Saturday, July 28, 2007

Slow and steady wins the race

I am writing a novel, not a blog, about "\to catch_a predator." I'm not sure why, but now that I have started traveling down that long and winding road, it has become a personal challenge to finish it.

I had to take a night off, so Friday night was it. And I'm not exactly breaking my back tonight, but here are a few random nuggets from my world.

• I think today's bike ride was the ride that put me over the 1,000-mile mark. For the month I'm probably not going to break my July record of 670 miles, in part because I didn't get to go up north this weekend, the second time I was shut out this month. My friends are happy to have me, but family trumps the Fonz, and the Fonz was trumped again this weekend. I'm behind last year's pace, but if I ever get to spend a few days up north I could easily log big mileage over a four-day stay.

• The Brewers had an early 6-0 lead in the matinee game today and lost 7-6. Chip was livid. He claims he is done with the team and that it doesn't deserve a playoff spot. He's predicting the Cardinals will magically turn their lackluster season around and win the division, not the Cubs. His rationale? They're the Cubs, they'll implode. Funny, I think the Cubs have been to the postseason four times since the Brewers last tasted October baseball in 1982, but they're the Cubs, so somehow they can't win the division in Chip's twisted world. The man is mentally ill, I have no doubt.

• I am scheduled to make an appearance in Stinktown Sept. 14-16, including a Brewers game on Friday, Sept. 14. Will the Cardinals lead the division by then? It doesn't matter where the Cubs are, of course.

• I think I'm going to a demolition derby on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

\to catch_a predator

Tonight was the 11th “investigation” by “Dateline NBC” regarding online sexual predators. They call the shows “\to catch_a predator.” I’m not sure why the underscore is necessary.

The show follows the same format each time NBC conducts one of its stings. The online watchdog organization Perverted Justice finds the predators and invites them to a sting that NBC films. Dateline’s Chris Hansen represents the network each time the predator is busted. Hilarity ensues.

The format, for those who haven’t seen the show, follows a basic pattern. Perverted Justice volunteers attract the attention of males looking for underage sex partners, develop a rapport with them, invite them to a house that is wired for video and then bust them for being predators. The predators depart, only to be arrested by local police cooperating with NBC. Often Hansen gets to interview the unsuspecting predator before he is arrested. It makes for great TV.

I have no problem with NBC subsidizing a local police department in a sting operation. Most police departments don’t have the manpower or money to conduct a lengthy prostitution or drug sting. So when a network wants to subsidize a sting targeting online predators and create awareness about the problem, it sounds like a win-win for local police departments, right?

Sure, but we all know that even network news departments, like most media organizations, are driven by profit. (CBS didn’t hire Katie Couric because she was the hardest working journalist on the market.) NBC wouldn’t subsidize 11 sting operations if they weren’t a ratings success for the network. Their intentions are not that honorable.

But enough of our nation of 300 million people have found the concept entertaining enough that it’s in NBC’s best interest to repeat the program with new “investigations.” The reality is that we’re not learning anything new. Online predators are still out there three or four years after NBC first tapped into this ratings bonanza. Is anyone shocked by that?

I liken the show to Jerry Springer’s lackluster talk show. People are fascinated by it because it’s hilarious to a certain degree, even if it’s a sad exploitation of society as well. Eventually viewers will tire of the program or NBC will exploit the concept further to keep viewers coming back, evidence of which we’re seeing, but I’ll get to that later. (A producer of the 1970s edition of “Match Game” noted that after so many years viewers no longer found the same double entendres funny. You have to keep pushing the envelope or people will tire of your gimmick. Perhaps the novelty of online predators will wear off, too.) The fact that the show doesn’t air weekly in prime time will probably help preserve its life span for another three or four years, at least.

But the show leaves me with several questions, and a bit of distaste in my mouth, despite the fact it’s funny to watch the stings.

First of all, who are these volunteers who work for this Perverted Justice organization? They’re not trafficking child pornography, they’re not trying to seduce children, they’re simply posing as young boys and girls waiting to be approached by a predator. In the case of Dateline, they’re working for the show. They even get paid by the show for their assistance, which is used to offset the organization’s operating costs, evidently. I don’t have a problem with that, but the group wasn’t formed to go to work for Dateline, and they weren’t paid initially. So why are there people posing as teens and engaging in sexual chat with unsuspecting predators?

If you’re a parent whose child was the victim of an online predator, perhaps you want to help in the fight to stop it. But I can’t believe that everyone volunteering for the organization has been personally affected by the actions of a predator. So why do they do it? I’d like to know, because there are a million volunteer activities we can donate our time to, and people who decide that’s how they want to contribute toward a better society creep me out a little bit. Somebody has to do it, but I’d bet some of the organization’s volunteers get some sort of weird thrill out of it. But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps they’re all friends and relatives of victims.

So after a decoy is approached by a predator who initiates sexual discussion, the decoy can then entice the predator to continue the dialogue. Once the dialogue has established the predator’s motive, the decoy attempts to set up a rendez vous at a suburban residence that serves as the base of operations for the sting. Dateline usually provides samples of the chat dialogue, complete with voice actors for the predator and the decoy. These transcripts really aren’t necessary to prove that the predator is guilty of soliciting a minor online – a criminal offense in states where Dateline films its stings – but they seem to be mandatory.

Dateline will usually provide some sort of titillating excerpt from a transcript. Sometimes it’s important for explaining why a predator will say something or bring a particular item with him when he arrives at the house. Sometimes it’s just for entertainment, I’m sure. I don’t really need to know a guy wants to kiss a 13-year-old’s body all over, but sometimes that’s what you hear the voice actor read. As I said, these excerpts can be entertaining, but they also leave me thinking that NBC is pandering to the audience.

Given I have already written what would qualify as a blog by most standards, this blog entry will be a work in progress. I’m trying to blog nightly this week, but this blog could take another two to three hours to finish, so I can’t knock it off in one night, I have realized. Instead of sitting on it until it’s done, I’ll update it nightly and remove this tag when it’s complete. Once this topic is done I’ll get to the remaining topics on my list.

I hit a rabbit, I think

Before I write about tonight’s topic, online predators, I have a bicycling anecdote.

I think I hit a rabbit while I was bicycling today. You'd think I would know, but I’m not sure. I have run over a squirrel, a dog’s leg and a couple of snakes over the years, but never a rabbit, fortunately. On one of my bike trips several years ago I saw a woman who had hit a rabbit. It threw her off the bike and left her with bruises and scrapes. I'm glad I didn't see the incident, as I'm sure it wasn't pretty.

When I ran over the squirrel, I think I hit him with both wheels, but I seemed to run over the middle of him, and it didn’t cause me to wipe out. The squirrel didn’t look well after the fact, but he got up and scampered off into nearby bushes.

The dog I hit was a tiny little pointless dog, and I only ran over his leg, fortunately, so I didn’t wipe out and the dog limped off. I called the county sheriff’s office later that day because dogs at this house were a regular nuisance and I didn’t think I was obligated to put up with them on a regular basis, given I was bicycling on the paved shoulder of a highway. I never had a problem with those dogs again.

The snakes weren’t pleased to have been run over, and I didn’t realize I was going to run over them until it was too late.

I have seen a lot of rabbits along the bike trails this spring, more than usual, I think. Some of the bike trails I use run along active railroad tracks, and as I was riding along one of those tracks as a train was coming from the opposite direction. I am probably 30 feet from the train, and as we met I lowered my chin and turned my head to the right a bit, as the train was on my left. When I did this, I saw something come across the bike trail from my left. I saw it out of the corner of my left eye so I'm not sure what it was. It could have been a weed, but I felt the impact of it on my front wheel, so I doubt it was a weed. I didn’t lose my balance, and by the time I looked back, I saw no sign of anything.

My theory is that the train startled a rabbit in the weeds, it ran away from the tracks and ran into the side of my front wheel as I was looking to my right. So if I’m right, I didn’t really hit it, it hit me. Since it ran into the side of my wheel, rather than in front of it, I’m lucky. I wish I could confirm it was a rabbit, then i could add it to my list of war stories from the road.

(sarcasm mode on)

Chip called me after a rare weeknight at the bar. What a treat. (sarcasm mode off)

So Drew Carey will now be instructing people how to play Plinko, the Range Game and Five Price Tags on “The Price is Right.”

That can’t be too hard to do, even if there are more than 70 pricing games in the show's rotation. Bob Barker always did it in an authoritative manner. Carey seems too conversational and matter-of-fact for the gig. He may have done well with his “Whose Line is it Anyway?” hosting duties, but that was allegedly comedy improv, not a game. (I’m not convinced it was genuine improv.)

Barker developed great comedic schtick as host, but his role as emcee always prevailed. I don’t expect Carey to turn his TPIR hosting responsibilities into a stage for his wit, but will he find the right balance between his hosting duties and his comedic personality? Time will tell.

Am I thrilled with him as Barker’s replacement? No. Am I unhappy? No.

Several people auditioned for the show. A few seemed to remain in the running this spring. One was Mark Steines, an anchor on “Entertainment Tonight.” I haven’t watched that show in years, so I couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup, but he seemed like a reasonable choice. He’s a broadcaster, not a comedian, which I find favorable. I am not a fan of taking a nationally known comedian and making him the host of a game show, a formula the networks seem to rely upon for most of their big money prime time games these days. I like my game show hosts to be old school emcees, so I think I’d have learned to like Steines in a hurry.

George Hamilton, an actor whose credits I couldn’t recite to save my soul, was another choice. (Is he famous for anything besides his tan?) He was older than most, if not all, of those considered for the job. I see so little of that guy that I can’t rate how good or bad of a choice he’d likely be, but I wasn’t high on the idea.

The few game show websites I read are in love with Todd Newton. He’s a relative unknown, but is probably the best choice out there if you’re looking for a traditional emcee who isn’t a veteran, a la Pat Sajak and Chuck Woolery. (It’s hard to believe Sajak is 60. He’s less than six years younger than Woolery. I knew Woolery was in his 60s, but I would have guessed Sajak was 55 or younger.)

Newton has hosted game shows, but he’s only 37, so his game show resume is limited largely to Game Show Network original programs which don’t seem to find a casual audience. It’s a network for the hardcore gamers, like me.

Newton has also hosted other programming, including shows on E! and some short-lived show on FOX. I think he has a B-level pageant to his credit, too, as well as segments during last summer’s “Game Show Marathon” on CBS. He’s well connected to the game show world – in an era where that world is smaller than it was when he was growing up – so he’d be a logical choice.

Newton has even hosted the casino version of the TPIR, which is offered in Vegas, and elsewhere I think. Basically you buy a ticket and watch a non-televised version of the show, using the actual stage props from the show. Contestants are randomly picked and given a chance to play for much smaller prizes than on TV. I would like to attend one of those shows, but last time I was in Vegas they were charging $40 for a ticket, and I have seen the real thing for free.

I’m not a big fan of Newton and I’m not sure why. He’s not bad, and the material he has hosted hasn’t been top shelf. Despite that he has done a good job, and seems to have genuine enthusiasm for the games he hosts. For some reason I just didn’t care for him as the new host of TPIR. Had he been chosen, as I expected, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it, but I wasn’t rooting for him.

Rosie O’Donnell claimed she was offered the job. Depending on who or what news source you want to believe, she wanted to “gay up” the show by replacing female models with male hunks and reducing the show to four games during the hour, allowing her more time to “chat” with contestants and demonstrate that she’s really not very funny. She claims she was offered the job and turned it down because she couldn’t get the show moved to New York or the taping schedule compressed to allow her to tape a month worth of shows in a week.

One report I read said she had just one meeting with executives and was immediately dismissed because of her desire to recreate the show to her liking. If that’s true, does she have any clue the show has been successful for 35 years in its present format?

She would have been a disaster, but I had no doubt she wouldn’t get the job, so I wasn’t too concerned about speculation she was in the running.

Carey emerged as a late contender, largely based upon his performance during test runs of his new big money prime time game “Power of 10,” debuting next month. Funny, CBS chose an out-of-work comedian to host a big money game. But Carey did something to impress execs enough to consider him for a more traditional game show. I hope their assessment is right.

So who would I have chosen? Somebody who wasn’t considered, to the best of my knowledge: Rich Fields.

Fields, 46, became the show’s third permanent announcer in 2004. He’s obviously familiar with the show, and the audience is familiar with him. Although he hasn’t hosted a game show before, he has a broadcasting background. And while there aren’t a lot of examples in game show history, there have been instances in the past where a show’s announcer has replaced the departing host. That practice may have been limited to the 1950s and ‘60s, but Fields wouldn’t have been an illogical choice in 2007. I enjoy his work, he looks like a game show host and he has better qualifications than Carey, so he would have been a decent choice, but it wasn't to be. I wasn’t surprised.

At this point I hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised by Carey this fall.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oy ve!

I went to a city council meeting this evening. I knew it would run a bit late, so I went late, 90 minutes late, but I never expected the meeting to last until 1 a.m.

That's probably the latest I have ever been at a city council meeting. I could have bailed out at 12:15 a.m., but I wanted to see how long the ridiculousness lasted, and I found out.

I wanted to start a string of blogs by tonight, but this will have to do. I hope to post a daily blog for the rest of the week. Topics to cover include:

• My weekend at the Fond du Lac County Fair, where I saw Tesla and Poison perform.

• Drew Carey's hiring as the new host of "The Price is Right." I have mixed feelings.

• Why I like "To Catch a Predator," on "Dateline NBC." And why I think it's a sad statement about society.

• Why D Cup should continue to have some sort of blog.

• Why I need to apply for the Blockbuster Video managerial training program before the end of the summer.

I'm sure there's more on my mind, but that's all I can think of at 2 a.m.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Two nuggets

Weekend bicycling totals:
Friday: 33 miles
Saturday: 46 miles
Sunday: 37 miles
Weekend total: 116 miles
Last weekend's total: 122 miles

And while it has been rather windy the past week, it hasn't been nearly as hot as it was last weekend, so this weekend's total should have been higher, not lower, than last weekend's performance.

Chip, Rush and I made a new set of Brewer predictions. They're remarkably similar to the May predictions. This set comprises 19 games, from the All-Star Game break to the end of the month. We predicted the same number of wins, but one less loss since there's one less game than when we demonstrated our baseball genius in May.

Chip: 14-5
Fonz: 12-7
Rush: 9-10

So far the Brewers are 2-1.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Not insanity, just stupidity

So I was dead tired on Saturday night. I stayed awake all day Saturday because I didn't want to sleep for four hours and then end up staying awake until 3 a.m.

So I was in bed before midnight, with the intention of getting up early on Sunday to beat the heat, again.

But I needed extra sleep to make up for the lack of it on Friday night. So I ended up sleeping past 10 a.m., and not getting out of bed until 11 a.m.

By the time I hit the road on Sunday it was noon, and 88 F according to

I wanted to do more than my 33-mile loop, but given how hot it was I knew that was crazy.

For the first hour I felt fine. But I could tell as I was approaching the 20-mile mark that I was running out of gas. It was hot, more humid than Saturday and I was tired from three previous days of bicycling.

There's a well at Lake Harriet I use to refill my water bottles sometimes, and I definitely needed to stop there on Sunday. At that point I had an average of 16 mph, but I knew that'd drop as I was tired and naturally I had to ride into the wind for the last nine miles home.

And man was it slow. Fortunately it had become cloudy, a precursor to the afternoon storms that were predicted, and much needed around here. I didn't care if I got rained on going home. My clothes were completely soaked from sweat anyway.

But I made it home, barely, before the rain. I beat the rain by at least 30 minutes, but I barely made it home. I was coasting at times and failing to pedal at my typical pace. I didn't care, I just kept dreaming about the ecstasy of getting home and finishing my fourth consecutive day, on a day when I was ready to collapse. I decided I wouldn’t even look at how pitiful my average had dropped during the last 13 miles, 33 miles is still 33 miles, regardless of the average, and my body felt like I was doing more than 33 on Sunday, given the conditions.

When I reached the end of my last significant uphill stretch and crossed a freeway I was about two miles from home. As I passed a church I said several times, "Thank you Jesus!"

I took Monday off, even though the humidity had subsided quite a bit. It was still hot today, and my legs really needed a rest. The past weekend wasn't my toughest, but the heat and humidity took a lot out of me, especially on Sunday, and my messy Monday schedule makes it tough to ride, regardless of the weather.

I can't kick myself enough for not getting up early on Sunday, but on the other hand it would have been easy to take the day off, so I should be slapping myself on the back. (I had plans for the evening, so my 7 p.m. weeknight schedule wasn't going to work last night.)

So why do I do it? (D Cup wants to know.) I was never very motivated to play team sports, and therefore I never did. Sure, I played football, baseball and street hockey with kids in the neighborhood when I was growing up, but I never had the drive, motivation or encouragement to pursue a team sport. I played intramural sports in college, and in the occasional broomball or softball league post college, but it was never a burning desire or something I couldn’t live without.

I ended up biking a lot during the summers when I was in high school, in part because I spent them with my dad in Wisconsin and would bike 14 miles to the nearby town for a summer job. (I would work until dark, so dad would pick me up with a bike rack on his car.)

I had tried running at times in my life and enjoyed the challenge of it. I ran during most of my college years and for a while afterward. It was when I had a knee problem one spring that I decided to clean up my old bike and start riding that summer. I'm not sure what year bicycling became a seasonal obsession, but I've been doing an organized bike ride most summers since 1997.

It has only been the past few years that I've started logging mileage. I use to log my running miles every year, so I have no idea why logging bicycling miles didn't make any sense until 2004, but that's how it is. I wish I knew how many miles I biked in 1997, simply for comparison. I didn't have a working computer on my bike for part of the summer, so that was part of my problem. I biked a regular route that summer, but I don't recall how long it took me or what the distance was.

In 2004 I biked 1,200+ miles, and after looking at my calendar I realized I was kind of lazy. I'd bike 24 miles frequently, on a route that included hills, but I blew off days far too frequently, I realized. I set out to improve in 2005 and I finished with 1,582 miles. But I still saw room for improvement. Last year I decided I could push myself to bike 2,006 miles, and despite some lackluster stretches, not entirely my fault, I made that goal by the end of October. Thanks to a handful of mild days in November I was able to rearrange my schedule to bike during a couple of weekday afternoons and add 114 miles for the month, giving me a grand total of 2,120.

Sadly I didn't get my bike in gear quite as early as I should have this year. I didn't start until May, whereas some years I have 100 miles in the books by the time I go to Vegas in late April. And my May mileage was weak, too. So I'm not exactly on a record pace this year. I think I can still top 2006, but I'll have to have a bigger August than I've had the past two years. August is a bit tough because it gets dark earlier and burnout starts to set in.

But why do I do it? Well, D Cup likes to play basketball and likes the challenge of out hustling an opponent for a loose ball. I don't play basketball, tennis or soccer, and even if I did, I'd have to find a team to play with, or find a hang out to play a pick-up game. I bicycle occasionally with my friend Margaret, but I often ride alone, and it's an activity that's well suited for that.

If I went to shoot baskets by myself, it would be hard to challenge myself to do better on a daily basis, unless I spent a lot of time shooting free throws. Bicycling and running naturally create goals, whether they be a faster time to complete a distance or a numerical total to reach for the weekend, month or year.

I don't worry about breaking personal records when I ride, but I did track the improvement in my time during the season a few years ago. I remember the first time I completed a 24.5-mile route in under 1 hour 30 minutes. (Three laps around a lake, with a handful of uphill climbs during each lap.)

Actually I don't remember that ride very well. I don't typically check the time of my ride when I'm in motion, but one day I knew I was having a fast ride, so I pushed myself during the final miles of the third lap, knowing I had come close to breaking 1:30:00 in the past. I remember finishing that ride and seeing my time, 1:30:13. I was crushed, but encouraged because I knew I would break the magic mark the next time I went out under ideal conditions. Some time after that I did break the 1:30:00 mark. I vaguely remember the pride of that accomplishment, beating the 90-minute mark by about 15 seconds, but I don't remember it as well as the agony of 1:30:13. (I think my personal best for that course ended up being about 1:26:30. I have it written down somewhere.)

So sometimes it's the numbers that push me to get out there day after day, sometimes it's the fact I'm nine miles from home and don't have another option to get back that encourages me to keep going. Once I get out there it's usually easy to keep the body moving to accomplish whatever I set out to do. The hardest part is getting on the bike. Sometimes I tend to procrastinate. No matter how badly I want to ride, some days it's a struggle to get going, even though I know the sooner I start the sooner I will be done.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More evidence of insanity

The current temperature, according to, is 97 F at 7 p.m.

Wow, what a day. I’m glad I spent the afternoon in front of a fan, watching the White Sox salvage a game against the Twins.

But there was much more to my day than watching baseball.

About 8:50 a.m. I departed for my “daily” bike ride. I had hoped to be up north this weekend, but that didn’t work out. Since I had no other plans, I decided I had to push myself a bit when bicycling.

My normal route is quite similar to the route I did last summer. It’s the same loop, but I access it from the west metro instead of from south Minneapolis. I lived about one mile from the loop last summer, this summer I live about four miles, so that 27-mile route I pedaled regularly last summer has now become a 33-mile route.

It takes me a little more than two hours to pedal the route, including periodic traffic stops, and I have been trying to time my ride so I finish close to sunset, which at this time of the year is just after 9 p.m. It’s much easier to bicycle in the waning hours of the day because even if it’s still hot and humid the sun isn’t beating down on me. It may still be warm, but it’s not nearly as painful.

Hence I waited until nearly 7 p.m. Friday night to go bicycling. I pulled up to my door about one minute shy of 9 p.m., 33 miles in the books.

So less than 12 hours later I was back on the road. I’m trying to push myself for a few reasons. I had hoped to log major mileage over an extended holiday weekend up north, and since I don’t have the luxury of being up north, I decided I should still push myself this weekend.

My goal this month, at minimum, is to beat my bicycling total from last July, 670 miles. I’d like to do more than simply exceed that total, but I need to start with that goal and build from there.

I also ended up taking three consecutive days off this week, for a combination of reasons, from Monday through Wednesday. So rather than surrender to the heat today, I wanted to make up for lost time earlier this week.

The temperature was 74 F when I departed this morning. I started with the traditional ride down Excelsior Boulevard, which is rather uninteresting. Prior to accessing a bike trail I pass a bank with a time and temperature display. The overly optimistic thermometer said it was 94 F just after 9 a.m., and I think I actually yelled at it mockingly for suggesting it was already that hot.

The first several miles were much like my regular 33-mile route, and there were a number of people out, trying to beat the heat like me.

As I approached the 10-mile mark I passed a guy in a wheelchair. It was one of those bicycling wheelchairs, and it looked like the style guys use when they do a marathon.

Those wheelchair marathoners can finish a marathon in less than two hours, so they don’t have to be out there as long as the runners, yet I admire those guys for doing it. The best of them can power themselves 26 miles about as quickly as I can pedal 26 miles, and since it’s harder to maintain upper body strength than it is to maintain lower body strength, I admire them for their effort.

If I ever end up without use of my legs I’ll be fat and lazy, I promise.

So as I continued on a few miles I reached the point where my will was tested. Do I turn off the bike path and go right, as usual, to finish a 33-mile ride, or do I turn left toward downtown Minneapolis and make it an adventure? Fortunately I had my mind made up, despite all the reasons I should have told myself no, and headed left.

I rode past the big inflatable toilet on my way to the Mississippi River, which I crossed on the Stone Arch Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river at an angle. It was built as a railroad bridge in 1883 and is now a pedestrian bridge.

By this point I had been on the road for about an hour. I had to pass through the University of Minnesota campus, which included passing another sporting venue, Williams Arena, where the Gopher men’s basketball team plays.

From there I followed a bike trail for a few miles along the east bank of the Mississippi. I passed an old guy who was walking the path with another person. The old guy had a button-down shirt on. Did he really think that was necessary for his morning walk?

What really struck me as odd was that he had about eight different patches of sweat on his shirt. How do you do that? I may have one or two distinct areas that form when I sweat, but once I work up a good lather, it all devolves into one giant puddle. (And I sweat too easily and too profusely when I exercise.) This guy was a freak of nature.

So instead of following the bike trail all the way along the river, nicely elevated above it on a bluff, I turned onto Summit Avenue, which leads into downtown St. Paul and features some historic mansions along the way. The avenue has a dedicated bicycling lane, and I was fortunate enough to avoid stopping at most controlled intersections, but it was a slow leg. The street seems to be a bit of an incline most of the way to downtown.

As I wove my way through downtown I passed another sports landmark – the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild – before crossing the Mississippi again, this time on the Wabasha Street Bridge, which is a nice downhill ride to a convenience store, which served as my first rest stop of the day, about two hours into my ride.

I didn’t check my mileage at that point because it didn’t matter. I hadn’t set a mileage goal, and I wasn’t going home the same way I came, so the mileage at that point would mean little. The bottom line was that I was in St. Paul and I had to go at least 20 miles to get home.

After my rest stop I bicycled along what was now a south bank of the Mississippi. Initially I was near the water level, but slowly the route worked its way up from the shore until I reached the Mendota Bridge. I had no idea how unique this bridge was, only that it was high above the Minnesota River just west of where the river converges with the Mississippi. This is what I found at Wikipedia:

“It was the longest concrete arch bridge in the world when it was constructed in 1926. It is 4119 feet in length.”

And I get to bicycle across it occasionally. It’s quite high, and always fun to cross. When you reach the end of it from the direction I cross it you’re at Fort Snelling, a historic fort that traces its origins to 1819.

From there I headed to the Minnehaha Parkway, which follows along Minnehaha Creek through South Minneapolis to the Chain of Lakes, near the pretentious Uptown area of Minneapolis.

I used a combination of the bike trail and the road to reach the southern lake in the chain, Lake Harriet. At that point I was three hours into my journey and about 13 or 14 miles from the finish. There’s a well there, so I filled my water bottles and rested a bit before beginning the final leg of my journey.

At this point it seemed a bit hot, but there was no shortage of bicyclists, runners and in-line skaters on the paths. Parts of the trail are shaded around Harriet and Lake Calhoun, so it wasn’t until I reached another bike trail to head west that I started to feel the punishment of the day’s sunshine.

At that point I was about nine miles from home. Unfortunately I had a light breeze working against me as I headed west, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as three weekends ago, it was just enough to psychologically punish me as I was trying to finish a challenging ride.

As I passed that overly optimistic bank thermometer on the way home it said 97 F. What a worthless public service that thing is.

I made it home about 1 p.m. It turned out to be a 56.5-mile ride with a modest average speed of 15.5 mph. (My bike automatically stops clocking my trip when my front wheel stops rotating, so my rest stops and brief breaks at an intersection don’t kill my average.)

I didn’t stop to enjoy the scenery along the way, I rarely do, but despite my militant effort to pedal 50-plus miles and the conditions working against me, I enjoyed today’s trek. I hope to do it again soon under less painful conditions.

But today’s ride in the heat and humidity isn’t what makes me insane.

I went to bed about 12:45 a.m., and needed at least an hour to fall asleep. Despite that, I was up at 5:20 a.m. to go geocaching. Yeah, that’s right, I jumped in the car and found three geocaches before I ever pedaled a mile.

I had a geocaching mission I wanted to complete and I knew that if I went bicycling first I’d never convince myself to venture out afterward to hunt containers of plastic junk in the woods. While geocaching served as a way to wake up and warm up my muscles, it cost me up to three hours of sleep prior to the ride. So I pedaled 56.5 miles on less than four hours sleep today.

It’s official, I am nuts.