Archive | December, 2009

santa brought sunshine

25 Dec

Holy crap, I got a little sunburn. On Christmas day, in Washington! I did not think such a thing was possible. When we woke up it was gloriously sunny, so we ignored the frost and the ice and the thermometer and the fact that stepping outside into the frigid morning air hurt both the body and mind, and we set off on our Surlys. Did I mention it was glorious?

even our shadows are shivering.

After the ride it was still sunny, so we packed up the pup and went to walk around Green Lake, along with probably every other person in Seattle. I love sunny winter days here because everyone gets a little Vitamin D drunk, and today Green Lake was like the bar that serves $2 beer. Everyone was there, everyone was lurching along unsteadily and grinning like a maniac, trying to take in as much as they could before they got cut off. Glorious!

Blood on the Burke

18 Dec

This morning, on one of the long downhill stretches leaving Mountlake Tear I came within inches of hitting a very large raccoon that was scuttling ‘cross the road in front of me. Not sure there’s much you can do at 25 mph and a large mammal emerges from the side of the road right in front of ya… whew scary. It felt like an omen, so much so that for some reason I got Grizzly Bear’s version of He Hit Me stuck in my head and started singing it the rest of the way in to work.

Tonight, then. After a very good day I left a little early (fate), hoping to beat what looked like a nasty incoming cloud front. Things were fine, and dry. Eastlake wasn’t as bad as yesterday, when there’d been a car pileup on the University Bridge which caused lots of unusual two-lane havoc- usually bikers are able to claim that right lane as their ‘sclusive.

Onto the UW campus. Long-time Burkers know about the big bump, not too far from 15th Ave NE and right next to the ‘Medicinal Herb Garden’; it’s a huge, pimple-like dome that we’ve all learned to skirt. I passed the bump and then a few seconds later I heard the most horrific crash. By the time I stopped and could look around I saw a biker, sprawled on the ground, in such an angle that I knew it had been bad, and that he must have hit that bump, maybe while with only one hand on the bars or who knows why. There weren’t any other riders around, and so it must have been a freak, solo crash. I raced back. Two young lady pedestrians had stopped and were asking the guy if he was okay; another biker who’d been going the other way stopped as well. The guy was moaning, half his face covered in a sheet of blood, likely from cuts due to his biking glasses, which were in pieces all around his head. Likely also due to road rash. He had clearly hit hard, and hit with his head/neck/shoulder. His left shoe was still clipped in. He moaned some more while one of the young ladies used her cell to call 911. We told him to lie still, but then the most so-help-me-god awful shaking started in his arm; I knew it was bad. He rolled over onto his back while we tried to get him to stop moving. The paramedic on the phone told us to tell him not to move. Around this time I said I was going to ride ahead a bit and direct the paramedics and then after not a very long time (we were right next to UW Hospital thank goodness) a fire truck showed up and I raced down an incline to flag them down and several followed me back up onto the Burke and I raced back down to tell the little group around the guy that help was on the way and the initial paramedics came up and stabilized the guy, and the thing is his legs were shaking, and I mean shaking in a scary, scary way and then an ambulance was able to drive onto the Burke from the other direction and then holy… I lost it when they put a neck stabilizer on the guy and one of the fire paramedics (who are so incredibly awesome) called it in as a head and neck injury, that the guy was barely conscious and they got him on a stretcher with a discrete agreement to dress and assess his wounds in the ambulance and so they got him on a stretcher and that’s when I started to lose it, seeing them pick him up onto the gurney, the pools of blood and shattered glasses left on the Burke, the forlorn Landshark bike with its lights still on tossed aside in the bushes getting wheeled away by one of the paramedics and then just like that the scene was clear and the little group was left behind. We kind of looked at each other. What was there to say? Very odd. Thirty minutes of panic, activity, solutions, aid. Then empty pavement. Blood. A water bottle on its side. So I wheeled off, dazed.

The sweat and heat I’d built up on the ride had long since turned to a chilled cocoon and it took me awhile to stop shaking and shivering and honestly… I don’t even remember much of the ride home.

I do know that I’m going to go order a couple sets of those Road ID things, tonight. It was awful watching the other biker looking in the little bag under the seat to see if we could find ID (and couldn’t). I’m sure his loved ones would want to know ASAP.

So here’s to hoping LandsharkLad is okay tonight. I fervently hope he doesn’t have lasting (neck, spine, head?) injuries, and that if anyone was waiting for him they’re with him now.

curiosity squished the squirrel

18 Dec

So I didn’t ride at all this week, but I did check the blog stats for searches that brought people here and man, there are some weird ones. Especially “squirrel squished by woman driver”. Why would someone type that into google?? I’m so curious I can hardly stand it. Maybe there’s a viral video out there about said squirrel squishing, in which case, gross. Squirrels are my third favorite varmint, after possums and nutria. I saw a nutria swimming once at Matthew’s Beach and it was AWESOME.

I Love the Feel of Lung Burning in the Morning

17 Dec

I realized this morning after three days of non-riding that my weeks have become measured not in the traditional ways such as the daily spoonfuls of corporate poison but in the checkered-flag checkboxes next to the days ridden: check? Check! No check? Check please!

This morning was fabulous if for no other reason than it was a checkmark day. As I ate cereal and hit the space bar to wake up the old compoo I saw on Wunderground that today’s weather had been upgraded from ‘virtually certain shower deluges’ to ‘indifferently possible rain-ish maybe’ which was worthy of a woot – which I did quite literally on the way down frisbee park hill as the light rain and fairly cold wind was whistling in my ears – I couldn’t help it, I had to whoop out of sheer freaking joy, so glad to be riding… sort of awkward when I slowed down at the bottom of the hill and then out-of-saddle waddled my way slowly past the small crowd at the nearby bus stop, heh.

Aside from the first half hour or so the rest of the way in was fairly dry, and went by so fast. Those times when I don’t ride for a while, that first day back I just feel super strong.

Speaking of which, and don’t take this the wrong way – please only take it the right way – seriously – but is it normal to now and then find new, uh, muscles? My legs, for instance, seem to be changing, even within the last few weeks. I mean, obviously while I was losing 85 pounds I noticed lots of changes But I’m not exactly burning up the miles lately. So it’s surprising. Just saying, there’s like at least two new muscles that suddenly showed up in my legs. It’s just bizarre. And my arms, I was noticing today how all weird and angly looking they are now. Now if only my belly would get all weird and angly looking.

Speaking of muscle development (I was at least; you’re probably long gone) I plan on going back to my old gym this weekend and joining up again for another winter/spring bout. Unfortunately just can’t find time to do during the work week, which probably doesn’t bode well. But I’m a cheapskate weirdo in that if I’m paying the $35 a month it’s highly motivated. I will likely see if they have another new year’s special on personal trainers and start up another core routine, because that was such a huge help last spring. I still remember how good it felt on the Flying Wheels century, all those spring months of gym training and bike miles, paying off so nicely. If I plan to do STP in one day this coming summer, it’s time to start ramping things up.

Best thing about riding in the total complete darkness? Weirdly focused thinking. Our pal IbisLad probably has done the Burke Gilman so many times that it’s all rote and routine, and while I’m certainly approaching that (if slowly) feeling of “Wow, am I home already? That flew by” a good part of that sense of time sped up is the way my mind drifts. Toward the end of the ride tonight (which did dole out some rain, but not too bad) I came up on a couple of chatty kathy’s riding side by side, regaling each other with lots of blah blah and interrupting each other with wha? huh? – sheesh just go home and call each other on your pink phones in your pink bedrooms while you twirl the cord around your pink toes – but the worst thing about the chatty kathy guys blocking the Burke for a couple of miles was that I was in a full-on daze and wasn’t really coming out of it and came dangerously close to them; then the good thing, it must be admitted, was I locked on to their blinkies and stayed in position letting them worry about looking forward and sideward while I continued thinking about my new novel. For instance, I’m going to start it with a sort of peripheral bit about a minor character, a cat named Dinger, and a certain tendency he has around candles. I also imagined his owner, the mobster, as having a very unusual dialect, and was imagining several dialogue snippets and was trying to vocalize/vowelize how it would sound, all while most motor functions kept going. So: while riding the bus has been nice, I get most of my novel ideas written on the bus ride in/out, there’s just something conducive about a bus in winter, biking in has its mental benefits as well. Now I just need to stop writing this inconsequential blog post so that I can go about my inconsequential novel.

saturday, in the park

12 Dec

This weekend I was supposed to head over to the little house in the big woods for holiday shenanigans with my family, but then someone on TV said “Snow, maybe!” and my mom immediately canceled. Which sounds a little alarmist, but here’s the story: Several years ago me, my sister and my oldest, dearest friend got snowed in over there for days. And the power went out. At first it was fun in a Little House on the Prairie way, but then the booze ran out, and playing yet another board game by candlelight seemed like the worst kind of torture, and it started to feel a little too much like The Shining. Especially since even on a good day, my stepdad isn’t too far from Jack Nicholson’s character. It ended with my friend and I shoveling snow well past midnight to get her trusty VW bus out of the half-mile driveway and back on the road to Seattle. So, with that empirical evidence that there is such a thing as too much together time, even with the people you like the most, we are very careful not to get in that particular pickle again.

Which means I suddenly had a free afternoon, and it happened to be beautifully sunny. The lad decided to head out for a ride, but it was too chilly for me and also I finally got my fancy camera fixed (yay!) so I opted for a nice long walk in the woods instead. The pup was really happy to hear this:

walks rule, bike rides drool.

She and I headed out, seeking squirrels and photo ops, respectively. Like this one!

Everyone loves a log.

Everyone loves a log.

I don’t know much about photography and camera settings and what have you, but does it really matter when things look like this?

good grief.

Back in the woods we came across a little stream that was frozen on top, but you could still see running water below:

Cold! As! Ice! You know that you are!

The pup tried so hard to drink from it, but she just kept bumping her nose on the ice. While I laughed and took pictures (this is why I don’t have children):

sigh.

All in all it was the perfect way to spend a winter day, especially since this song wouldn’t stop playing in my head all the way back up the hill—such a great soundtrack for a chilly winter walk.

Wind + Chill

10 Dec

Having chickened out all week – on Monday I suited up, opened the garage door, wrinkled my nose at the sparkly street and the instant cloud of breath, closed the garage door, took off the boots and ran back inside, jumped up for the SurlyLady to catch me while asking her “don’t say anything, just hold me” – I finally rode the bike into work today. It wasn’t as bad as I expected in terms of the icy slickness fear factor, but it was bitterly, bitterly cold.

Immediately the tactility of how the word windchill must have been invented caused my right fingers to get strangely frostbitey, to the point where I almost couldn’t stand it. I had not one but two sets of those hand warmer thingies (wow, they work great!) but no joy for the fingers. Then at the end of a long downhill stretch where we invariably catch a red light I pulled up, stopped, exhaled and promptly covered the inside of my glasses with a fog mist which then promptly froze! I couldn’t wipe it away, it was quite truly frozen. I threw the glasses in one of the panniers and gritted my crow’s feet the rest of the downhill stretches, oy that was cold.

Later when I hit the U-District a reader board there claimed 18 degrees, and so I have to believe it was even worse than that up here in Snohomish-King border country. One new piece of clothing (not counting the hand warmer packets) I tried out today, to great effect, was a SmartWool wool neck gaiter. It was amazingly warming around my neck. It’s essentially a tube-like scarf, or, if you will, the bottom half of a balaclava. It worked great stretched over my cheeks, nose and ears, which were in turn covered by the new hat SurlyLady got me from Etsy.com. They made a great combination. The only problem with having a covering over my mouth was the sort of tantric exercises I had to employ, i.e. breath in/out/in/out via nose, hold breath while suck up mucus via nose, repeat. The outside of the neck gaiter became covered in frost, formed in a halo circle around my mouth, it was crazy. And, my darn water bottle almost froze solid! Interestingly, while toward the end of the ride my toes were starting to hurt, those new Endura booties again proved their worth.

The plus side? I didn’t see a single solitary biker till almost to the U.W. campus, and so aside from a few hardy walkers I got to experience a most touching sunrise, spiraling frost/fog whorls rising from Lake Washington against a robin’s egg blue and peachie orange sky, absolutely gorgeous, the kind of morning where you just have to go Woot! out loud – and the kind of morning where you know you’ll be the only one around to hear it.

The down side? It was darn cold. And lonely. The frostbite feeling in my right hand was pretty severe in the morning; I almost turned around to head home. Maybe if I got some Lobster Claw gloves I’d be set? Overall, it’s kind of shocking what you can get away with on a bike, in terms of your core/torso/head warmth. As long as exposed skin is kept to a minimum, and if you can keep your fingers and toes from falling off, it’s amazing what you can pull off. I rode in 16 degree (that’s a guess) darkness wearing essentially the same outfit I’d wear if it was 50-degrees out, save the wool gaiter. That’s kind of crazy when you think about it.

Here’s to the winter bike commuters ’round the country and world who’re probably laughing at my 16-degree 3rd degree, my balaclava’s off to ya.

Health Care Bears (warning, political)

5 Dec

After receiving a Republican chain email from my Pops the other day, regarding the Coburn/Vitter health care plan amendment bluff, I was amused to read about Sens Brown and Franken’s calling of said bluff on Friday. Here’s the email I sent back to my Pops, along with a personal message (not included here) to stop sending us such bullshit:

“Of course, it would seem that, even to the most casual observer, this amendment wasn’t intended as a substantive effort to get the country moving toward a better health care system but was rather a juvenile prank. I think what Coburn/Vitter don’t realize is the unintentional implication they’re drawing:

1) the health plan enjoyed by Congressional members is REALLY GOOD, it’s a gold-plated health plan

2) what they’re proposing for a plan for the rest of the country is REALLY BAD because you have to wait in line with a bunch of smelly, scary people who will almost be ripping the tax money right out of your pockets

3) therefore let’s make them choose the BAD plan and that’ll… make them think twice?

The problem is at least some of the Democrats have called the bluff, and have signed on to the amendment, and so I guess these Republicans are left with… well, what exactly, beyond providing the kind of background noise that will play well on the 24 hour FOX news cycle? Unless the commercial sponsors of FOX suddenly decide to at least partially underwrite national health care costs, this stunt was a waste of time. A recent Harvard study found that 45,000 people die each year due to lack of health care: how many people died while Coburn et all pulled this stunt?

How about instead flipping Coburn’s dialectic formulation on its head: why not include an amendment that would provide for all citizens the same apparently first class health care plan that Congress offers itself?”