Archive | August, 2011

Spada Lake, then Lake Roesiger

29 Aug

Last Friday I decided to go on a wee adventure ride… not too long, maybe 40 miles or so, as I was planning on a ride with JamisLad on Saturday, around the Snohomish area, and then Sunday the Discovery Trail over on the Peninsula with KonaLad (which I wound up bailing on).

I drove (guiltily) up to Sultan, WA with the idea in mind of parking in the little downtown area and riding up to Spada Lake, with some rambles around the forest service roads in the environ. I wrote guiltily because really I could have ridden out to Sultan from home, it just would have taken a lot longer time, and left me more tired than I needed to be. However, it would make an awesome out-and-back ride some day: Mountlake Terrace, Kenmore, Woodinville, Paradise Lake Road/Maltby, Monroe (pronounced Maaawn-Row) and over to Sultan on the Mann Road; from there up to Spada Lake and then, lickity split, back home.

Boy was Friday hot. Oy! Even at a relatively early hour, when I got started, I was feeling the heat. In town I’d noticed on Google Maps a green line indicating a bike trail, looping off from a school or similar, up at the terminus of Eighth Street. I cruised along said street, spotted the gravel and dirt path and then, whoa! was off to the climbing races. That was a very steep start to the day. It definitely got me huffing. My quads were feeling it from the Iron Horse ride the day before. But damn it felt good to be alive… riding in dirt, on a road bike, on a sunny day in August, when most other folks was off at work, me getting to play at being a kid again.

Sultan Basin Road

Soon enough I was on Sultan Basin Road, a lovely shelving climb up into the hills, surrounded by placid farms populated by even more placid horses, munching underneath crackling powerlines. I wish I’d gotten a picture of how it looks coming out of Sultan… a definite “whoa are we really going to ride up all that elevation” as this road goes off straight up into the distance. But don’t get me wrong, it was so lovely, hardly any traffic, nice surface condition, lots of shady trees and again, pastoral views everywhere. This stretch strongly reminded me of Tennessee, just without the August heat index of 114.

Soon enough you’re out of the farm-urbs and into more of a managed forest, state parks feel. The road becomes swoopy with rollers and fun curvy berms. There are lots of creek crossings:

Creekside

And then you’re more and more under the trees. Soon enough, after maybe 10 more lovely miles of winding, deserted road, you come to the end of the pavement and are faced with several miles of seriously steep gravel:

Made in the shade to make the grade...

This was a definite leg burner hill. The few cars that passed, likely weekend campers, gave me astonished looks as I spun along. I almost turned around, feeling a little tired, but I hate giving up on things so I plugged away and soon enough, after ignoring all the intriguing-looking side roads I finally came to Spada Lake:

I tried to capture the cool little whispy clouds gathered on those peaks...

The main south shore access road was closed for construction which meant I wouldn’t be able to follow along the lake east- and northward as I had planned. Oh well. At least there was a nice bathroom facility nearby:

Much better than a Honey Bucket.

From there it was mostly downhill back to Sultan. My hands got tired from gripping the brakes coming down those gravel hills but oh man it was so much fun overall! Loved it. I think there may be a loop you could put together with Kellogg Lake Road, with only a dip or two onto Hwy 2. Add that to a close-to-circumnavigation of Spada Lake and you’d have maybe a 50-60 mile ride along some very quiet backroads with nice scenery. I particularly enjoyed the way the road up to Spada Lake followed a creekside path. And then of course Spada Lake itself is amazing, with a very nice blue shade to it. Best of all, once you hit pavement again all that uphill you put sweat equity into earlier pays off; there are several sections where you can cruise at 17mph while barely turning a pedal. Overall a very pleasant day.

The next morning JamisLad picked me up at 6:30 am (whose idea was that anyway!!!). I hadn’t slept very well. I’d had all kinds of good work ideas the evening prior, fueled in part by the meditative qualities of the Spada Lake ride. So I started off a little rough, with legs that felt out of it and a groggy brain that definitely was. We parked in Snohomish and took off north on the Centennial Trail. Perfect! It allowed me to warm up and wake up a little. By the time we got to Granite Falls I was feeling bonky so we stopped at the grocery store and I got a chocolate donut. Which, as JamisLad pointed out, probably wasn’t the best idea, it sure put some carbs in my tank because we lit out of Granite Falls at a good clip. In fact as we rolled up to Lake Roesiger JamisLad was chugging along so hard that at one point I pulled up next to him and asked, “Was this *the* hill already?” Turns out he was just as surprised. He’d been saving his energy to go all-out on the hill, but we’d already done it! I think that’s a good sign. I honestly had been wondering when the climbing was going to start. Maybe I won’t totally suck at High Pass Challenge after all, ha.

We chewed up the miles, anticipating the massively steep hill leading to Oil Well Road. It’s the one we’d encountered earlier in the year that had dispirited most of us, and had excited JamisLad. That was some serious steepage but we made it, deciding at the top we didn’t need to go back down and re do it. Soon enough we were back in Snohomish, procuring choco milk on our way out of town. It was a great training ride, and the weather just couldn’t have been nicer.

As we rode Saturday I was reflecting a little bit on work, and on this year’s biking mission. For the work stuff I realized that, for years, I’d concentrated on finding the ‘ideal’ job. This had been a fallacy. Even if my company had an ideal job title I’m pretty sure I’d be frustrated within a matter of weeks because of the environment. With that line of thinking it dawned on me — rather than simply changing jobs, I needed to change the environment. It’s a precondition for all the other things I want. For instance, I don’t want to be a Project Manager in an environment where I’d be working on a project that has (literally) two other Project Managers each representing different bureaucracies. I don’t want to be in Requirements meetings where there are 10 manager-level participants and only three knowledge workers. As far as Golden Ratios go, we’ve got that one backwards. If anything it should be reversed; more ideally, it wouldn’t just be 10 knowledge workers to three managers, it would be the three-to-five knowledge workers self organizing the hell out of the directive handed down by the one manager. There’s a lunacy at work at my work and I don’t want to join in as things are currently structured. Instead I want to change the system, for the better, possibly from a different vantage point of leverage. Then I might consider jumping back in the PM circus or, perhaps, looking at other companies.

As for bike training, I haven’t been a very good PM at all. I’d blown off STP thinking I’d focus on RAPSody. Then RAPSody decided not too long ago to forgo their one-day option. My Flying Wheels ticket was spent on the 25-mile option riding with my pops. These were all choices I’d made. Clearly my priorities are different than they were last year. To rationalize it, I’ve been taking this viewpoint: last year I met and exceeded all my goals. I coasted through the 200 miles of STP; I struggled but survived RAPSody; and then I came in for a silver finish at HPC; each successive month I was expanding my horizons, surprising myself with what I was capable of. It was a grand summer, one I’ll never forget. This year, I met my weight goal (under 170 pounds, wearing size 32 Levis) and am proud of that, but in a way the horizons I’m expanding are at work. I’m having a ball, creating brainstorming sessions with diverse groups, coming up with crazy huge ideas that are going to benefit the company in substantial ways, coaching and mentoring lots of folks and seeing some of them attain successes and moving to dream jobs… hearing from someone I’m mentoring via IM “Guess what! I got the job!!” is as exciting to me as hitting some long bike ride.

Here’s the perfect sign: my bike computer on the Poprad hasn’t worked in a while. I’m not even sure I’ll do anything about it for High Pass Challenge. Now, that’s detachment!

Sleepy time...

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John Wayne Training Ride

25 Aug

(By the title, what I mean is I rode with what seemed like a bad back masked by a certain saucy insouciance, a grave gravy even, eye patch, six shooter and sweat-rimmed hat.)

Dewy... Beats True... Grit

Oh I love the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Iron Horse Park starting from the Cedar Falls trailhead! Especially when I ride it on a PTO sunny day in August!

I dropped off the SurlyLady in downtown Seattle, mountain bike gloriously sticking up from the back of the pick-em-up truck to jealous-ize the worker bees, KEXP 90.3 blasting out the windows. Headed East (old man) past North Bend, scooted on along Rattlesnake Lake and got geared up. This 36-mile ride, to the tunnel and back, is such a fun cardio workout. I got into a nice rhythm in the middle ring, gradually ratcheting up the speed as I warmed up; I daresay I made my personal best time today. ‘Twas flying along. It’s a straight shot rail-to-trail gravel grade, half in the sun and half in the shade. I carried the iPhone in my shorts pocket not so much for pictures as for the voice memo app — I must have recorded about half an hour’s worth of ideas for work.

At the other end of this tunnel is a penitentiary. Awkward!

Like most riding, for me today was all about mechanical meditation. An eccentric bottoming out racket. Viscerally I was overjoyed, the smell in the air (is that a hint of Fall?), the smell of hot sun on gravel, grasshoppers flitting around, all of these in isolation drowning out for me the roar of the nearby I-90 traffic. I had sooo many good ideas today. Several ‘thunderbolt’ moments. Several clarifying moments (I’m my own worst editor). One of the things I like to do that’s both virtue and fault is I play out future scenes, like a scriptwriter with tracking on in a DTP program. I imagine what so-and-so will say. How they’ll react to a point. How they may not react. I play out these dialogs and try-alogs over and over. It’s almost like an alternate universe role playing predictive analysis exercise. The odds are usually not too bad, either; I bet 25% of the time I’m right on in my predictions. And even when I’m wrong, I’ve usually already anticipated this wrinkle or, if not exactly, I’m adept-ified and can handle the new wrinkles on the fly.

The thing is, at work, I’m on the verge of something HUGE. It’s like everyday my horizons are expanding. I’m filling up notebooks with ideas, compiling my own knowledge management engine to house my knowledge management engine proposals because so much of what I’m doing is recursive lately, and it’s in that recursive area — or a sort of vertical causality — that I have the most fun.

Mr. Blue Sky... (start dancing)

Speaking of vertical causality, I’m glad I got some climbing cardio in today, but I hope to get more tomorrow and then even more on Saturday. In fact my biking dance card is totally full this weekend — four fun days of biking! Times like these I’m glad I have arranged such a carefree, kids-free life. Heck even the dogs feed and clothe themselves. Hold on. What’s that Coop? Sure, that ascot looks fine… no, it doesn’t make you look too fat. (Whisper… he’s such a dapper little fellow, but damn sensitive!)

this is what it sounds like, when quads cry

22 Aug

A word of advice, so that you may not suffer as I have done. If you go on a really beautiful but steep hike and wake up the next day feeling sorta sore, and someone suggests going on a 60-mile “recovery ride” to stretch out the gams, DO NOT DO THIS. It’s a really bad idea, and you will be forced to curse out loud as you feebly pedal that last five miles home. You should probably just go to a matinee instead.

Concrete Hills, Flexible (Mind) Frames and a 5 lb Zucchini

14 Aug

Vaya con Cascade Trail

The plan today was to park in Clear Lake, ride the S Skagit Valley Highway to Concrete and then from there head into the hills to cross over the dam at Lake Shannon/Baker Lake. And within a few hundred yards I knew we were not gonna stick to the script! The SurlyLady wasn’t feeling the narrow/no shoulder. It didn’t help the skies were threatening to dump a ton of water on us and we were shivering. In the middle of August. At 10:30 am.

Then the relentless chipseal got to us. We scooted along Old Day Creek Road (I love that stretch, some good climbing!) then about midway to Concrete the ‘Lady asked if there was any way we could get off the chipseal. That road is pretty darn rough. I realized it in full today, as I was on the Vaya with the Marathon tires. On the century ride with JamisLad I’d been on the Poprad and Grand Bois Cypres tires, and whoa big difference. Running 32s (and running some of the air out) helps, but still it was pretty choppy today. My answer to the SurlyLady was that we could take some side roads along Hwy 20 back to Sedro Woolley and avoid having to come back on the S Skagit Valley Hwy. So, plans were made.

As were we, in the shade of a gas station in Concrete a little while later, scarfing down cashews and jerky and a big fountain Pepsi. The sun had come out! Happy day. We enjoyed watching all the Harley riders going by, pulling up, leaving, coming back to get their cigarette packs they’d left behind, nodding to each other with their secret Harley head nods. Truly we are screwed as a nation. All the boomers are driving RVs, and the kids of the Boomers are riding Harleys and all the freeways is jacked up as a result. From ‘downtown’ Concrete we headed for Burpee Hill Road, which would lead us to the Baker Lake Road. OMG what a hill! Anything named after a grueling Army-bootcamp style pushup/jumping jack should come as a warning. Do you know the Holmes Point Drive hill in Juanita, that’s part of the 7 Hills of Kirkland? Imagine that, but steeper, and three times as long and even more winding. I loved it! At one point I looked around and then stopped and waited for the SL. I waited some more. Then about 5 minutes went by and I finally called her. She had basically said no way to the hill, and was going to meet me at the bottom. So this meant we weren’t going to circumnavigate the lakes… oh well. She did text me (how electronic we are on our rides!) saying take your time, climb to the top if you like… so I did just that. It was a blast. I won’t soon forget that hill. I went all the way up to the T-intersection with the Baker Lake Road, near that charming looking Camp Tyee area and then turned around, with a quick pit stop at Vogler Lake (there’s a porta-pottie there). Very soon I was flying back down Burpee Hill. That was some good training for the High Pass. Which, BTW, I think I’m completely going to stink at, given how slow I was today.

On the way up Burpee Hill Road...

Then the ‘Lady and I took off on the Cascade Trail, the gravelly dirt rails-to-trail that runs between Concrete and Sedro Woolley. Her Casseroll was doing just fine, and of course on the Vaya I was having a ball. Then we jumped off onto Challenger Road for some swoopy hill work, then back onto the Trail for some more shady dirt roading, then back to Challenger. As you can probably tell, it was so much fun! Farmland, alpacas, horsies, fields of flowers, plain ordinary but gorgeous fields, a ring of green mountains, puffy clouds, blue sky… ah, just about perfect. I couldn’t have imagined a better day. That is, until we got some killer chocolate milkshakes at Birdsview Burgers on Hwy 20!

From there we left the Cascade Trail and stayed on the South side of Hwy 20, lingering along river roads, barely traveled country lanes, through the sleepy wide spots of Hamilton and Lyman. At one point, right next to that cerulean blue Skagit River we spotted a table with homegrown zucchini – nice! We made a donation, and I put the honking zucchini in my Carradice. How’s that for a versatile bike rig?

Zuke of Earl

That sucker must have weighed 5 pounds! SurlyLady’s gonna make some zucchini bread. She also makes a killer black bean, fresh corn (shaved off the cob) and zucchini stir fry… oh so nummy!

Country roads, take me home...

We continued West, working toward Sedro Woolley and playing tag with the Cascade Trail. We had to jump onto Hwy 20 for a short bit until we lefted onto Minker Road. Soon enough we were back in Clear Lake, tired, happy, sated, and, within minutes of getting everything packed up, eating ice cream. Yes sir, life is good up in Skagit county!

Short and Shallow (and Sweet)

11 Aug

So busy… no time to ride or write about riding… but (brightly) there’s a good reason. My head has been exploding with ideas at work and I’m semi-obsessed. I’m dreaming up all kinds of ideas (new systems, vertical markets, new departments) and, more excitingly, brainstorming with interesting folks and seeing/guiding some of these ideas to fruition! Inspiring, yes, but also perspiring et tiring.

Last week I took a couple of days off from this hubbub and did the Grand Ridge Trail to Duthie, on a gorgeous sunny day. What did I do while flashing through the shady forest, with nobody around save the lone trail runner and the butterfly catching couple? I thought of work brainstorming. Eh, what can you do. The previous long ride with JamisLad found me similarly drifting off… to the point where he had to keep reminding me Hey you’re in the middle of the road what are you doing? Well, sir, I’m dreaming up patent-worthy ideas!

One such, of the bicycle persuasion application, applies to the old Salsa Vaya. I’ve had that bike now since last September, so coming up on a year. I’ve enjoyed it, gotten some good miles out of it (slightly more miles on it this year than on the Poprad so far). It’s been a very capable commuter–those disc brakes work wonderfully for that purpose–an even better off-road gravel bike and a decent roadie bike. I could probably do STP one day on it, no problem, whereas I always had this intuition that the old Long Haul Trucker may not have been as much fun to do similarly on. You hear a but coming, don’t you? In truth, I’ve always been hedging my judgment about the Vaya due to the fit. It’s always been slightly off. I’ve nudged things around, in tiny increments, but hadn’t really had time to truly tear into the topic. Then, on my other day off, I took off the Nitto Noodle bars and put on some old school Salsa Short and Shallow bars, a $5 find off Craigslist, in 42cm width. They’re the moto-ace version, so 26mm clamp, and somewhat older due to the graphic art and the fairly deep grooves for cable routing (which I love BTW; I have a similar era Bell Lap on the Poprad and just that little extra routing routering is nice).

In addition to putting on the different bars I also moved my Brooks Imperial B17 up. A lot. The reason I hadn’t moved it up too much earlier was that I had the leather lacing all tied up and didn’t want to undo it. Complete laziness I know. So I went ahead, moved the saddle up about 1 cm, basically eyeballing it so the saddle is ‘squarely’ over the seatpost. I figured if the 57cm ETT Vaya was my ideal fit, then I should have the saddle in the ideal-fit location.

And, WOW. What a difference! Those bars are so much better than the Noodles, or I should say I prefer them so much more. Some folks love the Noodles, but I gave them a good 10-month run and have decided they’re not for me. The Short and Shallow seem very similar to the Bell Laps but, well, a little shorter. I still can’t get into the drops very easily but that’s more a function of that B17 crunching up my manly bits when doing so.

Self indulgent post done. Guy complains about awesomely versatile bike not being 100% perfect in fit department, puts on new bars, moves his saddle, and bingo his world is now complete.

Except.

Lately I’ve been jonesing for a Salsa Fargo. Have been looking at pictures. Picturing myself with frame bags touring around the rough roads of the Peninsula, or on the Great Divide route next summer.

A Fargo, or maybe a custom frame version of such. But oh, there’s no room in the inn! No room in the stable!! No room in the house, the bedroom, the kitchen table!!!