Spandex ya’ll

So not quite as timely as AGMA had hoped after my last post, but an improvement (if I do say so myself…)  Two posts in one month is promising.

But I had a VERY good reason why I am not posting until now….

Regular readers can probably guess.

Maybe.

Or have no clue.

Hints:

  1. AGMA hasn’t been able to travel internationally since March 2020.
  2. It’s July.
  3. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place in July.
  4. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place my very favorite country to visit (think wine, cheese and baguettes.).  The country of Monet, Édith Piaf, and Pepé Le Pew

YES!!

AGMA put my mask on, got on an airplane, and flew across the pond to see my boys in spandex.  

Viva la France!

It was like a religious experience.  

I had a 2 week trip planned in July 2020 to see the last week of the Tour de France plus see some other sights, but we all know how that turned out.  We barricaded ourselves in our homes (other than those who moved from Atlanta to Chicago…) in hopes of keep the contagion sweeping across the globe from landing on us.  It was a time of grave concern for our friends, family and country made worse by the total ineptitude of The Fat Orange Virus in the White House and his enablers. 

The cancellation of a pleasure trip seemed inconsequential given the ever increasing numbers in ICUs and funeral homes.

Fast forward to early June, 2021.  AGMA is healthy and fully vaccinated.  France is opening up to vaccinated American tourists in mid-June.  I’ve been watching European cycling events all spring on my laptop via a VPN (a way to get around geo-restrictions on cycling events.)

AGMA sensed a perfect storm!

I casually say to Hubs, “Would you mind if I went to France in July for a week to watch some of the Tour?” 

“Nope…”

I made my airline reservations that night.

AGMA knows the Delta variant is surging in parts of France.  But I also know that masks are mandatory pretty much in every inside space and on any form of transport there.  Hey – I survived COVID in the US when we had a “president” who wanted us to drink/inject bleach.  I felt confident I would be okay.

And it was wonderful!

Without boring those who don’t really care about the Tour de France (I will never understand you, but I still love you!), my first 2 days were spent in a town – 3 train rides away from CDG airport – called Libourne in the Bordeaux region.  It’s a charming town right on the beautiful Dordogne River, which was quite high and flowing quite fast because of all of the rain in Europe the previous 2 weeks.  Think those horrific, deadly floods in Belgium & the Netherlands.  The theme of high, fast flowing rivers followed me on my trip (both in Paris and Lyon.)

The main shopping street in Libourne
City Hall in Libourne
The very high Saône River in Lyon

Damn climate change.

I was in Libourne for the end of stage 19 and the beginning of stage 20 of the Tour de France.  Because stage 20 was a time trial and riders took off individually with a minute between each rider, I had a wonderful opportunity to see all the riders up close and personal.  I positioned myself near the beginning of the TT and close to one of the broadcasting cameras.  And some of my friends saw me on TV!

You can say you knew AGMA when…

Before all the riders had taken off, I had to hustle to catch my trains back to Paris.  The next day was the stage 21; the ride into Paris. 

On Sunday, July 18th, I went through the vaccination verification check near the Arc de Triomphe to scout a spot to watch the riders do their 8 circuits on the Champs-Élysée.  AGMA found a group of Danish fans who spoke excellent English and I settled in for the 4 hour wait until the riders showed up.

You do some very strange things for love…

Wout van Aert (Belgium) won the stage, Tadej Pogačar (Solvenia) won the yellow jersey (overall winner), the polka dot jersey (best climber), and the white jersey (best young rider). A cycling superstar at 22!

And Mark Cavandish (England), at 36, a sprinter that most people felt was way beyond his prime and the ability compete with the world’s best, won the Green jersey (best sprinter.)  And not only did he snag the Green jersey, but (and this is a WAY BIGGER deal!) tied the record of Eddy Merckx for most stages won EVER in the Tour de France.

I need a cigarette now….

What did AGMA do in France after the TdF you ask?  

I walked.  I walked for 5.5 hours in the Louvre.  I walked for hours all over Paris.  I walked more hours all over Lyon.  Hours and hours.  My new technowonder Alexa Echo watch told me that I averaged 19,000 steps a day for the 7 days I was gone.  Honestly, I didn’t know these stumpy legs had it in them.

And (this is really TMI so look away if you tend to be queasy) AGMA sweated.  Buckets.  It was hot in France.  The heat combined with hours of walking outside in the sun exacerbated by being in buildings that were supposed to be air conditioned, but…ummm…not really.  Buckets.  

It was kinda gross.

In Lyon, which is a WONDERFUL city by the way, AGMA had a COVID test per US requirements to go home.  I was negative so I had to leave the next day.

But the cherry on top of the trip was the flight home.  It was a Air France direct flight from Paris to Chicago.  And it was nearly empty. 

E.M.P.T.Y.

I was in the first cabin in economy (being the value traveler that I am.) There were 78 seats in the cabin.  There were 14 people in the cabin.  AGMA became the undisputed queen of row 20, and was able to lie totally flat to nap on the 4 middle seats.   And they gave me champagne with dinner and cognac after dinner.  

The perfect way to end a most unusual, exhausting, amazing, sweaty trip!

Viva la France!

Of pelotons, echelons and musettes

pont du gard

Stage 16 of the Tour today went over the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built in around 60AD.  AGMA was there in May as part of the Grand Tour of France!

It’s the time of year that all AGMA followers (with a few exceptions..) dread.

It’s TOUR DE FRANCE baby!!

Once again I’ve been transformed from a graying, dignified village elder to a giggling tweeter.  And I have 5, count ’em, 5 Tour de France fantasy teams.

AGMA loves her men in spandex!

It’s all Son#2’s fault.

My son really got into watching Le Tour in the mid 2000’s.  It actually inspired him to become a serious cyclist, health nut and nature enthusiast.  Waaaayyyy better than sitting in his bedroom playing video games…

He was a pretty good cyclist and considered going semi-pro until a “series of unfortunate events” occurred.   A shattered wrist here, a broken femur there…it all convinced him that maybe this was not a wise career choice.

He still cycles, but for fun now.

And he sort of dragged me along for the ride as far as watching the Tour de France goes.

(Get it??  Dragged me along for the “ride”?? OMG – I crack myself up!)

People always assume that because I love men’s professional cycling, I must love riding a bike.

Uh…no.

AGMA never learned how to ride as a child.   I honestly don’t know why, but it just wasn’t part of what I did.

“Learn to ride now!” people say too me all the time.  Easy for them to say.  They won’t break their collarbones when they fall.

Truth is that I’ve tried to learn.  AGMA’s okay on a straightaway, but add some hills or dips or curves, and my palms start sweating.  The reality is that it’s really hard to learn to ride a bike as an adult.  All that balance “stuff” gets hardwired in kid’s brains when they learn young, but it doesn’t work the same with adults.

I made sure both of my kids learned to ride a bike when they were young not realizing that it would indirectly lead me to a late in life odd passion.

The 2019 edition of the Tour de France is turning out to be the best AGMA’s seen in my 11 years of being a spandex groupie.

The pre-Tour favorite, Chris Froome, who has won 4 previous Tours, had a horrific crash during the 8 day Criterium du Dauphine which is a pre-Tour warm up race.  And just in case he reads AGMA (ha ha ha), heal fast Chris!  All of us miss watching you ride!

Or some of us.

Last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, crashed out during the Tour de Suisse (another pre-Tour warm up race.) And with very few racing days in his legs, he’s still an unknown for the Tour de France in terms of his conditioning and form.  And the tumble he took from his bike today didn’t help.

Ouch.

That’s all to say that for the first time in a long time, there is no clear favorite to win this year’s Tour.

That makes it especially exciting to watch as a fan!

I can hear you now…ZZZZzzzz….

But really, it IS incredibly exciting.

For the first time in like a kazillion years, a Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, is leading the Tour after 16 stages and wearing the Yellow leader’s jersey.  The French press and public are going WILD!!   It’s been 34 years since a Frenchman won the Tour.  Will this be the year?

Who the hell knows??

Alaphilippe wasn’t supposed to be in the Yellow jersey after 16 stages.  He’s a Classics rider (1 day races) and a puncheur (a rider who is specializes in rolling, hilly terrain with short, steep climbs.)

He’s not a GC rider.

GC stands for general classification (as opposed to sprinters , puncheurs, climbers and time trialists). A GC rider is a rider who, at the end of a 7, 8, 9 or 21 day stage race has the fastest times, so he’s sort of a jack of all trades.  They are the riders groomed to win stage races.  ALL Tour de France winners are GC riders.

But maybe not this year??

Who the hell knows??

And that’s what makes it all so exciting!

It’s going to be a knockout, drag out fight the next 4 days.  Tomorrow’s stage moves into the foothills of the Alps.  Then all hell breaks loose on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 3 brutal Alpine stages that will push the riders to their physical and mental limits.

Even if you’ve never watched the Tour before, I urge you to tune in later this week.  AGMA promises that you will not be bored.  It’s going to be a battle royal between some of the best male athletes in the world in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Then on Sunday, what is left of the 176 riders that originally started the Tour on July 6th, will ride, battered and bruised, into Paris, and finish up with a sprint on the Champs-Elysees.

What’s not to love???

And the winner of the 2019 Tour de France will be…

Who the hell knows??

OMG – I can’t wait!!

(Peloton – The main field of cyclists in a race.  Sort of like a swam of cyclists. NOT the exercise bike/program called Peloton…  (but now you know where the name came from!)

Echelon – The staggered, diagonal line that cyclists form to deal with crosswinds.  Each rider is slightly downwind from the previous rider.  Kinda like one side of the V when geese to their thing.  

Musette – bags that carry food and drinks for cyclists on long races.  Basically it’s a cyclist lunch bag.  And like kids, they throw away the stuff they don’t want to eat.)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latern Rouge

laternrouge

This is a story about bloodied bodies, broken bones, man tears, epic battles of the spirit, redemption and altruism.

Not AGMA’s normal fare.

It’s is a story within the bigger story of this year’s Tour de France.

No, no, no…PLEASE don’t close this window.  I know most of you aren’t interested in cycling but PLEASE keep reading.  Trust me – this is an incredible story.  You might even want to bring out a hankie…

Rather than go on and on about how amazing it was (it was) and how it’s the most grueling athletic event in the world (it is), AGMA wants to tell you the story of one unforgettable, brave rider.

Meet Lawson Craddock.  The 26 year old Texan was one of the 5 Americans in the TdF this year.  This was his 2nd TdF and he rides for the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale team.

Can you imagine how much room that name takes up on their jerseys?

Men’s Elite Cycling 101 Primer (a bit of a snoozer but bear with me)…  The professional teams start training for the “Grand Tours” in January as well as the Spring Classics (1 day races) and the week long races (Tour of Switzerland and Tour of California for example.)  The Grand Tours are 3 bike races that are 21 days long – the Tour of Italy (Giro d’Italia), the Tour de France, and the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana.)

Each professional team has around 26 riders on it.  For the Grand Tours, each team’s director is allowed to only select 8 riders on their team to participate in each one.  Sometimes a rider gets chosen to ride in two of the Grand Tours. Not too often though because they are grueling races (over 2000 mile each) that take place only a month or two apart from each other.

Some riders never get chosen to ride in a Grand Tour.  Sad face…  😦

But they ALL, without exception, want to ride in the Tour de France because it’s the most prestigious bike race in the world.  Yeah it is!

The professional teams announce their TdF teams about a week before the race starts.  Some riders know they are going to be on the team far in advance if they are considered a team leader.  Other are on the bubble and don’t know until a few days before the teams are announced that they’ve made the team.

Lawson was one of those riders on the bubble. He didn’t know until the last minute that he’d made the team.  His job, as the others on the EF Drapac TdF team, would be to ride in support of their team leader, Rigoberto Uran.  Rigoberto finished a surprising 2nd in the 2017 Tour, and they had high hopes that he could win the TdF in 2018.

Lawson’s rider number in the Tour was 13.  Ahh oh…  In an attempt to fend off bad luck, he wore the number upside down.  It didn’t work.

About 60 miles into Stage 1 of this year’s TdF, Lawson’s bike hit a water bottle in the Feed Zone (the area that the riders get snack bags full of treats) and crashed hard.  Really hard.  Only 60 miles into this 21 day, 2082 mile race.

Battered, bruised and with blood pouring out of a gash above his left eyebrow, he got back onto his bike and continued riding.  It’s just what cyclists do…

craddock

Lawson as he finished Stage 1

Like other injured riders who press on after an accident, Lawson was treated by the Tour doctor.  While he was riding his bike.  While the doctor is hanging out of a convertible going 30 mph.  Crazy stuff!

Lawson finished the stage.  In last place.  During a post race interview, he broke down into tears.  He knew he had a potentially race ending injury.  All that training.  All that sacrifice.  Only to crash on the first day.  Of THE Tour.

He needed stitches to close the gash above his eyebrow.  And X-rays showed he fractured his scapula.  Plus he hurt all over.

“That’s it,” I told Hubs, “he’s out of the race.”

But we are taking about cyclists here, not soccer players.  Ouch…

That night, Lawson tweeted that he was going to start Stage 2 and ride as far as possible on the stage.  And not only was he going to start, but he pledged a $100 donation for each stage he finished to a fund to restore the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, TX that was decimated by Hurricane Harvey last year.  He challenged all of his fans to do likewise.   The Alkek Velodrome is where scores of hopeful kids in Houston get their start in bike racing.  It’s where Lawson got his start.

He started and finished Stage 2.  And Stage 3, and Stage 4, and Stage 5, and, and, and….

Stage 9 had 13.5 miles of France’s infamously rough and bumpy cobblestones.  He said he would double his donation to $200 if he finished that stage.  AGMA didn’t think he’d do it.  He did.

Through the Alps and the Pyrenees, there were 26 climbs up mountains.  Really, really big mountains.  And lots of twists and turns in the roads descending the mountains.

And as every day passed, the donations to the Alkek Velodrome kept coming in.

Stage 20 was an individual time trial.  Each cyclist rides the route by themselves as fast as they can.  The rider with the best time after all the rider have ridden the route is the stage winner.

Lawson was interviewed again after he finished his time trial on Stage 20.  There were more tears.  This time though, they were tears of unabashed relief and joy.  He was going to make it to Paris the next day for Stage 21 and finish the Tour.

Oh, did I mention there are time limits on each stage? If a rider finishes outside of that time limit, he is out of the Tour.  Poof.  Goodbye.  Five riders left the Tour because they were outside the time limit on some of the mountain stages.

Not Lawson.

One rider was DQed for being a bad boy and punching another rider.  Some riders had to abandon the race because of illness.  Other riders were injured too badly to continue.  A broken collarbone here, a fractured vertebra there, and throw in a fractured patella. Some riders just abandon because the mountains were too hard.  31 riders in all left the race before it reached Paris.

Not Lawson.

He rode across the finish line in Paris on Sunday with his EF Drapac teammates who gave him unwavering support throughout the entire 21 days of racing.

efdrapac

Lawson and teammate American Taylor Phinney after they crossed the finish line in Paris on Sunday.  Taylor broke his nose when he crashed on a descent on Stage 19 and face planted on a tree.   And he rode two more stages.  With a broke nose.  And a fractured orbital plate underneath his right eye.  Only in the Tour…

Lawson rode across the finish line as the Latern Rouge of the 2018 Tour de France.

The Lantern Rouge is designation given the rider to who finishes in last place.  It’s named after the red lantern that was on the back of the caboose of a train back in the day.  Bringing up the rear – get it?

And he made a little bit of TdF history…he was the first rider to be in the Latern Rouge position at the end of each stage for the entire race.

But he finished the race.

He admitted that he was in intense pain for most of the Tour and that he wanted to quit more than once.  But the donations coming in for his beloved Velodrome keep him peddling forward.  One kilometer at a time.

Lawson was hoping to raise $2000.  As of July 30th, his campaign has raised over $225,000.

And now you know why AGMA loves her cycling so much!

 

 

 

Goats who dance

goats

On any given day of the week, you will find me hard at work on AGMA in my favorite coffee shop, Dancing Goats Coffee Bar.

Seriously, how can it be anything less than awesome with a name like Dancing Goats?

When I decided to start AGMA (the blog) in December of 2013, I knew I couldn’t write at home. Home was not the place to birth AGMA – too much cat hair.

I needed excitement.  I needed inspiration. I needed a place full of diverse, interesting people. I needed the stimulation of hipster surrounds.  Because AGMA – the blog and the person – is nothing if it isn’t hipster.

But most of all, I needed great coffee.

Not sure how I found Dancing Goats. It’s about 4 miles from my house so I must pass at least 6 other coffee shops on the way here. But it’s located in Decatur, GA which is a liberal enclave in the very red area surrounding Atlanta. It’s also close to world class Emory University and the all-women Agnes Scott College. DG is quite large inside with lots of seats, natural light and great wifi.

And they have great coffee.

Many a time, AGMA has come to Dancing Goats write with no clue as to what I was was going to write.  And many a time, DG has come to the rescue, providing the most interesting source material in the world – human beings. Something I see or hear will flip a rusty switch in my brain.  Actually, they’re all rusty.

Dancing Goats has provided many ah ha moments.

And did I mention they have great coffee?

My favorite seat at the high counters by the windows. On the wide end. There are 4 of them in the shop. It’s hard to explain….

During the school year, it gets really crowded. Sometimes I have to sit somewhere else. This is very definitely a 1st world problem.  But AGMA can’t seem to write as well as I can in one of the four favored seats.

Today I’m in one of the four.

This could be a Freshly Pressed post in the making.

I’ve met incredibly interesting people at DG. College professors, graduate students working on their doctorates, film industry folks, foreign visitors, business types, harried moms with their toddlers… All ages, colors, shapes and what ever else you can think of. Like I said, human beings.

…who all love great coffee.

And today, I was reminded just how much I love the staff here.

They’re normally stellar and recognize their “regulars”. AGMA tries to come once a week so I think that qualifies me as a regular…

And did I mention they make great expresso drinks?

Today, as I was ordering my mocha (fyi, AGMA is a mocha whore), the young lady behind the counter asked, “Is that a Tour de France shirt you’re wearing?”

I was stunned.  This woman was my very favorite person in the world at that moment!

“Why yes!” I said excitedly, “It starts tomorrow you know!” And I proceeded to show her the Tour de France logo on the sleeve.

“It’s official Tour de France merchandise.”

Yes, boys and girls… YES!!!

It’s what AGMA longs for 48 weeks of the year. It’s 21 days of sheer joy and delight. It’s the time of year where you will find me glued to the television (or my phone if I have to be out and about) every morning for 3 hours. It’s the biggest, most grueling annual athletic event in the world with the best athletes in the world. (Yeah – I said it…)

It’s the Tour de France!!!

(crickets)

For those of you who are relatively new to AGMA, I have this recently acquired inexplicable passion for professional men’s elite cycling. I just LOVE watching it. And it’s not the tight spandex suits these very fit young men wear.

Butt it doesn’t hurt.

I had the thrill of actually being there twice in the past 5 years, and it’s an experience like no other. It’s pretty much the best party ever!

Imagine that you are a fanatic football fan and get to go to the Super Bowl, or a crazed college basketball fan and get to go the the NCAA finals. Or (very timely) a serious soccer fan and get to go to the World Cup finals.

SSSSSSCCCCCCOOOOOORRRRRREEEEEE!

That’s what it’s like for AGMA.

They guesstimate that, in 2016, between 10 to 12 million fans lined the roadsides in France over the Tour’s 3 week duration.

It’s really a sad that, once Lance Armstrong fell from grace (as he should have),  American interest in cycling shriveled up like Cadet Bonespur’s winkie.

But that’s another post (on the state of American cycling, NOT CB’s winkie…)

AGMA will try very hard to find time to post over the next three weeks, but I’m making no guarantees.

I’m going to be very busy managing my four – countem’, FOUR – TdF fantasy cycling teams. I’ll report how well my teams did in August.

AGMA knows you’ll be holding your breath until then.  Naturally.

Watch out world, the SpandexAvengers are on the loose!!

I need a cigarette…

H-E-L-L Ohhhhh

11.10 Bicycle Hell (from "Puck")
Source: Library of Congress
Format: RGB tiffAGMA’s going to hell.

I’ve made that declaration in the past, but now I’m sure of it…

All thanks to that once a year sporting event that to me, is like catnip to a cat. Like an empty New Jersey public beach to Chris Christie on the 4th of July. Like a Mar a Lago chocolate cake to tRump.

In other words…totally irresistible no matter how fat you are.

I’m speaking, of course, of my totally inexplicable obsession with men’s elite cycling, espeically the Tour de France.

This year, AGMA has three TdF fantasy teams. I spent hours pouring over rider data on procyclingstats.com.

I agonized over whether I should have more GC riders than sprinters. Or more sprinters than punchy Classics riders. Or visa versa? Should I have a time trial specialist? Should I look for a ‘dark horse’ rider to emerge out of the peloton to do great things?

It was harrowing.

But the real trouble started when I shelled out $39.99 for NBC Sports Gold Cycling coverage. Live streaming coverage to your phone, laptop or tablet, unlimited replays, special features and over 30 hours of extra coverage. And the live streaming includes both commercial free coverage with some Thunder from Down Under commentators or the NBCSN coverage with commercials.

“Why would anybody choose the streaming coverage with commercials over commercial free?”, you ask?

Oh dear ones, you have so much to learn…

Because TdF announcing royalty, the Harry Caray and Vin Scully of cycling, Phil Liggett (73) and Paul Sherwen (61) are announcing on NBCSN. They do the commercial world wide English language coverage (except in Australia I guess) and are cycling announcing icons.

Plus you get to hear the NBC team of Bobke Roll, Christian Vande Velde, Steve Porino, Steve Schlanger and, my favorite retired cyclist of all time, Jens Voigt.

Be still my heart.

Numerous times in the past several weeks, AGMA’s had my cell phone propped up on the outside of our glass shower enclosure while the bluetooth speaker blasts Phil and Paul (and all of the commercials.)  I did this today as a matter of fact. God forbid I miss any of the action while I’m showering.

But this is a huge improvement over past years when I tried to shower and get ready in the morning during the commercial breaks.

We’ve never, ever had a TV in our bedroom so I would have to run up and down the stairs during the commercials. Round about 4 days into the race, AGMA moved my toiletries and hairdryer down to our 1st floor powder room so I could finish getting ready within ear shot of the race call.

But no more.

AGMA’s free to go where I want to do what I want and not miss a minute of the action as long as I have my phone.  I love technology!

I had a MRI scheduled a few weeks ago. I checked in, then settled into a comfy seat in the waiting room with my phone and earbuds. Based on past experience, I thought I had a good 20 minute wait at least before they called me back.  They called AGMA back 5 minutes later.

Seriously?

But the worst, and the reason I’m pretty sure I’m doomed, is that I’ve been watching the Tour in church. During mass.

H-E-L-L

I have my muted phone on the bench beside me sort of covered up with my sweater. But I only glance over a few times to see where things stand. As I told a friend, “I only watch during the Psalm singing and the offering hymn. Nothing’s really happening then anyway.” He burst out laughing.

H-E-L-L

But as Luther Ingram sang, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” And I DO love my boys in spandex!

Sadly, my fantasy teams are not doing well. A combination of riders dropping out of the Tour for various reasons and just plain stupid team selections have got me in the middle of the pack in most of my leagues. Not bad, but not the top 5% finish AGMA had last year in the Velogames league.

First world problem.

Stage 16 went off today. Australian Michael “Bling” Matthews won with a brilliant Team Sunweb plan and fabulous team support. He’s also very close to taking the Green Jersey away from German Marcel Kittel.

I can hear you now.

ZZZZzzzz….

But, mercifully for you, it’s all over soon.

Sunday is Stage 21. They finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris. It’ll be so exciting! It always is.

Then Monday. Monday. Monday starts PTDFM (post-Tour de France malaise)

Back to the present. Back to the news. Back to reality.

And back down the rabbit hole with the Family Von Trump.

H-E-L-L

Randy virus’ and men in spandex

cold

So AGMA has a great idea for a post. It’s gonna be good – starts out with a quote from Shakespeare.

High brow stuff, ya know?

But then I just stared at the quote for 5 minutes trying to figure out how to cleverly ease into my topic as I am wont to do. Ya know?

And nothing. Zip. Nada. Blank. Like the Orange One’s cerebral cortex.

But it’s not writers block.

AGMA’s sick.

‘member how, last week, I was in Chicago helping my son and DIL move into a house? And ‘member how I wasn’t really sure I was looking forward to it?  And ‘member how I wasn’t sure I would even survive the week?

The good news is that AGMA did indeed survive. The bad new is that the whole Chicago crew was sick.

Son and DIL had horrible hacking coughs. Cutest Grandson In The World had an ear infection. And 7 month old Wonder Woman Jr. had a cold. A bad one.

Poor critter. She was coughing, sneezing and runny nosing most of the week. But surprisingly, she was in a delightful mood, babbling sweetly away at me. Most of the time.

I won’t bore you with AGMA’s obsession with her oh so cute and oh so delightful grand daughter. Just know about the only thing I didn’t catch on video was when fluids and solids were flung out of various orifices.  Her’s not mine.

And the gal can fling…

Every piece of clothing I wore during the day received their fair share of baby spit up. My shoes too. Even though most of the time she wore a bib the size of a Mexican serape. I’m not really sure how that happened.

Because she didn’t feel well, she need a lot of attention and holding. I mean a lot of holding. Every nap. And she takes 4 naps a day.

The first nap of the first day, Nana AGMA held her until she fell asleep. But she was having none of it when I tried putting her in her crib. She screamed. I picked her up and rocked her. This little scene played out four…count ‘em…..four times.

I gave up. She slept on me for an hour.

Then I had an epiphany. I only get to see her once every couple of months. I didn’t want to be known as the Nana AGMA who let her precious grand daughter cry herself to sleep. Oh, of course it was all fine and good for my kids to do that when they were babies, but not my sweet V. Funny how that works.

She took her naps on my shoulder for the rest of my visit.

Her mom put her down in her crib at night. I figured my DIL could deal with the “Nana effect”.

At one point last Wednesday, Wonder Woman Jr. sneezed directly in my face.

Bullseye.

It all happened so fast. There was no time for protection or deflection.

Even though I washed my face a few minutes after being doused, AGMA knew it was just a matter of time. I could feel the cold virus‘, who beat a hasty retreat up into my nasal passages, marching relentlessly toward my adenoid area. They were positively giddy at the thought of reproducing in my nose.

Gross.

Actually, I probably was already a goner before she sneezed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colds spread by:

  • Skin-to-skin contact (there were plenty of hugs)
  • Saliva (lots of kissing a drool covered face)
  • Touching contaminated surfaces (bib’s, burp clothes, toys, you name it…)
  • Airborne respiratory droplets (sneezes and coughs)

See…goner.

I got home Saturday evening. Coughing. But I though I had dodged the bullet because I felt okay.

Until this morning.

AGMA has fuzzy brain, a sore throat, coughs, muscle aches and is sleepy.

So.very.sleepy.

But even though I feel like crap now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about last week. AGMA, as it turns out, was very happy to help out. And get all of those hugs, snuggles and kisses.

Priceless, even if they were virus infected.

So for the next few days, AGMA’s going to be laying low. I’ve got to get better.

Fast.

I’m running 15 miles on Saturday with my marathon group. And another 6.2 on Tuesday, July 4th. With 59,999 of my close friends. In AJC Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10K in the world. Yes – the world.

Running in Altanta in July. Heat, hills and humidity.

It’s gonna be great!

So, Happy 4th of July USA friends! AGMA wants you to take hope, courage and inspiration from our founding mothers and fathers in that we the people can successfully defeat an oppressive regime.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”

Thomas Jefferson. Very smart man.

#resisthate

And OMG, OMG, OMG – don’t forget – the TOUR DE FRANCE starts on Saturday, July 1!!!!!!

Three glorious weeks of the men in spandex. And ya’ll know how AGMA feels about the men in spandex.

I’m starting to feel better already…

 

 

The bad granny and the boys in spandex

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So my post last week was unexpected, and interrupted AGMA’s travel blog from her trip to Europe in July. I’m back in the swing of things now!

But rest easy. This is the third and last (keyword being last…) travel post. Then it’s back to the normal AGMA nonsense.

So in my last travel post, I was in Provence and had a mouth full of creeping crud from my prednisone. Remember?

From Provence, we trekked to the Principality of Andorra high up in the Pyrenees Mountains between the boarders of Spain and France.  You have to REALLY want to visit Andorra to get to Andorra. There is no easy way to get there.

And I REALLY wanted to visit Andorra. We were going to watch Stage 9 and 10 of the 2016 Tour de France.

Cyclists in spandex! My kinda creepy obsession…

I went to France in 2013 for the last week of the 100th Tour de France.  It was electrifying. I was hooked and have been trying to get back every since. Long suffering and patient Hubs agreed to take 3 days out of our trip to fuel AGMA’s creepy obsession.

What a guy.

We watched the cyclists on Stage 9 on their way up to a rain and hail filled finish from the comfort of the Andorran village of Ordino. No rain or hail 18K from the finish. My cowbell got a real workout.

And I found the perfect TdF T-shirt for my 20 month old grandson (pictured above.) Might as well get him indoctrinated early to his granny’s creepy obsession right?

The next day was a rest day. Normally, when I’m watching from home, I hate rest days. AGMA gets bored with no Tour to watch. But I loved the rest day in Andorra.

Rest day = cyclist stalking day.

The cyclists don’t really rest on rest days. They go out for a 2 to 3 hour easy ride in the morning so their bodies don’t freak out from no activity. They have to keep the engine running so to speak or it will shut down. And that’s not good.

Armed with my list of team hotels, I went in search of my favorite cyclists. Unfortunately, AGMA left our hotel too late to catch the teams going out for their rides, but I knew I had a chance of catching them when they got back.

AGMA went after Team Sky, a powerhouse cycling team based in Great Britain, and the team of two time TdF winner Chris Froome. He was also in the lead of this year’s TdF (with the yellow jersey) after Stage 9.

He went on to win the whole tamale this year and got his 3rd TdF win.

After waiting over an hour, the team finally came in from their ride. All but Chris Froome. The cell phone cameras went crazy. Mine included. Sadly, I lost most of those pictures the next day due to a smooth move on AGMA’s part.

I hate technology.

The fabulous thing about being a cycling fan is access. You get nearly unfetterd access to world class athletes like no other sport. You can just walk up and start talking to them and/or you can take a selfie with them and/or get their autograph. They looked tired so I opted for an autograph.

AGMA is a bad granny.

Instead of getting autographs on the notebook I brought, I got out my grandson’s cute TdF shirt, looked at the cyclists with pleading eyes and said, “Can you sign this for my grandson please?” How could they say no?

They couldn’t.

30 minutes later, Chris Froome finally rode in in his yellow jersey. The access thing doesn’t always apply to the yellow jersey – the teams tend to be very protective of their big “stars”. He pretty much stayed away from the small crowd of stalkers, but he was close enough for AGMA to get some great pictures. Most of which I lost.

He finally came up to the small group of remainig fans and signed a few autographs. I gave him the doe-eyed look and said, “Mr. Froome, could you sign this for my grandson please?” And he did.

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AGMA is a bad granny.

I have no intention of giving that T-shirt to my grandson. His parents have no appreciation of cycling. They might actually let him wear it. The horror!

AGMA’s going to wait until he gets older. Hopefully, with my influence and that of his uncle – my cycling crazy younger son – he’ll become a cycling fan too.

Then he can tell the story of how his crazy, cyclist stalking, spandex loving Nan met the best cyclist in the world and got his autograph for him.

It was a grrrrreat trip!

Oh yeah, after Andorra, we went to Lourdes, France which was amazing, then onto Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls which was insane. Totally insane!

We spent the last night of our trip, July 14th, in Barcelona before we flew home the next day.

July 14th is Bastille Day in France. The Tour de France went through Provence that day and up Mont Vonteux. Chris Froome actually RAN part of the way up due to a freak accident with a moto that crushed his bike. Nothing like that has ever happened in the TdF.  It was crazy.

It was also the day of the horrific attack in Nice that killed 85 innocent, peaceful people who were enjoying being out with friends and family, celebrating Bastille Day. Let’s hope that nothing like that ever happens again. It was beyond crazy.

AGMA went to bed that night incredibly sad, but determined to continue traveling. We can’t let this type of evil frighten us, and keep us from sowing the seeds of peace and understanding all over the world. If we stop traveling, the bad guys win.

And we can’t afford to let that happen.

Australia in November anybody?

Off again

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Cycling: 101th Tour de France / Stage 15 Illustration Illustratie / Peleton Peloton / Lavendel Flowers Field Champs Veld / Landscape Paysage Landschap / Tallard – Nimes (222Km)/ Ronde van Frankrijk TDF Etape Rit (c) Tim De Waele

AGMA’s off again.

Off key, off kilter and off balance. Yes all of that, but off as in so long, farewell, auf weidersehn, goodbye.

ROAD TRIP!!

Well, it’s a road trip that starts with a plane ride.

Actually it started with a plane ride. Due to the fabulous miracle of technology, I’m scheduling this post to be published after we leave. Right about now we should be ass deep in a lavender field in Provence.

Nice image.

Hubs and I are on one of our most ambitious trips yet. Ambitious not in distance traveled or mountains ascended but ambitious in the variety of experiences we’ve scheduled into less than 2 weeks.

Honestly, it didn’t seem that bad when we were planning it. Now that it’s staring us in the face, I’m sort of wondering what sort of mushroom we ate that night.

Tapas and touring in Barcelona, the markets, wine and gastronomy of Provence, the thrill of the Tour de France in Andorra, the holiness of Lourdes and the Running with the Bulls adrenaline rush in Pamplona. In 12 days.

We’re freakin’ nuts.

But as AGMA has been so clearly and soberly reminded of late, she’s far closer to the end of the race than the beginning. Might as well go for the gusto while she’s still on our feet.

Wasn’t that an old beer commercial?

And did you happen to catch the Tour de France part?

AGMA’S GOING BACK TO THE TOUR DE FRANCE!

Did I say that too loud?

It’s all part of the not Aging Gracefully schtick. A relatively normal, middle class 60+ American grandmother to 1.5 children chasing up and down mountains in Europe after world class male cyclists in their 20’s & 30’s wearing spandex.

It’s difficult to explain this late in life obsession so I’m not going to even try.

But thank God AGMA has a late in life obsession.

Something to be passionate, enthusiastic and joyful about. Something to look forward to so much that you feel like you can’t contain your excitement. Something to make you feel like you’re 8 years old again on a summer night in June chasing lighting bugs.

I’m pretty sure the lightening bugs weren’t wearing spandex.

I know plenty of folks my age who feel that, for whatever reason, that kind of joy, enthusiasm and passion is meant for those younger, and not them. And I think that’s incredibly sad because it’s absolutely not true.  Like most of what The Donald says.

My amazing younger son is continually rolling his eyes at me. When I became a massage therapist at 57. When I started my blog at 60. When I ran my first marathon at 61. When I put together my first Tour de France fantasy team last year. When I started my little eBay business a few months ago. When I asked him what kind of a tattoo I should get…

My Lucy and Ethel schemes.

He also is very proud of how AGMA is navigating the choppy waters of later life. He told me so a couple of weeks ago. That felt pretty damn good.

And, if the truth be known, he’s responsible for starting me on the cycling obsession AND the marathoning. But that’s another post.

Behind every successful AGMA is an incredibly supportive son who is also a BFF.

Don’t you love it when you can make your own best friend? It’s just that you have to wait 32 years until they blossom…

It was worth the wait.

So while Hubs and I are picking the lavender out of our crevices and enjoying the discount Euro thanks to those wacky Brits and Brexit, throw caution to the wind and do something that will get your pulse racing and give you a devilish gleam in your eyes.

Please.

Look for AGMA on the TV coverage of Stage 9 of this years Tour de France this Sunday, July 10th. I’ll be the lady in the tall red and white Cat in the Hat hat with the cowbell (gotta have more…), the yellow TdF shirt and the green, yellow and white leis around my neck.

Seriously.

With the racing pulse and gleam in her eye.

Viva la Tour!

Batsh*t one last time

…in 2015 that is.

I know, I know.  I said I’d post my last Tour de France post before Sunday.  I meant to say by Sunday.  By midnight on Sunday.  In my time zone.  So I’ve got like over three hours to spare.

Tada!  Here it is!

Still crickets…

But OMG – I now totally understand why people do those fantasy league thingys! American football, soccer, basketball, baseball; I could never understand why these fantasy leagues are so popular.

Until now.

This year, AGMA decided to participate in the NBC Fantasy Cycling Challenge and is now O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D!   Notches up the enjoyment of watching like 100%.  I didn’t know that was even possible…   You “hire” 15 riders but get a total salary “budget” so you can’t just pick all the awesome riders.  Crap.  Now I’m angsting every night about my 9 rider “starting” line up.  It’s so much fun!

So I’m finding even more ways to love my beloved TdF.  Even more ways to be batsh*t crazy about it.  Lucky you.

Here’s my final post from last year.  I can here an audible sigh of relief from some of you.  Okay, most of you.

Thank you all for indulging AGMA this week!  I mean, if you can’t share your passion with your friends, who can you share it with?  Ya’ll are the best!

Batsh*t Crazy Part III (originally published 7/26/14)

archdetri

I don’t want to whine, but it’s lonely being a Tour de France fan.

Most people don’t understand why the hell you watch it. And they sure don’t want to hear about what happened on yesterday’s action packed stage that you are bursting to share with somebody. Anybody. Hello….

You end up talking to the barista at Starbucks or the checkout person at Target. They’re at work; they can’t walk away from you. Captive audiences. Maybe I should go to some cycling shops to “browse”. When one of the employees asks if they can help me, I can say, “How about the stage of the Tour yesterday? Crazy, right?”

Not just crazy. It’s batsh*t crazy.

So, the great thing about my trip to France last year was that I was surrounded by people with the same obsession. They know who the riders are and what teams they’re on. And what a GC rider and a peloton is. And, most important, they know that the English language television announcers of the Tour are like rock stars!

Yeah – rock stars.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are the Tour announcers who broadcast to all English speaking countries. Bob Roll, or “Bobke”, is a former American professional cyclist who augments – along with a couple of other guys – the broadcast for American audiences. All 37 of us.  R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.

I had my picture taken with all three. Now just let that it sink in.

It happened this way children… On that first fateful day of my TdF experience last year – Stage 17 in Chorges, France – remember, just when I though things could not get any better? They did. Both are long stories – blah, blah, blah. But I got to meet Bobke and Paul. This is a big deal and the 36 other people in the US who are cycling fans understand this.

These guys, along with all of the other media type folks and broadcast vans from all over the world, are behind an impenetrable fortress of chain link fencing at each stage finish. No credentials = no access. Without access, it’s hard to stalk…eh…talk to you’re favorite “rock star” announcers.

Honestly, it was dumb luck. It was being in the right place at the right time. Twice. It was being bold enough to holler “Hello!” Asking if they’d mind getting their picture taken with you. Granted, the pictures are with them on one side of the chain link fence and me on the other, but I’m getting the “shoulder touch” from both.

R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.

Our group went on to watch three other stages in the French Alps. I couldn’t even get close to the media area for me to try to stalk…eh…find Phil Liggett, the missing link in my triumvirate of cycling broadcast gods.

Then, quite unexpectedly, in Paris, the amazing city of lights, magic happened. Ah Paris!

Stage 21 of the 100th edition of the Tour de France. The cyclists were going to be coming into Paris at dusk. It was 90 degrees F at 9AM.

To kill time, I decided to walk down the entire Champs Elysees from the Arch d’Triumph to the Place de la Concorde. Wanted to “soak” up the TdF experience. It was hot, humid and crowded. I was soaking it up alright…

Almost at the end of my walk, by the media trucks and busses, BEFORE of the chain link fence was erected, I spied HIM. It was Phil out in the open – no credentials needed. He was a sitting duck! I walked up to him and babbled like a tweener meeting Davy Jones at a 1968 Monkees concert. Some nice bystander took a picture of us. Got the “shoulder touch” again. Yeah – that’s right. I needed a cigarette. I don’t smoke.

The fence eventually went up, the cyclists arrived, the Arch d’Triumph lit up, the awards given and it was over. It would have been a serious let down if I hadn’t stayed in Paris 10 more days… Ah Paris!

The 2014 Tour de France ends tomorrow. I’ve been watching it on TV. I’m in Atlanta.

Pass the Prozac please.

Guano loco parte II

Hello….   Anybody out there?

(crickets)

As expected, I’m a stranger in a strange land.  A voice crying out in the wilderness.  A Tour de France fan.

I told somebody who commented on my last post that I won’t extend the “torture” too long.  The other two promised (threatened?) posts will be catipulted into the blog-o-sphere in the sky by Sunday.  Next week, the AGMA you know and love, that crazy, wacky, post-menopausal imp will be back with her “normal” abby-normal musings.  My cycling maniac persona will go back into retirement.

At least until next year when, I’m sure, all hell will break lose and I’ll totally lose control. Again.

Batsh*t Crazy Part II (originally published on 7/16/2014)

KeepCalm
Yeah – I’m going to write about the Tour de France again. I warned you in my last blog post that you’d hear more about it. Sorry. But ya’ll know that even if you don’t like professional cycling or sports in general, there may be a few things to smile at below…

And I can use “ya’ll” because I live in Georgia.

Today is the first anniversary of a most momentous occasion in my life. One of THE most momentous occasions of my life. It ranks right up there with my wedding day, the birth of my two children and the time I got to see “Dancing With The Stars” live. But probably not in that order…

A year ago today, I stepped off a train in Grenoble, France. I had a bag full of American flags and custom t-shits, a digital camera full of pixels waiting to be pixelated, and visions of rotating road bike wheels and cyclists in spandex in my head. I was on a pilgrimage. I was excited beyond words. I was going to see the Tour de France!

My roommate during this adventure was a delightful 36 year old woman from Australia who didn’t mind rooming with a woman old enough to be her mother. Easily. Actually, there were quite a few Aussies in our tour group. Australians are wild and crazy cycling fans. They dress up in crazy hats and wave very large Australia flags. They have blow up kangaroos and blow up guitars. They like to drink beer before, during and after the race. Of course, I hung out with them instead of the Americans. Duh.

Before I left the USA, I had custom t-shirts made up to take with me. The first one cheered on the American cyclists. It had all their names listed on the front and on the back it said “Born in the USA”. The second one said “I (heart) le Tour de France 2013” on the front and “Please sign here” in French on the back. I had fellow travelers and strangers by the side of the road sign it as a keepsake. The third one, my favorite – see above – said “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” in honor of my cycling hero and huge cycling fan favorite, Jens Voigt. “Shut up legs” is his famous – amoung cycling fans – catch phrase. The back said “Jens Y’all”. Yeah…Georgia.

I wish I could say I was making this up, but sadly it’s all true. My name is Aging Gracefully My Ass, I have no life, and I’m a uber geek.

There are 21 Stages (cycling days) to the Tour. Our first big day watching the Tour live and in person was on Stage 17, a time trial stage. Normally, at the end of a “regular” racing stage, the cyclists go to a restricted area with their team buses that’s off-limits to the general public. General public like me. Bummer. But if you have lots and lots of money then it’s possible to get what they call “VIP Access”. No $$=no access. Bummer.

Without going into detail that’s boring – but it’s probably too late – under the right conditions, a time trial stage can give you unrestricted, uncensored access to these incredible world class athletes. It’s like hanging out with the German team right after the World Cup or chilling in the locker room with the winning team at the Super Bowl or being back stage during “Dancing With The Stars”. Like “you can see the glitter on their sequins” access. Serious.

We had the right conditions last year.

And that’s when this late middle age cycling fan’s dreams came true… I saw some of my very favorite elite professional cyclists up close and personal. Like “you could smell their sweat” up close and personal. Like “get an autograph and a hug” up close and personal. Like “have a conversation with Brent Bookwalter” up close and personal. At this point, my experience was getting close to exceeding that of my wedding, the birth of my children AND “Dancing With The Stars”.

Combined.

The scales tipped and I went over the edge of “best experience ever” when I met The Jensie (Jens Voigt’s nickname.) He signed my “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” t-shirt. While I was wearing it. I think he may be my “senior crush”. He was the oldest cyclist in the Tour last year at the ripe old age of 41. He’s the oldest cyclist in this year’s Tour. I’m old enough to be his mother. Okay – a very young mother but still… Does this make me a cougar?

Okay, this post is getting too long and there are still LOTS of good stories to tell. One more post maybe…? It’ll be the last, I promise.

Batsh*t Crazy Part III – coming soon to a WordPress blog near you!