Since my last dental remarks, I’ve spent a cumulative six additional hours in the chairs of various tooth professionals: two more root canals and several more hours of refining the preps, i.e., more grinding. I can look forward to at least four upcoming visits: final crown application, upcoming cleaning, periodontal grafts for receding gums, and at least one more root canal for the new throbbing that’s emerged on the right side of my mouth.
I thought it was really funny when, as a freshman at MIT, I asked a company for whom I did consulting to pay me in cases of coca cola. My room was packed from floor to ceiling with coke; I practically brushed my teeth with it. What a crazy boy! He’s so crazy!
Crazy like a dodo.
This week I started to learn to ride a unicycle along with my friend Rony. We’ve spent two evenings mounting the thing, wobbling for a while, and then falling off. I can go about 30 feet on a long, lucky run, but I’m learning fast. My shins and ankles are covered in bruises. And yesterday, Rony hit a curb and popped the tube, so we’ve got to replace that.
We’re using the MIT method of learning to ride a unicycle, which seems to be a pretty fast way of learning, considering that some people have told me it’s taken them two weeks of solo trial and error to get as far as I am now. Of course, I can’t unicycle in the mountains in the snow, nor can I unicycle across the United States, nor across China.
It is so similar to learning to ride a bike. Once you’ve got it, it starts to come really easily, and it seems impossible to unlearn. You feel your brain exploring and storing patterns: a mounting-the-unicycle subroutine, an idling-in-place subroutine, and a few disaster-recovery subroutines for when the uni tilts or pivots you forward or backward.
Once you’ve figured it out, and gone a few turns of the crank solo without falling, you’re no longer thinking about it as analytically. It’s no longer “head up, eyes straight ahead, weight on the seat, pedal evenly.” You just remember the feeling of when it worked, and try to go back to that place. It’s like all the learning is right there in the tissue.
And of course there’s that frustrating point in learning anything that takes practice where you know glory because you’ve tasted it, but you just can’t seem to get back there again…
I dropped my laptop on the floor last week and so I’ve not been able to post a recap of the IronNat bike ride to Provincetown, and in the intervening week most of that day has smeared in my memory into a homogenous blur of lactic acid and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Fortunately Robert posted a brilliant play-by-play of the event as it transpired.
On the eve of the ride, I was so hepped up on my own juices that even after three pasta dinners, try as I might, I could not fall asleep. I just sort of lay there in bed, tossing around. Around 2am, I decided that this was a dire problem, and that some sleep â€” any sleep â€” would be preferable to attempting the single greatest athletic feat of my life completely sleep-deprived. So I took three doses of NyQuil and prepared to bed down for the night.
Sleep did not come. But 4am did, and rested or not, it was time to go.
Leaving at 4 was smart. There was no traffic on the road and it was cool. On Alex’s advice, I told myself that the first thirty miles were just a warm-up, and cruised pretty easily down the totally untrafficed route 53 before forcing myself to stop and send a video to Robert’s waiting mailbox. Just before, I passed the largest piece of copyrighted art in the world.
Anyway, thirty miles quickly turned into fifty and I was on the Cape. From there, the hills were gentle and rolling, and it was just a matter of staying on route 6A/6 for another 60 miles, and the ride was over. Cars whizzed by pretty close, which was often scary, but the cape is sleepy and the roads were nearly empty till about 10:30 in the morning.
The end of the ride was hot, and I was sweating profusely, and at one point I think I ran out of salt because the sweating stopped abruptly, until I ate pretzels and started to sweat again. Or maybe I was just freaking out.
Critical equipment included: my GPS (not the Forerunner), which continuously reassured me I was heading in the right direction, allowed me to relay my location to Robert on the phone, and made it really easy to make last-minute changes of plan (I decided to take a bike path for 12 of the last 20 miles); my telephone; and my awesome LeMond bike, which I can pick up with one finger, and which I no longer feel like a total poser for owning.
All in all, it was a lot easier than I expected, and I felt like a titan when the ride was over. The whole thing took me nine hours of clock time, and 7 hours and 20 minutes of bike time, with an average speed of 16mph. Various people have expressed disappointment that I didn’t do the full 240-mile roundtrip, so maybe I’ll try to do that later this summer. Better would be to find some other seemingly implausible achievement and go for that. Like getting four root canals in one week. Oh, wait…
Of course, I’m so excited I can’t sleep. This does not bode well.
I’ve been reviewing footage of the Tour de France on my tivo for the last hour, and I’ve read all the vital information on lancearmstrong.com, so I think I am as prepared as I could possibly be for tomorrow’s challenge.
Joe has repeated his stipulation that it is physically impossible for any human being to ride 120 miles and then spend the night partying in Boston, and I believe I stand before you ready to demonstrate the triumph of human will over the physical laws of the universe once again.
Thank you all for the generous donations that have come pouring in from every inhabited region of our planet. The $24 that tomorrow’s ride will raise will be used to raise global awareness of various issues to be determined, at our discretion, etc etc.
Alex Graveley has volunteered to wake me up at 4am so that I can get an early start on the day, and as I previously mentioned, Robert will be posting video footage of my progress as I go.
Last night I was talking to my friend Joe Shaw about our weekend plans, and I mentioned that I’d been thinking about riding my bike to the tip of Cape Cod.
“But what about all the parties Saturday night?” Joe asked. “You’re just going to skip them?”
“No, I’ll make it back in time for the parties.”
“It can’t be done,” Joe said. “No man can bike to Provincetown and make it back in time to party in Boston.”
And thus was born the “Prove Joe Shaw Wrong” challenge.
Tomorrow morning, I will be leaving my comfortable home in Back Bay and biking down to Cape Cod, around the horn of the Cape, and to the very tip of civilization at Provincetown. A total distance of 120 miles (193km), more than triple any daily distance I’ve ever covered before.
As part of the PJSW pledge drive, we will be accepting donations of $0.10 for each mile covered. All pledges go to the PJSW foundation.
Along the way I will make videos of my fatigued and belabored state and send them to Robert Love for posting online.
One of the things that seems to happen when you write about dental adventures on your web page is that many strangers and old friends email you with their own gruesome tales. Stories much, much worse than your own.
To those who wrote I say: your hideous traumas have put in perspective the constant throbbing in my jaw. Thank you all.
David and I hung out a lot the summer of 1998, when I lived in Mountain View and worked at SGI testing context switch performance on some new graphics hardware they were developing. Actually, not on the hardware, but on the simulator. Before the hardware was finished, SGI would build a software simulator of the card so that the graphics subsystem developers would have something to work against until the hardware is done. A good idea in practice. And I remember fondly the meeting in which we discovered that the hardware was big endian and the simulator was little endian…
Anyway, David took me hiking in Big Basin in a car he called the “bitchseeker,” and I used to crash at his place in Los Gatos and watch laserdiscs. It all seems so retro now!
(Visit David Miller’s blog to learn about his latest activities.)