Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catching My Breath

Over my shoulder
I can still feel summer's heat
tonight the snow falls

I hadn't intended to neglect this blog or pull the plug, and while I knew the end of summer would bring big change, I didn't anticipate how busy I'd be. This Christmas break with two weeks away from teaching and my university classes has been truly restorative. Breakfasts with my children, walks to the coffee shop, rides without a destination, and now this little un-forecast mini snowstorm are all food for my soul, and I'm so grateful.

I had intended to write an entry titled "Freeride" (cue Edgar Winter Group). Now, I'll just summarize: My district's decision (financial) to end my reading program, and my "transfer" to a new position/location also entailed a salary cut. And summer school - which I've taught for the last four years - was also one of those "extras" the district trimmed, so I was left with more free time and less money this summer. This ended up being a blessing. I decided to dabble in a little bike racing, but couldn't afford the entry fees. But I was time-wealthy and I raced the whole Mount Tabor road series, and the whole PIR Short Track mountain bike series for free by volunteering before and/or after my races. I also volunteered at all three of Portland's Sunday Parkways events, first with my son as "Intersection Superheroes," then helping with set-up, and finally as a "roving mechanic." My three shifts earned me the coveted Sunday Parkways special edition bandanna.

  1. I also got a free ride for the Portland Century (next day sign removal), the Hottest day of the Year ride (truck unloading), The Night Ride (with my son in exchange for flyering for the Cirque du Cycling), and the Tour de Lab (bike parking at Hopworks Biketoberfest). All in all, a summer of good bike fun and a drawer full of free bike t-shirts (that became nightshirts for my girls.)

Racing in the mud
over engine breath cowbells

and shouts "Go Redmill!"

But best of all was the royal treatment I received for the Cross Crusade. The Baiku version is I know someone who knows someone at Bob's Red Mill, and they knew I eat Bob's organic steel-cut oats every day and preach the Bob's goodness, and I was asked to join their new cyclocross team. I got a free kit with Bob's picture on the shoulders, and in exchange for riding and running and leaping around in the mud with my bike, I received free registrations and some BRM whole grain goodness. How cool is that?! This year I joined the mens 50+ cat for some hard & fast competition. I held my own, once came close to a top-10 finish, and got my first experience with flatting and running it out (twice). Most of all, I had a blast racing with a great group of guys.

And I needed that relief valve this fall. This is my 20th year teaching, but getting ready I felt like such a rookie; I was nervous, scared, excited, and I spent more time getting my classroom and curriculum together than I ever have before. I've got a couple of great groups of 6th graders, and I'm teaming with some incredibly hard-working and dedicated teachers. Plus, my new principal is a former colleague, and a very funny and talented guy, and I feel fortunate to be part of his team. But it has been and remains a lot of work making the transition to a new building and new curriculum. I'm reinventing myself as a teacher. I hadn't realized until I made the move how burnt out I was getting in my former position. I thought I was better than that, but I had allowed the canned curriculum and isolation to lull me into getting comfortable and it was killing me as a teacher. The new job is more work for less money, but - strange as it sounds - I feel a lot better about what I'm doing and I look forward to every day. That hasn't been true for a couple of years.

And I'm finally in an administrative program, deciding to attend the University of Portland after a disastrous experience with Portland State that really was the final straw in a long string of bad experiences with them stretching back to the late 80's. The classes at U.P. have been fantastic, and I feel like this fall I've transitioned from being cautiously curious about working in educational administration and uncertain of my own abilities, to ready to get in and start creating the kind school I believe kids really need. I feel like I've spent the last 20 years learning and gathering and preparing for this. I know I'm idealistic and I know nothing resist change like a public school bureaucracy. And maybe I'm sick that way, but knowing this just makes me want it more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Elk Lake vacation

From my bed I watch
mist ducks sunrise on Elk Lake
blue flame heats the tea

Six days in the Central Oregon cascades with my family and our friends from across the street. Good to get out of the routine, get on/in the water, and sleep outside. A couple cool wet days (the soaking pool at McMennamins' St. Francis school was a godsend), but mostly beautiful.

Cascade lakes highway
there is only up or down
guess which one hurts more

Friday, July 31, 2009

The New MegaBike 4000

Riding on the back
my daughter calls out to me
look yellow roses

The newest addition to the stable is finished - I call it the MegaBike 4000. Actually it's a '94 Bridgestone MB-4 ("MB" for Mountain Bike) but like the Six-Million Dollar Man, it's become something better, stronger, slower because "we have the technology," courtesy of the Xtracycle Free Radical kit. Thanks to this kit, an old & outdated (but sturdy & well built) MTB has been given new life as a modern SUB (Sport Utility Bicycle).

I first became intrigued by the idea of a "longtail" conversion when former team mate Charlie Wicker showed me the rig he had built up for his fledgling coffee business, Trailhead Coffee Roasters. That started the wheels turning (so to speak). Hmmm, I could haul lots of stuff, put kids on the back, maybe even go bike camping... the "X" extends the possibilities of all kinds of bikey fun. So T and I started planning and budgeting for it. - they're not exactly cheap (but compared to this, it's a bargain.) Just about any bike will work for building a longtail - you could even build an Italian fixed X. But ideally, the Free Radical should be built on something solid, sturdy, and stable, which means a good old steel mountain bike. It also means bike shopping which, next to riding, is one of my favorite pastimes. But here's the slightly embarrassing part of the story. The MB-4 was not the first bike I bought for the conversion; it was the 4th. See, the problem is that , like a mini-van, the X was intended to be a family vehicle, meaning something my wife and I can both ride. But like most mini vans, in reality, it's more her rig than mine - which is fine with me. It's just that, apparently, it took me 4 tries to learn that whatever frame was to form the base of the X, it Must Meet Her Approval.

The first candidate was a bike I picked up at a garage sale while T was away for the weekend - a 1986 Miyata Terra Runner for $25. Of the 4 bikes considered, this is my sentimental favorite. Maybe it's because of the price, which sort of implied the old owners were putting it out to pasture. But I also have a soft spot for lugged frames & forks, which are rare for MTBs. And the "Holy Terra" (yes - I kept it) just oozes character with all those silvery alloy friction shifting shiny bits. I thought T would be thrilled. Her opinion? "Too purple" and "it has a dumb name." Huh? It's Latin! What could be better for an English major?

The second candidate was a newer, Taiwan-made, TIG-welded Voodoo Hoodoo I found on Craigslist for $100. It's a solid bike in great condition, with a lemon-yellow metal flake paint job and a really cool skull logo on the seatpost. I had approval on this one, but after a day of deliberations, the verdict was something along the lines of "It hurts my eyes."

So bike three was kind of the opposite, a subdued & practical workhorse in a dark gray/blue matte finish. It's a rigid-fork 1996 Specialized Rockhopper. This was also a Craigslist buy and this time T was with me for the test ride. She liked it fine, especially compared to the earlier experiments, but it was more like the way someone might like a burger after a couple meals of brussels sprouts and tofu. it doesn't necessarily mean it was a good burger, but just that it was a step in the right direction. I think we payed $50 for it. It joined the others in the
basement, waiting for the kit and the final decision - who will be the Next American Longtail?!?

And then the MB-4 popped up on Craigslist. Now, I'm not a card-carrying BOB, but I have an affinity for the Bridgestone/Rivendell aesthetic, and the old catalogs are admittedly great reading. And when T and I were dating, I helped her parents buy her a bike - an MB-6 (which by the way is still rolling as a cow-bike on sister-in-law Tami's ranch.) Plus, T's main ride is a sweet little 1985 Bridgestone T700 touring bike whose restoration was a delightful labor of love for me. The girl selling the MB-4 knew it was a nice bike and despite my feeble attempts at dickering, she knew she had no reason to sell it for less than the $100 she was asking and I knew it too. The smile on T's face when I brought it home was all I needed to know that I was done searching.

Getting the kit, however, took awhile. If you couldn't tell by now, I'm kind of cheap. My sisters claim it's the McKee in me, refering to my maternal grandpa who was a notorious coupon-clipping, horse-dealing "dabbler" in real estate. It's true that I hate paying full price, especially for big purchases. The short version is that it took a couple phone calls and 3 visits, but I was able to parlay my team membership & the "special team discount week" into 25% off the kit.

After sitting in the basement through spring, my vacation - including no teaching summer school for the first time in 5 years - gave me the time to jump on the build. I started by stripping and rebuilding the bike, including new bearings, chain, BB, cables and housing. I also did a little upgrading. The original rear cluster was a 7-speed freewheel, which would have been fine, but a peculiarity of the Xtracycles is the prohibition on cantilever brakes - which this bike had. The reason for this is apparently that, because canti's stick out horizontally from the seatstays, they c ould interfere with the bags and supporting "V-racks." Eyeballing the bike now that it's done, I doubt this would be a problem. But the "required" V-brakes or disc brakes also have better stopping power than canti's, which might come in handy when you hit the downhill stopsign carrying 150lbs of groceries and a 3-year old on the back. Because the stock components included integrated brake/shifters, and because canti brake levers are generally incompatible with V-brakes, it meant I was going to need new brake and shift levers anyway. So when I had the opportunity to get a set of 8-speed shifters & nearly-new cassette for $20 (Craigslist again) that made my decision to upgrade from 21 to 24 speed.

Sidenote: the guy I bought the shifters from was kinda interesting. He sort of runs a bike mechanic business with his housemate in a trailer park in Gresham. When I showed up at 4 PM they were both drunk, with Hendrix blasting from the stereo. The seller was asleep on the couch and after his housemate told me to go in, I had to shout to wake him up, and I scared the crap out of him. He literally jumped, then staggered around saying "dude! dude! You scared me, dude!" Then laughed hysterically at himself. But he dug out the shifters and cassette, and even threw a new chain in, wishing me luck as I pedaled away.

Since the new shifters didn't incorprate brake levers, and I knew I needed V-brakes, that was next on my list, and I scored. Performance Bike was opening a new store downtown, and for
the grand opening was offering a $20 store card to the first 100 people in the door Saturday AND Sunday. Of course my son and I rode down and were in line early both days. In addition to the $20, they also had "spin the wheel"where you could win more store money (or other stuff like water bottles, "big prize," etc.) Saturday my son and I each spun $5, and Sunday he scored another $5 and I hit $10. Plus, they were also giving $5 cards for bringing in recycled innertubes. I could only dig up a couple Saturday ($5 each) but scrounged several more for Sunday for the maximum $15 each. Our grand total: $145 store credit, plus some schwag like snacks, chain lube, and sunscreen. The only hitch? It had to be spent that weekend. Of course, V-brakes just happened to be on sale, so we got a full set for the X, plus some sunglasses and a tailight for my son, a bell, new shorts, a clear jacket (for cyclocross) and a couple new tubes. It felt like bike Christmas.

I had avoided opening the Xtracycle box until all my ducks were in a row,
but once vacation started and all the parts were lined up, I hauled everything out to the driveway and spent the better part of the weekend on the build. The FreeRadical is a pretty well-designed kit and marketed as a lifestyle item, kind of like an ipod or a BMW I guess, but cooler. Included in the box are all the practical bits and pieces, including such welcome items as an extra length of chain, longer rear cables & housing, and a kickstand.

They also include a great sheet of stickers
and a packet of business-size cards titled "Eleven Answers" to hand out when asked the inevitable questions you get when you roll with an X. Examples: "Light! As little as 5 lbs." & "Yes, but you won't want to."

The final construction was actually easier and quicker than I had anticipated. I've learned from experience to anticipate glitches and problems that need solving, and the free radical didn't really present any. The extension attaches at three points -to the rear dropouts and the chainstay bridge with special doodads designed to hold it secure.

Once the FR was on and the new V-brakes mounted, it was just a matter of installing a new chain, routing new cables and housing - (using the included rollamajig to reduce rear derailleur friction), putting the wheels back on and getting everything fine-tuned before sliding on the V-racks, strapping on the Freeloader bags, and snapping on (literally) the Snapdeck.

When done, the girls were begging for a ride, so after a short run up the street to make sure nothing fell off, we were ready for a loaded test ride.

The only thing needed was a stoker stem and bar for carrying a passenger. You can get fancy with this if you want, but most folks find a cheaper solution. Mine included a used stem, shim, and mtb bars (which I chopped down) from the CCC. Total cost around 20 bucks. I topped it off with purple sparkle grips and streamers, a Hello Kitty bell (plus a red pepper bell for the pilot), and now it's fully customized and fit for both girls. Eventually I'll probably get the Footsies if I can find a deal on them, but since Lil' C couldn't reach them anyway, I bolted a pair of bar-ends I had lying around to the front of the V-racks and she's now got somewhere to put her feet.

The following weekend was the 2nd of three Sunday Parkways events - the NE Portland version, and after riding a loop as a roving mechanic with the MegaBike 4000, I met up with my family and we took another lap together. I think this bike is a keeper.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pioneer Spirit

One of the biggest rides put on by the Portland Wheelmen each year is the Pioneer Century on the first Saturday of June. Last year it was my first century ever - my previous longest ride being just shy of 80 miles. It was a breakthrough for me, a personal goal, and a very satisfying accomplishment. Plus it's a beautiful ride. Since that time I've tucked a couple more centuries under my belt, along with a 200K. I figured I'd celebrate the anniversary with a return.

I had some pre-ride preparation anxiety. After sunny and 80's a couple weeks ago, we've had some weirdness in the sky. Cool, showers, a big thunder/wind storm Thursday. Friday was forecast to clear but it never did and I rode home from work in the rain. I still didn't know Friday night which bike I'd ride (Nishiki with fenders or Poprad w/o). And I don't even want to talk about the multiple contingency clothes I laid out. And then there was my knee...

Saturday dawned cool and cloudy, a little damp. I decided to trust the forecast (clearing) and took the Poprad, dressed in light wool, and tossed in the cheap vinyl rainjacket just in case. Fortunately it never made it out of the car. I got to Canby about 6:45 and the parking lot was already busy - the course opened at 7:00 and while there were a number of loops folks could ride starting much later, most of the 100-mile riders like to get out there ASAP, including me.
I picked up my packet, futzed with my clothing some more - despite the gray clouds and occassional drops I was really trusting the forecast and ditched the tights and waterproof socks, opting for the new (happy birthday to me!) SS wool, shorts, and light windbreaker. It proved to be perfect. 

I left alone and rode alone for the first 10 miles, just warming up and enjoying the farm scenery. I got passed for a few fast folks, and then a paceline of not quite as fast folks  went around me and I decided to fall in. At one point there were 7 of us sharing pulls and this went on quite well for about 10 miles. One guy flatted so he and his partner dropped out. Then our lone woman dropped off as we entered Mollala, and finally, the big hill leading up to the first rest stop blew the rest of us apart. But it was fun zipping along in a train while it lasted. 

My knee started getting a little sore right at the beginning of the ride and I was anxious about that. This has had me really nervous recently. I have never, ever (knock on wood) had any knee issues. But this started up the last 20 miles or so of the RACC, and has nagged me for the last month or so. It's right on the surface and top of the right knee cap, and internet/self-diagnosis points to saddle position induced tendon strain. Of course it probably doesn't help that I adjusted my saddle height right before RACC, or that I went for a run the day after, or that I have ridden my bike 20 miles/day nearly every day since. But on the other hand, after a week or so it wasn't too tender and seemed to be getting better, and this last week I hardly noticed it at all. I figured if it really started bothering me I could pop a couple "vitamin I" for the pain and infamation, and if I needed to, bail after the first 55-mile loop. Fortunately, the pain never happened, and while I noticed it if I thought about it, I didn't really. A huge relief. But I also decided to be smart and skip the run on Sunday. 

The section of the ride from Mollala up Sawtel Road to the high point at Kokel Corner (1500 ft.) and back down Maple Grove is the best part of this ride if you like hills like I do. You have great views of the Willamette valley in a mix of farmland and forest - well, mini-forest as most of it is actually Christmas tree farms - and the road is smooth and the downhills eye-watering. 

The century ride is actually 2 loops out from the Clackamas County fairgrounds, the first one 55 miles and the second 45. I was back from loop 1 about 10:45 and stopped at the car to change. I didn't need to, but knew I could probably ditch the windbreaker and some of the food I was carrying. Plus, the day before the ride Dennis from BRM had dropped off the new kit and I wanted to display it, but with the threat of rain had opted for the wool. Now that the weather (and I) were warming, I figured what the heck, and dressed in the red & gold. I walked over to chat with these guys, and check out these, and these. Chris D commented on the BRM presence and said he liked the shoulder picture. The Man himself was busy at the fajita grill, but Chris D speculated on whether they could talk him into a similar Jersey portrait. The consensus was that CK wouldn't go for it. Their plan was to shut down the fajita line at 2:00, which meant I was going to have to hustle on the 45-mile loop if I was getting anything besides cookies post-century. 

I kind of surprised myself by how casually I took the second loop - no food, no jacket, just pedaling along. I knew coming in on the first loop that I had a tailwind, and I remember thinking "this is going to bite me at some point." It did. The last 8 miles or so into St. Paul were pretty brutal with the headwind. One of the guys I was chatting with at the start of the the morning was speculating on the potential road debris from Thursday's storm. The section near the Willamette river from Champoeg to St. Paul was where I really noticed it, especially anywhere that cottonwoods bordered the roads there was lots of sticks and branches on the shoulder. There were plenty of folks out with chainsaws and trailers cleaning up their yards and mini-farms. I saw a couple teenagers working on the branches of a downed tree that was easily 6 feet in diameter and had fortunately fallen parallel to their house. Thankfully the hop vines seemed to survive the winds just fine. Between the BRM "No Grain No Gain" kit, and the acres of hops, I was feeling like a rolling 2-wheeled homebrew.
Just before St. Paul, when I was about ready for a break from the saddle and some munchies,  I came to Heirloom Roses. These guys grow and sell some of the most beautiful and hardy roses you'll find anywhere. My wife gave me one of these for my birthday several years ago and this year it put on quite a show. Last year I pedaled through, but since the headwind had me a little winded, I was carrying a camera this time,  and roses were on parade just up the valley, I decided to stop.

The rest stop in St. Paul was well stocked and I fueled up for the final leg and headed out with a group of 4 other guys, but not before taking a picture of a really nice mixte.  J. P. Weigle made one sort of similar to this. You don't see many with that single-to-double top tube design. For that matter, you don't see many mixtes when you're out riding a century. Maybe in France. The world needs more mixtes, I think.

It was nice to work in a paceline again, especially with the headwind. I figured eventually we'd get to the point in the loop when the headwind turned tail and with about 15 to go that happened. Our group dwindled to 3 and then 2 when we hit Donald and one guy decided he didn't want to continue in with an empty water bottle. So Mike and Mike took turns towing each other into Canby. MIke #2 was doing his first century ever and feeling it, so I kept up the banter hoping it would make the final miles roll quicker and they did for both Mikes. I stopped at the car to ditch my bike and change my shoes. It was 2:10 when I got in the fajita line, but they were still serving. They asked if I wanted one or two. What a silly question.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I seem to be in a groove of doing a long ride about every two weeks this spring. Last Saturday it was the RACC Century - The Ride Around Clark County, put on annually by the Vancouver Bicycle Club. I had never heard of this ride until just after last year's edition - but it seems plenty of other folks have since it's one of the more popular local supported events, apparently. After riding it I can see why - it's a beautiful course.

I briefly considered riding to the start, and next year I'm committing myself to doing just that. But Clark County was - before this ride - a big blank spot in my cycling experience and I wasn't entirely confident I could get myself to the start by bike without bumbling around the suburbs. Plus it was raining, which is becoming a pattern for my long rides so far this year. The course
 opened at 6:30 and I was checked in, pinned, and riding just before 7. 

The 100-mile route initially followed the same course as the shorter routes (18, 35, 65), so the day began with a fair number of us headed east through wide, smooth, quiet suburb streets to Lacamas lake and the first rest stop. Somehow - at 17 miles - this came sooner than I was expecting. I wasn't really hungry so I didn't linger long before heading around the lake and into the more rural sections of northeast Clark County. There were plenty of rollers but no big hills leading to the east fork of the Lewis river. One of the riders I talked with mentioned the hills really started after the second rest stop at Moulton Falls. My lower back started getting sore during the six mile stretch along Lucia Falls road- a good excuse for a few minutes off the bike - and I was glad to reach the second rest stop where I walked back up the road to snap a couple
 pictures and stretch the legs a bit for the anticipated climbing. 
The VBC volunteers had really loaded up the rest stops and they're well-known locally for their "trail putty" ("road putty" would sound too gross, no?) which is a mix of peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk. I'm not sure how the powdered milk would sit with me for the long haul, but it would be interesting to try this stuff as a primary fuel for a long day. The combo of fat/protein/carbs seems just about ideal. I ate some along with a couple cookies, a banana, and a pbj, and saddled up.  
The next 30 miles or so had the biggest hills of the day, though there was never anything that felt endless or over-steep. Somewhere along Jenny Creek my computer quit on me at 62.99 miles. I stopped a couple times to adjust the magnet and check the wires but got nothing, so I was riding "blind" for the rest of the ride. I decided all I could do was zen it and I didn't worry too much about it since the Dan Henry's were clear. But I did realize that if this had been a self-supported brevet, the loss of the odometer would have been more problematic.

One thing I really look forward to on long rides - well, anytime really, - is a good cup of coffee. Or two. I usually start my morning with tea and save the coffee for when I get to work and the day is rolling. There was coffee at the beginning of the ride but I wasn't ready yet. Of course, the rest stops didn't have any; I suppose under the assumption that it's a diuretic and can't be good for you on a long ride. For me, the psychological benefit is more than worth any piddly risk of dehydration. Besides, it's mostly water. I know for myself I can hydrate just fine on coffee, and it sure taste better than lemon-lime Gatorade. Anyway, at about mile 89 or so there was a series of home made signs for a water/snack stop some enterprising girls had set up in their driveway. They were selling bottled water and giving away (with a donation jar) cookies & rice crispy treats. I started to ride by before calling over my shoulder "You don't have any coffee, do you?" Turns out they did and it was good. 

I had heard horror stories about a couple of hills in the final miles of this climb that seem designed to inflict physical and psychological pain on weary riders. Maybe it was the coffee, but I really didn't see what all the fuss was about since they were over almost before they started. After getting a break from the rain for the last couple hours, it started up again as I rode into Vancouver, but I made it back to Clark College relatively dry before the big storm hit. I was home - with more coffee - when that happened, and hoped everyone was off the course by then.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Boring Ride ?

It wasn't. With the forecast for stellar weather (finally), several of the team mates seemed to be chomping at the bit to get in a long country ramble. The idea of a jaunt out to Multnomah Falls was briefly entertained, but braving the narrow shoulders of the scenic highway on one of the first warm days of spring was reason enough to look for someplace more remote. Ever heard of the town of  George, Oregon? Me neither. 

The Rubber to the Road guide list two routes called "Boring - hardly," the short version and the long one. Six of us set out for the full-meal deal Sunday morning. Not exactly bright and early like I hoped, but early enough. The first of many climbs came where 181st becomes 190th on the south side of Gresham. A lovely fast swoop down Butler past Persimmon golf course put us square in farmland and my old neighborhood at the base of Tower hill. Up and down Sunshine Valley road led into the town of Boring and the beginning of what Fergus called "the ride of a thousand hills." 
The back 40 on this ride was all up and down in the Cascade foothills, with just enough flat plateaus to allow some casual spinning before dropping into the next drainage. We crossed Eagle Creek, Deep Creek, Tickle Creek, Johnson Creek, and a bunch of other creeks, some of them several times. The high point of the route is the lollipop loop out of Eagle Fern park and up to the "town" of George. There's a real pretty church there and not much else. This Sunday there were about a dozen kids playing outside. Maybe George is always this way, but we remarked at how quiet the kids were. Like, eerie quiet. 

The drop back down took us through big fresh clear cuts on perfect sweeping curves. It looked like a lot of logging roads I've driven to get to climbs here in the northwest, except it was paved. I wish I'd taken a picture of this portion, but I didn't want to stop in the middle of such a fun descent. I checked my altimeter on my bike and we dropped about 1300 feet in about 10 minutes. Of course, we had to gain a lot of that back getting out of Eagle Creek. And it took longer. 

Back in Boring after the last climb out of Tickle Creek, everyone was feeling pretty toasted and no one complained when new-guy Andy's bike flatted just sitting in the parking lot at McCall's store in Boring. A few minutes delay in hitting the road for the final stretch back into Gresham was fine.
 I bought a muffin and some grapefruit juice since for the first time this year I actually ran out of food. In the absence of a support van, I was handing out fig bars from my snazzy notebook pencil organizer/handlebar feed bag. Maybe it was my imagination, but I think the derisive smirks disappeared in the face of empty pockets and the hunger bonk. 
all in all it was A Splendid Day. Here's the route.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Consolation Ride

On Saturday I really wanted to be doing this. But with the girls gone to the ranch, big C here with me, and a pre-Easter dinner planned with my parents and sisters, I had to content myself with something shorter. Still, It ended up being a good long enough ride on roads new to me. And it didn't rain, which was a welcome break.

The three deer and I
watch the Canby fe
rry cross
but I board alone

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cars, part 2

Six-hundred riders
chase the Lion of Flanders
Up. Down. Up. Down. Up.

On Saturday I joined a bunch of other cyclist, including about a half-dozen guys associated in one way or another with the team, for de Ronde van Oeste Portlandia. I did this ride last year and was glad to have some friends along for the suffering this time. The weather was beautiful - really, the nicest day so far this year, which probably helped drive the turnout, which was estimated over 600. I think that's incredible for something that's unofficial and just organized by word-of-mouth and the net. You can read more about it here and here.

Unfortunately, one of our teammates, John, was seriously injured on one of the descents when a driver made a left turn directly in front of him and a group of riders. John was probably traveling 30+ mph and the accident sent him over the truck and left him with a badly broken leg and numerous other injuries. Our group had been split in half by a wrong turn a little earlier, and I came upon the scene a couple minutes after the crash. Fortunately, John was conscious and
 responsive, but he was in a lot of pain. There's no telling for sure, of course, but what I saw was as good an argument for the value of a helmet as I have ever seen. We were all left fairly shell-shocked, and those who were literally at his side when the collision took place were quite traumatized. The comment that most struck me was "it looked like a bike explosion."

In a previous post I talked about the price we as a culture seem willing to pay in order to drive. For me, this tragedy puts a violent and angry exclamation on that. I'm sick of what feels like the senseless brutality that drivers of cars inflict on vulnerable cyclist and pedestrians. And I'm sick of the voices that dare to say that cyclist and pedestrians are somehow to blame because the roads were made for cars. I refuse to use the term "accident" for this type of violence because to do so implies that it was inevitable, and that there wasn't a human at fault when there was. I'm not claiming the driver assaulted John, but when someone is at the wheel of a car and his recklessness or lack of attention or poor driving skills cause injury, a crime has been committed. I don't say this out of malice toward the driver, who, if he's like most of us, must feel sick with remorse. But I say it because I believe that if things are ever going to change - if road safety for all users is ever going to be a priority, we need to see more bad drivers charged with a crime. I hate saying this, because I take no pleasure in anyone's punishment, regardless of what they have done. But the close calls are beginning to wear on me and those who love me. Those of us who choose to regularly commute by bike can recount frightening close calls by the dozens. And despite the familiarity with bikes that inner-Portland drivers have (and bless their hearts most of them are great at sharing the road), there's still far too much selfishness and aggression out there. I want the driver who hit John charged with a crime not because I want him punished, but because I want the rest of the drivers out there to get the message that they must take the responsibility of getting behind the wheel as serious as a heart attack. I want the same rules for the road that I have for my classroom - that is, doing the wrong thing must be harder and more uncomfortable than doing the right thing. When a motorist can send a cyclist to the hospital and get back behind the wheel and drive home, something is seriously wrong.

Face It

Your car, like mine
cannot leap through giant hoops of fire
or loop, upside down, in gleaming tunnels of steel
it cannot scale cliffs, ascend roadless peaks
or plow through towering drifts of snow
your car will never speed across Bonneville, 
cut midnight cookies in New York City,
or drag race in a parking garage

Your car is not sexy
and doesn't make you sexy either
it is not a weapon or a toy 
it does not symbolize freedom
independence America power
an animal or you

Your car, like mine
is an appliance 
like a washing machine or a refrigerator
good to have 
necessary to the job at hand
a tool fit to its purpose

and when your car has been used with gratitude
and carefully kept from carnage
guided through neighborhood streets
gently purring past children as they play
at the end of the age of the auto
your car, like mine
will come to a stop
maybe in a quiet pasture
to rest and rust and return
until all that remains
is a dull orange headstone
leeching iron back into the earth

photos by Dave Roth

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flat road in flat light
from my tires to the sky
seven shades of gray

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brevet #1

Someone referred to my first randonneuring ride two weeks ago as a "baptism," which was appropriate in terms of it being my first, but also in terms of wetness. Snoozeville wasn't a Episcopalian-style dip-your-fingers-in-the-holy-water sprinkling either, but a full-on Pentecostal take-me-to-the-river dunking. Apparently my soul still needed a bit more cleansing because Saturday's Birkie Brevet was more of the same.

After Snoozeville I kind of obsessed about the tweaks I could make that would allow me to double the distance while hopefully improving my comfort. I rode Snoozeville on my Poprad, which seemed a little stiff, and my position was not quite as upright as I wanted. Plus, the Fizik saddle was comfy to about 50 miles and then, not so much. Since I'm new to the whole rando thing I figure I'll just take each ride as an experiment. What works, stays, and what doesn't, well, it's just a bike ride - how bad can it get? So I thought about riding River (my 1986 Nishiki Riviera touring bike - which is also my commuting bike), but knew I had to make some changes. Since this was stuff I wanted to do anyway, the Birkie was the kick in the pants I needed to get it done. The stock bars were, like, 38cm, and the stem maybe 50mm. I've read that in a relaxed position with hands on top of bars the bar should be in a sight line with the front axle. Well, I was scrunched up and looking at the axle waaaayy out there in front of the bars. And the 0ld-school 600 brake levers, while cool looking, were too small for my hands and stuck out too far from the bar - they're just weird.

So I picked up some (barely) used Nitto Noodle bars at Citybikes, dug out a 100mm Technomic stem I had, and slipped on some old Dia-compe levers that fit my hands better. I also swapped out the old Fujita saddle for a Brooks Pro which came on the mid-80's Japanese made Bianchi I bought from a teammate last year and built up for my son's cruiser. Truth be told, the saddle was the main reason I bought the bike. I figured I was probably going to end up spending a hundred bucks for a nice saddle someday anyway, so it was practically like the bike was free, right? I told my son the bike could be his, but the saddle was mine. I also added a cheap Vetta computer from the REI outlet since I'm lousy at guestimating mileage. I finished the job with new cloth tape and 6 coats of shellac and River was ready to rando. But hedging my bets I also made some modifications to the Poprad. Teammate Greg sold me a slightly shorter stem for cheap, and Jeff generously gave me a Thompson post to replace the stock carbon one I had (I can't trust bike stuff that looks and feels like plastic.) I've read good stuff about WTB Rocket saddles, and Scott had one he offered me super-cheap, so I made those swaps as well.

Now it was time to experiment, and since I was on Spring Break, I had time to for test rides. The problem was, as soon as vacation started, I came down with the Cold From Hell. The teachers' curse. I'm not usually a believer in weather-induced sickness; I believe fresh air, regardless of the temperature or precipitation, is healthier than being stuck indoors with central air blowing all those germs around. But the symptoms started the Monday after the Snoozeville/Shamrock soakings, and by Friday before break it was clear I was losing the battle. Still, I had blocked out Wednesday for a solo scenic highway jaunt, and I really wanted to see how River handled and check out that new tunnel. Of course Wednesday dawned cold and wet. T suggested I stay home, or at least cut back my planned ride, and I said that sounded good - I'd just head out to the Sandy river and see how I felt. "Maybe I'll head up to Springdale and turn around there" I think I said. Ha. I doubt she believed me either. Of course, once in the saddle I felt great, the cough disappeared, and there was no way I was turning back early. Still lacking a handlebar bag/saddlebag, I decided to take a small backpack w/bladder. I also thought I'd try Kent's plastic-bag-between-the-socks idea since I really like my sandals. Verdict? The bike handled really well. Much less twitchy, more comfy and upright, no shimmy riding with no hands (handlebars more forward?), and the saddle was as comfy as I could expect for one new (to me). My hands and feet got cold, especially on the descent from Crown Point to Multnomah Falls, but I finally took off the full-finger cycling gloves and put on the rag wool ones, and my hands were warm the rest of the day. My feet eventually warmed up too - and stayed dry. The experiment was mostly successful, though 65 miles with a pack convinced me I didn't really want to do that for the Birkie. And the tunnel is nice - If you want to see it, get there soon while it still smells like fresh-milled cedar. Another plus to doing this ride on a wet and cold Wednesday was I had the whole highway to myself. I took the lane basically from the Womens' Forum Park to the tunnel and back, with almost no traffic. Including Marine drive and the Sandy river I saw one other bike all day, and that was in Gresham on my way home.

In the new tunnel
alone, sheltered from the rain
watching waterfalls

The next day T and I had our long planned and highly anticipated bike date to LRBC. I follow their blog, but it's a long way from Montavilla to St. Johns, and not really on the way to anywhere we go together, so we had never actually been there. I decided to ride the Poprad this time and see how it felt. I was still a little saddle-sore from the day before, but the Rocket saddle felt better the longer I rode. Strangely, I noticed that even though I only switched from a
100cm to a 90cm stem, I went from feeling too stretched out to feeling kind of scrunched. Hmm. (It wasn't until I got home and checked that I realized the carbonium seatpost I swapped out had a setback clamp. Ah-ha. So back went the orignal stem and it felt like I'd found the sweet spot.) The breakfast was splendid and the lattes spot-on. T and I have talked about opening our own breakfast/lunch/bakery place someday, and LRBC is definitely inspiration - it's really a beautiful little oasis of yumminess.

However, by Friday I was still obsessing over which bike to ride. Really, what it came down to was what I said about seeing the whole intro to randonneuring thing as a big fun experiment. In the end I decided that since I rode the Poprad in Snoozeville, it was River's turn. A year or so ago I exchanged a couple of emails with Joel Metz, asking all sorts of newby questions about bike style, components, geometry, blah blah blah. What he said, in essence, was "ride the bike you've got and go from there." It was good advice. The only thing I did different from the gorge ride was take a pannier instead of a backpack. I was a little worried I'd get some shimmy, since on my commute this arrangement can induce some tail-wagging-the-dog wobbling, but the new bar/stem must have cured it since I was able to ride no-hands with no-problem.

So - the brevet. I showed up not so early as last time, driving this time because I really couldn't think of another way to get there in time. I'll admit there was a moment in the blustery rain near Hillsboro when I was thinking "Do I really want to do another crappy weather ride?" and I almost turned the car around. I'm glad I didn't, and it was heartening to see so many folks in the lot who looked and sounded like they could think of no better way to spend a Saturday than riding all day in Oregon's coast range in the rain. We pulled out of Forest Grove just at dawn, and once we hit SR 6 I fell in with a group of 5 that included Pat from Seattle, Ian (?) from Olympia, Mike Johnson, and a couple others. Seemed like there was quite a contingent from the Puget Sound area on this ride. Though we lost contact for long stretches, these were the same guys I ended up finishing with; Mike and I rode and chatted together from the Glenwood control to the finish, and I ended up saving him from a long train ride home. I suppose If I have to drive, it helps to know I can give someone else a ride as well.

Rolling through Timber

like a flock of steel birds
one dog barks hello

Just about all this country was new to me. I'm a native Oregonian, but I honestly don't think I've ever been to Vernonia before. The closest I ever came, I think, was a couple years ago when a friend and I were returning from the Astoria 'cross race and we tried to come back that way, but were turned around by a wreck. Despite the constant rain, it really was a beautiful ride - it makes me want to come back on a sunny day sometime. Some observations: The guys I was with coming into the first control at Anderson Park wasted no time. I was munching cookies when Susan asked me if I wanted some coffee and I said "sure." When I turned around, those guys were all gone. Later, approaching the Birkenfield control/turnaround, I kept expecting to see them going the other way, but I only counted 5 riders - the lead pack of 4, followed 5 minutes later by a 'bent rider - before I got to the control. And there they all were, gathered around the tables, feet up, scarfing onion rings. I had plenty of time for another coffee and some fig bars, but I made sure I wasn't the last one left when they pulled out this time.

I hadn't noticed a tailwind coming into Birkenfield, so the headwind when I pointed back up the Nehalem river was a little disheartening. I did notice the sun trying to come out a couple times, But I don't believe it ever actually stopped raining. The climb up to and past the town of Timber seemed to pass pretty quick - I felt like I got a little charge when the mileage turned past the century mark. The last few miles back into Forest Grove Mike and I got nailed by a pretty good cloudburst/headwind, but still seemed to be making decent time. I think our check-in time was just shy of 4:30, and since I was optimistically hoping for 5:00, I was happy with that. we chatted and munched for a few minutes and hit the road for home.

What worked for me: I love the Noodle bars. In combo with the Technomic stem they just felt right and I could move around with them, sit up, whatever. The Brooks saddle was also surprisingly comfortable and I'll stick with it. I remembered the rag wool gloves this time and they made all the difference for keeping my hands warm. I actually started with polypro liners under regular short leather-palmed cycling gloves and changed out at the first control, noticing an immediate improvement. I also have a new appreciation for my trusty Burley jacket. I'm definitely lusting for the rando uniform, but my torso stayed pretty dry, and what little water did get in was wicked by the wool anyway. I decided to leave the wool Swobo knickers at home since I had some - how to say this? - chafing of a delicate nature on the Snoozeville ride. I went with my regular cycling shorts under Hind Drylete tights and I was golden. I also smeared chamois and self liberally with bag balm. I know some folks have issues with bag balm, and this was my first time using it for cycling. But I grew up on a farm milking cows, so for me, it's got a kind of nostalgic appeal. And I can't be sure, but I think the cows along the route knew and were smiling. And there was no chafing this time.

What didn't work: My feet got wet. It rained at least as hard on the gorge ride and they stayed dry. The only difference? For the Birkie I used thin produce bags between socks, but on the gorge ride I used plastic grocery bags. Maybe the longer ride just wore them out, or maybe they leaked from the top? But here's the really dumb thing. I have waterproof sealskinz socks, but I wanted to try the low-tech route - you know, as part of the experiment. I know, dumb, right? It gets better. I actually hauled the Sealskinz in my pannier for the entire ride without knowing I had them in there. Sheesh.

I also carried too much other stuff, most of it food. I had spare socks and a Marmot driclime windshirt that I never used, but they weighed next to nothing. I only carried one water bottle and that was fine since there was plenty of opportunity to refill. But seeing the onion rings in Birkenfield was a lesson in the art of refueling. I actually pulled out some food in the parking lot before starting, but here's what I carried and what I actually ate. In my jersey pockets I had 6 jumbo-sized whole wheat fig bars, a banana, and a flask of raspberry Hammer gel. I also had a couple dozen cats in my jacket pocket that I was popping like, well, candy. In the pannier I carried 1 Bagel w/peanut butter and homemade huckleberry jam (I don't know why, but I think huckleberries have near-mystical biking and hiking powers), about a pint of gorp, 3 Gorge Delight fruit bars, 1 Clif Bar, and 1 Builder bar. When I was done I still had 3 fig bars, most of the gorp, over half the Hammer Gel, 2 of the fruit bars, the Clif bar and the Builder bar, and all I bought along the way was coffee. I figure I had enough food for a full weekend campaign if my legs could have held out that long. Realistically, I could have stuffed everything I needed in my pockets and left the pannier behind.

What I really want for the future, though, is better weather. One thing I'm learning is that these randonneur folks are a social bunch, and I need more of that in my cycling life. I did some chatting, but I suspect that a lot of us were kind of huddled against the elements and in survival mode. Actually, I would have been fine and probably felt even better afterwards if I had done the ride slower, talked more, and stopped totake some pictures, but the weather on this day just wasn't conducive to that kind of ride.

Now the thought of 300K actually seems within the realm of possibility, especially if it's not raining and I can find some good onion rings. We'll see. One thing's for certain, I'm no longer a rando wannabe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Simply Revolutionary

"The idea is that a child can sit in the middle of the street and play with a doll and the parents are not going to worry about them."

This quote is from Jeff Mapes newly published Pedaling Revolution, which I just finished. The book is a thoroughly researched look at bicycles and city transportation planning. Mr. Mapes takes an in-depth look at four cities in particular; Amsterdam, Davis CA, Portland, and New York, and shows how an emphasis on seeing the bicycle as a vital solution to congestion, pollution, and health issues can lead to the transformation of urban areas into places that are safer and more livable.

I read a library copy, but it's one of those books that I know I'll want to refer to a lot, so I'll be buying my own copy soon - it's on sale at Powells right now for 13.96.

The overall emphasis is on how these changes make sense and are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement (compared to building infrastructure for autos). The problem, of course, is developing enough critical mass to get the political wheels moving in that direction. Places like Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Boulder have it, but most cities don't. The key is to show these cities how to get there. I realize that most folks who take the time to read this book are going to be like me - people already sold on the idea that the bike is viable primary tansportation, so in that sense the author is preaching to the choir. My big question is how to get the book in the hands of transportation wonks and activist who want solutions but aren't necessarily focused on cycling as part of the answer.

I found the last three chapters the most memorable, where Mr. Mapes addressed issues of safety, health, and the critical need to get kids back on bikes. I've never really thought about the drop in child riders from the peak days of the 1960's to where we are currently. But as the author says, if people don't develop the habit of exercise when they are most capable, there's little likelihood they will pick it up later in life.

What really sticks with me is the sacrifice, both in lives and general health, that we as a culture have been willing to make in order to maintain our "right" to drive our cars whenever, wherever, and however we want. Here are some numbers from the book:

- The chance that an American will die from a car crash is one-in-fifty. Some data suggest it may be more like one-in-sixty or seventy. But still... As one expert pointed out, our standard for drinking water quality is a one-in-1 million chance that something in the water could cause cancer.

- U.S. car crashes kill the equivalent of two jumbo jetliners full of people every week.

- The U.S. has the highest auto death rate of any developed country in the world.

- We spend more on dental research than we do on traffic safety research.

- Moving to the suburbs (which many families do to escape the "dangers" of the city) significantly increases the likelihood you or your children will be killed by a car crash.

On the subject of overall health, the book had these statistics:

- In 1991, only 4 states had obesity rates over 15%. By 2007 the national rate of obesity was 34%, and only Colorado was under 20%.

- Obesity-related illnesses account for 12% of the increase in health care cost during that time.

- 40% of early deaths can be directly linked to smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol, or car crashes.

- In 1969, 87% of children who lived within one mile of school got there under their own power. in 2001, that number was 15%.

- Half of the children who are hit by cars in a school zone are struck by a motorist transporting a child to school. In many areas, 20% of the morning rush hour traffic consists of parents driving their children to school.

As the book makes clear, if safety and health were really the national priorities some people claim, we would make it much more difficult for people to drive. For years we have tacitly accepted the annual violent roadway deaths of thousands of our own citizens as the blood price we're willing to pay to drive. My guess is most people, if they think about it at all, believe these deaths are inevitable, or worse, somehow worth the "freedom" to drive. But most of these deaths are preventable when one considers that half of all trips by car are less than 5 miles in length. It's not reasonable to expect that all these trips could be by bike. But as Mr. Mapes points out, we know how to create infrastructure and policies that make it easier and safer to bike, and less convenient to get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, tackling the assumptions built by our car-centric culture makes this an uphill battle. I hope this book helps move the discussion in the right direction.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Snoozeville-Shamrock Rain Festival

Heavy clouds let loose
halfway through too numb to shift
welcome to Snoozeville

Part 1
When I first heard about randonneuring and the whole idea of long, non-competitive, self-supported rides, I knew I had to try it. Long rides are like meditation for me.  With randonneuring I could spend the day on a bike and see a lot of country, but I'd also get the social aspect of joining others if I wanted. Plus, a "rando," while not a race, is still a timed event, with the rider required to check in at designated "controls" and finish the ride within a specified timeframe. Theoretically, a rando rider could amble along at a very leisurely 15km/hr and still make the cut. But that's assuming no breaks, detours (accidental or intentional), flats, mechanical issues, muffins, naps, or picture taking. Route finding and problem solving are as important as endurance, which makes it even more appealing to me. And on Saturday I finally got my randonneuring fix.
The Snoozeville Populaire is the first event on the Oregon Randonneurs schedule and it's been on my calendar for months. Even though I've ridden a couple centuries, I was still nervous. Since I was determined not to drive, that meant a 4:30 A.M. wake-up to allow time for dressing, oats, stuffing the pockets and catching MAX at 6 for an hour-long train ride to Hillsboro. It also meant standing around the parking lot getting chilled once I got there. First lesson: it doesn't take 45 minutes to get checked in. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, but I met a couple people, admired a lot of bikes, and after a brief pre-ride pep talk,  we all headed out at 8 just as the rain started.

The route toured Washington county toward the east slope of the coast range. It felt fairly flat, especially compared with my ride last week. By the time we hit Dairy Creek for the out and back to Fern Flat and the first control, we were pretty spread out and I was finally warmed up. Being the total rando newbie I am, I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with the brevet card I was given. I mean, I knew there were questions to answer, and I knew that sometimes there would be volunteers at the control and sometimes not, but no one really explained how this all worked, and I was kind of embarrassed to ask (guy thing). So at Fern Flat - my first rando control point ever - I kind of flubbed it. I handed my card over and the volunteer signed it as I munched and chatted, then I tucked it away and headed back down the road. It wasn't until about 5 miles later that I looked at my cue sheet and realized that I was also supposed to answer a question about the color of the flags on the fence at the control. Dang! I figured that since the card had been signed I was probably OK, but the thought crossed my mind of conspiring at the next control to see if I could nochalantly bring up flag colors in the conversation and sneak my answer in late. One thing for sure, I knew I wasn't riding back to the control.

The ride from Dairy Creek through Banks and into Forest Grove was kind of rolling and really, really wet and windy. It felt like no matter which way the course turned, I had a headwind. Other than a spare pair of socks in my pocket, I was wearing everything I brought. The Swobo top and knickers were working fine, but my old thrashed Burley shoe covers had been taking on water steadily, and my hands were also wet and chilled. At one point I hit a roller and tried to shift to my small front ring and was surprised to find I didn't have the hand strength to nudge the left lever. I figured this ride would be a shakedown for hopefully longer rides and I got sucked in to making a couple miscalculations based on the fact it wasn't raining when I got up and the forecast was for a high of 50. Honestly, based on my normal 10 mile commute, I was more worried about overheating and having to strip layers than I was on being so chilled. Second lesson learned:  bringing layers you don't use beats first stage hypothermia every time. My rag wool gloves and waterproof socks weren't doing me any good in the closet at home. And a bag for extra stuff just moved higher up the wish list.

Pulling into Forest Grove, I was really glad Gregg was maning the control at Maggie's Buns. The cue sheet said "on the left," but I didn't realize it was on the left around the corner, and if Gregg hadn't shouted out, who knows when I would have figured it out. My hands were stiff enough I almost asked him to unzip my pocket to pull out my card - my manual dexterity was shot. As it was, it took me about 5 minutes with teeth and numb fingers to get my gloves off. I spent a couple minutes in the bathroom with the hot water tap, a couple more with the Most Necessary Cup of Coffee ever, and hit the road. 
That had to be the most revitalizing coffee break I've ever had. The last 15 miles flew by, partly because I knew it was the last 15 miles and I pushed myself hard enough I actually warmed up. But I also realize that had this been a 200K brevet, I would need to do things differently to keep from having to abandon the ride. Cruising along Evergreen on the last 5 miles, I was anticipating the coldest part of the day still to come; an hour-long cool-down on MAX in wet clothes. I was glad I didn't drive, but admitted to myself it sure would have been nice to have a dry change of clothes and a beer at the finish. Ah well. The train wasn't as bad as I feared and my knickers were bone-dry when I got home. I love wool.

Conclusions after rando # 1:  I'm still not happy with the way my bike feels on these longer rides. I suspect the stem is too long, and maybe I still don't have a saddle that's going to go the distance. My lower back got sore early and while short breaks off the bike made all the difference, I'd prefer it if it didn't happen at all. I imagine the cold and tense shoulders contributed as well. I'm curious how River would have handled the ride? It's probably a less stiff bike, but I was nervous (justifiably it turns out) about riding without a computer, and the 27-inch tires on it are maybe less than ideal. Maybe I'll pick up one of these this week. And like I said, some kind of bag is going to be needed. I didn't even bring a camera (Partly because of the forecast - thanks John and Gregg for the photos!)
I don't feel like I've earned the right to call myself a "randonneur" yet. Somehow, the 100k distance feels more like a rando with training wheels. I really want to ride the Birkie Brevet, and if I finish that, I'll feel like the training wheels came off. For now, I'm still a wanna-be.

Part 2
I was hoping that the clouds would have wrung themselves dry in time for the second act of my mini-epic weekend, but there was no such luck. Shamrock Run morning dawned with more cold, wet, and wind. For me it meant more oats, more layers, and more MAX, and I joined a considerably larger group than Saturday's where, once again, I got to stand around getting cold while waiting for the 15K run to begin. If I had been sensible, I would have signed up for a shorter distance, but that would have felt like cat-ing down, and since the registration fee was the same, I figured I might as well get my money's worth. Plus, I've got a thing for running up Terwilliger, and in Sunday's rain and headwind, the climb turned out to be the full-meal-deal. Once we got started I warmed up pretty quick and the run was surprisingly comfortable. I didn't notice any fatigue from Saturday, and hammered it pretty hard the last two miles. Once I crossed the line I didn't have any desire to hang around in the rain for the complimentary beer and chowder, so I handed my tickets to someone heading into the beer garden and boarded the #15. I made it to PMC in time to grab some dry clothes I had stashed in our car and was dressed and dry in time to join my family for the service and potluck after, where I loaded both my dinner and my dessert plates and did more than my part in draining the coffee pot. A good weekend.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Weather With You

Cue Theme Song:

This winter is refusing to go down without a fight. Saturday I had a splendid long solo ride. Upper 30's/low 40's, a few miles of cold rain, some sun, very light traffic and almost no other riders for 60 miles. Sunday I was pulling weeds in the garden getting ready for planting the first seeds. Crocuses are up, forsythia and daffodils just ready to bloom. saw my first cherry blossoms along the Clackamas river on my ride Saturday.

Then this morning as I neared the end of my commute the snow started coming down in Gresham and continued off and on throughout the day. No accumulation, but it drew plenty of complaining from colleagues and on the blogs. I liked it, I like riding in it, and I said so. But coming home into a headwind I got smacked by a sleet storm that left me huddled over my bars, head down to keep from exposing my face to the stinging barrage. Brutal.

Again, I got a couple of baiku out of it.

Riding through fresh snow
steaming under a bright sky
winter won't let go

Sleet and a headwind
ahead I can see blue sky
here it's still winter