Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Multi-Tasking is not a strength

This past Saturday I had plans to smoke a bunch of cheese to send out as part of Christmas gift baskets. Smoking cheese, as you can probably imagine, is kind of tricky. You have to get the smoker warm enough to get the woodchips smoldering, but not so warm that the cheese melts.

It's a process that requires constant monitoring of the smoker, opening and closing the door to maintain temps, turning the heating unit on and off and generally just paying close attention…..Anyone who knows me can already see where this is going right?

I had gone to the local costco, picked up several large bricks of various types of cheese, sliced them, lined them up in the smoker and prepared to begin. I soaked the wood chips to generate smoke without burning and was all set. I turned on the smoker, set to 100 degrees, figuring as soon as it hit that, I'd shut it down.

Not long after I turned it on, I called Dell support to help me with what I thought was going to be a quick video driver issue I was having with my external monitor.  I figured I could knock this little project out while waiting for the smoker to come up to temp…(in case you weren't paying attention, this is in direct conflict to the statement above about needing to pay close attention)

Well….Dell, being Dell, wasn't quite as quick at solving my issue as I hoped, and an hour and ten minutes later, having completely forgotten about the smoker (ok, so multi-tasking may not be one of my skills) the laptop was still not fixed and Dell told me to call Acer, the external monitor maker.

Hanging up frustrated I looked out back and noticed my smoker was going strong and producing a nice head of smoke……oh crap!

I wish I had taken pictures…..4 lbs of cheddar, pepper jack and monterey jack had turned into a 4lb blob of hot, gooey, yellow and white stuff oozing out the bottom of the smoker…..The upside is that cheese, being mostly fat and oil, cleans up relatively easily….and at least now my smoker s nice and clean which is something else I had hoped to do at the end of the day.

The other good news is that last night's round went off without a hitch and everything is bagged up and in the fridge to age for a week before serving….

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's All Starting To Come Together....

Which, of course is much better than it all coming apart...

Back in 2010, I and a group of my friends got involved with the non-profit group TurningWheels for Kids. Our involvement was that on a Saturday, at the beginning of December, we put together a team, head down to San Jose and helped them assemble bikes which they in turn gave to charities for kids at Christmas.  It's their Annual Big Bike Build....and it's an awesome event where over 900 volunteers got together for a day to assemble over 2000 bikes!

It was a really rewarding and an incredible experience combining my passion for bikes and my desire to give something back. I'm a firm believer in the bible verse that states, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded". And, while I know that times are tough and we're all working harder and harder to make ends meet, I still hold to the fact that I live in the greatest nation in the world, have been blessed abundantly and am far better off than many in my community and am richer than most of the world's population.

With this in mind, I began a dialogue with Sue, the founder of TurningWheels for Kids about how to expand upon their one day Bike Build and what I could do to get involved a little deeper.  But, as is usually the case, life got busy, the holiday's passed by and the conversation died. Then, after the 2011 Bike Build, and additional conversations with Sue, she sent me an email in January telling me there were others in my area that wanted to go deeper....and would we like to get together to meet.

And so it began....We launched the TurningWheels for Kids Tri-Valley Chapter at the end of January and here we are, 11 months and many hours later getting ready to host the First Annual TurningWheels for Kids Tri-Valley Bike Build.  Over the past months we've put together an amazing group of volunteers who, in turn have; raised almost $40,000.00, purchased 493 bicycles, helmets and locks, found a build location, arranged raffle prizes, set up breakfast and lunch, arranged for pickup and delivery of all 493 bikes, sought out, vetted and established relationships with 9 different charities, and found and organized almost 150 volunteers to help pull it all together. (pretty sure there are at least a thousand other tasks I've forgotten)

The really amazing thing, is that they've done all this with a smile on their face and I have to admit, it's really been a joy. Sure it's stressful at times and I do wake up in the middle of the night thinking of things that need to be done, but for the most part, this has been one of the most fulfilling projects I've ever been involved in.

So, for the next few days I'll continue to stress and worry about a bazillion little details, because that's just what I do, but come Saturday I'm sure everything will work out just fine and I along with 150 of my new friends will assmble and donate 493 bicycles to be given to kids at Christmas.....and we all know, there's pretty much nothing better than a new bike at Christmas. (too bad my wife doesn't read my blog)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Ability to Suffer....

Last night was the last Thursday ride for the season that will start in the daylight.  This weekend will be the end of daylight savings time (or is it the beginning? I can never remember) so starting next Thursday, we'll need lights from the very start of the ride.
(yes - I know I haven't yet posted Day 2 of the Tahoe trip, but I'm still trying to get pictures and video edited)

We had a little bit of rain on Wednesday night/Thursday morning so the trails at Lake Chabot were perfect. Hero-Dirt as I believe it's referred, for the traction it provides and last night was no exception. After a summer of dry, powdered sugar over hardpack conditions, where we ended every ride looking like pig-pen, last night was a treat.

The trails were damp and tacky, but not muddy. Traction was incredible and the weather was cool, but not cold....a perfect evening for a ride. I, having had kind of a crazy week, decided I needed to work through some issues and brought the single speed. The single speed forces me to give 100% of my concentration thereby preventing me from thinking of work, or life or all of the myriad of projects I still need to finish.

As I'm sure I've mentioned in other posts, this has not been a great year for me fitness-wise. I've ridden just enough to maintain a base level of fitness but am way off my normal mileage for the end of the season. As a result, bringing the single speed out tonight meant that Brandon, the first long climb of tonight's ride, was going to hurt.....and it did...

One thing though that I think is common, no actually make that required, among cyclists is the ability and the willingness to suffer. People ask me when I mention a nice long ride, but don't your legs hurt, or your butt? Or why I ride a single speed or why I prefer rides with lots of climbing, but doesn't that just make it harder?  Why yes, yes it does.

I've found among most of my riding friends that the same mentality exists. The desire to go just a little further. The willingness to push the limits of what their bodies are used to. I mean sure, I have friends that prefer nice social rides to the coffee shop and there's definitely a place for that.....but most of the serious cyclists I know actually prefer pushing their boundaries a bit just to see if they can.

It strikes me as I type this that cycling is actually like a lot of things in life.  The ability to continue to move forward when things get tough is a characteristic that can be found in marriage, in our jobs, in our friendships, pretty much in everything we do. 

These thoughts were bouncing around in my head as I continued to stand and make circles with the pedals, willing my heart rate to mellow and trying my hardest not to have my lungs explode out of my chest. Then, another thought dawned on me....one which I shared with Jack as we finally got to the top of the climb.....it's  the end of the season....we're supposed to actually be in shape by now....

From here, we could have done the regular loop, but in a desire to suffer just a bit more, we decided to add in Redtail and Soaring Hawk. The suffering continues....things actually went ok. As long as I kept my pace mellow, my heartrate stayed under control. My legs though, were a different story. By the time we got to the Soaring Hawk, Cottontail intersection, both Jack and I agreed we had had enough....we dropped down Cottontail to the regular loop and finished the ride on that route.

Still, the last climb up to the parking lot on the road had my legs asking for a break and when we finally got to the truck after just under 2 hours, I was ready for a beer and a rest.

The weather ended up being perfect, the trail conditions were ideal, the bike performed flawlessly....now if I could just get the motor tuned up and running better, I'd be all set.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Feet of Clay....

If you say someone you admire has "Feet of Clay" you're usually referring to the fact that that person has hidden faults or a character flaw.  The analogy actually goes back to the bible where Daniel interprets a dream had by the then current king of Babylon, Nebechadnezzar in which he saw a great statue who's feet were made of half iron and half clay. The premise being there was a large, heavy object with a brittle, unstable base.

Last night, as I watched the premier of The Levi Effect, knowing that he and a whole slew of professional riders had recently confessed to doping led to some very conflicting thoughts as I sat there in the theater.

There have been events and decisions in my life that I would not be proud of and while feeling fully justified at the time of their making, have regretted them later. I would love to say that in every instance when facing a decision, I've chosen the moral and ethical path, but that's not the case. I have always made those choices though, knowing that were they to come to light I would own up to them, but in my heart of hearts I always hoped they would just pass by without ever coming due.

I think its interesting that there has been such an outcry and villianization of the pro cyclists that were caught. And yes, the majority of them were "caught". Very few have actually confessed and came clean and most would probably have tried to hide their dirty little secret forever had not the anti-doping agencies, the government, the cycling bodies, whatever pursued them to the point that they had to confess.

I was struck last night as I thought about the whole doping issue that yes, all of the riders had a choice to make and need to be responsible for their own decisions.  BUT, it's really not as black and white as many of us would like to think. For us, who ride recreationally, it's easy to say we wouldn't have done it.  If it was our livelyhood though, and you had bills, a mortgage, a family to feed, whatever......would it be that easy to say no?

Take this same scenario to other sports where people have dedicated their lives to acheiving their position. Many, to the exclusion of school, learning a trade or developing a market-able skillset and put them in a position where in order to keep their jobs, feed their families or put a roof over their head and ask them what they would do?

It's easy for us to judge and condemn these people. We've put them up on a pedestal and made heroes of them. People we don't even know. People that are above all, human, frail, prone to err and when they do come crashing down for any variety of reasons we feel cheated and angry and want to make examples of them for their transgressions.

Did the cyclists use illegal and banned substances, yep.
Should they pay the penalty, yep
Did they damage the sport in some way, probably
Will a witch hunt and public flogging of them fix the sport? Not at all

Many say punishment is a deterrent to crime and I actually agree that if you think you'll get caught, you are less likely to commit a crime - after all, most criminal never think they'll get caught. But, I think that the doping issue is much bigger than just the users. I think that a society that rewards victory at all costs and an industry that promotes, condones and even makes excuses for illicit behavior like professional sports has done for years carries a large part of the responsibility for curing itself.
I imagine, had some of the cyclists attempted to take the high road, the same teams that so quickly dropped them and denied any knowledge would have replaced them with riders more willing to "do what it takes to win"

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the movie generated some conflicting thoughts and I haven't come up with any hard and fast answers, but something has to change.
I've also come to a few conclusions:
 - These are basically good, decent people that made bad choices in the pursuit of their dream
 - Many of these supposed "villians" have leveraged their fame and noteriety to do tremendously good things
 - It's not like taking a performance enhancing drug made their lives easier - they still worked their asses off and rode their bikes for hours and hours in all kinds of weather

Friday, October 19, 2012

Donner Lake Rim Trail.....

It's 4:30 am on Thursday and there's an annoying ringing in my ears....its not until I realize its the alarm and I shut it off that I remember.....today I get to ride my mt bike! In Tahoe!!! with my friends!!!instead of going to work!!!

We've been trying to put together a Tahoe trip all summer and its just never quite worked out until this weekend.  Chris is off work and heading up, I have a bunch of vacation days I need to use or lose and Jerrry...well Jerry's retired and he can and does ride at every chance.

By 5:30 I'm ready and standing at the window looking for Jerry's van.  Ok, maybe I 'm a little excited.  My wife, my kids and most of my friends are working today and I'm going to be in Tahoe riding my mountain bike....what could be better than that?

The drive up goes smoothly, except for the part where Jerry forgets to put his FastPass on the dash going over the bridge.  Yep, there's a ticket in his future, but I guess its better him than me...yeah, I'm selfish like that.

Soon enough we're pulling in to the Tahoe Donner community and from there into Chris' driveway.  I love how my friends tell me they have cabins in the mountains only to find when I arrive that this is no cabin.  It's a house in a really pretty setting.  His place is really nice. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, hot running water, indoor toilets, and a high speed internet connection....evidently I need to adjust my definition of the word "cabin".

Chris had an amazing breakfast waiting for us with bacon and blackberry pancakes and fresh ground coffee....I'm guessing he didn't want us running out of gas on our ride today.
One of the coolest parts of today's ride was the fact that it was going to start and end at his house.  There would be no loading up and driving to the trailhead, we would go from his front porch to pedaling.  Not a bad deal at all.

First we rode over to the equestrian center/bike shop but, as expected, they were already closed for the season.  From there we headed up the road to the trailhead and began to climb.  The downside to living at sea-level and heading to Tahoe for a quick couple of days is that there's no time to acclimate.  We went from 0 to 7000 ft and my lungs were definitely feeling the effects.
 The first climb is a loose, rocky, dusty fireroad that at some points actually forced me off the bike.  It's not that it was just steep, and it was, it was also this loose, rocky decomposed granite that provided no traction whatsoever.  (yes, that's the story I'm going with although you'll note I already mentioned how much my lungs were suffering)
Once we got to the top, the fun really begins.  The next half hour was an amazing single track journey down through the trees winding our way through and along the canyon to the bottom where things leveled out.   The next section was mostly level with some up and down, a couple bridge crossings and a few sections of fire road.

It was a perfect day.  Weather was cool, but not cold and my choice of a lightweight, long sleeve jersey proved to be perfect.

Eventually, the road turned up again and once again became a loose, rocky, lung-busting climb.  At several points along this climb, staying in the saddle and red-lining, with my lungs crying for mercy, I was wondering if I was burning matches I was going to need later. Thinking that I'd just have to pay that bill when it came due, I put my head down and concentrated on making the pedals go round and round.

As we reached the top and pulled up to Summit lake I was overwhelmed by just how perfect today was turning out.  What could be better than spending a day with two good friends, riding great trails and stopping for lunch at one of the most scenic places I've ever seen?

It was here that a decision needed to be made. We had started the day without a real plan other than riding up to Summit Lake.  From there, we had talked about either continuing on or finding a different way back but hadn't really thought too far beyond that.

After eating our PB&J sandwiches, trail mix and cookies, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a nap sounded better than getting back on the bike.  The dark clouds coming our way discouraged that idea and also helped confirm our decision to head back the way we had come and towards the ice chest full of beers sitting on Chris' porch.

The loose, rocky climb that hurt so much on the way in, was now a loose rocky descent which, although less painful, was still a bit of a challenge.  Traction was sketchy and the descent required our full attention.  Once that was over though, the ride back along the fire roads and singletrack to the bottom of the canyon went by way too quickly and soon enough we were faced with climbing the long downhill we had enjoyed so much just a couple of hours before.


Its interesting in that we were actually talking about this climb at lunch and saying at least its a long moderate climb and not very steep.  Funny how your perspective changes when you're going up a hill instead of down, this was turning in to a serious climb.  The narrow singletrack, the switchbacks and the elevation were all combining to push me well into the red zone and it wasn't too long before I was soaked.  Mostly from sweat and but also from the sprinkles that had started falling from dark clouds looming above us.
As all things do, the climb eventually came to an end as did the showers and we were able to enjoy a nice long downhill to the bottom.  At some point I realized I was having a blast but was completely alone.  Pulling to the side, I waited.....and waited....and finally, not wanting to, but without any other choice, I began again climbing the hill I had just come down and had climbed earlier in the day.

As I came to the first major intersection and the last place I remember seeing anyone behind me I stopped and started to dial Jerry or Chris' cell number.  Just as I began though, Chris pulled up and explained that he had pulled over earlier when he realized we had lost Jerry.  After much deliberation, we continued to the bottom and the road thinking he was just on a different path but should end up in the same place....um...nope.

The next hour was spent playing phone tag, trying to talk Jerry back on to our route and finally deciding to head back up the trail to meet him.  Once regrouped, we continued down a different route which turned out to be a really good twist since it took us through a stand of Aspens that were in all their Fall glory....

Soon enough we were back in the neighborhood, then back on the porch and enjoying an ice cold beverage.

Total for the day was about 20 miles and 3500ft of climbing - we definitely weren't breaking any speed records, but that wasn't our goal and the fun and beauty points more than made up for it.

 - video from the day https://vimeo.com/51420790

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I was THAT kid....


This thought continued to run through my mind with every bike I put into the clamp of my workstand this past Sunday. The only difference was I didn't have this resource.

The TurningWheels for Kids Tri-Valley chapter held our first ever Free Bike Clinic in Livermore last Sunday. And, although it was over 100 degrees, we still had over 30 volunteers show up to help us fix 60 bikes.

As a kid growing up with a single parent who was doing his best just to get by, there was a good portion of my childhood where we didn't have money for a bike. Most of the time, I just did without and when I did get a bike, it was either one that someone had grown out of or a friend of the family had found, fixed up and given to me.

I can remember one instance in particular when I had just moved back in with my dad after a period living with my aunt and uncle. We lived in San Jose in the early 70s, BMX was just starting to take off and several of my new friends had converted their stingrays to bmx bikes by taking off the banana seat and the high rise bars and putting on an old 10 speed seat and some bmx bars.

I was so excited when one day after work my dad walked in to the apartment with some junk pile find and the promise that we'd fix it up just like "one of those fancy bmx bikes". That excitement eventually dimmed as Saturday after Saturday there it sat on the patio waiting for him to keep his promise.

Its memories like these and my later passion for biking that first got me involved with TurningWheels for Kids. Too often, for reasons beyond their control, kids today don't get to experience the liberation and freedom that comes with owning a bicycle.  And they pay for it in ways that will affect them the rest of their lives. In addition to never being able to experience the joy of the wind in their face, we've got a generation of kids growing up with ever increasing obesity rates, diabetes issues, health problems and an attitude of laziness from being shuttled and chauffeured everywhere they need to go.

As we were setting up our pop-ups and organizing ourselves and our tools, I noticed a kid out on the curb looking at us and I could almost imagine the thoughts going through his head....is it really free? what if they ask me to pay? What if the labor is free but I have to pay for parts? As we waived him forward he came tentatively, broken bike and the flier we had passed out at his school in hand...soon enough though, he was smiling and happy as one of the teams loaded his bike into the repair stand and began to get it back up and running.

As the day wore on, and the kids kept coming, I heard the same story told over and over again only in different voices..."yeah, I used to ride it everywhere but then I got a flat, my pedal broke, my brakes quit working, my handlebar came loose, etc, etc....."
For the majority of the bikes, the issues started out as minor fixes but turned into bigger jobs as a result of sitting un-ridden in a yard somewhere.

I actually spent a couple hours in the afternoon with what was obviously a hard-ridden, low budget bike in my stand. The wheels were so bent it barely rolled and brake pads so worn that if you did get it going there was no way you were going to stop. As I worked on it for a guy not that much younger than me, I kept thinking, "why doesn't he just break down, pony up the 100 bucks this thing cost and buy a new bike? It was only when he came over and said, "are you going to be able to fix it? I have to ride it to work tomorrow" that the reality check kicked in.....I spent more on my recent set of pedals than this guy has invested in his daily transportation.....yes, I admit it, I really do forget sometimes just how blessed I am.

Eventually, as the afternoon came to close and the last of the bike stands were folded up and put away I looked around. Everywhere on the faces of our group of volunteers, along with the dirty hands, greae stained clothes and tired eyes was something else...something more...something real....there were smiles. There were looks of satisfaction...an attitude of having done something worthwhile....of something good....

To a person, every single volunteer said, "that was a great experience, when are we doing it again?"
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Like putting on an old sweater....

The lawns needed mowing, my office renovation was still incomplete and we were expecting family for Sunday dinner in a few hours. So, looking at the yard, the house and the sun shining outside I did what any good, responsible parent and husband would do....I got the road bike out, put air in the tires, wiped off the layer of dust and clipped in for a nice quick ride.

I haven't been on the road bike but a couple of times since the Tahoe ride back at the beginning of June.  Its not that I haven't been riding, I've been trying to get in at least one or two a week, but they've all been on the mountain bike which is more about short, intense efforts than a longer sustained ride.

What would this be like? Would I be strong? Fast? Smooth? Would I remember how to shift?

As it turns out, clipping in was a lot like putting on an old sweater. At the beginning of the season, I invested an afternoon and had Chris over at Eden Bicycles spend some time and do an actual professional fitting of my bike.  Granted, I'm not a racer, I don't get paid to ride my bike and at the level that I'm at, the fit probably doesn't really affect my performance too dramatically.  What the fitting did do though was make my bike, my bike. 

From the moment I clipped in everything fell exactly where it was supposed to. My hands rested on the hoods perfectly, my fingers found the brifters with no hesitation or missed shifts, the reach to the bars was exactly in the perfect place to allow me a nice flat back and a comfortable pedal stroke....yep, its definitely my bike....where have you been she asked?

The time off the bike though did take its toll.  My pedal stroke was jerky and felt more like pushing pistons than making smooth circles.  Thankfully the first part of the ride, down Union City Blvd is with the wind and although there's not much shoulder, traffic on a sunday afternoon was light and the cars that did go by were all polite and moved over to pass.

At the end of Union City Blvd, I jumped on to the Alameda Creek trail and turned east....suddenly, the tailwind that had moved me along so nicely was a crosswind and immediately my pace slowed. My gps had died within a block of leaving the house so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going.

My previous best time for today's loop was 1 hour even. The route is 21 miles and on my best day finishing in an hour took a combination of me killing myself and the wind cooperating with and not fighting me. Today, knowing I hadn't been on the bike in a while and with no idea of my average speed, all I could do was turn myself inside out trying to maintain a pace that kept me right on the redline.

As I got to the end of the Alameda Creek trail and turned north on to Mission Blvd, the annoying sidewind became a full-on headwind and the work really began.  I had been keeping my pace high, trying to make smooth fast circles in the hopes that I could at least get close to my personal best, but the wind and the pain in my legs were leading me to realize that this was not going to be my day.

I continued to push myself, sweat running in to my eyes before being dried into a crust by the wind blowing in my face, my legs were definitely beginning to fade and my water bottle was empty....still I tried to keep the pace as high as possible as I made the turn west onto Industrial Blvd.  The last leg, the final push and thankfully, the wind had returned to being just an annoying crosswind.

Evidently, Industrial Blvd isn't one of the main bike routes in Hayward. Or, if it is, the City is really falling down on the job as I spent as much time dodging glass, wood, and various other types of debris as I did forcing my legs to continue going round and round.

Eventually, as I turned back on to Hesperian and then on to my own street I was able to sit up and cool down.  Coasting into my driveway I pushed the "end ride" button on the Strava app on my cell phone and immediately saw that despite my best efforts, today was not going to be my day.

Distance: 21.0 miles
Time: 1:11
Avg Speed: 17.5mph

Maybe I need to start spending a little more time on the road bike....even though it fits like an old sweater, the motor may need a bit of a tune up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Circles of Life...

As I typed the above title, I was immediately transported back to the theater with my kids where the wise old baboon or monkey or whatever it is, held the lion cub up in the air and everyone celebrated.....unfortunately these past couple of weeks have not been like that at our house.

It's been a rough couple of weeks with my grandson falling and breaking his arm, Deb's dads surgery and subsequent passing, followed immediately (as in 3 days later) by her brother's sudden and unexpected passing.  Add to this all the arrangements and funerals for the two family members which only stretch out the grief and mourning process and you can see how the past two weeks might conservatively be classified as total SUCKAGE.

Now, I completely understand and believe that everything in our lives is part of God's plan and works to His glory.  I also completely understand that, in the grand scheme of life there are people that have and will continue to deal with issues much more overwhelming than those my family is facing.  But knowing something  in your head and dealing with it in your own life are two different things.

Sometimes, as we wander through the darker valleys in our lives we can begin to believe that things will always be this way and that we'll never see the sunshine again.  If you don't take a step back and get a little bit of perspective, its easy to believe that the current situation is the way its always been and always will be.

Its at those times that I know I need to get on the bike and clear out the cobwebs.  Its at those times that I need to not think about the circle of life, but instead need to think about different circles....small, continuous circles made with my legs that allow my brain to shut off and check out and get all the voices in my head to shut the heck up for a while.

Thankfully, this past weekend was a three day holiday weekend and, while I had a couple of different options for group rides, I instead decided to take the single speed out for a solo suffer-fest therapy session at Chabot.  I was amazed as I showed up at the parking lot to find every single spot full and ended up parking across the road in a construction lot. This does not bode well for time alone on the bike.  Once I got on the bike and away from the lake though, I only saw a few other groups of people.  Mostly hikers, but a couple of cyclists as well.

The ride was actually pretty uneventful. Long periods of suffering on the climbs, followed by too short periods of trying to get my heart rate under control on the flats and downhill sections.  The weather was hotter than I expected and I stopped whenever I felt like it to let my bike have a rest (She needed, I didn't of course

take photos, sit on a bench or straddle my top tube and stare at the view.   As I usually do, I tried to hammer myself into a state of mindlessness on the uphill sections and took it easy on the flats and downhills.  After a couple of decent crashes in the past year, I've finally realized I'm not invincible and healing takes a lot longer than it used to.

It wasn't until about half way through the ride that I finally reached my happy place. As I stopped at one of my favorite turnouts to enjoy the view and have a gel, it dawned on me just how blessed our family really is.   Did the previous couple of weeks suck? Definitely! Were there going to be some hard times in the future? Absolutely! Does losing family members, no matter what age bite? No Doubt!
BUT, we also have much to be thankful for....we have an amazing family to help us through the tough times, we have roofs over our heads, jobs that pay us, food on the table and a God who loves us enough to share our hurt and our burdens....

As I got back in the truck to head home, knowing I had the same issues waiting for me as when I left, I felt better.  Things were back in perspective and as with everything, this too shall pass....

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit
Psalm 34:18

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

OFF the bike....then off the bike...

Two Sunday's ago, after church, I needed to get out and ride. Lately, with life being as busy as it is, my ride time has dropped dramatically.

I really wanted to put in a good hard ride though so I brought out the SS and headed for the long loop at Chabot. The day was going great. Weather was warm, but not hot. Trail was fairly empty once I got away from the lake and I was getting a good hard ride in without killing myself.

One of the benefits to riding alone is that I can go as hard or as easy as I want. This particular day, I was going hard uphill to get a good workout, but taking it easy on the flats and downhills knowing I had no schedule and no one I had to keep up with.

Things were great....until they weren't....about 2/3rds the way around the loop after the last drinking fountain, I was zipping down a rough bumpy downhill section when my front wheel went in to a rut. - sidestory: the parks dept grades the trails with a bulldozer which doesn't do anything except drag the loose powdery stuff into the ruts. The ruts are still there, its just now they're camouflaged - Once my tire went in to the rut I heard what amounted to a large burp and my front tire was immediately flat.

This flatting of the front tire led to an interesting chain of events. 1) the handlebars wrench sideways 2) the bike comes to a sudden and immediate stop 3)the rear wheel to tries to trade places with the front wheel 4) Rich becomes airborne 5) Rich stops being airborne by impacing the ground 6) Rich slides across the ground on his shoulder, elbow and knee creating nice ovaloid sections of red, bleeding flesh at all three contact points.

It wasn't really as painful as I thought it was going to be and, to be honest, I was so worried about being seen in this predicament that I bounced up and moved to the side of the trail before anyone saw me. After quickly re-inflating the tire I mounted the bike and got back underway as quickly as possible.

The good news is that there really was no serious injury and my bike is actually fine, although my brake lever is slightly tweaked. The downside is that later as I stood in the shower trying to clean dirt and gravel from my knee, elbow and shoulder...I whined and cried like a little girl....but that's ok, because no-one saw that part of the ordeal and to all concerned I'm still a tough as nails mt biker with the scars to prove it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Superpower....

I've never been a fast rider. Granted, there was a time when I thought I was fast, but then I rode with people that actually ARE fast and realized what fast looked like.....and I'm not it.

I'm ok with that though. (ok, I'm lying. It kinda bugs me that I'm slow) because although I'm not fast, I have this innate ability to plod on despite overwhelming outside influences....in short, I can suffer. If I had a super-power, it would be in my ability to suffer....I have this built in skill that allows me to just put my head down and keep making circles even when everything in my body is trying to talk my brain into stopping and lying down.

I first noticed this superpower back when I was younger and got into running. Back then I was tall and skinny and didn't know about hydrating and proper fueling so there were times, especially in the summer, when I'd go out for my afternoon run through the hills and I'd end up at some point stopping on the side of the road and throwing up. Of course it never happened near home so despite the fact that I was probably bonking or dehydrated or overheated, I'd still have to turn around and run home. Granted, my pace would suffer, but I'd always make it home. On other occasions I'd start out for a run with the weather showing cloudy and sure enough, the skies would open up and I'd end up running the last few miles in a pouring down rain.

More recently, the first time I did the Death Ride, I mis-managed my intake and started cramping up partway up the second pass.  In keeping with my past history, I just got off the bike, but continued walking up the hill until it passed. I then got back on the bike and continued to repeat the process until I had completed 3 passes which was the very minimum goal I had set for myself. Ride, cramp, walk, repeat...

In every case, my willingness to suffer through has paid off in a weird sense of accomplishment. Almost like continuing on, despite the desire to quit and despite the desire to lay down on the side of the road, is some sort of victory.  In addition, on many rides the suffering will usually pass which leaves me to enjoy a great ride. At the very least, the willingness to suffer ends up proving that I can which leads to future rides where I can look back and know that this too shall pass.

This past Sunday I wanted to get out and ride. I knew that by the time I finished church, got home, changed and got out to the trail, the cool part of the day would be over and I'd be riding in the heat. I also knew I hadn't ridden in about 3 weeks so it was going to hurt.

As it turns out it was hot, about 90 degrees, and it did hurt. The amazing thing though was that since I've got this amazing superpower, I was able to make it up Brandon (suffering the entire way) and down the other side where surprisingly enough, I quit suffering and started enjoying the ride. by the time I got back to my truck an hour and half after I started, I was filthy, sweaty and beat but I was also very glad I ahd gotten out. Mentally, I was relaxed and ready to begin a new week....

Friday, August 10, 2012

Leaves of Three...Let it Be...

These words ring out to anyone that has spent time hiking or biking in the woods.  Of course as a kid living in the Hayward Hills where poison oak covers more ground than almost any other plant, they didn't help me avoid the scratching itching burning little beast.  I and my brothers were regulalry dealing with the annoying little rash on some part of us or another most summers....

The solution back then was scratch it till it was raw, then jump in the chlorinated pool.....sure, it wasn't the most scientific or medically sound treatment, but once the screaming stopped, it was usually pretty effective.

Over the years I grew to respect and avoid this noxious shrub and, for most of my adult life, even though I hike, fish and ride my mountain bike in the hills regularly, I've been pretty lucky in that I've avoided it.

This past Tuesday though ,as I got to work I noticed a rash on my left wrist.  Thinking it was just irritation from my watch, I took off the watch, washed the area and put on some hydrocortizone cream....no big deal right????? WRONG....all day long it bothered me and when I got home I noticed a red bumpy rash all over my arm from the back of the hand up to my bicep...oh crap!
I've been here before and this isn't going to be fun....sure enough, Wednesday morning dawned to the insane itchy-ness on both arms from the wrist to the bicep....

The crazy thing is that I haven't actually ridden my bike near poison oak for the past two weeks so I'm not sure when I came in contact with it.  I've read that the oil (urushiol in case you're wondering) can stay on surfaces for several months so now the issue is, what did I touch over the weekend that had the oil on it.  Was it the laundry? I know I washed my bike jacket this past weekend. Was it the bike itself? I worked on my SS on Saturday. Was it the geared bike? Angel had borrowed that and I picked it up from his house on Sunday....

If you see someone in my neighborhood wearing rubber gloves and a haz mat suit while they clean out their garage, their truck, do all their luandy and strip and remake the bed.....you'll know its me trying my hardest to make sure I never get this stupid rash again....




Monday, July 23, 2012

The Long, Long Loop...

We ride Lake Chabot pretty much every Thursday night throughout the year. It's not that its a partcularly fantastic ride, it's just that its local, a good ride and a great workout.

It used to be that there were two standard loops. The "regular" loop which is 10 Hills, Brandon, Golden Rod, Bass Cove and back to the paved West Shore Trail and up the hill to the parking lot. It's a good ride for sure at about 13 miles and 1500ft of climbing. The worst of it is the Brandon climb which is a long slog and the least fun portion of the ride.

The "Long" loop, used to include adding in Redtail and Soaring Hawk which although it only increased the mileage to about 16 it increase the climbing to 2200ft or so. This loop was one that I'd either choose to do or not depending on a couple of factors; how I was feeling when I showed up that evening, whether or not I was on the SS or the geared bike and how much I wanted to suffer....

Last week though, I was introduced to the "long, long loop". In addition to Redtail and Soaring Hawk, it includes Macdonald which takes you up to Parkridge Dr before bringing you to Skyline Bl. Of course Parkridge Dr is an unplanned little 11% surprise after climbing Macdonald which feels very similar to a kick in the teeth.

Skyline on the other hand is a good surprise in that its a fun little singletrack that runs right down the middle of the road. With lots of roots and bumps and opportunities to loose control....it really requires you to pay attention if you want to carry any speed through there.

Eventually though you come to the stables where you re-enter Lake Chabot's boundaries and from there, it gets a little hazy as to trail names. I think we were on GoldenRod, but I'm not sure. I do know there was another climb, because I was told it was all downhill from here and the fact that I had a pretty steep, but thankfully short climb to deal with did not make me happy.

From here down it became the rest of the regular loop...only, as toasted as I was, it was enough to make me hurt....thank goodness I was on the geared bike. After getting home, showering, taking some tylenol and checking out the Garmin I was surprised to find that I had only done 19 miles but 2900ft of climbing....
http://app.strava.com/rides/13508616

I've done the "regular long loop" on the SS and felt tired but ok. I'm not so sure I can do the "long, long loop" on the SS and not cry...I guess I'll find out this Thursday...Yay for stupid ideas and new challenges....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dawn of the Dead...

Dawn of the Dead was an awesome movie....especially the part where they were targeting and shooting zombies from the roof top.....although Night of the Living Dead was also awesome and as I remember scared me to the point that I wanted to sleep with the lights on. Of course, those zombies didn't care about lights like the ones in Omega Man.....those were zombies weren't they?

Anyway, back on topic....It was 2003 and I was looking for a way to get back in shape that didn't involve hours in the gym, (or the monthly dues) allowed me to be outside and, since I pretty much hate running, didn't involve running.

I grew up riding bicycles and had always enjoyed it.  Then, in the early and mid 80's, as a newly married guy, I got in to mountain biking as a way to stay in shape and blow off steam. We lived in a 2 bedroom, rent controlled apartment in a not so great area, but I'd ride my bike up in to the Hayward Hills a couple times a week.  At the time it was a Schwinn Sierra, then after that was stolen a Giant Iguana, then after that was stolen (remember, we lived in a not so great area) a Diamond Back Ascent....(before you judge me for being negligent, they were all locked on my patio and the last one was actually run through an eye bolt into the concrete)

Each of the above bikes was a rigid framed, non-suspended bike and being a young married guy, each was a stretch to our already limited budget that I justified as being less expensive than therapy and/or blood pressure medicine.  While my riding friends in the early 90s were moving to bikes with front suspension, I was still riding the heck out of my hardtail, rigid framed bikes and, not knowing any better, loving them.
Then as life got busier and I didn't have time for the rides anymore, the bikes usage decreased while my weight increased.

So, its now 2003 and I'm looking to lose some weight...I decided to try to get back into mountain biking. Of course, by now the old diamond back without shocks and with cantilever brakes, was considered old technology and seeing as I couldn't get in shape unless I rode and I couldn't ride unless I had a "new" bike, I started shopping.  I'm pretty sure shopping for a new bike is almost as fun as riding a new bike....so one day, after many trips to all the local bike shops, spending time reading all the magazines, I wandered in to the local REI and saw they had a full suspension, disc braked, shiney red, K2 on clearace for almost half off the stickered price...it was like a sign from heaven...I was obviously meant to buy this bike....so I did.

And I rode it like crazy. It was my only bike so it was my everything bike. It's been to Tahoe, it been a commuter, its been a road bike...I'd upgraded the brakes, the wheels, the derailleurs, the rear shock, went to clipless pedals...I loved that thing....
Eventually though, I realized one bike couldn't do everything so I bought a road bike, then I got in to single speeding and from there a 29er....until the point that my old K2 didn't get ridden anymore and I dismantled it and hung the frame on my wall as a memento.

This past weekend though, after looking at the various bins full of parts that I had, I decided to try to resurrect the old K2. I did buy a new front shock, since the old manitou had no lock out and was so soft it was bottoming out with barely a push...pther than that, most everything has come from the parts bins and is the result of upgrade-itis or wanting a new somehting or other for other bikes...

Still have a ways to go and will have to actually buy a chain and cables, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the old gal rides...I think she'll end up being my loaner bike going forward so I don't need to loan out my 29er....


Sunday, July 1, 2012

SF to Tahoe - Day 6 Loop Around the Lake

As a kid I spent several summers in Lake Tahoe staying with my sister Maureen.  Lots of kids have older sisters and I'm sure that most of them think just as highly of theirs as I do mine, but in my case, there was a portion of my life growing up when Maureen was the only stable thing in it.  My mom had passed away, my dad had some challenges he was dealing with and I spent time with various family members, friends of his and for a while I even lived with a family of a guy he worked with.
 
It was during those summers I spent in Tahoe that I fell in love with not only the lake and the surrounding area, but being in the mountains in general.  While Maureen was at work during the day, I'd spend time at the lake trying to catch fish, in the hills wandering around or riding an old 10 speed that she had in the garage. 

As I rode that old 10 speed in to or around  town, or on a couple of occassions all the way to River Ranch to see her for lunch, the dream of riding all the way around the lake began to form.  Of course in those days, riding a bicycle all the way around the lake was just an idea dreamt up by a kid with a long slow summer ahead of him....sort of like digging a hole all the way to china or jumping off a building with a sheet thinking you could fly.....a dream not at all based in reality....

Today though, on our carbon fiber wondersteeds with lightweight whizbang doodads and super aero whatchamacallits we were actually going to do it.  We were going to ride all the way around the lake.  As a grownup, having done several century rides as well as having ridden from SF to LA and now SF to Tahoe, you'd think the excitement about riding around the lake would have dimmed....but the opposite is actually true.  I was so freakin excited to make this ride, I couldn't wait.

Where we started in Tahoe City, right outside the condo complex, is actually the Mile 0 sign for the loop around the lake.  So, obviously, this called for a photo opportunity.  We had a pretty big group this morning.  In addition to the Magnificent 7, which is what we, who had done the whole ride, were calling ourselves, we had Leticia's husband Bob, Dwight's wife and daughter, Maria and Serena and my buddy Nick.  Nick was so jazzed to do this ride, he had gotten up at 4am in the bay area and driven all the way up to meet us for the ride.
The ride started off great and only got better from there.  The weather was perfect, the friendship was incredible and the scenery....well, there's a reason Lake Tahoe is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Pretty quickly the group divided into the faster group and the tourists.  Jer, Nick and I, stopping at almost every turnout to take pictures, soon realized we had a completely different agenda than the rest of the group and encouraged them to go on ahead.  The plan was to meet up in South Shore for lunch.

Once we ditched the faster group, (ok, so maybe its the other way around) our pace became even more relaxed (if that's even possible).  We continued to stop at every scenic turnout, and they all were, and we continued to maintain a pace that even with the elevation and the previous week's miles in our legs allowed us to focus on enjoying the ride.

As we rode around the lake, stopping to take photos, checking out the entance to the Tahoe Rim trail, and eventually meeting up with the rest of the group in South Shore for lunch, I continued to be struck by how something I had only dreamed of as a kid was actually becoming a reality.  Earlier, when we hit Spooner grade, as my legs made smooth easy circles in a low gear, my mind was able to unplug from my body and I spent the next several minutes just reflecting on how blessed my life was.  I had a great group of friends, an awesome family and had just spent an entire week enjoying God's creation from the seat of my bicycle.....
After eating an amazing lunch, I'm pretty sure any meal eaten after a day of riding is amazing, we set out for the last leg of the ride.  We still had a good climb ahead of us as we climbed up and around Emerald  Bay. 

I read somewhere that Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed locations in the US and I don't doubt it.  The climb is narrow, has several switchbacks and is pretty darn steep.  But the traffic was light and those drivers that did come by were all polite and patient and we had no issues. 

Once we finished that climb there's a long, fast downhill that was the highlight of the day.  I actually had a car behind me and as we began the descent and I upshifted, stood and began to hammer at the pedals, he actually slowed down and gave me the room to enjoy the road with no pressure from behind....and I totally appreciated the gesture.

From here it was just a matter of finishing the last several miles of flat, mostly bike path back to the condo.  The rest of the group was pretty far ahead of us so Bob, Jerry and I took our time and made the most of the last miles of the trip.

After finishing up the ride, cleaning up and washing the dust out of our throats with a couple of beers, we all headed over to Maureen and Craig's for a barbeque.  My sister and her husband not only opened their house to me and 10 of my friends, but they made us an amazing dinner in addition to making everyone there feel like old friends.  Yep, they're awesome that way! 

The late hour and the miles eventually caught up to us though and we called it a night, heading back to the condo for a final night before heading back home and back to reality.

One of the highlights of our week on the road was the people that we met.  There was the young lady on the first day that recognized and commented on the fact that anyone that had friends willing to ride from SF to Tahoe with him was indeed a lucky guy.  Then there was the hostess of the bed and breakfast that regaled us with stories of not only restoring an old farmhouse, but organizing and running the annual Redneck Olympics where the winner of the plunger toss was disqualified because she had been a housecleaner which was considered being a professional.  And of course, who could forget Norm, the keeper of the Old Highway 40 historical society that in addition to sharing his displays and treasures with us, mentioned in passing that he once owned the Donner Ski resort.....it only makes sense that the hostess/server/owner of the restuarant where we had breakfast on this, our last day would add to the list of memorable people on the trip.  She was funny, sassy and seemed to really take a liking to Bill. 
What an amazing week......now I just need to work on plans for my next birthday adventure.

Monday, June 25, 2012

SF to Tahoe Ride - Day 5 Alta to Tahoe City

Well, this is it. The last and final push to Tahoe City....53 miles and the SF to Tahoe ride is in the bag, done, finito, checked off the bucket list....
Originally, the plan was to ride about 17 miles on Hwy 80 from Alta up to Cisco Grove where we could get off the main highway and onto Old Hwy 40.  After yesterday's experience though we decided to shuttle up to Cisco Grove and just start the ride there.  Turns out it was a great idea since further up Hwy 80 there was construction that would have made an unpleasant ride downright dangerous.

It was my turn to drive this morning and with 6 riders and only enough room for 3 passengers in the van, it was going to take 2 trips to get the gang started.  The first group of Jer, Gail and Bob were probably 45 minutes or so ahead of the second group of Bill, Leticia and Dwight and after seeing them off, I spent the remainder of the morning driving between the two groups making sure they had everything they needed. 

This section of the ride, despite the fact that it was uphill would have been a really nice ride.  It runs parallel to not only Hwy 80, but to the south fork of the Yuba river as well.  Its a really pretty road and I didn't see but one other vehicle until we got to the Soda Springs exit.

As the group pulled in to Soda Springs wqe stopped to regroup at the Donner Summit historical society. This actually used to be a ski shop called Java Summit sports.  Here we met Norm, the president of the society and walked around the little museum that they have there.  Turns out, according to Norm, there is a route that we could have taken up old Hwy 40 that would have eliminated our need to get on Hwy 80. (would have been nice to know that ahead of time I guess)
It was here that I would get back on the bike and Bob would take over the driving.  Once again, I had managed to dodge the climbing portion of the day and would get to enjoy the downhill into the Donner Lake area. 
Wow, what a downhill too.  Absolutely gorgeous with a view of the lake below us and a great swooping road to enjoy.

After reaching the bottom, you cruise alongside Donner Lake for a ways before crossing over Hwy 80 and coming in to Truckee where we were to regroup at Paco's Bike Shop.  Paco's is a really nice shop and the guy there, who's name I forget, was pleasant and seemed to enjoy hearing about our adventure. 

From here, Bob would get back on the bike and Dwight would take over driving.  Dwight, knowing Bob felt bad about missing the awesome downhill offered to run him back up to the top and let him have his turn at it.  Bob immediately agreed and Jer decided it was worth doing again, so off they went in the van as the rest of us headed to meet my sister Maureen in Squaw Valley for lunch.
For some reason, I was under the impression it was only about 6 miles from Truckee to Squaw so when I called Maureen, I told her we'd be there in about a half hour or so.....40 minutes laer as we were still working our way down Hwy 89, she called to see where we were. FYI - Hwy 89 on a bicycle is really not a great road.  The view is pretty and on Friday mid-day, the traffic wasn't too bad, but the road itself is not great.  The expansion joints on the shoulder keep you bouncing and bumping to the point that I felt like I may have loosened some filings.

Eventually though you turn in to the entrance to Squaw and the under the sign from the 1960 Winter Olympics.  From here, its a nice ride up to the village where we met Maureen.

With Bob and Jerry re-doing the descent from Donner summit, and knowing they still had at least an hour after that, we relaxed in the shade, ate a nice lunch and caught Maureen up on our adventure so far.  Squaw Valley in the summer is a completely different place than it is in the middle of ski season.  Instead of the crowds and the noise,  the village is quiet, relaxed and peacefull sitting at the bottom of the mountain and surrounded by the beautiful valley meadow. 

Jerry and Bob showed up not too long after and although I think Bob really enjoyed the downhill, pretty sure he may have been regretting his decision due to the miles on Hwy 89 that came along with it.  After five consecutive days of riding I think he was feeling the effects and, like me, was ready to be off the bike for the day.
From here, we had a short section on the bike path into town and over to the condo where we'd be spending the weekend.  Maureen, unlike the rest of us though, was still fresh having only had a short ride out to meet us.  As she took off, in the drops, legs making strong fast circles, you could tell she wasn't feeling the miles or the elevation that we were.

As we rolled in to Tahoe City, I had mixed feelings about finishing the trek.  Where the beginning of the week had held a sense of adventure and anticipation, the end of the trip left me wondering what to do next. Yes, I had set out to ride from home to Tahoe and had actually done it, and yes, my legs and body were tired and ready to be off the bike, and yes, there was a definite sense of accomplishment in setting a goal and actually accomplishing it.  But, at the other end of the spectrum, I really didn't want this week to end and as is always the case for me, the completion of a goal leads to a certain amount of emptiness.
We gathered at the condo, met up with Leticia's husband Bob and Dwights wife and daughter, showered, got situated and headed over to the Bridgetender for burgers and beers....a great way to end a great day.

Tomorrow, we'd wrap up the week with a loop around the lake and that would be the end of the adventure. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

SF to Tahoe - Day 4 Folsom to Alta

As had been my routine for this trip, and every day actually, I awoke early.  I'm usually awake by 4:30 most mornings and even on days off, rarely sleep beyond 6:00.  The challenge with having a roommate for the entire trip is to balance my internal clock and habits, with being a considerate roommate and not waking Dwight.

After seeing me wandering around the property waiting for the dining room to open, the lady working there finally took pity on me and offered me coffee from a pot she had made behind the bar. I grabbed a couple of cups and was going to head back up to the room, when Dwight stepped out of the elevator.  Evidently I hadn't been as quiet as I thought when I left and he was awake and ready for breakfast.  Maybe I should have renamed this blog "Eating our way to Tahoe"
Our plan this morning was to get on the road by 7:30. This was earlier than our normal start times so far of 8:30ish and was motivated by the fact that it was supposed to be in the 90's today.  Not only would be be heading up in to the Sierras, but we'd be doing it in the heat of the day.

A little later than planned but still earlier than normal, we were on our bikes and headed out of the parking lot.  It appeared from the map, that we could just get back on the bike trail we had ridden in on and continue up the road.  Um....nope.  The trail quickly degenerated into a dirt path, then even further into a single track hiking trail....a little more adventure than our skinny tires were setup for so we turned around, headed back to the parking lot and started out again, this time on the road.

As we left the downtown area, we crossed over the American River where it comes out of Folsom Lake and jumped back on to the American River Bike Path.  The path was nice and well shaded as it wound up and towards the lake. 

At some point we got off the bike path and onto the Folsom Dam Rd...which later became that damn road as it turned into a dirt multi-use trail that would have been more fitting for a fat tired bike than it was for my carbon fiber goddess of speed. 

Nevertheless, being more stubborn than smart, we continued on until we were at a point where it required a phone call to Bill and a conversation with a couple of hikers to figure out just where in the heck we were.
After a couple of starts and stops and some nice little climbs, especially impressive due to a complete lack of traction, we made it to the parking lot for the Granite Bay State Park and met up with Bill to regroup, get water, shed some layers and figure out a plan to get back on route.

Once back on route, we picked up Auburn Folsom Rd and settled in to a nice rythym and were actually making pretty good time.  The road was in good shape, the weather, though warming, wasn't uncomfortable and the traffic was light. 

Google Maps has a routing tool for bicycles.  Evidently its still in Beta and for the most part it worked well.  There were a couple of times where it took us off the main road, only to dump us back on after detouring through some residential neighborhoods.  I assume the goal is that since we're on bicycles we want to stay off main roads, but the reality is these "detours" didn't seem to add anything to the ride other than just a different road. 

A couple of times though, it almost seemed as if the engineers at Google were just being mean.  We turned off of Auburn Folsom Rd (which as I stated was a very nice road) onto Shirland Tract Rd which immediately went UP.  As a matter of fact, it went up on a switchback so steep, I actually heard Gail drop the "F" Bomb!  I later found out that Gail has a very distinct climb difficulty meter. Tough climb, really tough climb and after that, they're rated based on the number of "F" bombs dropped during the climb....Shirland Tract Rd will go in the books as a 2 "F" Bmb hill. 
Once we got the first two climbs out of the way though, the road was really pretty and continued to roll up, then down along the ridge before dropping us down at the next meeting spot in Auburn.

After getting water, gels, etc from the van we wound through Auburn and eventually came to the place we were to meet for lunch.  Auburn, like many of the towns we had gone through, is one of those places that in a car we go by on Hwy 80 and if we stop, it's usually just off the highway for food or gas.  There are actually some interesting things that most people will never see. Like giant concrete indian figures....
Lunch was at a Subway where we thankfully enjoyed the modern convenience of air conditioning as we sat and ate.  It had definitely gotten warm outside, but still not brutally hot as I had feared it would.

The morning had started off with some stops and starts, a couple of missteps and some interesting routing provided by Google Maps.  Thinking the afternoon would be any different would have been a mistake.  It wasn't long after lunch that we had our first "adventure".  Evidently we were supposed to be looking for a certain road to turn on and somehow missed it.  This led to a "nice" climb (that's sarcasm in case you're not sure) in full sun up to a pretty lake.  It would have been even prettier if we were meant to be there and didn't have to go backwards from here.
Eventually though, after talking to our support crew in the van (did I mention that I LOVE cell phones?) we found our way back on route and continued on. There were some good climbs and some fun descents as we worked our way up the hill towards Colfax.  Evidently, the engineers at Google have never actually been to Colfax since they had us going on Narrow Gauge Rd which is totally NOT a road. As a matter of fact, I need to find out if I can sue someone to replace my cleats from all the walking we did on this route.  I'm not sure I could have climbed this one on my geared mountain bike.
Oh well, like I said, it's the things that don't go according to plan that create the memories and this was shaping up to be a good one.  Soon enough we came out on a paved road and were back on route yet again.  The route, it turned out was from Rollins lake up to and over highway 80. This was abou ta 3 mile climb that gains 1000ft.  Nothing too brutal, but in the heat this late in the day, I was definitely feeling it.
Thankfully, Gail and Leticia were in the van at the top of the hill with cold drinks.

Its on these types of long, steady climbs that my brain tends to check out and my focus turns inward.  For me, riding has always provided a outlet for stress, a time to think through issues and problems and a healthy way to turn myself inside out and work on life's challenges.  The singular act of making cirlces is almost like meditation for me.

It's an easy thing, when facing challenges, to get so caught up in them that you forget to keep things in perspective.  My personality probably leads me to do this more so than many because I tend to be a little obsessive (some people have even accused me of having control issues. ha!)  In my day to day life I often find myself so focused on one issue or another that I let things get a little out of whack.  Riding my bicycle really allows me to step back from that and put things back where they belong on the priority list.  I have an awesome family, good health, a roof over my head and food on the table. I truly am blessed. Afterall, here I am, on a 7 day bicycle vacation, through paradise, with almost all of my closest friends
Once we refueled, we crossed over highway 80 again, and continued our climb, descend, climb routine up towards the sky.  Bill joked that with all ups and downs, it was requiring 2000ft of climbing for every 1000 ft of elevation we gained.  And I don't think he was far off the mark.  The downhill sections, which should have been joyous, we actually almost disheartening since we knew they only led to more climbing later.  Still, the scenery was pretty, the road was empty and as it had been all week, the fellowship was perfect.

Eventually, the road we were on ended and we were forced to ride a section of Hwy 80 up to Alta.  There wasn't really anything scary about Hwy 80, it was just not fun.  The shoulder was at least 10 ft wide, fairly clear of junk and debris and in decent shape.  Still, the cars and trucks whizzing by at 65 mph with the noise and the dirt they kicked up and the wind combined to make this the worst section of the day.  Add to that, my legs were cooked, it was uphill and hot and I just wanted the day to be over.
And soon enough, actually it felt like the longest 5 miles ever, it was over.  We were taking our offramp and pedaling around the corner to be greeted  by a very cool, nicely renovated victorian house that was to be our lodging for the evening.  We quickly dropped off the bikes, got our stuff inside, grabbed a beer and went and put our feet in the pool.  The water was freezing but felt so good that I dared Dwight to jump in.  He in turn said "if you do, I will"....to which I responded by jumping in....yep, again, my little pea sized brain convinced my body to do something stupid....
After everyone had cleaned up and relaxed for a it Joanne, who owns the B&B, provided us with an awesome dinner of ribs or vegetarian raviolis.  Joanne, it turns out, is quite a character and although I think she would have loved it if we stayed up all night sharing stories, we were all pretty wiped out and hit the sack early.

Total for the day was about 60 miles and 5K of climbing (I'm guessing since my garmin no longer stays charged for a full day's riding)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

SF to Tahoe - Day 3 Davis to Folsom

Today is to be our "rest day".  We still have 50 miles to ride but its all flat and all of it is supposed to be on bike paths and/or bike lanes.

Before we get to that though, yesterday I mentioned how Davis is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. This morning, before the ride, I got up early and took a walk to explore downtown (and to find coffee)
In addition to bike racks all over the city, bike lanes throughout the city and a 4 bike shops in the 10 block area I walked through, I came across this little bike path.....if there are any city planners out there trying to figure out how to do bike paths....well take a look at Davis...They NAILED IT!

Anyway, after getting back to the motel, enjoying their free continental breakfast, (which btw was VERY good, they even had a waffle maker) we loaded up and got ready to head out on the bikes.  Immediately we were lost.  We tried to follow the cool bike path in the picture above, but it went the opposite direction from where we wanted to go so we headed out on surface streets.
Eventually we found the bike path that goes to Sacramento and headed on our way.  We hadn't gone very far when I noticed the weirdest thing, it looked like a sail was blowing down the path in our direction.  As it turns out, it was a low, boat looking thing that went by us.  Bill and I, after a moment of indecision, decided to chase him down to get a picture.  We turned around, stood up and hammered out after him.....well, as much I was able to hammer anyway after back to back long days.
As we chased him down, my legs began to feel like lead and my commitment to getting a picture began to wane.....it didn't appear we were gaining on him at all and according to my GPS I was doing between 21-22 mph....eventually though, he came to the end of the path and had to stop for traffic. 

This gave us the opening we needed to catch him, flag him down and chat with him.  It turns out that he was on a covered recumbent and was riding from West Sacramento to Davis.  The thing was really pretty cool and evidently, since it was so aerodynamic, his pace of 21 mph was easily maintained while we were killing ourselves trying to catch him....I kind of got the feeling he saw us in his mirror and was actively trying not to be caught.
After a couple of pictures and a nice conversation, Bill and I began, yet again, to try to catch the group.....so far our "easy" day had already pushed me into the red zone more than I wanted.

After catching up to the group, we pedaled onward, making good time as we headed for Sacramento.  The bike path into Sacramento was mostly empty it being a weekday and we rolled in to Sacramento without getting lost again.  We met up with Gail and Dwight who were driving the first leg and got water and dropped off our jackets since it was already warming up.  The path then led through Old Town Sacramento and on to the American River bike path. 

From here, Dwight and Gail would head on up to the hotel at Folsom, drop off the van and ride backwards to meet up with us.  Jerry had used this process on other road trips and it seemed to be working really well on this trip too.

As had become our standard routine, Bill and I would stop frequently and take pictures then hustle to catch the group.  In most cases this worked fine and we never had any issues.  This time though, as we rode along thinking we would catch them at the next bend in the path we came to a long straight away and Bill mentioned that he didn't see them anywhere in the distance.  I in turn commented that "it's a bike path, there's no way to get lost on a bike path".  Um...well....evidently it is possible to get lost on a bike path as about 2 miles later our path ended at a major road and the others were nowhere in sight.

After discussing it for a few minutes, we called Jerry (I sometimes wonder how we ever survived without cell phones) and found out that evidently yes, you can get lost on a bike path if you miss the turn that goes across the river and picks up on the other side.
Once again, Bill and I were pushing to catch the group and this time with about 4-5 bonus miles added to our "easy" day.

The American River Bike Path is a really nice bike path and I'm pretty sure if I lived in the area, this would become one of my regular rides.  The scenery is pleasant, there are lots of water fountains and restrooms and the path itself is really well maintained.
The day continued to warm up and although it was only a 50 mile day (55 for those of us that are directionally challenged) my legs (and my butt, neck and shoulders) were feeling the effects of multiple long days on the bike. 

One of the coolest parts about traveling by bike instead of a car is the stuff you see.  Although I have driven to Tahoe literally hundreds of times, there were towns we went through that I had never seen before since they require getting off the freeway.  We rode across cool bridges, through parts of Sacramento that the freeway goes right over, and historic sites I had only read about.  One of the really cool things we saw was the Nimbus Dam trout hatchery. 

Having spent a good portion of my life in pursuit of these piscatorial protagonists (yep, that's an alliteration...impressive right?) it was really fun to see long concrete troughs packed full of rainbow trout in varying sizes.  Even better, was seeing them go crazy every time I tossed a handful of the pellets in the water.  I rarley even see trout and never see this type of activity when I'm actually out fishing so it was a rare sight.

Soon enough we rolled in to Folsom, checked into a really nice hotel, the Lake Natoma Inn, and cleaned up.  Afterwards, we set out in search of food since as much as I like Honey Stinger Waffles, having them for lunch wasn't going to work for me....
Downtown Folsom is another of those cool little towns that I've never actually seen before.  You can tell they're investing in making it a destination but on a Wednesday afternoon, the town was pretty quiet.  Dwight, who claims that chocolate is actually a food group, was thrilled to find out the town actually had a chocolate factory and we did our best not to drool all over the viewing windows as they made row after row of custom chocolate delicacies.

So, with our bellies full and our sweet tooth sated the next item on the agenda was a nice little nap.  The decision was actually a tough one though, do I take advantage of the jaccuzzi or do I take a nap?  The nap won out so the jaccuzzi would have to wait till after dinner.

A few hours later we regrouped in the lobby and headed out in pursuit of more food.  Yep, we'll burn it off was quoted once again as we sat down to mexican food and beers.  After an amazing plate of Arroz con Pollo and a couple of negro Modelos I was full once again and actually concerned that maybe I wouldn't burn it off.  I knew I had a date with a jaccuzzi later but in an attempt to at least burn a few of the calories I had taken in, several of us wandered through the one main street that makes up downtown Folsom.
Afterwards, sitting in the jaccuzzi, letting the previous 3 day's worth of riding gently wash away from my tired legs and butt, it struck me that this was indeed turning in to the trip of a lifetime and just how blessed I was to be making it.  The riding was amazing, the lodging was great and the friendship and fellowship were absolutely incredible.....this feeling of contentment and well being though was offset by the fact that tomorrow we would begin climbing up through the Sierras.