Monday, May 31, 2010

Croak! Splat. Croak. Sigh...Hmm...Hmm...Huh.

Pedaling along I came upon this scene. You may have to download photo for full effect.

Croak! went the Frog.
Splat went the tire.
Croak again went the Frog.
Sigh went the Slug, slowly slithering out of the Frog's...newly splatted croaker.
Hmm went I.
Hmm again went I.
Huh, I concluded.

On Saturday, I did the Mountain Loop Permanent #320. This time I did it clockwise which put the 14 mile dirt section as ascending. It proved much better for me and I completed it in much less time and well within the controle time limits. Last week, I did it counterclockwise and missed the Darrington controle cutoff time. In order to preserve my R-12, I needed to get it in before May ended, and so I did.

The rain stopped remarkably just long enough for me to ride the 14 miles of dirt. Other than that, it pretty much rained.

A Cyclist's delight: leashed and well-trained dogs.

Big old tree.

What the big old tree sees looking upstream.

Same tadpole hole as last week. You can't tell, but I could: the little Taddies are getting hind legs!

After the roadside scene depicted above, I serenaded the Taddies again, this time with admonitions about crossing roads and such when they grow up.

I hope they were listening...or it could be Cheep, Cheep, Ribbet......................................CROAK!

Keep it alert,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Older Brains are Smaller Brains: Wear Your Helmet!

Photo from the New York Times Health section.

If you didn't already have enough reasons to wear your helmet, this story from the New York Times says that our brains shrink as we age. Therefore, there's extra room inside our skull so that if we fall our brains get slammed around more. Conclusion: if you're older, wear your helmet.

And in case you wondered whether wearing your helmet matters in a crash, statistics confirm you are significantly more likely to suffer serious head injury without a helmet. Conclusion: if you eventually want an older, smaller brain and you're young, wear your helmet now so you can wear your helmet later.

Keep it...on,


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bar-Tailed Godwits: Randonneurs of the Skies

Bar-Tailed Godwit migration...nonstop!

I had already planned to post about today's New York Times Science section story about new micro-technology enabling us to study long-distance migration of birds even before I saw the reference to the Tour de France. And of course, the Times got it wrong, as most non-randonneurs might. The cycling activity analogous to the Bar-Tailed Godwit's 7100 mile non-stop journey would naturally be randonneuring, not racing in the Tour de France. For other migratory birds that do stop along the way like the Arctic Tern, it might be more similar to the Tour where one stops each night, eats, gets a massage, checks in with sponsors, etc.

I won't comment much on the story of these migrating birds. You really should just read the article. What I find exhilarating is using technology to study our natural world. Sure, I like the bicycle, a fine technological advance, and I use a smart phone and all that stuff. But where technology makes me perk up is in how it reveals the more marvelous natural world that's always been here with us...though constantly evolving, innovating.

For instance, it took micro-transmitters to elucidate these migratory marvels! I love that.

I also love the Space Program. Always have. I forgot to mention that when Mike and I stopped at Mesa Verde National Park ten days ago on our "auto-randonneuring" we had a blast visiting the ancient ruins and imagining the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans. The evening of our tour we splurged and ate at the National Park restaurant for a fine meal.

The couple next to us had a small boy about seven years old. He was one loud and precocious guy. In fact, by his behavior while waiting to be seated, I was not thrilled when they were eventually seated next to us. Turns out he was a great kid with a fabulous sense of humor. And his parents were very sharp themselves. While Mike and I were finishing our Southwestern-inspired meals, the boy's Mom pointed out the window at this swiftly moving light in the sky and declared: "There's the Space Shuttle." And so it was. And they even knew when it would be back around, how its orbit is elliptical, and how the next possible viewing for us was a function of the Earth's rotation and the Shuttle's orbit!

Very first Space Shuttle Columbia's "blast off" as we used to call the launch, compliments of Wikipedia. This, in 1981.

There we were in a pretty barren National Park in the off-season with not a lot of folks that night watching the shuttle whiz by (it does appear to really get a move on) after spending the day contemplating the most humble of technologies, like the kiva.

And, coincidentally or no, that very same Space Shuttle we spied, Atlantis, likely on its final voyage, is scheduled to land tomorrow according to NASA.

So how does all this relate to randonneuring? Well, the technology of endurance athletes is fascinating for us randos. I asked one experienced rando after we finished an SIR Permanent (he had just returned from an completing an Australian 1200k) what he thought the secret was. He told me that if you just stayed beneath your max (assuming that was still fast enough) you can go on for as long as you'd like.

Like the Bar-Tailed Godwit (photos above of bird and migration route courtesy of Wiki), randonneurs just get into that endurance state of mind. If the body is prepared, it is the state of mind that matters. You'll see, eventually technology will confirm that it is this state of mind that separates the birds-that-could-but-don't from the birds-that-can-and-do that the New York Times article alludes to.

Meanwhile, back in the heavens, I have a cousin whose husband's ashes I spread over a little cove on San Juan Island that is frequented by lots of migratory birds. I barely knew the man as he married her later in life. He wanted his ashes spread in the Pacific Northwest as he came to love it during his time in the Service. As she tells it--and if you read about it you'll see this is much disputed but who am I to say?--her husband was the one who uttered the now famous line: "Godspeed, John Glenn."

But as Godwits and Randos know, speed counts, but it's that enduring state of mind that matters.

And when it comes to tenacity, look again to the birdworld. Here's a story my Mum sent about Bald Eagles returning to my home county. Mike and I also spotted American Avocets (a really stunning bird) and what looked like Little Blue Herons during our journey. All good for that Spring is in the air feeling!

Keep it nonstop,


Monday, May 24, 2010

Tadpoles in Our Waters: SIR Permanent #0320, Mountain Loop 200k


When I realized I hadn't prepared enough for this past weekend's Oregon Randonneurs' Oregon Coast 600k, I ventured off to try the Seattle Randonneurs' Mountain Loop 200k. Featuring 14 miles of dirt road, it was a real departure from what I've ridden to date. It would have been better descending those 14 wet dirty miles on my soon-to-be 650B bicycle, but my old Fuji and her 32mm tires did OK.

Our National Forests do have many uses: Cycling, Camping, Hiking, Sunday Driving, fishing, Hunting...

Even Tadpoling!

See the long, skinny dark shapes? Those are some pretty long (nearly as long as my little finger) tadpoles I spotted on a pee break. Just as I spied them the Sun started to peek through what had been a dismal, rainy morning. My spirits picked up, and so I rode for a while serenading those tadpoles hoping that they'll soon be serenading me on a future brevet. Based on their size, I'm guessing they are more of the croaking serenaders, rather than the cheepers or ribbeters.

Oh, and Ice Spelunking too.

A local person on her break at the convenience store in Arlington told me it is illegal to actually enter the caves, but somebody gets killed nearly every year nonetheless.

Reminds me a little of the bowl on the flanks of Mt. Joseph.

I did this route counterclockwise, though you can do either. Depends on whether you want the dirt on the ascent or the descent.

Along the dirt road. Can you imagine building a 60 mile long road of planks?

At the Summit.

Counterclockwise elevation chart.

Waterfall (background) draining the snowcapped peak and feeding the stream (foreground).

Barn, fields, mountains, mist and clouds.

Bruce Ferguson stands in front of the period-authentic railroad depot he built from scratch in Snohomish. He rents it out for conferences and parties and such. It lies along the Centennial Trail--the final 11 kilometers of my ride--as I came into the town of Snohomish.

Enlarge for the detail of the crow with the berry in its beak!


Our Waters. Some would have us shrink the Ourness in our land. I'm for collectivizing. Better we hold it in trust than to trust individuals or corporations. How many children would ever marvel a tadpole were it not for our land and our water?

Keep it Ours,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Bicycles Not Recommended"? Let's Talk Turkey!


Just past the entry to Mesa Verde National Park, this sign greets cyclists with a semi-friendly warning. Not to worry for us as ours was an "auto randonneuring" journey! My son, Mike, and I headed out from Seattle taking the Toyota Corolla that Dartre and I were giving him to his home near Denver. We were "randonneuring by car", and our tires were wide. Seeing this sign, I imagined that my soon-to-arrive custom randonneuring bicycle with its 42mm-wide 650B tires would do just fine on these Mesa Verde roads, but I suppose for cyclists with narrow tires this warning makes sense. But sometimes to find the mesas we wish to explore we just have to widen our stance a little.

My son Mike with his new-to-him wheels. Like bicycle randonneuring, sometimes the best pee spots are those isolated gems with wide blue skies and mountain views.

Ever since my first Hardy Boys mystery, I've always been fascinated by the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, and I was eager to share that fascination with Mike. Fortunately for both of us, Mike too was delighted!

Here, note the circular stone pattern with the hole in the middle and the ladder poking through.

This is a Kiva or common room. It's believed it was both a ceremonial space and a common area for the family or clan to cook, lounge, weave, warm up, etc. None of the Kivas in the Park has an intact roof, so this roof is a re-creation.

Below, Mike walks the perimeter of a Kiva. This is how they look today, incomplete without their roofs.

Inside the reroofed Kiva, one gets a deep sense of the protection, comfort and sacredness of space.

The ladder goes up through the smoke hole, and the dark rectangular opening behind the ladder in this pic is the ventilation opening. It draws in fresh air from above which is dissipated by striking the low wall between the ladder and the opening, and the smoke is drawn up through the ladder hole.

Like ancient peoples everywhere who used what was available, the Ancestral Puebloans sculpted an interdependent living from the canyons, mesas, trees and rocks.

A trio of Manos and Matates. The Matate is the long stone upon which the grain is ground. The Mano is the grinder.

For those who live in the Southwest this is all old hat. But then that is the beauty of randonnering, by bicycle or car: discovery for oneself.

For me, re-discovering relationship was really what this trip was about. This "auto randonneuring" with Mike, now an adult, was our journey of re-discovering ourselves as relating adults. Amidst grand Western beauty, the appreciation of your son, of who he has become, is deeply moving. A father-son relationship is as profound today as it was in the Kiva. Sitting around the fire or sitting in the front seat of a Corolla with time to kill, the key is being together. I loved the being together part of this brevet.

Has anything of substance really changed today over these ancient times, or are we just more technologically advanced? And in these advances, are we losing time with one another? Presence with one another?

One of the timeless father-son rituals is the father's teaching the son important life how to put food on the table, described below. See the Gobbler in the center of this pic?

Lucky for Mike, I was about to teach him that age old hunting skill: tricking a Tom Turkey into believing you are his love mate. No, really.

On an early morning walk before sunup, we heard a bird call and Mike asked what it was. I told him it was the gobbling of a male turkey, a Tom. He was somewhere in the trees and brush on the other side of this narrow canyon. He gobbled again and I instinctively gobbled back. Instantly and with the urgency that only imagined sex can bring, that Tom was paying attention. Now at this point, he figured I was a competitor in Life's game of species perpetuation. I was another his territory.

I gobbled a few more times and each time he responded with greater intensity. Then I paused, and gave a plaintive hen turkey call: yelllp, yelllp, yelllp.

GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE, went the Tom. Hot Diggity Dog Diggity he was thinking; there is a hen over there as well as the Tom who is intruding on my territory. Alert, Alert, Alert! Stand at the ready for SEX!!!

Now when I hen-yelped again, he went crazy. And he also was moving. We could tell that. Mike was duly amazed that his Dad was talking Turkey. This was cool!

Then, sure enough, after a particularly sexy yelp on my part, if I do say so myself, that Tom jump-flutters down onto a broad sandstone bench and starts to gobble and strut and fan wide his tail feathers. His comb was bright, mating season red, and his long beard shook as he strutted.

After a few more yelps with solid, highly excited gobble-responses from him, the air was charged with sex. I found myself thinking about calling my wife, I noticed Mike began to talk about his new girlfriend back home, and that gobbler was strutting and strutting.

Then, the magic was gone. That gobbler gave an alarm call somehow realizing the gig was up, and flew. Thing is he didn't fly away from us so much, but rather, obliquely toward us. I figure he came across to our side of the canyon so he could sneak up on us as Gobblers are sometimes wont to do if there is a competitor. But every time I impatiently called, we got no response. Nothing but silence. Love--or was it just lust?--was no longer in the air it seemed.

But come to think of it, love didn't fly away. It was really surrounding us. Father and son hanging together was a loving moment regardless of old Tom Turkey. The same now silent canyons and mesas that nestled generations of Ancestral Puebloan fathers and sons held us in their magic still. That magic of interdependence. And of course the lessons flow both ways. Just as when he was a child, Mike teaches me gentleness, kindness and humility. I too am duly amazed at his presence in the quiet places.

On our way through the mountains toward Denver we came across this big mountain bike race: the Chalk Creek Stampede.

Lots of road cyclists too!

Again though, it was the quieter moments that brought the on-the-road satisfaction that eludes us in our daily lives.

Deep, grand and gracious country.


At the Denver airport a departing passenger took our photo as I grabbed a flight home and Mike took his new ride, now fully his, to explore his own canyons and mesas.

Keep it interdependent,


Monday, May 17, 2010

Custom Framebuilding by Tony Pereira

Detachable Low Rider Front Rack.

What I like about Tony's framebuilding is the combining of imagination with clean lines and execution.

I may have to ride it without panniers just to display the low rider rack lines.

Light mount for battery headlight.

Detail showing generator-powered light mount.

For the full collection of Tony's photos of my new Randonnneuring Bicycle, please check out his Flickr site. For more on how my new bicycle got to this point, please check out "custom bicycle" in the "Topics" sidebar to the right.

Keep it elegant,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bikes and Kids, Kids and Bikes...and Adults

Adult Basics Class (ABC) Instructor, Davey Oil, sharing a smile with wrench-in-training, Robert, left.

Bike Works, the local bike shop nearest our house (I can coast to it) is a non-profit designed to save us from ourselves by teaching kids about bicycles. I've written before about them (search "Bike Works" under topics in the right sidebar), and now I've finally dipped in my toes.

The official mission of Bike Works is to "build sustainable communities by educating youth and promoting bicycling". What got me hooked was that I wanted to learn to maintain my bicycles, the right way. Bike Works offers the Adult Basics Class for just that purpose...sort of.

They lure you in with the notion that you'll learn, but then they cut the cost of the class in half if you'll commit to twelve hours volunteering to help youth learn. Very clever.

I took the bait, and yesterday was my next to last class. After that, I'm committed to advancing this youth-saving-us-from-ourselves agenda by volunteering.

Matt, another student, has already started volunteering, and he told me that his own learning has advanced because of his volunteering with the kids. Hmmm. I can see that.

At any rate, I'm committed, and I have to admit: I enjoy the class. We learned the proper methods to overhaul wheel hubs, headsets, bottom brackets, and brakes. All good and essential stuff.

I especially enjoy working with hand tools on simple problems on a simple machine that is simply good for us...and of course, good for our kids. It is just deep down satisfying to disassemble, clean, inspect, adjust and reassemble a set of bearings and have them operate smoooooothly. Very saaaatisfying. That is if you know what to do, and you have a system.

And the Bike Works curiculum is designed to teach you a system that gives you confidence. Best of all, the class is totally approachable. Don't know a headset from a braze-on? Not to worry. Not only will you not be made to feel foolish, you will find yourself laughing so your fears vanish. I like that.

Here, Assistant Instructor Martín helps Ester with the brake adjustment, and as you see it is Ester's hands that are on-bike, not Martin's. (Martin's name is actually with an accented i, so his name is pronounced Marteen, but I'll be danged if I can make this program allow me an accented letter even if I can overhaul a bearing set!! Grrrr.)

The most famous former Bike Works wrench to long distance and randonneuring cyclists is Kent Peterson of Kent's Bike Blog fame. But that's another story, and he tells it best.

Keep it about the kids,