When mowing the lawn, especially our back one with its expansive rectangleness, my mind settles into a spirit of inquiry and review (or if we’re being a little less generous, unaccustomed thoughtfulness). Such a mood is encouraged by the orderly rows, the back and forth coverage as I vector from one one edge to the other barbering Mother Nature’s hair. In answer to your question, no, there isn’t any laspsing into a lisp and aksking how Mother Nature’s day went. Really, it’s like meditation-via-mowing (Meditation-upon-Mowing is a charming town in the Lakes District, or is that Cornwall?), with a set playbook of ritual the first step of which is to ask, “Couldn’t I pay someone to do this for me? Time equals money etc” until the final step which is accompanied by byproduct answers, such as “Time equals time” and “My, look at what you’ve accomplished. This is actually something tangible, visceral even, the mannered rows, the fresh smell of grass and various environmental flora.” When parking the mower under the back porch, one last thought: “Damn my legs is tired, but I’m glad I did this because the forecast is for BLEEPING BLEEP rain all week.”
Today’s bit of revealed-through-mowing pseudo wisdom came during the poop patrol that preceded the actual grass mowing. I came across several little piles that were of a very odd color and consistency. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, I play a poop doctor on TV. Basically what I’d found were little turds made out of cat litter. This by itself would ordinarily be an enigma wrapped in a stinky jacket of mystery and irony except that I happened to know both the source and the culprit. Cooper pup! Last week he’d gotten into a bag of cat litter, the ‘natural’ piney kind, ‘Ride the Pine’ brand, not the grey and gravelly stuff, and had joyfully shaken the contents all over the den. It turns out, as he turned out, that he must have eaten quite a lot of the stuff while in the middle of the spreading the litter.
All of which went toward reminding me that you get out of life, or stomachs, what you put into it (or them).
We went on a ride today, the 7 Hills of Kirkland. Things were progressing very well. KonaLad and JamisLad showed up fresh and early so that we could ride to the Kirkland marina from our burgh in the burbs up here near Lynnwood (whose idea was that exactly? would be a common question today, mostly from me… the asker). It promised to be about 28 miles of bonus miles, tacked on to the nominal 38 miles of the main 7 Hills route. What made it especially special was cranking slowly up Juanita hill, going southbound, and seeing all the northbound 7 Hillers already well into their riding come flashing past the other way. Gotta hurry! I thought. It was a chill morning, with portentous clouds above, but Juanita hill warmed up the old circulatory system fine.
At the starting joint in downtown Kirkland we pays our money and we gets our wristbands and then we pees in the urinals and then we goes… back up to Juanita hill. In reverse, we took a left for Holmes Point Dr NE (always wondered what that would be like – very Mercer Island reminiscent). A lovely downward swooping was followed by the loop along the water and then an amazing set of climbing along an unpopulated gorge type setting, with a fairly steep pitch. I passed one lady, with an apologetic pant, and she said in answer to the unspoken question, “This is the worst hill of the day I think… it just keeps going on.” There’s something so human and inhuman about a charity ride, being surrounded by many laboring others on hills; you can’t exactly blow past each other, so it’s a slowmotion affair, each person having an interior monologue with their heart and lungs, too tired for any exterior dialoging of the usual biking jokes and comradery. We crested back onto the main Juanita line and gathered up our crew again before heading downhill past St. Ed’s park and onto the Burke Gilman. At the foot of Juanita Dr was the first red light running bicyclist of the day – but not unfortunately the last. What is it about charity rides that makes people feel suddenly the rules are all off? Man it pisses me off, and in a passive/aggressive way I took off after her but with no clear idea of if I was going to say anything. Eh. I’ll just trust in Darwinian judgment, I decided.
In general, the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride is lots of fun as it twists and turns through the same basic suburban domain; what it lacks in true scenery it makes up for in charming climbs, a homespun organizational feel and low rider density. This might be a keeper ride; coming at the end of May, it might be perfectly positioned as a good training marker.
The next notable moment was the next turn off my previous experience, this one Norway Hill. I loved that hill! I especially like winding, wending climbs with hairpins, where you can see bikeys ahead and back, strewn out so. At one point a very buff tandem pair blew past and I quickly hopped on their wheel, although usually I stay away from tandems on uphills. However, they had the special sauce going and so that was fun following them. It seemed very soon were were all three gathered up again at the one rest stop, I guess about in the middle of the course. Standing around munching cookies and getting ready for the next leg KonaLad pointed out that I had a broken spoke in my rear wheel? WTF? When did that happen.
And now we’re getting to the full circle of my thinking here, but before we do, I’d like to make a quick departure about the nature of thinking, mine especially. When KonaLad pointed out the broken spoke I immediately thought of contingencies, possibilities, mitigations… basically I turned to the instincts I have to use all the time at work as a project manager. Rather than, I’m trying to say, actually looking at the problem and thinking about it sort of intrinsically, focusing on the immediate material problem all I could think about was the (honestly) immaterial inconvenience. There were a few seconds of mild panic and furious downstream decision making; I hardly seemed able to focus. Then I thought, I’ll check with the experts and wheeled the Poprad over to the nearby bike support tent manned by the nice guys from Kirkland Bicycles (where I got the Sarthe!). As I had feared, there wasn’t much they could do – once a spoke is broke that’s all she wrote. It can’t be trued or fixed, if there’s no appropriate spoke replacement (and they didn’t have one). I stood there and spun the wheel, noticing the huge wobble from the untrue-ness. I asked the mechanic what the worst case scenario would be if I continued to ride. “You’ll either make it fine or ruin the rim.” Hm. Time for cost-benefit analysis. Dammit, I don’t care. I wanted to keep riding! And so we did, but I only got about 20 yards into it before finding the tire was rubbing the fender far too much; even a few miles with that and those gumwall Jack Brown tires would probably be in bad shape. So, back to the rest stop and the mechanic, who helped me cut the zip tie holding on the fender. As I held the fender up, trying to imagine how I was going to carry it in the Carradice bag, the nice chap offered to hold it at his store for me! Sweet! I’m back on the road.
This time I got maybe 100 yards before suddenly the tire started seriously rubbing against the frame. The untrue-ness had just gotten a whole lot worse. Damn. KonaLad and JamisLad had continued on to the Winery Hill loop, and would look for me on the way back, so I had some time to think. I called the SurlyLady, half fearful she wouldn’t be home. But she was! And she offered to come get me ASAP. And, even better, offered to bring the Vaya so I could finish the ride. What a girlfriend! (and Happy Anniversary gift, yo!)
To close this circle, what did I put into these wheels? They were deeply discounted used wheels from eBay. I put in some research, sure, but I also put in some crazy, outsized expectations. Tires too big for the fenders, tires maybe too big for the bike, wheels with tapering spokes… at this point I’m not sure if I wouldn’t take the weight penalty of the handbuilt Velocity Fusion wheels rather than the chance of a breakdown, as I do know I don’t want something similar to happen to me out in the middle of like Mason County on RAPsody, where I may or may not have cell coverage. I’m going to take these wheels to an expert, get her/his advice on their basic soundness, and have them rebuilt with some stout spokes. Whether I keep them on the Poprad we’ll see. Other measures: I’m going to get some drive and non-drive side spokes for both front and back and put them in the seatpost tube for emergencies like this. Additionally, I’m going to take a wheel building class. Because if KonaLad hadn’t been there, or the bike mechanic stand (imagine if I’d been many miles away from the rest stop or, worse, barreling down a steep hill) I’m not sure what I would have been able to do on my own.
SurlyLady arrived super fast, with Fred Vaya in the rack, and in short order I was back on the road. I missed the Winery hill stuff (sounds like there was a bagpiper?) but there was still plenty of fun ahead of us… and this finish was so much better than the alternative, i.e. going home and DNF. I really, really hate the idea of DNF. We finished up at the Kirkland Marina, had our strawberry shortcake, then headed home… up Juanita Hill… again. JamisLad was amazing, blowing up that hill like he had just gotten started for the day — I think he and KonaLad officially did like 12 or 13 hills on the day.
(Adding concentric circles): As for these buddies of mine, I hope I’m putting into my friendship with them something equal to how cool they are to me – sticking around to make sure I got taken care of, providing company on a new adventurous ride.
As for girlfriends, not only did she instantly hop into the car to come save my day, but she made kick-ass walnut brownies and then got vanilla bean ice cream and fresh blueberries and made this for dessert!:
I’m going to pay it back to all of them by coming up with an amazing ride through the Snohomish area next weekend, along quiet farm roads, swooping hairpin curves and amazing scenery. More details to follow…