It’s cold. Like 35-feels-like-28 cold. The park’s empty. Six-thirty a.m. Women ride by on carbon-fiber bikes, jostling for position out front. Wind whistles through leafless trees. Along the course, there are no spectators; a man jogs by with his dog off-leash. On Harlem Hill, the pace picks up, two women drop off the back. No snow on the ground, no ice on the reservoir, the stoic deadness of winter locks the landscape. The riders roll past, motion blurs on the undulating west and south sides of Central Park. The peloton rejoins. Final lap. At the finish line, two officials sit alone, bundled in layers of down. Six miles pass; the group enters the last corner, where a rogue ambulance flanks the pavement to the right, bumping the peloton left, swallowing up the women in red and blue kits, slowing them down. They fight to reach the front and manage to land one in third. Helmeted heads hang. Sweat forms despite the cold. Riding back on Fifth Avenue, the mood is a mix of buoyancy and regret. Racing season is back, but no one likes to lose.
Colombian architect Santiago Medina Mejia built the stately Casa Medina as an apartment building, using materials salvaged from the relocation of two colonial convents in Bogotá — San Agustin and Santo Domingo. Stone columns, wood flooring and hand-carved doors arrived on the job site and were placed alongside wrought-iron railings and stained glass. Medina built the house with nooks, narrow hallways and hidden staircases that gracefully eschew the grand logic of modern buildings. The ceilings are low. The floors creak. Each of the 62 rooms — including those in the newly built wing — is unique. The Four Seasons, which took over the property in 2015, has outfitted these dwellings with the luxuries of modern life, but the character of the balconies, the small windows, the curve of the hand-carved wooden banisters, remains.
Teton Pass Road rolls between Wyoming and Idaho through peaks that otherwise wouldn’t be scalable without some serious boots and the heart of an ox. It’s a total bitch, even paved. In the middle of a Western summer, the roadway is a proving ground for runners, cyclists and vehicles. “If a truck can get to the top of Teton Pass on a hot summer day and not overheat, that cooling system is totally bomber,” says Winslow Bent, Founder of Legacy Trucks in Jackson, Wyoming. “You cannot find something more challenging on a cooling system than wide-open throttle for seven miles all the way to the top of that pass.”
There’s a stretch of Seattle’s State Route 99 — Aurora Avenue — that passes by a sprinkling of seedy motels rotting on the roadside before the bridge takes flight over Lake Union, where it climbs to a height of 167 feet, an elevation which aids in its notorious accolade of being the second most popular spot for suicide jumpers in the USA (230, since construction in 1931). One motel, when I lived in Seattle, threw a party before demolition crews rolled in and knocked the place down. The raucous fiesta was a mix of grunge and garbage and art and decay, and it made, in some weird light, the motel seem glamorous while doomed. That appeal isn’t lost on my generation — the Millennials — and the motel or motor lodge holds some vestige of lure for those who were never subject to the worst of its woes.
This whole “expert” schtick is just pathetic male compensation — don’t sweat it. That’s the spirit of the 24 Hours of LeMons (not Le Mans), an endurance spectacle of cars that were “purchased, fixed up and track prepped for a total of $500 of less.” The cars are beaters, repos, auction sales, junkyard digs and hand-me-downs. A Pinto in the pits isn’t an anomaly. Most of the cars break down, the drivers do their own wrenchin’, and the greatest prize isn’t given to the team that does the most laps, but rather, the worst car that finishes somewhat well (the prize is called the “Index of Effluency”, and sits at a $601 value).
When Edith Heath opened her Sausalito factory she lived in a houseboat down the street. She walked to work, shaped clay, walked home. That was life in 1948. Her focus for the company was stalwart: they were to make “simple, good things for good people”. The mantra worked, and Heath became synonymous with quality ceramic wares made with honest materials.
Through glass doors, an atrium of exposed brick and metal trusses holds more marble and wood tables, and offers a glimpse into the kitchen. In the restaurant, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s acclaimed Dirty French, white busts are desecrated with bleeding eyes and pink roosters sit perched above the dining room. It is a Gallic farmhouse landscape forced through the mind of David Lynch. And this is only the first floor.
Both Frank Veteran’s hips have been replaced and he needs back surgery. His running around is a bit more limited these days — he used to ride motorcycles, but his body does better now with four wheels connecting him to the tarmac. About a decade ago, he bought a BMW M3 and did the Driver’s Program, then did M School, then did Skip Barber. Then he bought a former IMSA Grand Sport BMW M3 race car and joined the Lime Rock Drivers Club. Driving fast, he says, is the kind of activity that keeps his mind sharp, even as his body gradually slows him down. The Drivers Club — which starts at a $16,500 initiation fee, costs $3,630+ a year, and allows drivers to get up to 60 days of track time annually — is an investment in staying sharp. For Veteran, the benefits outweigh the costs.
The Swiss countryside is a parody of itself — every stereotype comes true. The chalets have A-frame sloped roofs and their windows are bedecked with flowers. Hillsides are a shade of green so saturated it looks digitally enhanced. Bus stop benches at 5,320 feet are painted a crisp, bright Swiss red. White clouds shroud far-off mountain peaks and the blue sky, when it does break through, is crisp, gorgeous, untainted. All this is easy enough to observe from a seat on a tourist bus. But it’s on a big day of riding — with 83 miles and 7,700 feet of climbing — that Switzerland really comes into perspective. These careening switchbacks that wind their way into the cloud cover, they must be labored over to be enjoyed. And if those roads weren’t so perfectly paved, and if the hillsides weren’t so vibrantly green, and if the rivers and streams didn’t offer such auditory respite from your own hard breathing, it might actually be miserable.
Thos Moser furniture is not known for CNC machinery. The company, at the helm of self-taught furniture maker Tom Moser, is known for purity in woodworking — no stain, little machinery, just hand-crafted shaping that manipulates premium wood from top mills into artful American furniture. Moser’s work is characterized by sweeping curves and sculptural, yet traditional, expressions of wood. Adam Rogers is fresh blood to the company, the first non-Moser to take the title of Director of Design.
“In 2011, we didn’t own a sewing machine,” Todd Shelton admits. “And that was a problem.” His brand, Todd Shelton, sold clothing. The operation was 10 years old. Now 14 years old, Todd Shelton’s company owns 55 sewing machines, a fusing machine and a handful of other speciality machines that help make their line of T-shirts, button-downs and jeans. It’s a clothing company that makes their own clothes in their own factory with their own employees.
At the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, just outside Nice, the south of France, there is a strong yet unspoken sentiment about life. Clay tennis courts, white walls, beige and white linens, large windows dressed with drapes, mosaic tile floors, a lap pool overlooking the Mediterranean and gardens manicured to create the visage of a wild bounty of flora now restrained all say you can live in other ways, but not as finely as you will at the Cap-Ferrat.
In this story of Champagne there is traditional craftsmanship and highly controlled refinement and brash egocentrism and excessive pomp, all lumped together under the visage of one house. It’s confusing. Is this the Champagne brand of the Sunset Club who bring your bottles out with sparklers flaring? Or is it the brand of Arnaud Lallement, the chef who prepared a langoustine bretonne (lobster) that’s on par with anything good I’ve eaten in the last five years? Or can it be both?
The thing that sells the Alisal is not just a vestige of times past. It’s the stillness of the night, when the crickets’ song wanes and the fog rolls in, and you can rest warm underneath a wool blanket as the fire dies down beyond the foot of the bed. It’s the long hikes on a property that’s preserved some of California’s most premium landscape. And it’s the feeling of pride in coming to a place that won’t succumb to the way that California has now become — or at least not until the new California can be as good as the old ways of the proper West.
MotoGP is a moving army. In Europe it moves by semi; abroad, it moves by plane. Teams pack things into gigantic modular flight cases — including all the tools and bikes and computers — and then Dorna, the race organizer, ships the cases on a big cargo plane, which is rumored to be Russian made. The mechanics show up to the track on Wednesday and set up the garage. Thursday, riders arrive and there is a press conference at noon. Friday is preliminary laps. Saturday, qualifying. Sunday, race. Monday, pack and ship. Tuesday, travel. Wednesday, repeat. The army marches on.
It’s a wild mix. Solitude in the field — a lone walk through the snow-covered wheat. Camaraderie at the truck — pulling the birds from your vest and counting the ring necks in the bed. Revelry in the lodge — toasting whiskey to kills and downing skewers of meat your own hands and eyes shot. And so, the charm of the endeavor isn’t simply the thrill of the trigger pull and felling the bird. It’s about the time you spend as 12 grown men and four anxious dogs setting up a strategy to walk a mile-wide by mile-long field full of savvy late-season roosters. That’s life in South Dakota. That’s the thrill and spoils of pheasant season.
An early El Niño storm passed through the day before I landed, and what was a fleeting thought of off-road time became a nagging desire. I was sure this $96,065 luxo-barge needed to hang out in the mud, at least for a morning. So, long before we set off to Christmas Eve services, I snuck out with the truck and high-tailed toward the mountains, with Dorothy blasting on the Mark Levinson system. Past the RC airplane club but before the road turns into the woods and narrows, Holy Jim opens into a wide valley, and the rock-crawler bunch has turned the space into a playground for the 4×4.
It’s a slow afternoon on the line, with three of four 40-barrel fermenters sitting silent, the liquid wort inside being quietly consumed by yeast. The fourth tank sits near-empty, surrounded by a few puddles of water, two kegs, three white BRUTE trash cans and a mix of tentacle hoses connected at intentional points. Bryce Tyranski, Cellarman, rinses a bucket with water, dumps it down the drain. A white pickup truck, riddled with dents and dusty on the fenders, pulls up outside, reverses halfway into the warehouse and stops. Mike Schnebeck, Head Brewer, opens the driver’s side door, slides on gloves and gets to work moving manzanita wood from bed to pallet. In the office to the side, Alex Blunk, Sales, talks numbers. Justin Catalana, Cofounder, skips out the door and drives off to Mill Valley to the brewpub he and his brother Tyler started six years before (“I had worked in a Bioinformatics lab that used yeast as a model organism”, Justin says, “you could say we became friends”).