Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Smooth Moovers

I finally lost my bike move virginity - the very same day I lost my trailer-dragging virginity.
Time was short to get from the shop ride I led that morning up to Ed & Steph's on Alberta.  I was relieved as I sprinted up to see pylons marking parking spaces filled with people and their bikes and trailers.

Still, I only had my road bike.  Not even a rack or bag to carry stuff.  I found Steph and asked how I could help.  She sent me to Aaron, who promptly linked this awesome little trailer to the SOMA.  In the trailer?  Tires!  That's right, bicycle tires!  What could be more perfect for the tire-dork to tow?
After what felt like a small amount of preparation, probably because I arrived late, we were off.  All seventy of us, riding together and snaking through the streets side by side.  There were all sorts of cyclists and lots of different types of bikes.

I watched one woman run across the street and into her house, yelling, "come out, come out, you have to see this!".  It was quite a spectacle.  Along with the heavy loads and big smiles, the thing that impressed me was how strictly we followed traffic laws.  If the light turned red, the group that made it through the green would wait up ahead.
Ten miles later, we arrived at the new house in the Lents neighborhood.  The 2 bedroom house suddenly seemed like a clown house with oodles of people packing in boxes and trying to get back out.  Ed & Steph's mothers had prepared a feast for everyone and there was even a keg to enjoy.  What a celebration!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birkie 200K

Leaving Forest Grove at the late hour of 8:30am, I steeled myself for a cold morning, afternoon and evening   Even with the delayed start time, pavement was slick with white frost and a thick freezing fog hung in the air.  My mood was low; my mantra "pedal, head down, pedal, head down".

Less than five miles later, something miraculous happened.  Suddenly, the fog spit me out into a surreal sunny valley with a blue sky ceiling. The rest of the daylit hours, although bitterly cold, stayed sunny and clear. 

Timber Road featured a pleasantly warming climb and stunning views.  The air was too cold for my phone so I wasn't able to snap any pictures.  I'd been here before but couldn't recall the descent into the town of Timber, "no services".  Big winding switchbacks with diagonal tracks at the bottom and about a billion barking dogs refreshed my memory.

On to Vernonia.  A quick control rest stop to warm toes revealed that the little hotties' promise of eight hours was a lie.  They barely lasted three.  A fun little info control spur took us out on Keasey Road.  Pretty and peaceful, I regretted turning back after finding the clue. 

More miles and abundant daylight lulled me into a relaxed pace to Birkenfeld.  Almost there, we encountered a spot where a car had slipped off the curving road and into the ditch.  It laid there on its back like a dead bug.

Full fat milk at the Birk, along with nuts and chocolate and chips, spelled stomach ache for the next hour or so.  It's a continuing lesson to eat less than I'd like on these endurance rides.  Back, past the flipped pick up truck, back, back to the Black Bear cafe. 
Fresh hotties and hot tea felt well-deserved.  There was time to rest my stocking feet against the big central stove before hurrying back out.  On our way again, the mountains robbed us of a sunset, forcing early goodbyes to that beautiful golden orb.  Bye bye sun.  Come again tomorrow, won't you please?

This is where the hard part starts.  There's no way to beat a plummeting temperature.  It races down faster than my fastest speed on my fastest day.  The cold enveloped me.  There was nowhere to hide.   Numb toes gave way to numb feet.  The parts of me that were warm earlier were long gone now.

Another icy corner tossed a car in a ditch.  The little family of four stood in the street in appallingly little gear.  Offers of help from cyclists probably seemed empty to them but we would've given up candy for the kids and a blinky for safety.  They shooed us away anyway, confident that triple A would be there momentarily.

A flat tire at the top of Timber did me in.  The cold seeped up from the ground, past my feet, into my ankles.   Finally fixed, the descent began.  The streets looked like someone had painted them solid white.  My normally consistent fear receded behind my cold, shaking shoulders.

The Glenwood control created a communication cluster that had me in tears.  I am learning that I gather up problems until they overflow me.  More important, I am learning how to access the logical part of my brain no matter how cold or miserable or unhappy I feel.  Stopping to freak out only makes things worse.

It's an important skill to separate physical and emotional discomfort, suffering, even crisis, from the coherent, analytical thinking required in extreme circumstances.  One approach is to plan ahead: practice reactions in your head.  If hypothermia threatens, having your brain readily available can prevent panic. Learning to think when thinking seems out of touch is pivotal. 

What it all really boils down to is this: pedal or not pedal.  Go back or go forward.  The answer is almost always pedal.  Go forward.  Continue ahead and leave everything else behind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nature is pretty.

Even the cold, icy streets with their trails of snowy wisps have a certain beauty to them if one can divorce oneself from the terror that slippery bike rides strike into one's heart. 

How's that for a sentence?

Also, as a footnote, the bus is heated and has good reading lights, not to mention a bike rack on front to open up transportation options. 

The excitement for 2013, with all the goals of racing and weight loss and hill conquering and long loaded tours and racking up Rando numbers is only beat by anticipation of temperatures soaring into the 40s.  Or 50s! Cold snap cabin fever, I believe they call it.

In other, potentially unrelated news, people can be heard calling themselves lazy or out of shape this time of year.  It's complete BS, of course.  It's ok to hibernate a little in the winter.  Put on a small layer of bear fat for a couple of weeks, then dig yourself back out of the dark and dive in!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bye Bye Bike Club

After three years of serving on the board of the Vancouver Bike Club, after three years of driving to the monthly meetings, three years of answering all manner of complaints, three years of wrestling members into volunteering, three years of being "in charge" and referred to by many as "Madame Prez", I am officially done.

Well, kind of.  I'm still managing the google e-mail group, which some are resistant to or unable to use for reasons that boggle. The bylaw changes and amendments still need to be finalized.  And of course, I'll still lead rides.  But, for the most part, the club will continue without me.  A new board is in place and comprised of very experienced and capable folks with great attitudes. 

At the big January club meeting, where we celebrate the previous year's accomplishments and hand out ride leader rewards, I bequeathed the big pink conch shell of a whistle that was given to me at the onset of my "administration".  You can see the new president in the background sporting this handy little piece of plastic. 

They gave me, in addition to a big round of applause and many personal thank yous and handshakes, this book.  Road To Valor is about a cyclist who helped World War II end by smuggling important documents rolled up and stuffed into his seat tube.  An important courier for the cause, if you will.

I walked out of the meeting with a light feeling in the shoulders.  Maybe that's the shiatsu massage I had earlier in the week.  Or maybe it's the prospect of more free time.  Free time I can spend reading the book they gave me.  Or painting valve caps!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bonus Miles

Well, you were going to find out sooner or later, dear reader, so I may as well spill it.  I wrecked my car.  It was a dark and stormy night.  It was a wet and curvy off-ramp.  It was a game of ping pong, or maybe pinball, and I lost.

Correction: I didn't really lose because I didn't hurt anyone and didn't get hurt myself, except for a stiff neck that my car insurance is now paying to get cracked and massaged.  Since the day after Thanksgiving, your favorite blogger (that's me, right?!) has been living the car-free lifestyle.  Again. 

I proudly lived car-free for five years in Chicago, a decade in San Francisco, a year or so in Eugene, and three in Portland.  I finally caved in to the pressure to get a car when my lower back gave out and biking and busing were no longer options.  But, here I am again.  Hopefully, I'm way less self-righteous about it this time around.

Calling it the car-free lifestyle is misleading.  It's also the chauffeur lifestyle because I get rides from friends to out of town destinations and even the grocery store sometimes.  The nice people at Amazon have agreed to drive all the heavy items I need right to my front door.  I've even bartered firewood for a ride to the sewing machine repair store.

I plan to forge ahead, fordless, or chevyless in this case, and just deal.  Being deliberate about rest is a good practice, so I'm commuting by bus one day a week.  My commute is twenty miles round trip so one day off helps free up some leg power for higher mileage weekends, because, after all, bicycling is my hobby too.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Learning to live with fear has been a highlight of 2012.  I don't aim to conquer fear.  Acknowledging it and saying yes anyway is where it's at.
Practicing being present and riding only this one little section of gravel or mud or snow or ice.  Forgetting about how far from home or how unlikely it seems I will ever return there.
Willingness to fail or fall or both.  Singing at the top of my lungs.  Telling my friends I'm having a little trouble with fear today.  These are the tricks that get me further up the road. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crown Point

Customer Cynthia and I had planned to ride together for weeks.  She lives out Troutdale way and I was poking around on the map looking for the perfect route.  Typically I'd choose Vista House but the Crown Point Highway has been closed for construction all fall and winter and will be into the spring. 

Then another customer dropped in and mentioned he's friendly with the construction contractor working on the highway project.  You must ride out to to Vista House this weekend, he said.  It's closed to cars but open to bikes!

So, Saturday morning found me pedaling eastbound on the Springwater Corridor to meet up at the general store.  We continued east together, over the bridge and through the woods and up the little ascent to the road closure sign.
Then down and around the bend, on new pavement, to the best views around.  There was snow on the mountains and the air felt frigid.  We only stayed for a minute.  On the way back up. we saw frozen rock walls.

And we encountered a small group of male roadies.  We passed them, then they passed us, then we went up Woodard while they went the easy way. We saw them again at Otto Miller and taunted them.  Come get us!  Come and catch us!  And away we rode up the hill.