is on the skin 3 times, and the USA only once. Hmmmmm….

Credit for this photo is to the very talented Teri

This picture makes me really happy, (and here comes another loaded statement) I think 2 weeks of intense short track has done more for my long track skating than 5 months of summertime inline racing.

I’ve NEVER seen body position like this in my turns, and it FEELS different too.

I’m slowly getting my strength & snap back in the gym. When I do, I should skate well. This 500m race was a 37.65, and I’m pleased.

But I am not the only guy in red-

This is Michael Stein-Stewart on the left, in red, and Matt Shannahan on the right, also in red.

An unusual thing is happening in this photo-

These guys got it going so fast in their 500, Matt’s white armband just flew off his arm about 50 meters after the start, you can see it zooming upward into in the air behind him. It went way up, and by the time it slowly floated down, these guys were some distance down the track.

Both of these young guns were on their way to mid 36 second races. Shannahan can hold a really nice body position when he is at top speed. This is him a few meters from the finish, look at that compression & driving knee!

It’s crazy to think a human being can balance on 1mm of steel while traveling at 34mph, but this is visual evidence.

Oddly enough, I have Matt to thank for the fact that I skated my fastest 1500m ever today (well, I actually tied my PB, but I skated that race on some scary fast ice at master’s worlds, so this was a “moral PB”).

Matt is a PURE sprinter like me, and as we were talking before the race, he said

“yeah, when I race 1500’s. I just go really easy for that first 300, and then I push really hard on that second corner, and just build every turn as hard as I can from there”

Hmmm.. That sounds better than my usual “go-fast-then-throw-up-with-400m-to-go” strategy.

It worked like a charm. It’s only the second time I’ve ever been under 2 minutes, and my last lap was 3 full seconds faster than my normal 1500m final 400-die. It still hurt a lot, but faster & more controlled.

I last raced on September 22nd, and I was “throw my skates in the trash” pissed off afterwards. Not today, life felt MUCH better.

An intensely self-competitive nature is mixed blessing. For athletes, managing & focusing it effectively can be the most important “equipment” choice you can make.

My wife’s job has her working Saturdays from now on, so my regular race-footage videographer is gone, so it will be a challenge to continue getting quality stuff. For example: I missed getting a picture of Caleb Eaton’s brilliant 1000m, that cut 2 seconds off his PB! His 1:17.5 possibly qualified him for nationals, but maybe not, as the electronic timing was not set up for these races.

But I will end with one final picture. The national allaround team is starting to race, but they seem to be concentrating on skating smooth & in control, far from their maximum efforts.

Here is Chad Hedrick & Trevor Marsicano just grooving a 3k. Trevor just returning from a solid pre-season of short track & pretty much sat on Chad’s shoulder like this the whole way. Both looked relaxed & solid.

I love looking at top skaters in images & slow-mo. You can see Chad’s blade direction, & note it’s almost the same as the above picture of Matt at top speed.

Put the blade down pointed straight, and finish the push pointed straight. For distance or sprints, it’s hard to do, yet essential for speed. The difference between sprinters & distance is in how deep they sit & tempo, but the push mechanics are almost identical.

USA SUIT & Hubris

Last year I finally cracked the top 10 at US national championships.

This means the world to me, and given the fact that I started long track at 31 (I’ll be 37 in January) it’s honestly as much as I can realistically achieve. This also earned me “Category I” status, and in the “unwritten ethic” among long track athletes, I now had earned the right to wear a skinsuit with the USA on it.

So since nationals I’ve been skating in an old, worn out USA suit previously owned by Marc Pelchat. If you have ever seen Marc & how he rips off the start line, it’s karmically appropriate.

But today, I got MY OFFICIAL USA CAT I SKINSUIT!

It’s bright red! Fast! and fits me like freckles, strong coffee & rock-n-roll.

Putting it on I was like an excited kid on Xmas morning. But was my giddiness unusual? Or do others feel the same way the first time they put on that USA that has taken such an incredible amount of work to earn?

So I asked around:

My first US skin was a long time ago, I got to the rink in Milwaukee for practice and Ryan had this big plastic bag of Cat I Nike stuff…

I was trying to be all old & mature about it, just all “whatever” but I wanted to put it on so bad, Ryan said “you really should go try it on, make sure it fits!”

So I ran downstairs to the bathrooms and put it on. I was probably 14.

I still have that skinsuit & I won’t give it up. It’s in my dresser at home.

-Tucker Fredricks

I was in Herenveen, in 1987, I got the whole National suit, and then I had to sign autographs immediately. No one knew me, but I had on the National team suit.

-Bart Veldkamp

It was a really long time ago, and I was very young, 13 or 14, but what I remember more than the skinsuit is that in June my father had made a bet with me that if I made category I at Junior trials in February he would buy me a whole package of Oreos!

After I made Cat I, I got home from school one day, and sitting at my place at the kitchen table was that package of Oreos.

I do still have that skin they gave me, it’s the old Mizuno one, and I will never throw it away. I have 2 of them, and skated in them for years.

-Ron Macky

The first time I got one was at a Short Track world team trials, and I put it on for that, and then I made the World team at that race, and got 2 more that weekend!

Wearing it, I did feel more elite.

-Mike Kooreman

I first put on a USA skin, it was at the Viking races in Holland, they let us borrow one, so I was all pumped, but then I found out I had to give it back. So that was disappointing.

Stepping to the line felt super cool though. Especially for me, because I did not have a team or team skin, so it was the first time I felt unified with something other than myself.

-Robert Lawrence

I remember I was so excited, but when the box came, it was a SHORT TRACK SKIN, they gave me the wrong one! They gave me a long track one eventually, I got 3 that year; it was a good year.

My dad probably has fonder memories of it than I do, because everything in the box arrived in his size, I was less than 100 pounds when I first made Cat I, and everything was a men’s large. So he got to try it all on & wear the US speedskating collared shirts & T-Shirts.

-April Medley

I remember when Mia got hers! she wore her stuff everyday, and I mean everyday! It did not matter, she wore it to school! She has a good story.

I was probably 13 or 14 years old, I went to Australia for junior world championships in Inline, and they had only selected 2 juniors for the whole country.

Me and my friend Brant Jagel from Florida, we grew up together & we were the team + 2 girls too. I was 13-14 and suddenly going across the world, it was pretty cool.

I still have that skin from that Junior team, my mom still has everything that I have used. I sure could dig up some fun stuff out of the woodwork.

-Chad Hedrick

First of all I couldn’t get it quick enough! They took forever to give them out, I remember when I saw the boxes right by the door and I saw my name on one of the boxes. And I couldn’t get into it quick enough, so we got them finally, I cut open the box and threw everything on right there!

I got yelled at & made fun of for wearing all the gear the first day I got it, but I didn’t care, because it was so awesome!

-Mia Manganello

I remember Olympic trials in 2005, and they let everyone wear a fast USA suit so everyone would have the same suit. I remember how excited I was, I could have been given $1,000 and I would not have been more excited.

I was running into the bathroom and trying it on, and thinking wow.. wow!! I remember that specifically, and even now, still, whenever I get these packages in the mail, it’s like Christmas, like Christmas has come early.

Anna Ringsred

These stories need to end with another story-

So I am out there on the ice this morning, in my new blazing red suit, skating super solid & feeling quite studly.

Of course it’s in moments like this when the hubris hammer appears to remind you, DON’T LET IT GO TO YOUR HEAD.

I have been doing a LOT of short track, and it’s changed my corner mechanics significantly. So today when I try to go really fast, two steps into the corner I lean so deeply my boot touches the ice (it’s called “booting out) & my blade loses contact-

Suddenly I’m falling-spinning-sliding at the pads, I’ve got about 2 seconds to freak out & holler at a whole crowd of National allaround team members lined up like pins

and I’m the massive red bowling ball of season-ending doom!!!!

I see a pair of legs, flashing scrambling gold maple blades that seem to jump just as I impact.

WHAM!!!!

I missed Pat Meek by a hair, it felt like he almost jumped over me!

From Pat’s viewpoint-

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red, I looked back and you were coming right at me, and I have never moved so fast on clap skates in my life!!

I had looked down right before the crash, and my HR was at 140, about 3 seconds after the crash, someone said “hey, check your HR” and it was at 175. You definitely scared the crap out of me!

-Pat Meek

Sorry Pat….. No one knew you could jump so fast, you could be a good sprinter!

I hit the wall hard, but the pads did their job and I’m totally fine, the suit is ok too, however my left Viking blade is pretty messed up!

I got this messy bend out, but the blade itself, although straight, is now corkscrew twisted one way in the front and another in the back. Hmmm….

Oh well, blades can be replaced, but the important thing is that no one got hurt, the fact that it’s a good story, and got me asking others for their stories, is gravy…

Hammertime Crunch

To Hammer, Hammering, Hammertime-
Definition: informal. To keep at something continuously: hammered away at the problem.

“Hammering” is a wonderful phrase, and in the athletic usage, really signifies an internal psychological state manifesting itself in external, usually quite noticeable action.

Jessica must have eaten a bowl of Hammertime Crunchy O’s for breakfast, because we went out for an “easy spin” together, and she went into big-ring-determined-hammer-into-headwind mode.

The distortion from my el-cheapo camera phone makes it seem as if she is simply ripping spokes right out of the wheel! Go jess!

I never imagined the woman I married would get into cycling & enjoy “hammering” like that, but life works in strange & wonderful ways. Goofing around near the end of the ride, you can see the first leaves of fall skittering along the road. The highest of the Wasatch have already gotten snow, it was a nice day, but winter is not far away.

As per my usual habit of defining what I am bad at, and hammering relentlessly on that, after some recent disappointing racing- I’ve decided I need some “speedskating boot camp” to improve my turns.

That can only mean one thing: Short Track!

It’s been 3 years since I’ve crunched my way ’round the small, padded circle- but wow, where I used to be terrified, now I am having so much fun!

Here are 3 of the kids from the Wasatch Club, flying.

This is me, a model of powerful & total inefficiency, leading Michael Drews, the blond blur taking pictures between us is Teri Willingham, her awesome photo website is here, including excellent photos of this practice & last weeks LT time trials. She blogs too.

Every technical flaw I have is magnified in those unforgiving, high G-force turns.

Watching those with refined, compact power is awesome. Here are Chris Dahl and Jonathan Valdivia followed by Guy Thibault, the High Performance director of US speedskating (he was an Olympian in ‘88 & ‘92, has a PHD, and can still really go!) .

Note the distance between their legs in this push as compared to mine… I’m reaching too far, and because my knee is not compressed when it touches the ice, it doesn’t create pressure immediately. Long track is no different in this respect. My shoulders are too high as well.

The US national short track team trains at the Utah Oval too, and I’ve occasionally meandered over to watch Apollo & company blaze along, the sounds of their blades ripping through turns can fill the oval like revving motorcycles.

They are absolutely, outrageously, inspiringly, FAST!!!

10 things about the Netherlands

I’ve been home for two weeks, and have a few reflections about the trip I recently took. I wrote this post mostly while in Holland, but only organized it this past weekend.

International travel is an essential thing for Americans to do. Even though we are a culture profoundly in love with the “road trip,” America is a very isolated country; -isolated physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally, from much of the rest of the world.

So here are a few thoughts-

10. “God made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands”

This local saying is historically accurate, because of the 15,000 square miles of the country (it’s about the size of new jersey) over half has been reclaimed from swampland and the ocean.

There is a constant struggle with/against the water that defines foundational Dutch culture. The Dutch claim that they are resourceful because they “…are always fighting the water.”

Maybe speedskating is part of that triumph over water, it’s the moment where this tremendous threat, becomes something they can walk & even fly across.

Needless to say, global warming has the Dutch a little bit worried. They call the land they have reclaimed from the sea “the Polder” and its VERY lush, green, and pretty.

9. Wooden Shoes & Windmills
Really, these popular icons mean something else entirely. They are not cute, they are symbols of the constant fight against the water.

The windmills are running to keep pumping water out (modern ones are generating electricity for pumping stations). And wooden shoes are cheap, waterproof footwear for poor farmers, the upturned tip helps them not sink into the mud.. Also, coincidentally, they provided a nice hard surface to strap an iron blade onto.

Translation for the non-dutch-
Wooden shoes = Steel toed workboots for tough farmers.
Windmills = insurance against your real estate investment/house having it’s value washed away in an instant (As the American housing market crumbles, I wish I had a windmill proof against this rising tide).

8. Bike Paths
Holland is about 250 kilometers long and under 200 wide, and somehow they squeezed 6,000 kilometers of bike paths in there. It’s a cycling and (when its not raining) inline skating paradise!

From bankers to grandmas, fashionable hipsters to blue-collar workers, children & junkies, everyone rides an old, beat up cruiser in every weather condition.

Bikes RULE the streets. Cars & even the massive trams give way to the swarms of cyclists

Here is a bicycle parking garage near central station, downtown Amsterdam. 3 floors, thousands upon thousands of cheap cruisers. The boat is also mass transit!

In the past 10 years, car ownership has quadrupled, and massive traffic jams between cities are becoming normal. However for inter-city transit, bikes still rule.

7. Amsterdam Canals at night
A quiet, rainy evening, full of pedestrians & beautiful lights on the water, click for a larger image-

A discerning observer will notice the red lights along the windows on the sides of this picture, and these signify the legalized prostitution of the red light district. The women stand in the windows & beckon to you, if the curtains are drawn, they are “busy.”

It’s a little shocking for people from sexually repressed cultures (like, umm… America) to see this.

Lest my fellow Americans get all indignant & huffy, look in the phonebook of ANY American city, what the heck do you think the “ESCORT SERVICES” section is?

This is just how our culture does the same… exact.. thing…. In every society, there will always be women who sell sex & men who buy it. How it’s done is just local detail.

6. For George’s Wife
I did this brief video for people to see the awesome inline skating that can be done along the shores of the inland seas (the Iselmeer). I did this video for George’s wife, who has never seen her husband, a 3 time elfstendentocht finisher, skate. George is in his 50’s, and can still really motor along. (click here for the quicktime)

The music is a local drinking song, about a father, a son, the ocean, & loss. It was recommended to me by several Dutch friends, they say it’s one of those songs that make people sway, sniffle back a tear, and sing at the top of their lungs.

5. Pannenkoek

Definitely in the category of “yummy beyond all comprehension!” we have an apple sugar Pannekoek, and then a Brie & Pineapple!!!

Why did this trip so center around food? It must be all that endurance work I did this summer, it made me hungry!

4. The Elfstedentocht
Translation to Americans: To have finished this 200 kilometer race is like having been allowed to play in the Superbowl. And a Superbowl that only happens roughly once every decade or so.

Here is Jules’s timecard & finish medal. You pass through 11 cities, and get a stamp at every city along the way. Even the leading pack does this, and if you miss a stamp, you are DQ-ed

3. Overheard…

While taking the picture of this monolith to the right, I overheard some Irish tourists, having an absolutely screaming argument behind me. I will never forget what one young woman said (imagine this said in the thickest Irish accent you’ve ever heard)-

“We are not in bloody Dublin anymore, we’ve been in Amsterdam for DAYS, and I haven’t had one f***ing joint yet!”

We met quite a few folks from the UK who were over in Amsterdam to sample these “coffee shops” that don’t serve much coffee at all (including a really neat couple in their 60’s Jess & I had a lovely chat with over a pint of Belgian beer).

2. Raw, Pickled Herring
My father has a rule, “If there is something on the menu that scares you, this is what you must order.” I have had many interesting meals following this rule, and this local delicacy was quite tasty.

Raw herring is basically Dutch sushi that makes your breath smell like gasoline for a while.

But a son never truly tops his parents. My mom & dad are in Italy, and emailed me that they ate sea urchin roe and spaghetti!!! I am both disgusted and jealous at the same time.

1. The Anne Frank House
Just go and see it. It hurts. A lot. Go and see it. This picture is the water in the canal, reflecting the house, on the day I visited.

The central message of this house is not the past, it’s the future;

The Anne Frank House is there to remind us that Fascism does not always wear a swastika; Fascism adopts local customs & cultural camouflage.

Claiming to be the super-patriots & the most true to heritage & country, fascism is about hatred & fearful disgust of people who are different. Religion, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, anything that is used to leverage a “cult of personality” by a few individuals who use a fearful, downtrodden public for their own machinations, -that is fascism.

And fascism is what murdered Anne Frank, and this is what a civil, decent, open society that truly believes in “love thy neighbor” must fight tooth and nail against, exposing it for what it really is.

I did not mean to end this entry on such a down note, because I loved the Netherlands, and want to go back, especially when I will have a chance to skate ovals that have pacelines so long, they meet in one long mobius strip of churning athletes.

But sometimes living in this world means seeing awful things with open eyes