Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pre-50,000 pageview Update!

Flashblog awakens from its coma, jerks awake and takes a great heaving lung full of air!  Still Alive! What year is it??

Flash here, and it feels good to be back and writing this.  Nothing much has changed since last time.  Still cycling, although not as much as I'd like as I had to make time this summer for actual vacationing, three of them in fact.   But still, doing it, climbing the mountains but just not as fast or as far.  Mostly solo outings.

After an early stint this year as a hill climbing instructor for new riders which lasted 10 weeks, then some few and far between group leading with Team Alameda, I more or less resorted to default mode for me, which is solo riding.

When I go out alone there are fewer distractions.  No one to talk to but myself, no one to alter the purity of my route choice.  I don't take music with me.  I listen to the soundtrack in my head, for better or worse.  Why do many, many people find that so hard to do?  Whether out walking, jogging, or yes, cycling, they sport the ubiquitous white ear buds and wires signifying their umbilical cord to distraction, overstimulation, and tuning out.

In recent posts I've spoken about nostalgia and how it has become an integral component of my rides. If anything, it just becomes more pronounced with time.  I had a really hard time last Saturday getting motivated for my ride, I just could not get out of the house before 11am.  Once I got on the bike and started riding, all that muddled morning shit just evaporated and I thought about my Gemini essence. My two dueling halves, Jim, who on the one hand just wants to leisurely plod through the morning, and Flash, who patiently waits for his time, when once on the bike emerges to dominate the two personalities through force of nostalgia.  I think what I mean is that there is so much historical gravitas in Flash's domain that it serves like a blinding light casting away the shadows of Jim World. Gravitas constructed on cemented layers of nostalgia going all the way back to childhood, through each cycling incarnation (still in the 4th).

Yes, I feel decades younger when on the bike, that is some kind of instant miracle.  Sometimes, I remember a feeling I had when I was a kid.  A sweet, wondrous feeling that the world is full of possibilities and that it is in fact, a good place.  I think it might be a fleeting recollection of that thing we call innocence.  We are all born with a full tank of innocence, but as we age, the tank slowly but surely runs dry and we never even realize it's gone.  That is a great, sad, price to pay for adulthood.
But I am here to say that for me, when I am on the bike, it is possible to feel it once again.  It's almost like, for a few moments, the feeling of falling in love.  Is that not the best possible thing to experience?  And I can get this from pedaling on my bicycle.

Keep Pedaling!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Remember Why I Cycle

Greetings Flashblog readers.  They say great minds think alike, so if you are like me, then you have been wondering where I have been.   Where I have been is not so much on the bike, and I am now working to correct that.  I feel bad about not updating more regularly, but lately I've felt like I've nothing to say other than rant further on other people's bad riding habits or idiots in cars.  That's negative stuff, today I have something positive to say.

Oh man, this winter season has been killing me.  Even though we here in California have been having some of the mildest, driest, warmest weather ever, that has not been enough to get me out.  After the work week,  I awaken most Saturdays listless and unmotivated, and it takes a huge mental effort to gear up and get out the door.  I've put some pounds on.  Every day I feel older.  My better half,  aka Flashette, is a wise woman, and she explained to me that this time of year is a time for our species to hole up indoors to stay warm and survive, a time of reduced activity, of very different biorhythms than when the days are long, and what I am feeling is totally natural.

That's all fine and good, but my real problem is inertia-or more properly- lack of it.  Stasis.  Not doing is a powerful force to undo.  Its so easy to lie on the couch.   Then comes the vicious circle  of knowing that when I do go out it is going to be unpleasant due to my winter softening up, so that keeps me on the couch. Then I start feeling guilty, a little bit of hating myself, etc, etc.  You know how that is.

The last ride of note I had was back in December, when I led a Team Alameda group up Mt. Diablo., no small peanuts ride (see pic at the bottom).  I went a little slower than usual, but made it to the top, so maybe you are thinking I'm exaggerating this falling off the fitness wagon.  I'll just say a lot can happen in 2 months, or in this case, not happen.  Yeah, its important to stay on top of it, fitness is hard to acquire, it takes a lot of time and work to stay in good shape, and I just got a little cavalier about it.

So a few weeks ago I resolved, a tad late for the New Year, but hey, never too late for resolutions, to start riding  both Saturday and Sunday, at least, and hopefully a small ride or two during the week.  So, yeah, it was somewhat unpleasant when I started going uphill.  I would say I had reduced my fitness to "minimum" on my overall performance scale.  Minimum in this case means I could still do the hill ride, but it hurt in a number of different ways, at the time and for a few days after.  But that is still miles ahead of the average person, especially the average person my age, so there's the silver lining.

I've been getting in around 50 miles for the weekends, Sat. in the hills, and Sun. on the flats.  This is working out pretty good, and after only 3 weeks of this I felt much more adept this weekend.  Yesterday I bagged a solo 30 miler with 3200' of hills with some really steep stuff mixed in, and today a brisk 20 mile flat ride in splendid weather.  Which brings me around to the title of this blog.

Again this morning I had to fight myself to get out the door to ride, and then it wasn't until after 11 that I started pedaling.  It didn't take long to find I was feeling good, the legs had life, this perked me up.  My heart was beating around 120 which is comfortable and I felt like my motor was running.  I stopped for a moment at the end of the dock at the USS Hornet.  As I looked out over San Francisco,  a feeling came over me, a feeling of 4th dimensional time-the past and present blending seamlessly-- mixed with nostalgia, and I felt for a moment just as I did as a teenager, a feeling of innocence and wonder and unlimited future potential.   I felt amazed that I was, well, still alive after all this time, and still doing the thing I loved to do then--ride my bike.  It was then I had an epiphany--that my inner child, my past pre-jaded self, still lives within me, a small glowing ember within a large cold fireplace that is adult angst.  I smiled, such a giddy, rare thing, this.

Later, on the same ride, I was circling Bay Farm Island, I spun around a corner to see a vista of shoreline-- bay waters, sparkly sun reflections, trees and bright green lawns,  people walking, cycling, pushing strollers, just enjoying this beautiful day.  All of a sudden I had this Flashback of skiing in Lake Tahoe years ago, the beauty of the mountains, the epic runs and stories, the golden light of the last runs, and it fused- fused with the bike- fused with me--and I felt those memories as this moment-me riding the bike was me skiing, me with my friends back then, me with all the people out on this day.  Synchronicity with the Universe happening!  Damn its good to be alive!   (Don't forget that many people aren't.)  We take it for granted, our health, our happiness, our lives.  I do.  But moments like this remind me of what it actually means to be alive.

So the rarest feelings happen on the most ordinary ride.  The key thing is: they happened on the ride.  If I had stayed at home, given way to statis, I would have felt none of this, I would have most likely felt the opposite, ennui mixed with meaninglessness and guilt.

I'm back.  I remember why I ride.  To remind myself that I am alive and what a gift that is.

Keep pedaling!


Shel (L) and Flash (R) on Flash led Team Alameda ride, Mt. Diablo, CA 12/2012  (photo: Bruce Bothwell)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Welcoming Myself Back With A Social Rant

Honey, I'm home!   Last time I think I excused myself to go to the  restroom and then ...suddenly its 5 months later.  I'm like that.  My esposa will be telling me something and in the middle her story I just disappear downstairs or in the back room, then shes yelling "where are you?  I was talking to you!" Something grabs my interest, and at the time it seems more important, and that interest leads me off. Sometimes for months it seems.

I've noticed that despite my total lack of updating, my blog is still getting regular reads, which is reassuring in a way that people like my old writing and new stuff is not necessary.  I'm guessing as no reader has actually said anything about that at all, and the vast majority of hits are probably key word based searches such as "drillium", and here you are.  Whatever.

Today I feel like venting a little.  The Holidays are upon us.  You know what the holidays are?  The holidays are a diet of crack cocaine force fed to a shell shocked, enervated consumer culture already stressed out on regular life, a culture drunk on its own self importance, enabled and acted out through instant social media. We must spend money now to show we care.  Our economy depends upon it!  Do your part to enrichen corporate greed by furthering your own personal debt.

But don't think about that.  It's a nice day so let's get in our petroleum fueled rolling bunker and go somewhere, buy something.  On the way, we have to stay updated on our social status, so lets make sure to check our phones are every red light.  If people know we are connected 24/7, we must be oh so coolio, no?  "Hey you, muthafucka in the Toyota, GO GO!   I gotta get to Starbucks fast.  And you other muthafuckas...get out of my muthafuckin WAY!"

You see, Flash cycles a lot in the urban Bay Area of San Fransisco,CA,USA,  and while the vast majority of motorists are decent enough not to run me over, there is always a percentage like the one I quoted above.  

Beautiful Lake Merritt

I took a ride this morning around and around Oaktown's Lake Merritt,which, although there is now a bike lane around the lake entirely, there are still numerous stop lights to contend with.  At the lights, when I stop along side them, I can see the drivers with their devices in their laps, texting, surfing, doing whatever, not seeing the light change, or worse.  Its appalling the percentage of people with phones on, in their laps, waiting for the next red light.  Even worse are the ones doing it while driving, they can be completely immersed and oblivious not only to me on  a bike, but the world of driving around them.  I watched a woman texting ahead of me who veered her SUV completely into the bike lane, luckily we were behind her.   Or, trying to obey the no-texting law, drivers will pull off the road to update or take a call, and often they will park in the bike lane to do so, or double park and text, which I also saw today, forcing me out into traffic.

This is fucking brain masturbation, nothing less.   Nobody is that important to need updating their Facebook status at the light.  "stopped at a light in Oaktown, LOL!!"   This mind wanking disturbs me on several levels. The first is that I'm out on the road cycling amongst these distracted operators of overpowered death machines.  I'm fully aware that their phone can kill me, and my death would be because these idiots could not stand to unplug from social for the duration of their drive.  That's the second thing, that people are so addicted to the smallest dose of approval, so Pavlovian conditioned for updates to prove their importance and worth, that they will sleep with their phones on under their pillows so as to not miss anything.

Even TV commercials are now depicting family quality time as meaning everyone sits in the same room while using their individual devices while enjoying super fast download times.  Never mind that the family tunes each other out, that the devices render the user emotionless, creating a family of wired droids.  Broadband quality is now the measure of family happiness and togetherness according to cultural media.

I think its all bullshit.  I have a dumb cell phone that barely makes calls and is so annoying to text that no one would want to.  I like it that way.  I quit using Facebook, my account is still active because some really annoying young people use it for messaging me instead of email.  I hate Twitter, hated it since day one. Google Plus is something no one wanted or needed but has been forced on all gmail users.

I'm happy to say I'm pretty much off the grid socially.  If someone wants to contact me they email me for the most part, and I read that email at home or in the office, not in my car, because I can't if I wanted to.  I like it that way.  I know what you're  thinking:  "uh, Flash, isn't Flashblog a social media thing?  Aren't you a tad bit hypocritical here?"  Yes and no.  I suppose if I wanted to be a total Luddite recluse then I'd scrap this blog and go completely under the radar.  The thing is that I like bikes, riding bikes, and writing about bikes.  What I don't do is write the blog while driving to work or the mall.  I don't even think of it as a blog anymore, more like a random thing I do when the inspiration hits, which these days is not too often.

Moving on to bloody wanker cyclists.  I hate it when other cyclists make me look bad in the collective mind of motorists.  Blatant red light runners, people who ride opposite traffic flow, bikies and cyclists who ride either with no lights at night or with gen 1 Knog blinkies, lights which have all the power of one miniature Xmas light, thinking this little blinky with an almost dead battery will make them visible even though they are wearing black while blowing through the red light at rush hour.  This includes Freds of all stripes including Lancewannabes who are too important to stop for red lights, their heart rates must not drop below a critical training threshold you see.  Motorist make mental notes of these incidents, bank them in their minds, and recall them whenever they see a person on a bike, and act out accordingly.   They see me riding along in my kit and think "Oh, its one of those arrogant prissy bastards who does whatever they want because they are on a bike and their fitness is SO important, and they have to talk to each other while riding and take the lane and block traffic, slowing me down precious seconds, I HATE THEM!"

Hey, I drive to work which is located in the hills, Skyline Blvd. being a prime road cycling road, so I see all kinds of cycling don'ts from the driver's perspective.  Some guys do ride side by side yakking, and no, they don't form up single file when a car (me) comes from behind, and I have to go WAY around, making sure not to take out cyclists coming at me in the other lane.  Self important idiots.  Again, lots of people wear black with no lights at dusk and when under the shadows of the big redwoods are nearly invisible, what are they thinking other than "black is so chic and makes me look racy".   "I DIDN'T EVEN SEE HIM!"

People, good lights are cheap, please use them.  Turn them on as soon as the sun starts setting.  Wear some article of clothing that is either light colored or has reflective properties.  Do not assume that the girl who just left the bar after a few drinks, forgot to turn on her headlights, and is updating her social status looking down at her lap is going to see you in your black Rapha outfit because your weak red Knog on the seatpost is blinking with all the power of a smoke alarm status light.

And with that, Cheers!  Stay safe out there my riding friends.

Nov, 2013.  Dr. Bruce and Flash  at Peet's Berkeley       photo Bruce

Keep Pedaling! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nostalgic Summer Solstice Mt. Diablo Adventure

(Check back soon for update with Bruce's photos of this ride)

Welcome to Flashblog for what appears to be bi-monthly updated reports on my part.  Time flies by as I'm sure you will agree.  Today's story revolves around the biggest mountain in these parts, Mt. Diablo in Danville, CA.  Months ago, in a beer and pizza inspired daze, I signed myself on to lead a Team Alameda ride on June 22.  If I had been less dazed I would have considered the time of the year and the weather challenges of riding the Devil Mountain on the 2nd day of Summer.  Less dazed I wasn't, and yesterday arrived with a bit of trepidation, and here is what transpired.

What Diablo can sometimes look like in the winter

Gathering intel prior to the ride day, the forecast called for warm to quite warm (85) weather at the base of the mountain.  For me, this is acceptable, but anything hotter I would not want to do, as I've climbed D on hotter days and it is just too much suffering to be enjoyable.  I want to lead a fun ride, not put people in jeopardy of heat stroke.  Anyway, I green lighted the ride with the bail out option of turning around and riding down if it got too hot and unbearable.

At the steps of Kaiser a group formed, and to my relief I did not have to turn away any new or under experienced riders.  The pre-requisites for riding Diablo are considerable, and beginners are not encouraged.
There were 7 men and 2 women, we men had previous Diablos under our belts, but the women were trying the full climb for the first time.  Rens ten Holt, our Dutch rider, had ridden half way previously, and Julie Hirshon was experiencing the mountain for the very first time.  I've done many rides with both of them so I didn't have any doubts they would be less than successful under favorable conditions.  Of us men, my favorite photographer Bruce Bothwell signed on, international Indian climbing sensation Sri as well, Shel Milligan was testing out his new knee, Big Bill, Matt, and lastly, and leastly as it turned out, Big Tom were there as well.

Backtracking a bit, there was some anxiety experienced by Flash over the route as I was informed just last Thursday that the north route up the mountain was absconded by another bike group to conduct their time trial racing event.  I had it all planned out nicely, then this came up, so I decided to go down south and come up the southgate route.  That way was not free of anxiety either, as my preferred route goes through the country club themed town of Diablo, of which the residents have been lashing out at the hordes of cyclists riding through their area to get to the mountain.  The offending cyclists make a lot of noise shouting amongst themselves, they ignore stop signs, and generally behave rudely towards the residents.  The town was talking of posting a guard to check resident IDs to turn cyclists away.  Yesterday I had no idea if they had implemented this plan.  The alternative is to ride on Diablo Road, which has no shoulder but plenty of speeding SUVs racing between Danville and Blackhawk. ( I used to drive it as part of my work and I do not consider it safe for cycling.)

It took us an hour and a half to get to Walnut Creek via BART, and after the required restroom stop, we set off under sunny mild weather.  A nice feature of the southgate route is the 10 miles of flat then mildly rolling hills route to get to the previously mentioned enclave of Diablo.  Once there, there was a bit of dissent about riding through the town, mostly from Julie, who is employed as a Federal Agent, and was alarmed by the large sign at the entrance which states;

The sign that greeted us is larger and more intimidating than this one

Julie stammered " Let's not go this way.... I don't want to lose my security clearance!"  She's by the book. I found thae idea twistedly wrong that riding her bike through a country club town might in some way shape or form trigger a Homeland Security violation.  Is this the world we live in?  Has it come to this?  My thinking was if a sheriff was on patrol, and someone complained about us, he would simply ask us to leave, no harm done.  I instructed the group to ride under 10mph, stop at all stop signs, and be nice and cordial to the residents.  We did this, and in fact, the resident were cordial to us, we didn't get any harsh vibes at all.  In fact, a resident offered us a gem of a shortcut, a shortcut camouflaged to look like a solid fence, but in fact was a gate out of Diablo onto the road just above Athenian School.  Awesome new Flashcut!

Finally, on The Mountain

If it seems I've written a whole lot just to get to the actual ride report, well, that is just what the actual ride is like---it takes a long time to get there, it takes planning and thinking.  Its a mini-expedition.  And this is why I like it.  I've climbed this mountain many time, but I never take it for granted.  Any mountain that is so high as to have different climates is to be respected and therefore properly prepared for.

We began our climb.  Sri, powered by yogurt as our joke goes, rocketed off the front as he is apt to do lately.  Sri has really developed as a strong climber, but I knew we would catch him after his yogurt energy burned off.  Bill and Matt, both strong as well, led the way.  I stayed mid-group with Rens and Julie, Shel and Tom were just back a ways.  Julie, whippet-thin, is a natural climber as was not stressing at all.  Rens was having a more challenging time of it, as the lower grades were sun baked, desert-like, and very warm indeed.  It takes time to settle into a long climb, the first leg being the hardest to acclimate.  Resting helps a lot, gives the body time to adapt and do what it needs to do to continue the work ahead.  We had a good rest a the entrance kiosk where cars pay to get into the park.  Shade and water after a couple miles of uphill. Tom rolled in last, several minutes behind, and was not in great shape, he needed to rest while we carried on, so we agreed to regroup at the junction.

The next phase of the mountain is my favorite, its a rolling flank section with a bit of downhill through a campground.  Good speeds and breezes can be had here, its refreshing.  After this, the climbing resumes with excellent views of the Livermore Valley, and a good pitch up just before the junction of north and southgate roads, which is at the 7 mile mark of the 11 mile climb.

Nice shaded bench for resting

Its always a happy feeling to make the junction, there are always lots of cyclists there resting, milling about, its a real cyclist scene.  We all rejoined under a large shade tree and waited for Tom to arrive.  When he got there he wasn't doing well at all, said he was light headed.  He decided to rest on the bench  and wait for us while we finished the climb, then came back down.  That would take at least an hour, maybe two.  Better safe than sorry.  The others were all game to go on, Shel's knee was good, nobody was overheated or dehydrated, so on we went.

Not far above the junction is a climate zone line I call the inversion line, because in the winter Diablo can be very cold down below, then suddenly, right around this line of elevation, it gets unseasonably warm.  Descending through it is a shock as in a few seconds the temperature drops from comfortable to bone chilling.  Its like diving into a cold alpine lake.  But this day there were no inversions, just infrared heat reflecting off the road.  After a while, the road takes on an endless feeling, the climbing is constant with no flat areas to recover. The exposure to the elements is complete, shade is sparse, this is why temperature is critical here as the heat can wilt you completely, or worse.

Bill, Matt, and Julie were far ahead, I was riding with Rens, keeping up a conversation for both our sakes.  She implored me to go ahead at one point and not wait for her, but she overestimated my wants or needs, the pace we were going was just fine with me.  I'm not about personal records, or being first to the top, or even being all that I can be.  I just want to be what I need to be to get the job done.  That means not beating myself up, respecting my body-- not just in the moment, but also the days following when I have to live in it doing other things.  I don't like feeling wiped out and miserable.  I pretty much kept my heart rate at 130-140 all day which is a good workout, but not hard exertion.  That is pretty much my current philosophy on riding.

Rens was riding well, grinding it out.  She gets red faced, sweats, curses, breathes hard, but at the same time shows good steady form on the bike.  I told her she looked "pro" at one point, and what I meant is that some women transcend gender styles and ride more like the men..usually the pro women show this kind of form.  Its hard to describe, but I know it when I see it, and somehow Rens naturally has this.  Meanwhile, Julie had flitted off like a hummingbird, reminding me of Melne back in her glory day.  I'm sorry I missed not being there to see her summit for the first time.

Bruce was waiting for us at the foot of the last pitch before the top.  There are names for this pitch, things like Widow Maker, or Summit Wall, or The Ramp, its 17%  for 100yds or so  that will take every last bit of energy you have and max out your heart rate.  I enjoy extra low gears on my bike, but still, it took all the reserves I had to just ride up it without wobbling or zig-zaging.  Rens dismounted, tried walking but decided that was worse for her feet, so remounted and finished on her bike.  I had a minivan behind me, I could hear it right behind me, its radiator fans whining, but I was not going to ride on the gravely shoulder to give it room to pass me, I had decided that in advance.  Take the road people!  Especially here.

YES!!  Another successful Diablo ascent!  Its always as good as the first time.  One thing I really like about warm weather riding is the cold water head pour...fill a water bottle with the cool water at the top and pour over head.  It is truly one of life's great feelings, and I filled the bottle half dozen times offering pours not only to myself but to my teammates.  It was mild at the top, with a cool easy breeze.  We lingered then descended, Bruce rocking a Hero cam on his helmet.

The descent is very long, one of cycling's great downhills.  We took it easy, made it last, and took the northgate road back as originally planned, the bike race had packed up and left.  Everyone agreed to beat it back home instead of lunch in Walnut Creek.  Back on the island, Shel, Bruce and Rens joined me in my back yard for a wind down beer.

So in the title I wrote "nostalgic", and here's why:  I had a great time, probably as good a time as I can have on the bike.  Whenever this happens, I resonate with all the great rides that have come before it, the past merges with the present, gets blended into a euphoric soup in which nostalgia is the secret spice, so even in the moment, while I am riding, I feel the bond of nostalgia happening, like a sweet tailwind pushing me down Highway One towards Santa Cruz.  Its like I'm living in my own cycling Fairy Tale.  What's better than  that?
Keep Pedaling, 

PS:  Flashblog on the wall at Alameda Bicycle via Sweeps McNulty:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Where The Hell is Mines Road?

Welcome back to another photo journalistic attempt to recreate my cycling specific memories of yesterday.  Team Alameda took an away trip to Livermore to ride a bucolic route south through the hills from Livermore to the junction of Nowhere, where there is, I'm told, some sort of cafe roadhouse.  I didn't make it there.  More on that later.  Before that, let's start where all good stories start, at the start.

Ok... I don't have any photos of the pre-load at Kaiser, so fast forward to the Livermore staging area in a big empty parking lot.

Hi, I'm Ken and I'll be your ride leader today...please sign my sheet!   Ken at the business end of the Jones Mk1 MPCSV (multi purpose cycling support vehicle)  Limit 1 additional rider, offer may vary, some restrictions apply.

Cap'n MacGyver, Sri "I eat jet lag for breakfast" Sub. and Rotarian Doug waiting for Godot to arrive 

 Matt and Lucy.  Gee, this semi-abandoned strip mall is kinda creepy...can we just go?

 Madkow and Capt. Euro listen when Bob says that this restroom is OK, but the plastic fence and the camo painted transformer just harsh the overall motif.

Mile 2: we start out at at brisk pace along the vineyards, where we encountered the Cinderella Riders in full regalia. Sorry, I was so stunned I forgot to snap a photo.  I just don't have Bruce's photog instincts yet.

Mile 4, we get into the country proper where the livin' is rural.

 Beverly Brown came all the way from Marin for this all new route.  She was kind enough to give Flash a ride to and from, but as to the ride, well, I never saw her after this pic.  Why?  Because right at the steep climb at Mines road proper, I pulled off the road to take of my jacket, and upon resuming I heard psssst coming from my front tire.  This was a major vibe harsher, for I knew I would never catch the group after a fix and might be looking at a LONG solo ride.  Sri came by, checked in, and kept going, only MacGyver was left and as he came up he thoughtfully stopped to assist in my repair, which probably took 10 mins, but the die was cast, and he and I became a semi-dynamic duo the rest of the tour.

Soon after the puncture repair, a long steep pitch.

And a little later after that.  The road seems to go on endlessly. Beautiful, interesting, mostly uphill, and I found myself feeling annoyed by the length of it.  Uh, oh, not a good sign...

Mile 25
 Hey Flash...Where the HELL have you been??
(except MacGyver, who knew where the hell I'd awesome)
The "short"--only 50 miles---group waiting for us to arrive

A memorial to Ruthy.  I know how she felt, because I kinda died a little the last mile or two to this, the junction jump off point, at mile 25.  I suffered low blood sugar, which almost never happens, so I decided to have  a little teriyaki jerky/boiled egg/banana muffin picnic right here.  I decided not to ride the extra  ten miles to and from the junction, which was a much smarter decision than Harold made.  When Harold rode down to the junction he had nothing left and knew the buzzards would soon be picking at his bones unless he called his faithful partner Eric to come pick him up, royalty style.  Which did happen.  Harold, dude, that's what happens get when you wear a flower in your hair on a bad-ass ride like this.  Flash carried a survival knife on this ride.  Yeah, I was ready to take a squirrel if I had to, and I almost did, but I won't go into that.

A hypoglycemic Flash about to consume jerky and egg.  SO good!

Ok, re-fueled and upon resuming, I noticed my rear wheel was *almost* flat.  Awesome.  I had used my one tube on the front wheel earlier, and was now looking at a tube repair.  MacGyver started gearing my bike for wheel removal, and I said, "Fuck it, I'll just pump it up and see if it holds air".  I wasn't in the mood.  Bottom line is yeah, it held all the way back, which considering some 30mph corners, was a really good thing.

The Usual Suspects depicted  3 photos above got "cold" waiting for me to finish eating, so they left, stating MacGyver and I would "catch up", which we never did, battling a pretty consistent and loud headwind the entire 25 miles back.  Here Mac pulls me the first half, then we switched and I pulled him the second.

I had to stop at this...gate to nowhere... on the side of a steep embankment.  It's a glorified portion of a barbed wire fence meant an artwork?...a hanger for lost and found items?...and why the rock cairn?  One boot and glove?  A fanciful welded A.  Lucky horseshoe and harness.  Is this a warning?  Or an invitation?

Epilogue:  This ride is harder than it appears.  Lots of seemingly endless uphill and gusty breezes.  It makes up for it in scenic splendor though.   Mac and I were pretty beat at the end, but it was a job well done.  It was one of those not so great rides for me, but still, I feel accomplishment at having completed it despite some challenges.  

Thanks for reading, and as always, Keep Pedaling!



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Back With A Ride Report

Hello there!  Flash here, back after a long hiatus intergalactic journey through time and space.  I can say that literally as I work at a space and science center.  But I will add that the journey was merely virtual, compliments of our planetarium and computer technology.  The end result is the same, only the reverse of relativity has occurred---I've aged while the people of Earth have remained the same.  Or so it seems to me somedays.

Yes, I am still riding my bike(s).  Here is evidence of that as I took my camera along yesterday on a splendid, magnificent ride in Northern California's rugged coastal mountains.  Let's start, shall we?

click the pics for a larger view

That's me, looking at you, three weeks ago, but close enough.  Photo: Bruce

Often referred to mystery TA photographer Bruce Bothwell left, Ken Jones right, meticulously preparing.  Note the group up the street, who would depart without us setting up the major zeitgeist for the day.

International cyclist Sri paced me as we tried to catch the first group.  I didn't get my legs until mile 8 or so, and man, did that suddenly feel a whole lot better!

Our fearless leader this day, the famous Mad Kow aka Rovn Kow, aka "Rob" in full cow regalia.  Many of his bovine kin were spotted lazily grazing on this fine day. 

At around 9 miles we stopped at the Cheese Factory to figure out what went wrong as we never saw the first group, and we should have caught them, so yeah, they took a turn early on not on the route.

Heading north with Lucy and Ken, Rob out ahead

Bruce uses his trademark internal stowage system for stashing extra clothes

The always smiling and cheerful Lucy.  She was dishing out some vitamin D (pace)  the whole second half of the ride. 

This piece of road Flash approved!

Lunch stop in Tomales, mile 40 or so.  Old gas station turned into a bakery, see the old timey gas pump behind the benches?  Sri sniffs the air for cappuccino. 

A lot of people say life is too short, eat dessert first.  Sri and Bruce actually live by that creed.  Here they share gluten free chocolate cake.

The wayward first group had turned around and were behind us, here they roll in for well deserved rest and treats.

There was an informal classic car meeting in town, lots of eye candy to look at, and  this was my favorite, a former TR-6 with a hand made aluminum body.  This guy later passed us on the road and it sounded as good as it looks.

Heading south towards Marshall, 7 of us elected to climb the Marshal Wall, which is formally known as the Marshall Petaluma Road.

So this is The Wall, you can get some perspective if you look near the top you can see two riders.  It is a workout, but not the sufferfest everyone talks about, and we hit it at mile 50 or so.  Very scenic and pretty.
Near the top a car passed us, and a young woman "WOOHOO!" ed  us and yelled " I WISH I COULD BE DOING THAT WITH YOU!!  That meant a lot, we inspired somebody.

Taking a well deserved break at the Wall summit.  Still 10 miles to go into a headwind!
I seemed to have stopped taking pictures at this point.  I did take a nausea inducing video a little later, want to see it?  Ok, I warned you.

Ok...that... didn't... work.  I'll look into this and try to fix it.

So we finished the ride in Pt. Reyes Station at around 4pm, having started at 9am.  63 miles, 14.6 avg, 5,600' of climbing.  Ken is ready to punch out my bike computer, he refuses to believe that number, but I think its accurate.  I had a memorable day.  All new roads through gorgeous countryside, challenging terrain and sportive fellow riders.  It really doesn't get any better than this.  

Thanks for reading, and as always, keep pedaling!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alone With My Thoughts

It was too cold to ride yesterday.  I just couldn't make myself do it.  So I stayed inside, down in the basement near the warmly radiating furnace and worked on a scale model.  A phone call came it from my Mother in Law Margaret pleading for tech support, she had replaced the batteries on her iMac wireless mouse and now it wouldn't do anything, and she was in the middle of writing an important paper.  So I dropped what I was doing, put on my heavy jacket and gloves, and mounted the Kaptein Dutch bike for the 6 block ride to her house.  Man it was cold, and it made me glad I didn't go on a road ride.  I fixed her mouse and TV remote control then rode home.  It hadn't warmed up a bit.  When I got home I had the house to myself and I spent the whole day in the basement working on my project.  I don't know where the time went.

I used to build models exclusively back in the mid '90's.  We had a very young son and I found going off to my little outdoor closet to work on a model was a great temporary escape from constant home duties.  I found that the process of working on the model allowed me to tune out everything.  I am so focused on the process that everything else disappears.  Its like magic, and it gives me a feeling of contentment.  Yesterday for example, I couldn't tell you what I was thinking for 6 hours.  I don't think I was thinking at all, which is astonishing.  That's the beauty of a hobby you can fully immerse yourself in.

In a way its the opposite of cycling, at least solo cycling.  When cycling I find my mind is engaged in constant chatter, observations, and random dialogs.  Today for instance.  The weather had warmed enough to be inviting.  I bundled up in my winter kit from head to toe, although in reality it was only 51 degrees at the coldest.  I know a lot of you in cold climates are laughing right now, but this is California, not Norway.  This is cold for us.

I woke up at 6am or with a bad headache.  I hate it when this happens.  I call it the "random headache" as it happens occasionally but I can't really pin down the reason.  It's pretty bad, in the sinuses, and it makes me a tad nauseous.  Once I get up and out of bed, vertical, it usually goes away in an hour of so.  The random headache is closely related to "the unfair hangover", which afflicts me once or twice a year.  The unfair hangover is a full on hangover brought on by no more than one or two glasses of wine or beer, amounts that normally have no effects on me.  Why this happens I don't know.  The worst unfair hangover I can remember happened on the day I was attempting the epic feat of climbing Mt. Diablo (elevation 3200') three times in one day.  I woke up feeling like shit.  I had only had two beers at a party the night before because I knew I would be testing myself the next day.  I woke up feeling like I had drank an entire barrel of cheap beer.  I still managed to bag 2.5 climbs of Diablo that day, each pedal stroke was like a hammer banging on my head.  Oh man, it was bad.

All this was going through my mind as I mounted my bike and set off for the hills.  I vowed to go easy and just enjoy being out, and I did, the bike felt smooth and fluid, my legs fresh and strong.  The sky was still and gray, with a hazy yellow glow here and there.  I like the way the world looks on a day like this.  I started thinking how lucky I am to be able to still ride the hills, that I am healthy enough to do it, that fate has been kind to me, things happen everyday to people that puts a sudden end to the things they love.

I started pondering last week, in which I did two back to back hill rides, and how that drained me over the week, an energy drain that I call "the hollowness".  The hollowness is an actual physical feeling of not having anything inside me, like I am an empty shell of muscle and bone, but the internal organs are gone.  I get through work fine, but around 5pm, I feel so hollow that I am virtually useless.  Eating always helps, and with each passing day the feeling fades, until around Friday, I feel like myself again and eager to do it all over again.  I've come to find that big exertions on the road, such as spirited challenging of other riders are definitely a cause of the hollowness.  I use up so much extra energy going hard that it drains my batteries deeply.  I usually start feeling it two days later for some reason, and last week I gave myself a double dose of it.  When I am hollow I have zero interest in riding.

I was enjoying today's ride and as I was climbing Tunnel Road, I was getting warm under my layers.  I wondered to myself just what causes warmth during exercise?  What is it about the way the body's cells are turning glycogen into energy that actually makes heat?  Is it a chemical reaction?  It must be I suppose.  And what about sweat?  Why does water and salt start to excrete from the pores of our skin?  That one is easier, its about evaporation and its cooling effect, which, really, is nothing more than wind chill.  A wanted and needed wind chill.

Just then my anatomical musings were distracted by three riders who passed me, one was a young woman all in white.  I noticed the flesh colored roundness of her butt contrasted with the white chamois of her shorts.  Dang, its almost as good as X-ray vision!  Those shorts, in that light, were translucent, and I was enjoying her display of riding prowess.  Then it occurred to me that someone ought to make either all flesh color, or clear plastic bike shorts, or large mesh boudoir style back panels for those who want to flaunt their buns of steel.  After all, super tennis star Venus Williams does it and I have to say she really pulls it off:

But maybe its not such a great idea because its only a matter of time before this guy is wearing it:

So upon arriving at the summit of Tunnel Road, I stopped at Sibley Park to use the bathroom.  Standing in front of the toilet, I dug down beneath my layers to get at the plumbing parts, and as I touched my stomach I thought "hmm, cold and clammy down there".   It dawned on me that I had been using this expression all my life and in reality I had no damned idea what a clam actually feels like.  Who does?  Maybe if you are a clam hunter and suck them into a bucket with a long tube-like thing, or maybe you work at a fish market, then I guess you would know what a clam feels like.  Cold?  Slippery?  What does that have to do with people sweating?  And this one "happy as a clam"  What the hell does that even mean?  If there ever were a case of inappropriate anthropomorphizing, that it it, right there.  I suggest replacing "cold and clammy" with "dog nose-y" because we all know what a dog's nose feels like, cold and snotty-slippery, but playfully so.  If you are a guy, you reach into your cold, sweaty, saturated with chamois creamed shorts and think,  "hmmm, dog nosey---nice!"  So, as I was draining the lizard... wait a minute, there they go again!  What is it with animals that make us want to relate to them?  Busy as a bee.  Slow as a snail.  Spank the monkey.  And on and on.  I jumped on my bike and beat it out of there like a bat out of hell!

And on it goes, random sights or happenings trigger chains of thought that lead to other chains of thought.  I think this is why I became a bike blogger, because when I ride, all this stuff comes up, I can't stop it unless I focus way inward on something like modeling.  

I had a fine ride of 28 miles, and it was only a tad slower than my normal pace.  Not slug-like at all.  I don't feel the least hollow right now.  Check back with me on Tuesday about that.

Pedal on,