Archive | May, 2010

Daydream Nation

30 May

Leaden skies, leaden legs? Check. Let’s go for a ride!

Today was going to be solo century/adventure day. Hop on the Poprad and see where it leads you, that sort of thing. Interestingly it led me to this trash can, just off the Sammamish River Trail:

 

Aw everyone keeps throwing crap in me!

 

What’s the universe trying to tell me? Can’t the universe just send a text? Something like ‘yr meant to do ____’?

As I said, leaden skies. Rained pretty much the whole day, just a light sprinkle kind of rain. Only justified a rain jacket a few times, but still, what is up with this rain? (all the Seattleites say Amen!) And what is up with this temperature, sort of too chilly for short-sleeves, but too muggy for long… like anti-Goldilocks temperature?? (all the Seattleites say Amen!).

Leaden legs. I knew within a few blocks of home there was no way I’d pull off 100 miles today. Yesterday’s personal trainer session had been brutal on my chest, arms and back… the trainer had applied the concept of ‘overload’ with gleeful torture… my whole body felt as bruised as my elbows, that I bruised while doing pushups…

However, this was adventure day with the SurlyLady at home chilling and therefore this was my chance to not take a map or a consequence and reconnoiter and loiter around. As such, I finally, and I mean finally, saw the trailhead for the Tolt Pipeline Park trail leading off the Sammamish River Trail. It’s only an extremely wide double-track gravel and dirt line that goes straight up to the nearby hill, and straight up that hill, in a very clearly dirt/gravel looking kind of path. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before… guess my mind wanders a lot on the Sammamish (note: we had simply stumbled on it the other day, at a higher altitude).

So I rode along to the foot of the hill, looking up at the awesome verticality, as nervous as Galahad approaching a castle filled with virgins and visions of the Grail. Feel free to mentally insert some Terry Gilliam-influenced paper cutout talking dolls from on high.

No way am I going to take that hill with road slick tires in this mud (I said to the Poprad, who snorted and tossed a handlebar in response) and so I scooted down the paved road southward, and then up the hill at that roundabout intersection, keeping vigilant for an opportunity to cut back over and catch the Tolt. And, not too far up the hill, there it was: an elevated walkway spanning a depression/valley, right next to the pipe that’s part of the titular. Dismounted for the rough stuff under the bridge and then I was on the Tolt! And immediately slowed to a muddy halt. Whoa. Not so fun on a road bike in the mud. I fishtailed a few times but mostly sought out the relative safety of the gravel while avoiding all the walkers.

 

Loaded for bare... knuckled... uh, fun!

 

Alone, I had time to daydream a lot. I was thinking about the Hendrix CD I’d been listening to, and thinking about generational context. When I first heard that CD in college I remember thinking, what great songs, and man they rock! I can only imagine how mind blowing it must have been back in the day. It wasn’t mind blowing to me, in other words, but it was vintage and cool. For me, mind blowing was Sonic Youth tweaking that first song on Daydream Nation, Teenage Riot, and how when I first really got into it I pictured the four of them on a jungle gym thing and the bass and drums sitting on top of the monkey bars sort of swinging back and forth in tempo and Lee and Thurston each off doing their thing but also in lock step, little acrobatic swings on the ends of the monkey bar… just this sort of sympathetic chaos and what the hell is that tuning all rolled up in a sort of messy post-T-Rex/Hendrix snot rag kind of thing. That song, and Total Trash, just used to make me so happy and charged up and ready to change the world! That, I thought, must have been what college kids back in the 60s and early 70s thought of Hendrix, as they listened to the vinyl on their oversized headphones. As I thought about these generational analogs, I moved on somehow to Elliott Smith. In my mind, Either/Or was my generation’s equivalent to CS&N (see below) or Simon & Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. I started playing some of the songs in my head, thinking how I love how the drums come in a bit of the way into Pictures of Me, the doubled-vocals on that song and the self-harmonies on Say Yes, how genius and exciting it was to hear those back in the late 90s… I even wrote a record review for it for a weekly paper where I worked.

Then Bear Creek Road, then Paradise Valley Road:

 

Vegetation ain't be drying out no time soon...

 

As I cruised along at a good clip I thought, I need some motivation. What’s my motivation? I looked around for a director. The Poprad flicked an STI shifter, used to hearing me talk to myself and to a non-existent director and/or editor. Hey I know why not try some of those there interval thangs? I got out of the saddle and tried to up the ante but eh, just wasn’t feeling it. I needed motional if not emotional motivation. Something to drag me all the way to Snohomish, and help me rationalize getting a cheezburger at Pilchuck Drive In… maybe something like those (not one but two) groups of pacelining roadies who just whizzed past! I quickly scooted and took up Tail End Charlie and followed them into the Maltby area where, inexplicably, in spite of rocking some belted 32s and a full Carradice I powered along with the leading pair, wheweee! I was on a roll, averaging mid 20s all the way into that last lap before Snohomish, even blazing along up that Connelly Road hill, all in order to make it to the castle which held visions of a my own Hamburger Holy Grail:

 

Pilchuck, Pilchuck to Thee I'll Be True!

 

Sat down, made conversation with bored local teens who seemed to veer between wanting to laugh at me in my get up and genuinely curious about how much my large iced tea cost (ah, to be a teenager again!)… so I Fakebooked, checked some email, chugged the cheezburger, stood up and… oh crap. I felt like my real age suddenly (42). This is going to be a grind home, isn’t it? The Poprad waggled its fender flaps and looked for a bit of sugar.

The way back from Snohomish back to the Woodinville-terland is comprised of one looooong elevation gain. I spun up the Broadway hill, up to Maltby again, across the highway, and back down Paradise. Then right on the Woodinville-Duvall road, but not too far, as I took the 194th Ave turnout to avoid all the shopping sprawl (a very pleasant suburban backway with forested hill on one side and dreamy old-school suburban domestics on the right), then a right on 165th and past the marshland area and then up, up, up more elevation to the Woodinville/Bear Creek plateau then the exciting downhill slalom course leading back to the Sammamish Trail and then to Lake Forest Park where I stopped at the Farmer’s Market and I picked myself up a couple of Farmers, along with a half-dozen Farmer’s Daughters:

 

Mmm... cherries from Wenatchee!

 

I got a pound of ‘spray-free’ cherries and a pair of pears and high-tailed it home, where the shower and smells of wonderful crock-pot cooking greeted me in a way that, in this generational context daydream day, full of bikes and music and iPhone pictures and modern cyclotourism, provided comfort affinity-tones along the lines of basics, such as warmth, food and shelter, boon companions for centuries of weary travelers.

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grounded

30 May

So the lad and I are thinking about trying a half-marathon this fall, which is kind of funny since up until last week I hadn’t gone running since it involved a playground at recess and someone’s contagious case of cooties. But kids do it all the time, so how hard can it be, right? Then, on my second day of the couch-to-5k training program that’s worked so well for the lad, I pulled a muscle in my bum. Which is also kind of funny in theory, but not so much when you try to move or sit down. So today while he’s out on a ride, I’m here at home trying to keep still. This is really challenging, because while my mind might be mellow, my body is seriously twitchy. Foot tapping, finger drumming, ants in my pants! This is the second day of house arrest and the injury is already feeling much better, which makes it even harder to just sit here. Thank the lord for Youtube, and its rabbit-hole of hippie goodness. A vague memory of a scratchy record my folks used to play and one of my first favorite songs, and look! Here it is in living color:

A song and a story? Love that. I think that’s why I’ve been on such a hippie music bender lately. Those songs tell the best stories. Or maybe it’s just how they’re connected to my story that gets me. Like this one, where Stephen Stills looks just like my parents’ old buddy Nip, who once killed a rattlesnake during a camping trip and cooked it over the fire for dinner. It did, in fact, taste like chicken.

We lived in southern California and went camping a lot back then, and my sister and I thought it was a really good idea to find tarantulas and let them crawl on us. These are the memories that make me think, “What the crap, parents?” But then again, maybe that’s why spiders don’t freak me out now, and that’s a good thing since our house is a spider-making machine. Ooh, that reminds me…:

Now that’s a good story!

Life’s Rich Demand…

29 May

...creates supply and demand.

The parts keep coming in! It’s pretty exciting. Every day there’s something new to ogle. These are for the new, as-yet-to-be-revealed bike, in case you hadn’t guessed.

In the meantime, yesterday I buffed, cleaned, lubed, re-taped and got the Trucker all gussied up and was set to take pictures this morning to put it on CL. I got to the computer. I cropped the pix in Photoshop. I blurred out all the rust and blemishes (kidding) and used the de-aging filter (kidding) and ran it through the fisheye filter (not kidding) because I was obviously procrastinating.

I just couldn’t do it, in truth.

I tend to get oddly sentimental about some things, but damn it this bike took me over 6000 miles and largely helped me lose 100 pounds! (The other night when I was adding miles to the old spreadsheet I did a crosswise sum for 2009 and 2010; all told I’ve done over 5200 miles on the Trucker. And with the numbers for 2008, which were never recorded, I’m sure that the total is around 6000 miles.) It’s been a grocery hauler, a commuter brawler, a weekend Team Testostrogen mauler, and an off-road crawler.

6000 miles.

Three chains. Two bar tapes. Three sets of tires (didn’t really put too many miles on the original Continental Contacts). Brooks saddle, and a VO seatpost with more fore/aft tilt than the stock Kalloy. IRD cantilevers rather than Tektros (tho I have the Tektros back on there and they seem okay, at least on the stand).

Other than that, very low maintenance/worry for a lot of bang for buck. 6000 seems pretty good for the mid-level components on the old boy. The rear Alex Adventurer rim is feeling pretty scarily concave, due no doubt to all the sludgy commuter miles grinding away. But I’m sure there’s another 1000 or so miles left in ’em. I construct that last line in a hopeful/expectant tone because, yes, I’ve decided I’m going to keep the guy. I’ll figure something out. It’ll be great to have such a multi-purpose backup — odd how my priorities have changed, in that now I’m going to have three bikes that are all various shades of the same essential meaning, meaning that each can carry fenders, bigger tires, even bigger knobby tires, and can be as comfortable off-road as on a double century. Maybe what I’ll do to justify this sitcheeation is keep them in certain ‘intention’ builds and that’ll cut down on the tire/rack/fender/etc transfers. Maybe I’ll be one of *those* biker types that’s always moving shit around from bike to bike and finding old anodized doodads and what’s-it’s and bragging about it on boards (or here) or maybe I’ll just simply enjoy taking a bike down to it’s bare bones and starting up again, like I did with the Trucker this week, and feel comfortable having a little stable of go-to bikes for the putterer in me.

So here’s to Wellington, my beloved Long Haul Trucker, and another fun 6000 miles… Hip hip, hooray!

Wellington

Begin the Begin…

27 May

Feelin' nice and cranky

Familiarity Breeds Content

26 May

[SurlyLad] In the same way that stumbling t’ward the bus stop, or firing up your old Volvo, or running to catch your vanpool becomes an institutionalized should-be-institutionalized routine, so too the bike commute. You get to the point where it’s almost on auto pilot in the morning. You look outside. It’s raining. And not just raining. But pouring and cold like it’s freaking February. Okay, goes your morning-zombie brain, bring heavy gloves. And that one thing… oh yeah bootie covers. But that’s the one variation. Work clothes. Tools, pump, spares, zip ties, extra gloves, extra socks, jacket, water bottle, it’s all there already. Even the bike clothes, likely stacked the night before, require very little thinking, other than matching your top to the colored highlights in your hair (I still have St. Patrick’s Day green in my hair, hence my run of wearing green shirts). Then comes the ride itself. You push off into the wet morning to the sound of the Schwalbe’s slapping on the wet greasy concrete; the shhhhsk of the water hitting your buddy-flap’d fenders; to the instant grit in your drivetrain; the patter of raindrops off your cap brim and jacket arms. And yet, even with this routine, even with the familiar strains, even with the familiarity, there’s something experiential about the bike commute. To my knowledge, I’ve never just started grinning while busing or driving to work. Not at least a grin as a direct result of that effort.

[SurlyLady] The lad had this idea that we would do a co-blog post, switching off paragraphs. But then he wrote the above and I don’t know where to take it. I barely remember this morning’s commute due to an alarm clock that went off way too early, a brain-stem-blasting headache and a dire shortage of coffee. I guess it was raining? And there was grinning? All I know is I really wanted a pillow for my handlebars so I could just take a little nap.

[SurlyLad] Great. What a downer. Guess I might as well eat worms. There were lots of ’em on the trail this morning, wriggling around. On the upside, the ride home tonight was pretty awesome – t-shirt only, as the rain ended just as we got started riding, and then held off, was sunny even, until the very end when the clouds started roiling again. What a lovely dovely ride!

[SurlyLady] Those were worms? I thought I was hallucinating. It was a lovely ride home. My favorite part was when you spit and it didn’t hit me in the eye. That was much better than Saturday, when you spit and it did hit me in the eye! See, I’m looking on the bright side now.

[SurlyLad] I was trying to hydrate you, I keep telling you that, sheesh.

backpedaling

24 May

On Saturday when I told the lad I didn’t want to do STP I meant it 100%. At that point in the ride, I meant it 1000%. But now…I’m not so sure. The ride, as well-run and polite and uncrowded as it was, reminded me of how much I do not like organized group rides. For some reason they just turn my crank-meter up to 11. But then this morning as we were flying along the Burke, all residual knee and sit-bone pain miraculously gone now that I was back on the Surly, I spotted another one of those screaming orange-yellow STP jackets that were handed out last year. I see someone sporting one during pretty much every ride, and it simultaneously makes my eyes hurt and my heart soar. And I see mine out in the garage, still wrapped up in plastic because good lord that thing is not pretty, and I think maybe I want another one. So I’m waffling pretty hard here. The people part makes all my internal organs cringe, but the rest of it calls out to me like a siren. 200 miles in one day! It’d make such a good story to tell my cats when I’m 85. Waffle! What’s a lady to do?

Inclement Increments – A Tour de Cure deBrief

23 May

Late May in Washington State!

Early morning started off with drenching rain on the drive in to Marymoor. Just as we entered the park, the rain stopped tho’ the clouds still swirled and looked angry.

We parked in the field, amid the fleet of fleet foots. It was fairly quiet, people poked around in their kit, their bags, their trunks, some were installing bits and pieces, some reassembling bikes while sitting on the back of their subcompacts. It was that sort of ‘banana eating’ phase where everybody walks around like nervous crunching ducks in bike shoes, some talking in louder and higher pitches in larger groups, others in lower, more confident tones in smaller gatherings, where the general bustle of diaper pins being employed on race number sheets amid the shuffle of t-shirts and cue sheets being deployed, wheels being spun, coffee being finished, urine being aimed, legs/bikes/clothes on other bikers being checked out, kids running here and there, wives kissing their husbands on the cheek, husbands giving their wives a push. In the preternaturally dark morning, for late in May at least, everything was pink and vaguely purplishly portentous.

A short speech. Off we went! The sky looked like it would dump at any minute. About a minute later it did. Maybe 1 in 10 of the 100-mile bikers sported fenders. It’s going to be a rooster tail hell ain’t it, old boy? I thought to myself.

The peloton, bunched at first, arrived at a red light not too far from Marymoor. A loooong red light. I heard middle-aged fellows admitting, sheepishly, in reference to their gorgeous Seven titanium bike, “Yeah this is my ‘comfort’ bike, I figured with the rain and all… definitely not my fast bike…” Oh boy.

Here was the ranging weather pattern for the day:

Rain. Cloudy. Drenching rain. Cloudy. Cloudy. Sun. Cloudy. Drenching rain. Cloudy. Hail. Cloudy. Hail. Rain. Cloudy. Sun. Cloudy. Sun. Sun. Cloudy. Sun.

Overall, the SurlyLady and I had a pretty good ride. We had hoped to do an 8-hour century, including breaks. Soon into it I started hoping we could do it in seven. We didn’t quite make that, averaging just under 15 mph for the day, but the good news for me is that for the most part I felt stronger as the day wore on. Lesson #1: don’t use a century ride as a recovery opportunity from an Army-trained personal gym session that pounds your hamstrings, glutes and piroformii to hell. In short, I was super sore starting off Saturday morning but all the spinning kind of helped ease the pain.

For an organized ride, the charity flavor is several steps above the proletarian cousins curated by Cascade Bicycle Club. Instead of swarms of people gobbling up the last scrap of crap at the food tents, you get almost an embarrassment of food riches (“Please, take some more, we’re going to have so much leftover!”) and really good and thoughtful food/snacks at that.

At first I wasn’t feeling it, and SurlyLady inspired. Then probably for the last half we reversed. She persevered through the hellish sections, however, like a total trooper. At one point, she looked over and declared she wasn’t going to do STP this year. Just didn’t want to. I could tell from her voice it was a final decision, that it wasn’t just exasperation or exhaustion, that she’d been thinking ’bout it. So… looks like I’ll be doing it solo this year!

As for the ride, the route was gorgeous – I’d been on maybe 75% of those roads before, but never in that combination, and it’s now going to go in my Top 10 local rides. The only downside was the upside at the end. I’d guess maybe 4000 of the 5600 feet of climbing came in the last 10 miles, once you turned right on the Woodinville Duvall road. Oy.

Speaking of hills, I sure love the road triple on the Poprad. A 53/39 is fine if you’ve got the watts to back it up, but boy… We had some nice grinding elevation at the end. Road triples are weird in the perception game. There’s a stigma, and I get that, but the reality is I spend 80% of my time in the middle ring, just sort of shifting up and down the cassette. Only in extreme cases do I go to the big or small rings. In my mind, it’s as simple as saying I think I shift less with a triple than if I had a compact double. The range of ‘useful’ gears seems greater, and there’s a lot less front shifting. But what do I know. When I do need the big or small options, I’m really glad I have them. I’m obviously growing more and more retrogrouchy and cyclo-touristy, emphasis on grouchy!, but so be it. Speaking of which, my merino wool Surly jersey kicked butt with that weather! Amazing material.

Speaking of cyclo-touristy, just have to say – what an enormously beautiful sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off it yesterday as I watched weather systems work around us. Often I’d start singing “Ride into the convergence zone… ride into the convergence zoo00-oooon…” and then do Kenny Loggins air guitar until the ‘Lady told me to shut up. In case I hadn’t made my point, it was a crazy weather day. Hail bouncing off your helmet and then five minutes later you have to put on sunscreen ‘cuz you’re getting burned? Oy.

Tip of the helmet goes to the older fellow riding the old Schwinn (half-chromed fork and seat/chain stays), probably circa early 70s, that he had converted to a single-speed. The dude was awesome! We’d leave him behind after every stop, but there he was, chugging right along just a few minutes behind us.

So with that, with the slight amount of rancor from above, I just want to say it was amazing to see all the people out there giving it their all. Can you imagine DNF on a charity ride for which you raised hundreds of dollars, even if you’re getting drenched in rain? The Slalom Consulting team was super nice, acting as very nice ambassadors for their company I’m sure, and every time I got passed by one it seemed like they had a nice word. All the flats (and boy there were a lot of flats it seemed) were taken care of by buddies or strangers or aid cars. Everyone was super polite with road etiquette. Overall it was a very pleasant experience, for both logistics and in pure biking fun. I had a ball just burning along as fast as I could. Our time for the day does not bode super well for STP in one day, but it’s not too bad. If I can up my average a pinch, and catch some drafting action, I’m hoping that it’ll work out.

Up next: Flying Wheels!