Archive | March, 2011

Sneaky Sunday Ride

27 Mar

Low 'Trail' Geometry?

Today we woke to rainy skies and said, eh, we’ll go to the gym. Super meditation mindful SurlyLady to the yoga, me to the cardio and weight training. Since she was in an hour-long class, I wound up doing lots of stuff and it felt great. Then, I heard from JamisLad – riding today?

Heck yeah!

So we made arrangements to go up to the Centennial Trail. On the way the dark clouds were ominous, and the windshield wiper action was obvious – oh boy, this could be a soaker. Once we stopped in Snohomish and got started, the rain wasn’t too bad. Pushing off onto the trail felt so good, but within twenty feet I saw that JamisLad was going to be Hammer Time today… I could barely keep up!

Once we stopped at the train station bathroom area at Machias, the rain seemed to stop as well. From there on out we only saw scattered drops, little flurries that never lasted too long. In fact, it actually wound up being partly sunny. Yay!

Just like the Eskimo have 1,000,000,000,000,000,003 words for snow, so too the Seattle-ites have grousing conversational descriptions of rain. (It rains here ALL THE TIME. You would not want to move here. Trust me.) We have 22 weather websites that have ‘seattle’ and or ‘rain’ in their titles; so why don’t I just let the subject of the weather drop.

The best news of the weekend, however, was what I saw on the scales Saturday morning – I broke 175 lbs! No, I didn’t break 175 local bike stores. Although, nearly a dozen of those 175 bike stores have made me nearly broke. 175 is the new 185, which was the new doctor recommended and doctor scoffed 200. So now I’ve officially lost 110 pounds. Even better, I’ve started wearing these:

For(n)ever in bloo jeans.

This is the size I used to wear in college, so I’m excited. It’s the visceral marker I’ve been aiming for, as opposed to the scales.

All of which puts me in a good position for hitting places like this in the coming months, when the sun is strong and the daffodills are dilli-iscious etcetera. Like Mazama, this coming May, grinding up hills like this:




26 Mar

I flew home from Mexico last Monday, and boy were my arms tired! Seriously—arms, legs, brain, everything was just wonderfully exhausted. The trip was made up of moments I can’t even find words to describe the right way—hours of yoga every day, snorkeling with sea lions, investigating an amazing new landscape, intense massage therapy from a self-described witch doctor, mind-melding with a group of strangers who turned out to be smart and hilarious and exactly who I would’ve chosen to share the experience—but right now I’m thinking about the morning meditation. We’d walk through the warm sand up to a dune, with mountains on one side and sea on the other, and sit in silence, exploring the ridiculousness of our own minds. I can still feel the sun heating my back and the soles of my feet and hear the birds and bugs and waves that get so loud when your eyes are closed and all you’re doing is processing. It actually felt a lot like it does when you’re well into a long bike ride, and the endless pedaling lulls you into a state of relaxation that, if you let it, opens you up to a whole new level of sensory experience.

Morning meditation at home is a much different experience, with a cat head-butting my leg and a refrigerator cycling on and off, but it’s still a pretty amazing exercise. Just acknowledging the ridiculousness, appreciating it and letting it go.


Pure Joy in the Surly Household!

24 Mar

There was much joy, much dancing and hoop hollering today as this bike trifecta arrived in the mail:

Bicycle Four Times a Yearly


Who needs the stock market when there are REI dividends?

I kinna wait to read the one, bolt on the two and spend the other!

Tube Tied

20 Mar

Today was going to be the day. Good forecast. I’d exhausted the pups with not one but two excursions on Saturday. Got tons of yard and house work done so the old guilty conscience wasn’t gonna be so guilty no more.

I awoke, made breakfast, walked the pups, and got ready to set out. Then I made a mistake. I changed plans in midstream. Why not take the Poprad? I thought. Yeah, and I’ll put those Rivendell Jack Brown (green label) tires on there, that I’ve had since last fall. Well, it was a stupid thing to do.

First the awesome Continental tubes, which had hardly lost any air since early October (yikes), the one on the front rim blew while I was re-inflating with the new tire. Ouch, that really, really hurts the ear drum. So I knocked around the junk pile and found another tube, a Novara branded one. It developed a leak almost immediately after getting everything put together. A tiny pinhole hole. What? And mind you, getting those Jack Browns on, at least on to Velocity Fusion rims, is nasty. My thumb is literally bruised. And all the ridges worn off – so if ever there was a time to go on a crime spree it would be now. Just have to remember to do everything with my thumbs. Then I stole the spare tube out of my Carradice bag only to realize… it had a Schrader valve. I silently found myself dumbfounded. I had been carrying around a Schrader-valved tube since, oh, I don’t know how long? A year, more? On High Pass Challenge, on Ride around Puget Sound? I had patches, but still. Oy.

So, I went to Plan D and stole the spare out of the SurlyLady’s bag, and lo and behold I got everything put together! Who cares if I have no feeling left in my thumbs! (At this point I think I’d mounted the equivalent of four tires). Let me go to pump this up… what the… ah, no. The stem isn’t long enough for the semi-deep rims. My stand pump wouldn’t bite, and the extender thing I have didn’t work at all. No jokes please, ladies.

So I went and fiddled around in the junk pile in the bike room and finally found a tube with a 48mm stem, got that sucker on there for now the fifth tire mounting and then… noticed a bulge near the stem, oh crap the tire’s bead is outside the rim, quick deflate before it blows!!! And whew it worked out. Undid everything, and put it back together. Yes, the sixth tire mount. At this point I’m sobbing, and the pups look at me with only slightly diluted contempt.

With the tire worked out I quickly get everything else ready and soon I’m hitting the road. To discover that the amazingly voluminous Jack Browns (they’re rated at 33.3333333333333333333333333 or so) are too big for my fenders. The 32 Schwalbe Marathons worked great, but these tires were just too big, every little pebble was getting rattle-stuck. So, back to the garage, and quickly off with the fenders, and now back on the road. A couple of miles later I remember, to my dismay, that the Carradice bag rubs on the tire when either out of saddle or going downhill, when there isn’t a fender to help. It’s a very slight thing, and not noticeable when in the garage, but becomes so irritating on the road to have canvas rubbing accompany every pedal stroke. No jokes please, ladies.

So after only a few miles I regretfully decided fate was trying to tell me something. I turned back, out-of-saddled all the way up Frisbee Hill, noticing how much more lively the Jack Brown tires were, even when not super over inflated (I was experimenting to find the best balance of comfort and speed). I’m excited to give these tires a real test, and will one day soon. One nice thing is they’ll soon have some new friends: I recently noticed that Velo Orange was having an anniversary sale so I bought some nice shiny bits for the Poprad, including hammered aluminum fenders – they should look sweet with the checkerboard tires. Not that, uh, such a thing is important. I ordered two sets of those 45mm fenders, and will use the other on the Vaya. There’s an article in the recent Bicycle Times that literally shows those fenders going on a Vaya, so I figured that’s good enough for me (I’ve had my share of buying fenders only to realize they won’t work with a certain bike, and was particularly concerned about the disc-shod Vaya and Poprad).

When I returned home the pups were so excited to see me, Cooper was literally jumping in the air so much I thought he’d swallowed a pogo stick. What else could I do but take them for a proper hike? So we headed north, to the Lime Kiln Trail. It was a mudpuddle kind of day below, but a little bit of sun above. Best of all, I was able to wear a t-shirt! How long it’s been…

Clearly, I'm the follower in this pack...

When we first arrived the lots were nearly full; worse, we were getting started just ahead of a noisy group of college kids. Quick pups, I said, let’s hoof it! And we did. I’m not super anti-social (okay I am) but nothing’s worse than a large group of hikers yelling and laughing, echoing around, making you regret you just didn’t go promenading at Green Lake.

We managed to stay about a quarter mile ahead of this loud crew as we double timed it. At one point were were jogging through the forest when I heard a vicious growling behind me and, lo!, a miniature doberman was nipping at my heels! We turned and put up a valiant rear guard action until he backed down and headed toward the noisy group. We triple timed it and put enough space between us so we could start to slow down and enjoy the scenery of Robe Canyon:

Is Dis Robe?

We had a lovely time. The dogs really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the PB&J sammich while sitting riverside. Then on the way back I started feeling… odd. Really sleepy, really tired. Could hardly keep my eyes open. We got back to the car after what seemed forever (7 mile roundtrip) and I realized I was seeing some signs of a cold or something.

Tonight then we all sat on the couch, I had lots of hot tea, and we watched some mediocre movies on Netflix. Someday soon though, I will get out there on an adventure ride… I got a taste of it today, the warmth of the sun, the fresh spring breeze, the sound of brifters clacking.

Batchin’ It

20 Mar

The SurlyLady has been AWOL on a fantasy yoga vacation (to Fantasy Yoga Island… The Plane, The Plane! Now, Warrior Pose Two, Warrior Pose Two!) and frankly the house has gone to pot. It’s like my old bachelor days, except without the health inspectors trying to get in.

Dishes are piling up, cat poop be piling up, clothes? Eh, all over the place. Bills? Never been to Buffalo. Dinner? Eh, those leftover pieces of the leftover nachos will do, then order a pizza and leave the box on the floor for the cats.

Aw, who am I kidding. I’m almost more fastidious when the ‘Lady isn’t around. It’s like a philosophical question, no doubt, from her perspective: if she isn’t here, do I really clean up more than normal, and what if nobody is around to see it happen?

Last Thursday in the morning I got all suited up and was about to leave on the bike when I turned and gave the pups a guilt treat because I hadn’t had time to take them to the field. They wagged their tails and smiled, ABSOLUTELY SURE I was going to take care of them, vis a vis the running around the field option, the steaming poop in the cold frosty morning thang. They refused to believe anything different. They had faith in me. Sigh.

Oh, the faces.

So, off with the togs, quick into the shower, then up to the field to run around and then car to the bus barn to bus to work. Yech. But, worth it in the end. I was able to go to spin class at lunch, and so it felt like a happy compromise.

But really the house has just been so… quiet. Shsssh. Sorry, I won’t type so loud. Everyone, the cats, the dogs, me, we just walk around without saying much. It’s almost eerie. Coupled with the fact we had 8 thunderstorms in 15 days and something like record amounts of rain for the first half of March and, yeah, there’s been lots of walking around the house.

Cooper tried playing Scrabble with me at first, but he spells everything phonetically. The girl tried a little soft shoe to cheer me up but hurt her hip and blamed it on me. I tried telling them both about my day at work about how so-and-so said this-and-that but all they want is the cold hard wet food.

So ultimately all I do is bake kale, make the same dinners as we always used to so it feels like normal, and sit and think about stuff, finish my children’s book, chop down the half-dead lilac tree, clean the roof of the potting shed, go to Marymoor park with the pups, and come up with a suggestion for a whole new initiative at work. But truth is… we miss her!

Okay pups. Time to clean the house. No, Coop, you should probably let me get the bathroom. No, I insist.

Heavenly Down Poor (aka Pope Inclement the Thurd)

13 Mar

It’s one thing to head out on your bike for a day-long adventure with the expectation that you’ll see some scattered or even certain showers. It’s another to know with certitude you’ll be soaked to the core within 5 minutes of your garage. Yuck!

Yesterday wasn’t so bad at all and in fact, at one point in the afternoon, I looked out the front window, said, “Hey, it stopped raining. And… OH MY GOD THE SUN’S COMING OUT!” Within seconds, the SurlyLady stopped packing her suitcases, the kettle was left whistling on the stove and two dog bowls spun round and round in concentric clatter as the four of us bolted outside, up the street a pinch and into the nearby field where SurlyLady threw a tennis ball and Cooper and I chased it and each other while Adelaide rolled her eyes. It was a glorious moment, a wedge of unsoaked splendor in an otherwise besodden gloom. I even thought about hopping on a bike for a short ride but the whiplash-sore neck and the wee bit of a snotty head cold seemed to argue otherwise, as did the ‘Lady.

Sunday, then, I said, shaking my fist angrily at the heavens, Sunday I’ll bloody well do it!

Well, we all know how that worked out. So what to do when you can’t go for a lovely ride in the countryside and you’re instead cooped up inside with the Cooper and the Adelaide who’s so snide? You go to Epulo (our new favorite place) and et:

Margherita bonita!

This is truly the best wood-fired tomato-and-basil pizza I’ve had since coming home from Italy. And then you et some mo:

Fig and blue pizza - Sort of like a Fig Newton Salad on a slice of heaven

And then you et just a wee bit more:

Handmade cinnamon donuts with caramel dipping sauce...

And then, when you get home, you’ll be so inspired you decide to make these, with a batch for your old team at work who were so kind as to take you to an Irish pub last Friday night, and and a batch for your new team whom you barely know yet:

Giant lemon cookies (to scale)

These are fun to make because you roll the little dough balls in a mixture of sugar and lemon(d) rind that’s been pulsed together, like a snickerdoodle with lemon instead of cinnamon!



Now I REALLY need to go for a long ride.

Fender Bender

9 Mar

poor little truckie

What a day. Poor SurlyLady was feeling sick and decided to work from home. I decided to drive to work, with the fleeting thought oh this will give me a chance to stay late and get some stuff done! Traffic was really backed up in Shoreline due to an RV that went off the side of the freeway, knocked out some guard rails and etc and had the roof get torn off, spilling the contents all over the place. Very odd. I rubbernecked like everyone else and then suddenly the freeway opened up full speed again.

I got on to the express lanes and things were hunky if not outright dory. The far right lane, the exit for Stewart Street, a wee fine street for those of us who’re fine Scots, not like some of those lowlanders I won’t mention, anyway the far right lane typically gets backed up, as in cars get stopped up onto the freeway due to the stoplight ahead. I was in the process of following suit when I heard a terrific noise. I knew what it was immediately, and had time to look in my rear view mirror to watch in an almost detached way the young driver of the minivan behind me look startled, then panicked, then airbagged as a car crashed into him from behind, propelling him straight toward me. My foot was already on the brakes but now I really put it down and then BAM I got crunched, my head whipped back and hit the glass window of the truck’s cabin, and what I could only assume was a chain of cars lurched us all forward. By some good amount of luck I was able to keep from, in turn, rear ending the car in front of me, but only by a close call.


With my head ringing and that sort of chalky taste familiar from my past mountain biking axcididdles I pulled over to the shoulder, put on the hazards, and went to check to see how everyone was doing. The minivan had been piloted by a young man with what appeared to be his mother and sister. They seemed shaken but not too stirred. The woman who initiated the whole thing didn’t look as good. I won’t go too far into details to spare some privacy, but she was clearly in shock and the airbag had really taken a toll on her. I tried to calm her down and let her know I’d call the state patrol. My biggest concern at that point was the possibility of someone ramming into us as we huddled on the shoulder. As for the truckie, it appeared the rear bumper had taken the full impact, bent under as you can see from above. No other obvious damage anyway.

After understandably exasperated reroutes from 9-1-1 to the state patrol to local fire/rescue, we got help on the way. I just felt so awful for the woman. I could tell she felt bad, as she asked anxiously how everyone else was. I in turn asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 what kind of pain was she in? Eight she said. I knew we couldn’t move her, with traffic whizzing by, and with uncertainty as to her injuries, and it didn’t seem like the car was going to blow up or anything.

The troopers showed up and were amazingly kind and efficient. Paramedics showed up and quickly spirited the woman away on a gurney.

I find it funny how the mind works at times like these. I called the SurlyLady but for a moment was more worried about telling her what had happened than about what had actually happened, just because I knew she would worry, and she’s sick. But it went okay. Then I left a message for my boss, then sent an email to her boss, and when I got in to work Wow it was amazing how nice everyone was! The genuine care from everyone was so heartwarming, offers to get me things, take me places. I almost said, I’ll have the caviar, and bring round the Bentley, please, I’d like to go to a matinee if you don’t mind. They even tried really hard to laugh at my jokes, the ones about thick skulls and knocking some sense into things and project whiplash.

They unsuccessfully tried to get me to go to the hospital, gently suggesting I see a shrink while there and, failing that, shooshed me home where I am currently, happy to be alive and fairly well except for a rather sore neck.

The way any of this is related to biking is that while waiting for the emergency response I was able to see the street next to the freeway, the one that goes right past REI and the one which I myself take when bike commuting. Biker after biker went whizzing by. Graceful arcs, contained bundles of energy, purpose and direction, foot, leg and lung directly in the chain of energy transmission.

Ah, if only I’d ridden today, I thought, even if I would have been unpardonably late, even with this monsoon. Wet socks is always better than a sprained neck, my Ma is fond of saying, the smart lady.