I first fell in love with asphalt as a child. Our forty acre farm was my whole world, and our blacktop driveway was my personal runway. It was very black and perfectly smooth. And huge.
We used to lay out cushions and books to create obstacle courses we'd run on our polyurethane skateboards. I learned to rollerskate there. And, at the late blooming age of eight, I learned to pedal a bicycle there.
When it was wet, you could see the whole sky in the driveway. It seemed so slippery I was sure I could run and land on my knees and slide like Pete Townsend, who wasn't in the Who yet. As it turns out, it wasn't slippery enough and I experienced my first road rash.
Oh, if that driveway could tell stories. I guess I can instead. It was the launch pad for my first short road rides. As soon as my parents would leave for an errand, I'd jump on my red JC Penney ten-speed and head west on Buffalo Road.
Buffalo Road is the busy highway that connects Rochester and Buffalo, New York. It features two very busy lanes, filled with traffic that includes semi trucks. The small shoulder was my escape for the twenty minutes I had before Mom and Dad returned and I'd push to make it further than the tine before on each try.
This is where my roadie roots originate.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Many of these classic road and touring bikes are still around, and rolling strong. A couple nice folks brought theirs to the Bike Commuter "Drinks with Dave" evening and everyone, especially Dave, enjoyed geeking out. That's what us bike geeks like to do!
How did this event come about? Sheer luck. While visiting the southern part of the valley, I joined a G.E.A.R.s bike club ride and someone mentioned that Dave Moulton would be speaking at their club meeting. So, I took a chance and emailed Dave and was astounded when he called me right back to say he'd be delighted to plan an event with me. Thanks, Dave!
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Meanwhile, I slacked off on keeping up this blog. I'm going to flush away the shame and guilt of getting behind by catching up in one entry to encapsulate the awesomeness of this summer.
First off, the 4th Annual Tour de Beavers was a big success. Eight ladies got together for a fun ride to Corvallis to drink beer, build new friendships, and practice our Tour de Beavs traditions.
Pedalpalooza provided its usual mix of crazy costumes and themed urban rides. Last year there was buzz that maybe our little festival was dying. This year, event attendance was huge and the calendar was stocked with both old favorites and new rides. The ever-popular kick off ride was a highlight and it's evolved into a weekly Thursday night urban ride. I believe they're on their twenty fifth consecutive week of taking the streets for human use.
Grilled By Bike has become quite the movement and team. They even had a group riding the Oregon Outback this year. I met my basket twin at one of the delicious park stops.
The Northeast Alley ride was especially fun this year. Over 100 riders wove their way through fifteen miles of unimproved roadways. I had the privilege of acting as a sweeper and flat fixer.
The Bike Play is also a big people pleaser. Their story featured time travel to foil a villain whose evil plan was to replace the bicycle with the segue. We visited Dunlop (inventor of the pneumatic tire), and rode past scenes of Bike Plays of previous years. Afterwards, it was time for prom and your writer was all decked out in satin and sparkly makeup for the occasion. Next year I'm not going without a date, as attending prom stag gets one excluded from some of the fun (like couples photos).
What Pedalpalooza would be complete without a Swim Across Portland? I absolutely loved leading riders up Terwilliger to Wilson Pool, over the Sellwood Bridge to the next pool and finally to the Bike Commuter to take a dip in beer.
It's hard to even keep track of where the summer blew me next. How about up and around Mount Hood on an adventurous and challenging ride I hope becomes an annual event. We named it the Chalet Tour, since we were staying in a beautifully homey chalet atop the mountain, generously offered by rider extraordinaire MaryJean and her husband SAG extraordinaire Rick.
The earlier flat reared its head again, and this time the tear in the tire was too large to boot. So, I finally had the opportunity to test the "children in the village" theory. The idea is that, no matter how worn out you and your legs may be, if there's an emergency, (ie children in the village awaiting urgent medicine), you can rise to the occasion. I took my shredded legs and revved them up the rest of the hill at top speed, looking for a cell signal so I could call AAA. It worked! Children in the village is not a myth!
A new addition this year was a slight change in the route, taking us through a military base. This proved awesome because of the views of aircraft, along with a temporary decrease in the enormous number of cars and PSV (personal support vehicles - yes, many riders bring their cars).
I enjoyed the unparalleled privilege of leading century rides for the Missing Link bicycle shop. In July we rode to Cascade Locks and back. August took us to Ripplebrook, and up and over a large boulder barricade. Riding out together with several types of riders, some with a different distance in mind than others, is a superb way to start the day.
There've also been some nice little side adventures, thanks to local clubs like the Vancouver Bike Club, the Portland Wheelmen and the meetup group NW Rideabouts. I love me some freds!
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
For a small fee, I create bike fun by planning and promoting events and rides. Do you (or does your business) want a group of healthy, fun-loving, hungry and happy cyclists showing up at their door? I'll create something special that captures your brand or style, plan it, promote it and execute it.
Spread the word! And stay tuned to the event listing on the right to see what Bicycle Kitty is up to.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
It's the roads. These roads beg me to ride them. They beckon me to push my personal speed limit. Rollers seem to be everyone's favorite type of road, and there are no two alike. The many variables include sight line distance, tarmac quality, length and angle of climb, etc (lots of etcetera). But they all have one thing in common - they all go up and they all go down.
I stopped midway up one hill because my gears were clunking and my breath was panting. I shoved a candy bar in and heard some dude say "slowpokes" as he rode by. What the heck is wrong with people? I remounted and wound Spooky up to catch this jerk. Thanks to this lovely ti bike, I spun up quickly and caught them quite handily.
"Oh, it's you guys". The Texan, and Derek from the Wheelmen. Of course it wasn't some stranger calling me a slow poke. Guess I have a hair trigger when it comes to accusations about bike speed, or lack of it. Derek mentions he's going to shift down and let me go ahead, because he's out of shape. My hair trigger rears its head again and I challenge him to race me to the top.
We match each other's pace for several breaths. The hill would not relent, and neither would he. He was slowly slipping ahead of me. It's maybe twenty more yards to the top, maybe more; emotion and fatigue color measurement. I had a tiny moment of awareness that I could push just a little harder. So I did. And I caught him. Passed him quickly and turned back in time to see him grimace. I returned the look and stuck my tongue out and continued up. Damn, it felt good.
The whole day felt good. Looking down to check which ring I'm in, I see the blur of the asphalt underneath my pretty ti frame, and my standard cockpit with bell and computer and basket and sparkle sticker atop the stem. Everything looked crystal clear and extra colorful. There were many of those magic little moments that I always try to save up for a rainy day.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
I meet Scott and Luke and we continue east, along the Sandy River. We head south into Bull Run. A short stop at Waterworks and we're climbing again.
Then Shipley, and Marmot. Those names are like a poem to me; a poem that recalls the start to so many adventures and triggers each rider to tell their eastbound tale. Shipley's pavement is shitty, but that's ok. It's quick to Marmot and my favorite meadows just west of Mount Hood.
"Wy'east!" I like to yell when I first see the mountain. I slaughter the Indian fable to the Texan, but he doesn't seem to mind. The mountain hides behind some trees that seem too small to hide a mountain. Flirtatiously at first, then boldly, she shows herself to us.
A roadie in a green Belgium jersey zips by silently on vintage Mercx. I would've been annoyed but some people are just naturally fast and there's nothing for it.
Brightwood is a bustling little two corners in the woods that features both a tavern and a store. We learn there that the man in green, Eric, is training for his first one day Seattle To Portland. Well, he climbed more hills Saturday than there are in six STPs.
Like unwinding a tensioned spring, we spend the afternoon undoing our morning miles. Back to Marmot. Down Shipley. The ti bike feels like tailwinds all the time. Even so, some of these hills begged me to walk them. I refuse give in, except to stop twice and shove some candy in or change the song to a faster beat.
My riding partners, strong and stylish gents both, gave me the gift of wait; each time denying they had been there long. This is a skill I long to practice, but rarely get the chance. Everyone is just so blazingly fast.
We descend into the Sandy River Valley, along the new french toast route, over the Stark Street Bridge and back to the car at Otto Miller Park, which felt a lot like cheating. Until our leader opened the trunk to reveal a cooler of finish line beer.
Friday, April 17, 2015
But, alas, like so many things that seem bad at first, change just serves as a reminder of the temporary nature of life and possessions. And a reminder to me of what's really important: bike rides and the people that enjoy them.
Eight such people came to my house recently and ate some french toast. We took a small journey eastward, one of my favorite directions, on an easy forty mile fiesta. Playing plays a large part in happiness, and this day didn't skimp on it.
Six ladies and three men: a rare and novel gender ratio. Fast riders and medium-paced riders. All wearing smiles all day. It felt like a tailwinds all day.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Thursday, March 12, 2015
My partner, good ol' 7600, mentioned we were going slow and suggested maybe I was getting soft. That kind of comment usually has one of two outcomes. Either I get super pissed and slow way down. Or I get super pissed and speed way up. I tried to react logically, and without emotion, as our dear friend Mr. Spock might have done. I mentioned that it was still the first hour and I couldn't feel my hands. Then I told him to shut up.
Brutal north winds were in the forecast. And, naturally, we were heading north, right into the southern Willamette Valley, home of "the sitting duck". There was nowhere to hide, no cover at all. Just thirty miles or so of headwind to start the day. Although windy and chilly, the sky was cloudless and the air was crisp and sweet-smelling. I tried hard to concentrate on these other senses while my kneecap was grinding to chalk.
By the time we arrived at the third control - Dairy Mart in Monroe - my right knee was almost as unhappy as I was. Pedal, pedal, twinge. Soft pedal, soft pedal, ache. Repeat. I consumed some bizarre milky coffee concoction and a chocolate bar to cheer me up, which worked great for about ten minutes.
We kept reminiscing about our November attempt at this route. You know, the one where we tried to pop through on Wells Creek Road and instead ended up lost in the woods for a few hours. I noticed some homemade bus stops I had stopped to photograph last year, as final entries in my annual photo calendar project.
Behind the conversation, I could hear my knee. SQUAWK! Creeeeak. Squeeeegrle. Sounds like that. Well, I still have the other leg, I thought. Wheat might be cooked, but Shredded still had some miles in it. (If you haven't named your legs yet, I suggest you do. And, comment here with their names!).
We climbed the highway this time, instead of forking off on Wells Creek Road. Pushing up the narrow shouldered highway, rife with blind curves and tons of fast cars and motorcycles swooshing by was not much fun. Heck, climbing was not much fun in my compromised state.
The next part of the route should have been the best part, if I hadn't been in so much pain. The worst part of the pain was that it was self-inflicted. I should have skipped one, or even both, of my boot camp style workouts the previous week. I should've picked a different weekend to lead a 50 mile shop ride, hop a bus from Portland to Eugene, and hop out of bed to ride 130 miles with empty tanks and tired muscles.
In any case, I hope to do this route again under better conditions, and mostly because of the mind-bending gorgeousness that was South Fork Road. Climby and curvy, long and narrow, barely traveled by cars, trees everywhere, the river everywhere and waterfalls, too. One wonders why the route took us up the highway instead of South Fork Road as an out and back.
This time we only had a short stint on Territorial, which should be renamed TERRORtorial. It's basically a two lane autobahn with no shoulder and barely even a fog line. Cars and trucks and trailers exceeding 70mph careen by, barely missing us. Luckily, 7600 was sporting his USA jersey, which seems to soften drivers' moods, and we were not hit.
We made it to the Long Tom Grange info control just as dusk fell. 7600 reminded me that the wind always calms as the sun falls, and he was correct. So, instead of enjoying the tail wind we had earned, we rode into the still dark, and to the Alvadore store control, where I purchased neosporin to put all over my chapped face and a chocolate bar to put in it.
The rest of the ride is a blur, as I was totally in death march mode. I know I cried some, and sang some, and cried some more. As we finally entered Eugene city limits, 7600 exhibited an act of kindness that re-energized me enough to make it to the finish. A rider was stopped on the sidewalk with her cruiser bike, wheel partially off, and bags of groceries sitting by. Without hesitation, he stopped and helped her reattach her wheel. She offered us chocolate bars as we rode away. .
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
I ride to my Grammy's house and spend the night. She insists I bring my bike into her carpeted living room and work on it there and explain every little thing I'm doing. She makes me feel so smart, even though all I'm doing is putting the wheels and pedals back on and pumping up the tires and adjusting the handlebars.
Grammy was a Great Lady and the result of an out-of-wedlock conception. My mother told me the story about the big scandal and how my great grandma ran away with my great grandpa to elope and live their lives far away in shame. She made one last call home and my great-great grandma, her mother, answered the phone and insisted they come home for a proper wedding.
Back to the 1990s and my date with a certain bike race in Toronto. I take a bus over the border at Niagara Falls, weekend destination of my childhood. I meet up with friends at the hostel before riding over to the venue - a large warehouse rented by the race sponsors, Dunhill Tobacco and JetFuel Coffee. Bike messengers from near and far will be racing in this giant space over the weekend, on a thing called the Human Powered Rollercoaster - or the HPR.
I'll never forget my first glimpse of the HPR. Built out of plywood and two by fours, it doesn't look quite real. Or maybe it looks too real. Gritty. Not polished or varnished or finished really. hand-built by a team of I don't know who. Exposed everything. A figure eight with a bridge and tunnel. Small, with tight turns. A plywood tarmac. My heart started beating very fast.
Inside one loop of the figure eight: a band. Very loud. Inside the other loop: spectators, racers, fans. I found the line for registered riders and queued up. I was in Canada so I had to queue up instead of wait in line impatiently like Americans do. When I mentioned earlier that I was a big fat bike messenger, I meant it. I was pretty hefty at that time, nowhere near the svelte self I've worked so hard to sculpt out of that other big and burly, but powerful, body.
I pre-rode the track, which wasn't really a track. It was more of a roller coaster. I was on a fixed gear, as was the fashion then. The banks and tight turns were unforgiving and my little KHS frame, you know, the one with the curved seat tube, had some pretty extreme toe overlap. It made for an adrenaline-filled experience.
One of the organizers waved me over. "You can't wear anything that covers the jersey". Sentences that begin with "you can't" don't sit well with me now, much back then in my hyper punk rock rebel f the police days. I asked to talk to the main organizer, head honcho, top guy. I was escorted to an office in the back of the warehouse. There was a very official looking official dude, I think he might've been wearing a suit, or maybe it just felt like he was. He was on the phone and waved for me to sit down. After a heated discussion with whoever was on the other end, he asked me what the problem was.
I went ahead and tried the honest route. I told him I felt really fat-looking in the jersey and wanted to wear my jumper over it. I modeled for him to demonstrate that the sponsor logos still showed beneath the jumper's straps. He nodded at me and said with a smile "of course you can wear your jumper over the jersey". Then he asked if I planned to race in the black chunky heeled loafers I had on. Yes.
One of the other ladies in my heat crashed. She wasn't badly injured, but it enabled me to move on to the next round. I won again, but that was the last time and I was happy to get off of that scary track. Many talented riders ate wood that weekend. There was blood on the track, and that's no story. One dude, piled headfirst into the bridge support and was taken out in an ambulance. He came back later with his jaw wired shut, drinking beer through a straw.
An apparent tradition at this event, for this was the second time it was set up, was for the racers to tear down all of the vinyl banners to take as souvenirs after the last race. A security guard wrenched the banner from my hand, bent my arm behind my back and escorted me outside. I was enraged, but within seconds, he got a call on the radio. He let go of me, apologized, and handed back the banner.
The Human Powered Rollercoaster, sadly, is no more. Some sort of Canadian law was introduced that prohibited tobacco companies from sponsoring athletic events, and that was that.
However, not all was lost. Lifetimes later, here in Portland, Oregon, a local company known as Portland Design Works housed a very tight-turned round wooden track, reminiscent of the HPR but in a figure zero. They named it Circulus and it was thrilling to watch racers on BMX bikes ride around and around and around this very steep-banked, tiny and tantalizing little track.