Friday, August 30, 2013

The road less traveled

For human-powered travelers, the road, any road, is the road less traveled.  Regardless of the traffic, the streams of SUV's, buses, big rigs, and Harleys, when it's our legs and lungs that carry us, the way ahead is a different place, both internally and externally.  We feel the wind in our faces, the heat sizzling on our skin, rising up from the blacktop in shimmering waves.  The cold bites and numbs.  The climbs wear us down while the descents recharge our flying spirits.  Each mile requires an investment that no bank account or MasterCard can buy.  We engage in an intimate relationship with the earth and the elements, with our own will to continue, our own straining muscles.  Each ride, every hike leaves us changed in some way.  Can the same be said for sitting in a car?  A boxed-in chair that deposits us, blood pooled in our butts, at the next destination?  Every day I witness the multitudes of the overweight, sick Americans seemingly content to let machines do all the work, content to take the road most traveled, always, and I despair.  I'm not that old, just 51, and I've seen the shape of America morph into its current diseased spread.  What joy of movement, what charge of spirit and soul these bodies are missing!  There is a religious and philosophical point of view that calls the body the temple of the soul.  We need to stop defiling the temple.  When we take the road less traveled, we honor that temple, we reinforce the walls, put up the finest stained glass, and let in the light.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Commute of the Gods!

Zippin' with ol' Zeus, I rolled away from my garage at 5:30AM yesterday for my first run of the semester down to the college.  Thor was kickin' Asgard to the northeast, lightning ripping through a dark wall of clouds.  Hot, humid, I started to sweat right away, over 70 deg. F. at dark thirty.  I pushed on, tipped my wheels over the pass and plunged into the valley.  Ferocious tailwinds kicked in, causing dangerous eddies and swirls as the road twisted down the mountain.  At times I was flying along at over 40 mph, others I had to unclip, hang a foot out just in case, and hold my speed under 20 mph when I would normally be doing close to 40!  Then, on the long, gentle decline at the bottom as the road straightens out, slicing through large orange groves, I maintained a steady 30+ mph with minimal effort--everywhere and all around a deep blue sky and towering thunderheads.  Breathtaking in so many ways.  It's good to be out on the bike sometimes, yeah know?

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The key to success at hill climbing, rock climbing, career building--virtually anything--is sticking to it.  We get nowhere in life or on our rides unless we persist.  Although often painful at first, like running a piece of barbed wire through our thighs, we find that after a time, the pain recedes and serves as an almost pleasant reminder that we are not suffering but living, tapping into something elemental, essential.   The oak featured above has been at its job for many years, caring not one wit for the strand of wire stapled to its trunk.  If you can't shake something, make it part of your couture!  We hit the road early today, and I finally got the photo of this tree that reminds me of an important philosophy every time I grind by in the low- to mid-single digit speeds.  Persist...

Saturday, August 17, 2013


The "beautiful woman" of a different, European variety, a tincture of this plant was used in eye droppers to dilate the pupils of women to make them more seductive.  Oooooh, baby, drop some of that there poison in yer eyes and you'll be sooooo HOT!  Add to that a dose of radium skin whitener, and we can see that the women's liberation movement didn't come a moment too soon. The European belladonna is among the most deadly of all plants, and a single leaf can kill an adult.  The so-called "jimsonweed" pictured above is our home-grown version and blooms in astonishing white trumpets this time of year.  Prepared properly, it can provide a dangerous hallucinogen.  Don't snack on this at home, kids.  

Went out for a walk in the woods at dawn, just good ol' Django and me, cool, even chilly down in "Sherwood Forest" as I call it.  I've seen bob kitties, coyotes and other critters down there.  Early morning is always the best time.  Recently, folks have been running sheep down there, so the grasses are virtually all gone.  It's an area we call the "doggie park" or "bark park," although it's really a long defunct golf course and adjacent land.  Django goes fully off leash and we can walk for an hour or more.  Not bad.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

One year ago today

Hard to believe, but one year ago today, Jodi, Django, and I set out from Jasper, Alberta, bound for glory, sweat, and lactic acid.  It will be some time before we can undertake a similar journey.  Over the last few months, I've been working hard on a book about this adventure, and, unbelievably, I was able to get a literary agent in New York City to take a look at it.  Freaky, right?  I'm still a LONG way from getting published, if ever.  Of course, if I strike out with the big, professional publishing houses, I'll eventually go the self-publishing route, but this time, I wanted to give it my all and see if any of the big players might be interested.  For all the profound difficulty of that trek, and even though I said back then that I wouldn't repeat it, we would both like to be there again, suiting up, clipping in, heading south.  If anything, I think we'd both enjoy it more now than the first time.  I think I've developed a better perspective on suffering.  Of course, perspective comes easily when the sufferer isn't actually suffering! Harrumph.  So, in honor of that great trek and all those yet to come, I'll put up some photos of that first day:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gear talk: Overhaul

Both Catrikes needed some major work--new chains and cassettes after thousands of miles of hard riding, especially the crazy hard cranking we did in the Rockies last year.  Already?  Yes, one year ago today, Jodi and I arrived in Jasper, Alberta.  Don't worry.  I've got a rough draft done on the book!  More on that later, I'm sure.  But the faithful trikes needed some TLC.  I noticed that when Jodi pedaled there seemed to be a lot of chain slop, movement in the tubes, etc.  I put it down to short chain tubes and, perhaps, her pedaling style.  Wrong: The cassette was loose and so were the chain rings.  In fact, the chain ring bolts had worn to the point where they could not be properly tightened, so I added some washers to get extra bite, but I could not loosen one of them.  I even broke my chain ring wrench.  The little ears on the bugger just bent right over and fell off.  Damn.  So I fully tightened the other four, got everything cleaned and installed, and resolved to get a bigger, badder chain ring wrench and a new set of bolts.  The new cassettes sure is purty, although they won't stay this way for long.  Jodi's new Caprio 9/32 cassette--pricey!

My standard 11/34 installed:

Jodi's trike should feel like a new rig.  She'll be out on it on Wednesday, so we'll see how it goes.

Ride on.

Get up, get out!

Rise and shine, chumps! Hit the trail, the gym, yer own sloth!  A few pics to get you on your way.  Jodi hobbled along on her bum knee--bummer.  We go to the ortho this week to have a little look-see.   Still, we do what we can do, right? Yessir.  Below is a photo of a metate, a grinding stone hundreds of years old, that can be found on the trail above our house.  I often think about the Good Ol' Daze, a few natives sitting up here, Columbus still centuries in the future.  What was life like? Of what did they dream?  Without the Internet and cell phones?  Geez, life must've sucked!

Our local mountain:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gear talk: Bladders and Shifters

Just picked up a new 100 oz Camelbak "Un-bottle."  This is the third one I've owned and by far the best.  These things are crazy versatile and can be attached to almost anything.  With 3 liters ready to go, I rarely have to refill even on the hottest days.  On tours, I usually fill it just once for the day.  The biggest improvement of this latest generation of bladders is the 1/4 turn sealing design of the lid.  The old models used to get gummed up and take a full-on Kung fu grip to open.  Un-bottle = Da bomb.


Friction: Friend and Foe

All of my bikes/trikes currently have Shimano Dura Ace bar end shifters.  Way back in the days of yester-yore, these were the gold standard, the absolute best shifters around.  Always precise, reliable, lasted forever.  Well, something is totally rotten in the state of Shimanostan.  (Locals pronounce is "ShimanoSTAHN.")  All of my shifters, to one degree or another, have failed to index properly.  The indexing ring that has the little stops inside the housing is made of cheap plastic, so it wears quickly and can break completely.  The saving grace of this design is the ability to switch to friction mode and abandon the indexing.  And so it has come to pass that I have embraced the friction.  Rather than fruitlessly trying to dial in an index shift that can't be freakin' dialed in, I said, Screw it! and began adapting to a style of shifting that many people prefer.   The immediate benefit is that I no longer have to worry about derailleur adjustment--at all.  Get the initial max and min settings in and forget it.  Awesome.  I've gotten pretty good at hitting the right gears over time, too.  I miss a little here and there, have to "trim" the setting, as they say, but mostly I land right where I need to.  To be honest, I think I still prefer a good, solid index shift, but this is fine.  You can't always be with the shifter you love, but you can learn to love the shifter you have!

Friction.  Without it, we'd all be slippery pools of goo sliding around the floor.  We couldn't begin our rides or stop our plunging selves as we pitch down mountain grades.  Fool the friction caused by the wind and you might find yourself zipping along at 82 mph like that Canadian monster Whittingham.  We fight friction; we need friction.  Learn to love it because you can't do without it.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is this it?

Bad news, too much of it, has been seeping into our lives lately.  We have friends with Parkinson's and MS whose symptoms have been flaring up badly, and a young woman's cancer is back.  The treatment of her illness sounds grim--radiation, chemo, the whole sordid works of modern medical warfare.  Jodi's having knee problems.  My finger is blown for climbing, and I pulled a shoulder doing tree work.  Meanwhile, these first days of August seem to almost mock the darkness within.  Perfect, happy skies, cool nights, a firm commitment from the Earth that autumn will come.  We get out into the beauty of it all and savor the bright skies and wind in the trees.  The Earth does not mock, of course, but the contrasts of the inner and outer worlds can be striking sometimes.  With the hard news of our young friend, I play the game with myself, one I try to do more often these days:  What if today were the last one?  What if this is it, my last day?  What would I do?  Would I live it differently?

If we are aware, conscious beings, we know our time is limited, that one day we will awake to our last sunrise, see our last sunset.  How do we not go screaming off into the woods?  Some do.  I don't know about the screaming part, but going off into the woods always seems like a good idea.  Getting out for a ride, taking a walk with a good four-footed friend, enjoying the dusty green oak leaves against a morning sky, these are the best ways for me to fight back, to take in what is too certainly draining away, the precious, limited time we have.  I don't always succeed, but every day I strive for a few moments of reflection and appreciation.  Some of us are really unlucky, born into a war-torn Somali village, the child of alcoholic abusers, an orphan adrift on the diseased streets of Calcutta.  But for those of us with the time, freedom, and income to be reading these words on the Internet, finding moments of grace shouldn't be so hard.  They're out there, carried on the funny laugh of a quail in the sage, the smile of a loved one, the racing wind in your ears as the mountain falls away into the distance and your wheels accelerate, the embrace of gravity's desire.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Different vehicles

On our return from a regular yoga class, I caught this juxtaposition, which, for the pedal-powered folk, highlights a profound divide in the American psyche.  If it wasn't for the drive shaft, I think Jodi could pedal directly under that jacked rig and clear it.  In the owner's defense, it does sit there unused most of the time, a monument to our obsession with all things internal combustion.  But it sure is an expensive garden gnome!  We're having a mild start to August, and we couldn't be happier about it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Suck it up!

I think that's Kim K?  Who knows!  But sometimes you just gotta suck it up.  I didn't sleep well last night for some reason.  Woke up in the middle of of O-dark-thirty and lay there thinking about riding in the morning, about epics I wanted to undertake, about how wonderful the sound of crickets are in the night as the wind blows through the trees. And blows, and blows, and blows.  When I finally got some coffee in me, I realized the winds were going like crazy.  Did I really  want to throw myself out there into the thick of it?  Jodi tempted me with a hike, but I had my heart set on pushing the pedals.  Hoping for the best but psyching for the worst, I rolled out at close to 7AM on a freaky cool start to August.  And lo.  And behold.  The wind was never a problem.  Once I got into the first major climb, it backed off and didn't bother me for the rest of my 25 mile, 2,000+ feet of climbing.  In fact, I sweated good and hard as I climbed a solid 8% grade right into the sun.  Once I topped the pass, it was screamin' joy almost all the way back home--except for the mandatory 10% spank at the end.  Not as much fun as something good ol' Kim might administer, but I take my fun spankin' where I can get it, and a solid hill climb on the Haluzak did me right.

Get out.  You don't know what you might find or where the day will take you.  If you don't try, you always fail--yo!