Monday, June 30, 2008

Well, we made it!(or who needs a rainfly?)

Well, after much planning, scheduling, making of lists and packing, my daughter and I actually got out of town on time on Friday and hit the road hoping to hook up with Bob and Robyn at some point before we lost cell service. Traffic was bad but not horrible and it looked like we might make it, and we would have if the drive-thru line at In-n-Out hadn’t taken us 20 minutes…..

So, having lost cell reception as we went up Priest Grade, we figured we’d find them at the entrance to the park, just on a whim though we decided to pull into the parking lot of the store in Groveland and sure enough, there’s Bob’s truck.
We met up in the pizza parlor, had a cold drink and got on the road.

After caravanning to the park, getting our bear canister, wilderness permit, parking pass and listening to all the safety rules, we headed down to the backpacker campground for our first night at Hetch Hetchy.
I’ve never been to this part of Yosemite before, and not only is it beautiful but I was amazed at how few people there are compared to the valley.

Once parked, we got our stuff together and the girls found us the perfect spot for our first night.

Saturday dawned clear and warm so after coffee and oatmeal we donned our packs (dang this thing is heavy) and headed out. Actually, it was so warm and nice out that when I noticed I forgot to pack the rainfly back in the pack, we figured we’d just leave it at the truck since we wouldn’t need it anyway.…

We stopped on the dam for the “before” shot and then headed out. We took our time and stopped a lot for pictures and to rest. We spent a while at Wapama Falls which is spectacular and with all the snow melt, gets you nice and wet (and cool) as you cross the bridge.

Later we stopped for lunch, (mmmm… peanut butter and bananas on pita bread) and then again at another little falls just before the last big uphill to the campsite.

Well, with all the dallying we did on the way out, the last portion didn’t start until about 1:00 pm which means it’s now about 95 degrees. And guess what, the last portion is uphill and pretty barren so it’s not bad enough that I’m walking uphill with a pack that now weighs about a million pounds (it’s a scientific fact that stuff left in a pack all day actually increases in weight as the day progresses) but now the sun is at its peak, its the hottest part of the day and there is absolutely NO SHADE!!

I think the worst part is that we didn’t bring a map since it’s a well marked trail and now we really have no idea how far we have left. It’s one thing to suffer for a while if you know the end is near, but to be walking uphill in the sun with no idea how much longer it will go on really kinda sucks. Thankfully, we were almost there and came to the top of the hill and found the campsite.
After dropping the packs and setting up the tents we went and sat in the river. Ah….to feel human again….

After lounging by the river, filling all the water containers again with the pump/filter we kicked back for a nice afternoon rest. Soon though, the clouds started rolling in….sure enough, the heat of the early afternoon gave way to late afternoon thundershowers….the whole lighting, thunder, rain thing that is common to the sierras in the summer.
And, of course, geniuses that we are, we had decided to leave the rainfly at the truck remember….
It’s ok though, it passed through fairly quickly and we had a great evening feasting on chili that Bob and Christina made and in turn being feasted on by the mosquitoes.

Sunday we got up, had coffee and headed down the hill. Robyn was suffering pretty badly with her blisters and actually ended up hiking about 4 miles out in her flip flops. One of the challenges with hiking in flip flops is they tend to flip and flop off when you’re walking. No problem….we have duct tape!

All in all, the hike out went by in a little more than half the time that the hike in did and other than resting for a bit at Wapama Falls, we pretty much just booked it back out. Both Christina and I decided that when hiking we’d rather just put our head down, go to our happy place and hike until we’re done. The stopping and starting and resting and getting going again seemed to actually make it harder.

All in all an amazing trip and a great time spent with my daughter, brother and niece. Next year though, we’re doing 3 days so we have one day as down time to just mess around.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A change of pace….

So, this weekend I’m not riding my bike. There, I’ve said it out loud. I think in the 12 step program that’s the first step anyway…..
Seriously though, my brother and I are taking our daughters backpacking up in the sierras.

I’m actually pretty excited. I used to backpack a little bit back in the 70s but haven’t been since. I love the outdoors and the sierras especially. Anytime I can get away from the city and get up into the mountains, I’m a happy guy.

Usually though when I head to the hills, it’s a car camping trip or a fishing trip so I’m only limited by the amount of stuff I can haul in a full sized truck, which is a LOT. I bring a big ice chest for drinks (read beer) and another for food. I have folding chairs, tents, lanterns, air beds, night lights, stoves, pots, pans, etc, etc….

This whole idea of carrying everything I'll need for 7 miles, mostly uphill, on my back could be kind of tricky. After all, a full weekend is at least a couple six packs and there’s no way I’m hauling a couple of six packs in my pack. Besides, that would mean warm beer and that’s just wrong.

My daughter, who is home on summer break from college, was pretty excited as well. At least until it dawned on her that there were no developed bathrooms. (funny how that tempered her enthusiasm)

So, having not been backpacking since the 70s and not having very good memories of the food when we did backpack, I’ve been scouring websites and books for ideas and recipes for what to bring. After all, I regularly eat a lot and expect that after hiking all day, it will only be worse.

REI though has been very helpful. It was there that they rented me a pack big enough to hold every stitch of clothing I own and a tent so small I can’t imagine fitting inside.
They helped me with ideas for food, (evidently it’s only the hardcore and the total novices that buy that freeze dried stuff) everyone else has normal stuff they like. I never would have thought of pitas instead of bread.

They also helped me understand how to correctly fit a pack. (you mean these things aren’t supposed to hurt like heck all day long?) as well as what type of clothes to bring and not bring.
Of course they also sell everything you need, but since we’re not sure how much we’ll like this backpacking thing I figured it best to rent.

Anyway, tomorrow afternoon we leave for the mountains. We’ll drive up and spend the night in the back of my truck then hit the trail first thing Saturday morning. I get the feeling that Saturday night we’ll look fondly back at just how comfy the carpeted bed of a truck with a campershell can be……stay tuned for further developments and pictures......

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Once a year whether I like it or not……

Every year for the past 3 or so years, I’ve made a point of climbing Mt Diablo on my road bike at least once a year. It’s a pretty tough climb at about 3300 ft in just under 11 miles and I’d love to say it’s gotten easier over time, but I’d be lying.

Obviously, it’s not as hard as the first time I climbed it, but then again the first time, I didn’t really know what I was in for, so maybe that’s not true.
The first time we did the ride, I was actually excited. It was a major milestone for me and I approached the whole climb with that mindset. It was a long tough climb, but it didn’t really seem that bad.
The other times I’ve climbed it have been both easier and harder. I think they’re easier in that I know I can do it and I’m in better shape, but I think it’s also harder because you know full well just how long the climb is. There’s no hope that “hey, maybe we’re close” plus there’s the knowledge of what’s in store on that last section.

Last night was the first time this year for the mountain and it was a great ride. We started at 5 in the evening thinking it would be cool by then. Um… not really. My computer showed 102 but actually dropped to 99 as we left the parking lot in Danville.
The climb was warm the entire way, but there were some pretty nice breezes which really kept it nice.
For my buddy Jack this was to be his first time to the very top and he did awesome. We took our time and chatted the whole way. The views from the top are always amazing. Sky is a little hazy due to all the fires, but the wind really helped clean things out.

Of course the downhill is the best part of the ride and we had a great time. With the exception of that one idiot on the harley that couldn’t stay in his own lane. I met him coming down a fast smooth, perfectly banked right hander and squeezed by without any incident other than an elevated heart rate. ( and total disdain for motorcycle riders that can’t control their bikes) The road is in excellent shape except for a couple of places where they’re installing drainage across the road.

We saw a couple of coyotes at one point and stopped to try to get a picture, unfortunately it didn’t come out that well.

All in all, a great evening and an awesome ride!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

No, I don't race.....

So, there’s a time trial coming up at the end of the month.( I refuse to call it a race because I don’t race) It’s being held by Cyclepath and is going to be from the golf course to the second bench up Brandon Trail.
Now, I have to admit, I hate this climb. I’ve been doing this loop fairly regularly over the last year and this climb ALWAYS sucks….it seems that no matter how many times I do it or how good of shape I think I’m in, this hill kicks my a$$ every time.

So, last night, just for grins, I wore my watch and timed myself going up the hill. It took me 14 minutes and I felt like that was a pretty respectable time. (Although, at the top I was pretty sure I was going to be seeing the salami sandwich I had for lunch again.)
So, as the others came up, we were all congratulating ourselves on what peak physical specimens we were and how impressed we were with ourselves when another guy rode up and as he got to the top he immediately looked at his watch.

We assumed correctly that he was training for the ride and asked him what his time was.
(thus began the feelings of hatred toward a total stranger) He said, “well, I haven’t been riding much so I’m pretty far off my best, but I did it in 10:40…….”
He then went on to tell us that he was 58 and used to be much faster and was sure if he trained more he could get it down near 10 even…..(hmm…wonder if the rangers would find his body if we threw him off the cliff)
The more we talked, or more correctly, the more he talked, the stronger the feelings became that maybe there is such a thing as justifiable homicide.
He went on to explain that the race…oops, the time trial, will be a lot of fun and we should come out anyway. Afterall, there are some people that will take as long as 17-19 minutes to finish the climb….. 17-19 minutes?????? I about lost my lunch to get to 14 and he’s making it sound like I should have been doing it in a wheel chair at that pace….

Well, before we acted on our feelings of anger and did throw this guy over the cliff with his bike shoved way up his……anyway, we decided to pedal off and spent the rest of the evening rationalizing our performance…..afterall, I was wearing a camelback with a gallon of water, and my bike had a frame pump and seatbag attached, so that probably accounted for a couple of minutes….and I did have that salami sandwich for lunch so that slowed me down.….and besides, my tires still had winter air in them and we all know summer air is much lighter and pedals easier……


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Do you know your barber?

Kind of a silly question right? Of course you know your barber, you see him every few weeks, trust him to cut your hair and socialize with him for the 15-20 minutes your there.
(Of course in my case it’s every 4-6 weeks and it takes less than 10 minutes since I have very little hair)

I know my barber. His name was Tony, he’s retired from another industry, he has kids that live somewhere out of state, he and his wife live somewhere near the shop and someday he’s going to retire to be nearer to his kids.

Evidently, I don’t know him as well as I thought. I went by a couple of weeks ago for my haircut and there was a sign that says closed until further notice.
Ok, so maybe he’s on vacation or came down with the flu…..
I went by this past weekend and now there’s a For Lease sign in the window…..
Now I’m curious and kind of concerned. Did he suddenly and without warning decide to retire? Is there an illness? Did he move away?

This shop has been in this same strip mall for at least 10 years, probably more like 20, and Tony has been the barber there since forever. Someone must know what’s going on….
I went in to the beauty salon next door and they have no idea and don’t seem to care. I went in to the cigarette/water store on the other side and he didn’t know and didn’t seem to care either.

I was totally annoyed and disgusted that his “neighbors” had absolutely no clue about where he went or what had happened and, apparently no concern either. And then I started to think about our neighbors….

What really struck me about this, in addition to the inconvenience of having to find a new barber, was that this is really a glimpse into what has happened with our sense of community or neighborhood.
When I was growing up, my parents knew all of their immediate neighbors and some or most of those up and down the block.
Now...I know and talk to 2 of my current neighbors, I regularly wave at but don’t interact with maybe 6 or 7, I recognize the cars of maybe a dozen or so, but that’s about it. Of the 100 or so homes in our tract, I can recognize maybe a total of 12-15 people

I wonder if something catastrophic happened in our household and we ended up moving quickly, how many of our neighbors would even notice?

Why don’t we have the same level of community that we had growing up? Are people so busy they don’t have time to interact with their neighbors? Are we so afraid that we lock ourselves in our houses? Are we so enthralled with that big electronic box in the family room that we sit in front of it mindlessly waiting for it to make us feel connected?

Last night my wife and I took a walk in our neighborhood and actually spoke to several of the people that we saw outside. We need to do this more……connecting is good…..

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The clean garage…

As I’ve stated before, I’m not really good at the whole sit down and relax thing. I like to be busy and when I’m not busy, I like to putter. I used to enjoy going out to the garage after dinner, turning on some music, opening a beer and puttering.

The problem is, that the over the past year with the kitchen remodel, the backyard renovation, two kids moving out and just general busy-ness, the garage has gone from my sanctuary, to the fourth circle of hell.

Thankfully, my eldest daughter and my wife gave me an early Father’s day gift this past weekend. They cleaned my garage. Now for many of you, that’s really not a big deal, but then again, you’ve never seen my garage.
My garage is approximately 20’ x 20’ and is supposed to be a two car garage. In reality, I’m lucky if I can put my motorcycle and all my bikes in there at one time.
Evidently, I have too much STUFF.

Well, in an effort to avoid moving to a bigger place with more room for my stuff, I decided it was time to clean my garage.
And we did, top to bottom, side to side. We filled the garbage can, a couple of bags and half my truck with trash. The other half of my truck is full of “stuff” I have to drop off at goodwill this afternoon.
The funny thing is that almost everything that is going to goodwill, is something that we bought at one time or another and felt we just had to have. It’s weird how time changes stuff from the latest and greatest and must-haves to crap in the garage that you need to get rid of so you can have your space back.

In addition to the fact that now all my tools are actually where they belong, and I can get to my bikes when I need to, the garage is actually a place I can go to relax and tinker, or putter or just hide out.
Of course, now I have to deal with the issue of where we put everything since I know when we put it away, it was someplace I’d be sure to find it……speaking of which, where did I put that bottle opener?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mmmmm….BEER….Homer must have been a Mt Biker…..

I’ve never really been a big fan of all the prime time cartoons that are on these days, which is weird actually, as I was a cartoon fanatic as a kid. As a matter of fact there really isn’t very much on TV these days if you don’t like cartoons or reality shows…..but that’s a different topic.

One cartoon character that does really resonate well with me though, is Homer Simpson. Not because I particularly like the Simpsons, because I’ve never really been able to get into that, but there’s something very likable about a guy that understands the value of beer.
Granted his standards for beer are probably a little less finicky than mine, but still, he understands how important beer is to our lives.

I’ve looked at some of his more famous quotes and they fit in perfectly with situations I deal with weekly……
After a long hard ride where your brain is disconnected from your mouth….
Homer no function beer well without.
When frustrated because the part for your bike hasn’t come in and you can’t ride…
Beer... Now there's a temporary solution.
When facing a long tough climb that you don’t want to do and your brain is telling you to go back home…..
All right, brain. You don't like me and I don't like you, but let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.

So, as you can clearly see, there are real indications that Homer was at some point in his life a mountain biker.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

On eating and riding…..

I often joke to my riding buddies that the only reason I ride is so that I can get away with eating anything I want and drinking all the beer that I want. And this is only partly in jest.

I quickly realized after I got into biking a couple of years ago that one side effect was that I was always hungry. And I don’t mean always as in usually. I mean ALWAYS, as in constantly hungry, never not hungry, hungry like I hadn’t eaten in a week type hungry.
And this was actually ok. I was putting in a lot of miles and I could get away with eating whatever was in sight.
The problem with that is that eating is habit forming. I got used to snacking all day, then eating a good sized lunch and dinner and then having a handful of cookies in the evening.
And again, this was fine…..until I cut back on the riding……

This year has been busier. I’ve gotten involved in some community activities, I’ve got projects ongoing at home, work is busy…..whatever the excuse, the reality is my mileage has gone down, but my intake hasn’t. Not good.

Last night, this really hit home.....Recently, I ordered my new favorite jersey from Twin Six – it’s the Fat Cyclist jersey and it’s awesome. The funny thing is that I ordered an XL and after putting it on last night for a ride, I actually took it back off to see if they sent me the wrong size. Um…no...
I’m pretty sure I looked like an overstuffed kielbasa in a jersey that was obviously mis-labeled. There’s no way that an XL is that tight. So, just for grins I pulled out the scale and stepped on…..well obviously that thing is all messed up too, because the numbers that came up were way more than they were at this time last year…..

Today for lunch I think I’ll have lettuce…..

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why fishing is better than biking…

This past weekend my buddies and I went on our annual boy's fishing weekend. This is the 20th annual and as I sat on the shore of the lake Sunday morning drinking my coffee and clearing the cobwebs from the night before, it dawned on me that this is way better than biking.

- Although they both involve being outside and biking can be done in the mountains, fishing in the mountains is relaxing and biking in the mountains is ….well anything BUT relaxing
- Fishing can be done with beer in hand – biking involves a plastic bottle of lukewarm water or some other slightly citrus-y, foul tasting beverage
- After a long day fishing in the mountains you can still function normally and can even stay up late playing darts and stupid drinking games. After a long day biking in the mountains, you feel close to death and struggle to put together coherent sentences
- You’re not worried about how your dinner, drinking or cigars are going to affect your fishing performance the next day
- You wear normal clothes when fishing
- You wear normal shoes when fishing

Ok, so the downside is that if you fish more than you ride, your normal clothes won’t fit, your doctor bill will be higher, your life expectancy will be lower and the cost of blood pressure and cholesterol meds will drive you to bankruptcy…..but other than that fishing is way better