Archive | May, 2009

I Am Iron Horse, Hear Me Descend

31 May

Part three of my Western Washington mountain bike stage race, named, for now, as the Masters Grand Master Flash Series, took place today on the John Wayne/Iron Horse trail up past North Bend. Our STP training team, Team Testostrogen, showed up with our MTBs and kicked it old school all the way up that silly grade. I believe we set a new record, certainly on the way up, and would have set it in toto (… Latin for “I’ve tasted rain down in Africa”) had we not run into this washout not too far from the tunnel:

Watchout! Washout!

Watchout! Washout!

KonaLad tried to jump over but thank goodness for his Evil Knievel parachute, whew. So we stopped for a little repast and chain repair (I still don’t know how Surlylady managed to knock her chain off at a rest stop…) and headed back down the mountain. KonaLad says we were getting up to speeds of 23mph which is wild; that gravel-packed trail and the knobby mountain tires, even with the slight downgrade, never feel ‘that fast’ but I guess we were cooking. In fact overall I’d say we kept up a pretty good pace going both ways.

Legs McNeil and Elbows Lehrer

Legs McNeil and Elbows Lehrer

And of course it was as pristine and lovely as ever up there in the mountains. There were remnants of snow beside the trail in some spots. Here’s a muddy-leg shot to prove we were there in case you think this blog is totally made up.

Lots of fun today. I couldn’t help grinning on the ride back down, like a little kid, even though the knee was hoyting and Hemi Moore has come back, to star in a production called “Hemi Moore: This Time It’s Impersonal.” But I was grinding and grinning because I knew this would be the last bike ride I’d have for a week. That’s right. Partly as part of my training, wherein I ‘taper’ a bit, and partly to spare the knee and mssr HemiMoore, and partly because the Group Health Commuter Challenge for May has been cancelled for June. No bikes. None. I can do this. I just have to focus on the Flying Wheel Century in two weeks. There’s no reason to hy…hy…hyperventilate. We’ll see how long the vow lasts. Surlylady has side bets it won’t last the week.

In the meantime I plan on doing gym work and hiking at St. Ed’s with the ‘Lady. It’ll be so much (grit teeth) fun without wheels!

Friday night, for part one of the weekend Series, I cleansed my system of its singletrack jonesin’ with my brother, his wife and my nephew ‘V’ on the Banner Forest Trails over in Port Orchard. Bro had come up with a serpentine and flowing route that maximized the network of mature trails close to one of the trailhead parking lots, wherein we basically did huge looping figure 8’s back and forth across the hillside. Even though it was all in the same square mile or so, I felt totally lost and just grinned from ear-to-ear from my position as Tail End Charley. He has a knack for putting together a flowing, exciting trail sequence, and it’s even better to follow a trail guide like that and just enjoy the show. There were lots of log ramp jumper things and I tried every single one. There was one teeter-totter contraption that I stayed away from; too many childhood bully memories.

As the sun was going down my sister-in-law and nephew headed home as they were tuckered out and then the brother and I (he has a new Specialized Hardrock by the way and is so pleased with it, esp. the disc brakes) were able to crank it up several notches and just flew around the trails, basically reprising our circuits from earlier, but at a I’m-about-to-bust-a-gut speed. Wow. Then off to their homestead for some barbecue and later, as the sun finally went down, smores. What an awesome family they have. So cute and fun to be with.

The next day it was just brother ‘R’ and myself as we hopped in my truck and sped off for Green Mountain, a trail system roughly NE of Bremerton. Neither of us had ever been, and we picked a more southerly trailhead which, upon reflection and investigation later in the day, was probably not as good as the more northern one. However, there was an entertaining and shirtless chap at our parking lot, with that deeply bronzed look that said he was often shirtless, surrounded by Bud Lite bottles on the bench next to the bathroom, who very kindly gave us advice on the best ways to get to the top. Essentially, there were two, and they were equally tough and onerous, it seemed, but from his 10 minute tirade which included rants against the park management etc you would have thought it was the most intricate trail system ever, designed to lure virginal Greeks to their death at the hooves of the Minotaur or something. We thanked him and took off after he replied that “He’d be there when we got back.” Sweet! Now all we need is a motorcycle camera crew to follow us and we have almost an official ‘crowd’ for Part 2 of the… what was the name of the Series I came up with? Something about Masters, since we’re old. Maybe it was the Kitsap Masters Clydesdales Series or KMCS. Speaking of motorcycles, as we ground our way up the dusty hillside we ran into one, on an old school unpainted 70s Honda trail bike. This was definitely a ‘multi-use’ trail as we soon learned. There were high school javelin practices, rodeo clowns, vegan hunters, out-of-work Republican fund raisers in suits, a multi-lingual finger-painting championship, little kids with sparklers, tap dancing lessons, old dogs too tired to move out of the middle of the trail, and a plague of frogs. Well it sometimes seemed that way. The park is lovely, make no mistake, and I’d go back, it’s just I think I’d try to go back really early or on a weekday, to avoid the hikers and equestrians. When we finally made it to the top of Green Mountain (look, there’s Seattle, all tiny looking) and started back down on some super fun singletrack full of bermy banked curves, we had to stop every 50 yards or so for other people. Such a shame to waste all that flow and momentum. Oh well. At least all the people were super nice, or were after we were super nice.

On the fireroad back down the mountain we must have hit 30+ mph, maybe even more than that, to the point where I could smell my disc brakes getting too hot… yikes! There was one point where brother ‘R’ got into sort of a series of directional bumping to the point where he started drifting off the road toward the rock-strewn gutter; I was only able to look back and watch him put out a foot to barely correct his course… too much foot and he would have toppled. My heart stopped, but like a true flat-tracker pro he seemed to only put down enough to stave off disaster and then we were both back to rolling downhill at super high speeds. Never gone that fast on the Kona before. Crazy stuff. In hindsight maybe a little stupid. But we’ll be back there, I have a feeling! I think Brother ‘R’ wants to conquer that mountain (he had, well we both had to do a lot of hike-a-biking). I think it was a 2400 foot elevation gain or something? Numbers.

And that’s one of the beauties of mountain biking, especially if you’re trying to lose weight: that measurable, objective sense of improvement. Had a hard time going up the mountain today? Well, maybe next month you can do it in half the time, or in a harder gear. Same applies to our Iron Horse foray. When we first did that trail, late last summer I think it was, I almost literally couldn’t make it to the tunnel. The last three or so miles were excruciating. The sort of tearing a hole in your soul excruciating. Today I was keeping up with the others as we were making record time, and none of us were hardly breaking a sweat. Which means, of course, next time I need to go even faster. Got to get to that sweat point more often. Sweet sweat saturation.


Concreteness and Immediacy

28 May

Today’s song: Descendents Hurtin’ Crue – “I am better than you, you are a piece of poo.”

Today (and yesterday) were humdrum commute days, if by humdrum I mean incredibly perfect settings via high 60s and sun; and I do, because I’m writing this. Yesterday’s commute I woke up smarter than usual, and spent the first 9 miles or so lightly spinning. I was also able to do some weaving and crocheting. However, the latter half of yesterday’s ‘mute I kicked some ass. At the Zoo Tavern, I pulled up respectfully behind the two bikers ahead of me but then some racer wannabe on a Specialized (or maybe it was a Bianchi) pulled up and wedged in front of everyone. Well, excuuuuse us. So, I uh, sort of had to blow past him and then when he tried to catch up and pass on the Fred Hutch hill I sort of had to shame him. But the main point was the knee is much better when I start off easy. A lesson I quickly forgot on the ride home as I hammered the first 9 miles, at one point rabbit hunting a triathlete, on a Specialized, and I assume the tri part because of the wobbly riding and the bike jersy with the sleeves cut off raggedly, for tan line reasons presumably. And so the last 9 miles were a whimpering and slow procession as I mentally kicked myself, with the left leg, to spare the right knee.

Today’s ‘mute was with the Surlylady, who has similarly had knee issues lately (sympathic knee issues?) and so we took it easy all the way in, around 15mph. And what a difference that made. All day long felt better. Same thing on the ride home tonight. The muscles around the knee are a little sore, but that deep, sharp pain wasn’t there. Good stuff.

The title of this blog refers to some recent time spent absorbing biking literature. For a long, long time I’ve been a literary buff. Unfortunately, by ‘buff’ this in no way connotes any sort of muscle definition, other than perhaps the mental. My only sport for about 15 years was playing the bibliophile, i.e. carrying an armful of books around Third Place. Understandably, then, as my book collection grew so did my girth.

Nowadays I’m as much into Colnago as I am into Calvino. In fact, I like to ride around on my Colnago, discussing Calvino and sipping Calvados with my plouc friends. Or, I like to consider my favorite anti-hero Meursault while chomping on my meerschaum and lubing the Trucker’s chain. What? (Surlylady just winced). Did I say something odd?

Is worth two in the bike-gloved hand...

Is worth two in the bike-gloved hand...

Which all brings me to a couple of books-on-bikes for your consideration. First up is A Dog in a Hat, by Joe Parkin. I liked it… but… I could maybe see why others may have problems with it. The style is, well, about the level of a fairly edited blog. There’s no sense of plot, or build, it just sort of goes in sequence. To me, this is a bit refreshing, and adds to the authenticity. I can also see how some bike fans might be put off by the gritty details shared; as Bob Roll puts it in the intro, he advises them to go beep themselves. I agree. Anytime people start to idolize a sport and refuse to see the leopard’s spots (or is it tiger’s spots?) because of the glow of their hero’s glory is blinding ’em and etc. Except in religion. All aspects of religion, and all adherents and proponents, throughout all time, for all religions, have always been faultless.

Where was I. Right. The other thing that might turn folks off is the sort of nonchalant, doesn’t-give-a-lot-of-psychological-insight recounting. At times Joe seems to treat his bouts of Belgian racing with about the same fervor of someone going to work at Burger King. Where’s the fire? some may ask. For my part, I think I see the fire just in his perverse perserverance. I liked the behind-the-scenes look at late 80s racing, and the insight both into the Belgian scene and the nascent American peloton presence.


Demain, On Roule

Of a different temper, perhaps ‘True Temper’, is the book I got for my birfday: Jean Bobet’s Tomorrow, We Ride. So far, it’s magnificent. I’m hanging on just about every word. I really don’t need to wait to finish to give an assessment, although perhaps I will for closure.

Here’s one of the first passages, among many, that made my day, describing a journey to newly-communist Budapest for the Student World Games, where Jean Bobet would go on to win a bicycling competition:

“Our train stopped at the first Hungarian railway station in order to receive the dawn serenade of a military fanfare and a welcome from the local populace. Then the train stopped at the second station, and again at the third, each time with the same ceremony. It was not long before the well-represented Paris University Club, with its strong contingent of Medics and Fine Arts students, decided that such a warm welcome could not be ignored, and that we ought to show the crowds our appreciation with a popular song, if not with an official anthem. And so it was, at the fourth station, that our hosts, standing to attention, were treated to a rendition of O Balls of our Fathers. A good half-dozen Hungarian stations were made to echo with the glory of our ancestors’ testicles, and thus came to experience a particular sub-set of French intelligentsia.”

Any fans of Raymond Queneau out there, and if you aren’t shame on you, who also happen to be bikers, will dig this book.

And that last phrase is the key here: I’m loving this subset of bikes-meets-books intelligentsia. Gimme more! As I grow to love and learn bicycling more and more, I find myself finding references to it, or connections, in the most pleasantly surprising ways. It wouldn’t shock me, in other words, to discover some of my favorite authors etc. also enjoyed spending a sunny afternoon rambling around on a bike. At any rate I’ll keep that nice image in mind.

Tomorrow, We Ride, a tale of one brother and his biking career and the inextricable bonds with his more famous brother racer, also means a lot to me, literally, as tomorrow I go to my brother’s house to spend the night with he and my nephew, after a late afternoon MTB ride, followed by another MTB jaunt Saturday morning. Sharing the trails with my brother and nephew means so much to me sometimes I can’t even stand it.

Seattle Spring Classic: PV-Samm-Camano

25 May

After babying the knee (goo goo little knee cap, open up, oopen up, here comes the choo choo train) most of last week I figured it was time to strap on the arm-warmers (or not) and get out for some fresh air. Saturday was tough, however, because one of our pups got really sick/heat stroked/exhausted after we went for a hike at St. Ed’s. That may have been his last hiking trip with us, poor guy. He’ll be thrilled I’m sure.

Sunday then–

[Warning – the following is written with an appreciation of the near-unanimous anonymity of this blog. If for some reason you’re reading this and you’re not KonaLad, every word that follows is completely made up. This so-called Paradise Valley never existed. Dick Cheney never shot anyone there. Pretend that nothing happened. Thank you, the Ed.]

–I packed up the truck solo and headed off to Maltby-ish WA. Paradise Valley is a trail system up near the border of the King & Snohomish Counties. It’s owned and maintained by Snohomish County, of which I’m proud to call myself a resident (chest thump and arm flick with appropriate Snoho Co gang sign to represent). Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance folks spent a lot of time recently renovating this place, and it shows! Groomed trails and excellent ‘way point’ markers (synch up with the map if you go) with actual named trails and distances mean you’ll never get lost. Mostly in the trees, the landscape is perfect on a sunny spring day, with sun-dappled greenery. But since it’s in a forest essentially there are also plenty of rough and rooty-tooty spots, au natural, along with the man-made mischief.

The main trails are fairly easy, banked and speedy where the sightlines allow at least. Getting off on Lloyd trail is a nice way to cut across from the start but it can be a little gnarly in sections. The side singletrack stuff ranges from slightly more technical than the main trails to pretty technical. Nothing like Whistler, but more so than St. Ed’s, if that helps. Mr. KonaLad. At one point I saw one of those fallen trees with smaller logs ramping up to and down from the bigger log (must be a name for those things… caltrop?) and decided I was going to take it on. By ‘take it on’ I mean I successfully hamster hopped (rather than bunny hopped) the front end of the bike and then when the still heavily weighted back end hit the contraption I was just able to roll over. At times I feel frustrated at my lack of skillz, or the feeling that I have the upper body strength of a 12-year-old girl, or at least a 9-year-old East German girl… and dang I want to get better. At the same time I don’t want any spectacular falls to maim my STP or Flying Century plans so… I get off and hike over a lot of the stuff. Later in the summer I’ll ramp up the MTBing. I did several circuits of the place, focusing on the cardio fun and thrills of getting up to speed and flying through the woods.

Sunday night we went for a short five-mile ride on the Sammamish Trail to test out new saddles on our go-fast bikes. It was only five miles because after one mile SurlyLady started hurting. Since it’s our 13th anniversary, I insisted she take the Pave. She insisted that wasn’t necessary, putting her hand up and shaking her head. I insisted it was, with an imploring, open gesture that somehow seemed to include the sky, the universe and decades of time-worn logic. Then an old guy on an equally old Davidson hauling an Xtracycle trailer told us to get the hell off the trail. So presto chango we put the Fizik Alliante on my bike, and the Fizik Pave CP HP on hers; while I had been curious to see about the Alliante (I know they’re popular with the well-heeled set) I very soon missed the smooth but racy Pave. The Alliante was no muy caliente on my pressure points. The Pave is hard on the sit bones, but it’s that kind of good Brooks saddle hard. I think we both have learned we like the flatter saddles better. So we turned around. It would have been nice to cruise down the Samm Trail near sunset, with that soft spring feel near the canal-river, not to mention that Sarthe is dang fun to ride, but alas.


Camano Crit!

It may have been for the best that we saved a little juice for today’s ride, up around Camano Island. This was our third time (the second an abortive trip cut short, again, by an earlier saddle problem–cross your sit bones that we’re done with those for a while!). We brought KonaLad with us to set some serious pacing. This time around was much better than our trip in February, where I had to flog myself around the island basically. Today I was in good form. The knee wasn’t hurting too much. I actually think the mountain bike spinning, standing, falling, jumping and bumping may have oddly helped. The weather, to top things off, couldn’t have been more lovely… maybe 70 degrees or so with a marine-cooled breeze now and then. About a third of the way into the loop, however, KonaLad broke a spoke and we had to stop for some roadside repairs. It was gut wrenching watching his wrenching… kidding, actually it was very instructive; we’d never seen or heard spoken a bespoke spoke replacement before. In fact, he used one of the spares from the Long Haul Trucker that I carry around dutifully and rustfully! How cool is that. I sometimes wondered if they’d ever come in handy. After getting the new spoke in, however, the poor guy then had his tube die (presta valve did a snap-off) but then he put in his spare and we were going in no time. SurlyLady and I were both impressed.

I worried that the stoppage would mess up the knee but we started off slowly and spun things out. Overall that was kind of the theme of the day, for me at least. I started slow, taking it easy, and then at the end I felt invincible… nothing better than a nice day, lovely scenery, and feeling like you can do anything, physically at least. Mentally I’m feeble as ever.

Camano is a deceptive killer, I’d like to say. Apparently around 4000 feet of elevation gain on the route we took but there aren’t that many make-you-want-to-cry hills. There are about four or so that get your attention. What I mean by deceptive is that there are lots of rollers and they definitely add up. It’s the kind of route, in other words, where the Long Haul Trucker worked okay, but now and then I was wishing I had the Sarthe instead.

All in all I think our little party did very well. We found some good cruising rhythms and a couple of interesting Dan Henry-inspired alt routes that rewarded with nice scenery. One thing I need to learn to watch is when someone else takes a turn at the front of the paceline to not let up. I tend to get dropped like a butterfinger every time as I dawdle and look around and gasp and then, dang, I have to motor to try to catch up.

Off the island we stopped at Duck Burgers in Stanwood and had some good chow, not quite as good as the Pilchuck Drive-In in Snohomish, yet much, much better than chain food. It’s fun to sit around, gorge some calories, chat about the ride we just did or about the one coming up. Life is good in the Camano hood!

Trees, farmland, llamas, bays, water and lotsa rolling hills

Trees, farmland, llamas, bays, water and lotsa rolling hills

Custom Bike Dreams Await…

21 May

Today was just about perfect, all across the board: couldn’t have asked for better weather… I’m getting caught up at work after a few days off… the knee, while on the verge of tweaking big time, seems willing to let me spin easily and get through the commute. Best of all? Unbelievably, on the commute home, the Surlylady and I were able to take a little detour and spend some time at Hampsten Cycle’s headquarters. A coworker of hers knows Steve Hampsten, and is in fact in the process of ordering a custom bike for her husband, and invited us along. When I heard we might be going there on the ride home I have to admit my head was buzzing all day. I mean, Hampsten Cycles!

As soon as I can manage it I intend to sell the house, donate the dogs/cats to science, tell Surlylady we’re now going to live in that shack out in Carnation that she’s been singing banjo odes to, and spend what little equity we have left in this crapheap on, in this order: one of those Tournesol Pave 650b bruisers, then a Mud Pig disc cross model, then a Classic (in orange, natch, just like pictured on their site) and then a Strada Bianca, you know, for a little fat tire variety for when I’m visiting fat tired foreign countries. Then I’d see if they’d make me a hardtail 650b single speed mountain bike.

It was very cool to see a workshop in action, with the welding tanks, jigs, an old Mafac retail display box with, presumably, lots of brakes, and, of course, several frames and bikes hanging about. Wow… so cool. I could have geeked out for hours. I tried, somewhat successfully, to bite my tongue. The coworker’s husband’s bike is going to be amazing, 953 steel, probably with a natural stainless look, i.e. no paint, with the understated Hampsten logo. And such lovely geometry… I picked up a sample 953 bike, complete, and couldn’t believe how light it was. Really, really light. But steel!

Anyway, as you can imagine my imagination is fired up tonight. I’m going to make some calls tomorrow about the whole science thing, and have a realtor or two come by.

This land is my land

19 May

I’m still feeling Sunday’s century in my shoulders and arms, and especially in my imagination–all the rural scenery we soaked up kicked off my semi-annual urge to chuck it all and become a farmer. Not the field-tilling, calf-castrating kind, but more the chickens, goats and a couple of horses milling around while we’re banjo-picking on the front porch kind. Which probably doesn’t pay quite as well as my current gig, which is where the fantasy usually stalls. But someday! Riding through all that green, with all the associated smells and stillnesses, just fills me up. We went through Carnation and I had the vaguest memory of a past there. I asked my mom and found out we lived there when I was 2 years old, in a little cabin a half-mile hike up from the road that had no electricity or running water, so we had to carry buckets of water up from the stream. I said “With two little kids? That must’ve sucked for you!”And she said no, she’d loved it, it was the most beautiful place she could imagine. So I guess that’s where I get it. In any case, I’m glad I have it, and I’m really glad I live where I do so I can feel it so often.


17 May

We did it: our first century. And no this wasn’t no lame-ass Euro metric century. This was a full-on, one hunned per-cent English century. For myself I chose the 19th, as that was the height of both the British empire and sidewhiskers. Proof for all the haters. Wait, let me check the blog stats… right… make that proof for you, the one hater:

100 on the dot!

100 on the dot!

We decided to make it easy on ourselves by finding a route that always had a tailwind, never had any hills and was populated every few miles with beautiful women offering free Vitamin Water and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Whoa, sounds like I’m having a flashback to my delusions. More on that later. In truth, we decided to incorporate a new ride with something familiar, something new something old, sort of like a biker wedding, ‘cept without the leather chaps and chaps in leather.

Parking at the foot of the Centennial Trail in Snohomish we headed south on the Old Monroe Snohomish road (one of my favourites), going past Lord Hill Park and into Monroe. From there we turned south and scooted along to Duvall, then Carnation, then Fall City and then approached the frightening hill leading up to Snoqualmie. I say approached because in a quick flash of desperate math (more to come later) I realized to meet our goal of a century we didn’t really need to go up that tall, nasty hill, did we hobbitses? No, my precious Trucker wouldn’t want us to now, would it? No, it wouldn’t. Nasty hobbitses.

While Konalad bravely charged up the hill, Surlylady and myself conspired in the wings… cue organ music… and brought the hero back to earth, or at least the foot of the hill with a clever strategem: we complained loudly. This did the trick and we turned around north again. Kona/Lemond Lad (BTW it was he, Surlylady and myself… and precious Trucker) suggested an alt route so we went through Fall City and then picked up some meandering country roads that went past Tall Chief Golf Course. It was, I can’t think of anything else, amazing.


Oh the green fields of Carnation's are smiling (old Snoqualmie drinking song)

I almost couldn’t believe how beautiful and ideal it was on those backroads. Rhodies blooming, bees buzzing, quiet little frog ponds with fronds fronding, golfers chasing neon-green balls into the shrubbery along the road. If there hadn’t been lots of other bikers on that leg I would almost doubt the magic of it in hindsight. We’ll definitely make this trip again. Anyway, this idyll passed and we got back to Carnation, took a pee-pee at Tolt McDonald, startling the mountain bikers, because we’re big bad roadies, not because of any urination problems, of course not, and then on the Carnation Farm Road, back west across the valley, then up the lovely and winding West Snoqualmie Valley Road. Actually, make that a double on the winding and lovely: it too was a revelation. I’d been on it before, inadvertantly back in February on my Carnation adventure, but today (mid 70s and sunny) was just a golden, precious day. My Trucker precioussss.

We mustn't let the precious lay on the ground, nasty hobbitses.

We mustn't let the precious lay on the ground, nasty hobbitses.

Onward and upward the sinewy path led us, stalwart saddle-hounds bound for an afternoon ice-cream showdown in Snohomish. This leg of the trip is a bit of a blur, but I do remember hitting lots of rollers and thinking to myself you’ve got to attack rollers or they’ll attack you and then my leg and glute muscles responding to myself with a gritted-teeth refrain of f*** you and the ******* you ***** rode in on, you ******. It was a lovely section of road really. That bit on Connelly where you have to stop before proceeding under the railway bridge is brutal, with the sharp little uphill. But then it was downhill to Snohomish, where the previously mentioned ice cream was procured (Huckleberry Heaven, no less, from a young woman who seemed to make a point of announcing that she was going to wash her hands first, for me, as if this was a special, personal favor) amidst a carnival-like scene of Harley riders, drivers, Harley-hangers-on and family types. We sat on the sidewalk and absorbed our ice cream while absorbing the scene and also absorbing whatever that wet stuff was on the sidewalk. Oh, and I was sexually assaulted by a drunky harley lady. That’s a moment for the scrapbook!

At this point KonaLad left us while Surlylady and I started off on the Centennial Trail. In another fiendish display of desperation arithmetic I figured we only needed to do about 14 miles into the Trail, which would mean we’d likely miss most of that last hill part. And it turned out to be a wise suggestion as I soon learned… da da dah.

With about 8 miles to go out of the 14 northward SL asked, “Should we stop and get something at the gas station now or wait on the way back?” I very stupidly said let’s wait. About four miles later I started bonking. Delusions (mentioned above), head-to-toe weariness, the works. At one point I was convinced that I was Ed Asner. Next I was convinced I was Ed Asner doing a voiceover on a documentary about the evils of all forms of bicycling. Then I started to think that if I moved my sunglasses, ruby-red rays of energy would spurt from my eyes and kill swaths of grass and maybe a person or two. Then I started thinking that if I moved my sunglasses at all the world would end and so as a conscientous citizen I closed my eyes out of precaution and of course soon found myself nearly swerving into the ditches.

And here we come to numbers. The SL always likes to make fun of my guy thing, well she makes fun of that guy thing, but my guy thing where I obsess about MPH and horsepower and focal length and CPU gigahertz. Well poop on her My Pretty Ponies I say, because today she insisted, even though my German-engineered VDO odometer is absolutely spot-on with the mile markers on the Centennial, I tell ya she insisted on continuing past our point of pre-ordained return, every extra ‘bonus’ foot ridden an agonizing pain in my patootie; apparently her Crap-eye I mean Cat-eye computer is a couple of miles off from mine (I probably should reset hers to account for the new 25c tires rather than 23c–ooops) and so grumble grumble grumble we had to go further. Grumble. Just so her odometer could turn 100. Oh well. Thankfully, mercifully she finally stopped and we paused in the shade on the side of the trail to share a bag of cashews and lukewarm water. Rested up a bit she took off heading back south, up the slight hill grade, of course like a fresh, startled antelope. It takes me a while to warm up after stops, due to the knee pain, and the painstaking pains I take to avoid the knee pain. But soon I was warmed and back up into a 18 mph groove (17 on her computer, hah) and together we champed at the century bit; speaking for myself, I was also looking forward to a Snickers bar and a Vitamin Water at the Lake Stevens groc store.

This sugar boost definitely did the trick. We cruised back to the car (stopping to take the momentous momentum picture of the VDO clicking over at 100; weird, but when it hits 100 you get a bonus round and an extra life). And then of course we ended the day with some kick-ass Pilchuck Drive-In grub. All in all, a very cool day. I had sworn to do a century before my 41st birthday and dang it if’n Surlylady didna kept me sane and sober enough to do just that!

Ummm. I canz has cheeseburger?

Ummm. I can hava dee cheezburger?

Buckets o’ Cold Cold Rain

13 May

Today’s ride home was… well, very wet. I didn’t mind it so much except for the downhill past Fred Hutch when the wind-whipped rain drops in the face were cold and ouchy.

But for the most part it was fun riding through puddles. Once you resign yourself to get wet, to immerse yourself in the idea, then you can get on to your moist enjoyment. That’s what… never mind.

In fact this afternoon reminded me of the one time our governess let me play in mud puddles, a demonstrative lesson I’m sure, because after a bit she demonstratively rapped my knuckles and said “Back to your Latin, Little Lord Fart-leroy!” Oh, such good times with the governess. We used to refer to her as the Big Sister.

The knee was very much on the verge of outright pain. Overuse I believe is the term. My doctor I’m sure would use that term and dismiss me. Then he’d see my eyes get all moist, as they did on the ride home tonight, and still dismiss me with a “stay off the bike.” Stupid doctor. Governess would let me ride the bike, wouldn’t she?

Yesterday at lunch (it being so incredibly lovely outside, in spite of Weather Underground’s prediction of 80% rain and lightning, and with all the stuff going on at work, I decided I needed to get ‘out’) I went across the street and ate at the whatchamacallit next to Starbucks. Perused the menu to the annoyance of the regulars in line behind who all wanted cheeseburgers. They canz has cheezburgahs canz they now? I decided to go with something imaginatively entitled Sliced Chicken Breast: grilled chicken, avocado slices, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard/mayo and… da da dah… bacon. Yummy. Anyway, there’s a bike point here. I was sitting by myself, near an older gentleman who was polishing off something from the Blue Water Taco (so much better than the Brown Water Taco Bell). I opened up an old issue of Vintage Bicycle Quarterly (now just BQ) and was ogling the centerfold, a modern Rebour-like drawing of the Herse tandem used by the editor in the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris. As I munched on my Sliced-Brest-Sliced this old felllow leaned over and asked, “What kind of light is that on that bike?”

I explained it was a modern Schmidt light, powered by a hub generator. He had very cataracty, watery eyes and a shock of white hair. He grunted. Then he told me about the kind of generators he used to have, sidewall generators. I nodded and listened, saying I’d seen some before, and even had an old Soubitez one from a hand-me-down Nishiki. He stopped talking for a while. Then he struck up again by asking if I’d ever heard of a ‘chicken motor.’ “That’s not the real name of them, I can’t think of it, but that’s what we used to call them. A small two-stroke motor about the size of something you’d see on a weed whacker. To work it you’d push it down so it was against the side of the tire, and you’d fire up the little engine and it would help you get over hills.” I admitted I’d never heard of them. He gave me a few more details then packed up his stuff and left. A minute later he showed up at my table with an amendment: “I should say those chicken motors, they didn’t rub on the sidewalls, but on the very top of the tire. The sidewalls wouldn’t have handled it.” And that was that, he walked away.

I love when that sort of thing happens. A total stranger tells me about a chicken motor. Now if only a supermodel would need help fixing a flat. Oh, hi Surlylady!