BMI: not so good for measuring the individual

This morning, I heard a story on morning edition ( about Safeway doing innovative things to control healthcare costs. I’m generally in favor of what they’ve done, as I subscribe to the idea that we should encourage what we want and discourage what we don’t want.

However, and this is a pretty big however, one of their methods of determining health (risk, meaning expected cost) is BMI, a measurement designed to measure the “health” of a population and should not be used as a diagnostic tool for individuals (see the weekend edition story here:

Since I’ve been losing weight recently, I’ll give you some statistics about me to possibly shed some light on this:

At the start of my program, my stats were:

BMI: 33.9
Body Fat: 25%

Interestingly,  I knew someone else in the program who I had always considered to be the same size, shape, build and strength as I am. He is the same height for certain, but I learned something very interesting, his bodyfat percentage was 35%. Our BMI was the same, but by bodyfat, one of us was in much better “health”.

For fun, my current stats are:

BMI: 27.1
Body Fat: 13.5%

The healthy range of bodyfat, at least according to the worlds largest opinion encyclopedia, included my starting point. and puts me currently in the athlete category (I expect by next week I’ll be measured at 12.x%). ( So I’m an athlete, which, if you took a look at my level of physical activity is a conclusion you’d likely agree with: yesterday was a “rest” day, so I played a few games of volleyball at the gym, with elliptical trainer in between, ending with 30 minutes on the elliptical for good measure.

If you’re getting the same picture I am, you’re concluding that I’m pretty fit these days.

Now we delve into BMI. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (, Here are the ranges for BMI:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

My BMI, coming in at 27.1 is smack in the middle of overweight. Wait a minute, I thought I was an athlete, now you’re telling me that I’m overweight? I don’t get it. Let us go back to the creator of BMI suggesting that BMI is an instrument useful in measuring the health of populations in aggregate and not very interesting in individuals.

So, to Mr. Burd (CEO of Safeway) perhaps you’d consider changing your program incentives to be based on body fat percentages?

A few other things to know:

  • Levels of body fat considered to be healthy differ for men and women
  • I’m sorry I cited wikipedia, they cite the American Council on Exercise

Coast to Coast Motorcycle Adventure

Miles ridden (according to odometer): 3528.3

Miles ridden (based on summing up these routes): 3338

Longest Day: day 5, 8am-midnight

I did not include incidental mileage around Wisconsin, where I stayed over for 5 days visiting family. 200 miles of riding over those five days seems about right to me, although I wasn’t keeping track.

Just for fun and relaxation, I made google maps of the routes that I took to get to Waterford, WI. These maps represent the ride I actually took, including detours and navigational failures that involved turning around and sucking up 60 miles of error to get back to the main path.

Day One:

Berkeley, CA to Wendover, UT via the Golden Gate Bridge – 641 Miles

I decided to make the trip a little bit more interesting by hitting the Golden Gate Bridge on the way out, and stopping at the Brooklyn Bridge at the other side. It gave the ride a theme and made for a good story to tell to folks you meet on the road.

Your intrepid explorer rolling out, and then in front of the Golden Gate Bridge:

I should note that the picture of my in the driveway was posed before I put my riding gloves on (so that I could put the camera into my pocket more easily afterward).

The route to Nevada is very simple: Get on 80E and don’t get off. It’s a route I’m very familiar with as it tends to be the one that you take to Tahoe for skiing as well as a certain festival held in desert in Nevada every summer. It was a different experience going over Donner Pass with a vehicle that had a much more favorable power-to-weight ratio. Essentially, I’m the fastest and lightest thing on the road. As long a big rig isn’t trying to pass another big rig, I’m doing the speed limit the entire way. When I do get stuck behind something slow moving, I’m the first one past it and can easily put some distance between me and the guy behind, which contributes to the safety of a motorcyclist (me).

The views and landscapes coming over the mountains are pretty incredible. When I was growing up in the dessert (San Diego) where everything was dry all the time, I never understood how others considered it beautiful. I longed for the lush and tropical paradises  of places that had seasons of note. As an adult, however, i’ve really come to appreciate it. Moving north to Berkeley may have helped a lot, since we get rain on a pretty regular basis here.

I decided that my lunch stop would be in familiar territory in Reno, NV. This is the parking lot outside the grocery store and water store, which if you’ve attended the aforementioned festival in the desert will look very familiar to you (this was 2+ weeks after). Also, note the super stylish helmet-induced faux-hawk:

The plan was to stop in Elko, NV, but I was feeling way too good to stop there. I was in good shape and had plenty of energy and daylight left for riding. I had not, however, chosen my route into South Dakota yet. The town after Elko, Walls, is the point where you would turn north if you wanted to take the route through Yellowstone, which I was seriously considering. Pulling out of Elko, however, I saw signs for the Peppermill in a town called Wendover. I have a soft spot in my heart for the fireside lounge at the Peppermill that used to be in Sunnyvale, and Wendover was the right distance for a stopping point, so I decided to continue east past Walls. This made the route choice for me.

Wendover is a gambling town in Nevada, and a depressing town in Utah. Eash Wendover is in Utah, and West Wendover is in Nevada. It’s your basic border gambling town. I had dinner inside the Peppermill casino, which was exactly like you’d expect it to be. No one looked like they were having a whole lot of fun inside. The patrons and the staff all looked to have a sort of bored malaise about them. I should note that there was no fireside lounge at this location, which was a bit disappointing. I can only imagine that, being in Nevada, there isn’t sufficient demand for that kind of slightly-less-than-wholesome fun because they’re competing with the other kinds of in-no-way-wholesome fun that Nevada has on offer. (The waitresses at the fireside lounge were costumed in top hats, tails, and fishnets, if I remember correctly: for what it’s worth, I think my interest in the fireside lounge is to the absurdity of it.)

Dinner in the Peppermill:

One thing about Wendover really struck me. Since I rolled into town on the Nevada side, and left town on the Utah side, I crossed the state line on the main road in town. It’s big and white, and painted across the middle of the street, with block letters labeling which side corresponds to each state. The casinos are built right up to state line, in such a way that the parking lots for casinos are in Utah.

If you look at the satellite photo, you can see the white line in the middle of the street (center of the frame), and the arrangement of the buildings and parking lots. The line really represented fun. Crossing that line was like driving into the place where no fun is allowed (Utah):

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It was bike week at the Bonneville salt flats, so there were tons of motorcycles in town. The salt flats are a few miles outside of Wendover, so everyone attending was staying in town. Which may have been why a number of the hotels were full. I was invited by some other bikers to ride out to the salt flats with them, but I wanted to get my day started earlier than they did. They were heading out at 9am, I hit the road just after 7am, after all, I’m trying to ride 600 mile each day, which seems to mean about 12 hours on the bike.

To facilitate getting so much business done each day, I de
veloped a strategy for stopping and getting going. In the evening, when I pull into the city I’m staying in, my first stop is at the gas station to fill the bike up. The last thing I want to do is have to deal with filling up on my way out of town. I pack all of my bags as much as possible laying out clothes for the next day. Showering, which I normally do in the morning moves to the evening because it’s nice to have a shower after 12 hours on the bike and because it’s one less thing to do in the morning before heading out. The day operates much like this:

  1. Wake Up
  2. Dress
  3. Snack (granola bar)
  4. Luggage onto bike
  5. Check out of hotel
  6. Leave
  7. Ride 100+ miles
  8. Eat a real breakfast + get gas (usually stop at 9:30 or so)
  9. Ride 100-200 miles at a time, stopping for gas
  10. Around 600 miles, find a hotel (usually 7:30pm)
  11. Get gas
  12. Check In to Hotel
  13. Soak in hot tub
  14. Shower
  15. Dinner
  16. Plan route for next day
  17. Relax for a bit
  18. Pack everything and set alarm


The Route:

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Day Two – 614 miles:

Motel 6 in Wendover, UT to Ramada Inn in Casper, WY.

First, Sunrise in Wendover:

On day two, we learned a number of things:

  • Utah and Wyoming have some awesome landscapes
  • There is risk involved in trying to take roads that even the locals haven’t heard of
  • Casper, Wyoming is at elevation of 5123 ft.

We also perfected the art of picking a hotel based on the roadside signs, but more on that later.

I made very quick work of Utah. It helps that I was cutting across the top of the state, which is much narrower than the Southern section. I stopped for breakfast on the far side of Salt Lake City and was certainly into Wyoming before lunch time. Since I wasn’t really eating a proper lunch, sometimes it’s hard to tell what time it is in the afternoon, but lunch should probably have been eaten in Green River, WY. In lieu of lunch, I struck up a conversation with a biker I’d run into on the highway. He pulled on as I passed and we rode unofficially together for 50 or so miles. It turned out that we both needed gas at the same stop. It turned out that he was on 2 weeks of leave from a tour of duty in Iraq and was spending it on his bike. He’s spent 2 days getting his Harley out of storage and fitted with some luggage and had been on the road for not quite a week. He was a nice guy and we talked motorcycle stuff for a while. He was excessively calm; the kind of calm that I sometimes see in my cousin who did a tour in Iraq disarming roadside bombs. We kept an eye on eachother’s bikes/gear while we were inside.

Inside the gas station convenience store, the clerk was from Ghana, which was not at all what I was expecting. Having not seen a person not of white or Latino ethnicity in many hundred miles, this was not what I was expecting in Green River, Wyoming. It’s amazing what a monoculture our country is when you get away from the coasts and urban centers.

On the map below, you can see a forty or so mile outcropping in Rawlins, Wyoming. On the map, the road looks like it would be really interesting: it cuts in between two lakes and has a lot of kinks which would make for interesting riding, not to mention break things up after 2 days of relatively flat and straight roads. I thought to ask the truckers and station attendants at my gas stop if the road was interesting or useful. For whatever reason, no one would admit to knowing anything about it. It turns out that the reason no one bothers with it is that it turns into a gravel road forty miles in. It might actually go all the way from Rawlins to Casper, but progress would be quite slow. I didn’t think learning to dual-sport in the middle of nowhere with a bike loaded down with luggage where no one would find me should I wreck was a good idea, so I made the executive decision to head back to the main highways. Regrettable, I lost two hours to the excursion, which put me well behind my stretch goal of ending up in South Dakota that night. Little did I know, it was about to get a bit worse.

Once back on the main highway, which was essentially a straight hundred miles across a valley, I discovered two things: altitude and wind. Rather aggressive cross-breezes made staying in a lane a bit trickier than usual. This highway was a two lane, no barrier, 75mph kind of affair, so when you get blown into the next lane, you’re either off the road, or in oncoming traffic. Neither of these scenarios is particularly interesting to me which made it a rather intense couple of hours. The altitude also began to kick in. I was dressed for 85 degrees. By the time I got into Casper, I was frozen and thinking myself a complete wuss for shivering in 65F weather. For kicks, I looked up the weather in Casper in the iphone and discovered that the official temperature was 43F.

Did I mention that it was really foggy and started raining a few miles outside of Casper. The combination of all of these factors lead me to elect to stay in Casper that night rather than press for South Dakota, where the town I really wanted to be in was still 150 miles away. The combination of the temp, rain, and sun setting didn’t give me good feelings about putting on more miles, and there really wasn’t anything between Casper, WY and Hot Springs, SD. This was sort of a bummer, because I had planned to burn a few hours having the muscle aches massaged away after a good soak in the hot spring, had I made it to South Dakota on that second evening.

This is where my hotel choosing fu came into play. I elected to stay at the Ramada I
nn because they advertised an indoor heated pool and hot tub. I was probably the only person that week that asked the specific questions: "You have a hot tub, right?" and "It’s currently working, right?" before handing over my credit card. Although it was far from full, there were enough people in the hotel bar/restaurant to give it a sense of ambience. I had some food and beer (all after the preliminary soak in the hot tub) and accidentally caught the premier episode of Trueblood on HBO.

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Day Three – 651 miles:

It rained overnight. It was far from certain that it was going to continue to not rain for the rest of the day. Normally, I would say something like "stay clear", but the skies were so foggy that clear would a rather poor description of the weather conditions. In fact, it was so foggy (humidity at 98-100%) that the water was collecting on my windscreen, beading up, and flying onto the visor of my helmet. Also, It was still 43 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning, which did not endear me to the possibility of rain. Fortunately, aside from a few light rains that lasted for a few minutes each, the weather held.

I feel compelled to point out that in the general case, I do not mind riding in the rain. I actually like it. In this case, the cold was the big deal for me rather than the wet. However, I hadn’t actually been able to test this jacket/pants in the rain before the ride, so I was unsure what the result would be. The only thing that would be worse than being too cold, would be being wet and too cold. Remember that the 70mph worth of wind chill is a real hoser sometimes. Being wet on top of it being 45F is unlikely to improve the situation. Don’t you worry: I did get to test the rain worthiness of my gear later in the trip.

My breakfast stop on day 3 was in Lusk, WY. At the diner that I ate at, the restrooms, rather than having the traditional signs reading "men" or "women" had had-carved pieces saying "cowgirl up" and "cowboy up". Also, they had a few racks of knicknacks that included one-size-fits-all gloves for kids, which also fit underneath motorcycle gloves, which was a real win. With my new found electric blue glove liners, my hands stopped getting cold, which was a nice contrast to my arrival in Lusk, wherein I was unable to take off my helmet for a few minutes because my fingers were too cold to feel and operate the strap. The additional glove liners have the nice side effect of making the diameter of the handles that much greater, which is more comfortable. I’m toying with the idea of designing and marketing motorcycle grips that are just a bit bigger to be easier on the hands.

The bike in front of the Outpost Cafe sign in Lusky, WY and the sign on the door to the Ladies’ Room that reads: "Cowgirl Up"

These photos prove beyond all shadows of doubt that I was in Wyoming. I know there are some that doubt it’s existence and this is for them. I was there. it’s nice.

Most important on the third day was my visit to the Badlands (more formally known as Badlands National Park). The genesis of the entire trip was my inclination to ride the motorcycle to the Badlands. It sort of makes you a Bad Ass, and who doesn’t want to be a bit of a Bad Ass. I don’t have any particularly good reasoning for my attraction to the Badlands, nor am I convinced that there is one. It seemed like something I should do and it seemed that way for a long time. I could spend pages gushing about how interesting the Badlands are as geographic features, but I’m going to post some of the pictures and let them tell the story.



And lastly, My favorite: The only curved road in South Dakota 🙂

Looking at the map, I had figured my overnight stop would be in Mitchell, South Dakota. As luck would have it, just outside of Mitchell there is a billboard advertising a hotel in Sioux Falls, which is another 65 miles or so past Mitchell. Actually, there are lots of such billboards, but this one suggested that the Ramada Inn had a Tiki Bar and an indoor water park. I got gas in Mitchell and made sure that riding to Sioux Falls wasn’t out of the question. The women who were in charge of the gas station confirmed that Sioux Falls was only another hour away and that the Tiki Bar did sound like something worth checking out.

The combination of a Tiki Bar and water park in the Ramada Inn ended up being completely worthwhile. I even managed to catch the last few minutes of the Packer game on the television in the bar, which was Aaron Rodgers first game at the helm (not counting pre-season). The bartender was from Wisconsin and a packer fan. He’d taped over his Brett Favre jersey with Aaron Rodgers name and number with electrical tape. Packer fans are great!

After dinner and a couple drinks at the tiki bar, it was time to hit the water park. Interesting fact about the water park: it closes for kids at 10pm, but for adults, it’s open until 11pm. They failed to mention they turn the slide off at 10pm as well. Fortunately, I got there just in time to ride it and what a ride it was! It seemed like it took forever to get down the thing, even in my floppy noodle state at the time. The water park does get marks off for having a very shallow landing pool that I scraped my foot on. What’s an adventure without injury though?

The icing on the cake at the Ramada Inn was that each room came with a bottle opener, just in case. At first I thought it was a gift from the previous occupant, but it was tied down to the room. I fully endorse the Ramada Inn in Sioux Falls.



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Day Four – 517 miles:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (not to be confused with Sioux City, Iowa) is on the border of those two states. I discovered that I could take surface roads to a highway that would dip me into Iowa and only increase my route by a few miles. This seemed worth it, since I’ve no particular interest in Iowa, but don’t mind checking states off the list of places I’ve visited. Of course, I got a bit lost in Iowa which resulted in a 2 mile detour, but I still feel it was worth it.

After I’d made my way through the northwest corner of Iowa, I was in Minnesota. Minnesota is known as the "land of lakes" although my experience suggests that "the skunk roadkill state" would be a more apt name. Sure I saw a few lakes on my way through (although I’ve been told that Wisconsin actually has more lakes per square mile and per capita than Minnesota) but I saw a flat skunk on the side of the freeway every 10 miles or so. That’s a lot of skunks. In fact, I didn’t believe the first few that I saw, until I ended up behind a slow trunk and got to take a good look (and smell) of one.

Minnesota is also a place where the geology starts to change. By the time you’re in Wisconsin, you’re essentially in a forest. If you’re in South Dakota, it’s mostly flat. Minnesota is the middle ground. Unfortunately, just as most compromises, it’s not desolate, nor a forest, nor particularly interesting as landscapes go. You do start getting some subtle elevation changes in the roads though, which is nice. (Readers in California would not even notice the elevation changes.)

Speaking of elevation changes, I saw a sign for a ski hill in Minnesota. My only response was: "where". As far as I can discern, there wasn’t a significant hill for miles. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by having my only snowsport experience being in the Lake Tahoe area.

Into Wisconsin, I rode through the Wisconsin Dells. I’m not actually sure what the Dells are, but I think they’re a region particularly well populated with lakes that has been turned into an entertainment area. I think it’s a very midwestern version of Lake Tahoe (also how I describe the notion of going "up north", which you’ll understand perfectly if you’re from Wisconsin and makes no sense otherwise). My ride through Wisconsin is mostly unremarkable because I’ve already spent a lot of time there visiting family. The corn was thigh high.

I rolled into my Aunt’s place where I was to stay around 5:00pm, which was a little later than I had wanted, but still good time. It was getting harder and harder to wake up before 7am every morning because I was losing time every time I’d cross a time zone. When I did pull into the driveway, I found that the garage had been left open, as one does when one is expecting company in Wisconsin and that there was plenty of space available to park a motorcycle
. I parked and started taking off my riding gear getting ready to settle in.

This is where it all caught up with me. If you’ve done some motorcycle touring, maybe you can let me know if this is something you experienced as well. Perhaps it was worse because I was traveling alone? For the next four or five hours, I was in a state of near shell shock (I was literally trembling). Mostly in a daze, I was in no position to answer questions of have opinions on any topic, including the obviously useful ones like "what do you want for dinner" or "who are you planning on visiting while you’re here". It was as though all of the intensity of riding 12 hours per day for the last four had finally caught up. In a way, even though I’d been at hotel bars and restaurants (and water slides), but I hadn’t had to really deal with people in a meaningful way. Melanie and Iris got a taste of this when I arrived in NYC and was mostly useless for about two hours; perhaps there’s an hour of recovery for each day spent on the road.

It was also on day four that I discovered that some my equipment had begun to fail. I realize that Joe Rocket is not known for their high quality, or at least wasn’t when I last looked into their stuff five years ago. It seems that they haven’t come very far from there. The good news is that the stuff was sufficiently inexpensive that I’m still well ahead of where I expected to be even after having one zipper replaced and one seem re-stitched. The lacking quality hasn’t actually dampened my enthusiasm for the jacket I have, which describes itself as being convertible for use in all four seasons. In winter mode, it’s certainly capable of keeping the water out and the wind off, and in summer mode, it breathes really well without exposing too much mesh to the world. The pants don’t breath as well as I’d like them too, but are certainly water proof. The jacket had a seem where the stitching was simply coming undone, which I noticed because I had a cold spot the size of a quarter on my side. The zipper to the pants just failed as I was taking them off after arriving at my aunt’s place. I found a sewing & alterations place in the next town that repaired everything for $21, same day. I fully endorse The Sewing Basket in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

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Day Five – 623 miles

Waterford, WI to Du Bois, PA

Day five ended up being a five-state Day, which is saying something considering that 30 of the miles ridden that day took ~4.5 hours. The plan was to head south out of Racine, WI into Chicago and then pick up 80 going east. This was a fine plan until I discovered that 80 was flooded in Indiana and had thus been closed in Chicago. A fair characterization would be: no one had a clue what to do. Especially not the attendant at the gas station I stopped at on the south side of Chicago, which was probably the shadiest place I stopped on the entire trip, although I can’t really say it’s any worse than the gas stations nearest my house. The culture is a little different, so it felt trickier to read people. I’m sure it felt a lot sketchier than it actually was, after all, many of the patrons were filling up their cars with gas.

Being routed away from the obvious route, I had to so some re-arranging to make a go of it, so I bought a map. The only useful map at this gas station was the map of the entire US. This proved useful enough when combined with the map feature on my iphone and the maps on the GPS. (I could write an entire blog post  about what I’d like the GPS to be able to do for me after this.) I chose the "next best route" which was to take highway 57 down to highway 30 into Merrillville, IN where I could figure out what to do with myself. On paper this was a good idea. In actuality, it was the only idea, so everyone that would normally have been on 4 lane freeways ended up on the same 2 lane road that I was on. 5 hours to go 30 miles.

It wasn’t all bad though. Once I finally got to Merillville, IN, I needed to regroup. I figured I’d hit the ‘net and check out the highway closures on the INDOT site to decide if I could head north on the main highway (65) of if I needed to backroad it further to avoid the flood. I pulled into a parking lot at a Bob Evans because it was next to a La Quinta, which I thought was likely to have free wi-fi (it did). I whipped out the laptop and started looking for road closure info and found out that things looked like I thought they should. I confirmed what I read by taking a look at the highway and seeing traffic flowing at a reasonable rate (and no long lines of big rigs) which indicated that things were working acceptably on the main route. I will eventually find out how wrong that conclusion was, but first there’s business to take care of.

On my way into the parking lot, I spotted a three bikes. This itself isn’t that big of a deal, but these weren’t Harleys which is a bit rare in that part of the country. Even more rare, was that two of these were Italian bikes which you just don’t see in the midwest as far as I’m aware. There was a Ducati 1098 in race trim on a trailer, and a Moto Guzzi Nevada Classic (a cruiser). The third bike was a Kawasaki sportbike. All of the owners were on their way out of the restaurant and were getting ready to head out, so I got to chat with them. We compared notes on the crummy traffic and what routes we thought we were going to take. It turns out they were on their way home to Buffalo, NY from the MotoGP which was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It turns out that their plan of staying on 30 until the next highway before cutting north back to 80 was the right choice. I ended up in more traffic getting back to 80 as a result of the following tactical blunders:

  1. 80 was open according to INDOT.
  2. 80 was in fact open in Indiana.
  3. 80 was closed in Illinois.
  4. My location was 10 or so miles across the IL/IN border.

All traffic was being diverted onto 80 East, since 80 West was closed a mile down the road, which narrowed four lanes into a single one. But wait, there’s more! To get on to 80 East you had to use an on-ramp that had a foot of standing water on it at it’s deepest. The length of the flooded section of the ramp was roughly 150 feet long. Fortunately, I’ve been reading a fri
end’s blog, which comprises the entirety of my knowledge of dual sport riding as well as fording streams. Keep the revs high, slip the clutch, and DON"T STOP. It sounded easy enough. I worked to leave a good gap between me and the car in front of me, since the last thing I wanted was for them to slow down and have to stop in the middle of the water. At that point it was a textbook maneuver. I followed the line that I’d selected as being shallow and unlikely to have hidden potholes based on the rest of the ramp. The revs stayed up even as water was washing over my toes. The best part was that I got a standing ovation from some highway workers who were watching the whole thing happen. I reciprocated with a fist pump as I sped away onto the open road for the first time in five hours.

Once on 80 proper, my goal was to get to Pennsylvania. I made pretty quick work of Indiana (it’s not that big) and then Ohio. Ohio was longer and threw some rain into the mix but I was unphased. Fortunately, my gear kept the water off and it was hardly a bother. I did end up discovering some interesting moves I could make with my neck to use the airflow to push the water off of my visor. The jacket and pants kept me completely dry and warm so no complaints there. I ended up running into my friends with the Ducati and Motoguzzi once again at a gas stop. I had passed them once in Indiana giving them the international symbol for "hang loose" on the way by, which probably looked like an obscene gesture with a glove on though they later said the recognized the bike and all was well.  Apparently they leapfrogged me at my previous gas stop before I caught them at this one. We had a good laugh about that and compared our routes of Merrillville. I thought they’d made the right choice, but they’d hit some traffic too. Since I passed them it couldn’t have been so different, although now that I’m thinking about it, they probably left 15 minutes ahead of me at least. Perhaps I’m the winner of that round after all.

I’d decided that I would stop in the first town I got to in PA, since I didn’t have far to go to NYC once I was there. I did make the mistake of thinking that Pennsylvania was a populous state, my only previous experience having been in Philadelphia which is quite urban. I remember pulling off the freeway into a town, where town is defined as some place that has a sign suggesting humans and gas stations only to find that it was 10:02pm, and the gas station was completely dark. A little bit scary given the dwindling reserve of gasoline in the tank and the prospect of more closed gas stations. Fortunately, 16 miles later there was a 24 hour place that was more truck stop oriented so I was able to fill up. For whatever reason, I didn’t like place, so I decided to ride on until I found something that suited me, which brought me to the Holiday Inn Express in Dubois, PA. There were two hotels in Dubois, but the Holiday Inn Express looked like the nicer place. It certainly had more cars in the lot (it was nearly midnight) and looked generally well cared for. It also was up on a hill, which made me think the riffraff would tend to look elsewhere to cause their trouble. Evidently, I’m not the only motorcyclist who thought this, as I found five other bikes in the parking lot, including another V-Strom. When I checked in the clerk volunteered that I could park anywhere I like, other than the sidewalk, which was verboten. Apparently, this is an issue, and as I parked I discovered a number of sidewalks that didn’t really go anywhere that we otherwise prime parking spots. Who knew?

I hesitate to include that at one point on a completely stopped freeway I did something of questionable legality to get to an exit, though I don’t think it was dangerous at the time, as all traffic was stopped, and I don’t mean stopped traffic like we usually think of in CA, I mean stopped like that time we were on our way to Emily and Nicklaus’ wedding that we had a ten minute break on the bay bridge where people literally got out of their cars and danced in the street because there wasn’t anything else to be done at that point. I’m including this bit mostly as a reminder to myself should I forget. I haven’t included specifics, so unless you saw me you’ll never know, and therefore can’t write me a citation after the fact. If you catch me in person, ask me about it though, it’s a good story.

Overall, it was a sixteen hour, five state day, even if it only covered 623 miles. For reference, the states were: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania.

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Day Six – 292 miles

The sixth and final day of riding was mostly uneventful, especially in the morning. I got up around 6:00am to be out of the hotel by 7:00am. I opted out of my normal strategy of riding 100 miles before breakfast in favor of the waffles and eggs on offer from the continental breakfast mostly because I’m a sucker for a freebie and it looked good enough. I had less than 300 miles to go, so it wasn’t going to be a normal day anyway, and I didn’t feel that I needed to push as hard.

I made pretty quick work of the rest of Pennsylvania, which was mostly unremarkable and made it into New Jersey, which is a very small state. It does have the Poconos, which I’ve never spent any time in, but sound like the punchline to a joke that starts in Long Island or something. It’s fun to say and might even be fun to visit. Maybe next time?

Before I knew it, I was in the city of Newark, which is where the roads turn awful. What is it about urban areas that requires the quality of the roads go to pot? Potentially fortunate was the dual-sport aspirations of the V-Strom, because there were pot holes and imperfections a plenty. I’m at a loss to understand how people ride sport bikes in environments like this… or drive cars; it’s that bad.

In New Jersey, you do begin to notice that traffic becomes more and more dense as you approach New York City. The approach to NYC by road involves a maze of complicated overpasses, underpasses, and tunnels, all of which are good fun, and all of which you’re technically not supposed to change lanes in. You can probably guess how well followed that rule is.

Once in Manhattan, everything changes. As put by a friend, driving in Manhattan is like driving in a vid
eo game. When first arrived in Manhattan I was mindful of the rules of the road, a notion that I was quickly disabused of after three blocks. Having gotten my head straight about how the game is played, it because a lot more fun and I ended up making pretty good time through the city, taking full advantage of the relatively small size of my motorcycle.

My route took my across the Manhattan bridge into Brooklyn, where I figured I would try and find the base of the Brooklyn Bridge for a photo. Unfortunately, I did a very good job of finding the Brooklyn Bridge and was on my way over it back into Manhattan before I knew it. I navigated Manhattan in a particularly non-efficient route back to the base of the bridge and managed to get my photo, only going ten minutes out of my way. Once I was done with that, I was on my way back over the Brooklyn Bridge to King Cycles, where I was going to drop my bike off so that it could be shipped back to CA.

All in all, I made it to my destination in Brooklyn by 2:00pm after dropping off the bike. Not bad time wise, although I was rather ravenously hungry by my arrival, which was easily fixed with a bagel.


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Overall, I would recommend this kind of trip to anyone who has the ability to do it. It is certainly a test of endurance and concentration, which is the sort of thing that I really enjoy. If I were to do it again, i would allow myself more time and few miles each day so that I can indulge my curiosity along the way.  For example, I did not get to check out the corn palace in South Dakota, not the automotive museum featureing the "real" Dukes of Hazard car (there were 12 or 13).

About the bike:

The bike is a 2006 Suzuki DL-650 V-Strom. My experience confirms the research that that this bike is great in just about every way except the harshness of the wind coming off the windscreen. Mine was fitted with a Givi aftermarket windscreen by the previous owner which supposedly makes it better. I haven’t put the stock windscreen on to see what it’s like, but presumably it’s worse. The bike is also fitted with Givi hard bags and a top case. The bags remove pretty easily and I have very few complaints about them. The top case is a godsend for day-to-day use, and I’ll probably be fitting all of my future motorcycles with one. This one is big enough to hold my messenger back handily while I’m riding, or my helmet, gloves, and jacket while I’m parked.

If I were to do another trip like this, I would probably choose a different bike. It seems that the rest of the country rides Harleys, which I have some fascination with. Given the terrain of North America and the roads that we have, I’m prone to thinking that a four-cylinder engine is more appropriate. Something along the lines of an FJR-1300, Councours, ST1300 or BMW K series would be the ticket for the long hauls on the interstates. I also find myself wishing for a greater fuel range. While 240 miles on the V-Strom is a long range as far as motorcycles go, i would have benefited from having 60 more. I think 300 is the magic number.


Triathlon Results

First, the disappointment: due to a 58,000 gallon oil spill in San Francisco Bay a few days prior, the swim portion of the triathlon was canceled. This technically makes it a more like a duathlon than a triathlon. The sense of triumph for having completed the event is muted because the swim was canceled. I’m certain that I would still have finished had the swim taken place; I’m a fairly strong swimmer.

I feel great having done it. Having done sufficient training it was not nearly as hard as I had figured it would be to complete the event. The running part of the race was what I was the most concerned with and I fairly readily met my goal of running the entire way (as opposed to walking).


Highlights of the event:

  • achieving my goal of running (not walking) the entirety of the run
  • trading positions with the same guy at least 10 times in the cycling stage


One of the most interesting aspects of the race for me was the affect of others cheering me on as I went by. I’m usually not one to go in for enthusiasm; in many cases it makes me uncomfortable. In this case however, the cheering of strangers made an incredible difference for me. It really inspired me want to push harder.


The Stats:

  • Overall time: 1:14:01
  • 246 out of 336 overall.
  • Bike Rank: 187
  • Bike Speed: 18.6 mph
  • Bike Distance: 12 miles
  • Run Rank: 272
  • Run Speed: 10:29 per mile
  • Run Distance: 3 miles


Overall, my impression is that triathlons are an awful lot of fun. Whose with me for the next one?

Training Update

The triathlon is this Sunday.


I feel prepare and scared at the same time. I know I can do the swim and bike easily. The run will still be the most difficult part. The last week I focussed my training on “running through the pain and the tired” rather than specific fitness goals. It seems like the trick to running distances is to just keep running. If I keep the mental toughness (I’ve been working on this as part of the training) then this should not be an issue.


I can run 3.5 miles at a 5.7 mph pace. I can swim 1k in a pool with capacity to go farther. I can easily cycle 12 miles on flat ground. By all metrics I am in sufficiently good fitness to complete the triathlon.


Keeping the right pace while running is going to be hard. With a treadmill it’s easy since it regulates your speed for you. On the ground it will be harder. I was not clever enough to get myself a heart monitor. (For it to be interesting for the triathlon, I wanted to be able to put it on at the beginning of the race and not worry about it, but I didn’t find one that would survive the swim. I don’t really want another thing to mess with in a transition.) This means I must pay attention to how hard I’m breathing while running. I may end up running down the path talking to myself under the guise that if I can carry on half a conversation, I’ve got headroom to keep going.

I still have days where running is harder than others. If I’ve done any run the day before, the run workout is easier. Since swimming is so different from every other type of training I’m doing, I am counting it as a rest day.


Use the following training schedule leading up to the triathlon:

  • Wednesday: Strengthening run. 1-1.5 miles, ran fast
  • Thursday: Distance run 3.5 miles
  • Friday: Swim .6 miles
  • Saturday: short relaxing run.
  • Sunday: Triathlon

The race strategy is essentially to save as much energy for the run at the end as possible.

  • swim at a recreational pace. Any time lost will be made up by not having to walk in the run phase of the race.
  • Use cycle as a recovery. For last lap of cycle (course is 3 laps of 4 miles) get heart rate down low to recover for upcoming run.
  • Run at slow pace to keep stamina up. Finishing able to run another mile is good; Walking across the finish line (as opposed to running) is not so desirable.

Final point of the plan: do not forget to revel in how cool the whole experience is.

Outsourcing: When to fire the help

To recap, the plan is to outsource some business research using to determine if the business is worth getting in to.The executive update is: things have gone awry, we’re getting back on track.

My initial choice didn’t send me anything after three days of waiting for the business terms. Elance suggested that 24 hours was the right way to go about things. After three days, I decided that this particular bidder likely was not reliable and canceled acceptance of their proposal.

I was now ready to pick it back up with my second choice. This seemed like a great strategy until, after 24 hours, they responded saying that they were no longer interested. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that things were getting just a bit screwy.

I certainly believe that this is what Seth Godin would refer to as a dip (if you are not certain what this means, check out his book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) )

So what have I done about it? I’ve re-written the project description and re-listed the project. Things this time around seem to be better. The pricing is more competitive with a much smaller standard deviation. I’ve selected two of the 7 bidders to pursue the project in parallel, for the same price as my original bidder.

This has certainly not gone as expected, nor has it been as easy and fun as it sounds like I when I read about it in books and blogs. That said, I’m going to stick with it and see if I can make a go of it.

Training Update

This training update is in SOAP format, inspired by Art Clarke and his blog.


It seems that this was a breakthrough week for running. I made it up to 2.5 miles on the treadmill. I’ve heard from others in the know that that 2 miles is the bubble to push through and once you get there it gets easier. I honestly believe I will be able to go the distance in the triathlon.

Yesterday I had a crummy day and was really low on energy. I still managed to run 2 miles after a 25 minute session on the elliptical trainer. I must say I’ve come a long way, in a crappy workout is running 2 miles.

I did not do any cycling or swimming last week. These are areas that I’m fairly comfortable in, but I should be paying attention to them. I’m not sure I’ll double up this week, but I will be sure to get swimming and cycling in this week.


Running continues to improve. The distances keep going up. The headphones I wear while running keep catching on my hands, so there’s room for improvement there.

My last swim and bike rides were all over the distance I had to go for a triathlon. Since cycling comes after the swim I will be using it as a recovery from the swim, which should leave me in good shape for the run.


I would have liked to be further along than I am at this point. I have high confidence that I will finish the triathlon though and that makes it easy. The training program I’ve created for myself seems to be working well; I just need to stick with it. There is nothing like a triathlon looming to keep me motivated.


Continue with training at least 4 times per week. Volleyball on Thursday evenings is allowed if I get a workout in Thursday morning (probably a fast run to build strength) as Friday is a rest day and Saturday is usually a cycling day. My last volleyball session did not leave me particularly sore and I expect that to get better rather than worse.

Making Choices and Trade-offs

You might call it an embarrassment of riches. In the information technology world where I work we refer to it as “a find problem to have”. I refer to the problem set that arises when you have too many good things happening to you. Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project recently posted about her experience with such a problem which was the inspiration for this article.

Having too many opportunities can be really oppressive. Furthermore having too many things you would like to commit to is, mentally speaking, the same as living in a cluttered house. David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity makes a very good case for organization as tool to help you focus on the task at hand. In order to devote your whole self and creativity to your interests, you need to be able to free yourself of the baggage of all of the things you’re worrying about. When you choose to focus on one particular project/problem/interest your creativity and presence is boosted by the ability to know what you’re choosing not to be doing. Otherwise, you subconscious will keep worrying about all of those other things and rob you of the resources you should be using.

When you reduce all of that to practice, the result is that your brain works better at what you want it to after you’ve looked at your reliable to do list and made an affirmative choice not to do the things on it. Not doing things on your to do list is just fine, as long as you’re choosing and not forgetting.

In my life, I’ve been faced with situations similar to Gretchen’s. A friend recommended reading Having It All … And Making It Work: Six Steps for Putting Both Your Career and Your Family First . The most important takeaway for me had to do with making tradeoffs. The way I think about it, under heavy influence from the authors, is that making choices is easy. Do I want to eat pie, or be scalded by hot water? The choice is easy here. A trade off is what you make when you have to choose between two things and you want both: Do you want a piece of pie, or a milkshake?

In this way of thinking, making choices is easy (pie is much nicer than scalding) but trade-offs are hard (milkshake and pie are both good choices). I find that being mindful of the fact that I want both things makes it easier to select only one. To select one option over another does not have to mean you’re giving up on a goal or no longer want the option you did not select. Knowing that you don’t have to give up on the thing you’re not selecting makes the decision easier to live with.

I truly believe that framing decisions in a way that acknowledges that you want both things but can only choose one of makes me happier and more productive. Remember, it is a luxury to be in a situation where you’re only have good options to pick from.

Outsourcing Business Research with Elance

Hanging around with entrepreneurs can get to your head just a bit. After a while you start to think about things in a particular way. It turns thoughts like: “I really want to look into X but I just don’t have time.” into thoughts like: “How many dollars would I be willing to trade for task X being completed well enough?”.

So I’m taking the plunge. In my previous post I talked about outsourcing some of my business research using Elance. If you’re intrigued, read on as I chronicle the process.

The first step is to define your project. This step sounds like it should be easy, but it rarely is. If you want to find a way to frustrate your boss, the best strategy I know of is to give them exactly what they ask for. The catch, of course, is that hardly anyone asks for what they want with enough precision. One way to think about it is to write your to daily do list as though it’s meant for someone else (since 43 Folders has already covered this, read about it there). Forming this habit will get you a long ways toward writing tasks for others.

I ended up breaking the research task into two components. The first component is to identify 5-10 possible suppliers and their contact information. Submit that list to me for review. The second part of the task is: upon approval, contact each of those suppliers and ask about a list of topics e.g. minimum quantities, time from order to shipment, etc.

The plan is that this structure allows me to keep control of the research and identify early on if things aren’t right. This is essentially a check to make sure the researcher and I are communicating well. If we are, then the results will be from companies like Small Batch Manufacturing, Inc. If we are not, then this list will be full of Million Minimum Manufacturing Corp. Yes, the names of these companies are made up, but you get the idea.

To make sure things are presented in way that’s useful to me, I specified that the completed work will be in an excel spreadsheet. I specified which fields that spreadsheet should have filled out, and the minimum number of entries that it needs to be considered complete.

Thanks to the folks over at 43 Folders for the inspiration.

Training Update (the 2 mile marker!)

This training update is presented in SOAP format, inspired by Art Clarke (see his blog  Running Naked in the blogroll for more info).


I feel like training is on a sign wave, The peaks are great, and the valleys not so good. After Monday’s bummer of a workout (I identified 2 broken machines at the gym, including the treadmill that was available) I came back in full force on Wednesday with a triple play of elliptical, treadmill, and swimming. My running distance was up. It seems that once I get past 1.3 miles, I can go for quite a while

On Thursday I had planned the usual elliptical/running workout but I happened upon a volleyball game in the gymnasium. For those not in the know, I played on my high school team and still love to play. I was watching for a moment trying to figure out what was going on when I was called into the game. Not one to decline the chance to play (I haven’t played indoor in years) onto the court I went.

The upside is that I had a great workout playing volleyball. The downside is that it wasn’t the intensive cardio running workout that I needed. I followed up volleyball with a 1 mile quicky on the treadmill.

Volleyball uses completely different muscles than running, cycling, or swimming. Certain parts of my body ache. I feel strong. I’m much hungrier than normal.


I’ve passed the 2-mile marker!

Wednesday’s workout was a 15 minute warm-up on the elliptical trainer, 2.15 miles on the treadmill, and a 1/2 mile swim. I would have preferred to do the swim first, but the availability of the pool dictated the order of operations.

Pain is still relatively low. The running on sidewalks did hurt a little bit. The treadmill is currently the friendliest surface to practice running on, but I suspect it’s not as good a workout as actual running.


Half of the time my training program is working great. The other half I feel fatigued incredibly early on the treadmill. I’m at the point where swimming and cycling at reasonable paces don’t tire me out much. My cardio fitness is improving though at a potentially slower than planned rate.


Continue with 4 sessions per week. Ice knee after running even though it will be a bit annoyin. Swimming and cycling both once per week seems to be working fine, so continue that. (Swimming and running workouts happen on the same day.)

Make sure at least one workout per week involves running a significant distance. This week, break 2.5 miles. Cardio endurance remains the biggest risk.

Find a way to incorporate volleyball into workouts somehow. This will make training for the triathlon harder, but ultimately more rewarding.  Possibly make Thursdays a light run day followed by volleyball.

Set a date to practice swimming in open water (harder and colder than a pool).

If anyone has any advice as to what a proper running speed is, I’m interested. A coworker whose done a number of triathlons suggested that i slow down (I was running at 6.7 mph). This last workout I ran at 5.8, or at least I tried. After a 1.5 miles I couldn’t take it any more and went up to 6.4 mph.