"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's a girl!

Her name is Ripley, on account of the obvious resemblance:

Practically identical except for the M41 Pulse Rifle. And I suppose my Ripley is a little bit shorter than Sigourney Weaver.

I have 5 weeks, from yesterday, in which to restructure my very existence. She'll be just shy of 9 weeks when I bring her home.

Blog drafting

Not drafting in the literary sense, but in the cycling sense, where you don't have to work so hard because the person in front is making a nice hole in the wind. I'm going to draft here just like I do on the road, and encourage you all to have a look at this ongoing description of the NCAC ride if you haven't already. Avant-garde photography and a lively telling of it. Thanks for the pull, H.

Karla's day in the (sun?) (clouds?)

Hey. Karla here. We're not sure yet what my--persona--is, exactly. Except that my sentences probably are shorter. Just like Hemingway.

I wasn't too upset about not getting to go on that 4-day ride. The distance sounded fine. But only one hill worth mentioning in 330-something miles, and that means a lotta flat ground. Don't much care for it. Leave it to the prissy roadbikes.

On Sunday, though, the old lady and I went for a ride. She didn't know how far exactly she wanted to go, or where she really wanted to ride to. She should know better than to leave it up to me. She'd been looking at maps and saw that there was this backroad way to get to Chester from Chico (no, we didn't go all the way to Chester. This time.) She couldn't tell if it was paved or not. Which definitely rules out prissy roadbikes. The turnoff for this road was about 30 miles up Highway 32. She didn't know if she was up for riding that far up the mountain. Poor thing all worn out from riding around in pancake land for four days.

We knew for sure we'd get to Forest Ranch, elevation 2415', about 14 miles up the mountain (and this is one of those more gradual 'big rig' climbs, not a wall). There's a store there and when there's a little store in the middle of nowhere, you have to stop. Here I am.

Oh -- and Chico is at 195'. For reference.

So after the store, she felt alright, and thought she'd just keep riding. Seemed like a long way to that turnoff but she was too curious about it to stop. You'd think we were looking for the Northwest Passage.

Now I think of my saddle as comfortable. So I won't take too much blame for this, but she kept standing up, trying to adjust, not sitting so well. And she needed a snack anyway, so we pulled over. Looking back from where we came, we thought, well damn if we're not in the mountains.

The darker clouds seemed to be moving away from us. It rained a little, so she says. I say it misted. On this climb there were a few reprieves, stretches of some downhill, and she said she was cold. Cold?? Temperature never quite suits you, huh? You brought a jacket, put it on.

The odometer got up around 27 - 28 miles and she thought the turnoff was around 29, so we were just about there. And then we were.

The sign was in disrepair. Humboldt is the name of the road to Butte Meadows. A sorry broke-down stretch of Humboldt Road is right at the beginning of the ride, and then it merges with Highway 32 for the next 24 miles until it splits again. 30 more miles and it takes you to Lake Almanor, which is next door to Chester. The later stretch of Humboldt is nice and smooth, like somebody cares about it. This is because the first stretch parallels the highway (it was the original highway, maybe) and the only people who ride on it are cyclists and people who like to drive somewhere to drink their Bud by the 24-pack. That sounds a lot more dangerous than it is. The Bud drinkers are nocturnal, and no cyclist would be dumb enough to ride that road in the dark, unless...well, I could haul a 24-pack, but Bud is a waste of good water. Unless she wants to fall into a pothole as deep as a mineshaft, no cyclist would ride it in the dark.

We got this far, and it wasn't too late, so she thought she'd just keep going to Butte Meadows. Only another 4 - 5 miles. To her dismay and my amusement, that's when the REAL hill started. The first 30 miles were the warmup. But we put it in low and she started picking things to ride to--that tree up there, that pole, that bump in the road, and then another thing, and then another. Had to pull over once because she got too much salt in her eye and had to wipe it off. Some people in a Suburban pulled over and asked if everything was ok and she gave 'em Thumbs Up and said thanks.

Finally we got to the top of that hill, and it looked like the top of the world. From there it was actually downhill to Butte Meadows. Their sign was in better shape.

She was obviously pleased about the elevation thing. I said, honey, that's what I do. Though now that we'd arrived at Butte Meadows (notice there's elevation but no population on the sign...) it was a lot colder, and she was low on fuel. Rode along through "town" for a bit. Looks like it's bunch of vacation cabins and campgrounds. Surely, she thought, there's some place the campers go for provisions. And then we found it.
The "Bambi Inn." Hallelujah. A sign outside said "BIKER FRIENDLY" and we weren't sure if that was supposed to mean us or not, but we didn't care. Well, I take that back. She was a little self- conscious about her lycra shorts and bright neon yellow windbreaker. But as I pointed out, it's not like she was Sir Edmund Hillary on the top of Everest. In fact it seemed like people riding their bikes (bicycles) to the Bambi Inn was a non-event to the inn-habitants.

According to her report (I waited outside) she sat up to the bar and ordered grilled cheese, chips, and a Coke. She said it was the best velveeta sandwich she'd ever had.

The ride home took about half as long as the ride up. She got mad enough to give the finger to a jeep that blasted its airhorn when it came up behind her...at a place with plenty of shoulder and we were well off the road. She was mad until she remembered the people in the Suburban who had been kind and thoughtful. The jeep had grotesquely oversized tires. The driver was probably just excited because he would to stop at a gas station again very soon.

These little wildflowers were growing everywhere by the road up there. Pale, pale yellow. She thought maybe they're some kind of wild iris? No idea.

When we got back to Chico she turned the wrong way in the park, adding another two miles for a total of 71. Good ride. I think she'll feel it for a couple days.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gas-free holiday weekend

Since I didn't already have plans to go anywhere, this shouldn't be very hard. Just heard on NPR that 31 million Americans are projected to hit the highways this weekend. I'm going to leave my truck parked. The weather isn't very pretty right now either so it looks like it'll be good day for housekeeping. Or blogging and charting out new intra-state bike routes. (The inter-state routes I already have mapped.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

tough day on the road

This was from Day 3 of the ride. Looks like the end of the day at the Yolo County fairgrounds in Woodland, judging from the looks of the trees and the rider. Bad helmet hair, skid marks, wrist tan line, smile, and all. A good day to have ended, and to reach a place where there were showers. I thought it might be quite nice to set up camp in the shower--it was a trade-off between being cool enough and having to stand up all night.

Photo courtesy of HMR. She knows how to make her subjects look their best. Imagine how I REALLY must have looked.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A 12-mile radius

These women and their recumbent tricycles own the road. I was thinking today I'd like to adopt a 10-mile radius biking policy, now that I have my old rack installed on Karla...though anywhere in this town is probably less far away than that. Though if a 55 and 86-year-old have a 12-mile radius, maybe I should set mine at least at 20. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), 20 miles from here still isn't really anywhere that I would normally need to go. The next biggest town I need to visit a couple times a month for work purposes is about 23 - 24 miles away. By freeway. A little further by bike. Though I could ride the bus to that town if I'm not going there for a court appearance. (I did ride my bike to court here once, but I also probably could have walked.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hot and cold

Made it!

Ten-year record high temperatures (or something like that) for the last three days. I don't think of myself as highly heat-tolerant. In fact, it turns out that I am physically pretty heat tolerant, but mentally, maybe not so much. The riding in heat (and wind, on Day #1) was really tough but I didn't feel like I was having a 'meltdown' until after we stopped for the day and the initial bliss of finishing and having a shower had subsided. The first evening we stayed at fairgrounds in Gridley (home of Continental Athletic Supply, by the way). The main building was relatively cool and well-ventilated and there was plenty of good shade and grass for our tents. In consideration of the record-high temperatures, our director Joaquin announced we'd be rolling out at 6:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. Which meant a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call. It had been so hot that day that people cheered when they heard this. I don't think I cheered, but I agreed it was a good idea.

On Day 2, we looped to the north through Oroville and Durham (within 10 miles of my home, and my pool) and then through blazing hot, shadeless rice and wheatfields to Colusa where a bank sign in the shade said 101ºF. We stayed at the high school that night. I think I summarized my impression of it in a previous post. The legal aid lawyer in me wondered about the demographics of the high school. Not only were the facilities in sorry shape (except for the kitchen, which was air-conditioned and made our caterers very happy, so much so that I think they slept in there) but the only shady places to pitch tents were so overwatered that the ground was like walking on a sponge. I hit kind of a low point but didn't stay there too long (I say 'kind of' because I think I felt worse for awhile on the third day).

One adaptive technique was to fill ziploc bags with ice and place them on different places. Reportedly, our 55 riders and crew went through about 150 pounds of ice and 150 gallons of water per day for the 3 full days of the event.

I tried to feel grateful for the hospitality of Colusa and the high school. I don't know if I quite succeeded. The idea of having to go to school there every day was too depressing. I'm about to go off on another build school vs. build prison tirade, but I think I've done that before, and I'm too tired to do that and keep discussing the ride.

I started coming down with a cold on Day 3, but the riding before lunch (lunch happened between 10:30 and 11:00 or so) was stunning through the Capay Valley -- and mostly downhill after a long climb up Highway 20. Not only that, but the organization that provided our lunch that day cooked up some Cajun hot links in addition to the standard lunch meat and cheese. I can't help but get excited about something like that. Even though it seemed likely that I'd regret it later.

Though we didn't have wind to struggle with on Day 3, it sure did heat up in the afternoon. But sometimes heat is helpful -- in the last ten or fifteen miles I had yet another pedal - clip related spill. My second such incident during the ride and bringing my grand total to 4 times in the last 3 weeks. My bruises are getting bruises -- it's almost as good as football! But I digress. I was approaching a stop sign where it appeared that I would in fact need to make a full stop, but my right shoe cleat jammed because it had a rock and some mud stuck in it from the last rest stop and I couldn't get my foot out in time. Here we go again, I thought, as I went over. The heat was helpful in that the asphalt / gravel was so hot when I landed that I bounced right back up, whereas I might otherwise have lain there in the dust for a few seconds for the full dramatic effect.

The Yolo County fairgrounds in Woodland were an improvement over Colusa High School (except for the lack of A/C in the main building) but I was pretty much cooked. The fairgrounds had booked a dance party in the building next to where we were camping and trying to get to sleep around 8:00 p.m. "Achy Breaky Heart" in Spanish is more danceable than it is sleep-able. Too bad I wasn't there for dancing.

I think more than anything else, the people made the ride. One of my fellow riders, Travis, was featured in the Sacramento Bee last week. And singing songs with Heather made some of the hot miles pass pretty quickly. I thought of the Pioneer Children Singing as They Walked and Walked and Walked and Walked. It's an adaptive trait. I also thought of ill-fated parties who attempted their journeys at the wrong time of year. Good thing there were plenty of snacks at rest stops. I thought, at least we're not running the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley where it's so hot the runners have to run on the white line so their shoes won't melt. I probably mentioned that out loud a couple more times than was necessary. Whatever it took to get through.

We're getting a CD of photos from the ride, for which I'm grateful because I was too lazy to carry my camera around. I'll post some when they arrive.

I need to go slather on more Vicks and drink my juice. I originally planned to go back to work today but I was too sick this morning. And a bit tired.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

California has many natural wonders.

California has many natural wonders. This high school in Colusa where I am not really sleeping isn't one.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So we get to wake

So we get to wake up at 4.30 a.m. and do it all over again. I guess this is why they call it a `Challenge.`

However, I rode the whole

However, I rode the whole 92 miles on my own power. And so did H! All that heat and wind just cooked her lung bugs. :)

If this ride were a

If this ride were a backpacking trip, it would be up there with the family deathmarches except that we have sag support.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alright, off I go then.

Did I mention that I made my fundraising goal sometime late Monday night? I did. Thanks to help from many sources.

I have managed, I hope, to organize my stuff for the ride so that I won't have to fuss about it too much. They recommended 1-gallon ziploc bags for this purpose. I have each day's riding clothes in a separate bag, my extra clif bars and Gu in a bag, my toothbrush and sunblock and soap and pills in a bag.... I think this is the most organized packing I've ever done.

I got a brief lecture by the meek and kindly gentleman at the bike shop today about how it's really better to get a tune up about 100 miles or so before a big event, rather than within 24 hours of a big event. I had it coming though.

I'll try to do some phone-in posts from the road.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Am I ready for this?

It'll be just like we're riding in Morocco.

Well, not really, except for the Scirocco wind that is predicted to blow the 100 degree air at 25 mph or so on Thursday. Actually the Scirocco would be better because I think it blows from the south, and we'll be riding northward. A hot tailwind is still a tailwind but I think our wind is agin' us.

So. And one of the bright stars of the ride has been fighting bronchitis and / or aggravated asthma for the last couple days. She's worked SO hard over the last five months, even before that, to get to Thursday, and apparently the universe didn't think she was being adequately challenged by the experience. Please say your best prayers, in whatever idiom you prefer, for her to have healthy happy non-inflamed bronchia at least by the time she wakes up early on Thursday morning. A friend will drive us to the start in Folsom in my truck and I think we have to leave at 5:45 or something. So that's a good 30 hours or so for us all to perform a big collective faith healing. She's doing everything she can too, having spicy soup, taking nasty herbs, regular old cough syrup, humidifying the room...Pulling out all the stops here. I think she'd have to be strapped down to a hospital bed not to ride, but she'll have a much better time of it and hold up better if she can breathe while she's riding. Though I'm thinking when it's 100 degrees out the air-conditioned sag wagon will sound pretty good.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Are you or is someone you know an effete snob?

I don't think this would be news interesting enough to repeat at this point, because it seems that Rush is a bit past the peak of his influence and popularity, much like the Canadian rock band of the same name. However, when I read his recent comment that Obama "can get effete snobs, ...wealthy academics, ...the young, and...the black vote, but Democrats do not win with that," I had to look up effete because I think I knew what he meant by it but I wasn't sure if that was really what it meant.

ef·fete (-ft)
1. Depleted of vitality, force, or effectiveness; exhausted: the final, effete period of the baroque style.
2. Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence: an effete group of self-professed intellectuals.
3. Overrefined; effeminate.
4. No longer productive; infertile.

[Latin efftus, worn out, exhausted : ex-, ex- + ftus, bearing young, pregnant; see dh(i)- in Indo-European roots.]

But then I was even more perplexed. What definition did he mean? That tired snobs will vote for Obama? That overrefined, decadent dandies will vote for him? Or perhaps he meant infertile snobs?

I just want to know where I fit into the Obama voting pool, because I know I'm not wealthy, and not formally an academic. I suppose I'm young, though very solidly into my full-fledged adulthood. And I have a lot of freckles, but I seriously doubt that I'm black, barring further discovery of the activities of an ancestor who reached Jamaica and made a stop, shall we say.

I suppose I could be considered a snob in some respects. I have a postgraduate degree and I won't shop at WalMart. I don't believe that pink is a legitimate wine color. And I am often tired, and sometimes a tiny bit dandy when the occasion calls for it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mighty Mormon Muscle Mama!

This NY Times story and the video clip embedded in it was quite moving and provocative. I think of myself as a little busier than is really manageable sometimes, and I've had some aches and pains and an injury requiring surgery as a result of my athletic endeavors, and sometimes I wish the cat wouldn't meow so forcefully and so often for no reason I can determine (though having that little tiny screaming puppy for a few days gave me some perspective). But Melanie Roach...shown here training in her gym...holy cow. She is really driven. Talk about perseverance. And triceps. I hope she makes it to Beijing.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Go team!

Yesterday I got to see the Redding Rage play the Santa Rosa Scorchers, and though the final spread was unfortunately kind of, well, big, I got to see my girls score. They've scored several times since the last game of last season but this was the first TD I was able to witness. And it was the result of a spectacular Favresque pass completion. I jumped up and screamed at the top of my lungs. I've waited so long to see this. And I have a lot of hostility toward the Scorchers, call it irrational if you want, since it's not like they're the ones who made me play football, and the season / career-ending hit I took last year was clean. Not even one of the numerous dirty, late, illegal hits that they seem to get away with quite often. I admit that was wishing them some harm yesterday. If there was one game I would like to have been suited up for, this was it. They're lucky I wasn't. And probably so am I.

climbed a mountain and turned around, pt. 1

I had my digital camera but no cell phone (about mile 10, I heard the dread low-battery-turning-off beep), and I don't have the cable with me to upload the photos. So they'll have to wait. But I can start off with a map of the route. Slightly altered because there was one stretch of road toward the end that I would not want to encourage anyone else who might look it up on Bikely.com to use. My route today was about 50 miles; the revised route is 56. Next time.

I went looking for some hills to climb and I found some. It seems like I went down more than I went up, but maybe the downs were just more concentrated. I had to stop partway down that great big one to let my rims cool off and stretch the cramps out of my hands.

I don't think the photos will really capture how amazingly beautiful the scenery was. St. Helena Road and Franz Valley School Road were stunning. Or maybe the climbing made me oxygen- deprived and I was delirious. Ha. Not that I'd want to go out and ride the Rockies tomorrow, but being from a state with real mountains I can't help but think California mountains are sort of cute and furry. In retrospect. I didn't necessarily think that today during some of the climbing though. I only felt a little bit like barfing once. That's a pretty good day of riding.

To be continued.

Friday, May 02, 2008

This time 2 weeks from now...

I'll be in my tent, hopefully asleep, at the Colusa fairgrounds, with about 180 of my 330 miles behind me.

Our household has had a bit of a stir recently. My roommate found a teeny tiny puppy...teeny tiny because it's a chihuahua...wandering around in a parking lot in some non-residential part of town. And brought it home, of course, because what else can you possibly do with a lost puppy. We're providing foster care for now. And having to practice some tough love as the puppy-wandering-around-the-house method was not having any really desirable results. I had a small animal playpen in the closet and he's been in it for about half a day now, periodically screaming like a peacock being boiled alive (I imagine).

If I got a medium sized handlebar bag and teeny tiny Doggles for him to wear, he could come with me on the bike ride.

He's pretty funny to watch with the cat (and vice versa). The cat is surprisingly tolerant of him. Though I could tell the cat wasn't thrilled with the screaming. He's a very expressive cat but I've never before, so clearly, understood his meaning to be "How long should I expect this to continue?"