Monday, September 17, 2012

Labor Day Weekend 800k: Musashi Meanderings


There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love.

Had to take Bill on a Long Trip prior to the 508. Labor Day weekend was an excellent opportunity! Our friends Adrienne and Robert had just completed their move down to Santa Rosa, a healthy 400k south. I figured – let’s make a weekend of it! One day down, a short visit, and two days riding back. Not shabby. We knew that we could easily make it from Willits to Arcata during hours of daylight, so we got a motel there for Sunday night.

We wanted to “sort of” simulate race conditions – in other words, we wanted to travel fairly fast, and fairly light. So instead of doing a true “pack-it-all” tour, Bill sent a change of clothes ahead via UPS. Still, packing everything we thought we’d need into the Musashis, even with two of the Nashbar frame bag “triangles” each, was a challenge. I packed tires and tubes. Bill concentrated on tools. He also had to bring a pair of shoes (Adrienne had been considerate enough to borrow a pair of mine the last time she was up, so I was already set in that department). We would start out WEARING the jackets, but of course we’d need a place to put them once things started to heat up…after a bit of finagling we were pretty sure we had it nailed.

4AM is an awfully early start, sports fans – but we managed it. Out into the dark, through Eureka, taking in the very last of the “blue moon” (even though it was technically the first of the month, I still counted it….). I got a flat just before sunup. It wasn’t quite light, and we couldn’t quite figure out what had caused it, either – no obvious sign of a struggle within the tire. I HATE replacing a tube without any idea whether the tire is okay or not, but the universe wasn’t giving me much say in it. Fortunately the tube held the rest of the way.

Avenue of the Giants just before sunup. Flying along! Woo-hoo!!! We pulled over in Miranda to use the facilities. A touring group pulled in shortly behind us. They had seen us go past their camp, had tried to buck themselves up to catch us, then decided – nah. Best not to work so hard before breakfast…One guy mentioned our kits – mine pink on pink on pink, and Bill’s with the black and blue flames thing going on. I ventured that it made it a lot easier to remember which bike to get on. They had started on Thursday, were headed to San Fran, and would get there Monday. We suggested the breakfast burritos at the Miranda Café. They went for it…

We weren’t quite ready for a full stop, yet, so we soldiered on to Garberville and picked up breakfast burritos of our own (there’s an Azteca restaurant embedded in the Chevron station; it’s fast AND good). A strung-out dude was drumming outside the gas station; I wasn’t sure if folks were supposed to pay him to play, or to stop.

Onward. Can’t believe we (okay, “I”) struggled with the hill to Leggett last year! Of course, it was quite a bit warmer then. By now it was early afternoon and although the jackets had come off, it was maybe mid-70’s. 

From the south end of the Avenue through to nearly Ukiah, it seemed like every second or third vehicle we saw was a Cal Fire rig. Fortunately there wasn’t much smoke!

Laytonville – only real business here was to make sure that Wheels was still open. Yep. That’s the “second breakfast” stop on the way home, for sure! Willits – 83 minutes later (a full 7 minutes faster than last year, despite a lingering headwind!) – we blew through, making sure that we found the Pine Cone (where we’d stay Sunday night).

Shortly before Ukiah, we need to get off of 101. Astute readers will recall that this is the section of 101 that I rode last year where I got (a) four flat tires in forty miles, and (b) escorted off the road by the California State Patrol. We found the right exit – North State Street – and started navigating the maze of instructions that Google Maps had given us. In the end it was pretty simple. We stopped for some food in the middle of it – at a (gasp!) McDonalds!  - and were on our way…onto some of the most beautiful roads I’ve ridden in quite some time, actually. The 101 detour took us east of town, then South along River Road to Hopland. Wine country, quiet roads, excellent scenery, and great company (for me, at least).

At Hopland, we stopped for pizza. Actually, we stopped for “anything-I-can-cram-in-my- mouth” and it ended up being pizza, which was just fine with us. We had a nice chat with a young family who were very curious about what we were up to, and how the bikes worked…and of course the little girls wanted to know all about my (very pink) bike. Fun! 

It was almost 7PM by the time we rolled out of Hopland. We used a bit of 101 again, then onto side roads until we got to Cloverdale, then Healdsburg. Healdsburg was a bit of a challenge, navigationally – GM had planned LOTS of little turns for us. I don’t know whether this was to take advantage of bike lanes, to avoid stop signs, or to take us closer to businesses who pay to advertise on Google, or what. Any way you slice it, lots of unnecessary complication. At any rate, we blasted straight through town, and although we spent a lot of time at stop signs, it wasn’t so bad. 

We got lost in Santa Rosa. Specifically, we got lost in Santa Rosa, less than a mile from R&A’s place. Significantly less than a mile. Then we compounded the error by heading back the wrong direction for quite a ways before it hit us that, as omniscient as Google Maps is, Adrienne would probably know just as well how to get to her own house. So we called. We were right. Once we got straightened out, Robert headed out to the street to be a human traffic signal. We could see…blinky light….yellow reflective something….headlight…yellow…blinky…as he slowly circled at the entrance to their private road.

Woo-hoo!! We made it!!! Chris is there, too – his whole family is, but Hope and their boys have gone to bed, as have Axel and Liam (Liam’s a champion sleeper for a li’l guy). Apple pie, THEN dinner (life should always be so…) as we catch up. We open up the box of clothes and stuff, shower, and turn in.

Sunday morning was a hoot! I think I was the first up, then Axel, then his bleary-eyed Dad. Coffee was amazing (oh, I do miss something about Portland after all: Stumptown Roasters….) and we were generally decompressing. Axel gave me the tour of his bedroom. Nash caught frogs in the compost. Everyone had an amazing farmhouse breakfast.

Then – off to the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market. We all biked there – a fun mix of different bikes, all traveling together. Chris had his pretty-in-pink Pocket Rocket, Hope on a Bacchetta, Henry on his bike, and Nash riding a teeny-tiny Pinarello that was to die for gorgeous. Lucky kid! Adrienne was on her touring bike, Robert had the boys in the box bike, and Bill and I had our Musashis. The market was colorful and crowded and had a lot of good things to eat and look at. I grabbed a raspberry lemonade iced tea. Bill grabbed pastries.

Home again, then a quick lunch, and it’s time to pack up. We put our dirty clothes in the box, with a pre-paid label for Adrienne to UPS them back to us, and stuffed everything else in the bike bags. I used a combination of electrical tape and zip ties to fasten my sandals to the chainstay. By the time we left, it was 1:30. We’d “planned on” getting started by noon, but we had been pretty flexible on that from the get-go. With kids and all, and wanting at least a little time for visiting, we weren’t in that big of a rush. We called the Pine Cone and let ‘em know to keep the lights on for us.

The trip back to Willits was actually slightly faster than the trip down, even though we were going uphill rather than down. We attributed that mainly to better navigation. There’s a pretty good climb between Ukiah and Willits – as a matter of fact, it pretty much dominates the terrain once you get back onto 101 north of Ukiah. I was pretty determined to get that punched out before it was “really” dark. With a gentle tail breeze and a setting sun, we were kickin’ along in a middle gear and really not bothered by the climb. Comparing notes later, we both were in our big chainrings and a biggish cog – something like a 52/28. I stopped briefly as we hit the top and punched my light into top gear. It made a big difference on the short descent down to Willits.

We pulled into the Pine Cone. Bill checked us in while I sent text messages out to let the folks who were keeping track of us that we’d made our evening’s destination safely. I also noticed that one of my three water bottles had cracked (bummer, but we’ll survive). After we got the bikes parked, we weighed our options for dinner, which were few and far between given that it was now 9PM. On Sunday. In Willits. We probably could’ve hoofed it down to the Safeway, but we were not in a mood to wander – so McDonalds it was (again – sigh). After that we picked up some yogurt and snacks and coffee/energy drinks at the minimart next to the hotel and called it a night….

…since we were getting up at 5 AM, which came around very soon. We were planning to take off at 6AM. I know that it doesn’t seem like it OUGHT to take a full hour to launch two bikes out of a hotel room, but there’s some fearsome logistics to consider: you have to….
  • Get up (no mean feat)
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Use the bathroom
  • Pack everything up
  • Double check the bike
  • Zip-tie the sandals to the frame (OK, I could’ve done that last night, but I was lazy…)
  • Double-check your double-checking (and still miss something, as you’ll see…)

And so on. We were rolling just a minute or two after 6, which I figure was stellar. We were using headlights for the first hour or so, and saw LOTS of deer. By the time we were out of town the Cal Fire folk were stirring, too, but other than that, there’s not much traffic on a Labor Day morning.

We were riding pretty hard. Destination: Laytonville. Home of Wheels Café. It’s a great breakfast stop, and any day when “second breakfast” starts before 8AM is going well. I had the “keilbasa special” which may or may not have been a small strategic error. On the one hand, it stayed with me a long time. On the other hand, it made darned sure that I knew it was staying with me….

Onward. Up and over Rattlesnake Ridge, which somehow came and went without remembering to bite us. Standish-Hickey – we were spotted by Barb and Cammy, who managed to pull over and call Mary to report a “Bindy Sighting” without us noticing them one bit. Figuring on our next stop being Garberville again…but we stopped a bit short, at the gas station across the street from the “One Log House” – just south of Richardson’s Grove. Since I was down to two water bottles, I needed to load up.

We took advantage of the facilities, got ourselves fed. By this time Bill had totally given up on “healthy” and was digging into anything with calories. He grabbed two beef and cheese “Tornados” (tagline: “A whirlwind of flavor”). He offered to share. I was hesitant, but eventually I succumbed. Jackets off again. Why is it that every time you stuff a jacket into the same @#$&* space it takes up a little more room? Hygroscopic expansion?

Past Garberville. Hit the south end of the Avenue at about 1:00 – good time. We’re flying along up the Avenue – definitely on familiar roads today. By the time we get to Redcrest, it’s pretty warm, and I’m out of fluids again. So we stopped for ice water, iced tea, and…ice cream. Nice to have a theme….back on the bikes. This is where I discover that I’ve got a slow leak in my front tire. I’ve not checked it since we left Arcata, and it’s almost flat. We pump it up and hope that it will hang in there. I hate suspense, so I’ll let you know that it does. By the time we get to the Blackberry Popsickle stand in Pepperwood, we’re not inclined to stop. We’re really ready to get home.

Off the Avenue right around 3PM, and headed for Rio Dell, Fortuna, and points North. Arriving back on 101 means that we can’t hide from the wind any more, and it’s a pretty stiff headwind. I took stock. For the past 450+ miles, Bill has ridden steadfastly behind me – just out of a legal draft. When I’ve slowed, he’s slowed, even though it must be painfully difficult for him to climb as slow as me. I don’t know what’s motivating him to do that, but it struck me that forcing yourself to follow in someone else’s tire tracks might be a pretty good training tactic. So I decided to be the very best training partner I can be, and I kicked it up a notch. Or two. Or more.

It worked. We pulled off at Fernbridge – our last opportunity to hit a blue room before Eureka – and Bill was nearing his limit, too. Woo-hoo!! We were having a GRAND time, and when we rolled into the gas station, we were both gasping for air and laughing like loons. Reminded me suspiciously of the ride where we met…

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the very last bit of the ride. We were just really, really focused on getting home. We so much wanted to tell David and Mary about our adventure. Part of me was thinking, hey – we should just ride straight to their house, don’t waste time showering, it’s right on the way, and time is short. But when we got to the point where we would turn up Janes’ Road to David’s house, there was a strange van there. So we didn’t. 

If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, well, I don’t blame you. You can stop right here and rest assured that the two of us had another very excellent adventure, and know that when you come right down to it, there’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love. I won’t blame you for quitting while we’re ahead. Because quite frankly the rest of this post sucks.

I’d planned on calling my folks while we waited for breakfast. Since they were such a big help in getting Bill’s Musashi home, I wanted to make sure that they knew we were out having fun with it. But I didn’t have a signal in Laytonville, so I turned my phone off.  When we got home, turns out I had missed several text messages. One of them – “Call when you get home”…well, I knew. We would never tell David about our amazing adventure. David died while we were pounding along 101, right around Rio Dell – the site of the infamous Team Raven Lunatics Golf Tournament.

David had liposarcoma. He lived about thirteen years after being diagnosed. About half of his kids’ lives. He worked like crazy to stay alive. But the cancer won. And that sucks.

There is not one good thing about this. Some people say that they really “find themselves” after a cancer diagnosis – that it’s a wakeup call, that they live life more fully, that they get to do things that they might never had if cancer hadn’t come along and given them a good, swift kick in the pants. And I’m glad that some folks have found that positive, or at least that peace, within their cancer.

But that’s not David. David did not need a good, swift kick in the pants. David WAS a good, swift kick in the pants. He already knew who he was, he already knew what he wanted to do, he was already DOING it, and he was an amazing friend and advocate and just overall good person. He made the people around him laugh, and he made us better people. Cancer didn’t make him that way. It just chipped away, little by little, at his ability to do the things that made him who he was.

David was an incredibly hard worker. It seemed to come naturally to him. And the cool thing was that no matter how hard he worked, there wasn’t ever a trace of irony, bitterness, or martyrdom to it: if something needed doing, he was doing it, not worrying about who WASN’T doing their share. He could see what needed doing and he did it without fanfare. He wasn’t shy about telling those close to them when they were slacking, or that they’d missed doing something important. But he was always nice about it.

Lots of people will say/have said that David fought a “brave” battle against cancer, and how much that inspires them. That’s cool: David inspired me, too. I’m lucky that I knew the “non-cancer” part of him better than a lot of people. But I don’t know about his personal war on cancer being “brave” – I’d not argue against it, but the main thing that struck me was that he fought as HARD as he could for as long as he could. It could have been equally “brave” to face a deadly cancer by not going for state-of-the-art treatment. It certainly would have been easier.

He fought so hard because he very much loved being alive. He was not neutral on this one bit. Clearly he wasn’t afraid of dying – every treatment that he endured carried the risk of killing him quickly and without mercy. Through the years he put up with a lot of shit that you or I or many perfectly reasonable and equally brave folks might have decided was just not worth it for the privilege of being alive. It made him sick. It made him weak, which he hated even more than being sick. And from time to time, it kept him off his beloved bike, which he really, really hated. But he did it. And he did it because it represented his very best mathematical odds of staying with us until a real cure emerged. To stay alive. Here. Doing things and being David. Because that was worth it to him. And he was right.

When I look back on all the things that David was able to do in the last years of his life, even with the cancer and the chemo and everything, it’s amazing to me. It’s a real testament to his force of character, and a constant reminder to me: Every day matters. Even the sucky days matter, because they are what get you to other, possibly better days. And you just never know what your presence here might bring….

… I strongly suspect that December 31, 2009 was at best a medium-sucky day for David. David had just finished a way-too-long siege with chemo, and then radiation, in Houston, and he was facing major surgery in a few weeks. But – he was alive, and he was home, which meant that I was down visiting, and he was being an amazing host. He could barely make it up a couple of the local hills, but – being David – he knew that I needed some good, healthy exercise. So he brought this friend of his, some neighbor guy, out to ride Fieldbrook with us. Whoever he was, this guy was pretty strong – I’d be the first to admit it – and he handily beat me up the hill. He waited patiently for me at the top, and we even got to chat a bit while we were waiting for David. He told me about the other side – the descent, and then the slightly descending rollers…and we were off! I let him go first, figuring I would only slow down a “local” on the real descent…but the rollers? Woo-AND-hoo!! I was off like a shot. We were both working as hard as we could – no quarter given, none asked. And when we arrived at the bottom, we were both gasping for air and laughing like loons, waiting for David to roll down at his leisure. What fun! There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love… 

David’s last ride was STP. Yes - he was able to kick out a 200 mile weekend just a few weeks before he died. I would LOVE to get my hands on just a single can of whatever personal whoop-ass he opened up to get that done. But his guts had already decided to revolt. No food, no energy, no strength, and, after STP, no more biking. It was becoming too much to fight against.

Friends came to visit. Bill and I took everything we’d learned from David about Raven Lunatic hospitality and we tried to apply it to the utmost. We called and emailed the people who were close enough to care a lot, but not close enough geographically to “get” that this was, really, it. He was amazed at how many people called and wrote. “So-and-so called today”, he’d say to me. “Someone must be really worried…” (rolling his eyes). It was a tough line to walk. I didn’t want him to feel like I was ratting him out – but I worried that by the time he thought to tell people, he’d be really too weak to talk or visit.

Relatives came, left, came back, stayed. There were a lot of visitors and gatherings. They tired him out sometimes but he never complained, or at least he never complained to us.

David died on Labor Day. He slipped away gently and without pain. It was duly reported in the paper, on BROL, and on his Caringbridge site. Mary gathered up the family and friends and had an after-party at the Grange. Folks who don’t know David other than as a cyclist might not have guessed that he was an accomplished square dancer. He met his wife square dancing – at the same Grange hall, some years back. It was a potluck gathering. A total feast. Great music, great company, good times. Mary hung David’s event tees in the hall, and urged folks to take one home with them. Many did. It will be good to see those shirts all over town.

We cleaned up the hall, and went home, and went to sleep, and woke up, and had breakfast. There’s so much to do. We’d best be at it. Because making the most of being here, and being alive, is an incredible privilege. There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love. But I sure wish David was still here, sharing those times with us.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Annual....Golf Tournament??

Yes, sports fans - it's come to this. I've turned my attention to golf.
(An audible gasp rustles through the gallery: "Ooooh. Has she cracked? Is she retiring from cycling?? WTF???)
Nope. But some months ago, on one of our "Breakfast in Miranda" training rides, Bill noted that there is a golf course in the heart of Rio Dell, and that it might be cool to ride down sometime, play a round, and ride back.
Since the 4th fell smack-dab in the middle of the week this year, he got the brilliant idea that we should do it then - and since so many folks wouldn't be traveling, we should invite the Latte Warriors to join us. Thus was born the Team Raven Lunatics First Annual Fourth of July Bike and Golf Tournament.
We called the clubhouse and - sure enough, they were planning on being open. So: - I put out a flyer, and David and Mary sent it out to the Latte Warriors and a bunch of other people.
Oh. This is the point where I should mention that we're talking about the sort of golf that traditionally involves windmills and clowns' mouths (though the logging-themed Redwood Mini Golf actually features neither).

Now a golf tournament that has "closest to the tee" and "best costume" as goals is somewhere this side of "serious golf", even for mini golf. Still, I wanted to make sure that everyone's efforts were amply rewarded. So - in true ultracyclist fashion, Bill and I headed off to the Dollar Store for prizes.

At this point we were figuring maybe a dozen people would show up at the outside. We could count 8 for sures. I decided to go deep with the prizes - we were set for at least 18. A $1 golf set? Sure! Expand-o-Towels - throw 'em in! Hey, there's a great "best dressed" prize. I had no clue who was going to win the pink leopard hat, but it certainly caught my eye and would have to go to someone special. Ribbons for the winners, a fan for closest to the tee...a few more random goodies, and - The Coveted Raven Lunatics Cup for overall best-of-event achievement.

We were all set. David, Bill, Mary and I were taking turns driving the Team Van down for a sag wagon. We figured that many folks would want a ride home since it would be late afternoon before we finished, even if we did hit my predicted "high noon" teetime.

And they're off! Four of us - David, Bill, Ryan, and me - took off from City Hall just after 9. Carol, Steve and Noreen joined us along Old Arcata Road. We took the back way through town, coming out to 101 at Elk River Road, where Mary had parked the van at the park-and-ride before riding south with Wendy, who she'd picked up along the way.

I got to the van first. Mercifully, I had time for a quick errand behind the van before the rest of the gang got there. Noreen and Ryan went straight onto 101, but the guys headed to the van to help sort things out. Before I could mention anything, Bill popped behind the van. "Careful over there, I spilled some coffee...". Of course he was spilling coffee, too. And to mis-quote Arlo Guthrie, one big puddle of coffee is better than two small ones...

I volunteered to drive the next leg, vowing to get to the regroup and take off straightaway. Hah. Our regroup was the Loleta Bakery, which sucks cyclists into its caffeine and carbs time vortex and seldom lets them go without a struggle. Or, at the very least, a snickerdoodle.

When I got there, several cyclists had arrived ahead of me. No one was in a particular hurry to leave. Can't say as I blame them - perfect weather, picnic table, prime pastries...and the certain knowledge that you weren't the last one as there were a bunch more riders on the road.

My resolve crumbled faster than the cookie I was about to consume. Double chocolate chunk and a cup of dark roast. But then I needed to turn my attention to more important matters: I was the director of a golf tournament, for cripes sakes. I'm...responsible. At the very least, I should get to the links before noon, just in case someone was planning on meeting us there and was taking the noon start time seriously.

So off I went, with a fair head of steam. I opted for the freeway rather than the longer route around the Three Sisters (the early warmup climbs of the TUC). I got there a few minutes before noon and headed for the clubhouse.

During the trip down, I made some decisions about how to organize the "tournament". Sometimes decisions are driven by the oddest things and since I'd really not had a clue how many were showing up, I pretty much figured I'd wing it on game day. It turned out that a few of the prizes came in threes, so it made sense to do threesomes. There were seventeen folks playing, so that meant (almost...) six threesomes. With six groups, I could break up all of the couples and pair each of our junior participants with one of her parents. Give each team a team color...just have to figure out how to put an extra score onto the one team that was going to be short....

I grabbed scorecards for everyone and headed out of the clubhouse to ponder this. As I stepped into the sunshine, something familiar caught the corner of my eye. But it didn't make sense - every 2011 Sebring T shirt in our neck of the woods belonged on the back of someone that was riding a bike several miles north of here. Slowly accumulating data...ambling gait, desert hat, pruning shears...whatthe...JIM KERN. Not only that, he'd brought Tim Woudenberg - two of the deans of recumbent distance cycling drove up from San Fran to crash "my" golf tournament. Go figure...well, of course they were mainly there to sneak in a visit with David and catch up on RAAM gossip. Well, that made filling out the last threesome easy: I assigned the two of them to tag-team it.

We took off in color order: ROY G BV. I was in the red threesome, which I guess sounds slightly less interesting than being in the "blue threesome", which David headed up. But going first gave me a little more time to tabulate results.

Mini golf is a fairly random sport - by which I mean that (a) you can't predict who's going to be a putting ace, and (b) random luck smiles down on you every so often. Doug got the first ace, shortly followed by Bill, and Steve, and then some others. Sometimes Lady Luck frowned, and you 5-putted. Sometimes your teammates inadvertently improved (or demolished) your lie. The wind picked up, which I suppose affected someone, sometime. But no one complained.

Here are some photos...

Team Blue in the sahdow of Logger Dude Statue

Wendy surveys her shot

Despite Hawaiian shirt and flaming socks, Bill did NOT win "best costume"...

Doug (Team Orange) in the foreground; Team Yellow in the background.

Coco waits. And waits. Having a physicist on your team OUGHT to be an advantage, right??

No clowns, lots of loggers - welcome to mini golf, Humboldt style!


Noreen fights through the wind on the front nine.

Coco watches as her teammate putts.

Team Green putts again!


Team Yellow watches nervously - will the Blues catch them?


it...could...go...all...the...way....


not sure how to improve this lie...


...words fail me.

Coco won the "dramatic finish" award - pink AND leopard!



Tim brought Jenga to occupy the gang while they were waiting for awards



...with the predictable result.

Some highlights of the tournament:

Willard got the low individual score, but the Yellows won the team competition. Coco nearly aced the nearly-impossible last hole, and David...well, he came close, too, sort of (see photos above). Wendy won the closest to the tee competition. If I'd gone three or four places deep, I think she might've won more than once. Coco won the "high drama" award for her amazing finishing shot, which netted her the amazing pink leopard hat. Last, and certainly not least, Mary won The Coveted Raven Lunatics Cup. Not only did she anchor Team Yellow, she was second low score overall, AND she had the best decorated bike. 

After the awards ceremony, we packed it up. Bill and I headed for home. David left a few minutes behind us, not far behind Noreen, Steve, and Doug. The rest of the gang (I think, mostly) piled into the Team Van and headed north. Tim and Jim were kind enough to drive north and cook up an amazing barbeque dinner before turning around and heading south. Quite the whirlwind tour for them...
That left nothing for us to do but - Fireworks! Last year we'd been a little bit too tired after our "through the trees" cyclo-touring adventure, but this year we were up for it. Great display, though I'm not quite sure that I'll ever get used to the West Coast tradition of hats, gloves, and down jackets in the middle of summer.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Going nowhere...fast

Every once in a while, people ask me, "What do you think about during those long rides?". Admittedly, sometimes it comes out sounding more like, "What were you THINKING???", which might or might not be the same question.
Either way, on my last stupid-long ride I did my best to record my thoughts, as they occurred, for your reading pleasure.
The ride was Sandy's Neighborhood 200k - 150 laps of a 0.79-mile loop. It's the longest route that you can take through our immediate neighborhood that (a) keeps us off main roads, (b) avoids most left-hand turns, and (c) goes conveniently past our house. Astute readers will note that it would actually take 157 laps to make a true 120k. I cut it off at 150 because it's a convenient number that's arguably close enough.
This is ALWAYS a night ride, because I want to do it with as few vehicles on the road as possible and during the daytime there's no reason to stay so close to home. Bill and David often join me, but this time I was solo. David is winding down for the upcoming STP, and Bill had a full day of climbing ahead of him on Sunday morning (yes, he's one of those guys who CAN get a full day of climbing in before noon...) in preparation for Furnace Creek.
I started at 0100 and finished just before 0630, with 11 minutes of downtime.

Here we go.....
Lap 0: Whoof. Strong odor of skunk. Hope Cog is inside.
1: there's a cat.
2. there's another cat.
3: whoopsie. further outside on that corner. Pothole.
4: hope that was a cat.
5: better. take the line through the black mark on the pavement.
6: cat is crossing my path. Hope it isn't black. REALLY hope it isn't black and white.
7: THROUGH the black mark, not inside it.
8-13: mu-mu-mu-mySharona (didn't bring iPod, singing to self...)
14: wonder if cats get sprayed by skunks? Everyone talks about dogs and skunks. Probably not.
15: THROUGH the black mark, doggone it! (quick stop to readjust light, which is now aiming straight up courtesy of the pothole).
16: speaking of lights aiming up - the searchlights are still going strong at the Eureka waterfront carnival.
17: only 33 laps until my first planned stop.
18: love the new seat pad.
19: nice cornering! Did that one with ONLY countersteer. Cool!
20-24: Hey, Soul Sister!
25: halfway to the planned stop. Guess I should drink something.
26: OK, seriously need to get on a schedule here. I'll take a drink every time I pass the little motorhome on the left.
27-37: Here's the motorhome, take a drink.
38: That's too often. How about every OTHER time we pass the  motorhome...
39: OK, if the lap is about 3/4 of a mile, I'm drinking every 1.5 miles. On a 3/8 mile lap that will be every four laps.
40: ten laps to a potty break.
41: I don't think I'm going to need a break, wonder if I can make it to 75? Then I'd only have one stop.
42: bar traffic is heading home. Watch yourself.
43: I swear that every youth in Arcata is issued a black hoodie to wear when they're wandering at night.
44-49: bring pace up slightly. Smoooooth in the corners.
50: Nope, I don't need a pit stop. Nearly done with one bottle. Start in on an energy bar soon.
51: Really wish I'd have opened the bar ahead of time. This is a pain.
52-60: I love my bike. I love my bike. I really...love...my...bike.
61: Whoa! I've blown the same stop sign 61 times in a row. Wonder what the record for that is?
62: Car parked by side of the road, motor running. Clumsy sex, pot deal, or both?
63: cats are active again. There are a LOT of cats in this neighborhood.
64: I wonder if I'll have to stop at 75, or if I should push it on to 100 laps? So far, so good...
65-69: mu-mu-mu-my Sharona.
70: I am NEVER doing this ride without an iPod again.....
71: Oh, yeah! We were going to put reflective tape on that fire hydrant to mark the turn. Wonder how long it would last? I've got leftover pink from my wheel pinstriping.
72: and while we're at it, we should paint the line THROUGH the black mark so I don't go into the pothole.
73-75: hey, I'm going to keep going. Switch the bottle over and let's shoot for 100 laps.
76: more road traffic. Wonder where they're going.
77: drunk kid in requisite black hoodie and miniskirt walking a chihuahua while smoking a Swisher Sweet gives me a thumbs-up. Arcata make its own hallucinations...
78-80: Let's see how close I can shave the corner at Frederick.
81: there's the skunk!
82: there he is again. Wonder how many people leave out cat food? Hope Cog is inside.
83-87: Born to be wi-i-i-ild!
88: Hey, I could probably ditch this stop and keep going all the way to 150.
89: No, you can't, either.
90: French press coffee hits the kidneys faster than espresso. Wonder why that is?
91: that's 91 times I've blown the same stop sign.
92-100: nothing particular, just counting down to 100...
(11 minute rest stop; bathroom, pet Cog and remind him not to mess with skunks, refill bottles, discover a chafed spot on my back. Originally thought it was due to a tag, which didn't seem reasonable since they're old shorts. Nope: for some inexplicable reason a sliver of plastic film got in there...like a piece of a plastic mailing envelope. How the HELL did I not notice that??? Quick first aid over the raw spot, get on with it...)
101: pick up the speed, pick up the speed, pick up the speed...NO. THROUGH the black mark, not inside it...
102: adjust the #$*( light, and while we're at it, let's run the high beams since we've only got an hour or so until light.
103: wow. high beams make a big difference.
104: wonder where all the cats are, now?
105: owl overhead; maybe the cats are on to something?
106: hm. Maybe they're onto the skunk?
107: wonder if that's the same skunk? It's halfway across the course...
108: won't be that much longer until there's some light.
109-12: nothing much.
113: when was Ride the Rogue, again? Would it be good training for Bill, or should we bag it?
114: this is one sweet bike. Love the way it corners. Correction: love the way WE corner, this bike and I.
115-119: I could do 200 laps before the Latte ride, no problem....current lap time is about 2:10, let's see...that's, what, three hours? Yeah. No problemo. 200 laps would be almost 160? New goal.
120: Wonder when Bill is getting up? Saw the bathroom light on a while back Surely he's sleeping in...
121: Car! Stopped in the middle of the road....now rolling slowly...grrrrrrrrrrr.
122: Same car. Stopped in the middle of the road AGAIN. AUGH. It is too late in the day to be coming home drunk, dude!
123: Same car, further up the course, driving slowly, veers into cul-de-sac and gets out. OH. Newspaper delivery. Maybe a substitutue? It would be faster on a bike, dude!
124: Bat overhead, getting the pre-dawn bug bloom. Should see some light before too long.
125: Car on Janes' Road. Need to start slowing more for that stop sign...
126: Almost a hint of light to the sky.
127: cats are getting scarcer. Still can't believe how many cats there are out here!
128-130: should I find a good mounting point for the big battery or should I see if I can get Bill to splice a longer wiring harness and run it where I've got the smaller battery? I am seriously loving the high beam and I can run it all night with the big battery....eat another energy bar.
131: there's the skunk AGAIN. That little guy sure gets around. Glad he's staying away from our house!
132: ok, it's starting to get light.
133: it's getting lighter.
134: ...and lighter.
135: Hey! I can see the display on the computer! Reminds me that I might want a headlamp for that.
136: Cars each way on Janes road. Didn't "quite" stop, but close.
137: It's light enough to see. More cars. I will have to start stopping at the stop sign.
138: Funny thought: This is exactly what dogs feel when you throw a ball for them. Driven, happy, driven, happy, tired, driven, happy, happy, happy happy. Woo-hoo!!!!!
139: I just realized that I am stopping at 150 laps because I won't be happy having to stop at the stop sign, and traffic is going to pick up, and I don't want to piss off the neighbors.
140: OK, if this is it, hammer down....
141-149: Counting down, no particular thoughts besides "Ten - Nine - Eight..."
150: Woo-hoo!!!!!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dumbest funnest ride ever

Well, we needed to do some heat training - and Humboldt County is no place for that. And hill training. So - why not put them together, right? There's some very hot, hilly country between here and Redding, and that's where we headed. We found it, and took full advantage of its charms.
We packed a cooler full of all sorts of good things and headed out with the dawn to Hayfork, CA. The idea was to go to the fairgrounds, ride a 70-mile loop, and return to the car for a nice lunch before heading out to do a second, shorter, easier loop.
Great plan.
We were slowed slightly at the start by Bill's headset, which wanted a bit of tightening. He managed that with great effort marred by a lack of tools (memo to self: we've got a good-sized truck at our disposal, might as well bring a tool kit...). But I figure it wasn't much past 9:30 by the time we took off.
Five bottles between us - a little short, but - should be enough, and we'll find more along the way. You always do, right?
We were dinking around on the road to Hyampom - enjoying the warm-but-not-hot sun and the spectacular views. Few if any cars, one construction zone (no one working on a Sunday), and one moderate climb put us in the settlement of Hyampom. I spotted a lot of birds. I meant to take some pictures but I got sidetracked, enjoying myself.
I am guessing that "Hyampom" is an old Indian word meaning "many tiny rocks" because the road surface was peppered with gravel for much of the ride. To make things trickier, the rocks were exactly the same color as the surrounding (generally very good) pavement, so you had very little warning if you were traveling downhill at any speed. Both Bill and I had near-misses with the gravel on inside corners early on, so we dialed back the descents (bummer).
The route did not dial back the climbs! After Hyampom, the first "real" climb came on - 2700' in a bit more than 5 miles. For those who are keeping track, that's almost a 10% average grade. If this sounds a little bit like a great training hill for Townes' Pass, well - Bill will be racing FC508 this year with the coolest totem ever: Pirate Fish. 
For those sports fans who are trying to envision poor ME slugging up a hill that's a great training hill for Pirate Fish's 508 - have no fear! I actually did pretty well. Typically grades like this would have had me walking - but the Pink Catillac ate it right up. At the bottom of the hill, Bill tried to bright-side the upcoming adventure: "Well, the next 6-7 miles are at mostly 8% plus..." neatly avoiding the reality that the cue sheet clearly stated 8-12%, as in - "actually, quite a bit of 12%, and the 7% bits will feel like relief".
The gearing on the Cat was near-perfect. I used the 36/36 a fair bit, but I was able to punch it up a gear or two from time to time. The handling was SO stable that I was able to reach for my water bottle - something that has always been a chore on the Carbent no matter how diligently I practice.
So reach I did. Over and over. Right up to the point where the reality hit me: we were going to run out of water. There were no two ways about it. Bill had three water bottles, but that was just putting off the inevitable. It was going to require some tricky calculus: what is the optimal speed to ride which will minimize my water need but still get us back to the truck before sheer exposure takes its toll?  I made my best WAG and settled in, knowing that Bill was quite a ways ahead of me, hopefully doing the same math and coming to similar conclusions.
Within a mile of the top of the hill, I shifted into the biggest rear cog for some 1:1 climbing action, and - drats - overshifted, jamming the chain between the spokes and the cassette body. This felled me like an ox, and I was more than a little pissed off. By this time I was hopeful that Bill had gotten tired of waiting for me at the top, and would be coming along to see what was wrong. Sadly, he is a very patient man...so I got to fix the problem on my own. Took some doing to extract the chain, get everything reset, and back on my way. About the time I was starting up again, a guy came by and started peppering me with questions: "Is that another one of those laydown bikes?" " Is it hard going down hills on them?" ...
Just as I was underway and doing well again, here comes Bill - I'd finally worn him down, and he was starting to worry. One look at my grease-covered self told the story.
When we got to the top, Bill asked me how I was doing for water, and topped up my second bottle. Except - it wasn't the top - it was a saddle. We still had quite a bit of rolling uphill climbing to the real summit. We poked along - I was in serious conservation mode. Can't risk a cramp if you don't have water. Cramps require salt, and salt requires water, and water's what we don't have. Bill would edge ahead and wait. Once, he came rolling back at me, arm cocked. No - seriously? Yep - he threw a snowball at me! There was snow. Why we didn't think about it at that point is beyond me, except that we were still in a "well, we've got SOME water" denial.
At the turnoff to FR16 we met a passerby in a minivan. She was happy to give us all the water she had - about half a bottle's worth - and urged us to go back with her to her cabin to refill, but it was quite a ways backward and - brain-addled, dehydrated optimists that we were - we were confident that we would be Just Fine....
After a bit of a descent, we started another major climb. Although this one wasn't as steep, it sure was LONG. By now we had something like 18 miles to go, we were totally out of water, and we'd come here for - remember? - HEAT TRAINING, which turned out to be the wildly successful part of our plan(though at the upper elevations it honestly wasn't so bad). This hill was NOT ending. I could see Bill ahead of me (good news, either I was speeding up, or he was slowing down, or maybe a little of both) and that gave me some gauge of where the road was going. I could see ahead to where the road crossed a smallish creek. I started fantasizing about the cool water that we'd find there. Giardia be damned!
Bill and I were riding together when we got to the creek. We looked at each other - both thinking the same thought. The water wasn't exactly INaccessible, but - quite a scramble down, then quite a scramble back up. Between one thing and another, the risk of injury was there. Surely we were almost at the top of this sucker...
Well, "almost" is a very subjective word, but I'd not say we were "almost" there - a couple more miles of "can this be for REAL???" climbing ensued before we were at the top. Somewhere in there, the thought hit me that - hey - it's been a while since I've gotten any MORE thirsty, so maybe we're going to be okay here. Within minutes after that thought, I started to get a pretty wicked headache, which I knew was the dehydration talking. Crap! I remembered Bill's snowball. If we got lucky, we'd find a patch of snow in a shady curve somewhere along the way.
Very near the summit, we got lucky. Snow cones at 4500' on a waterless heat training day is good eats, folks!  We passed on the flavored syrup, though I realized later that I could've pulled a peppermint stick GU out of my bag. I was happy to trade in the dehydration headache for brain freeze.
After we got enough in to be more or less out of the woods, we filled our water bottles (this is the part where I get to feel smart for bringing one non-insulated one so the snow would actually melt), popped over the summit, and headed down the other side. When we hit Big Creek, we were finally able to sustain some speed. I was really happy to see that even after the long draught we both had some pretty good looking legspeed. We hit the town of Hayfork like a tornado - kids and pets staring shamelessly at the parade, us grinning like the idiots we were at having cheated death and had so much fun doing it.
We got back to the car and packed it in. The second loop would have to wait for another day. We had a great tailgate picnic - sandwiches, potato salad, cantaloupe, and a lot of fluids had us feeling pretty chipper.
As a measure of the success of this ride - I was feeling pretty stoked that in my mind the first major climb was "probably as hard as Panther Gap" - the first really big climb on the Tour of the Unknown Coast, which I can manage on the Carbent, but with difficulty. When we got home, Bill loaded up his Delorme Topo and compared the two. The Hyampom climb averages about 2% STEEPER, and I had done it with less effort than I typically use for Panther Gap.
I'd say that the Pink CATillac gets some serious props as a climbing bike. Sure, she's not the lightest kid on the block, but balance, handling, and attitude are all working for her.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Little Bit Big Cat, a Little Bit Hello Kitty: Meet the Pink CATillac

After three years riding ‘bent, I’d never tried anything but a Carbent. I’ve been itching to branch out. And I’m a sucker for small-run, American-built bikes. I like the knowledge of the honest work that goes into them. In addition to my Carbents, I’ve owned two Cannondales, a Teesdale, an Ibis, and a Chris Chance. Yes, Virginia – once upon a time, Cannondale was a small company that hand-built its bikes! Being part of the craft process of bike building was the lure of working for Bike Friday, for sure.
And…kudos to those fine folks in Marketing! Something in that teaser video just got my attention and wouldn’t let me go. Was it the taiko drums? The dynamic tension created by the blowing leaf at 1:06? The checkerboard socks? I’ve never been a hands-off gal, but – if the bike’s that stable, shouldn’t I at least give it a whirl? Whatever it was, I was hooked.
So I started my inquiries. But it turned out that I was TOO LATE – the CatBIKE Musashi was going out of production. Aaaah. Then, unthinkable grace: one more production run! Mark Egelund very generously offered to put a bike in the queue for me. I jumped at the chance. The only question was COLOR.
It had NOT escaped me, sports fans, that one MORE nice thing about the Musashi was that I could pick a color. My Carbents came in any color I want – so long as it was black. Other brands have few or no color choices (even if you like orange, apparently it is not an option…).

I LOVE baby pictures - this is my frame being welded.


So – I like pink. It’s not that I like pink to the exclusion of all other colors, or even that it’s my “Favorite” color. But pink and me, we go ‘way back. Here’s some takeaway advice for you: if you’re getting a bike built, and you can have it whatever color you want, it’s not a time to dream small, or dream safe. And if your jersey collection happens to look like mine, you’d best get the pink bike:

Turns out I was doubly in luck on the pink front. Not only does Catrike make a pink bike, but – they were making a run of “bubblegum pink” bikes –a paler shade of pink that I thought would be absolutely smashing. Did it hurt one bit that I’d just scored a great price on a set of bubblegum pink Velocity training hoops on eBay? No, it did not. So – Bubblegum pink it was. It would take a couple of weeks to get the frame built…and a couple more waiting for finishing touches. If you’ve ever had a bike built just-for-you, you know that’s a pretty fantastic turnaround.

The final frame color was even a little bit paler than I’d imagined – I love it! The first time I saw it, it reminded me of something…but I couldn’t quite place it. Then, during an incredibly sleepy drive up the 101, Bill cranked the tunes to keep us awake. Wouldn’t you know it – the first song that came up was The Boss: “Pink Cadillac”. THAT’S IT!! The bike is the color of a 1950’s Cadillac. How cool is that? 



And so she became the Pink CATillac. Once I got (ahem) rolling on the “Pink Caddy” theme, it just kept getting better. A couple of Cat cages, painted metallic silver: dual exhaust pipes! I repainted the boom and handlebars white because I thought that would look cool. Memo to self: it does.
Pink CATillac before parts installation. Click on arrow below for theme music!!



I started accumulating parts in anticipation of the frame’s March arrival. The parts mix runs the gamut from indulgent to practical. I put on an FSA K Force Light crankset, with an unusual 52/36 chainring set. 50/34 would’ve been stock on the bike, but I wanted a little more top end. Since I NEED more low end to make it up some of Humboldt County’s more famous hills, I stepped it up to an 11-36 cassette. If I need more than a 1:1, I’ve got no one to blame but me, right? A SRAM X0 rear derailleur isn’t really a luxury item, but finding it in pink takes some doing. Ditto for the KMC “Pink Lady” chain(s). I’d also like to give a shout out to Crankskins.com – they make color-matched decals for cranks. I had a devil of a time finding the best front brake – there was more drop on the fork than I anticipated, so I needed a fairly long reach brake. I found it – in white, no less. Thanks HoosierBike!

mid-build. Getting closer...
The front derailleur is a DuraAce that I had lying around. And I’m driving the whole works with Ultegra barend shifters, set to friction mode –again, something that I kinda just had lying around. Yes – Shimano and SRAM. Ebony and ivory…together in perfect harmony. I had a bugger of a time figuring out why it didn’t work at first –the same setup works perfectly on Bill’s bike. The relevant difference was that Bill’s bike has the shifters mounted on Paul Thumbies (see Larry Varney’s excellent review here). It turns out that the SRAM shifter takes more pull than a Shimano does, and what limits the pull on a Shimano barend shifter is hard interference with the shifter boss…so moving the shifter to a thumbie makes it cross-compatible with a SRAM derailleur. Who knew? Bill just got the Thumbies because they’re comfortable.




extremely gratuitous dog shot - say Hi, Cog!
white cockpit. 

crankskins.com
The Pink CATillac




here's what's goin' on in the back...



if it's worth doing, it's worth OVERdoing....pink derailleur and chain. 

pink and white goatskin leather - heated leather seats, anyone?

Bike setup is is incredibly straightforward. The chainlines are good, and the cable routing is clean. For some reason I was thinking that I would be using a few links less chain than I do with the Carbent; turns out that I use a couple links more (good thing I got the light stuff, right?). The seat – wow. Very, incredibly comfortable. The only “problem” I had with the seat, if you can call it that, is that it is so transitionless that I couldn’t decipher where to plunk my butt down at first. With a hardshell seat, yeah, you’ve got options, but you’ve also got...guidance. The first time I set the bike up, I ended up perched on the edge of the seat, so I had the boom extended out further than I needed. When I brought it back, I was more “in” the bike. Nice!

The headrest is nicer than any other that I’ve used or seen. It’s light, easy to adjust, and well-padded. And it’s pink. Apologies in advance to Mark for ratting him out…these really only come stock in black and it’s extra nice of him to get one done up in pink. Please, please don’t inundate him with special requests. But mine is cool, huh?

Fit-wise, like on most recumbents, there’s a dynamic connection between knee clearance, sight lines, and arm reach. I solved the equation by using an extra long tweener bar and a very long (135mm!) stem – so the front end goes OUT a long way to accommodate my knees, and BACK a long way to make a comfortable reach. I was fitted to the “small” frame. My X-seam is a paltry 41.5, but it’s complicated because I have cruelly long femurs – which means extra tweaking to keep my knees off the bars. With a small front wheel, there’s no issue with sight lines – I’ve got a great view of the world in front of me.

So – after all of that, it’s time to actually ride the thing, right? Oh, my my, Oh heck yes! The ride is sweet. After a few shorter rides, I took the bike on the local Latte Warriors Sunday ride - a group ride to Trinidad and back. The low-speed handling is exceptional - no "slow wobble", and the descending speed and handling are better than I expected (and I expected a lot). And the bike eats up Humbolt County "pavement" - a gritty, gravelly network of potholes loosely bound by cow flop - like nobody's business. Who says aluminum can't be comfortable? 

After a Latte ride that was as much birthday party as anything Bill and I took off for a side trip to one of Humboldt County's more famous hills: Fieldbrook. Fieldbrook isn't the longest climb around, nor the steepest, but it's the modal local hill - nearly everyone climbs it often, and it's enough of a challenge to be representative of "climbing". The Musashi weighs a bit more than the Raven - I've got it dressed out something north of 25# as opposed to the 19# Carbent. So far the climbing speed is comparable, though. The Musashi responds very well to being pushed on at low cadence - a habit of mine that the Raven clearly resents. Although I don't have a definitive time, I wasn't as far behind Bill as I usually am - though he could have been dogging it. 

He was NOT dogging it on the way down Fieldbrook, though. The descent off the far side is the local measuring stick for descending speed. Again, I didn't have a cyclometer up and running (mine is still set for a 700c front wheel), but Bill set his personal PR of 60.0 mph - and I was gaining on him at the time. That compares favorably to my personal best of 56.1 on the Raven, and I never felt like I was approaching the edge of comfort.

The next ride was a legit century down to the Avenue of the Giants. In addition to having a great time and really enjoying riding the bike, we got another chance to test out the Musashi's stability. A big truck close-passed us along 101; at the time we were hauling along pretty good and were mainly staying ahead of a bit of a crosswind. Bill was (aHEM...) behind me at the time, on a high racer - one of the most popular Blue Bikes out there. He felt the truck buffet him and his bike gave him a slightly disconcerting shudder. Not a huge one, but noticeable. He was however alert enough to notice that my bike didn't budge when the truck came roaring past. Yep - I felt it, too...but the bike just didn't seem to care. It just kept on doing what it was supposed to do. That impressed both of us. 

The bike felt ridiculously low at first – I find myself working extra hard to make eye contact with drivers, just to make sure that they see me. Which should not be a problem – it is really, really, REALLY pink. I have noticed that, despite the bike industry’s fascination with “Screaming Yellow” (this is an actual Pearl Izumi color name!), PINK is a lot more visible to drivers because it is the epitome of “unexpected”. If there’s a pink-jacketed, pink-helmeted, pink-shod (yes, really) woman out there on a pink bike, it gets noticed. I’m reminded of Chris Hopkinson, who was pinked-out to the max for the Ring of Fire timetrial a few years back. Someone asked him if he was cycling for, um, you know, “awareness” – to which he replied, “Yes. Awareness. Of car smashes.” Hey, maybe pink IS my favorite color….
   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012