Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sunday Muddy Sunday…..

Ok, so my recent mt bike ride has nothing to do with political unrest, there were no soldiers shooting and although I probably have some U2 on my iPod somewhere, I’m not quite sure what the tie in here is…….except that I rode my bike on Sunday and ended up really muddy.

It seems like it’s been raining since beginning of time which pretty much sucks. Add to that the fact that I was dealing with a major Christmas toy, present, shopping and extended family hangover and you still end up with me….but a really cranky version of me.

I needed to get outside and burn off some energy. Originally the plan was to take the road bike out and get in some miles. Jerry and his neighbor Bob though, had an even better plan. They wanted to ride up the road to the top of the hill behind Cal State and then take the greenbelt trail back down.

I really like this route. It’s not a particularly difficult ride since all the uphill is on the road, but it’s a REALLY fun ride since the entire dirt portion is downhill, the trail tends to get very little traffic and there was a good chance we were going to get muddy. Yep, every time mud is involved in a ride, my inner child rears his head and screams like banshee at the top of his lungs.

And this ride disappoint him at all. The weather was clear, but cool. The traffic was light on the road portion and once we got to the dirt the fun really began. The trail was muddy but not really bad and the trail was empty. We ripped and we roared, my inner child and I. We slipped and slid on steep parts and around the corners, we motored up the climbs and over every little roller we tried our hardest to see if we could fly….

Eventually though, we came to the bottom and there was nothing left but a pretty good little climb back up to Jerry’s house…..all in all a great day and the perfect antidote to Christmas and rain overload……and way better than Irish revolts being put down with violence.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exercising Our Demons….

I have to say, I actually really enjoy the holidays. Yes, the stress level is high, I hate shopping, I don’t like putting up the Christmas decorations, I don’t like wrapping presents, I don’t like assembling the fake tree with all of its million pieces, I don’t like going to the mall, I don’t like crowds, I could do without seeing most of the extended family and I don’t like the size of my Visa bill afterwards……but other than that I LOVE the holidays….

This year, in addition to all the normal holiday stuff, we can throw in family health challenges, issues our kids are dealing with, health issues with elder parents, financial challenges related to work circumstances and an almost insane amount of job stress and it’s like life is piling on layers and layers until I can’t even find my real self beneath it all.

I’m normally a pretty happy go lucky guy. I tend not to stress about stuff and I’m normally in a pretty good mood (despite what my daughters say) So, what to do….what to do…..well it’s pretty simple really…..whenever I feel like my internal stress thermostat is getting into the red zone, I just get on my bike and ride myself into an exercise induced coma…

Last Thursday night was our annual NiteDawgs Christmas ride and party. It had been raining all week, but thankfully, Wednesday and Thursday we supposed to be clear and dry….and they were for the first half of the ride anyway.

I still have the SS torn apart and really need to get it back together. In the meantime though, I’ve got the squishy bike totally dialed in now so as we started out on the 10 hills trail I just flipped the lever on the shock, downshifted and enjoyed a nice cushy spin up and down the hills.

I stood on the climbs since that’s what I’m used to, but I pretty much just let the bike do it’s thing as I felt the stress of the day falling off like melting ice from a warm rooftop. Every climb burned the life out of my legs and left more of the day on the trail behind me and every downhill ripped my life’s stress away and let it flutter into the wind behind me….

By the time we regrouped at the stone bridge I actually felt normal again. I was tired and muddy and happy to be alive. The climb out of the canyon only further wore out my legs and enhanced my feeling of well being.

Eventually, we made it back to the theater where we changed into less muddy clothes, enjoyed our Christmas celebration and the fellowship that comes from spending time with good friends…..this afterall, is what Christmas is supposed to be about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the Season Begins….

Last week Tuesday I took the day off and along with my buddy Chris and his buddy David, we headed to Sugar Bowl for a mid-week ski day.

The challenge in taking mid-week days is that you have to be somewhat flexible and really pay attention to the weather. For this reason, I’ve always been honest with my boss when taking ski days. It’s just too hard to call in sick, then change your mind and move the flu to the next day if a storm comes through.

We had planned it the week prior based on and it actually worked out perfectly, we had bluebird skies, they had received a few inches of new snow the evening before and we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. I don’t think we ever got in a lift line with more than 1-2 people in front of us.

The tough part about such perfect days this early in the season is that I’m not in good enough shape to really take advantage of them. Every time we got into the heavy snow my legs started complaining so we stayed on the groomers. Even then, with no-one on the mountain and no-one in line we were burning up runs so fast my legs were pretty much toast by 2:00…

Chris’ knee seemed to be doing well, his buddy David was a crazy fast and crazy good skier so I was killing myself trying to keep up and was glad when they said they were done for the day and ready for a beer.

All in all we had a great day with good friends, great weather, good snow and no crowds…..I don’t know if I’ll ever ski another weekend again…
(note - I forgot my camera so all I have is this one cell phone picture)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here We Go Again….

It’s amazing to me just how quickly this year has gone by….I know as we get older we all say that time just flies by but this year seems to have gone especially fast.
The upside to Summer and Fall whizzing by so quickly is that ski season is here and I love ski season. The downside is that just this week I registered for two rides for next season, the first of which is in March and is WAY beyond my current fitness level. The other is the Death Ride which is not only way above my fitness level, but is a ride I’ve attempted twice and failed to complete both times.

I’m not sure why I keep doing this. I tend to agree to things and then later wonder what the heck I was thinking….I was looking through last years posts and found the one about BHAGs and that’s pretty much my plan for this year as well.

I’ve got a couple major rides scheduled and will attempt to fill in the empty spaces with either training rides or organized rides that will hopefully get me to the point where it’s not a full year of suffering one ride after another.

For the most part, the rides I do are pretty easy. I try to stay within my comfort zone and not really work too hard.(it’s pretty much my mantra in all aspects of my life) This year though, I’ve got 3 rides that concern me. The first is in March and thanks to our “friends” Bob and Leticia several of us have signed up for the Hells Gate Hundred. (funny, these are the same people that got us to do the Medocino Monster last year, why do I even listen to their ideas?)

The Hells Gate Hundred is in Death Valley, is 100 miles and has 8500ft of climbing…..yeah, I know….idiot!

After the Hell’s Gate Hundred we have the Sea Otter Classic in mid-April. This is actually a fun one and the only actual “race” I do.  Like last year, I’ll do this on the single speed.  Unlike last year, they have no Cat 3 Single Speed division this year, so I’m in the Cat 2 category which doesn’t really mean much.  I’ll be getting my butt kicked in either category, the problem is that in Cat 2 the course is 20.2 miles instead of 13 or 14 miles that it was last year.  The last big ride I have scheduled is the Death Ride in July.  This ride just plain sucks and if I had actually finished one of the other two times I attempted it, I probably wouldn’t be doing it this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish and therefore am required to continue trying until I do.

The other challenge I’m having in thinking about next year is that my current level of fitness is probably the lowest it’s been, cycling-wise, in the past few years. I don’t think I’ve ridden my road bike more than 2-3 times since the Death Ride in July. I’ve been riding 1-2x per week most weeks, but it’s all been on the mt bike. The longest ride is probably the 40 miles we did in the rain in Lodi…I have been going to the gym though and doing some other stuff, but I’m definitely heading into winter this year in a very un-fit state….

Oh well, I guess since I've survived this long, it can't be that bad.....I mean afterall, what could possibly go wrong????

Monday, December 6, 2010

The competitors.….

I forgot my iPod!!!  I realized this as I got out of the truck Saturday morning in front of the 24hr fitness….this was the second time I had been here this week and I wasn’t really happy about it. Especially knowing I was going to have to endure an hour of house music when I’d much rather be out riding my bike on the trails listening to the leaves under my tires, the chirping of the birds, anything but house music....Unfortunately, between everything going on at work, the rain we’ve had and the early darkness of winter, it hasn’t worked out that way. I guess a couple of miles on the treadmill and some time with the weights is better than nothing….

I’ve resolved to try to stay in shape this winter. I’m not going to use the cold, the wet and the darkness as an excuse to slack off in the hopes that I can gain it all back come Spring because that’s getting harder and harder to do. As I’ve gotten older it seems like, not only do I have to work harder to stay at the same level of fitness, but time off affects me much more dramatically than it did when I was younger.

In addition, with my back acting up, and the doctors not having any solutions other than drugs, fitness is my only defense against immobility and constant pain….so here I am. It’s 7:00am on a Saturday morning and I’m on the treadmill lumbering along like an overweight gorilla, sucking in huge mouthfuls of stale inside air while the kid next to me runs like a rabbit, barely breaking a sweat and chatting up the girl in the too tight shorts wearing full makeup on his right…

That’s ok, this is what it’s all about right?….we suffer now so we can enjoy the rides, the ski days, the races and not suffer later….Right? Wrong! It’s totally wrong and it’s a lie….I’ll still suffer later, my legs will still ache and quiver from exhaustion on the last ski run of the day, my lungs will still burn and struggle for air on the last mile of the weekly ride or the last half of whatever stupid race I get talked into riding in….no matter how much I train or how much I suffer in preparation, it seems I still suffer later…..So why bother? Why not just sit on the couch and watch football all day instead of going for a ride or going for a run? Why not just relax and take it easy?

Because although, I’m going to suffer later, I’m hoping that I’m not suffering as much as my friends and that’s REALLY what it’s all about….keeping up with the fast guys on the last climb or beating the young guys to the bottom of the mountain, or getting to the end of a sprint and standing around waiting for the others to catch their breath while I'm making small talk. Telling them it’s no big deal when you all know it IS a big deal….it’s the only deal…..

As we get older there are no more playground bullies to stand up to, no more school sports activities to measure ourselves by, no more corner offices to strive for…..there are only our friends to compete with. Other old fat guys just like us fighting the same age related injuries and illness, the same too much work, too little training time schedules....these are our competitors, our friends. Most of who are just like us. They too want to be the first one up the climb or down the mountain or across the finish line…..and that’s why I’m here, at the gym running on a treadmill when hopefully my friends are still home warm in their beds…..

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DATMBA 2010 – Joaquin Miller/Redwood Park adventure

Wow, 3 weeks since my last post…..sorry about that, this work crap is really starting to get in the way of my life….

Anyway, I got up Friday morning with a food hangover….you know how it is when you totally pig out the night before and then wake up starving….it’s like you stuff your stomach so much that it stretches and in the morning there’s this big empty spot waiting to be filled up again…

The girls had gotten up early to head out to join the insanity that was Black Friday. I was up a little later, but still early enough that the lawn was white with frost and the thermometer on the garage wall said 31 degrees…are we really riding in this weather?

After a bowl of cereal, putting on every piece of cold weather gear I own, loading up my stuff, filling the camelbak and heading out to pick up Tracy, it had warmed to a reasonable 36 degrees…..ok, this is nuts!

As the sun came up though, we could tell it was going to be a nice day. We pulled in to the parking lot for the dog park at Joaquin Miller and the others began arriving. Jack, Troy, Annie, John, Jerry, Nick, Chris, Evan…but no Xing…..where was he? It’s not that we necessarily needed him for the ride, but he promised to bring his amazing bbq ribs and that was one of the only reasons I even crawled out of my nice warm bed this morning.

Eventually though he pulled in and we prepared to take off. He later admitted he went by Office Max since they were having a great deal on memory cards…..whatever….he brought the ribs so all is forgiven…

Joaquin Miller starts with a nice downhill, then a little rolling but mostly level trail which leads you to what I found out is called 2 buck hill.

It's steeper than it looks

Evidently, in the group Chris rides with, everyone puts 2 bucks in the kitty and whoever actually makes the climb, wins the pot.
We didn’t do that and it’s a good thing…..everyone walked the hill, some even after multiple attempts…I on the other hand made a feeble effort, got a little ways up and promptly got off and walked. (a smart man knows his limitations and going uphill is definitely one of my limitations)

Once you get to the top of 2 buck hill, the trail wanders along the side of the canyon for quite a ways. Weaving in and out amongst the trees with gorgeous views of the City at several points.

Eventually it turns inland though and as we cross Skyline Bl it goes from Joaquin Miller over to Redwood regional park. One of the highlights of Redwood Regional is the a long steep downhill section where I was able to really appreciate the full suspension 29er. I had ridden this before on both a hardtail and my rigid single speed….and the full suspension is waaaaay more fun.

As the saying goes, what goes down must go back up, and for the next several miles you climb…..and climb….the first section is a long steep fire road that is so steep and had me spending so much time on the very nose of my seat that I really felt like my seat should buy me dinner…..(if you don’t get that joke, nevermind)

The rest of the climb isn’t too bad since the trail follows the edge of the canyon and rolls up and down all the while gaining elevation. The only downside is that this is a pretty busy area of the park, so you can’t really enjoy the downhill for fear of running over hikers, runners, kids, dogs, etc….

As we rolled into the parking lot on Skyline to regroup I decided to use the restroom…..sorry lady for walking in on you, but there’s a reason they put locks on doors in public restrooms….dang, who knew women could scream like that?

After regrouping we headed out on the west side of the park. The trails here are really nice and the area is very pretty, but you have to be careful of all the pedestrians…everyone was pleasant and the interactions were friendly. I can see though how the shared use issue could be a problem if you had riders that either weren’t paying attention or didn’t care and flew around the corners.

After coming back around to Skyline Bl you cross over back into Joaquin Miller Park and the fun begins in earnest. The next section, Big Trees Trail is fast swoopy downhill single track with very few other users….unfortunately it’s not a very long section and soon enough we were back on the Sunset Trail. Some of the group jumped on the road back to the cars, others took the Palos Colorado trail and some of us went back to go down 2 buck hill……which is MUCH more fun going down than up….

Nick heading into the woods

The last climb back up to the parking lot is actually a fairly steep rooty section and as I stood to climb over a root my front wheel came to a complete stop. Unfortunately the rest of me, my bike and my back wheel kept moving forward…..yep, a complete assoverteakettle endo within 20 yards of the parking lot. No injuries though and luckily enough, I don’t think anyone actually saw it happen.

Afterwards, we gathered for bbq ribs, brats, salad, pumpkin cheesecake and beers, telling lies to each other about how awesome we all were today…..another great DATMBA for the books. 14.8 miles and 2289 ft of climbing….man, it sure felt like more….

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joaquin Miller….How Do I Not Know You?

This past Sunday, in preparation for our upcoming DATMBA, Tracy, Jerry and I decided to pre-ride a portion of this year’s route. Now, normally, this isn’t really in keeping with the spirit of the ride since the goal is to go somewhere new and explore….
This year though, we decided it would be better to have an actual route planned and having previously ridden one part of the route, the portion in Redwood Regional Park, we decided to map out the Joaquin Miller portion of the route. This would allow us to 1 – make sure it fit with everyone’s comfort level and 2 – ensure we could come up with enough miles that everyone went home exhausted.

After having ridden the section in Joaquin Miller I was amazed that I had never been here before. We rode only the tiniest sliver of the park and it was awesome. The scenery is gorgeous as you ride in the shade of giant redwoods often popping out onto an overlook with the entire bay and San Francisco spread before you. The trails, a mix of fireroad and swoopy singletrack were in great condition and although it was fairly busy on the trail, every interaction we had was really pleasant. Both hikers and cyclists….

Seeing as we hadn’t started our ride until almost 3:00 we were running up against the threat of darkness and didn’t really have time to explore much, but I can’t wait to get back with a full camelback, some snacks and most of a day and see what this place has to offer….

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yoga is hard…..

For the past year my back, which has been giving me issues off and on for years, has been bad. It has been so bad, that I’ve actually been to the doctor a couple of times, been unable to stand up for an hour or two at a time and been hobbled like an old fart for a couple week long intervals.

Through all of this, the only thing the doctors have been to offer is drugs and sympathy. My medical doctor told me it was osteoarthritis or wear and tear arthritis and was a result of old age. He offered drugs, his advice to slow down a bit and after I refused both, a referral to a physical therapist.

The physical therapist watched me do some basic stretches, had me bend and twist and generally put me in all sorts of positions guaranteed to cause me pain. After which she declared the root of all my issues, at least the physical ones, the mental issues require a different type of doctor, was a weak core.

Her prescription was core exercises, quality time with an exercise ball and she strongly recommended regular doses of yoga. Now, I used to be kind of a gym rat. I went to the gym practically every day and did the lifting, grunting, sweating type exercises for several years. For the past few years, I’ve given up the gym life and taken up cycling. Through all of this the one thing I’ve never done is yoga.

Yoga is something famous actresses do right? Middle aged bald guys don’t do yoga. Besides, yoga requires flexibility and if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s flexible. I can barely put my shoes on in the morning without dislocating a hip.

Well, I’ve been doing the core exercises, I’ve spent some quality time with the exercise ball and still my back is bothering me. Not as bad as before, but still not good. And, with ski season coming up, I can’t risk not being at full strength…, yoga it is…..

My youngest has been doing yoga for a while now. She has all the channels on the on-demand cable stations mapped out and tonight picked one out that was targeted at beginners….so, with the mantra of nothing ventured nothing gained ringing in my ears, I dove in and gave it a try….

We did downward facing dog, we did child pose, we did stretches, we did twists, we did strength poses….we did everything and it all HURT. And, not just my back….My core hurt, my sides hurt, my arms quivered, even my legs were twitching and I got a mad cramp in the arch of my foot.

Afterwards though, as I sit here and type, the one thing that doesn’t really hurt is my back. Sure it’s only been a little while and I am sitting in my big comfy chair, but my back actually feels pretty good…..we’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning when I try to get out of bed which is always the worst part of my day….

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Giro D Vino…..

So, I awoke at 5:00 am… which actually turned out to be 4:00 am once I remembered to set the clock back….to the sound of rain drops hitting the eaves. As I crawled back in bed for another hour or two of blissful sleep, it dawned on me that this could be the last time I was warm and dry for the rest of the day…..

At 6:00, when I got up for real, it was still raining and as I gathered my arm warmers, leg warmers, waterproof (supposedly) jacket and long fingered gloves, I still held out hope that this would blow through.

For the past 4 years we’ve done this ride and for 3 of those years, the weatherman threatened rain. So far we had avoided it although last year, or was it the year before, we rode all the way around the storm. For most of the day, off in the distance we could see the grey skies, low clouds and vertical lines that indicated rain. Luckily though, it never hit us….

I had heard all week that we were supposed to get rain today, but since the weatherman is wrong more often than he is right and, since it had been such a gorgeous day on Saturday, I felt confident we would face either no rain, or at the very worst a couple small showers. I guess that’s why I didn’t bring my waterproof shoe covers, long sleeve wool jersey and neoprene gloves….

Arriving in the parking lot of Woodbridge winery in Lodi, amid rain showers, a soaking wet parking lot and other riders in full gore-tex regalia, I was still confident in my (misplaced) optimism….

Bill and Gail showed up on their tandem, Chris, for his first long road ride since the broken knee, and Jerry and I rounded out the group. The others, either through good sense or a lack of adventure, had decided to skip it. Bob and Leticia, Greg, Jim and Lynn all were home and probably warm and dry as we saddled up.

For the next 3 or so hours we rode in the rain…..sometimes hard and blowing in our faces, sometimes just a gentle shower…..but still rain….falling, constantly falling….

The Giro D’Vino is a really fun metric century. The route is almost completely flat so it’s perfect for the single speed. The rest stops are all at valley wineries, the scenery is pretty and the roads it takes you on are all rural and lightly trafficked so you don’t worry too much about getting run over….

This year, due to the fact that it was still raining as we began, we decided to try the 50K ride instead of the normal 100K. The first winery you arrive at is the St Jorge winery which is absolutely beautiful.

As we rolled though the large iron and wood gates into the rain soaked courtyard, it felt like we had somehow been transported to a different time and continent. The tasting room though, instead of being full of wine connoisseurs and aficionados was full of dripping wet cyclists standing around the blazing fire to warm up before heading up to the tasting bar….Leaving that fireplace was one of the more challenging aspects of the entire day’s ride…(BTW – if you go, the Tempranillo was delicious, I actually bought a bottle)

Eventually though we had to get back on the bikes and so we did…..the next winery actually had food which was a good thing since between the early breakfast and the amount of calories I was burning just staying warm, I was now starving.

Jesse’s Grove winery is down at the end of a mostly paved road which is rough even in the best of conditions….on a rainy Sunday morning it was yet one more adventure added to our list…

One of the things that always strikes me on these organized rides is the number of volunteers it takes to pull it off. Now, on a normal sunny day I can see where it might be fun to hang out and help at a rest station or registration or whatever, but on a cold, windy, raining Sunday morning, I can’t believe how pleasant and friendly these people were….and the PB&J sandwiches tasted AMAZING! (their Cabernet was really good too)

We decided to skip the next couple of rest stops since we were getting cold, the rain wasn’t letting up and now the wind had come up. Our goal now was to be done with the ride….

We did stop at about mile 28 at another of the wineries…Vino Con Brio I think it was….where we used the facilities, Jerry washed the mud out of his eye (downside to drafting a tandem on a rainy day) and we stocked up on more PB&J along with some redvines…..Man! I do love me some redvines….

The rain finally did stop for the last couple of miles and by the time we finished my jacket was only mostly soaked instead of completely soaked….after changing into dry sweats, we headed over to enjoy a delicious lunch, a bottle of good wine and the camaraderie that only comes when a group of friends has endured a similar experience and sits and shares in the accomplishment of something others think is nuts…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The price of failure is high here….

As I ride up to the group and unclip, I straddle my top tube, legs slightly bent and trying my best to look relaxed and at ease…..evidently I didn’t quite pull it off as the first thing Tracy said to me was “why are you standing all funny and grimacing?”

The reality was, I was fighting to keep my legs relaxed and trying to figure out how to lift my leg over the bike without them completely locking up from the cramps I could feel winding up in both quads… was a battle I was losing as I could feel the muscle fibers firing off like electrical charges and my legs continuing to tighten and loosen….oh please God, don’t let me cramp up and fall over in front of everyone……luckily, I was able to dismount, stretch, grab an electrolyte gel and some water from my camelback as battle swung in my favor. Eventually victory over the cramp monster was mine as the firing synapses and electrical charges slowed and then stopped altogether….whew….embarrassment averted….for now.

How did I end up here? Well, Saturday we had decided to ride Skeggs which, I was to find out is one of the most amazing riding spots in the area, and since my fitness level isn’t quite up to par these days, it was pretty tough.

The ride itself starts with a short climb on a road followed by a nice fast swoopy downhill on a fire road. As usual, when we first start out, I was a little tentative. As we finished the downhill and started to climb though, my confidence was up and I was in my groove.

The first climb is singletrack uphill with some tight switchbacks. It was a good workout and a couple of the switchbacks had me off the bike and walking but for the most part, it was awesome.

And of course once you’ve climbed, there’s the reward of the downhill…..narrow, fast, single track, swooping along the hillside surrounded by trees and greenery….simply fantastic! The only worrisome part was when I happened to look away from where I was headed and noticed that we were flying along on a very narrow trail on the edge of a very steep hillside…..even a minor mistake here would have major repercussions…..and possibly involve a long, painful hike out…..focus Rich, focus……

Not long after this thought went through my head, I came upon Troy, Nick and John stopped on the side of the trail. Well, technically Nick and John were stopped on the trail, Troy was laying right next to the trail. Evidently he had gotten some decent air and had come down on the hillside along the trail instead of on the trail proper. Luckily he landed on the uphill side and not the downhill side or we would probably still be out there looking for body parts. As it was, he ended up with some decent roadrash and some scrapes and what I’m sure will turn into a couple of nice bruises.

As the morning wore on and we alternated between climbs and descents, I could feel my legs beginning to tire. The trail though begged to be ridden hard….One of the trails, the Salamander I think, was so perfect that as Tracy so perfectly said it, "it could have been designed with the 29er hardtail in mind"….it was like surfing the perfect wave or ripping down the face on a perfect powder day….it was like I was above myself watching a slotcar rail around the track as my bike rode itself along the face of the hill curving, dipping, climbing, railing… heart rate high, my legs spinning, my mind somewhere else…..

Eventually though, we came to what seemed to be the bottom….and the climbing began for real. By now, my legs were definitely feeling the efforts of the morning. We climbed…and then we climbed some more. I could feel the electrical twinges as we came up to the bottom of the last hill….I’m fine I said to myself….just pedal through it…..and I did….right up until I came up to the guys and had to dismount. Interestingly enough, I felt like I was going to make it… up until I twisted my leg to clip out of the pedals and all of a sudden I knew I wasn’t going to be able to dodge this one.

After a few minutes of stretching, an e-gel and a couple of big chugs off the camelback I felt better. Better enough that I thought I’d be fine for the rest of the climb back up to the top. I held it together, alternating between pulling and pushing and spinning and the pedals until with less than 100 yards to go, and in full view of the guys at the top waiting for me, I cramped again and was forced to get off and walk…..

After regrouping we finished the last little climb, enjoyed one last amazing singletrack ripper section back to the start and found ourselves at the road where of course there was yet another small hill before we got back to the truck and the beers within…..

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's good to be back....

As I reach the top of Brandon, I can hear my heart pounding in my ears which is surprising.  Not because it shouldn’t be beating that loud, but because I’m huffing and puffing louder than a herd of wildebeests and am surprised I can hear anything at all….

Wednesday night I got the Jabberwocky back together so last night’s ride was the first time back on the single speed in a couple of months. Add to that the fact that in the last month, I’ve ridden like 3 times and it quickly becomes apparent why my heart was pounding in my ears and my breathing was loud and very “wildebeest-like”.

Jim, Lynn and I left before the main group since we were doing the long route and wanted a chance to finish at or about the same time as the main group.  Jim also hasn’t been riding much. He runs his own business and evidently his boss is a slave driver.

This was the first week I had ridden where I was going to need lights so I made sure I charged up my battery, strapped it to the bike, threw my clear lenses in the camelback and had everything ready to go.  I even arrived early to the starting place…..only to realize I had forgotten my light….luckily Lynn had a spare.

Once we finished Brandon though and my heartbeat returned to normal, I started to feel better.  As we hit the short road section that connects to RedTail I actually felt good.  I was back in the groove on the SS, pushing and pulling at the same time as I climbed.  Unable to downshift and spin, you have no choice but to keep the momentum up and just keep going.  And without suspension, you really have to pick your lines carefully and not just plow down the hill.

Arms loose, knees bent, grip firm, the bike bouncing, bucking and skipping around beneath me I rip down the section of narrow single track on RedTail, watching the ruts, looking where I want to go and not where I don’t.  The bike feels good, she’s light, fast and together we’re one as we lean, pedal and carve our way though the fast downhill sections.

Eventually though, we cross the parking lot at the top and can see where the Park District has been working on their “trail maintenance”.  In District-speak, trail maintenance means “let’s drive the entire route with a bulldozer” which is pretty much exactly what it looks like they did.
The “path” and I use that term loosely since it looks more like a “road” is about 20 ft wide and a mix of bare hard rock that’s been scraped clean interspersed with loose, soft, dusty sections where they’ve spread everything they scraped from the trail.

It’s ok though, I’m on the bike and it’s a beautiful evening and even their destruction of what used to be a trail can’t ruin my mood.  It might be the endorphins, but I feel great!  There are a couple of decent climbs back here on this section of Soaring Hawk, but my legs just keep churning and pretty soon we’re headed downhill again.

The last section before you cross the road over to Bort Meadows is steep and deeply rutted.  The fact that it dumps you out onto a sharp curve on Redwood Rd, which is known for racing motorcycles and wannabe rally car drivers, only adds to the challenge.

Evidently, the driver of the bulldozer didn’t feel like risking his life, so this section is left unmolested. My front wheel of course, slips into one of the ruts, probably because that’s where I was looking and thinking “don’t go in that rut”…..luckily, I just let off the brake and the 29” wheels roll right out the other side. Wow, this bike makes me look good!

It’s getting dark now and I’m thankful Lynn had the spare light.  The path back down to the stone bridge is fast, loose and dusty and as long as I keep my legs spinning at about 130 rpm I’m able to stay ahead of Jim and Lynn.

The rest of the route is pretty routine, although we do come upon a guy pushing his bike, with no lights, up the trail.  When asked what happened he says he broke his chain.  Both Jim and I offer to help him fix it since we have chain tools, but he tells us he threw his chain away when it broke……not sure why you’d do that instead of just putting it in your camelback, but I guess I also don’t understand why you’d be out here in the dark without lights.  In his defense, it could be he didn’t plan on taking as long as it did to walk out.

As we came back to the marina, Lynn decided we should do the last, short, steep section up to the parking lot instead of the normal, not-as-steep road.  It was half way up that last section, where I wasn’t sure which would explode first, my lungs or my legs, that I formed, joined and became chairman of the “I hate Lynn” fan club…..Once the beers at the end were passed around though, I quickly resigned my chairmanship and disbanded the club…..seems I was the only member anyway, and once I finished the climb, I couldn’t remember why I had formed the club to begin with…..

All in all, a beautiful night and a really great's good to be back!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Beauty of Grace….

Two weeks ago today my eldest gave birth to her second child, a daughter. Grace Sophia came into the world at 9:06 pm and weighed in at 8lbs 11oz. sporting a full head of hair. She’s absolutely beautiful!

Although there were a couple of week’s worth of false alarms preceding her arrival, when she finally did decide to make an appearance, it all happened pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I had the flu so wasn’t able to meet her until Friday when she came home.

As I sat on the couch the other night holding her, amazed by her smallness, her vulnerability, her beauty, I was struck by just how fast life goes by.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was holding her mom and her aunt in my arms, rocking them, talking to them, calming their fears, soothing their cries…..and now they’ve both grown into strong, independent, young women with lives of their own…

At some point in our lives, we realize that life is not about what we do for a living, how much money we make, how fancy the house we live in or the car we drive. Our legacy is in the lives we touch and the impact we have on our world.

It’s so easy to lose focus and get caught up in all the other crap of the world. We make decisions based on selfish goals and desires. Decisions that seem perfectly “normal” and are completely acceptable to the world we live in. We even go so far as to rationalize them to the point that we believe that what we’re doing is for the best of those around us.

My granddaughter’s name is Grace and her beauty is undeniable.

The other grace though, the one with the small g is defined as an immunity, forgiveness or reprieve, a favor rendered by one who need not do so. This is the grace that we need to receive and the grace that we need to offer.

It can be bestowed on us by our spouses, neglected, slighted or hurt, our children, who were left to face life’s battles as we made a name for ourselves in the world, our friends who again sometimes receive second tier attention when we’re pursuing our “dreams” or ultimately by God who’s grace we need more than any other.

There’s a song titled BLINK by Revive that I really like and that is so appropriate….

Teach me to number my days
And count every moment before it slips away
Taking all the colors before they fade to gray
I don't want to miss even just a second more of this

It happens in a blink
It happens in a flash
It happens in the time it takes to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there's no stopping time
What is it I've done with my life
It happens in a blink

Life does go by in the blink of an eye and we need to make sure we don’t miss it. We need to take the time to make sure we’re investing in the things that matter, and we need to recognize that we all need grace and that it’s there if we seek it, knowing all the while we don’t deserve it. And, in the same way, we need to be able to offer grace to those in our lives that we know don’t deserve it, but desperately need it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers….

As I wrapped up the blog about our recent mountain bike adventure, I spent some time just thinking about what a cool trip it turned out to be. Even with the crash and having to cut it short, it was still the trip of a lifetime.

In addition to the amazing riding, the gorgeous views and the time spent with good friends, the thing that really stuck with me was how nice everyone we met turned out to be…

It started with my email conversations with Nikki at the San Juan Huts company. She was so helpful on the phone and over email as we put this trip together, answering question after question after question. Never once telling me to just read the dang handbook even though I’m pretty sure every question I asked was covered in there. Pretty sure I would have pointed that fact out had I been on her end of the phone.

Then, the day we arrived in Moab, we wandered into Chile Pepper bike shop looking for info on where to ride. The gal that worked there, even though she was in the middle of a conversation, stopped, came to the front of the store and asked if we needed help.

Now, if you’ve been in to some of the bike shops here in the bay area, you know that we were already in uncharted territory since many bike shops here are staffed with people either too “busy” or too impressed with their own abilities to bother helping someone that walks in off the street.
Not only did she stop what she was doing and come forward, she spent the next half hour going over maps talking about different rides, and generally being really nice about helping us find a place to ride.

It’s one thing to help people that you have to help. Both Nikki and the lady at the bike shop were in the service industry. Technically we were their customers so the expectation is that they would be helpful.

It’s different though for total strangers that you meet on the trail. When Chris crashed and we ran into Dan and his wife on motorcycles, they went out of their way to help us. Not only did they give Chris a ride up to the road where he was able to get cell service, but Dan came back after dropping Chris off and picked up his bike to take it up to the road.

They also waited with Chris until Jerry and I got up there and while they were waiting with him, they shared their flask of rum. It should be noted that they were there celebrating her birthday with a motorcycle ride and never once complained about helping and never once thought about leaving us until they were sure we were taken care of and had everything under control. They essentially gave up more than a couple hours of their vacation day to help total strangers.

From there, we were in the hands of Tim from San Juan Huts. He showed up, loaded us into his truck, handed Chris yet another flask – this one with Tequila – and proceeded to drive us back to town. Not only was he willing to take us wherever we wanted to go, Telluride where we started, Montrose where they have an airport or Ridgway where their shop is located, but he did so pleasantly and cheerfully. Never once making us feel like we ruined his day or inconvenienced him in any way.

After deciding on going to Ridgway and planning on having Jim from the shuttle company come and get us, Tim took us to his shop so we could drop off the bikes and gear and not have to deal with them for the rest of the day. After giving us a complete tour of his shop and an update on everything they had going on (and introducing us to his 6 dogs) he took us to a hotel and made sure we were situated before bidding us good bye. Turns out he was heading out to find some hikers who hadn’t checked in yet on another of the hut routes.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that Chris was on crutches or that we looked so desperate, but the kindness continued as we checked in to the hotel. The young lady at the desk felt really bad that she couldn’t offer us any first floor rooms, but made up for it by giving us a really good deal on two upstairs double rooms. Then she actually got mad at me for teasing Chris about not carrying his own bag. She even went so far as to offer to carry his bags upstairs to the room….who does that?

So, the question becomes, is everyone that lives in CO and UT really nice or are they normal and I, having been born and raised in the bay area, just surprised when people offer common courtesies?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 6 – Starting for Home…

Day 6 started pretty much like every other day of the trip so far…..with the exception of the fact that Chris was now on crutches…it started with the search for breakfast and coffee.

We walked (hobbled in Chris’ case) over to the Union Café for breakfast, drank most of a pot of coffee then headed back to the hotel to pack and wait for Jim to show up and shuttle us back to Moab.

The ride back to Moab was quiet and routine, being in the back seat of the suburban with the windows down, allowed me to politely check out of the conversation, close my eyes and take a little nap. When I awoke we were back in Utah and it was raining. As the rain continued, lightning split the sky followed soon after by the resounding drumroll of thunder… we climbed over the mountains and started heading back down the other side, Jim had the idea to go look for flash floods and, seizing on any excuse to prolong our trip, we readily agreed.

With the surrounding hills being mostly sandstone, the rain hits the ground and, unable to soak in, begins its downward journey… gathering speed and picking up debris as it runs….

Eventually though, it was time to get to the hotel, pick up the van and get on the road. Which is just what we did. We made it as far as Salt Lake City before it got too late, Chris was too uncomfortable and I was too tired to continue. Thankfully we had decided to bring Jerry's van instead of my truck. We were able to set up the seating in such a way that Chris was in the back with his leg propped up on the seat in front of him

A good night’s sleep, the complimentary buffet breakfast and we were back on the road. Heading out of Salt Lake City, we entered what is referred to as… The most boring stretch of highway known to man….ok, I made that part up, but it definitely fits.

Eventually, we rolled out of the desert and into Reno where I finally had a cell signal (just a quick FYI – Nextel SUCKS for coverage) and called my sister. I had left her a message earlier that morning letting her know we were coming through town and that we had hoped to crash at their place in Tahoe City. As soon as my cell started receiving signals, I saw I had 3 messages from her, all of which said the same thing, “Absolutely you can stay here” “Come on by and I’ll cook you dinner”…

Her offer wasn’t really a surprise. For most of my childhood and teenage life, I, either by myself or with my friends and cousins, had been dropping in on her, sleeping on her floor, eating her food and generally just hanging out whenever I could. And her, being the coolest older sister in the world, always had the same response…..”absolutely you can stay here” Yep, she’s awesome that way.

As we sat on their deck enjoying a beer, Craig, husband to awesome sister, brother in law and overall really cool guy, grilled us up some burgers, we polished off several of his beers, talked for a couple hours and eventually crashed for the night.

Saturday morning, Craig had to head down to the lake where his niece was entered in a standup wakeboarding competition, so Maureen took us to her friend’s bakery for a breakfast of coffee and amazing baked goods.
Now, when I say amazing it’s not just an adjective. Tahoe House bakery REALLY is amazing. There’s a line out the door and the smell of baked goods alone is enough to drive you insane….if you’re ever in Tahoe City, this is one of those place you HAVE to try….

After saying our good-byes, we got on the road for the last push home. Just under 4 hours later, we pulled into Chris’ driveway where Min had a pizza, beer and brats ready for us for lunch. Unfortunately, Michael, Chris’ son had misunderstood the plan and was waiting for us in my driveway about 40 minutes north.

This was it. The trip was officially over….as I backed Jerry’s van out of Chris’ driveway I could almost feel the pressures of reality seeping back in.

By the time we hit 880 and my exit off the freeway, I could tell the dream had ended. In two days, I’d be back in the office, paying bills, feeding the dogs, whatever…..

If the true measure of an adventure can be felt in the levels of disappointment experienced at its conclusion, this one was definitely an epic!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 5…In Search of Singletrack…

Day 5 started off with a nice little downhill back to the main trail. From there we turned right and began a pretty gradual but steady climb for the next several miles. After reaching what appeared to be the top of the hill, we turned off the main (recommended) trail and began our search for singletrack.

As we rode down the rough doubletrack littered with head sized rocks, ruts and lots of things to cause injury, I thought to myself, “finally, a little adventure instead of smooth roads”….then as Chris pointed to the goat track that spurred off to the left, I began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into….

The entry off the path we were on was pretty steep, narrow and covered with rocks….let the adventure begin….

The downhill quickly ended and the trail turned up. Now we had narrow, rock strewn and uphill to deal with and we were quickly forced to dismount and walk. It’s amazing that after several days at elevation, walking uphill pushing a 50+ pound bike still managed to make me breathe hard….

Soon enough the trail leveled and we were able to ride again. The singletrack was awesome and the trail was challenging, yet enjoyable. Pretty quickly though, a wrench was thrown into the mix….actually, I guess it was more like a branch or a limb even, as Chris rode by a downed tree, the branches reached out, grabbed him by the wheel and tossed him to the ground. At least that’s what it seemed like from back where I was sitting.

After getting up and getting back on his bike, he realized the issue was worse. His rear derailleur was pointing straight out to the side like my broken pinky finger after an ill advised game of high school flag football….

Luckily he was able to bend it back in place without the derailleur hanger breaking and got it sorta kinda shifting ok and we were off again.

The trail continued to get better and better, eventually turning into a narrow swooping track on what appeared to be decomposed granite. Traction was good, the path was slightly downhill and we rolled along happy with life....until the nice, flowy, smooth trail went away, replaced instead by a fairly steep downhill covered with rocks and loose debris. The adventure factor increased significantly as the trial steepened and we entered an area of pretty sharp downhill switchbacks.

Things were still going well until in a particularly steep section, Chris, during a moment of sanity, decided it was probably better to dismount and walk this gnarly downhill section. As he tried to slow for a dismount, his front wheel hit a rock and over the bars he went…
Seeing as I was bringing up the rear, I didn’t actually see what happened, all I saw was Chris trying his best to stand up and failing. Immediately knowing something bad had happened I did what every person (ok every guy) would have, I cracked a lame joke and pulled out my camera for pictures.

We got Chris situated off to the side of the trail and began to assess the situation. It turns out he went over the bars in an upright position and landed straight-legged on the trail pretty much pile-driving his right leg into the ground. He heard a pretty loud “crack” when he landed and now couldn’t bear any weight on that leg. The pain seemed to be located directly below the knee and it started to swell pretty quickly so the fear was that something was broken.

Seeing as my advice to rub dirt on it and suck it up didn’t seem to work, we decided to sit down for a bit, eat lunch and see how things developed. Turns out eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich has absolutely no effect on a swollen knee.

At this point, the discussion turned serious. Do we split up and send someone back up to the road to where we saw a construction crew earlier? Do we send someone down the trail to where we saw a ranger station on the map?  Do we push the 911 button on the SPOT GPS and let someone come rescue us???  Thankfully, we were pretty well prepared with first aid supplies and after giving Chris a couple of motrin, we wrapped his leg in some of the ace bandages we had brought along and came up with a plan.

To be honest, we were reluctant to split up.  If something else happened or someone got lost, it would only compound our issues.  So we decided to try to head down the trail towards the ranger station with Chris on his seat “riding” downhill using his one good leg as an outrigger and keeping the other on the pedal.  The problem was, every bump sent pain through his leg and with the trail steeper and rockier at every turn it quickly became obvious that this was not going to work.

As we pulled off and began to re-assess our situation, we heard motorcycles coming up the trail and were excited to see two people come around the corner and stop. After explaining our situation, we found that they were a husband and wife. Dan said his wife was a nurse and she could look at it. She responded that she was a labor and delivery nurse so unless he was having contractions he was out of luck.

After discussing things for a bit, he told us that our plan of continuing down the trail would have been a bad idea as the ranger station may or may not be staffed and before we got there we would have had a pretty significant climb out of the canyon we were headed into.

It was decided that the husband would ride Chris back up to the road where we could get cell service and we’d call San Juan Huts to see if they could come get us and bring us back to civilization. So, they started off with Chris hanging on and trying to keep his leg from banging around too much. Jerry and I started up the trail after them with me pushing both my and Chris’ bike up the trail. I knew the trail was steep as we came down, but had no idea how steep until I had to push two bikes back up….

Eventually, Dan came back and got Chris’ bike, stuck across the front of him on the motorcycle and headed back up the trail. Jerry and I rode on up the trail. We were cruising along until we came around a corner and found Dan with Chris’ bike on the side of the trail. Turns out things had been going along just fine until he tried to ride between two trees that were narrower than the bike….he and Chris’ bike came to a stop but his motorcycle kept going. Trees -1, bicycle – 0

After stomping on the rear wheel enough to get it almost round and mostly able to roll, I left my bike on the side of the path and rode/pushed Chris’ bike back to the trailhead, Dan gave me a ride back to my bike and then Jerry and I made the last push back to where we found Chris sitting in the shade. He was feeling pretty good as evidently Dan and his wife had a little flask of rum so he made a Gatorade Mai-Tai.

They had called San Juan Huts who were on their way to pick us up. Tim showed up in his truck with Rowdy his Australian Shepherd,(and a flask of tequila) loaded us up and brought us back to Ridgeway CO. Once in town they allowed us to store our bikes and gear at their shop and then took us over to the hotel in town to get settled.
The hotel in town ended up being a really nice spa/hotel and seeing our plight, they took pity on us and gave us a really good rate on a couple of rooms. After our first shower in three days we set off for food and beer. The hotel had a really nice outdoor roof bar with live music where we relaxed, propped up Chris’ leg and enjoyed the beautiful evening.
Tomorrow, we’d have Jim from RoadRunner shuttles pick us up, bring us back to Moab and get on the road towards home….

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 4…Onward to Hut #2…

Technically, although I continue to refer to this as Day 4, it was really only Day 2 of the official hut trip. All of our route guides, maps and itineraries, kept telling me this but my mind doesn’t work that way so you’re going to hear it the way I process it. This is Day 4 of our adventure, despite what the route packet says and despite the fact that we were only starting on our second day of the hut trip. Actually, all you need to know is it was Tuesday. Which to be honest, I wasn’t even sure of, since when I’m on vacation I don’t really care.

So there...Now that I’ve gotten you totally confused, let me begin….

The storms and clouds that accompanied us most of the previous day had blown through and we woke to partly cloudy skies with an abundance of sunshine.  Breakfast was pancakes and bacon and copious amounts of coffee.
Note - In case you hadn’t noticed from my previous posts, coffee is a critical part of my being able to function and unsure of what we would find in the huts, we had purchased a pound of Wake and Bake’s finest blend for this trip.

Chris, in addition to being our navigator, turned out to be a really good cook.  He could look at the pantry full of miscellaneous items and turn it into a delicious meal.  (Jerry and I on the other hand, proved to have an amazing talent for eating and lounging during the meal period – hey, don’t laugh. Being able to relax while other people do the work takes real talent.)

After eating, drinking and paying our last respects to the composting outhouse, we got on the trail.   Where the end of yesterday’s adventures resulted in a brutal hike-a-bike up to the hut, today started with a nice steep, flowing downhill run back to the route.  Plus with yesterday’s rains, the trails were perfect with no dust and amazing traction.

We continued to lose elevation for most of the morning before leveling out for some long grinding runs on farm roads in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  The views were incredible and went on for miles.  In a couple of spots we came across mud, nothing too bad, but enough that it clung to the tires and slowed us down.  Luckily, most of the middle portion of the day was flat and the weather wasn’t too warm.

We passed several developments as we rode along offering ranch homesites from 40 – 400 acres.  It seems amazing to me that people live out here, so far from anything….I guess you really have to plan the runs to the grocery store to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Where the roads up in the mountains would wander and meander, following the flow of the land as it wound its way down, now the road made sharp, perfect 90 degree turns as we cut our way across the valley floor. Evidently it’s easier for the engineers to draw straight lines with right angles than to put curves into the roads.  Gone too were the Aspens and the Pines, replaced instead by miles and miles of green, rolling hills dotted with scrub oak and sage.

After stopping for lunch we continued on, eventually beginning to climb back up towards the trees.  Nothing brutal or dramatic, just a gentle upward trend back up into the hills and the shade of the trees.

It was pretty warm by now and the relief provided by the shade was immediate and we gratefully accepted its cooling properties.  At some point we missed the supposed water source along the trail, but that was fine. We all had camelbaks and a water bottle on our bikes so dehydration was never a concern but it would have been nice to wash the salt of the helmet straps and the dust off our faces.

After turning off yet another farm road onto a double track, the incline increased slightly. This was to be the last push up to Hut #2 and we were definitely looking forward to getting off the bikes. The day had been longer than the first and although it was only 27 miles and almost all downhill, I was ready to be off the bike.

This hut, like the last one, was clean, nice and very well stocked. After opening a beer, we broke out the maps and began planning the next day’s route. After 2 days of farm roads and double track we decided to try to find an alternate, read more exciting, route to the 3rd hut.

According to the maps there was a single track hiking, biking trail that ran pretty much parallel to the day’s route so we mapped it out and decided it was a plan….

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 3 – The trek to Hut 1….

Day 3 dawned mostly sunny and after loading up the bikes for the first long day on the trail we turned in the key to the condo and headed out for what had become our morning ritual…the search for breakfast and coffee.

We rode down through town eventually finding a nice little diner where we enjoyed the last tastes of civilization for the next 7 days. After filling ourselves with food and coffee, and a little water just to prevent dehydration, we set out in search of the San Miguel Valley bank. This bank, which was robbed by Butch Cassidy in Telluride before he fled towards Utah following much of the route we were to take, was to be our official starting point. Unable to figure out which one was the exact building, we just chose what appeared to be the main bank in town and used that as our starting point.

The evening before, as we headed up the mountain in the tram, it dawned on me that the entire town of Telluride is surrounded by mountains. This makes for a very scenic town but also means that the first part of any ride starting in town was destined to go up….

The weather had cooled a bit since we first rolled out and the dark clouds off to the west had us a little concerned, but with no other option and hoping for the best, we headed out of town. The San Juan Hut company provides you with a really well planned packet that includes not only a map, but turn by turn directions with distances between waypoints outlined nicely.

As we left the bike path, crossed the highway and headed up the first climb of the day, the grey skies began to leak on us. The further up the road we went, the more the leaking turned to actual rain and soon enough we were pulling over to don our jackets and ponchos.

The climb, although on a paved road, was moderately steep and since we had started at 8700ft and were going up my lungs began to complain almost immediately. Click, click, click went the gears as I continued to downshift hoping to find a comfortable pace before I ran out of gears. At one point early in the planning stages I had considered bringing the Jabber with her rigid fork and only one gear but was talked out of it by people with more sense than I have and right now, I was glad I listened to them.

Soon enough the paved road continued straight and our path turned onto the dirt. As we rode on into the damp mountains past ranches and homes the scenery although grey in the drizzle and rain, was amazing in its vastness and beauty. Every turn in the road or opening in the trees displayed yet another amazing vista.

As we pedaled on though the mountains and aspen groves we occasionally caught glimpses of blue sky and sunlight in the distance. Teasing us ever onward, we pedaled through the rain with the soundtrack of thunder playing in our ears and God’s light show flashing in the distance.

Eventually, the rain stops and the skies clear as we climb. Ever onward, ever upward each vista more beautiful than the last…

At one point in the trail, we came across three women and a couple of dogs walking towards us. Turns out the rain was heavier up above and the road so muddy they had decided to abandon their vehicle and walk out planning to come back later and retrieve it after things dried a bit. They were amazed we were riding up and warned us we’d be walking at some point not much further up the trail.

With their warning echoing in our ears, we continued on. Surprisingly, the road was in pretty good condition and while we did have to skirt a couple of large puddles, didn’t see anything that would cause someone to abandon their car.

Soon enough we hit the part in the route guide they referred to as the switchbacks…and the trail got steeper still….by now we had to be at or above 10,000 ft and as much as I wanted to keep pedaling, there was just no way. It wasn’t due to the steepness of the road so much as I couldn’t go more than 20 yards before I was out of breath listening to my heart pounding in my ears. So we walked and we pushed our fully loaded bikes up roads that we should have been riding….if only we could breathe…

It was on one of these sections that we came across a land cruiser parked on the side of the steep road, rocks wedged in front of its wheels, long deep slide marks carved into the now dried mud showing just why the women felt better walking than driving…

As we came to the bottom of the last switchback, the incline eased to the point that we could ride and breathe at the same time and after a short break in the shade to drink from our bottles, we remounted our bikes and began to pedal. Shortly after, we came to a junction in trails and saw three guys having a picnic. After chatting with them briefly and consulting our route guide we found the right trail that should take us to the hut.

And it was steep. So steep in fact that it was tough to navigate, even walking. We soon developed a rhythm push the bike, grab the brake, step up, push the bike, grab the brake, step up….this continued for maybe a couple hundred yards although it felt like much longer, until we rounded a corner and finally saw the end of the first day’s ride, the first hut.

We really had no idea what to expect with the huts, but to say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. The huts were pretty basic, but very nice. It was neat, clean, and very well stocked. We celebrated the first day with grilled spam and cheese sandwiches and beer. In addition to tons of canned goods, it was stocked with cheese, bacon, bread, fruit and more.

After lunch, the thunderstorms started to roll back into the valley and as we retreated inside to either nap or read, the skies opened up. Thunder, lighting, rain and even a decent period of hail serenaded us as we lay on our bunks, warm, dry and tired from our first day.

Later, after the storm passed I was able to experience first hand San Juan Hut’s revolutionary new compost toilets. Now, I don’t normally talk about bodily functions or even water closets for that matter, but these things really were a sight to behold….speaking of sites to behold, this is the view from our front porch after the storm blew through.

After my tour of the “facilities” so to speak, we got the wood burning stove going to warm things up, fired up the gas range and made dinner. We had burritos made with canned chicken, diced tomatoes, fresh red onions and cheddar cheese. (Yep, we’re roughing it for sure) and beer.

Later as Jerry and I relaxed Chris, who had become the official navigation officer on this pleasure cruise, worked over the maps so we knew where to go the next day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 2 – Arches and Shuttles…..

Day 2 started pretty much the same way as day 1, Sunshine, blue skies and the search for coffee and breakfast. Our goal was a diner we had found in the motel’s restaurant guide that claimed to be famous for their breakfast burritos. Unfortunately, being on vacation, we had forgotten it was Sunday in Utah and the place was closed.
Luckily just down the block we came across the Wake and Bake café. Based on the name alone it was a pretty safe bet they weren’t observing any blue laws….turns out they made a pretty good breakfast burrito too.

After filling our bellies and satisfying our caffeine addictions we decided on a drive to Arches National Park. The shuttle to Telluride wasn’t supposed to pick us up until 1:00 so we had several hours to explore the beauty around us.

Growing up in California, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some of our country’s most beautiful national parks, Yosemite, Lassen, Sequoia….but nothing I had seen prepared me for the amazing vistas we were seeing around every corner.
Granted, my preferences tend more towards the granite and pines of the Sierra’s but the stunning sandstone creations we were witnessing were a whole different kind of amazing.

Eventually though, we had to cut the tour short and head back to the hotel to meet the shuttle driver that was to take us to the next stage of our adventure.

Jim showed up in an chevy suburban set up to haul way more bikes than we had in our group, and proceeded to regale us with tales of motorcycle races, work hauling television people out into the desert and general knowledge of just about every small town we drove through for the next 3 hours.

As we pulled into downtown Telluride, it was like someone took the description of every small mountain town rolled them all together and built a town with it.
It’s long main street which is dotted with perfectly restored small Victorian homes, quaint shops and restaurants leads your eye right down the length of the town until your view is entirely dominated by one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.

We found our rented condo, checked in, got settled and decided on a walk through town in search of a beer and some food. Wandering through town it became readily apparent that although it had all the trappings of a quaint mountain retreat, the locals were more inclined to wear Gucci and Armani than Levis and Wranglers.

After finding our beer and a really good burger in a small tavern that had the Broncos playing on the big screen above the bar, we decided to take the tram, which is free by the way, up to Mountain Village. The views as our gondola climbed up the face of the mountain were amazing and as the elevation increased, so did the real estate prices. Mountain Village is resort at the top of a mountain made entirely of cash…..

After wandering around the village, which was pretty much deserted we headed back down to enjoy our last night’s sleep in real beds….tomorrow, the adventure really begins…

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Best Day....

I had plans for today. If you know me, you understand that I always have plans. I actually make plans to plan stuff. It’s just what I do. It helps me stay organized, not forget stuff and make sure everything I need to do gets done.…and when I make plans and things change, I don’t really handle it well….plans aren’t supposed to change…that’s why they’re called plans. If I didn’t mind change, I’d just wake up and see how the day went…but then stuff wouldn’t get done and the whole day would just be left to the whims of whatever….

Today my plan was to get up early, enjoy my coffee, eat a good breakfast and meet my buddy Tracy and some others for a mountain bike ride. Afterwards, I needed to get the lawns mowed, some chores done, work on the garage and exchange the bike I bought Caleb for his birthday for a larger size.

The day started out well and went according to plan for at least the first 10 minutes….I woke up early, made coffee and then the world started to deviate from the plans I had so carefully made. My daughter wanted to talk. I could tell, because….well, she was talking to me….

As a parent, I feel blessed to have a relationship with both my girls where they actually want to talk to me and I actually try my best to encourage it. How you ask? Well, I encourage it by actually listening and responding when they talk….I know…pretty scientific huh?

Anyway, as I sat there and enjoyed my coffee, I kept one eye on the clock. It was still possible that I could fulfill my role as a not terribly horrible parent and get back on plan by meeting my buddies. Soon enough though, I realized, it wasn’t going to happen. My daughter is going through some real challenges in her life right now and even though she’s way smarter and much stronger than I am as a person, I guess she just needed someone to sit and share with her for a while.

So, knowing that her needs were way more important than any plans I had, I sent Tracy a text bailing on the ride and settled in to see how my day would develop. Deb got up as we were talking and sat with us as we had coffee and tried to work through some issues. Soon enough, Caleb woke up and the energy and the tone of the household picked up to a pace that only a 4 year old can generate.

After breakfast and a shower, Caleb and I decided we were going to get haircuts. Obviously for one of us its something that will be done with increasing frequency while for the other, less and less of these will be needed as time goes on.
Haircuts done, we decided it was time for a coffee. Actually, only grandpa was having coffee, Caleb opted for a hot cocoa and we decided to share a bagel. As we sat and ate our bagel and drank our beverages, we discussed how we were going to proceed with the day…ok, yes, I had him making plans.

We had decided to go home, pick up his bike and head to the bike shop to exchange it for a larger size. Of course, as the world was obviously mocking me for making plans, the bike shop didn’t have his size so we headed to another bike shop and yet another before finally getting one in his size and within my budget.

Having finished the task we set out for, we headed home with a brand new green and white Diamond Back bicycle in the car. By now, it was almost noon and since most 4 year olds and even some grandpa’s need naps so they don’t get cranky, Caleb and I lay down on the couch to “watch the Tour of Spain” Yep, that’s code for taking a nap.

After a nap, it was time to try out the new bike. So, helmet on, we made a couple of test runs around the back yard and Caleb took off for a lap of the neighborhood with grandpa jogging behind him. He’s really good on the bike and had I known I would have to run the whole 1 mile lap in order to keep up, I would probably have worn my running shoes instead of flip flops.

Afterwards, we played baseball on the front lawn then made a grocery store run to pick up stuff to bbq for dinner. We had decided to make steaks, salad and strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream.
As we plugged in the hand mixer and began our dessert, Caleb looked up at me and said…..”Grandpa, this was the best day!” and you know what? He was right.

Despite the fact that none of what I had planned had actually gotten done and despite the fact that the lawns weren’t mowed, the garage wasn’t cleaned and I hadn’t gone for the mountain bike ride with my buddies, today HAD been a great day. And, at some point during the day, I think when we were enjoying our morning coffee and cocoas, I forgot about my plans and forgot about my chores and just started enjoying the time spent with one of the coolest kids I’ve ever known.