Friday, March 9, 2012

The 51st state?

Well, the answer to that is not going to be contained in this post, for sure. But it is a question that does come up, down here in Puerto Rico: Should we (aka "they") pursue statehood or take the (free) ride without representation in Washington? A poll taken just four years ago claimed that 57% of Puerto Ricans are in favor of statehood, while only 34% were happy with the status quo, which is that of a "commonwealth." Maybe I'll do a bit of research tonight, over dinner in a Cuban restaurant.
La Villa Real—my home for the next four nights
Welcome back to Puerto Rico! This weekend I am down here as the PCP (chief referee) of the 2012 Clasico MTB Florida, a UCI mountain bike race in the foothills of the mountainous interior of this pretty island. Somehow I managed to squeak out of Lubbock yesterday morning, what with winds howling at 35 mph out of the NNE. Magically, my upgrade request for the DFW to San Juan portion of my travels had been granted just about the time I got to Lubbock's international airfield, and thus I had a pleasant day in the air. Luciano, the race director for this race, picked me up at SJU and drove me to my hotel (pictured above), about 20 minutes from the race venue.
Advertising, Puerto Rican style

Today I had a first look at the course (we officially call it the "course inspection," and it results in a report that I write for both the RD's perusal as well as an addendum to my final race report to the UCI) at the small town of Florida. I had heard reports of what a mudfest this race had been last year, and after walking the 6-kilometer-long course I was able to imagine the slop that riders had to contend with. Luciano told me that here in the foothills the clouds like to gather and just hang, dumping a lot of rain. The soil seems to be mainly clay, and that stuff gets s-l-i-c-k with rain! Some of the area is also used by motorized dirt bikes, and you can see how foul things look after yesterday's precip. Fortunately, today was dry— had been wrong when giving us a 50%  chance of more rain this afternoon. Let's keep the fingers crossed.
Clay and water mix well—NOT!
After Lubbock's dry brownness it is almost a physical pleasure to see green. Oh my goodness, those flamboyant trees! And the saturated greenness of the pastures (the race course used to be part of an old milk-producing estate)! And then, look at those odd trees in the pics: It's a different world, at times almost alien. Could it have anything to do with the world's largest radio telescope, located somewhere in the jungle in nearby Arecibo?
I believe this is a Silk Floss Tree (Chorisia speciosa)
Can you spot the Flamboyant Tree (Delonix regia) in the background?

A plain ol' Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) in the forest
Not only is the flora different, but the fauna is as well. No, I don't have pics of the birds that judging by their calls seem to be everywhere (while staying invisible), but at least I caught the lizard.
One of millions
For lunch we had my Puerto Rican favorite, a mofongo (a mashed heap of plantains that has been enhanced  with seafood, meat, or vegetables). And before that we sucked up a plantain soup that had been supercharged with garlic. Keep those damn vampires away! So, as you can see, I am living the sweet life while working. In about 20 minutes, Luciano is going to pick me up for dinner, which is going to happen at a Cuban restaurant, as mentioned earlier. As long as I don't have to smoke cigars, I'm game for anything.

More about the race (which is going to happen on Sunday, after tomorrow's official training) at a later time. Please keep checking back for more updates.


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