Monday, December 31, 2007

Nuremberg and Bohimia

After three fantastic days in Prague we drove west to a small town in Bohemia five miles from the German boarder. We visited a wildlife preserve which also has some geothermal activity, such as hot springs. It was a nice break from the city life.
That night we got back in the car and drove north to Nuremberg. We spent the night there, and enjoyed the beauty of the historic city. The fallowing morning we awoke and went to the Nazi museum located in the Congress Hall, one of the last big monuments of the Nazi era. It was a fascinating museum and was excellent in explaining every detail in the rise and control of power the group kept during its time in control.
Nuremberg was a very beautiful city, but I wish that I had more time to explore. After the museum we packed up and headed back to Brussels. It was a fabulous trip and one that I wish to do again.

Here are some pictures of everything.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The old and the new

Prague was home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. There is a large section of the city that is primarily Jewish. Today we went to this section and did a tour of the old and the new. We visited a museum of the Jewish history in Prague which is connected an old cemetery that dates back to the 13 century of the Jewish community(pictures below). There was also a sinology which was filled with some 80,000 names of the Jewish community of Prague which was shipped to Terezin or Auschwitz, both concentration camps during the second world war, and eradicated. It was beyond belief at the number of names on the wall. It was three whole rooms with names from top to bottom, it really was poignant seeing all people names. It put it in perspective, before I just looked at the holocaust as a horrific event where millions of people lost their life, but seeing all the names just made me realize that these are all humans that had stories, family, and lives that were taken.

Learn from the past and prevent in the future.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Prague, cold beauty

Yesterday, Christmas morning we loaded up the car and went east to Prague. It was along day in the car, but saw some beautiful German countryside. It was a lot of rolling hills and forest. The temperatures were cold so the trees were all covered with frost.
Today, we went to the Royal Palace and walked around a little of the city. It is by far the most historical and architecturally spectacular city I have ever seen.

Here are just a few photos, but in order to feel the full exquisiteness you have to be here. I will keep you updated.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Muddy Battlefield!

I did my fourth cross race today, and it was by far the muddiest. The race was forty-five minutes north west of Brussels in the small town of Balegem. The past week here have been below freezing for the whole day so the ground has been rock hard. However yesterday warmed up to about fifty degrees and it rained last night, so that made for some sloppy conditions today.
I wasn’t the only American in the junior field today, I was joined by eight of some of Americas best, who are here getting European experience with Geoff Proctors “Euro Cross Camp“, which is spending the Christmas break in Belgium. I arrived a little late to the race so didn’t have time to pre-ride the whole course, but saw about half. I meet the other Americans before hand and talked a little about Belgium racing.
The course was insane! It started out on a step paved hill before turning right onto a slick single-track section. Here it snaked about and went down three very step, fast, and slick docents(very dangerous). Due to the weather of the previous day, the ground was a gaping mud pit. The mud is so thick that it sticks to everything. After riding 100 meters in it your tires are clogged and you have no traction. This would hurt me later only having one bike. The race then went though some grass fields before tuning onto a gravel then paved road, which hooked back into the starting hill.
The call-up for starting position was “random”, but some how all the Americans started in the back. Never the less the raced started and started fast. The opening lap was a nut house, there were tons of riders jammed onto a tight single track, and we at the back often found ourselves standing not even moving waiting for the bottle neck to sort out. The decents were treacherous, every lap multiple people crashed and a few were escorted away by ambulance. I was slowly moving up and by the time we had finished one lap I was 7th out of the 9 Americans.
On the second lap things were no different it was still a slip and slide. The two American that I passed both crashed on the second lap and pulled out of the race. I had some close calls and managed to keep the bike up right. I kept moving up and started feeling comfortable on the sketchy course. I can feel that my cross skills are getting better, but still have along ladder to climb.
With two laps to go I passed another American and was riding well. My bike on the other hand was another story. Going into the final lap I passed two more Americans, but one had been in the leading group and crashed hard. About half a lap to go my bike had seen enough, somehow the chain got stuck in between the cassette and wheel. I stopped and started yanking on the chain to try and get it un-jammed, but it was in there pretty good. I struggled with it for a minute or two, then a man watching came out and helped. He also struggled and after fettling with it for another minute he got it working, but while we were yanking on the chain the two Americans that I had passed over took me. I mounted the bike, but my problems were not over yet. Because I only have one cross bike the mud/grass/leaf combo had clogged my brakes to the point where my wheels wouldn’t spin, so I stopped and quickly tried to clear out all the sludge from the brakes and critical areas. It helped, but the wheels were still slugging along. I made it to the finish with my bike five pounds heavier and wheels hardly spinning, but everyone else with one bike was experiencing the same.
I finished 39th and finished 6th out of the Americans and had a good time. Each race I do I like it even more. I better stop racing so I don’t go cross crazy and my dad will have to buy me another bike. Just joking dad, but another bike would help.
I’m going to Prague, Czech on the 25th for five days with my host family I will take lots of pictures and keep you posted.

Belgium Cyclocross: cold, mud, pain, beer, fries.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Belgium Cross Round 3

The day started early, I awoke at six this morning to get ready to go the cross race in Overijse. I swiftly cooked up some eggs and got dressed. I also had a chance to talk to my mom on the webcam and she wished me luck. As I go ready I checked the temperature and saw -3C (like -15F), So I put on every bit of cycling clothes I had.

The plan was I would meet up with Romain and his father half way in between our two houses, for me that’s 45minutes south towards Waterloo. I took my bike and went down stairs, but as I set the bike down I noticed that the rear tire was flat. A little problem, but I left a little extra time so if something like this would happen I would okay. I quickly changed tubes and was off. It was a dark cold ride, but it was worth it to do the race.

We arrived at the race with time on our side, so we sat in the warm car for a good hour. Then Romain and I went to register and find a toilet, we accomplished both tasks, but returned cold. It was even colder in Overijse because its in a small valley. Romain had the luxury of warming up on a trainer while I went out and got colder. Not really, but I had two pairs of gloves and my hands were still freezing. After a short ride I returned and we both dressed down for the race. I saw some crazy things the riders were doing to help stay warm. Matt, Romain’s friend put Vaseline all over him face as a protective barrier(????), and I along with Romain put warming oil on our hands to try and keep them warm.

Everyone waited frigidly to be called to the line, and at the last minute the Czech national junior team rolled up with five or six riders. One by one the riders were called to the line, I think it was based on UCI standing because the Czech rider who has been getting top three in all the world cups and is the European cross champion was called up first. Some more Czech riders got called up fallowed by the Belgium champion and some other riders on their national team. Romain and Matt were both called up at the end with me fallowing. There was only about 35-40 riders that started, but Romain, Matt, and I were in the very back.

The raced started off fast, and about 200 meters into it there is a steep some what long paved climb. We hit that and it was already strung out, I moved up a few places, but was still in the back. As we turned onto the upper grass section the leaders already had a gap. There was a steep grass decent with a sharp “U” turn at the bottom before you rode back up the hill, that was very slippery.

For the next few lap I started to pick off people one by one, I gained a lot of time on the hills and fast sections, but fell back on the descents at technical sections. I passed Matt on the third lap which gave me a boost and kept my spirits high. I slowly was catching Romain and on the fifth of six laps passed him, and said “come on Romain up, up!!”, but I spoke to soon. I got a ten second gap on him, but then when I got to the stair case I made my mistake. There is a small path on the right side that is possible to ride up and I was doing in the day before, when we were pre riding it. I made it to the top step and then lost my traction, I unclipped but it was to late, I started going backwards and because of the icy ground I didn’t get my footing and slid back down to the bottom, as I watched Romain and another rider which I passed earlier go pass. I got back on the bike and took some risks to catch up, I was gaining, but as the ground thawed the course got slippery and on the sharp turn I mentioned earlier, I slid out and fell. I ran up the hill and jumped back on in pursuit of the two riders. I went hard, but never caught either of them. I came very close though, finished three second behind the one rider and seven behind Romain. I took 18th place which I was very happy with considering the strong field.

After the race I talked with a few other racers and looked at their bikes, while doing so I noticed that they were only running like 25-30 PSI in their tires, as were I had like 50+. I think that was why I felt a little sketchy on the descents. But you live you learn, this was only my third ever cross race so I’m still learning the ropes.

As Romain and I went to return our numbers we came across Erwin Vervecken, the current world cyclocross champion, in the stair case. And it just made me think, that there are thousands of people at the race with his name on; hats, jackets, and everything else, and here he is just a regular guy. People tend to put athletes on such a high pedestal, almost worshiping these figures and yet, they are just as you and I, they are no super heroes they are just regular people that are good at sports.

Anyway I had a great day, and am getting better with every race I do. Next weekend I hope to do another race, some juniors from the US will be here racing with the euro cross camp, so maybe I will try and meet up with them.

Merry Christmas


Saturday, December 15, 2007


Today I went with Romain, Matt, and Romain’s dad, to do some recognizance before the cross race tomorrow. The is race in Overijse, only 45 km from my Belgium house. Svens Nys said that is one of the hardest races in Belgium. And after today I agree, the loop is full of hard climbs; pavement, cobblestone, and grass, and because what goes up must come down, there are some very tight fast descents. It is so hilly and there is so much braking that I went to the bike shop to buy some new brake pads for tomorrow (Swiss-Stop were all they had, 30 euro, $$$), but atleast I can stop now. For the pro race all the big guys will be there, so I imagine that the junior field will also be strong.

I’ll post again after the race tomorrow,
Here are some pictures from today.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Belgium Group Ride/ Rain Bath!

Wind, rain and pain, was the motto of this ride.

Today I rode down to Waterloo to do a group ride with Romain and his father. The wind was blowing and the air was cool, but forty strong riders showed up. The ride was not that much different then a ride in the US only that we had the hole lane to use, as if cars were the minority. Halfway though the ride it started to rain, and shortly after the pace was starting to get fast.

As the rain continued to fall and the testosterone went up, the group shrunk down to twenty. We keep the speed high for rest of the ride, but the rain never let up.

We returned to Romains house drenched and cold, but it was a great training ride, 100km (62 miles) of wind, rain, and pain!


Before the ride

Friday, December 7, 2007


In Belgium the word American is more than a US citizen. It’s simply raw ground beef, with onions, and spices. Now, when I first ordered this in a sandwich I was expecting some subway sandwich, but it was nothing I have eaten before. I was a little hesitant when I first ate it, but now its one of my favorite sandwiches.

Before dinner tonight my host father said we were having American. I saw fries and ground beef so I thought he meant a American dish, with hamburgers and fries. This was a misinterpretation, we were having American, but there was an other raw twist. I saw that the host dad had brought some eggs to the table so I thought that they were hardboiled. Again I was wrong, we added some raw egg to the raw beef along with some; salt, pepper, and onions. To my surprise, it was delicious. I would eat it again tomorrow if we had it.

different country’s, different food, good experience.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Renaissance.

I feel alive again, I'm reborn.

I have been on my lactose/gluten free diet for one week and I already feel better. For the first time in almost six months I feel like my body is normal, I almost forgot what it felt like. I think I'm starting to get my strength back, and yesterday on a cross ride I felt strong. I still need a week or two for my body to respond fully, but I feel as if the monkey on my back all season is now gone. If the weather is fair I will put in some mile this weekend with Romain, and do a cross race for fun on the 16th.

Since I've been in Belgium I have taken an interest in politics, government, and just greater understanding of world policies and past events.

Now I'll just tell a little story of my political views and why I feel this way. I know that this is off topic of what I normally post, but being 16 I don't have the right to vote, but I can tell others how I think in by expressing my views.

It all started two months ago when one of my friends from California living in Belgium showed me this movie which talked about the unanswered question surrounding 9/11, the Federal Reserve and the World Banking Cartels. I had always thought that 9/11 was "a conspiracy" just because of movies like "Fahrenheit 9/11" and just thought that it was cool to be against the government, but I never had any background information, or know why it was a conspiracy. Now, after much research I have a better grasp on what happen on that tragic day, but I could go on forever about what I have found, but I will leave it up to you to do your own research.

Democrat or Republican?

Until now I never really made political decisions for myself, I just went with what the people around me were doing. For example: in 8th grade (2004) we had a school wide presidential election. I remember myself voting for John Kerry, just because I knew that my parents were democrats and voted the same. At the time I was to young to know anything about politics and the candidates (I still don’t know one fourth of what there is to know about government), but I think the same was for all the kids at the school. I would say 99% of them voted as their parents did. This may seem like the obvious conclusion, but I think this is the way it is for a large group of our population. People don’t research, they just do what their friends do.

Now, my mom is the best mom ever, she goes to hell and back to keep everyone happy, but when it comes to voting she is just another sheep in the field ( I love you mom, this is just an example). In 2004 she voted for Kerry, and if it wasn’t for me telling her to research, she would vote for Clinton in this next election. Anyway my message to all of you is to research all the candidates and see which is best for you. Not one candidate will please everyone, and you probably wont even agree with some of their views, but you can see which candidate best represents your political view.

Ron Paul Revolution!!

I'm sure that many of you have heard of the 2008 republican candidate Ron Paul.

I never thought that I would like a republican, but then again I didn't even know the difference, and what their political stance was. Just because the people around me were democrats I thought that “all republicans were like Bush". In fact now I don't even care if its a republican or democrat, the real thing that maters is their political view.

There are just so many things to say, I don’t even know where to start.

Okay, for me Ron Paul is the best candidate for the 2008 election(since the Bush Clinton dynasty). I'm not going to sit here and tell you all the things I like about him, I would rather you go out and find it out for yourself. Its not hard, just Google the name of the candidate and read their profile. I'm sitting here going crazy knowing that I cant vote and there are people out there that don't care about politics and don't even vote. To me that’s absurd, if you have the right to vote, vote, and take pride in your vote. Research, fundraise, put sings in your yard, do anything you can to express your opinion. Join a meet up group, get out and get active, discuss with you family or people at work about politics, that’s what this country is really about. I would love to have people to talk to about all the things I've researched, I want people to disagree and have disputes, that’s truly patriotic. Its not about the people talking about the big football game (bike race), that stuff is great, but once in awhile talk politics, something that really maters. Just get out there and get informed, and let me tell you, its fun to support a candidate you like, its just like football, all the other candidates are his/her opponents. I really am going crazy, I just want to see people get involved, I don’t care if its the least popular candidate, find one and get behind them and support them!!!

Americans have lost their political voice, we don't question the government anymore, most don't protest, and ask question, they would just rather sit in the field with the other sheep. The first patriots of this country fought and died so we would be free from a tyrannical British monarchy, and we have lost that drive. They knew that the tax on the tea that was being imported from Britain was unjust so they did something about it, they snuck onto the ship dressed like Native Americans and dumped all the tea in the harbor. I mean how great is that that way more inspiring then Terrell Owens catching a one handed pass. We don't see anything like that anymore, we don't see people asking question "why they pay a federal income tax, or where the money goes". People just think that its the governments right to take 1/3 of your earnings, most of which goes to the privet Federal Reserve, but that’s a another topic.

Its time for people to wakeup and see the world with their own eyes, and make their own decision, and ask questions, and know the Constitution and the rights that we all have. This is a great country and its time to take back the republic, and make a change.

I know I might have shocked some of you or put you down, but in doing so I hope you get mad and make a change.

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul's Record:
He has never voted to raise taxes.
He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
He has never taken a government-paid junket.
He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
He voted against the Patriot Act.
He voted against regulating the Internet.
He voted against the Iraq war.
He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

I hope you all get involved and do some research yourself.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tummy & Riding

Day two.

The second day of my fast went well, but I had to fight myself to not eat. Its not so much that I was hungry, but I just craved the taste of some good food.

I awoke on the third day of the fast feeling weak so I decided to eat some breakfast, but I was told by some wise advisors that I could have an allergy to lactose and or gluten and that might be the problem. So on top of not eating for two days, I would now not eat any dairy or wheat products: bread, cheese, cereals, pasta, are all included just to name a few. The more challenging thing is trying to find foods that doesn’t have those ingredients. For the past four days I don't think I've eaten any of these ingredients, but I'm not sure if all the foods have been gluten free (its in almost everything).

I'll continue to eat like this for a month to see if the problem is solved, but if any of you have suggestions let me know.

December riding

Last night was a downpour, but when I woke up this morning the sun was shining and the roads were drying out. I got dressed real quick and hit the road. The weather was great and so was the ride. I got in two and a half hours with some superb climbing. I’ll try and go out tomorrow and get some more miles on the legs.

Here are some pictures of the ride.