Monday, October 19, 2015

Asphalt Dreams

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

Drinks With Dave

I woke up Tuesday morning knowing it would be a banner day.  Today I'd get to meet framebuilder extraordinaire, Dave Moulton.  Steel is real and that's what Dave worked with during his framebuilding career, which ended in '93.

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!
It was my first night as a server and I managed to do quite well, only ruining a couple of beers with foamy heads.  I have a new respect for beer-pourers everywhere, or "beeristas".  There's more to it than pulling the lever that I hadn't understood from the other side of the bar.
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


For me, summer started last spring when I separated from my job.  Separated, a politically correct term, fit well.  It felt like a divorce, with all of the pain that implies.  After several months of soul searching and yard work and starting the Bicycle Kitty business, I see now that this change is leading me to a better place.

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.
The vintage ride gave me an excuse to dust off my old pink Torpado.  We rode close to twenty miles, all around the east side, including up Mount Tabor.  The leader offered a beer to anyone who showed up with a suicide shifter or old style derailleur. 
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. 
Riders met in Welches, climbed Lolo Pass, hung around for a while on the gravel descent fixing a flat, and descended into Parkdale.  We were racing daylight, so we crammed in a quick lunch, then rode up Cooper's Spur.  This part is fast for me, because I know there's beer waiting at the lodge up top.  Then up highway 35.  And up.  Slow and hungry, I was seeing stars. 

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!
Soon it was time to head south for my daily dose of hippie-land.  Many adventures and even some misadventures make all of my trips south super fun.  I enjoyed a loop around Dorena Reservoir, some in-town exploration, a visit to Bike Church, even an illegal bridge crossing!
My eleventh STP.  The rally call of ON YOUR LEFT (usually as a "corrective measure" from newbie riders as I passed on their left) still echoes in my ears.  Eleven may be enough.

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).
The rest of summer was whiled away acting as event support for several rides, including the Ride to Defeat ALS right near (but never actually up to) Mount Angel, the Portland Century, and Tour de Lab.  Riding event support is great fun, and free. 
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

Bicycle Kitty Goes Pro!

That's right, cycling fans, I've opened my business!  And you're invited.

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

Ride Around Clark County

The Vancouver Bicycle Club's annual Ride Around Clark County century felt like coming home.  My involvement with this spectacular local club has fallen by the wayside, a casualty of so many other rides on the calendar.  Many people recognized me, and I grabbed a lot of hugs from a lot of good old friends, which felt great.  But it's not just the people that make it feel like home.

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

Why East

I arose at eight on Saturday, bathed til nine, and arrived in Troutdale at ten.  Almost the entire trip there is made up of bike paths, empty except for the odd roadie or dog walker.

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

Oh La La French Toast

When last we visited, dear reader, your authoress had waffled over riding more permanents.  And, since then, the idea that nothing is permanent has been reinforced by a sudden change of scenery.

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

The Sun Sets

I don't care to complain.
Or echo negativity.
I won't live a vindictive life.

My passion is pedaling.
And spreading it. 
My goal: fun.

I've been bullied before,
By better bullies,
They are their own victims.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Our Won

Everything started out fine.  Oatmeal.  Coffee.  It was a bit chillier in Eugene than it had been in Portland in the days leading up to this second attempt of the Alsea Falls 200K permanent.  So cold that puddles were frozen over.  So cold that I took turns putting a hand in my pocket with my little hotties.

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.
Eons later, we arrived at the store in Alsea.  This store has their very own stamp that they use on brevet cards.  In all of the perms I've ridden,  I've never seen such a thing at a country market.  It made the stop extra fun.  Along with the giant bag of potato chips, bag of frozen corn on my knee and chocolate bar for dessert.

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

The Human Powered Rollercoaster

Let's take a trip back in time, to the late '90s.  I am a big fat bike messenger and happy as a clam.  I jump on an aeroplane and land in Rochester, New York, my home town.

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.
The HPR Alley Cat Scramble jersey, which I still own and even wear occasionally, was quite tight and exposed every little bulge.  Self-consciously, I stripped down and started over, this time putting my jersey and shorts on first, then covering it all with a black jumper dress that was my favorite thing then.

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.
I have been lucky many many times in my life, and part of that luck is getting a front row seat in events that are later heralded as historic.  Months later, someone sent me a clipping from a Toronto magazine.  I was named as having won "Best in Show" because of my outfit.  That was the first I time I had heard of it, but it helped explain the small box of goodies I was given at the event.

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.
A seamstress friend made the banner into a jumper dress to wear in the Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in DC the following year.  I didn't win anything, but that same friend made the filmy silver supertar dress that won me "Best Dressed Messenger" at the CMWC in Barcelona in '97.  The CMWC continues to this day, in a different country each year.  This race is completely organized by that city's messengers, who volunteer many hours to put on an event that includes not just a race, but alley cats and film festivals and art showings and concerts - all showcasing the talent stockpiled within the bike messenger community.

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.