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Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004

In Which the AP Goes Bicycling With a Very Manly President


Stop that Meme!

Mountain-biker Bush takes fall

By Scott Lindlaw
The Associated Press

Gosh Scotty, did you say mountain? Mountain??! I've been in Waco, and I just have to ask, what in the name of sweet Jebus are you talking about? Yes, Scotty, there are mountains in Texas, 450 miles from Waco, which by the way, is located in a geographical feature known as the Great Plains. Perhaps I should take a moment to introduce Scotty, our intrepid reporter, to the incomparable map database at the Perry-Castaņeda Library.

Texas Mountains

And Scotty, we're not done with the maps yet. We'll get back to that topic at the end.

Crawford, Texas - President Bush charged up punishing climbs and down steep dirt paths on his high-performance bike today, at one point landing flat on his back.

Flat on his back? What a coincidence, Scotty, just like our economy!

The president dusted himself off from his fall on a treacherous descent, waved his medics away and kept rolling, a small cut on his knee and dirt on his back the only signs he had wrecked. He allowed that he was a bit shaken up.

Oh, Scotty, he's so manly. Can you stand it? How do you restrain yourself?

Bush's new hobby is a way to get his heart rate up and spend time outdoors without aggravating his achy knees.

With an Associated Press reporter riding with him, Bush pedaled to remote corners of his 1,600-acre ranch.

Ooooo, ooooo, Scotty, is that "reporter" you?! All the other boys must be sooo jealous.

Bush has been riding the knobby-tired bikes since February, and he rides with abandon.

With abandon? Just like he wages unnecessary war, Scotty?

He takes on dangerous sections that would give veterans pause.

He keeps a cramp-inducing pace on long uphill sections, panting hard by the time he reaches each peak, backing off a little to recover and then attacking the next hill. He pants hard, emitting low "hrrr, hrrr, hrrr" grunts with each stroke of the pedals, his shoulders bobbing up and down.

Oh Scotty, that is just so manly! The attacking and the panting and the bobbing and the grunting! You must have been beside yourself with manly appreciation for his manliness!

Over an 18-mile ride that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, ...

Oh my goodness, Scotty, did you say 13.5 miles per hour? Why that's only slightly less than Lance Armstrong's 25 mph average speed during his 2000 Tour de France victory, which covered 2,200 miles, including several mountain passes in the Pyrenees and the French Alps. Wow, 13.5 mph is really somewhat, ah, ordinary. But manly in its own way nonetheless.

... he burns about 1,200 calories and his heart rate reaches 168 beats per minute. That's about four times his resting rate and in the same range as Lance Armstrong's when the six-time Tour de France winner is pedaling hard.

Gosh, speaking of coincidences, my car has four tires, just like Michael Schumacher's world championship Ferrari! Wow! Our Dear Leader is just like Lance, and I'm just like Michael.

"At my age, you're more concerned about the cardiovascular" benefits of a workout, the 58-year-old president said. Mountain biking, he said, has a certain "mind-clearing" effect on him, as well.

"Mind clearing"? Gosh, I just can't imagine.

His bike is one of the best in the business: a Trek Fuel 98 made of space-age carbon fiber. The frame is adorned with high-tech components that Bush professes to know little about, including a motorcycle-style front and rear suspension that soaks up big bumps.

List price: about $3,100. He had it specially fitted by a Washington bicycle retailer.

"My right knee has finally had it," Bush said. "Running is really a painful experience for me now." "I was looking for a different way to get outside and get exercise," Bush said. "Swimming is outside exercise, but you don't get the feeling of the wind rushing past you, nor can you swim your favorite piece of property." Swimming does not offer countless ways to get injured either.

Crashes are routine in mountain biking, and Bush has been baptized with a few wrecks.

Yes, he crashes because he's manly, not because he's a spaz.

On May 22, he lost traction on a dirt road, scraping his chin, upper lip, nose, right hand and both knees. The next day, a Secret Service agent riding behind him slammed onto the ground at high speed on a paved section, breaking his collarbone and three ribs.

Bush approaches steep downhills warily.

In the moments before today's crash, he warns his riding party of a sharp drop and a hard left turn ahead.

"I'm gonna show you a hill that would choke a mule," he says.

Mmmm ... choked mule. Maaannnly.

He hits the brakes and is steadily advancing downhill when his front tire loses its grip amid the loose rocks. His foot gets stuck in a strap that keeps it on the pedal.

See, Scotty, it wasn't his fault, it was that dastardly strap. Probably French, if you ask me.

In the blink of an eye, his rear wheel is in the air, and Bush is flying high over the handlebars, landing on his back with the bike on top of him.

He lies motionless for a few moments. The reporter hoists the bike off him just as his medics arrive to attend to him.

Gosh Scotty, your heart must have been in your throat. How frightening! I hope you didn't hurt yourself hoisting that carbon-fiber prairie-bike.

There are trees and a drop-off nearby, and the road is littered with rocks, but Bush is uninjured.

A reflector has snapped off the bike. He leaves it as a warning marker for next time. Bush straightens out his handlebars, throws a leg over the bike and keeps rolling.

"We've got thrills, spills - you name it," he says.

But he is tentative descending the remainder of the downhill section, dabbing a foot on the ground as he goes.

Well, sometimes tentativeness goes before manliness.

He jokes that he was leading the "peleton," the rolling swarm of bicyclists in races like the Tour de France - a race he watched regularly this month before Armstrong's victory Sunday.

"I was cautious of my fellow bikemen, I didn't want to cut anybody off and drive them into the canyon," Bush says with a smile. "So I slowed down and because I slowed down, I lost inertia and tumbled."

Well, that ... um ... makes a lot of sense. When he "slowed down", he lost "inertia." And then our Dear Leader went over the handlebars because he was being careful. Uh, yeah, that's it.

But, wait, Scotty! Don't forget the dastardly French strap of treachery!

Bush loves showing off his ranch, and he takes his guests - and the Secret Service agents who ride with him, pistols bulging through their shirts - to rarely visited corners of it.

Oh, Scotty, please don't mention their bulges. That's just too manly to speak of.

Today's ride takes his entourage past the new office that contractors are close to finishing, a 2,500-square-foot structure with a stone facade and lots of windows where he says he will probably practice his convention speech next month. He slips at first, saying he will practice his inauguration speech there.

A 50-acre patch of newly turned black earth will serve as the field where Laura Bush cultivates blue stem flowers that she plans to distribute.

In one remote section, cattle stare back at him as he rides a path littered with cow dung.

What's a ranchette without a few cattle?

Bush is here unwinding during the Democratic National Convention and before the home stretch of his re-election campaign, and he has spent the morning in meetings, some of them concerning the recommendations of the independent Sept. 11 commission. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives today afternoon to talk about it.

Oh good, because when our Dear Leader and Ms. Rice get together, the country can't help but become safer. Perhaps she's going to read him a nice story, like "Bin Laden Still Determined to Attack Inside the United States, Because You Let Him Get Away in Tora Bora, You Fucking Dipshit!"

But the ride is officially a politics-free zone, and Bush doesn't want to talk business. He swats away questions about what his ad man, Mark McKinnon, is doing on the ranch. He declines to talk about the commission.

When the reporter points out that Democrat John Kerry has a $8,000 road bicycle, Bush says, "Who?"

Wow, Scotty, that certainly was "politics free." There's nothing political at all about manly appreciation of our manly Dear Leader and his manly exertion. By the way Scotty, I promised to show more maps -- topographical this time.

I hate to be the one that bursts your bubble, but this is not what "punishing climbs" look like ...

The Great Plains, just outside of Waco

This is what punishing climbs look like, Scotty boy ...

Forest of Nisene Marks, Santa Cruz Mountains

So Scotty, if you wanted to be punished by a manly man, I'm afraid you've been sold a bill of goods.

- mark 7-27-2004 12:45 pm [link] [89 refs] [3 comments]