“The Jan” siting: I spent nearly a week at a conference in Washington, DC, hunkered down for long days of sessions, round tables, panel discussions, and plenary addresses in the Hilton near Dupont Circle. Thankfully, unlike many of my professional colleagues, I was not staying in the host hotel. I enjoyed the approximately 1 mile stroll between my hotel and the conference digs each morning and evening which provided the opportunity to soak up some of the DC ambience, architecture, and street life. One can’t help but notice the abundance of bike messengers making their way through DC streets each day, and I’d frequently walk past battle-weary track bikes locked to parking meters and street signs while their owners were inside a nearby building making deliveries.
On one particular morning, awash in the delirium of too much Guinness ingestion the prior evening and a lack of caffeine this a.m. (I had yet to reach the coffee shop near the hotel), I took a slightly different sequence of streets to reach my destination. And as I’m wont to do, at frequent intervals throughout the day, I was thinking about cycling. And just as Todd Wells frequently poses the question “I wonder what Gully’s doing right now”, for no particular reason the thought “I wonder what Jan Ullrich’s doing right now” popped into my brain. Still training hard? Plotting his defense strategy? Watching 1997 Tour de France videos? On vacation someplace far from Europe where nobody knows who he is? Well, I think a certain Mr. Ullrich tried to make his way as a DC bike messenger. Because no sooner than I started contemplating Jan’s fate, I came across a bike locked to a sign sporting this on the top tube:
Unfortunately, Jan’s run into a bit of bad luck regarding the rest of his ride…
Such a sad, after-school special-esque saga…from ProTour uberman to destitute, beaten down DC bike messenger in the span of several weeks.
Cyclists do not work at the Smithsonian: One of the perks of our convention meeting in Washington, DC was having the run of the entire Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for a private party this past Friday evening. I was mostly concerned with the free food and drinking enough beer to cover the $10 flat fee I had to pay for the privilege of imbibing booze. Having already done some sightseeing in DC, I was falling under the spell of museum fatigue and didn’t overly concern myself with the cultural heritage treasures around me. The original Star Spangled Banner? Mr. Rogers’ sweater? Howdy Doody? Dorothy’s ruby slippers? Whatever…That is, until I happened to see a white Trek encased off in the distance while I lingered with North Carolina colleagues on the 3rd floor. And right away something seemed really strange, which I confirmed with a closer look:
Maybe it was just the Rolling Rock fuelling my indignation, or the indignation of having Rolling Rock as the highest quality beer at the bar, but I was horrified to see how the handlebars were not properly positioned. Whoever set up the bike for the exhibit (and I’m assuming it’s somebody within the Smithsonian) used the STI levers as a levelling cue, rather than the flats of the drops. Hence, the end of the drops were tilted upwards. Whoever set this bike up is not aware of how Armstrong, and damn near the rest of the Euro peloton, has his bars positioned. Or maybe the museum tech person in charge of the display took it out for one last spin around the National Mall, careened into a major pothole, and thought nobody would notice the wonky bar position when he sealed it away behind plexiglass. Either way, I felt like I was looking at a bike displayed in Wal-Mart. And in the grand scheme of things this is pretty minor, but one would hope that the nation’s flagship history musueum would dot their “i”s and cross their “t”s. I happened to have an allen wrench in my messenger bag, and I was tempted to breach the display case and do a quick loosening/tightening of the stem bolts to rotate the bars upwards to their proper position. The horror…
And then another funny thing happened. I was attending a national convention of archivists and librarians, professions which are largely populated with people who are, putting it delicately, not athletically inclined. While I was soaking in Armstrong’s Trek, some other convention goers came up to the display and started talking amongst themselves about Armstrong. I soon found myself answering their questions about Lance, the Tour de France, his bike, how I knew what year he rode it, etc. since the exhibit offered precious little contextual information. Within moments, a larger crowd gathered around and I found myself fielding questions about Floyd Landis and doping in cycling. If I had my wits about me, I would have got them all chanting, “Rotate the bars! Rotate the bars!” and marched them to the curator’s office to make a scene. I guess I’ll just have to resort to a one-man letter writing campaign to the Smithsonian instead.
Perry Metzler redux: And on a somber note, I re-visited the Vietnam Memorial as I had approximately 1 1/2 years ago when I paid my repects to Perry Metzler. There’s a minor addition to that entry, as this time around I was able to photograph his name with my digital camera.