Monday, September 8, 2014

hair of the dog

lotoja was 2 days ago.
206 miles, logan utah to jackson wyoming, elevation gain somewhere around 8,000 feet, a long day in the saddle.
I completed my 7th, and as always, am incredibly glad to have it behind me.
what I felt at the end this year was not the elation felt in most other years, but gratitude that it was over---safely and completely.  I considered putting my bike away for the season, as quite a few do, or at least for a week, a few days, a while.

today I got back on my bike.

it's the hair of the dog thing ~ the only cure for exhausted, depleted, overly-strained muscles is to put them back to work.

and it was a great ride.  70 degrees, blue skies, cool in the shade up the canyon, a bit of a tailwind up at the bottom and a headwind at the top--both of which reversed for the descent.  trees are turning and the air is crisp, and numerous rainy days of the past month have kept foliage along the route surprisingly green.

those heliotropic (and non-heliotropic) sunflowers are bright as raw egg yolk, cheery and moving gently with the breeze.  we're in this amazing stretch of almost-autumn where the unrelenting heat of summer has passed and many of us creatures begin to revive, soaking in as much sun and air and beauty as we can before winter's hibernation creeps back toward us.

I ache here and there, glutes and hamstrings and peculiarly the instep of my right foot, but I feel strong and capable and the tiniest bit hollow as though I've left something behind somewhere that I can't quite remember.

but the hair has helped.  it's reminded me that life continues, it moves along, whether or not we believe we're ready for it.  it loosened me and challenged me and ultimately, helped me again feel at one with this beautiful land we live upon.

I'm glad to be this far into september, two days past lotoja, ready to welcome what autumn promises to bring.

Friday, August 29, 2014


while cycling, I sometimes yell at cars.  a refined yell, not a scream or shriek.  just loud enough that I feel good about putting energy into the noise, yet restrained enough that I know they're unlikely to hear me.
and what I most often yell is
use your blinkers!

the other day my 18-year-old daughter and I were driving to an appointment and she commented on a motorist who didn't use blinkers to signal a turn . . . I can't believe how many people don't use their blinkers.  I hate it.  
I, of course, had a small moment of parental pride, yes! I've trained my child to use and respect blinkers!
I've spent a bit of time contemplating the blinker situation, why people do and do not use them.  I've decided that drivers who don't use blinkers to signal their intentions are some combination of ignorant, arrogant, lazy, and distracted.
arrogant tops the list.

my other daughter pointed out to me that one can apply for a driver's license and NOT have to take a driver education course if one is age 19 or older.  maybe some motorists are simply ignorant.

distracted drivers?  not too hard to imagine.
lazy?  ditto.

whatever the cause, motorists who don't signal their intentions cause me grief as a cyclist.
just as, I suppose, cyclists who don't signal their intentions cause grief to motorists.

so I try not to be arrogant, ignorant, lazy, or distracted . . . and use my blinkers in my car, and my arms when I'm riding.

there's not one thing wrong with letting the world know where you're going.

see you at the lotoja finish line next week!
and the bestseller list next year,
and at the mini dealership for my new car a bit after that . . .

I have no problem letting you know where I'm going.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

under the perigee moon

last sunday night's perigee moon was one of three perigee moons this year, the moon appearing 30% brighter than normal and appearing 14% bigger as it reached the point of its orbit closest to earth - 221,765 away, but the closest it ever comes. 

this perigee or supermoon was the second, and biggest, of a trio of supermoons to appear in our skies this summer.

on july 12, a smaller supermoon occurred, while on september 9 another is due to appear.  the next after that will be september 29, 2015.

and isn't perigee a cool word?  peri-near, gea-earth.

well, guess what a big, huge, full, super moon means for this early-morning cyclist?
yep, you're right:  an incredible ride without a headlight.

last monday morning I walked my bicycle out of the garage and was confused by how bright it was outside:  had I somehow lost an hour?  usually 4:50 is ink dark, and it was lit as though by street lamps everywhere.  I grinned and looked up, and saw the moon grinning back at me.  everywhere.

I must have smiled the entire way up the canyon, riding through moon shadows made by trees lining the road.  I'd turn my front light on whenever I saw or heard a car approaching, and then quickly turn it off once they passed.  

the question, of course, is why.  why is this such a delight?  and the only answer that will unveil itself to me is that the absence of artificial light draws me that much closer to the natural world.  the real world.  the earth, rocks, hills and trees that surround and support us.   losing my battery-powered light allows me access to the authentic dawn, which comes subtly and particle by particle as I move slowly through it all.  I myself become subtle, I blend into my surroundings.  I am one with the morning, more peaceful, more delighted by my moon-given opportunity to shed edison's invention.

Monday, August 4, 2014

when sunflowers follow the sun

years ago I fell in love with heliotrope:  the word, the color (purple), the flower (sweet, delicate, and purple.)
over time, heliotrope faded into a fold of my memory bank and I hadn't thought about it until today when I began researching sunflowers.  no, there isn't a purple sunflower, but sunflowers do possess the attribute of being heliotropic, which sounds suspiciously like heliotrope but like many things in our intriguing english language, has nothing at all to do with being purple.

sunflowers have popped.  it's august, it's hot, and these cheery tall plants gently bend and wave along the sides of emigration canyon road as I bike past.  it's only been a few weeks since they burst forth,  and they've brightened my mornings as their little heads catch my light beams.

the first clump I noticed had blooms facing east, and I remembered that sunflowers follow the sun ~ facing east in the morning and west in the afternoon.  in the early morning dark they'd already turned their heads toward the sun that hadn't yet risen, and I thought, these flowers are just like me.

at night before I retire, I pull together the biking gear I'll need in the morning:  shorts, top, heart monitor and socks in the bathroom, cyclometer and lights on the bike, shoes, helmet and glasses by the door, water bottles on the counter next to a protein breakfast bar.  I prep before the sun comes up.

so too the sunflowers.  I thought.
until I noticed that some sunflowers, in the early morning dark, were still facing west.
and then some faced east.  random?  or was the story that sunflowers followed the sun just a myth?

to google I went, and while googling I bumped into a tweaked version of my old friend heliotrope.

heliotropism is a trait of moving toward the sun.  and sunflowers are heliotropic.  well, the actively growing parts of sunflower plants are heliotropic.  young leaves and buds still in need of photosynthesis are heliotropic;  once the leaves and flowers have matured, they no longer chase the sun because their needs have been met.
and this is how they do it:  during the day, the stem on the side away from the sun elongates, tilting immature flowers and leaves toward the sun.  as the sun moves, the stem adjusts, which allows the flowers to face first east and then west.  in the dark, the process continues, preparing the plant by pulling it back into position for the next morning's light.

mature flowers no longer need to follow the sun, and will face any direction, often hanging their heads from the weight of seeds.

I guess I'm like the young, immature sunflowers, preparing ahead of time for what's to come.  stretching one part of myself to help another, keeping a vision of something bright always in view.  knowing what I need, and availing myself of that:  bikes rides, great conversation, a few baked goods,  fabulous books, strong coffee, hot showers, plenty water, productivity, a goal or two.
friends, love, hugs, a good chamois.  google.

and bike rides in the dark so I can learn about things like heliotropism.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


the who-who astonished me.  sunlight not yet peaking over the mountains to the east, the air was thick with lingering strands of dawn and the edges of each shrub, rock, and gambol oak were gently blurred and softened.  looking to the sound, I saw nothing unusual, no oval feathered silhouette, no winged creature flying from roost to roost.
just the call, the greeting.
that was six years ago, and I didn't hear another call or see an owl for the next four years.  they were there:  I didn't possess the ability to see them.

there was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself.  in the past, shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life.  they helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen.  to them, every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life . . . an aid to bridge the natural world to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environs of their own lives.  we can use animal totems to learn about ourselves.*

in the world of animal totems, the owl symbolizes the moon, the night, the feminine, and is believed to have great healing powers.  the owl is a bird of magic and darkness, of prophecy, and of wisdom.

a magic window exists for spotting owls, a window that coincides with my early morning rides during the summer months.  nocturnal hunters, owls are most active in the dark and most reclusive during sunlit hours.  therefore, my early morning rides that begin in the dark and take me up a wooded canyon as the sky begins to lighten are perfect for sighting owls.

I've learned to scout for a shape, perched atop a utility pole or barren tree, elliptical and motionless.  I keep a vigilant watch on the sky to catch one in flight, its significant wings silenced by the fringe on the front.  and I listen for a screech.

a year ago I saw two smaller owls perched on a utility pole, and I heard screeches.  I thought, screech owl, and began investigating when I returned home.  I learned that screech owls don't screech, but adolescent great horned owls do.  
so now I listen for screeches, and am often able to find an owl hidden in a tree or taking off in flight.

the other morning an owl flew across the road dozens of feet in front of me, landing in a tree on the hill to my right, where I stared directly into its eyes from perhaps 8 feet away as I passed.  I count myself as one of privileged few who are able to have so many close encounters with these winged creatures, more this summer than in my entire life before.

I don't know that they have particular messages for me.  but if they did, I'm certain the messages would be to carry on, to believe in my own magical powers, to embrace the beauty of the night, to always remember that I am one with nature, one with this amazing world, one with those who live alongside me . . . whether or not I'm able to see them.

*ted andrews, author of Animal Speak: the spiritual & magical powers of creatures great & small

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


ruth's diner---established 1930---sits 2 miles up emigration canyon, in what used to be an old trolley car which over time has been remodeled into much more and somewhat less.  it has a large patio in the back dotted with space heaters for days that begin and end in goose bump temperatures, shaded by a dozen trees, and focused, on just the right evenings, on a small three-sided building where musicians perch on stools and strum guitars and sing into perfectly calibrated microphones, clear and of a level that slips smoothly under conversation yet above dish clatter and birdsong.
in the morning they serve biscuits with raspberry jam:  I could live on these alone.
over the years the recipe has changed and although I would choose those from 10 years ago over what they are today, I am still inordinately pleased by the crumbling pale flesh streaked with bright red jam thick with tiny seeds.
the coffee is coffee.
most menu items are unspectacular but highly edible and two giant leaps above true diner food.  my favorite salad was removed from the menu half a dozen years ago and I pine for it every time I visit, then settle for something else because it doesn't matter too terribly much what it is I eat.

ruth's is 4 gently uphill miles from my house.
which is also 4 miles from home at the end of many of my rides.
I think, often, of stopping at ruth's on my way home to celebrate the early morning, the conclusion of a long ride, or simply the fact that I'm alive.
we've even discussed group rides that pause at ruth's on the way home, for sustenance or spirits and a more relaxed version of our camaraderie.
it's never happened.

I've planned, a time or two, an early morning ride to the top of big mountain---14 miles beyond ruth's---that would put me back down at ruth's shortly after they open at 7 am.... where I would stop for coffee, a biscuit and jam, and ambiance.
I haven't done it.

great big metal bicycle structures stand on the side of the building, a place to leave your real bicycle, and at the hostess station they'll lend you a bike lock if you leave them your credit card.

it's doable.

but I always want to get home.  strip off my sweaty cycling gear and pull on something comfy, make a cup of coffee and curl up on my couch to read or watch the world outside my windows continue to waken and come to life.  home seems to pull me more than ruth's does.

but someday.
someday I will make the plan, firmly, and stick to it.  I'll remember to bring a credit card, I'll remember an extra layer to pull on so I'm not cold.  I'll plan to embrace the new experience instead of missing my own couch and dry clothes.  I'll look around, observe and absorb, and make up stories about everyone I see.  I'll meet the servers whose cars I cycle past time and again.  I'll drink coffee from a fat white mug and I'll eat a biscuit, slowly, with fresh raspberry jam.

ruth's is a reality, and a fantasy.  the sturdy building and solid patio host hundreds of people daily, and its aura hosts me every time I pedal past.  up, then down.  a friend, a constant, and someday, a place I'll visit 4 miles before I finish my ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

the goodie tin

so I've been cleaning out my biking goodie tin.
you know, the container that collects all the treats you buy in anticipation of future rides or receive in pre-race bags, and everything left in your pockets at the end of those rides.

my goodie tin included:
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 08/2012
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 10/2012
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 04/2014
  • 4 packs of cliff shot bloks: tropical punch, strawberry, citrus, black cherry
  • 11 assorted Gu's,  citrus, vanilla, lemon sublime, raspberry, montana huckleberry, razz, chocolate outrage, and the only one I really like:  double expresso.  
  • a baby ruth candy bar, best by 06/2011 ( just kidding, I can't find a date.  it's been in there forever.)
  • a snickers bar almost as old as the baby ruth.

and by "cleaning out" the tin, I mean using items on my rides.

the old honey stinger waffles went first.  mm.  they get hard after a year or two.
the april 2014 waffle was excellent:  soft, yummy.

then the strawberry shot bloks:  strawberry is my least favorite flavor.  shot bloks are these chewy half-inch cubes packed with electrolytes and some calories.  think "dots" candy but softer.
they come 6 to a pack, and I worked my way through the other flavors, ending with the tropical punch, a flavor I like even less than strawberry ~ it comes in blue packaging, which is why I saved it for last, thinking it was something yummy like blue raspberry.  my bad.

I've had two Gu's.....  and will eventually force myself to have some vanillas and chocolate outrage (best by 11/12).  expiration dates here range from 09/12 to 11/14.

what's still in the tin:

  • honey stinger fruit smoothie energy chews (2/14)
  • two packs of 100% all natural new zealand whey protein powder, chocolate, exp. 4/15.  
  • a pack of strawberry "heed" sports drink powder, exp. 4/14.  I will never use this.
  • a pack of lifesavers.  don't know why this is in here.
  • a pink lemonade "zip fizz" energy drink powder in a cute mini tube.  3/12.
  • a pack of "endurolytes" electrolyte replenishment capsules.  made with natural ingredients!
  • 4 packs of electrolyte stamina "power pak" powder:  2 acai berry, 2 raspberry

oh, and one packet of "bioZzz instant alpha-lactalbumin supplement," which I think is to help you go to sleep the night before a race.


by the time I work through all this stuff, my body will probably hate me.
2012? it will say.  what are you thinking?  throw it out!
2013? well, maybe.
2014?  getting closer.

the only 2015 item is something I can't imagine ever using: chocolate protein powder from new zealand.    geez.

well, after all this writing and detective work (finding those expiration dates is not an easy thing to do, as buried and as undecipherable as some are), I'm worn out and need something to pep me back up.
I could go for a low-cal energy drink powder in a tall glass of water . . .
or I could check out the snickers.

chocolate wins.
see you on the road!  I'll be the one pulled off to the side, probably vomiting.