Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And this year's new Miss USA is...

Come April 19th on NBC you might be hearing this phrase followed by "Miss DC!" Returning to the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, this year's THE MISS USA 2009 PAGEANT under the guise of Donald Trump will feature a 51 of the most sensational women the U.S. has to offer.

Who would have thought that a local "bathing beauty" competition spearheaded by Catalina Swimwear in Long Beach, CA would metamorphose into a landmark annual tradition with countless young women around the country vying to become Miss USA? As hundreds of millions of fans have watched in 125 different countries, the homegrown contest has evolved into a powerful, year-round, international organization that advances and supports opportunities for these role models.

Becoming what is now considered American royalty is still an obtainable dream for young women more than 50 years later. Today, Miss USA has become a fixture of pop culture, ingrained in the landscape of our minds. As the first cover subject of MS magazine's premier issue in 1969, Miss USA continues to stand proud, breaking boundaries and defining what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.

These women are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. The delegates who become part of the Miss Universe Organization display those characteristics in their everyday lives, both as individuals, who compete with hope of advancing their careers, personal and humanitarian goals, and as women who see to improve the lives of others. Currently, Miss USA is experiencing a rebirth, playing a critical role in making the next 100 years "The Century of Women."

At least that's what the Miss USA website and Nicole tells me. Meet Nicole White, Miss DC 2009...or rather 2008, I'm not sure. But either way, she's competing in the Miss USA 2009 Pageant and representing the good ol' "Taxation Without Representation" District of Columbia. A student at George Washington University, Nicole and I met at McCormick & Schmick's on K Street awhile back and recently she was in desperate need of some photos for the pagaent. How urgent? Well, the deadline was Friday and she called me on Tuesday -- and the only day that we were both free was Thursday morning at 7:30am. Yikes! But I think all went well. Good luck in Vegas Nicole!

I call this her VOGUE Magazine cover.
The powerful woman pose.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Michelob ULTRA Lighthouse Cycling Tour of Puerto Rico: SLIDESHOW

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Lighthouse Cycling Tour Day 3

Michelob ULTRA Lighthouse Cycling Tour of Puerto Rico -- Day 3
125 miles -- Mayaguez to Old San Juan

Day 3:
Leaving at around 6:00 am (8:00 am group riders ... LIGHTS REQUIRED) we will ride east bound to Old San Juan not before riding through the world class beaches of Rincon. We will then head to Isabela for breakfast not before climbing the "Las Cascadas" hill and passing by the Aguadilla Lighthouse. The exact location for the breakfast will remain “secret” like the previous day. After filling up our bellies in the amazing location, we will head towards the Arecibo Lighthouse for lunch. This section will take us through Jobos Beach in Isabela known for its sand dunes and surfing beaches. This area is also known for its short, sharp, very steep climb to the towncore of Isabela followed by the Guajataca hill that eventually leads us to Arecibo. Lunch will take place within the Arecibo Lighthouse as a backdrop and from there we will ride through the northern coastal plains where we will see some of the most spectacular beaches on the north side of the Island reaching Dorado. In the Dorado plaza we will wait for around 15 minutes for the fast riders that departed Mayaguez at 8 am. From Dorado, we will be escorted by a police motorcade weaving through the financial district of Hato Rey and into the cobblestoned streets of the City of Old San Juan ending at the San Felipe del Morro Fort where the closing ceremonies will take place.

The finale, Day 3. Another late night and another early, early morning. Dinner last night was provided by the mayor of Mayaguez, the hotel provided a large pool and we even had a casino to gamble in -- that is of course if you didn't wear sandals, flip-flops or crocs. Side note: Some cyclists wore their bike cleats instead. For some reason, certain sandals were bad, but tearing up their carpet with cleats was super-duper. So, what was suppose to be a restful night for all, was an eventful surplus of money for a few. Either way, 5AM comes pretty fast. And with the accumulation of little sleep you might not even here it coming. That's what happened for Paul and I this morning. We sprang from our beds nearly 30 minutes after the alarm and sprung into action. Battery packs, lenses, cameras, clothes, glasses, more batteries, media cards, etc. It was a mad dash and while we scrambled with our things Eric was calmly lying in bed waiting for us to go downstairs. For those of you who don't know Eric Goetz, he's fast, really fast on a bike and this year William made a stategic move: the self-guided fast group would head out almost 2 hours AFTER the main peloton in an effort to have everyone reach Old San Juan at the same time. It was a smart move, but as Eric would recall later, it only made the fast group faster in an effort to catch the peloton.

With that said, we were on the road. It was an early start to another long day, but beautiful sights awaited us. Paul and I were producing better and better shots and with everyone wearing the Tour Jersey, the day called for plenty of peloton shots. Of course, the terrain and route were going to be an issue. Though it was only 135 miles, the sun was strong, the wind on this side of the island was great (it is every year, this year stronger than normal) and the changes in the course made it all the more difficult. Did I mention William wanted to arrive in Old San Juan by 5:30pm? Uh...yeah...that might not happen. But we're certainly going to try.

Day 3 is always the day when everyone wears the Tour's Jersey. Uniformity my good man, uniformity!

Love the Puerto Rican flag in the circle. Nice touch and the only red on the jersey. Draws your eyes right to it.

Cyclocross anyone?

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

This is why you come to Puerto Rico.

Tough course? Tough doesn't begin to describe it. No, just kidding. Just take your shoes off and relax.

We were blessed with the ability to climb all the way to the top of the lighthouse for this shot.

I never grow tired of early morning light.

Congratulations! You've just completed the best cycling tour in the Carribean, if not the world.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Lighthouse Cycling Tour Day 2

Michelob ULTRA Lighthouse Cycling Tour of Puerto Rico -- Day 2
100 miles -- Ponce to Mayaguez

Day 2: At 7:00 am we depart Ponce to Yauco where breakfast once again awaits in a secret historical location, however, not before passing by Guayanilla, home of the Costa Sur, an oil-fired Steam-Electric Plant where a significant amount of electric power for the island is generated. After breakfast, we move on to the ruins of the Guanica Lighthouse near the Dry Forest area of Guanica. From this area we will head to Cabo Rojo passing by the plains of Lajas. Lunch will be served nearby in Cabo Rojo immediately after passing near the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse (within a mile). Later in the day, we will head to the Town of Mayaguez. Expect some heat and humidity in the Lajas-Cabo Rojo areas during noon followed by the omnipresent 2 pm showers in Mayaguez.

Ah, Day 2. Little sleep has been had by all, including me, and after staying up late into the night to get photos edited and sent to the press, our 100 mile journey was fast upon us. But first, a photo. It's early, very little light and I had just been informed that we wanted to get a group shot in front of the fire station. 300 riders, one flash and a crisp, clean photo? Uh...can we get a photographer over here? QUICKLY!!! Well, as you can imagine, my cry for help went unanswered, my throat swelled and my cotton mouth wasn't a choice but a necessity. This one shot would not prove to be my only obstacle of the day. Heat, wind, rain and a ditch would battle for supremacy for all things detrimental to my job in a day that quickly bequeathed legendary status on my involvement with the Lighthouse Cycling Tour.

"Pray, due tell KIP, what could have possibly happened?"

OK, well, for those of you who've known me long enough remember that last year when I cycled the tour, I took a nasty fall and Day 1 off the side of a mountain, falling into the guard rail, sliding across the metal while slicing open my jersey and my right tricep yet never injuring the bike...thank you very much. It required several stitches and a huge bandage, but I pressed on to the oasis for lunch and then another 60 miles to the hotel. I didn't come to Puerto Rico to stay cooped up in a hotel. That was Day 1. Now for Day 2 this year, I tried to out do myself. Remember that motorcycle that Luis was driving with me on the back? Yeah, we crashed it. Did I say crashed, I meant DESTROYED it.

It was early morning, I had just taken two of my favorite shots of the day, and before we knew it the roads had changed. If you've never been to Puerto Rico, you need to understand that though it's bright and sunny where you are, it might very well be raining 5 minutes down the road. That's exactly what happened to us...that, and a sharp turn. Only this time, it was raining, it had just rained -- that meant no one was expecting a slick road. A little water and the light dust and dirt of the island equalled disaster for Luis and I. One rider down, two riders down, everyone begins to slow, three riders down, four riders down...we were going to fast and we knew it before it happened. And then it happened: the wheel went out from underneath us, Luis tried to right the motorcycle, but it was no use. Either we were going down or...or...or...? Our best bet was going for the ditch, holding on to the turn was impossible. I don't know whether we had super hero powers and could read each others brains or we have very similar logical brains but, WE WENT FOR THE DITCH. Our luck lied in our ability to softly land the bike, brush ourselves off, count our blessings and be on our way. No such luck. The ditch proved too great and the shocks on the bike too feable. Our end was near and all I could think about was save the cameras. Anything could happen to me, but save the cameras. I grabbed both Canon 5D's, raised my arms and went for the ride of my life. Somehow, someway I rode the bike like a bull: 9 seconds! And then we crashed. Mirror gone, check. Bike completely scratched, check. Front wheel fork bent 45˚, check. The smell of spilt gasoline, check. Two saved cameras with fully intact rider and driver, SUPER check. We made it. I don't know how, but we did. Luis' wrist had to be wrapped the next day and my left knee was little bruised, but we had made it. In all 7 or 8 riders went down on that corner.

News travels fast and by the time we arrived at the 1st oasis for breakfast everyone had heard about the crash. "Are you alright? What happened? How are the cameras?" I heard this in repetition. Everyone who knew me from the year before said, "You crash a bike on Day 1 last year, destroy a motorcycle on Day 2 this year...don't get in a helicopter next year." Luckily if I come back in 2011, there isn't a Day 4 for me to crash.........................Well, that could mean my returning flight on Monday. :-o

The Parque de Bombas is a Puerto Rican building located at the town square of Ponce, known as Plaza Las Delicias, and directly behind Ponce Cathedral. The building housed the city's main fire station; its name comes from the mobile hand-pumped fire fighting units the building once housed. It has been heralded both for its historical and architectural roles in Puerto Rican society.

The best photo of the day. Good photographer?, just luck.

After last year's ride, I made sure I got this photo. Early morning of day two we biked thru one of the main Petroleum plants of Puerto Rico. The juxtaposition kills me.

Hello honey? Yeah, this might take me longer than I thought.

Though the shortest day on the tour, Day 2 had it's own set of peaks and valleys.

The tour provides an normal 15mph peloton and a faster self-guided group. And as luck would have it, both groups passed each other on an out and back.

Check out Keane's face grimacing on these hills.
(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

Not the best photo of the day, but certainly my favorite. Driving ahead in the pick up I noticed the two mountain bikers ahead in white dress shirts. Yep, you guessed it. I was a little kid in a candy store bouncing with anticipation the moment the peloton would swallow them

Ah...the oasis that is Puerto Rico.

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

The little towns of Puerto Rico. Such character and such beauty.

Should I call Lance now for a job?

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Lighthouse Cycling Tour Day 1

Michelob ULTRA Lighthouse Cycling Tour of Puerto Rico -- Day 1
151.1 miles -- Old San Juan to Ponce

Day 1: Leaving way before sunrise (6:00 am fast riders - 6:10 am group riders ... remember LIGHTS REQUIRED), we will ride east bound to Fajardo where a late morning breakfast (between 8:30-10:00 am) awaits right by the Seven Seas and Las Croabas beaches. This breakfast will give you a stunning view of the eastern horizon where it is not unlikely to see the Island of Culebra and St. Thomas with the naked eye. From there we will ride southbound towards Guayama, not before crossing over “Camino Nuevo”, considered the challenge of the day. Have your camera handy for the spectacular views from this 1000 foot hilltop. Before arriving Guayama, we will stop at the Punta Tuna Lighthouse (circa 1892) in Maunabo where lunch will be served and you will be able to get up close and personal with this great historic building. We will then symbolically pass by Arroyo's Lighthouse (out of view). After a quick hydration and snack stop in Guayama we will wind up the day riding into one of the the most historical towns of the south; the Ponce Town Core. Those lucky enough to have booked a room within one of the town core options will have a chance to walk around the beautiful Plaza and its surroundings wrapping up a long day.

Day 1 started off with a bang...actually a buzz. It was the alarm on my phone vibrating. A 5am wake-up call to begin a long day arduous day. The forecast called for an unbelievable 84 degrees with slight cloud cover and no wind. A perfect day for riding. Even better yet, a perfect day for pictures. But first things first: we need to know where we are going. I mean, we know WHERE we are going routewise, but what vehicles we were going to go in remained a mystery. We had a pickup truck, 2 EMS vehicles, several SAG Vans and a motorcycle. Lots of choices, but only one with the capability to document the race entirely: the motorcycle. Riders gathered, headlights were turned on and car horns beeped. We were off into the darkness of the morning. Nearly 300 riders, a pack of extremely fit and not so fit people, descending down San Juan's streets. It was a sight to be seen. And in case you didn't see it, here you go.

It's difficult for a hand cyclist in general, but when the rest of the peloton slows down, you must let Keane keep going. You don't slow down a hand cyclist, you let him keep going.

Today's Hero: The Police.
All around the island the tour had a police escort. You certainly couldn't do this tour in the states.

My favorite photo of the day.
This guy had an accident and was getting stitches.

Who wouldn't want to bike around this island?

This picture was the center of a full page spread in the main Puerto Rican newspaper on Sunday.

Though the police were providing a safety convoy around the island, hills will always providing a problem for the cyclists. A long uphill mountain breaks up the peloton and on a mountain like this, all hell breaks loose.

I'm proudest of this picture. It was taken from inside the lighthouse.

The mountain gets even the best of us.

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