Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Into the mist

                                                    The fog comes
                                                    on little cat feet.

                                                    It sits looking
                                                    over harbor and city
                                                    on silent haunches
                                                    and then moves on.

                                                                      Carl Sandburg

Fog has been the rule of the last few days in the deep, deep ditch where I work.  The above photo is not mine but taken from a travel site for India, of all places.  But fog is fog, and the trees in the photo look a lot like the oaks that dot the landscape down here.  In California's Great Central Valley, the tule fog, which appears in late fall and lasts well into February, can be brutal, and numerous deadly car accidents are proof enough.  We actually have "fog delays," days when the start of the school day for children is set back two or three hours because of the traffic risks.  Visibility can be virtually nothing, forty or fifty feet at times.  The college where I teach has no delays, and I'm sure many of the delays for the K--12 schools sometimes end when fog is still a problem, so I wonder how much good the late start times do, but they are a quirky feature of life in the San Joaquin Valley.

I made my valiant descent to the college yesterday, but the light was rather flat from high clouds, so I didn't take any photos. (An earlier post has pictures.)  I descended through clear, fairly warm air, but the moisture gods had other plans.  Eventually I ran into the dreaded tule fog late in the ride with only a few miles to go.  The temperature plummeted, moisture clouded my glasses that regularly needed to be wiped by my numb, gloved hands.  There's something especially debilitating about cold, damp fog.  It's better than outright rain, I supposed, but it shrivels the spirit, and I feel like folding back into myself.  It's tough riding, and I was glad to pull into the meager sanctuary of my cave-like office.  I share the cell with another instructor, but he doesn't show up until the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I had time to change, warm up, get some more coffee in my system, and get my day on the road.  Unless I get lucky next week, this may be the last ride to the college until the tule fog season is over.  It's hard and dangerous riding.  Prudence is the better part of valor, eh?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A perfect little ride...

We have been blessed with a patch of ideal late-fall weather--mid 60's, bright sun.  Let's just say that living at 4,000 ft. in the transition zone between forest and desert has its compensations.  Jodi had not been out on the trike for a while, and some health issues have left her a bit nervous about serious riding.  She's getting better, but we don't know if we'll do the big winter tour we've been thinking about for months.  Right now I'd say that's a long shot.  But today was one for the record books, the light long and lean, clear and sweet.  It was good indeed to be out, pulling down a few miles.  We'll have those days when snow and ice cover the roads, but not today!  Tomorrow it's the big roll into the ditch (California's great Central Valley), my 45 mile ultra commute.  Before first light, I'm pounding the miles.  My only concern is a threat of tule fog, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.  I'll post after the ride to update.  Be well, and ride on.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A morning's adventure

First up: A sunrise walk with the hound!  Django and I hit the road just as the dark breathed its last and the heavy clouds began to glow.  Fresh snow down to about 5,000 ft.  A great morning to be out with my four-footed buddy.

Next up:  Jam down some breakfast and hit the road to the bus.  Autumn at its best.  I grinned myself into a stupor in the crisp air.  Getting paced by a llama was great fun.  The ranch with this beast has a few other exotics, and  I'll try for shots in later posts.  Get out there people.  Life is short.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blood Before the Storm

No riding today as a heavy storm blows through our corner of the mountains.  The moisture held off for a few hours in the morning, and I got this shot as I took Django out for a morning stroll.  He peed and sniffed; I slurped coffee.  A good time was had by all.  Getting up before sunrise has its rewards, and I often get a good view of the oncoming day.  Cool vocabulary for the day: crepuscular.  The meaning here has zoological applications and designates animals active before sunrise and after sunset, the edge dwellers.  As the loony set declares: If you ain't livin' on the edge, yer takin' up too much room!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A cool November ride to the Yoga House

It was a cool and cloudy ride today at 4,000 ft. in the southern Sierras.  Django and I headed out for a yoga class.  It's about a 35 min. ride each way, and Django loves triking almost more than anything else.  What you see, minus some bigger panniers, is how we tour.  Django walks, trots, runs alongside up any hill of consequence, but on the downhill and much of the time on the flats, he rides in style.  The Doggles are now standard kit after something hit him in the eye during a mountain descent last year, although he only wears them while riding.  Out of the trailer, he's on my or Jodi's right side, away from traffic.  The trailer is a Cycltote, manufactured in Colorado, good old US of A.  It's a pricey unit, about $500 these days, but it is--by far--the best out there.  If you study the pictures, you'll see that the attachment point for the axles is above the bottom of the trailer, which greatly lowers the center of gravity for improved stability.  The center-pull tongue helps in this regard as well as (what you can't see) the canted inwards wheels.  On fairly straight runs with good line of sight, I routinely get to 30+ mph with super hound in the trailer.  He's clipped in, so there's no chance of a tasty looking squirrel tempting Django to leap out of the trailer.

Here's a little video clip of us in action.  I have weird expression on my face for some reason.

Bundle up, get out, ride!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trees changing...

Fall is my favorite season by a long stretch.  I can tolerate the heat, but I can't say I enjoy it.  The sharp, edgy air of fall, however, gets me excited and happy to be out and about.  I need to get a shot of these trees with better light before the leaves drop, but I pass this little ranch on the way to the bus and enjoy a brief moment of reflection and appreciation that would have been lost zooming by in a car.  Our plans for this coming winter break are up in the air.  Jodi doesn't know if she'll be up for a trike tour, so we may head out to the desert for some hiking and a little rock climbing.  That will require the pickup and camper rig.  Whatever the adventure, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Scenes from a commute

Today, as I do about once a week when weather permits, I embarked on the ultra-commute: 45 miles, 1200 to 1500 ft of climbing, about 4,500 ft. of descent.  I leave home about 5:30 AM and arrive at work about three hours later, give or take.  It's a great adventure and a good but not extreme workout.  Soon the cold and fog in the valley will make it unsafe, so I will lay off until early spring when the tule fog season ends, usually late Feb./early March.  Although I spend about five miles or so on the wide shoulder of a major freeway, most of the riding is like what is pictured, quiet, wonderful riding with little and often no traffic.  The top two pictures feature shots with and without flash.  I like the dark, brooding sky in the flash picture, but the one without is more accurate as to real light conditions.  Last week, for the first time in a few years, I did the ride back up, which takes about five hours--ugh, ugh!  But it's a great feeling of accomplishment to pull it off.  Only once have I done the round trip in a day, about 90 miles with 6,000 ft. of climbing, the vast majority of that in the last 20 miles.  That was completed on a cold, wet, foggy Nov. night, dark, aching.  When I finally got home, I curled into a ball on the floor for a while to recover!  Maybe one day I'll try it again but in better conditions.  What grand little adventure have you had today?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Jaunt to the P.O.

Here are a few shots from today's little triking adventure.  I needed to ship off a few books to some folks so took advantage of the crisp fall day to get out on the Catrike Expedition.  Moderate headwinds out translated into some nice assist on the way back.  One package was headed to the U.K.--a committed reader!  Thanks, Derek.  I get huge enjoyment out of practical cycling.  Getting out, enjoying the day, cranking up the heart rate, and getting things done, all without starting a car.  Sweet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Recumbent Road Train

Behold the mighty Greenspeed tandem trike, the GTT.  This was our main touring rig for years and a fantastic vehicle.  Django the Wonder Dog tours with us, as you can see.  This was in Death Valley several years ago.  The photo was taken by Jonathan, a Taiwanese cyclist who stayed at our house for a few days and ended up joining us for a short tour.  We no longer have the tandem as Jodi decided she preferred being the captain of her own ship, and we find we're actually more efficient on two single trikes--Catrike Road and Expedition--than we are on the tandem, even with Django in tow.  Granted, he hikes and trots alongside up any grade of consequence and on the flats when he needs to put in a workout.  If you want fun, try getting a tandem trike up a twisting flight of stairs into a motel room.  Oh, yes, it can be done!

This photo is linked to my recent article on touring as a couple found on Bentrideronline.com.

The article: Touring Couples

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Morning Glory

The gift of clear, sharp autumn days gives me such a charge.  My little ride to and from the bus is a small, private shot of life and joy that resonates throughout the day until I get another injection on the way home.  Why the hell isn't everyone doing this?!  I just don't get it.  We crawl into our rolling boxes, blood sluggishly pooling in our stolid legs and abdomens, senses dulled, tumors growing.  Ugh.  I may not live longer than anyone else, but I'll be damned if I won't go down spinning and grinning and loving every screaming minute of it.  Get out there, people.  Life is too short, the world too wondrous and strange to waste any of it.  Now, time for a cold beer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Trusty Mtb Commuter

Although all of my long rides of ten miles or more are on one of my recumbents, which will be the subject of later posts, my most frequent ride is my converted mountain bike, an Ibex "Alpine."  For its given purpose, I've swapped out the suspension fork for a Nashbar rigid unit, added Paul Thumbie shifters and Dura Ace bar ends, and a nice Topeak disc compatible rack.  Fenders are coming soon, although in truly nasty weather, I leave the bike at home as I have to lock it up outside.  We don't get that many days of rain or snow here, so I do a lot of commuting straight through the winter.  If you look carefully in the picture, you might discern the frost on the grasses and snow and ice on the mountain above--a brisk and perfect ride!

I'm kind of a lone wolf as a bicycle commuter as I never see others out and about.  I strive to lead by example.  C'mon, who's with me?  The future lies this way....!  I love the early and late rides.  The bulk of my commute, however, is on county transit.  Bi-modal works for me, and I get to prepare for work, take a nap, and listen to the rantings of recently released convicts and stinky mental patients.  Ah, the joys of public transit.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Storm and Shadow

Today's morning commute, a play of chill wind, clouds and snow on the mountains.  Winter is flirting early this season.  The high priests of forecasting have cast their runes and foretell of temperatures in the 20's F. tonight.  We'll see!  I'm blessed by a ride with views of mountains nearly 8,000 ft. high, frequently snow covered in winter.  Snow occasionally blankets the lower elevations, and then the bike stays in the garage.  Being south-central California, however, the snow doesn't last long.  Unfortunately, my commute is both too short and too long: only 2.5 miles to the bus but 45 miles from campus.  I do the ride down about once a week, but that ride is soon to be ended with the advent of winter.  When the tule fog sets its teeth into the valley, I hold off on the mega-commute until the season passes.  I may be crazy, but I'm not insane.  With visibility sometimes down to 50 feet or less, I'll encase my fragile bones in something more protective than a foam beanie and lycra.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Winky-Eyed Jesus and Other Undescribables

This is my first entry of a new blog devoted to the love of adventure and the celebration of movement and the written word. Recently, after much straining, grunting, and ranting at computer screens that mocked my very existence, I've published my new book:

The Winky-Eyed Jesus and Other Undescribables

The great trek that gave rise to the book was one of the best things I've done in this life, a deeply meaningful, wonderful, extraordinarily difficult pedal from coast to coast, solo, over 99 days in 2007. Others have done this ride, but each crossing is unique, and after my experience, I felt a strong urge to share it with others. This book is the result. More than anything, it was a labor of love, and I have three main objectives for it: 1) Give my readers a fun trip; 2) Give people a unique perspective on the United States and bicycle touring; 2) Inspire others to take up the wheel and the spoke.

This blog will be a place to look into cycling, cycle touring, writing and outdoor adventures. I'll rant about commuting; I'll post about touring; I'll record my thoughts on equipment; I'll be honest and crazy and live out loud. Although I'm reaching out to others in a virtual world, I am part of the American public devoted to authentic direct experience. Come along for the ride. All are welcome!