"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"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Ripley!

She's asleep right now and not available for comment, but she's asleep because she had such a good day running around in the park and swimming in the creek with her cousin Sydney (a mini Aussie shepherd who lives in Santa Rosa). Tomorrow will involve more of the same, no doubt.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The next really really big thing

This Chico News & Review article set me off on a long flight of fancy last night...hopefully not just fanciful, though. These Chico 50-somethings rode their bikes from Chico to the coast via Forest Highway 7 through the Mendocino National Forest. Since I moved to Chico I have had many flights of fancy about doing that very ride, finding that Northwest Passage if you will, but last summer the flight of fancy was somewhat weighted down by the experience of actually trying to drive the route in my truck. Beautiful, largely uninhabited country. Lots of trees. 60 miles of gravel and dirt road "maintained" by the Forest Service on whatever budget they had left for such things last year, and a 6000' elevation gain. I thought, over the hours and hours it took to drive it, well, maybe this isn't really a doable thing. But then these people (Bob and Christina Aranguren) went and did it. One of my favorite quotes from the article:

After not seeing a single human being for a day and a half, the Arangurens walked into the little store at Eel River Station and asked, “Do you get any cyclists in here?” They indicated the summit now behind them.

“No, nobody does that,” the store clerk replied.

“Then we told her, ‘We just did,’ ” said Christina. “She looked at us like we were aliens.”

I emailed the reporter and asked her to forward my contact information to the Arangurens. Apparently they're planning to do it AGAIN, and this time two other couples are joining them. Their route to the coast took them through Laytonville and over Branscomb Road. This summer may be too soon for me to plan this and get my very eager potential touring buddy Tim and his new Surly Long Haul Trucker trained up for that climb, but maybe I could at least set up a little lemonade stand for the riders as they go by the homestead near the coast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing to worry about here.

The elevation profile for Tour of the Unknown Coast. It's just like life with its little ups and downs. Or bipolar extremes. Whichever.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Worried? Me?

I never worry about anything. This video of the second half of the Tour of the Unknown Coast lacks sound so you can't hear the screams.

When we were cruising down the other side of the Cantelow hill near Winters on Sunday, Heather said "I'm scared for your ride," referring to the T.U.C. Then the wind in my ears going downhill got too loud for me to hear anything she said. Actually it was hard to hear what she was saying on the flat stretches too. I think my ears might be due for another powerwashing. Conversations on the road sounded something like this:

H: "Wuhhh wuh wuhh wuh."
E: "What?"
H: "I said wuhh wuh whuh wuh."
E: "What was that?"

I need one of those two-way helmet radios that motorcycle riders use.

We were both (not so) fresh from having ridden 100 miles the day before. My ride was considerably flatter so I had to pretend to have a sore knee to justify not being able to keep up with her for the last ten miles.

Recovery tips

Photo I found of North Butte of the Sutter Buttes. The Buttes still have their green springtime coat, though not for long -- it was in the upper 80s on Saturday. The north side is my favorite -- with the jagged green mountain, rice fields and dense orchards, it looks like I imagine Thailand or Vietnam (and the few times I've seen this view have been on a bicycle, which enhances the feeling of being in a different country).

I have a deal with myself that I can go to In 'n Out (my favorite hamburger chain) on days when I ride my bike more than 30 miles. It used to be 20 but that seems too cheap. I could carry on about In 'n Out right now and this would become even more of an In 'n Out ad, which is not really my point. Suffice to say that on Saturday after my 102-mile Bike Around the Buttes, I went to In 'n Out and for the first time tried their "Double - Double" (2 meat patties x 2 cheese slices) with the secret off-menu code words for sauteed onions and extra sauce, a.k.a. "animal style." Delicious. That was after the bowls of baked beans and potato salad they had at the finish in the little town of Sutter that hosts the event. When I rode in some folks were discussing what they might do to spruce things up next year and considering the bold step of having a massage therapist onsite for the riders. Sutter is basically the Preston, ID of California, only a little smaller and less famous. The folks are very friendly and put on a fun ride though, with aid stations staffed by the VFW and the Moose and Elks or maybe they were the Eagles...I can't remember.

At mile 101 of the Saturday ride I started having some pain in my left knee, which got somewhat worse on Sunday during the 42-mile ride in Winters. I have two weeks before the next 100-miler to rest up. I'll do the R.I.C.E. regimen for a few days but I hope to be at In-N-Out again before that.

(Hmm. I thought the "I" in RICE stood for "Ibuprofen" and the "C" stood for "Cold," but apparently this is not the generally accepted meaning. It could also mean "In-N-Out" and "Coca-Cola.")

To be continued...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Balmy weather

I've heard Target carries Bag Balm but it's way over on the other side of town. So far I've been to a Walgreens, two Safeways, a RiteAid, and an outdoor / bike shop, no luck. Turns out I probably should have just gone to the Feed & Seed store instead. I forgot that the product was named for what it was originally intended to do as opposed to its 'off-label' uses. I learned during the NCAC ride last year that it works ten times better for long hours in the saddle than any of those fancy creams they sell in bike shops and (if I could find some) costs about half as much. It is petroleum-based, though, and therefore probably doesn't decrease our dependence on foreign oil. If I were riding my bike 150 miles this weekend to go somewhere I actually needed to go, that would more than make up for a few dollops of petroleum jelly. But I'm not. Bright and early driving down to the Sutter Buttes in the morning to Bike Around them (the Buttes).

I'll be thinking of my sisters who have been training so hard for the Salt Lake City half marathon which is also tomorrow. I think Bag Balm probably works on feet too. It is a miraculous substance.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'm sure that some members of my family have experienced this dozens of times and it's no big deal, but it was technically a first for me -- somebody at a public meeting (which was being recorded for rebroadcast on the local TV channel) said the reason I disagreed with him was because I am a 'socialist.'

While there were a number of points on which we disagreed, and even more on which I'm sure we would disagree if we only had more time to explore the full scope of our disagreement, the particular topic was affordable housing development policy. Note that this is a "citizens' advisory committee" established to provide input to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors regarding our county's General Plan update. As far as I can tell based on appearances, everyone on the committee is indeed a citizen and his or her ancestors may even have arrived on the Mayflower, unless some undocumented Canadians snuck in to mooch off the free pizza that the county provides at the meetings. That's actually why I joined the committee, which only proves I'm a socialist because I support this government pizza entitlement.

Apart from, or rather concurrently with, my socialism and the pizza, I'm really there because of my job, and the lack of any low income / non-white citizens on the citizens' advisory committee. I don't think that's any fault of the county; I think it might have more to do with not having any childcare, or not having a car, or at least not one that runs, or not speaking English very well, or being too ill and confused, or just not thinking anyone will listen to you because historically nobody has. Or maybe being too tired.

It's part of my job to advocate for policies that will result in production of affordable housing. One such policy is 'inclusionary housing.' I'm tired of giving my speech about it so I won't right now; suffice to say that some people think it's part of a communist plot to make the system of personal merit and responsibility irrelevant to ones opportunity for decent shelter. The man who called me out on my socialism had posed the very interesting and provocative question, "Is everyone entitled to a house?"

I tried to answer using my secret ninja moves from the government. I said, "Everyone is entitled to have the opportunity for housing and it's up to the individual to decide what he or she will do with the opportunity." Straight out of the Little Red Book. He went on to say how he worked all his life, etc. etc., it's the American dream, etc., arbeit macht frei, etc. etc., everyone starts out in life with the same opportunity...Oops. Maybe I totally misunderstood him, and he meant every white male business owner starts out in life with the same opportunity...but I interjected there, and said "That's where we disagree" and then he said "That's because you're a socialist."

So there you have it. I can hardly wait to go to work tomorrow and tell everyone.

He didn't really speak German. I made that part up. But if I'm a socialist that would make him a fascist. And here we are both on the same committee, eating pizza. It's a great country.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'The Wall' isn't all that, but all that IS all that.

At least not all that compared to other climbs in the Unknown Coast ride that you don't hear about as much. Panther Gap Ridge is, by some reports, 6.8 miles of a 7% grade. The Wall is only one mile of whatever that silly 18% - 22% business is. Might blink and miss it. Though it looks like the Wall is there to protect the next big hill from invading hordes. As soon as you drop over the wall, there's a much bigger if less severely steep hill. And that big hill is at the very end of the ride.

I plotted the whole ride on Bikely just so I could get a better picture of what to expect.

I think the key here will be to ride in super energy saver mode. No displays of machisma, no hurry or unnecessary effort, no pedaling downhill, plenty of stretching at rest stops, plenty of Gu or Clif Shot, plenty of fluid...as Jennifer Stone used to say on her program "Stone's Throw" on KPFA when I listened in Berkeley / SF, "Go easy, and if you can't go easy, go as easy as you can."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

making the grade

I rode a section of Calistoga Road out of Santa Rosa last year that scared me. It was steep and windy (i.e. twisty, not breezy) and I didn't know how long it would last or if I would be able to last that long. Friday I was driving down it and saw a sign that said 11% GRADE.

I thought about the ride I'm doing on May 9 (Tour of the Unknown Coast). Everybody talks about the dreaded "Wall" at mile 80-something, reportedly a grade of 18 - 22%. I began to feel really unprepared for something like this, though there are steep pitches here and there that don't have handy signs to tell you how steep they are, so it's possible I've done little pieces of hills that were that steep. I had some climbing planned for the Yountville ride on Saturday: Yountville / Pope Valley - Ink Grade Loop
But I needed more. Lisa talked me out of doing Calistoga Rd again (it's steep, windy, narrow, and has not much shoulder) by offering intriguing alternatives, a strategy that works well on dogs too. They said they would meet me in Dillon Beach so I did this route one-way (and I was very, very done when I got to Dillon Beach). Made it up the big hills (maybe some 18% bits in them? If I did the math right) but on the last small hill my legs couldn't take any more lactic acid and I had to walk for awhile. Santa Rosa to Dillon Beach
Here's a photo I found of some crazy person riding Coleman Valley Rd. from the opposite direction I took. Hard to say if it's better or worse that way, I just didn't think coming down it that I'd want to be going up.
Incredibly beautiful views and scenery. Paid my first visit to the little town of Occidental, which seems to be a place you have to want to go quite deliberately because it isn't really on the way to anything (but the next lovely, windy stretch of forest road).

I also learned a very valuable cycling lesson. Before I left, I decided to enclose everything that would be in my back jersey pockets in ziploc bags. In the past I've apologetically handed the clerk at some gas station mart a warm soggy dollar bill, gingerly offering it by its corner. I had my wallet and cellphone in one baggy and all my snacks (including my chocolate marshmallow egg that the easter bunny brought) in another baggy. At one pit stop I leaned over and my whole *sealed* baggy of precious food fell out, landing with a splash, right into the bowl. Yes, that sort of bowl. I fished it out, rinsed it off thoroughly and as discretely as possible, and carried on with all my Clif Bars and marshmallow egg undefiled. Carry on then.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

*&$%@ Zephyrus with his swete brethe

I doubt that the pilgrims to Canterbury rode bicycles in a headwind. I don't know if their faith would have survived the experience.

Or maybe it would have. Maybe my problem is the absence of a hooly blissful martyr for to seke as the purpose of riding my bike. Riding is excellent for its own sake, though, and for testing ones fortitude, prowesse and hardynesse. And if the wind doesn't start blowing against you until you're 20 - 30 miles into a 40 - 50 mile ride, then there's nothing for it but to keep riding that day, and think better of doing so the following day, as I did when we were at the coast a week and a half ago (so long, already?)

I looked at the calendar last Friday and realized that my Tour of the Unknown Coast ride was five weeks away. As Chaucer would say (if he were trying to watch his language), Hooly Cowe.