Doing it all the hard way...

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flushing 2008 !

Evo is glad to just be standing at the end of '08. It is hard to imagine a worse year, and accordingly, I am glad to see it swirling down the circular porcelain ski slope. That isn't to say we didn't have great moments. In fact it took some amazing tragedies to cancel out the goodness. And tragedies we had a plenty.

Let's hope, no, let's DEMAND 2009 be better.  To those who supported me, my heartfelt thanks. Words to express my gratitude and fail even me. To those I've lost, my heart is broken and aches for peace. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

We have whiteness

Snow in Seattle.....

We have lighted candy canes in the front yard.
This will tell you how much snow we have.....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fun Summer memories

August 2005
Zach Tim (Garth) Silas and Davo
Backpacking in the Cascades

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I'm in Detroit on Business.
That is my rental car on the left. It is a red Mustangsicle.

Ten things I hate/love/notice about Michigan (in no particular order)

1. You get to practice scraping your windshield so much you probably get really good at it

2. If you drive a Japanese car you're not just unamerican, you're a communist

3. When it is quitting time, they scatter like roaches when the light gets turned on

4. They suffer from "Buckeye Envy"

5. In the winter any sports that don't involve "camo" either stop or move indoors

6. Everyone has a cough and a cold

7. Everything that can be bad about unions is alive and spreading the pain in Michigan

8. Michigan "lefts" seem to work pretty well

9. If you want a hill workout, you have to leave either the state or the country

10. Since they have the heat on already, they keep it pretty warm indoors

USGP Portland Baby

This past weekend Hottie and I traveled sans pups down to P-town. Through the kindness of our friends Allen and Michelle we had some pup sitters who moonlight as elves. The gang on 20/20Fuel was super and we had some fun apres' ride fun and feasting. I managed to place in the top 50; and considering my poor season I'll call that good. I had the wrong tires for the conditions but if I had turned the pedals faster that would have helped even more....

My association with the new team leaves John as the last remaining member of the once-dominate TERD Bar Racing Team. John is among the finest men I know and while we all have certain affiliation needs, I am sure John takes pride in his autonomy as well. Portland was muddy and wet and wonderful.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A hero’s journey

My father-in-law Gordon passed away on Saturday and although I am qualified neither as a writer, nor by virtue of knowing him for just six years, I am compelled to pass along my thoughts.

Gordon was a man who loved life and loved people. His boundless love of people brought him success in business, but more importantly, in his countless personal relationships. He won the heart of his beautiful bride because of his enthusiasm and endless energy. My sweet wife tells me her mother referred to him as the most honest man she had ever met. I could try to recount a handful of his accomplishments both in life, in his family and still you would not know the man.

Two years ago, following an auto accident that had him in intensive care with a neck brace and halo screwed to his skull, his first words to us were asking how his wife was doing. Through the drugs, the pain and the increasing dementia; his first thoughts were of others. Throughout all of his physical challenges, which were many in his final years, he kept his infectious smile and upbeat attitude. In the midst of his calamities he was always asking about my children and his love and concern was obvious. His sincere love for others defined the man. I have never met a man who rooted for everyone to succeed. If you knew him then you felt you had a place in his heart and that he was pulling for you.

I believe that when Gordon looks back at his life, he had no real regrets. He was as a faithful husband and father as you can imagine. He had more integrity than you could measure. While many of us have interests that compromise our time with our loved ones, Gordon went out of his way to include his children in his waterskiing and fishing and camping adventures. He taught every kid that knew any of his children how to water-ski. He was the dad everyone wished was their dad. He was the man that everyone wishes they could be. In this world were it seems we all make mistakes that hurt people, where everyone seems to have skeletons in the closet, Gordon was a man had the peace of a live honorably lived. We will miss him; but he remains an inspiration.

My favorite movie features a character asking,” is this heaven?” Three years ago, I was sitting on a fishing boat with Gordon. He had his line in the water and the sun on his face. It was my honor at that time to see him in heaven. He tilted his head back and smiled and I knew exactly where Gordon would be when he left this earth. I saw a man who had lived a full and wonderful life and had the peace earned by a lifetime of actions motivated by love. Happy fishing Gordon !

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rants and Reviews Ortleib IBEX Conti and SRAM

After a series of trials and errors I have the commuter dialed in. I’ll comment in the form of reviews and you can figure out what I have that works and what is so-so.

IBEX (X-Ray) frame REVIEW
Painted this baby in the Rapha colors and it is a true warrior. Although it seems stiff when I stand on it and crank, I am reminded it held its ground and showed some compliance when it was functioning as it was intended, as a cyclocross bike.

Bike Rack REVIEW
Got this at Performance-Mart and have no complaints. I read some reviews and there were some folks that had trouble installing theirs. I can only assume they are the “floaters” in the gene pool as I found installation easy as pie. The rack has been rock solid from day one and nary a sway or negative word could I garnish as far as the rack is concerned. One of the biggest thrills is when I come up on some young uber-fit riders. They look at me and think, “old guy on a bike with a rack, I’ll drop him.” Then they pick up the pace and confidently look over their shoulder expecting to see a fading Evo and there I am smiling, trying to look like I’ve got plenty more if they want to try again. If I had a piece of straw in my mouth it would only add to their frustration.

Ortleib Bike Packer Plus Pannier REVIEW
Oh baby. Mike at work turned me on to these and swore they were the real deal. I got the model he suggested (the bike packer plus) in black to complete the commuters good looks. He was so right. When clipped in, it is as if they are bolted on. There are a couple rough sections of trail where roots have made sharp speed bumps out of the pavement. It doesn’t matter if I bunny hop these or take the bumps with a jolt that rattles my fillings; the panniers don’t budge at all. Then when I arrive they pop off easier than unclipping a seat belt. They swallow my stuff like a grandmother accepts a hug and keep it bone dry in our Northwest winter.

Continental Gatorskin tires 700x28 REVIEW
Bigger is better. Still getting used to not seeing a 22 (Conti Attack) or 23 (Conti GP4000) on the front, but the compliant ride is nice, especially with the stiff frameset. No flats so far. I’m not about to put these fatties on my “fast” bikes, but these are very fit for purpose.

SRAM shifting:
I had originally built the commuter to be a single speed cross bike for my previous work situation. Then I won a bunch of swag at a CX race at the end of last year. It was my first and only podium and I was pleased to have it count (merchandise-wise). I took the cassette, chain and RD and bought some double tap levers off eBay and converted the (now) Rapha into a ten speed (single front ring) commuter. Then when I picked up a SRAM compact 180mm crank, the Rapha got my old FSA compact. A Rival FD and I was able to enjoy all 20 speeds as God intended. It takes almost no time to adjust to the shifting and even the Rival shifters are clean enough. The front shifting is fast, or at least that is my initial impression. The missing tooth in the cassette hasn’t won me over, but ask me again in June.

Can you ever be satisfied ? Me thinks that whatever you have, you always want more. Once again, ask me in June.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Living Green or seeing RED ?

I like to paint bikes. I read what I can on the web for tips and one struck me last summer. Step number one was, “don’t do it.” The point was painting (actually striping) your bike creates trash, releases toxic gases, makes a mess and in the end, you just end up with a different color bike. Like most of us, I decided to ignore this advice and went ahead and did what I wanted.

Recently an Albertsons grocery store closed down after being part of the community for dozens of year. The closing did not create any emotions for me. Then PCC bought the location and signs went up telling that a new market was coming. I was excited as PCC sells what I considered to be pretty cool stuff. For months monster sized trucks came and went. Some of the trucks were bringing lumber, concrete and glass. I love the smell of fresh cut lumber, it reminds me of all of the projects I have done with my sons over the years. Well different trucks arrived before the ones that brought lumber, glass and concrete. These were dump trucks that hauled away truckload after truckload of chunks of old concrete, mangled wood, aluminum and glass. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the demolition of the Kingdome. The phrase that stuck with me was when one of the commentators for the televised coverage of the Kingdome implosion said something to the effect of, “here we go, demolishing a perfectly functional building.”

For the grand opening, PCC offered discounts on cotton bags and asked its patrons to minimize their footprint by using these bags. They preach recycling and conservation and going green and all of the current fad de jour of environmental responsibility. But as I loaded my own groceries in my conscience easing cotton bag I was aware I was saving half a square inch of landfill by not taking a plastic bag, but I think of the “footprint” at the dump the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was created when PCC took over this location.

What strikes me as hypocritical is that the inside of the market has that industrial look that one would expect if you put your market where a factory or, say, another supermarket, was before you took over the location. But these guys tore it down and then built it up just to look this way. It is like when a developer levels a piece of land and cuts down every tree and bush and then plants new ones and boasts that the neighborhood has indigenous plants and trees.

So after PCC has had hundreds of cubic yards of debris hauled away into landfills they put on cool music, sell me overpriced food and ask me to do my part for environmental responsibility. I think my part may be to avoid patronizing hypocritical businesses.

I’m not sure what PCC stands for but I’m running with Politically Correct Crock….

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back in the Saddle ?

I'm okay !!
Single Speed racer emerging from the suds 'o fun in Portland
I am always put off by bloggers or anyone who makes an excuse for their cycling performance by citing family and work as “conflicts” or as “getting in the way.” I think if they really think that way they need some reality in the face. We all have other commitments and so it should be. And those things are so much more important!!! My belief is one should set their own performance standard to do their best under their given circumstances.
Portland righfully has us pegged as whiners !
Hence, my lead in. When we last left our hero, Evo, things were going well. The six weeks since my last entry have been full of life; perhaps a little too full. I have made visits to the hospital for loved ones, added new job responsibilities, completed online classes, and been training for Cyclocross and doing some bike commuting to boot. Our local YMCA opened in early October and we were there in full force. Six AM spin classes are the perfect motivation for Cyclocross. Two of those a week and then twice a week bicycle commuting (sixteen miles each way) were enough to get my heart pumping. Then some added responsibility at work that added hours to my day. I started to feel myself getting to the edge and decided to take a couple of days off. I had twenty eight workouts in October. My plan was to take off three days. A family emergency stretched that into a couple of weeks and I still wasn’t at 100%. We snuck in a trip to Portland for the (unofficial) Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) last weekend and I almost popped.

This weekend Hottie and I were at home following her much needed and rather serious back surgery, and we both slept much more than we thought possible. Although hers was drug induced, mine felt just as needed.
time to clean up and get ready to do it all again.

So now I’m ready to do it all again. I expect I’ll be wincing about something else soon, but for now I am glad I had some down time to recover.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SCX # 1 2008 Race Report Cyclocross

SCX #1 Evergreen
I’m fully committed to racing Cat 3 this year. I have been slaughtered in my first two outs, but like the cyclocross version of Homer Simpson, I am oblivious to my situation and thus I plunge forward into the eye of the storm at full speed with a grin that only confirms my lunacy. When I first started racing I considered it a good week if I beat a certain two guys who then moved up to Cat 3 at the end of that season. They aren’t winning any races, but they aren’t last either, so I assume, for whatever reason, I can still race with them.

We arrived just as the first race went off and it covered four groups, master men and women Cat 4, aged 35+ and 45+. They started each group one minute apart and with four laps of the course it turned into a constant stream of riders as the fastest of the first group caught the slowest of the last group and there was also all kinds of overlapping in between.

I did my course reconnaissance and warm up, then after an unusually long wait at the line the race was underway. Ann Knapp and the rest of the Cat 1 & 2 masters women started one minute ahead of me and I began my race assuming I would be lapped by her and a few of her fast friends. After the starters whistle it was a fast three quarters of a lap on the lose dirt track and I was clinging to last place after being boxed in. Once we hit the grass I began moving up. I passed Steve and Brian, the two men I was marking, and a couple others then I caught a handful of guys on the run up and held it on the “crash and you will cartwheel” descent. I was holding my own and traded places back and forth as the lap progressed. There are some cool back and forth traverses where you pretend you are riding in a half pipe and then a zig zag climb on wet grass. A twisty descent and you pass the finish line and then a couple 180’s and you approach the parries and then descend onto the track to repeat the loop five more times.

On the third lap Brian caught me and I retook him on the run up only to have him pass me on the descent. He must have had a good run up to have been that close. I was huffing and my low back was feeling all of the house painting I had done the day before. On the switchbacks I saw Steve trying to catch me so I gassed it. My last lap really was my last lap and I fought for my life and retook a couple guys on the run up. By this time we had caught some of the slower 35+ and even some master women, so there were people to chase, and trying to avoid being caught behind a slow rider in a technical section was key. I held my spot and crossed the line as limp as wet laundry.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oh the joys of summer in the northwest

I have been lax in my blogging, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been fun around here. It has been depressingly quiet in some ways, but Hottie and I have been able to enjoy some of this great Northwest summer. We are currently "enjoying" a preview of fall with rain and cooler temps, but the sun will come back again.

I read a great quote on someone else's blog (wow Davo, way to cite a source) which said, "if there isn't a picture, it didn't happen." As one who fluctuated between reading groups as a child, I like pictures. Here are some good ones. The one at the top is of the track races at Marymoor last Friday. Isn't that an awesome picture ?

Here is one of our adventure throught the tunnel at Snoqualime pass. The jackets (and herking lights) were a very smart move.

Here is Evo on a bridge on the Iron Horse Trail

Here the Hottie enjoys a PBJ with homemade apple butter at a rest stop on the Iron Horse Trail. I guess I should say a PBAB to be correct...

And here is a shot of a lantern Hottie has restored. I got to pick the colors on this one. Remember, orange is the next black!

Evo again, this time on top of Stadium High School. If you saw the movie, "Ten things I hate about you" then you saw this building as it was where the movie was filmed. At the end of the movie there is a band playing on the rood of the highest tower and that is where this shot was taken.

I guess maybe there is more to Evo than biking...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rapha Bike …A Tribute Project

Here she is looking out over Puget Sound
I can’t say the bike is done, as there are still some component upgrades that are waiting on the trickle down economics, but it is riding condition and I took her for a spin today. I had built this up as a single speed last fall and it felt amazingly secure in that mode. Then to my great amazement, I won a race and got some SRAM swag and so I was well on my way to making it a geared cross or commuter bike.
Feinte is French. Look it up.

I ended up commuting on the geared version and it proved worthy of the road and I have come to like the SRAM shifting. This summer, I decided to repaint my cross racing bike (pictures will come later, and it looks SWEET !) when that was done, I decided to tackle this as well. I wanted to do something different and I was unsure of the bike’s future. It could be a commuter bike again, my son might race ‘cross on it this season, or I might sell it. The bike still has an uncertain future, but I swiped the tires of my older son’s commuter bike (he has moved out of state, and with an uncertain return date, I thought I could take the liberty…).
I cut the bars. Note the subtle use of Pink from the front..

I wanted something dramatic, (if you are going to go to the trouble to strip, sand, and paint a bike you should do something bold) and settled on the Rapha idea. I thought the bike and Rapha represented the right mix of class, and the fine line between respecting the sport and not taking yourself too seriously.
Here is a close up of the downtube paint......

Rapha makes some great stuff. Wool is underutilized as a fabric in cycling and Rapha leverages this wonderful fabric (hey, I hear wool is the next polypropylene!) and their classic understated designs are beautiful. I also subscribe to the gentlemen’s ride philosophy. Riding should be challenging, enjoyable, but does not need to be flashy or loud and chest beating or constantly looking in the mirror or smelling your own breath is unnecessary. This seems to be the Rapha way. However, saying all that, $170 for a jersey; what is THAT? That dichotomy still isn’t reconciled in my head…..
Oh my, look at what happens when veen from the rear !!

This custom built ride is fully functional, and isn’t that what it is REALLY all about? Getting out there and riding should be the goal. All the bling on the bike, or wrapping your butt in European fabric only makes a fractional difference. I am sure that if I was decked out in my best kit riding my blinged-out Seven there are dozens of fast locals who could blow me off the road riding a Townie. The bike is a factor, but it pales in comparison to the person on the saddle.
I wanted this to appear black from almost every angle except from behind.

I did enjoy blowing past an uberfit fellow riding a Lemond on the climb up from Edmonds this morning. He eyed my bike and wondered what it was. Mission accomplished. By the way FEINTE is French.

Here is the build:
IBEX Cyclocross frame, size XL painted a dramatic black with custom decals
This frame has 135mm rear spacing for those of you playing along at home
Integrated FSA 1 1/8” headset
Steel fork of unknown heritage
Mavic CXP 33 hubs that I laced to XT hubs with DT Swiss DB 14/15 spokes. I love riding wheels I built myself
Easton 140mm stem
Cut Zepp 44ctc bars
Lots of bar tape
Carbon Fetish 27.2 Seatpost
Specialized Body Geometry saddle
SRAM Rival doubletap shifters
Rival RD
No FD at this time 38t in front
SRAM Chain
SRAM Cassette 11-26
Weird re-threaded 175mm Tandem cranks and cheap Shim.. BB (these will be upgraded)
Candy Pedals

If this ends up back in a commuter role, I’ll ugly it up with fenders and lights, but for now, it is happy just being in the stable.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zoo Hill Ride Report August 10, 2008

It was this steep.....

I rolled up to El Falcon’s place under partly sunny skies. To be specific, it was clear to the north and solid clouds to the south. After the usual fiddling, we departed south past Greenlake. A sprinkle of climbing and then down to Lake Union and on to the UW and then we just flew up the Arboretum. The traditional S-curve descent and we were tooling along Lake Washington to meet Clifton “the” Beast and start the ride “proper.”

Clifton was his usual cheerful self and after some pleasantries, the three of us were underway. The climb up to the I-90 bridge let me know that the Beast was sandbagging as he stayed glued to El Falcon’s wheel.

El Falcon was open to riding with us mortals as his traditional Sunday morning ride with the HPC group skips one week and month, and this was the week. Ironic then that as we hit Mercer Island along came over a dozen riders on expensive bikes with matching red Cycle University jerseys. The sight of this fast wheeling clan caused me to question my own balance between my affiliation and autonomy needs. The Beast fell right in with these guys and we rode with them for the next eight miles. This was the second instance of The Beast’s story about lacking fitness not matching up with what we saw today.

Stopping at a park to top off bottles El Falcon downed some CERA while The Beast and Crusher elected to stay with the more traditional HGH and Testosterone. Then we retraced out route to the base of Zoo Hill. The climbing started in earnest and my faithful VDO cycle computer indicated the grade quickly hit double digits. Up and up we went, staying together as the road wound its way up through the forest. Slugs were on the road, and I ‘m not referring to any riders. Although our pace dropped to single digits we kept going higher. Soon enough the road straightened out, but the lack of switchbacks only meant we could see the climbs before us.

El Falcon stood up opened a gap and then Beast shook off a determined Crusher on the final climb that topped out at an elevation of over 1,140 feet, more than a thousand feet higher than the start of the climb. Everyone was able to find their limit today. In my head I could hear Paul Sherwin describing me as completely and utterly blown. The three tired souls crested the summit and began the short, but joyful descent. Despite his best efforts to tell a story of needing more miles, The Beast showed he has found his legs.

I noted that my Oakley M-Frames had sweat drops blurring my vision, none the less I made it down and after a brief water stop, we were again climbing, this time the Newport Country Club road and this time a rejuvenated Crusher was able to match pedal strokes with El Falcon, while Beast, took a more conservative, and no doubt -wiser, approach.

We then found our way back to Lake Washington and across Mercer. On the bridge we tagged onto the wheel of a rider who was determined to drop us. We were flying and when the bridge steepened, we kept flying hitting the top at seventenn mph. We soon dropped
down to Leschi for a well deserved break. From here The Beast decided he wanted to return home via Renton and went his own way to log some more miles.

On the way back to "Ch√Ęteau Falcon" the two of us really got it going up Wallingford and then again up 5th. We were able to keep it above about twelve mph on both steep climbs, so my quads would have that “special” feeling going down the stairs in my house all afternoon.

I had just over 58 total miles, 3:46 total time for an average pace of 15.4 and 4,060 total climbing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tolerance is overrated US Athletes in Beijing wearing masks

US Olympic athletes arrived in Beijing wearing masks to minimize the impact on their bodies of air pollution. These masks were provided to them by their respective sports governing bodies. Cyclists got theirs from USA Cycling, Track athletes from their organization, etc.

China invited the world to come and compete in their polluted city. Enter the athletes who have trained and monitored their training, food, and bodies for years, or decades in preparation for these events. Now when these athletes arrived the Chinese government was offended that some were wearing masks. Am I to understand that a nation that has a list of human rights violations as long as their own Great Wall is upset that people are acknowledging their horrid air pollution?

I consider my opinion more informed than most on this subject for two reasons, first, I grew up in Los Angeles competing in endurance sports high school and college, and I have been to Beijing and experienced the pollution first hand. I ran thousands of miles in smoggy Los Angeles and when there were smog alerts and we ran we felt it afterwards. The feeling in your chest was similar to having a chest infection and a burning in your throat was also unpleasant and there was a direct correlation between your symptoms and the severity of the smog and duration and intensity of your exertion.

Having said all that, I found the air in Beijing worse than any I had ever experienced by a huge magnitude. I was attending a conference in Beijing and knew probably three dozen people from different parts of the US who were also attending. Everyone I knew, and I mean everyone of them, had respiratory problems either during the three day conference, or were sick immediately upon their return with chest colds and missed one to two weeks from work. In my twenty years of travel this was the only trip where I did not work out at all. I also avoided stairs and would take escalators and elevators to avoid breathing deep. I recall landing in Tokyo on the return flight and once the cabin depressurized, I felt my symptoms go away almost instantly.

Back to the tolerance thing….

I am all for tact and diplomacy, but the truth is the truth. If the athletes were wearing the masks as a joke, I would heartily agree that would be in bad taste and contradictory to the Olympic spirit. These athletes were worried about their health, and with good reason. This is a remake of The Emperors new clothes. If we all pretend the air is okay, then it will be right ? The air is not okay. Maybe it isn’t the hanging death I experienced, but it isn’t some magical brown humidity. A North American mountain biker reported that after riding the Olympic course a few months ago, he doubled over vomiting because of the bad air pollution. If we jump on the oppressive Communist Government’s propaganda bandwagon we aren’t just being complacent, we are actively perpetuating the lie.

We are being taught look the other way when people are different than us. When a college student displayed erratic behavior everyone reserved judgment in the spirit of tolerance and diversity until that student picked up a handful of rifles and started killing people. Then with hands on our hips we collectively reflect on how we didn’t see it coming.

I love my fellow beings and respect and appreciate our differences. I also have a set of values that tells me certain things are wrong. I believe in the Olympic movement and think that setting aside our differences for a time is a good thing. Every effort should be made to keep protests and political demonstrations out of the games. However, I also believe suspending the truth should not be part of the equation.

Our country is fully supporting and attending the games. Our president is attending the opening ceremonies. We are not making a political statement. I can tell you the Chinese people have no trouble following the restrictions the government has put in place to cut the pollution. They do whatever their government tells them, without question, all the time. They believe everything their government tells them as well. The government says the air is okay, it must be so. The government says the Tiananmen Square protest involved only a dozen protestors, or it didn’t happen at al, and they believe it. And while I don’t think we should protest against the government, I don’t think we should be partners in crime either.

Monday, August 4, 2008

RAMROD 2008 Ride Report

Readers note: This is also a record for my benefit, so if I digress and make comments on equipment, training or food, it is for my future benefit.

El Falcon and I had only shared a couple of training rides this season; otherwise we had prepared independently from each other and trusted that our fitness would be sufficient not to disgrace ourselves for this event. A ride with the hills group had shown me I was strong enough on the hills, but lacked endurance as I was bonked near the end of that secession. Accordingly, I had gone on a 133 mile hilly loop a couple weeks before RAMROD and think that had a positive impact on my ride.

The days before the ride featured rain, sometimes heavy rains, so clothing and weather forecasts were definite topic of discussion and concern.

Seeking to avoid the rush hour traffic El Falcon and I had planned to rendezvous at his place and roll from there early enough to miss the afternoon escape from Seattle. I was comforted to see he too appeared over packed as the questionable weather necessitated additional clothing options.

An uneventful drive brought us to the packet pick up at the starting line, Enumclaw high school. The riders talked about bikes, the Tour de France and food, but everyone kept looking over their shoulders toward the clouds that hid Mount Rainer. As the clock approached five in the afternoon, the sun had finally broken though, but it had taken nearly all day to do so. The other OCD riders carried their packets back to their cars and went in search of pasta.

After getting our packets we drove to find our quarters for the night. There is always a scurry to reserve hotel rooms as soon as the results of the entry lottery are released and this year I was too slow and had to take what was available The room I had booked promised to be an “experience.” We found our motel and checked in. The owner and her daughter appeared to be either retired tag team wrestlers or former football linemen who had gained weight and taken up smoking since their playing days. Having already lowered our expectations, we took it all in good naturedly and loaded our gear into what El Falcon referred to from this point forward as “the honeymoon suite.”

The first time I did this ride I packed everything into a single bag and kept finding myself fishing for clothing, a gel packet, sunscreen, my riding gloves, etc. so I had taken to packing smaller bags. One bag for everything I would need at the hotel, another for the shower, a shopping bag for all the stuff I would put in my pockets and my water bottles. This system worked well, and I would do it again if needed.

We bid adieu to our chateau and struck out for our pre ride dinner. After eating we returned and fiddled with our gear, watched the Mariners lose again and got to sleep at a reasonable time.

In prior RAMROD years the weather had reached the mid eighties so in those years there was a strong incentive to start early so as to beat the heat going up Cayuse pass. This year the high might barely touch seventy degrees so we decided to sleep a little more and start later. After the alarm went off El Falcon opened the door and we noted the clear sky, dew on the car and cold temperature.

We rolled out of the starting gate sometime after five thirty wearing arm and leg warmers with food stuffed in our pockets and oatmeal in our bellies. El Falcon opted for a vest and I had on my ear band and we both had mistakenly decided to leave our toe covers in the car.

Starting slow we got warmed up about the same time and the chill of the morning hit us. The rural pastures had fog clinging to them and the morning sunlight was diffused by these low clouds. We picked up the pace over some small rollers and enjoyed the peace of the scene. The silence was broken by the occasional logging truck that would assert its dominance of the road and remind us that the laws of physics were not in our favor.

Every now and then we could glimpse Mt. Rainier over our left shoulders and when we first saw it ten miles into the ride, it was glowing pink. Then it appeared orange and finally white against a blue sky with bright white clouds.

New pave’ next to Lake Kapowsin was a pleasant surprise. A quality paceline came along and we jumped on. This group took us to Eatonville and the first water stop at 32 miles. This stop has been at a different location in this tiny hamlet every year I have done this ride (four) and this year the stop was right on the main street. When I say on the main street I mean on the street itself. I parked my bike on the curb and they had port-o-potties on the street and traffic cones blocking off one of the two lanes. Up the road were big parking lots and several areas that looked to be better locations for the stop, but I am sure there was a reason we were here.

I grabbed a scone and it was good. We topped our water bottles and took off. In warm years I would ditch disposable arm warmers here, but thus year we were still cold, so on we went.

The route went along some shady roads and that kept us quite cool. Pacelines formed, split and formed again. We faired fine as we gradually gained elevation and caught an occasional ray of sunshine. Soon we were making our way through Ashland and then the food stop at 58 miles. We ate cookies, fruit and filled our empty bottles and mixed our respective potions. I still think Accelerade is the miracle drink. We departed and entered the park. I remarked to El Falcon that the good news was we wouldn’t be cold too much longer; the bad news was the next paceline would be in sixty miles as the climbing had begun.

The gentle climb along the Nisqually along the shady forested road was pleasant. I tried in vain to photograph the occasional glimpses of the slopes of Rainier though the tree tops. We were passing people like crazy, but neither of us was in any difficulty; in fact it felt like a relaxed FSI lunchtime ride.

Through the trees I could see the river flowing through what looked like a two hundred yard wide path of destruction. The washout of a couple years ago was dramatic and resembled avalanche areas I have seen higher up in the mountains, but I have never seen mile after mile like the Nisqually river to my right.

We passed though Longmire and savored the view of the mountain. The grade increases at this point and our conversation quieted as we continued to work our way past other riders. Although I didn’t feel cold, we both kept our arm and leg warmers on and I could tell my feet were cold still. At 3,840’ we crossed the Nisqually river bridge and could look down the canyon we had just ridden up. We climbed strong and I slowed to take some photos and El Falcon gained some seconds.

As we approached the turn to Paradise, El Falcon stood and danced on the pedals while Crusher was content to sit and spin his way to the top. El Falcon opened a gap and held it. For reasons unknown to me, we did not get to go to Paradise, which truly disappointed me. We made our way to inspiration point where we took picture and finally, after seventy plus miles, took off our leg warmers. I removed my shoes and socks and tried to rub some blood into my stiff, icy toes.

We departed and El Flacon clung to a racing Crusher as we flew past Reflection Lake and then bombed down Stevens Canyon toward the food stop. Passing through two tunnels at between thirty and forty miles per hour we arrived at the food stop with over half of our miles behind us and only one big pass remaining.

Snacking on baked potatoes we took the chance to stretch and put on more sunscreen. Realizing we weren’t cold and that it felt pretty good to stop we were in no hurry to resume. Again we mixed our favorite drinks and I dropped in a nuun tablet for some added flavor and electrolytes. I had consumed some Hammer Gel on the ascent to Paradise and expected to have more on the climb up Cayuse. Reluctantly, we cinched up our suitcases in anticipation of the climb ahead, removed our arm warmers, then put sunscreen on our forearms and headed up the road to Backbone Ridge.

The climb felt good and the sunshine on our backs was welcome. My altimeter told me we would climb another three hundred feet than descend a thousand feet before starting the climb to Cayuse. The descent is a joy and the corners are banked and my Seven performed wonderfully. I leaned into the corners and the machine held its line perfectly. I felt like I could lean the bike over until the decals on the top tube touched the pavement and it could hold like it was on a rail.
After a thrilling descent we reached the bottom and turned left and headed north to greet the suffering that was waiting for us. For the first few miles the road gained altitude almost without noticing. We weren’t flying but the winding road didn’t seem that steep. Then the grade kicked up in earnest. There was road repair going on and we crossed stretches of gravel that ranged in length from fifty yards to a quarter mile. Feeling like we were climbing in the Giro we made our way along the loose stuff without complaining.

We were steadily passing people and the road was silent. No more friendly conversation, just huffing and puffing. Kind words offered while passing usually only brought grunts in reply. Once again, El Falcon stood and gained some time and held it. Crusher wasn’t blown, just being more conservative for the time being.

Shortly after the cycle computer ticked past one hundred miles we reached a water stop and topped our bottles for the final miles of the climb. Although we had some cloud cover on the lower slopes, now it was all sunshine as we found ourselves in our lowest gears. A particularly long stretch of construction had traffic control and we had to stop while opposing traffic passed. When we started out again, Crusher and El Falcon were quickly among the elite riders. Reaching deep in our suitcases we found the courage to continue up and reached the top together in fine form.

Knowing that food and drink was only minutes away, we sped down to the Crystal Mountain turn off and the infamous “deli-stop.” Sandwiches made to order, and a can of soda tasted wonderful. We found two folding chairs and sat down assuming if someone else wanted these seats they would kick us out. El Falcon confided that any fantasy’s he held about quitting his job and becoming a tour rider were squashed on the climb up Cayuse. “I’ve never gone so slow, for so long,” a weary El Falcon confessed. Although sitting was wonderful, being done sounded even better, so after emptying the balance of our drink mixes into our bottles and consuming any other magic elixirs, we set out.

Once we left the deli stop the headwind was typically fierce and we traded leads waiting to catch a paceline to take to the finish. Finally two guys in matching team kits came along and we tagged on. The first guy peeled off and latched onto my wheel. The other guy kept going and El Falcon was on his wheel and I was right behind. A minute later I checked and nobody was behind me. Then I saw the fellow who had been there leading a paceline with several of his teammates followed by a rag tag bunch hanging on for dear life. El Falcon and I grabbed onto the back of this train.

Almost at once I sensed something was wrong. On our own we had been near twenty miles an hour and when we were with the other two we were twenty three mph. Now we were about twenty one and the guys in front of us were racing, braking, swerving and making me nervous. The uniformed riders didn’t seem concerned about holding a steady pace and those following only exacerbated the accordion effect. It was as if the riders had learned about pace lines after reading a single work of fiction that mentioned them in passing.

With one hundred and twenty miles in our legs and the headwind blasting us if we got out of line, we reluctantly held on. I watched the fellow in front of me (who was riding a bike with a rack on the back, cantilever brakes and a reflector the size of a small pizza) grab his water bottle and fumble with the nozzle. I was constantly looking for my out; where I would go when he dropped the bottle or touched wheels with the guy in front of him. When he went fishing for something in his jersey pocket he swerved and I just gave him even more room. Recalling seeing riders in other years with scrapes and torn clothing I knew the likelihood of being involved in a crash was higher than I wanted. When we hit a slow section I told El Falcon that when the route turned on Mud Mountain road I was going to take off to avoid being in the rolling circus that this paceline was.

Finally the turn came and true to my word I went off on my breakaway. I looked over my shoulder and no Falcon. I saw the paceline had reformed and not wanting to follow the clowns down the zig-zag descent over rough pavement, I kept going hard. Making the turn I was greeted by new pavement. I took the corners hard and was down on the flats by the time the peloton caught me. El Falcon was sitting fifth in line and I forced my way in behind him. Then to my horror, upon catching me, the pack slowed and according to my speedometer, we were going slower than when I was riding solo. These guys should be flogged with chain whips.

Content to hold my position near the front of this crazy parade, we made our way back to the finish. We crossed the line with exactly 150.00 miles on the machine and eight hours and fifty six minutes was the time. We finished the day with an average speed of 16.8 mph with 9,062 feet of climbing.

After locking the bikes we showered, ate, drank and made our way back home. Somewhere south of Renton it began to rain. I assumed the rain would pass, but it did not. By the time I got home, it was raining hard and I was glad we didn’t have to face that during our ride.

I slept like a baby; that is, I woke up every two hours and cried. Actually, neither El Falcon nor I reported being too sore the next day. That isn’t to say we were ready to do it again, but the pain is so quickly forgotten isn’t it ?

I truly enjoyed riding with Lindsay and he was not just a fit rider, but a good friend and considerate riding companion.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Product Review CARMEX Lip Balm

In my inflated view of myself, I consider myself a lip balm connoisseur. I believe a small company called Raining Rose makes the best stuff. I also have an opposite view from that of Hottie who thinks Chapstick is the one.

CARMEX scores big in four areas.
1) It isn’t season sensitive. This isn’t a lip balm that is great for snowboarding, but turns liquid in summertime. It also doesn’t become a solid brick in cold weather.
2) It goes on smooth all the time
3) It has a new feature that the dial clicks when you turn it so you don’t go to use it and find you have a half inch of grease sticking out of the tube. When you pop the cap, the level of the balm is exactly where you wanted it to be.
4) SPF of 30 is even better than the universal 15

In my highly competitive world of lip balms, CARMEX gets a podium position !!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Puget Sound Super Loop Ride Report

Do this ride if you are trying to get in shape, or if you are mad at yourself...

Maps are a curious thing. They can tell you where the roads are, but they often don’t tell you much about them. This was a constant theme for my solo epic around the sound ride.

I had ridden from our home in Richmond beach to my in-laws place in Tacoma in the past and had looked across the Tacoma Narrows and viewed the bridge building over the last few years. I had not yet driven across the new bridge, let alone ridden across it. It is a good fifty miles to their place via Vashon Island. It is nearly sixty on roads suitable for riding. It would be just over sixty across the bridge and then a meandering route through Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Bremerton, Poulsbo, to Kingston and across by ferry to Edmonds and then home again. A self powered loop of Puget Sound was intriguing, so why not? According to my Microsoft Streets and Trips 2004 it would be about 125 miles in total. A sanity check on Google Earth seemed to reveal nothing insurmountable.

I made a cue sheet and printed it in bold and 14 point type so I could read it. I also printed some maps of key areas just in case. These were worth their weight in gold I would later find out.

I set off on this ride a week ago, only to have a mechanical turn me around barely fifteen miles into it. Now, with a more casual attitude and all the time in the world, I set off.

The first miles were familiar and as I went down Fremont I could see the space needle framed in the trees. My camera, however, could not. Then I rode past Greenlake where the morning sunshine was drawing the usual crowd.

Continuing down Ravenna to the University District and through the Arboretum I stopped at an overlook of Lake Washington. When I rode the STP in 2006, we went through this section in the morning twilight and could not enjoy the view.

Along the lake is familiar territory and I was soft pedaling. This was in contrast to my ride Saturday where I hammered all the way. I was still feeling those hard miles in my legs and with my intended mileage, I thought it the better part of valor to just keep a decent tempo. I stopped at Seward Park to refill my bottles and snap a picture.

In Renton I picked up the STP route and followed the markers all the way to Auburn. Renton was as commercial as always and without a few thousand of my cycling friends to keep the cars at bay, I felt like I was riding on a freeway.

South of Highway 18 I turned west and made it to Fife and thought of stopping for the night and making this a two day adventure, but upon reflection, thought the better of it and continued on. My bananas and TERD bars were gone and my bottles empty so I planned a stop in Tacoma.

The bridge into Tacoma afforded a nice view and despite my claimed photography expertise, I could not get a shot without these wires in the way. Sorry.
I noticed on the Randonneur’s blogs they always photograph their food and so in that spirit I documented my snack.

After a humbling climb up 30th from Old Town Tacoma and some winding above the sound I reached the Tacoma Narrows bridge. As expected this is where the fun began.

The climb off of the bridge was reasonable and then I crossed over and followed 14th Avenue which changes names several times, into Gig Harbor. The views started out high above Puget Sound and then as I descended to Gig Harbor, became better and better despite the lowering viewing angles. Gig Harbor was a never ending series of right turns and quaint shops.
Finally you hit a climb and then you are on Crescent Valley Road and a series of rollers through lightly traveled roads. This was a wonderful section of the ride and although the terrain kept me from making good time, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I watched my elevation gain and drop and went from sun to shade almost constantly.

Then skimming along the coastline and crossing a cool bridge I arrived at a corner store in Olalla. A wonderful girl filled my water bottles (she may be an axe murderer on weekends, but she was nice to me) and I snacked a moment before heading up Olalla Valley Road. I had seen some RAPSody Dan Henry’s and sometimes they went the same way I did and sometimes not. I turned right on Orchard Road and came face to face with a 17% half mile grade. Looking at the map later I saved a mile or so, but this climb, and the several STEEP rollers in between, told me I would change my route here if there is ever a next time…..

I met up with the RAPSody markings and diverged again on Sedgwick road. Again I would follow their direction given the chance, but alas, we are bound by our maps aren’t we?

Then an absolute cluster of learning experiences took me into Gorst. I was unhappy with the circumnavigation that got me there and perhaps that influenced my view of Gorst, but if there is a high point to Gorst, I missed it and passed through it with haste. Then I was on to Bremerton and flying past the Navy Base.

I found a Subway en route and dropped my $5 and chowed through a foot long in mere moments.

Heading north the road climbed and climbed until it dropped down toward Illahee. Once again wonderful views along the water contrasted by clustered developments away from the water. Ignoring the road closed signs I finally asked a fellow walking home from work (lunch pail in hand, backpack on back) if I could get through. “Absolutely not,” he replied without hesitation. A fifty foot section of road had washed out and it was a fifty foot drop on both sides. He drew me a map and I was able to backtrack and climb up from the coast and bypass the doomed area.

Then down to Brownsville where I shot this picture of this charming marina.

Then along quiet roads I rode to Keyport and then on to Poulsbo via back roads. I couldn’t get a good shot across the harbor of Poulsbo, and with my delays I was worried about making the ferry, so I pressed on.

At Poulsbo I had over one hundred and fifteen miles so I decided I wasn’t in danger of blowing up, so I started to push it. I felt like Fabian Cancellara, but I am sure I looked more like Jens Voight rocking back and forth as I rode fast.

I arrived at the Ferry terminal to a familiar sight; no ferry. It was running late. So I paid way too much for a soda and stopped and took off my shoes and waited. I looked at my hands and they were dirty, in fact my body was covered in grime. The combination of sunscreen, grease from the bike, food, road soot and sweat made me a scary sight.

On the ferry I started to get cold so I welcomed the ride up from Edmonds as a way to get my core temperature back up. 133.5 total miles. 7,251' of climbing. With a better course, a great epic ride.