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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

From Free Spirit to Creature of Habit to Slave to Routine

The road less traveled is perhaps the most mythical land in all of the American imagination. We’re a land of rugged individualist, of lone wolves, of iconoclastic nonconformists, or at least that’s what we all think. The truth is that everyone has heard of this road less traveled but few have been there and no one can give you directions. I’m almost certain that your phone isn’t going to be any help at all so just put the damn thing down already.

This past week I sat down to think about what I had done in my life that even remotely strayed from my cast-iron routine. Nothing. The only thing that I could think of was how on my bike ride last Saturday I had made a few random turns while pedaling through the villages outside of Valencia. I realize this is pretty stupid but compared to the rest of my week this bit of meandering on my bike was an adventure worthy of Captain Cook. I know the formula to make every day new and exciting but I don’t feel like selling all of my possessions, getting on a plane, moving to the other side of the world, and starting over from scratch…again. At least I don’t feel like doing that right now.

So how do you keep things fresh, new, and interesting while plodding along on your path of keeping yourself fed and beer in the fridge? For me it’s a new training regimen thanks to Primal Endurance. Another day, another fitness fad program to follow. The basic tenet of this program is to slow WAY down to a completely aerobic level (target heart rate of 180 minus your age which for me feels like crawling at 20 KPH). This means building an 8 week base of aerobic fitness which means getting passed by every old man, old woman, and kid with training wheels on the bike path.  

This guy has a LOT of top athletes on this program as you can hear on the podcasts. The main thing is that it teaches your body to burn fat instead of sugar which makes you more efficient. I just know that how I train now isn’t efficient and I am breaking my body down on some of my more grueling rides with little benefit other than it’s fun. As I said, it’s hard for me to get passed on my rides but that’s a small price to pay. I need a new heart-rate monitor with an alarm to keep me in my zone.

He also emphasizes that you can do lots of little mini work-outs throughout the day as you go about doing what you do. For me this means slowing down on the bike-share bikes as I hump around town. Last night after work, when I normally don’t work out, I had a leisurely ride around town before heading home, all of it in my new sissy-boy fat-burning zone. This pace is what I would normally use for walking around an art museum. So at least that was something outside my usual routine and it was a gorgeous evening in Valencia.

After a while you get faster and stronger at this lower heart-rate which is how you gauge your progress. I have to do a circuit on my bike while keeping my heart-rate at the recommended zone. After eight weeks I do the circuit again to compare. I just need something to help motivate me or I get bored and complacent. He stresses the need for a proper diet with low carbohydrates (something I know works for me).

So I’ll still be a slave to routine but at least it will be this new fitness rut. 

P.S. I dug out my old heart rate monitor, replaced the battery (.75€), and it works fine. Saved myself about 80€.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Wine Snobs Vs. Slobs

So much about modern wine culture seems to be people trying to make other people feel intimidated by the whole process, like they aren’t even capable of being in the same room as a decent bottle of wine let alone fit to drink it. I’ve seen countless scenes in movies where the hero, perhaps James Bond, out-snobs his opponent by correctly guessing a wine down to the date of the harvest. You never see women playing this ridiculous charade, probably because most don’t have a penis which means that they don’t have really small penises they need to over-compensate for in some way. The truth is that few mortals can distinguish one wine from another. True story, most people can’t even tell red wine from white in blind tastings so take off that stupid ascot and shut your pie hole. 

There are really only two questions to ask regarding wine: will it get you totally wasted and are you sure this party has an open bar? OK, the science of oenology may be a bit more complicated than that but still, there’s no reason to go overboard. By overboard I mean memorizing a laundry list of adjectives to describe what you’ve just poured down your gullet. Seriously, how could wine taste like raspberries if it’s made out of grapes? Answer: it can’t, so shut the hell up about raspberries and citrus and a lot of other stuff that they don’t put in wine unless you’re talking about sangria.

I’ll admit that I’m as guilty as the next douche bag when it comes to being a douche bag about wine, like how I’ll spend a certain minimum on a bottle of wine at the supermarket just because I don’t want the cute check-out girl to think I’m some degenerate alcoholic who buys the cheapest wine in the store even though I can’t tell the difference between the really cheap stuff and the stuff that is sure to impress the cute check-out girl. Another myth about wine is that unless you’re spending a fortune you may as well be drinking out of the toilet.

Speaking of toilets, I’ve been in a lot of bars in my life, many of which have been real…what’s a polite way to say “shit holes?”  But even in the most grotesque dive bars I’ve never felt that I could order their “finest bottle of wine.” Most of these dives probably didn’t even serve wine but I still felt too cheap to ask for their best. I’m sure that lots of rich creeps order the most expensive wine on the list everywhere they go, even at the post office just so everyone knows the pecking order, so to speak. I know my place in the pecking order and it’s somewhere around the second or third bottle from the bottom of the menu only because—as I said before—I’m too intimidated to order the cheapest bottle. 

This snobbishness is alienating countless potential consumers who are put off by the sometimes absurd pageantry that has attached itself to this beverage. Vintners in America seem mostly concerned with making boutique varieties aimed at upscale buyers. Table wine is seen as something beneath American growers and thus we farm it out to countries like Chile, Australia, South Africa, and Spain. Table wine is definitely not something that Spanish producers consider to be a vastly inferior product, mainly because they know that the Spanish are too savvy and too demanding to pay a penny too much for a bottle of wine. We still see wine as some sort of luxury in America, something relegated for special occasions, like when your kid graduates from college or your 50th wedding anniversary. In Spain that special occasion may be called Monday lunch. Wine isn’t a luxury in Spain; it’s a basic right.

America’s fear of wine has also allowed restaurants to mark up bottle and glass prices way out of the reach of a lot of diners, something that Spanish people just wouldn’t tolerate. You wouldn’t pay four times the retail price for a bottle of cola in a restaurant so you shouldn’t be similarly gouged for a glass of modest wine. Corking wine bottles when it really isn’t necessary for most wines has also added to the intimidation factor and conspires to make a lot of people think that it is more complicated than it really needs to be. We should all be for simplifying wine, demystifying every aspect of its consumption, and making it more democratic. 
The first time I was served wine after moving to Valencia I drank it out of a stem-less low glass (pictured above), something of a tradition in these parts. It reminded me of the little wine cups I had known in Greece, another country like Spain that sees wine as a daily necessity since they practically invented it. I’m in favor of anything that goes against the pretentious traditions associated with wine, and most of them are pretentious and silly.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Another Morning, Another Ride in the Country

I rode out to Rocafort from Valencia this morning to have coffee at one of my favorite caf├ęs, La Bodegueta de Rocafort. After that I humped around a few local villages trying desperately to take at least one decent photo. That’s asking a lot from me so what you see is all that I could manage. I didn’t ride very far but I tried to do some sprints, something I used to be quite good at back in the day. I still have more of a sprinter’s body than that of a skinny road cyclist. This is something that I should practice at home on my spinning bike.

Monday, May 16, 2016

La Ruta Fluvial del Turia

Just once I'd like to make a good video of my bike rides in and around Valencia but this one isn't it. In this video we have a fairly shitty depiction of a pretty great little bike ride that I do regularly.

I like using the local trains and the metro to extend my day trips out of downtown Valencia where I live. I get bored of doing this route round-trip although it seems a little like cheating to only do the downhill part. I actually love going uphill so sometimes I go up and take the train home.